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The Romantic Messiah

“You are a brave and reasonable young lady,” Tezkeiro continued in the tone on uses before children. “Come with me. You can pass the night peacefully in studio. I am a painter. No one will disturb you. Tomorrow morning we will see if I can be of use to you. But you are shivering. You are cold. You are wet through. I beg you to come along with me. You will be taken ill.”

It was true that Sarah was begining to feel ill; a sudden chill spread through her body.

“Is it the truth that you are a Jew?” she asked.

“My name is Emmanuel Tezkel ro and I have already told you that I an Jewish. Here, take my cape.”

He flung it about her.

“Now, come along,” he said.

He took sarah’s hand. Quietly and obediently she followed him as, many years before in Poland, she had followed Reb Mendel, the beadle of the little synagogue.

They walked along in silence. Tezkeiro feared that if he spoke to her she might change her mind. The gril’s compliance excited his interest in her even more. The trained eye of the painter distinguished the ecstasy of a child upon her face. She was doubtless possessed of a vision. These Polish Jews arwe always such mystics. Spinoza had remarked upon it, and Baruch, who was so wise. What a marvellous contrast her face would make painted against the background of a prim Dutch landscape.

Meanwhile Sarah who, under the stranger’s cape felt the cold spread in tiny rivers through her body, believed that this was simply one of the thousand adventures which would beset her pilgrimage. No thing musft frighten her; all was good, all was predestined, all was for Him!

They walked on for a long time. for the artist lived in a distant quarter of the city. Dawn was breaking as they reached a high building with many windows. in the sky, washed clear of clouds and shining fresh and delicate, the dawn of hte Orient rose with the color of fire-opals.

Climbing the narrow flight of stairs, the artist opened a door for Sarah to enter. Through the studdio window she saw a flaming sun rise above the horizon.

On easels, on chairs, on the floor, leaning against the walls, every where, were canvasses, covered or uncovered. Sarah was particularly struck by one picture; it was the portrait of an old Jewish peddler. The picture quieted her.

“Here we are at home, Sarah,” said the aritst gaily. “You can sleep on the divan and as for me, I can do very well up in the graet.”

The girl smiled with thankfulness, but Tezkeiro noticed a feverish brightness in her eyes, and an unnatural redness in her cheeks. To all questions Sarah replied that she felt well and that she only wished to stretch out on the bed.

He bade her good-night, laughingly corrected it to good morning, and climbed up into the garret Sarah lay down and felt a pleasant warmth permeating her blood.

A few hours later, Tezkeiro cast a prudent eys over the studio. He saw that the girl was not asleep. With her arms oustide the covers and with hectic cheeks, she was murmuring disconnectedly. Worried by her appearance he took a step nearer.

Sarah was delirious.

The doctor who attended Sarah, a gentile and a friend of Tezkeiro, explained her high fever not only by her standing for so long a time in damp clothes, but also by a violent moral disturbance through which she had evidently passed.

The painter, who never left the bedside of the invalid, coninually tried to pick up the thread of her story in the rambling sentences and words she uttered. She frequently called for a woman named Rached, complained that the synagogue was buit too massively, and often imagined she was beneath a tent. She spoke of nums, and admired a deer.

All this, which was very confusing, troubled Tezkeiro profoundly. He realized that he was confronted by a complex and fantastic person ality, by a passionate disposition. The doctor had assured him that a youthful constitution like hers would eventually throe off the illness and the painter waited impartiently for the crisis which would finally restore Sarah to health and normal conseciousness.

But meanwhile he became so strongly attached to the girl that his feeling foward her firghtened him.

At times he would seize his brushes and colors, but his work no longer inspired him. Seated silently beside Sarah’s bed, watching her face burn in the cold frame of her black hair, gazing on her somber and sparkling eyes, observing the forms her perfect body assumed, attmepting to grasp the meaning of her troubled sentences, he was enchanted beyond all reason.

However, a desolate future lay before hime; Sarah recovered from her fllnes, would depart, leaving him with only the memonry of an unknown traveller, vanished he knew not whither nor why. But how could he let her go, so young and so defenceless? She would become the victim of the first scoundrel she met. He could apprecite that danger by remembering with what confidence she had given him her hand and had followed him along the dark streets.

Would he mary her? The faorite of many beautiful ladies in the gay city, he had never dreamed of marriage. And then, what did he know about the girl? As little as she knew of him.

Tezkeiro wished to behave decently toward her. He tried to repress the physical longing she excited in him; the naive and touching confidence the girl displayed supported him in his attempt to regard her with nothing more than fraternal compassion. Nevertheless he fused the image of the recovered Sarah into the amorous idylls of his dreams. His healthy and youthful sensuality, quickened by his carefree life, swept everything aside. This weakness distressed him, but not wihtout a secret plasure.

One day Tezkeiro found Sarah sleeping quietly. Her cheeks had lost their feverish color and she breathed easily. The crisis has passed.

Seated beside her bed, the young man watched for her awakening with imparience and deep emotion.

When Sarah opened her eyes she recognized neither Tezkeiro nor the room. Her eyes wandered from one object to another, terrified. Suddenly they rested on the protrait of the old Jewish peddler, and at once she remembered her arrival at the studio and a slight blush suffused her cheeks. With an instinctive gesture, her emaciated hand drew the cover over her breast. Then she smiled at the painter who had risen with an expression of welcoming joy. To be continued tomorrow

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