“I have killed him,” said Father d’Aigrigny, in a weak voice; “but I feel—that I am wounded—to death.”
Leaning with one hand on the ground, the Jesuit pressed the other to his bosom. His black cassock was pierced through and through, but the blades, which had served for the combat, being triangular and very sharp, the blood instead of issuing from the wounds, was flowing inwards.
“Oh! I die—I choke,” said Father d’Aigrigny, whose features were already changing with the approach of death.
At this moment, the key turned twice in the door, Rodin appeared on the threshold, and, thrusting in his head, he said in a humble and discreet voice: “May I come in?”
At this dreadful irony, Father d’Aigrigny strove to rise, and rush upon Rodin; but he fell back exhausted; the blood was choking him.
“Monster of hell!” he muttered, casting on Rodin a terrible glance of rage and agony. “Thou art the cause of my death.”
“I always told you, my dear father, that your old military habits would be fatal to you,” answered Rodin with a frightful smile. “Only a few days ago, I gave you warning, and advised you take a blow patiently from this old swordsman—who seems to have done with that work forever, which is well—for the Scripture says: ’All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’ And then this Marshal Simon might have had some claim on his daughter’s inheritance. And, between ourselves, my dear father, what was I to do? It was necessary to sacrifice you for the common interest; the rather, that I well knew what you had in pickle for me to-morrow. But I am not so easily caught napping.”
“Before I die,” said Father d’Aigrigny, in a failing voice, “I will unmask you.”
“Oh, no, you will not,” said Rodin, shaking his head with a knowing air; “I alone, if you please, will receive your last confession.”
“Oh! this is horrible,” moaned Father d’Aigrigny, whose eyes were closing. “May God have mercy on me, if it is not too late!—Alas! at this awful moment, I feel that I have been a great sinner—”
“And, above all, a great fool,” said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders, and watching with cold disdain the dying moments of his accomplice.
Father d’Aigrigny had now but a few minutes more to live. Rodin perceived it, and said: “It is time to call for help.” And the Jesuit ran, with an air of alarm and consternation, into the courtyard of the house.