List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v5, by Eugene Sue
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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?"

"Yes, father."

"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
it well."

"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
other circumstances."

"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
property, and--"

"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
us to-day."

"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,

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