“One would think that some evil genius was at work against her. A few days later, the traveller would no longer have found us at Milosk; and if he had joined us further on, it would have been too far for the medal and papers to be of use—since, having set out almost immediately, we shall hardly arrive in time at Paris. ’If they had some interest to prevent me 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 illness.”
“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.
Jovial and death.
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.