“And where then has the knapsack been kept?”
“In the room occupied by the children: but this night—”
Dagobert was here interrupted by the tread of some one mounting the stairs: it was the Prophet. Concealed in the shadow of the staircase, he had listened to this conversation, and he dreaded lest the weakness of the burgomaster should mar the complete success of his projects.
Morok, who wore his left arm in a sling, having slowly ascended the staircase, saluted the burgomaster respectfully. At sight of the repulsive countenance of the lion-tamer, Rose and Blanche, affrighted, drew back a step nearer to the soldier. The brow of the latter grew dark, for he felt his blood boil against Morok, the cause of all his difficulties—though he was yet ignorant that Goliath, at the instigation of the Prophet, had stolen his portfolio and papers.
“What did you want, Morok?” said the burgomaster, with an air half friendly and half displeased. “I told the landlord that I did not wish to be interrupted.”
“I have come to render you a service, Mr. Burgomaster.”
“Yes, a great service; or I should not have ventured to disturb you. My conscience reproaches me.”
“Yes, Mr. Burgomaster, it reproaches me for not having told you all that I had to tell about this man; a false pity led me astray.”
“Yell, but what have you to tell?”
Morok approached the judge, and spoke to him for sometime in a low voice.
At first apparently much astonished, the burgomaster became by degrees deeply attentive and anxious; every now and then be allowed some exclamation of surprise or doubt to escape him, whilst he glanced covertly at the group formed by Dagobert and the two young girls. By the expression of his countenance, which grew every moment more unquiet, severe, and searching, it was easy to perceive that the interest which the magistrate had felt for the orphans and for the soldier, was gradually changed, by the secret communications of the Prophet, into a sentiment of distrust and hostility.
Dagobert saw this sudden revolution, and his fears, which had been appeased for an instant, returned with redoubled force; Rose and Blanche, confused, and not understanding the object of this mute scene, looked at the soldier with increased perplexity.
“The devil!” said the burgomaster, rising abruptly; “all of this never occurred to me. What could I have been thinking of?—But you see, Morok, when one is roused up in the middle of the night, one has not always presence of mind. You said well: it is a great service you came to render me.”
“I assert nothing positively, but—”
“No matter; ’tis a thousand to one that you are right.”
“It is only a suspicion founded upon divers circumstances; but even a suspicion—”