“My dear son,” said Father d’Aigrigny, affectionately, “if this were a donation for my own advantage, believe me I should require no better security than your word. But here I am, as it were, the agent of the Society, or rather the trustee of the poor, who will profit by your generosity. For the sake of humanity, therefore, we cannot secure this gift by too many legal precautions, so that the unfortunate objects of our care may have certainty instead of vague hopes to depend upon. God may call you to him at any moment, and who shall say that your heirs will be so ready to keep the oath you have taken?”
“You are right, father,” said Gabriel, sadly; “I had not thought of the case of death, which is yet so probable.”
Hereupon, Samuel opened the door of the room, and said: “Gentlemen, the notary has just arrived. Shall I show him in? At ten o’clock precisely, the door of the house will be opened.”
“We are the more glad to see the notary,” said Rodin, “as we just happen to have some business with him. Pray ask him to walk in.”
“I will bring him to you instantly,” replied Samuel, as he went out.
“Here is a notary,” said Rodin to Gabriel. “If you have still the same intentions, you can legalize your donation in presence of this public officer, and thus save yourself from a great burden for the future.”
“Sir,” said Gabriel, “happen what may, I am as irrevocably engaged by this written promise, which I beg you to keep, father”—and he handed the paper to Father d’Aigrigny “as by the legal document, which I am about to sign,” he added, turning to Rodin.
“Silence, my dear son,” said Father d’Aigrigny; “here is the notary,” just as the latter entered the room.
During the interview of the administrative officer with Rodin, Gabriel, and Father d’Aigrigny, we shall conduct the reader to the interior of the walled-up house.
The red room.
As Samuel had said, the door of the walled-up house had just been disencumbered of the bricks, lead, and iron, which had kept it from view, and its panels of carved oak appeared as fresh and sound, as on the day when they had first been withdrawn from the influence of the air and time. The laborers, having completed their work, stood waiting upon the steps, as impatient and curious as the notary’s clerk, who had superintended the operation, when they saw Samuel slowly advancing across the garden, with a great bunch of keys in his hand.
“Now, my friends,” said the old man, when he had reached the steps, “your work is finished. The master of this gentleman will pay you, and I have only to show you out by the street door.”
“Come, come, my good fellow,” cried the clerk, “you don’t think. We are just at the most interesting and curious moment; I and these honest masons are burning to see the interior of this mysterious house, and you would be cruel enough to send us away? Impossible!”