So saying, Rodin fixed a scrutinizing, anxious look upon Gabriel, whose countenance expressed only surprise.
“I do not understand you,” said he, in reply to Rodin. “What have I to do with this house?”
“It is impossible that you should not know it,” answered Rodin, still looking at him with attention.
“I have told you, sir, that I do not know it,” replied the other, almost offended by the pertinacity of the socius.
“What, then, did your adopted mother come to tell you yesterday? Why did you presume to receive her without permission from Father d’Aigrigny, as I have heard this morning? Did she not speak with you of certain family papers, found upon you when she took you in?”
“No, sir,” said Gabriel; “those papers were delivered at the time to my adopted mother’s confessor, and they afterwards passed into Father d’Aigrigny’s hands. This is the first I hear for a long time of these papers.”
“So you affirm that Frances Baudoin did not come to speak to you on this subject?” resumed Rodin, obstinately, laying great emphasis on his words.
“This is the second time, sir, that you seem to doubt my affirmation,” said the young priest, mildly, while he repressed a movement of impatience, “I assure you that I speak the truth.”
“He knows nothing,” thought Rodin; for he was too well convinced of Gabriel’s sincerity to retain the least doubt after so positive a declaration. “I believe you,” went on he. “The idea only occurred to me in reflecting what could be the reason of sufficient weight to induce you to transgress Father d’Aigrigny’s orders with regard to the absolute retirement he had commanded, which was to exclude all communication with those without. Much more, contrary to all the rules of our house, you ventured to shut the door of your room, whereas it ought to remain half open, that the mutual inspection enjoined us might be the more easily practiced. I could only explain these sins against discipline, by the necessity of some very important conversation with your adopted mother.”
“It was to a priest, and not to her adopted son, that Madame Baudoin wished to speak,” replied Gabriel, in a tone of deep seriousness. “I closed my door because I was to hear a confession.”
“And what had Frances Baudoin of such importance to confess?”
“You will know that by-and-bye, when I speak to his reverence—if it be his pleasure that you should hear me.”
These words were so firmly spoken, that a long silence ensued. Let us remind the reader that Gabriel had hitherto been kept by his superiors in the most complete ignorance of the importance of the family interests which required his presence in the Rue Saint-Francois. The day before, Frances Baudoin, absorbed in her own grief, had forgotten to tell him that the two orphans also should be present at this meeting, and had she even thought of it, Dagobert would have prevented her mentioning this circumstance to the young priest.