“But what is this duty? It will perhaps be explained today.”
“Come, come, Bathsheba,” suddenly exclaimed Samuel, as if roused from his reverie, and reproaching himself with idleness; this is the day, and, before eight o’clock, our cash account must be in order, and these titles to immense property arranged, so that they may be delivered to the rightful owners”—and he pointed to the cedar-wood box.
“You are right, Samuel; this day does not belong to us. It is a solemn day—one that would have been sweet, oh! very sweet to you and me—if now any days could be sweet to us,” said Bathsheba bitterly, for she was thinking of her son.
“Bathsheba,” said Samuel, mournfully, as he laid his hand on his wife’s; “we shall at least have the stern satisfaction of having done our duty. And has not the Lord been very favorable to us, though He has thus severely tried us by the death of our son? Is it not thanks to His providence that three generations of my family have been able to commence, continue, and finish this great work?”
“Yes, Samuel,” said the Jewess, affectionately, “and for you at least this satisfaction will be combined with calm and quietness, for on the stroke of noon you will be delivered from a very terrible responsibility.”
So saying, Bathsheba pointed to the box.
“It is true,” replied the old man; “I had rather these immense riches were in the hands of those to whom they belong, than in mine; but, to day, I shall cease to be their trustee. Once more then, I will check the account for the last time, and compare the register with the cash-book that you hold in your hand.”
Bathsheba bowed her head affirmatively, and Samuel, taking up his pen, occupied himself once more with his calculations. His wife, in spite of herself, again yielded to the sad thoughts which that fatal date had awakened, by reminding her of the death of her son.
Let us now trace rapidly the history, in appearance so romantic and marvellous, in reality so simple, of the fifty thousand crowns, which, thanks to the law of accumulation, and to a prudent, intelligent and faithful investment, had naturally, and necessarily, been transformed, in the space of a century and a half, into a sum far more important than the forty millions estimated by Father d’Aigrigny—who, partially informed on this subject, and reckoning the disastrous accidents, losses, and bankruptcies which might have occurred during so long a period, believed that forty millions might well b e considered enormous.
The history of this fortune being closely connected with that of the Samuel family, by whom it had been managed for three generations, we shall give it again in a few words.
About the period 1670, some years before his death, Marius de Rennepont, then travelling in Portugal, had been enabled, by means of powerful interest, to save the life of an unfortunate Jew, condemned to be burnt alive by the Inquisition, because of his religion. This Jew was Isaac Samuel, grandfather of the present guardian of the house in the Rue Saint-Francois.