Timar was intensely happy at being engaged to Timéa.
The unearthly beauty of the girl had captivated his heart at first sight. He admired her then, and afterward the sweet nature which he learned to appreciate won his respect. The shameful trick played on her in the house of Brazovics awoke in him a chivalrous sympathy. The airy courtship of the captain aroused his jealousy; all these were symptoms of love, and at last he had reached the goal of his wishes: the lovely maiden was his, and would be his wife.
And a great burden was lifted from his soul-self-reproach; for from the day when Timar found the treasures of Ali Tschorbadschi in the sunken ship, his peace was gone. After each brilliant success of any of his undertakings, the voice of the accuser rose in his breast “This does not belong to you — it was the property of an orphan which you usurped. You a lucky man? You a man of gold? It is not true! Benefactor of the poor? Not true! Not true! You are a thief!”
Now the suit is decided. The inward judge acquits him. The defrauded orphan receives back her property, and in double measure, for whatever belongs to her husband is hers too. She will never know that the foundation of this great fortune was once hers; she only knows it is hers now — thus fate is reconciled.
But is it really reconciled? Timar forgot the sophism that he offered Timéa something besides the treasures which were hers — himself — and in exchange demanded the girl’s heart, and that this was a deception, and like taking her by force.
He wished to hasten the wedding. There was no need of delay on account of the trousseau, for he had bought everything in Vienna. Timéa’s wedding-dress was made by the best Parisian house, and the bride was not obliged to work at it herself for six weeks, as at that other. That double unlucky dress was buried in a closet which no one ever opened; it would never be brought out again.
But other hinderances of an ecclesiastical nature presented themselves — Timéa was still unbaptized. It was only natural that Timar should wish Timéa, when she left the Moslem faith for Christianity, to enter at once the Protestant Church to which he belonged, so that they might worship together after their marriage. But then the Protestant minister announced it as an indispensable condition of conversion that neophytes should be instructed in the creed of that church into which they were to be received. Here a great difficulty arose. The Mohammedan religion has nothing to say to women in its dogmas. To a Moslem a woman is no more than a flower which fades and falls, whose soul is its fragrance, which the wind carries away, and it is gone. Timéa had no creed.
The very reverend gentleman found his task by no means easy when he tried to convince Timéa of the superiority of the Christian religion. He had converted Jews and Papists, but he had never tried it with a Turkish girl.
On the first day, when the minister was explaining the splendors of the other world, and declaring that there all who in this world had loved each other would be reunited, the girl put this question to him —“Would those meet who had loved each other, or only those whom the minister had united?” This was a ticklish question; but the reverend gentleman answered, from his own puritanical point of view, that only those could possibly love each other who were united by the church, and that it was of course impossible for those who were thus united not to love each other. But he was careful not to repeat this question to Herr Timar.
The next day Timéa asked him whether her father, Ali Tschorbadschi, would also arrive in that world to which she was going?
To this delicate question the minister was unable to give a satisfactory reply.
“But is it not the case that I shall there still be the wife of Herr Levetinczy?” asked Timéa, with lively curiosity. To this the Herr Pastor was glad to reply, with gracious readiness, that that would certainly be the case.
“Well, then, I shall ask Herr Levetinczy, when we both go to heaven, to keep a little place for my father, that he may be with us; and surely he will not refuse me?”
The reverend gentleman scratched his ear violently, and thought he had better lay this difficult point before the church synod.
The third day he said to Timar that it would be best to baptize and marry the young lady at once: then her husband could give her instruction in the other dogmas.
The next Sunday the sacred rite was celebrated. Timéa then for the first time entered a Protestant church. The simple building, with its whitewashed walls and unornamented chancel, made a very different impression on her mind from that other church, out of which the naughty boys had chased her when she peeped in. There were golden altars, great wax tapers burning in silver candelabra, pictures, incense filling the air, mysterious chants, and people sinking on their knees at the sound of a bell. Here sat long rows of men and women apart, each with their book before them, and after the precentor had set the tune, all the congregation joined in unison. Then silence, and the minister mounted the high pulpit and began to preach without any ceremony. He did not sing, nor drink from the chalice, nor show any holy relics — only talk, talk on.
Timéa sat in the first row with her sponsors, who led her to the font, where another long sermon was preached. At last it was over; the neophyte bowed her head over the basin, and the minister baptized her, in the name of the Trinity, “Susanna.” She wondered why she should be called Susanna, as she was quite satisfied with her own name.
Then they all sat down again and sung the eighty-third psalm, “Oh, God of Israel,” which awoke in Timéa a slight doubt as to whether she had not been turned into a Jewess.
All her doubts vanished, however, when another minister arose, and read from the chancel a document which set forth that the noble Herr Michael Timar von Levetinczy, of the Swiss Protestant Church, had betrothed himself to Fraülein Timéa Susanna von Tschorbadschi, also of the Swiss Protestant religion.
Two more weeks must pass before the marriage. Michael spent every day with Timéa. The girl always received him with frank cordiality, and he was happy in his anticipations of the future. He generally found Athalie with his bride, but she made some pretext for leaving the room, and her mother look her place.
Mamma Sophie entertained Michael with praises of his bride — what a dear girl she was, and how often she spoke of her kind, good Michael, who had taken such care of her on board the “St. Barbara.” Sophie had heard every little detail, which only Timéa could have known, and Michael was delighted to find that she remembered so well.
“If you only knew, dear Levetinczy, how fond the girl is of you!” And Timéa was not confused when she heard Frau Sophie say this. She affected no modest contradiction, but did not strengthen the assurance by any shy blushes. She allowed Timar to hold her hand in his and look into her eyes, and when he came and went she smiled at him.
At last the wedding-day arrived. Troops of guests streamed in from all parts, a long row of carriages stood in the street, as on that other ill-omened day; but this time no misfortune occurred.
The bridegroom fetched the bride out of the house of Brazovics, which was now her own, and took her to the church, but the wedding banquet was in the bridegroom’s house. Frau Sophie would not be denied the task of arranging everything. Athalie remained at home and looked from behind the curtain, through the same window at which she had awaited the arrival of her own bridegroom, while the long row of carriages was set in motion.
And there she waited till they all went past again after the marriage, bride and bridegroom now in the same carriage, and looked after them. And if during this time the whole congregation had prayed for the young couple, we may be sure that she also sent a — prayer — after them.
Timéa had not found the ceremony as impressive as Frau Sophie had described it to her. The clergyman did not wear a golden robe or miter himself, nor did he bring out any silver crowns to crown them as lord or lady to each other. The bridegroom wore a velvet coat, as nobles did then, with agraffes and fur on it. He looked a fine man, but he held his head down; he was not yet used to carry it proudly, as beseems the gala suit of a noble. There was no veil wound round the two, no drinking from the same cup, no procession round the altar and holy kiss, not even any altar at all; only a black-robed minister, who said wise things no doubt, but which had not the mysterious charm of the “Gospodi Pomiluj.” The Protestant marriage, deprived of all ceremony, leaves the Oriental fancy, with its desire for excitement, quite cold. And Timéa only understood the external ceremony as yet.
The brilliant banquet came to an end; the guests went away, the bride remained in the bridegroom’s house.
When Timar was alone with Timéa, when he sat by her side and took her hand, he felt his heart beat and its pulsation spread through his whole frame. . . . The unspeakable treasure which was the goal of all his desires is in his possession. He has only to stretch out his arm and draw her to his breast. He dares not do it — he is as if bound by a spell. The wife, the baroness, does not shrink at his approach. She does not tremble or glow. If only she would cast her eyes down in alarm when Michael’s hand touched her shoulder! If only the warm reflex of a shy blush passed over her pale face, the spell would be broken. But she remains as calm and cold and passionless as a somnambulist. Michael sees before him the same figure which he awoke from death on that eventful night — the same which lay on the bed before him like an altar-picture which radiates cold to the spectator, and whose face never changed when her night-dress slipped from her shoulders, nor even when told that her father was dead — not even when Timar whispered into her ear, “Beloved!”
She is a marble statue — a statue which bows, dresses itself, submits, but is not alive. She sees, but her glance neither encourages nor alarms. He can do what he likes with her. She allows him to let down her lovely bright hair, and spread the locks over her shoulders; she allows his lips to approach her white face, and his hot breath to touch her cheek: but it kindles no responsive warmth in her. Michael thinks if he were to press the icy form to his breast, the charm would be broken; but in the act of doing it, an even greater emotion overcomes him. He starts back as if he was about to commit a crime against which nature, his guardian angel, every sensitive nerve in him protested. “Timéa,” he whispered to her in caressing murmurs, “do you know that you are my wife?”
Timéa looked at him and answered, “Yes, I know it.”
“Do you love me?”
Then she opened wide her large dark eyes, and as he looked into them it seemed to him as if he were granted a glimpse into all the mysteries of the starry heavens. Then she veils them again with her silky lashes.
“Do you feel no love for me?” entreats the husband with a yearning sigh.
That look again, and the pale woman asks, “What is love?”
What is love? All the wise men in the world could not explain it to one who does not feel it. But it requires no explanation for those who have it within them.
“Oh, you child!” sighed Timar, and rose from his wife’s side.
Timéa rose also. “No, sir, I am no longer a child. I know what I am-your wife. I have sworn it to you, and God has heard my vow. I will be a faithful and obedient wife to you — it is appointed to me by fate. You have shown me so much kindness, that I owe you a lifelong gratitude. You are my lord and master, and I will always do what you wish and order.”
Michael turned away and covered his face. This look of self-sacrifice and abnegation froze all desire in his veins. Who would have the courage to press a martyr to his heart, the statue of a saint, with palm-branches and crown of thorns?
“I will do what you command.”
Michael now first began to guess what a hollow victory he had won. He had married a marble statue.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52