“Here’s the pike and the cloth,” said the giant, as he descended the ladder with the articles. “Now what must I do next?”
“Return to the cellar, mount once more by the window, and when the old man leaves the room—”
“Who will make him leave the room?”
“Never mind! he will leave it.”
“You say the lamp is near the window?”
“Quite near—on the table next to the knapsack.”
“Well, then, as soon as the old man leaves the room, push open the window, throw down the lamp, and if you accomplish cleverly what remains to do—the ten florins are yours—you remember it all?”
“The girls will be so frightened by the noise and darkness, that they will remain dumb with terror.”
“Make yourself easy! The wolf turned into a fox; why not a serpent?”
“There is yet something.”
“Well, what now?”
“The roof of this shed is not very high, the window of the loft is easy of access, the night is dark—instead of returning by the door—”
“I will come in at the window.”
“Ay, and without noise.”
“Like a regular snake!” and the giant departed.
“Yes!” said the Prophet to himself, after a long silence, “these means are sure. It was not for me to hesitate. A blind and obscure instrument, I know not the motives of the orders I have received: but from the recommendations which accompany them—but from the position of him who sends them—immense interests must be involved—interests connected with all that is highest and greatest upon earth!—And yet how can these two girls, almost beggars, how can this wretched soldier represent such interests?—No matter,” added he, with humility; “I am the arm which acts—it is for the head, which thinks and orders, to answer for its work.”
Soon after the Prophet left the shed, carrying with him the red cloth, and directed his steps towards the little stable that contained Jovial. The crazy door, imperfectly secured by a latch, was easily opened. At sight of a stranger Spoil-sport threw himself upon him; but his teeth encountered the iron leggings of the Prophet, who, in spite of the efforts of the dog took Jovial by his halter, threw the blanket over his head to prevent his either seeing or smelling, and led him from the stable into the interior of the menagerie, of which he closed the door.
The orphans, after reading the journal of their father, remained for some moments silent, sad, and pensive, contemplating the leaves yellowed by time. Dagobert, also plunged in a reverie, thought of his wife and son, from whom he had been so long separated, and hoped soon to see again.
The soldier was the first to break the silence, which had lasted for several minutes. Taking the leaves from the hand of Blanche, he folded them carefully, put them into his pocket, and thus addressed the orphans: