Indeed, the seven round holes, bored in the form of a cross in the leaden plates which covered the window of the belvedere, sparkled like so many luminous points, as if some one in the house ascended with a light to the roof.
Debit and credit.
For some seconds, Samuel and Bathsheba remained motionless, with their eyes fixed in fear and uneasiness on the seven luminous points, which shone through the darkness of the night from the summit of the belvedere; while, on the horizon, behind the house, a pale, rosy hue announced the dawn of day.
Samuel was the first to break silence, and he said to his wife, as he drew his hand across his brow: “The grief caused by the remembrance of our poor child has prevented us from reflecting that, after all, there should be nothing to alarm us in what we see.”
“How so, Samuel?”
“My father always told me that he, and my grandfather before him, had seen such lights at long intervals.”
“Yes, Samuel—but without being able, any more than ourselves, to explain the cause.”
“Like my father and grandfather, we can only suppose that some secret passage gives admittance to persons who, like us, have some mysterious duty to fulfil in this dwelling. Besides, my father warned me not to be uneasy at these appearances, foretold by him, and now visible for the second time in thirty years.”
“No matter for that, Samuel, it does strike one as if it was something supernatural.”
“The days of miracles are over.” said the Jew, shaking his head sorrowfully: “many of the old houses in this quarter have subterraneous communications with distant places—some extending even to the Seine and the Catacombs. Doubtless, this house is so situated, and the persons who make these rare visits enter by some such means.”
“But that the belvedere should be thus lighted up?”
“According to the plan of the building, you know that the belvedere forms a kind of skylight to the apartment called the Great Hall of Mourning, situated on the upper story. As it is completely dark, in consequence of the closing of all the windows, they must use a light to visit this Hall of Mourning—a room which is said to contain some very strange and gloomy things,” added the Jew, with a shudder.
Bathsheba, as well as her husband, gazed attentively on the seven luminous points, which diminished in brightness as the daylight gradually increased.
“As you say, Samuel, the mystery may be thus explained,” resumed the Hebrew’s wife. “Besides, the day is so important a one for the family of Rennepont, that this apparition: ought not to astonish us under the circumstances.”
“Only to think,” remarked Samuel, “that these lights have appeared at several different times throughout a century and a half! There must, therefore, be another family that, like ours, has devoted itself, from generation to generation, to accomplish a pious duty.”