MoboReader> Literature > Samuel Brohl and Company

   Chapter 7 7

Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 36168

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

On her entering her coupe to return to Cormeilles, Mlle. Moriaz was the prey of an agitation that did not calm down during the entire drive. Her whole soul was stirred by a tender, passionate sentiment for the man who had swooned away in taking farewell of her; she was filled with anger against the foolish prejudices and the petty finesse of the people of the world; filled with joy at having baffled a monstrous conspiracy against her happiness; filled with pride because she had seen clearly, because she had not mistaken in her choice, and because the man whom she loved was worthy of being loved. During several days she had suffered cruelly from anxiety, from actual agony of mind, and over and over again she had said to herself, "Perhaps they are right." A woman's heart believes itself to be at the mercy of error, and it is torture to it to be obliged to doubt itself and its own clairvoyance. When it is unmistakably demonstrated to it that its god is only an idol of wood or of stone, that what was once adored must henceforth be despised, it feels ready to die, and imagines that some spring must give way in the vast machine of the universe, that the sky must fall, the earth crumble away; and yet a woman's error of judgment is not a matter of such very grave import. The sun continues to shine, the earth to revolve upon its axis, as though it had not occurred. The machine of the universe would be subject to quite too many accidents should it become unsettled every time a woman made a mistake.

"It was I who was right; they were incapable of comprehending him," though Mlle. Moriaz, as she crossed the Seine, and she contemplated with a delighted eye the lovely blue sky, the tranquil waters, the verdant banks of the river, with their long range of poplar-trees. It seemed to her that all was going well, that order reigned everywhere, that the Great Mechanician was at his post, that the world was in good hands, and that travellers therein had no cause to fear untoward mischance.

When she arrived at Cormeilles, M. Moriaz was shut up in his laboratory, which he had been overjoyed to find just as he had left it. A velvet skull-cap perched on one side of his head, his sleeves turned up, a brown holland apron tied round his neck and his waist, a feather brush in his hand, he had proceeded at once to examine his precious stock in detail-his furnaces, his long-necked, big-bellied matrasses, the curved necks and the tubulures of his retorts, his cucurbits, and his alembics. Balloons, tubes, pipettes, pneumatic vats, receivers, cupels, lamps, bell-glasses, blow-pipes, and mortars, he passed in review to assure himself that during his absence nothing had been damaged. He carefully dusted his jars, examined the labels, made sure that none of his treasures were cracked, that his gauges were not out of order. He was as happy as a king who has his troops pass in review before him, and feels convinced that they bear themselves well; that they will stand fire and do honour to their master.

Agreeable as was the occupation to which for two hours he had devoted himself, M. Moriaz had not forgotten the existence of his daughter and of M. Larinski. He knew that Antoinette had repaired to Maisons Lafitte to have an explanation with Mme. de Lorcy, and this thought cast a shadow over his felicity. He hoped, however, that this interview might turn out according to his wishes; that the Pole star, which had caused him so much disquietude, might disappear forever from his horizon.

Some one knocked at the door of his laboratory. "Come in!" he cried, and turning he saw Antoinette standing upon the threshold. He gazed at her fixedly. Her eye was so animated, her countenance so beaming, so luminous, that involuntarily he dropped his arms and let fall, as he did so, a little vial he held in his hands.

"Naughty girl, to cause such havoc in her father's laboratory!" she cried, gaily.

"The harm done is not very great," he replied; and he began diligently brushing up the fragments of the vial. It was his way of gaining time, but he did it so awkwardly that she snatched the brush from his hands: "This is the way to sweep," said she.

He watched her, saying to himself: "This is the reverse of the scene at Churwalden. It is now I who wear a long face, and she cannot dissemble her joy. Just requital of things here below."

So soon as she had finished her brushing she looked around and remarked: "Well, here you are once more in your paradise-this enchanted spot, where you taste such ineffable delights."

"Oh, yes, I am happy here-happy enough that is," he replied, with modesty.

"Fastidious creature! It is altogether charming in your laboratory."

"Yes, it is suitable. Nevertheless, I often reflect that there is something wanting. Do you know what my dream is? I should like to have over in yonder corner a transparent chapelle. You, perhaps, are unacquainted with a chapelle. It is a framework or basket-funnel above a chimney, for facilitating the release of volatiles and pernicious vapours, and having one side of glass. It enables the chemist to watch the process taking place within. German chemists have nearly always transparent chapelles in their laboratories."

"How can any one accuse you of lack of imagination?" she exclaimed. "You are a very romantic man, and your romance is a transparent chapelle. Now I know why you are so indulgent to the romances of others."

Then carelessly drawing the brush in her hand over an arm-chair, she seated herself in it, placed another seat facing her, and said: "Come, sit down here near me on this stool; I will put a cushion on it to make you more comfortable. Come, I must talk with you."

He drew near, seated himself, and put his ear towards her. "Must I take off my apron?" he asked.

"Why so?"

"I foresee that our conversation will revolve about matters pertaining to the height of romance. I wish to make a suitable appearance."

"Nonsense! your apron is very becoming. All that I desire and stipulate is, that you will accord me most religious attention."

She then proceeded to recount to him, point by point, all that had occurred at Mme. de Lorcy's. She began her recital in a tranquil tone; she grew animated; she warmed up by degrees; her eyes sparkled. He listened to her with deep chagrin; but he gazed on her with pride as he did so, thinking, "Mon Dieu, how beautiful she is, and what a lucky rascal is this Pole!"

When she had ended, there was a moment's pause, during which she left him to his reflections. As he maintained an ominous silence, she grew impatient. "Speak," she exclaimed. "I wish to know your innermost thoughts."

"I think you are adorable."

"Oh! please, do for once be serious."

"Seriously," he rejoined, "I am not certain that you are wrong, nor has it been proved to me that you are right; there remain some doubts."

She cried out eagerly: "According to this, the sole realities of this world are things that can be seen, touched, felt-a retort and its contents. Beyond this all is null and void, a lie, a cheat. Ah! your wretched retorts and crucibles! If I followed out this thought, I should be ready to break every one of them."

She cast about her as she spoke so ferocious and threatening a look, that M. Moriaz trembled for his laboratory, "I beg of you," he protested, "have mercy on my poor crucibles, my honest retorts, my innocent jars! They have nothing to do with this affair. Is it their fault that the stories you narrate to me so disturb my usual train of thoughts that I find it wholly impossible to make adroit replies?"

"You do not, then, believe in the extraordinary?"

"The extraordinary! Every time I encounter it, I salute it," replied he, drawing off his cap and bowing low; "but at the same time I demand its papers."

"Ah! there we are. I really imagined that the investigation had been made."

"It was not conclusive, since it failed to convince Mme. de Lorcy."

"Ah! who could convince Mme. de Lorcy? Do you forget how people of the world are constituted, and how they detest all that astonishes, all that exceeds their limits, all that they cannot weight with their small balances, measure with their tiny compasses?"

"Peste! you are severe on the world; I always fancied that you were fond of it."

"I do not know whether I am fond of it or not; it is certain that I scarcely should know how to live without it; but I surely may be permitted to pass an opinion on it, and I often tell myself that if Christ should reappear among us with his train of publicans and fisherman-are you listening?-that if the meek and the lowly Jesus should come to preach his Sermon on the Mount in the Boulevard des Italiens-"

"To make a show of probability," he interrupted, "suppose you were to place the scene at Montmartre. Frankly, I cannot see what possible connection there can be between the Christ and your Count Larinski; and, pray, do not let us enter into a theological discussion; you know it is wholly out of my line. Religion seems to me an excellent thing, a most useful thing, and I freely accept Christianity, minus the romantic side, with which I have no time to occupy myself. You will at least grant me that, if there are true miracles, there are also false ones. How distinguish them?"

"It is the heart that must decide," said she.

"Oh! the infallibility of the heart!" exclaimed he. "There never was council yet that voted that."

There was a pause, after which M. Moriaz resumed: "And so, my dear, you are persuaded that M. Larinski is still free, and that Mme. de Lorcy lied?"

"Not at all; if she had lied, she would not have betrayed herself so naively just now. I accuse her of deceiving herself, or rather of having wished to deceive herself. Do you know what you are going to do-I mean this evening-after dinner? You are going to order up the carriage, and you are going-"

"To Paris, Rue Mont-Thabor!" he exclaimed, bounding up in his seat. "Very good, I will put on a dress-coat, and I will say to Count Larinski: 'My dear monsieur, I come to demand your hand for my daughter, who adores you. Certain malicious tongues assert that you are no longer free; I do not believe them; besides, this would be a mere bagatelle.' On the whole, I believe you would do better to put it down in writing for me; left to myself I never will get through with it; out of my professor's chair I have considerable difficulty in finding words!"

"Dear me, how hasty you are! Who suggests such a thing? Abbe Miollens is our friend; he is a worthy man, whose testimony would be reliable."

"Now this is something like! I see what you mean. At this rate you will not need to prepare my harangue. Here we have an acceptable idea, a possible interview. This evening, after my dinner, I shall go see Abbe Miollens; but it is clearly understood, I presume, that if he confirms the sentence-"

"I shall not ask for its repeal, and I promise you that I will be courageous beyond anything that you can imagine; you shall not so much as suspect that I even regret my chimera. But, as a fair exchange, you on your side must make me a promise. If Abbe Miollens-"

"You know as well as I that you are of age."

"I know as well as you that I never will be content without your consent. Here once more as in the Engadine, I say, 'Either he or no one.'"

"Did I not warn you that when once a formula has been pronounced, one is apt to keep on repeating it forever?"

"Either he or no one: that is my last word. Would you not rather that it should be he? Are you willing to accept him?"

"I will submit."

"With a good grace?"

"With resignation."

"With cheerful resignation?"

"I shall certainly do my best to acquire it; or, rather, if he makes you happy, I shall welcome him all the days of my life; in the contrary case, I will repeat, morning and evening, like Mme. de Lorcy: 'You would not listen to me; you ought to have believed me.'"

"It is agreed; you are a good father, and now we are in perfect harmony," she replied, impulsively seizing his two hands, and pressing them in her own.

He watched her a moment between his half-closed eyes, and then he cried, half resentfully:

"But, mon Dieu why do you love this man?"

She replied, in a low voice: "Because I love him; this is my sole reason; but I find it good."

"Certainly most decisive. But, come, let us go quickly," he replied, rising. "I fear that my retorts and crucibles, if they listen to you much longer, will fall into a syncope as prolonged as that of M. Larinski. Was ever such a debate heard of in a chemical laboratory?"

As soon as dinner was over, M. Moriaz made ready to repair to Maisons, where Abbe Miollens passed the summer in the vicinity of Mme. de Lorcy. Mlle. Moiseney followed him to the carriage, and said:

"You have a remarkable daughter, monsieur! With what courage she has assumed her role! With what resolution she has renounced an impossible happiness! Did you observe her during dinner? How tranquil she was! how attentive! Is she not astonishing?"

"As astonishing as you are sagacious," he replied.

"Ah! undoubtedly; I never thought that she loved him so much as you imagine I did: but he pleased her; she admired him. Did she ever utter a word of complaint, or a sigh, on learning the cruel truth? what strength of mind! what equability of temperament! what nobility of sentiment! You do not admire her enough, monsieur; you are not proud enough of having such a daughter. As to me, I glory in having been of some value in her education. I always made a point of developing her judgment, and putting her on her guard against all erratic tendencies. Yes, I can safely say that I took great pains to cultivate and fortify her reason."

"I thank you with all my heart," rejoined M. Moriaz, leaning back in one corner of the carriage; "you can most assuredly boast of having accomplished a marvellous work; but I beg of you, mademoiselle, when you have finished your discourse, will you kindly say to the coachman that I am ready to start?"

During the drive, M. Moriaz gave himself up to the most melancholy reflections; he even tormented himself with sundry reproaches. "We have acted contrary to good sense," he thought. "Her imagination has been taken by storm; in time it would have calmed down. We should have left her to herself, to her natural defence-her own good judgment, for she has a large stock of it. I fell on the unlucky idea of calling Mme. de Lorcy to my aid, and she has spoiled everything by her boasted finesse. As soon as Antoinette had reason to suspect that her choice was condemned by us, and that we were plotting the enemy's destruction, the sympathy, mingled with admiration, which she accorded to M. Larinski, became transformed into love; the fire smouldering beneath ashes leaped up into flames. We neglected to count on that passion which is innate in women, and which phrenologists call combativeness. With her there is now a cause to be gained, and, when love unites its interests with cards or with war, it becomes irresistible. Truly our campaign is greatly jeopardized, unless Heaven or M. Larinski interfere."

Thus reasoned M. Moriaz, whom paternal misadventures and recent experiences had rendered a better psychologist than he ever had been. While busied with his reflections the carriage drove rapidly onward, and thirty-five minutes sufficed to reach the little maison de campagne occupied by Abbe Miollens. He found him in his cabinet, installed in a cushioned arm-chair embroidered by Mme. de Lorcy, slowly sipping a cup of excellent tea brought him by the missionaries from China. On his left was his violin-box, on his right his beloved Horace, Orelli's edition, Zurich, 1844.

Conversation began. As soon as M. Moriaz had pronounced the name of Count Larinski, the abbe assumed the charmed and contented countenance of a dog lying in wait for its favourite game.

He exclaimed, "A most truly admirable man!"

"Mercy upon us!" thought M. Moriaz. "Here we have an exordium strangely similar to that of Mlle. Moiseney. Do they think to condemn me to a state of perpetual admiration of their prodigy? I fear there must be some kinship of spirit between our friend the abbe and that crack-brained woman; that he is cousin-german to her at least."

"How grateful I am to you, my dear monsieur," continued Abbe Miollens, lying back in his chair, "for having given us the pleasure of the acquaintance of this rare man! It is you who sent him to us; to you belongs the merit of having discovered him, or invented him, if you choose."

"Oh! I beg of you not to exaggerate," humbly rejoined M. Moriaz. "He invented himself, I assure you."

"At all events it was you who patronized him, who made him known to us; without you the world never would have suspected the existence of this superb genius, this noble character, who was hidden from sight like the violet in the grass."

"He is unquestionably her cousin-german," thought M. Moriaz.

"Only think," continued the abbe, "I have found M. Larinski all over again in Horace! Yes, Horace has represented him, trait for trait, in the person of Lollius. You know Marcus Lollius, to whom he addressed Ode ix. of book iv., and who was consul in the year 733 after the foundation of Rome. The resemblance is striking; pay attention!"

Depositing his cup on the table he took the book in his right hand, and placing the forefinger of his left by turns on his lips or complacently following with it the lines of especial beauty in the text, he exclaimed: "Now what do you say to this? 'Thy soul is wise,' wrote Horace to Lollius, 'and resists with the same constancy the temptations of happiness as those of adversity-est animus tibi et secundis temporibus dubusque rectus.' Is not this Count Larinski? Listen further: 'Lollius detested fraud and cupidity; he despised money which seduces most men-abstinens ducentis ad se cuncta pecuniae.' This trait is very striking; I find even, between ourselves, that our dea

r count despises money entirely too much, he turns from it in horror, its very name is odious to him; he is an Epictetus, he is a Diogenes, he is an anchorite of ancient times who would live happily in a Thebaid. He told us himself that it made little difference to him whether he dined on a piece of bread and a glass of water, or in luxury at the Café Anglais. But I have not finished. 'Happy be those,' exclaimed Horace, 'who know how to suffer uncomplainingly the hardships of poverty-qui duram que callet pauperiem pati!' Of whom does he speak-of Lollius, or of our friend, who not only endures his poverty but who loves it, cherishes it as a lover adores his mistress? And the final trait, what to you think of it? Lollius was always ready to die for his country-'non ille pro patria timidus perire.' In good faith, is it not curious? Does it not seem as though Horace had known Count Larinski at Rome or at Tibur?"

"I do not doubt it for an instant," replied M. Moriaz, taking the book from the hands of Abbe Miollens and placing it respectfully on the table. "Luckily, our friend Larinski, as you call him, fell upon the excellent idea of resuscitating himself some thirty years ago, which procured for us the great joy of meeting him at Saint Moritz; and while we are on the subject-My dear abbe, have you a free, impartial mind? Can you listen to me? I have a question to propound, an elucidation to demand. It is not only the friend to whom I address myself, it is the confessor, the director of consciences, the man of the whole universe in whose discretion I place most reliance."

"I am all ears," responded the abbe, crossing the shapely legs in which he took no little pride.

M. Moriaz entered at once into the subject that troubled him. It was some moments before Abbe Miollens divined whither he was tending. As soon as he had grasped a ray of light, his face contracted, and uncrossing his limbs, he cried: "Ah, what a misfortune! You will have to renounce your delightful dream, my dear Monsieur, and, believe me, no one can be more grieved than I. I fully comprehend with what joy you would have seen your charming daughter consecrate, I will not say her fortune, for you know as well as I how little Count Larinski would care for that, but consecrate, I say, her graces, her beauty, and all the qualities of her angelic character to the happiness of a man of rare merit who has been cruelly scourged by Providence. She loves him, she is loved by him; Heaven would have blest their union. Ah, what a misfortune! I must repeat it, this marriage is impossible; our friend is already married."

"You are sure of it?" cried M. Moriaz, in a burst of enthusiasm that the good abbe mistook for an access of despair.

"I scarcely can pardon myself for causing you this pain. You ask if I am sure of it! I have it from our friend himself. One evening, apropos of I scarcely remember what, it occurred to me to ask if he were married, and he replied, briefly: 'I thought I had told you so.' Ah! my dear professor, it were needless to discuss whether such a marriage would be a happy one, for it never can take place."

"Well, now we have something positive," M. Moriaz hastened to observe, "and there is nothing to do but yield to evidence."

"Alas! yes," rejoined the abbe; and, then, after a pause, during which he wore a reflective air, he added, "However-"

"There is no 'however,' M. l'Abbe. Believe me, your word suffices."

"But I might possibly have misunderstood."

"I have entire confidence in your ears-they are excellent."

"But pray allow me to observe that it is never worth while to despair too soon. Do you know what? Count Larinski came recently to see me without finding me at home. I owe him a farewell visit. To-morrow morning, I promise you, I will call on him."

"For what purpose?" interrupted M. Moriaz. "I thank you a thousand times for your kindly intentions, but God forbid that I should uselessly interfere with your daily pursuits; your time is too precious! I declare myself completely edified. I consider the proof firmly established; there is no further doubt."

As Madame de Lorcy had remarked, Abbe Miollens was not one to easily relax his hold upon an idea he had once deemed good. In vain M. Moriaz combated his proposition, bestowing secret maledictions on his excess of zeal; the abbe would not give up, and M. Moriaz was forced to be resigned. It was agreed that the next day the worthy man should call on Count Larinski, and that from Paris he should repair to Cormeilles, in order to communicate to the proper person the result of his mission. M. Moriaz perceived the advantage of having Antoinette learn from the abbe's own lips the fatal truth; and he did not leave without impressing upon him to be very circumspect, as prudent as a serpent, as discreet as a father confessor. He started for home with quite a contented mind, seeing the future lie smoothly and pleasantly before him, and it really seemed to him that the drive from Maisons to Cormeilles was a much shorter and more agreeable one than that from Cormeilles to Maisons.

Samuel Brohl was seated before an empty trunk, which he was apparently about to pack, when he heard some one knock at his door. He went to open it and found himself face to face with Abbe Miollens. From the moment of their first meeting, Samuel Brohl had conceived for the abbe that warm sympathy, that strong liking, with which he was always inspired by people in whom he believed he recognised useful animals who might be of advantage to him, whom he considered destined to render him some essential service. He seldom mistook; he was a admirable diagnostician; he recognised at first sight the divine impress of predestination. He gave the most cordial reception to his reverend friend, and ushered him into his modest quarters with all the more empressement, because he detected at once the mysterious, rather agitated air he wore. "Does he come in the quality of a diplomatic agent, charged with some mission extraordinary?" he asked himself. On his side the abbe studied Samuel Brohl without seeming to do so. He was struck with his physiognomy, which expressed at this moment a manly yet sorrowful pride. His eyes betrayed at intervals the secret of some heroic grief that he had sworn to repress before men, and to confess to God alone.

He sat down with his guest, and they began to talk; but the abbe directed the conversation into topics of the greatest indifference. Samuel Brohl listened to him and replied with a melancholy grace. Lively as was his curiosity he well knew how to hold it in check. Samuel Brohl never had been in a hurry; during the month that had elapsed he had proved that he knew how to wait-a faculty lacking in more diplomates than one.

Abbe Miollens's call had lasted during the usual time allotted to a polite visit, and the worthy man seemed about to depart, when, pointing with his forefinger to the open valise, he remarked: "I see here preparations that grieve me. I did dream, my dear count, of inviting you to Maisons. I have a spare chamber there which I might offer to you. Hoc erat in votis, I should indeed have been happy to have had you for a guest. We should have chatted and made music to our hearts' content, close by a window opening on a garden. 'Hae latebrae dulces, etiam, si credis, amoenae.' But, alas! you are going to leave us; you do not care for the friendship accorded you here. Has Vienna such superior attractions for you? But I remember, you will doubtless be restored there to a pleasant home, a charming wife, children perhaps who--"

Samuel looked at him with an astonished, confused air, as he had viewed Mme. de Lorcy when she undertook to speak to him of the Countess Larinski. "What do you mean?" he finally asked.

"Why, did you not confide to me yourself that you were married?"

Samuel opened wide his eyes; during some moments he seemed to be in a dream; then, suddenly putting his hand to his brow and beginning to smile, he said: "Ah! I see-I see. Did you take me literally? I thought you understood what I said. No, my dear abbe, I am not married, and I never shall marry; but there are free unions as sacred, as indissoluble as marriage."

The abbe knit his brows, his countenance assumed an expression of chagrin and disapproval. He was about delivering to his dear count a sermon on the immorality and positive danger of free unions, but Samuel Brohl gave him no time. "I am not going to Vienna to rejoin my mistress," he interposed. "She never leaves me, she accompanies me everywhere; she is here."

Abbe Miollens cast about him a startled, bewildered gaze, expecting to see a woman start out of some closet or come forward from behind some curtain.

"I tell you that she is here," repeated Samuel Brohl, pointing to an alabaster statuette, posed on a piedouche. The statuette represented a woman bound tightly, on whom two Cossacks were inflicting the knout; the socle bore the inscription, "Polonia vincta et flagellata."

The abbe's countenance became transformed in the twinkling of an eye, the wrinkles smoothed away from his brow, his mouth relaxed, a joyous light shone in his eyes. "How well it is that I came!" thought he. "And under what obligations M. Moriaz will be to me!"

Turning towards Samuel he exclaimed:

"I am simply a fool; I imagined-Ah! I comprehend, your mistress is Poland; this is delightful, and it is truly a union that is as sacred as marriage. It has, besides, this advantage-that it interferes with nothing else. Poland is not jealous, and if, peradventure, you should meet a woman worthy of you whom you would like to marry, your mistress would have nothing to say against it. To speak accurately, however, she is not your mistress; one's country is one's mother, and reasonable mothers never prevent their sons from marrying."

It was now Samuel's turn to assume a stern and sombre countenance. His eye fixed upon the statuette, he replied:

"You deceive yourself, M. l'Abbe, I belong to her, I have no longer the right to dispose of either my heart, or my soul, or my life; she will have my every thought and my last drop of blood. I am bound to her by my vows quite as much, I think, as is the monk by his."

"Excuse me, my dear count," said the abbe; "this is fanaticism, or I greatly mistake. Since when have patriots come to take the vow of celibacy? Their first duty is to become the fathers of children who will become good citizens. The day when there will cease to be Poles, there will cease also to be a Poland."

Samuel Brohl interrupted him, pressing his arm earnestly, and saying:

"Look at me well; have I not the appearance of an adventurer?" The abbe recoiled. "This word shocks you?" continued Samuel. "Yes, I am a man of adventures, born to be always on my feet, and ready to start off at a moment's warning. Marriage was not instituted for those whose lives are liable at any time to be in jeopardy." With a tragic accent, he added: "You know what occurred in Bosnia. How do we know that war may not very shortly be proclaimed, and who can foresee the consequences? I must hold myself in readiness for the great day. Perhaps an inscrutable Providence may ere long offer me a new occasion to risk my life for my country; perhaps Poland will call me, crying, 'Come, I have need of thee!' If I should respond: 'I belong no more to myself, I have given my heart to a woman who holds me in chains; I have henceforth a roof, a family, a hearthstone, dear ties that I dare not break!' I ask you, M. l'Abbe, would not Poland have a right to say to me, 'Thou hast violated thy vow; thou hast denied me; upon thy head rest forever my maledictions?'"

Abbe Miollens had just taken a pinch of snuff, and he hearkened to this harangue, tapping his fingers impatiently on the lid of his handsome gold snuff-box, which had been presented to him by the most amiable of his penitents.

"If this be the way you view it," replied he, "is your conscience quite tranquil, my dear friend? for you will permit me, I trust, to call you so. Ay, is it sure that from your standpoint your conscience has no accusations to make you? Is it certain that your heart has not been unfaithful to its mistress? If I may believe a certain rumour that has reached my ear, there took place a most singular scene yesterday at the house of Mme. de Lorcy."

Samuel Brohl trembled violently; he changed colour; he buried his face in his hands, doubtless to hide from the abbe the blushes remorse had caused to mantle his cheeks. In a faint voice he murmured:

"Not a word more! you know not how deep a wound you have probed."

"It is, then, true that you love Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz?" asked the abbe.

"I have sworn that she never shall know it," replied Samuel, in accents of the most humble contrition. "Yesterday I had the unworthy weakness to betray myself. Mon Dieu! what must she have thought of me?"

As he spoke thus, his face buried in his hands, he slightly moved apart his fingers, and fixed upon the abbe two glittering eyes that, like cats' eyes, were capable of seeing clearly in the dark.

"What she thinks of you!" echoed the abbe, taking a fresh pinch of snuff. "Bah! my dear count, women never are angry when a man swoons away because of their bright eyes, especially when this man is a noble chevalier, a true knight of the Round Table. I have reason to believe that Mlle. Moriaz did not take your accident unkindly. Shall I tell you my whole thought? I should not be surprised if you had touched her heart, and that, if you take the pains, you may flatter yourself with the hope of one day being loved by her."

At this moment the voice of his worthy friend appeared to Samuel Brohl the most harmonious of all music. He felt a delicious thrill quiver through his frame. The abbe was telling him nothing he had not known before; but there are things of which we are certain, things that we have told ourselves a hundred times, and yet that seem new when told us for the first time by another.

"You are not misleading me?" ejaculated Samuel Brohl, overwhelmed with joy, transported beyond himself. "Can it really be true!-One day I may flatter myself-one day she may judge me worthy-Ah! what a glorious vision you cause to pass before my eyes! How good and cruel together you are to me! What bitterness is intermingled with the ineffable sweetness of your words! No, I never could have believed that there could be so much joy in anguish, so much anguish in joy."

"What would you imply, my dear count?" interposed Abbe Miollens. "Have you need of a negotiator? I can boast of having had some experience in that line. I am wholly at your service."

These words calmed Samuel Brohl. Quickly recovering himself, he coldly rejoined:

"A negotiator? What occasion would I have for a negotiator? Do not delude me with a chimera, and above all do not tempt me to sacrifice my honour to it. This height of felicity that you offer to me I must renounce forever; I have told you why."

Abbe Miollens was at first inclined to be indignant; he even took the liberty to rebuke, to expostulate with his noble friend. He endeavoured to prove to him that his principles were too rigorous, that such a thing is possible as exaggeration in virtue, too great refinement in delicacy of conscience. He represented to him that noble souls should beware of exaltation of sentiment. He cited the Gospels, he cited Bossuet, he also cited his well-beloved Horace, who censored all that was ultra or excessive, and recommended the sage to flee all extremities. His reasoning was weak against the unwavering resolution of Samuel, who resisted, with the firmness of a rock, all his remonstrances, and finally ended these with the words:

"Peace, I implore you! Respect my folly, which is surely wisdom in the eyes of God. I repeat it to you, I am no longer free, and, even if I were, do you not know that there is between Mlle. Moriaz and myself an insurmountable barrier?"

"And pray, what is that?" demanded the abbe.

"Her fortune and my pride," said Samuel. "She is rich, I am poor; this adorable being is not made for me. I told Mme. de Lorcy one day what I thought of this kind of alliances, or, to speak more clearly, of bargains. Yes, my revered friend, I love Mlle. Moriaz with an ardour of passion with which I reproach myself as though it were a crime. Nothing remains to me but to avoid seeing her, and I never will see her again. Let me follow to its end my solitary and rugged path. One consolation will accompany me: I can say that happiness has not been denied to me: that it is my conscience, admonished from on high, which has refused to accept it, and there is a divine sweetness in great trials religiously accepted. Believe me, it is God who speaks to me, as he spoke to me of old in San Francisco, to enjoin me to forsake everything and give my blood for my country. I recognise his voice, which to-day bids my heart be silent and immolate itself on the altar of its chosen cause. God and Poland! Beyond this, my watch-word, I have no longer the right to yield to anything."

And, turning towards the statuette, he exclaimed: "It is at her feet that I lay down my dolorous offering; she it is who will cure my bruised and broken heart."

Samuel Brohl spoke in a voice thrilling with emotion; the breath of the Divine Spirit seemed to play through his hair, and make his eyes grow humid. The eyes of the good abbe also grew moist: he was profoundly moved; he gazed with veneration upon this hero; he was filled with respect for this antique character, for this truly celestial soul. He never had seen anything like it, either in the odes or in the epistles of Horace. Lollius himself was surpassed. Transported with admiration, he opened wide his arms to Samuel Brohl, spreading them out their full length, as though otherwise they might fail to accomplish their object, and, clasping him to his bosom, he cried:

"Ah! my dear count, how grand you are! You are immense as the world!"

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top