But, when following the course of his regrets, he thought how Jovial had also been the companion of his exile, how the mother of the orphans had formerly (like her daughters) undertaken a toilsome journey with the aid of this unfortunate animal, the fatal consequences of his loss presented themselves on a sudden to his mind. Then, fury succeeding to grief, he rose, with anger flashing from his eyes, and threw himself on the Prophet; with one hand he seized him by the throat, and with the other administered five or six heavy blows, which fell harmlessly on the coat of mail.
“Rascal! you shall answer to me for my horse’s death!” said the soldier, as he continued his correction. Morok, light and sinewy, could not struggle with advantage against Dagobert, who, aided by his tall stature, still displayed extraordinary vigor. It needed the intervention of Goliath and the landlord to rescue the Prophet from the hands of the old grenadier. After some moments, they succeeded in separating the two champions. Morok was white with rage. It needed new efforts to prevent his seizing the pike to attack Dagobert.
“It is abominable!” cried the host, addressing the soldier, who pressed his clinched fists in despair against his bald forehead. “You expose this good man to be devoured by his beasts, and then you wish to beat him into the bargain. Is this fitting conduct for a graybeard? Shall we have to fetch the police? You showed yourself more reasonable in the early part of the evening.”
These words recalled the soldier to himself. He regretted his impetuosity the more, as the fact of his being a stranger might augment the difficulty of his position. It was necessary above all to obtain the price of his horse, so as to be enabled to continue his journey, the success of which might be compromised by a single day’s delay. With a violent effort, therefore, he succeeded in restraining his wrath.
“You are right—I was too hasty,” said he to the host, in an agitated voice, which he tried to make as calm as possible. “I had not the same patience as before. But ought not this man be responsible for the loss of my horse? I make you judge in the matter.”
“Well, then, as judge, I am not of your opinion. All this has been your own fault. You tied up your horse badly, and he strayed by chance into this shed, of which no doubt the door was half-open,” said the host, evidently taking the part of the brute-tamer.
“It was just as you say,” answered Goliath. “I can remember it. I left the door ajar, that the beasts might have some air in the night. The cages were well shut, and there was no danger.”
“Very true,” said one of the standers-by.
“It was only the sight of the horse,” added another, “that made the panther furious, so as to break out of its cage.”
“It is the Prophet who has the most right to complain,” observed a third.
“No matter what this or that person says,” returned Dagobert, whose patience was beginning to fail him, “I say, that I must have either money or a horse on the instant—yes, on the instant—for I wish to quit this unlucky house.”