“My dear son, what is the matter?” said Father d’Aigrigny, as astonished as Samuel and the notary.
“Eight months ago,” replied the missionary, in a voice of deep emotion, without once taking his eyes from the picture, “I was in the power of the Indians, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. They had crucified, and were beginning to scalp me; I was on the point of death, when Divine Providence sent me unexpected aid—sent me this woman for a deliverer.”
“That woman!” cried Samuel, Father d’Aigrigny, and the notary, all together.
Rodin alone appeared completely indifferent to this episode of the picture. His face contracted with angry impatience, he bit his nails to the quick, as he contemplated with agony the slow progress of the hands of his watch.
“What! that woman saved your life?” resumed Father d’Aigrigny.
“Yes, this woman,” replied Gabriel, in a still lower and more trembling voice; “this woman—or rather a woman so much resembling her, that if this picture had not been here for a century and a half, I should have felt sure it was the same—nor can I explain to myself that so striking a resemblance could be the effect of chance. Well,” added he, after a moment’s silence, as he heaved a profound sigh, “the mysteries of Nature, and the will of God, are impenetrable.”
Gabriel fell back into his chair, in the midst of a general silence, which was broken by Father d’Aigrigny saying, “It is a case of extraordinary resemblance; that is all, my dear son. Only, the natural gratitude which you feel towards your benefactress, makes you take a deep interest in this singular coincidence.”
Rodin, bursting with impatience, here said to the notary, by whose side he stood, “It seems to me, sir, that all this little romance has nothing to do with the testament.”
“You are right,” answered the notary, resuming his seat; “but the fact is so extraordinary, and as you say, romantic, that one cannot help sharing in this gentleman’s astonishment.”
He pointed to Gabriel, who, with his elbow resting on the arms of the chair, leaned his forehead upon his hand, apparently quite absorbed in thought. The notary continued the reading of the will, as follows:
“’Such are the persecutions to which my family has been exposed on the part of the Society of Jesus.
“’The Society possesses at this hour the whole of my confiscated property. I am about to die. May its hatred perish with me, and spare my kindred, whose fate at this solemn moment is my last and only thought.
“’This morning I sent for a man of long tried probity Isaac Samuel. He owes his life to me, and every day I congratulate myself on having been able to preserve to the world so honest and excellent a creature.
“’Before the confiscation of my property, Isaac Samuel had long managed it with as much intelligence as uprightness. I have entrusted him with the fifty thousand crowns, returned to me by a faithful friend. Isaac Samuel, and his descendants after him, to whom he will leave this debt of gratitude, will invest the above sum, and allow it to accumulate, until the expiration of the hundred and fiftieth year from this time.