For some moments Gabriel had become more and more attentive to the reading of this testament. He thought within himself by how strange a coincidence one of his ancestors had, two centuries before, broken with the Society of Jesus, as he himself had just done; and that from this rupture, two centuries old, dated also that species of hatred with which the Society of Jesus had always pursued his family. Nor did the young priest find it less strange that this inheritance, transmitted to him after a lapse of a hundred and fifty years, from one of his kindred (the victim of the Society of Jesus), should return by a voluntary act to the coffers of this same society. When the notary read the passage relative to the two portraits, Gabriel, who, like Father d’Aigrigny, sat with his back towards the pictures, turned round to look at them. Hardly had the missionary cast his eyes on the portrait of the woman, than he uttered a loud cry of surprise, and almost terror. The notary paused in his reading, and looked uneasily at the young priest.
The last stroke of noon.
At the cry uttered by Gabriel, the notary had stopped reading the testament, and Father d’Aigrigny hastily drew near the young priest. The latter rose trembling from his seat and gazed with increasing stupor at the female portrait.
Then he said in a low voice, as if speaking to himself. “Good Heaven! is it possible that nature can produce such resemblances? Those eyes—so proud and yet so sad—that forehead—that pale complexion—yes, all her features, are the same—all of them!”
“My dear son, what is the matter?” said Father d’Aigrigny, as astonished as Samuel and the notary.
“Eight months ago,” replied the missionary, in a voice of deep emotion, without once taking his eyes from the picture, “I was in the power of the Indians, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. They had crucified, and were beginning to scalp me; I was on the point of death, when Divine Providence sent me unexpected aid—sent me this woman for a deliverer.”
“That woman!” cried Samuel, Father d’Aigrigny, and the notary, all together.
Rodin alone appeared completely indifferent to this episode of the picture. His face contracted with angry impatience, he bit his nails to the quick, as he contemplated with agony the slow progress of the hands of his watch.
“What! that woman saved your life?” resumed Father d’Aigrigny.
“Yes, this woman,” replied Gabriel, in a still lower and more trembling voice; “this woman—or rather a woman so much resembling her, that if this picture had not been here for a century and a half, I should have felt sure it was the same—nor can I explain to myself that so striking a resemblance could be the effect of chance. Well,” added he, after a moment’s silence, as he heaved a profound sigh, “the mysteries of Nature, and the will of God, are impenetrable.”