Samuel Brohl & Company
Part 2 out of 4
his crime, which he has not disguised. How differently we think! I
have some fortune; its only advantage that I can see is that it makes
me free to marry the man I esteem, though he be poor."
"And perhaps a little because of that very reason," interrupted M.
Moriaz, in his turn. "Come, I entreat you, let me explain the
anxieties arising from my miserable good sense. M. Larinski has
related his history to us. Frankly, do you not think that it is rather
that--what shall I say--of an adventurer? The word shocks you--I take
it back--but you must admit that this Pole belongs to the--ambulatory
"Or family of heroes," she replied.
"That is it, of wandering heroes. I wish all manner of good to heroes,
although I never have clearly discovered their use. At all events, I
am not sure that they are the best qualified men in the world to make
a wife happy, and I intend that my daughter shall be happy."
"You are not convinced as I am that M. Larinski has a superior mind,
and a heart of gold?"
"A heart of gold! I should be glad to believe it. I have no reason to
doubt it; but many very skilful persons are deceived by false
jewellery. Ah! my dear, if you were better versed in chemistry, you
would know how easy it is to manufacture a false trinket. Formerly,
after having cleaned the piece to be gilded, a gold amalgam was
applied. Now, the brass or copper trinket is steeped in a solution of
perchloride of gold and bicarbonate of potash, and in less than a
minute the thing is accomplished. It is called gilding by immersion.
There is another process in which galvanism-- But let us admit that M.
Larinski's heart is real gold. In the purest gold there is usually
some alloy, to dispense with which resort must be had to the cupel. Do
you not know what a cupel is? It is a small capsule or cup of a porous
substance, used in the refining process, and possessing the property
of absorbing the fused oxides and retaining the refined metal. What is
the proportion of lead or of gold ore in M. Larinski's heart? Neither
you nor I know."
She was no longer listening; her chin in her hand, her glances
wandered over the glade. He touched her arm gently to rouse her, and
said: "It is all over? You love him?"
"Why will you make me say so?" she replied, blushing.
"And he has declared himself? He has dared----"
"He has dared nothing. Ah! how little you know him! If you were to
offer me to him, his pride would say no, and I would have to go down
on my knees to get the better of his refusal."
"We will say, at once, that he is unique, that he is a marvel, that
there is not a second Pole like him; the mould has been broken. And
yet are you sure that he loves you?"
She replied by a motion of the head.
"I should confess," he resumed, "that the passion that is called the
grand passion is for me a sealed letter, the mystery of mysteries. I
am completely ignorant of it. Yet that did not prevent my marrying,
and making a choice that brought me great happiness. Your method is
different, and I must believe that you have yielded to an irresistible
force. It seems to me, however, that resistance can always be made.
You have will, character--"
She interrupted him, murmuring, "It is either he or no one."
"Oh! if it comes to that," he continued, "you are of age, and mistress
of your actions; there is nothing for me but to submit. Still, it will
be painful to you, I like to believe, to marry in opposition to my
"Do you doubt it? I am willing not to marry."
"Bad solution! It is worse than the other. Let us come to terms. The
positive has its place only in science. It is absolutely true that
borax is a salt composed of boracic acid and soda. Beyond such facts
all is uncertain. Does this happy man surmise the sentiments he has
"I tell you that you do not know him? Do you take him for a coxcomb?
When he came this morning to announce his departure, his serious
intention was to bid us an eternal farewell, and never to see me
"A most excellent idea that," sighed M. Moriaz. "Unfortunately, you
represented to him that it took but two hours to go from Paris to
"I had trouble to persuade him of it."
"Well, since the matter stands thus, nothing is yet lost. You know, my
dear, that my physician advised me to beware of abrupt transitions,
and not to change too suddenly from the keen air of Engadine to the
heavy atmosphere of the plains. On leaving Saint Moritz, we will
descend five hundred metres lower, and remain three weeks at
Churwalden; consequently, we will not be in Paris for a month. You
will employ this month in somewhat calming your imagination. It is
very easy for it to become excited in these mountain-holes, without
taking into account the wearisomeness of hotel-life. From the very day
after our arrival you took a dislike to the paper in our little
/salon/, and its squares, I confess, are very ugly. In every square, a
thrush stretching out its neck to peck a currant. Two hundred thrushes
and two hundred currants--it was enough to weary you to death.
Suddenly there appears a Pole--"
"The thrushes had nothing to do with it," she replied, smiling. "A
month hence I shall say as I do to-day. 'It is either he or no one.'
And you shall choose."
"Do not repeat that formula, I beg. Fixed resolves are the prison-
house of the will. Promise me to reflect; reflection is an excellent
thing. One thing more--grant me in advance what I am going to ask
"It is granted."
"You have a godmother--"
"Ah! now we are coming to the point," she added.
"You cannot deny that Mme. De Lorcy is a woman of the world, a woman
of good sense, a woman of experience, who is deeply interested in your
"And who has decided from time immemorial, that I can only be happy on
condition that I marry her nephew, M. Camille Langis."
"Well, I admit that she is partial. That is no reason why we should
not send her our Pole. She will inspect him, she will tell us her
opinion; it will be a new element in the argument."
"Ah! I know her opinion without asking it. This woman of experience
and good sense is incapable of recognising merit in a man who is
sufficiently impertinent to make Mlle. Moriaz love him, without having
at least fifty thousand livres a year to offer her."
"What does that matter? We will let her speak--we need not question
her, an oracle; but she knows false jewellery. If she discover--"
"I would require proofs," she interrupted, quickly.
"And if she furnish them?"
She was silent an instant, then she said: "Let it be so; do as you
With these words they ended the conversation; then arose, and retook
the road to Saint Moritz. M. Moriaz scarcely had reached there, when
he entered a carriage to drive to Cellarina, provided with a portfolio
given him by Antoinette. He found M. Larinski busy strapping his
trunks, and waiting for the mail-coach that made the journey between
Samaden and Chur by the Col du Julier.
M. Moriaz expressed his regret at having missed his visit, and asked
if he would consent to charge himself with a commission for his
daughter, who desired to send to her godmother, Mme. De Lorcy, a
sketch of Saint Moritz.
"Cheerfully," coldly replied Count Abel, and he promised, so soon as
he reached Paris, to send the portfolio to Maisons Lafitte.
"Do better than that," rejoined M. Moriaz, "and carry your good-nature
so far as to take it yourself to its address. Mme. de Lorcy is an
amiable woman, who will be charmed to make your acquaintance, and hear
from you of us."
The count bowed with a submissive air. There was so little ardour in
this submission that M. Moriaz queried if his daughter had not been
dreaming, if M. Larinski was as much in love with her as she fancied.
He had not read the anonymous letter; Antoinette had refrained from
even mentioning it to him.
He was returning to Saint Moritz, when he met midway a pedestrian,
who, lost in thought, neither looked at him nor recognised him. M.
Moriaz ordered the coachman to stop, sprang out of the carriage, went
up to the traveller whom he seized by both shoulders, exclaiming:
"What, you! you again! I can go nowhere in Grisons without meeting
you. I ask as I did at Chur, 'Where do you come from?' "
"Did you think I would stay there forever?" rejoined M. Camille
Langis, reproachfully. "You have not kept your word, you have
forgotten me; you did not write to me. I am tired of waiting, so here
"And where are you going?"
"To the Hotel Badrutt, to plead my own cause, because my advocate has
"Ah! you have chosen an excellent time," cried M. Moriaz; "you have a
real genius for arriving in season. Go, hurry, plead, moan, weep,
entreat; you will be well received; you can come and tell me all about
"What do you mean?" asked Camille; "is it all over? Have you spoken,
and did she silence you?"
"Not at all; she listened to me, without enthusiasm, it is true, but
with attention and deference, when suddenly--Ah! my poor friend, how
can it be helped? This sad world is full of accidents and Poles."
M. Langis looked at him in amazement, as if to ask for an explanation.
M. Moriaz continued: "Do yourself justice. You are the most honest
fellow upon earth, I grant; you are a charming man, and an engineer of
the highest merit. But, unfortunately, there is no mystery of blood
and tears in your existence; you are perfectly unpretending, frank,
unaffected, and as transparent as crystal; in short, you are not a
stranger. Had you a delicate, blond, and romantic mother, and do you
wear her portrait on your heart? have you unfathomable green eyes?
have you adventures to relate? have you visited California? have you
swept the streets of San Francisco? have you exchanged bullets with
the Cossacks? have you been killed in three combats and in ten
skirmishes? I fear you have not even thought of dying once. Have you
tried all professions, without succeeding in one? have you invented a
gun which burst? and, above all, are you as poor as a church-mouse?
What! is it possible that you possess none of these fine advantages,
and yet are audacious enough to ask me for my daughter's hand?"
M. Moriaz ended this harangue as the Samaden mail-coach passed. Count
Abel, seated on the outside, bowed and waved his hand to them.
"Look well at that man," said M. Moriaz to Camille, "for he is the
And then, instead of giving him the remaining information that the
youth desired, he said:
"Go away and forget; it is the best thing that you can do."
"You do not know me yet," replied Camille. "I am obstinate, I fire to
the last cartridge. I will follow your steps. Oh! don't be afraid, I
will lie--deceive Antoinette; let her think that I have relinquished
my claims. I shall pay her only a friendly visit; but my eyes hunger
to see her, and I will see her."
The morning of the following day the enemy arrived at Chur, whence he
proceeded to Berne. Deponent saith not why he failed to turn aside at
Soleure, as he had expressed his intention of doing in order to pay
tribute there to the memory of the great Kosciuszko. The facts of the
case are, that from Berne he went direct to Lausanne, and that
immediately on reaching there he hastened to the Saxon Casino. When he
seated himself at the gaming-table, he experienced a violent
palpitation of the heart. His ears tingled, his brain was on fire, and
the cold sweat started out on his forehead. He cast fierce glances
right and left; he seemed to see in his partner's eyes his past, his
future, and Mlle. Moriaz life-size. Fortune made amends for the
harshness she had shown him at Milan. After a night of anguish and
many vicissitudes, at daybreak Count Abel had twenty thousand francs
in his pocket. It was sufficient to pay his debts, which he was
anxious to do, and to enable him to await without too much impatience
the moment for executing his projects.
He left the casino, his face flushed and radiant; he was so joyful
that he became tender and affectionate, and, had M. Guldenthal himself
come in his way, he could have embraced him.
Although he had said nothing about it to Mlle. Moriaz in narrating to
her his voyages and Odysseys, Count Abel was already acquainted with
Paris, having made several long sojourns there. This may seem
improbable. Gone in his early youth to America, he had not recrossed
the ocean until he returned to fight in Poland; since then he had
lived in Roumania and Vienna. Where, then, had he found time to visit
France? Certain it is, however, that he was at home on the boulevard,
and that he knew well the streets that led to the places where Paris
amuses itself; but he had no thoughts now for amusements.
Notwithstanding the fact that his purse was full, he proposed to live
a retired and austere life. He found suitable apartments in one of the
lodging-houses of Rue Mont-Thabor. These apartments, on the fifth
floor, were pleasant but modest; they consisted of two rooms having a
view of the chestnut-trees in the garden of the Tuileries. The
portress was a nice woman, whose good-will Count Abel gained on the
very first day. He considered it useful, in the affairs of this world,
to be at peace with both conscience and portress.
After getting installed in his garret his first care was to write to
M. Moses Guldenthal. He informed him that he was ready to refund
interest and capital, and he commissioned him to pay off some trifling
debts that he had left in Vienna; he also desired him to send him the
bracelet, which he hoped to make use of. He felt a genuine relief in
the thought that he owed no man anything, that his condition was clear
and transparent. When a man is proud he likes to be out of debt, and
when he is clever he foresees all possible contingencies. His second
care was to go to the Passage de l'Opera and buy a bouquet for sixty
francs, which he carried to No. 27 Rue Mouffetard. He had one of those
memories that retain everything and let nothing escape them. This
bouquet--the most beautiful Mlle. Galet ever had received--caused her
great astonishment. She did not know to whom to attribute it, the
modest donor having escaped from the effusions of her gratitude by not
making himself known. She supposed that Mlle. Moriaz had sent it to
her, and, as she had taste for composition, she wrote to her a four
page letter of thanks.
Count Abel had not forgotten that he was the bearer of a commission
from Mlle Moriaz. A few days after his arrival, he decided to go to
Maisons, but to take the longest route there; he wanted to see
Cormeilles in passing, and a certain villa in which he was
particularly interested. He went in the Argenteuil cars, got out at
Sannois, climbed that pretty hill that commands the loveliest of
views, and stopped at the inn of Trouillet mills in order to breakfast
there. The morning was charming--it was in the middle of August--and
the approach of autumn was already felt, which enhances the beauty of
all things. The sky was flecked with small gray clouds; a light,
silvery mist hung on the brow of the hills; in two places the Seine
appeared glittering in the sunshine. Abel breakfasted in the open air;
while eating he gazed on the sky and on the great garden-plain
extending at his feet, covered with vegetables, grape-vines, and
asparagus, interspersed with fruit-trees. The wooded hills bordering
it formed an admirable frame. In his present mood Count Larinski was
charmed with the landscape, which was at once grand and smiling. Then
he questioned himself as to how much a bed of asparagus would yield at
the gates of Paris, and, having finished his calculation, he surveyed
with the eye of a poet the heather and broom that surrounded him. He
decided that the Sannois Hill is more beautiful than Koseg; and indeed
it is not necessary to be in love with Mlle. Moriaz to hold that
After having had a good breakfast, he again set out, following the
crest of the hill and going through the woods. As he approached
Cormeilles, he saw in the distance, beyond a grove of oaks, the white
walls of a pretty villa. His heart beat faster, and by a sort of
divination he said within himself, "That must be it." He inquired; he
had made no mistake. Five minutes later he stood before a railing,
through which he saw a green lawn. At the entrance of the porter's
lodge a woman sat knitting.
"Can you tell me where M. Moriaz lives?" asked Count Larinski.
"Here, monsieur," she replied; "but M. Moriaz is absent; he will not
return for a month. If you come from a distance, monsieur," she added,
graciously, "perhaps you would like to rest awhile on the terrace. The
view is beautiful."
This hospitable reception seemed a good omen, for, sensible as he was,
he believed in presentiments and prognostics. He entered without
waiting to be urged. When he had crossed the lawn he stood facing two
detached buildings, separated by a mass of verdure: to the right, an
old summer-house, used from time immemorial for M. Moriaz's
collections, laboratory, and library; to the left, a new two-story
house, part stone, part brick, built in an elegant but unobtrusive
style, without ornament or pretension, and flanked by a turret covered
with ivy and clematis, which served for a dove-cote. The house was not
a palace, but there was an air about it of well-being, comfort, and
happiness. In looking at it you felt like saying, "The inmates here
ought to be happy!" This was about what Count Abel said to himself; in
fact, he could hardly refrain from exclaiming, "Dieu! how happy I
shall be here!" The situation, the terrace, the garden, everything
pleased him infinitely. It seemed to him that the air here was
fresher, more delightful than elsewhere, that it was exhilarating in
the extreme; it seemed to him that the grass on the lawn was greener
than any grass he ever had seen before, that the flowers in the
carefully tended borders exhaled an unusually delicious perfume. He
espied an open window on the ground-floor. He drew near it; the room
into which he gazed, full of /bric-a-brac/ of exquisite choice, was
Mlle. Moriaz's study. There was in the appearance of this little
sanctuary, hung with white silken drapery, and as elegant as the
divinity whose favourite tarrying-place it was, something of purity,
chastity, and maidenliness. It opened its windows to the fresh breezes
and to the perfume of the flowers; but it seemed as if nothing could
penetrate there that was coarse or suspicious; that the entrance was
forbidden to all doubtful or malignant beings who might have a secret
crime to hide, to all pilgrims through life who had travelled its
highways and had brought hence dust and mud on the soles of their
shoes. Strange to say, Count Abel experienced an attack of timidity
and embarrassment. He felt that he was indiscreet; he averted his eyes
and went away.
This impression was soon dispelled. He regained his assurance, and
walked around the terrace twice, treading the gravel with the step of
a conqueror, making it feel the full weight of his foot. He finally
seated himself on a bench; he had the nonchalant attitude of a man who
is at home. Five or six doves were billing and cooing on the ledge of
the roof; he could readily understand that they were talking of him,
and that they were saying, "Here he is--we have been waiting for him."
A beautiful Angora cat, white as snow, with delicate nose and silky
hair, came, arching her back and waving her bushy tail, from out a
grove, and advanced towards him. She examined him curiously an
instant, rubbed herself against the bench, and then sat coquettishly
at the feet of the intruder. He caressed her, saying: "You are as
white and graceful as your mistress; you are an intelligent animal;
you understand, my dear, that I come from her. Shall I tell you a
secret? She loves Count Abel Larinski."
With these words he rose and left, after thanking the portress, who
would have been extremely astonished had she been aware of the
reflections that had just been occupying his mind. He went a short
distance on the highway, then finding, to the right, a road that led
to Cormeilles, he took it, but soon struck into a path that wound
through the woods. He was sorry to leave a spot that spoke vividly to
his heart, and even more so to his imagination. He seated himself on
the turf, in the midst of a grove of oaks; around him stretched a
blooming heath. Through an opening in the grove, he could see Saint-
Germain, its forests, and the Seine glittering in the sunshine, with
the two bridges of Maisons Lafitte spanning it with their arches.
Through another opening he caught a glimpse, to his left, of the proud
bastions of Mont-Valerien, and, in the distance, Paris, the Arc de
l'Etoile, the gilt dome of the Invalides, and the smoke of the
factories rising slowly in the air, then by turns remaining stiff and
motionless, or being swept away by the wind.
The place was retired, solitary, very still. No sound was to be heard
save the singing of a lark, and at intervals the melancholy cry of a
peacock. Abel Larinski was overcome by a mysterious emotion; he felt a
voluptuous languor steal through his veins. He watched the smoke over
Paris, and he saw floating in it an ethereal form whose face was
partly concealed by a red hood. It smiled on him, and he read in this
smile a promise of all the joys of the land of Canaan.
He turned away his eyes, partially closing them, and there appeared
another form to him--in truth, very different from the first. It was
that of a man whom he had known intimately, of a man whom he had
deeply loved. In vain the lark sang aloud, in vain the peacock wailed
--Abel Larinski no longer heard them. He was thinking of a certain
Samuel Brohl; he was reviewing in his mind all the history of this
Samuel, a man who never had had a secret from him. This history was
quite as sad a one as that of Abel Larinski, but much less brilliant,
much less heroic. Samuel Brohl prided himself neither on being a
patriot nor a paladin; his mother had not been a noble woman with the
smile of an angel, and the thought never had occurred to him of
fighting for any cause or any person. He was not a Pole, although born
in a Polish province of the Austrian Empire. His father was a Jew, of
German extraction, as indicated by his name, which signifies a place
where one sinks in the mire, a bog, swamp, or something of that
nature; and he kept a tavern in a wretched little market-town near the
eastern frontier of Galicia--a forlorn tavern, a forlorn tavern-
keeper. Although always on the alert to sell adulterated brandy to his
neighbour, and to seize the opportunity to lend him money on usury, he
did not thrive: he was a coward of whose timidity every one took
advantage to make him disgorge his ill-gotten gains. His creed
consisted in three doctrines: he firmly believed that the arts of
lying well, of stealing well, and of receiving a blow in the face
without apparently noticing it, were the most useful arts to human
life; but, of the three, the last was the only one that he practised
successfully. His intentions were good, but his intellect deficient.
This arrant rogue was only a petty knave that any one could dupe.
Abel Larinski transported himself, in thought, to the tavern in which
Samuel Brohl had spent his first youth, and which was as familiar to
him as though he had lived there himself. The smoky hovel rose before
him: he could smell the odour of garlic and tallow; he could see the
drunken guests--some seated round the long table, others lying under
it--the damp and dripping walls, and the rough, dirty ceiling. He
remembered a panel in the wainscoting against which a bottle had been
broken, in the heat of some dispute; it had left a great stain of wine
that resembled a human face. He remembered, too, the tavern-keeper, a
little man with a dirty, red beard, whose demeanour was at once timid
and impudent. He saw him as he went and came, then saw him suddenly
turn, lift the end of his caftan and wipe his cheek on it. What had
happened? An insolvent debtor had spit in his face; he bore it
smilingly. This smile was more repulsive to Count Abel than the great
stain that resembled a human face.
"Children should be permitted to choose their fathers," he thought.
And yet this poor Samuel Brohl came very near living as happy and
contented in the paternal mire as a fish in water. Habit and practice
reconcile one even to dirt; and there are people who eat and digest
it. What made Samuel Brohl think of reading Shakespeare? Poets are
The way it happened was this. Samuel had picked up, somewhere, a
volume which had dropped from a traveller's pocket. It was a German
translation of /The Merchant of Venice/. He read it, and did not
understand it; he reread it, and ended by understanding it. It
produced a wild confusion of ideas in his mind; he thought that he was
becoming insane. Little by little, the chaos became less tumultuous;
order began to reign, light to dawn. Samuel Brohl felt that he had had
a film over his eyes, and that it was now removed. He saw things that
he never had seen before, and he felt joy mingled with terror. He
learned /The Merchant of Venice/ by heart. He shut himself up in the
barn, so that he might cry out with Shylock: "Hath not a Jew eyes?
hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we
not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall
we not revenge?" He repeated, too, with Lorenzo:
"Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins:
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."
Samuel sometimes rose at night to watch the heavens, and he fancied he
heard the voices of the "young-eyed cherubins." He dreamed of a world
where Jessicas and Portias were to be met, of a world where Jews were
as proud as Shylock, as vindictive as Shylock, and, as Shylock, ate
the hearts of their enemies for revenge. He also dreamed, poor fool,
that there was in Samuel Brohl's mind or bosom an immortal soul, and
that in this soul there was music, but that he could not hear it
because the muddy vesture of decay too grossly closed it in. Then he
experienced a feeling of disgust for Galicia, for the tavern, for the
tavern-keeper, and for Samuel Brohl himself. An old schoolmaster, who
owned a harpsichord, taught him to play on it, and, believing he was
doing good, lent him books. One day, Samuel modestly expressed to his
father a desire to go to the gymnasium at Lemberg to learn various
things that seemed good to him to know. It was then that he received
from the paternal hand a great blow, which made him see all the stars
of heaven in broad daylight. Old Jeremiah Brohl had taken a dislike to
his son Samuel Brohl, because he thought he saw something in his eyes
that seemed to say that Samuel despised his father.
"Poor devil!" murmured Count Abel, picking up a pebble and tossing it
into the air. "Fate owes him compensation, it has dealt so roughly
with him thus far. He fell from the frying-pan into the fire; he
exchanged his servitude for a still worse slavery. When he left the
land of Egypt, he fancied he saw the palms of the promised land. Alas!
it was not long before he regretted Egypt and Pharaoh! Why was not
this woman Portia? why was she neither young nor beautiful?" And he
added: "Ah! old fairy, you made him suffer!"
It seemed to Count Larinski that this woman, this ugly fairy who had
made Samuel Brohl suffer so much, stood there, before him, and that
she scanned him from head to foot, as a fairy, whether old or young,
might scan a worm. She had an imperious, contemptuous smile on her
lips, the smile of a czarina; so Catharine II smiled, when she was
dissatisfied with Potemkin, and said to herself, "I made him what he
is, and to-morrow I can ruin him." "Yes, it was she, it was surely
she," thought Count Larinski. "I cannot mistake. I saw her five weeks
ago, in the Vallee du Diable; she made me tremble!"
This woman who had taken Samuel Brohl from out of the land of Egypt,
and had showered attentions upon him, was a Russian princess. She
owned an estate of Podolia, and chance would have it that one day, in
passing, she stopped at the tavern where young Samuel was growing up
in the shadow of the tabernacle. He was then sixteen. In spite of his
squalid rags, she was struck by his figure. She was a woman of
intelligence, and had no prejudices. "When he is well washed and cared
for," she thought, "when he is divested of his native impurities, when
he has seen the world and had communication with honest people, he
certainly will be a noble fellow." She made him talk, and found him
intelligent; she liked intelligent men. She made him sing, assured
herself that he had a voice; she adored music. She questioned him; he
told her all his misery, and while he talked she said to herself: "No,
I do not mistake; he has a future before him; in two or three years he
will be superb. Three years is not long: the gardener who grafts a
young tree is often condemned to wait longer than that." When he had
ended his narrative, she told him that she was in want of a secretary,
that she had had several, but that she had soon tired of them, on
account of their not having the desired qualifications; she asked him
if he would like to accept the position. He replied only by pointing
his finger to his father, who was smoking his pipe on the door-step. A
moment later she was closeted with Jeremiah Brohl.
She at once proposed to him to buy his son; he dropped his arms in
astonishment, then felt delighted and charmed. He declared, at first,
that his son was not for sale; and then he insinuated that if ever he
did sell him he would sell him dear; he was, according to his opinion,
merchandise of the best quality, a rich and rare article. He raised
his demands ridiculously; she exclaimed; he affirmed he could not put
them lower, that he had his terms, and that he always sold at a fixed
price. They disputed a long time; she was about to give up; he
yielded, and they ended by making the transaction. She sent for Samuel
and said to him: "My boy, you belong to me--I have bought you for
cash. You are satisfied with the bargain, are you not?"
He was stupefied to learn that he had a commercial value; he never had
suspected it. He wanted very much to know what he was worth; but the
princess was discreet upon the subject, and desired that he should
believe that he had cost her a fabulous sum. After reflection, he made
his conditions; he stipulated that he should belong to himself for
three years, which time he would employ in study and in satisfying a
multitude of curious longings.
She readily consented, as that had been her own intention: it would
take fully three years before the fruit was ripe and ready to be
served at the princely table. She gave him instructions and advice,
all bearing the stamp of a superior mind; she understood the world,
the state of public affairs, and physiology, all that can be learned,
and all that cannot be learned. Thus Samuel Brohl set out, his pocket
well filled, for the University of Prague, which he soon left to
settle at Heidelberg, whence he went to Bonn, then to Berlin, then to
Paris. He was restless, he did not know what he wanted, but wherever
he went he studied semiquavers, naturals, and flats; it was part of
The princess was herself a great traveller; two or three times a year
Samuel Brohl received a visit from her. She questioned him, examined
him, felt him, as we feel a peach to be certain it is ripe. Samuel was
very happy; he was free, he enjoyed his life, he did as he pleased.
One single thing spoiled his happiness; when he looked in the glass,
he would sometimes say within himself: "These are the features of a
man who is sold, and the woman who bought him is neither young nor
beautiful." Several times he determined to learn a trade, so that he
might be in a position to refund the debt and break the bargain. But
he never did. He was both ambitious and idle. He wanted to fly at
once; he had a horror of beginnings of apprenticeships. His early
education had been so neglected that in order to recover lost time he
would have been compelled to study hard--all the more so because,
although he was quick-witted, and had a marvellous facility for
entering into the thoughts of others, his own stock was poor; he had
no ideas of his own, nor individuality of mind. He possessed a
collection of half-talents; even in music, he was incapable of
originating; when he attempted to compose, his inspirations proved
mere reminiscences. He did himself justice; he felt that, strive as he
might, his half-talents never would aid him to secure the first
position, and he disdained the second. In fact, what he most needed
was will, which, after all, makes the man. He tried to fling himself
from his horse, which carried him where he did not desire to go; but
he felt that his feet held firm in the stirrup; he had not strength to
disengage them, and he remained in the saddle. Not being able to be a
great man, he abandoned himself to his fate, which condemned him to be
only a knave. At the expiration of his term of freedom, he declared
himself solvent, and the princess took possession of her merchandise.
"Yes, poets are corrupters," thought Count Abel Larinski. "If Samuel
Brohl never had read /The Merchant of Venice/, or /Egmont/, a tragedy
in five acts, or Schiller's ballads, he would have been resigned to
his new position; he would have seen its good sides, and would have
eaten and drunk his shame in peace, without experiencing any
uncomfortable sensations; but he had read the poets, and he grew
disgusted, nauseated. He was dying with desire to get away, and the
princess suspected it. She kept him always in sight, she held him
close, she paid him quarterly, shilling by shilling, his meagre
allowance. She said to herself: 'So long as he has nothing, he cannot
escape.' She mistook; he did escape, and he was so afraid of being
retaken that for some time he hid like a criminal, pursued by the
police. He fancied that this woman was always on his track. It was
then, for the first time, that he felt hunger, for they eat in the
land of Egypt. He lived by all sorts of expedients, and cursed the
poets. One day he learned that his father was dead; he hastened to the
old tavern in order to succeed to the inheritance. He was not aware
that for two years old Jeremiah Brohl had been in his dotage, and that
his debtors mocked him while devouring his substance. A fine
inheritance! it was diminished to two or three rickety chairs, four
cracked walls that scarcely could stand upright, and some jewellery
concealed in a hiding-place that Samuel knew of. Old Jeremiah never
had been able to dispose of it for the price he required, and he
preferred to keep it rather than lower his charge. He had principles,
which was well for Samuel, as the jewellery was useful to him. He sold
a necklace, and set out for Bucharest, some one having told him that
he certainly would make his fortune there. He gave music-lessons; this
wearisome profession did not suit him, he could not endure the
constraint and the regular hours. The boys plagued him--he would
willingly have wrung their necks; the girls treated him like a dog--
they never thought of his being handsome, because they suspected him
of being a Jew. Why had he gone to Bucharest--a city where all Germans
are Jews, and where Jews are not considered men? Although he had
earned a little money, he grew melancholy, and he began to think
seriously of killing himself."
Count Abel Larinski leaned forward, plucked a spray of heather,
tickled his lips with it, and began to laugh; then, striking his
breast, he said, in an undertone, "Thank God, Samuel Brohl is not
dead, for he is here!"
He spoke the truth: Samuel Brohl was not dead, and life was of value
to him, since he had met Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz in the cathedral in
Chur. It was Samuel Brohl who had come to Cormeilles, and who was
seated, at this moment, in the midst of a grove of oaks. Perhaps the
lark that he had heard singing a quarter of an hour before had
recognised him, for it had ceased singing. The peacock continued its
screaming, and its doleful cries sounded like a warning. Yes, the man
seated among the heather, employed in narrating his own history to
himself, was indeed Samuel Brohl, and the proof of this was that he
had laughed, while Count Abel Larinski never laughed; moreover, for
four years the latter had been out of the world. The second reason is,
perhaps, the better.
He whom, with or without his consent, we shall call henceforth Samuel
Brohl, reproached himself for this access of levity, as he would have
reproached himself for a false note that had escaped him in executing
a Mozart sonata. He resumed his grave, dignified air, in order to
salute with a wave of his hand the phantom that had just appeared
before him. It was the same that he had summoned one evening at the
Hotel Steinbock, and treated there as an addle-brain, as a visionary,
and even as an imbecile; but this time he gave him a more indulgent
and gracious reception. He bore him no ill-will, he wished him well,
he was under essential obligations to him, and Samuel Brohl was no
"Ah! well, my poor friend, I am here," he said, in that mute language
that phantoms understand. "I have taken your place, and almost your
form; I play your part in the great fair of this world, and, although
your noble body has rested for four years, six feet underground,
thanks to me you still live. I always have had a most sincere
admiration for you. I considered you a phenomenon, a prodigy. You were
courageous, devoted, generosity itself; you esteemed honour above all
the gold deposits in California; you detested all coarse thoughts and
doubtful actions; your mother had nourished you in all sublime
follies. You were a true chevalier, a true Pole, the last Don Quixote
in this age of sceptics, plunderers, and interlopers. Blessed be the
chance that made us acquainted! You lived retired, solitary, unknown,
in a miserable hovel just outside of Bucharest. So goes the world! You
were in hiding--you who had nothing to hide from either God or man--
you who deserved a crown. Alas! the Russian Government had the poor
taste not to appreciate your exploits, and you feared that it would
claim and obtain your extradition. At our first meeting I pleased you,
and you took me into your friendship; I spoke Polish, and you loved
music. I became your intimate friend, your sole companion, your
confidant. You must grant that you owe to me the last happy moments of
your short existence. I soon knew your origin, the history of your
youth, of your enterprises, and of your misfortunes. You initiated me
into the secret of the great invention that you had just made; you
explained to me in detail the mechanism of your famous gun. I was
intelligent; I understood, or thought I understood. This gun, you
said, would one day make my fortune, for, on your own account, you had
renounced all hope; you had heart-disease, and you knew that you were
condemned to a speedy end. My imagination was kindled. Through my
entreaty you decided to leave with me for Vienna. This expedition was
fatal to you, but I swear to you I did not foresee it."
Samuel crossed his hands on his knee; then he continued: "May my
tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, may my blood cease to flow in
my veins, may the marrow dry up in my bones, if ever I forget to be
grateful for what I owe to you, Abel Larinski, or cease to remember
the forlorn hovel in which we passed the first night of our journey!
You were attacked by suffocation. You had only time to call and wake
me. I hastened to you. You gave me, in a dying voice, your last
instructions. You delivered into my hands your last fifty florins,
which were as acceptable as an orange would have been to the
shipwrecked passengers of the Medusa. Then you pointed with your
finger to a box, in which were inclosed family relics, letters, your
journal, and papers. You said: 'Destroy all that; Poland is dead, let
no one remember that I have lived!' After that you breathed your last.
Well! I confess that I did not fulfil your orders. I kept your
mother's portrait, the papers, all; and, in announcing your decease to
the police, I made them believe that the man who was dead was named
Samuel Brohl, and that Count Larinski still lived. What would you have
me do? The temptation was too great. Samuel Brohl had disgraceful
antecedents, he was base-born, he had been sold; there was a stain on
his past that never could be wiped away, and, as he had had the
misfortune to read the poets, it had come about that he often despised
himself. It was, indeed, time that he should be thrown into the shade,
and my joy was extreme to know that he was dead, and to feel that I
was alive. As soon as I succeeded in persuading myself that I was
indeed Count Abel Larinski, I was as happy as a child whose parents
have dressed him in new clothes, and who struts about to show them.
With your name I acquired a noble past; in thought, I roamed through
it with delight; I visited its every nook and corner, as a poor devil
would make the circuit of a park that he has just come to inherit. You
bequeathed me your relations, your adventures, your exploits. When you
fought for your country, I was there; when you received a gun-shot-
wound near Dubrod, it was into my flesh that the bullet penetrated. Of
what do you complain? Between friends is not everything in common? I
left my own skin, I entered yours; I was satisfied there, and desired
to remain. To-day I resemble you in everything; I assure you that if
we were seen together it would be difficult to tell us apart. I have
assumed your habits, your manners, your language, the poise of your
head, your playful melancholy, your pride, your opinions, all, even to
the colour of your hair and your handwriting. Abel Larinski, I have
become you: I mistake, I am more Pole, more Larinski, than you were
At this moment Samuel Brohl had a singular expression of countenance;
his gaze was fixed. He was no longer of this world--he conversed with
a spirit; but he was neither terrified nor awed, as was Hamlet in
talking to the shade of his father. He treated familiarly the shade of
the true Abel Larinski; it was precisely as we treat a partner that
has transacted business with us in the same firm.
"It is very true, my dear Abel," he continued, "that the principle of
partnership accomplishes wonders; one man alone is a small affair.
But, of all partnerships, the most useful and convenient is the one
that we have made together. The living and the dead can render each
other important services, and they never quarrel. You should be
satisfied; you play a fine role; you are the signature of the house.
We will not speak of your gun; that was a poor speculation, for which
I scarcely can pardon you. It was the fault of your disordered brain
that we wandered off on that bypath, but, thanks be to Heaven! we have
at last gained the highway. Five weeks ago we met a woman, and what a
woman! She has velvety-brown eyes, whence glances well forth like
fresh and living waters. To praise her grace properly, I must borrow
the language of the 'Song of Solomon': 'Thy lips, O my spouse! drop as
the honey-comb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of
thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. This thy stature is like to
a palm-tree. Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. A
garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse: a spring shut up--a fountain
sealed.' Some day she will cry out, with the Shulamite, 'Let my
beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.' She
belongs to us, my dear Larinski--my dear partner; she had yielded, and
you and I share the honour of the victory. I presented myself before
her, and my presence did not displease her. I related to her your
history, as you would have related it yourself, with delicacy and
simplicity, neither adding nor omitting. Her heart was touched; her
heart was taken captive. You will wed her--she will bear your name;
but you will marry her by proxy, and I shall be your proctor. I
promise to consider myself your mandatory, or, to express it better,
you will own the property and I will have the usufruct. Never fear
that I shall forget what I owe to you, or the modesty proper to my
At these words, he made a grand gesture, as if to banish the phantom
that he had conjured up, and that fled away trembling with sorrow,
shame, and indignation. The peacock cried anew a mournful shriek.
"Stupid bird!" thought Samuel Brohl, quaking with sudden dread.
He looked at his watch, and reflected that the hour was advancing--
that he was losing time with the spirits. He rose hastily, and wended
his way toward Cormeilles; thence he wished to come upon a sunny path
that led to the banks of the Seine, and Sartrouville, the belfry of
which was plainly visible. When he reached the foot of the declivity,
he turned his head and saw, on the summit of the hill, through the
space left by the crooked branches of two plantains, a white wall,
that seemed to laugh amid the verdure, and a little higher the pointed
roof of the dove-cote, where Mlle. Moriaz's doves had their nests. He
did not need to look long at this roof to recognise it. He threw a
burning kiss in the air--a kiss that was sent to the doves as well as
to the dove-cote--to the house as well as to the woman--to the woman
as well as the house. For the first time in his life, Samuel Brohl was
in love; but Samuel Brohl's love differed from Abel Larinski's. When
they adore a woman, be she as beautiful as a picture, the frame, if it
is a rich one, pleases them as much as the painting; and they propose
to possess their mistress with all her appendages and appurtenances.
Mme. de Lorcy was a woman of about fifty years of age, who still
possessed remains of beauty. She had been a widow for long years, and
never had thought of marrying again. Although her wedded life had been
a happy one, she considered that liberty is to be prized above all
else; she employed hers in a most irreproachable manner. She was self-
possessed, even better acquainted with numbers than with dress, and
managed her property herself, which was by no means a trifling thing
to do. Liking to make good use of her time, she thought to do it by
busying herself in the affairs of others. She had a real vocation for
the profession of a consulting lawyer. Usually her advice was sensible
and judicious--nothing better could be done than to follow it; only
her clients complained that she pronounced her sentences with too
little tenderness, without granting any appeal. She was good,
charitable, but lacked unction, and she had no sympathy with the
illusions of others. A German poet, in making his New-Year offerings,
wishes that the rich may be kind-hearted, that the poor may have
bread, that the ladies may have pretty dresses, that the men may have
patience, that the foolish may get a little reason, and that sensible
people may grow poetic. Mme. de Lorcy was kind-hearted, she had pretty
dresses and a great deal of reason; but her reason was wanting in
poetry, and poetic people to whom she gave advice required a good deal
of patience to listen to the end. Those who permitted themselves to
despise her counsel, and who were happy after their own fashion,
incurred her lasting displeasure. She obstinately asserted to them
that their seeming happiness was all a deceit; that they had fastened
a stone about their necks; and that, without appearing to do so, at
the bottom of their hearts they bitterly repented. She added, "It is
not my fault; I told you, but you would not believe me."
Mme. de Lorcy had an almost maternal affection for her nephew, M.
Camille Langis. Confident that he could not be otherwise than
successful in a love-affair, she promised him that he should marry
Mlle. Moriaz. To be sure, he was rather young; but she had decided
that the question of age made no difference, and that in all else
there was a perfect fitness between the parties. M. Langis hesitated a
long time about declaring himself. He said to Mme. de Lorcy: "If she
refuse me, I shall no longer be able to see her; and so long as I can
see her, I am only half-wretched." It was Mme. de Lorcy who forced him
to draw his sword and open the campaign, in which she was to act as
second. This campaign had not been a successful one. Deeply wounded at
the refusal, which she had in vain attempted to prevent, she was ready
to force Mlle. Moriaz into compliance. They made her believe, to
pacify her, that the sentence was not definite, or at least that a
period of grace would be granted to the condemned. M. Langis set out
for Hungary, and he had now returned. In the mean time, Antoinette had
refused two offers. Mme. de Lorcy had inferred this to be a favourable
omen for her projects. Thus she felt annoyance mingled with anger on
receiving the following letter from M. Moriaz:
"You will be charmed to learn that I am extremely well. My cheeks
are full, my complexion florid, my legs as nimble as a chamois, my
appetite like that of an ogre. If ever you become anemic, which
God forbid, you should set out forthwith for Saint Moritz, and I
shall soon have good news from you. Saint Moritz is a place where
you find what you want, but you find, besides, what you do not
want. I do not speak of bears; I have not seen any, and should I
meet one, I am strong enough to strangle it. Besides, bears are
taciturn animals, they never relate their histories, and the only
animals I fear are those that have the gift of narrating, and that
one is not allowed to strangle. I will say no more. Have I made
myself intelligible? You are so intelligent.
"Apropos, Antoinette sends you a sketch or a painting, I do not
know which, that will be handed to you by Count Abel Larinski. He
is a Pole, of that there can be no doubt; you will perceive it at
once. I wish him well; he was obliging enough to extricate me from
a breakneck position into which I had foolishly thrust myself.
That I have a pair of legs to walk on, and a hand to write with, I
owe to him. I recommend him to your kind reception, and I beg you
to get him to relate his history. He is one of those who narrate,
not every day, it is true, but when you touch the right spring, he
starts, and cannot be stopped. Seriously, M. Larinski is no
ordinary man; you will find pleasure in his acquaintance. I have
discovered that he is in rather embarrassed circumstances. He is
the son of an emigrant, whose property has been confiscated. His
father was a half fool, who made great attempts to cut a channel
through the Isthmus of Panama, and never succeeded in cutting his
way through anything. He was himself beginning to earn money in
San Francisco, when, in 1863, he gave everything up to go and
fight against the Russians. This enthusiastic patriot has since
adopted the calling of an inventor, in which he has been
unsuccessful; he is now in search of a livelihood. Do not think he
will ask for anything; he is an hidalgo; he wraps himself proudly
in his poverty, as a Castilian does in his cloak. I am interested
in him,; I want to assist him, give him a lift; but, first, I wish
to feel sure that he is worthy of my sympathy. Examine him
closely, sift him well; I trust your eyes rather than my own; I
have the greatest faith in your skill in this kind of valuation.
"Antoinette sends you her most affectionate greetings. She adores
Saint Moritz; you would think that she had found something here
which has wrought a charm over her. For my own part, I am
delighted to have recovered my appetite, my sleep, and all the
rest, and yet I regret having come; can you reconcile that? Let me
know as soon as possible what you think of my Pole; but, pray do
not condemn him unheard. No hasty decision, I entreat; an expert
is bound not to be influenced by his prejudices, but to weigh his
judgments as his words. Adieu, dear madame; pity me in spite of my
Madame de Lorcy replied in these words, by return mail:
"You are indeed innocent, my dear professor, and your finesse is
but too apparent; I could not help understanding. Is she, indeed
so foolish. I did not think her overwise; but here she astonishes
me more than I would have believed. You can tell her, for me--or
rather don't say anything to her; I will only speak to you, I am
too angry to reason with her. I will see your Pole, I await him
resolutely; but, in truth, I have seen him already. I am well
acquainted with him, I know him by heart; I have no doubt that he
is some impostor. I will examine him without prejudice, with
religious impartiality. You are so good as to remind me that an
expert suspends his judgment. I will hold my police force in
reserve, and I will let you know before long what I think of your
adventurer. Ah! yes, I do pity you, poor man. After all, however,
you alone are to blame; is it my fault that you did not know how
to act? God bless you!"
At the time when Samuel Brohl, seated amid the heather, in an oak-
grove, was conversing with phantoms, Mme. de Lorcy, alone in her
/salon/, was occupied with her needlework, and her thoughts, which
revolved in a circle, like a horse in a riding-school. She had for
several days been expecting Count Abel Larinski's visit; she wondered
at his want of promptness, and suspected that he was afraid of her.
This suspicion pleased her. Several times she fancied she heard a
man's step in the antechamber, at which she started nervously, and the
rose-coloured strings of her cap fluttered on her shoulders.
Suddenly, while she was counting her stitches, with head bent down,
some one entered without her perceiving it, seized her hand, and,
devoutly kissing it, threw his hat on the table, and then dropped into
a chair, where he remained motionless, with his legs stretched out,
and his eyes riveted on the floor.
"Oh! It is you, Camille," exclaimed Mme. de Lorcy. "You come apropos.
"Well! yes, madame, that is it," replied M. Langis; "and you see
before you the most unhappy of men. Why is your pond dry? I want to
fling myself into it head foremost."
Mme. de Lorcy laid down her embroidery, and crossed her arms. "So you
have returned?" said she.
"Would to God I never had gone there! It is a land where poison is
sold, and I have drunk of it."
"Don't abuse metaphors. You have seen her? What did you say to her?"
"Nothing, madame--nothing of what is in my heart. I made her believe
that I had reflected, and changed my views; that I was entirely cured
of my foolish passion for her; that I was simply making her a friendly
visit. Yes, madame, I remained half a day with her, and during the
half day I never once betrayed myself. I convinced her that the mask
was a face. Tell me, conscientiously, have you ever read of a more
heroic act in Plutarch's /Lives of Great Men/?"
"She herself, what did she say to you?"
"She was so enchanted, so delighted with the change, that she was
dying to embrace me."
"She shall pay for it. And he, did you see him?"
"Just caught a glimpse of him, looked up to him as was befitting the
humility of my position. This fortunate man, this glorious mortal, was
enthroned on the top of the mail-coach."
"Is he really so fascinating?"
"He has, I assure you, a certain look of deep profundity, and he bears
his exploits inscribed on his brow. What am I, to contend against him!
You must allow that I have the appearance of a school-boy. And yet, if
I were to boast. This road in Transylvania for which I had the
contract was by no means easy to construct. We had to cut through the
solid rock, working in the air, suspended by ropes. This perilous
labour so disheartened our workmen that some of them left us; to
encourage the rest, I was slung up like them, and like them handled
the pickaxe. One day, in the explosion of a charge a piece of stone
struck the rope of one of my men with such violence that it cut it as
clean in two as the edge of a razor would have done. The man fell--I
believed him to be lost; by a miracle, his clothes caught in some
brushwood, to which he succeeded in clinging. It was I who went to his
assistance, and I swear to you that in this rescue I proved the
strength of my muscles, and ran the risk twenty times of breaking my
neck. The workmen had mistrusted me on account of my youth; from that
day, I can assure you, they held me in respect."
"Did you relate this incident to Antoinette?"
"What would have been the use? With women it does not suffice to be a
great man; you must have the look of one too." And Camille Langis
cried out, clinching his hands: "Ah! madame, I entreat you, do you
know where I can procure a Polish head, a Polish mustache, a Polish
smile? Pray, where are these articles to be had, and what is their
market price? I will not haggle! O women! what a set you are--plague
"And are aunts the same?" gravely asked Mme. de Lorcy.
He answered more calmly: "No, madame, you are a woman without an
equal, and I name you every day in my prayers. You are my only
resource, my consolation, my counsel. Do not refuse me your precious
instructions! What ought I to do?"
Mme. de Lorcy gazed up at the ceiling for an instant, and then said:
"Love elsewhere, my dear; abandon this foolish girl to her fate and
He started and replied: "You demand what is impossible. I am no longer
my own master; she has taken possession of me--she holds me. Love
elsewhere? Can you think of it? I detest her--I curse her--but I adore
She rejoined: "You should not use hyperbole any more than metaphors.
Both are unsolid food. When you decide not to love, you will love no
"That supposes that I have several hearts to choose from. I never had
but one, and that no longer belongs to me. So you refuse me your
"What advice would you have me give you before having seen M. Larinski
--before having taken the measure of this hero?"
"What! you expect to see him?"
"I am waiting for him to call, and I am sorry he keeps me waiting."
"Seriously, will you receive this man?"
"I have been asked to examine him."
"I am lost, if you feel the need of hearing before condemning him. Our
most sacred duty is to be resolutely unjust towards the enemies of our
"Nonsense! I shall not be indulgent towards him."
"Do as you like; I have my plan."
"What is it?"
"I shall seek some groundless quarrel with this contraband, this
poacher, and I will blow his brains out."
"A fine scheme, my dear Camille! And afterward, when you have killed
him, you will have gained a great deal. Have you confidence in me? I
have already begun to work for you. The Abbe Miollens, as you know, is
well acquainted in the society of Polish emigrants; I have sent to him
for information. I have also written to Vienna for intelligence
concerning him. Antoinette is foolish in forming such an acquaintance,
it must be admitted; but, in matters of honour, she is as delicate as
an ermine in tending the whiteness of her robe; if there be in M.
Larinski's past a stain no larger than a ten-sou piece, she will
forever discard him. Let me act; be wise, do not blow out any one's
brains. /Grand Dieu!/ what would become of us, if the only way to get
rid of people was by killing them?"
As she pronounced these words a servant entered, bearing a card on a
silver salver. She took the card and exclaimed: "When you speak of the
wolf-- Here is our man!" She begged M. Langis to retire; he implored
permission to remain, promising to be a model of discretion. She was
insisting on his leaving when Count Abel Larinski appeared.
Samuel Brohl had scarcely taken three steps in Mme. de Lorcy's /salon/
before he conjectured why M. Moriaz had asked him to go there, and
what was the significance of the commission with which he was charged.
Notwithstanding the /salon/ had a southern exposure, and that it was
then the middle of the month of August, it seemed to him to be cold
there. He thought that he felt a draught of chilly air, an icy wind,
which pierced him through and through, and caused him an unpleasant
shiver. He did not need to look very attentively at Mme. de Lorcy to
be convinced that he was before his judge, and that this judge was not
a friendly one; and, as soon as his gaze met that of M. Camille
Langis, something warned him that this young man was his enemy. Samuel
Brohl had the gift of observation.
He delivered his message, and handed Mme. de Lorcy the little
portfolio that contained Mlle. Moriaz's painting, expressing his
regret that business had prevented his coming sooner. Mme. de Lorcy
thanked him for his kindness, with rather a cool politeness, and asked
him for news of her goddaughter. He did not expatiate on this topic.
"The valley of Saint Moritz is a dreary country," she next said.
"Rather say, madame, that it is a dreary country possessing a great
charm for those who love it."
"It appears that Mlle. Moriaz is almost wearied to death there. I
should think she would die of ennui."
"Do you think her capable of yielding to ennui in any place?"
"Certainly, do not doubt it; but she has recourse to her imagination
to dispel the tedium. She has a marvellous talent for procuring
herself diversion and for varying her pleasures. Hers is an
imagination having many relays: no sooner is one horse exhausted than
there is another to take its place."
"That is a precious gift," he replied, briefly. "I assure you,
however, that you calumniate the Engadine. The trees there are not so
well grown as those in your park; but the Alpine fir and pine have
"You went to this hole for your health, monsieur?"
"Yes, and no, madame. I was not ill, but any physician contended that
I should be still better if I breathed the air of the Alps for three
weeks. It was taking a cure as a preventive."
"M. Larinski made the ascent of the Morteratsch," said Camille, who,
seated on a divan with his arms extended on his knees, never had
ceased to look at Samuel Brohl with a hard and hostile glance. "That
is an exploit that can be performed only by well people."
"It is no exploit," replied Samuel; "it is a work of patience, easy
for those who are not subject to vertigo."
"You are too modest," rejoined the young man. "Had I done as much, I
would sound a trumpet."
"Have you attempted the ascent?" asked Samuel.
"Not at all. I do not care about having feats of prowess to relate,"
he replied, in an almost challenging tone.
Mme. de Lorcy hastened to interrupt the conversation by saying, "Is
this the first time you have been in Paris, monsieur?"
"Yes, madame," replied Samuel, who withdrew more and more into his
"And does Paris please you as much as a pine-grove?"
"Much more, madame."
"Have you any acquaintances?"
"None; and the truth is, I have no desire to make any."
"Shall I tell you my reason? I am not fond of breaking ice, and Poles
complain that there is nothing in the world so icy as Parisian
"That explains itself," cried Camille. "Paris, that is Paris proper,
is a small city of a hundred thousand souls, and this small city is
invaded more and more, by strangers who come here to seek pleasure or
fortune. It is but natural that Paris should protect itself."
"Parisians pride themselves on their penetration," replied Samuel. "It
does not require much of it to distinguish an honest man from an
"Ah! permit me," returned M. Langis, "that depends a good deal on
practice. The most skillful are deceived."
Samuel Brohl rose and made a movement to leave. Mme. de Lorcy insisted
on his sitting down again. She saw that she had made a bad beginning
in the fulfilment of her office of examining magistrate, and of
gaining the prisoner's confidence. Fearing that Camille, in spite of
his promise, would spoil everything by some insult, she found a
pretext to send him away; she begged that he would go and examine a
pair of horses that were a recent acquisition.
As soon as he was gone, she changed her manner; she grew amiable, she
endeavoured to remove the ill impression of her first welcome; she put
Count Abel at his ease, who felt that the air lost its chilliness
about him. Without appearing to do so, she made him undergo an
examination- she asked him many questions; he replied promptly.
Visitors came in; it was an hour before he took leave, after having
promised Mme. de Lorcy to dine with her the next day.
She did not wait until then to write to M. Moriaz. Her letter was thus
"August 16, 1875.
"You recommend me to be impartial, my dear friend. Why should I not
be? It is true that I have dreamed of a certain marriage: one of
the parties would not listen to my propositions, and the other had
abandoned the idea. My project has come to nothing. Camille has
enjoined me never to speak of it to him again. You see I am no
longer interested in the question, or, rather, I have in the
matter no other interest than that which I feel for Antoinette,
whose happiness is as dear to me as it is to you. Apropos, do not
give her my letters; read to her the passages that you judge
suitable to communicate to her--I leave that to your discretion.
"First of all, let me unfold to you my humble opinions. I am
charged with having prejudices; it is a shocking calumny. I will
make you a profession of faith, and you shall judge. I am at war
with more than one point of our French morals; I deplore the habit
that we have formed of considering marriage as a business
transaction, of esteeming it as a financial or commercial
partnership, and making everything subordinate to the equality of
the personal estates. This principle is revolting to me, my dear
friend. We are accused in foreign countries of being an immoral
people. Heavens! it seems to me that we understand and practise
virtue quite as much as the English or Germans, and, to speak the
whole truth, I am not afraid to advance the opinion that this, of
all the countries of the universe, is the one where there is the
most virtue. It is not at that point that we sin. Our misfortune
is, that we are too rational in our habits of life, too
circumspect, too prudent; we lack boldness in our undertakings; we
wish, as it is said, to have one foot on firm land and the other
not far off. We must have security; we do not like risk; doubtful
affairs do not please us; we are too prone to look ahead, and to
look ahead is to fear. That is one reason why we send out no
colonies, and that is the reason we have no more children. Are you
satisfied with me?
"Napoleon I was in the habit of saying that, in fighting a battle,
he so ordered matters as to have seventy chances out of a hundred
in his favour; he left the rest to Fate. Ah! brave people, life is
a battle, but the French of to-day will not risk anything. They
are the most honest, the least romantic of men, and I regret it.
Read Antoinette this passage of my letter. Our young people think
that they have a right to the paternal fortune; they consider that
their father is wanting in his duty if he does not leave them a
settled position, a certain future. Their second preconceived
notion is that they must find a wife who will bring them as much
at least as they have to offer her. I have so much, you have so
much--we are evidently created for each other; let us marry. All
this is deplorable. I like better to hear of the young American
who only expects from his parents the education necessary for a
man to make his way; he has his tools given to him and the method
of using them, but not a sou. You have learned to swim, my friend
--swim. After that he marries, most frequently a woman who has
nothing, and who loves to spend money. May the God Dollar protect
him! he will gaily make an opening for himself in life, and his
wife will give him ten children, who will follow the same course
as their father. Where it is customary for hunger to marry thirst,
there are happy marriages, and a hardy race of people. In all
conscience, am I not romantic enough?
"Let me consider another case. Take a man who has fortune: he
profits thereby to consult his heart only, and offer his name and
revenues to the woman he loves and who has no dower. I clap my
hands, I think it the best of examples, and I regret that it is so
seldom practised among us. In France princes never are seen
marrying shepherdesses; on the contrary, one too often sees
penniless sons-in-law carrying off heiresses, and that is
precisely the most objectionable case. In a romance, or at the
theatre, the poor young man who marries a million is a very noble
person; in life it is different. Not if the poor young man had a
profession or a trade, if he could procure by his own work a
sufficient income to render him independent of his wife; but if he
submit to be dependent on her, if he expect from her his daily
bread, to roll in her carriage, to ask her for the expenses of his
toilet, for his pocket-money, and perhaps for sundry questionable
outlays--frankly, this young man lacks pride; and what is a man
who has no pride? Besides, what surety is there that in marrying
it is, indeed, the woman he is in love with and not the dower? Who
assures me that Count Abel Larinski?--I name no one, personalities
are odious, and I own there are exceptions. /Dieu/, how rare they
are! If I were Antoinette, I would love the poor, but in their own
interest. I would not marry them. The interest of the whole human
race is at stake. Beggars are inventive; let them have their own
way to make, and they will be sure to invent some means of
livelihood; give them the key of a cash-box, and they will cease
to strive, you have destroyed their genius. My dear professor, in
fifteen years I have brought about a great many marriages. Three
times I have married hunger to thirst, and, thank God, I once
decided a millionaire to marry a poor girl who had not a sou, but
I never aided a beggar to marry a rich girl. Now you have my
principles and ideas--Are you listening to me still? You fall
asleep sometimes while listening to a sermon. Good! you open your
"I have seen your man. Well, sincerely, he only half pleases me. I
do not deny that he has a handsome head; a sculptor might use it
as a model. I will add that his eyes are very interesting, by
turns grave, gentle, gay, or melancholy. I have nothing to say
against his manners or his language; his address is excellent, and
he is no booby--far from it. With all this there is something
about him that shocks me--I scarcely know what--a mingling of two
natures that I cannot explain. He might be said to resemble,
according to circumstances, a lion or a fox; I believe that the
fox-nature predominates, that the lion is supplementary. I simply
give you my impressions, which I am perfectly willing to be
induced to change. I am inclined to fancy that M. Larinski passed
his first youth amid vulgar surroundings, that later he came into
contact with good society, and being intelligent soon shook off
the force of early influences; but there still remain some traces
of these. While he was in my /salon/ his eyes twice took an
inventory of its contents, and that with a rapidity which would
have done credit to a practised appraiser. It was then,
especially, that he had the air of a fox.
"Nor is this all. I read the other day the story of a princess who
was travelling over the world, and asked hospitality, one evening,
at the door of a palace. Was she a real princess or an
adventuress? The queen who received her judged it well to
ascertain. For this purpose she prepared for her, with her own
hands, a soft bed, composed of two mattresses, on which she piled
five feather-beds; between the two mattresses she slipped three
peas. The next day the traveller was asked how she had slept.
'Very badly,' she replied. 'I do not know what was in my bed, but
my whole body is bruised; I am black and blue, and I never closed
my eyes until dawn!' 'She is a true princess,' cried the queen. Is
M. Larinski a true prince? I made him undergo the test of the
three peas. I allowed myself to question him with indiscreet,
urgent, improper curiosity; he did not appear to feel the
indiscretion. He replied promptly and submissively; he endeavoured
to satisfy me, and I was not satisfied. I shall see him again
to-morrow--he comes to dine at Maisons. I only wish to be able to
prove to myself that he is a true prince.
"My dear professor, you are the most imprudent of men, and,
whatever happens, you have only yourself to blame. People do not
open their doors so easily to strangers. You tell me that, thanks
to M. Larinski's kindness, you did not break your leg. Mercy on
me! a father would better break his leg in three places than
expose his daughter to the risk of marrying an adventurer; his leg
could be easily set. There is nothing so frightful in that.
"/Postscriptum/.--I open my letter. I want to prove to you how much
I desire to be just, and how far my impartiality goes. You know
that my neighbour, Abbe Miollens, lived a long time in Poland, and
has correspondents there. I begged him to get me information
concerning the count--of course, without explaining anything to
him. He reports that Count Abel Larinski is a true count. His
father, the confiscation of the property, the emigration to
America, the Isthmus of Panama--all is true; the history is
authentic. Countess Larinski was a saint. Concerning the son,
nothing is known; he must have been three or four years old when
he landed in New York. No one ever saw him; no one seems to know
anything about his taking part in the insurrection of 1863. Having
spoken the truth about his parents, it is to be presumed that he
told the truth about himself. Very well, but one can fight for
one's country, and have a saint for one's mother, and yet possess
none of the qualities that go towards making a happy household. I
take back the word adventurer, but I still hold to all I have said
about him. Why did he take an inventory of my furniture with his
eyes? Why did he sleep so soundly in a bed where there were three
peas? This requires an explanation.
"Kiss Antoinette for me. Give my regards to Mlle. Moiseney, without
telling her that I think her a simpleton; it is a conviction in
which I shall die. Was it, indeed, very difficult to descend from
that terrible rock of yours?"
Three days later, Mme. de Lorcy wrote a second letter:
"I have received this very moment, my dear monsieur, the reply from
Vienna that I have been expecting, and which I hasten to share
with you. I had applied to our friend Baron B---, first secretary
of the embassy from France to Vienna, in order to try to learn
what reputation Count Larinski had left there. He is esteemed
there as a most worthy man; as an inventor who was more daring
than wise; as a devoted patriot; as one of those Poles whose only
thought is of Poland and of their Utopia, and who would set fire
to the four corners of the earth without wincing, for the sole
purpose of procuring embers at which to roast their chestnuts. I
will not return to the subject of the gun; you know all about it.
It seems that there was some good in this explosive gun, and that
he who invented it united a sort of genius with ingenuousness,
inexperience, and ignorance enough to make one weep. Nothing can
be said against the private character of the man. He had a few
debts, and his tradespeople felt considerable anxiety when he left
Vienna one morning on foot. He had no sooner reached Switzerland
than he sent back money to settle everything. Here we have an
admirable trait. However, his tastes were simple, and he led a
steady life; it was the gun that brought his finances into
disorder. I will add that M. Larinski visited in Vienna at several
of the most distinguished houses, where he is remembered most
kindly. He was sought everywhere on account of his talents as a
musician, which were far more to be relied on than his talent as a
gunsmith. He plays the piano to perfection, and has a very
beautiful voice. Had he employed these talents, he could have made
his way to the opera, but his dignity held him back. Now you know
what has been communicated to me by Baron B---. On the faith of an
honest woman, I have neither added nor omitted anything.
"I am going to astonish you. Would you believe that I am beginning
to be reconciled to Count Larinski? What shocked me in him is
explained and excused by his long residence in America. He is a
mixed breed of Yankee and Pole. Far from having prejudices against
him, I now have them in his favour. Do you know, I am by no means
sure that he cherishes in his heart any serious sentiment for your
daughter? As a man of taste he admires her. I should like to know
who would not admire her! I suspect Antoinette of allowing her
imagination to become excited about nothing. He talks of her on
all occasions in as free and tranquil a fashion as he would talk
of a work of art. I find it impossible to believe that he is in
love. I have in vain watched his green eyes. I never have seen a
"As I announced to you, he came to Maisons yesterday to dine. I had
invited Abbe Miollens, and Camille had invited himself, promising
that he would act like a philosopher; he only half kept his
promise: for I must inform you that my nephew has conceived, I do
not know why, an insurmountable antipathy to M. Larinski; he is
subject to taking dislikes to people. During dinner, Abbe
Miollens, who is a great linguist and a great traveller, and who
has at the ends of his fingers everything concerning Poland and
the Poles, led the conversation to the insurrection of 1863. M.
Larinski, at first, refrained from discussing this sad subject;
little by little the flood-gates were opened: he related his
adventures or campaigns without boasting, praising others rather
than himself; when suddenly his voice grew husky and his eyes dim,
he interrupted himself, and begged we would speak of other things.
Fortunately, at this moment, he did not see Camille, whose lips
were a sinister smile. Young Frenchmen have become such sceptics!
I made eyes at the bad boy, and on leaving the table I sent him to
smoke a cigar in the park.
"I should confess to you that M. Larinski has made a conquest of
Abbe Miollens, who of all men is the most difficult to please, and
who disputes with Providence the privilege of fathoming the depths
of the human heart. You are aware that the abbe is a remarkable
violinist: he sent for his instrument; M. Larinski seated himself
at the piano, and the two gentlemen played a concert by Mozart--
divine music performed by two angels of the first class. The
conversation that followed charmed me more than the concerto. I do
not know by what fatality we came to speak of marriage. I did not
miss the opportunity to disclose with a most innocent air, my
little theories, with which you are acquainted. Would you believe
that the count concurred, more than concurred, with my views? He
is more royalist than the king; he does not admit that a good rule
allows of any exception. According to him, a poor man who marries
a rich woman forfeits his honour, debases himself, sells himself;
he is a man in bondage. He developed this theme with sombre
eloquence. I assure you that the lion no longer bore resemblance
to the fox.
"After the departure of this fine musician and great orator, Abbe
Miollens, remaining alone with me, told me how much he was charmed
with his conversation and manners; he could not cease to sing his
praises. I think he went a little too far. However, I joined with
him in regretting that a man of his merit should be reduced to
live by expedients. The abbe's arm reaches a long way; he promised
me that he would busy himself, at the expense of all other
business, to find some employment for M. Larinski. He remembered
that there was some talk of establishing in London an
international school for the living languages. One of the founders
of this institute had applied to him to learn if he could
recommend some professor of the Slavonian languages. It would be
exactly the thing, and I should be delighted to procure for your
/protégé/ an occupation that would insure all the happiness that
it is possible to enjoy on the other side of the Channel. After
this, will you still accuse me of being prejudiced against him?
"Adieu, my dear monsieur. Give my tender love to my amiable
goddaughter. I rely on you to read my letters to her with care and
discretion. Little girls should have only a part of the truth."
Eight days afterward Mme. de Lorcy wrote a third letter, which was
"I am more and more content with M. Larinski. I blame myself for
the suspicions with which he inspired me. The Viennese were right
to consider him a worthy man, and Abbe Miollens has not valued him
too highly. You write, on your part, my dear friend, that you are
not dissatisfied with Antoinette. She is gay, tranquil; she walks,
paints, never speaks of Count Abel Larinski, and, when you speak
to her of him, she smiles and does not reply. You claim that she
has reflected; that time and absence have wrought their effect.
'Out of sight, out of mind,' you say. Take care! I am more
mistrustful than you. Are you very sure that Antoinette may not be
"What is certain is, that I received a charming epistle from her,
in which there is no more mention of M. Larinski than if Poland
and the Pole did not exist. She praises Engadine; she pretends
that she would ask for nothing better than to end her days in a
pine-forest. I can read between the lines that it would be a pine-
forest after her own heart, where there would be reunions, balls,
guests to dinner, small parties, a conservatory of music, and the
opera. The last paragraph of her letter is devoted to the
insurrection in Herzegovina, and it is hardly worth while to say
that all her sympathies are with the insurgents. 'If I were a
man,' she writes, 'I would go and fight for them.' That is very
well; she always took the part of thieves against the police. I
remember long ago--she was ten years old--I told her the story of
an unfortunate traveller besieged in a forest by an army of
wolves. He made a barricade about himself, and around it he
lighted great fires. The wolves fell into the flames, where they
roasted, one after the other. Antoinette began to weep bitterly,
and I imagined that she was lamenting the terror of the
unfortunate man. 'Not at all,' she cried: 'the poor beasts!' She
was made so; we cannot remake her. She will always side with the
wolves, especially with the lean ones who scarcely can make two
"I told you that Count Larinski was a worthy man. He came to see me
the day before yesterday. We have become very good friends. I
asked him if Paris still pleased him, and he replied, with the
most gracious smile, 'What I like best in Paris is Maisons
Lafitte.' Thereupon he said some exceedingly pretty things, which
I will not repeat. We walked /tete-a- tete/ around the park.
Heaven be praised that I returned heart-whole! We talked politics;
he bears the reputation of being hot-headed, but he is not wanting
in good sense. I wished to know if he was in favour of the Turks
or of the Bosnians. He replied:
" 'As a Christian, as a Catholic, I am interested in the Christians
of the East, and I am for the Cross against the Crescent.' He
pronounced these words, Christian, Catholic, and cross, in a tone
full of unction. I surmise that he is a devotee. He added, 'As a
Pole, I am for Turkey.'
" 'I believed,' said I, 'that the Poles had sympathy with all the
" 'Poles,' he replied, 'cannot like those who like their
oppressors, and they cannot forget that the Osmanlis are their
natural allies, and, on occasions, their refuge.'
"I gave him Antoinette's letter to read. I was very glad, at any
hazard, to prove to him that she could write four pages without
asking about him. He read it with extreme attention: but when he
came to the famous passage--'If I were a man, I would go and fight
for them!'--he smiled, and returned me the letter, saying, in a
disdainful and rather a dry tone:
" 'Write for me to Mlle. Moriaz that I believe I am a man, yet that
I will not fight for the Bosnians, and that the Turks are my
" 'She is foolish,' I said. 'Fortunately, she changes her folly
with every new moon!'
" 'What would you have?' he replied; 'in order not to be insipid,
it is well to be a little foolish. My poor mother used often to
say: "My son, youth should be employed in laying by a great store
of extravagant enthusiasm; otherwise, at the end of life's journey
the heart will be void, for much is left on the road." '
"Calm, /seigneur/, your excited fears, no one has designs on your
daughter; we evidently find her charming, but are by no means in
love with her. With much precaution and circumlocution I gently
proceeded to question Count Larinski on the state of his affairs,
about which he never has opened his mouth. He frowned. I did not
lose courage. I offered him this place of professor of the
Slavonian languages of which the abbe had again spoken. I saw in
an instant that his sensitive pride had taken alarm. However, upon
reflection, he softened, thanked me, declined my kind offer, and
announced--guess what! How much is my news worth? what will you
give for it? He announced, I tell you, that in two weeks--you
understand me--he will return to Vienna, where he has been
promised a post in the archives of the Minister of War. I did not
dare to ask what was the salary; after all, if he is satisfied, it
is not for us to be harder to please than he. When I affirm that
Count Larinski is a good, worthy man!--In two weeks! you
understand me perfectly.
"My dear friend, I am enchanted to know that the water of Saint
Moritz and the air of the Engadine have entirely re-established
your health; but do not be imprudent. Half-cures are fatal. Be
careful not to leave Churwalden too soon, for the descent into the
heavy atmosphere of the plains. Your physician, whom I have just
seen, declares that, if you hasten your return he will not answer
for the consequences. Antoinette, I am sure, will join her
entreaties to ours. Do not let us see you before the end of three
weeks! Follow my orders, my dear professor, and all will go well.
Camille is about to leave; he has become insupportable. He had the
audacity to assert to me that I was a good woman, but very
credulous, which in my estimation is not very polite. He no longer
acts as a nephew, and respect is dead."
Ten days later M. Moriaz received at Churwalden a fourth and last
"Decidedly my dear friend, Count Larinski is a delightful man, and
I never will pardon myself for having judged ill of him. The day
before yesterday I did not know the extent of his merit and of his
virtues. His beautiful soul is like a country where one passes
from one pleasing discovery to another, and at each step a new
scene is revealed. Between ourselves, Antoinette is a dreamer:
where has she got the idea that this man is in love with her?
These Counts Larinski have artists' enthusiasm, tender and
sensitive hearts, and poetic imaginations; they love everything,
and they love nothing; they admire a pretty woman as they admire a
beautiful flower, a humming-bird, a picture of Titian's. Did I
tell you that the other day, as I was showing him through my park,
he almost fainted before my purple beech--which assuredly is a
marvel? He was in ecstasy; I truly believe there were tears in his
eyes. I might have supposed he was in love with my beech; yet he
has not asked my permission to marry it.
"Moreover, if he were up to his eyes in love with your daughter,
have no fear; he will not marry her, and this is the reason-- Wait
a little, I must go further back.
"Abbe Miollens came to see me yesterday afternoon; he was
distressed that M. Larinski had not approved of his proposition.
" 'The evil is not so great,' I said; 'let him go back to Vienna,
where all his acquaintances are; he will be happier there.'
" 'The evil that I see in it,' he replied, 'is that he will be lost
to us forever. Vienna is so far away! Professor in London, only
ten hours' journey from Paris, he could cross the Channel
sometimes, and we could have our music together.'
"You can understand that this reasoning did not touch me in the
least; whatever it cost me I will bear it, and resign myself to
lose M. Larinski forever; but the abbe is obstinate.
" 'I fear,' he said, 'that the Austrians pay their archivists
badly; the English manage matters better, and Lord C--- gave me
" 'Oh! but that,' rejoined I, 'is a delicate point to touch. As
soon as you approach the bread-and-butter question, our man
assumes a rigid, formal manner, as if an attack had been made on
" 'I truly believe,' he replied, 'that there is a fundamental basis
of incomparable nobility of sentiment in his character; he is not
proud, he is pride itself.'
"The abbe is passionately fond of Horace; he assets that it is to
this great poet that he owes that profound knowledge of men for
which he is distinguished. He quoted a Latin verse that he was
kind enough to translate for me, and that signified something
equivalent to the statement that certain horses rear and kick when
you touch the sensitive spot. 'That is like the Poles,' he said.
"Meanwhile, M. Larinski entered, and I retained the two gentlemen
to dinner. In the evening they again gave me a concert. Why was
Antoinette not there? I fancied I was at the Conservatoire. Then
we conversed, and the abbe, who never can let go his idea, said,
without any reserve, to the count:
" 'My dear count, have you reflected? If you go to London, we could
hope to see you often; and, besides, the salary--well, as this
terrible word has been spoken, listen to me; I will do all in my
power to obtain conditions for you in every way worthy of your
merit, your learning, your character, your position.'
"He was not permitted to finish the list; the count reared like the
horse in Horace, exclaiming, 'O Mozart! what a horrid subject of
conversation!' Then he added, gravely: 'M. l'Abbe, you are a
thousand times too good, but the place offered to me in Vienna
seems to me better adapted to my kind of ability; I would make, I
fear, a detestable professor, and the salary, were it double,
would in my opinion have but little weight.'
"The abbe still insisted. 'In our century,' said he, 'less than any
other, can one live on air.'
" 'I have lived on it sometimes,' replied the count, gaily, 'and I
did not find it bad. My health is proof against accidents. Ah!
where money is concerned, you have no idea how far my indifference
goes. It is not a virtue with me, it is an infirmity; it is
because of my nationality, because I am my father's son. I feel
myself incapable of thinking of the future, of practising
thoroughly French habits of economy. If my purse is full, I soon
empty it; after which I condemn myself to privations--no, that
does not express it--I enjoy them. According to me, there is no
true happiness into which a little suffering does not enter.
Besides, I have a taste for contrasts. At times I believe myself a
millionaire, I have the pretensions of a nabob; I give full scope
to my fancies; the next day, my bed is hard and I live on bread-
and-water, and am perfectly happy. In short, I am a fool once in
the year, and a philosopher the rest of the time.'
" 'The trouble is,' returned the abbe, 'that one day of folly will
sometimes suffice to compromise forever the future of a
" 'Oh, reassure yourself,' replied he; 'my extravagances never are
very dangerous. There was method in Hamlet's madness, and there is
always a little reason in mine.'
"While making this declaration of principles, he had seated himself
at the piano, and idly began running his fingers over the keys.
Suddenly he began to sing a German song, which I got Abbe Miollens
to translate for me, and which is not long. The hero of the song
is an amorous pine, standing on the summit of a barren mountain of
the north. He is alone; he is weary; the snow and ice wrap him in
a white mantle, and he spends his dreary hours of leisure in
dreaming of a palm, which in days of yore he met, it seems, in his
"M. Larinski sang this little melody with so much pathos that the
good abbe was touched, and I became anxious. Anxiety, once felt,
is apt to be constantly returning. I asked myself if he had met
his palm in the Engadine, and added aloud, rather dryly: 'Is the
day of your departure definitely fixed? will you not do us the
favour of granting us a reprieve?'
"He executed the most pearly chromatic scale, and replied: 'Alas!
madame, I am only deferring my departure on account of a letter
that cannot be much longer delayed; in less than a week, I shall
have the distress of bidding you farewell.'
" 'You shall not leave,' said Abbe Miollens, 'without letting us
hear once again the poem of the pine. You sang it with so much
soul that it seemed to me you must be relating an episode of your
own history. My dear count, did you ever chance to dream of a
"He answered: 'I have no longer the right to dream; I am no longer
"The abbe started and cried out, in his simple-hearted way, 'Ah!
what, are you married?'
" 'I thought I had told you so,' replied he with a melancholy
smile, and he hastened to speak of a ballet that he had seen the
evening before at the opera, and with which he was only half
"You can readily believe that when he pronounced the words, 'I
thought I had told you so,' I was on the point of falling on his
neck; I was so happy, that I was afraid he would read in my eyes
my joy, astonishment, and profound gratitude. I think that he is
very keen, and that he has conjectured for some time the mistrust
with which he inspired me. If he wanted to mock me a little, I
will pardon him; a good man unjustly suspected has a perfect right
to revenge himself by a little irony. I ordered the horses to be
put to my carriage to take him over to the railroad, and the abbe
and I accompanied him as far as the station. There cannot be too
much regard shown to honest people who have been abused by
"Well! what do you say, my dear friend? Was I wrong in claiming
that M. Larinski is a delightful man? He will leave before the end
of a week, and he is married, unhappily married, I fear, for his
smile was melancholy. You see he may have married out of gratitude
some /grisette/, some little working-woman, who nursed him through
illness, one of those women who are not presentable; that would be
thoroughly in character. Happily, in law there are no good or bad
marriages; this one I hold to be unimpeachable.
"The reaction was violent: I am so rejoiced that I feel tempted to
illuminate Cormeilles and Maisons Lafitte. In what way will your
undeceive our dreamer? In your place I would use some precautions.
Be prudent; go bridle in hand; and in the future, believe me,
climb no more among the rocks; you see what it may lead to.
"Once more, do not hasten your departure. We have had for some days
stifling heat; we literally suffocate. You need to spend a
fortnight longer amid the shade of the pine-trees, and four
thousand feet above the level of the sea.
"Adieu, my dear professor! I am interrupted in my writing by the
incredulous, the sceptical, the suspicious, the absurd, the
ridiculous Camille, who respectfully recommends himself to your
In reading the fourth letter of Mme. de Lorcy, M. Moriaz experienced a
feeling of satisfaction and deliverance, over which he was not master.
His daughter had gone to pay a visit in the neighbourhood, and he was
alone with Mlle. Moiseney, who said to him, "You have received good
"It is excellent," he replied; then, promptly correcting himself, he
added: "Excellent, or to be regretted, or vexatious; I leave that to
our powers of discernment."
When he had finished reading the letter, and replaced it in the
envelope, he remained thoughtful for some moments; he was wondering
how he should proceed to announce the excellent news. For three weeks
his daughter had been a mystery to him. She never once had pronounced
the name of Count Larinski. Churwalden pleased her as much as Saint
Moritz; apparently, she was gay, tranquil, perfectly happy. Had her
delusion passed away? Had she changed her mind? M. Moriaz did not
know; but he surmised that still waters should be mistrusted, and that
a young girl's imagination is like an abyss. One thoroughly good
warning is worth two indifferent ones; henceforth, he feared
everything. "If I speak to her," thought he, "I shall not be able to
dissimulate my joy, and perhaps she will go into hysterics." He had a
horror of hysterics; he resolved to have recourse to Mlle. Moiseney,
and he said to her, abruptly:
"I suppose, mademoiselle, that you are acquainted with all that has
passed, and that Antoinette has given you her confidence?"
She opened her eyes wide, and was on the point of answering that she
knew nothing; but she restrained herself, and setting her little
pointed head erect on her thin shoulders, she said, proudly, "Can you
imagine that Antoinette would keep any secrets from me?"
"Heaven forbid!" replied he. "And do you approve, do you encourage her
sentiments for M. Larinski?"
Mlle. Moiseney started; she had been far from suspecting that Count
Larinski had specially impressed Mlle. Moriaz, and, as on certain
occasions her mind worked rapidly, she understood immediately all the
consequences of this prodigious event. There was a cloud before her
eyes, and in this cloud she beheld all manner of things, both pleasing
and displeasing to her; her mouth open, she strove to clear her ideas.
She said to herself: "It is an imprudent act; not only that, it cannot
be;" but she also said: "Mlle. Antoinette can no more make a mistake
than the Queen of England can; because she wishes it, she is right in
wishing it." Mlle. Moiseney ended by regaining her self-possession;
her lips formed the most pleasant smile, as she exclaimed:
"He has no fortune, but he has a beautiful name. Mme. la Comtesse
Larinski! it sounds well to the ear."
"Like music; I grant, it is perfect," rejoined M. Moriaz.
"Unfortunately, music is not everything in the affairs of this world."
She was not listening to him. Full of her own idea, without taking
time to breathe: "You jest, monsieur," she continued, with
extraordinary volubility. "Believe me or not, I have foreseen this
marriage for some time. I have presentiments that never deceive me. I
was sure that it would be thus. What a handsome couple! Fancy them
driving in an open carriage through the park, or entering a
proscenium-box at the opera! They will make a sensation. And truly,
without boasting, I think I may call your attention to the fact that I
have been of some account in the affair. The first time I saw Count
Larinski, you know, at the /table d'hote/ in Bergun, I recognised at
once that he was beyond comparison--"
"By-the-way, he ate trout?" interrupted M. Moriaz; "it does honour to
"You had better ask Antoinette," replied she, "if that very evening I
did not praise the handsome stranger. She maintained that he stooped,
and that his head was badly poised; would you believe it?--his head
badly poised! Ah! I was sure it would end so. Do you wish to prove my
discernment? Shall I tell you where your letter comes from that
contains such excellent news? The count wrote it; he has at last
proposed. I guessed it at once. Ah! monsieur, I sympathize in your
joy. He is, indeed, the son-in-law that I have dreamed of for you. A
superior man, so open-hearted, so unaffected and frank!"
"Do you really think so?" asked M. Moriaz, fanning himself with the
"He related to us his whole life," rejoined she, in a pedantic tone.
"How many people could do as much?"
"A delightful narration. I only regret that he was silent concerning
one detail which was of a nature to interest us."
"An unpleasant detail?" she asked, raising her gooseberry-coloured
eyes to him.
"On the contrary, a circumstance that does him honour, and for which I
am obliged to him. Believe me, my dear demoiselle, I should be charmed
to receive a son-in-law from your hands, and to give my daughter to a
man whose genius and noble sentiments you divined from merely seeing
him eat. Unfortunately, I fear this marriage will not come about;
there is one little difficulty."
"Count Larinski forgot to apprise us that he was already married."
Mlle. Moiseney sent forth a doleful cry. M. Moriaz handed her Mme. de
Lorcy's letter; after reading it, she remained in a state of deep
dejection; a pitiless finger had burst the iris bubble that she had
just blown, and that she saw resplendent at the end of her pipe.
"Do not give way to your despair," said M. Moriaz; "take courage,
follow the example I set you, imitate my resignation. But tell me, how
do you think Antoinette will take the matter?"
"It will be a terrible blow to her," replied Mlle. Moiseney; "she
loves him so much!"
"How do you know, since she has not judged it best to tell you?"
"I know from circumstances. Poor dear Antoinette! The greatest
consideration must be used in announcing to her this intelligence; and
I alone, I believe--"
"I agree with you," M. Moriaz hastened to interpose; "you alone are
capable of operating on our patient without causing her suffering. You
are so skilful! your hand is so light! Make the best of the situation,
mademoiselle--I leave it to you."
With these words he took up his hat and cane, and hastened to get
away, rather anxious about what had passed, yet feeling too happy, too
much rejoiced, to be a good consoler.
It was not long before Mlle. Moriaz returned from her walk. She came
humming a ballad; she was joyous, her complexion brilliant, her eyes
sparkling, and she carried an armful of heather and ferns. Mlle.
Moiseney went to meet her, her face mournful, her head bent down, her
"Why! what is the matter, my dear Joan?" she said; "you look like a
"Alas!" sighed Mlle. Moiseney, "I have sad news to communicate."
"What! have they written to you from Cormeilles that your parrot is
"Ah, my dear child, be reasonable, be strong; summon up all your
"For the love of God, what is the matter?"
"Ah! would that I could spare you this trouble! Your father has just
received a letter from Mme. de Lorcy."
Antoinette grew more attentive, her breath came quickly. "And what was
there in this letter that is so terrible, so heart-rending?" she
asked, forcing a smile.
"Fortunately, I am here," replied Mlle. Moiseney. "You know that your
joys and your sorrows are mine. All the consolation that I can lavish
upon you, the tenderest sympathy--"
"My dear Joan, in the name of Heaven, explain first, and then
"You told me nothing, my child--I have a right to complain; but I have
divined all. I can read your heart. I am sure that you love him."
"Of whom do you speak?" replied Antoinette, whose colour rose in her
"Of a most charming man, who, either through inconceivable stupidity,
or through most criminal calculation, neglected to tell us that he was
And with these words, Mlle. Moiseney extended both arms, that she
might receive into them Mlle. Moriaz, whom she believed to be already
Mlle. Moriaz did not swoon. She flushed crimson, then grew very pale;
but she remained standing, her head proudly erect, and she said, in a
tone of well-feigned indifference: "Oh! M. Larinski is married? My
very sincere compliments to the Countess Larinski."
After which she busied herself arranging in a vase the heather and
ferns she had brought back with her. Mlle. Moiseney stood lost in
astonishment at her calm; she gazed in a stupor at her, and suddenly
exclaimed: "Thank God! you do not love him! Your father has mistaken,
he often mistakes; he sometimes gets the strangest ideas into his
mind; he was persuaded that this would be a death-blow to you; he does
not know you at all. Ah! unquestionably, M. Larinski is far from being
disagreeable; I do not dispute his having some merit; but I always
thought that there was something suspicious about him; his manners
were a little equivocal; I suspected him of hiding something from us.
As it appears, he has made a /mesalliance/ that he did not care to
acknowledge. It is deplorable that a man of such excellent address
should have low tastes and doubtful morality. His duty was to tell us
all; he was neither loyal nor delicate."
"You dream, my dear," replied Antoinette. "What law, human or divine,
obliged M. Larinski to tell us everything? Did you expect him to
render an account of his deeds and misdeeds to us as to a tribunal of
In speaking thus, she took off her hat and mantilla, seated herself in
the embrasure of a window, and opened a book which she began to read
with great attention.
"God be praised! she does not love him," thought Mlle. Moiseney, who
was not aware that Mlle. Moriaz was turning two or three pages at a
time with perceiving it.
Deeply absorbed as she was, she still recognised her father's step as
he came upstairs to his room. She hurried out to meet him. He noticed
with pleasure that her face was not wan, nor were her eyes red. He was
less satisfied when she said, in a calm, clear voice:
"Please show me the letter that you have received from Mme. de Lorcy."
"What is the use?" he rejoined. "I know it by heart. I am ready to
recite it to you."
"Is it a letter that cannot be shown?"
"No, indeed; but as I tell you that I am ready to give you an account
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