“Hep! hep, then!”
The horse, a high trotter with slim legs, just such a horse as a cocotte would care to own, recovered from its swerve and resumed its proper place with dancing steps, graceful pawings executed on the same spot without advancing. Jansoulet let fall his portfolio, and as though he had dropped with it all his gravity, his prestige as a public man, he made a terrible spring, and dashed to the bit of the animal, which he held firm with his strong, hairy hands.
A carriage forcibly stopped in the Rue Royale, and in broad daylight—only this Tartar would have dared such a stroke as that!
“Get down!” said he to Moessard, whose face had turned green and yellow when he saw him. “Get down immediately!”
“Will you let go my horse, you bloated idiot! Whip up Suzanne; it is the Nabob.”
She tried to gather up the reins, but the animal, held firmly, reared so sharply that a little more and like a sling the fragile vehicle would have sent everybody in it flying far away. At this, furious with one of those plebeian rages which in women of her kind shatter all the veneer of their luxury, she dealt the Nabob two stinging lashes with her whip, which left little trace on his tanned and hardened face, but which brought there a ferocious expression, accentuated by the short nose which had turned white and was slit at the end like that of a sporting terrier.
“Come down, or, by God, I will upset the whole thing!”
Amid an eddy of carriages arrested by the block in the traffic, or that passed slowly round the obstacle, with thousands of curious eyes, amid cries of coachmen and clinking of bits, two wrists of iron shook the entire vehicle.
“Jump—but jump, I tell you! Don’t you see he will have us over? What a grip!”
And the woman looked at the Hercules with interest.
Hardly had Moessard set foot to the ground, and before he could take refuge on the pavement, whither the black military caps of policemen could be seen hastening, Jansoulet threw himself upon him, lifted him by the back of the neck like a rabbit, and, careless of his protestations and his terrified stammerings:
“Yes, yes, I will give you satisfaction, you blackguard! But, first, I intend to do to you what is done to dirty beasts to prevent them from repeating the same offence.”
And roughly he set to work rubbing his nose and face all over with his newspaper, which he had rolled into a ball, stifling him, blinding him with it, and making scratches from which the blood trickled over his skin. The man was dragged from his hands, crimson, suffocated. A little more and he would have killed him.
The struggle over, pulling down his sleeves, adjusting his crumpled linen, picking up his portfolio out of which the papers of the Sarigue election were flying scattered even to the gutter, the Nabob answered the policemen who were asking him for his name in order to draw up a summons: