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Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 49911

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Mme. de Lorcy was a woman of about fifty years of age, who still possessed remains of beauty. She had been a widow for long years, and never had thought of marrying again. Although her wedded life had been a happy one, she considered that liberty is to be prized above all else; she employed hers in a most irreproachable manner. She was self-possessed, even better acquainted with numbers than with dress, and managed her property herself, which was by no means a trifling thing to do. Liking to make good use of her time, she thought to do it by busying herself in the affairs of others. She had a real vocation for the profession of a consulting lawyer. Usually her advice was sensible and judicious-nothing better could be done than to follow it; only her clients complained that she pronounced her sentences with too little tenderness, without granting any appeal. She was good, charitable, but lacked unction, and she had no sympathy with the illusions of others. A German poet, in making his New-Year offerings, wishes that the rich may be kind-hearted, that the poor may have bread, that the ladies may have pretty dresses, that the men may have patience, that the foolish may get a little reason, and that sensible people may grow poetic. Mme. de Lorcy was kind-hearted, she had pretty dresses and a great deal of reason; but her reason was wanting in poetry, and poetic people to whom she gave advice required a good deal of patience to listen to the end. Those who permitted themselves to despise her counsel, and who were happy after their own fashion, incurred her lasting displeasure. She obstinately asserted to them that their seeming happiness was all a deceit; that they had fastened a stone about their necks; and that, without appearing to do so, at the bottom of their hearts they bitterly repented. She added, "It is not my fault; I told you, but you would not believe me."

Mme. de Lorcy had an almost maternal affection for her nephew, M. Camille Langis. Confident that he could not be otherwise than successful in a love-affair, she promised him that he should marry Mlle. Moriaz. To be sure, he was rather young; but she had decided that the question of age made no difference, and that in all else there was a perfect fitness between the parties. M. Langis hesitated a long time about declaring himself. He said to Mme. de Lorcy: "If she refuse me, I shall no longer be able to see her; and so long as I can see her, I am only half-wretched." It was Mme. de Lorcy who forced him to draw his sword and open the campaign, in which she was to act as second. This campaign had not been a successful one. Deeply wounded at the refusal, which she had in vain attempted to prevent, she was ready to force Mlle. Moriaz into compliance. They made her believe, to pacify her, that the sentence was not definite, or at least that a period of grace would be granted to the condemned. M. Langis set out for Hungary, and he had now returned. In the mean time, Antoinette had refused two offers. Mme. de Lorcy had inferred this to be a favourable omen for her projects. Thus she felt annoyance mingled with anger on receiving the following letter from M. Moriaz:

"DEAR MADAME:

"You will be charmed to learn that I am extremely well. My cheeks are full, my complexion florid, my legs as nimble as a chamois, my appetite like that of an ogre. If ever you become anemic, which God forbid, you should set out forthwith for Saint Moritz, and I shall soon have good news from you. Saint Moritz is a place where you find what you want, but you find, besides, what you do not want. I do not speak of bears; I have not seen any, and should I meet one, I am strong enough to strangle it. Besides, bears are taciturn animals, they never relate their histories, and the only animals I fear are those that have the gift of narrating, and that one is not allowed to strangle. I will say no more. Have I made myself intelligible? You are so intelligent.

"Apropos, Antoinette sends you a sketch or a painting, I do not know which, that will be handed to you by Count Abel Larinski. He is a Pole, of that there can be no doubt; you will perceive it at once. I wish him well; he was obliging enough to extricate me from a breakneck position into which I had foolishly thrust myself. That I have a pair of legs to walk on, and a hand to write with, I owe to him. I recommend him to your kind reception, and I beg you to get him to relate his history. He is one of those who narrate, not every day, it is true, but when you touch the right spring, he starts, and cannot be stopped. Seriously, M. Larinski is no ordinary man; you will find pleasure in his acquaintance. I have discovered that he is in rather embarrassed circumstances. He is the son of an emigrant, whose property has been confiscated. His father was a half fool, who made great attempts to cut a channel through the Isthmus of Panama, and never succeeded in cutting his way through anything. He was himself beginning to earn money in San Francisco, when, in 1863, he gave everything up to go and fight against the Russians. This enthusiastic patriot has since adopted the calling of an inventor, in which he has been unsuccessful; he is now in search of a livelihood. Do not think he will ask for anything; he is an hidalgo; he wraps himself proudly in his poverty, as a Castilian does in his cloak. I am interested in him; I want to assist him, give him a lift; but, first, I wish to feel sure that he is worthy of my sympathy. Examine him closely, sift him well; I trust your eyes rather than my own; I have the greatest faith in your skill in this kind of valuation.

"Antoinette sends you her most affectionate greetings. She adores Saint Moritz; you would think that she had found something here which has wrought a charm over her. For my own part, I am delighted to have recovered my appetite, my sleep, and all the rest, and yet I regret having come; can you reconcile that? Let me know as soon as possible what you think of my Pole; but, pray do not condemn him unheard. No hasty decision, I entreat; an expert is bound not to be influenced by his prejudices, but to weigh his judgments as his words. Adieu, dear madame; pity me in spite of my full cheeks."

Madame de Lorcy replied in these words, by return mail:

"You are indeed innocent, my dear professor, and your finesse is but too apparent; I could not help understanding. Is she, indeed so foolish. I did not think her overwise; but here she astonishes me more than I would have believed. You can tell her, for me-or rather don't say anything to her; I will only speak to you, I am too angry to reason with her. I will see your Pole, I await him resolutely; but, in truth, I have seen him already. I am well acquainted with him, I know him by heart; I have no doubt that he is some impostor. I will examine him without prejudice, with religious impartiality. You are so good as to remind me that an expert suspends his judgment. I will hold my police force in reserve, and I will let you know before long what I think of your adventurer. Ah! yes, I do pity you, poor man. After all, however, you alone are to blame; is it my fault that you did not know how to act? God bless you!"

At the time when Samuel Brohl, seated amid the heather, in an oak-grove, was conversing with phantoms, Mme. de Lorcy, alone in her salon, was occupied with her needlework, and her thoughts, which revolved in a circle, like a horse in a riding-school. She had for several days been expecting Count Abel Larinski's visit; she wondered at his want of promptness, and suspected that he was afraid of her. This suspicion pleased her. Several times she fancied she heard a man's step in the antechamber, at which she started nervously, and the rose-coloured strings of her cap fluttered on her shoulders.

Suddenly, while she was counting her stitches, with head bent down, some one entered without her perceiving it, seized her hand, and, devoutly kissing it, threw his hat on the table, and then dropped into a chair, where he remained motionless, with his legs stretched out, and his eyes riveted on the floor.

"Oh! It is you, Camille," exclaimed Mme. de Lorcy. "You come apropos. Well?"

"Well! yes, madame, that is it," replied M. Langis; "and you see before you the most unhappy of men. Why is your pond dry? I want to fling myself into it head foremost."

Mme. de Lorcy laid down her embroidery, and crossed her arms. "So you have returned?" said she.

"Would to God I never had gone there! It is a land where poison is sold, and I have drunk of it."

"Don't abuse metaphors. You have seen her? What did you say to her?"

"Nothing, madame-nothing of what is in my heart. I made her believe that I had reflected, and changed my views; that I was entirely cured of my foolish passion for her; that I was simply making her a friendly visit. Yes, madame, I remained half a day with her, and during the half day I never once betrayed myself. I convinced her that the mask was a face. Tell me, conscientiously, have you ever read of a more heroic act in Plutarch's Lives of Great Men?"

"She herself, what did she say to you?"

"She was so enchanted, so delighted with the change, that she was dying to embrace me."

"She shall pay for it. And he, did you see him?"

"Just caught a glimpse of him, looked up to him as was befitting the humility of my position. This fortunate man, this glorious mortal, was enthroned on the top of the mail-coach."

"Is he really so fascinating?"

"He has, I assure you, a certain look of deep profundity, and he bears his exploits inscribed on his brow. What am I, to contend against him! You must allow that I have the appearance of a school-boy. And yet, if I were to boast. This road in Transylvania for which I had the contract was by no means easy to construct. We had to cut through the solid rock, working in the air, suspended by ropes. This perilous labour so disheartened our workmen that some of them left us; to encourage the rest, I was slung up like them, and like them handled the pickaxe. One day, in the explosion of a charge a piece of stone struck the rope of one of my men with such violence that it cut it as clean in two as the edge of a razor would have done. The man fell-I believed him to be lost; by a miracle, his clothes caught in some brushwood, to which he succeeded in clinging. It was I who went to his assistance, and I swear to you that in this rescue I proved the strength of my muscles, and ran the risk twenty times of breaking my neck. The workmen had mistrusted me on account of my youth; from that day, I can assure you, they held me in respect."

"Did you relate this incident to Antoinette?"

"What would have been the use? With women it does not suffice to be a great man; you must have the look of one too." And Camille Langis cried out, clinching his hands: "Ah! madame, I entreat you, do you know where I can procure a Polish head, a Polish mustache, a Polish smile? Pray, where are these articles to be had, and what is their market price? I will not haggle! O women! what a set you are-plague on you!"

"And are aunts the same?" gravely asked Mme. de Lorcy.

He answered more calmly: "No, madame, you are a woman without an equal, and I name you every day in my prayers. You are my only resource, my consolation, my counsel. Do not refuse me your precious instructions! What ought I to do?"

Mme. de Lorcy gazed up at the ceiling for an instant, and then said: "Love elsewhere, my dear; abandon this foolish girl to her fate and her Pole."

He started and replied: "You demand what is impossible. I am no longer my own master; she has taken possession of me-she holds me. Love elsewhere? Can you think of it? I detest her-I curse her-but I adore her!"

She rejoined: "You should not use hyperbole any more than metaphors. Both are unsolid food. When you decide not to love, you will love no more."

"That supposes that I have several hearts to choose from. I never had but one, and that no longer belongs to me. So you refuse me your advice?"

"What advice would you have me give you before having seen M. Larinski-before having taken the measure of this hero?"

"What! you expect to see him?"

"I am waiting for him to call, and I am sorry he keeps me waiting."

"Seriously, will you receive this man?"

"I have been asked to examine him."

"I am lost, if you feel the need of hearing before condemning him. Our most sacred duty is to be resolutely unjust towards the enemies of our friends."

"Nonsense! I shall not be indulgent towards him."

"Do as you like; I have my plan."

"What is it?"

"I shall seek some groundless quarrel with this contraband, this poacher, and I will blow his brains out."

"A fine scheme, my dear Camille! And afterward, when you have killed him, you will have gained a great deal. Have you confidence in me? I have already begun to work for you. The Abbe Miollens, as you know, is well acquainted in the society of Polish emigrants; I have sent to him for information. I have also written to Vienna for intelligence concerning him. Antoinette is foolish in forming such an acquaintance, it must be admitted; but, in matters of honour, she is as delicate as an ermine in tending the whiteness of her robe; if there be in M. Larinski's past a stain no larger than a ten-sou piece, she will forever discard him. Let me act; be wise, do not blow out any one's brains. Grand Dieu! what would become of us, if the only way to get rid of people was by killing them?"

As she pronounced these words a servant entered, bearing a card on a silver salver. She took the card and exclaimed: "When you speak of the wolf-Here is our man!" She begged M. Langis to retire; he implored permission to remain, promising to be a model of discretion. She was insisting on his leaving when Count Abel Larinski appeared.

Samuel Brohl had scarcely taken three steps in Mme. de Lorcy's salon before he conjectured why M. Moriaz had asked him to go there, and what was the significance of the commission with which he was charged. Notwithstanding the salon had a southern exposure, and that it was then the middle of the month of August, it seemed to him to be cold there. He thought that he felt a draught of chilly air, an icy wind, which pierced him through and through, and caused him an unpleasant shiver. He did not need to look very attentively at Mme. de Lorcy to be convinced that he was before his judge, and that this judge was not a friendly one; and, as soon as his gaze met that of M. Camille Langis, something warned him that this young man was his enemy. Samuel Brohl had the gift of observation.

He delivered his message, and handed Mme. de Lorcy the little portfolio that contained Mlle. Moriaz's painting, expressing his regret that business had prevented his coming sooner. Mme. de Lorcy thanked him for his kindness, with rather a cool politeness, and asked him for news of her goddaughter. He did not expatiate on this topic.

"The valley of Saint Moritz is a dreary country," she next said.

"Rather say, madame, that it is a dreary country possessing a great charm for those who love it."

"It appears that Mlle. Moriaz is almost wearied to death there. I should think she would die of ennui."

"Do you think her capable of yielding to ennui in any place?"

"Certainly, do not doubt it; but she has recourse to her imagination to dispel the tedium. She has a marvellous talent for procuring herself diversion and for varying her pleasures. Hers is an imagination having many relays: no sooner is one horse exhausted than there is another to take its place."

"That is a precious gift," he replied, briefly. "I assure you, however, that you calumniate the Engadine. The trees there are not so well grown as those in your park; but the Alpine fir and pine have their beauty."

"You went to this hole for your health, monsieur?"

"Yes, and no, madame. I was not ill, but any physician contended that I should be still better if I breathed the air of the Alps for three weeks. It was taking a cure as a preventive."

"M. Larinski made the ascent of the Morteratsch," said Camille, who, seated on a divan with his arms extended on his knees, never had ceased to look at Samuel Brohl with a hard and hostile glance. "That is an exploit that can be performed only by well people."

"It is no exploit," replied Samuel; "it is a work of patience, easy for those who are not subject to vertigo."

"You are too modest," rejoined the young man. "Had I done as much, I would sound a trumpet."

"Have you attempted the ascent?" asked Samuel.

"Not at all. I do not care about having feats of prowess to relate," he replied, in an almost challenging tone.

Mme. de Lorcy hastened to interrupt the conversation by saying, "Is this the first time you have been in Paris, monsieur?"

"Yes, madame," replied Samuel, who withdrew more and more into his shell.

"And does Paris please you as much as a pine-grove?"

"Much more, madame."

"Have you any acquaintances?"

"None; and the truth is, I have no desire to make any."

"Why?"

"Shall I tell you my reason? I am not fond of breaking ice, and Poles complain that there is nothing in the world so icy as Parisian coldness."

"That explains itself," cried Camille. "Paris, that is Paris proper, is a small city of a hundred thousand souls, and this small city is invaded more and more, by strangers who come here to seek pleasure or fortune. It is but natural that Paris should protect itself."

"Parisians pride themselves on their penetration," replied Samuel. "It does not require much of it to distinguish an honest man from an adventurer."

"Ah! permit me," returned M. Langis, "that depends a good deal on practice. The most skillful are deceived."

Samuel Brohl rose and made a movement to leave. Mme. de Lorcy insisted on his sitting down again. She saw that she had made a bad beginning in the fulfilment of her office of examining magistrate, and of gaining the prisoner's confidence. Fearing that Camille, in spite of his promise, would spoil everything by some insult, she found a pretext to send him away; she begged that he would go and examine a pair of horses that were a recent acquisition.

As soon as he was gone, she changed her manner; she grew amiable, she endeavoured to remove the ill impression of her first welcome; she put Count Abel at his ease, who felt that the air lost its chilliness about him. Without appearing to do so, she made him undergo an examination-she asked him many questions; he replied promptly. Visitors came in; it was an hour before he took leave, after having promised Mme. de Lorcy to dine with her the next day.

She did not wait until then to write to M. Moriaz. Her letter was thus conceived:

"August 16, 1875.

"You recommend me to be impartial, my dear friend. Why should I not be? It is true that I have dreamed of a certain marriage: one of the parties would not listen to my propositions, and the other had abandoned the idea. My project has come to nothing. Camille has enjoined me never to speak of it to him again. You see I am no longer interested in the question, or, rather, I have in the matter no other interest than that which I feel for Antoinette, whose happiness is as dear to me as it is to you. Apropos, do not give her my letters; read to her the passages that you judge suitable to communicate to her-I leave that to your discretion.

"First of all, let me unfold to you my humble opinions. I am charged with having prejudices; it is a shocking calumny. I will make you a profession of faith, and you shall judge. I am at war with more than one point of our French morals; I deplore the habit that we have formed of considering marriage as a business transaction, of esteeming it as a financial or commercial partnership, and making everything subordinate to the equality of the personal estates. This principle is revolting to me, my dear friend. We are accused in foreign countries of being an immoral people. Heavens! it seems to me that we understand and practise virtue quite as much as the English or Germans, and, to speak the whole truth, I am not afraid to advance the opinion that this, of all the countries of the universe, is the one where there is the most virtue. It is not at that point that we sin. Our misfortune is, that we are too rational in our habits of life, too circumspect, too prudent; we lack boldness in our undertakings; we wish, as it is said, to have one foot on firm land and the other not far off. We must have security; we do not like risk; doubtful affairs do not please us; we are too prone to look ahead, and to look ahead is to fear. That is one reason why we send out no colonies, and that is the reason we have no more children. Are you satisfied with me?

"Napoleon I was in the habit of saying that, in fighting a battle, he so ordered matters as to have seventy chances out of a hundred in his favour; he left the rest to Fate. Ah! brave people, life is a battle, but the French of to-day will not risk anything. They are the most honest, the least romantic of men, and I regret it. Read Antoinette this passage of my letter. Our young people think that they have a right to the paternal fortune; they consider that their father is wanting in his duty if he does not leave them a settled position, a certain future. Their second preconceived notion is that they must find a wife who will bring them as much at least as they have to offer her. I have so much, you have so much-we are evidently created for each other; let us marry. All this is deplorable. I like better to hear of the young American who only expects from his parents the education necessary for a man to make his way; he has his tools given to him and the method of using them, but not a sou. You have learned to swim, my friend-swim. After that he marries, most frequently a woman who has nothing, and who loves to spend money. May the God Dollar protect him! he will gaily make an opening for himself in life, and his wife will give him ten children, who will follow the same course as their father. Where it is customary for hunger to marry thirst, there are happy marriages, and a hardy race of people. In all conscience, am I not romantic enough?

"Let me consider another case. Take a man who has fortune: he profits thereby to consult his heart only, and offer his name and revenues to the woman he loves and who has no dower. I clap my hands, I think it the best of examples, and I regret that it is so seldom practised among us. In France princes never are seen marrying shepherdesses; on the contrary, one too often sees penniless sons-in-law carrying off heiresses, and that is precisely the most objectionable case. In a romance, or at the theatre, the poor young man who marries a million is a very noble person; in life it is different. Not if the poor young man had a profession or a trade, if he could procure by his own work a sufficient income to render him independent of his wife; but if he submit to be dependent on her, if he expect from her his daily bread, to roll in her carriage, to ask her for the expenses of his toilet, for his pocket-money, and perhaps for sundry questionable outlays-frankly, this young man lacks pride; and what is a man who has no pride? Besides, what surety is there that in marrying it is, indeed, the woman he is in love with and not the dower? Who assures me that Count Abel Larinski?-I name no one, personalities are odious, and I own there are exceptions. Dieu, how rare they are! If I were Antoinette, I would love the poor, but in their own interest. I would not marry them. The interest of the whole human race is at stake. Beggars are inventive; let them have their own way to make, and they will be sure to invent some means of livelihood; give them the key of a cash-box, and they will cease to strive, you have destroyed their genius. My dear professor, in fifteen years I have brought about a great many marriages. Three times I have married hunger to thirst, and, thank God, I once decided a millionaire to marry a poor girl who had not a sou, but I never aided a beggar to marry a rich girl. Now you have my principles and ideas-Are you listening to me still? You fall asleep sometimes while listening to a sermon. Good! you open your eyes-I proceed:

"I have seen your man. Well, sincerely, he only half pleases me. I do not deny that he has a handsome head; a sculptor might use it as a model. I will add that his eyes are very interesting, by turns grave, gentle, gay, or melancholy. I have nothing to say against his manners or his language; his address is excellent, and he is no booby-far from it. With all this there is something about him that shocks me-I scarcely know what-a mingling of two natures that I cannot explain. He might be said to resemble, according to circumstances, a lion or a

fox; I believe that the fox-nature predominates, that the lion is supplementary. I simply give you my impressions, which I am perfectly willing to be induced to change. I am inclined to fancy that M. Larinski passed his first youth amid vulgar surroundings, that later he came into contact with good society, and being intelligent soon shook off the force of early influences; but there still remain some traces of these. While he was in my salon his eyes twice took an inventory of its contents, and that with a rapidity which would have done credit to a practised appraiser. It was then, especially, that he had the air of a fox.

"Nor is this all. I read the other day the story of a princess who was travelling over the world, and asked hospitality, one evening, at the door of a palace. Was she a real princess or an adventuress? The queen who received her judged it well to ascertain. For this purpose she prepared for her, with her own hands, a soft bed, composed of two mattresses, on which she piled five feather-beds; between the two mattresses she slipped three peas. The next day the traveller was asked how she had slept. 'Very badly,' she replied. 'I do not know what was in my bed, but my whole body is bruised; I am black and blue, and I never closed my eyes until dawn!' 'She is a true princess,' cried the queen. Is M. Larinski a true prince? I made him undergo the test of the three peas. I allowed myself to question him with indiscreet, urgent, improper curiosity; he did not appear to feel the indiscretion. He replied promptly and submissively; he endeavoured to satisfy me, and I was not satisfied. I shall see him again to-morrow-he comes to dine at Maisons. I only wish to be able to prove to myself that he is a true prince.

"My dear professor, you are the most imprudent of men, and, whatever happens, you have only yourself to blame. People do not open their doors so easily to strangers. You tell me that, thanks to M. Larinski's kindness, you did not break your leg. Mercy on me! a father would better break his leg in three places than expose his daughter to the risk of marrying an adventurer; his leg could be easily set. There is nothing so frightful in that.

"Postscriptum.-I open my letter. I want to prove to you how much I desire to be just, and how far my impartiality goes. You know that my neighbour, Abbe Miollens, lived a long time in Poland, and has correspondents there. I begged him to get me information concerning the count-of course, without explaining anything to him. He reports that Count Abel Larinski is a true count. His father, the confiscation of the property, the emigration to America, the Isthmus of Panama-all is true; the history is authentic. Countess Larinski was a saint. Concerning the son, nothing is known; he must have been three or four years old when he landed in New York. No one ever saw him; no one seems to know anything about his taking part in the insurrection of 1863. Having spoken the truth about his parents, it is to be presumed that he told the truth about himself. Very well, but one can fight for one's country, and have a saint for one's mother, and yet possess none of the qualities that go towards making a happy household. I take back the word adventurer, but I still hold to all I have said about him. Why did he take an inventory of my furniture with his eyes? Why did he sleep so soundly in a bed where there were three peas? This requires an explanation.

"Kiss Antoinette for me. Give my regards to Mlle. Moiseney, without telling her that I think her a simpleton; it is a conviction in which I shall die. Was it, indeed, very difficult to descend from that terrible rock of yours?"

Three days later, Mme. de Lorcy wrote a second letter:

"August 19th.

"I have received this very moment, my dear monsieur, the reply from Vienna that I have been expecting, and which I hasten to share with you. I had applied to our friend Baron B--, first secretary of the embassy from France to Vienna, in order to try to learn what reputation Count Larinski had left there. He is esteemed there as a most worthy man; as an inventor who was more daring than wise; as a devoted patriot; as one of those Poles whose only thought is of Poland and of their Utopia, and who would set fire to the four corners of the earth without wincing, for the sole purpose of procuring embers at which to roast their chestnuts. I will not return to the subject of the gun; you know all about it. It seems that there was some good in this explosive gun, and that he who invented it united a sort of genius with ingenuousness, inexperience, and ignorance enough to make one weep. Nothing can be said against the private character of the man. He had a few debts, and his tradespeople felt considerable anxiety when he left Vienna one morning on foot. He had no sooner reached Switzerland than he sent back money to settle everything. Here we have an admirable trait. However, his tastes were simple, and he led a steady life; it was the gun that brought his finances into disorder. I will add that M. Larinski visited in Vienna at several of the most distinguished houses, where he is remembered most kindly. He was sought everywhere on account of his talents as a musician, which were far more to be relied on than his talent as a gunsmith. He plays the piano to perfection, and has a very beautiful voice. Had he employed these talents, he could have made his way to the opera, but his dignity held him back. Now you know what has been communicated to me by Baron B--. On the faith of an honest woman, I have neither added nor omitted anything.

"I am going to astonish you. Would you believe that I am beginning to be reconciled to Count Larinski? What shocked me in him is explained and excused by his long residence in America. He is a mixed breed of Yankee and Pole. Far from having prejudices against him, I now have them in his favour. Do you know, I am by no means sure that he cherishes in his heart any serious sentiment for your daughter? As a man of taste he admires her. I should like to know who would not admire her! I suspect Antoinette of allowing her imagination to become excited about nothing. He talks of her on all occasions in as free and tranquil a fashion as he would talk of a work of art. I find it impossible to believe that he is in love. I have in vain watched his green eyes. I never have seen a suspicious look.

"As I announced to you, he came to Maisons yesterday to dine. I had invited Abbe Miollens, and Camille had invited himself, promising that he would act like a philosopher; he only half kept his promise: for I must inform you that my nephew has conceived, I do not know why, an insurmountable antipathy to M. Larinski; he is subject to taking dislikes to people. During dinner, Abbe Miollens, who is a great linguist and a great traveller, and who has at the ends of his fingers everything concerning Poland and the Poles, led the conversation to the insurrection of 1863. M. Larinski, at first, refrained from discussing this sad subject; little by little the flood-gates were opened: he related his adventures or campaigns without boasting, praising others rather than himself; when suddenly his voice grew husky and his eyes dim, he interrupted himself, and begged we would speak of other things. Fortunately, at this moment, he did not see Camille, whose lips were a sinister smile. Young Frenchmen have become such sceptics! I made eyes at the bad boy, and on leaving the table I sent him to smoke a cigar in the park.

"I should confess to you that M. Larinski has made a conquest of Abbe Miollens, who of all men is the most difficult to please, and who disputes with Providence the privilege of fathoming the depths of the human heart. You are aware that the abbe is a remarkable violinist: he sent for his instrument; M. Larinski seated himself at the piano, and the two gentlemen played a concert by Mozart-divine music performed by two angels of the first class. The conversation that followed charmed me more than the concerto. I do not know by what fatality we came to speak of marriage. I did not miss the opportunity to disclose with a most innocent air, my little theories, with which you are acquainted. Would you believe that the count concurred, more than concurred, with my views? He is more royalist than the king; he does not admit that a good rule allows of any exception. According to him, a poor man who marries a rich woman forfeits his honour, debases himself, sells himself; he is a man in bondage. He developed this theme with sombre eloquence. I assure you that the lion no longer bore resemblance to the fox.

"After the departure of this fine musician and great orator, Abbe Miollens, remaining alone with me, told me how much he was charmed with his conversation and manners; he could not cease to sing his praises. I think he went a little too far. However, I joined with him in regretting that a man of his merit should be reduced to live by expedients. The abbe's arm reaches a long way; he promised me that he would busy himself, at the expense of all other business, to find some employment for M. Larinski. He remembered that there was some talk of establishing in London an international school for the living languages. One of the founders of this institute had applied to him to learn if he could recommend some professor of the Slavonian languages. It would be exactly the thing, and I should be delighted to procure for your protégé an occupation that would insure all the happiness that it is possible to enjoy on the other side of the Channel. After this, will you still accuse me of being prejudiced against him?

"Adieu, my dear monsieur. Give my tender love to my amiable goddaughter. I rely on you to read my letters to her with care and discretion. Little girls should have only a part of the truth."

Eight days afterward Mme. de Lorcy wrote a third letter, which was thus expressed:

"August 27th.

"I am more and more content with M. Larinski. I blame myself for the suspicions with which he inspired me. The Viennese were right to consider him a worthy man, and Abbe Miollens has not valued him too highly. You write, on your part, my dear friend, that you are not dissatisfied with Antoinette. She is gay, tranquil; she walks, paints, never speaks of Count Abel Larinski, and, when you speak to her of him, she smiles and does not reply. You claim that she has reflected; that time and absence have wrought their effect. 'Out of sight, out of mind,' you say. Take care! I am more mistrustful than you. Are you very sure that Antoinette may not be a slyboots?

"What is certain is, that I received a charming epistle from her, in which there is no more mention of M. Larinski than if Poland and the Pole did not exist. She praises Engadine; she pretends that she would ask for nothing better than to end her days in a pine-forest. I can read between the lines that it would be a pine-forest after her own heart, where there would be reunions, balls, guests to dinner, small parties, a conservatory of music, and the opera. The last paragraph of her letter is devoted to the insurrection in Herzegovina, and it is hardly worth while to say that all her sympathies are with the insurgents. 'If I were a man,' she writes, 'I would go and fight for them.' That is very well; she always took the part of thieves against the police. I remember long ago-she was ten years old-I told her the story of an unfortunate traveller besieged in a forest by an army of wolves. He made a barricade about himself, and around it he lighted great fires. The wolves fell into the flames, where they roasted, one after the other. Antoinette began to weep bitterly, and I imagined that she was lamenting the terror of the unfortunate man. 'Not at all,' she cried: 'the poor beasts!' She was made so; we cannot remake her. She will always side with the wolves, especially with the lean ones who scarcely can make two ends meet.

"I told you that Count Larinski was a worthy man. He came to see me the day before yesterday. We have become very good friends. I asked him if Paris still pleased him, and he replied, with the most gracious smile, 'What I like best in Paris is Maisons Lafitte.' Thereupon he said some exceedingly pretty things, which I will not repeat. We walked tete-a-tete around the park. Heaven be praised that I returned heart-whole! We talked politics; he bears the reputation of being hot-headed, but he is not wanting in good sense. I wished to know if he was in favour of the Turks or of the Bosnians. He replied:

"'As a Christian, as a Catholic, I am interested in the Christians of the East, and I am for the Cross against the Crescent.' He pronounced these words, Christian, Catholic, and cross, in a tone full of unction. I surmise that he is a devotee. He added, 'As a Pole, I am for Turkey.'

"'I believed,' said I, 'that the Poles had sympathy with all the oppressed.'

"'Poles,' he replied, 'cannot like those who like their oppressors, and they cannot forget that the Osmanlis are their natural allies, and, on occasions, their refuge.'

"I gave him Antoinette's letter to read. I was very glad, at any hazard, to prove to him that she could write four pages without asking about him. He read it with extreme attention: but when he came to the famous passage-'If I were a man, I would go and fight for them!'-he smiled, and returned me the letter, saying, in a disdainful and rather a dry tone:

"'Write for me to Mlle. Moriaz that I believe I am a man, yet that I will not fight for the Bosnians, and that the Turks are my greatest friends.'

"'She is foolish,' I said. 'Fortunately, she changes her folly with every new moon!'

"'What would you have?' he replied; 'in order not to be insipid, it is well to be a little foolish. My poor mother used often to say: "My son, youth should be employed in laying by a great store of extravagant enthusiasm; otherwise, at the end of life's journey the heart will be void, for much is left on the road."'

"Calm, seigneur, your excited fears, no one has designs on your daughter; we evidently find her charming, but are by no means in love with her. With much precaution and circumlocution I gently proceeded to question Count Larinski on the state of his affairs, about which he never has opened his mouth. He frowned. I did not lose courage. I offered him this place of professor of the Slavonian languages of which the abbe had again spoken. I saw in an instant that his sensitive pride had taken alarm. However, upon reflection, he softened, thanked me, declined my kind offer, and announced-guess what! How much is my news worth? what will you give for it? He announced, I tell you, that in two weeks-you understand me-he will return to Vienna, where he has been promised a post in the archives of the Minister of War. I did not dare to ask what was the salary; after all, if he is satisfied, it is not for us to be harder to please than he. When I affirm that Count Larinski is a good, worthy man!-In two weeks! you understand me perfectly.

"My dear friend, I am enchanted to know that the water of Saint Moritz and the air of the Engadine have entirely re-established your health; but do not be imprudent. Half-cures are fatal. Be careful not to leave Churwalden too soon, for the descent into the heavy atmosphere of the plains. Your physician, whom I have just seen, declares that, if you hasten your return he will not answer for the consequences. Antoinette, I am sure, will join her entreaties to ours. Do not let us see you before the end of three weeks! Follow my orders, my dear professor, and all will go well. Camille is about to leave; he has become insupportable. He had the audacity to assert to me that I was a good woman, but very credulous, which in my estimation is not very polite. He no longer acts as a nephew, and respect is dead."

Ten days later M. Moriaz received at Churwalden a fourth and last letter:

"September 6th.

"Decidedly my dear friend, Count Larinski is a delightful man, and I never will pardon myself for having judged ill of him. The day before yesterday I did not know the extent of his merit and of his virtues. His beautiful soul is like a country where one passes from one pleasing discovery to another, and at each step a new scene is revealed. Between ourselves, Antoinette is a dreamer: where has she got the idea that this man is in love with her? These Counts Larinski have artists' enthusiasm, tender and sensitive hearts, and poetic imaginations; they love everything, and they love nothing; they admire a pretty woman as they admire a beautiful flower, a humming-bird, a picture of Titian's. Did I tell you that the other day, as I was showing him through my park, he almost fainted before my purple beech-which assuredly is a marvel? He was in ecstasy; I truly believe there were tears in his eyes. I might have supposed he was in love with my beech; yet he has not asked my permission to marry it.

"Moreover, if he were up to his eyes in love with your daughter, have no fear; he will not marry her, and this is the reason-Wait a little, I must go further back.

"Abbe Miollens came to see me yesterday afternoon; he was distressed that M. Larinski had not approved of his proposition.

"'The evil is not so great,' I said; 'let him go back to Vienna, where all his acquaintances are; he will be happier there.'

"'The evil that I see in it,' he replied, 'is that he will be lost to us forever. Vienna is so far away! Professor in London, only ten hours' journey from Paris, he could cross the Channel sometimes, and we could have our music together.'

"You can understand that this reasoning did not touch me in the least; whatever it cost me I will bear it, and resign myself to lose M. Larinski forever; but the abbe is obstinate.

"'I fear,' he said, 'that the Austrians pay their archivists badly; the English manage matters better, and Lord C-- gave me carte blanche.'

"'Oh! but that,' rejoined I, 'is a delicate point to touch. As soon as you approach the bread-and-butter question, our man assumes a rigid, formal manner, as if an attack had been made on his dignity.'

"'I truly believe,' he replied, 'that there is a fundamental basis of incomparable nobility of sentiment in his character; he is not proud, he is pride itself.'

"The abbe is passionately fond of Horace; he assets that it is to this great poet that he owes that profound knowledge of men for which he is distinguished. He quoted a Latin verse that he was kind enough to translate for me, and that signified something equivalent to the statement that certain horses rear and kick when you touch the sensitive spot. 'That is like the Poles,' he said.

"Meanwhile, M. Larinski entered, and I retained the two gentlemen to dinner. In the evening they again gave me a concert. Why was Antoinette not there? I fancied I was at the Conservatoire. Then we conversed, and the abbe, who never can let go his idea, said, without any reserve, to the count:

"'My dear count, have you reflected? If you go to London, we could hope to see you often; and, besides, the salary-well, as this terrible word has been spoken, listen to me; I will do all in my power to obtain conditions for you in every way worthy of your merit, your learning, your character, your position.'

"He was not permitted to finish the list; the count reared like the horse in Horace, exclaiming, 'O Mozart! what a horrid subject of conversation!' Then he added, gravely: 'M. l'Abbe, you are a thousand times too good, but the place offered to me in Vienna seems to me better adapted to my kind of ability; I would make, I fear, a detestable professor, and the salary, were it double, would in my opinion have but little weight.'

"The abbe still insisted. 'In our century,' said he, 'less than any other, can one live on air.'

"'I have lived on it sometimes,' replied the count, gaily, 'and I did not find it bad. My health is proof against accidents. Ah! where money is concerned, you have no idea how far my indifference goes. It is not a virtue with me, it is an infirmity; it is because of my nationality, because I am my father's son. I feel myself incapable of thinking of the future, of practising thoroughly French habits of economy. If my purse is full, I soon empty it; after which I condemn myself to privations-no, that does not express it-I enjoy them. According to me, there is no true happiness into which a little suffering does not enter. Besides, I have a taste for contrasts. At times I believe myself a millionaire, I have the pretensions of a nabob; I give full scope to my fancies; the next day, my bed is hard and I live on bread-and-water, and am perfectly happy. In short, I am a fool once in the year, and a philosopher the rest of the time.'

"'The trouble is,' returned the abbe, 'that one day of folly will sometimes suffice to compromise forever the future of a philosopher.'

"'Oh, reassure yourself,' replied he; 'my extravagances never are very dangerous. There was method in Hamlet's madness, and there is always a little reason in mine.'

"While making this declaration of principles, he had seated himself at the piano, and idly began running his fingers over the keys. Suddenly he began to sing a German song, which I got Abbe Miollens to translate for me, and which is not long. The hero of the song is an amorous pine, standing on the summit of a barren mountain of the north. He is alone; he is weary; the snow and ice wrap him in a white mantle, and he spends his dreary hours of leisure in dreaming of a palm, which in days of yore he met, it seems, in his travels.

"M. Larinski sang this little melody with so much pathos that the good abbe was touched, and I became anxious. Anxiety, once felt, is apt to be constantly returning. I asked myself if he had met his palm in the Engadine, and added aloud, rather dryly: 'Is the day of your departure definitely fixed? will you not do us the favour of granting us a reprieve?'

"He executed the most pearly chromatic scale, and replied: 'Alas! madame, I am only deferring my departure on account of a letter that cannot be much longer delayed; in less than a week, I shall have the distress of bidding you farewell.'

"'You shall not leave,' said Abbe Miollens, 'without letting us hear once again the poem of the pine. You sang it with so much soul that it seemed to me you must be relating an episode of your own history. My dear count, did you ever chance to dream of a palm?'

"He answered: 'I have no longer the right to dream; I am no longer free.'

"The abbe started and cried out, in his simple-hearted way, 'Ah! what, are you married?'

"'I thought I had told you so,' replied he with a melancholy smile, and he hastened to speak of a ballet that he had seen the evening before at the opera, and with which he was only half pleased.

"You can readily believe that when he pronounced the words, 'I thought I had told you so,' I was on the point of falling on his neck; I was so happy, that I was afraid he would read in my eyes my joy, astonishment, and profound gratitude. I think that he is very keen, and that he has conjectured for some time the mistrust with which he inspired me. If he wanted to mock me a little, I will pardon him; a good man unjustly suspected has a perfect right to revenge himself by a little irony. I ordered the horses to be put to my carriage to take him over to the railroad, and the abbe and I accompanied him as far as the station. There cannot be too much regard shown to honest people who have been abused by fortune.

"Well! what do you say, my dear friend? Was I wrong in claiming that M. Larinski is a delightful man? He will leave before the end of a week, and he is married, unhappily married, I fear, for his smile was melancholy. You see he may have married out of gratitude some grisette, some little working-woman, who nursed him through illness, one of those women who are not presentable; that would be thoroughly in character. Happily, in law there are no good or bad marriages; this one I hold to be unimpeachable.

"The reaction was violent: I am so rejoiced that I feel tempted to illuminate Cormeilles and Maisons Lafitte. In what way will your undeceive our dreamer? In your place I would use some precautions. Be prudent; go bridle in hand; and in the future, believe me, climb no more among the rocks; you see what it may lead to.

"Once more, do not hasten your departure. We have had for some days stifling heat; we literally suffocate. You need to spend a fortnight longer amid the shade of the pine-trees, and four thousand feet above the level of the sea.

"Adieu, my dear professor! I am interrupted in my writing by the incredulous, the sceptical, the suspicious, the absurd, the ridiculous Camille, who respectfully recommends himself to your indulgent friendship."

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