The background of this picture also represented a stormy sky; but, beyond some rocks in the distance, the sea was visible, and appeared to mingle with the dark clouds. The sun, just now shining upon these two remarkable figures (which it appeared impossible to forget, after once seeing them), augmented their brilliancy.
Starting from his reverie, and casting his eyes by chance upon these portraits, Samuel was greatly struck with them. They appeared almost alive. “What noble and handsome faces!” he exclaimed, as he approached to examine them more closely. “Whose are these portraits? They are not those of any of the Rennepont family, for my father told me that they are all in the Hall of Mourning. Alas!” added the old man, “one might think, from the great sorrow expressed in their countenances, that they ought to have a place in that mourning-chamber.”
After a moment’s silence, Samuel resumed: “Let me prepare everything for this solemn assembly, for it has struck ten.” So saying, he placed the gilded arm-chairs round the table, and then continued, with a pensive air: “The hour approaches, and of the descendants of my grandfather’s benefactor, we have seen only this young priest, with the angelic countenance. Can he be the sole representative of the Rennepont family? He is a priest, and this family will finish with him! Well! the moment is come when I must open this door, that the will may be read. Bathsheba is bringing hither the notary. They knock at the door; it is time!” And Samuel, after casting a last glance towards the place where the clock had struck ten, hastened to the outer door, behind which voices were now audible.
He turned the key twice in the lock, and threw the portals open. To his great regret, he saw only Gabriel on the steps, between Rodin and Father d’Aigrigny. The notary, and Bathsheba, who had served them as a guide, waited a little behind the principal group.
Samuel could not repress a sigh, as he stood bowing on the threshold, and said to them: “All is ready, gentlemen. You may walk in.”
When Gabriel, Rodin, and Father d’Aigrigny entered the Red Room, they were differently affected. Gabriel, pale and sad, felt a kind of painful impatience. He was anxious to quit this house, though he had already relieved himself of a great weight, by executing before the notary, secured by every legal formality, a deed making over all his rights of inheritance to Father d’Aigrigny. Until now it had not occurred to the young priest, that in bestowing the care upon him, which he was about to reward so generously, and in forcing his vocation by a sacrilegious falsehood, the only object of Father d’Aigrigny might have been to secure the success of a dark intrigue. In acting as he did, Gabriel was not yielding, in his view of the question, to a sentiment of exaggerated delicacy. He had made this donation freely, many years before. He would have looked upon it as infamy now to withdraw it. It was hard enough to be suspected of cowardice: for nothing in the world would he have incurred the least reproach of cupidity.