List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v1, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

and my children from going to France,' said your mother, 'they would act
just as they have done.  To banish us four hundred leagues further, is to
render impossible this journey, of which the term is fixed.'  And the
idea overwhelmed her with grief."

"Perhaps it was this unexpected sorrow that was the cause of her sudden

"Alas! no, my children; it was that infernal cholera, who arrives without
giving you notice--for he too is a great traveller--and strikes you down
like a thunderbolt.  Three hours after the traveller had left us, when
you returned quite pleased and gay from the forest, with your large
bunches of wild-flowers for your mother, she was already in the last
agony, and hardly to be recognized.  The cholera had broken out in the
village, and that evening five persons died of it.  Your mother had only
time to hang the medal about your neck, my dear little Rose, to recommend
you both to my care, and to beg that we should set out immediately.  When
she was gone, the new order of exile could not apply to you; and I
obtained permission from the governor to take my departure with you for
France, according to the last wishes--"

The soldier could not finish the sentence; he covered his eyes with his
hand, whilst the orphans embraced him sobbing.

"Oh! but," resumed Dagobert, with pride, after a moment of painful
silence, "it was then that you showed yourselves the brave daughters of
the general.  Notwithstanding the danger, it was impossible to tear you
from your mother's bedside; you remained with her to the last, you closed
her eyes, you watched there all night, and you would not leave the
village till you had seen me plant the little wooden cross over the grave
I had dug for her."

Dagobert paused abruptly.  A strange, wild neighing, mingled with
ferocious roarings, made the soldier start from his seat.  He grew pale,
and cried: "It is Jovial! my horse!  What are they doing to my horse?"
With that, opening the door he rushed down the stairs precipitately.

The two sisters clung together, so terrified at the sudden departure of
the soldier, that they saw not an enormous hand pass through the broken
panes, unfasten the catch of the window, push it violently open, and
throw down the lamp placed on the little table, on which was the
soldiers's knapsack.  The orphans thus found themselves plunged into
complete darkness.



Morok had led Jovial into the middle of the menagerie, and then removed
the cloth which prevented him from seeing and smelling.  Scarcely had the
tiger, lion, and panther caught a glimpse of him than they threw
themselves, half famished, against the bars of their dens.

The horse struck with stupor, his neck stretched out, his eye fixed, and
trembling through all his limbs, appeared as if nailed to the ground; an
abundant icy sweat rolled suddenly down his flanks.  The lion and the
tiger uttered fearful roarings, and struggled violently in their dens.
The panther did not roar, but her mute rage was terrific.

With a tremendous bound, at the risk of breaking her skull, she sprang
from the back of the cage against the bars; then, still mute, still
furious, she crawled back to the extreme corner of the den, and with a
new spring, as impetuous as it was blind, she again strove to force out
the iron grating.  Three times had she thus bounded--silent, appalling--
when the horse, passing from the immobility of stupor to the wild agony
of fear, neighed long and loud, and rushed in desperation at the door by
which he had entered.  Finding it closed he hung his head, bent his knees
a little, and rubbed his nostrils against the opening left between the
ground and the bottom of the door, as if he wished to inhale the air from
the outside; then, more and more affrighted, he began to neigh with
redoubled force, and struck out violently with his fore-feet.

At the moment when Death was about once more to make her spring, the
Prophet approached her cage.  The heavy bolt which secured the grating
was pushed from its staple by the pike of the brute-tamer, and, in
another second, Morok was half way up the ladder that communicated with
the loft.

The roaring of the lion and tiger, mingled with the neighing of Jovial,
now resounded through all parts of the inn.  The panther had again thrown
herself furiously on the grating, and this time yielding with one spring,
she was in the middle of the shed.

The light of the lantern was reflected from the glossy ebon of her hide,
spotted with stains of a duller black.  For an instant she remained
motionless, crouching upon her thick-set limbs, with her head close to
the floor, as if calculating the distance of the leap by which she was to
reach the horse; then suddenly she darted upon him.

On seeing her break from her cage Jovial had thrown himself violently
against the door, which was made to open inwards, and leaned against it
with all his might, as though he would force it down.  Then, at the
moment when Death took her leap, he reared up in almost an erect
position; but she, rapid as lightning, had fastened upon his throat and
hung there, whilst at the same time she buried the sharp claws of her
fore-feet in his chest.  The jugular vein of the horse opened; a torrent
of bright red blood spouted forth beneath the tooth of the panther, who,
now supporting herself on her hind legs, squeezed her victim up against
the door, whilst she dug into his flank with her claws, and laid bare the
palpitating flesh.  Then his half-strangled neighing became awful.

Suddenly these words resounded: "Courage, Jovial!--I am at hand!

It was the voice of Dagobert, who was exhausting himself in desperate
exertions to force open the door that concealed this sanguinary struggle.
"Jovial!" cried the soldier, "I am here.  Help!  Help!"

At the sound of that friendly and well-known voice, the poor animal,
almost at its last gasp, strove to turn its head in the direction whence
came the accents of his master, answered him with a plaintive neigh, and,
sinking beneath the efforts of the panther, fell prostrate, first on its
knees, then upon its flank, so that its backbone lay right across the
door, and still prevented its being opened.  And now all was finished.
The panther, squatting down upon the horse, crushed him with all her
paws, and, in spite of some last faint kicks, buried her bloody snout in
his body.

"Help! help! my horse!" cried Dagobert, as he vainly shook the door.
"And no arms!" he added with rage; "no arms!"

"Take care!" exclaimed the brute-tamer, who appeared at the window of the
loft; "do not attempt to enter it might cost you your life.  My panther
is furious."

"But my horse! my horse!" cried Dagobert, in a voice of agony.

"He must have strayed from his stable during the night, and pushed open
the door of the shed.  At sight of him the panther must have broken out
of her cage and seized him.  You are answerable for all the mischief that
may ensue," added the brute-tamer, with a menacing air; "for I shall have
to run the greatest danger, to make Death return to her den."

"But my horse! only save my horse!" cried Dagobert, in a tone of hopeless

The Prophet disappeared from the window.

The roaring of the animals and the shouts of Dagobert, had roused from
sleep every one in the White Falcon.  Here and there lights were seen
moving and windows were thrown open hurriedly.  The servants of the inn
soon appeared in the yard with lanterns, and surrounding Dagobert,
inquired of him what had happened.

"My horse is there," cried the soldier, continuing to shake the door,
"and one of that scoundrel's animals has escaped from its cage."

At these words the people of the inn, already terrified by the frightful
roaring, fled from the spot and ran to inform the host.  The soldier's
anguish may be conceived, as pale, breathless, with his ear close to the
chink of the door, he stood listening.  By degrees the roaring had
ceased, and nothing was heard but low growls, accompanied by the stern
voice of the Prophet, repeating in harsh, abrupt accents:  "Death! come
here! Death!"

The night was profoundly dark, and Dagobert did not perceive Goliath,
who, crawling carefully along the tiled roof entered the loft by the
attic window.

And now the gate of the court-yard was again opened, and the landlord of
the inn appeared, followed by a number of men.  Armed with a carbine, he
advanced with precaution; his people carried staves and pitchforks.

"What is the row here?" said he, as he approached Dagobert.  "What a
hubbub in my house!  The devil take wild beast showmen, and negligent
fellows who don't know how to tie a horse to the manger!  If your beast
is hurt, so much the worse for you; you should have taken more care of

Instead of replying to these reproaches, the soldier, who still listened
attentively to what was going on in the shed, made a sign to entreat
silence.  Suddenly a ferocious roar was heard, followed by a loud scream
from the Prophet; and, almost immediately after, the panther howled

"You are no doubt the cause of some great accident," said the frightened
host to the soldier; "did you not hear that cry?  Morok is, perhaps,
dangerously wounded."

Dagobert was about to answer, when the door opened, and Goliath appeared
on the threshold.

"You may enter now," said he; "the danger is over."

The interior of the menagerie presented a singular spectacle.  The
Prophet, pale, and scarcely able to conceal his agitation beneath an
apparent air of calmness, was kneeling some paces from the cage of the
panther, in the attitude of one absorbed in himself; the motion of his
lips indicating that he was praying.  At sight of the host and the people
of the inn, he rose, and said in a solemn voice: "I thank thee, my
Preserver, that I have been able to conquer, by the strength which Thou
hast given me."

Then folding his arms, with haughty brow and imperious glance, he seemed
to enjoy the triumph he had achieved over Death, who, stretched on the
bottom of her den, continued to utter plaintive howlings.  The spectators
of this scene, ignorant that the pelisse of the brute-tamer covered a
complete suit of armor, and attributing the cries of the panther solely
to fear, were struck with astonishment and admiration at the intrepidity
and almost supernatural power of this man.  A few steps behind him stood
Goliath, leaning upon the ashen pikestaff.  Finally, not far from the
cage, in the midst of a pool of blood, lay the dead body of Jovial.

At sight of the blood-stained and torn remains, Dagobert stood
motionless, and his rough countenance assumed an expression of the
deepest grief: then, throwing himself on his knees, he lifted the head of
Jovial; and when he saw those dull, glassy, and half-closed eyes, once so
bright and intelligent, as they turned towards a much-loved master, the
soldier could not suppress an exclamation of bitter anguish.  Forgetting
his anger, forgetting the deplorable consequences of this accident, so
fatal to the interests of the two maidens, who would thus be prevented
from continuing their journey--he thought only of the horrible death of
his poor old horse, the ancient companion of his fatigues and wars, the
faithful animal, twice wounded like himself, and from whom for so many
years he had never been separated.  This poignant emotion was so cruelly,
so affectingly visible in the soldier's countenance, that the landlord
and his people felt themselves for a moment touched with pity, as they
gazed on the tall veteran kneeling beside his dead horse.

But, when following the course of his regrets, he thought how Jovial had
also been the companion of his exile, how the mother of the orphans had
formerly (like her daughters) undertaken a toilsome journey with the aid
of this unfortunate animal, the fatal consequences of his loss presented
themselves on a sudden to his mind.  Then, fury succeeding to grief, he
rose, with anger flashing from his eyes, and threw himself on the
Prophet; with one hand he seized him by the throat, and with the other
administered five or six heavy blows, which fell harmlessly on the coat
of mail.

"Rascal! you shall answer to me for my horse's death!" said the soldier,
as he continued his correction.  Morok, light and sinewy, could not
struggle with advantage against Dagobert, who, aided by his tall stature,
still displayed extraordinary vigor.  It needed the intervention of
Goliath and the landlord to rescue the Prophet from the hands of the old
grenadier.  After some moments, they succeeded in separating the two
champions.  Morok was white with rage.  It needed new efforts to prevent
his seizing the pike to attack Dagobert.

"It is abominable!" cried the host, addressing the soldier, who pressed
his clinched fists in despair against his bald forehead.  "You expose
this good man to be devoured by his beasts, and then you wish to beat him
into the bargain.  Is this fitting conduct for a graybeard?  Shall we
have to fetch the police?  You showed yourself more reasonable in the
early part of the evening."

These words recalled the soldier to himself.  He regretted his
impetuosity the more, as the fact of his being a stranger might augment
the difficulty of his position.  It was necessary above all to obtain the
price of his horse, so as to be enabled to continue his journey, the
success of which might be compromised by a single day's delay.  With a
violent effort, therefore, he succeeded in restraining his wrath.

"You are right--I was too hasty," said he to the host, in an agitated
voice, which he tried to make as calm as possible.  "I had not the same
patience as before.  But ought not this man be responsible for the loss
of my horse?  I make you judge in the matter."

"Well, then, as judge, I am  not of your opinion.  All this has been your
own fault.  You tied up your horse badly, and he strayed by chance into
this shed, of which no doubt the door was half-open," said the host,
evidently taking the part of the brute-tamer.

"It was just as you say," answered Goliath.  "I can remember it.  I left
the door ajar, that the beasts might have some air in the night.  The
cages were well shut, and there was no danger."

"Very true," said one of the standers-by.

"It was only the sight of the horse," added another, "that made the
panther furious, so as to break out of its cage."

"It is the Prophet who has the most right to complain," observed a third.

"No matter what this or that person says," returned Dagobert, whose
patience was beginning to fail him, "I say, that I must have either money
or a horse on the instant--yes, on the instant--for I wish to quit this
unlucky house."

"And I say, it is you that must indemnify me," cried Morok, who had kept
this stage-trick for the last, and who now exhibited his left hand all
bloody, having hitherto concealed it beneath the sleeve of his pelisse.
"I shall perhaps be disabled for life," he added; "see what a wound the
panther has made here!"

Without having the serious character that the Prophet ascribed to it, the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: