List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v9, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

shall see if it merits belief, by information from another source." `

Rodin made a sign of impatience, to hasten Father d'Aigrigny to read the
note, which he did as follows.  "`For some days, the mind of the marshal
has appeared to be less sorrowful, anxious and agitated.  He lately
passed two hours with his daughters, which had not been the case for some
time before.  The harsh countenance of the soldier Dagobert is becoming
smoother--a sure sign of some amelioration in the condition of the
marshal.  Detected by their handwriting, the last anonymous letters were
returned by Dagobert to the postman, without having been opened by the
marshal.  Some other method must be found to get them delivered.'"

Looking at Rodin, Father d'Aigrigny said to him: "Your reverence thinks
with me that this note is not very satisfactory?"

Rodin held down his head.  One saw by the expression of his countenance
how much he suffered by not being able to speak.  Twice he put his hand
to his throat, and looked at Father d'Aigrigny with anguish.

"Oh!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, angrily, when he had perused another note,
"for one lucky chance, to-day brings some very black ones."

At these words turning hastily to Father d'Aigrigny, and extending his
trembling hands, Rodin questioned him with look and gesture.  The
cardinal, sharing his uneasiness, exclaimed: "What do you learn by this
note, my dear father?"

"We thought the residence of M. Hardy in our house completely unknown,"
replied Father d'Aigrigny, "but we now fear that Agricola Baudoin has
discovered the retreat of his old master, and that he has even
communicated with him by letter, through a servant of the house.  So,"
added the reverend father, angrily, "during the three days that I have
not been able to visit the pavilion, one of my servants must have been
bought over.  There is one of them, a man blind of one eye, whom I have
always suspected--the wretch!  But no: I will not yet believe this
treachery.  The consequences would be too deplorable; for I know how
matters stand, and that such a correspondence might ruin everything.  By
awaking in M. Hardy memories with difficulty laid asleep, they might
destroy in a single day all that has been done since he inhabits our
house.  Luckily, this note contains only doubts and fears; my other
information will be more positive, and will not, I hope, confirm them."

"My dear father," said the cardinal, "do not despair.  The Lord will not
abandon the good cause!"

Father d'Aigrigny seemed very little consoled by this assurance.  He
remained still and thoughtful, whilst Rodin writhed his head in a
paroxysm of mute rage, as he reflected on this new check.

"Let us turn to the last note," said Father d'Aigrigny, after a moment of
thoughtful silence.  "I have so much confidence in the person who sends
it, that I cannot doubt the correctness of the information it contains.
May it contradict the others!"

In order not to break the chain of facts contained in this last note,
which was to have so startling an effect on the actors in this scene, we
shall leave it to the reader's imagination to supply the exclamations of
surprise, hate, rage and fear of Father d'Aigrigny, and the terrific
pantomime of Rodin, during the perusal of this formidable document, the
result of the observations of a faithful and secret agent of the reverend
fathers.  Comparing this note with the other information received, the
results appeared more distressing to the reverend fathers.  Thus Gabriel
had long and frequent conferences with Adrienne, who before was unknown
to him.  Agricola Baudoin had opened a communication with Francis Hardy,
and the officers of justice were on the track of the authors and
instigators of the riot which had led to the burning of the factory of
Baron Tripeaud's rival.  It seemed almost certain that Mdlle. de
Cardoville had had an interview with Prince Djalma.

This combination of facts showed that, faithful to the threats she had
uttered to Rodin, when she had unmasked the double perfidy of the
reverend father, Mdlle. de Cardoville was actively engaged in uniting the
scattered members of her family, to form a league against those dangerous
enemies, whose detestable projects, once unveiled and boldly encountered,
could hardly have a chance of success.  The reader will now understand
the tremendous effect of this note on Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin--on
Rodin, stretched powerless on a bed of pain at the moment when the
scaffolding, raised with so much labor, seemed to be tumbling around him.



We have given up the attempt to paint the countenance, attitude, and
gesticulation of Rodin during the reading of this note, which seemed to
ruin all his most cherished hopes.  Everything was failing at once, at
the moment when only superhuman trust in the success of his plans could
give him sufficient energy to strive against mortal sickness.  A single,
absorbing thought had agitated him even to delirium: What progress,
during his illness, had been made in this immense affair?  He had first
heard a good piece of news, the death of Jacques Rennepont; but now the
advantages of this decease, which reduced the number of the heirs from
seven to six, were entirely lost.  To what purpose would be this death,
if the other members of the family, dispersed and persecuted with such
infernal perseverance, were to unite and discover the enemies who had so
long aimed at them in darkness?  If all those wounded hearts were to
console, enlighten, support each other, their cause would be gained, and
the inheritance rescued from the reverend fathers.  What was to be done?

Strange power of the human will!--Rodin had one foot in the grave, he was
almost at the last gasp; his voice had failed him.  And yet that
obstinate nature, so full of energy and resources, did not despair.  Let
but a miracle restore his health, and that firm confidence in the success
of his projects which has given him power to struggle against disease,
tells him that he could yet save all--but then he must have health and
life!  Health! life!  His physician does not know if he will survive the
shock--if he can bear the pain--of a terrible operation.  Health! life!
and just now Rodin heard talk of the solemn funeral they had prepared for
him.  And yet--health, life, he will have them.  Yes; he has willed to
live--and he has lived--why should he not live longer?  He will live--
because he has willed it.

All that we have just written passed though Rodin's mind in a second.
His features, convulsed by the mental torment he endured, must have
assumed a very strange expression, for Father d'Aigrigny and the cardinal
looked at him in silent consternation.  Once resolved to live, and to
sustain a desperate struggle with the Rennepont family, Rodin acted in
consequence.  For a few moments Father d'Aigrigny and the prelate
believed themselves under the influence of a dream.  By an effort of
unparalleled energy, and as if moved by hidden mechanism, Rodin sprang
from the bed, dragging the sheet with him, and trailing it, like a
shroud, behind his livid and fleshless body.  The room was cold; the face
of the Jesuit was bathed in sweat; his naked and bony feet left their
moist print upon the stones.

"What are you doing?  It is death!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, rushing
towards Rodin, to force him to lie down again.

But the latter, extending one of his skeleton arms, as hard as iron,
pushed aside Father d'Aigrigny with inconceivable vigor, considering the
state of exhaustion in which he had so long been.

"He has the strength of a man in a fit of epilepsy," said Father
d'Aigrigny, recovering his balance.

With a steady step Rodin advanced to the desk on which Dr. Baleinier
daily wrote his prescriptions.  Seating himself before it, the Jesuit
took pen and paper, and began to write in a firm hand.  His calm, slow,
and sure movements had in them something of the deliberateness remarked
in somnambulists.  Mute and motionless, hardly knowing whether they
dreamed or not, the cardinal and Father d'Aigrigny remained staring at
the incredible coolness of Rodin, who, half-naked, continued to write
with perfect tranquillity.

"But, father," said the Abbe d'Aigrigny, advancing towards him, "this is

Rodin shrugged his shoulders, stopped him with a gesture and made him a
sign to read what he had just written.

The reverend father expected to see the ravings of a diseased brain; but
he took the note, whilst Rodin commenced another.

"My lord," exclaimed Father d'Aigrigny, "read this!"

The cardinal read the paper, and returning it to the reverend father with
equal amazement, added: "It is full of reason, ability, and resources.
We shall thus be able to neutralize the dangerous combination of Abbe
Gabriel and Mdlle. de Cardoville, who appear to be the most formidable
leaders of the coalition."

"It is really miraculous," said Father d'Aigrigny.

"Oh, my dear father!" whispered the cardinal, shaking his head; "what a
pity that we are the only witnesses of this scene! What an excellent
MIRACLE we could have made of it! In one sense, it is another Raising of

"What an idea, my lord!" answered Father d'Aigrigny, in a low voice.  "It
is perfect--and we must not give it up--"

This innocent little plot was interrupted by Rodin, who, turning his
head, made a sign to Father d'Aigrigny to approach, and delivered to him
another sheet, with this note attached: "To be executed within an hour."

Having rapidly perused the paper, Father d'Aigrigny exclaimed: "Right! I
had not thought of that.  Instead of being fatal, the correspondence
between Agricola and M. Hardy may thus have the best results.  Really,"
added the reverend father in a low voice to the prelate, while Rodin
continued to write, "I am quite confounded.  I read--I see--and yet I can
hardly believe my eyes.  Just before, exhausted and dying--and now with
his mind as clear and penetrating as ever.  Can this be one of the
phenomena of somnambulism, in which the mind alone governs and sustains
the body?"

Suddenly the door opened, and Dr. Baleinier entered the room.  At sight
of Rodin, seated half-naked at the desk, with his feet upon the cold
stones, the doctor exclaimed, in a tone of reproach and alarm: "But, my
lord--but, father--it is murder to let the unhappy man do this!--If he is
delirious from fever, he must have the strait-waistcoat, and be tied down
in bed."

So saying.  Dr. Baleinier hastily approached Rodin, and took him by the
arm.  Instead of finding the skin dry and chilly, as he expected, he
found it flexible, almost damp.  Struck with surprise, the doctor sought
to feel the pulse of the left hand, which Rodin resigned, to him, whilst
he continued working with the right.

"What a prodigy!" cried the doctor, as he counted Rodin's pulse; "for a
week past, and even this morning, the pulse has been abrupt,
intermittent, almost insensible, and now it is firm, regular--I am really
puzzled--what then has happened?  I can hardly believe what I see," added
the doctor, turning towards Father d'Aigrigny and the cardinal.

"The reverend father, who had first lost his voice, was next seized with
such furious and violent despair caused by the receipt of bad news,"
answered Father d'Aigrigny, "that we feared a moment for his life; while
now, on the contrary, the reverend father has gained sufficient strength
to go to his desk, and write for some minutes, with a clearness of
argument and expression, which has confounded both the cardinal and

"There is no longer any doubt of it," cried the doctor.  "The violent
despair has caused a degree of emotion, which will admirably prepare the
reactive crisis, that I am now almost certain of producing by the

"You persist in the operation?" whispered Father d'Aigrigny, whilst Rodin
continued to write.

"I might have hesitated this morning; but, disposed as he now is for it,
I must profit by the moment of excitement, which will be followed by
greater depression."

"Then, without the operation--" said the cardinal.

"This fortunate and unexpected crisis will soon be over, and the reaction
may kill him, my lord."

"Have you informed him of the serious nature of the operation?"

"Pretty nearly, my lord."

"But it is time to bring him to the point."

"That is what I will do, my lord," said Dr. Baleinier; and approaching
Rodin, who continued to write, he thus addressed him, in a firm voice:
"My reverend father, do you wish to be up and well in a week?"

Rodin nodded, full of confidence, as much as to say: "I am up already."

"Do not deceive yourself," replied the doctor.  "This crisis is
excellent, but it will not last, and if we would profit by it, we must
proceed with the operation of which I have spoken to you--or, I tell you
plainly, I answer for nothing after such a shock."

Rodin was the more struck with these words, as, half an hour ago, he had
experienced the short duration of the improvement occasioned by Father
d'Aigrigny's good news, and as already he felt increased oppression on
the chest.

Dr. Baleinier, wishing to decide him, added: "In a word, father, will you
live or die?"

Rodin wrote rapidly this answer, which he gave to the doctor: "To live, I
would let you cut me limb from limb.  I am ready for anything."  And he
made a movement to rise.

"I must tell you, reverend father, so as not to take you by surprise,"
added Dr. Baleinier, "that this operation is cruelly painful."

Rodin shrugged his shoulders and wrote with a firm hand: "Leave me my
head; you may take all the rest."

The doctor read these words aloud, and the cardinal and Father d'Aigrigny
looked at each other in admiration of this dauntless courage.

"Reverend father," said Dr. Baleinier, "you must lie down."

Rodin wrote: "Get everything ready.  I have still some orders to write.
Let me know when it is time."

Then folding up a paper, which he had sealed with a wafer, Rodin gave
these words to Father d'Aigrigny: "Send this note instantly to the agent
who addressed the anonymous letters to Marshal Simon."

"Instantly, reverend father," replied the abbe; "I will employ a sure

"Reverend father," said Baleinier to Rodin, "since you must write, lie
down in bed, and write there, during our little preparations."

Rodin made an affirmative gesture, and rose.  But already the prognostics
of the doctor were realized.  The Jesuit could hardly remain standing for
a second; he fell back into a chair, and looked at Dr. Baleinier with
anguish, whilst his breathing became more and more difficult.

The doctor said to him: "Do not be uneasy.  But we must make haste.  Lean
upon me and Father d'Aigrigny."

Aided by these two supporters, Rodin was able to regain the bed.  Once
there, he made signs that they should bring him pen, ink, and paper.
Then he continued to write upon his knees, pausing from time to time, to
breathe with great difficulty.

"Reverend father," said Baleinier to d'Aigrigny, "are you capable of
acting as one of my assistants in the operation?  Have you that sort of

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: