On
the main road there was a good deal of traffic, an unceasing noise of wheels
accompanied by -the rhythmic sound of horses’ hoofs trotting upon the smooth
asphalt.

But
suddenly the traffic stopped, and from Copou a group of people could be seen
approaching, gesticulating and shouting excitedly.

The
crowd appeared to be escorting somebody: soldiers, a guard and various members
of the public. Curious onlookers appeared at every door of the inn.

“Ah,”
thought Leiba, “they have laid hands on a thief.”

The
procession drew nearer. Sura detached herself from the others, and joined Leiba
on the steps of the inn.

“What
is it, Sura?” he asked.

“A
madman escaped from Golia.”

“Let
us close the inn so that he cannot get at us.”

“He
is bound now, but a while ago he escaped. He fought with all the soldiers. A
rough Gentile in the crowd pushed a Jew against the madman and he bit him on
the cheek.”

Leiba
could see well from the steps; from the stair below Sura watched with the child
in her arms.

It
was, in fact, a violent lunatic held on either side by two men: his wrists were
tightly bound over each other by a thick cord. He was a man of gigantic stature
with a head like a bull, thick black hair, and hard, grizzled beard and
whiskers. Through his shirt, which had been torn in the struggle, his broad
chest was visible, covered, like his head, with a mass of hair. His feet were
bare; his mouth was full of blood, and he continually spat out hair which he had
bitten from the Jew’s back.

Fierce
glance rest

Every
one stood still. Why? The guards unbound the lunatic’s hands. The crowd drew to
one side, leaving a large space around him. The mad-man looked about him, and
his fierce glance rested upon Zibal’s doorway; he gnashed his teeth, made a
dash for the three steps, and in a flash, seizing the child’s head in his right
hand and Sura’s in his left, he knocked them together with such force that they
cracked like so many fresh eggs. A sound was heard, a scrunching impossible to
describe, as the two skulls cracked together.

Leiba,
with bursting heart, like a man who falls from an immense height, tried to cry
out: “The whole world abandons me to the tender mercies of a madman!” But his
voice refused to obey him.

“Get
up, Jew!” cried someone, beating loudly upon the table with a stick.

“It’s
a bad joke!” said Sura from the doorway of the inn, “thus to frighten the man
out of his sleep, you stupid peasant!”

“What
has scared you, Jew?” asked the wag, laughing. “You sleep in the afternoon, eh?
Get up, customers are coming, the mail coach is arriving.”

And,
according to his silly habit which greatly irritated the Jew, he tried to take
his arm and tickle him.

“Let
me alone!” cried the innkeeper, drawing back and pushing him away with all his
might. “Can you not see that I am ill? Leave me in peace.”

The
coach arrived at last, nearly three hours late. There were two passengers who
seated themselves together with the driver, whom they had invited to share
their table.

The
conversation of the travellers threw a light upon recent events. At the highest
posting station, a robbery with murder had been committed during the night in
the inn of a Jew. The murdered innkeeper should have provided a change of
horses. The thieves had taken them, and while other horses were being found in
the village the curious travellers could examine the scene of the crime at
their leisure. Five victims! But the details! From just seeing the ruined house
one could believe it to have been some cruel vendetta or the work of some
religious fanatic. In stories of sectarian fanaticism one heard occasionally of
such extravagant crimes.

Leiba
shook with a violent access of fever and listened aghast.

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