List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V11, by Eugene Sue
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the street.  As the Jew passed before her, he said, in Hebrew: "The
curtains of the Hall of Mourning?"

"Are closed."

"And the iron casket?"

"Is prepared," answered Bathsheba, also in Hebrew.

After pronouncing these words, completely unintelligible to Rodin and
Caboccini, Samuel and Bathsheba exchanged a bitter smile, notwithstanding
the despair impressed on their countenances.

Ascending the steps, followed by the two reverend fathers, Samuel entered
the vestibule of the house, in which a lamp was burning.  Endowed with an
excellent local memory, Rodin was about to take the direction of the Red
Saloon, in which had been held the first convocation of the heirs, when
Samuel stopped him, and said: "It is not that way."

Then, taking the lamp, he advanced towards a dark staircase, for the
windows of the house had not been un-bricked.

"But," said Rodin, "the last time, we met in a saloon on the ground

To-day, we must go higher," answered Samuel, as he began slowly to ascend
the stairs.

"Where to? higher!" said Rodin, following him.

"To the Hall of Mourning," replied the Jew, and he continued to ascend.

"What is the Hall of Mourning?" resumed Rodin, in some surprise.

"A place of tears and death," answered the Israelite; and he kept on
ascending through the darkness, for the little lamp threw but a faint
light around.

"But," said Rodin, more and more astonished, and stopping short on the
stairs, "why go to this place?"

"The money is there," answered Samuel, and he went on,

"Oh? if the money is there, that alters the case," replied Rodin; and he
made haste to regain the few steps he had lost by stopping.

Samuel continued to ascend, and, at a turn of the staircase, the two
Jesuits could see by the pale light of the little lamp, the profile of
the old Israelite, in the space left between the iron balustrade and the
wall, as he climbed on with difficulty above them.  Rodin was struck with
the expression of Samuel's countenance.  His black eyes, generally so
calm, sparkled with ardor.  His features, usually impressed with a
mixture of sorrow, intelligence, and goodness, seemed to grow harsh and
stern, and his thin lips wore a strange smile.

"It is not so very high," whispered Rodin to Caboccini.  "and yet my legs
ache, and I am quite out of breath.  There is a strange throbbing too in
my temples."

In fact, Rodin breathed hard, and with difficulty.  To this confidential
communication, good little Father Caboccini, in general so full of tender
care for his colleague, made no answer.  He seemed to be in deep thought.

"Will we soon be there?" said Rodin, impatiently, to Samuel.

"We are there," replied the Israelite.

"And a good thing too," said Rodin.

"Very good," said the Jew.

Stopping in the midst of a corridor, he pointed with the hand in which he
held the lamp to a large door from which streamed a faint light.  In
spite of his growing surprise.  Rodin entered resolutely, followed by
Father Caboccini and Samuel.  The apartment in which these three
personage, now found themselves was very large.  The daylight only
entered from a belvedere in the roof, the four sides of which had been
covered with leaden plates, each of which was pierced with seven holes,
forming a cross, thus:
                       * * *

Now, the light being only admitted through these holes, the obscurity
would have been complete, had it not been for a lamp, which burned on a
large massive slab of black marble, fixed against one of the walls.  One
would have taken it for a funeral chamber, for it was all hung with black
curtains, fringed with white.  There was no furniture, save the slab of
black marble we have already mentioned.  On this slab was an iron casket,
of the manufacture of the seventeenth century, admirably adorned with
open work, like lace made of metal.

Addressing Rodin, who was wiping his forehead with his dirty
handkerchief, and looking round him with surprise, but not fear, Samuel
said to him: "The will of the testator, however strange it may appear, is
sacred with me, and must be accomplished in all things."

"Certainly," said Rodin; "but what are we to do here?"

"You will know presently, sir.  You are the representative of the only
remaining heir of the Rennepont family, the Abbe Gabriel de Rennepont?"

"Yes, sir, and here are my papers," replied Rodin.

"To save time," resumed Samuel, "I will, previous to the arrival of the
magistrate, go through the inventory of the securities contained in this
casket, which I withdrew yesterday from the custody of the Bank of

"The securities are there?" cried Rodin, advancing eagerly towards the

"Yes, sir," replied Samuel, "as by the list.  Your secretary will call
them over, and I will produce each in turn.  They can then be replaced in
the casket, which I will deliver up to you in presence of the

"All this seems perfectly correct," said Rodin.

Samuel delivered the list to Father Caboccini, and approaching the
casket, touched a spring, which was not seen by Rodin.  The heavy lid
flew open, and, while Father Caboccini read the names of the different
securities, Samuel showed them to Rodin, who returned them to the old
Jew, after a careful examination.  This verification did not last long,
for this immense fortune was all comprised, as we already know, in eight
government securities, five hundred thousand francs in bank-note, thirty-
five thousand francs in gold, and two hundred and fifty francs in silver-
-making in all an amount of two hundred and twelve millions, one hundred
and seventy-five thousand francs.  When Rodin had counted the last of the
five hundred bank-notes, of a thousand francs each, he said, as he
returned them to Samuel: "It is quite right.  Two hundred and twelve
millions, one hundred and seventy-five thousand francs!"

He was no doubt almost choked with joy, for he breathed with difficulty,
his eyes closed, and he was obliged to lean upon Father Caboccini's arm,
as he said to him in an altered voice: "It is singular.  I thought myself
proof against all such emotions; but what I feel is extraordinary."

The natural paleness of the Jesuit increased so much, and he seemed so
much agitated with convulsive movements, that Father Caboccini exclaimed:
"My dear father, collect yourself; do not let success overcome you thus."

Whilst the little one-eyed man was, attending to Rodin, Samuel carefully
replaced the securities in the iron casket.  Thanks to his unconquerable
energy, and to the joy he felt at seeing himself so near the term of his
labors, Rodin mastered this attack of weakness, and drawing himself up,
calm and proud, he said to Caboccini: "It is nothing.  I did not survive
the cholera to die of joy on the first of June."

And, though still frightfully pale, the countenance of the Jesuit shone
with audacious confidence.  But now, when Rodin appeared to be quite
recovered, Father Caboccini seemed suddenly transformed.  Though short,
fat, and one-eyed, his features assumed on the instant so firm, harsh,
and commanding an expression, that Rodin recoiled a step as he looked at
him.  Then Father Caboccini, drawing a paper from his pocket, kissed it
respectfully, glanced sternly at Rodin, and read as follows, in a severe
and menacing tone:

"`On receipt of the present rescript, the Reverend Father Rodin will
deliver up all his powers to the Reverend Father Caboccini, who is alone
commissioned, with the Reverend Father d'Aigrigny, to receive the
inheritance of the Rennepont family, if, in His eternal justice, the Lord
should restore this property, of which our Company has been wronged.

"`Moreover, on receipt of the present rescript, the Reverend Father
Rodin, in charge of a person to be named by the Reverend Father
Caboccini, shall be conveyed to our house in the Town of Laval, to be
kept in strict seclusion in his cell until further orders.'"

Then Father Caboccini handed the rescript to Rodin, that the latter might
read the signature of the General of the Company.  Samuel, greatly
interested by this scene, drew a few steps nearer, leaving the casket
half-open.  Suddenly, Rodin burst into a loud laugh--a laugh of joy,
contempt and triumph, impossible to describe.  Father Caboccini
looked at him with angry astonishment; when Rodin, growing still more
imperious and haughty, and with an air of more sovereign disdain than
ever, pushed aside the paper with the back of his dirty hand and said:
"What is the date of that scribble?"

"The eleventh of May," answered Father Caboccini in amazement.

"Here is a brief, that I received last night from Rome, under date of the
eighteenth.  It informs me that I am appointed GENERAL OF THE ORDER.

Father Caboccini took the paper, read it, and remained thunderstruck.
Then, returning it humbly to Rodin, he respectfully bent his knee before
him.  Thus seemed the ambitious views of Rodin accomplished.  In spite of
the hatred and suspicion of that party, of which Cardinal Malipieri was
the representative and the chief, Rodin, by address and craft, audacity
and persuasion, and in consequence of the high esteem in which his
partisans at Rome held his rare capacity, had succeeded in deposing his
General, and in procuring his own elevation to that eminent post.  Now,
according to his calculation, aided by the millions he was about to
possess, it would be but one step from that post to the pontifical
throne.  A mute witness of this scene, Samuel smiled also with an air of
triumph, as he closed the casket by means of the spring known only to
himself.  That metallic sound recalled Rodin from the heights of his mad
ambition to the realities of life, and he said to Samuel in a sharp
voice: "You have heard?  These millions must be delivered to me alone."

He extended his hands eagerly and impatiently towards the casket, as if
he would have taken possession of it, before the arrival of the
magistrate.  Then Samuel in his turn seemed transfigured, and, folding
his arms upon his breast, and drawing up his aged form to its full
height, he assumed a threatening and imposing air.  His eyes flashed with
indignation, and he said in a solemn tone: "This fortune--at first the
humble remains of the inheritance of the most noble of men, whom the
plots of the sons of Loyola drove to suicide--this fortune, which has
since become royal in amount, thanks to the sacred probity of three
generations of faithful servants--this fortune shall never be the reward
of falsehood, hypocrisy and murder.  No! the eternal justice of heaven
will not allow it."

"On murder? what do you mean, sir?" asked Rodin, boldly.

Samuel made no answer.  He stamped his foot, and extended his arm slowly
towards the extremity of the apartment.  Then Rodin and Father Caboccini
beheld an awful spectacle.  The draperies on the wall were drawn aside,
as if by an invisible hand.  Round a funeral vault, faintly illumined-by
the bluish light of a silver lamp, six dead bodies were ranged upon black
biers, dressed in long black robes.  They were: Jacques Rennepont--
Francois Hardy--Rose and Blanche Simon--Adrienne and Djalma.  They
appeared to be asleep.  Their eyelids were closed, their hands crossed
over their breasts.  Father Caboccini, trembling in every limb, made the
sign of the cross, and retreating to the opposite wall, buried his face
in his hands.  Rodin on the contrary, with agitated countenance, staring
eyes, and hair standing on end, yielding to an invincible attraction,
advanced towards those inanimate forms.  One would have said that these
last of the Renneponts had only just expired.  They seemed to be in the
first hour of the eternal sleep.[44]

"Behold those whom thou host slain!" cried Samuel, in a voice broken with
sobs.  "Yea! your detestable plots caused their death--and, as they fell
one by one, it was my pious care to obtain possession of their poor
remains, that they may all repose in the same sepulchre.  Oh!--cursed--
cursed--cursed--be thou who has killed them!  But their spoils shall
escape thy murderous hands."

Rodin, still drawn forward in spite of himself, had approached the
funeral couch of Djalma.  Surmounting his first alarm, the Jesuit, to
assure himself that he was not the sport of frightful dream, ventured to
touch the hands of the Asiatic--and found that they were damp and pliant,
though cold as ice.

The Jesuit drew back in horror.  For some seconds, he trembled
convulsively.  But, his first amazement over, reflection returned, and,
with reflection came that invincible energy, that infernal obstinacy of
character, that gave him so much power.  Steadying himself on his legs,
drawing his hand across his brow, raising his head, moistening his lips
two or three times before he spoke--for his throat and mouth grew ever
drier and hotter, without his being able to explain the cause--he
succeeded in giving to his features an imperious and ironical expression,
and, turning towards Samuel, who wept in silence, he said to him, in a
hoarse, guttural voice: "I need not show you the certificates of their
death.  There they are in person."  And he pointed with his bony hand to
the six dead bodies.

At these words of his General, Father Caboccini again made the sign of
the cross, as if he had seen a fiend.

"Oh, my God!" cried Samuel; "Thou hast quite abandoned this man.  With
what a calm look he contemplates his victims!"

"Come, sir!" said Rodin, with a horrid smile; "this is a natural waxwork
exhibition, that is all.  My calmness proves my innocence--and we had
best come at once to business.  I have an appointment at two o'clock.  So
let us carry down this casket."

He advanced towards the marble slab.  Seized with indignation and horror,
Samuel threw himself before him, and, pressing with all his might on a
knob in the lid of the casket--a knob which yielded to the pressure--he
exclaimed: "Since your infernal soul is incapable of remorse, it may
perhaps be shaken by disappointed avarice."

"What does he say?" cried Rodin.  "What is he doing?"

"Look!" said Samuel, in his turn assuming an air of savage triumph.  "I
told you, that the spoils of your victims should escape your murderous

Hardly had he uttered these words, before through the open-work of the
iron casket rose a light cloud of smoke, and an odor as of burnt paper
spread itself through the room.  Rodin understood it instantly.  "Fire!"
he exclaimed, as he rushed forward to seize the casket.  It had been made
fast to the heavy marble slab.

"Yes, fire," said Samuel.  "In a few minutes, of that immense treasure
there will remain nothing but ashes.  And better so, than that it should
belong to you or yours.  This treasure is not mine, and it only remains
for me to destroy it--since Gabriel de Rennepont will be faithful to the
oath he has taken."

"Help! water! water!" cried Rodin, as he covered the casket with his
body, trying in vain to extinguish the flames, which, fanned by the
current of air, now issued from the thousand apertures in the lid; but

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