The post master did not listen to the end of this scene; he slipped away on tip-toe, remembering that the lock of the study was on the library side of the door. He had been present in former days at an argument between the architect and a locksmith, the latter declaring that if the pagoda were entered by the window on the river it would be much safer to put the lock of the door opening into the library on the library side. Dazzled by his hopes, and his ears flushed with blood, Minoret sprang the lock with the point of his knife as rapidly as a burglar could have done it. He entered the study, followed the doctor’s directions, took the package of papers without opening it, relocked the door, put everything in order, and went into the dining-room and sat down, waiting till La Bougival had gone upstairs with the poultice before he ventured to leave the house. He then made his escape,—all the more easily because poor Ursula lingered to see that La Bougival applied the poultice properly.
“The letter! the letter!” cried the old man, in a dying voice. “Obey me; take the key. I must see you with that letter in your hand.”
The words were said with so wild a look that La Bougival exclaimed to Ursula:—
“Do what he asks at once or you will kill him.”
She kissed his forehead, took the key and went down. A moment later, recalled by a cry from La Bougival, she ran back. The old man looked at her eagerly. Seeing her hands empty, he rose in his bed, tried to speak, and died with a horrible gasp, his eyes haggard with fear. The poor girl, who saw death for the first time, fell on her knees and burst into tears. La Bougival closed the old man’s eyes and straightened him on the bed; then she ran to call Savinien; but the heirs, who stood at the corner of the street, like crows watching till a horse is buried before they scratch at the ground and turn it over with beak and claw, flocked in with the celerity of birds of prey.
The doctor’s will
While these events were taking place the post master had hurried home to open the mysterious package and know its contents.
To my dear Ursula Mirouet, daughter of my natural half-brother, Joseph Mirouet, and Dinah Grollman:—
My dear Angel,—The fatherly affection I bear you—and which you have so fully justified—came not only from the promise I gave your father to take his place, but also from your resemblance to my wife, Ursula Mirouet, whose grace, intelligence, frankness, and charm you constantly recall to my mind. Your position as the daughter of a natural son of my father-in-law might invalidate all testamentary bequests made by me in your favor—
“The old rascal!” cried the post master.
Had I adopted you the result might also have been a lawsuit, and I shrank from the idea of transmitting my fortune to you by marriage, for I might live years and thus interfere with your happiness, which is now delayed only by Madame de Portenduere. Having weighted these difficulties carefully, and wishing to leave you enough money to secure to you a prosperous existence—