In the morning when Timéa awoke she felt no more of her illness; the strength of youth had won the victory. She dressed and came out of the cabin. When she saw Timar forward she went to him and asked, “Where is my father?”
“Fraülein, your father is dead.”
Timéa gazed at him with her great melancholy eyes; her face could hardly become paler than it was already. “And where have they put him?”
“Fraülein, your father rests at the bottom of the Danube.”
Timéa sat down by the bulwarks and looked silently into the water. She did not speak or weep; she only looked fixedly into the river.
Timar thought it would lighten her heart if he spoke words of consolation to her. “Fraülein, while you were ill and unconscious, God called your father suddenly to himself. I was beside him in his last hour. He spoke of you, and commissioned me to give you his last blessing. By his wish I am to take you to an old friend of his, with whom you are connected through your mother, who will adopt you and be a father to you. He has a pretty young daughter, a little older than you, who will be your sister. And all that is on board this vessel belongs to you by inheritance, left to you by your father. You will be rich; and think gratefully of the loving father who has cared for you so kindly.”
Timar’s throat swelled as he thought, “And who died to secure your liberty, and killed himself in order to endow you with the joys of life.”
And then he looked with surprise into the girl’s face. Timéa had not changed a feature while he spoke, and no tear had fallen. Michael thought she was ashamed to cry before a stranger, and withdrew; but the maiden did not weep even when alone. Curious! when she saw the white cat drowned, how her tears flowed! and now, when told that her father lies below the water, not a drop falls.
Perhaps those who break out in tears at some small emotion brood silently over a deep grief?
It may be so. Timar had other things to do than to puzzle his head over psychological problems. The towers of Pancsova began to rise in the north, and down the stream came an imperial barge, straight for the “St. Barbara,” with eight armed Tschaikists, their captain, and a provost. When they arrived they made fast to the side without waiting for permission, and sprung on deck. The captain approached Timar, who was waiting for him at the door of the cabin. “Are you in command of this vessel?”
“At your service.”
“On board this ship, under the false name of Euthemio Trikaliss, there is a fugitive treasurer from Turkey — a pasha with stolen treasures.”
“On board this vessel travels a Greek corn-merchant, of the name of Euthemio Trikaliss, not with stolen treasures but with purchased grain. The vessel was searched at Orsova, and here are the certificates. This is the first; be so good as to read it, and see if all is not as I say. I know nothing of any Turkish pasha.”
“Where is he?”
“If he was a Greek, with Abraham; if a Turk, with Mohammed.”
“What! is he dead, then?”
“Certainly he is. Here is the second paper, containing his will. He died of dysentery.”
The officer read the document, and threw side glances at Timéa, who still sat in the place where she had heard of her father’s death. She understood nothing; the language was strange to her.
“My six sailors and the steersman are witnesses of his death.”
“Well, that is unlucky for him, but not for us; if he is dead he must be buried. You will tell us where, and we shall have the body exhumed; we have a man who can recognize it, and prove the identity of Trikaliss with Ali Tschorbadschi, and then we can at any rate lay an embargo on the stolen property. Where is he buried?”
“At the bottom of the Danube.”
“Oh! this is too much. Why there?”
“Gently now. Here is the third paper, prepared by the Dean of Plesscovacz, in whose parish the decease of Trikaliss took place, and who not only refused him a consecrated burial, but forbid me to bring the body ashore; the people insisted on our throwing it overboard.”
The captain clinched his hand angrily on the hilt of his sword. “The devil! these confounded priests! Always the most trouble with them. But at any rate you can tell me where he was thrown into the river?”
“Let me tell you everything in proper order, Herr Captain. The Plesscovaer sent four watchmen on board, who were to prevent our landing the corpse; in the night, when we were all asleep, they threw the coffin, which they had loaded with stones, into the Danube without the knowledge of the crew. Here is the certificate delivered to me by the culprits; take it, search them out, take their evidence, and then let each have his well-merited punishment.”
The captain stamped with his foot, and burst into angry laughter.
“Well, that is a fine story. The discovered fugitive dies, and can not be made responsible; the priest won’t bury him, the peasants shove him into the water, and hand in a certificate signed with two names which no man ever possessed, and two places which never existed in this world. The refugee disappears under the water of the Danube, and I can neither drag the whole Danube from Pancsova to Szendre, nor get hold of the two rogues, by name Karakassalovics and Stiriapicz. If the identity of the fugitive is not proved, I can not confiscate the cargo. You have done that very cleverly, skipper. Cleverly planned indeed! And everything in writing. One, two, three, four documents. I bet if I wanted the baptismal certificate of that lady there, you would produce it.”
“At your orders.” That Timar certainly could not produce, but he could put on such an innocent, sheepish face, that the captain shook with laughter and clapped him on the shoulder.
“You are a splendid fellow, skipper. You have saved the young lady’s property for her; for without her father I can do nothing to either her or her money. You can proceed, you clever fellow!”
With that he turned on his heel, and the last Tschaikiss, who had not swung round quick enough, got such a box on the ear that the poor devil all but fell into the water; and then he gave the word for departure.
When he was down below in the boat, he cast one searching look back; but the skipper was still looking after him with the same sheepish face.
The cargo of the “St. Barbara” was saved.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10