They were about to follow up the shower of stones by a charge upon the group assembled round the open grave, when de Sigognac, outraged at this brutal assault, whipped out his sword, and rushed upon them impetuously, striking some with the flat of the blade, and threatening others with the point; while the tyrant, who had leaped out of the grave at the first alarm, seized one of the cross pieces of the improvised bier, and followed the baron into the thick of the crowd, raining blows right and left among their cowardly assailants; who, though they far outnumbered the little band of comedians, fled before the vigorous attack of de Sigognac and Herode, cursing and swearing, and shouting out violent threats as they withdrew. Poor Matamore’s humble obsequies were completed without further hindrance. When the first spadeful of earth fell upon his body the pedant, with great tears slowly rolling down his cheeks, bent reverently over the grave and sighed out, “Alas! poor Matamore!” little thinking that he was, using the very words of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, when he apostrophized the skull of Yorick, an ancient king’s jester, in the famous tragedy of one Shakespeare—a poet of great renown in England, and protege of Queen Elizabeth.
The grave was filled up in silence, and the tyrant—after having trampled down the snow for some distance around it, so that its exact whereabouts might not be easy to find in case the angry peasants should come back to disturb it—said as they turned away, “Now let us get out of this place as fast as we can; we have nothing more to do here, and the sooner we quit it the better. Those brutes that attacked us may return with reinforcements—indeed I think it more than likely that they will—in which case your sword, my dear baron, and my stick might not be enough to scatter them again. We don’t want to kill any of them, and have the cries of widows and orphans resounding in our ears; and besides, it might be awkward for us if we were obliged to do it in self-defence, and then were hauled up before the local justice of peace to answer for it.”
There was so much good sense in this advice that it was unanimously agreed to follow it, and in less than an hour, after having settled their account at the inn, they, were once more upon the road.
CHAPTER VII. CAPTAIN FRACASSE
The comedians pushed forward at first as rapidly as the strength of their horse—resuscitated by a night’s rest in a comfortable stable, and a generous feed of oats—would allow; it being important to put a good distance between themselves and the infuriated peasants who had been repulsed by de Sigognac and the tyrant. They plodded on for more than two leagues in profound silence, for poor Matamore’s sad fate weighed heavily upon their hearts, and each one thought, with a shudder, that the day might come when he too would die, and be buried secretly and in haste, in some lonely and neglected spot by the roadside, wherever they chanced to be, and there abandoned by his comrades.