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Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 50360

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Were the events of this nether sphere governed by the calculus of probabilities, Count Abel Larinski and Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz would almost unquestionably have arrived at the end of their respective careers without ever having met. Count Larinski lived in Vienna, Austria; Mlle. Moriaz never had been farther from Paris than Cormeilles, where she went every spring to remain throughout the fine weather. Neither at Cormeilles nor at Paris had she ever heard of Count Larinski; and he, on his part, was wholly unaware of the existence of Mlle. Moriaz. His mind was occupied with a gun of his own invention, which should have made his fortune, and which had not made it. He had hoped that this warlike weapon, a true chef-d'oeuvre, in his opinion superior in precision and range to any other known, would be appreciated, according to its merits, by competent judges, and would one day be adopted for the equipment of the entire Austro-Hungarian infantry. By means of unremitting perseverance, he had succeeded in obtaining the appointment of an official commission to examine it. The commission decided that the Larinski musket possessed certain advantages, but that it had three defects: it was too heavy, the breech became choked too rapidly with oil from the lubricator, and the cost of manufacture was too high. Count Abel did not lose courage. He gave himself up to study, devoted nearly two years to perfecting his invention, and applied all his increased skill to rendering his gun lighter and less costly. When put under test, the new firearm burst, and this vexatious incident ruined forever the reputation of the Larinski gun. Far from becoming enriched, the inventor had sunk his expenses, his advances of every kind; he had recklessly squandered both revenue and capital, which, to be sure, was not very considerable.

Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz had a more fortunate destiny than Count Larinski. She did not plume herself on having invented a new gun, nor did she depend upon her ingenuity for a livelihood; she had inherited from her mother a yearly income of about a hundred thousand livres, which enabled her to enjoy life and make others happy, for she was very charitable. She loved the world without loving it too much; she knew how to do without it, having abundant resources within herself, and being of a very independent disposition. During the winter she went out a great deal into society, and received freely at home. Her father, member of the Institute and Professor of Chemistry at the College of France, was one of those savants who enjoy dining out; he had a taste also for music and for the theatre. Antoinette accompanied him everywhere; they scarcely ever remained at home except upon their reception evenings; but with the return of the swallows it was a pleasure to Mlle. Moriaz to fly to Cormeilles and there pass seven months, reduced to the society of Mlle. Moiseney, who, after having been her instructress, had become her demoiselle de compagnie. She lived pretty much in the open air, walking about in the woods, reading, or painting; and the woods, her books, and her paint-brushes, to say nothing of her poor people, so agreeably occupied her time that she never experienced a quarter of an hour's ennui. She was too content with her lot to have the slightest inclination to change it; therefore she was in no hurry to marry. She had completed twenty-four years of her existence, had refused several desirable offers, and wished nothing better than to retain her maidenhood. It was the sole article concerning which this heiress had discussions with those around her. When her father took it into his head to grow angry and cry, "You must!" she would burst out laughing; whereupon he would laugh also, and say: "I'm not the master here; in fact, I am placed in the position of a ploughman arguing with a priest."

It is very dangerous to tax one's brains too much when one dines out frequently. During the winter of 1875, M. Moriaz had undertaken an excess of work; he was overdriven, and his health suffered. He was attacked by one of those anemic disorders of which we hear so much nowadays, and which may be called la maladie a la mode. He was obliged to break in upon his daily routine, employ an assistant, and early in July his physician ordered him to set out for Engadine, and try the chalybeate water-cure at Saint Moritz. The trip from Paris to Saint Moritz cannot be made without passing through Chur. It was at Chur that Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz, who accompanied her father, met for the first time Count Abel Larinski. When the decree of Destiny goes forth, the spider and the fly must inevitably meet.

Abel Larinski had arrived at Chur from Vienna, having taken the route through Milan and across the Splugen Pass. Although he was very short of funds, upon reaching the capital of the canton of Grisons he had put up at the Hotel Steinbock, the best and most expensive in the place. It was his opinion that he owed this mark of respect to Count Larinski; such duties he held to be very sacred, and he fulfilled them religiously. He was in a very melancholy mood, and set out for a promenade in order to divert his mind. In crossing the Plessur Bridge, he fixed his troubled eyes on the muddy waters of the stream, and he felt almost tempted to take the fatal leap; but in such a project there is considerable distance between the dream and its fulfilment, and Count Larinski experienced at this juncture that the most melancholy man in the world may find it difficult to conquer his passion for living.

He had no reason to feel very cheerful. He had quitted Vienna in order to betake himself to the Saxon Casino, where roulette and trente-et-quarante are played. His ill-luck would have it that he stopped on the way at Milan, and fell in with a circle of ill repute, where this most imprudent of men played and lost. There remained to him just enough cash to carry him to Saxon; but what can be accomplished in a casino when one has empty pockets? Before crossing the Splugen he had written to a petty Jew banker of his acquaintance for money. He counted but little on the compliance of this Hebrew, and this was why he paused five minutes to contemplate the Plessur, after which he retraced his steps. Twenty minutes later he was crossing a public square, ornamented with a pretty Gothic fountain, and seeing before him a cathedral, he hastened to enter it.

The cathedral of Chur possesses, among other curiosities, a painting by Albert Durer, a St. Lawrence on the gridiron, attributed to Holbein, a piece of the true cross, and some relics of St. Lucius and his sister Ernesta. Count Abel only accorded a wandering attention to either St. Lucius or St. Lawrence. Scarcely had he made his way into the nave of the building, when he beheld something that appeared to him far more interesting than paintings or relics. An English poet has said that at times there is revealed to us a glimpse of paradise in a woman's face, and it was such a rare blessing that was at this moment vouchsafed unto Count Larinski. He was not a romantic man, and yet he remained for some moments motionless, rooted to the spot in admiration. Was it a premonition of his destiny? The fact is that, in beholding for the first time Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz, for it was none other than she who thus riveted his attention, he experienced an inexplicable surprise, a thrilling of the heart, such as he never before had experienced. In his first impression of this charming girl he made one slight mistake. He divined at once that the man by whom she was accompanied, who had gray hair, a broad, open brow, vivacious eyes, shaded by beautiful, heavy eye-brows, belonged to some learned fraternity; but he imagined that this individual with a white cravat, who had evidently preserved his freshness of heart, although past sixty years of age, was the fortunate suitor of the beautiful girl by his side.

There are some women whom it is impossible not to gaze upon. Wherever Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz appeared she was the object of universal observation: first, because she was charming; and, then, because she had a way of her own of dressing and of arranging her hair, a peculiar movement of the head, a grace of carriage, which inevitably must attract notice. There were those who made so bold as to assert that she assumed certain little peculiarities solely for the purpose of attracting the chance observer. Do not believe a word of it. She was altogether indifferent to public opinion and consulted her own taste alone, which was certainly impregnated with a touch of audacity; but she did not seek to appear audacious-she merely acted according to her natural bent. Observing her from a distance, people were apt to fancy her affected, and somewhat inclined to be fantastic; but on approaching her, their minds were speedily disabused of this fancy. The purity of her countenance, her air of refinement and thorough modesty, speedily dispelled any suspicious thoughts, and those who had for a moment harboured them would say mentally, "Pardon me, mademoiselle, I mistook." Such, at least, was the mental comment of Count Abel, as she passed close by him on leaving the church. Her father was telling her something that made her smile; this smile was that of a young girl just budding into womanhood, who has nothing yet to conceal from her guardian angel. Count Larinski left the church after her, and followed her with his eyes as she crossed the square. On returning to the hotel he had a curiosity to satisfy. He questioned one of the garcons, who pointed out to him in the hotel register for travellers the following entry: "M. Moriaz, member of the Institute of France, and his daughter, from Paris, en route for Saint Moritz." "And where then?" he asked himself; then dismissed the subject from his mind.

When he had dined, he repaired to the post-office to inquire for a letter he was expecting from Vienna. He found it, and returned to shut himself up in his chamber, where he tore open the envelope with a feverish hand. This letter, written in a more peculiar than felicitous French, was the reply of the Jew banker. It read as follows:

"M. LE COMTE:

"Although you both write and understand German very well, you do not like to read it, and therefore I write to you in French. It grieves me deeply not to have it in my power to satisfy your honoured demand. Business is very dull. It is impossible for me to advance you another florin, or even to renew your note, which falls due shortly. I am the father of a family; it pains me to be compelled to remind you of this.

"I wish to tell you quite freely what I think. I did believe in your gun, but I believe in it no longer, no one believes in it any more. When strong, it was too heavy; when you made it lighter, it was no longer strong. What came next? You know it burst. Beware how you further perfect it, or it will explode whenever it becomes aware that any one is looking at it. This accursed gun has eaten up the little you had, and some of my savings besides, although I have confidence that you will, at least, pay me the interest due on that. It grieves me to tell you so, M. de Comte, but all inventors are more or less crack-brained, and end in the hospital. For the love of God, leave guns as they are, and invent nothing more, or you will go overboard, and there will be no one to fish you out."

Abel Larinski paused at this place. He put his letter down on the table, and, turning round in his arm-chair, with a savage air, his eye fixed on a distant corner of the room, he fell to thus soliloquizing in a sepulchral voice:

"Do you hear, idiot? This old knave is right. Accursed be the day when the genius of invention thrilled your sublime brain! A grand discovery you have made, forsooth! What have I gained from it? Grand illusions, grand discomfitures! What hath it availed me that I passed whole nights discussing with you breech-loaders, screw-plates, tumbrels, sockets, bridges, ovoid balls, and spring-locks? What fruits have I gained from these refreshing conversations? You foresaw everything, my great man, except that one little thing which great men so often fail to see, that mysterious something, I know not what, which makes success. When you spoke to me, in your slow, monotonous tones, when you fixed upon me your melancholy gaze, I should have been able to read in your eyes that you were only a fool. The devil take thee and thy gun, thy gun and thee; hollow head, head full of chimeras, true Pole, true Larinski!"

To whom was Count Abel speaking? To a phantom? To his double? He alone knew. When he had uttered the last words, he resumed the perusal of his letter, which ended thus:

"Will you permit me to give you a piece of advice, M. le Comte, a good little piece of advice? I have known you for three years, and have taken much interest in your welfare. You invent guns, which, when they are strong, lack lightness. I beg your pardon, but I do not comprehend you, M. le Comte. The name you bear is excellent; the head you carry on your shoulders is superb, and it is the general opinion that you resemble Faust; but neither name nor head does you any good. Leave the guns as they are, and bestow your attention upon women; they, and they alone, can draw you out of the deep waters where you are now floundering. There is no time to lose. I beg your pardon, but you must be thirty years old, and perhaps a little more. This diable of a gun has made you lose three valuable years.

"It pains me, M. le Comte, to be compelled to remind you that the little note falls due shortly. I have had the value of the bracelet you left with me as a pledge estimated; it is not worth a thousand florins, as you believed; it is a piece of antiquity that has a value to only those who can indulge in a caprice for fancy articles, and such caprices are rare nowadays, the time for such is past.

"I am, M. le Comte, with much respect, your humble and obedient servant,

"MOSES GULDENTHAL."

Abel Larinski turned once more in his chair. He crumpled up between his fingers the letter of M. Moses Guldenthal, saying to himself as he did so, that the Guldenthals are often very clear-sighted folks. "Ay, to be sure," thought he, "this Hebrew is right, I have lost three valuable years. I have had fever, and my eyes have been clouded; but, Heaven be praised! The charm is broken, the illusion fled, I am cured-saved! Farewell, my chimera, I am no longer thy dupe! Many thanks, my dear friend: I return to you your gun; do with it as it seemeth best to you."

His eyes suddenly fell on his own reflection in the mirror above the chimney-piece, and he regarded it fixedly for a few moments.

"The semblance truly of an inventor," he resumed, mournfully smiling. "This pale, emaciated face; these deep-set eyes, with dark circles about them; these hollow, cadaverous cheeks! The three years have indeed left their traces. Bah! a little rest in the Alpine pastures, and Faust will become rejuvenated."

He seized a pen, and wrote the following reply:

"You are truly kind, my dear Guldenthal: you refuse me the miserable florins, but you give me in their stead a little piece of advice that is worth a fortune. Unluckily, I am not capable of following it. Noble souls like ours comprehend each other with half a word, and you are a poet whenever it suits you. When in the course of the day you have transacted a neat little piece of business, after having rubbed your hands until you have almost deprived them of skin, you tune your violin, which you play like an angel, and you draw from it such delightful strains that your ledger and your cash-box fall to weeping with emotion. I, too, am a musician, and my music is the fair sex. But, alas! women never can be for me other than an adorable inutility, a part of the dream of my life. Your dreams yield you a handsome percentage, as I have sorrowfully experienced; my dreams yield me nothing, and therefore it is that they are dear to me.

"I must prohibit-understand me clearly-your disposing of the trinket I left with you; we have the weakness, we Poles, of clinging to our family relics. Set your mind at rest; before the end of the month I shall have returned to Vienna, and will honour the dear little note. One day you will go down on your knees to beg of me to loan you a thousand florins, and I will astonish you with my ingratitude. May the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, have you in his holy keeping, my dear Guldenthal!"

As he finished his letter, he heard the sound of harps and violins. Some itinerant musicians were giving a concert in the hotel-garden, which was lit up as bright as day. Abel opened his window, and leaned on his elbows, looking out. The first object that presented itself to his eyes was Mlle. Moriaz, promenading one of the long garden-walks, leaning on her father's arm. Many eyes were fixed on her-we have already said it was difficult not to gaze upon her-but no one contemplated her with such close attention as Count Larinski. He never once lost sight of her.

"Is she beautiful? Is she even pretty?" he queried within himself. "I cannot quite make up my mind, but I am very sure that she is charming. Like my bracelet, this is a fancy article. She is a little thin, and her shoulders are too vigorously fashioned for her waist, which is slender and supple as a reed; but, such as she is, she has not her equal. Her walk, her carriage, resemble nothing I ever have seen before. I can well imagine that when she appears in the streets of Paris people turn to look after her, but no one would have the audacity to follow her. How old is she? Twenty-four or twenty-five years, I should say. Why is she not married? Who is this withered, pinched-looking fright of a personage who trots at her side like a poodle-dog? Probably some demoiselle de compagnie. And there comes her femme de chambre, a very spruce little lass, bringing her a shawl, which the demoiselle de compagnie hastens to put over her shoulders. She allows it to be done with the air of one who is accustomed to being waited upon. Mlle. Moriaz is an heiress. Why, then, is she not married?"

Count Larinski pursued his soliloquy as long as Mlle. Moriaz promenaded in the garden. As soon as she re-entered the hotel, it appeared to him that the garden had become empty, and that the musicians were playing out of tune. He closed his window. He gave up his plan of starting the next day for Saxon. He had decided that he would set out for Saint Moritz, to pass there at least two or three days. He said to himself, "It seems absurd; but who can tell?"

Thereupon he proceeded to investigate the state of his finances, and he weighed and re-weighed his purse, which was very light. Formerly Count Larinski had possessed a very pretty collection of jewellery. He had looked upon this as a reserve fund, to which he would have recourse only in cases of extreme distress. Alas! there remained to him now only two articles of his once considerable store-the bracelet that was in the hands of M. Guldenthal, and a diamond ring that he wore on his finger. He decided that, before quitting Chur, he would borrow money on this ring, or that he would try to sell it.

He remained some time seated at the foot of his bed, dangling his legs to and fro, his eyes closed. He had closed them, in order to better call up a vision of Mlle. Moriaz, and he repeated the words: "It seems absurd; but who can tell? The fact is, we can know nothing of a surety, and anything may happen." Then he recalled one of Goethe's poems, entitled "Vanitas! vanitatum vanitas!" and he recited several time in German these two lines:

"Nun hab' ich mein' Sach' auf nichts gestellt, Und mein gehort die ganze Welt!"

This literally signifies, "Now that I no longer count on anything, the whole world is mine." Abel Larinski recited these lines with a purity of accent that would have astonished M. Moses Guldenthal.

M. Moriaz, after wishing his daughter good-night, and imprinting a kiss upon her brow, as was his custom, had retired to his chamber. He was preparing for bed, when there came a knock at his door. Opening this, he saw before him a fair-haired youth, who rushed eagerly towards him, seized both his hands, and pressed them with effusion. M. Moriaz disengaged his hands, and regarded the intruder with a bewildered air.

"How?" cried the latter. "You do not know me? So sure as you are one of the most illustrious chemists of the day, I am Camille Langis, son of your best friend, a young man of great expectations, who admires you truly, who has followed you here, and who is now ready to begin all over again. There, my dear master, do you recognise me?"

"Ay, to be sure I recognise you, my boy," replied M. Moriaz, "although, to tell the truth, you have greatly changed. When you left us you were a mere youth."

"And now?"

"And now you have the air of a young man; but, I beg of you, where have you come from? I thought you were in the heart of Transylvania."

"It is possible to return from there, as you see. Three days ago I arrived in Paris and flew to Maisons-Lafitte. Mme. De Lorcy, who bears the double insignia of honour of being my aunt and the godmother of Antoinette-I beg your pardon, I mean Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz-informed me that you were in ill-health, and that your physician had sent you to Switzerland, to Saint Moritz, to recruit. I hastened after you; this morning I missed you by one hour at Zurich; but I have you now, and you will listen to me."

"I warn you, my dear child, that I am at this moment a most detestable auditor. We have done to-day one hotel de ville, one episcopal palace, one cathedral, and some relics of St. Lucius. To speak plainly, I am overpowered with sleep. Is there any great haste for what you have to say to me?"

"Is there any great haste? Why, I arrive breathless from Hungary to demand your daughter in marriage."

M. Moriaz threw up his arms; then, seating himself on the edge of his bed, he piteously gasped:

"You could not wait until to-morrow? If a judge is desired to take a favourable view of a case, he surely should not be disturbed in his first sleep to consider it."

"My dear master, I am truly distressed to be compelled to be disagreeable to you, but it is absolutely necessary that you should listen to me. Two years ago, for the first time, I asked of you your daughter's hand. After having consulted Antoinette-you will permit me to call her Antoinette, will you not?-after having consulted her, you told me that I was too young, that she would not listen seriously to my proposal, and you gave me your permission to try again in two years. I have employed these two mortal years in constructing a railroad and a wire bridge in Hungary, and, believe me, I took infinite pains to forget Antoinette. In vain! She is the romance of my youth, I never can have another. On July 5, 1873, did you not tell me to return in two years? We are now at July 5, 1875, and I return. Am I a punctual man?"

"As punctual as insupportable," rejoined M. Moriaz, casting a melancholy look at his pillow. "Now, candidly, is it the thing to seek the presence of the President of the Academy of Sciences between eleven o'clock and midnight, to pour such silly stuff into his ear? You are wanting in respect for the Institute. Besides, my dear boy, people change in two years; you are a proof of it. You have developed from boyhood almost into manhood, and you have done well to let your imperial grow; it gives you quite a dashing military air-one would divine at first sight that you were fresh from Hungary. But, while you have changed for the better, are you sure that Antoinette has not changed for the worse? Are you sure that she is still the Antoinette of your romance?"

"I beg your pardon; I saw her just now, without her seeing me. She was promenading on your arm in the hotel-garden, which was lit up in her honour. Formerly she was enchanting, she has become adorable. If you would have the immense goodness to give her to me, I would be capable of doing anything agreeable to you. I would relieve you of all your little troublesome jobs; I would clean your retorts; I would put labels on your bottles and jars; I would sweep out your laboratory. I know German very well-I would read all the large German books it might please you to consult; I would read them, pen in hand; I would make extracts-written extracts-and such extracts! Grand Dieu! they would be like copperplate. My dear master, will you give her to me?"

"The absurd creature! He imagines that it only depends upon me to give him my daughter. I could as easily dispose of the moon. Since she has had teeth, she had made me desire everything she desires."

"At least you will give me permission to pay my addresses to her to-morrow?"

"Beware, unlucky youth!" cried M. Moriaz. "You will ruin your case forever. Since you have been away she has refused two offers, one of them from a second secretary of legation, Viscount de R--, and at the present moment she holds in holy horror all suitors. She is acc

ompanying me to Saint Moritz in order to gather flowers and paint aquarelle sketches of them. Should you presume to interrupt her in her favourite occupations, should you present yourself before her like a creditor on the day of maturity, I swear to you that your note would be protested, and that you would have nothing better to do than return to Hungary."

"You are sure of it?"

"As sure as that sulphuric acid will turn litmus red."

"And you have the heart to sent me back to Paris without having spoken with her?"

"What I have said is for your good, and you know whether I mean you well or not."

"It is agreed, then, that you will take charge of my interests; that you will plead my cause?"

"It is understood that I will sound the premises, that I will prepare the way-"

"And that you will send me tidings shortly, and that these tidings will be good. I shall await them here, at the Hotel Steinbock."

"As you please; but, for the love of Heaven, let me sleep!"

M. Camille Langis pressed his two arms and said, with much emotion: "I place myself in your hands; take care how you answer for my life!"

"O youth!" murmured M. Moriaz, actually thrusting Camille from the room. "One might search in vain for a more beautiful invention."

Ten hours later, a post-chaise bore in the direction of Engadine Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz, her father, her demoiselle de compagnie, and her femme de chambre. They breakfasted tolerably well in a village situated in the lower portion of a notch, called Tiefenkasten, which means, literally, deep chest, and certainly a deeper never has been seen. After breakfast they pursued their way farther, and towards four o'clock in the afternoon they reached the entrance of the savage defile of Bergunerstein, which deserves to be compared with that of Via Mala. The road lies between a wall of rocks and a precipice of nearly two hundred metres, at the bottom of which rush the swift waters of the Albula. This wild scenery deeply moved Mlle. Moriaz; she never had seen anything like it at Cormeilles or anywhere about Paris. She alighted, and, moving towards the parapet, leaned over it, contemplating at her ease the depths below, which the foaming torrent beneath filled with its roars.

Her father speedily joined her.

"Do you not find this music charming?" she asked of him.

"Charming, I grant," he replied; "but more charming still are those brave workmen who, at the risk of their necks, have engineered such a suspended highway as we see here. I think you admire the torrent too much, and the road not enough." And after a pause he added, "I wish that our friend Camille Langis had had fewer dangers to contend with in constructing his." Antoinette turned quickly and looked at her father; then she bestowed her attention once more upon the Albula. "To be sure," resumed M. Moriaz, stroking his whiskers with the head of his cane, "Camille is just the man to make his way through difficulties. He has a youthful air that is very deceptive, but he always has been astonishingly precocious. At twenty years of age he became head of his class at the Central School; but the best thing about him is that, although in possession of a fortune, yet he has a passion for work. The rich man who works accepts voluntary poverty."

There arose from the precipice a damp, chill breeze; Mlle. Moriaz drew over her head a red hood that she held in her hand, and scraping off with her finger some of the facing of the parapet, which glittered with scales of mica, she asked: "What do you call this?"

"It is gneiss, a sort of sheet-granite; but do not you too admire people who work when they are not compelled to do anything?"

"Then you must admire yourself a great deal."

"Oh, I! In my early youth I worked from necessity, and then I formed a habit which I cannot now get rid of; while Camille Langis-"

"Once more?" she ejaculated, with a gesture of impatience. "What prompts you to speak to me of Camille?"

"Nothing. I often think of him."

"Do not let us two play at diplomacy. You have had news of him lately?"

"You just remind me that I have, through a letter from Mme. De Lorcy."

"Mme de Lorcy, my godmother, would do better to meddle with what concerns her. That woman is incorrigible."

"Of what would you have her correct herself?"

"Simply of her mania for making my happiness after her own fashion. I read in your eyes that Camille has returned to Paris. What is his object?"

"I know nothing about it. How should I know? I only presume-that is, I suppose--"

"You do not suppose-you know."

"Not at all. At the same time, since hypothesis is the road which leads to science, a road we savants travel every day, I-"

"You know very well," she again interposed, "that I promised him nothing."

"Strictly speaking, I admit; but you requested me to tell him that you found him too young. He has laboured conscientiously since then to correct that fault." Then playfully pinching her cheeks, he added: "You are a great girl for objections. Soon you will be twenty-five years old, and you have refused five eligible offers. Have you taken a vow to remain unmarried?"

"Ah! you have no mercy," she cried. "What! you cannot even spare me on the Albula! You know that, of all subjects of conversation, I have most antipathy for this."

"Come, come; you are slandering me now, my child. I spoke to you of Camille as I might have spoken of the King of Prussia; and you rose in arms at once, taking it wholly to yourself."

Antoinette was silent for some moments.

"Decidedly, you are very fond of Camille," she presently said.

"Of all the sons-in-law you could propose to me--"

"But I do not propose any."

"That is precisely what I find fault with."

"Very good; since you think so much of him, this Camille, suppose you command me to marry him?"

"If I were to command, would you obey?"

"Perhaps, just for the curiosity of the thing," she rejoined, laughing.

"Naughty girl, to mock at her father!" said he. "If these twenty years I have been in servitude, I can scarcely emancipate myself in a day. However, since the great king deigns to hold parley with his ministers, I am Pomponne-let us argue."

"Ah, well! you know as well as I that I have a real friendship for Camille, as the playmate of my childhood. I remember him when he was ever so small, and he remembers me, too, when I was a tiny creature. We played hide-and-seek together, and he humoured me in my ten thousand little caprices. Delightful reminiscences these, but unfortunately I think of them too much when I see him."

"He has passed two years among the Magyars; two years is a good while."

"Bah! he could never possibly have any authority over me. I intend that my husband shall be my government."

"So that you may have the pleasure of governing your government?"

"Besides, I know Camille too well. I could only fall in love with a stranger," said she, heedless of the last sally.

"Was not the Viscount R-- a stranger?"

"At the end of five minutes I knew him by heart. He is precisely like all other second secretaries of legation in the world. You may be sure that there is not a single idea in his head that is really his own. Even his figure does not belong to himself; it is the chef-d'oeuvre of the united efforts of his tailor and his shirt-maker."

"According to this, a prime requisite in the man whom you could love is to be poorly clad."

"If ever my heart is touched, it will be because I have met a man who is not like all the other men of my acquaintance. After that I will not positively forbid him to have decent clothing."

M. Moriaz made a little gesture of impatience, and then set out to regain the chaise, which was some distance in advance. When he had proceeded about twenty steps, he paused, and, turning towards Antoinette, who was engaged in readjusting her hood and rebuttoning her twelve-button gloves, he said:

"I have drawn an odd number in the great lottery of this world. In our day there are no romantic girls; the last remaining one is mine."

"That is it; I am a romantic girl!" she cried, tossing her pretty, curly head with an air of defiance; "and if you are wise you will not urge me to marry, for I never shall make any but an ineligible match."

"Ah, speak lower!" he exclaimed, casting a hurried glance around him, and adding: "Thank Heaven! there is no one here but the Albula to hear you."

M. Moriaz mistook. Had he raised his eyes a little higher he would have discovered, above the rock cornice bordering the highway, a foot-path, and in this foot-path a pedestrian tourist, who had paused beneath a fir-tree. This tourist had set out from Chur in the diligence. At the entrance of the defile, leaving his luggage to continue without him to Saint Moritz, he had alighted, and with his haversack on his back had set forward on foot for Bergun, where he proposed passing the night, as did also M. Moriaz. Of the conversation between Antoinette and her father he had caught only one word. This word, however, sped like an arrow into his ear, and from his ear into the innermost recesses of his brain, where it long quivered. It was a treasure, this word; and he did not cease to meditate upon it, to comment on it, to extract from it all its essence, until he had reached the first houses of Bergun, like a mendicant who has picked up in a dusty road a well-filled purse, and who opens it, closes it, opens it again, counts his prize piece by piece, and adds up its value twenty times over. Our tourist dined at the table d'hote; he was so preoccupied that he ate the trout caught in the Albula without suspecting that they possessed a marvellous freshness, an exquisite flavour and delicacy, and yet it is notorious that the trout of the Albula are the first trout of the universe.

Mlle. Moiseney, the duties of whose office consisted in serving as chaperon to Mlle. Moriaz, was not a great genius. This worthy and excellent personage had, in fact, rather a circumscribed mind, and she had not the least suspicion of it. Her physiognomy was not pleasing to M. Moriaz; he had several times besought his daughter to part with her. In the goodness of her soul Antoinette always refused; she was not one who could countenance rebuffs to old domestics, old dogs, old horses, or worn-out governesses. Young Candide arrived at the conclusion, as the result of his observations, that the first degree of happiness would be to be Mlle. Gunegonde, and the second to contemplate her throughout life. Mlle. Moiseney believed that it would be the first degree of superhuman felicity to be Mlle. Moriaz, the second to pass one's life near this queen, who, arbitrary and capricious though she might be, was most thoughtful of the happiness of her subjects, and to be able to say: "It was I that hatched the egg whence arose this phoenix; I did something for this marvel; I taught her English and music." She had boundless admiration for her queen, amounting actually to idolatry. The English profess that their sovereigns can do nothing amiss: "The king can do no wrong." Mlle. Moiseney was convinced that Mlle. Moriaz could neither do wrong nor make mistakes about anything. She saw everything with her eyes, espoused her likes and her dislikes, her sentiments, her opinions, her rights, and her wrongs; she lived, as it were, a reflected existence. Every morning she said to her idol, "How beautiful we are to-day!" precisely as the bell-ringer who, puffing out his cheeks, cried: "We are in voice; we have chanted vespers well to-day!" M. Moriaz excused her for finding his daughter charming, but could not so readily approve of her upholding Antoinette's ideas, her decisions, her prejudices. "This woman is no chaperon," said he; "she is an admiration-point!" He would have been very glad to have routed her from the field, and to give her place to a person of good sound sense and judgment, one who might gain some influence over Antoinette. It would have greatly surprised Mlle. Moiseney had he represented to her that she lacked good sense. This good creature flattered herself that she had an inexhaustible stock of this commodity; she placed the highest estimate on her own judgment; she believed herself to be well-nigh infallible. She discoursed in the tone of an oracle on future contingencies; she prided herself on being able to divine all things, to foresee all things, to predict all things-in a word, to be in the secret of the gods. As her Christian name was Joan, M. Moriaz, who set little store by his calendar, sometimes called her Pope Joan, which wounded her deeply.

Mlle. Moiseney had two weaknesses; she was a gormand, and she admired handsome men. Let us understand the case: she knew perfectly well that they were not created for her; that she had no attractions to offer them; that they had nothing to give her. She admired them naively and innocently, as a child might admire a beautiful Epinal engraving; she would willingly have cut out their likenesses to hang on a nail on her wall, and contemplate while rereading "Gonzalve de Cordue" and "Le Dernier des Cavaliers," her two favourite romances. At Bergun, during the repast, her brain had been working, and she had made two reflections. The first was, that the trout of Albula were incomparable, the second that the stranger seated opposite her had a remarkably handsome head, and was altogether a fine-looking man. Several times, with fork halfway to mouth, and nose in the air, she had forgotten herself in her scrutiny of him.

Antoinette, rather weary, had retired early to her chamber. Mlle. Moiseney repaired thither to see if she needed anything, and, as she was about leaving her for the night, candle in hand, she suddenly inquired, "Do not you think, as I do, that this stranger is a remarkable-looking person?"

"Of whom do you speak?" rejoined Antoinette.

"Why, of the traveller who sat opposite me."

"I confess that I scarcely looked at him."

"Indeed! He has superb eyes, nearly green, with fawn-coloured tinting."

"Most astonishing! And his hair, is it green also?"

"Chestnut brown, almost hazel."

"Pray be more exact; is it hazel or not?"

"You need not laugh at me-his whole appearance is striking, his figure singular, but full of character, full of expression, and as handsome as singular."

"What enthusiasm! It seemed to me, so far as I noticed, that he was inclined to stoop, and that his head was very badly poised."

"What do you say?" cried Mlle. Moiseney, greatly scandalized. "How came you to think his head badly poised?"

"There-there! Don't let us quarrel about it; I am ready to retract. Good-night, mademoiselle. Apropos, did you know that M. Camille Langis had returned to Paris?"

"I did not know it, but I am not surprised. I had surmised it; in fact, I was quite sure that he would be back about this time, perfectly sure. And, of course, you think he has returned with the intention-"

"I think," interrupted Antoinette, "that it costs me more to pain M. Langis than any other man in the world. I think, also, that he possesses most tiresome fidelity; it is always the way, one never loses one's dog when one wants to lose him; and I think, moreover, that a woman makes a poor bargain when she marries a man for whom she feels friendship; for, if she gains a husband, she is very sure to lose a friend."

"How true your words are!" exclaimed Mlle. Moiseney. "But you are always right. Has M. Langis forgotten that you thought him too young-only twenty-three?"

"He has so little forgotten it that he has managed, I don't know how, to be at present twenty-five. How resist such a mark of affection? I shall be compelled to marry him."

"That will never do. People do not marry for charity," replied Mlle. Moiseney, deprecatingly.

"Adieu, my dear," said Antoinette, dismissing her. "Do not dream too much about your unknown charmer. I assure you he had a decided stoop in his shoulders. However, that makes small difference; if your heart speaks, I will see to arranging this affair for you." And she added, musingly, "How amusing it must be to marry other people!"

The next morning Mlle. Moiseney made the acquaintance of her unknown charmer. Before leaving Bergun Mlle. Moriaz wished to make a sketch, and she had gone out early with her father. Mlle. Moiseney descended to the hotel salon, and, espying a piano, she opened it and played a fantasia by Schumann; she was a tolerably good musician. When she had finished, Count Abel Larinski, the man with green eyes, who had entered the salon without her hearing him, approached to thank her for the pleasure he had had in listening to her; but he begged to take the liberty to tell her that she failed to properly observe the movement, and had taken an andantino for an andante. At her solicitation he took her place at the instrument, and executed the andantino as few but professional artists could do. Mlle. Moiseney, ever ready with her enthusiasm, declared that he must be a Liszt or a Chopin, and implored him to play her something else, to which he consented with good grace. After this they talked about music and many other things. The man with the green eyes possessed one quality in common with Socrates, he was master in the art of interrogating, and Mlle. Moiseney loved to talk. The subject on which she discoursed most willingly was Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz; when she was started under this heading she became eloquent. At the end of half an hour Count Abel was thoroughly au fait on the character and position of Mlle. Moriaz. He knew that she had a heart of gold, a mind free from all narrow prejudices, a generous soul, and a love for all that was chivalrous and heroic; he knew that two days of every week were devoted by her to visiting the poor, and that she looked upon these as natural creditors to whom it was her duty to make restitution. He knew also that Mlle. Moriaz could all the better satisfy her charitable inclinations, as her mother had left her an income of one hundred thousand livres. He learned that she danced to perfection, that she drew like an angel, and that she read Italian and spoke English. This last seemed of mediocre importance to Count Abel. St. Paul said: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." The count was of St. Paul's opinion, and had Mlle. Moriaz known neither how to speak English, nor to draw, nor yet to dance, it would not in the least have diminished the esteem with which he honoured her. The main essential in his eyes was that she was benevolent to the poor, and that she cherished a little tenderness for heroes.

When he had learned, with an air of indifference, all that he cared to learn, he respectfully bowed himself away from Mlle. Moiseney, to whom he had not mentioned his name, and, buckling his haversack, he put it on his back, paid his bill, and set out on foot to make a hasty ascent of the culminating point of the Albula Pass, which leads into the Engadine Valley. One would have difficulty in finding throughout the Alps a more completely barren, rugged, desolate spot, than this portion of the Albula Pass. The highway lies among masses of rocks, heaped up in terrible disorder. Arrived at the culminating point, Count Abel felt the necessity of taking breath. He clambered up a little hillock, where he seated himself. At his feet were wide open the yawning jaws of a cavern, obstructed by great tufts of aconite (wolf's-bane), with sombre foliage; one would have said that they kept guard over some crime in which they had been accomplices. Count Abel contemplated the awful silence that surrounded him; everywhere enormous boulders, heaped together, or scattered about in isolated grandeur; some pitched on their sides, others standing erect, still others suspended, as it were, in mid-air. It seemed to him that these boulders had formerly served for the games of bacchanalian Titans, who, after having used them as skittles or jack-stones, had ended by hurling them at one another's heads. It is most probable that He who constructed the Albula Pass, alarmed and confused by the hideous aspect of his work, did justice to it by breaking it into fragments with his gigantic hammer.

Count Abel heard a tinkling of bells, and, looking up, he saw approaching a post-chaise, making its way from Engadine to Bergun. It was a large, uncovered berlin, and in it sat a woman of about sixty years of age, accompanied by her attendants and her pug-dog. This woman had rather a bulky head, a long face, a snub-nose, high cheek-bones, a keen, bright eye, a large mouth, about which played a smile, at the same time spirituel, imperious, and contemptuous. Abel grew pale, and became at once convulsed with terror; he could not withdraw his eyes from this markedly Mongolian physiognomy, which from afar he had recognised. "Ah, yes," he said, "it is she!" He drew over his face the cape of his mantle, and disappeared as completely as it is possible to disappear when one is perched upon a hillock. It was six years since he had seen this woman, and he had promised himself never to see her again; but man is the plaything of circumstances, and his happiness as well as his pride is at the mercy of a chance encounter. Count Abel was no longer proud; for some moments he had humbled himself, he had ceased to exist.

Happily he discovered that he had not been recognised; that the woman of sixty years of age was not looking his way. She had good taste; discovering the hideous aspect of the country, which is usually known as the Vallee du Diable, she had opened a volume, bound in morocco, which her waiting-woman had placed in her hands. This volume was not a new novel; it was a German book, entitled "The History of Civilization, viewed in Accordance with the Doctrines of Evolution, from the most Remote Period to the Present Day." She neither had made much progress in the pages of the book nor in the history of civilization; she had not got beyond the age of stone or of bronze; she was still among primitive animal life, among the protozoa, the monads, the infusoria, the vibratiles-in the age of albumen, or gelatinous civilization, as it was called by the author, the sagacity of whose views charmed her. She only interrupted her reading at intervals to lightly stroke the nose of her pug, who lay snoring in her lap, and she was a thousand leagues from suspecting that Count Abel Larinski was at hand, watching her.

The berlin passed by him without stopping, and soon it had begun the descent towards Bergun. Then he felt a great weight roll from his heart, which beat freely once more. The berlin moved rapidly away; the count followed it with his prayers, smoothing its course, removing every stone or other obstacle that might retard its progress. It was just disappearing round one of the curves of the road, when it crossed another post-chaise, making the ascent in a walk, and in it Count Abel perceived something red: it was the hood of Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz. A moment more and the berlin was gone; it seemed to him that the shadow of his sorrowful youth, emerged suddenly from the realm of shades, had been plunged back there forever, and that the fay of hope-she who holds in her keeping the secrets of the future-was ascending toward him, red-hooded, flowers in her hands, sunshine in her eyes. The clouds parted, the deep shadow covering the Vallee du Diable cleared away, and the dismal solitude began to smile. Count Abel arose, picked up his staff, and shook himself. As he passed before the cavern, he discovered, among the tufts of aconite which covered it, a mossy hollow, and he perceived that this hollow was ornamented with beautiful blue campanulas, whose little bells gracefully waved in the gentle breeze which was stirring. He gathered one of these campanulas, carried it to his lips, and found its taste most agreeable. Half an hour later he turned from the highway into a foot-path which led through green pastures and forests of larch-trees.

By the time he had reached the heart of the valley it was nightfall. He traversed the hamlet of Cresta, crossed a bridge, found himself at the entrance of the village of Cellarina, about twenty-five minutes' walk form Saint Moritz. After taking counsel with himself, he resolved to proceed no farther; and so he put up at a neat, pretty inn, which had just been freshly white-washed.

The air of the Engadine is so keen and bracing that the first nights passed there are apt to be sleepless ones. Count Larinski scarcely slept at all in his new quarters. Would he have slept better on the plains? He became worn out with his thoughts. Of what was he thinking? Of the cathedral at Chur, of the Vallee du Diable, of the tufts of aconite, the campanulas, and the meeting of the two post-chaises, one ascending, the other descending. After that he saw no longer anything but a red hood, and his eyes were open when the first blush of the morning penetrated his modest chamber. Eagles sleep little when they are preparing for the chase.

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