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Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 42499

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

The Baths of Saint Moritz are, according to the verdict of a large number of people, by no means an enlivening resort, and here tarry chiefly genuine invalids, who cherish a sincere desire to recover health and strength. The invigorating atmosphere, the chalybeate waters, which are unquestionably wholesome, although they do taste like ink, have wrought more than one actual miracle; nevertheless, it is said to require no little philosophy to tolerate existence there. "I am charmed to have had the experience of visiting the Baths," we once heard an invalid say, "for I know now that I am capable of enduring anything and everything." But this, let us hasten to assure the reader, is an exaggeration-the mere babbling of an ingrate.

The Upper Engadine Valley, in which Saint Moritz is situated, has, as well as the Baths, its detractors and its admirers. This narrow valley, throughout whose whole length flows the Inn, shut in by glacier-capped mountains, whose slopes are covered with spruce, pine, and larch trees, lies at an altitude of some five thousand feet above the level of the sea. It often snows there in the month of August, but spring and early summer in the locality are delightful; and dotted about are numerous little romantic green lakes, glittering like emeralds in the sunshine. Those who slander these by comparing them to wash-bowls and cisterns, are simply troubled with the spleen, a malady which neither iron, iodine, nor yet sulphur, can cure.

One thing these discontented folks cannot deny, and that is that it would be difficult, not to say impossible, to find anywhere in the mountains more flowery and highly perfumed mossy banks than those of the Engadine. We do not make this assertion because of the rhododendrons that abound on the borders of the lakes: we are not fond of this showy, pretentious shrub, whose flowers look as if they were moulded in wax for the decoration of some altar; but is it not delightful to walk on a greensward, almost black with rich satyrion and vanilla? And what would you think of a wealth of gentians, large and small; great yellow arnicas; beautiful Martagon lilies; and St.-Bruno lilies; of every variety of daphne; of androsace, with its rose-coloured clusters; of the flame-coloured orchis; of saxifrage; of great, velvety campanulas; of pretty violet asters, wrapped in little, cravat-like tufting, to protect them from the cold? Besides, near the runnels, following whose borders the cattle have tracked out graded paths, there grows that species of immortelle called Edelweiss, an object of covetousness to every guest at the Baths. Higher up, near the glacier approach, may be found the white heart's-ease, the anemone, and the glacial ranunculus (spearwort); higher still, often buried beneath the snow, flourishes that charming little lilac flower, delicately cut, sensitive, quivering, as it were, with a cold, known as the soldanella. To scrape away the snow and find beneath it a flower! Are there often made such delightful discoveries in life?

Having said thus much, we must admit that the Rue de Saint Moritz does not resemble the Rue de la Paix of Paris. We must also admit that the markets of the place are poorly supplied, and that in an atmosphere well calculated to stimulate the appetite the wherewithal to supply this cannot always be obtained. We cannot have everything in this world; but it is by no means our intention to advise any one to take up his residence for life in the Engadine. There must, however, be some charm in this valley, since those of its inhabitants who emigrate from it in their youth are very apt, after they have made some money, to return to pass their old age in their natal place, where they build some very pretty houses.

Mlle. Moriaz did not find Saint Moritz disagreeable; the wildness of the scenery and the rugged pines pleased her. From the terrace of Hotel Badrutt she loved to gaze upon the green lake, slumbering at her feet, and it never occurred to her to grumble because it had the form of a wash-bowl. She loved to see the cows returning at evening from the pasture. The cowherd in charge marshalled home in the most orderly manner his little drove, which announced its coming from afar by the tinkling of the cow-bells. Each one of the creatures stopped of itself at the entrance to its stall and demanded admittance by its lowing. In the morning, when they were turned out again, they awaited the arrival of the entire herd, and fell into rank and file, each in its proper place. The first time Mlle. Moriaz witnessed this ceremony, she found it as interesting as a first presentation at the theatre or opera.

There were several rainy days, which she employed in reading, painting, and making observations on the human animals of both sexes whom she encountered at the table d'hote. She soon gained an increase of occupation. With her, mind and heart were so constantly on the alert that it was impossible for her to remain a week in a place without discovering some work of charity to be performed. A woman to whom she had taken a fancy, a little shopkeeper of the place, interested her in her daughter, who was destined to be a governess, and who desired to learn drawing. Antoinette undertook to give her drawing-lessons, making her come every day to the hotel, and often keeping her there several hours. Her pupil was rather dull of comprehension, and caused her to grow a little cross sometimes; but she always made amends to the girl by her caresses and sprightly talk.

The weather became fine again. Antoinette availed herself of the opportunity to take long promenades; she clambered up the mountain-slopes, over slippery turf, in the hope of carrying home some rare plant; but her strength was not equal to her valour-she could not succeed in scaling those heights where flourished the Edelweiss. A week after her arrival she had a surprise, we might even say a pleasurable emotion, which was not comprised in the programme of amusements that the proprietor of Hotel Badrutt undertook to procure for his guests. Returning from an excursion to Lake Silvaplana, she found in her chamber a basket containing a veritable sheaf of Alpine flowers, freshly gathered, and among them not only Edelweiss in profusion, but several very rare plants, and the rarest of all a certain bell-flower creeper, which smells like the apricot, and which, except in some districts of the Engadine, is only found now in Siberia. This splendid bouquet was accompanied by a note, thus conceived:

"A man who had had enough of life, resolved to hang himself. To execute his dolorous design, he selected a lonely and dismal spot, where there grew a solitary oak, whose sap was nearly exhausted. As he was engaged in securing his cord, a bird alighted on the half-dead tree and began to sing. The man said to himself: 'Since there is no spot so miserable that a bird will not deign to sing in it, I will have the courage to live.' And he lived.

"I arrived in this village disgusted with life, sorrowful and so weary that I longed to die. I saw you pass by, and I know not what mysterious virtue entered into me. I will live.

"'What matters it to me?' you will say, in reading these lines; and you will be right. My sole excuse for having written them is, that I will leave here in a few days; that you never will see me again, never know who I am!"

The first impression of Antoinette was one of profound astonishment. She would have taken it for granted that there was some mistake had not her name been written in full on the envelope. Her second impulse was to laugh at her adventure. She accorded full justice to Mlle. Moriaz; she knew very well that she did not resemble the first chance comer; but that her beauty would work miracles, resurrections; that a hypochondriac, merely from seeing her pass by, was likely to regain his taste for existence, scarcely appeared admissible to her. So great was her curiosity, that she took the pains to make inquiries; the flowers and the letter had been left by a little peasant, who was not of the place, and who could not be found. Antoinette examined the hotel-register; she did not see there the handwriting of the letter. She studied the faces which surrounded her; there was not in Hotel Badrutt a single romantic-looking person. Very speedily she renounced her search. The bouquet pleased her; she kept it as a present fallen from the skies, and preserved the letter as a curiosity, without long troubling herself to know who had written it. "Do not let us talk about it any more, it is doubtless some lunatic," she replied one day to Mlle. Moiseney, who kept constantly recurring to the incident whose mystery she burned to fathom. The good demoiselle had been tempted to stop people in the road to ask, "Was it you?" Perchance she might have suspected her Bergun unknown to have a hand in the affair, had she had the least idea that he was at Saint Moritz, where she never had met him. He came there, nevertheless, every day, but at his own time; besides, the hotels were full to overflowing, and it was very easy to lose one's self in the crowd.

To tell the truth, when Count Abel Larinski came to Saint Moritz he was far less occupied with Mlle. Moriaz than with a certain illustrious chemist. The air of the Engadine and the waters that tasted like ink had worked marvels: in a week M. Moriaz felt like a new man. There had come to him a most formidable appetite, and he could walk for hours at a time without becoming weary. He abused his growing strength by constantly strolling through the mountains without a guide, hammer in hand; and every day, in spite of the remonstrances of his daughter, he increased the length of his excursions. The more people know, the more inquisitive they become; and, when one is inquisitive, one can go to great lengths without feeling fatigue; one only becomes conscious of this after the exertion is over. M. Moriaz never for a moment suspected that he was accompanied, at a respectful distance, on these solitary expeditions, by a stranger, who, with eyes and ears both on the alert, watched over him like a providence. The most peculiar part of the affair was that this providence would gladly have caused him to take a misstep, or thrust him into some quagmire, in order to have the pleasure of drawing him out, and bearing him in his arms to the Hotel Badrutt. "If only he could fall into a hole and break his leg!" Such was the daily wish of Count Abel Larinski; but savants have great license allowed them. Although M. Moriaz was both corpulent and inclined to be absent-minded, he plunged into more than one quagmire without sticking fast, more than one marsh without having his progress impeded.

One morning he conceived the project of climbing up as high as a certain fortress of mountains whose battlements overhang a forest of pine and larch trees. He was not yet sufficiently accustomed to the mountains to realize how deceptive distances become there. After having drained two glasses of the chalybeate waters, and breakfasted heartily, he set out, crossed the Inn, and began the ascent to the forest. The slope grew more and more abrupt, and ere long he discovered that he had wandered from the foot-path. He was not one to be easily disheartened; he continued climbing, laying hold of the brushwood with his hands, planting his feet among perfidious pine-needles, which form a carpet as smooth as a mirror, making three steps forward and two backward. Great drops of perspiration started out on his brow, and he sat down for a moment to wipe them away, hoping that some wood-cutter might appear and show him the way back to the path, if there was one. But no human soul came within sight; and plucking up his courage again he resumed the ascent, until he had nearly reached a breastwork of rock, in which he vainly sought an opening. He was about retracing his steps when he remembered that from the gallery of the hotel he had observed this breastwork of reddish rock, and it seemed to him that he remembered also that it formed the buttress of the mountain-stronghold of which he was in quest; and so he concluded that this would be the last obstacle he would have to overcome. He thought that it would be actually humiliating to be so near the goal and yet renounce it. The rock, worn by the frost, presented sundry crevices and indentures, forming a natural stairway. Arming himself with all his strength, and making free use of his nails, he undertook to scale it, and in five minutes had gained a sort of plateau, which, unluckily for him, he found to be commanded by a smooth granite wall of a fearful height. The only satisfactory procedure for him now was to return whence he had come; but in these perilous passages to ascend is easier than to descend; it being impossible to choose one's steps, descent might lead to a rather undesirable adventure. M. Moriaz did not dare to risk this adventure.

He walked the whole length of the plateau where he found himself in the hope of discovering some outlet; but the sole outlet he could discover had already been monopolized by a mountain-torrent whose troubled waters noisily precipitated themselves through it to the depths below. This torrent was much too wide to wade, and to think of leaping over it would have been preposterous. All retreat being cut off, M. Moriaz began to regret his audacity. Seized by a sudden agony of alarm, he began to ask himself if he was not condemned to end his days in this eagle's-nest; he thought with envy of the felicity of the inhabitants of the plains; he cast piteous glances at the implacable wall whose frowning visage seemed to reproach him with his imprudence. It seemed to him that the human mind never had devised anything more beautiful than a great highway; and it would have taken little to make him exclaim with Panurge, "Oh, thrice-ay, quadruply-happy those who plant cabbages!"

Although there seemed small chance of his being heard in this solitude, he called aloud several times; he had great difficulty in raising his voice above the noise of the cataract. Suddenly he believed that he heard below him a distant voice replying to his call. He redoubled his cries, and it seemed to him that the voice drew nearer, and soon he saw emerging from the thicket bordering the opposite bank of the torrent a pale face with chestnut beard, which he remembered having beheld in the cathedral at Chur, and to have seen again at Bergun.

"You are a prisoner, monsieur," was the salutation of Count Larinski; for, of course, the newcomer was none other than he. "One moment's patience, and I am with you." And his face beamed with joy. He had him at last, this precious game which has caused him so many steps.

He turned away, bounding from rock to rock with the agility of a chamois. In about twenty minutes he reappeared, bearing on his shoulder a long plank which he had detached from the inclosure of a piece of pasture-land. He threw it across the torrent, secured it as well as he could, crossed this impromptu foot-bridge of his own device, and joined M. Moriaz, who was quite ready to embrace him.

"Nothing is more perfidious than the mountains," said the count. "They are haunted by some mysterious sprite, who fairly delights in playing tricks with venturesome people; but 'all's well that ends well.' Before setting out from here you need something to revive you. The rarefied atmosphere of these high regions makes the stomach frightfully hollow. More prudent than you, I never undertake these expeditions without providing myself with some refreshment. But how pale you are!" he added, looking at him with sympathetic, almost tender, eyes. "Put on, I beg of you, my overcoat, and I will wrap myself up in my plaid, and then we will both be warm."

With these words he took off his overcoat and handed it to M. Moriaz, who, feeling almost frozen, offered feeble objections to donning the garment, although he had some difficulty in getting into the sleeves.

During this time Count Abel had thrown down on the rock the wallet he carried slung to a leathern strap over his shoulders. He drew forth from it a loaf of light bread, some hard-boiled eggs, a pate of venison, and a bottle of excellent burgundy. These provisions he spread out around him, and then presented to M. Moriaz a cup cut from a cocoanut-shell, and filled it to the brim, saying, "Here is something that will entirely restore you." M. Moriaz drained the cup, and soon felt his weakness disappear. His natural good spirits returned to him, and he gaily narrated to his Amphitryon his deplorable Odyssey. In return, Abel recounted to him a similar adventure he had had in the Carpathian Mountains. It is very easy to take a liking to a man who helps you out of a scrape, who gives you drink when you are thirsty, and food when you are hungry; but, even had not M. Moriaz been under great obligations to Count Larinski, he could not have avoided the discovery that this amiable stranger was a man of good address and agreeable conversation.

Nevertheless, so soon as the repast was finished, he said: "We have forgotten ourselves in our talk. I am the happy father of a charming daughter who has a vivid imagination. She will believe that I have met with an untimely end if I do not hasten as speedily as possible to reassure her."

Count Abel hereupon gave his hand to M. Moriaz to aid him in preserving his equilibrium as he crossed the plank, which was not wide. Throughout the descent he overwhelmed him with attentions, sustaining him with his arm when the descent became too abrupt. So soon as they had made their way to a foot-path, they resumed their conversation. Abel was very clear-sighted, and, like Socrates, as we said before, he was master in the art of interrogating. He turned the conversation to erratic glaciers and boulders. M. Moriaz was enchanted with his manner of asking questions; as Professor of the College of France, he was well pleased to owe his life to an intelligent man.

As they traversed a pine-forest, they heard a voice hailing them, and they were shortly joined by a guide whom Mlle. Moriaz, mortally disquieted at the prolonged absence of her father, had sent in quest of him. Pale with emotion, trembling in every fibre, she had seated herself on the bank of a stream. She was completely a prey to terror, and in her imagination plainly saw her father lying half dead at the bottom of some precipice or rocky crevasse. On perceiving him she uttered a cry of joy and ran to meet him.

"Ah! truly, my love," said he, "I have been more fortunate than wise. And I shall have to ask my deliverer his name in order to present him to you."

Count Abel appeared not to have heard these last words. He stammered out something about M. Moriaz having exaggerated the worth of the little service it had been his good fortune to render him, and then with a cold, formal, dignified air, he bowed to Antoinette and moved hurriedly away, as a man who cares little to make new acquaintances, and who longs to get back to his solitude.

He was already at some distance when M. Moriaz, who had been busily recounting his adventures to his daughter, bethought him that he had kept his deliverer's overcoat. He searched in the pockets, and there found a memorandum-book and some visiting-cards bearing the name of Count Abel Larinski. Before dinner he made the tour of all the hotels in Saint Moritz without discovering where M. Larinski lodged. He learned it in the evening from a peasant who came over from Cellarina for the overcoat.

The good Mlle. Moiseney was quite taken with Count Abel; first, because he was handsome, and then because he played the piano bewitchingly. There could be no doubt that Antoinette would feel grateful to this good-looking musician who had restored to her her father. Certain of being no longer thwarted in her enthusiasm, she said to her that evening, with a smile which was meant to be excessively ironical:

"Well, my dear, do you still think that Count Larinski has a stoop in his shoulders, and that his head is badly poised?"

"It is a matter of small import, but I do not gainsay it."

"Ah, if you had only heard him play one of Schumann's romances!"

"A talent for music is a noble one. Nevertheless, the man's chief merit, in my eyes, is that he has a taste for saving life."

"Oh, I was sure from the first, perfectly sure, that this man had a large heart and a noble soul. I read physiognomies very correctly, and I never need to see people twice to know how far they can be relied on." After a pause she added, "I wonder if I dare tell you, my dear, of an idea that has occurred to me?"

"Tell me, by all means. Your ideas sometimes amuse me."

"Might it not turn out that the author of a certain note, and sender of a certain thing, was M. le Comte Abel Larinski?"

"Why he rather than any other?" queried Antoinette. "I believe you do him wrong: he appears to be a gentleman, and gentlemen do not write anonymous letters."

"Oh! that was a very innocent one, and you may be sure that he wrote it in perfect good faith."

"You believe, then, mademoiselle, that in good faith a man about to put a

halter about his neck would renounce his project because he had encountered Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz on a public highway?"

"Why not?" cried Mlle. Moiseney, looking at her with eyes wide open with admiration. "Besides, you know the Poles are a hot-headed people, whose hearts are open to all noble enthusiasms. One could pardon in Count Larinski what could not be overlooked in a Parisian."

"I will pardon him on condition that he will keep his promise and never make himself known to me, for this is unquestionably the first duty of a mysterious unknown. Just now he refused to let my father present him to me, which is a good mark in his favour. If he alters his mind, he becomes at once a condemned man. I pity you, my dear Joan," added Antoinette, laughingly. "You are dying with longing to hear one of those romances without words, which M. Larinski plays so divinely; and if M. Larinski be the man of the letter, his own avowal prohibits him from appearing before me again. How can you extricate yourself from this dilemma? The case is embarrassing."

It was M. Moriaz who undertook the solution of this embarrassing dilemma. Three days later, some moments before dinner, he was walking in the hotel-grounds, smoking a cigar. He saw passing along the road Count Abel, on his way back to Cellarina. A storm was coming up; already great drops of rain were beginning to fall. M. Moriaz ran after the count and seized him by the button, saying: "You have saved my life-permit me, at least, to save you from the rain. Do me the honour to share our dinner; we will have it served in my apartment."

Abel strongly resisted this proposition, giving reasons that sounded like mere pretences. A rumbling of thunder was heard. M. Moriaz took his man by the arm, and led him in by force. He presented him to his daughter, saying: "Antoinette, let me present to you M. le Comte Larinski, a most excellent man, but little inclined to sociability. I was compelled to use violence in bringing him here."

The count acknowledged these remarks with a constrained smile. He wore the manner of a prisoner; but, as he prided himself on his good-breeding and on his philosophy, he seemed to be endeavouring to make the best of his prison. During dinner he was grave. He treated Antoinette with frigid politeness, paid some attention to Mlle. Moiseney, but reserved his chief assiduities for Mr. Moriaz. He addressed his conversation more particularly to him, and listened to him with profound respect. A professor is always sensible to this kind of courtesy.

After the coffee was served, the crusting of ice in which Count Abel had incased himself began to thaw. He had been all over the world; he knew the United States and Turkey, New Orleans and Bucharest, San Francisco and Constantinople. His travels had been profitable to him: he had observed men and things, countries and institutions, customs and laws, the indigenous races and the settlers, all but the transient visitors, with whom he seemed to have had no time to occupy himself; at least they formed no part of his conversation. He related several anecdotes, with some show of sprightliness; his melancholy began to melt away, he even indulged in little bursts of gaiety, and Antoinette could not avoid comparing him and his discourse to some of the more rigorous passages of the Engadine, where, amid the black shades of the pines, among frowning rocks, there are to be found lilies, gentians, and lakes.

He resumed his gravity to reply to a question of M. Moriaz concerning Poland. "Unhappy Poland!" cried he. "To-day the Jew is its master. Active, adroit, inventive, little scrupulous, he makes capital out of our indolence and our improvidence. He has over us one great advantage, which is simply that, while we live from day to day, he possesses a notion of a to-morrow; we despise him, and we could not do without him. We are always thirsty, and he supplies us with drink; we never have ready money, and he loans it to us at an enormous rate of interest; we cannot return it to him, and he reimburses himself by seizing our goods and chattels, our jewels, our land, and our castles. We take out our revenge in insolence, and from time to time in petty persecutions, and we gradually arrive at the conclusion that the sole means of freeing ourselves from the yoke of the Jew would be to conquer the vices by which he lives." Count Abel added that for his part he had no prejudice against these children of Abraham, and he quoted the words of an Austrian publicist who said that each country had the kind of Jews it deserved. "In fact," he continued, "in England, as in France, and in every country where they are placed on a footing of equality, they become one of the most wholesome, most vigorous elements of the nation, while they are the scourge, the leeches, of the countries that persecute them."

"And, truly, justice demands that it should be so," cried Mlle. Moriaz.

For the first time the count addressed himself directly to her, saying, with a smile: "How is this, mademoiselle? You are a woman, and you love justice!"

"This astonishes you, monsieur?" she rejoined. "You do not think justice one of our virtues?"

"A woman of my acquaintance," he replied, "always maintained that it would be rendering a very bad service to this poor world of ours to suppress all injustice, because with the same stroke would also be suppressed all charity."

"That is not my opinion," said she. "When I give, it seems to me that I make restitution."

"She is somewhat of a socialist," cried M. Moriaz. "I perceive it every January in making out her accounts, and it is fortunate that she intrusts this to me, for she never takes the trouble to look at the memorandum her banker sends her."

"I am proud for Poland that Mlle. Moriaz has a Polish failing," said Abel Larinski, gallantly.

"Is it a failing?" queried Antoinette.

"Arithmetic is the most beautiful of the sciences and the mother of certainty," said M. Moriaz. And turning towards the count, he added: "She is very wrong-headed, this girl of mine; she holds absolutely revolutionary principles, dangerous to public order and the preservation of society. Why, she maintains that people who are in need have a right to the superfluities of others!"

"This appears to me self-evident," said she.

"And, for example," further continued M. Moriaz, "she has among her proteges a certain Mlle. Galard-"

"Galet," said Mlle. Moiseney, bridling up, for she had been impatiently awaiting an opportunity to put in a word.

"This Mlle. Leontine Galet, who lives at No. 25 Rue Mouffetard-"

"No. 27," again interposed Mlle. Moiseney, in a magisterial tone.

"As usual, you are sure of it, perfectly sure. Very good! This Mlle. Galard or Galet, residing at No. 25 or No. 27 Rue Mouffetard, was formerly a florist by trade, and now she has not a sou. I do not wish to fathom the mysteries of her past-it is very apt to be 'lightly come, lightly go' with the money of these people-but certain it is that Mlle. Galard-"

"Galet," put in Mlle. Moiseney, sharply.

"Is to-day an infirm old woman, a worthy object of the compassion of charitable people," continued M. Moriaz, heedless of this last interruption. "Mlle. Moriaz allows her a pension, with which I find no fault; but Mlle. Galet-I mistake, Mlle. Galard-has retained from her former calling her passion for flowers, and during the winter Mlle. Moriaz sends her every week a bouquet costing from ten to twelve francs, which shows, according to my opinion, a lack of common-sense. In the month of January last, she sent for Parma violets for this protégé of hers. Now, I appeal to M. Larinski-is this reasonable, or is it absurd?"

"It is admirably absurd and foolishly admirable," replied the count.

"The flowers I give her are never so beautiful as some that were sent me the other day," exclaimed Mlle. Moriaz.

She went then into the next room, and returned, carrying the vase of water containing the mysterious bouquet. "What do you think of these?" she asked the count. "They are already much faded, and yet I think they are beautiful still."

He admired the bouquet; but, although Antoinette regarded him fixedly, she detected neither blush nor confusion on his face. "It was not he," she said to herself.

There was a piano in the room where they had dined. As Count Abel was taking leave, Mlle. Moiseney begged him to give Mlle. Moriaz proof of his talent. He slightly knit his brows at this request, and resumed that sombre, almost savage, air he had worn when he met Antoinette at the foot of the mountain. He urged in excuse the lateness of the hour, but he allowed the promise to be wrested from him that he would be more complaisant the next day.

When he was gone, accompanied by M. Moriaz, who said he would walk a little distance with him, Antoinette exclaimed: "You see, my dear-it was not he."

"Suppose I was wrong," replied Mlle. Moiseney, in a piqued tone-"you will at least grant that he is handsome?"

"As handsome as you please. Do you know what I think of when I look at him? A haunted castle. And I feel curious to make the acquaintance of the goblins that visit it."

Notwithstanding his promise, Count Larinski did not reappear before the lapse of three days; but this time he gave all the music that was asked of him. His memory was surprising, and his whole soul seemed to be at the ends of his fingers; and he drew marvellous strains from an instrument which, in itself, was far from being a marvel. He sang, too; he had a barytone voice, mellow and resonant. After having hummed in a low tone some Roumanic melodies, he struck up one of his own national songs. This he failed to finish; tears started in his eyes, emotion overpowered his voice. He broke off abruptly, asking pardon for the weakness that had caused him to make himself ridiculous; but one glance at Mlle. Moriaz convinced him that she did not find him ridiculous.

A most invaluable resource, indeed, in a mountain-country where the evenings are long, is a Pole who knows how to talk and to sing. M. Moriaz liked music; but he liked something else besides. When he could not go into society and was forbidden to work, he grew sleepy after dinner; in order to rouse himself he was glad to play a hand of bezique or ecarte. For want of some one better, he played with Mlle. Moiseney; but this make-shift was little to his taste; he disliked immensely coming into too close proximity with the pinched visage and yellow ribbons of Pope Joan. He proposed to Count Larinski to take a hand with him, and his proposal was accepted with the best grace in the world. "Decidedly this man is good for everything," thought M. Moriaz, and he conceived a great liking for him. The result was, that during an entire week Count Abel passed every evening at the Hotel Badrutt.

"Your father is a most peculiar man," said Mlle. Moiseney, indignantly, to Antoinette. "He is shockingly egotistical. He has confiscated M. Larinski. The idea of employing such a man as that to play bezique! He will stop coming."

But the count's former savageness seemed wholly subdued. He did not stop coming.

One evening M. Moriaz committed an imprudence. In making an odd trick, he carelessly asked M. Larinski who had been his piano professor.

"One whose portrait I always carry about me," was the reply.

And, drawing from his vest-pocket a medallion, he presented it to M. Moriaz, who, after having looked at it, passed it over to his daughter. The medallion contained the portrait of a woman with blond hair, blue eyes, a refined, lovely mouth, a fragile, delicate being with countenance at the same time sweet and sad, the face of an angel, but an angel who had lived and suffered.

"What an exquisite face!" cried Mlle. Moriaz.

Truly it was exquisite. Some one has asserted that a Polish woman is like punch made with holy-water. One may like neither the punch nor the holy-water, and yet be very fond of Polish women. They form one of the best chapters in the great book of the Creator.

"It is the portrait of my mother," said Count Larinski.

"Are you so fortunate as to still possess her?" asked Antoinette.

"She was a tender flower," he replied; "and tender flowers never live long."

"Her portrait shows it plainly; one can see that she suffered much, but was resigned to live."

For the first time the count departed from the reserve he had shown towards Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz. "I have no words to tell you," he exclaimed, "how happy I am that my mother pleases you!"

Othello was accused of having employed secret philters to win Desdemona's love. Brabantio had only himself to blame; he had taken a liking to Othello, and often invited him to come to him; he did not make him play bezique, but he questioned him on his past. The Moor recounted his life, his sufferings, his adventures, and Desdemona wept. The fathers question, the heroes or adventurers recount, and the daughters weep. Such are the outlines of a history as old as the world. Abel Larinski had left the card-table. He had taken his seat in an arm-chair, facing Mlle. Moiseney. He was questioned; he replied.

His destiny had been neither light nor easy. He was quite young when his father, Count Witold Larinski, implicated in a conspiracy, had been compelled to flee from Warsaw. His property was confiscated, but luckily he had some investments away from home, which prevented him from being left wholly penniless. He was a man of projects. He emigrated to America with his wife and his son; he dreamed of making a name and a fortune by cutting a canal through the Isthmus of Panama. He repaired to New Granada, there to make his studies and his charts. He made them so thoroughly that he died of yellow fever before having begun his work, having come to the end of his money and leaving his widow in the most cruel destitution. Countess Larinski said to her son: "We have nothing more to live on; but, then, is it so necessary to live?" She uttered these words with an angelic smile about her lips. Abel set out for California. He undertook the most menial services; he swept the streets, acted as porter; what cared he, so long as his mother did not die of hunger? All that he earned he sent to her, enduring himself the most terrible privations, making her think that he denied himself nothing. In the course of time Fortune favoured him; he had acquired a certain competency. The countess came to rejoin him in San Francisco; but angels cannot live in the rude, exciting atmosphere of the gold-seekers; they suffer, spread their wings, and fly away. Some weeks after having lost his mother-it was in 1863-Count Abel learned from a journal that fell into his hands that Poland had risen again. He was twenty-one years of age. He thought he heard a voice calling him, and another voice from the skies whispered: "She calls thee. Go; it is thy duty." And he went. Two months later he crossed the frontier of Galicia to join the bands of Langiewicz.

Othello spoke to Desdemona of caverns, deserts, quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven; of cannibals, the anthropophagi, and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders. Count Abel spoke to Mlle. Moriaz of the fortunes and vicissitudes of partisan warfare, of vain exploits, of obscure glories, of bloody encounters that never are decisive, of defeats from which survive hope, hunger, thirst, cold, snow stained with blood, and long captivities in forests, tracked by the enemy; then disasters, discouragements, the vanishing of the last hope, punishment, the gallows, and finally a mute, feverish resignation, swallowed up in that vast solitude with which silence surrounds misfortune. After the dispersion of the band whose destinies he had followed, he had gone over to Roumania.

This narration, exact and precise, bore the impress of truth. Count Abel made it in a simple, modest tone, keeping himself as much as possible in the background, and growing persuasive without apparent effort. There were moments when his face would flame up with enthusiasm, when his voice would become husky and broken, when he would seek for a word, become impatient because he could not find it, find it at last, and this effort added to the energy of his spasmodic and disjointed eloquence. In conclusion, he said: "In his youth man believes himself born to roll; the day comes when he experiences the necessity of being seated. I am seated; my seat is a little hard, but when I am tempted to murmur, I think of my mother and refrain."

"What did you do in Roumania?" inquired M. Moriaz, who liked to have stories circumstantially detailed.

"Ah! I beg of you to excuse me from recounting to you the worst employed years of my life. I am my father's own son. He dreamed of cutting through an isthmus, I of inventing a gun. I spent four years of my life in fabricating it, and the first time it was used it burst."

And thereupon he plunged into a somewhat humorous description of his invention, his hopes, his golden dreams, his disappointments, and his chagrin. "The only admirable thing in the whole affair," he concluded, "and something that I believe never has happened to any other inventor, is that I am cured entirely of my chimera; I defy it to take possession of me again. I propose to put myself under discipline in order to expiate my extravagance. So soon as my cure is entirely finished I will set out for Paris, where I will do penance."

"What kind of penance?" asked M. Moriaz. "Paris is not a hermitage."

"Nor is it my intention to live there as a hermit," was the reply, given with perfect simplicity. "I go to give lessons in music and in the languages."

"Indeed!" exclaimed M. Moriaz. "Do you see no other career open to you, my dear count?"

"I am no longer a count," he replied, with an heroic smile. "Counts do not run about giving private lessons." And a strange light flashed in his eyes as he spoke. "I shall run about giving private lessons until I hear anew the voice that spoke to me in California. It will find me ever ready; my reply will be: 'I belong to thee; dispose of me at thy pleasure.' Ah! this chimera is one that I never will renounce!"

Then suddenly he started as one just awakening from a dream; he drew his hand over his brow, looked confusedly around him, and said: "Grand Dieu! here I have been talking to you of myself for two hours! It is the most stupid way of passing one's time, and I promise you it shall not happen again."

With these words he rose, took up his hat, and left.

M. Moriaz paced the floor for some moments, his hands behind his back; presently he said: "This diable of a man has strangely moved me. One thing alone spoils his story for me-that is the gun. A man who once has drunk will drink again; one who has invented will invent again. No man in the world ever remained satisfied with his first gun."

"I beg of you, monsieur," cried Mlle. Moiseney, "could you not speak to the Minister of War about adopting the Larinski musket?"

"Are you your country's enemy?" he asked. "Do you wish its destruction? Have you sworn that after Alsace we must lose Champagne?"

"I am perfectly sure," she replied, mounting on her high horse, "that the Larinski musket is a chef-d'oeuvre, and I would pledge my life that he who invented it is a man of genius."

"If you would pledge your word of honour to that, mademoiselle," he replied, making her a profound bow, "you may well feel assured that the French Government would not hesitate a moment."

Mlle. Moriaz took no part in this conversation. Her face slightly contracted, buried in her thoughts as in a solitude inaccessible to earthly sounds, her cheek resting in the palm of her left hand, she held in her right hand a paper-cutter, and she kept pricking the point into one of the grooves of the table on which her elbow rested, while her half-closed eyes were fixed on a knot of the mahogany. She saw in this knot the Isthmus of Panama, San Francisco, the angelic countenance of the beautiful Polish woman who had given birth to Count Abel Larinski; she saw there also fields of snow, ambuscades, retreats more glorious than victories, and, beyond all else, the bursting of a gun and of a man's heart.

She arose, and saluted her father without a word. In crossing the salon she perceived that M. Larinski had forgotten a book he had left on the piano when he came in. She opened the volume; he had written his name on the top of the first page, and Antoinette recognised the handwriting of the note.

Shut up in her own room, while taking down and combing her hair, her imagination long wandered through California and Poland. She compared M. Larinski with all the other men she ever had known, and she concluded that he resembled none of them. And it was he who had written: "I arrived in this village disgusted with life, sorrowful and so weary that I longed to die. I saw you pass by, and I know not what mysterious virtue entered into me. I will live."

It seemed to her that for long years she had been seeking some one, and that she had done well to come to the Engadine, because here she had found the object of her search.

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