"Mercy upon us!" cried Jemina. "It is the devil!"
But now came the worst of it all. The bear put his paw on his heart, and with the politest bow in the world, remarked:
"Pardon me, ladies, if I intrude."
He had meant to say more, but his audience had vanished; only the flying tails of Mathias's coat were seen, as he slammed the door on them, in his precipitate flight.
"Police! police!" someone shouted out of the window of the adjoining room.
Police! Now, with all due respect for the officers of the law, Paul Jespersen had no desire to meet them at the present moment. To be hauled up at the station-house and fined for street disorder--nay, perhaps be locked up for the night, if, as was more than likely, the captain of police was at the masquerade, was not at all to Paul's taste. Anything rather than that! He would be the laughing stock of the whole town if, after his elaborate efforts, he were to pass the night in a cell, instead of dancing with Miss Clara Broby.
Hearing the cry for police repeated, Paul looked about him for some means of escape. It occurred to him that he had seen a ladder in the hall leading up to the loft. There he could easily hide himself until the crowd had dispersed.
Without further reflection, he rushed out through the door by which he had entered, climbed the ladder, thrust open a trap-door, and, to his astonishment, found himself under the wintry sky.