“What the devil does he want with me?” cried the clerk, in a passion. “He calls me just at the moment when I might have seen something.”
“M. Piston,” resumed the voice, approaching, “do you not hear?”
While Samuel let out the masons, the clerk saw, through a clump of trees, his master running towards him bareheaded, and with an air of singular haste and importance. The clerk was therefore obliged to leave the steps, to answer the notary’s summons, towards whom he went with a very bad grace.
“Sir, sir,” said M. Dumesnil, “I have been calling you this hour with all my might.”
“I did not hear you sir,” said M. Piston.
“You must be deaf, then. Have you any change about you?”
“Yes sir,” answered the clerk, with some surprise.
“Well, then, you must go instantly to the nearest stamp-office, and fetch me three or four large sheets of stamped paper, to draw up a deed. Run! it is wanted directly.”
“Yes, sir,” said the clerk, casting a rueful and regretful glance at the door of the walled-up house.
“But make haste, will you, M. Piston,” said the notary.
“I do not know, sir, where to get any stamped paper.”
“Here is the guardian,” replied M. Dumesnil. “He will no doubt be able to tell you.”
At this instant, Samuel was returning, after showing the masons out by the street-door.
“Sir,” said the notary to him, “will you please to tell me where we can get stamped paper?”
“Close by, sir,” answered Samuel; “in the tobacconist’s, No. 17, Rue Vieille-du-Temple.”
“You hear, M. Piston?” said the notary to his clerk. “You can get the stamps at the tobacconist’s, No. 17, Rue Vieille-du-Temple. Be quick! for this deed must be executed immediately before the opening of the will. Time presses.”
“Very well, sir; I will make haste,” answered the clerk, discontentedly, as he followed his master, who hurried back into the room where he had left Rodin, Gabriel, and Father d’Aigrigny.
During this time, Samuel, ascending the steps, had reached the door, now disencumbered of the stone, iron, and lead with which it had been blocked up. It was with deep emotion that the old man having selected from his bunch of keys the one he wanted, inserted it in the keyhole, and made the door turn upon its hinges. Immediately he felt on his face a current of damp, cold air, like that which exhales from a cellar suddenly opened. Having carefully re-closed and double-locked the door, the Jew advanced along the hall, lighted by a glass trefoil over the arch of the door. The panes had lost their transparency by the effect of time, and now had the appearance of ground-glass. This hall, paved with alternate squares of black and white marble, was vast, sonorous, and contained a broad staircase leading to the first story. The walls of smooth stone offered not the least appearance of decay or dampness; the stair-rail of wrought iron presented no traces of rust; it was inserted, just above the bottom step, into a column of gray granite, which sustained a statue of black marble, representing a negro bearing a flambeau. This statue had a strange countenance, the pupils of the eyes being made of white marble.