The work was done! Breathless and faint, Rodin leaned against the marble slab. For the first time in his life, he wept; large tears of rage rolled down his cadaverous cheeks. But suddenly, dreadful pains, at first dull, but gradually augmenting in intensity, seized on him with so much fury, though he employed all his energy to struggle against them, that he fell on his knees, and, pressing his two hands to his chest, murmured with an attempt to smile: “It is nothing. Do not be alarmed. A few spasms—that is all. The treasure is destroyed—but I remain General of the Order. Oh! I suffer. What a furnace!” he added, writhing in agony. “Since I entered this cursed house, I know not what ails me. If—I had not lived on roots—water—bread—which I go myself to buy—I should think—I was poisoned—for I triumph—and Cardinal Malipieri has long arms. Yes—I still triumph—for I will not die—this time no more than the other—I will not die!”
Then, as he stretched out his arms convulsively, he continued: “It is fire that devours my entrails. No doubt, they have tried to poison me. But when? but how?”
After another pause, Rodin again cried out, in a stifled voice: “Help! help me, you that stand looking on—like, spectres!—Help me, I say!”
Horror-struck at this dreadful agony, Samuel and Father Caboccini were unable to stir.
“Help!” repeated Rodin, in a tone of strangulation, “This poison is horrible.—But how—” Then, with a terrific cry of rage, as if a sudden idea had struck him, he exclaimed: “Ha! Faringhea—this morning—the holy water—he knows such subtle poisons. Yes—it is he—he had an interview with Malipieri. The demon!—Oh! it was well played. The Borgias are still the same. Oh! it is all over. I die. They will regret me, the fools!—Oh! hell! hell! The Church knows not its loss—but I burn—help!”
They came to his assistance. Quick steps were heard upon the stairs, and Dr. Baleinier, followed by the Princess de Saint-Dizier, appeared at the entrance of the Hall of Mourning. The princess had learned vaguely that morning the death of Father d’Aigrigny, and had come to question Rodin upon the subject. When this woman, entering the room, suddenly saw the frightful spectacle that offered itself to her view—when she saw Rodin writhing in horrible agony, and, further on, by the light of the sepulchral lamp, those six corpses—and, amongst them, her own niece, and the two orphans whom she had sent to meet their death—she stood petrified with horror, and her reason was unable to withstand the shock. She looked slowly round her, and then raised her arms on high, and burst into a wild fit of laughter. She had gone mad. Whilst Dr. Baleinier supported the head of Rodin, who expired in his arms, Faringhea appeared at the door; remaining in the shade, he cast a ferocious glance at the corpse of the Jesuit. “He would have made himself the chief of the Company of Jesus, to destroy it,” said he; “with me, the Company of Jesus stands in the place of Bowanee. I have obeyed the cardinal!”