Timar remained alone with the dead body, with a person sunk in a death-like stupor, and with a buried secret. The silent night covered them, and the shades whispered to him, “See! if you do not do what has been committed to you — if you throw the corpse into the Danube, and do not wake the slumberer, but let her sleep on quietly into the other world — what would happen then? The spy will have already given evidence in Pancsova against the fugitive Tschorbadschi; but if you anticipate him and the land at Belgrade instead, and lay information there, then, according to Turkish law, a third of the refugee’s property would fall to you; otherwise it would belong to no one. The father is dead, the girl, if you do not rouse her, will never wake again; thus you would become at one stroke a rich man. Only rich people are worth anything in this world — poor devils are only fit for clerks.”
Timar answered the spirits of the night —“Well, then, I will always remain a clerk;” and, in order to silence these murmuring shadows, he closed the shutters. A secret anxiety beset him when he saw the red moon outside; it seemed as if all these bad suggestions came from it, as well as an explanation of the last words of the dying man about the Red Crescent.
He drew back the curtain from Timéa’s berth.
The girl lay like a living statue; her bosom rose and fell with her slow breathing — the lips were half open, the eyes shut; her face wore an expression of unearthly solemnity. One hand was raised to her loosened hair, the other held the folds of her white dress together on her breast.
Timar approached her as if she were an enchanted fairy whose touch might cause deadly heart-sickness to a poor mortal. He began to rub the temples of the sleeper with the fluid from the bottle. In doing so, he looked continually in her face, and thought to himself, “What, should I let you die, you angelic creature? If the whole ship were filled with real pearls, which would be mine after your death, I could not let you sleep away your life. There is no diamond in the world, however precious, that I should prefer to your eyes when you open them.”
The lovely face remained unchanged, in spite of the friction on brow and temples; the delicate meeting eyebrows did not contract when touched by a strange man’s hand. The directions were that also over the heart the antidote must be applied. Timar was obliged to take the girl’s hand, in order to draw it away from her breast: the hand made no smallest resistance; it was stiff and cold, as cold as the whole form — beautiful and icy as marble.
The shadows whispered —“Behold this exquisite form! a lovelier has never been touched by mortal lips; no one would know if you kissed her.”
But Timar answered himself in the darkness, “No — you have never stolen anything of another’s in your life. This kiss would be a theft.” And then he spread the Persian quilt, which the girl had thrown off in her sleep, over her whole person up to her neck, and rubbed above the heart of the sleeper with wetted fingers, while, in order to resist temptation, he kept his eyes fixed on the maiden’s face. It was to him like an altar-picture — so cold, yet so serene.
At last the lids unclosed, and he met the gaze of her dark but dull eyes. She breathed more easily, and Timar fell her heart beat stronger under his hand; he drew it away. Then he held the bottle with the strong essence for her to smell. Timéa awoke, for she turned her head away from it, and drew her brows together. Timar called her gently by name.
The girl started up, and with the cry “Father!” sat up on her bed, gazing out with staring eyes. The Persian quilt fell down from her lap, the night-dress slipped from her shoulders. She looked more like a Greek marble than a sentient being.
“Timéa!” and as he spoke he drew the fine linen over her bare shoulders. She did not answer. “Timéa!” cried Timar, “your father is dead.” But neither face nor form moved, nor did she notice that her night-dress had left her bosom uncovered. She seemed totally unconscious.
Timar rushed into the other cabin, returned with a coffee-pot, and began in feverish haste, and not without burning his fingers, to heat some coffee. When it was ready, he went to Timéa, took her head on his arm and pressed it to him, opened her mouth with his fingers, and poured some coffee in. Hitherto he had only had to contend with passive resistance; but as soon as Timéa had swallowed the hot and bitter decoction of Mocha, she pushed Timar’s hand with such strength that the cup fell; then she drew the quilt over her, and her teeth began to chatter.
“Thank God! she lives; for she is in a high fever,” sighed Timar, “And now for a sailor’s funeral.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10