15 Chapter 15: We are sailing to Constantinople
After some time the clumsy sailor showed up. He was bringing a collapsible table and a tablecloth, and the man-servant with the plates and the set of table tools was following him.
The Turks remembered that they still had to change their clothes before taking their seats at the table d’hote, and they hurried downstairs.
Once they left, it became easier for me instantly. I.’s harmonious atmosphere embraced me like the pure air of the mountains. All trifles, my irritation, thoughts and feelings which were leading me to hopeless, personal suffering as though came off me. An interest in his inner world rose to the first plan, a wish to understand the cause of this extraordinary radiance of his. Unwittingly, I yielded to the charms of his tranquillity and even to some grandeur of his mood. In my thoughts I came back to his childhood, to his suffering and I was reflecting upon that power which he’d achieved now.
I was sitting next to him in silence and only now, for the first time I noticed that the whole outer noise wasn’t disturbing me, that as though I wasn’t noticing people by seeing them clearly with my eyes.
I didn’t turn into Lovushka – the catcher of the crows, I perceived where I was and I even exchanged a few words with the captain; although everything inside of me was as though buzzing – I was calm. I had never experienced such tranquillity and perception that all of it inside of me was because of that inner harmony which Lolion who kept smiling was spreading around himself.
“Here’s how man can be with his inner state. Here’s where the power of help for people is, without any words, any sermons, only by his own living example,” I was thinking to myself.
Even my impatience to find out from whom I received the parcel and the letter stopped; I began to think about the letter that I received from Florentian. Only now his words that I had to go to India reached me. I was interested in this country for a long time already, maybe because I had read many books about it at my brother’s and seen many illustrations, but now when I met such people like Ali, when I found out from I. that all of them, including sir Vomi, were living in India, my interest in it came to life again. I wanted to see that country myself. My fear and protest against the East settled down a little. I began to perceive the separation with my brother from a new angle, it wasn’t only a tragedy for me anymore, but it was also the beginning of my endurance.
We finished our dinner. Unfortunately, I had to ask I. for his help instantly, to take his drops, because there still was a strong tossing in the open sea, and I was unable to feel strongly. As the captain had foreseen, the echoes of the storm continued, only now this somehow was affecting me very strongly.
“I can see for a long time already that you want to tell me about your impressions from the stoppage at B. I also have some news for you,” I. was talking to me.
“First of all, I want to find out from whom I received the parcel and the letter, and to share its contents with you,” I answered him.
A derisive smile slipped across I.’s face, he stood up and offered me to come back to our cabin. I pulled the letter and the parcel from under my pillow. The signature “Chava” which I read first of all surprised me most.
I was so surprised that instead of reading the letter, I extended it to I. I was thinking that the image of the black statue with the white dress only flashed like a butterfly and disappeared, but now it came to life again and affected me rather unpleasantly.
I. took the letter, looked at me with his shinning eyes and started reading it loudly.
_“I don’t know in which words to address you. If I was a white-skinned woman, I would know how to evade the conditional rules of conduct of the society, which were formed by the prejudices of ages, but my black skin doesn’t admit me even to the rules of politeness and conduct, which the white people are mostly applying only to themselves. I can address you only like that eternal, little part of light, which is living in every man and which doesn’t depend on the place, time, nationality or religion. Only knowledge dispels all prejudices and opinions which are rammed into people’s heads. Therefore, by addressing your love, I dare to say “Friend” to you._
So, Friend, - for the first time in my life, a white man showed his politeness and compassion to me by pressing my black hands to his lips. If I were to live for thousand years more, I wouldn’t forget these kisses, because my heart responded with a kiss to them. Perhaps love, about which women are talking and expressing it with their actions, has many forms, but for me only one form of it is accessible – that’s a limitless selflessness, not demanding anything in return to oneself. I give my entire heart to you, which doesn’t know any doubts, and I will follow you faithfully wherever you may go, it doesn’t matter if it would be a heaven or hell, fire or water, a success or failure. It is clear to me why I must live exactly so and what eternal laws are binding us to together. One day in the future, it will be clear to you as well, but now I will pass them over in silence. I understand what you may think of such an attachment of mine to you, which now is so unnecessary and limiting to you, but the time will come, you will choose a friend of life for yourself and then you will need the black nurse for your white-skinned children very much. My devotion that I’m offering to you now is simple, easy and joyful, if we look at it from the position of conditionalities. If a thought could rise to the spaces of the movement of the entire universe and would catch a free note of love over there, of love which isn’t oppressed by the illusionary understanding of the daily routine that it is a test, a duty and a desire to acquire as much as possible personal wealth, then we could see there not the grey daily routine oppressed by sadness or heartbreak, but a happy opportunity to pour love from our hearts – free, pure, unselfish love – and that is exactly what the true human happiness is. And let life forgive my certitude, but I know that I will find my quiet harbour in your home by educating your children. I know how my black skin frightened you, so I appreciate the nobleness of your heart even more, which has sent a kiss to my hands. Wishing to remind you not of my blackness, but only of our meeting, I’m sending a small box to you, which I hope you will like. Accept it as the greatest present of my devotion. Sir Vomi gave it to me on the occasion of my majority. He explained to me that I had to give it to that person for whom I would be ready to die. I’ve already told you – my path is after you. In order to not show myself to be sentimental, I finish my letter by bowing low before your friend I., your brother and your great friend Florentian.
Your servant Chava“
I. had already read the letter long time ago, while I was still sitting with my head put on my hands and I didn’t know what I should think about this unexpected coincidence, too.
“There are no coincidences,” I heard my friend’s voice. “Everything what we encounter obeys to the law of the causality, and there’s no effect in life without a cause. The more man liberates from the prejudices, the more he may know. Chava is right when she writes that knowledge dispels all prejudices and opinions rammed in one’s head. We will still have lots of time and we will be able to talk about all of it. I can tell you that the sarths who were following us died during the storm in the old Greek ship. Their hatred forced them to board the ship, although they knew about the upcoming storm. Now we are free from any persecutors until we reach Constantinople, and there we will find out what happens next. Maybe you shoot a glance at such a sacred Chava’s present, because the tossing increases, and we certainly need to make the round of the whole steamer. The people are much more sensitive to the tossing after the experienced storm. First of all, we have to visit Joan, then Italians and so on…”
In unwrapped the small Chava’s parcel and I took a small dark blue square box out of the leather case. On its cover, on the oval made of enamel I saw the portrait of sir Vomi, which was set in a frame of small, but nicely shinning brilliants, and instead of a lock, there was a large, prominent, dark sapphire fixed.
“During my entire life I hadn’t seen so many precious things as lately when I was able to hold them in my hands,” I said, while being lost in thought.
“Yes,” I. answered me. “So many people would like at least to hold the portrait of sir Vomi in their hands, not only to receive it as the present, but hide everything in the travelling-bag, it is time for us to move already.”
As I was told, I put all the things and books in the travelling-bag, I. took the first-aid kits. We didn’t even have time to put the first-aid kits on our shoulders, and the clumsy sailor already came hurriedly to us. This time he came as a messenger of the captain with the request for us to hurry to the hospital’s cabin No. 1A, where the children and their mother were very ill.
We dashed away to via the nearest way, while my nurse clumsy sailor saved both my nose and my ribs from breaking many times, because once again I was unable to keep my balance. To my question if the new storm wasn’t starting, I. answered me that nature couldn’t rage so much two times in a row, while the clumsy sailor was laughing and he stated that it was only the ripples of the sea surface. Maybe it was only the ripples, but I must admit that it was a very nasty ripple.
Having entered the Joan’s cabin, we found almost the same scene of despair once again, like the first time. The mother was sitting on the sofa, squeezed herself into the corner of it. Both of her children were in her arms. An absolute confusion was reflected on her face.
When I. bent down and wanted to take the girl from her, so he could put her in the bed, Joan seized his hands and she was shouting that the girl was dying and that she didn’t want to let her die on the cold bed, let her rather die at her mother’s heart. She seized I.’s hands so strongly that if I hadn’t rushed to the boy, he would have rolled down from her knees onto the floor.
Having taken the boy in my arms, I was already going to give a shout and reproach the mother for such behaviour of her, but… sir Vomi’s reflection which had entered my heart firmly helped me to control myself, and I told her tenderly.
“So here’s how you are keeping your promise to take care of your children selflessly. Is it more convenient for them to be on your knees and not in their beds?”
Joan was crying. She said to me that she didn’t see me for so long time that she lost her self- control, while the children’s illness was breaking her heart. It turned out that, according to her, I had absolutely forgotten her. I reproached her that both I. and the Italians visited her, that I sent the flowers and books to her, only that she shouldn’t think that my presence or absence could have any influence to her children’s health.
“I’m still so young and I know so little, I need an all-round education and guardianship myself,” I continued my thought, “that if not my brother I., then I would have died ten times already. You must stop being sad. Don’t think how lonesome you are, you’d rather help the doctor to give your children the medicine to drink.”
I don’t know very well myself what I was talking to poor Joan, but the intonation of my voice must have rendered the entire tenderness of my compassion to her. She wiped her tears instantly and… nobody could have found a better nurse.
I. was delayed by the girl for quite a long time, because she was terribly sickly.
“Today she will feel so bad for several hours more, but tomorrow she will really start recovering,” I. was explaining to Joan. “Tomorrow let her stay in the bed during the entire day. If there’s no tossing, take her on the deck, and your little boy will ask you for something to eat in an hour already.”
We were already going to leave, but Joan addressed I. pleadingly.
“Let your brother stay with me. I’m always afraid of something, a new disaster appears to me all the time, also it always seems to me that my children will die.”
I. nodded his head. He told me to stay here, until the clumsy sailor comes. Only if anyone called for a doctor, I would have to explain to him that I. was the doctor, while I could help only while being next to him, that I was helpless alone.
I. left us. I was left alone with Joan next to the little beds of the children. The girl was calming little by little, her breathing was becoming even, her suffocation stopped. Joan kept silent, she didn’t cry, but I saw that not only her girl’s illness was to blame for this new attack of her despair.
“What has happened,” I asked her, “that you are like this again?”
“I don’t know myself why all those terrible memories and the images of my husband’s death rushed into my memory. I felt such fear of the future… I cannot even describe to you what dreadful dear seizes me when I’m thinking that we will arrive to Constantinople and I will have to part with you and your brother. I will die of loneliness and hunger.”
“You will die of loneliness and hunger? And your children will outlive you? Who is going to work for their sake? Do they have anyone closer to them than you? You are thinking about what has happened and what will happen. And how about now? Aren’t you thinking about that moment when you almost dropped your boy and that you harmed your daughter by keeping her not in the bed? Up to now I, just like you, also was always thinking about that what had happened and what would happen. One of my beloved and wise friends, as well as my current brother in arms I., showed me with their examples that one must live only with that what is happening now, and that the most important thing is namely that “now”. You, too, try not to cry, but to nurse your children cheerfully. Your tears are disturbing their peaceful sleep, and they will be sick for a long time. Give them your smile, and their health will improve faster. As far as Constantinople is concerned, I. told you that he would help you to settle, and his words never differ from his deeds. If your goal is to help your children to rise to their feet, then why you should think if you are alone? You know from your own experience already how everything is unsteady in life. Don’t think about
that what will happen, but think about and ask I. to teach you how you could start educating your children. As far as I am concerned, I cannot help you in any way. I don’t have neither my own family nor home myself, I still cannot earn my bred, because I don’t possess neither knowledge nor talents to do something. I am sure that I. would help you.”
“I’m afraid of him very much and I feel shy,” the poor woman answered me, “but I’m not afraid of you and I’m very glad to be with you.”
“This is because I am the same child without any experience like yourself, but if you could take a better look at I., you would rejoice at every moment that you are spending next to him.”
“You’ve just told me that mother’s smile could help her children. I’m trying not to cry, but it is so difficult. I don’t think that I. could teach me how to educate my children. He’s so strict, he never smiles. Being next to him, I feel like being in an iron cage, and while being next to you, I feel easy and well.”
“It is easy for you to be with me, only because I’m the same light-minded person like yourself. You’d better concentrate and think for a while what great energy you could give to your children if you really loved them! Then not the tears would be flowing from your eyes, but the whole flows of energy. You are crying for yourself, right? And you have to think how to protect your children.”
“I still cannot understand you,” Joan began to speak very silently after a long consideration, “but it becomes clear to me that I’m really thinking too much about myself. I will try to delve deeply into your words, perhaps they will help me to live differently.”
I was truly sorry for the poor woman. I was trying not to cross the limits of our friendly conversation and not to pass to the tone of an educator. Joan was simply changing in front of my eyes. That smile which was always shining in her young face when I used to be next to her wasn’t already playing on it, but her disappointment was gone, too. Her sadness, a strict resolution – as though all of a sudden she had become older than me – separated her from me with the ring in which she retired into herself.
We were sitting next to the little beds of her children silently, and my thoughts came back to Chava. What a strong and brave woman she seemed to be for me now! And how her black hand of assistance would be needed for this fragile and delicate mother now!
“Don’t think that I’m weak and I’m afraid of word,” all of a sudden the trembling voice of Joan sent me back from the world of the dreams. “No, no, I’m not afraid of work. Simply I loved my husband too much and this loss mixed my love to him and my tears for him with my love for my children and with my fear for them. I feel that I begin to grasp that fear is draining my energy, it is leading me to disappointment, and with that I harm my children. Only now it becomes clearer to me to what a horrible life I will doom myself if I don’t find the courage and strength to live only for my children, to be their protection, if I am only mourning over my sad destiny of the woman who has lost her husband.”
There came a knock at the door. The radiating clumsy sailor entered and told me that I. was inviting me to come to the first class where the Italian fell ill again. I said good-bye to Joan and I felt that as though with my words I had hurt and disappointed her. Her hand-shake was sincere, but her face remained strict.
I found I. in the cabin of signoras Galdoni, where the mother had burst into tears, while her daughter was lying like a corpse.
“This is namely that difficult case about which I was telling you still for the first time. Such faint of the organism will happen after every strong excitement, until signora Maria learns to control herself perfectly,” I. addressed me.
“No, no, I didn’t tell her anything special,” signora Giovana was irritated and she was speaking loudly in a raised voice. “I only wanted to warn her about the new disaster. One misfortune was already enough for us.”
“Why are you trying to turn your neighbours’ attention by speaking loudly?” I. told her silently. “Now we need to help your daughter to recover her consciousness, right? It isn’t so easy to do that. If you keep screaming like this, my efforts may be of no use at all. If you cannot find so much love in your heart that you would be thinking about your daughter’s life and concentrate all your strength to help her instead of thinking about your experiences, then leave the cabin. All egoistic thoughts and irritation is only hindering in the moment of danger.”
“Doctor, please forgive the eclipse of my mind. I will be praying for her from the bottom of my heart,” the mother was speaking to I. by trying to hold back her tears.
“Then forget yourself, think only about her and stop crying. One is always crying only for oneself,” I. answered her.
Like the first time, he asked me to lift the girl a little and, having opened her mouth, to give her the medicine to drink. He injected one more medicine, and both of us started doing the artificial ventilation to her.
All our efforts were unsuccessful. Then he strewn some bitterly smelling powder on the paper, rolled a tip from it, set it on fire and put it to the very nose of the girl. Having inhaled, she gave a start, sneezed, expectorated, opened her eyes and fainted away again.
Then I. besprinkled her face with water, put a hot warmer at her neck and set the herbs on fire again. She gave a start again, uttered a groan and opened her eyes. With my help I. seated her up and, while holding the burning herbs close to her face, he told her.
“Breathe with your mouth and as deeply as possible.”
I was holding the girl over her shoulders and I felt how her entire body was starting with every deep inhalation.
We couldn’t step aside from her still for a long time. Only when she had already recovered completely, I. ordered to give her some warm milk to drink, he forbid her to talk at all and covered her with a warm blanket. He explained to her mother that the storm wouldn’t happen again for certain, and that the sea would subside completely in a couple of hours.
We went out on the deck where the whole crowd of people was waiting for us. The unhappy husband of the vixen duchess was standing in front of the crowd. The youth seemed to be very grief- stricken. A dark blue bruise was visible on his left cheek, his right eye was all swollen and with a bruise, too, as though he had participated in a fight.
His appearance was so deplorable that even the funny contrast between his elegant suit and his crooked, coloured physiognomy wasn’t making us laugh, while his only pleading eye was telling about the vast tragedy experienced by this man.
“Doctor,” he addressed I. with his trembling and weak voice. “Be pitiful. To tell you the truth, I’m not to blame for my wife’s escapades. The ship’s doctor refuses to visit us by excusing himself of the great amount of patients. He is thinking that the duchess is partially pretending and is unwell out of fear, but I can assure you that she’s really dying. I had never seen her like this. She can neither scream nor rage
anymore. She’s very very old. Be pitiful,” he was mumbling. “It will be a terrible drama for myself and others if I fail to bring her to Constantinople…”
I. was looking at this unfortunate man in silence, while the ruined life, sold for money to the disgusting old woman, drifted past my eyes. I don’t know what I would have done myself, but I. told him silently.
“Take us to her cabin!”
“Oh, thank you,” the duchess’ husband uttered, and we followed him to the cabin No. 25.
“I will be back soon,” I. was speaking to the people who had surrounded him from all sides. “I will examine everybody who needs my help. Don’t follow us, but wait for me here.”
Having entered the cabin, we saw a really horrible scene. In the hopeless mess we discerned an ugly, repulsive, grey, not breathing creature with the toothless, protruded jaw, who was lying on the bed and who now didn’t remind of anything the raging, fat old woman with red-haired wig, making a racket in the corridor of the hospital.
I. went up to the bed, touched the hand, forehead and neck of the old woman who looked more like a corpse and directed his look at her husband whose only eye was showing all his fear while waiting for I.’s verdict.
“Your wife is alive,” finally he told him, “but we already cannot expect anymore that she will fully recover. She’s half-finished by the paralysis and she will be unable to move anymore, and as far as her speaking and hands are concerned, I will be able to tell you only when I bring her to her senses, and you do all my prescribed procedures.”
“I’m determined to nurse her with all my might, only that her life wouldn’t die out and she would make it to Constantinople. She must meet her son, my cousin, there. Let happen what has to happen there, only that nobody would suspect me that I have done away with her on our way,” the man was speaking so, and began to cry bitterly like a little child.
Now it is difficult to say, which feelings were stronger within me back then: a contempt for the man who radiates health, but has acquired the title, because he didn’t want to work, or a compassion for the man who has lost his way to comprehension what a value an independent activity was.
If lately I hadn’t been living among the people of such high moral like Florentian and I., I probably would only turn away rudely from the duke who was exciting disgust. However, now there wasn’t any place left for condemnation in my heart anymore, I only felt my helplessness to help him once again.
“Be strong, my friend,” I heard I.’s voice.
The duke raised his face which was wet because of the tears and answered I. in a strong voice which I didn’t expect from him.
“Oh, doctor, doctor! How much horror I had to endure during these three years! How much shame and suffering of humiliation I had to bear for that reckless mistake of mine. This life of an idler has exhausted me more than any suffering. Only save her life. I will hand her to her son from hand to hand and I will start working. I will try to retrieve the respect of honest people with my new life, which I have lost now, it doesn’t matter if I had to become a beggar because of it.”
And he covered his disfigured face with his hands again.
“Be strong,” I. repeated one more time. “It is never too late to start a new life and to earn your bred. You don’t even have to go begging, we will help you to find a job if you want it, but I think that at the moment you must stay by your wife. She knows about your honesty and she doesn’t trust anyone except you, but she didn’t tell the truth even to you about how fabulously wealthy she was. Now, without her legs, and maybe without her hands, she won’t agree to stay without you even for a moment. She trusts only you. First of all, do your duty of the husband and the executor of the testament, and then already start your new life. And if you want to work, I will explain to you where and how to find me.”
I. took the syringe out of the first-aid kit, he was drawing the medicine from several little bottles for a long time and injected it in four times to both of her legs and hands. Besides, he told me to lift her ugly and terrible head a little and poured some bitterly smelling and colourless drops into each of her nostrils.
In the beginning it seemed as though the medicine wasn’t working, but after some ten minutes a groan slipped out of her opened mouth. Then we started doing the artificial ventilation to her.
We had to work for a long time. The sweat was simply streaming. The duke didn’t have any strength to watch this cruel gymnastics of the dying body; he turned away, sat down and began to cry bitterly.
All of a sudden, the old woman opened her eyes, gave a sigh and had a fit of coughing. I. didn’t step back from her, he told me to lift her head and to give her a part of Ali’s pill to drink urgently. I fulfilled this instruction of his. I. put the duchess’ hands on the warmer, he covered her with the blanket and told us to bring some warmed up red wine. After some time consciousness flashed in the old woman’s eyes.
“Do you hear me?” I. asked her.
Only a moo was heard instead of her answer. Having poured some warmed up wine into her mouth, I. gave her the remaining part of Ali’s pill to drink.
“Stop worrying. Not only you will take your wife to Constantinople, but you will also get tired of her a great deal over there. She won’t be able to move her legs anymore for sure, but I guess that her right hand and her speaking will recover,” I. was explaining to the duke. “Here’s the medicine for you. Now she will be sleeping for good three hours. Then give her these three medicine in turn every half an hour, very accurately. In the evening, before the sleep, I will still call at you.”
We said good-bye to the duke and came back to the passengers from the first class, who were waiting for us impatiently, because there was quite a lot of time gone by. A Greek boy was waiting for us most of all. Having seized I.’s hand, he was sputtering his words, and I could only understand that he was feeling well, the medicine had helped him, but his mother and his grandfather were very weak.
We found his grandfather really weak in the Greek’s cabin, while his daughter was very excited by his bed.
It was becoming clearer through her crying that she was obsessed by fear of death. When I. addressed the young woman, his voice was breathing of undisturbed calm, compassion and kindness.
“Is it really so difficult for you to understand that your excitement, your fear for your father prevents him from being healthy. He’s not a patient, he’s only tired, very tired, because he gave all strength for nursing you. How are you paying back to him now? You are only disturbing his rest with your tears and moaning. Control yourself, in truth all three of you are physically healthy now, only your spirit is ill. Instead of rejoicing, you are destroying all my efforts of love and energy with your sadness and fear. With my
efforts I show the way to your recovery. Leave your father in peace. Let him sleep, while you and your son could go out onto the deck, take a walk, concentrate and reflect about all last events of your life, which seemed to you like a Gordian knot, and thank life for their happy outcome.”
An unusual astonishment showed up in the Greek’s face. It seemed to me that I. was reading in her spirit like in an opened book. She was standing like a statue, she was growing red and pale, while her look was simply fastened to I.’s face.
Not uttering a single word anymore, I. gave the grandfather the medicine to drink. He turned him on another side, with his face to the wall, and we left. I turned around on the threshold – the Greek kept standing, motionless.
We visited several more patients, dropped in at Joan’s where everything was all right and came back to our cabin.
Here I. told me to take out the round leather box with bandages from the Florentian’s travelling-bag. Having taken some ointment and liquid, too, we climbed down to the Turk’s cabin where we found the younger Turk who was lying on the bed. He was page and he must have been suffering a lot.
“Your behaviour is unwise, Ibrahim. Why are you hiding the pain of your leg from your father? You risk to become lame by doing so. I’ve been watching your walk and I think that the bone would be either split or even broken. It’s the real madness to be afraid of upsetting your father!”
Having examined the leg with the big bruise, I. put the plaster bandage on it and forbad Ibrahim to walk. He told me to find his father in the billiards-room and to tell him that his son was lying with the broken leg which has been already bandaged and put in plaster.
I found the older Turk with much difficulty. It turned out that there were even several billiards-rooms. He was playing in the second class, he was merry and he was routing all of his opponents.
When I entered, exactly at that time he had won the new game against the doctor who was considered to be the champion of England. There was no limit to the Turk’s joy. His eyes were shining with joy, and he was happy with his victory like a child. It seemed that for him the whole world had concentrated in the billiard stick and the balls.
However, as soon as he saw me, his entire joviality was gone in a flash.
“Has something happened?” he asked me, worried.
“Nothing special,” I uttered him by trying to put an untroubled face. “I. sent me to you, because neither him, nor I are able to sit next to your son at the moment…”
I couldn’t even finish the sentence. The Turk threw the stick, ran from the billiards-room like a deer, and through several steps he was already leaping to the top.
I hardly had any time to shout to the clumsy sailor who was accompanying me: “Hold him!” Sadness squeezed my heart – once again I failed to fulfil the task that was entrusted to me.
When I. was sending me to Ibrahim’s father, he reminded me of his mad love to his son. He told me to try to predispose him against his son’s illness and to send him to the cabin only then when he was able to look at his lying son calmly and not to disturb the patient’s peace with his cries. Although I understood everything well, but it turned out that my understanding was only theoretical, while in practice I proved to be helpless to influence a man’s heart and to pour a little peace into it.
I was running upstairs, too, but no matter how I was hurrying, I reached the top only when the clumsy sailor who heard my request blocked the way for the Turk with his extended hands and spread legs.
The scandal was already guaranteed: the Turk looked like a furious bull and he was ready to attack the clumsy sailor. Ibrahim’s father changed very much – his face became pale, his eyes opened wide, his lips were trembling. He raised his fists and was so dreadful that I almost turned into Lovushka the catcher of the crows. It seemed already that I got confused, but suddenly, as though pushed by some power, I rushed through the Turk’s armpit, leaped one step up and turned my face to him… At the same moment, his fist that was as heavy as the hammer landed upon my hand and in this way it protected the clumsy sailor’s solar plexus where the deadly Turk’s blow was aimed. This blow was strong, but it reach my head already weakened by someone’s hand which seized the Turk’s fist in the last moment.
Having taken a look at the man who was fighting against the furious Turk, I recognized my rescuer – that was the captain. He was already prepared to give a whistle and to summon his crew, so that they would tie the furious man up when I. seized the Turk with his strong hands and told him only a couple of words silently, but clearly and insistently in the language that I didn’t know.
As if struck by the lightening, the Turk hung his head and hands. His face grew deadly pale, and two by tears rolled down his cheeks.
Having turned to the captain, with the entire politeness and tact that was characteristic to him, I. was sincerely asking his pardon for such an attack of fury of his friend Turk. He was explaining to him that this paroxysm was summoned by his care for his son who was really seriously ill, but his father imagined that his son was dead and that he wasn’t allowed to approach his corpse, so he lost his head completely.
“I can understand that an ill-mannered person’s untameable temperament can disturb his equilibrium, but to start a fight against a child – that’s the limit behind which the grown-up man must be judged like a criminal,” the captain answered with an absolutely calm and sonorous voice, although he was all pale and strained like a string.
Now already I started explaining to the captain that the Turk didn’t have even a thought to beat me. I told him the whole situation from the beginning to the end. I acknowledged that it was my fault that I failed to prepare Ibrahim’s father for his son’s illness and that by doing so I gave rise to all this incident.
“My young friend, that isn’t called an incident, but a little bit differently,” the captain was talking to me by tenderly stroking my poor head. “Lovushka, please come to the young patient and stay with him until we clear up this event in my study.”
“I beg you, captain,” I seized the captain’s hand and I was whispering to him. “Don’t attach so much importance to this event. I told you everything clearly that the cause of this was I myself, right? Now help me to get out of all this mess, because the public is already starting to pay attention to us. You were drinking brotherhood with me, so does your love to me look like those flowers which fade as soon as they are touched stronger?”
Apparently, both my appearance and my voice were asking for sympathy, because it seemed as though the captain gave a smile. He told the clumsy sailor to accompany me to the Turk’s cabin and to stay there until I. came back.
He invited the Turk and I. to follow him.
It seemed that the captain’s hand had stopped and diminished the blow to my head to the minimum, however it was difficult for me to walk, I was leaning firmly upon the clumsy sailor and I could sit down on the arm-chair with much difficulty. Everything was drifting in front of my eyes, I was sickened and only now I could perceive that I could hardly stop myself from moaning.
Now I cannot tell exactly for how long I was sitting in that arm-chair. It seemed to me that the storm was starting once again, that I was being cast by the waves, that I was seeing the face of my wonderful friend Florentian who was bent over me…
I woke up and I felt myself strong and sound. First of all, I saw the sad, pale and sorrowful face of the older Turk. He was sitting next to me.
“Has something happened?” I asked him by having forgotten the former circumstances.
“Glory to Allah!” he gave a shout. “Finally you came to yourself, and I won’t feel to be a murderer anymore!”
“What do you mean a murderer? What are you talking about? Why am I here?” I kept asking him, having seen that I wasn’t lying in our cabin. “Where is I.? What has happened?”
I was trying to get up while talking and I already started worrying.
“In the name of Allah, lie calmly and don’t talk,” the Turk told me. “Because of that ill-fated blow of mine to you, you shiver with fever, you nauseate, you are delirious, and we have brought you here. My son is lying here, too. The gangrene has started for him. I. didn’t move from both of you for three days. Three hours ago he declared that there were no danger for your lives anymore and he left me here to protect you. Don’t try to get up, you are tied to the bed with belts, so that there would be as much peace as possible. I. told me to slacken the belts a little if you woke up until he was back, but you weren’t allowed to get up by any means. Lovushka, will you ever forgive me for such a dreadful act of mine? Not for the first time in my life, I’m absolutely losing my self-control, and every time the cause of my fury is love. When the captain wanted to send me into solitary for the fight on the ship, and I was trying to explain to him that love to my son had made me lose my mind, he asked me ironically: “Who needs such love which is sowing jealousy and scandals everywhere, and which only causes so much trouble instead of causing joy and making life easier?” I understand everything. Now I also understand the whole horror of that situation when my adorable son is afraid of me and he’s even hiding his pain from me – hence, he doesn’t see a friend in me…”
“You are thinking wrongfully, daddy,” all of a sudden a voice was heard from the adjacent bed. “I was a fool, because I was hiding my wound from everybody, thinking that everything would soon be over. Knowing well how you were praising an absolute self-control above all man’s qualities, I wanted to protect you from an unnecessary disappointment in yourself, because I also knew perfectly how any anxiety for your loves ones was driving you mad. Namely my loyal friendship to you, to the man of extraordinary qualities, and my love to you as my father made me hide my wound from you. I had to make sure many times that I was unable to treat you in such a way that wouldn’t irritate you. Daddy, you know that I don’t lose my self-control, I never raise my voice, and despite that, I cannot put into words my love and friendship to you in such external forms which wouldn’t excite your annoyance. Only my mother alone can talk to you in all moments of life…”
The younger Turk fell silent, and in his face which I could see clearly now showed up a dreamy expression, while his eyes were wet and shining. It seemed that the picture of his adorable mother flew his thoughts to the distant memories about the great spirituality of the woman who was living a heroic life.
I was trying to imagine that woman who had lived her entire life next to such a barrel of powder like the older Turk. Unwillingly, I started comparing my own character with his and, by taking a detached view, I understood how quarrelsome the unrestrained and ill-educated people were in everyday life.
I turned into Lovushka – the catcher of the crows, and my thoughts flew to the unknown distances. I was imagining a woman who was unknown to anybody, but who succeeded to educate her son Ibrahim so well in the daily chaos, while the storms of passions were raging. “What kind of a woman that mother was? What was her belief? What was her nationality?” All of a sudden the voice of the older Turk brought me back from my dreams.
“Mother, mother! Oh my son, if you knew how much your mother has suffered when she was young because of my frenzied jealousy! How many times I was threatening her with the knife! But she never had any fear, she was only protecting you, so that you wouldn’t see anything.”
The door opened suddenly and widely. I saw how the captain and I. entered the cabin. As always, the faces of both of them were energetic, only they were unusually pale and strict. I. bent over me, stroked my head and asked me tenderly.
“Can you hear me, Lovushka?”
I gave him a smile, I wanted to raise my hand and greet him, but the belts didn’t let me to move. It seemed to me that I was even laughing loudly by answering him: “I can hear you,” but in truth I hardly whispered these words and I felt very tired.
“Can you see, Lovushka, who came with me?” he asked me again.
“I see the captain who has drunk the brotherhood with me,” I answered him, “but I’m just tired for some reason.”
And against my will I started yawning so madly that I didn’t even have any strength to press my lips together.
“I asked you to sit with the patients for a while in absolute silence. I explained to you how dangerous the slightest agitation for these patients was, “I heard the strict I.’s voice. It was so strict that I had never heard it like this before. “And you, my friend, failed once again. Again you were thinking about yourself, and not about them.”
Now I asked them to help me to turn on another side and let me fall asleep. I wasn’t expecting this from the captain, but he bent over me and started to persuade me tenderly to lie on my back for a while, because now we were sailing into the bay, we were approaching the harbour, and the ship would toss a little, but soon we would sail up to the shore, then it would be calm, they would untie me and sit me up.
He extended his hand, took the glass with the medicine from I., put it to my lips and raised my head so carefully, as though it had been made of a friable mass.
I drank it and wanted to smile, but my yawning overcame me, then all of a sudden I disappeared somewhere, or perhaps, I fell into a doze.
I woke up in our cabin. The clumsy sailor was sitting next to me, and suddenly I saw a leaving woman who crossing the cabin’s threshold. It seemed to me that that was Joan. From the rather silly and sincere expression of my nurse – the clumsy sailor I understood that that was really her. There was so much
humour in his face, so much jolly happiness that some beauty was worried about me that I couldn’t hold it anymore and I burst out laughing. This time it was really a loud laughter.
“Oh! The coming back to life of my bold spirit also manifests itself with a laughter,” I heard the ringing voice of the captain. “Hello, my friend! Finally, you are recovered. Wait, wait! How fast you are! Lie down until I. comes, “he continued, not allowing me to get up.
But I kept laughing and I was fighting with him. The captain started begging me not to fuss, I saw anxiety and worry in his face.
“Dear, you understand yourself that after such serious illness you must be very careful. Lie calmly, I will send somebody to invite I., and then you probably will be able to get up.”
The captain ordered the clumsy sailor who was as drawn as the string to find I. and to ask him to come back to the cabin immediately.
During that time the captain was answering to my questions and he explained to me that today was already the fifth day of my illness and that we would reach Constantinople towards evening.
I became totally confused. My thoughts couldn’t draw up the events, I couldn’t remember anything from those five days, except the episode on the stairs, the blow, one more episode in the hospital
- and that was it what remained in my memory.
The captain was entertaining me, he told me that I. was very worried about my vision and hearing. He was even sending the telegram to lord Benedict to London and to some doctors to B., asking for help and advice. He received an answer from B. very quickly and calmed down partly, but he received an answer from London only yesterday. After I. received this telegram he stopped worrying about my recovery at all and took me here.
It became peaceful and clear in my heart. I understood that I. was sending telegrams to sir Vomi and Florentian. This undeserved care summoned the great respect within me for the attention that was simply poured before me.
I wanted to ask the captain if I. was telling him something about my brother, but the thought about the little word “tact” which Florentian kept repeating to me stopped me.
I heard the quick and light steps which I recognized immediately, and already nobody could stop me anymore. I jumped like a cat from the bed and fell myself on my rescuer I.’s neck.
“Lovushka, don’t be mad! You will suffocate me!” I. was crying to me, and both of them with the captain put me back to bed.
“What are you doing, really? I cannot lie down anymore!”
“And now your heart is beating like a hammer, because you have tired it,” I. answered to my protest. “You can only sit down in the arm-chair on the deck for a while, but even when we are in Constantinople, you still cannot walk for two or three days. If you want to be my assistant, if you want to help me to put Joan’s and her children’s lives in order, you have to show your character and to fulfil the doctors’ instructions obediently. And the instructions are exactly such!”
He looked me up and down meaningfully and added that it was important to visit not only Joan, both signoras Italians and the Greek family, who wanted to see me as soon as possible and whom we would need to help to put their lives in order somehow, but also the young duke who needed our guardianship and help mostly at the moment.
“You understand yourself that I alone won’t be able to do all that. In order for you to be my true assistant, you will have to forget your personal wants and to think only about those miserable people. Everyone of them is unhappy in his or her own way, but all of them are equally suffering from their own passions.”
The captain frowned. Finally he asked I.
“Tell me, friend, according to which laws of God and people you cross out the personal happiness from this young life? Does he really have to keep roaming about only with the troubles of the strangers when he could have a good time and live a happy life of the family father or the scientist? He possesses all the qualities that are needed for an excellent career, doesn’t he? He will be my brother, my heir. England is a wonderful country where everyone is living for himself and doesn’t trouble himself to pick other people’s disasters into their pockets, doesn’t hinder the lives of others.”
“Lovushka is a grown-up and a free man. He has every right to choose any way. If he expresses his desire to go with you and not with me, then you can move him to your own cabin right now,” I. answered him.
“Lovushka, move to my cabin. We will go to England. I’m single. You will be rich. My family is one of the best from the old landlords. My mother and my sister are charming women. They adore me and they will accept you like their own. You will be able to choose your career freely. Don’t be afraid, I won’t thrust the sailor’s career on you, neither a bride whom you won’t want, don’t think that England cannot change your motherland for you. You will love it when you know it better, and then everything what you want – the science, arts, travelling, love – then you can reach everything. You will be happy and free from all those obligations with which you are being educated now. Man lives only once, and the value of life is his personal experience, and not that you should forget yourself and think only about others,” the captain was talking to me, while walking slowly in our spacious cabin.
“I could give so much, oh how much, if I could be in London during these days,” I answered him. “But I would like to get there namely because I could forget myself and think about others, my dear friend. So, you can see yourself how it is impossible to coordinate our lives, although I love you very much, I like you very much. And I like you not because I respond to you with gratitude for such wonderful feelings with respect to me, but because you have grown firmly into my heart, as well as your great nobleness, courage and honour. My path is next to I. Only this path can bring me happiness. I met one great man not so long ago, I have become fond of him and now I’m loyal to him forever. Oh, if I could introduce him to you, I would be so happy! I know that you would evaluate him immediately, and then we could walk the same path, in a brotherly way and inseparably. I thank you for your tenderness and attention. I know that you are offering me the liberation according to your own understanding, because you think that I’m pulling the yoke of high ideas, that I’m entrapped in them. No, I’m absolutely free; I. was telling the truth. Now I feel happy that every moment of my worthless life up to now is dedicated to save my dear brother-father, my brother-educator, the only being in the whole world with whom we have the same ties of blood. Death and persecution is threatening him, while I’m trying to mislead the persecutors and to get them off the track with the help of his friends and myself. I will walk this path till the end, even if my death was close and inescapable. While I’m still alive, I will try to see the suffering of people and, as you have put it, I will be picking it into my pockets.”
The captain kept silent and he was looking at me sadly. Finally, he extended his hand to me and told me.
“Well then, put my bitterness into one of your pockets, too. Everything what I’m trying to achieve in my life is falling down. I had a fiancée – she broke her oath. I had a beloved brother – he passed
away. I had luck in my family – my father left us. I had a desire for honour – a duel prevented my respectable career. I met you – we didn’t become brothers. Your pockets must be bottomless. People are egoistic beings: if they only see that someone is ready to throw their troubles on his shoulders, they sit down on his hump and even seize him by the hair…”
He was silent for a while and then continued silently by addressing I.
“If I could somehow help you and your brother, take advantage of my offered help. I don’t have such attachments in my life which would fill it up fully. I was striving for them, seeking after them during my entire life, but they were always running away from me like an illusion. I’m absolutely free. I love the sea, because I don’t expect any stability and faithfulness from it. You are faithful to your love for your brother and to some friend. You are happier than me. I don’t have anybody who would need my faithfulness. My relatives manage without me easily.”
“You are very wrong,” I. exclaimed in some especial voice. “Don’t you remember the little Russian girl who loved you to the total renunciation? The talented violinist named Lisa?”
The captain stopped like thunderstruck.
“Lisa?! Lisa was fourteen years old. It would be naïve to think that it was serious. There was also her aunt there, who was simply haunting with her love. She seemed to me like a funny old fairy, and I was admiring the little jealous girl, but I never allowed myself to play with her feelings and I put the coolest armour of my courtesy and politeness on. I won’t argue with you, if the circumstances had been more fortunate, I could have fallen in love with this living being.”
“And this living being cannot leave your portrait and she’s searching for all sorts of possibilities to meet you. Not her fault, but only a huge tragedy of her family prevented her from cruising on this steamer and namely in this cabin.”
“It cannot be the truth, Lisa’s surname was different, and the countess R. from Gurzuf bought the tickets to this cabin.”
“Yes, but Lisa was using her aunt’s surname while she was staying in the seaside resort. Please believe me that countess R. is nobody else, but Lisa. And if you perceive honestly that you fall in love with that girl, then go to Gurzuf and meet Lisa. Her life is worth to be saved, and you have an opportunity to help the woman to live a happy life, not renouncing yourself. There are people who can love only once. Lisa is one of them. And nothing – neither riches nor her talent – can give her happiness if her heart doesn’t have a response. Don’t be cruel and light-minded. You were only playing with the girl’s feelings, thinking that her love was transitory, weren’t you? But actually, it turned out that her life was already broken. If you delay, her health may break down, too.”
There were no limits to my amazement: I was thinking if I loved Lisa, what she felt for me. Now I remembered some of the details of her behaviour, her attentive look when she said good-bye to I. in Sevastopol. She must have confided the secret of her heart to him.
The captain kept silent for a long time. No one from us was disturbing this silence.
“Strange, everything is so strange,” finally he sighed. “How it is wonderful that everything in our lives is happening so fast. So fast! Less than an hour ago, it seemed to me that my life without Lovushka would be futile. He won me over to his side with his heroism. When he answered me several minutes ago, I was going through the tragedy of disappointment and loss, and now as though I begin to see things clearly. Doctor I., I trusted you from the beginning, I excluded you from all meetings of my life in a special way, but in this moment your words as though took a screen off my thoughts and heart, I start hoping for real value
life for myself. What an egoist I am! I have already unrolled the flying carpet of my dreams in my thoughts, but I have forgotten what Lovushka was just telling me. No, I won’t start creating my new life until I haven’t helped the business of Lovushka and yourself.”
“Everyone has to walk his own path, and it is impossible to walk a stranger’s path even for a span,” I. told him. “We will meet you and your future wife Lisa – if you listen to the real voice of your heart
- many times, and every time you will be able to render us your friendly and rather significant assistance. Let life lead all of us in such a way as it is doing so. And believe me that everyone of us is walking in such a way how better, easier and faster it is for him to reach the happiness of knowing. We’ll be writing to you, I think you also will be doing so. And if you permit, I have a great favour to ask you now. Help us to settle the duke and his wife in some quite good villa in Constantinople. It will be very difficult to carry her out of the ship, because we can carry her only in our arms, and you know the curiosity of the crowd and how it will be difficult for the unfortunate husband to bear the mockery of the public when they see such a decrepit wife next to him.”
“It is more than simple to arrange everything,” the captain answered him. “A Greek family is cruising in one of the cabins – but actually, you know them, too, you were treating them during the storm. They have a quite big house with the big garden in which they don’t reside themselves, but they are only letting it. The boy mentioned to me that the house is free at the moment. If it is really so, then I will give you some people, and they will carry the old woman over to that house at night by using the stretcher. She will feel well there, while the duke will have a chance not to feel embarrassed of the strangers and to live alone, not accepting any other tenants in the house or garden. I will clear this up and let you know by sending someone to you. Now I have to go, because it is high time already.”
And having squeezed our hands, the captain left.
I didn’t want to talk at all. I. went up to my bed, sat down on the chair that was standing near, took my hand and checked my pulse.
He had already counted my pulse long time ago and made sure that my heart wasn’t beating anymore, but he was still sitting next to me by holding my hand.
“My dear boy!” he told me silently. “We have just started our real path, and it seems to you that you’ve already been suffering for the whole century. Is really everything what you have to experience so unexpectedly bringing only suffering, bitterness and worries to you? Imagine that now you are happy next to your brother and you are provided with everything. Then would you have met Ali, Florentian and sir Vomi? Then would you have known that there were not only the town-dwellers who were looking for benefit only for themselves on the earth, but there were also the people who have set the spirit within themselves like the fire of their hearts’ creation, like the everlasting activity of love and calm for the people’s welfare? Take a look at your current heart and you will see how its limits have widened in comparison to the past! Oh, if you could take a look at Florentian’s heart, you would see such a tremendous lot of beauty in it! Your grey daily like next to him would brighten up with such light and charm! The whole man’s happiness depends on the power of his spirit, on that altitude to which he can rise and cast a glance. If a sensitive string of desire for a body and passions sounds within yourself, then your dreams are hovering only over charming and desirable bodies. If your thought is raising you to the heights of spiritual love, and you can already hear the voice of another man’s heart, then this accord arises not from the material choice, but from the influence of that power of vibrations which the power of your creative heart is sending to the surroundings. Fly to Florentian in your thoughts, and if you are capable of perceiving the grandeur of his thoughts and spirit, then his love will be able to respond to your love, to the needs of your thought and to the creative work of your heart in your grey daily routine. The easier and more sincerely your thoughts will be trying to merge with his great wisdom to live in the simplest kindness
every day, the calmer you will stay in all circumstances of your life, in all menacing dangers, - the easier it will be for your great friend to unite with you.”
I still was unable to understand everything what I. was telling me. Many things seemed to be unclear to me, something seemed to be even impossible, but I didn’t want to interrogate him.
I obeyed to I.’s instruction to lie on the deck willingly, because I didn’t want to see anybody, my brother’s books were drawing me. The clumsy sailor settled me on the deck perfectly, I. sat down next to me to write his letters, and I laid out the books and instead of rejoicing at them… I fell asleep.
We reached Constantinople without any adventures. Only parting with the captain was so exciting that it moved me to tears. He gave me his portrait in an excellent frame, left his London address and assured us that he would come to our hotel in the morning and, if I. was busy with his affairs, he would be glad to stay next to me for a while. We hugged one another heartily, and with the help of the clumsy sailor and I., I was one of the last ones climbing down the stairs of the steamer.