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Samuel Brohl and Company By Victor Cherbuliez Characters: 9285

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Six days after these events, Samuel Brohl, having passed through Namur and Liege without stopping at either place, arrived by rail at Aix-la-Chapelle. He went directly to the Hotel Royal, close to the railroad-station; he ordered a hearty dinner to be served him, which he washed down with foaming champagne. He had an excellent appetite; his soul kept holiday; his heart was expanded, inflated with joy, and his brain intoxicated. He had revenged himself; he had meted out justice to that insolent fellow, his rival. Mlle. Moriaz did not belong to Samuel Brohl, but she never would belong to Camille Langis. Near the Franco-Belgian frontier, on the verge of a forest, a man had been shot in the breast; Samuel Brohl had seen him fall; and some one had cried, "He is dead!" It is asserted that Aix-la-Chapelle is a very dull city, that the very dogs suffer so sadly from ennui that they piteously beg passers-by to kick them, with a view to having a little excitement. Samuel never felt one moment's ennui during the evening that he spent in Charlemagne's city. He had constantly in mind a certain spot in a forest, and a man falling; and he experienced a thrill of delight.

After the champagne, he drank punch, an after that he slept like a dormouse; unfortunately, sleep dissipated his exhilaration, and when he awoke his gaiety had left him. He had the fatal custom of reflecting; his reflections saddened him; he was revenged, but what then? He thought for a long while of Mlle. Moriaz; he gazed with melancholy eye at his two hands, which had allowed her and good fortune to elude their grasp.

He recited in a low voice some German verses, signifying:

"I have resolved to bury my songs and my dreams; bring me a large coffin. Why is this coffin so heavy? Because in it with my dreams I have laid away my love and my sorrows."

When he had recited these verses Samuel felt sadder than before, and he cursed the poets. "They did me great harm," he said, bitterly. "Without them I had spent days interwoven with gold and silk. My future was secure: it was they who gave me a distaste for my position. I believed in them; I was the dupe of their hollow declamation; they taught me thoughtless contempt, and they gave me the sickly ambition to play the silly part of a man of fine sentiments. I despised the mud. Where am I now?"

He had formed the project of going to Holland and of embarking thence for America. What would he do in the United States? He did not know yet. He passed in review all the professions that at all suited him; they all required an outlay for first expenses. Thanks to God and to M. Guldenthal, whose loan was in the greatest danger, he was not destitute of all supplies. But a week previous he had held into the flames and burned twenty-five one-thousand-franc bills of the Bank of France. He felt some remorse for the act; he could not help thinking that a revenge that cost twenty-five thousand francs was an article of luxury of which poor devils should deprive themselves. In thinking over this adventure, it seemed to him that it was another than himself who had burned those bills, or at least that he had mechanically executed this auto-da-fe through a sort of thoughtless impulse, like a puppet moved by an invisible string. Suddenly the phantom with whom he had had frequent conversations appeared, and there was a sneer on its lips. Samuel addressed it once more-this was to be the last time; he said:

"Imbecile! You are my evil genius. It was you who caused me to commit this extravagance. You yourself lighted the candle, you put the bills into my hands, you guided my arm, extended it, held it above the fatal flame. This act of supreme heroism was your work; it is not I, it is you, who paid so dearly for the pleasure of astonishing one who wantonly insulted me, and of killing him. Cursed forever be the day when I assumed your name, and when I conceived the foolish notion of becoming your second self! I made myself a Pole: did Poland ever have the least idea of government? You of all men were the most incapable of making your way; I aped a poor model indeed. Abel Larinski, I break off all connection with you; I wind up the affairs of our firm, I put the key under the door, or drop it down the well. O my great Pole! I return to you your title, your name, and with your name all that you gave me-your pride, your pretensions, your dangerous delicacy, your attitudes, your sentimental grimaces, and your waving plume."

It was thus that Samuel Brohl took a decisive farewell of Count Abel Larinski, who might henceforth rest quietly in his grave; there was no further danger

of a dead man being compromised by a living one. What name did Samuel Brohl mean now to assume? Out of spite to his destiny, he chose for the time the humblest of all; he decided to call himself Kicks, which was his mother's name.

His melancholy would have known no bounds, had he suspected that Camille Langis was still in the world. Camille Langis for two weeks lay between life and death, but the ball had finally been successfully extracted. Mme. de Lorcy hastened to Mons and nursed him like a mother; she had the joy of bringing him back alive to Paris.

Care was taken that no mention of the duel should be made to Mlle. Moriaz, and not a word concerning it reached her; her condition for a long time caused the gravest anxiety. After she became convalescent she remained sunk in a gloomy, taciturn sadness. She never made the least allusion to what had passed, and would not permit any one to speak of it to her. She had been deceived, and a mortification, mingled with dread, was the result of her mistake. It seemed to her that nothing remained in life for her but remembrance and silence.

Towards the end of November, M. Moriaz proposed to her that they should return to Paris. She expressed her desire not to leave Cormeilles-to pass the winter in solitude; the human face terrified her. M. Moriaz tried to represent to her that she was unreasonable.

"Will you wear eternal mourning for a stranger?" he asked; "for, in reality, the man that you loved you never saw. Ah! mon Dieu, you deceived, you deluded yourself. Is there, I will not say a single woman, but a single member of the Institute, who has not once been grossly imposed on? It is through the means of failures in experiments that science progresses."

And he rose to still higher considerations; he endeavoured to prove to her that, if it is bad to have erred, an excessive fear of erring is a still worse evil, because it is better to lose one's way than not to walk at all.

When he had finished his harangue, she said, shaking her head, "I have no longer faith in any one."

"What! not even in the brave fellow to whom you owe the recovery of your portrait and your letters?"

"Of whom do you speak?" she exclaimed.

Then he declared to her how M. Langis had effected the descent into the den, without telling her what had resulted therefrom.

"Ah! that was kind, very kind," she said. "I never doubted that Camille was a true friend."

"A friend? Are you very sure that it is only friendship that he feels for you?"

Whereupon M. Moriaz told her all the rest. She grew pensive and sank into a reverie. Suddenly the door of the salon opened, and Camille entered. After inquiring after her health, he informed her that in consequence of a cold he, too, had been sick; and, as he was now free from business engagements, his physician was sending him to pass the winter in Sorrento.

She replied: "That is a journey that I would like to make. Will you take me with you?"

She gazed fixedly at him; there was everything in her gaze. He bent his knee before her, and for some moments they remained hand-in-hand, and eye to eye. In the midst of this, Mlle. Moiseney appeared, who, at sight of this tableau vivant, stood perfectly confounded.

"You are very much astonished, mademoiselle," said M. Moriaz to her.

"Not so much as you fancy, monsieur," replied she, recovering herself. "I did not dare to say it, but in my heart I always believed, always thought-Yes, I always was sure that it would end thus."

"God bless Pope Joan!" he cried; "I shall cease to correct her."

We have failed to learn what Samuel Brohl is doing in America. In waiting for something better, has he become an humble teacher? has he attempted a new matrimonial enterprise? has he become a reporter of the New York Herald, or a politician in one of the Northern States, or a carpet-bagger in South Carolina? does he dream of being some day President of the glorious republic with the starry banner?

Up to the present time, no American journal has devoted the shortest paragraph to him. Adventurers are beings who constantly vanish and reappear; they belong to the family of divers; but, after many plunges, they always end by some catastrophe. The wave supports the drowning man an instant, then bears him away and drags him down to the depths of the briny abyss; there is heard a splash, a ripple, a hoarse cry, followed by a smothered groan, and Samuel Brohl is no more! For some days the question is agitated whether his real name is Brohl, Kicks, or Larinski; soon something else is talked about, and his memory becomes a prey to eternal silence.

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