Part 16 out of 31
"'After some years, during which he had never ceased to profess the most
absolute devotion to this Society, he was suddenly enlightened by fearful
revelations as to the secret ends it pursued, and the means it employed.
"'This was in 1510, a month before the assassination of Henry IV.
"'My grandfather, terrified at the secret of which he had become the
unwilling depositary, and which was to be fully explained by the death of
the best of kings, not only broke with the Society, but, as if
Catholicism itself had been answerable for the crimes of its members, he
abandoned the Romish religion, in which he had hitherto lived, and became
"'Undeniable proofs, attesting the connivance of two members of the
Company with Ravaillac, a connivance also proved in the case of Jean
Chatel, the regicide, were in my grandfather's possession.
"'This was the first cause of the violent hatred of the Society for our
family. Thank Heaven, these papers have been placed in safety, and if my
last will is executed, will be found marked A. M.C. D. G., in the ebony
casket in the Hall of Mourning, in the house in the Rue Saint-Francois.
"'My father was also exposed to these secret persecutions. His ruin, and
perhaps his death, would have been the consequence, had it not been for
the intervention of an angelic woman, towards whom he felt an almost
"'The portrait of this woman, whom I saw a few years ago, as well as that
of the man whom I hold in the greatest reverence, were painted by me from
memory, and have been placed in the Red Room in the Rue Saint-Francois--
to be gratefully valued, I hope, by the descendants of my family.'"
For some moments Gabriel had become more and more attentive to the
reading of this testament. He thought within himself by how strange a
coincidence one of his ancestors had, two centuries before, broken with
the Society of Jesus, as he himself had just done; and that from this
rupture, two centuries old, dated also that species of hatred with which
the Society of Jesus had always pursued his family. Nor did the young
priest find it less strange that this inheritance, transmitted to him
after a lapse of a hundred and fifty years, from one of his kindred (the
victim of the Society of Jesus), should return by a voluntary act to the
coffers of this same society. When the notary read the passage relative
to the two portraits, Gabriel, who, like Father d'Aigrigny, sat with his
back towards the pictures, turned round to look at them. Hardly had the
missionary cast his eyes on the portrait of the woman, than he uttered a
loud cry of surprise, and almost terror. The notary paused in his
reading, and looked uneasily at the young priest.
THE LAST STROKE OF NOON.
At the cry uttered by Gabriel, the notary had stopped reading the
testament, and Father d'Aigrigny hastily drew near the young priest. The
latter rose trembling from his seat and gazed with increasing stupor at
the female portrait.
Then he said in a low voice, as if speaking to himself. "Good Heaven!
is it possible that nature can produce such resemblances? Those eyes--so
proud and yet so sad--that forehead--that pale complexion--yes, all her
features, are the same--all of them!"
"My dear son, what is the matter?" said Father d'Aigrigny, as astonished
as Samuel and the notary.
"Eight months ago," replied the missionary, in a voice of deep emotion,
without once taking his eyes from the picture, "I was in the power of the
Indians, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. They had crucified, and
were beginning to scalp me; I was on the point of death, when Divine
Providence sent me unexpected aid--sent me this woman for a deliverer."
"That woman!" cried Samuel, Father d'Aigrigny, and the notary, all
Rodin alone appeared completely indifferent to this episode of the
picture. His face contracted with angry impatience, he bit his nails to
the quick, as he contemplated with agony the slow progress of the hands
of his watch.
"What! that woman saved your life?" resumed Father d'Aigrigny.
"Yes, this woman," replied Gabriel, in a still lower and more trembling
voice; "this woman--or rather a woman so much resembling her, that if
this picture had not been here for a century and a half, I should have
felt sure it was the same--nor can I explain to myself that so striking a
resemblance could be the effect of chance. Well," added he, after a
moment's silence, as he heaved a profound sigh, "the mysteries of Nature,
and the will of God, are impenetrable."
Gabriel fell back into his chair, in the midst of a general silence,
which was broken by Father d'Aigrigny saying, "It is a case of
extraordinary resemblance; that is all, my dear son. Only, the natural
gratitude which you feel towards your benefactress, makes you take a deep
interest in this singular coincidence."
Rodin, bursting with impatience, here said to the notary, by whose side
he stood, "It seems to me, sir, that all this little romance has nothing
to do with the testament."
"You are right," answered the notary, resuming his seat; "but the fact is
so extraordinary, and as you say, romantic, that one cannot help sharing
in this gentleman's astonishment."
He pointed to Gabriel, who, with his elbow resting on the arms of the
chair, leaned his forehead upon his hand, apparently quite absorbed in
thought. The notary continued the reading of the will, as follows:
"'Such are the persecutions to which my family has been exposed on the
part of the Society of Jesus.
"'The Society possesses at this hour the whole of my confiscated
property. I am about to die. May its hatred perish with me, and spare
my kindred, whose fate at this solemn moment is my last and only thought.
"'This morning I sent for a man of long tried probity Isaac Samuel. He
owes his life to me, and every day I congratulate myself on having been
able to preserve to the world so honest and excellent a creature.
"'Before the confiscation of my property, Isaac Samuel had long managed
it with as much intelligence as uprightness. I have entrusted him with
the fifty thousand crowns, returned to me by a faithful friend. Isaac
Samuel, and his descendants after him, to whom he will leave this debt of
gratitude, will invest the above sum, and allow it to accumulate, until
the expiration of the hundred and fiftieth year from this time.
"'The amount thus accumulated may become enormous, and constitute a royal
fortune, if no unfavorable event should occur. May my descendants attend
to my wishes, as to the division and employment of this immense sum!
"'In a century and a half, there happen so many changes, so many
varieties of fortunes, such a rise and fall in the condition of the
successive generations of a family, that probably, a hundred and fifty
years hence, my descendants will belong to various classes of society,
and thus represent the divers social elements of their time.
"'There may, perhaps, be among them men of great intelligence great
courage, or great virtue--learned men, or names illustrious in arts and
arms. There may, perhaps, also be obscure workmen, or humble citizens--
perhaps, also, alas! great criminals.
"'However, this may be, my most earnest desire is that my descendants
should combine together, and, reconstituting one family, by a close and
sincere union, put into practice the divine words of Christ, "Love ye one
"'This union would have a salutary tendency; for it seems to me that upon
union, upon the association of men together, must depend the future
happiness of mankind.
"'The Company, which so long persecuted my family, is one of the most
striking examples of the power of association, even when applied to evil.
"'There is something so fruitful and divine in this principle, that it
sometimes forces to good the worst and most dangerous combinations.
"'Thus, the missions have thrown a scanty but pure and generous light on
the darkness of this Company of Jesus--founded with the detestable and
impious aim of destroying, by a homicidal education, all will, thought,
liberty, and intelligence, in the people, so as to deliver them,
trembling, superstitious, brutal, and helpless, to the despotism of
kings, governed in their turn by confessors belonging to the Society.'"
At this passage of the will, there was another strange look exchanged
between Gabriel and Father d'Aigrigny. The notary continued:
"'If a perverse association, based upon the degradation of humanity, upon
fear and despotism, and followed by the maledictions of the people, has
survived for centuries, and often governed the world by craft and terror-
-how would it be with an association, which, taking fraternity and
evangelic love for its means, had for its end to deliver man and woman
from all degrading slavery, to invite to the enjoyment of terrestrial
happiness those who have hitherto known nothing of life but its sorrows
and miseries, and to glorify and enrich the labor that feeds the state?--
to enlighten those whom ignorance has depraved?--to favor the free
expansion of all the passions, which God, in His infinite wisdom, and
inexhaustible goodness, gave to man as so many powerful levers?--to
sanctify all the gifts of Heaven: love, maternity, strength,
intelligence, beauty, genius?--to make men truly religious, and deeply
grateful to their Creator, by making them understand the splendors of
Nature, and bestowing on them their rightful share in the treasures which
have been poured upon us?
"'Oh! if it be Heaven's will that, in a century and a half, the
descendants of my family, faithful to the last wishes of a heart that
loved humanity, meet in this sacred union!--if it be Heaven's will that
amongst them be found charitable and passionate souls, full of
commiseration for those who suffer, and lofty minds, ardent for liberty!
warm and eloquent natures! resolute characters! women, who unite beauty
and wit with goodness--oh! then, how fruitful, how powerful will be the
harmonious union of all these ideas, and influences, and forces--of all
these attractions grouped round that princely fortune, which,
concentrated by association, and wisely managed, would render practicable
the most admirable Utopias!
"'What a wondrous centre of fertile and generous thoughts! What precious
and life-giving rays would stream incessantly from this focus of charity,
emancipation, and love! What great things might be attempted what
magnificent examples given to the world! What a divine mission! What an
irresistible tendency towards good might be impressed on the whole human
race by a family thus situated, and in possession of such means!
"'And, then, such a beneficent association would be able to combat the
fatal conspiracy of which I am the victim, and which, in a century and a
half, may have lost none of its formidable power.
"'So, to this work of darkness, restraint, and despotism, which weighs
heavily on the Christian world, my family would oppose their work of
light, expansion, and liberty!
"'The genii of good and evil would stand face to face. The struggle
would commence, and God would protect the right.
"'And that these immense pecuniary resources, which will give so much
power to my family, may not be exhausted by the course of years, my
heirs, following my last will, are to place out, upon the same
conditions, double the sum that I have invested--so that, a century and a
half later, a new source of power and action will be at the disposal of
their descendants. What a perpetuity of good!
"'In the ebony cabinet of the Hall of Mourning will be found some
practical suggestions on the subject of this association.
"'Such is my last will--or rather, such are my last hopes.
"'When I require absolutely that the members of my family should appear
in person in the Rue Saint-Francois, on the day of the opening of this
testament, it is so that, united in that solemn moment, they may see and
know each other. My words may then, perhaps, have some effect upon them;
and, instead of living divided, they will combine together. It will be
for their own interest, and my wishes will thus be accomplished.
"'When I sent, a few days ago, to those of my family whom exile has
dispersed over Europe, a medal on which is engravers the date of the
convocation of my heirs, a century and a half from this time, I was
forced to keep secret my true motive, and only to tell them, that my
descendants would find it greatly to their interest to attend this
"'I have acted thus, because I know the craft and perseverance of the
society of which I have been the victim. If they could guess that my
descendants would hereafter have to divide immense sums between them, my
family would run the risk of much fraud and malice, through the fatal
recommendations handed down from age to age in the Society of Jesus.
"'May these precautions be successful! May the wish, expressed upon
these medals, be faithfully transmitted from generation to generation!
"'If I fix a day and hour, in which my inheritance shall irrevocably fall
to those of my descendants who shall appear in the Rue Saint-Francois on
the 13th February, in 1832, it is that all delays must have a term, and
that my heirs will have been sufficiently informed years before of the
great importance of this meeting.
"'After the reading of my testament, the person who shall then be the
trustee of the accumulated funds, shall make known their amount, so that,
with the last stroke of noon, they may be divided between my heirs then
and there present.
"'The different apartments of the house shall then be opened to them.
They will see in them divers objects, well worthy of interest, pity, and
respect--particularly in the Hall of Mourning.
"'My desire is, that the house may not be sold, but that it may remain
furnished as it is, and serve as a place of meeting for my descendants,
if, as I hope, they attend to my last wishes.
"'If, on the contrary, they are divided amongst themselves--if, instead
of uniting for one of the most generous enterprises that ever signalized
an age, they yield to the influence of selfish passions--if they prefer a
sterile individuality to a fruitful association--if, in this immense
fortune, they see only an opportunity for frivolous dissipation, or
sordid interest--may they be accursed by all those whom they might have
loved, succored, and disfettered!--and then let this house be utterly
demolished and destroyed, and the papers, of which Isaac Samuel possesses
the inventory, as well as the two portraits in the Red Room, be burnt by
the guardian of the property.
"'I have spoken. My duty is accomplished. In all this, I have followed
the counsels of the man whom I revere and love as the image of God upon
"'The faithful friend, who preserved for me the fifty thousand crowns,
the wreck of my fortune, knows the use I mean to make of them. I could
not refuse his friendship this mark of confidence. But I have concealed
from him the name of Isaac Samuel--for to have mentioned it might have
exposed this latter and his descendants to great dangers.
"'In a short time, this friend, who knows not that my resolution to die
is so near its accomplishment, will come hither with my notary. Into
their hands, after the usual formalities, I shall deliver my sealed
"'Such is my last will. I leave its execution to the superintending care
of Providence. God will protect the cause of love, peace, union, and
"'This mystic testament, having been freely made by me, and written
entirely with my own hand, I intend and will its scrupulous execution
both in spirit and the letter.
"'This 13th day of February, 1682, at one o'clock in the
"'MARIUS DE RENNEPONT.'"
As the notary had proceeded with the reading of the testament, Gabriel
was successively agitated by divers painful impressions. At first, as we
have before said, he was struck with the singular fatality which restored
this immense fortune, derived from a victim of the Society of Jesus, to
the hands of that very association, by the renewal of his deed of gift.
Then, as his charitable and lofty soul began fully to comprehend the
admirable tendency of the association so earnestly recommended by Marius
de Rennepont, he reflected with bitter remorse, that, in consequence of
his act of renunciation, and of the absence of any other heir, this great
idea would never be realized, and a fortune, far more considerable than
had even been expected, would fall to the share of an ill-omened society,
in whose hands it would become a terrible means of action. At the same
time, it must be said that the soul of Gabriel was too pure and noble to
feel the slightest personal regret, on hearing the great probable value
of the property he had renounced. He rejoiced rather in withdrawing his
mind, by a touching contrast, from the thought of the wealth he had
abandoned, to the humble parsonage, where he hoped to pass the remainder
of his life, in the practice of most evangelical virtue.
These ideas passed confusedly through his brain. The sight of that
woman's portrait, the dark revelations contained in the testament, the
grandeur of the views exhibited in this last will of M. de Rennepont, all
these extraordinary incidents had thrown Gabriel into a sort of stupor,
in which he was still plunged, when Samuel offered the key of the
register to the notary, saying: "You will find, sir, in this register,
the exact statement of the sums in my possession, derived from the
investment and accumulation of the one hundred and fifty thousand francs,
entrusted to my grandfather by M. Marius de Rennepont."
"Your grandfather!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, with the utmost surprise;
"it is then your family that has always had the management of this
"Yes, sir; and, in a few minutes, my wife will bring hither the casket
which contains the vouchers."
"And to what sum does this property amount?" asked Rodin, with an air of
the most complete indifference.
"As M. Notary may convince himself by this statement," replied Samuel,
with perfect frankness, and as if he were only talking of the original
one hundred and fifty thousand francs, "I have in my possession various
current securities to the amount of two hundred and twelve millions, one
hundred and seventy--"
"You say, sir'" cried Father d'Aigrigny, without giving Samuel time to
finish, for the odd money did not at all interest his reverence.
"Yes, the sum!" added Rodin, in an agitated voice, and, for the first
time, perhaps, in his life losing his presence of mind; "the sum--the
"I say, sir," resumed the old man, "that I hold securities for two
hundred and twelve millions, one hundred and seventy-five thousand
francs, payable to self or bearer--as you may soon convince yourself, M.
Notary, for here is my wife with the casket."
Indeed, at this moment, Bathsheba entered, holding in her arms the cedar-
wood chest, which contained the securities in question; she placed it
upon the table, and withdrew, after exchanging an affectionate glance
with Samuel. When the latter declared the enormous amount of the sum in
hand, his words were received with silent stupor. All the actors in this
scene, except himself, believed that they were the sport of some
delusion. Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin had counted upon forty millions.
This sum, in itself enormous, was more than quintupled. Gabriel, when he
heard the notary read those passages in the testament, which spoke of a
princely fortune, being quite ignorant of the prodigious effects of
eligible investments, had valued the property at some three or four
millions. He was, therefore, struck dumb with amazement at the
exorbitant amount named. Notwithstanding his admirable disinterestedness
and scrupulous honor, he felt dazzled and giddy at the thought, that all
these immense riches might have belonged to him--alone. The notary,
almost as much amazed as Gabriel, examined the statement, and could
hardly believe his eyes. The Jew also remained mute, and seemed
painfully absorbed in thought, that no other heir made his appearance.
In the depth of this profound silence, the clock in the next room began
slowly to strike twelve. Samuel started, and heaved a deep sigh. A few
seconds more, and the fatal term would be at an end. Rodin, Father
d'Aigrigny, Gabriel, and the notary, were all under the influence of such
complete surprise, that not one of them even remarked how strange it was
to hear the sound of this clock.
"Noon!" cried Rodin, as, by an involuntary movement, he hastily placed
his two hands upon the casket, as if to take possession of it.
"At last!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, with an expression of joy, triumph
transport, which it is impossible to describe. Then he added, as he
threw himself into Gabriel's arms, whom he embraced warmly: "Oh, my dear
son! how the poor will bless you! You will be a second Vincent de Paul.
You will be canonized, I promise you."
"Let us first thank Providence," said Rodin, in a grave and solemn tone,
as he fell upon his knees, "let us thank Providence, that He has
permitted so much wealth to be employed for His glory!"'
Father d'Aigrigny, having again embraced Gabriel, took him by the hand,
and said: "Rodin is right. Let us kneel, my dear son, and render thanks
So saying, Father d'Aigrigny knelt down, dragging Gabriel with him, and
the latter, confused and giddy with so many precipitate events, yielded
mechanically to the impulse. It was the last stroke of twelve when they
all rose together.
Then said the notary, in a slightly agitated voice, for there was
something extraordinary and solemn in this scene
"No other heir of M. Marius de Rennepont having presented himself, before
noon on this day, I execute the will of the testator, by declaring, in
the name of law and justice, that M. Francois Marie Gabriel de Rennepont,
here present, is the sole heir and possessor of all the estate, real and
personal, bequeathed under the said will; all which estate the said
Gabriel de Rennepont, priest, has freely and voluntarily made over by
deed of gift to Frederic Emanuel de Bordeville, Marquis d'Aigrigny,
priest, who has accepted the same, and is, therefore, the only legal
holder of such property, in the room of the said Gabriel de Rennepont, by
virtue of the said deed, drawn up and engrossed by me this morning, and
signed in my presence by the said Gabriel de Rennepont and Frederic
At this moment, the sound of loud voices was heard from the garden.
Bathsheba entered hastily, and said to her husband with an agitated air:
"Samuel--a soldier--who insists--"
She had not time to finish. Dagobert appeared at the door of the Red
Room. The soldier was fearfully pale. He seemed almost fainting; his
left arm was in a sling, and he leaned upon Agricola. At sight of
Dagobert, the pale and flabby eyelids of Rodin were suddenly distended,
as if all the blood in his body had flowed towards the head. Then the
socius threw himself upon the casket, with the haste of ferocious rage
and avidity, as if he were resolved to cover it with his body, and defend
it at the peril of his life.
 This term is sanctioned by legal usage.
THE DEED OF GIFT.
Father d'Aigrigny did not recognize Dagobert, and had never seen
Agricola. He could not therefore, at first explain the kind of angry
alarm exhibited by Rodin. But the reverend father understood it all,
when he heard Gabriel utter a cry of joy, and saw him rush into the arms
of the smith, exclaiming: "My brother! my second father--oh! it is heaven
that sends you to me."
Having pressed Gabriel's hand, Dagobert advanced towards Father
d'Aigrigny, with a rapid but unsteady step. As he remarked the soldier's
threatening countenance, the reverend father, strong in his acquired
rights, and feeling that, since noon, he was at home here; drew back a
little, and said imperiously to the veteran: "Who are you, sir!--What do
you want here?"
Instead of answering, the soldier continued to advance, then, stopping
just facing Father d'Aigrigny, he looked at him for a second with such an
astounding mixture of curiosity, disdain, aversion, and audacity, that
the ex-colonel of hussars quailed before the pale face and glowing eye of
the veteran. The notary and Samuel, struck with surprise, remained mute
spectators of this scene, while Agricola and Gabriel followed with
anxiety Dagobert's least movements. As for Rodin, he pretended to be
leaning on the casket, in order still to cover it with his body.
Surmounting at length the embarrassment caused by the steadfast look of
the soldier, Father d'Aigrigny raised his head, and repeated. "I ask
you, sir, who you are, and what you want?"
"Do you not recognize me?" said Dagobert, hardly able to restrain
"In truth," returned the soldier, with profound contempt, "You cast down
your eyes for shame when, at Leipsic, you fought for the Russians against
the French, and when General Simon, covered with wounds, answered you,
renegade that you were, when you asked him for his sword, 'I do not
surrender to a traitor!'--and dragged himself along to one of the Russian
grenadiers, to whom he yielded up his weapon. Well! there was then a
wounded soldier by the side of General Simon--I am he."
"In brief, sir, what do you want?" said Father d'Aigrigny, hardly, able
to control himself.
"I have come to unmask you--you, that are as false and hateful a priest,
as Gabriel is admirable and beloved by all."
"Sir!" cried the marquis, becoming livid with rage and emotion.
"I tell you, that you are infamous," resumed the soldier, with still
greater force. "To rob Marshal Simon's daughters, and Gabriel, and
Mdlle. de Cardoville of their inheritance, you have had recourse to the
most shameful means."
"What do you say?" cried Gabriel. "The daughters of Marshal Simon?"
"Are your relations, my dear boy, as is also that worthy Mdlle. de
Cardoville, the benefactress of Agricola. Now, this priest," he added,
pointing to Father d'Aigrigny, "has had them shut up--the one as mad, in
a lunatic asylum--the others in a convent. As for you, my dear boy, I
did not hope to find you here, believing that they would have prevented
you, like the others, from coming hither this morning. But, thank God,
you are here, and I arrive in time. I should have been sooner, but for
my wound. I have lost so much blood, that I have done nothing but faint
all the morning."
"Truly!" cried Gabriel, with uneasiness. "I had not remarked your arm in
a sling. What is the wound?"
At a sign from Agricola, Dagobert answered: "Nothing; the consequence of
a fall. But here I am, to unveil many infamies."
It is impossible to paint the curiosity, anguish, surprise, or fear, of
the different actors in this scene, as they listened to Dagobert's
threatening words. But the most overcome was Gabriel. His angelic
countenance was distorted, his knees trembled under him. Struck by the
communication of Dagobert which revealed the existence of other heirs, he
was unable to speak for some time; at length, he cried out, in a tone of
despair: "And it is I--oh, God! I--who am the cause of the spoliation of
"You, brother?" exclaimed Agricola.
"Did they not wish to rob you also?" added Dagobert.
"The will," cried Gabriel, with increasing agony, "gave the property to
those of the heirs that should appear before noon."
"Well?" said Dagobert, alarmed at the emotion of the young priest.
"Twelve o'clock has struck," resumed the latter. "Of all the family, I
alone was present. Do you understand it now? The term is expired. The
heirs have been thrust aside by me!"
"By you!" said Dagobert, stammering with joy. "By you, my brave boy!
then all is well."
"All is well," resumed Dagobert, radiant with delight. "You will share
with the others--I know you."
"But all this property I have irrevocably, made over to another," cried
Gabriel, in despair.
"Made over the property!" cried Dagobert, quite petrified. "To whom,
"To this gentleman," said Gabriel, pointing to Father d'Aigrigny.
"To him!" exclaimed Dagobert, overwhelmed by the news; "to him--the
renegade--who has always been the evil genius of this family!"
"But, brother," cried Agricola, "did you then know your claim to this
"No," answered the young priest, with deep dejection; "no--I only learned
it this morning, from Father d'Aigrigny. He told me, that he had only
recently been informed of my rights, by family papers long ago found upon
me, and sent by our mother to her confessor."
A sudden light seemed to dawn upon the mind of the smith, as he
exclaimed: "I understand it all now. They discovered in these papers,
that you would one day have a chance of becoming rich. Therefore, they
interested themselves about you--therefore, they took you into their
college, where we could never see you--therefore, they deceived you in
your vocation by shameful falsehoods, to force you to become a priest,
and to lead you to make this deed of gift. Oh, sir!" resumed Agricola,
turning towards Father d'Aigrigny, with indignation, "my father is right-
-such machinations are indeed infamous!"
During this scene, the reverend father and his socius, at first alarmed
and shaken in their audacity, had by degrees recovered all their
coolness. Rodin, still leaning upon the casket, had said a few words in
a low voice to Father d'Aigrigny. So that when Agricola, carried away by
his indignation, reproached the latter with his infamous machinations, he
bowed his head humbly, and answered: "We are bound to forgive injuries,
and offer them to the Lord as a mark of our humility."
Dagobert, confounded at all he had just heard, felt his reason begin to
wander. After so much anxiety, his strength failed beneath this new and
terrible blow. Agricola's just and sensible words, in connection with
certain passages of the testament, at once enlightened Gabriel as to the
views of Father d'Aigrigny, in taking charge of his education, and
leading him to join the Society of Jesus. For the first time in his
life, Gabriel was able to take in at a glance all the secret springs of
the dark intrigue, of which he had been the victim. Then, indignation
and despair surmounting his natural timidity, the missionary, with
flashing eye, and cheeks inflamed with noble wrath, exclaimed, as he
addressed Father d'Aigrigny: "So, father, when you placed me in one of
your colleges, it was not from any feeling of kindness or commiseration,
but only in the hope of bringing me one day to renounce in favor of your
Order my share in this inheritance; and it did not even suffice you to
sacrifice me to your cupidity, but I must also be rendered the
involuntary instrument of a shameful spoliation! If only I were
concerned--if you only coveted my claim to all this wealth, I should not
complain. I am the minister of a religion which honors and sanctifies
poverty; I have consented to the donation in your favor, and I have not,
I could never have any claim upon it. But property is concerned which
belong to poor orphans, brought from a distant exile by my adopted
father, and I will not see them wronged. But the benefactress of my
adopted brother is concerned, and I will not see her wronged. But the
last will of a dying man is concerned, who, in his ardent love of
humanity, bequeathed to his descendants an evangelic mission--an
admirable mission of progress, love, union, liberty--and I will not see
this mission blighted in its bud. No, no; I tell you, that this his
mission shall be accomplished, though I have to cancel the donation I
On these words, Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin looked at each other with a
slight shrug of the shoulders. At a sign from the socius, the reverend
father began to speak with immovable calmness, in a slow and sanctified
voice, keeping eyes constantly cast down: "There are many incidents
connected with this inheritance of M. de Rennepont, which appear very
complicated--many phantoms, which seem un usually menacing--and yet,
nothing could be really more simple and natural. Let us proceed in
regular order. Let us put aside all these calumnious imputations; we
will return to them afterwards. M. Gabriel de Rennepont--and I
humbly beg him to contradict me, if I depart in the least instance from
the exact truth--M. Gabriel de Rennepont, in acknowledgment of the care
formerly bestowed on him by the society to which I have the honor to
belong, made over to me, as its representative, freely and voluntarily,
all the property that might come to him one day, the value of which was
unknown to him, as well as to myself."
Father d'Aigrigny here looked at Gabriel, as if appealing to him for the
truth of this statement.
"It is true," said the young priest: "I made this donation freely."
"This morning, in consequence of a private conversation, which I will not
repeat--and in this, I am certain beforehand, of the Abbe Gabriel--"
"True," replied Gabriel, generously; "the subject of this conversation is
of little importance."
"It was then, in consequence of this conversation that the Abbe Gabriel
manifested the desire to confirm this donation--not in my favor, for I
have little to do with earthly wealth--but in favor of the sacred and
charitable works of which our Company is the trustee. I appeal to the
honor of M. Gabriel to declare if he have not engaged himself towards us,
not only by a solemn oath, but by a perfectly legal act, executed in
presence of M. Dumesnil, here present?"
"It is all true," answered Gabriel.
"The deed was prepared by me," added the notary.
"But Gabriel could only give you what belonged to him," cried Dagobert.
"The dear boy never supposed that you were making use of him to rob other
"Do me the favor, sir, to allow me to explain myself," replied Father
d'Aigrigny, courteously; "you can afterwards make answer."
Dagobert repressed with difficulty his painful impatience. The reverend
father continued: "The Abbe Gabriel has therefore, by the double
engagement of an oath and a legal act, confirmed his donation. Much
more," resumed Father d'Aigrigny: "when to his great astonishment and to
ours, the enormous amount of the inheritance became known, the Abbe
Gabriel, faithful to his own admirable generosity, far from repenting of
his gifts, consecrated them once more by a pious movement of gratitude to
Providence--for M. Notary will doubtless remember, that, after embracing
the Abbe Gabriel with transport, and telling him that he was a second
Vincent de Paul in charity, I took him by the hand, and we both knelt
down together to thank heaven for having inspired him with the thought
too offer these immense riches to the Greater Glory of the Lord."
"That is true, also," said Gabriel, honestly; "so long as myself was
concerned, though I might be astounded for a moment by the revelation of
so enormous a fortune, I did not think for an instant of cancelling the
donation I had freely made."
"Under these circumstances," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, "the hour fixed
for the settlement of the inheritance having struck, and Abbe Gabriel
being the only heir that presented himself, he became necessarily the
only legitimate possessor of this immense wealth--enormous, no doubt--and
charity makes me rejoice that it is enormous, for, thanks to it, many
miseries will be relieved and many tears wiped away. But, all on a
sudden, here comes this gentleman," said Father d'Aigrigny, pointing to
Dagobert; "and, under some delusion, which I forgive from the bottom of
my soul, and which I am sure he will himself regret, accuses me, with
insults and threats, with having carried off (I know not where) some
persons (I know not whom), in order to prevent their being here at the
"Yes, I accuse you of this infamy!" cried the soldier exasperated by the
calmness and audacity of the reverend father: "yes--and I will--"
"Once again, sir, I conjure you to be so good as to let me finish; you
can reply afterwards," said Father d'Aigrigny, humbly, in the softest and
most honeyed accents.
"Yes, I will reply, and confound you!" cried Dagobert.
"Let him finish, father. You can speak presently," said Agricola.
The soldier was silent as Father d'Aigrigny continued with new assurance:
"Doubtless, if there should really be any other heirs, besides the Abbe
Gabriel, it is unfortunate for them that they have not appeared in proper
time. And if, instead of defending the cause of the poor and needy, I
had only to look to my own interest, I should be far from availing myself
of this advantage, due only to chance; but, as a trustee for the great
family of the poor, I am obliged to maintain my absolute right to this
inheritance; and I do not doubt that M. Notary will acknowledge the
validity of my claim, and deliver to me these securities, which are now
my legitimate property."
"My only mission," replied the notary, in an agitated voice, "is
faithfully to execute the will of the testator. The Abbe Gabriel de
Rennepont alone presented himself, within the term fixed by the
testament. The deed of gift is in due form; I cannot refuse, therefore,
to deliver to the person named in the deed the amount of the heritage--"
On these words Samuel hid his face in his hands, and heaved a deep sigh;
he was obliged to acknowledge the rigorous justice of the notary's
"But, sir," cried Dagobert, addressing the man of law, "this cannot be.
You will not allow two poor orphans to be despoiled. It is in the name
of their father and mother that I speak to you. I give you my honor--the
honor of a soldier!--that they took advantage of the weakness of my wife
to carry the daughters of Marshal Simon to a convent, and thus prevent me
bringing them here this morning. It is so true, that I have already laid
my charge before a magistrate."
"And what answer did you receive?" said the notary.
"That my deposition was not sufficient for the law to remove these young
girls from the convent in which they were, and that inquiries would be
"Yes, sir," added Agricola, "and it was the same with regard to Mdlle.
de Cardoville, detained as mad in a lunatic asylum, though in the full
enjoyment of her reason. Like Marshal Simon's daughters, she too has a
claim to this inheritance. I took the same steps for her, as my father
took for Marshal Simon's daughters."
"Well?" asked the notary.
"Unfortunately, sir," answered Agricola, "they told me; as they did my
father, that my deposition would not suffice, and that they must make
At this moment, Bathsheba, having heard the street-bell ring, left the
Red Room at a sign from Samuel. The notary resumed, addressing Agricola
and his father: "Far be it from me, gentlemen, to call in question your
good faith; but I cannot, to my great regret, attach such importance to
your accusations, which are not supported by proof, as to suspend the
regular legal course. According to your own confession, gentlemen, the
authorities, to whom you addressed yourselves, did not see fit to
interfere on your depositions, and told you they would inquire further.
Now, really, gentlemen, I appeal to you: how can I, in so serious a
matter, take upon myself a responsibility, which the magistrates
themselves have refused to take?"
"Yes, you should do so, in the name of justice and honor?" cried
"It may be so, sir, in your opinion; but in my view of the case, I remain
faithful to justice and honor, by executing with exactness the last will
of the dead. For the rest you have no occasion to despair. If the
persons, whose interests you represent, consider themselves injured, they
may hereafter have recourse to an action at law, against the person
receiving as donee of the Abbe Gabriel--but in the meanwhile, it is my
duty to put him in immediate possession of the securities. I should be
gravely injured, were I to act in any, other manner."
The notary's observations seemed so reasonable, that Samuel, Dagobert and
Agricola were quite confounded. After a moment's thought, Gabriel
appeared to take a desperate resolution, and said to the notary, in a
"Since, under these circumstances, the law is powerless to obtain the
right, I must adopt, sir, an extreme course. Before doing so, I will ask
M. l'Abbe d'Aigrigny, for the last time, if he will content himself with
that portion of the property which falls justly to me, on condition that
the rest shall be placed in safe hands, till the heirs, whose names have
been brought forward, shall prove their claim."
"To this proposition I must answer as I have done already," replied
Father d'Aigrigny; "it is not I who am concerned, but an immense work of
charity. I am, therefore, obliged to refuse the part-offer of the Abbe
Gabriel, and to remind him of his engagements of every kind."
"Then you refuse this arrangement?" asked Gabriel, in an agitated voice.
"Charity commands me to do so."
"You refuse it--absolutely?"
"I think of all the good and pious institutions that these treasures will
enable us to establish for the Greater Glory of the Lord, and I have
neither the courage nor the desire to make the least concession."
"Then, sir," resumed the good priest, in a still more agitated manner,
"since you force me to do it, I revoke my donation. I only intended to
dispose of my own property, and not of that which did not belong to me."
"Take care M. l'Abbe," said rather d'Aigrigny; "I would observe that I
hold in my hand a written, formal promise."
"I know it, sir; you have a written paper, in which I take an oath never
to revoke this donation, upon any pretext whatever, and on pain of
incurring the aversion and contempt of all honest men. Well, sir! be it
so," said Gabriel, with deep bitterness; "I will expose myself to all
the consequences of perjury; you may proclaim it everywhere. I may be
hated and despised by all--but God will judge me!" The young priest
dried a tear, which trickled from his eye.
"Oh! do not be afraid, my dear boy!" cried Dagobert, with reviving hope.
"All honest men will be on your side!"
"Well done, brother!" said Agricola.
"M. Notary," said Rodin, in his little sharp voice, "please to explain to
Abbe Gabriel, that he may perjure himself as much as he thinks fit, but
that the Civil Code is much less easy to violate than a mere promise,
which is only--sacred!"
"Speak, sir," said Gabriel.
"Please to inform Abbe Gabriel," resumed Rodin, "that a deed of gift,
like that made in favor of Father d'Aigrigny, can only be cancelled for
one of three reasons--is it not so?"
"Yes, sir, for three reasons," said the notary.
"The first is in case of the birth of a child," said Rodin, "and I should
blush to mention such a contingency to the Abbe Gabriel. The second is
the ingratitude of the donee--and the Abbe Gabriel may be certain of our
deep and lasting gratitude. The last case is the non-fulfilment of the
wishes of the donor, with regard to the employment of his gifts.
"Now, although the Abbe Gabriel may have suddenly conceived a very bad
opinion of us, he will at least give us some time to show that his gifts
have been disposed of according to his wishes, and applied to the Greater
Glory of the Lord."
"Now, M. Notary," added Father d'Aigrigny, "it is for you to decide and
say, if Abbe Gabriel can revoke the donation he has made."
Just as the notary was going to answer, Bathsheba reentered the room,
followed by two more personages, who appeared in the Red Room at a little
distance from each other.
THE WANDERING JEW
By Eugene Sue
PART SECOND.--THE CHASTISEMENT. (Concluded.)
XXVI. A Good Genius
XXVII. The First Last, And the Last First
XXVIII. The Stranger
XXIX. The Den
XXX. An Unexpected Visit
XXXI. Friendly Services
XXXII. The Advice
XXXIII. The Accuser
XXXIV. Father d'Aigrigny's Secretary
XXXIX. Pierre Simon
A GOOD GENIUS.
The first of the two, whose arrival had interrupted the answer of the
notary, was Faringhea. At sight of this man's forbidding countenance,
Samuel approached, and said to him: "Who are you, sir?"
After casting a piercing glance at Rodin, who started but soon recovered
his habitual coolness, Faringhea replied to Samuel: "Prince Djalma
arrived lately from India, in order to be present here this day, as it
was recommended to him by an inscription on a medal, which he wore about
"He, also!" cried Gabriel, who had been the shipmate of the Indian Prince
from the Azores, where the vessel in which he came from Alexandria had
been driven into port: "he also one of the heirs! In fact, the prince
told me during the voyage that his mother was of French origin. But,
doubtless, he thought it right to conceal from me the object of his
journey. Oh! that Indian is a noble and courageous young man. Where is
The Strangler again looked at Rodin, and said, laying strong emphasis
upon his words: "I left the prince yesterday evening. He informed me
that, although he had a great interest to be here, he might possibly
sacrifice that interest to other motives. I passed the night in the same
hotel, and this morning, when I went to call on him, they told me he was
already gone out. My friendship for him led me to come hither, hoping
the information I should be able to give might be of use to the prince."
In making no mention of the snare into which he had fallen the day
before, in concealing Rodin's machinations with regard to Djalma, and in
attributing the absence of this latter to a voluntary cause, the
Strangler evidently wished to serve the socius, trusting that Rodin would
know how to recompense his discretion. It is useless to observe, that
all this story was impudently false. Having succeeded that morning in
escaping from his prison by a prodigious effort of cunning, audacity, and
skill, he had run to the hotel where he had left Djalma; there he had
learned that a man and woman, of an advanced age, and most respectable
appearance, calling themselves relations of the young Indian, had asked
to see him--and that, alarmed at the dangerous state of somnolency in
which he seemed to be plunged, they had taken him home in their carriage,
in order to pay him the necessary attention.
"It is unfortunate," said the notary, "that this heir also did not make
his appearance--but he has, unhappily, forfeited his right to the immense
inheritance that is in question."
"Oh! an immense inheritance is in question," said Faringhea, looking
fixedly at Rodin, who prudently turned away his eyes.
The second of the two personages we have mentioned entered at this
moment. It was the father of Marshal Simon, an old man of tall stature,
still active and vigorous for his age. His hair was white and thin. His
countenance, rather fresh-colored, was expressive at once of quickness,
mildness and energy.
Agricola advanced hastily to meet him. "You here, M. Simon!" he
"Yes, my boy," said the marshal's father, cordially pressing Agricola's
hand "I have just arrived from my journey. M. Hardy was to have been
here, about some matter of inheritance, as he supposed: but, as he will
still be absent from Paris for some time, he has charged me--"
"He also an heir!--M. Francis Hardy!" cried Agricola, interrupting the
"But how pale and agitated you are, my boy!" said the marshal's father,
looking round with astonishment. "What is the matter?"
"What is the matter?" cried Dagobert, in despair, as he approached the
foreman. "The matter is that they would rob your granddaughters, and
that I have brought them from the depths of Siberia only to witness this
"Eh?" cried the old workman, trying to recognize the soldiers face, "you
"You--the generous, devoted friend of my son!" cried the marshal's
father, pressing the hands of Dagobert in his own with strong emotion;
"but did you not speak of Simon's daughter?"
"Of his daughters; for he is more fortunate than he imagines," said
Dagobert. "The poor children are twins."
"And where are they?" asked the old man.
"In a convent."
"In a convent?"
"Yes; by the treachery of this man, who keeps them there in order to
"The Marquis d'Aigrigny."
"My son's mortal enemy!" cried the old workman, as he threw a glance of
aversion at Father d'Aigrigny, whose audacity did not fail him.
"And that is not all," added Agricola. "M. Hardy, my worthy and
excellent master, has also lost his right to this immense inheritance."
"What?" cried Marshal Simon's father; "but M. Hardy did not know that
such important interests were concerned. He set out hastily to join one
of his friends who was in want of him."
At each of these successive revelations, Samuel felt his trouble
increase: but he could only sigh over it, for the will of the testator
was couched, unhappily, in precise and positive terms.
Father d'Aigrigny, impatient to end this scene, which caused him cruel
embarrassment, in spite of his apparent calmness, said to the notary, in
a grave and expressive voice: "It is necessary, sir, that all this
should have an end. If calumny could reach me, I would answer
victoriously by the facts that have just come to light. Why attribute to
odious conspiracies the absence of the heirs, in whose names this soldier
and his son have so uncourteously urged their demands? Why should such
absence be less explicable than the young Indian's, or than M. Hardy's,
who, as his confidential man has just told us, did not even know the
importance of the interests that called him hither? Is it not probable,
that the daughters of Marshal Simon, and Mdlle. de Cardoville have been
prevented from coming here to-day by some very natural reasons? But,
once again, this has lasted too long. I think M. Notary will agree with
me, that this discovery of new heirs does not at all affect the question,
which I had the honor to propose to him just now; namely whether, as
trustee for the poor, to whom Abbe Gabriel made a free gift of all he
possessed, I remain notwithstanding his tardy and illegal opposition, the
only possessor of this property, which I have promised, and which I now
again promise, in presence of all here assembled, to employ for the
Greater Glory of the Lord? Please to answer me plainly, M. Notary; and
thus terminate the scene which must needs be painful to us all."
"Sir," replied the notary, in a solemn tone, "on my soul and conscience,
and in the name of law and justice--as a faithful and impartial executor
of the last will of M. Marius de Rennepont, I declare that, by virtue of
the deed of gift of Abbe Gabriel de Rennepont, you, M. l'Abbe d'Aigrigny,
are the only possessor of this property, which I place at your immediate
disposal, that you may employ the same according to the intention of the
These words pronounced with conviction and gravity, destroyed the last
vague hopes that the representatives of the heirs might till then have
entertained. Samuel became paler than usual, and pressed convulsively
the hand of Bathsheba, who had drawn near to him. Large tears rolled
down the cheeks of the two old people. Dagobert and Agricola were
plunged into the deepest dejection. Struck with the reasoning of the
notary, who refused to give more credence and authority to their
remonstrances than the magistrates had done before him, they saw
themselves forced to abandon every hope. But Gabriel suffered more than
any one; he felt the most terrible remorse, in reflecting that, by his
blindness, he had been the involuntary cause and instrument of this
So, when the notary, after having examined and verified the amount of
securities contained in the cedar box, said to Father d'Aigrigny: "Take
possession, sir, of this casket--" Gabriel exclaimed, with bitter
disappointment and profound despair: "Alas! one would fancy, under these
circumstances, that an inexorable fatality pursues all those who are
worthy of interest, affection or respect. Oh, my God!" added the young
priest, clasping his hands with fervor, "Thy sovereign justice will never
permit the triumph of such iniquity."
It was as if heaven had listened to the prayer of the missionary. Hardly
had he spoken, when a strange event took place.
Without waiting for the end of Gabriel's invocation, Rodin, profiting by
the decision of the notary, had seized the casket in his arms, unable to
repress a deep aspiration of joy and triumph. At the very moment when
Father d'Aigrigny and his socius thought themselves at last in safe
possession of the treasure, the door of the apartment in which the clock
had been heard striking was suddenly opened.
A woman appeared upon the threshold.
At sight of her, Gabriel uttered a loud cry, and remained as if
thunderstruck. Samuel and Bathsheba fell on their knees together, and
raised their clasped hands. The Jew and Jewess felt inexplicable hopes
reviving within them.
All the other actors in this scene appeared struck with stupor. Rodin--
Rodin himself--recoiled two steps, and replaced the casket on the table
with a trembling hand. Though the incident might appear natural enough--
a woman appearing on the threshold of a door, which she had just thrown
open--there was a pause of deep and solemn silence. Every bosom seemed
oppressed, and as if struggling for breath. All experienced, at sight of
this woman, surprise mingled with fear, and indefinable anxiety--for this
woman was the living original of the portrait, which had been placed in
the room a hundred and fifty years ago. The same head-dress, the same
flowing robe, the same countenance, so full of poignant and resigned
grief! She advanced slowly, and without appearing to perceive the deep
impression she had caused. She approached one of the pieces of
furniture, inlaid with brass, touched a spring concealed in the moulding
of gilded bronze, so that an upper drawer flew open, and taking from it a
sealed parchment envelope, she walked up to the table, and placed this
packet before the notary, who, hitherto silent and motionless, received
it mechanically from her.
Then, casting upon Gabriel, who seemed fascinated by her presence, a
long, mild, melancholy look, this woman directed her steps towards the
hall, the door of which had remained open. As she passed near Samuel and
Bathsheba, who were still kneeling, she stopped an instant, bowed her
fair head towards them, and looked at them with tender solicitude. Then,
giving them her hands to kiss, she glided away as slowly as she had
entered--throwing a last glance upon Gabriel. The departure of this
woman seemed to break the spell under which all present had remained for
the last few minutes. Gabriel was the first to speak, exclaiming, in an
agitated voice. "It is she--again--here--in this house!"
"Who, brother?" said Agricola, uneasy at the pale and almost wild looks
of the missionary; for the smith had not yet remarked the strange
resemblance of the woman to the portrait, though he shared in the general
feeling of amazement, without being able to explain it to himself.
Dagobert and Faringhea were in a similar state of mind.
"Who is this woman?" resumed Agricola, as he took the hand of Gabriel,
which felt damp and icy cold.
"Look!" said the young priest. "Those portraits have been there for more
than a century and a half."
He pointed to the paintings before which he was now seated, and Agricola,
Dagobert, and Faringhea raised their eyes to either side of the
fireplace. Three exclamations were now heard at once.
"It is she--it is the same woman!" cried the smith, in amazement, "and
her portrait has been here for a hundred and fifty years!"
"What do I see?" cried Dagobert, as he gazed at the portrait of the man.
"The friend and emissary of Marshal Simon. Yes! it is the same face that
I saw last year in Siberia. Oh, yes! I recognize that wild and sorrowful
air--those black eyebrows, which make only one!"
"My eyes do not deceive me," muttered Faringhea to himself, shuddering
with horror. "It is the same man, with the black mark on his forehead,
that we strangled and buried on the banks of the Ganges--the same man,
that one of the sons of Bowanee told me, in the ruins of Tchandi, had
been met by him afterwards at one of the gates of Bombay--the man of the
fatal curse, who scatters death upon his passage--and his picture has
existed for a hundred and fifty years!"
And, like Dagobert and Agricola, the stranger could not withdraw his eyes
from that strange portrait.
"What a mysterious resemblance!" thought Father d'Aigrigny. Then, as if
struck with a sudden idea, he said to Gabriel: "But this woman is the
same that saved your life in America?"
"It is the same," answered Gabriel, with emotion; "and yet she told me
she was going towards the North," added the young priest, speaking to
"But how came she in this house?" said Father d'Aigrigny, addressing
Samuel. "Answer me! did this woman come in with you, or before you?"
"I came in first, and alone, when this door was first opened since a
century and half," said Samuel, gravely.
"Then how can you explain the presence of this woman here?" said Father
"I do not try to explain it," said the Jew. "I see, I believe, and now I
hope." added he, looking at Bathsheba with an indefinable expression.
"But you ought to explain the presence of this woman!" said Father
d'Aigrigny, with vague uneasiness. "Who is she? How came she hither?"
"All I know is, sir, that my father has often told me; there are
subterraneous communications between this house and distant parts of the
"Oh! then nothing can be clearer," said Father d'Aigrigny; "it only
remains to be known what this woman intends by coming hither. As for her
singular resemblance to this portrait, it is one of the freaks of
Rodin had shared in the general emotion, at the apparition of this
mysterious woman. But when he saw that she had delivered a sealed packet
to the notary, the socius, instead of thinking of the strangeness of this
unexpected vision, was only occupied with a violent desire to quit the
house with the treasure which had just fallen to the Company. He felt a
vague anxiety at sight of the envelope with the black seal, which the
protectress of Gabriel had delivered to the notary, and was still held
mechanically in his hands. The socius, therefore, judging this a very
good opportunity to walk off with the casket, during the general silence
and stupor which still continued, slightly touched Father d'Aigrigny's
elbow, made him a sign of intelligence, and, tucking the cedar-wood chest
under his arm, was hastening towards the door.
"One moment, sir," said Samuel, rising, and standing in his path; "I
request M. Notary to examine the envelope, that has just been delivered
to him. You may then go out."
"But, sir," said Rodin, trying to force a passage, "the question is
definitively decided in favor of Father d'Aigrigny. Therefore, with your
"I tell you, sir," answered the old man, in a loud voice, "that this
casket shall not leave the house, until M. Notary has examined the
envelope just delivered to him!"
These words drew the attention of all, Rodin was forced to retrace his
steps. Notwithstanding the firmness of his character, the Jew shuddered
at the look of implacable hate which Rodin turned upon him at this
Yielding to the wish of Samuel, the notary examined the envelope with
attention. "Good Heaven!" he cried suddenly; "what do I see?--Ah! so
much the better!"
At this exclamation all eyes turned upon the notary. "Oh! read, read,
sir!" cried Samuel, clasping his hands together. "My presentiments have
not then deceived me!"
"But, sir," said Father d'Aigrigny to the notary, for he began to share
in the anxiety of Rodin, "what is this paper?"
"A codicil," answered the notary; "a codicil, which reopens the whole
"How, sir?" cried Father d'Aigrigny, in a fury, as he hastily drew nearer
to the notary, "reopens the whole question! By what right?"
"It is impossible," added Rodin. "We protest against it.
"Gabriel! father! listen," cried Agricola, "all is not lost. There is
yet hope. Do you hear, Gabriel? There is yet hope."
"What do you say?" exclaimed the young priest, rising, and hardly
believing the words of his adopted brother.
"Gentlemen," said the notary; "I will read to you the superscription of
this envelope. It changes, or rather, it adjourns, the whole of the
"Gabriel!" cried Agricola, throwing himself on the neck of the
missionary, "all is adjourned, nothing is lost!"
"Listen, gentlemen," said the notary; and he read as follows:
"'This is a Codicil, which for reasons herein stated, adjourns and
prorogues to the 1st day of June, 1832, though without any other change,
all the provisions contained in the testament made by me, at one o'clock
this afternoon. The house shall be reclosed, and the funds left in the
hands of the same trustee, to be distributed to the rightful claimants on
the 1st of June, 1832.
"`Villetaneuse, this 13th of February, 1682, eleven o'clock at night.
"'MARIUS DE RENNEPONT.'"
"I protest against this codicil as a forgery!" cried Father d'Aigrigny
livid with rage and despair.
"The woman who delivered it to the notary is a suspicious character,"
added Rodin. "The codicil has been forged."
"No, sir," said the notary, severely; "I have just compared the two
signatures, and they are absolutely alike. For the rest--what I said
this morning, with regard to the absent heirs, is now applicable to you--
the law is open; you may dispute the authenticity of this codicil.
Meanwhile, everything will remain suspended--since the term for the
adjustment of the inheritance is prolonged for three months and a half."
When the notary had uttered these last words, Rodin's nails dripped
blood; for the first time, his wan lips became red.
"Oh, God! Thou hast heard and granted my prayer!" cried Gabriel, kneeling
down with religious fervor, and turning his angelic face towards heaven.
"Thy sovereign justice has not let iniquity triumph!"
"What do you say, my brave boy?" cried Dagobert, who, in the first tumult
of joy, had not exactly understood the meaning of the codicil.
"All is put off, father!" exclaimed the smith; "the heirs will have three
months and a half more to make their claim. And now that these people
are unmasked," added Agricola, pointing to Rodin and Father d'Aigrigny,
"we have nothing more to fear from them. We shall be on our guard; and
the orphans, Mdlle. de Cardoville, my worthy master, M. Hardy, and this
young Indian, will all recover their own."
We must renounce the attempt to paint the delight, the transport of
Gabriel and Agricola, of Dagobert, and Marshal Simon's father, of Samuel
and Bathsheba. Faringhea alone remained in gloomy silence, before the
portrait of the man with the black-barred forehead. As for the fury of
Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin, when they saw Samuel retake possession of
the casket, we must also renounce any attempt to describe it. On the
notary's suggestion, who took with him the codicil, to have it opened
according to the formalities of the law, Samuel agreed that it would be
more prudent to deposit in the Bank of France the securities of immense
value that were now known to be in his possession.
While all the generous hearts, which had for a moment suffered so much,
were overflowing with happiness, hope, and joy, Father d'Aigrigny and
Rodin quitted the house with rage and death in their souls. The reverend
father got into his carriage, and said to his servants: "To Saint-Dizier
House!"--Then, worn out and crushed, he fell back upon the seat, and hid
his face in his hands, while he uttered a deep groan. Rodin sat next to
him, and looked with a mixture of anger and disdain at this so dejected
and broken-spirited man.
"The coward!" said he to himself. "He despairs--and yet--"
A quarter of an hour later, the carriage stopped in the Rue de Babylone,
in the court-yard of Saint-Dizier House.
THE FIRST LAST, AND THE LAST FIRST.
The carriage had travelled rapidly to Saint-Dizier House. During all the
way, Rodin remained mute, contenting himself with observing Father
d'Aigrigny, and listening to him, as he poured forth his grief and fury
in a long monologue, interrupted by exclamations, lamentations, and
bursts of rage, directed against the strokes of that inexorable destiny,
which had ruined in a moment the best founded hopes. When the carriage
entered the courtyard, and stopped before the portico, the princess's
face could be seen through one of the windows, half hidden by the folds
of a curtain; in her burning anxiety, she came to see if it was really
Father d'Aigrigny who arrived at the house. Still more, in defiance of
all ordinary rules, this great lady, generally so scrupulous as to
appearances, hurried from her apartment, and descended several steps of
the staircase, to meet Father d'Aigrigny, who was coming up with a
dejected air. At sight of the livid and agitated countenance of the
reverend father, the princess stopped suddenly, and grew pale. She
suspected that all was lost. A look rapidly exchanged with her old lover
left her no doubt of the issue she so much feared. Rodin humbly followed
the reverend father, and both, preceded by the princess, entered the
room. The door once closed, the princess, addressing Father d'Aigrigny,
exclaimed with unspeakable anguish: "What has happened?"
Instead of answering this question, the reverend father, his eyes
sparkling with rage, his lips white, his features contracted, looked
fixedly at the princess, and said to her: "Do you know the amount of
this inheritance, that we estimated at forty millions?"
"I understand," cried the princess; "we have been deceived. The
inheritance amounts to nothing, and all you have dare has been in vain."
"Yes, it has indeed been in vain," answered the reverend father, grinding
his teeth with rage; "it was no question of forty millions, but of two
hundred and twelve millions.
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" repeated the princess in amazement, as
she drew back a step. "It is impossible!"
"I tell you I saw the vouchers, which were examined by the notary."
"Two hundred and twelve millions?" resumed the princess, with deep
dejection. "It is an immense and sovereign power--and you have
renounced--you have not struggled for it, by every possible means, and
till the last moment?"
"Madame, I have done all that I could!--notwithstanding the treachery of
Gabriel, who this very morning declared that he renounced us, and
separated from the Society."
"Ungrateful!" said the princess, unaffectedly.
"The deed of gift, which I had the precaution to have prepared by the
notary, was in such good, legal form, that in spite of the objections of
that accursed soldier and his son, the notary had put me in possession of
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" repeated the princess clasping her
hands. "Verily it is like a dream!"
"Yes," replied Father d'Aigrigny, bitterly, "for us, this possession is
indeed a dream, for a codicil has been discovered, which puts off for
three months and a half all the testamentary provisions. Now that our
very precautions have roused the suspicion of all these heirs--now that
they know the enormous amount at stake--they will be upon their guard;
and all is lost."
"But who is the wretch that produced this codicil?"
"Some wandering creature, that Gabriel says he met in America, where she
saved his life."
"And how could this woman be there--how could she know the existence of
"I think it was all arranged with a miserable Jew, the guardian of the
house, whose family has had charge of the funds for three generations; he
had no doubt some secret instructions, in case he suspected the detention
of any of the heirs, for this Marius de Rennepont had foreseen that our
Company would keep their eyes upon his race."
"But can you not dispute the validity of this codicil?"
"What, go to law in these times--litigate about a will--incur the
certainty of a thousand clamors, with no security for success?--It is bad
enough, that even this should get wind. Alas! it is terrible. So near
the goal! after so much care and trouble. An affair that had been
followed up with so much perseverance during a century and a half!"
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" said the princess. "The Order would
have had no need to look for establishments in foreign countries; with
such resources, it would have been able to impose itself upon France."
"Yes," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, with bitterness; "by means of
education, we might have possessed ourselves of the rising generation.
The power is altogether incalculable." Then, stamping with his foot, he
resumed: "I tell you, that it is enough to drive one mad with rage! an
affair so wisely, ably, patiently conducted!"
"Is there no hope?"
"Only that Gabriel may not revoke his donation, in as far as concerns
himself. That alone would be a considerable sum--not less than thirty
"It is enormous--it is almost what you hoped," said the princess; "then
"Because it is evident that Gabriel will dispute this donation. However
legal it may be, he will find means to annul it, now that he is free,
informed as to our designs, and surrounded by his adopted family. I tell
you, that all is lost. There is no hope left. I think it will be even
prudent to write to Rome, to obtain permission to leave Paris for a
while. This town is odious to me!"
"Oh, yes! I see that no hope is left--since you, my friend, have decided
almost to fly."
Father d'Aigrigny was completely discouraged and broken down; this
terrible blow had destroyed all life and energy within him. He threw
himself back in an arm-chair, quite overcome. During the preceding
dialogue, Rodin was standing humbly near the door, with his old hat in
his hand. Two or three times, at certain passages in the conversation
between Father d'Aigrigny and the princess, the cadaverous face of the
socius, whose wrath appeared to be concentrated, was slightly flushed,
and his flappy eyelids were tinged with red, as if the blood mounted in
consequence of an interior struggle; but, immediately after, his dull
countenance resumed its pallid blue.
"I must write instantly to Rome, to announce this defeat, which has
become an event of the first importance, because it overthrows immense
hopes," said Father d'Aigrigny, much depressed.
The reverend father had remained seated; pointing to a table, he said to
Rodin, with an abrupt and haughty air:
The socius placed his hat on the ground, answered with a respectful bow
the command, and with stooping head and slanting walk, went to seat
himself on a chair, that stood before a desk. Then, taking pen and
paper, he waited, silent and motionless, for the dictation of his
"With your permission, princess?" said Father d'Aigrigny to Madame de
Saint-Dizier. The latter answered by an impatient wave of the hand, as
if she reproached him for the formal demand at such a time. The reverend
father bowed, and dictated these words in a hoarse and hollow voice: "All
our hopes, which of late had become almost certainties, have been
suddenly defeated. The affair of the Rennepont inheritance, in spite of
all the care and skill employed upon it, has completely and finally
failed. At the point to which matters had been brought, it is
unfortunately worse than a failure; it is a most disastrous event for the
Society, which was clearly entitled to this property, fraudulently
withdrawn from a confiscation made in our favor. My conscience at least
bears witness, that, to the last moment, I did all that was possible to
defend and secure our rights. But I repeat, we must consider this
important affair as lost absolutely and forever, and think no more about
Thus dictating, Father d'Aigrigny's back was turned towards Rodin. At a
sudden movement made by the socius, in rising and throwing his pen upon
the table, instead of continuing to write, the reverend father turned
round, and, looking at Rodin with profound astonishment, said to him:
"Well! what are you doing?"
"It is time to end this--the man is mad!" said Rodin to himself, as he
advanced slowly towards the fireplace.
"What! you quit your place--you cease writing?" said the reverend father,
in amazement. Then, addressing the princess, who shared in his
astonishment, he added, as he glanced contemptuously at the socius, "He
is losing his senses."
"Forgive him," replied Mme. de Saint-Dizier; "it is, no doubt, the
emotion caused by the ruin of this affair."
"Thank the princess, return to your place, and continue to write," said
Father d'Aigrigny to Rodin, in a tone of disdainful compassion, as, with
imperious finger, he pointed to the table.
The socius, perfectly indifferent to this new order, approached the
fireplace, drew himself up to his full height as he turned his arched
back, planted himself firmly on his legs, stamped on the carpet with the
heel of his clumsy, greasy shoes, crossed his hands beneath the flaps of
his old, spotted coat, and, lifting his head, looked fixedly at Father
d'Aigrigny. The socius had not spoken a word, but his hideous
countenance, now flushed, suddenly revealed such a sense of his
superiority, and such sovereign contempt for Father d'Aigrigny, mingled
with so calm and serene a daring, that the reverend father and the
princess were quite confounded by it. They felt themselves overawed by
this little old man, so sordid and so ugly. Father d'Aigrigny knew too
well the customs of the Company, to believe his humble secretary capable
of assuming so suddenly these airs of transcendent superiority without a
motive, or rather, without a positive right. Late, too late, the
reverend father perceived, that this subordinate agent might be partly a
spy, partly an experienced assistant, who, according to the constitutions
of the Order, had the power and mission to depose and provisionally
replace, in certain urgent cases, the incapable person over whom he was
stationed as a guard. The reverend father was not deceived. From the
general to the provincials, and to the rectors of the colleges, all the
superior members of the Order have stationed near them, often without
their knowledge, and in apparently the lowest capacities, men able to
assume their functions at any given moment, and who, with this view,
constantly keep up a direct correspondence with Rome.
From the moment Rodin had assumed this position, the manners of Father
d'Aigrigny, generally so haughty, underwent a change. Though it cost him
a good deal, he said with hesitation, mingled with deference: "You have,
no doubt, the right to command me--who hitherto have commanded." Rodin,
without answering, drew from his well-rubbed and greasy pocket-book a
slip of paper, stamped upon both sides, on which were written several
lines in Latin. When he had read it, Father d'Aigrigny pressed this
paper respectfully, even religiously, to his lips: then returned it to
Rodin, with a low bow. When he again raised his head, he was purple with
shame and vexation. Notwithstanding his habits of passive obedience and
immutable respect for the will of the Order, he felt a bitter and violent
rage at seeing himself thus abruptly deposed from power. That was not
all. Though, for a long time past, all relations in gallantry had ceased
between him and Mme. de Saint-Dizier, the latter was not the less a
woman; and for him to suffer this humiliation in presence of a woman was,
undoubtedly, cruel, as, notwithstanding his entrance into the Order, he
had not wholly laid aside the character of man of the world. Moreover,
the princess, instead of appearing hurt and offended by this sudden
transformation of the superior into a subaltern, and of the subaltern
into a superior, looked at Rodin with a sort of curiosity mingled with
interest. As a woman--as a woman, intensely ambitious, seeking to
connect herself with every powerful influence--the princess loved this
strange species of contrast. She found it curious and interesting to see
this man, almost in rags, mean in appearance, and ignobly ugly, and but
lately the most humble of subordinates look down from the height of his
superior intelligence upon the nobleman by birth, distinguished for the
elegance of his manners, and just before so considerable a personage in
the Society. From that moment, as the more important personage of the
two, Rodin completely took the place of Father d'Aigrigny in the
princess's mind. The first pang of humiliation over, the reverend
father, though his pride bled inwardly, applied all his knowledge of the
world to behave with redoubled courtesy towards Rodin, who had become his
superior by this abrupt change of fortune. But the ex-socius, incapable
of appreciating, or rather of acknowledging, such delicate shades of
manner, established himself at once, firmly, imperiously, brutally, in
his new position, not from any reaction of offended pride, but from a
consciousness of what he was really worth. A long acquaintance with
Father d'Aigrigny had revealed to him the inferiority of the latter.
"You threw away your pen," said Father d'Aigrigny to Rodin with extreme
deference, "while I was dictating a note for Rome. Will you do me the
favor to tell me how I have acted wrong?"
"Directly," replied Rodin, in his sharp, cutting voice. "For a long time
this affair appeared to me above your strength; but I abstained from
interfering. And yet what mistakes! what poverty of invention; what
coarseness in the means employed to bring it to bear!"
"I can hardly understand your reproaches," answered Father d'Aigrigny,
mildly, though a secret bitterness made its way through his apparent
submission. "Was not the success certain, had it not been for this
codicil? Did you not yourself assist in the measures that you now
"You commanded, then, and it was my duty to obey. Besides, you were just
on the point of succeeding--not because of the means you had taken--but
in spite of those means, with all their awkward and revolting brutality."
"Sir--you are severe," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"I am just. One has to be prodigiously clever, truly, to shut up any one
in a room, and then lock the door! And yet, what else have you done?
The daughters of General Simon?--imprisoned at Leipsic, shut up in a
convent at Paris! Adrienne de Cardoville?--placed in confinement.
Sleepinbuff--put in prison. Djalma?--quieted by a narcotic. One only
ingenious method, and a thousand times safer, because it acted morally,
not materially, was employed to remove M. Hardy. As for your other
proceedings--they were all bad, uncertain, dangerous. Why? Because they
were violent, and violence provokes violence. Then it is no longer a
struggle of keen, skillful, persevering men, seeing through the darkness
in which they walk, but a match of fisticuffs in broad day. Though we
should be always in action, we should always shrink from view; and yet
you could find no better plan than to draw universal attention to us by
proceedings at once open and deplorably notorious. To make them more
secret, you call in the guard, the commissary of police, the jailers, for
your accomplices. It is pitiable, sir; nothing but the most brilliant
success could cover such wretched folly; and this success has been
"Sir," said Father d'Aigrigny, deeply hurt, for the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, unable to conceal the sort of admiration caused in her by the
plain, decisive words of Rodin, looked at her old lover, with an air that
seemed to say, "He is right;"--"sir, you are more than severe in your
judgment; and, notwithstanding the deference I owe to you, I must
observe, that I am not accustomed--"
"There are many other things to which you are not accustomed," said
Rodin, harshly interrupting the reverend father; "but you will accustom
yourself to them. You have hitherto had a false idea of your own value.
There is the old leaven of the soldier and the worlding fermenting within
you, which deprives your reason of the coolness, lucidity, and
penetration that it ought to possess. You have been a fine military
officer, brisk and gay, foremost in wars and festivals, with pleasures
and women. These things have half worn you out. You will never be
anything but a subaltern; you have been thoroughly tested. You will
always want that vigor and concentration of mind which governs men and
events. That vigor and concentration of mind I have--and do you know
why? It is because, solely devoted to the service of the Company, I have
always been ugly, dirty, unloved, unloving--I have all my manhood about
In pronouncing these words, full of cynical pride, Rodin was truly
fearful. The princess de Saint-Dizier thought him almost handsome by his
energy and audacity.
Father d'Aigrigny, feeling himself overawed, invincibly and inexorably,
by this diabolical being, made a last effort to resist and exclaimed,
"Oh! sir, these boastings are no proofs of valor and power. We must see
you at work."
"Yes," replied Rodin, coldly; "do you know at what work?" Rodin was fond
of this interrogative mode of expression. "Why, at the work that you so
"What!" cried the Princess de Saint-Dizier; for Father d'Aigrigny,
stupefied at Rodin's audacity, was unable to utter a word.
"I say," resumed Rodin, slowly, "that I undertake to bring to a good
issue this affair of the Rennepont inheritance, which appears to you so
"You?" cried Father d'Aigrigny. "You?"
"But they have unmasked our maneuvers."
"So much the better; we shall be obliged to invent others."
"But they; will suspect us in everything."
"So much the better; the success that is difficult is the most certain."
"What! do you hope to make Gabriel consent not to revoke his donation,
which is perhaps illegal?"
"I mean to bring in to the coffers of the Company the whole of the two
hundred and twelve millions, of which they wish to cheat us. Is that
"It is clear--but impossible."
"And I tell you that it is, and must be possible. Do you not understand,
short-sighted as you are!" cried Rodin, animated to such a degree that
his cadaverous face became slightly flushed; "do you not understand that
it is no longer in our choice to hesitate? Either these two hundred and
twelve millions must be ours--and then the re-establishment of our
sovereign influence in France is sure--for, in these venal times, with
such a sum at command, you may bribe or overthrow a government, or light
up the flame of civil war, and restore legitimacy, which is our natural
ally, and, owing all to us, would give us all in return--"
"That is clear," cried the princess, clasping her hands in admiration.
"If, on the contrary," resumed Rodin, "these two hundred and twelve
millions fall into the hands of the family of the Renneponts, it will be
our ruin and our destruction. We shall create a stock of bitter and
implacable enemies. Have you not heard the execrable designs of that
Rennepont, with regard to the association he recommends, and which, by an
accursed fatality, his race are just in a condition to realize? Think of
the forces that would rally round these millions. There would be Marshal
Simon, acting in the name of his daughters--that is, the man of the
people become a duke, without being the vainer for it, which secures his
influence with the mob, because military spirit and Bonapartism still
represent, in the eyes of the French populace, the traditions of national
honor and glory. There would be Francis Hardy, the liberal, independent,
enlightened citizen, the type of the great manufacturer, the friend of
progress, the benefactor of his workmen. There would be Gabriel--the
good priest, as they say!--the apostle of the primitive gospel, the
representative of the democracy of the church, of the poor country curate
as opposed to the rich bishop, the tiller of the vine as opposed to him
who sits in the shade of it; the propagator of all the ideas of
fraternity, emancipation, progress--to use their own jargon--and that,
not in the name of revolutionary and incendiary politics, but in the name
of a religion of charity, love, and peace--to speak as they speak.
There, too, would be Adrienne de Cardoville, the type of elegance, grace,
and beauty, the priestess of the senses, which she deifies by refining
and cultivating them. I need not tell you of her wit and audacity; you
know them but too well. No one could be more dangerous to us than this
creature, a patrician in blood, a plebeian in heart, a poet in
imagination. Then, too, there would be Prince Djalma, chivalrous, bold,
ready for adventure, knowing nothing of civilized life, implacable in his
hate as in his affection, a terrible instrument for whoever can make use
of him. In this detestable family, even such a wretch as Sleepinbuff,
who in himself is of no value, raised and purified by the contact of
these generous and far from narrow natures (as they call them), might
represent the working class, and take a large share in the influence of
that association. Now do you not think that if all these people, already
exasperated against us, because (as they say) we have wished to rob them,
should follow the detestable counsels of this Rennepont--should unite
their forces around this immense fortune, which would strengthen them a
hundred-fold--do you not think that, if they declare a deadly war against
us, they will be the most dangerous enemies that we have ever had? I
tell you that the Company has never been in such serious peril; yes, it
is now a question of life and death. We must no longer defend ourselves,
but lead the attack, so as to annihilate this accursed race of Rennepont,
and obtain possession of these millions."
At this picture, drawn by Rodin with a feverish animation, which had only
the more influence from its unexpectedness, the princess and Father
d'Aigrigny looked at each other in confusion.
"I confess," said the reverend father to Rodin, "I had not considered all
the dangerous consequences of this association, recommended by M. de
Rennepont. I believe that the heir, from the characters we know them to
be possessed of, would wish to realize this Utopia. The peril is great
and pressing; what is to be done?"
"What, sir? You have to act upon ignorant, heroic, enthusiastic natures
like Djalma's--sensual and eccentric characters like Adrienne de
Cardoville's--simple and ingenuous minds like Rose and Blanche Simon's--
honest and frank dispositions like Francis Hardy's--angelic and pure
souls like Gabriel's--brutal and stupid instincts like Jacques--and can
you ask, "What is to be done?"
"In truth, I do not understand you," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"I believe it. Your past conduct shows as much," replied Rodin,
contemptuously. "You have had recourse to the lowest and most mechanical
contrivances, instead of acting upon the noble and generous passions,
which, once united, would constitute so formidable a bond; but which, now
divided and isolated, are open to every surprise, every seduction, every
attack! Do you, at length understand me? Not yet?" added Rodin,
shrugging his shoulders. "Answer me--do people die of despair?"
"May not the gratitude of successful love reach the last limits of insane
"May there not be such horrible deceptions, that suicide is the only
refuge from frightful realities?"
"May not the excess of sensuality lead to the grave by a slow and
"Are there not in life such terrible circumstances that the most worldly,
the firmest, the most impious characters, throw themselves blindly,
overwhelmed with despair, into the arms of religion, and abandon all
earthly greatness for sackcloth, and prayers, and solitude?"
"Are there not a thousand occasions in which the reaction of the passions
works the most extraordinary changes, and brings about the most tragic
catastrophes in the life of man and woman?"
"Well, then! why ask me, `What is to be done?' What would you say, for
example, if before three months are over, the most dangerous members of
this family of the Renneponts should come to implore, upon their knees,
admission to that very Society which they now hold in horror, and from
which Gabriel has just separated?"
"Such a conversion is impossible," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Impossible? What were you, sir, fifteen years ago?" said Rodin. "An
impious and debauched man of the world. And yet you came to us, and your
wealth became ours. What! we have conquered princes, kings, popes; we
have absorbed and extinguished in our unity magnificent intelligences,
which, from afar, shone with too dazzling a light; we have all but
governed two worlds; we have perpetuated our Society, full of life, rich
and formidable, even to this day, through all the hate, and all the
persecutions that have assailed us; and yet we shall not be able to get
the better of a single family, which threatens our Company, and has
despoiled us of a large fortune? What! we are not skillful enough to
obtain this result without having recourse to awkward and dangerous
violence? You do not know, then, the immense field that is thrown open
by the mutually destructive power of human passions, skillfully combined,
opposed, restrained, excited?--particularly," added Rodin, with a strange
smile, "when, thanks to a powerful ally, these passions are sure to be
redoubled in ardor and energy."
"What ally?" asked Father d'Aigrigny, who, as well as the Princess de
Saint-Dizier, felt a sort of admiration mixed with terror.
"Yes," resumed Rodin, without answering the reverend father; "this
formidable ally, who comes to our assistance, may bring about the most
astonishing transformations--make the coward brave, and the impious
credulous, and the gentle ferocious--"
"But this ally!" cried the Princess, oppressed with a vague sense of
fear. "This great and formidable ally--who is he?"
"If he comes," resumed Rodin, still impassible, "the youngest and most
vigorous, every moment in danger of death, will have no advantage over
the sick man at his last gasp."
"But who is this ally?" exclaimed Father d'Aigrigny, more and more
alarmed, for as the picture became darker, Rodin's face become more
"This ally, who can decimate a population, may carry away with him in the
shroud that he drags at his heels, the whole of an accursed race; but
even he must respect the life of that great intangible body, which does
not perish with the death of its members--for the spirit of the Society
of Jesus is immortal!"
"And this ally?"
"Oh, this ally," resumed Rodin, "who advances with slow steps, and whose
terrible coming is announced by mournful presentiments--"
These words, pronounced by Rodin in an abrupt voice, made the Princess
and Father d'Aigrigny grow pale and tremble. Rodin's look was gloomy and
chilling, like a spectre's. For some moments, the silence of the tomb
reigned in the saloon. Rodin was the first to break it. Still
impassible, he pointed with imperious gesture to the table, where a few
minutes before he had himself been humbly seated, and said in a sharp
voice to Father d'Aigrigny, "Write!"
The reverend father started at first with surprise; then, remembering
that from a superior he had become an inferior, he rose, bowed lowly to
Rodin, as he passed before him, seated himself at the table, took the
pen, and said, "I am ready."
Rodin dictated, and the reverend Father wrote as follows: "By the
mismanagement of the Reverend Father d'Aigrigny, the affair of the
inheritance of the Rennepont family has been seriously compromised. The
sum amounts to two hundred and twelve millions. Notwithstanding the
check we have received, we believe we may safely promise to prevent these
Renneponts from injuring the Society, and to restore the two hundred and
twelve millions to their legitimate possessors. We only ask for the most
complete and extensive powers."
A quarter of an hour after this scene, Rodin left Saint Dizier House,
brushing with his sleeve the old greasy hat, I which he had pulled off to
return the salute of the porter by a very low bow.
The following scene took place on the morrow of the day in which Father
d'Aigrigny had been so rudely degraded by Rodin to the subaltern position
formerly occupied by the socius.
It is well known that the Rue Clovis is one of the most solitary streets
in the Montagne St. Genevieve district. At the epoch of this narrative,
the house No. 4, in this street, was composed of one principal building,
through which ran a dark passage, leading to a little, gloomy court, at
the end of which was a second building, in a singularly miserable and
dilapidated condition. On the ground-floor, in front of the house, was a
half-subterraneous shop, in which was sold charcoal, fagots, vegetables,
and milk. Nine o'clock in the morning had just struck. The mistress of
the shop, one Mother Arsene, an old woman of a mild, sickly countenance,
clad in a brown stuff dress, with a red bandanna round her head, was
mounted on the top step of the stairs which led down to her door, and was
employed in setting out her goods--that is, on one side of her door she
placed a tin milk-can, and on the other some bunches of stale vegetables,
flanked with yellowed cabbages. At the bottom of the steps, in the
shadowy depths of the cellar, one could see the light of the burning
charcoal in a little stove. This shop situated at the side of the
passage, served as a porter's lodge, and the old woman acted as portress.
On a sudden, a pretty little creature, coming from the house, entered
lightly and merrily the shop. This young girl was Rose-Pompon, the
intimate friend of the Bacchanal Queen.--Rose-Pompon, a widow for the
moment, whose bacchanalian cicisbeo was Ninny Moulin, the orthodox
scapegrace, who, on occasion, after drinking his fill, could transform
himself into Jacques Dumoulin, the religious writer, and pass gayly from
dishevelled dances to ultramontane polemics, from Storm-blown Tulips to
Rose-Pompon had just quitted her bed, as appeared by the negligence of
her strange morning costume; no doubt, for want of any other head-dress,
on her beautiful light hair, smooth and well-combed, was stuck jauntily a
foraging-cap, borrowed from her masquerading costume. Nothing could be
more sprightly than that face, seventeen years old, rosy, fresh, dimpled,
and brilliantly lighted up by a pair of gay, sparkling blue eyes. Rose-
Pompon was so closely enveloped from the neck to the feet in a red and
green plaid cloak, rather faded, that one could guess the cause of her
modest embarrassment. Her naked feet, so white that one could not tell
if she wore stockings or not, were slipped into little morocco shoes,
with plated buckles. It was easy to perceive that her cloak concealed
some article which she held in her hand.
"Good-day, Rose-Pompon," said Mother Arsene with a kindly air; "you are
early this morning. Had you no dance last night?"
"Don't talk of it, Mother Arsene; I had no heart to dance. Poor Cephyse-
-the Bacchanal Queen--has done nothing but cry all night. She cannot
console herself, that her lover should be in prison."
"Now, look here, my girl," said the old woman, "I must speak to you about
your friend Cephyse. You won't be angry?"
"Am I ever angry?" said Rose-Pompon, shrugging her shoulders.
"Don't you think that M. Philemon will scold me on his return?"
"Scold you! what for?"
"Because of his rooms, that you occupy."
"Why, Mother Arsene, did not Philemon tell you, that, in his absence, I
was to be as much mistress of his two rooms as I am of himself?"
"I do not speak of you, but of your friend Cephyse, whom you have also
brought to occupy M. Philemon's lodgings."
"And where would she have gone without me, my good Mother Arsene? Since
her lover was arrested, she has not dared to return home, because she
owes ever so many quarters. Seeing her troubles. I said to her: `Come,
lodge at Philemon's. When he returns, we must find another place for
"Well, little lovey--if you only assure me that M. Philemon will not be
"Angry! for what? That we spoil his things? A fine set of things he has
to spoil! I broke his last cup yesterday--and am forced to fetch the
milk in this comic concern."
So saying, laughing with all her might, Rose-Pompon drew her pretty
little white arm from under her cloak, and presented to Mother Arsene one
of those champagne glasses of colossal capacity, which hold about a
"Oh, dear!" said the greengrocer in amazement; "it is like a glass
"It is Philemon's grand gala-glass, which they gave him when he took his
degrees in boating," said Rose-Pompon, gravely.
"And to think you must put your milk in it--I am really ashamed," said
"So am I! If I were to meet any one on the stairs, holding this glass in
my hand like a Roman candlestick, I should burst out laughing, and break
the last remnant of Philemon's bazaar, and he would give me his
"There is no danger that you will meet any one. The first-floor is gone
out, and the second gets up very late."
"Talking of lodgers," said Rose-Pompon, "is there not a room to let on
the second-floor in the rear house? It might do for Cephyse, when
Philemon comes back."
"Yes, there is a little closet in the roof--just over the two rooms of
the mysterious old fellow," said Mother Arsene.
"Oh, yes! Father Charlemagne. Have you found out anything more about
Dear me, no, my girl! only that he came this morning at break of day, and
knocked at my shutters. `Have you received a letter for me, my good
lady?' said he--for he is always so polite, the dear man!--'No, sir,'
said I.--`Well, then, pray don't disturb yourself, my good lady!' said
he; `I will call again.' And so he went away."
"Does he never sleep in the house?"
"Never. No doubt, he lodges somewhere else--but he passes some hours
here, once every four or five days."
"And always comes alone?"
"Are you quite sure? Does he never manage to slip in some little puss of
a woman? Take care, or Philemon will give you notice to quit," said
Rose-Pompon, with an air of mock-modesty.