“Yes, my lord; and this cession, which was at first informal, has lately, with his free consent, been made perfectly regular in law; for he had sworn, happen what might, to renounce his part of the inheritance in favor of the Society of Jesus. Nevertheless, his Reverence Father Rodin thinks, that if your Eminence, after explaining to Abbe Gabriel that he was about to be recalled by his superiors, were to propose to him some eminent position at Rome, he might be induced to leave France, and we might succeed in arousing within him those sentiments of ambition which are doubtless only sleeping for the present; your Eminence, having observed, very judiciously, that every reformer must be ambitious.”
“I approve of this idea,” said the cardinal, after a moment’s reflection; “with his merit and power of acting on other men, Abbe Gabriel may rise very high, if he is docile; and if he should not be so, it is better for the safety of the Church that he should be at Rome than here—for you know, my good father, we have securities that are unfortunately wanting in France."
After some moments of silence, the cardinal said suddenly to Father d’Aigrigny: “As we were talking of Father Rodin, tell me frankly what you think of him.”
“Your Eminence knows his capacity,” said Father d’Aigrigny, with a constrained and suspicious air; “our reverend Father-General—”
“Commissioned him to take your place,” said the cardinal; “I know that. He told me so at Rome. But what do you think of the character of Father Rodin? Can one have full confidence in him?”
“He has so complete, so original, so secret, and so impenetrable a mind,” said Father d’Aigrigny, with hesitation, “that it is difficult to form any certain judgment with respect to him.”
“Do you think him ambitious?” said the cardinal, after another moment’s pause. “Do you not suppose him capable of having other views than those of the greater glory of his Order?—Come, I have reasons for speaking thus,” added the prelate, with emphasis.
“Why,” resumed Father d’Aigrigny, not without suspicion, for the game is played cautiously between people of the same craft, “what should your Eminence think of him, either from your own observation, or from the report of the Father-General?”
“I think—that if his apparent devotion to his Order really concealed some after-thought—it would be well to discover it—for, with the influence that he has obtained at Rome (as I have found out), he might one day, and that shortly, become very formidable.”
“Well!” cried Father d’Aigrigny, impelled by his jealousy of Rodin; “I am, in this respect, of the same opinion as your Eminence; for I have sometimes perceived in him flashes of ambition, that were as alarming as they were extraordinary—and since I must tell all to your Eminence—”
Father d’Aigrigny was unable to continue; at this moment Mrs. Grivois, who had been knocking at the door, half-opened it, and made a sign to her mistress. The princess answered by bowing her head, and Mrs. Grivois again withdrew. A second afterwards Rodin entered the room.