Part 3 out of 3
"In truth," observed the marquis, this time very seriously, "he is
dreadfully pale, and seems to grow worse every minute, the nearer he
approaches this side. It is said that, were he to lose his presence of
mind for a single moment, he would run the greatest danger."
"O! it would be horrible!" cried the marchioness, addressing Adrienne,
"if he were wounded--there--under our eyes!"
"Every wound does not kill," replied her friend, with an accent of such
cold indifference, that the marchioness looked at her with surprise, and
said to her: "My dear girl, what you say there is cruel!"
"It is the air of the place that acts on me," answered Adrienne, with an
"Look! look! the lion-tamer is about to shoot his arrow at the panther,"
said the marquis, suddenly. "No doubt, he will next perform the hand to
Morok was at this moment in front of the stage, but he had yet to
traverse its entire breadth to reach the cavern's mouth. He stopped an
instant, adjusted an arrow to the string, knelt down behind a mass of
rock, took deliberate aim--and then the arrow hissed across the stage,
and was lost in the depths of the cavern, into which the panther had
retired, after showing for a moment her threatening head to the audience.
Hardly had the arrow disappeared, than Death, purposely irritated by
Goliath (who was invisible) sent forth a howl of rage, as if she had been
really wounded. Morok's actions became so expressive, he evinced so
naturally his joy at having hit the wild beast, that a tempest of
applause burst from every quarter of the house. Then, throwing away his
bow, he drew a dagger from his girdle, took it between his teeth, and
began to crawl forward on hands and knees, as though he meant to surprise
the wounded panther in his den. To render the illusion perfect, Death,
again excited by Goliath, who struck him with an iron bar, sent forth
frightful howlings from the depths of the cavern.
The gloomy aspect of the forest, only half-lighted with a reddish glare,
was so effective--the howlings of the panther were so furious--the
gestures, attitude, and countenance of Morok were so expressive of
terror, that the audience, attentive and trembling, now maintained a
profound silence. Every one held his breath, and a kind of shudder came
over the spectators, as though they expected some horrible event. What
gave such a fearful air of truth to the pantomime of Morok, was that, as
he approached the cavern step by step, he approached also the
Englishman's box. In spite of himself, the lion-tamer, fascinated by
terror, could not take his eyes from the large green eyes of this man,
and it seemed as if every one of the abrupt movements which he made in
crawling along, was produced by a species of magnetic attraction, caused
by the fixed gaze of the fatal wagerer. Therefore, the nearer Morok
approached, the more ghastly and livid he became. At sight of this
pantomime, which was no longer acting, but the real expression of intense
fear, the deep and trembling silence which had reigned in the theatre was
once more interrupted by acclamations, with which were mingled the
roarings of the panther, and the distant growls of the lion and tiger.
The Englishman leaned almost out of his box, with a frightful sardonic
smile on his lip, and with his large eyes still fixed, panted for breath.
The perspiration ran down his bald red forehead, as if he had really
expended an incredible amount of magnetic power in attracting Morok, whom
he now saw close to the cavern entrance. The moment was decisive.
Crouching down with his dagger in his hand, following with eye and
gesture Death's every movement, who, roaring furiously, and opening wide
her enormous jaws, seemed determined to guard the entrance of her den,
Morok waited for the moment to rush upon her. There is such fascination
in danger, that Adrienne shared, in spite of herself, the feeling of
painful curiosity, mixed with terror, that thrilled through all the
spectators. Leaning forward like the marchioness, and gazing upon this
scene of fearful interest, the lady still held mechanically in her hand
the Indian bouquet preserved since the morning. Suddenly, Morok raised a
wild shout, as he rushed towards Death, who answered this exclamation by
a dreadful roar, and threw herself upon her master with so much fury,
that Adrienne, in alarm, believing the man lost, drew herself back, and
covered her fact with her hands. Her flowers slipped from her grasp,
and, falling upon the stage, rolled into the cavern in which Morok was
struggling with the panther.
Quick as lightning, supple and agile as a tiger, yielding to the
intoxication of his love, and to the wild ardor excited in him by the
roaring of the panther, Djalma sprang at one bound upon the stage, drew
his dagger, and rushed into the cavern to recover Adrienne's nosegay. At
that instant, Morok, being wounded, uttered a dreadful cry for help; the
panther, rendered still more furious at sight of Djalma, make the most
desperate efforts to break her chain. Unable to succeed in doing so, she
rose upon her hind legs, in order to seize Djalma, then within reach of
her sharp claws. It was only by bending down his head, throwing himself
on his knees, and twice plunging his dagger into her belly with the
rapidity of lightning, that Djalma escaped certain death. The panther
gave a howl, and fell with her whole weight upon the prince. For a
second, during which lasted her terrible agony, nothing was seen but a
confused and convulsive mass of black limbs, and white garments stained
with blood--and then Djalma rose, pale, bleeding, for he was wounded--and
standing erect, his eye flashing with savage pride, his foot on the body
of the panther, he held in his hand Adrienne's bouquet, and cast towards
her a glance which told the intensity of his love. Then only did
Adrienne feel her strength fail her--for only superhuman courage had
enabled her to watch all the terrible incidents of the struggle.