“I am determined this time to follow the affair up; who will accompany me?”
“I will!” said all the four voices at once.
“Scouting parties ought not to be numerous,” said Fritz; “I will, therefore, take Willis, in case this mystification has anything to do with the Nelson.”
“And me,” said Jack, “to serve as a dessert, in case the individual should turn out to be an anthropophagian.”
“Be it so; but no more. Frank and Ernest will remain to tranquilize our parents, in case we should not return before they are up.”
“And if so, what shall we say?”
“Tell them the truth. We shall proceed direct to Falcon’s Nest; and if the stranger—confiding in our habit of sleeping during the night—be there as usual, we shall do ourselves the honor of helping him to get up.”
“Providing he does not nightly change his quarters like Oliver Cromwell—not so much to avoid enemies, as to calm his uneasy conscience.”
“Well, we shall be no worse than before; we shall have tried to restore our wonted quietude, and, if we fail, we can say, like Francis I. at Pavia, ‘All is lost except our honor.’”
Some minutes after this conversation, three shadows might have been seen stealing through the glades in the direction of Falcon’s Nest. Nothing was to be heard but the rustling of the leaves—the deafened beating of the sea upon the rocks—and, to use the words of Lamartine, “those unknown tongues that night and the wind whisper in the air.” The trees were mirrored in the rays of the moon, and the ground, at intervals, seemed strewn with monstrous giants; their hearts beat, not with fear, but with that feverish impatience that anticipates decisive results.
When they arrived at the foot of the tree on which the aerial dwelling was situated, Fritz opened the door, and resolutely, but stealthily, ascended.
Willis and Jack followed him with military precision.
They reached the top of the staircase, and held the latch of the door that opened into the apartment.
A train of mice, in the strictest incognito, could not have performed these operations with a greater amount of secretiveness. On opening the door they stood and listened.
Not a sound. Jack fired off a pistol, and the fraudulent occupier of the room instantly started up on his feet. Fritz rushed forward, and clasped him tightly round the body.
“Ho, ho, comrade,” said he, “this time you do not get off so easily!”
THE CHIMPANZEE—IMPERFECT NEGRO, OR PERFECT APE—THE HARMONIES OF NATURE—A HANDFUL OF PAWS—A STONE SKIN—SEVENTEEN THOUSAND SPECTACLES ON ONE NOSE—ANIMALCULAE—PELION ON OSSA—PTOLEMY—COPERNICUS TO GALILEO—METAPHYSICS AND COSMOGONIES—ISAIAH—A LIVE TIGER.