Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/13

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139
FROZEN BEAUTY

down the beautifully shaped thighs until it reached the knees. The slender, shapely feet were crossed like those on mediæval tombs whose tenants have in life made pilgrimage to Rome or Palestine; her elbows were bent sharply so her hands were joined together palm to palm between her breasts with fingertips against her chin. I could make out gold-flecked lashes lying in smooth arcs against her pallid cheeks, the faint shadows round her eyes, the wistful, half-pathetic droop of her small mouth. Oddly, I was conscious that this pallid, lovely figure typified in combination the austerity of sculptured saint, lush, provocative young womanhood and the innocent appeal of childhood budding into adolescence. Somehow, it seemed to me, she had lain down to die with a trustful resignation like that of Juliet when she drained the draft that sent her living to her family's mausoleum.

"Nikakova!" whispered our companion in a sort of breathless ecstasy, gazing at the quiet figure with a look of rapture.

"Hein?" de Grandin shook himself as though to free his senses from the meshes of a dream. "What is this, Monsieur? A woman tombed in ice, a beautiful, dead woman——"

"She is not dead," the other interrupted. "She sleeps."

"Tiens," a look of pity glimmered in the little Frenchman's small blue eyes, "I fear it is the sleep that knows no waking, mon ami."

"No, no, I tell you," almost screamed the young man, "she's not dead! Pavlovitch assured me she could be revived. We were to begin work tonight, but they found him first, and——"

"Halte la!" dc Grandin bade. "This is the conversation of the madhouse, as meaningless as babies' babble. Who was this Doctor Pavlovitch, and who was this young woman? Who, by blue, are you. Monsieur?"

The young man paid no heed, but hastened around the coffin, feeling with familiar fingers for a series of small buttons which he pressed in quick succession. As the final little knob was pressed we heard a slowly rising, prolonged hiss, and half a dozen feathery jets of snowflakes seemed to issue from the icy dome above the body. The room grew cold and colder. In a moment we could see the vapor of our breaths before our mouths and noses, and I felt a chill run through me as an almost overwhelming urge to sneeze began to manifest itself.

"Corbleu," de Grandin's teeth were chattering with the sudden chill, "I shall take pneumonia; I shall contract coryza; I shall perish miserably if this continues!" He crossed the room and threw a window open, then leant across the sill, fairly soaking in the moist, warm summer air.

"Quick, shut the lights off!" cried our visitor. "They must not see us!" He snapped the switch with frenzied fingers, then leaned against the door-jamb breathing heavily, like one who has escaped some deadly peril by the narrowest of margins.

As the outside air swept through the room and neutralized the chill, de Grandin turned again to the young man. "Monsieur" he warned, "my nose is short, but my patience is still shorter. I have had enough—too much, parbleu! Will you explain this business of the monkey now, or do I call the officers and tell them that you carry round the body of a woman, one whom you doubtless foully murdered, and——"

"No, no, oot that!" the visitor besought. "Please don't betray me. Listen, please; try to realize what I say is true."

"My friend, you cannot put too great a strain on my credulity," de Grandin answered. "Me, I have traveled much, seen much, know much. The things which I know to be true would make a