Morok shuddered again; usually fierce and unmoved, he appeared to be more and more agitated, and so alarmed, that Jacques said to him: “Who is this Englishman?”
“He has followed me from Strasburg, where he fell in with me,” said Morok, with visible dejection. “He travelled with his own horses, by short stages, as I did; stopping where I stopped, so as never to miss one of my exhibitions. But two days before I arrived at Paris, he left me—I thought I was rid of him,” said Morok, with a sigh.
“Rid of him!—how you talk!” replied Jacques, surprised; “such a good customer, such an admirer!”
“Aye!” said Morok, becoming more and more agitated; “this wretch has wagered an enormous sum, that I will be devoured in his presence, during one of my performances: he hopes to win his wager—that is why he follows me about.”
Sleepinbuff found the John Bull’s idea so amusingly eccentric, that, for the first time since a very long period, he burst into a peal of hearty laughter. Morok, pale with rage, rushed towards him with so menacing an air, that Goliath was obliged to interpose.
“Come, come,” said Jacques, “don’t be angry; if it is serious, I will not laugh any more.”
Morok was appeased, and said to Sleepinbuff in a hoarse voice: “Do you think me a coward?”
“No, by heaven!”
“Well! And yet this Englishman, with his grotesque face, frightens me more than any tiger or my panther!”
“You say so, and I believe it,” replied Jacques; “but I cannot understand why the presence of this man should alarm you.”
“But consider, you dull knave!” cried Morok, “that, obliged to watch incessantly the least movement of the ferocious beast, whom I keep in subjection by my action and my looks, there is something terrible in knowing that two eyes are there—always there—fixed—waiting till the least absence of mind shall expose me to be torn in pieces by the animals.”
“Now, I understand,” said Jacques, shuddering in his turn. “It is terrible.”
“Yes; for once there, though I may not see this cursed Englishman, I fancy I have his two round eyes, fixed and wide open, always before me. My tiger Cain once nearly mutilated my arm, when my attention was drawn away by this Englishman, whom the devil take! Blood and thunder!” cried Morok: “this man will be fatal to me.” And Morok paced the room in great agitation.
“Besides, Death lays her ears close to her skull,” said Goliath, brutally. “If you persist—mind, I tell you—the Englishman will win his wager this evening.”
“Go away, you brute!—don’t vex my head with your confounded predictions,” cried Morok: “go and prepare Death’s collar.”
“Well, every one to his taste; you wish the panther to taste you,” said the giant, stalking heavily away, after this joke.
“But if you feel these fears,” said Jacques, “why do you not say that the panther is ill?”