“Be saved then!” cried Father d’Aigrigny, forgetting the recommendations of Dr. Baleinier; “read, rejoice! What you foretold is beginning to be realized!”
So saying, he drew a paper from his pocket, and delivered it to Rodin, who seized it with an eager and trembling hand. Some minutes before, Rodin would have been really incapable of continuing his conversation with the cardinal, even if prudence had allowed him to do so; nor could he have read a single line, so dim had his sight become. But, at the words of Father d’Aigrigny, he felt such a renewal of hope and vigor, that, by a mighty effort of energy and will, he rose to a sitting posture, and, with clear head, and look of intelligent animation, he read rapidly the paper that Father d’Aigrigny had just delivered to him.
The cardinal, amazed at this sudden transfiguration, asked himself if he beheld the same man, who, a few minutes before, had fallen back on his bed, almost insensible. Hardly had Rodin finished reading, than he uttered a cry of stifled joy, saying, with an accent impossible to describe: “One gone! it works—’tis well!” And, closing his eyes in a kind of ecstatic transport, a smile of proud triumph overspread his face, and rendered him still more hideous, by discovering his yellow and gumless teeth. His emotion was so violent, that the paper fell from his trembling hand.
“He has fainted,” cried Father d’Aigrigny, with uneasiness, as he leaned over Rodin. “It is my fault, I forgot that the doctor cautioned me not to talk to him of serious matters.”
“No; do not reproach yourself,” said Rodin, in a low voice, half-raising himself in the bed. “This unexpected joy may perhaps cure me. Yes—I scarce know what I feel—but look at my cheeks—it seems to me, that, for the first time since I have been stretched on this bed of pain, they are a little warm.”
Rodin spoke the truth. A slight color appeared suddenly on his livid and icy cheeks; his voice though still very weak, became less tremulous, and he exclaimed, in a tone of conviction that startled Father d’Aigrigny and the prelate, “This first success answers for the others. I read the future. Yes, yes; our cause will triumph. Every member of the execrable Rennepont family will be crushed—and that soon you will see—”
Then, pausing, Rodin threw himself back on the pillow, exclaiming: “Oh! I am choked with joy. My voice fails me.”
“But what is it?” asked the cardinal of Father d’Aigrigny.
The latter replied, in a tone of hypocritical sanctity: “One of the heirs of the Rennepont family, a poor fellow, worn out with excesses and debauchery, died three days ago, at the close of some abominable orgies, in which he had braved the cholera with sacrilegious impiety. In consequence of the indisposition that kept me at home, and of another circumstance, I only received to-day the certificate of the death of this victim of intemperance and irreligion. I must proclaim it to the praise of his reverence”—pointing to Rodin—“that he told me, the worst enemies of the descendants of that infamous renegade would be their own bad passions, and that the might look to them as our allies against the whole impious race. And so it has happened with Jacques Rennepont.”