"Happy to hear it, sir," said the Jew, almost involuntarily, struck with the angelic countenance of Gabriel--for nobleness and serenity of soul were visible in the glance of the young priest, and were written upon his pure, white brow, already crowned with the halo of martyrdom. Samuel looked at Gabriel with curiosity and benevolent interest; but feeling that this silent contemplation must cause some embarrassment to his guest, he said to him, "M. Abbe, the notary will not be here before ten o'clock." Gabriel looked at him in turn, with an air of surprise, and answered, "What notary, sir?" "Father d'Aigrigny will explain all this to you," said Rodin, hastily. Then addressing Samuel, he added, "We are a little before the time. Will you allow us to wait for the arrival of the notary?" "Certainly," said Samuel, "if you please to walk into my house." "I thank you, sir," answered Rodin, "and accept your offer." "Follow me, then, gentlemen," said the old man. A few moments after, the young priest and the socius, preceded by Samuel, entered one of the rooms occupied by the latter, on the ground-floor of the building, looking out upon the court-yard. "The Abbe d'Aigrigny, who has been the guardian of M. Gabriel, will soon be coming to ask for us," added Rodin; "will you have the kindness, sir to show him into this room?" "I will not fail to do so, sir," said Samuel, as he went out. The socius and Gabriel were left alone. To the adorable gentleness which usually gave to the fine features of the missionary so touching a charm, there had succeeded in this moment a remarkable expression of sadness, resolution, and severity. Rodin not having seen Gabriel for some days, was greatly struck by the change he remarked in him. He had watched him silently all the way from the Rue des Postes to the Rue Saint-Francois. The young priest wore, as usual, a long black cassock, which made still more visible the transparent paleness of his countenance. When the Jew had left the room, Gabriel said to Rodin, in a firm voice, "Will you at length inform me, sir, why, for some days past, I have been prevented from speaking to his reverence Father d'Aigrigny? Why has he chosen this house to grant me an interview?" "It is impossible for me to answer these questions," replied Rodin, coldly. "His reverence will soon arrive, and will listen to you. All I can tell you is, that the reverend father lays as much stress upon this meeting as you do. If he has chosen this house for the interview, it is because you have an interest to be here. You know it well--though you affected astonishment on hearing the guardian speak of a notary." So saying, Rodin fixed a scrutinizing, anxious look upon Gabriel, whose countenance expressed only surprise. "I do not understand you," said he, in reply to Rodin. "What have I to do with this house?" "It is impossible that you should not know it," answered Rodin, still looking at him with attention. "I have told you, sir, that I do not know it," replied the other, almost offended by the pertinacity of the socius. "What, then, did your adopted mother come to tell you yesterday? Why did you presume to receive her without permission from Father d'Aigrigny, as I have heard this morning? Did she not speak with you of certain family papers, found upon you when she took you in?" "No, sir," said Gabriel; "those papers were delivered at the time to my adopted mother's confessor, and they afterwards passed into Father d'Aigrigny's hands. This is the first I hear for a long time of these papers." "So you affirm that Frances Baudoin did not come to speak to you on this subject?" resumed Rodin, obstinately, laying great emphasis on his words. "This is the second time, sir, that you seem to doubt my affirmation," said the young priest, mildly, while he repressed a movement of impatience, "I assure you that I speak the truth." "He knows nothing," thought Rodin; for he was too well convinced of Gabriel's sincerity to retain the least doubt after so positive a declaration. "I believe you," went on he. "The idea only occurred to me in reflecting what could be the reason of sufficient weight to induce you to transgress Father d'Aigrigny's orders with regard to the absolute retirement he had commanded, which was to exclude all communication with those without. Much more, contrary to all the rules of our house, you ventured to shut the door of your room, whereas it ought to remain half- open, that the mutual inspection enjoined us might be the more easily practiced. I could only explain these sins against discipline, by the necessity of some very important conversation with your adopted mother." "It was to a priest, and not to her adopted son, that Madame Baudoin wished to speak," replied Gabriel, in a tone of deep seriousness. "I closed my door because I was to hear a confession." "And what had Frances Baudoin of such importance to confess?" "You will know that by-and-bye, when I speak to his reverence--if it be his pleasure that you should hear me." These words were so firmly spoken, that a long silence ensued. Let us remind the reader that Gabriel had hitherto been kept by his superiors in the most complete ignorance of the importance of the family interests which required his presence in the Rue Saint-Francois. The day before, Frances Baudoin, absorbed in her own grief, had forgotten to tell him that the two orphans also should be present at this meeting, and had she even thought of it, Dagobert would have prevented her mentioning this circumstance to the young priest. Gabriel was therefore quite ignorant of the family ties which united him with the daughters of Marshal Simon, with Mdlle. de Cardoville, with M. Hardy, Prince Djalma, and Sleepinbuff. In a word, if it had then been revealed to him that he was the heir of Marius de Rennepont, he would have believed himself the only descendant of the family. During the moment's silence which succeeded his conversation with Rodin, Gabriel observed through the windows the mason's at their work of unwalling the door. Having finished this first operation, they set about removing the bars of iron by which a plate of lead was fixed over the same entrance. At this juncture, Father d'Aigrigny, conducted by Samuel, entered the room. Before Gabriel could turn around, Rodin had time to whisper to the reverend father, "He knows nothing--and we have no longer anything to fear from the Indian." Notwithstanding his affected calmness, Father d'Aigrigny's countenance was pale and contracted, like that of a player who is about to stake all on a last, decisive game. Hitherto, all had favored the designs of the Society; but he could not think without alarm of the four hours which still remained before they should reach the fatal moment. Gabriel having turned towards him, Father d'Aigrigny offered him his hand with a smile, and said to him in an affectionate and cordial tone, "My dear son, it has pained me a good deal to have been obliged to refuse you till now the interview that you so much desired. It has been no less distressing to me to impose on you a confinement of some days. Though I cannot give any explanation of what I may think fit to order, I will just observe to you that I have acted only for your interest." "I am bound to believe your reverence," answered Gabriel, bowing his head. In spite of himself, the young priest felt a vague sense of fear, for until his departure for his American mission, Father d'Aigrigny, at whose feet he had pronounced the formidable vows which bound him irrevocably to the Society of Jesus, had exercised over him that frightful species of influence which, acting only by despotism, suppression, and intimidation, breaks down all the living forces of the soul, and leaves it inert, trembling, and terrified. Impressions of early youth are indelible, and this was the first time, since his return from America, that Gabriel found himself in presence of Father d'Aigrigny; and although he did not shrink from the resolution he had taken, he regretted not to have been able, as he had hoped, to gather new strength and courage from an interview with Agricola and Dagobert. Father d'Aigrigny knew mankind too well not to have remarked the emotion of the young priest, and to have endeavored to explain its cause. This emotion appeared to him a favorable omen; he redoubled, therefore, his seductive arts, his air of tenderness and amenity, reserving to himself, if necessary, the choice of assuming another mask. He sat down, while Gabriel and Rodin remained standing in a respectful position, and said to the former: "You desire, my dear son, to have an important interview with me?" "Yes, father," said Gabriel, involuntarily casting down his eyes before the large, glittering gray pupil of his superior. "And I also have matters of great importance to communicate to you. Listen to me first; you can speak afterwards." "I listen, father." "It is about twelve years ago, my dear son," said Father d'Aigrigny, affectionately, "that the confessor of your adopted mother, addressing himself to me through M. Rodin, called my attention to yourself, by reporting the astonishing progress you had made at the school of the Brothers. I soon found, indeed, that your excellent conduct, your gentle, modest character, and your precocious intelligence, were worthy of the most tender interest. From that moment I kept my eyes upon you, and at the end of some time, seeing that you did not fall off, it appeared to me that there was something more in you than the stuff that makes a workman. We agreed with your adopted mother, and through my intervention, you were admitted gratuitously to one of the schools of our Company. Thus one burden the less weighed upon the excellent woman who had taken charge of you, and you received from our paternal care all the benefits of a religious education. Is not this true, my dear son?" "It is true, father," answered Gabriel, casting down his eyes. "As you grew up, excellent and rare virtues displayed themselves in your character. Your obedience and mildness were above all exemplary. You made rapid progress in your studies. I knew not then to what career you wished to devote yourself, but I felt certain that, in every station of life, you would remain a faithful son of the Church. I was not deceived in my hopes, or rather, my dear son, you surpassed them all. Learning, by a friendly communication, that your adopted mother ardently desired to 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 holy Church." 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 whole Company." "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 you." "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.'"
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