“Sir,” said Gabriel, “happen what may, I am as irrevocably engaged by this written promise, which I beg you to keep, father”—and he handed the paper to Father d’Aigrigny “as by the legal document, which I am about to sign,” he added, turning to Rodin.
“Silence, my dear son,” said Father d’Aigrigny; “here is the notary,” just as the latter entered the room.
During the interview of the administrative officer with Rodin, Gabriel, and Father d’Aigrigny, we shall conduct the reader to the interior of the walled-up house.
The red room.
As Samuel had said, the door of the walled-up house had just been disencumbered of the bricks, lead, and iron, which had kept it from view, and its panels of carved oak appeared as fresh and sound, as on the day when they had first been withdrawn from the influence of the air and time. The laborers, having completed their work, stood waiting upon the steps, as impatient and curious as the notary’s clerk, who had superintended the operation, when they saw Samuel slowly advancing across the garden, with a great bunch of keys in his hand.
“Now, my friends,” said the old man, when he had reached the steps, “your work is finished. The master of this gentleman will pay you, and I have only to show you out by the street door.”
“Come, come, my good fellow,” cried the clerk, “you don’t think. We are just at the most interesting and curious moment; I and these honest masons are burning to see the interior of this mysterious house, and you would be cruel enough to send us away? Impossible!”
“I regret the necessity, sir, but so it must he. I must be the first to enter this dwelling, absolutely alone, before introducing the heirs, in order to read the testament.”
“And who gave you such ridiculous and barbarous orders?” cried the clerk, singularly disappointed.
“My father, sir.”
“A most respectable authority, no doubt; but come, my worthy guardian, my excellent guardian,” resumed the clerk, “be a good fellow, and let us just take a peep in at the door.”
“Yes, yes, sir, only a peep!” cried the heroes of the trowel, with a supplicating air.
“It is disagreeable to have to refuse you, gentlemen,” answered Samuel; “but I cannot open this door, until I am alone.”
The masons, seeing the inflexibility of the old man, unwillingly descended the steps; but the clerk had resolved to dispute the ground inch by inch, and exclaimed: “I shall wait for my master. I do not leave the house without him. He may want me—and whether I remain on these steps or elsewhere, can be of little consequence to you my worthy keeper.”
The clerk was interrupted in his appeal by his master himself, who called out from the further side of the courtyard, with an air of business: “M. Piston! quick, M. Piston—come directly!”