The bailiff and his immediate friends, the prisoners, and the family of the headsman, with a sufficient number of the guards, were among those who remained. The bustling Peterchen had lost some of his desire to take his place at the banquet, in the difficulties of the question which had arisen, and in the certainty that nothing material, in the way of gastronomy, would be attempted until he appeared. We should do injustice to his heart, did we not add, also, that he had troublesome qualms of conscience, which intuitively admonished him that the world had dealt hardly with the family of Balthazar. There remained the party of Maso, too, to dispose of, and his character of an upright as well as of a firm magistrate to maintain. As the crowd diminished, however, he and those near him descended from their high places, and mixed with the few who occupied the still guarded area in front of the stage.
Balthazar had not stirred from his riveted posture near the table of the notary, for he shrunk from encountering, in the company of his wife and daughter, the insults to which he should be exposed now his character was known, by mingling with the crowd, and he waited for a favorable moment to withdraw unseen. Marguerite still stood folding Christine to her bosom, as if jealous of farther injury to her beloved. The recreant bridegroom had taken the earliest opportunity to disappear, and was seen no more in Vevev during the remainder of the revels.
Peterchen cast a hurried glance at this group, as his foot reached the ground, and then turning towards the thief-takers he made a sign for them to advance with their prisoners.
“Thy evil tongue has balked one of the most engaging rites of this day’s festival, knave;” observed the bailiff, addressing Pippo with a certain magisterial reproof in his voice. “I should do well to send thee to Berne, to serve a month among those who sweep the city streets, as a punishment for thy raven throat. What, in the name of all thy Roman saints and idols, hadst thou against the happiness of these honest people, that thou must come, in this unseemly manner, to destroy it?”
“Naught but the love of truth, eccellenza, and a just horror of the man of blood.”
“That thou and all like thee should have a horror of the ministers of the law, I can understand; and it is more than probable that thy dislike will extend to me, for I am about to pronounce a just judgment on thee and thy fellows for disturbing the harmony of the day, and especially for having been guilty of the enormous crime of an outrage on our agents.”
“Couldst thou grant me a moment’s leave?” asked the Genoese in his ear.
“An hour, noble Gaetano, if thou wilt.”
The two then conversed apart, for a minute or more. During the brief dialogue, the Signor Grimaldi occasionally looked at the quiet and apparently contrite Maso, and stretched his arm towards the Leman, in a way to give the observers an inkling of his subject. The countenance of the Herr Hofmeister changed from official sternness to an expression of decent concern as he listened, and ere long it took a decidedly forgiving laxity of muscle. When the other had done speaking, he bowed a ready assent to what he had just heard, and returned to the prisoners.