“A codicil,” answered the notary; “a codicil, which reopens the whole question.”
“How, sir?” cried Father d’Aigrigny, in a fury, as he hastily drew nearer to the notary, “reopens the whole question! By what right?”
“It is impossible,” added Rodin. “We protest against it.
“Gabriel! father! listen,” cried Agricola, “all is not lost. There is yet hope. Do you hear, Gabriel? There is yet hope.”
“What do you say?” exclaimed the young priest, rising, and hardly believing the words of his adopted brother.
“Gentlemen,” said the notary; “I will read to you the superscription of this envelope. It changes, or rather, it adjourns, the whole of the testamentary provisions.”
“Gabriel!” cried Agricola, throwing himself on the neck of the missionary, “all is adjourned, nothing is lost!”
“Listen, gentlemen,” said the notary; and he read as follows:
“’This is a Codicil, which for reasons herein stated, adjourns and prorogues to the 1st day of June, 1832, though without any other change, all the provisions contained in the testament made by me, at one o’clock this afternoon. The house shall be reclosed, and the funds left in the hands of the same trustee, to be distributed to the rightful claimants on the 1st of June, 1832.
“`Villetaneuse, this 13th of February, 1682, eleven o’clock at night. “‘Marius de Rennepont.’”
“I protest against this codicil as a forgery!” cried Father d’Aigrigny livid with rage and despair.
“The woman who delivered it to the notary is a suspicious character,” added Rodin. “The codicil has been forged.”
“No, sir,” said the notary, severely; “I have just compared the two signatures, and they are absolutely alike. For the rest—what I said this morning, with regard to the absent heirs, is now applicable to you—the law is open; you may dispute the authenticity of this codicil. Meanwhile, everything will remain suspended—since the term for the adjustment of the inheritance is prolonged for three months and a half.”
When the notary had uttered these last words, Rodin’s nails dripped blood; for the first time, his wan lips became red.
“Oh, God! Thou hast heard and granted my prayer!” cried Gabriel, kneeling down with religious fervor, and turning his angelic face towards heaven. “Thy sovereign justice has not let iniquity triumph!”
“What do you say, my brave boy?” cried Dagobert, who, in the first tumult of joy, had not exactly understood the meaning of the codicil.
“All is put off, father!” exclaimed the smith; “the heirs will have three months and a half more to make their claim. And now that these people are unmasked,” added Agricola, pointing to Rodin and Father d’Aigrigny, “we have nothing more to fear from them. We shall be on our guard; and the orphans, Mdlle. de Cardoville, my worthy master, M. Hardy, and this young Indian, will all recover their own.”