Now it is at his gates. He buries himself and companion in a thick grove of cedars, and they crouch to the very ground. Oh, how humble is the lord of millions! How all the endowments of the world fall off from a man in his last extremity! He shivers, he trembles—yea, he prays! Through his bloodshot eyes he catches some glimpses of a God—of a merciful God who loves all his creatures. Even Frederika, though she has neither love nor respect for him, pities him, as the bloated mass lies shivering beside her. Can this be the same lordly gentleman, every hair of whose mustache bespoke empire and dominion, who a few days since plotted the abasement of mankind?
But, hark! the awful tumult. The crashing of glass, the breaking of furniture, the beating in of doors with axes; the canaille have taken possession of the palace. They are looking for him everywhere. They find him not.
Out into the grounds and garden; here, there, everywhere, they turn and wind and quarter, like bloodhounds that have lost the scent.
And then the Prince hears, quite near him, the piping voice of a little ragged boy—a bare-footed urchin—saying: “They came back from the river; they went in here.—–(He is one of the cripple’s spies, set upon him to watch him.)—–This way, this way!” And the next instant, like a charge of wild cattle, the mob bursts through the cedars, led by a gigantic and ferocious figure, black with dust and mantled with blood—the blood of others.
The Prince rose from his lair as the yell of the pursuers told he was discovered; he turned as if to run; his trembling legs failed him; his eyes glared wildly; he tried to draw a weapon, but his hand shook so it was in vain. The next instant there was a crack of a pistol in the hands of one of the mob. The ball struck the Prince in the back of the neck, even in the same spot where, a century before, the avenging bullet smote the assassin of the good President Lincoln. With a terrible shriek he fell down, and moaned in the most exquisite torture. His suffering was so great that, coward as he was, he cried out: “Kill me! kill me!” A workman, stirred by a human sentiment, stepped forward and pointed his pistol, but the cripple struck the weapon up.
“No, no,” he said; “let him suffer for a few hours something of the misery he and his have inflicted on mankind during centuries. A thousand years of torture would not balance the account. The wound is mortal—his body is now paralyzed—only the sense of pain remains. The damned in hell do not suffer more. Come away.”
But Caesar had seen a prize worth pursuing. Frederika had risen, and when the Prince was shot she fled. Caesar pursued her, crashing through the shrubbery like an enraged mammoth; and soon the cripple laughed one of his dreadful laughs—for he saw the giant returning, dragging the fair girl after him, by the hair of her head, as we have seen, in the pictures, ogres hauling off captured children to destruction.