Instead of answering this question, the reverend father, his eyes sparkling with rage, his lips white, his features contracted, looked fixedly at the princess, and said to her: “Do you know the amount of this inheritance, that we estimated at forty millions?”
“I understand,” cried the princess; “we have been deceived. The inheritance amounts to nothing, and all you have dare has been in vain.”
“Yes, it has indeed been in vain,” answered the reverend father, grinding his teeth with rage; “it was no question of forty millions, but of two hundred and twelve millions.
“Two hundred and twelve millions!” repeated the princess in amazement, as she drew back a step. “It is impossible!”
“I tell you I saw the vouchers, which were examined by the notary.”
“Two hundred and twelve millions?” resumed the princess, with deep dejection. “It is an immense and sovereign power—and you have renounced—you have not struggled for it, by every possible means, and till the last moment?”
“Madame, I have done all that I could!—notwithstanding the treachery of Gabriel, who this very morning declared that he renounced us, and separated from the Society.”
“Ungrateful!” said the princess, unaffectedly.
“The deed of gift, which I had the precaution to have prepared by the notary, was in such good, legal form, that in spite of the objections of that accursed soldier and his son, the notary had put me in possession of the treasure.”
“Two hundred and twelve millions!” repeated the princess clasping her hands. “Verily it is like a dream!”
“Yes,” replied Father d’Aigrigny, bitterly, “for us, this possession is indeed a dream, for a codicil has been discovered, which puts off for three months and a half all the testamentary provisions. Now that our very precautions have roused the suspicion of all these heirs—now that they know the enormous amount at stake—they will be upon their guard; and all is lost.”
“But who is the wretch that produced this codicil?”