“Yes, you should do so, in the name of justice and honor?” cried Dagobert.
“It may be so, sir, in your opinion; but in my view of the case, I remain faithful to justice and honor, by executing with exactness the last will of the dead. For the rest you have no occasion to despair. If the persons, whose interests you represent, consider themselves injured, they may hereafter have recourse to an action at law, against the person receiving as donee of the Abbe Gabriel—but in the meanwhile, it is my duty to put him in immediate possession of the securities. I should be gravely injured, were I to act in any, other manner.”
The notary’s observations seemed so reasonable, that Samuel, Dagobert and Agricola were quite confounded. After a moment’s thought, Gabriel appeared to take a desperate resolution, and said to the notary, in a firm voice—
“Since, under these circumstances, the law is powerless to obtain the right, I must adopt, sir, an extreme course. Before doing so, I will ask M. l’Abbe d’Aigrigny, for the last time, if he will content himself with that portion of the property which falls justly to me, on condition that the rest shall be placed in safe hands, till the heirs, whose names have been brought forward, shall prove their claim.”
“To this proposition I must answer as I have done already,” replied Father d’Aigrigny; “it is not I who am concerned, but an immense work of charity. I am, therefore, obliged to refuse the part-offer of the Abbe Gabriel, and to remind him of his engagements of every kind.”
“Then you refuse this arrangement?” asked Gabriel, in an agitated voice.
“Charity commands me to do so.”
“You refuse it—absolutely?”
“I think of all the good and pious institutions that these treasures will enable us to establish for the Greater Glory of the Lord, and I have neither the courage nor the desire to make the least concession.”
“Then, sir,” resumed the good priest, in a still more agitated manner, “since you force me to do it, I revoke my donation. I only intended to dispose of my own property, and not of that which did not belong to me.”
“Take care M. l’Abbe,” said rather d’Aigrigny; “I would observe that I hold in my hand a written, formal promise.”
“I know it, sir; you have a written paper, in which I take an oath never to revoke this donation, upon any pretext whatever, and on pain of incurring the aversion and contempt of all honest men. Well, sir! be it so,” said Gabriel, with deep bitterness; “I will expose myself to all the consequences of perjury; you may proclaim it everywhere. I may be hated and despised by all—but God will judge me!” The young priest dried a tear, which trickled from his eye.
“Oh! do not be afraid, my dear boy!” cried Dagobert, with reviving hope. “All honest men will be on your side!”
“Well done, brother!” said Agricola.
“M. Notary,” said Rodin, in his little sharp voice, “please to explain to Abbe Gabriel, that he may perjure himself as much as he thinks fit, but that the Civil Code is much less easy to violate than a mere promise, which is only—sacred!”