Religious tradition, routine, habit, the memories of childhood, have so much influence upon men, that hardly had they entered the church, than several of the quarryman’s followers respectfully took off their hats, bowed their bare heads, and walked along cautiously, as if to check the noise of their footsteps on the sounding stones. Then they exchanged a few words in a low and fearful whisper. Others timidly raised their eyes to the far heights of the topmost arches of that gigantic building, now lost in obscurity, and felt almost frightened to see themselves so little in the midst of that immensity of darkness. But at the first joke of the quarryman, who broke this respectful silence, the emotion soon passed away.
“Blood and thunder!” cried he; “are you fetching breath to sing vespers? If they had wine in the font, well and good!”
These words were received with a burst of savage laughter. “All this time the villain will escape!” said one.
“And we shall be done,” added Ciboule.
“One would think we had cowards here, who are afraid of the sacristans!” cried the quarryman.
“Never!” replied the others in chorus; “we fear nobody.”
“Yes, yes—forward!” was repeated on all sides. And the animation, which had been calmed down for a moment, was redoubled in the midst of renewed tumult. Some moments after, the eyes of the assailants, becoming accustomed to the twilight, were able to distinguish in the midst of the faint halo shed around by a silver lamp, the imposing countenance of Gabriel, as he stood before the iron railing of the choir.
“The poisoner is here, hid in some corner,” cried the quarryman. “We must force this parson to give us back the villain.”
“He shall answer for him!”
“He took him into the church.”
“He shall pay for both, if we do not find the other!”
As the first impression of involuntary respect was effaced from the minds of the crowd, their voices rose the louder, and their faces became the more savage and threatening, because they all felt ashamed of their momentary hesitation and weakness.
“Yes, yes!” cried many voices, trembling with rage, “we must have the life of one or the other!”
“Or of both!”
“So much the worse for this priest, if he wants to prevent us from serving out our poisoner!”
“Death to him! death to him!”
With this burst of ferocious yells, which were fearfully re-echoed from the groined arches of the cathedral, the mob, maddened by rage, rushed towards the choir, at the door of which Gabriel was standing. The young missionary, who, when placed on the cross by the savages of the Rocky Mountains, yet entreated heaven to spare his executioners, had too much courage in his heart, too much charity in his soul, not to risk his life a thousand times over to save Father d’Aigrigny’s—the very man who had betrayed hire by such cowardly and cruel hypocrisy.