humanity, bequeathed to his descendants an evangelic mission--an admirable mission of progress, love, union, liberty--and I will not see this mission blighted in its bud. No, no; I tell you, that this his mission shall be accomplished, though I have to cancel the donation I have made." On these words, Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin looked at each other with a slight shrug of the shoulders. At a sign from the socius, the reverend father began to speak with immovable calmness, in a slow and sanctified voice, keeping eyes constantly cast down: "There are many incidents connected with this inheritance of M. de Rennepont, which appear very complicated--many phantoms, which seem un usually menacing--and yet, nothing could be really more simple and natural. Let us proceed in regular order. Let us put aside all these calumnious imputations; we will return to them afterwards. M. Gabriel de Rennepont--and I humbly beg him to contradict me, if I depart in the least instance from the exact truth--M. Gabriel de Rennepont, in acknowledgment of the care formerly bestowed on him by the society to which I have the honor to belong, made over to me, as its representative, freely and voluntarily, all the property that might come to him one day, the value of which was unknown to him, as well as to myself." Father d'Aigrigny here looked at Gabriel, as if appealing to him for the truth of this statement. "It is true," said the young priest: "I made this donation freely." "This morning, in consequence of a private conversation, which I will not repeat--and in this, I am certain beforehand, of the Abbe Gabriel--" "True," replied Gabriel, generously; "the subject of this conversation is of little importance." "It was then, in consequence of this conversation that the Abbe Gabriel manifested the desire to confirm this donation--not in my favor, for I have little to do with earthly wealth--but in favor of the sacred and charitable works of which our Company is the trustee. I appeal to the honor of M. Gabriel to declare if he have not engaged himself towards us, not only by a solemn oath, but by a perfectly legal act, executed in presence of M. Dumesnil, here present?" "It is all true," answered Gabriel. "The deed was prepared by me," added the notary. "But Gabriel could only give you what belonged to him," cried Dagobert. "The dear boy never supposed that you were making use of him to rob other people." "Do me the favor, sir, to allow me to explain myself," replied Father d'Aigrigny, courteously; "you can afterwards make answer." Dagobert repressed with difficulty his painful impatience. The reverend father continued: "The Abbe Gabriel has therefore, by the double engagement of an oath and a legal act, confirmed his donation. Much more," resumed Father d'Aigrigny: "when to his great astonishment and to ours, the enormous amount of the inheritance became known, the Abbe Gabriel, faithful to his own admirable generosity, far from repenting of his gifts, consecrated them once more by a pious movement of gratitude to Providence--for M. Notary will doubtless remember, that, after embracing the Abbe Gabriel with transport, and telling him that he was a second Vincent de Paul in charity, I took him by the hand, and we both knelt down together to thank heaven for having inspired him with the thought too offer these immense riches to the Greater Glory of the Lord." "That is true, also," said Gabriel, honestly; "so long as myself was concerned, though I might be astounded for a moment by the revelation of so enormous a fortune, I did not think for an instant of cancelling the donation I had freely made." "Under these circumstances," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, "the hour fixed for the settlement of the inheritance having struck, and Abbe Gabriel being the only heir that presented himself, he became necessarily the only legitimate possessor of this immense wealth--enormous, no doubt--and charity makes me rejoice that it is enormous, for, thanks to it, many miseries will be relieved and many tears wiped away. But, all on a sudden, here comes this gentleman," said Father d'Aigrigny, pointing to Dagobert; "and, under some delusion, which I forgive from the bottom of my soul, and which I am sure he will himself regret, accuses me, with insults and threats, with having carried off (I know not where) some persons (I know not whom), in order to prevent their being here at the proper time--" "Yes, I accuse you of this infamy!" cried the soldier exasperated by the calmness and audacity of the reverend father: "yes--and I will--" "Once again, sir, I conjure you to be so good as to let me finish; you can reply afterwards," said Father d'Aigrigny, humbly, in the softest and most honeyed accents. "Yes, I will reply, and confound you!" cried Dagobert. "Let him finish, father. You can speak presently," said Agricola. The soldier was silent as Father d'Aigrigny continued with new assurance: "Doubtless, if there should really be any other heirs, besides the Abbe Gabriel, it is unfortunate for them that they have not appeared in proper time. And if, instead of defending the cause of the poor and needy, I had only to look to my own interest, I should be far from availing myself of this advantage, due only to chance; but, as a trustee for the great family of the poor, I am obliged to maintain my absolute right to this inheritance; and I do not doubt that M. Notary will acknowledge the validity of my claim, and deliver to me these securities, which are now my legitimate property." "My only mission," replied the notary, in an agitated voice, "is faithfully to execute the will of the testator. The Abbe Gabriel de Rennepont alone presented himself, within the term fixed by the testament. The deed of gift is in due form; I cannot refuse, therefore, to deliver to the person named in the deed the amount of the heritage--" On these words Samuel hid his face in his hands, and heaved a deep sigh; he was obliged to acknowledge the rigorous justice of the notary's observations. "But, sir," cried Dagobert, addressing the man of law, "this cannot be. You will not allow two poor orphans to be despoiled. It is in the name of their father and mother that I speak to you. I give you my honor--the honor of a soldier!--that they took advantage of the weakness of my wife to carry the daughters of Marshal Simon to a convent, and thus prevent me bringing them here this morning. It is so true, that I have already laid my charge before a magistrate." "And what answer did you receive?" said the notary. "That my deposition was not sufficient for the law to remove these young girls from the convent in which they were, and that inquiries would be made--" "Yes, sir," added Agricola, "and it was the same with regard to Mdlle. de Cardoville, detained as mad in a lunatic asylum, though in the full enjoyment of her reason. Like Marshal Simon's daughters, she too has a claim to this inheritance. I took the same steps for her, as my father took for Marshal Simon's daughters." "Well?" asked the notary. "Unfortunately, sir," answered Agricola, "they told me; as they did my father, that my deposition would not suffice, and that they must make inquiries." At this moment, Bathsheba, having heard the street-bell ring, left the Red Room at a sign from Samuel. The notary resumed, addressing Agricola and his father: "Far be it from me, gentlemen, to call in question your good faith; but I cannot, to my great regret, attach such importance to your accusations, which are not supported by proof, as to suspend the regular legal course. According to your own confession, gentlemen, the authorities, to whom you addressed yourselves, did not see fit to interfere on your depositions, and told you they would inquire further. Now, really, gentlemen, I appeal to you: how can I, in so serious a matter, take upon myself a responsibility, which the magistrates themselves have refused to take?" "Yes, you should do so, in the name of justice and honor?" cried Dagobert. "It may be so, sir, in your opinion; but in my view of the case, I remain faithful to justice and honor, by executing with exactness the last will of the dead. For the rest you have no occasion to despair. If the persons, whose interests you represent, consider themselves injured, they may hereafter have recourse to an action at law, against the person receiving as donee of the Abbe Gabriel--but in the meanwhile, it is my duty to put him in immediate possession of the securities. I should be gravely injured, were I to act in any, other manner." The notary's observations seemed so reasonable, that Samuel, Dagobert and Agricola were quite confounded. After a moment's thought, Gabriel appeared to take a desperate resolution, and said to the notary, in a firm voice "Since, under these circumstances, the law is powerless to obtain the right, I must adopt, sir, an extreme course. Before doing so, I will ask M. l'Abbe d'Aigrigny, for the last time, if he will content himself with that portion of the property which falls justly to me, on condition that the rest shall be placed in safe hands, till the heirs, whose names have been brought forward, shall prove their claim." "To this proposition I must answer as I have done already," replied Father d'Aigrigny; "it is not I who am concerned, but an immense work of charity. I am, therefore, obliged to refuse the part-offer of the Abbe Gabriel, and to remind him of his engagements of every kind." "Then you refuse this arrangement?" asked Gabriel, in an agitated voice. "Charity commands me to do so." "You refuse it--absolutely?" "I think of all the good and pious institutions that these treasures will enable us to establish for the Greater Glory of the Lord, and I have neither the courage nor the desire to make the least concession." "Then, sir," resumed the good priest, in a still more agitated manner, "since you force me to do it, I revoke my donation. I only intended to dispose of my own property, and not of that which did not belong to me." "Take care M. l'Abbe," said rather d'Aigrigny; "I would observe that I hold in my hand a written, formal promise." "I know it, sir; you have a written paper, in which I take an oath never to revoke this donation, upon any pretext whatever, and on pain of incurring the aversion and contempt of all honest men. Well, sir! be it so," said Gabriel, with deep bitterness; "I will expose myself to all the consequences of perjury; you may proclaim it everywhere. I may be hated and despised by all--but God will judge me!" The young priest dried a tear, which trickled from his eye. "Oh! do not be afraid, my dear boy!" cried Dagobert, with reviving hope. "All honest men will be on your side!" "Well done, brother!" said Agricola. "M. Notary," said Rodin, in his little sharp voice, "please to explain to Abbe Gabriel, that he may perjure himself as much as he thinks fit, but that the Civil Code is much less easy to violate than a mere promise, which is only--sacred!" "Speak, sir," said Gabriel. "Please to inform Abbe Gabriel," resumed Rodin, "that a deed of gift, like that made in favor of Father d'Aigrigny, can only be cancelled for one of three reasons--is it not so?" "Yes, sir, for three reasons," said the notary. "The first is in case of the birth of a child," said Rodin, "and I should blush to mention such a contingency to the Abbe Gabriel. The second is the ingratitude of the donee--and the Abbe Gabriel may be certain of our deep and lasting gratitude. The last case is the non-fulfilment of the wishes of the donor, with regard to the employment of his gifts. "Now, although the Abbe Gabriel may have suddenly conceived a very bad opinion of us, he will at least give us some time to show that his gifts have been disposed of according to his wishes, and applied to the Greater Glory of the Lord." "Now, M. Notary," added Father d'Aigrigny, "it is for you to decide and say, if Abbe Gabriel can revoke the donation he has made." Just as the notary was going to answer, Bathsheba reentered the room, followed by two more personages, who appeared in the Red Room at a little distance from each other.
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