Part 2 out of 3
see you take orders, you acceded generously and religiously to the wish
of the excellent woman to whom you owed so much. But as the Lord is
always just in His recompenses, He willed that the most touching work of
gratitude you could show to your adopted mother, should at the same time
be divinely profitable by making you one of the militant members of our
At these words, Gabriel could not repress a significant start, as he
remembered Frances' sad confidences. But he restrained himself, whilst
Rodin stood leaning with his elbow on the corner of the chimney-piece,
continuing to examine him with singular and obstinate attention.
Father d'Aigrigny resumed: "I do not conceal from you, my dear son, that
your resolution filled me with joy. I saw in you one of the future
lights of the Church, and I was anxious to see it shine in the midst of
our Company. You submitted courageously to our painful and difficult
tests; you were judged worthy of belonging to us, and, after taking in my
presence the irrevocable and sacred oath, which binds you for ever to our
Company for the greater glory of God, you answered the appeal of our Holy
Father to willing souls, and offered yourself as a missionary, to
preach to savages the one Catholic faith. Though it was painful to us to
part with our dear son, we could not refuse to accede to such pious
wishes. You set out a humble missionary you return a glorious martyr--
and we are justly proud to reckon you amongst our number. This rapid
sketch of the past was necessary, my dear son to arrive at what follows,
for we wish now, if it be possible, to draw still closer the bonds that
unite us. Listen to me, my dear son; what I am about to say is
confidential and of the highest importance, not only for you, but the
"Then, father," cried Gabriel hastily, interrupting the Abbe d'Aigrigny,
"I cannot--I ought not to hear you."
The young priest became deadly pale; one saw, by the alteration of his
features, that a violent struggle was taking place within him, but
recovering his first resolution, he raised his head, and casting an
assured look on Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin, who glanced at each other in
mute surprise, he resumed: "I repeat to you, father, that if it concerns
confidential matters of the Company, I must not hear you."
"Really, my dear son, you occasion me the greatest astonishment. What is
the matter?--Your countenance changes, your emotion is visible. Speak
without fear; why can you not hear me?"
"I cannot tell you, father, until I also have, in my turn, rapidly
sketched the past--such as I have learned to judge it of late. You will
then understand, father, that I am no longer entitled to your confidence,
for an abyss will doubtlessly soon separate us."
At these words, it is impossible to paint the look rapidly exchanged
between Rodin and Father d'Aigrigny. The socius began to bite his nails,
fixing his reptile eye angrily upon Gabriel; Father d'Aigrigny grew
livid, and his brow was bathed in cold sweat. He asked himself with
terror, if, at the moment of reaching the goal, the obstacle was going to
come from Gabriel, in favor of whom all other obstacles had been removed.
This thought filled him with despair. Yet the reverend father contained
himself admirably, remained calm, and answered with affectionate unction:
"It is impossible to believe, my dear son, that you and I can ever be
separated by an abyss--unless by the abyss of grief, which would be
caused by any serious danger to your salvation. But speak; I listen to
"It is true, that, twelve years ago, father," proceeded Gabriel, in a
firm voice, growing more animated as he proceeded, "I entered, through
your intervention, a college of the Company of Jesus. I entered it
loving, truthful, confiding. How did they encourage those precious
instincts of childhood? I will tell you. The day of my entrance, the
Superior said to me, as he pointed out two children a little older than
myself: 'These are the companions that you will prefer. You will always
walk three together. The rules of the house forbid all intercourse
between two persons only. They also require, that you should listen
attentively to what your companions say, so that you may report it to me;
for these dear children may have, without knowing it, bad thoughts or
evil projects. Now, if you love your comrades, you must inform me of
these evil tendencies, that my paternal remonstrances may save them from
punishment; it is better to prevent evil than to punish it.'"
"Such are, indeed, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, "the rules of
our house, and the language we hold to all our pupils on their entrance."
"I know it, father," answered Gabriel, bitterly; "three days after, a
poor, submissive, and credulous child, I was already a spy upon my
comrades, hearing and remembering their conversation, and reporting it to
the superior, who congratulated me on my zeal. What they thus made me do
was shameful, and yet, God knows! I thought I was accomplishing a
charitable duty. I was happy in obeying the commands of a superior whom
I respected, and to whose words I listened, in my childish faith, as I
should have listened to those of Heaven. One day, that I had broken some
rule of the house, the superior said to me: 'My child, you have deserved
a severe punishment; but you will be pardoned, if you succeed in
surprising one of your comrades in the same fault that you have
committed.' And for that, notwithstanding my faith and blind obedience,
this encouragement to turn informer, from the motive of personal
interest, might appear odious to me, the superior added. 'I speak to
you, my child, for the sake of your comrade's salvation. Were he to
escape punishment, his evil habits would become habitual. But by
detecting him in a fault, and exposing him to salutary correction, you
will have the double advantage of aiding in his salvation, and escaping
yourself a merited punishment, which will have been remitted because of
your zeal for your neighbor--"
"Doubtless," answered Father d'Aigrigny, more and more terrified by
Gabriel's language; "and in truth, my dear son, all this is conformable
to the rule followed in our colleges, and to the habits of the members of
our Company, 'who may denounce each other without prejudice to mutual
love and charity, and only for their greater spiritual advancement,
particularly when questioned by their superior, or commanded for the
greater glory of God,' as our Constitution has it."
"I know it," cried Gabriel; "I know it. 'Tis in the name of all that is
most sacred amongst men, that we are encouraged to do evil."
"My dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, trying to conceal his secret and
growing terror beneath an appearance of wounded dignity, "from you to me
these words are at least strange."
At this, Rodin quitted the mantelpiece, on which he had been leaning,
begin to walk up and down the room, with a meditative air, and without
ceasing to bite his nails.
"It is cruel to be obliged to remind you, my dear son, that your are
indebted to us for the education you have received," added Father
"Such were its fruits, father," replied Gabriel. "Until then I had been
a spy on the other children, from a sort of disinterestedness; but the
orders of the superior made me advance another step on that shameful
road. I had become an informer, to escape a merited punishment. And
yet, such was my faith, my humility, my confidence, that I performed with
innocence and candor this doubly odious part. Once, indeed, tormented by
vague scruples, the last remains of generous aspirations that they were
stifling within me, I asked myself if the charitable and religious end
could justify the means, and I communicated my doubts to the superior.
He replied, that I had not to judge, but to obey, and that to him alone
belonged the responsibility of my acts."
"Go on, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, gelding, in spite of
himself, to the deepest dejection. "Alas! I was right in opposing your
travel to America."
"And yet it was the will of Providence, in that new, productive, and free
country, that, enlightened by a singular chance, on past and present, my
eyes were at length opened. Yes!" cried Gabriel, "it was in America
that, released from the gloomy abode where I had spent so many years of
my youth, and finding myself for the first time face to face with the
divine majesty of Nature, in the heart of immense solitudes through which
I journeyed--it was there that, overcome by so much magnificence and
grandeur, I made a vow--" Here Gabriel interrupted himself, to continue:
"Presently, father, I will explain to you that vow; but believe me,"
added the missionary, with an accent of deep sorrow, "it was a fatal day
to me when I first learned to fear and condemn all that I had hitherto
most revered and blessed. Oh! I assure you father," added Gabriel, with
moist eyes, "it was not for myself alone, that I then wept."
"I know the goodness of your heart, my dear son," replied Father
d'Aigrigny, catching a glimpse of hope, on seeing Gabriel's emotion; "I
fear that you have been led astray. But trust yourself to us, as to your
spiritual fathers, and I doubt not we shall confirm your faith, so
unfortunately shaken, and disperse the darkness which at present obscures
your sight. Alas, my dear son, in your vain illusions, you have mistaken
some false glimmer for the pure light of day. But go on."
Whilst Father d'Aigrigny was thus speaking, Rodin stopped, took a pocket-
book from his coat, and wrote down several notes. Gabriel was becoming
more and more pale and agitated. It required no small courage in him, to
speak as he was speaking, for, since his journey to America, he had
learned to estimate the formidable power of the Company. But this
revelation of the past, looked at from the vantage-ground of a more
enlightened present, was for the young priest the excuse, or rather the
cause of the determination he had just signified to his superior, and he
wished to explain all faithfully, notwithstanding the danger he knowingly
encountered. He continued therefore, in an agitated voice:
"You know, father, that the last days of my childhood, that happy age of
frankness and innocent joy, were spent in an atmosphere of terror,
suspicion, and restraint. Alas! how could I resign myself to the least
impulse of confiding trust, when I was recommended to shun the looks of
him who spoke with me, in order to hide the impression that his words
might cause--to conceal whatever I felt, and to observe and listen to
everything? Thus I reached the age of fifteen; by degrees, the rare
visits that I was allowed to pay, but always in presence of one of our
fathers, to my adopted mother and brother, were quite suppressed, so as
to shut my heart against all soft and tender emotions. Sad and fearful
in that large, old noiseless, gloomy house, I felt that I became more and
more isolated from the affections and the freedom of the world. My time
was divided between mutilated studies, without connection and without
object, and long hours of minute devotional exercises. I ask you,
father, did they ever seek to warm our young souls by words of tenderness
or evangelic love? Alas, no! For the words of the divine Saviour--Love
ye one another, they had substituted the command: Suspect ye one another.
Did they ever, father, speak to us of our country or of liberty?--No! ah,
no! for those words make the heart beat high; and with them, the heart
must not beat at all. To our long hours of study and devotion, there
only succeeded a few walks, three by three--never two and two--because by
threes, the spy-system is more practicable, and because intimacies are
more easily formed by two alone; and thus might have arisen some of those
generous friendships, which also make the heart beat more than it
should. And so, by the habitual repression of every feeling, there
came a time when I could not feel at all. For six months, I had not seen
my adopted mother and brother; they came to visit me at the college; a
few years before, I should have received them with transports and tears;
this time my eyes were dry, my heart was cold. My mother and brother
quitted me weeping. The sight of this grief struck me and I became
conscious of the icy insensibility which had been creeping upon me since
I inhabited this tomb. Frightened at myself, I wished to leave it, while
I had still strength to do so. Then, father, I spoke to you of the
choice of a profession; for sometimes, in waking moments, I seemed to
catch from afar the sound of an active and useful life, laborious and
free, surrounded by family affections. Oh! then I felt the want of
movement and liberty, of noble and warm emotions--of that life of the
soul, which fled before me. I told it you, father on my knees, bathing
your hands with my tears. The life of a workman or a soldier--anything
would have suited me. It was then you informed me, that my adopted
mother, to whom I owed my life--for she had taken me in, dying of want,
and, poor herself, had shared with me the scanty bread of her child--
admirable sacrifice for a mother!--that she," continued Gabriel,
hesitating and casting down his eyes, for noble natures blush for the
guilt of others, and are ashamed of the infamies of which they are
themselves victims, "that she, that my adopted mother, had but one wish,
"That of seeing you takes orders, my dear son," replied Father
d'Aigrigny; "for this pious and perfect creature hoped, that, in securing
your salvation, she would provide for her own: but she did not venture to
inform you of this thought, for fear you might ascribe it to an
"Enough, father!" said Gabriel, interrupting the Abbe d'Aigrigny, with a
movement of involuntary indignation; "it is painful for me to hear you
assert an error. Frances Baudoin never had such a thought."
"My dear son, you are too hasty in your judgments," replied Father
d'Aigrigny, mildly. "I tell you, that such was the one, sole thought of
your adopted mother."
"Yesterday, father, she told me all. She and I were equally deceived."
"Then, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, sternly, "you take the word
of your adopted mother before mine?"
"Spare me an answer painful for both of us, father," said Gabriel,
casting down his eyes.
"Will you now tell me," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, with anxiety, "what
you mean to--"
The reverend father was unable to finish. Samuel entered the room, and
said: "A rather old man wishes to speak to M. Rodin."
"That is my name, sir," answered the socius, in surprise; "I am much
obliged to you." But, before following the Jew, he gave to Father
d'Aigrigny a few words written with a pencil upon one of the leaves of
Rodin went out in very uneasy mood, to learn who could have come to seek
him in the Rue Saint-Francois. Father d'Aigrigny and Gabriel were left
 It is only in respect to Missions that the Jesuits acknowledge the
 This rule is so strict in Jesuit Colleges, that if one of three
pupils leaves the other two, they separate out of earshot till the first
Plunged into a state of mortal anxiety, Father d'Aigrigny had taken
mechanically the note written by Rodin, and held it in his hand without
thinking of opening it. The reverend father asked himself in alarm, what
conclusion Gabriel would draw from these recriminations upon the past;
and he durst not make any answer to his reproaches, for fear of
irritating the young priest, upon whose head such immense interests now
reposed. Gabriel could possess nothing for himself, according to the
constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Moreover, the reverend father had
obtained from him, in favor of the Order, an express renunciation of all
property that might ever come to him. But the commencement of his
conversation seemed to announce so serious a change in Gabriel's views
with regard to the Company, that he might choose to break through the
ties which attached him to it; and in that case, he would not be legally
bound to fulfil any of his engagements. The donation would thus be
cancelled de facto, just at the moment of being so marvellously realized
by the possession of the immense fortune of the Rennepont family, and
d'Aigrigny's hopes would thus be completely and for ever frustrated. Of
all these perplexities which the reverend father had experienced for some
time past, with regard to this inheritance, none had been more unexpected
and terrible than this. Fearing to interrupt or question Gabriel, Father
d'Aigrigny waited, in mute terror, the end of this interview, which
already bore so threatening an aspect.
The missionary resumed: "It is my duty, father, to continue this sketch
of my past life, until the moment of my departure for America. You will
understand, presently, why I have imposed on myself this obligation."
Father d'Aigrigny nodded for him to proceed.
"Once informed of the pretended wishes of my adopted mother, I resigned
myself to them, though at some cost of feeling. I left the gloomy abode,
in which I had passed my childhood and part of my youth, to enter one of
the seminaries of the Company. My resolution was not caused by an
irresistible religious vocation, but by a wish to discharge the sacred
debt I owed my adopted mother. Yet the true spirit of the religion of
Christ is so vivifying, that I felt myself animated and warmed by the
idea of carrying out the adorable precepts of our Blessed Saviour. To my
imagination, a seminary, instead of resembling the college where I had
lived in painful restraint, appeared like a holy place, where all that
was pure and warm in the fraternity of the Gospel would be applied to
common life--where, for example, the lessons most frequently taught would
be the ardent love of humanity, and the ineffable sweets of commiseration
and tolerance--where the everlasting words of Christ would be interpreted
in their broadest sense--and where, in fine, by the habitual exercise and
expansion of the most generous sentiments, men were prepared for the
magnificent apostolic mission of making the rich and happy sympathize
with the sufferings of their brethren, by unveiling the frightful
miseries of humanity--a sublime and sacred morality, which none are able
to withstand, when it is preached with eyes full of tears, and hearts
overflowing with tenderness and charity!"
As he delivered these last words with profound emotion, Gabriel's eyes
became moist, and his countenance shone with angelic beauty.
"Such is, indeed, my dear son, the spirit of Christianity; but one must
also study and explain the letter," answered Father d'Aigrigny, coldly.
"It is to this study that the seminaries of our Company are specially
destined. Now the interpretation of the letter is a work of analysis,
discipline, and submission--and not one of heart and sentiment."
"I perceive that only too well, father. On entering this new house, I
found, alas! all my hopes defeated. Dilating for a moment, my heart soon
sunk within me. Instead of this centre of life, affection, youth, of
which I had dreamed. I found, in the silent and ice-cold seminary, the
same suppression of every generous emotion, the same inexorable
discipline, the same system of mutual prying, the same suspicion, the
same invincible obstacles to all ties of friendship. The ardor which had
warmed my soul for an instant soon died out; little by little, I fell
back into the habits of a stagnant, passive, mechanical life, governed by
a pitiless power with mechanical precision, just like the inanimate works
of a watch."
"But order, submission and regularity are the first foundations of our
Company, my dear son."
"Alas, father! it was death, not life, that I found thus organized. In
the midst of this destruction of every generous principle, I devoted
myself to scholastic and theological studies--gloomy studies--a wily,
menacing, and hostile science which, always awake to ideas of peril,
contest, and war, is opposed to all those of peace, progress, and
"Theology, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, sternly, "is at once a
buckler and a sword; a buckler, to protect and cover the Catholic faith--
a sword, to attack and combat heresy."
"And yet, father, Christ and His apostles knew not this subtle science:
their simple and touching words regenerated mankind, and set freedom over
slavery. Does not the divine code of the Gospel suffice to teach men to
love one another? But, alas! far from speaking to us this language, our
attention was too often occupied with wars of religion, and the rivers of
blood that had flowed in honor of the Lord, and for the destruction of
heresy. These terrible lessons made our life still more melancholy. As
we grew near to manhood, our relations at the seminary assumed a growing
character of bitterness, jealousy and suspicion. The habit of tale-
bearing against each other, applied to more serious subjects, engendered
silent hate and profound resentments. I was neither better nor worse
than the others. All of us, bowed down for years beneath the iron yoke
of passive obedience, unaccustomed to reflection or free-will, humble and
trembling before our superiors, had the same pale, dull, colorless
disposition. At last I took orders; once a priest, you invited me,
father, to enter the Company of Jesus, or rather I found myself
insensibly brought to this determination. How, I do not know. For a
long time before, my will was not my own. I went through all my proofs;
the most terrible was decisive; for some months, I lived in the silence
of my cell, practicing with resignation the strange and mechanical
exercises that you ordered me. With the exception of your reverence,
nobody approached me during that long space of time; no human voice but
yours sounded in my ear. Sometimes, in the night, I felt vague terrors;
my mind, weakened by fasting, austerity, and solitude, was impressed with
frightful visions. At other times, on the contrary, I felt a sort of
quiescence, in the idea that, having once pronounced my vows, I should be
delivered for ever from the burden of thought and will. Then I abandoned
myself to an insurmountable torpor, like those unfortunate wretches, who,
surprised by a snow-storm, yield to a suicidal repose. Thus I awaited
the fatal moment. At last, according to the rule of discipline, choking
with the death rattle, I hastened the moment of accomplishing the
final act of my expiring will--the vow to renounce it for ever."
"Remember, my dear son," replied Father d'Aigrigny, pale and tortured by
increasing anguish, "remember, that, on the eve of the day fixed for the
completion of your vows; I offered, according to the rule of our Company,
to absolve you from joining us--leaving you completely free, for we
accept none but voluntary vocations."
"It is true, father," answered Gabriel, with sorrowful bitterness; "when,
worn out and broken by three months of solitude and trial, I was
completely exhausted, and unable to move a step, you opened the door of
my cell, and said to me: 'If you like, rise and walk; you are free; Alas!
I had no more strength. The only desire of my soul, inert and paralyzed
for so long a period, was the repose of the grave; and pronouncing those
irrevocable vows, I fell, like a corpse, into your hands."
"And, till now, my dear son, you have never failed in this corpse--like
obedience,--to use the expression of our glorious founder--because, the
more absolute this obedience, the more meritorious it must be."
After a moment's silence, Gabriel resumed: "You had always concealed from
me, father, the true ends of the Society into which I entered. I was
asked to abandon my free-will to my superiors, in the name of the Greater
Glory of God. My vows once pronounced, I was to be in your hands a
docile and obedient instrument; but I was to be employed, you told me, in
a holy, great and beauteous work. I believed you, father--how should I
not have believed you? but a fatal event changed my destiny--a painful
malady caused by--"
"My son," cried Father d'Aigrigny, interrupting Gabriel, "it is useless
to recall these circumstances."
"Pardon me, father, I must recall them. I have the right to be heard. I
cannot pass over in silence any of the facts, which have led me to take
the immutable resolution that I am about to announce to you."
"Speak on, my son," said Father d'Aigrigny, frowning; for he was much
alarmed at the words of the young priest, whose cheeks, until now pale,
were covered with a deep blush.
"Six months before my departure for America," resumed Gabriel, casting
down his eyes, "you informed me, that I was destined to confess
penitents; and to prepare then for that sacred ministry, you gave me a
Gabriel again hesitated. His blushes increased. Father d'Aigrigny could
scarcely restrain a start of impatience and anger.
"You gave me a book," resumed the young priest, with a great effort to
control himself, "a book containing questions to be addressed by a
confessor to youths, and young girls, and married women, when they
present themselves at the tribunal of penance. My God!" added Gabriel,
shuddering at the remembrance. "I shall never forget that awful moment.
It was night. I had retired to my chamber, taking with me this book,
composed, you told me, by one of our fathers, and completed by a holy
bishop. Full of respect, faith, and confidence, I opened those pages.
At first, I did not understand them--afterwards I understood--and then I
was seized with shame and horror--struck with stupor--and had hardly
strength to close, with trembling hand, this abominable volume. I ran to
you, father, to accuse myself of having involuntarily cast my eyes on
those nameless pages, which, by mistake, you had placed in my hands."
"Remember, also, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, gravely, "that I
calmed your scruples, and told you that a priest, who is bound to hear
everything under the seal of confession, must be able to know and
appreciate everything; and that our Company imposes the task of reading
this Compendium, as a classical work, upon young deacons seminarists, and
priests, who are destined to be confessors."
"I believed you, father. In me the habit of inert obedience was so
powerful, and I was so unaccustomed to independent reflection, that,
notwithstanding my horror (with which I now reproached myself as with a
crime), I took the volume back into my chamber, and read. Oh, father!
what a dreadful revelation of criminal fancies, guilty of guiltiest in
"You speak of this book in blamable terms," skid Father d'Aigrigny,
severely; "you were the victim of a too lively imagination. It is to it
that you must attribute this fatal impression, and not to an excellent
work, irreproachable for its special purpose, and duly authorized by the
Church. You are not able to judge of such a production."
"I will speak of it no more, father," said Gabriel: and he thus resumed:
"A long illness followed that terrible night. Many times, they feared
for my reason. When I recovered, the past appeared to me like a painful
dream. You told me, then, father, that I was not yet ripe for certain
functions; and it was then that I earnestly entreated you to be allowed
to go on the American missions. After having long refused my prayer, you
at length consented. From my childhood, I had always lived in the
college or seminary, to a state of continual restraint and subjection.
By constantly holding down my head and eyes, I had lost the habit of
contemplating the heavens and the splendors of nature. But, oh! what
deep, religious happiness I felt, when I found myself suddenly
transported to the centre of the imposing grandeur of the seas-half-way
between the ocean and the sky!--I seemed to come forth from a place of
thick darkness; for the first time, for many years, I felt my heart beat
freely in my bosom; for the first time, I felt myself master of my own
thoughts, and ventured to examine my past life, as from the summit of a
mountain, one looks down into a gloomy vale. Then strange doubts rose
within me. I asked myself by what right, and for what end, any beings
had so long repressed, almost annihilated, the exercise of my will, of my
liberty, of my reason, since God had endowed me with these gifts. But I
said to myself, that perhaps, one day, the great, beauteous, and holy
work, in which I was to have my share, would be revealed to me, and would
recompense my obedience and resignation."
At this moment, Rodin re-entered the room. Father d'Aigrigny questioned
him with a significant look. The socius approached, and said to him in a
low voice, so, that Gabriel could not hear: "Nothing serious. It was
only to inform me, that Marshal Simon's father is arrived at M. Hardy's
Then, glancing at Gabriel, Rodin appeared to interrogate Father
d'Aigrigny, who hung his head with a desponding air. Yet he resumed,
again addressing Gabriel, whilst Rodin took his old place, with his elbow
on the chimney-piece: "Go on, my dear son. I am anxious to learn what
resolution you have adopted."
"I will tell you in a moment, father. I arrived at Charleston. The
superior of our establishment in that place, to whom I imparted my doubts
as to the object of our Society, took upon himself to clear them up, and
unveiled it all to me with alarming frankness. He told me the tendency-
not perhaps of all the members of the Company, for a great number must
have shared my ignorance--but the objects which our leaders have
pertinaciously kept in view, ever since the foundation of the Order. I
was terrified. I read the casuists. Oh, father! that was a new and
dreadful revelation, when, at every page, I read the excuse and
justification of robbery, slander, adultery, perjury, murder, regicide.
When I considered that I, the priest of a God of charity, justice,
pardon, and love, was to belong henceforth to a Company, whose chiefs
professed and glorified in such doctrines, I made a solemn oath to break
for ever the ties which bound me to it!"
On these words of Gabriel, Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin exchanged a look
of terror. All was lost; their prey had escaped them. Deeply moved by
the remembrances he recalled, Gabriel did not perceive the action of the
reverend father and the socius, and thus continued: "In spite of my
resolution, father, to quit the Company, the discovery I had made was
very painful to me. Oh! believe me, for the honest and loving soul,
nothing is more frightful than to have to renounce what it has long
respected!--I suffered so much, that, when I thought of the dangers of my
mission, I hoped, with a secret joy, that God would perhaps take me to
Himself under these circumstances: but, on the contrary, He watched over
me with providential solicitude."
As he said this, Gabriel felt a thrill, for he remembered a Mysterious
Woman who had saved his life in America. After a moment's silence, he
resumed: "My mission terminated, I returned hither to beg, father, that
you would release me from my vows. Many times but in vain, I solicited
an interview. Yesterday, it pleased Providence that I should have a long
conversation with my adopted mother; from her I learned the trick by
which my vocation had been forced upon me--and the sacrilegious abuse of
the confessional, by which she had been induced to entrust to other
persons the orphans that a dying mother had confided to the care of an
honest soldier. You understand, father, that, if even I had before
hesitated to break these bonds, what I have heard yesterday must have
rendered my decision irrevocable. But at this solemn moment, father, I
am bound to tell you, that I do not accuse the whole Society; many
simple, credulous, and confiding men, like myself, must no doubt form
part of it. Docile instruments, they see not in their blindness the work
to which they are destined. I pity them, and pray God to enlighten them,
as he has enlightened me."
"So, my son," said Father d'Aigrigny, rising with livid and despairing
look, "you come to ask of me to break the ties which attach you to the
"Yes, father; you received my vows--it is for you to release me from
"So, my son, you understand that engagements once freely taken by you,
are now to be considered as null and void?"
"So, my son, there is to be henceforth nothing in common between you and
"No, father--since I request you to absolve me of my vows."
"But, you know, my son, that the Society may release you--but that you
cannot release yourself."
"The step I take proves to you, father, the importance I attach to an
oath, since I come to you to release me from it. Nevertheless, were you
to refuse me, I should not think myself bound in the eyes of God or man."
"It is perfectly clear," said Father d'Aigrigny to Rodin, his voice
expiring upon his lips, so deep was his despair.
Suddenly, whilst Gabriel, with downcast eyes, waited for the answer of
Father d'Aigrigny, who remained mute and motionless, Rodin appeared
struck with a new idea, on perceiving that the reverend father still held
in his hand the note written in pencil. The socius hastily approached
Father d'Aigrigny, and said to him in a whisper, with a look of doubt and
alarm: "Have you not read my note?"
"I did not think of it," answered the reverend father, mechanically.
Rodin appeared to make a great effort to repress a movement of violent
rage. Then he said to Father d'Aigrigny, in a calm voice: "Read it now."
Hardly had the reverend father cast his eyes upon this note, than a
sudden ray of hope illumined his hitherto despairing countenance.
Pressing the hand of the socius with an expression of deep gratitude, he
said to him in a low voice: "You are right. Gabriel is ours."
 The statutes formally state that the Company can expel all drones
and wasps, but that no man can break his ties, if the Order wishes to
 This is their own command. The constitution expressly bids the
novice wait for this decisive climax of the ordeal before taking the vows
 It is impossible, even in Latin, to give our readers an idea of this
 This is true. See the extracts from the Compendium for the use of
Schools, published under the title of "Discoveries by a Bibliophilist."
Strasburg, 1843. For regicide, see Sanchez and others.
Before again addressing Gabriel, Father d'Aigrigny carefully reflected;
and his countenance, lately so disturbed, became gradually once more
serene. He appeared to meditate and calculate the effects of the
eloquence he was about to employ, upon an excellent and safe theme, which
the socius struck with the danger of the situation, had suggested in a
few lines rapidly written with a pencil, and which, in his despair, the
reverend father had at first neglected. Rodin resumed his post of
observation near the mantelpiece, on which he leaned his elbow, after
casting at Father d'Aigrigny a glance of disdainful and angry
superiority, accompanied by a significant shrug of the shoulders.
After this involuntary manifestation, which was luckily not perceived by
Father d'Aigrigny, the cadaverous face of the socius resumed its icy
calmness, and his flabby eyelids, raised a moment with anger and
impatience, fell, and half-veiled his little, dull eyes. It must be
confessed that Father d'Aigrigny, notwithstanding the ease and elegance
of his speech, notwithstanding the seduction of his exquisite manners,
his agreeable features, and the exterior of an accomplished and refined
man of the world, was often subdued and governed by the unpitying
firmness, the diabolical craft and depth of Rodin, the old, repulsive,
dirty, miserably dressed man, who seldom abandoned his humble part of
secretary and mute auditor. The influence of education is so powerful,
that Gabriel, notwithstanding the formal rupture he had just provoked,
felt himself still intimidated in presence of Father d'Aigrigny, and
waited with painful anxiety for the answer of the reverend father to his
express demand to be released from his old vows. His reverence having,
doubtless, regularly laid his plan of attack, at length broke silence,
heaved a deep sigh, gave to his countenance, lately so severe and
irritated, a touching expression of kindness, and said to Gabriel, in an
affectionate voice: "Forgive me, my dear son, for having kept silence so
long; but your abrupt determination has so stunned me, and has raised
within me so many painful thoughts, that I have had to reflect for some
moments, to try and penetrate the cause of this rupture, and I think I
have succeeded. You have well considered, my dear son, the serious
nature of the step you are taking?"
"And you have absolutely decided to abandon the Society, even against my
"It would be painful to me, father--but I must resign myself to it."
"It should be very painful to you, indeed, my dear son; for you took the
irrevocable vow freely, and this vow, according to our statutes, binds
you not to quit the Society, unless with the consent of your superiors."
"I did not then know, father, the nature of the engagement I took. More
enlightened now, I ask to withdraw myself; my only desire is to obtain a
curacy in some village far from Paris. I feel an irresistible vocation
for such humble and useful functions. In the country, there is so much
misery, and such ignorance of all that could contribute to ameliorate the
condition of the agricultural laborer, that his existence is as unhappy
as that of a negro slave; for what liberty has he? and what instruction?
Oh! it seems to me, that, with God's help, I might, as a village curate,
render some services to humanity. It would therefore be painful to me,
father, to see you refuse--"
"Be satisfied, my son," answered Father d'Aigrigny; "I will no longer
seek to combat your desire to separate yourself from us."
"Then, father, you release me from my vows?"
"I have not the power to do so, my dear son; but I will write immediately
to Rome, to ask the necessary authority from our general."
"I thank you, father."
"Soon, my dear son, you will be delivered from these bonds, which you
deem so heavy; and the men you abandon will not the less continue to pray
for you, that God may preserve you from still greater wanderings. You
think yourself released with regard to us, my dear son; but we do not
think ourselves released with regard to you. It is not thus that we can
get rid of the habit of paternal attachment. What would you have? We
look upon ourselves as bound to our children, by the very benefits with
which we have loaded them. You were poor, and an orphan; we stretched
out our arms to you, as much from the interest which you deserved, my
dear son, as to spare your excellent adopted mother too great a burden."
"Father," said Gabriel, with suppressed emotion, "I am not ungrateful."
"I wish to believe so, my dear son. For long years, we gave to you, as
to our beloved child, food for the body and the soul. It pleases you now
to renounce and abandon us. Not only do we consent to it--but now that I
have penetrated the true motives of your rupture with us, it is my duty
to release you from your vow."
"Of what motives do you speak, Father?"
"Alas! my dear son, I understand your fears. Dangers menace us--you know
"Dangers, father?" cried Gabriel.
"It is impossible, my dear son, that you should not be aware that, since
the fall of our legitimate sovereigns, our natural protectors,
revolutionary impiety becomes daily more and more threatening. We are
oppressed with persecutions. I can, therefore, comprehend and
appreciate, my dear son, the motive which under such circumstances,
induces you to separate from us."
"Father!" cried Gabriel, with as much indignation as grief, "you do not
think that of me--you cannot think it."
Without noticing the protestations of Gabriel, Father d'Aigrigny
continued his imaginary picture of the dangers of the Company, which, far
from being really in peril, was already beginning secretly to recover its
"Oh! if our Company were now as powerful as it was some years ago,"
resumed the reverend father; "if it were still surrounded by the respect
and homage which are due to it from all true believers--in spite of the
abominable calumnies with which we are assailed--then, my dear son, we
should perhaps have hesitated to release you from your vows, and have
rather endeavored to open your eyes to the light, and save you from the
fatal delusion to which you are a prey. But now that we are weak,
oppressed, threatened on every side, it is our duty, it is an act of
charity, not to force you to share in perils from which you have the
prudence to wish to withdraw yourself."
So, saying, Father d'Aigrigny cast a rapid glance at his socius, who
answered with a nod of approbation, accompanied by a movement of
impatience that seemed to say: "Go on! go on!"
Gabriel was quite overcome. There was not in the whole world a heart
more generous, loyal, and brave than his. We may judge of what he must
have suffered, on hearing the resolution he had come to thus
"Father," he resumed, in an agitated voice, whilst his eyes filled with
tears, "your words are cruel and unjust. You know that I am not a
"No," said Rodin, in his sharp, cutting voice, addressing Father
d'Aigrigny, and pointing to Gabriel with a disdainful look; "your dear
son is only prudent."
These words from Rodin made Gabriel start; a slight blush colored his
pale cheeks; his large and blue eyes sparkled with a generous anger;
then, faithful to the precepts of Christian humility and resignation, he
conquered this irritable impulse, hung down his head, and, too much
agitated to reply, remained silent, and brushed away an unseen tear.
This tear did not escape the notice of the socius. He saw in it no
doubt, a favorable symptom, for he exchanged a glance of satisfaction
with Father d'Aigrigny. The latter was about to touch on a question of
great interest, so, notwithstanding his self-command, his voice trembled
slightly; but encouraged, or rather pushed on by a look from Rodin, who
had become extremely attentive, he said to Gabriel: "Another motive
obliges us not to hesitate in releasing you from your vow, my dear son.
It is a question of pure delicacy. You probably learned yesterday from
your adopted mother, that you will perhaps be called upon to take
possession of an inheritance, of which the value is unknown."
Gabriel raised his head hastily and said to Father d'Aigrigny: "As I have
already stated to M. Rodin, my adopted mother only talked of her scruples
of conscience, and I was completely ignorant of the existence of the
inheritance of which you speak."
The expression of indifference with which the young priest pronounced
these last words, was remarked by Rodin.
"Be it so," replied Father d'Aigrigny. "You were not aware of it--I
believe you--though all appearances would tend to prove the contrary--to
prove, indeed, that the knowledge of this inheritance was not unconnected
with your resolution to separate from us."
"I do not understand you, Father."
"It is very simple. Your rupture with us would then have two motives.
First, we are in danger, and you think it prudent to leave us--"
"Allow me to finish, my dear son, and come to the second motive. If I am
deceived, you can tell me so. These are the facts. Formerly, on the
hypothesis that your family, of which you knew nothing, might one day
leave you some property, you made, in return for the care bestowed on you
by the Company, a free gift of all you might hereafter possess, not to
us--but to the poor, of whom we are the born shepherds."
"Well, father?" asked Gabriel, not seeing to what this preamble tended.
"Well, my dear son--now that you are sure of enjoying a competence, you
wish, no doubt, by separating from us, to annul this donation made under
"To speak plainly, you violate your oath, because we are persecuted, and
because you wish to take back your gifts," added Rodin, in a sharp voice,
as if to describe in the clearest and plainest manner the situation of
Gabriel with regard to the Society.
At this infamous accusation, Gabriel could only raise his hands and eyes
to heaven, and exclaim, with an expression of despair, "Oh, heaven!"
Once more exchanging a look of intelligence with Rodin, Father d'Aigrigny
said to him, in a severe tone, as if reproaching him for his too savage
frankness: "I think you go too far. Our dear son could only have acted
in the base and cowardly manner you suggest, had he known his position as
an heir; but, since he affirms the contrary, we are bound to believe him-
-in spite of appearances."
"Father," said Gabriel, pale, agitated trembling, and with half-
suppressed grief and indignation, "I thank you, at least, for having
suspended your judgment. No, I am not a coward; for heaven is my
witness, that I knew of no danger to which the Society was exposed. Nor
am I base and avaricious; for heaven is also my witness, that only at
this moment I learn from you, father, that I may be destined to inherit
"One word, my dear son. It is quite lately that I became informed of
this circumstance, by the greatest chance in the world," said Father
d'Aigrigny, interrupting Gabriel; "and that was thanks to some family
papers which your adopted mother had given to her confessor, and which
were entrusted to us when you entered our college. A little before your
return from America, in arranging the archives of the Company, your file
of papers fell into the hands of our father-attorney. It was examined,
and we thus learned that one of your paternal ancestors, to whom the
house in which we now are belonged, left a will which is to be opened to-
day at noon. Yesterday, we believed you one of us; our statutes command
that we should possess nothing of our own; you had corroborated those
statutes, by a donation in favor of the patrimony of the poor--which we
administer. It was no longer you, therefore, but the Company, which, in
my person, presented itself as the inheritor in your place, furnished
with your titles, which I have here ready in order. But now, my clear
son, that you separate from us, you must present yourself in your own
name. We came here as the representatives of the poor, to whom in former
days you piously abandoned whatever goods might fall to your share. Now,
on the contrary, the hope of a fortune changes your sentiments. You are
free to resume your gifts."
Gabriel had listened to Father d'Aigrigny with painful impatience. At
length he exclaimed. "Do you mean to say, father, that you think me
capable of canceling a donation freely made, in favor of the Company, to
which I am indebted for my education? You believe me infamous enough to
break my word, in the hope of possessing a modest patrimony?"
"This patrimony, my dear, son, may be small; but it may also be
"Well, father! if it were a king's fortune," cried Gabriel, with proud
and noble indifference, "I should not speak otherwise--and I have, I
think, the right to be believed listen to my fixed resolution. The
Company to which I belong runs, you say, great dangers. I will inquire
into these dangers. Should they prove threatening--strong in the
determination which morally separates me from you--I will not leave you
till I see the end of your perils. As for the inheritance, of which you
believe me so desirous, I resign it to you formally, father, as I once
freely promised. My only wish is, that this property may be employed for
the relief of the poor. I do not know what may be the amount of this
fortune, but large or small, it belongs to the Company, because I have
thereto pledged my word. I have told you, father, that my chief desire
is to obtain a humble curacy in some poor village--poor, above all--
because there my services will be most useful. Thus, father, when a man,
who never spoke falsehood in his life, affirms to you, that he only sighs
for so humble an existence, you ought, I think, to believe him incapable
of snatching back, from motives of avarice, gifts already made."
Father d'Aigrigny had now as much trouble to restrain his joy, as he
before had to conceal his terror. He appeared, however, tolerably calm,
and said to Gabriel: "I did not expect less from you, my dear son."
Then he made a sign to Rodin, to invite him to interpose. The latter
perfectly understood his superior. He left the chimney, drew near to
Gabriel, and leaned against the table, upon which stood paper and
inkstand. Then, beginning mechanically to beat the tattoo with the tips
of his coarse fingers, in all their array of flat and dirty nails, he
said to Father d'Aigrigny: "All this is very fine! but your dear son
gives you no security for the fulfilment of his promise except an oath--
and that, we know, is of little value."
"Sir!" cried Gabriel
"Allow me," said Rodin, coldly. "The law does not acknowledge our
existence and therefore can take no cognizance of donations made in favor
of the Company. You might resume to-morrow what you are pleased to give
"But my oath, sir!" cried Gabriel.
Rodin looked at him fixedly, as he answered: "Your oath? Did you not
swear eternal obedience to the Company, and never to separate from us?--
and of what weight now are these oaths?"
For a moment Gabriel was embarrassed; but, feeling how false was this
logic, he rose, calm and dignified, went to seat himself at the desk,
took up a pen, and wrote as follows:
"Before God, who sees and hears me, and in the presence of you, Father
d'Aigrigny and M. Rodin, I renew and confirm, freely and voluntarily, the
absolute donation made by me to the Society of Jesus, in the person of
the said Father d'Aigrigny, of all the property which may hereafter
belong to me, whatever may be its value. I swear, on pain of infamy, to
perform tis irrevocable promise, whose accomplishment I regard, in my
soul and conscience, as the discharge of a debt, and the fulfilment of a
"This donation having for its object the acknowledgment of past services,
and the relief of the poor, no future occurrences can at all modify it.
For the very reason that I know I could one day legally cancel the
present free and deliberate act, I declare, that if ever I were to
attempt such a thing, under any possible circumstances, I should deserve
the contempt and horror of all honest people.
"In witness whereof I have written this paper, on the 13th of February,
1832, in Paris, immediately before the opening of the testament of one of
my paternal ancestors.
"GABRIEL DE RENNEPONT."
As he rose, the young priest delivered this document to Rodin, without
uttering a word. The socius read it attentively, and, still impassible,
answered, as he looked at Gabriel: "Well, it is a written oath--that is
Gabriel dwelt stupefied at the audacity of Rodin, who ventured to tell
him, that this document, in which he renewed his donation in so noble,
generous, and spontaneous a manner, was not all sufficient. The socius
was the first again to break the silence, and he said to Father
d'Aigrigny, with his usual cool impudence. "One of two things must be.
Either your dear son means to render his donation absolutely valuable
"Sir," exclaimed Gabriel, interrupting him, and hardly able to restrain
himself, "spare yourself and me such a shameful supposition."
"Well, then," resumed Rodin, impassible as ever, "as you are perfectly
decided to make this donation a serious reality, what objection can you
have to secure it legally?"
"None, sir," said Gabriel, bitterly, "since my written and sworn promise
will not suffice you."
"My dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, affectionately, "if this were a
donation for my own advantage, believe me I should require no better
security than your word. But here I am, as it were, the agent of the
Society, or rather the trustee of the poor, who will profit by your
generosity. For the sake of humanity, therefore, we cannot secure this
gift by too many legal precautions, so that the unfortunate objects of
our care may have certainty instead of vague hopes to depend upon. God
may call you to him at any moment, and who shall say that your heirs will
be so ready to keep the oath you have taken?"
"You are right, father," said Gabriel, sadly; "I had not thought of the
case of death, which is yet so probable."
Hereupon, Samuel opened the door of the room, and said: "Gentlemen, the
notary has just arrived. Shall I show him in? At ten o'clock precisely,
the door of the house will be opened."
"We are the more glad to see the notary," said Rodin, "as we just happen
to have some business with him. Pray ask him to walk in."
"I will bring him to you instantly," replied Samuel, as he went out."
"Here is a notary," said Rodin to Gabriel. "If you have still the same
intentions, you can legalize your donation in presence of this public
officer, and thus save yourself from a great burden for the future."
"Sir," said Gabriel, "happen what may, I am as irrevocably engaged by
this written promise, which I beg you to keep, father"--and he handed the
paper to Father d'Aigrigny "as by the legal document, which I am about to
sign," he added, turning to Rodin.
"Silence, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny; "here is the notary,"
just as the latter entered the room.
During the interview of the administrative officer with Rodin, Gabriel,
and Father d'Aigrigny, we shall conduct the reader to the interior of the
THE RED ROOM.
As Samuel had said, the door of the walled-up house had just been
disencumbered of the bricks, lead, and iron, which had kept it from view,
and its panels of carved oak appeared as fresh and sound, as on the day
when they had first been withdrawn from the influence of the air and
time. The laborers, having completed their work, stood waiting upon the
steps, as impatient and curious as the notary's clerk, who had
superintended the operation, when they saw Samuel slowly advancing across
the garden, with a great bunch of keys in his hand.
"Now, my friends," said the old man, when he had reached the steps, "your
work is finished. The master of this gentleman will pay you, and I have
only to show you out by the street door."
"Come, come, my good fellow," cried the clerk, "you don't think. We are
just at the most interesting and curious moment; I and these honest
masons are burning to see the interior of this mysterious house, and you
would be cruel enough to send us away? Impossible!"
"I regret the necessity, sir, but so it must he. I must be the first to
enter this dwelling, absolutely alone, before introducing the heirs, in
order to read the testament."
"And who gave you such ridiculous and barbarous orders?" cried the clerk,
"My father, sir."
"A most respectable authority, no doubt; but come, my worthy guardian, my
excellent guardian," resumed the clerk, "be a good fellow, and let us
just take a peep in at the door."
"Yes, yes, sir, only a peep!" cried the heroes of the trowel, with a
"It is disagreeable to have to refuse you, gentlemen," answered Samuel;
"but I cannot open this door, until I am alone."
The masons, seeing the inflexibility of the old man, unwillingly
descended the steps; but the clerk had resolved to dispute the ground
inch by inch, and exclaimed: "I shall wait for my master. I do not leave
the house without him. He may want me--and whether I remain on these
steps or elsewhere, can be of little consequence to you my worthy
The clerk was interrupted in his appeal by his master himself, who called
out from the further side of the courtyard, with an air of business: "M.
Piston! quick, M. Piston--come directly!"
"What the devil does he want with me?" cried the clerk, in a passion.
"He calls me just at the moment when I might have seen something."
"M. Piston," resumed the voice, approaching, "do you not hear?"
While Samuel let out the masons, the clerk saw, through a clump of trees,
his master running towards him bareheaded, and with an air of singular
haste and importance. The clerk was therefore obliged to leave the
steps, to answer the notary's summons, towards whom he went with a very
"Sir, sir," said M. Dumesnil, "I have been calling you this hour with all
"I did not hear you sir," said M. Piston.
"You must be deaf, then. Have you any change about you?"
"Yes sir," answered the clerk, with some surprise.
"Well, then, you must go instantly to the nearest stamp-office, and fetch
me three or four large sheets of stamped paper, to draw up a deed. Run!
it is wanted directly."
"Yes, sir," said the clerk, casting a rueful and regretful glance at the
door of the walled-up house.
"But make haste, will you, M. Piston," said the notary.
"I do not know, sir, where to get any stamped paper."
"Here is the guardian," replied M. Dumesnil. "He will no doubt be able
to tell you."
At this instant, Samuel was returning, after showing the masons out by
"Sir," said the notary to him, "will you please to tell me where we can
get stamped paper?"
"Close by, sir," answered Samuel; "in the tobacconist's, No. 17, Rue
"You hear, M. Piston?" said the notary to his clerk. "You can get the
stamps at the tobacconist's, No. 17, Rue Vieille-du-Temple. Be quick!
for this deed must be executed immediately before the opening of the
will. Time presses."
"Very well, sir; I will make haste," answered the clerk, discontentedly,
as he followed his master, who hurried back into the room where he had
left Rodin, Gabriel, and Father d'Aigrigny.
During this time, Samuel, ascending the steps, had reached the door, now
disencumbered of the stone, iron, and lead with which it had been blocked
up. It was with deep emotion that the old man having selected from his
bunch of keys the one he wanted, inserted it in the keyhole, and made the
door turn upon its hinges. Immediately he felt on his face a current of
damp, cold air, like that which exhales from a cellar suddenly opened.
Having carefully re-closed and double-locked the door, the Jew advanced
along the hall, lighted by a glass trefoil over the arch of the door.
The panes had lost their transparency by the effect of time, and now had
the appearance of ground-glass. This hall, paved with alternate squares
of black and white marble, was vast, sonorous, and contained a broad
staircase leading to the first story. The walls of smooth stone offered
not the least appearance of decay or dampness; the stair-rail of wrought
iron presented no traces of rust; it was inserted, just above the bottom
step, into a column of gray granite, which sustained a statue of black
marble, representing a negro bearing a flambeau. This statue had a
strange countenance, the pupils of the eyes being made of white marble.
The Jew's heavy tread echoed beneath the lofty dome of the hall. The
grandson of Isaac Samuel experienced a melancholy feeling, as he
reflected that the footsteps of his ancestor had probably been the last
which had resounded through this dwelling, of which he had closed the
doors a hundred and fifty years before; for the faithful friend, in favor
of whom M. de Rennepont had made a feigned transfer of the property, had
afterwards parted with the same, to place it in the name of Samuel's
grandfather, who had transmitted it to his descendants, as if it had been
his own inheritance.
To these thoughts, in which Samuel was wholly absorbed, was joined the
remembrance of the light seen that morning through the seven openings in
the leaden cover of the belvedere; and, in spite of the firmness of his
character, the old man could not repress a shudder, as, taking a second
key from his bunch, and reading upon the label, The Key of the Red Room,
he opened a pair of large folding doors, leading to the inner apartments.
The window which, of all those in the house, had alone been opened,
lighted this large room, hung with damask, the deep purple of which had
undergone no alteration. A thick Turkey carpet covered the floor, and
large arm-chairs of gilded wood, in the severe Louis XIV. style, were
symmetrically arranged along the wall. A second door, leading to the
next room, was just opposite the entrance. The wainscoting and the
cornice were white, relieved with fillets and mouldings of burnished
gold. On each side of this door was a large piece of buhl-furniture,
inlaid with brass and porcelain, supporting ornamental sets of sea-
crackle vases. The window vas hung with heavy deep-fringed damask
curtains, surmounted by scalloped drapery, with silk tassels, directly
opposite the chimney-piece of dark-gray marble, adorned with carved
brass-work. Rich chandeliers, and a clock in the same style as the
furniture, were reflected in a large Venice glass, with basiled edges.
A round table, covered with a cloth of crimson velvet, was placed in the
centre of this saloon.
As he approached this table, Samuel perceived a piece of white vellum, on
which were inscribed these words: "My testament is to be opened in this
saloon. The other apartments are to remain closed, until after the
reading of my last will--M. De R."
"Yes," said the Jew, as he perused with emotion these lines traced so
long ago; "this is the same recommendation as that which I received from
my father; for it would seem that the other apartments of this house are
filled with objects, on which M. de Rennepont set a high value, not for
their intrinsic worth, but because of their origin. The Hall of Mourning
must be a strange and mysterious chamber. Well," added Samuel, as he
drew from his pocket a register bound in black shagreen, with a brass
lock, from which he drew the key, after placing it upon the table, "here
is the statement of the property in hand, which I have been ordered to
bring hither, before the arrival of the heirs."
The deepest silence reigned in the room, at the moment when Samuel placed
the register on the table. Suddenly a simple and yet most startling
occurrence roused him from his reverie. In the next apartment was heard
the clear, silvery tone of a clock, striking slowly ten. And the hour
was ten! Samuel had too much sense to believe in perpetual motion, or in
the possibility of constructing a clock to go far one hundred and fifty
years. He asked himself, therefore, with surprise and alarm, how this
clock could still be going, and how it could mark so exactly the hour of
the day. Urged with restless curiosity, the old man was about to enter
the room; but recollecting the recommendation of his father, which had
now been confirmed by the few lines he had just read from De Rennepont's
pen, he stopped at the door, and listened with extreme attention.
He heard nothing--absolutely nothing, but the last dying vibration of the
clock. After having long reflected upon this strange fact, Samuel,
comparing it with the no less extraordinary circumstance of the light
perceived that morning through the apertures in the belvedere, concluded
that there must be some connection between these two incidents. If the
old man could not penetrate the true cause of these extraordinary
appearances, he at least explained them to himself, by remembering the
subterraneous communications, which, according to tradition, were said to
exist between the cellars of this house and distant places; and he
conjectured that unknown and mysterious personages thus gained access to
it two or three times in a century. Absorbed in these thoughts Samuel
approached the fireplace, which, as we have said, was directly opposite
the window. Just then, a bright ray of sunlight, piercing the clouds,
shone full upon two large portraits, hung upon either side of the
fireplace, and not before remarked by the Jew. They were painted life-
size, and represented one a woman, the other a man. By the sober yet
powerful coloring of these paintings, by the large and vigorous style, it
was easy to recognize a master's hand. It would have been difficult to
find models more fitted to inspire a great painter. The woman appeared
to be from five-and-twenty to thirty years of age. Magnificent brown
hair, with golden tints, crooned a forehead, white, noble, and lofty.
Her head-dress, far from recalling the fashion, which Madame de Sevigne
brought in during the age of Louis XIV., reminded one rather of some of
the portraits of Paul Veronese, in which the hair encircles the face in
broad, undulating bands, surmounted by a thick plait, like a crown, at
the back of the head. The eyebrows, finely pencilled, were arched over
large eyes of bright, sapphire blue. Their gaze at once proud and
mournful, had something fatal about it. The nose, finely formed,
terminated in slight dilated nostrils: a half smile, almost of pain,
contracted the mouth; the face was a long oval, and the complexion,
extremely pale, was hardly shaded on the cheek by a light rose-color.
The position of the head and neck announced a rare mixture of grace and
dignity. A sort of tunic or robe, of glossy black material, came as high
as the commencement of her shoulders, and just marking her lithe and tall
figure, reached down to her feet, which were almost entirely concealed by
the folds of this garment.
The attitude was full of nobleness and simplicity. The head looked white
and luminous, standing out from a dark gray sky, marbled at the horizon
by purple clouds, upon which were visible the bluish summits of distant
hills, in deep shadow. The arrangement of the picture, as well as the
warm tints of the foreground, contrasting strongly with these distant
objects, showed that the woman was placed upon an eminence, from which
she could view the whole horizon. The countenance was deeply pensive and
desponding. There was an expression of supplicating and resigned grief,
particularly in her look, half raised to heaven, which one would have
thought impossible to picture. On the left side of the fireplace was the
other portrait, painted with like vigor. It represented a man, between
thirty and thirty-five years of age, of tall stature. A large brown
cloak, which hung round him in graceful folds, did not quite conceal a
black doublet, buttoned up to the neck, over which fell a square white
collar. The handsome and expressive head was marked with stern powerful
lines, which did not exclude an admirable air of suffering, resignation,
and ineffable goodness. The hair, as well as the beard and eyebrows, was
black; and the latter, by some singular caprice of nature, instead of
being separated and forming two distinct arches, extended from one temple
to the other, in a single bow, and seemed to mark the forehead of this
man with a black line.
The background of this picture also represented a stormy sky; but, beyond
some rocks in the distance, the sea was visible, and appeared to mingle
with the dark clouds. The sun, just now shining upon these two
remarkable figures (which it appeared impossible to forget, after once
seeing them), augmented their brilliancy.
Starting from his reverie, and casting his eyes by chance upon these
portraits, Samuel was greatly struck with them. They appeared almost
alive. "What noble and handsome faces!" he exclaimed, as he approached
to examine them more closely. "Whose are these portraits? They are not
those of any of the Rennepont family, for my father told me that they are
all in the Hall of Mourning. Alas!" added the old man, "one might think,
from the great sorrow expressed in their countenances, that they ought to
have a place in that mourning-chamber."
After a moment's silence, Samuel resumed: "Let me prepare everything for
this solemn assembly, for it has struck ten." So saying, he placed the
gilded arm-chairs round the table, and then continued, with a pensive
air: "The hour approaches, and of the descendants of my grandfather's
benefactor, we have seen only this young priest, with the angelic
countenance. Can he be the sole representative of the Rennepont family?
He is a priest, and this family will finish with him! Well! the moment
is come when I must open this door, that the will may be read. Bathsheba
is bringing hither the notary. They knock at the door; it is time!" And
Samuel, after casting a last glance towards the place where the clock had
struck ten, hastened to the outer door, behind which voices were now
He turned the key twice in the lock, and threw the portals open. To his
great regret, he saw only Gabriel on the steps, between Rodin and Father
d'Aigrigny. The notary, and Bathsheba, who had served them as a guide,
waited a little behind the principal group.
Samuel could not repress a sigh, as he stood bowing on the threshold, and
said to them: "All is ready, gentlemen. You may walk in."
When Gabriel, Rodin, and Father d'Aigrigny entered the Red Room, they
were differently affected. Gabriel, pale and sad, felt a kind of painful
impatience. He was anxious to quit this house, though he had already
relieved himself of a great weight, by executing before the notary,
secured by every legal formality, a deed making over all his rights of
inheritance to Father d'Aigrigny. Until now it had not occurred to the
young priest, that in bestowing the care upon him, which he was about to
reward so generously, and in forcing his vocation by a sacrilegious
falsehood, the only object of Father d'Aigrigny might have been to secure
the success of a dark intrigue. In acting as he did, Gabriel was not
yielding, in his view of the question, to a sentiment of exaggerated
delicacy. He had made this donation freely, many years before. He would
have looked upon it as infamy now to withdraw it. It was hard enough to
be suspected of cowardice: for nothing in the world would he have
incurred the least reproach of cupidity.
The missionary must have been endowed with a very rare and excellent
nature, or this flower of scrupulous probity would have withered beneath
the deleterious and demoralizing influence of his education; but happily,
as cold sometimes preserves from corruption, the icy atmosphere in which
he had passed a portion of his childhood and youth had benumbed, but not
vitiated, his generous qualities, which had indeed soon revived in the
warm air of liberty. Father d'Aigrigny, much paler and more agitated
than Gabriel, strove to excuse and explain his anxiety by attributing it
to the sorrow he experienced at the rupture of his dear son with the
Order. Rodin, calm, and perfectly master of himself, saw with secret
rage the strong emotion of Father d'Aigrigny, which might have inspired a
man less confiding than Gabriel with strange suspicions. Yet,
notwithstanding his apparent indifference, the socius was perhaps still
more ardently impatient than his superior for the success of this
important affair. Samuel appeared quite desponding, no other heir but
Gabriel having presented himself. No doubt the old man felt a lively
sympathy for the young priest; but then he was a priest, and with him
would finish the line of Rennepont; and this immense fortune, accumulated
with so much labor, would either be again distributed, or employed
otherwise than the testator had desired. The different actors in this
scene were standing around the table. As they were about to seat
themselves, at the invitation of the notary, Samuel pointed to the
register bound in black shagreen, and said: "I was ordered, sir, to
deposit here this register. It is locked. I will deliver up the key,
immediately after the reading of the will."
"This course is, in fact, directed by the note which accompanies the
will," said M. Dumesnil, "as it was deposited, in the year 1682, in the
hands of Master Thomas Le Semelier, king's counsel, and notary of the
Chatelet of Paris, then living at No. 13, Place Royale."
So saying, M. Dumesnil drew from a portfolio of red morocco a large
parchment envelope, grown yellow with time; to this envelope was annexed,
by a silken thread, a note also upon vellum.
"Gentlemen," said the notary, "if you please to sit down, I will read the
subjoined note, to regulate the formalities at the opening of the will."
The notary, Rodin, Father d'Aigrigny, and Gabriel, took seats. The young
priest, having his back turned to the fireplace, could not see the two
portraits. In spite of the notary's invitation, Samuel remained standing
behind the chair of that functionary, who read as follows:
"'On the 13th February, 1832, my will shall be carried to No. 3, in the
"'At ten o'clock precisely, the door of the Red Room shall be opened to
my heirs, who will no doubt have arrived long before at Paris, in
anticipation of this day, and will have had time to establish their line
"'As soon as they are assembled, the will shall be read, and, at the last
stroke of noon, the inheritance shall be finally settled in favor of
those of my kindred, who according to my recommendation (preserved, I
hope, by tradition in my family, during a century and a half); shall
present themselves in person, and not by agents, before twelve o'clock,
on the 13th of February, in the Rue Saint-Francois.'"
Having read these words in a sonorous voice, the notary stopped an
instant, and resumed, in a solemn tone: "M. Gabriel Francois Marie de
Rennepont, priest, having established, by legal documents, his descent on
the father's side, and his relationship to the testator, and being at
this hour the only one of the descendants of the Rennepont family here
present, I open the testament in his presence, as it has been ordered."
So saying, the notary drew from its envelope the will, which had been
previously opened by the President of the Tribunal, with the formalities
required by law. Father d'Aigrigny leaned forward, and resting his elbow
on the table, seemed to pant for breath. Gabriel prepared himself to
listen with more curiosity than interest. Rodin was seated at some
distance from the table, with his old hat between his knees, in the
bottom of which, half hidden by the folds of a shabby blue cotton
handkerchief, he had placed his watch. The attention of the socius was
divided between the least noise from without, and the slow evolution of
the hands of the watch, which he followed with his little, wrathful eye,
as if hastening their progress, so great was his impatience for the hour
The notary, unfolding the sheet of parchment, read what follows, in the
midst of profound attention:
Hameau de Villetaneuse,
"'February 13th, 1682.
"'I am about to escape, by death, from the disgrace of the galleys, to
which the implacable enemies of my family have caused me to be condemned
as a relapsed heretic.
"'Moreover, life is too bitter for me since the death of my son, the
victim of a mysterious crime.
"'At nineteen years of age--poor henry!--and his murderers unknown--no,
not unknown--if I may trust my presentiments.
"'To preserve my fortune for my son, I had feigned to abjure the
Protestant faith. As long as that beloved boy lived, I scrupulously kept
up Catholic appearances. The imposture revolted me, but the interest of
my son was concerned.
"'When they killed him, this deceit became insupportable to me. I was
watched, accused, and condemned as relapsed. My property has been
confiscated, and I am sentenced to the galleys.
"'Tis a terrible time we live in! Misery and servitude! sanguinary
despotism and religious intolerance! Oh, it is sweet to abandon life!
sweet to rest and see no more such evils and such sorrows!
"'In a few hours, I shall enjoy that rest. I shall die. Let me think of
those who will survive--or rather, of those who will live perhaps in
"'Out of all my fortune, there remains to me a sum of fifty thousand
crowns, deposited in a friend's hands.
"'I have no longer a son; but I have numerous relations, exiled in
various parts of Europe. This sum of fifty thousand crowns, divided
between them, would profit each of them very little. I have disposed of
"'In this I have followed the wise counsels of a man, whom I venerate as
the image of God on earth, for his intelligence, wisdom, and goodness are
"'Twice in the course of my life have I seen this man, under very fatal
circumstances--twice have I owed him safety, once of the soul, once of
"'Alas! he might perhaps have saved my poor child, but he came too late--
"'Before he left me, he wished to divert me from the intention of dying--
for he knew all. But his voice was powerless. My grief, my regret, my
discouragement, were too much for him.
"'It is strange! when he was convinced of my resolution to finish my days
by violence, some words of terrible bitterness escaped him, making me
believe that he envied me--my fate--my death!
"'Is he perhaps condemned to live?
"'Yes; he has, no doubt, condemned himself to be useful to humanity, and
yet life is heavy on him, for I heard him repeat one day, with an
expression of despair and weariness that I have never forgotten: "Life!
life! who will deliver me from it?"
"'Is life then so very burdensome to him?
"'He is gone. His last words have made me look for my departure with
serenity. Thanks to him, my death shall not be without fruit.
"'Thanks to him, these lines, written at this moment by a man who, in a
few hours, will have ceased to live, may perhaps be the parents of great
things a century and a half hence--yes! great and noble things, if my
last will is piously followed by my descendants, for it is to them that I
here address myself.
"'That they may understand and appreciate this last will--which I commend
to the care of the unborn, who dwell in the future whither I am
hastening--they must know the persecutors of my family and avenge their
ancestor, but by a noble vengeance.
"'My grandfather was a Catholic. Induced by perfidious counsels rather
than religious zeal, he attached himself, though a layman, to a Society
whose power has always been terrible and mysterious--the Society of
At these words of the testament, Father d'Aigrigny, Rodin, and Gabriel
looked involuntarily at each other: The notary, who had not perceived
this action, continued to read:
"'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.