Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/21

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147
FROZEN BEAUTY

ping water from the shower alike, as if the ice had stored up extra chill in the long years it lay locked in the frost-bound earth of Outer Mongolia, and several times I saw it freeze the water they dropped on it instead of yielding to the liquid's higher temperature. At last the casing melted off and they laid the stiff, marmoreal body in the tub, then ran a stream of water from the faucet. For ten hours this was cool, and the gelid body showed no signs of yielding to it. Time after time we felt the stone-hard arms and hands, the legs and feet that seemed for ever locked in algid rigor mortis, the little flower-like breasts that showed no promise of waking from their frigid unresponsiveness. Indeed, far from responding to the water's thermal action, the frozen body seemed to chill its bath, and we noticed little thread-like lines of ice take form upon the skin, standing stiffly out like oversized mold-spores and overlaying the white form with a coat of jewel-bright, quill-like pelage.

"Excellent, parfait, splendide; magnifique!" de Grandin nodded in delight as the ice-fur coat took form. "The chill is coming forth; we are progressing splendidly."

When the tiny icicles cleared away, they raised the water's temperature a little, gradually blending it from tepid to blood-warm, and fifteen hours of immersion in the warmer bath brought noticeable results. The skin became resilient to the touch, the flesh was firm but flexible, the folded hands relaxed and slipped down to the sides, slim ankles loosed their interlocking grip and the feet lay side by side.

"Behold them, if you please, my friend," de Grandin whispered tensely. "Her feet, see how they hold themselves!"

"Well?" I responded. "What——"

"Ah hah, has it been so long then since your student days that you do not remember the flaccidity of death? Think of the cadavers which you worked upon—were their feet like those ones yonder? By blue, they were not! They were prolapsed, they hung down on the ankles like extensions of the leg, for their flexor muscles had gone soft and inelastic. These feet stand out at obtuse angles to the legs."

"Well——"

"Précisément; tu parles, mon ami. It is very well, I think. It may not be a sign of life, but certainly it negatives the flaccidness of death."

Periodically they pressed die thorax and abdomen, feeling for the hardness of deep-seated frozen organs. At length, "I think we can proceed, my friends," de Grandin told us, and we lifted the limp body from the bath and dried it hurriedly with warm, soft towels. De Grandin drew the plugs of cotton from the nostrils and wiped the lips with ether to dissolve the seal of flexible collodion, and this done he and Aksakoff began to rub the skin with heated olive oil, kneading with firm gentleness, massaging downward toward the hands and feet, bending arms and legs, wrists, neck and ankles. Somehow, the process repulsed me. I had seen a similar technique used by embalmers when they broke up rigor mortis, and the certitude of death seemed emphasized by everything they did.

"Now, Dei gratia, we shall succeed!" the Frenchman whispered as he turned the body on its face and knelt over it, applying his hands to the costal margins, bearing down with all his might. There was a gentle, sighing sound, as of breath slowly exhaled, and Aksakoff went pale as death.

"She lives!" he whispered. "O Nikakova, lubimui moï, radost moya——"