“I fear,” said one of the two, continuing a conversation already begun, and speaking of an absent person, “I fear, that the continual agitation to which the reverend father has been a prey, ever since he was attacked with the cholera, has exhausted his strength, and caused the dangerous relapse which now makes us fear for his life.”
“They say,” resumed the other, “that never was there seen anxiety like to his.”
“And moreover,” remarked the young priest, bitterly, “it is painful to think, that his reverence Father Rodin has given cause for scandal, by obstinately refusing to make a public confession, the day before yesterday when his situation appeared so desperate, that, between two fits of a delirium, it was thought right to propose to him to receive the last sacraments.”
“His reverence declared that he was not so ill as they supposed,” answered one of the fathers, “and that he would have the last duties performed when he thought necessary.”
“The fact is, that for the last ten days, ever since he was brought here dying, his life has been, as it were, only a long and painful agony; and yet he continues to live.”
“I watched by him during the first three days of his malady, with M. Rousselet, the pupil of Dr. Baleinier,” resumed the youngest father; “he had hardly a moment’s consciousness, and when the Lord did grant him a lucid interval, he employed it in detestable execrations against the fate which had confined him to his bed.”
“It is said,” resumed the other, “that Father Rodin made answer to his Eminence Cardinal Malipieri, who came to persuade him to die in an exemplary manner, worthy of a son of Loyola, our blessed founder”—at these words, the three Jesuits bowed their heads together, as if they had been all moved by the same spring—“it is said, that Father Rodin made answer to his eminence: `I do not need to confess publicly; I want to live, and I will live.’”
“I did not hear that,” said the young priest, with an indignant air; “but if Father Rodin really made use of such expressions, it is—”
Here, no doubt, reflection came to him just in time, for he stole a sidelong glance at his two silent, impassible companions, and added: “It is a great misfortune for his soul; but I am certain, his reverence has been slandered.”
“It was only as a calumnious report, that I mentioned those words,” said the other priest, exchanging a glance with his companion.
One of the garden gates opened, and one of the three reverend fathers exclaimed, at the sight of the personage who now entered: “Oh! here is his Eminence Cardinal Malipieri, coming to pay a visit to Father Rodin.”
“May this visit of his eminence,” said the young priest, calmly, “be more profitable to Father Rodin than the last!”
Cardinal Malipieri was crossing the garden, on his way to the apartment occupied by Rodin.