“According to the plan of the building, you know that the belvedere forms a kind of skylight to the apartment called the Great Hall of Mourning, situated on the upper story. As it is completely dark, in consequence of the closing of all the windows, they must use a light to visit this Hall of Mourning—a room which is said to contain some very strange and gloomy things,” added the Jew, with a shudder.
Bathsheba, as well as her husband, gazed attentively on the seven luminous points, which diminished in brightness as the daylight gradually increased.
“As you say, Samuel, the mystery may be thus explained,” resumed the Hebrew’s wife. “Besides, the day is so important a one for the family of Rennepont, that this apparition: ought not to astonish us under the circumstances.”
“Only to think,” remarked Samuel, “that these lights have appeared at several different times throughout a century and a half! There must, therefore, be another family that, like ours, has devoted itself, from generation to generation, to accomplish a pious duty.”
“But what is this duty? It will perhaps be explained today.”
“Come, come, Bathsheba,” suddenly exclaimed Samuel, as if roused from his reverie, and reproaching himself with idleness; this is the day, and, before eight o’clock, our cash account must be in order, and these titles to immense property arranged, so that they may be delivered to the rightful owners”—and he pointed to the cedar-wood box.
“You are right, Samuel; this day does not belong to us. It is a solemn day—one that would have been sweet, oh! very sweet to you and me—if now any days could be sweet to us,” said Bathsheba bitterly, for she was thinking of her son.
“Bathsheba,” said Samuel, mournfully, as he laid his hand on his wife’s; “we shall at least have the stern satisfaction of having done our duty. And has not the Lord been very favorable to us, though He has thus severely tried us by the death of our son? Is it not thanks to His providence that three generations of my family have been able to commence, continue, and finish this great work?”
“Yes, Samuel,” said the Jewess, affectionately, “and for you at least this satisfaction will be combined with calm and quietness, for on the stroke of noon you will be delivered from a very terrible responsibility.”
So saying, Bathsheba pointed to the box.
“It is true,” replied the old man; “I had rather these immense riches were in the hands of those to whom they belong, than in mine; but, to day, I shall cease to be their trustee. Once more then, I will check the account for the last time, and compare the register with the cash-book that you hold in your hand.”
Bathsheba bowed her head affirmatively, and Samuel, taking up his pen, occupied himself once more with his calculations. His wife, in spite of herself, again yielded to the sad thoughts which that fatal date had awakened, by reminding her of the death of her son.