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Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 35191

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The pitiless sentence pronounced by Mme. de Lorcy grieved M. Moriaz, but did not discourage him. It was his opinion that, let her say what she might, precautions were good; that, well though it might be to bear our misfortunes patiently, there was no law forbidding us to assuage them; that it was quite permissible to prefer to complete follies those of a modified character, and that a bad cold or an influenza was decidedly preferable to inflammation of the lungs, which is so apt to prove fatal. "Time and myself will suffice for all things," proudly said Philip II. M. Moriaz said, with perhaps less pride: "To postpone a thing so long as possible, and to hold deliberate counsel with one's notary, are the best correctives of a dangerous marriage that cannot be prevented." His notary, M. Noirot, in whom he reposed entire confidence, was absent; a case of importance had carried him to Italy. Nothing remained but to await his return, until which everything stood in suspense.

In the first conversation he had with his daughter on the subject, M. Moriaz found her very reasonable, very well disposed to enter into his views, to accede to his desires. She was too thoroughly pleased with his resignation not to be willing to reward him for it with a little complaisancy; besides, she was too happy to be impatient; she had gained the main points of her case-it cost her little to yield in matters of secondary detail.

"You will be accused of having taken a most inconsiderate step," said her father to her. "You are little sensible to the judgment of the world, to what people say; I am much more so. Humour my weakness or cowardice. Let us endeavour to keep up appearances; do not let us appear to be in a hurry, or to have something to hide; let us act with due deliberation. Just at present no one is in Paris; let us give our friends time to return there. We will present Count Larinski to them. Great happiness does not fear being discussed. Your choice will be regarded unfavourably by some, approved by others. M. Larinski has the gift of pleasing; he will please, and all the world will pardon my resignation, which Mme. de Lorcy esteems a crime."

"You promised me that your resignation would be mingled with cheerfulness: I find it somewhat melancholy."

"You scarcely could expect me to be intoxicated with joy."

"Will you at least assure me that you have taken your part bravely, and that you will think of no further appeal?"

"I swear it to you!"

"Very good; then we will honour your weakness," she replied, and she said Amen to all that he proposed.

It was agreed that the marriage should take place during the winter, and that two months should be allowed to elapse before proceeding to the preliminary formalities. M. Moriaz undertook to explain matters to Samuel Brohl, who found the arrangement little to his taste. He took pains, however, to give no signs of this. He told M. Moriaz that he was still in the first bewildering surprise of his happiness, that he was not sorry to have time to recover from it; but he secretly promised himself to devise some artifice for abridging delays, for hastening the denoument. He was apprehensive of accidents, unforeseen occurrences, squalls, storms, tornadoes, sudden blights, in short everything that might damage or destroy a harvest; he impatiently longed to gather in his, and to have it carefully stowed away in his granary. In the interim he wrote to his old friend M. Guldenthal a letter at once majestic and confidential, which produced a most striking effect. M. Guldenthal concluded that a good marriage was much better security than a poor gun. Besides, he had had the agreeable surprise of being completely reimbursed for his loan, capital and interest. He was charmed to have so excellent a debtor return to him, and he hastened to advance to him all that he could possibly want, even more.

A month passed peaceably by, during which time Samuel Brohl repaired two or three times each week to Cormeilles. He made himself adored by the entire household, including the gardener, the porter and his family, and the Angora cat that had welcomed him at the time of his first visit. This pretty, soft white puss had conceived for Samuel Brohl a most deplorable sympathy; perhaps she had recognised that he possessed the soul of a cat, together with all the feline graces. She lavished on him the most flattering attentions; she loved to rub coaxingly against him, to spring on his knee, to repose in his lap. In retaliation, the great, tawny spaniel belonging to Mlle. Moriaz treated the newcomer with the utmost severity and was continually looking askance at him; when Samuel attempted a caress, he would growl ominously and show his teeth, which called forth numerous stern corrections from his mistress. Dogs are born gendarmes or police agents; they have marvellous powers of divination and instinctive hatred of people whose social status is not orthodox, whose credentials are irregular, or who have borrowed the credentials of others. As to Mlle. Moiseney, who had not the scent of a spaniel, she had gone distracted over this noble, this heroic, this incomparable Count Larinski. In a tete-a-tete he had contrived to have with her, he had evinced much respect for her character, so much admiration for her natural and acquired enlightenment, that she had been moved to tears; for the first time she felt herself understood. What moved her, however, still more was that he asked her as a favour never to quit Mlle. Moriaz and to consider as her own the house he hoped one day to possess. "What a man!" she ejaculated, with as much conviction as Mlle. Galet.

The principal study of Samuel Brohl was to insinuate himself into the good graces of M. Moriaz, whose mental reservations he dreaded. He succeeded in some measure, or at least he disarmed any lingering suspicions by the irreproachable adjustment of his manners, by the reserve of his language, by his great show of lack of curiosity regarding all questions that might have a proximate or remote connection with his interests. How, then, had Mme. de Lorcy come to take it into her head that there was something of the appraiser about Samuel Brohl, and that his eyes took an inventory of her furniture? If he had forgotten himself at Maisons, he never forgot himself at Cormeilles. What cared he for the sordid affairs of the sublunary sphere? He floated in ether; heaven had opened to him its portals; the blessed are too absorbed in their ecstasy to pay heed to details or to take an inventory of paradise. Nevertheless, Samuel's ecstasies did not prevent him from embracing every opportunity to render himself useful or agreeable to M. Moriaz. He frequently asked permission to accompany him into his laboratory. M. Moriaz flattered himself that he had discovered a new body to which he attributed most curious properties. Since his return he had been occupied with some very delicate experiments, which he did not always carry out to his satisfaction; his movements were brusque, his hands all thumbs; very often he chanced to ruin everything by breaking his vessels. Samuel proposed to assist him in a manipulation requiring considerable dexterity; he had very flexible fingers, was as expert as a juggler, and the manipulation succeeded beyond all hopes.

Mme. de Lorcy was furious at having been outwitted by Count Larinski; she retracted all the concessions she had made concerning him; her rancour had decided that the man of fainting-fits could not be other than an imposter. She had disputes on this subject with M. Langis, who persisted in maintaining that M. Larinski was a great comedian, but that this, strictly considered, did not prevent his being a true count; in the course of his travels he had met specimens of them who cheated at cards and pocketed affronts. Mme. de Lorcy, in return, accused him of being a simpleton. She had written again to Vienna, in hopes of obtaining some further intelligence; she had been able to learn nothing satisfactory. She did not lose courage; she well knew that, in the important affairs of life, M. Moriaz found it difficult to dispense with her approbation, and she promised herself to choose with discretion the moment to make a decisive assault upon him. In the meanwhile she gave herself the pleasure of tormenting him by her silence, and of grieving him by her long-continued pouting. One day M. Moriaz said to his daughter:

"Mme. de Lorcy is displeased with us; this grieves me. I fear you have dropped some word that has wounded her. I shall be greatly obliged to you if you will go and see her and coax her into good-humour."

"You gave me a far from agreeable commission," she rejoined, "but I can refuse you nothing; I shall go to-morrow to Maisons."

At the precise moment when this conversation was taking place, Mme. de Lorcy, who was passing the day in Paris, entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The exhibition of the work of a celebrated painter, recently deceased, had attracted thither a great throng of people. Mme. de Lorcy moved to and fro, when suddenly she descried a little old woman, sixty years of age, with a snub nose, whose little gray eyes gleamed with malice and impertinence. Her chin in the air, holding up her eye-glasses with her hand, she scrutinized all the pictures with a critical, disdainful air.

"Ah! truly it is the Princess Gulof," said Mme. de Lorcy to herself, and turned away to avoid an encounter. It was at Ostend, three years previous, during the season of the baths, that she had made the acquaintance of the princess; she did not care to renew it. This haughty, capricious Russian, with whom a chance occurrence at the table d'hote had thrown her into intercourse, had not taken a place among her pleasantest reminiscences.

Princess Gulof was the wife of a governor-general whom she had wedded in second marriage after a long widowhood. He did not see her often, two or three times a year, that was all. Floating about from one end of Europe to another, they kept up a regular exchange of letters; the prince never took any step without consulting his wife, who usually gave him sound advice. During the first years of their marriage, he had committed the error of being seriously in love with her: there are some species of ugliness that inspire actually insane passions. The princess found this in the most wretched taste, and soon brought Dimitri Paulovitch to his senses. From that moment perfect concord reigned between this wedded couple, who were parted by the entire continent of Europe, united by the mail-bags. The princess did not bear a very irreproachable record. She looked upon morality as pure matter of conventionality, and she made no secret of her thoughts. She was always on the alert for new discoveries, fresh experiences; she never waited to read a book to the end before flinging it into the waste-paper basket, most frequently the first chapter sufficed; she had met with many disappointments, she had wearied of many caprices, and she had arrived at the conclusion that man is, after all, of but small account. Nevertheless, there had come to her late in life a comparatively lasting caprice; during nearly five years she had flattered herself that she had found what she sought. Alas! for the first time she had been abandoned, forsaken, and that before she had herself grown tired of her fancy. This desertion had inflicted a sharp wound on her pride; she had conceived an implacable hatred for the faithless one, and then she had forgotten him. She had plunged into the natural sciences, she had made dissections-it was her way of being avenged. She held very advanced ideas; she believed in the most radical of the doctrines of evolution; she deemed it a clearly demonstrated fact that man is a development of the monkey, the monkey of the monad. She profoundly despised any one who permitted himself to doubt this. She did not count melancholy; to analyze or dissect everything, that was her way of being happy.

During their common sojourn at Ostend, Mme. de Lorcy had gained the good graces of the Princess Gulof through the dexterity with which she had dressed the wounds of Moufflard, her lapdog, whose paw had been injured by some awkward individual. She had been quite pleased with Mme. de Lorcy, her sympathy and her kindly services, and she had bestowed her most amiable attentions upon her. Mme. de Lorcy had done her best to respond to her advances; but she found herself revolted by this old magpie whose prattling never ceased, and whose chief delight was in the recital of the secret chronicles of every capital of Europe; Mme. de Lorcy, in fact, soon grew disgusted with her cosmopolitan gossip and her physiology; she found her cynical and evil-minded. In meeting her at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, her first impulse was to evade her; but suddenly she changed her mind. For some weeks past she had been governed by a fixed idea, about which all else revolved; an inspiration came over her, which doubtless fell directly from the skies.

"Princess Gulof," said she to herself, "has passed her life in running around the world; her real home is a railroad-car; there is not a large city where she has failed to make a sojourn; she is acquainted with the whole world: is it not possible that she knows Count Larinski?"

Mme. de Lorcy retraced her steps, cut her way through the crowd, succeeded in approaching the princess, and, taking her by the arm, exclaimed: "Ah! is it you, princess! How is Moufflard?"

The princess turned her head, regarded her fixedly a moment, and then pressing her hand between her thumb and forefinger she rejoined with as little ceremony as though they had met the day before: "Moufflard does very poorly indeed, my dear. He died two months ago of indigestion."

"How you must have mourned his loss!"

"I am still inconsolable."

"Ah! well, princess, I shall undertake to console you. I own a lapdog, not yet six months old: you never saw a more charming one or one with a shorter nose or whiter and more delicate hair. I am a great utilitarian, as you know. I only care for large dogs that are of some use. Will you accept of me Moufflard II? But you must come and fetch him yourself, which will procure me the pleasure of seeing you at Maisons."

The princess replied that she was on her way to England; that she was merely taking Paris in passing; that her hours were numbered; and two minutes later she announced to Mme. de Lorcy that she would call on her the following day, in the afternoon.

True to her appointment, Princess Gulof entered Mme. de Lorcy's salon the following day. The ladies occupied themselves first of all with the lapdog, which was found charming and quite worthy to succeed to Moufflard I. Mme. de Lorcy watched all the time for a suitable opportunity of introducing the subject nearest to her heart; when she thought it had come, she observed:

"Apropos, princess, you who know everything, you who are a true cosmopolitan, have you ever heard of a mysterious personage who calls himself Count Abel Larinski?"

"Not that I am aware of, my dear, although his name may not be absolutely unknown to me."

"Search among your reminiscences; you must have encountered him somewhere; you have visited all the countries of the world-"

"Of the habitable world," she interposed; "but according to my especial point of view Siberia scarcely can be called so, and it is there, if I mistake not, that your Count Larinski must have been sent."

"Would to heaven!-Perhaps there was question of procuring this little pleasure for his father; but, unfortunately, he took the precaution to emigrate to America. The inconvenience of America is, that people can return from there, for my Larinski has returned, and it is that that grieves me."

"What has he done to you?" inquired the princess pinching the ears of the dog who was slumbering in her lap.

"I spoke to you at Ostend about my goddaughter Mlle. Moriaz, who is an adorable creature. I proposed to marry her to my nephew, M. Langis, a most highly accomplished young man. This Larinski came suddenly on the scene, he cast a charm over the child, and he will marry her."

"What a pity! Is he handsome?"

"Yes; that, to tell the truth, is his sole merit."

"It is merit sufficient," replied the princess, whose gray eyes twinkled as she spoke. "There is nothing certain but a man's beauty; all else is open to discussion."

"Pray, allow me to consider matters from a more matter-of-fact point of view," said Mme. de Lorcy. "Also I may as well confide to you my whole perplexity: I suspect Count Larinski of being neither a true Larinski nor a true count; I would stake my life that the Larinskis are all dead, and that this man is some adventurer."

"You will end by interesting me," rejoined the princess. "Do not speak too severely of adventurers, however; they are one of the most curious varieties of the human family. Let your goddaughter marry hers; it will bring a piquant element into her life; the poor world is so generally a prey to ennui."

"Thank you! my goddaughter was not born to marry an adventurer. I detest this Larinski, and I have vowed that I will play him some abominable trick!"

"Do not become excited, my dear. What colour are his eyes?"

"Green as those of the cats or of the owls."

Once more the eyes of Princess Gulof flashed and twinkled, and she cried: "An adventurer with green eyes! Why, it is a superb match, and I find you hard to please."

"You grieve me, princess," said Mme. de Lorcy.

"I had promised myself that you would lend me the assistance of your judgment, your incomparable penetration, your experienced eye; that you would aid me in unmasking this Pole, in detecting in him some irremediable vice that would at once prove an insurmountable obstacle to the marriage. Be good, for once in your life; may I present him to you?"

"I repeat to you that I am merely taking Paris in passing," replied the princess, "and I am expected in England. Besides, you do too much honour to my incomparable penetration. I swear to you that I am no connoisseur in Larinskis; you may as well spare yourself the pains of presenting to me yours. I am a good-natured woman, who has often been made a good dupe, and I do not complain of it. The best reminiscences of my past are of sundry agreeable errors, and of men skilled in deception. I have found it the wisest way to judge by the labels, and never to ask any one to show me the contents of his sack, for I long ago discovered that sacks are very apt to be empty or at best only poorly filled. Let your goddaughter act according to her own head; if she deceives herself, it is because she wishes to be deceived, and she knows better than you what suits her. Eh! bon Dieu, what matters it if there be one more unhappy household under the broad canopy of heaven? Besides, it is only fools who are unhappy, and who stupidly pause before a closed portal; others manage in some way to find a loop-hole of escape. Marriage, my dear, is an institution worn threadbare. Ten years hence there will be only free women and husbands on trial. Ten years hence the Countess Larinski will be a liberated countess. Let her serve her time as a galley-slave, and she will come out entirely cured of her follies."

Just as Princess Gulof was finishing this remarkable declaration of her principles, the door opened and Mlle. Moriaz entered. Whatever it might cost her to do so, the future Countess Larinski faithfully kept the promise she had made to her father. Mme. de Lorcy was strictly on her guard; she hastened to meet her, held out both hands, kissed her on both cheeks, and reproached her, in the most affectionate tone in the world, for the rarity of her visits. Then she presented her to the princess, who said: "Come here, my beauty, that I may look at you; I have been told that you are adorable."

When Antoinette approached, she fixed on her a keen, penetrating glance, examined her from head to foot, passed all her perfections in review: one might have taken her for some Normandy farmer at a cattle-fair. The result of this investigation was satisfactory; the princess cried, "Truly she does very well!" and proceeded to assert that Mlle. Moriaz greatly resembled a certain person who had played a certain role in a certain adventure that she undertook to narrate. She had scarcely finished this recital when she entered on another. Mme. de Lorcy was on thorns. She knew by experience that the anecdotes of Princess Gulof were ordinarily somewhat indelicate and ill-suited to maiden ears. She watched Antoinette anxiously, and, when she saw the approach of an especially objectionable passage, she was suddenly seized with a fit of coughing. The princess, comprehending the significance of that, made an effort to gloss over, but her glossings were very transparent. Mme. de Lorcy coughed anew, and the princess ended by losing patience, and, brusquely interrupting herself, exclaimed: "And this, that, and the other, etc. Thus ended the adventure."

Mlle. Moriaz listened with an astonished air, not in the least understanding these attacks of coughing and these interruptions, nor divining the significance of the constant repetition of "this, that, and the other, etc." Princess Gulof struck her as a very eccentric and unpleasantly brusque person; she even suspected her of being slightly deranged or at least rather crack-brained; yet she was pleased with her for being present upon this especial occasion and sparing her a tete-a-tete with Mme. de Lorcy with its disagreeable explanations and unpleasant discussions.

She remained nearly an hour, planted on a chair, watching with a sort of stupor the turning of the fan of this word-mill, whose clapper kept up such an incessant noise. After having criticised to her heart's content her neighbours, including under that title emperors and grand-dukes, and having abundantly multiplied the et ceteras, Princess Gulof suddenly turned the conversation to physiology: this science, whose depths she believed herself to have fathomed, was, in her estimation, the secret of everything, the Alpha and Omega of human life. She exposed certain materialistic views, making use of expressions that shocked the modest and delicate ears of Mlle. Moriaz. The astonishment the latter had at first experienced became now blended with horror and disgust; she judged that her visit had lasted long enough, and she proceeded to beat a retreat, which Mme. de Lorcy made no effort to prevent.

Upon arriving at Cormeilles, her carriage crossed with a young man on horseback, who with his head bowed down allowed his animal full liberty to take his own course. This young man trembled when a clear, soprano voice, which he preferred to the most beautiful music in the world, cried to him, "Where are you going, Camille?"

He bowed over his horse's neck, drew down his hat over his eyes, and replied, "To Maisons."

"Do not go there. I have just left because there is a dreadful old woman there who says horrid things." Then Mlle. Moriaz added, in a queenly tone, "You cannot pass-you are my prisoner."

She obliged him to turn back; ten minutes later she had alighted from her coupe, he had sprung from his saddle, and they were seated side by side on a rustic bench.

A few days previous M. Langis had met M. Moriaz, who had complained bitterly of being forsaken by him as well as by Mme. de Lorcy, and who had extracted from him the promise to come and see him. Camille had kept this promise. Had he chosen well his time of doing so? The truth is, he had been both rejoiced and heart-broken to learn that Mlle. Moriaz was absent. Man is a strange combination of contradictions, especially a man who is in love. In the same way he had bestowed both blessings and imprecations upon Heaven for permitting him to meet Antoinette. During some moments he had lost countenance, but had quickly recovered himself; he had formed the generous resolution to act out consistently his role of friend and brother. He had acquitted himself of it so well at Saint Moritz, that Antoinette believed him cured of the caprice of a day with which she had inspired him and which she had never taken seriously.

"The last time I saw you," said she, "you dropped a remark that pained me, but I am pleased to think that you did not mean to do so."

"I am a terrible culprit," he rejoined, "and I smite myself upon the breast therefore. I was wanting in respect to your idol."

"Fortunately, my idol knew nothing about it, and, if he had known, I would have appeased him by saying: 'Pardon this young man; he does not always know what he is saying.'"

"He even seldom knows it; but what help is there for it? A man given to fainting always did seem a curiosity to me. I know we should endeavour to conquer our prejudices; every country has its customs, and, since Poland is a country that pleases you, I will make an effort to see only its good sides."

"Now that is the right way to talk. I hope this very day to reconcile you with Count Larinski; stay and dine with us-he will be here very soon; the first duty of the people whom I love is to love one another."

M. Langis at first energetically declined accepting this invitation; Antoinette insisted: he ended by bowing in sign of obedience. Youth has a taste for suffering.

Tracing figures in the gravel with a stick he had picked up, M. Langis said, in a wholly unconstrained voice: "I do not wish M. Larinski any harm, and yet you must admit that I would have the right to detest him cordially, for I had the honour two years ago, if I mistake not, of asking your hand in marriage. Do you remember it?"

"Perfectly," she replied, fixing upon him her pure, clear eyes; "but I ought to avow to you that this fancy of yours never seemed to me either very reasonable or very serious."

"You are wrong; I can certify to you that your refusal plunged me for as much as forty-eight hours into the depths of despair-I mean one of those genuine despairs that neither eat, drink, nor sleep, and that speak openly of suicide!"

"And at the end of forty-eight hours were you consoled?"

"Eh! bon Dieu, it surely was time to come to reason. I had hesitated a long time before asking your hand, because I thought, 'If she refuses me, I cannot see her any more.' But I still do see you, so all is well!"

"And how soon do you mean to marry?"

"I? Never! I shall die a bachelor. An aspirant to the hand of Mlle. Moriaz, being unable to win her, could not care for another woman. Nothing remains but to strike the attitude of the inconsolable lover."

"And when this ceases to hinder one from eating, drinking, or sleeping-what then?"

"One becomes interesting without being inconvenienced by the consequences," he gaily interposed. Then, letting his eyes wander idly around for a moment, he added: "It seems to me that you have in some way changed the order of this terrace; put to the right what was at the left, thinned out the shrubbery, cut the trees; I feel completely lost here."

"You mistake greatly; nothing is changed here; it is you who have become forgetful. How! you now longer recognise this terrace, scene of so many exploits? I was a thorough tyrant; I did with you what I pleased. You revolted sometimes, but in his heart the slave adored his chains. Open your eyes. See! here is the sycamore you climbed one day to escape me when I wanted you to make believe that you were a girl, as you said, and you had little fancy for such a silly role. There is the alley where we played ball, and yonder the hedge and the grove where we played hide-and-seek."

"Say rather, cligne-musette; it is more poetical," he rejoined. "When I was down in Transylvania I made a chanson about it all, and set it myself to music."

"Sing me your chanson."

"You are mocking at me; my voice is false, as you well know; but I will consent to recite it to you. The rhymes are not rich-I am no son of Parnassus."

With these words, lowering his voice, not daring to look her in the face, he recited the couplets.

"Your chanson is very pretty," said she; "but it does not tell the truth, for here we are sitting together on this bench; we have not lost each other at all."

She was so innocent that she had no idea of the torture she was inflicting, and he saw this so plainly that he could not so much as have the satisfaction of finding fault with her; yet he asked himself whether in the best woman's heart there was not a foundation of cruelty, of unconscious ferocity. He felt the tears start to his eyes; he scarcely could restrain them; he abruptly bowed his head, and began to examine a beautiful horned beetle, which was just crossing the gravel-path at a quick pace, apparently having some very important affairs to regulate. When M. Langis raised his head his eyes were dry, his face serene, his lips smiling.

"It is very certain," he observed, "that two years ago I must have appeared supremely ridiculous to you. This little playmate of old, this foolish little Camille, to attempt to transform himself into a husband! The pretension was absurd indeed."

"Not at all," she replied; "but I thought at once that it was a mistake. Little Camilles are apt to be hot-headed and fanciful; they are subject to self-deceptions regarding their sentiments. Friendship and love, however, are two entirely different things! I once said to Mlle. Moiseney that a woman never should marry an intimate friend, because it would be a sure way of losing him as such, and friends are good to keep."

"Bah! How much do you care now for yours? I find my role very modest, very insignificant. Open the trap-door-it is time for me to disappear."

"Bad counsel! I shall not open the trap-door. One always has need of friends. I can readily imagine the possibility of the very happiest married woman needing some advice or assistance that she could not ask of her husband, for husbands do not understand everything. If ever such a thing happens to me, Camille, I shall turn to you."

"Agreed!" he cried; "to help you out of embarrassment, I would run, if necessary, all the way from Transylvania."

He held out his right hand, which she shook warmly.

At this moment they heard a step that Mlle. Moriaz at once recognised, and Count Larinski appeared from the walk bordering the house. Antoinette hastened to meet him, and led him forward by laying hold of the tip of his glove, which he was in the act of drawing off.

"Gentlemen," said she, "I do not need to present you to each other; you are already acquainted."

It is a very difficult thing to lead two men who do not like each other into conversation: the present effort proved a total failure. Fortunately for all parties, M. Moriaz shortly made his appearance at the end of the terrace, and M. Langis arose to join him. Antoinette remained alone with Samuel Brohl, who at once rather brusquely asked:

"Has M. Langis the intention of remaining here forever?"

"He has only just arrived," she replied.

"And you will send him away soon?"

"I thought so little of sending him away that I asked him to dinner, in order to give you an opportunity of becoming more fully acquainted with him."

"I thank you for your amiable intentions, but M. Langis pleases me little."

"What have you against him?"

"I have met him sometimes at Mme. de Lorcy's, and he always has shown me a most dubious politeness. I scent in him an enemy."

"Pure imagination! M. Langis has been my friend from childhood up, and I have forewarned him that it is his duty to love the people whom I love."

"I mistrust these childhood's friends," said he, growing excited. "I should not wonder if this youth was in love with you."

"Ah, indeed! then you should have heard him but now. He has been reminding me, this youth, that two years ago he sought my hand, and he assured me that forty-eight hours sufficed to console him for my refusal."

"I did not know that the case was so grave, or the personage so dangerous. Truly, do you mean to keep him to dinner?"

"I invited him; can I retract?"

"Very well, I will leave the place," he cried, rising.

She uplifted her eyes to his face and remained transfixed with astonishment, so completely was his face transformed. His contracted brows formed an acute angle, and he had a sharp, hard, evil air. This was a Larinski with whom she was not yet acquainted, or rather it was Samuel Brohl who had just appeared to her-Samuel Brohl, who had entered upon the scene as suddenly as though he had emerged from a magic surprise-box. She could not remove her eyes from him, and he at once perceived the impression he was making on her. Forthwith Samuel Brohl re-entered his box, whose cover closed over him, and it was a true Pole who said to Mlle. Moriaz, in a grave, melancholy, and respectful tone:

"Pardon me, I am not always master of my impressions."

"That is right," said she; "and you will remain, won't you?"

"Impossible," he replied; "I should be cross, and you would not be pleased."

She urged him; he opposed her entreaties with a polite but firm resistance.

"Adieu," said she. "When shall I see you again?"

"To-morrow-or the day after-I do not know."

"Really, do you not know?"

He perceived that her eyes were full of tears. Tenderly kissing her hand he said, with a smile that consoled her:

"This is the first time we have had any dispute; it is possible that I may be wrong, but it seems to me that if I were a woman I would not willingly marry a man who was always right."

These words uttered, he assured himself anew that her eyes were humid, and then he left, charmed to have proved the extent of the empire he held over her.

When she rejoined M. Langis, the young man asked:

"Does it chance to be I who put Count Larinski to flight? If so, I should be quite heart-broken."

"Reassure yourself," said she, "he came expressly to inform me that his evening was not free."

The dinner was only passably lively. Mlle. Moiseney owed M. Langis a grudge; she could not forgive him for having made fun of her more than once-in her eyes an unpardonable sin. M. Moriaz was enchanted to find himself once more in company with his dear Camille; but he kept asking himself, mournfully, "Why is not he to be my son-in-law?" Antoinette had several attacks of abstraction; she did not, however, omit the least friendly attention to Camille. Love had become master of this generous soul; it might cause it to commit many imprudences, but it was not in its power to cause it to commit an injustice.

At nine o'clock M. Langis mounted his horse and took his departure.

Meanwhile, Mlle. Moriaz, her arm resting on the ledge of her window, was meditating on the strange conduct of Count Larinski as she gazed on the stars; the sky was without clouds, unless a little black speck above Mount-Valerien might be so called. Mlle. Moriaz's heart swelled with emotion, and she felt implicit confidence that all would be arranged the next day. What is one black spot in the immensity of a starry sky?

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