But, suddenly, those spectators of this scene, who had approached nearest to the window, uttered a loud exclamation of fear and anguish. Morok had perceived the little door which led to the closet occupied by Sister Martha, where Rose and Blanche had entered a few minutes before. Hoping to get out by this way, Morok drew the door violently towards him, and succeeded in half opening it, notwithstanding the resistance he experienced from the inside. For an instant the affrighted crowd saw the stiffened arms Of Sister Martha and the orphans, clinging to the door, and holding it back with all their might.
When the sick people, assembled in the courtyard, saw the desperate efforts of Morok to force the door of the room which contained Sister Martha and the orphans, their fright redoubled. “It is all over, Sister Martha!” cried they.
“The door will give way.”
“And the closet has no other entrance.”
“There are two young girls in mourning with her.”
“Come! we must not leave these poor women to encounter the madman. Follow me, friends!” cried generously one of the spectators, who was still blessed with health, and he rushed towards the steps to return to the ante-chamber.
“It’s too late! it’s only exposing yourself in vain,” cried many persons, holding him back by force.
At this moment, voices were heard, exclaiming: “Here is the Abbe Gabriel.”
“He is coming downstairs. He has heard the noise.”
“He is asking what is the matter.”
“What will he do?”
Gabriel, occupied with a dying person in a neighboring room, had, indeed, just learned that Morok, having broken his bonds, had succeeded in escaping from the chamber in which he had been temporarily confined. Foreseeing the terrible dangers which might result from the escape of the lion-tamer, the missionary consulted only his courage, and hastened down, in the hope of preventing greater misfortunes. In obedience to his orders, an attendant followed him, bearing a brazier full of hot cinders, on which lay several irons, at a white heat, used by the doctors for cauterizing, in desperate cases of cholera.
The angelic countenance of Gabriel was very pale; but calm intrepidity shone upon his noble brow. Hastily crossing the passage, and making his way through the crowd, he went straight to the ante-chamber door. As he approached it, one of the sick people said to him, in a lamentable voice; “Ah, sir! it is all over. Those who can see through the window say that Sister Martha is lost.”
Gabriel made no answer, but grasped the key of the door. Before entering the room, however, he turned to the attendant, and said to him in a firm voice: “Are the irons of a white heat?”
“Then wait here, and be ready. As for you, my friends,” he added, turning to some of the sick, who shuddered with terror, “as soon as I enter shut the door after me. I will answer for the rest. And you; friend, only bring your irons when I call.”