“What is it then?” asked Ninny Moulin of one of those ignoble figures that was leaping up before him. “What are those cries?”
“They are making mince-meat of a poisoner, like him they have thrown into the river,” replied the man. “If you want to see the fun, follow me close,” added he, “and peg away with your elbows, for fear you should be too late.”
Hardly had the wretch pronounced these words than a dreadful shriek sounded above the roar of the crowd, through which the bearers of the litter, preceded by Morok, were with difficulty making their way. It was Cephyse who uttered that cry. Jacques (one of the seven heirs of the Rennepont family) had just expired in her arms! By a strange fatality, at the very moment that the despairing exclamation of Cephyse announced that death, another cry rose from that part of the square where they were attacking the poisoner. That distant, supplicating cry, tremulous with horrible alarm, like the last appeal of a man staggering beneath the blows of his murderers, chilled the soul of Morok in the midst of his execrable triumph.
“Damnation!” cried the skillful assassin, who had selected drunkenness and debauchery for his murderous but legal weapons; “it is the voice of the Abbe d’Aigrigny, whom they have in their clutches!”
It is necessary to go back a little before relating the adventure of Father d’Aigrigny, whose cry of distress made so deep an impression upon Morok just at the moment of Jacques Rennepont’s death. We have said that the most absurd and alarming reports were circulating in Paris; not only did people talk of poison given to the sick or thrown into the public fountains, but it was also said that wretches had been surprised in the act of putting arsenic into the pots which are usually kept all ready on the counters of wine-shops. Goliath was on his way to rejoin Morok, after delivering a message to Father d’Aigrigny, who was waiting in a house on the Place de l’Archeveche. He entered a wine-shop in the Rue de la Calandre, to get some refreshment, and having drunk two glasses of wine, he proceeded to pay for them. Whilst the woman of the house was looking for change, Goliath, mechanically and very innocently, rested his hand on the mouth of one of the pots that happened to be within his reach.
The tall stature of this man and his repulsive and savage countenance had already alarmed the good woman, whose fears and prejudices had previously been roused by the public rumors on the subject of poisoning; but when she saw Goliath place his hand over the mouth of one of her pots, she cried out in dismay: “Oh! my gracious! what are you throwing into that pot?” At these words, spoken in a loud voice, and with the accent of terror, two or three of the drinkers at one of the tables rose precipitately, and ran to the counter, while one of them rashly exclaimed: “It is a poisoner!”