Part 1 out of 4
Etext prepared by Dagny, email@example.com
and John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAMUEL BROHL & COMPANY
by VICTOR CHERBULIEZ
Were the events of this nether sphere governed by the calculus of
probabilities, Count Abel Larinski and Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz would
almost unquestionably have arrived at the end of their respective
careers without ever having met. Count Larinski lived in Vienna,
Austria; Mlle. Moriaz never had been farther from Paris than
Cormeilles, where she went every spring to remain throughout the fine
weather. Neither at Cormeilles nor at Paris had she ever heard of
Count Larinski; and he, on his part, was wholly unaware of the
existence of Mlle. Moriaz. His mind was occupied with a gun of his own
invention, which should have made his fortune, and which had not made
it. He had hoped that this warlike weapon, a true /chef-d'oeuvre/, in
his opinion superior in precision and range to any other known, would
be appreciated, according to its merits, by competent judges, and
would one day be adopted for the equipment of the entire Austro-
Hungarian infantry. By means of unremitting perseverance, he had
succeeded in obtaining the appointment of an official commission to
examine it. The commission decided that the Larinski musket possessed
certain advantages, but that it had three defects: it was too heavy,
the breech became choked too rapidly with oil from the lubricator, and
the cost of manufacture was too high. Count Abel did not lose courage.
He gave himself up to study, devoted nearly two years to perfecting
his invention, and applied all his increased skill to rendering his
gun lighter and less costly. When put under test, the new firearm
burst, and this vexatious incident ruined forever the reputation of
the Larinski gun. Far from becoming enriched, the inventor had sunk
his expenses, his advances of every kind; he had recklessly squandered
both revenue and capital, which, to be sure, was not very
Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz had a more fortunate destiny than Count
Larinski. She did not plume herself on having invented a new gun, nor
did she depend upon her ingenuity for a livelihood; she had inherited
from her mother a yearly income of about a hundred thousand livres,
which enabled her to enjoy life and make others happy, for she was
very charitable. She loved the world without loving it too much; she
knew how to do without it, having abundant resources within herself,
and being of a very independent disposition. During the winter she
went out a great deal into society, and received freely at home. Her
father, member of the Institute and Professor of Chemistry at the
College of France, was one of those /savants/ who enjoy dining out; he
had a taste also for music and for the theatre. Antoinette accompanied
him everywhere; they scarcely ever remained at home except upon their
reception evenings; but with the return of the swallows it was a
pleasure to Mlle. Moriaz to fly to Cormeilles and there pass seven
months, reduced to the society of Mlle. Moiseney, who, after having
been her instructress, had become her /demoiselle de compagnie/. She
lived pretty much in the open air, walking about in the woods,
reading, or painting; and the woods, her books, and her paint-brushes,
to say nothing of her poor people, so agreeably occupied her time that
she never experienced a quarter of an hour's /ennui/. She was too
content with her lot to have the slightest inclination to change it;
therefore she was in no hurry to marry. She had completed twenty-four
years of her existence, had refused several desirable offers, and
wished nothing better than to retain her maidenhood. It was the sole
article concerning which this heiress had discussions with those
around her. When her father took it into his head to grow angry and
cry, "You must!" she would burst out laughing; whereupon he would
laugh also, and say: "I'm not the master here; in fact, I am placed in
the position of a ploughman arguing with a priest."
It is very dangerous to tax one's brains too much when one dines out
frequently. During the winter of 1875, M. Moriaz had undertaken an
excess of work; he was overdriven, and his health suffered. He was
attacked by one of those anemic disorders of which we hear so much
nowadays, and which may be called /la maladie a la mode/. He was
obliged to break in upon his daily routine, employ an assistant, and
early in July his physician ordered him to set out for Engadine, and
try the chalybeate water-cure at Saint Moritz. The trip from Paris to
Saint Moritz cannot be made without passing through Chur. It was at
Chur that Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz, who accompanied her father, met for
the first time Count Abel Larinski. When the decree of Destiny goes
forth, the spider and the fly must inevitably meet.
Abel Larinski had arrived at Chur from Vienna, having taken the route
through Milan and across the Splugen Pass. Although he was very short
of funds, upon reaching the capital of the canton of Grisons he had
put up at the Hotel Steinbock, the best and most expensive in the
place. It was his opinion that he owed this mark of respect to Count
Larinski; such duties he held to be very sacred, and he fulfilled them
religiously. He was in a very melancholy mood, and set out for a
promenade in order to divert his mind. In crossing the Plessur Bridge,
he fixed his troubled eyes on the muddy waters of the stream, and he
felt almost tempted to take the fatal leap; but in such a project
there is considerable distance between the dream and its fulfilment,
and Count Larinski experienced at this juncture that the most
melancholy man in the world may find it difficult to conquer his
passion for living.
He had no reason to feel very cheerful. He had quitted Vienna in order
to betake himself to the Saxon Casino, where /roulette/ and /trente-
et-quarante/ are played. His ill-luck would have it that he stopped
on the way at Milan, and fell in with a circle of ill repute, where
this most imprudent of men played and lost. There remained to him just
enough cash to carry him to Saxon; but what can be accomplished in a
casino when one has empty pockets? Before crossing the Splugen he had
written to a petty Jew banker of his acquaintance for money. He
counted but little on the compliance of this Hebrew, and this was why
he paused five minutes to contemplate the Plessur, after which he
retraced his steps. Twenty minutes later he was crossing a public
square, ornamented with a pretty Gothic fountain, and seeing before
him a cathedral, he hastened to enter it.
The cathedral of Chur possesses, among other curiosities, a painting
by Albert Durer, a St. Lawrence on the gridiron, attributed to
Holbein, a piece of the true cross, and some relics of St. Lucius and
his sister Ernesta. Count Abel only accorded a wandering attention to
either St. Lucius or St. Lawrence. Scarcely had he made his way into
the nave of the building, when he beheld something that appeared to
him far more interesting than paintings or relics. An English poet has
said that at times there is revealed to us a glimpse of paradise in a
woman's face, and it was such a rare blessing that was at this moment
vouchsafed unto Count Larinski. He was not a romantic man, and yet he
remained for some moments motionless, rooted to the spot in
admiration. Was it a premonition of his destiny? The fact is that, in
beholding for the first time Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz, for it was none
other than she who thus riveted his attention, he experienced an
inexplicable surprise, a thrilling of the heart, such as he never
before had experienced. In his first impression of this charming girl
he made one slight mistake. He divined at once that the man by whom
she was accompanied, who had gray hair, a broad, open brow, vivacious
eyes, shaded by beautiful, heavy eye-brows, belonged to some learned
fraternity; but he imagined that this individual with a white cravat,
who had evidently preserved his freshness of heart, although past
sixty years of age, was the fortunate suitor of the beautiful girl by
There are some women whom it is impossible not to gaze upon. Wherever
Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz appeared she was the object of universal
observation: first, because she was charming; and, then, because she
had a way of her own of dressing and of arranging her hair, a peculiar
movement of the head, a grace of carriage, which inevitably must
attract notice. There were those who made so bold as to assert that
she assumed certain little peculiarities solely for the purpose of
attracting the chance observer. Do not believe a word of it. She was
altogether indifferent to public opinion and consulted her own taste
alone, which was certainly impregnated with a touch of audacity; but
she did not seek to appear audacious--she merely acted according to
her natural bent. Observing her from a distance, people were apt to
fancy her affected, and somewhat inclined to be fantastic; but on
approaching her, their minds were speedily disabused of this fancy.
The purity of her countenance, her air of refinement and thorough
modesty, speedily dispelled any suspicious thoughts, and those who had
for a moment harboured them would say mentally, "Pardon me,
mademoiselle, I mistook." Such, at least, was the mental comment of
Count Abel, as she passed close by him on leaving the church. Her
father was telling her something that made her smile; this smile was
that of a young girl just budding into womanhood, who has nothing yet
to conceal from her guardian angel. Count Larinski left the church
after her, and followed her with his eyes as she crossed the square.
On returning to the hotel he had a curiosity to satisfy. He questioned
one of the /garcons/, who pointed out to him in the hotel register for
travellers the following entry: "M. Moriaz, member of the Institute of
France, and his daughter, from Paris, /en route/ for Saint Moritz."
"And where then?" he asked himself; then dismissed the subject from
When he had dined, he repaired to the post-office to inquire for a
letter he was expecting from Vienna. He found it, and returned to shut
himself up in his chamber, where he tore open the envelope with a
feverish hand. This letter, written in a more peculiar than felicitous
French, was the reply of the Jew banker. It read as follows:
"M. LE COMTE:
"Although you both write and understand German very well, you do
not like to read it, and therefore I write to you in French. It
grieves me deeply not to have it in my power to satisfy your
honoured demand. Business is very dull. It is impossible for me to
advance you another florin, or even to renew your note, which
falls due shortly. I am the father of a family; it pains me to be
compelled to remind you of this.
"I wish to tell you quite freely what I think. I did believe in
your gun, but I believe in it no longer, no one believes in it any
more. When strong, it was too heavy; when you made it lighter, it
was no longer strong. What came next? You know it burst. Beware
how you further perfect it, or it will explode whenever it becomes
aware that any one is looking at it. This accursed gun has eaten
up the little you had, and some of my savings besides, although I
have confidence that you will, at least, pay me the interest due
on that. It grieves me to tell you so, M. de Comte, but all
inventors are more or less crack-brained, and end in the hospital.
For the love of God, leave guns as they are, and invent nothing
more, or you will go overboard, and there will be no one to fish
Abel Larinski paused at this place. He put his letter down on the
table, and, turning round in his arm-chair, with a savage air, his eye
fixed on a distant corner of the room, he fell to thus soliloquizing
in a sepulchral voice:
"Do you hear, idiot? This old knave is right. Accursed be the day when
the genius of invention thrilled your sublime brain! A grand discovery
you have made, forsooth! What have I gained from it? Grand illusions,
grand discomfitures! What hath it availed me that I passed whole
nights discussing with you breech-loaders, screw-plates, tumbrels,
sockets, bridges, ovoid balls, and spring-locks? What fruits have I
gained from these refreshing conversations? You foresaw everything, my
great man, except that one little thing which great men so often fail
to see, that mysterious something, I know not what, which makes
success. When you spoke to me, in your slow, monotonous tones, when
you fixed upon me your melancholy gaze, I should have been able to
read in your eyes that you were only a fool. The devil take thee and
thy gun, thy gun and thee; hollow head, head full of chimeras, true
Pole, true Larinski!"
To whom was Count Abel speaking? To a phantom? To his double? He alone
knew. When he had uttered the last words, he resumed the perusal of
his letter, which ended thus:
"Will you permit me to give you a piece of advice, M. le Comte, a
good little piece of advice? I have known you for three years, and
have taken much interest in your welfare. You invent guns, which,
when they are strong, lack lightness. I beg your pardon, but I do
not comprehend you, M. le Comte. The name you bear is excellent;
the head you carry on your shoulders is superb, and it is the
general opinion that you resemble /Faust/; but neither name nor
head does you any good. Leave the guns as they are, and bestow
your attention upon women; they, and they alone, can draw you out
of the deep waters where you are now floundering. There is no time
to lose. I beg your pardon, but you must be thirty years old, and
perhaps a little more. This /diable/ of a gun has made you lose
three valuable years.
"It pains me, M. le Comte, to be compelled to remind you that the
little note falls due shortly. I have had the value of the
bracelet you left with me as a pledge estimated; it is not worth a
thousand florins, as you believed; it is a piece of antiquity that
has a value to only those who can indulge in a caprice for fancy
articles, and such caprices are rare nowadays, the time for such
"I am, M. le Comte, with much respect, your humble and obedient
Abel Larinski turned once more in his chair. He crumpled up between
his fingers the letter of M. Moses Guldenthal, saying to himself as he
did so, that the Guldenthals are often very clear-sighted folks. "Ay,
to be sure," thought he, "this Hebrew is right, I have lost three
valuable years. I have had fever, and my eyes have been clouded; but,
Heaven be praised! The charm is broken, the illusion fled, I am cured
--saved! Farewell, my chimera, I am no longer thy dupe! Many thanks,
my dear friend: I return to you your gun; do with it as it seemeth
best to you."
His eyes suddenly fell on his own reflection in the mirror above the
chimney-piece, and he regarded it fixedly for a few moments.
"The semblance truly of an inventor," he resumed, mournfully smiling.
"This pale, emaciated face; these deep-set eyes, with dark circles
about them; these hollow, cadaverous cheeks! The three years have
indeed left their traces. Bah! a little rest in the Alpine pastures,
and /Faust/ will become rejuvenated."
He seized a pen, and wrote the following reply:
"You are truly kind, my dear Guldenthal: you refuse me the
miserable florins, but you give me in their stead a little piece
of advice that is worth a fortune. Unluckily, I am not capable of
following it. Noble souls like ours comprehend each other with
half a word, and you are a poet whenever it suits you. When in the
course of the day you have transacted a neat little piece of
business, after having rubbed your hands until you have almost
deprived them of skin, you tune your violin, which you play like
an angel, and you draw from it such delightful strains that your
ledger and your cash-box fall to weeping with emotion. I, too, am
a musician, and my music is the fair sex. But, alas! women never
can be for me other than an adorable inutility, a part of the
dream of my life. Your dreams yield you a handsome percentage, as
I have sorrowfully experienced; my dreams yield me nothing, and
therefore it is that they are dear to me.
"I must prohibit--understand me clearly--your disposing of the
trinket I left with you; we have the weakness, we Poles, of
clinging to our family relics. Set your mind at rest; before the
end of the month I shall have returned to Vienna, and will honour
the dear little note. One day you will go down on your knees to
beg of me to loan you a thousand florins, and I will astonish you
with my ingratitude. May the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of
Jacob, have you in his holy keeping, my dear Guldenthal!"
As he finished his letter, he heard the sound of harps and violins.
Some itinerant musicians were giving a concert in the hotel-garden,
which was lit up as bright as day. Abel opened his window, and leaned
on his elbows, looking out. The first object that presented itself to
his eyes was Mlle. Moriaz, promenading one of the long garden-walks,
leaning on her father's arm. Many eyes were fixed on her--we have
already said it was difficult not to gaze upon her--but no one
contemplated her with such close attention as Count Larinski. He never
once lost sight of her.
"Is she beautiful? Is she even pretty?" he queried within himself. "I
cannot quite make up my mind, but I am very sure that she is charming.
Like my bracelet, this is a fancy article. She is a little thin, and
her shoulders are too vigorously fashioned for her waist, which is
slender and supple as a reed; but, such as she is, she has not her
equal. Her walk, her carriage, resemble nothing I ever have seen
before. I can well imagine that when she appears in the streets of
Paris people turn to look after her, but no one would have the
audacity to follow her. How old is she? Twenty-four or twenty-five
years, I should say. Why is she not married? Who is this withered,
pinched-looking fright of a personage who trots at her side like a
poodle-dog? Probably some /demoiselle de compagnie/. And there comes
her /femme de chambre/, a very spruce little lass, bringing her a
shawl, which the /demoiselle de compagnie/ hastens to put over her
shoulders. She allows it to be done with the air of one who is
accustomed to being waited upon. Mlle. Moriaz is an heiress. Why,
then, is she not married?"
Count Larinski pursued his soliloquy as long as Mlle. Moriaz
promenaded in the garden. As soon as she re-entered the hotel, it
appeared to him that the garden had become empty, and that the
musicians were playing out of tune. He closed his window. He gave up
his plan of starting the next day for Saxon. He had decided that he
would set out for Saint Moritz, to pass there at least two or three
days. He said to himself, "It seems absurd; but who can tell?"
Thereupon he proceeded to investigate the state of his finances, and
he weighed and re-weighed his purse, which was very light. Formerly
Count Larinski had possessed a very pretty collection of jewellery. He
had looked upon this as a reserve fund, to which he would have
recourse only in cases of extreme distress. Alas! there remained to
him now only two articles of his once considerable store--the bracelet
that was in the hands of M. Guldenthal, and a diamond ring that he
wore on his finger. He decided that, before quitting Chur, he would
borrow money on this ring, or that he would try to sell it.
He remained some time seated at the foot of his bed, dangling his legs
to and fro, his eyes closed. He had closed them, in order to better
call up a vision of Mlle. Moriaz, and he repeated the words: "It seems
absurd; but who can tell? The fact is, we can know nothing of a
surety, and anything may happen." Then he recalled one of Goethe's
poems, entitled "Vanitas! vanitatum vanitas!" and he recited several
time in German these two lines:
"Nun hab' ich mein' Sach' auf nichts gestellt,
Und mein gehort die ganze Welt!"
This literally signifies, "Now that I no longer count on anything, the
whole world is mine." Abel Larinski recited these lines with a purity
of accent that would have astonished M. Moses Guldenthal.
M. Moriaz, after wishing his daughter good-night, and imprinting a
kiss upon her brow, as was his custom, had retired to his chamber. He
was preparing for bed, when there came a knock at his door. Opening
this, he saw before him a fair-haired youth, who rushed eagerly
towards him, seized both his hands, and pressed them with effusion. M.
Moriaz disengaged his hands, and regarded the intruder with a
"How?" cried the latter. "You do not know me? So sure as you are one
of the most illustrious chemists of the day, I am Camille Langis, son
of your best friend, a young man of great expectations, who admires
you truly, who has followed you here, and who is now ready to begin
all over again. There, my dear master, do you recognise me?"
"Ay, to be sure I recognise you, my boy," replied M. Moriaz,
"although, to tell the truth, you have greatly changed. When you left
us you were a mere youth."
"And now you have the air of a young man; but, I beg of you, where
have you come from? I thought you were in the heart of Transylvania."
"It is possible to return from there, as you see. Three days ago I
arrived in Paris and flew to Maisons-Lafitte. Mme. De Lorcy, who bears
the double insignia of honour of being my aunt and the godmother of
Antoinette--I beg your pardon, I mean Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz--
informed me that you were in ill-health, and that your physician had
sent you to Switzerland, to Saint Moritz, to recruit. I hastened after
you; this morning I missed you by one hour at Zurich; but I have you
now, and you will listen to me."
"I warn you, my dear child, that I am at this moment a most detestable
auditor. We have done to-day one /hotel de ville/, one episcopal
palace, one cathedral, and some relics of St. Lucius. To speak
plainly, I am overpowered with sleep. Is there any great haste for
what you have to say to me?"
"Is there any great haste? Why, I arrive breathless from Hungary to
demand your daughter in marriage."
M. Moriaz threw up his arms; then, seating himself on the edge of his
bed, he piteously gasped:
"You could not wait until to-morrow? If a judge is desired to take a
favourable view of a case, he surely should not be disturbed in his
first sleep to consider it."
"My dear master, I am truly distressed to be compelled to be
disagreeable to you, but it is absolutely necessary that you should
listen to me. Two years ago, for the first time, I asked of you your
daughter's hand. After having consulted Antoinette--you will permit me
to call her Antoinette, will you not?--after having consulted her, you
told me that I was too young, that she would not listen seriously to
my proposal, and you gave me your permission to try again in two
years. I have employed these two mortal years in constructing a
railroad and a wire bridge in Hungary, and, believe me, I took
infinite pains to forget Antoinette. In vain! She is the romance of my
youth, I never can have another. On July 5, 1873, did you not tell me
to return in two years? We are now at July 5, 1875, and I return. Am I
a punctual man?"
"As punctual as insupportable," rejoined M. Moriaz, casting a
melancholy look at his pillow. "Now, candidly, is it the thing to seek
the presence of the President of the Academy of Sciences between
eleven o'clock and midnight, to pour such silly stuff into his ear?
You are wanting in respect for the Institute. Besides, my dear boy,
people change in two years; you are a proof of it. You have developed
from boyhood almost into manhood, and you have done well to let your
imperial grow; it gives you quite a dashing military air--one would
divine at first sight that you were fresh from Hungary. But, while you
have changed for the better, are you sure that Antoinette has not
changed for the worse? Are you sure that she is still the Antoinette
of your romance?"
"I beg your pardon; I saw her just now, without her seeing me. She was
promenading on your arm in the hotel-garden, which was lit up in her
honour. Formerly she was enchanting, she has become adorable. If you
would have the immense goodness to give her to me, I would be capable
of doing anything agreeable to you. I would relieve you of all your
little troublesome jobs; I would clean your retorts; I would put
labels on your bottles and jars; I would sweep out your laboratory. I
know German very well--I would read all the large German books it
might please you to consult; I would read them, pen in hand; I would
make extracts--written extracts--and such extracts! /Grand Dieu!/ they
would be like copperplate. My dear master, will you give her to me?"
"The absurd creature! He imagines that it only depends upon me to give
him my daughter. I could as easily dispose of the moon. Since she has
had teeth, she had made me desire everything she desires."
"At least you will give me permission to pay my addresses to her
"Beware, unlucky youth!" cried M. Moriaz. "You will ruin your case
forever. Since you have been away she has refused two offers, one of
them from a second secretary of legation, Viscount de R---, and at the
present moment she holds in holy horror all suitors. She is
accompanying me to Saint Moritz in order to gather flowers and paint
aquarelle sketches of them. Should you presume to interrupt her in her
favourite occupations, should you present yourself before her like a
creditor on the day of maturity, I swear to you that your note would
be protested, and that you would have nothing better to do than return
"You are sure of it?"
"As sure as that sulphuric acid will turn litmus red."
"And you have the heart to sent me back to Paris without having spoken
"What I have said is for your good, and you know whether I mean you
well or not."
"It is agreed, then, that you will take charge of my interests; that
you will plead my cause?"
"It is understood that I will sound the premises, that I will prepare
"And that you will send me tidings shortly, and that these tidings
will be good. I shall await them here, at the Hotel Steinbock."
"As you please; but, for the love of Heaven, let me sleep!"
M. Camille Langis pressed his two arms and said, with much emotion: "I
place myself in your hands; take care how you answer for my life!"
"O youth!" murmured M. Moriaz, actually thrusting Camille from the
room. "One might search in vain for a more beautiful invention."
Ten hours later, a post-chaise bore in the direction of Engadine Mlle.
Antoinette Moriaz, her father, her /demoiselle de compagnie/, and her
/femme de chambre/. They breakfasted tolerably well in a village
situated in the lower portion of a notch, called Tiefenkasten, which
means, literally, /deep chest/, and certainly a deeper never has been
seen. After breakfast they pursued their way farther, and towards four
o'clock in the afternoon they reached the entrance of the savage
defile of Bergunerstein, which deserves to be compared with that of
Via Mala. The road lies between a wall of rocks and a precipice of
nearly two hundred metres, at the bottom of which rush the swift
waters of the Albula. This wild scenery deeply moved Mlle. Moriaz; she
never had seen anything like it at Cormeilles or anywhere about Paris.
She alighted, and, moving towards the parapet, leaned over it,
contemplating at her ease the depths below, which the foaming torrent
beneath filled with its roars.
Her father speedily joined her.
"Do you not find this music charming?" she asked of him.
"Charming, I grant," he replied; "but more charming still are those
brave workmen who, at the risk of their necks, have engineered such a
suspended highway as we see here. I think you admire the torrent too
much, and the road not enough." And after a pause he added, "I wish
that our friend Camille Langis had had fewer dangers to contend with
in constructing his." Antoinette turned quickly and looked at her
father; then she bestowed her attention once more upon the Albula. "To
be sure," resumed M. Moriaz, stroking his whiskers with the head of
his cane, "Camille is just the man to make his way through
difficulties. He has a youthful air that is very deceptive, but he
always has been astonishingly precocious. At twenty years of age he
became head of his class at the Central School; but the best thing
about him is that, although in possession of a fortune, yet he has a
passion for work. The rich man who works accepts voluntary poverty."
There arose from the precipice a damp, chill breeze; Mlle. Moriaz drew
over her head a red hood that she held in her hand, and scraping off
with her finger some of the facing of the parapet, which glittered
with scales of mica, she asked: "What do you call this?"
"It is gneiss, a sort of sheet-granite; but do not you too admire
people who work when they are not compelled to do anything?"
"Then you must admire yourself a great deal."
"Oh, I! In my early youth I worked from necessity, and then I formed a
habit which I cannot now get rid of; while Camille Langis--"
"Once more?" she ejaculated, with a gesture of impatience. "What
prompts you to speak to me of Camille?"
"Nothing. I often think of him."
"Do not let us two play at diplomacy. You have had news of him
"You just remind me that I have, through a letter from Mme. De Lorcy."
"Mme de Lorcy, my godmother, would do better to meddle with what
concerns her. That woman is incorrigible."
"Of what would you have her correct herself?"
"Simply of her mania for making my happiness after her own fashion. I
read in your eyes that Camille has returned to Paris. What is his
"I know nothing about it. How should I know? I only presume--that is,
"You do not suppose--you know."
"Not at all. At the same time, since hypothesis is the road which
leads to science, a road we /savants/ travel every day, I--"
'You know very well," she again interposed, "that I promised him
"Strictly speaking, I admit; but you requested me to tell him that you
found him too young. He has laboured conscientiously since then to
correct that fault." Then playfully pinching her cheeks, he added:
"You are a great girl for objections. Soon you will be twenty-five
years old, and you have refused five eligible offers. Have you taken a
vow to remain unmarried?"
"Ah! you have no mercy," she cried. "What! you cannot even spare me on
the Albula! You know that, of all subjects of conversation, I have
most antipathy for this."
"Come, come; you are slandering me now, my child. I spoke to you of
Camille as I might have spoken of the King of Prussia; and you rose in
arms at once, taking it wholly to yourself."
Antoinette was silent for some moments.
"Decidedly, you are very fond of Camille," she presently said.
"Of all the sons-in-law you could propose to me----"
"But I do not propose any."
"That is precisely what I find fault with."
"Very good; since you think so much of him, this Camille, suppose you
command me to marry him?"
"If I were to command, would you obey?"
"Perhaps, just for the curiosity of the thing," she rejoined,
"Naughty girl, to mock at her father!" said he. "If these twenty years
I have been in servitude, I can scarcely emancipate myself in a day.
However, since the great king deigns to hold parley with his
ministers, I am Pomponne--let us argue."
"Ah, well! you know as well as I that I have a real friendship for
Camille, as the playmate of my childhood. I remember him when he was
ever so small, and he remembers me, too, when I was a tiny creature.
We played hide-and-seek together, and he humoured me in my ten
thousand little caprices. Delightful reminiscences these, but
unfortunately I think of them too much when I see him."
"He has passed two years among the Magyars; two years is a good
"Bah! he could never possibly have any authority over me. I intend
that my husband shall be my government."
"So that you may have the pleasure of governing your government?"
"Besides, I know Camille too well. I could only fall in love with a
stranger," said she, heedless of the last sally.
"Was not the Viscount R--- a stranger?"
"At the end of five minutes I knew him by heart. He is precisely like
all other second secretaries of legation in the world. You may be sure
that there is not a single idea in his head that is really his own.
Even his figure does not belong to himself; it is the /chef-d'oeuvre/
of the united efforts of his tailor and his shirt-maker."
"According to this, a prime requisite in the man whom you could love
is to be poorly clad."
"If ever my heart is touched, it will be because I have met a man who
is not like all the other men of my acquaintance. After that I will
not positively forbid him to have decent clothing."
M. Moriaz made a little gesture of impatience, and then set out to
regain the chaise, which was some distance in advance. When he had
proceeded about twenty steps, he paused, and, turning towards
Antoinette, who was engaged in readjusting her hood and rebuttoning
her twelve-button gloves, he said:
"I have drawn an odd number in the great lottery of this world. In our
day there are no romantic girls; the last remaining one is mine."
"That is it; I am a romantic girl!" she cried, tossing her pretty,
curly head with an air of defiance; "and if you are wise you will not
urge me to marry, for I never shall make any but an ineligible match."
"Ah, speak lower!" he exclaimed, casting a hurried glance around him,
and adding: "Thank Heaven! there is no one here but the Albula to hear
M. Moriaz mistook. Had he raised his eyes a little higher he would
have discovered, above the rock cornice bordering the highway, a foot-
path, and in this foot-path a pedestrian tourist, who had paused
beneath a fir-tree. This tourist had set out from Chur in the
diligence. At the entrance of the defile, leaving his luggage to
continue without him to Saint Moritz, he had alighted, and with his
haversack on his back had set forward on foot for Bergun, where he
proposed passing the night, as did also M. Moriaz. Of the conversation
between Antoinette and her father he had caught only one word. This
word, however, sped like an arrow into his ear, and from his ear into
the innermost recesses of his brain, where it long quivered. It was a
treasure, this word; and he did not cease to meditate upon it, to
comment on it, to extract from it all its essence, until he had
reached the first houses of Bergun, like a mendicant who has picked up
in a dusty road a well-filled purse, and who opens it, closes it,
opens it again, counts his prize piece by piece, and adds up its value
twenty times over. Our tourist dined at the /table d'hote/; he was so
preoccupied that he ate the trout caught in the Albula without
suspecting that they possessed a marvellous freshness, an exquisite
flavour and delicacy, and yet it is notorious that the trout of the
Albula are the first trout of the universe.
Mlle. Moiseney, the duties of whose office consisted in serving as
chaperon to Mlle. Moriaz, was not a great genius. This worthy and
excellent personage had, in fact, rather a circumscribed mind, and she
had not the least suspicion of it. Her physiognomy was not pleasing to
M. Moriaz; he had several times besought his daughter to part with
her. In the goodness of her soul Antoinette always refused; she was
not one who could countenance rebuffs to old domestics, old dogs, old
horses, or worn-out governesses. Young Candide arrived at the
conclusion, as the result of his observations, that the first degree
of happiness would be to be Mlle. Gunegonde, and the second to
contemplate her throughout life. Mlle. Moiseney believed that it would
be the first degree of superhuman felicity to be Mlle. Moriaz, the
second to pass one's life near this queen, who, arbitrary and
capricious though she might be, was most thoughtful of the happiness
of her subjects, and to be able to say: "It was I that hatched the egg
whence arose this phoenix; I did something for this marvel; I taught
her English and music." She had boundless admiration for her queen,
amounting actually to idolatry. The English profess that their
sovereigns can do nothing amiss: "The king can do no wrong." Mlle.
Moiseney was convinced that Mlle. Moriaz could neither do wrong nor
make mistakes about anything. She saw everything with her eyes,
espoused her likes and her dislikes, her sentiments, her opinions, her
rights, and her wrongs; she lived, as it were, a reflected existence.
Every morning she said to her idol, "How beautiful we are to-day!"
precisely as the bell-ringer who, puffing out his cheeks, cried: "We
are in voice; we have chanted vespers well to-day!" M. Moriaz excused
her for finding his daughter charming, but could not so readily
approve of her upholding Antoinette's ideas, her decisions, her
prejudices. "This woman is no chaperon," said he; "she is an
admiration-point!" He would have been very glad to have routed her
from the field, and to give her place to a person of good sound sense
and judgment, one who might gain some influence over Antoinette. It
would have greatly surprised Mlle. Moiseney had he represented to her
that she lacked good sense. This good creature flattered herself that
she had an inexhaustible stock of this commodity; she placed the
highest estimate on her own judgment; she believed herself to be well-
nigh infallible. She discoursed in the tone of an oracle on future
contingencies; she prided herself on being able to divine all things,
to foresee all things, to predict all things--in a word, to be in the
secret of the gods. As her Christian name was Joan, M. Moriaz, who set
little store by his calendar, sometimes called her Pope Joan, which
wounded her deeply.
Mlle. Moiseney had two weaknesses; she was a gormand, and she admired
handsome men. Let us understand the case: she knew perfectly well that
they were not created for her; that she had no attractions to offer
them; that they had nothing to give her. She admired them naively and
innocently, as a child might admire a beautiful Epinal engraving; she
would willingly have cut out their likenesses to hang on a nail on her
wall, and contemplate while rereading "Gonzalve de Cordue" and "Le
Dernier des Cavaliers," her two favourite romances. At Bergun, during
the repast, her brain had been working, and she had made two
reflections. The first was, that the trout of Albula were
incomparable, the second that the stranger seated opposite her had a
remarkably handsome head, and was altogether a fine-looking man.
Several times, with fork halfway to mouth, and nose in the air, she
had forgotten herself in her scrutiny of him.
Antoinette, rather weary, had retired early to her chamber. Mlle.
Moiseney repaired thither to see if she needed anything, and, as she
was about leaving her for the night, candle in hand, she suddenly
inquired, "Do not you think, as I do, that this stranger is a
"Of whom do you speak?" rejoined Antoinette.
"Why, of the traveller who sat opposite me."
"I confess that I scarcely looked at him."
"Indeed! He has superb eyes, nearly green, with fawn-coloured
"Most astonishing! And his hair, is it green also?"
"Chestnut brown, almost hazel."
"Pray be more exact; is it hazel or not?"
"You need not laugh at me--his whole appearance is striking, his
figure singular, but full of character, full of expression, and as
handsome as singular."
"What enthusiasm! It seemed to me, so far as I noticed, that he was
inclined to stoop, and that his head was very badly poised."
"What do you say?" cried Mlle. Moiseney, greatly scandalized. "How
came you to think his head badly poised?"
"There--there! Don't let us quarrel about it; I am ready to retract.
Good-night, mademoiselle. Apropos, did you know that M. Camille Langis
had returned to Paris?"
"I did not know it, but I am not surprised. I had surmised it; in
fact, I was quite sure that he would be back about this time,
perfectly sure. And, of course, you think he has returned with the
"I think," interrupted Antoinette, "that it costs me more to pain M.
Langis than any other man in the world. I think, also, that he
possesses most tiresome fidelity; it is always the way, one never
loses one's dog when one wants to lose him; and I think, moreover,
that a woman makes a poor bargain when she marries a man for whom she
feels friendship; for, if she gains a husband, she is very sure to
lose a friend."
"How true your words are!" exclaimed Mlle. Moiseney. "But you are
always right. Has M. Langis forgotten that you thought him too young--
"He has so little forgotten it that he has managed, I don't know how,
to be at present twenty-five. How resist such a mark of affection? I
shall be compelled to marry him."
"That will never do. People do not marry for charity," replied Mlle.
"Adieu, my dear," said Antoinette, dismissing her. "Do not dream too
much about your unknown charmer. I assure you he had a decided stoop
in his shoulders. However, that makes small difference; if your heart
speaks, I will see to arranging this affair for you." And she added,
musingly, "How amusing it must be to marry other people!"
The next morning Mlle. Moiseney made the acquaintance of her unknown
charmer. Before leaving Bergun Mlle. Moriaz wished to make a sketch,
and she had gone out early with her father. Mlle. Moiseney descended
to the hotel /salon/, and, espying a piano, she opened it and played a
/fantasia/ by Schumann; she was a tolerably good musician. When she
had finished, Count Abel Larinski, the man with green eyes, who had
entered the /salon/ without her hearing him, approached to thank her
for the pleasure he had had in listening to her; but he begged to take
the liberty to tell her that she failed to properly observe the
movement, and had taken an /andantino/ for an /andante/. At her
solicitation he took her place at the instrument, and executed the
/andantino/ as few but professional artists could do. Mlle. Moiseney,
ever ready with her enthusiasm, declared that he must be a Liszt or a
Chopin, and implored him to play her something else, to which he
consented with good grace. After this they talked about music and many
other things. The man with the green eyes possessed one quality in
common with Socrates, he was master in the art of interrogating, and
Mlle. Moiseney loved to talk. The subject on which she discoursed most
willingly was Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz; when she was started under this
heading she became eloquent. At the end of half an hour Count Abel was
thoroughly /au fait/ on the character and position of Mlle. Moriaz. He
knew that she had a heart of gold, a mind free from all narrow
prejudices, a generous soul, and a love for all that was chivalrous
and heroic; he knew that two days of every week were devoted by her to
visiting the poor, and that she looked upon these as natural creditors
to whom it was her duty to make restitution. He knew also that Mlle.
Moriaz could all the better satisfy her charitable inclinations, as
her mother had left her an income of one hundred thousand livres. He
learned that she danced to perfection, that she drew like an angel,
and that she read Italian and spoke English. This last seemed of
mediocre importance to Count Abel. St. Paul said: "Though I speak with
the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." The count was of St. Paul's
opinion, and had Mlle. Moriaz known neither how to speak English, nor
to draw, nor yet to dance, it would not in the least have diminished
the esteem with which he honoured her. The main essential in his eyes
was that she was benevolent to the poor, and that she cherished a
little tenderness for heroes.
When he had learned, with an air of indifference, all that he cared to
learn, he respectfully bowed himself away from Mlle. Moiseney, to whom
he had not mentioned his name, and, buckling his haversack, he put it
on his back, paid his bill, and set out on foot to make a hasty ascent
of the culminating point of the Albula Pass, which leads into the
Engadine Valley. One would have difficulty in finding throughout the
Alps a more completely barren, rugged, desolate spot, than this
portion of the Albula Pass. The highway lies among masses of rocks,
heaped up in terrible disorder. Arrived at the culminating point,
Count Abel felt the necessity of taking breath. He clambered up a
little hillock, where he seated himself. At his feet were wide open
the yawning jaws of a cavern, obstructed by great tufts of aconite
(wolf's-bane), with sombre foliage; one would have said that they kept
guard over some crime in which they had been accomplices. Count Abel
contemplated the awful silence that surrounded him; everywhere
enormous boulders, heaped together, or scattered about in isolated
grandeur; some pitched on their sides, others standing erect, still
others suspended, as it were, in mid-air. It seemed to him that these
boulders had formerly served for the games of bacchanalian Titans,
who, after having used them as skittles or jack-stones, had ended by
hurling them at one another's heads. It is most probable that He who
constructed the Albula Pass, alarmed and confused by the hideous
aspect of his work, did justice to it by breaking it into fragments
with his gigantic hammer.
Count Abel heard a tinkling of bells, and, looking up, he saw
approaching a post-chaise, making its way from Engadine to Bergun. It
was a large, uncovered berlin, and in it sat a woman of about sixty
years of age, accompanied by her attendants and her pug-dog. This
woman had rather a bulky head, a long face, a snub-nose, high cheek-
bones, a keen, bright eye, a large mouth, about which played a smile,
at the same time /spirituel/, imperious, and contemptuous. Abel grew
pale, and became at once convulsed with terror; he could not withdraw
his eyes from this markedly Mongolian physiognomy, which from afar he
had recognised. "Ah, yes," he said, "it is she!" He drew over his face
the cape of his mantle, and disappeared as completely as it is
possible to disappear when one is perched upon a hillock. It was six
years since he had seen this woman, and he had promised himself never
to see her again; but man is the plaything of circumstances, and his
happiness as well as his pride is at the mercy of a chance encounter.
Count Abel was no longer proud; for some moments he had humbled
himself, he had ceased to exist.
Happily he discovered that he had not been recognised; that the woman
of sixty years of age was not looking his way. She had good taste;
discovering the hideous aspect of the country, which is usually known
as the Vallee du Diable, she had opened a volume, bound in morocco,
which her waiting-woman had placed in her hands. This volume was not a
new novel; it was a German book, entitled "The History of
Civilization, viewed in Accordance with the Doctrines of Evolution,
from the most Remote Period to the Present Day." She neither had made
much progress in the pages of the book nor in the history of
civilization; she had not got beyond the age of stone or of bronze;
she was still among primitive animal life, among the protozoa, the
monads, the infusoria, the vibratiles--in the age of albumen, or
gelatinous civilization, as it was called by the author, the sagacity
of whose views charmed her. She only interrupted her reading at
intervals to lightly stroke the nose of her pug, who lay snoring in
her lap, and she was a thousand leagues from suspecting that Count
Abel Larinski was at hand, watching her.
The berlin passed by him without stopping, and soon it had begun the
descent towards Bergun. Then he felt a great weight roll from his
heart, which beat freely once more. The berlin moved rapidly away; the
count followed it with his prayers, smoothing its course, removing
every stone or other obstacle that might retard its progress. It was
just disappearing round one of the curves of the road, when it crossed
another post-chaise, making the ascent in a walk, and in it Count Abel
perceived something red: it was the hood of Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz. A
moment more and the berlin was gone; it seemed to him that the shadow
of his sorrowful youth, emerged suddenly from the realm of shades, had
been plunged back there forever, and that the fay of hope--she who
holds in her keeping the secrets of the future--was ascending toward
him, red-hooded, flowers in her hands, sunshine in her eyes. The
clouds parted, the deep shadow covering the Vallee du Diable cleared
away, and the dismal solitude began to smile. Count Abel arose, picked
up his staff, and shook himself. As he passed before the cavern, he
discovered, among the tufts of aconite which covered it, a mossy
hollow, and he perceived that this hollow was ornamented with
beautiful blue campanulas, whose little bells gracefully waved in the
gentle breeze which was stirring. He gathered one of these campanulas,
carried it to his lips, and found its taste most agreeable. Half an
hour later he turned from the highway into a foot-path which led
through green pastures and forests of larch-trees.
By the time he had reached the heart of the valley it was nightfall.
He traversed the hamlet of Cresta, crossed a bridge, found himself at
the entrance of the village of Cellarina, about twenty-five minutes'
walk form Saint Moritz. After taking counsel with himself, he resolved
to proceed no farther; and so he put up at a neat, pretty inn, which
had just been freshly white-washed.
The air of the Engadine is so keen and bracing that the first nights
passed there are apt to be sleepless ones. Count Larinski scarcely
slept at all in his new quarters. Would he have slept better on the
plains? He became worn out with his thoughts. Of what was he thinking?
Of the cathedral at Chur, of the Vallee du Diable, of the tufts of
aconite, the campanulas, and the meeting of the two post-chaises, one
ascending, the other descending. After that he saw no longer anything
but a red hood, and his eyes were open when the first blush of the
morning penetrated his modest chamber. Eagles sleep little when they
are preparing for the chase.
The Baths of Saint Moritz are, according to the verdict of a large
number of people, by no means an enlivening resort, and here tarry
chiefly genuine invalids, who cherish a sincere desire to recover
health and strength. The invigorating atmosphere, the chalybeate
waters, which are unquestionably wholesome, although they do taste
like ink, have wrought more than one actual miracle; nevertheless, it
is said to require no little philosophy to tolerate existence there.
"I am charmed to have had the experience of visiting the Baths," we
once heard an invalid say, "for I know now that I am capable of
enduring anything and everything." But this, let us hasten to assure
the reader, is an exaggeration--the mere babbling of an ingrate.
The Upper Engadine Valley, in which Saint Moritz is situated, has, as
well as the Baths, its detractors and its admirers. This narrow
valley, throughout whose whole length flows the Inn, shut in by
glacier-capped mountains, whose slopes are covered with spruce, pine,
and larch trees, lies at an altitude of some five thousand feet above
the level of the sea. It often snows there in the month of August, but
spring and early summer in the locality are delightful; and dotted
about are numerous little romantic green lakes, glittering like
emeralds in the sunshine. Those who slander these by comparing them to
wash-bowls and cisterns, are simply troubled with the spleen, a malady
which neither iron, iodine, nor yet sulphur, can cure.
One thing these discontented folks cannot deny, and that is that it
would be difficult, not to say impossible, to find anywhere in the
mountains more flowery and highly perfumed mossy banks than those of
the Engadine. We do not make this assertion because of the
rhododendrons that abound on the borders of the lakes: we are not fond
of this showy, pretentious shrub, whose flowers look as if they were
moulded in wax for the decoration of some altar; but is it not
delightful to walk on a greensward, almost black with rich satyrion
and vanilla? And what would you think of a wealth of gentians, large
and small; great yellow arnicas; beautiful Martagon lilies; and
St.-Bruno lilies; of every variety of daphne; of androsace, with its
rose-coloured clusters; of the flame-coloured orchis; of saxifrage; of
great, velvety campanulas; of pretty violet asters, wrapped in little,
cravat-like tufting, to protect them from the cold? Besides, near the
runnels, following whose borders the cattle have tracked out graded
paths, there grows that species of immortelle called /Edelweiss/, an
object of covetousness to every guest at the Baths. Higher up, near
the glacier approach, may be found the white heart's-ease, the
anemone, and the glacial ranunculus (spearwort); higher still, often
buried beneath the snow, flourishes that charming little lilac flower,
delicately cut, sensitive, quivering, as it were, with a cold, known
as the soldanella. To scrape away the snow and find beneath it a
flower! Are there often made such delightful discoveries in life?
Having said thus much, we must admit that the Rue de Saint Moritz does
not resemble the Rue de la Paix of Paris. We must also admit that the
markets of the place are poorly supplied, and that in an atmosphere
well calculated to stimulate the appetite the wherewithal to supply
this cannot always be obtained. We cannot have everything in this
world; but it is by no means our intention to advise any one to take
up his residence for life in the Engadine. There must, however, be
some charm in this valley, since those of its inhabitants who emigrate
from it in their youth are very apt, after they have made some money,
to return to pass their old age in their natal place, where they build
some very pretty houses.
Mlle. Moriaz did not find Saint Moritz disagreeable; the wildness of
the scenery and the rugged pines pleased her. From the terrace of
Hotel Badrutt she loved to gaze upon the green lake, slumbering at her
feet, and it never occurred to her to grumble because it had the form
of a wash-bowl. She loved to see the cows returning at evening from
the pasture. The cowherd in charge marshalled home in the most orderly
manner his little drove, which announced its coming from afar by the
tinkling of the cow-bells. Each one of the creatures stopped of itself
at the entrance to its stall and demanded admittance by its lowing. In
the morning, when they were turned out again, they awaited the arrival
of the entire herd, and fell into rank and file, each in its proper
place. The first time Mlle. Moriaz witnessed this ceremony, she found
it as interesting as a first presentation at the theatre or opera.
There were several rainy days, which she employed in reading,
painting, and making observations on the human animals of both sexes
whom she encountered at the /table d'hote/. She soon gained an
increase of occupation. With her, mind and heart were so constantly on
the alert that it was impossible for her to remain a week in a place
without discovering some work of charity to be performed. A woman to
whom she had taken a fancy, a little shopkeeper of the place,
interested her in her daughter, who was destined to be a governess,
and who desired to learn drawing. Antoinette undertook to give her
drawing-lessons, making her come every day to the hotel, and often
keeping her there several hours. Her pupil was rather dull of
comprehension, and caused her to grow a little cross sometimes; but
she always made amends to the girl by her caresses and sprightly talk.
The weather became fine again. Antoinette availed herself of the
opportunity to take long promenades; she clambered up the mountain-
slopes, over slippery turf, in the hope of carrying home some rare
plant; but her strength was not equal to her valour--she could not
succeed in scaling those heights where flourished the /Edelweiss/. A
week after her arrival she had a surprise, we might even say a
pleasurable emotion, which was not comprised in the programme of
amusements that the proprietor of Hotel Badrutt undertook to procure
for his guests. Returning from an excursion to Lake Silvaplana, she
found in her chamber a basket containing a veritable sheaf of Alpine
flowers, freshly gathered, and among them not only /Edelweiss/ in
profusion, but several very rare plants, and the rarest of all a
certain bell-flower creeper, which smells like the apricot, and which,
except in some districts of the Engadine, is only found now in
Siberia. This splendid bouquet was accompanied by a note, thus
"A man who had had enough of life, resolved to hang himself. To
execute his dolorous design, he selected a lonely and dismal spot,
where there grew a solitary oak, whose sap was nearly exhausted.
As he was engaged in securing his cord, a bird alighted on the
half-dead tree and began to sing. The man said to himself: 'Since
there is no spot so miserable that a bird will not deign to sing
in it, I will have the courage to live.' And he lived.
"I arrived in this village disgusted with life, sorrowful and so
weary that I longed to die. I saw you pass by, and I know not what
mysterious virtue entered into me. I will live.
" 'What matters it to me?' you will say, in reading these lines;
and you will be right. My sole excuse for having written them is,
that I will leave here in a few days; that you never will see me
again, never know who I am!"
The first impression of Antoinette was one of profound astonishment.
She would have taken it for granted that there was some mistake had
not her name been written in full on the envelope. Her second impulse
was to laugh at her adventure. She accorded full justice to Mlle.
Moriaz; she knew very well that she did not resemble the first chance
comer; but that her beauty would work miracles, resurrections; that a
hypochondriac, merely from seeing her pass by, was likely to regain
his taste for existence, scarcely appeared admissible to her. So great
was her curiosity, that she took the pains to make inquiries; the
flowers and the letter had been left by a little peasant, who was not
of the place, and who could not be found. Antoinette examined the
hotel-register; she did not see there the handwriting of the letter.
She studied the faces which surrounded her; there was not in Hotel
Badrutt a single romantic-looking person. Very speedily she renounced
her search. The bouquet pleased her; she kept it as a present fallen
from the skies, and preserved the letter as a curiosity, without long
troubling herself to know who had written it. "Do not let us talk
about it any more, it is doubtless some lunatic," she replied one day
to Mlle. Moiseney, who kept constantly recurring to the incident whose
mystery she burned to fathom. The good demoiselle had been tempted to
stop people in the road to ask, "Was it you?" Perchance she might have
suspected her Bergun unknown to have a hand in the affair, had she had
the least idea that he was at Saint Moritz, where she never had met
him. He came there, nevertheless, every day, but at his own time;
besides, the hotels were full to overflowing, and it was very easy to
lose one's self in the crowd.
To tell the truth, when Count Abel Larinski came to Saint Moritz he
was far less occupied with Mlle. Moriaz than with a certain
illustrious chemist. The air of the Engadine and the waters that
tasted like ink had worked marvels: in a week M. Moriaz felt like a
new man. There had come to him a most formidable appetite, and he
could walk for hours at a time without becoming weary. He abused his
growing strength by constantly strolling through the mountains without
a guide, hammer in hand; and every day, in spite of the remonstrances
of his daughter, he increased the length of his excursions. The more
people know, the more inquisitive they become; and, when one is
inquisitive, one can go to great lengths without feeling fatigue; one
only becomes conscious of this after the exertion is over. M. Moriaz
never for a moment suspected that he was accompanied, at a respectful
distance, on these solitary expeditions, by a stranger, who, with eyes
and ears both on the alert, watched over him like a providence. The
most peculiar part of the affair was that this providence would gladly
have caused him to take a misstep, or thrust him into some quagmire,
in order to have the pleasure of drawing him out, and bearing him in
his arms to the Hotel Badrutt. "If only he could fall into a hole and
break his leg!" Such was the daily wish of Count Abel Larinski; but
/savants/ have great license allowed them. Although M. Moriaz was both
corpulent and inclined to be absent-minded, he plunged into more than
one quagmire without sticking fast, more than one marsh without having
his progress impeded.
One morning he conceived the project of climbing up as high as a
certain fortress of mountains whose battlements overhang a forest of
pine and larch trees. He was not yet sufficiently accustomed to the
mountains to realize how deceptive distances become there. After
having drained two glasses of the chalybeate waters, and breakfasted
heartily, he set out, crossed the Inn, and began the ascent to the
forest. The slope grew more and more abrupt, and ere long he
discovered that he had wandered from the foot-path. He was not one to
be easily disheartened; he continued climbing, laying hold of the
brushwood with his hands, planting his feet among perfidious pine-
needles, which form a carpet as smooth as a mirror, making three steps
forward and two backward. Great drops of perspiration started out on
his brow, and he sat down for a moment to wipe them away, hoping that
some wood-cutter might appear and show him the way back to the path,
if there was one. But no human soul came within sight; and plucking up
his courage again he resumed the ascent, until he had nearly reached a
breastwork of rock, in which he vainly sought an opening. He was about
retracing his steps when he remembered that from the gallery of the
hotel he had observed this breastwork of reddish rock, and it seemed
to him that he remembered also that it formed the buttress of the
mountain-stronghold of which he was in quest; and so he concluded that
this would be the last obstacle he would have to overcome. He thought
that it would be actually humiliating to be so near the goal and yet
renounce it. The rock, worn by the frost, presented sundry crevices
and indentures, forming a natural stairway. Arming himself with all
his strength, and making free use of his nails, he undertook to scale
it, and in five minutes had gained a sort of plateau, which, unluckily
for him, he found to be commanded by a smooth granite wall of a
fearful height. The only satisfactory procedure for him now was to
return whence he had come; but in these perilous passages to ascend is
easier than to descend; it being impossible to choose one's steps,
descent might lead to a rather undesirable adventure. M. Moriaz did
not dare to risk this adventure.
He walked the whole length of the plateau where he found himself in
the hope of discovering some outlet; but the sole outlet he could
discover had already been monopolized by a mountain-torrent whose
troubled waters noisily precipitated themselves through it to the
depths below. This torrent was much too wide to wade, and to think of
leaping over it would have been preposterous. All retreat being cut
off, M. Moriaz began to regret his audacity. Seized by a sudden agony
of alarm, he began to ask himself if he was not condemned to end his
days in this eagle's-nest; he thought with envy of the felicity of the
inhabitants of the plains; he cast piteous glances at the implacable
wall whose frowning visage seemed to reproach him with his imprudence.
It seemed to him that the human mind never had devised anything more
beautiful than a great highway; and it would have taken little to make
him exclaim with Panurge, "Oh, thrice--ay, quadruply--happy those who
Although there seemed small chance of his being heard in this
solitude, he called aloud several times; he had great difficulty in
raising his voice above the noise of the cataract. Suddenly he
believed that he heard below him a distant voice replying to his call.
He redoubled his cries, and it seemed to him that the voice drew
nearer, and soon he saw emerging from the thicket bordering the
opposite bank of the torrent a pale face with chestnut beard, which he
remembered having beheld in the cathedral at Chur, and to have seen
again at Bergun.
"You are a prisoner, monsieur," was the salutation of Count Larinski;
for, of course, the newcomer was none other than he. "One moment's
patience, and I am with you." And his face beamed with joy. He had him
at last, this precious game which has caused him so many steps.
He turned away, bounding from rock to rock with the agility of a
chamois. In about twenty minutes he reappeared, bearing on his
shoulder a long plank which he had detached from the inclosure of a
piece of pasture-land. He threw it across the torrent, secured it as
well as he could, crossed this impromptu foot-bridge of his own
device, and joined M. Moriaz, who was quite ready to embrace him.
"Nothing is more perfidious than the mountains," said the count. "They
are haunted by some mysterious sprite, who fairly delights in playing
tricks with venturesome people; but 'all's well that ends well.'
Before setting out from here you need something to revive you. The
rarefied atmosphere of these high regions makes the stomach
frightfully hollow. More prudent than you, I never undertake these
expeditions without providing myself with some refreshment. But how
pale you are!" he added, looking at him with sympathetic, almost
tender, eyes. "Put on, I beg of you, my overcoat, and I will wrap
myself up in my plaid, and then we will both be warm."
With these words he took off his overcoat and handed it to M. Moriaz,
who, feeling almost frozen, offered feeble objections to donning the
garment, although he had some difficulty in getting into the sleeves.
During this time Count Abel had thrown down on the rock the wallet he
carried slung to a leathern strap over his shoulders. He drew forth
from it a loaf of light bread, some hard-boiled eggs, a /pate/ of
venison, and a bottle of excellent burgundy. These provisions he
spread out around him, and then presented to M. Moriaz a cup cut from
a cocoanut-shell, and filled it to the brim, saying, "Here is
something that will entirely restore you." M. Moriaz drained the cup,
and soon felt his weakness disappear. His natural good spirits
returned to him, and he gaily narrated to his Amphitryon his
deplorable Odyssey. In return, Abel recounted to him a similar
adventure he had had in the Carpathian Mountains. It is very easy to
take a liking to a man who helps you out of a scrape, who gives you
drink when you are thirsty, and food when you are hungry; but, even
had not M. Moriaz been under great obligations to Count Larinski, he
could not have avoided the discovery that this amiable stranger was a
man of good address and agreeable conversation.
Nevertheless, so soon as the repast was finished, he said: "We have
forgotten ourselves in our talk. I am the happy father of a charming
daughter who has a vivid imagination. She will believe that I have met
with an untimely end if I do not hasten as speedily as possible to
Count Abel hereupon gave his hand to M. Moriaz to aid him in
preserving his equilibrium as he crossed the plank, which was not
wide. Throughout the descent he overwhelmed him with attentions,
sustaining him with his arm when the descent became too abrupt. So
soon as they had made their way to a foot-path, they resumed their
conversation. Abel was very clear-sighted, and, like Socrates, as we
said before, he was master in the art of interrogating. He turned the
conversation to erratic glaciers and boulders. M. Moriaz was enchanted
with his manner of asking questions; as Professor of the College of
France, he was well pleased to owe his life to an intelligent man.
As they traversed a pine-forest, they heard a voice hailing them, and
they were shortly joined by a guide whom Mlle. Moriaz, mortally
disquieted at the prolonged absence of her father, had sent in quest
of him. Pale with emotion, trembling in every fibre, she had seated
herself on the bank of a stream. She was completely a prey to terror,
and in her imagination plainly saw her father lying half dead at the
bottom of some precipice or rocky crevasse. On perceiving him she
uttered a cry of joy and ran to meet him.
"Ah! truly, my love," said he, "I have been more fortunate than wise.
And I shall have to ask my deliverer his name in order to present him
Count Abel appeared not to have heard these last words. He stammered
out something about M. Moriaz having exaggerated the worth of the
little service it had been his good fortune to render him, and then
with a cold, formal, dignified air, he bowed to Antoinette and moved
hurriedly away, as a man who cares little to make new acquaintances,
and who longs to get back to his solitude.
He was already at some distance when M. Moriaz, who had been busily
recounting his adventures to his daughter, bethought him that he had
kept his deliverer's overcoat. He searched in the pockets, and there
found a memorandum-book and some visiting-cards bearing the name of
Count Abel Larinski. Before dinner he made the tour of all the hotels
in Saint Moritz without discovering where M. Larinski lodged. He
learned it in the evening from a peasant who came over from Cellarina
for the overcoat.
The good Mlle. Moiseney was quite taken with Count Abel; first,
because he was handsome, and then because he played the piano
bewitchingly. There could be no doubt that Antoinette would feel
grateful to this good-looking musician who had restored to her her
father. Certain of being no longer thwarted in her enthusiasm, she
said to her that evening, with a smile which was meant to be
"Well, my dear, do you still think that Count Larinski has a stoop in
his shoulders, and that his head is badly poised?"
"It is a matter of small import, but I do not gainsay it."
"Ah, if you had only heard him play one of Schumann's romances!"
"A talent for music is a noble one. Nevertheless, the man's chief
merit, in my eyes, is that he has a taste for saving life."
"Oh, I was sure from the first, perfectly sure, that this man had a
large heart and a noble soul. I read physiognomies very correctly, and
I never need to see people twice to know how far they can be relied
on." After a pause she added, "I wonder if I dare tell you, my dear,
of an idea that has occurred to me?"
"Tell me, by all means. Your ideas sometimes amuse me."
"Might it not turn out that the author of a certain note, and sender
of a certain thing, was M. le Comte Abel Larinski?"
"Why he rather than any other?" queried Antoinette. "I believe you do
him wrong: he appears to be a gentleman, and gentlemen do not write
"Oh! that was a very innocent one, and you may be sure that he wrote
it in perfect good faith."
"You believe, then, mademoiselle, that in good faith a man about to
put a halter about his neck would renounce his project because he had
encountered Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz on a public highway?"
"Why not?" cried Mlle. Moiseney, looking at her with eyes wide open
with admiration. "Besides, you know the Poles are a hot-headed people,
whose hearts are open to all noble enthusiasms. One could pardon in
Count Larinski what could not be overlooked in a Parisian."
"I will pardon him on condition that he will keep his promise and
never make himself known to me, for this is unquestionably the first
duty of a mysterious unknown. Just now he refused to let my father
present him to me, which is a good mark in his favour. If he alters
his mind, he becomes at once a condemned man. I pity you, my dear
Joan," added Antoinette, laughingly. "You are dying with longing to
hear one of those romances without words, which M. Larinski plays so
divinely; and if M. Larinski be the man of the letter, his own avowal
prohibits him from appearing before me again. How can you extricate
yourself from this dilemma? The case is embarrassing."
It was M. Moriaz who undertook the solution of this embarrassing
dilemma. Three days later, some moments before dinner, he was walking
in the hotel-grounds, smoking a cigar. He saw passing along the road
Count Abel, on his way back to Cellarina. A storm was coming up;
already great drops of rain were beginning to fall. M. Moriaz ran
after the count and seized him by the button, saying: "You have saved
my life--permit me, at least, to save you from the rain. Do me the
honour to share our dinner; we will have it served in my apartment."
Abel strongly resisted this proposition, giving reasons that sounded
like mere pretences. A rumbling of thunder was heard. M. Moriaz took
his man by the arm, and led him in by force. He presented him to his
daughter, saying: "Antoinette, let me present to you M. le Comte
Larinski, a most excellent man, but little inclined to sociability. I
was compelled to use violence in bringing him here."
The count acknowledged these remarks with a constrained smile. He wore
the manner of a prisoner; but, as he prided himself on his good-
breeding and on his philosophy, he seemed to be endeavouring to make
the best of his prison. During dinner he was grave. He treated
Antoinette with frigid politeness, paid some attention to Mlle.
Moiseney, but reserved his chief assiduities for Mr. Moriaz. He
addressed his conversation more particularly to him, and listened to
him with profound respect. A professor is always sensible to this kind
After the coffee was served, the crusting of ice in which Count Abel
had incased himself began to thaw. He had been all over the world; he
knew the United States and Turkey, New Orleans and Bucharest, San
Francisco and Constantinople. His travels had been profitable to him:
he had observed men and things, countries and institutions, customs
and laws, the indigenous races and the settlers, all but the transient
visitors, with whom he seemed to have had no time to occupy himself;
at least they formed no part of his conversation. He related several
anecdotes, with some show of sprightliness; his melancholy began to
melt away, he even indulged in little bursts of gaiety, and Antoinette
could not avoid comparing him and his discourse to some of the more
rigorous passages of the Engadine, where, amid the black shades of the
pines, among frowning rocks, there are to be found lilies, gentians,
He resumed his gravity to reply to a question of M. Moriaz concerning
Poland. "Unhappy Poland!" cried he. "To-day the Jew is its master.
Active, adroit, inventive, little scrupulous, he makes capital out of
our indolence and our improvidence. He has over us one great
advantage, which is simply that, while we live from day to day, he
possesses a notion of a to-morrow; we despise him, and we could not do
without him. We are always thirsty, and he supplies us with drink; we
never have ready money, and he loans it to us at an enormous rate of
interest; we cannot return it to him, and he reimburses himself by
seizing our goods and chattels, our jewels, our land, and our castles.
We take out our revenge in insolence, and from time to time in petty
persecutions, and we gradually arrive at the conclusion that the sole
means of freeing ourselves from the yoke of the Jew would be to
conquer the vices by which he lives." Count Abel added that for his
part he had no prejudice against these children of Abraham, and he
quoted the words of an Austrian publicist who said that each country
had the kind of Jews it deserved. "In fact," he continued, "in
England, as in France, and in every country where they are placed on a
footing of equality, they become one of the most wholesome, most
vigorous elements of the nation, while they are the scourge, the
leeches, of the countries that persecute them."
"And, truly, justice demands that it should be so," cried Mlle.
For the first time the count addressed himself directly to her,
saying, with a smile: "How is this, mademoiselle? You are a woman, and
you love justice!"
"This astonishes you, monsieur?" she rejoined. "You do not think
justice one of our virtues?"
"A woman of my acquaintance," he replied, "always maintained that it
would be rendering a very bad service to this poor world of ours to
suppress all injustice, because with the same stroke would also be
suppressed all charity."
"That is not my opinion," said she. "When I give, it seems to me that
I make restitution."
"She is somewhat of a socialist," cried M. Moriaz. "I perceive it
every January in making out her accounts, and it is fortunate that she
intrusts this to me, for she never takes the trouble to look at the
memorandum her banker sends her."
"I am proud for Poland that Mlle. Moriaz has a Polish failing," said
Abel Larinski, gallantly.
"Is it a failing?" queried Antoinette.
"Arithmetic is the most beautiful of the sciences and the mother of
certainty," said M. Moriaz. And turning towards the count, he added:
"She is very wrong-headed, this girl of mine; she holds absolutely
revolutionary principles, dangerous to public order and the
preservation of society. Why, she maintains that people who are in
need have a right to the superfluities of others!"
"This appears to me self-evident," said she.
"And, for example," further continued M. Moriaz, "she has among her
/proteges/ a certain Mlle. Galard--"
"Galet," said Mlle. Moiseney, bridling up, for she had been
impatiently awaiting an opportunity to put in a word.
"This Mlle. Leontine Galet, who lives at No. 25 Rue Mouffetard--"
"No. 27," again interposed Mlle. Moiseney, in a magisterial tone.
"As usual, you are sure of it, perfectly sure. Very good! This Mlle.
Galard or Galet, residing at No. 25 or No. 27 Rue Mouffetard, was
formerly a florist by trade, and now she has not a sou. I do not wish
to fathom the mysteries of her past--it is very apt to be 'lightly
come, lightly go' with the money of these people--but certain it is
that Mlle. Galard--"
"Galet," put in Mlle. Moiseney, sharply.
"Is to-day an infirm old woman, a worthy object of the compassion of
charitable people," continued M. Moriaz, heedless of this last
interruption. "Mlle. Moriaz allows her a pension, with which I find no
fault; but Mlle. Galet--I mistake, Mlle. Galard--has retained from her
former calling her passion for flowers, and during the winter Mlle.
Moriaz sends her every week a bouquet costing from ten to twelve
francs, which shows, according to my opinion, a lack of common-sense.
In the month of January last, she sent for Parma violets for this
/protégé/ of hers. Now, I appeal to M. Larinski--is this reasonable,
or is it absurd?"
"It is admirably absurd and foolishly admirable," replied the count.
"The flowers I give her are never so beautiful as some that were sent
me the other day," exclaimed Mlle. Moriaz.
She went then into the next room, and returned, carrying the vase of
water containing the mysterious bouquet. "What do you think of these?"
she asked the count. "They are already much faded, and yet I think
they are beautiful still."
He admired the bouquet; but, although Antoinette regarded him fixedly,
she detected neither blush nor confusion on his face. "It was not he,"
she said to herself.
There was a piano in the room where they had dined. As Count Abel was
taking leave, Mlle. Moiseney begged him to give Mlle. Moriaz proof of
his talent. He slightly knit his brows at this request, and resumed
that sombre, almost savage, air he had worn when he met Antoinette at
the foot of the mountain. He urged in excuse the lateness of the hour,
but he allowed the promise to be wrested from him that he would be
more complaisant the next day.
When he was gone, accompanied by M. Moriaz, who said he would walk a
little distance with him, Antoinette exclaimed: "You see, my dear--it
was not he."
"Suppose I was wrong," replied Mlle. Moiseney, in a piqued tone--"you
will at least grant that he is handsome?"
"As handsome as you please. Do you know what I think of when I look at
him? A haunted castle. And I feel curious to make the acquaintance of
the goblins that visit it."
Notwithstanding his promise, Count Larinski did not reappear before
the lapse of three days; but this time he gave all the music that was
asked of him. His memory was surprising, and his whole soul seemed to
be at the ends of his fingers; and he drew marvellous strains from an
instrument which, in itself, was far from being a marvel. He sang,
too; he had a barytone voice, mellow and resonant. After having hummed
in a low tone some Roumanic melodies, he struck up one of his own
national songs. This he failed to finish; tears started in his eyes,
emotion overpowered his voice. He broke off abruptly, asking pardon
for the weakness that had caused him to make himself ridiculous; but
one glance at Mlle. Moriaz convinced him that she did not find him
A most invaluable resource, indeed, in a mountain-country where the
evenings are long, is a Pole who knows how to talk and to sing. M.
Moriaz liked music; but he liked something else besides. When he could
not go into society and was forbidden to work, he grew sleepy after
dinner; in order to rouse himself he was glad to play a hand of
/bezique/ or /ecarte/. For want of some one better, he played with
Mlle. Moiseney; but this make-shift was little to his taste; he
disliked immensely coming into too close proximity with the pinched
visage and yellow ribbons of Pope Joan. He proposed to Count Larinski
to take a hand with him, and his proposal was accepted with the best
grace in the world. "Decidedly this man is good for everything,"
thought M. Moriaz, and he conceived a great liking for him. The result
was, that during an entire week Count Abel passed every evening at the
"Your father is a most peculiar man," said Mlle. Moiseney,
indignantly, to Antoinette. "He is shockingly egotistical. He has
confiscated M. Larinski. The idea of employing such a man as that to
play /bezique/! He will stop coming."
But the count's former savageness seemed wholly subdued. He did not
One evening M. Moriaz committed an imprudence. In making an odd trick,
he carelessly asked M. Larinski who had been his piano professor.
"One whose portrait I always carry about me," was the reply.
And, drawing from his vest-pocket a medallion, he presented it to M.
Moriaz, who, after having looked at it, passed it over to his
daughter. The medallion contained the portrait of a woman with blond
hair, blue eyes, a refined, lovely mouth, a fragile, delicate being
with countenance at the same time sweet and sad, the face of an angel,
but an angel who had lived and suffered.
"What an exquisite face!" cried Mlle. Moriaz.
Truly it was exquisite. Some one has asserted that a Polish woman is
like punch made with holy-water. One may like neither the punch nor
the holy-water, and yet be very fond of Polish women. They form one of
the best chapters in the great book of the Creator.
"It is the portrait of my mother," said Count Larinski.
"Are you so fortunate as to still possess her?" asked Antoinette.
"She was a tender flower," he replied; "and tender flowers never live
"Her portrait shows it plainly; one can see that she suffered much,
but was resigned to live."
For the first time the count departed from the reserve he had shown
towards Mlle. Antoinette Moriaz. "I have no words to tell you," he
exclaimed, "how happy I am that my mother pleases you!"
Othello was accused of having employed secret philters to win
Desdemona's love. Brabantio had only himself to blame; he had taken a
liking to Othello, and often invited him to come to him; he did not
make him play /bezique/, but he questioned him on his past. The Moor
recounted his life, his sufferings, his adventures, and Desdemona
wept. The fathers question, the heroes or adventurers recount, and the
daughters weep. Such are the outlines of a history as old as the
world. Abel Larinski had left the card-table. He had taken his seat in
an arm-chair, facing Mlle. Moiseney. He was questioned; he replied.
His destiny had been neither light nor easy. He was quite young when
his father, Count Witold Larinski, implicated in a conspiracy, had
been compelled to flee from Warsaw. His property was confiscated, but
luckily he had some investments away from home, which prevented him
from being left wholly penniless. He was a man of projects. He
emigrated to America with his wife and his son; he dreamed of making a
name and a fortune by cutting a canal through the Isthmus of Panama.
He repaired to New Granada, there to make his studies and his charts.
He made them so thoroughly that he died of yellow fever before having
begun his work, having come to the end of his money and leaving his
widow in the most cruel destitution. Countess Larinski said to her
son: "We have nothing more to live on; but, then, is it so necessary
to live?" She uttered these words with an angelic smile about her
lips. Abel set out for California. He undertook the most menial
services; he swept the streets, acted as porter; what cared he, so
long as his mother did not die of hunger? All that he earned he sent
to her, enduring himself the most terrible privations, making her
think that he denied himself nothing. In the course of time Fortune
favoured him; he had acquired a certain competency. The countess came
to rejoin him in San Francisco; but angels cannot live in the rude,
exciting atmosphere of the gold-seekers; they suffer, spread their
wings, and fly away. Some weeks after having lost his mother--it was
in 1863--Count Abel learned from a journal that fell into his hands
that Poland had risen again. He was twenty-one years of age. He
thought he heard a voice calling him, and another voice from the skies
whispered: "She calls thee. Go; it is thy duty." And he went. Two
months later he crossed the frontier of Galicia to join the bands of
Othello spoke to Desdemona of caverns, deserts, quarries, rocks, and
hills whose heads touch heaven; of cannibals, the anthropophagi, and
men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders. Count Abel spoke to
Mlle. Moriaz of the fortunes and vicissitudes of partisan warfare, of
vain exploits, of obscure glories, of bloody encounters that never are
decisive, of defeats from which survive hope, hunger, thirst, cold,
snow stained with blood, and long captivities in forests, tracked by
the enemy; then disasters, discouragements, the vanishing of the last
hope, punishment, the gallows, and finally a mute, feverish
resignation, swallowed up in that vast solitude with which silence
surrounds misfortune. After the dispersion of the band whose destinies
he had followed, he had gone over to Roumania.
This narration, exact and precise, bore the impress of truth. Count
Abel made it in a simple, modest tone, keeping himself as much as
possible in the background, and growing persuasive without apparent
effort. There were moments when his face would flame up with
enthusiasm, when his voice would become husky and broken, when he
would seek for a word, become impatient because he could not find it,
find it at last, and this effort added to the energy of his spasmodic
and disjointed eloquence. In conclusion, he said: "In his youth man
believes himself born to roll; the day comes when he experiences the
necessity of being seated. I am seated; my seat is a little hard, but
when I am tempted to murmur, I think of my mother and refrain."
"What did you do in Roumania?" inquired M. Moriaz, who liked to have
stories circumstantially detailed.
"Ah! I beg of you to excuse me from recounting to you the worst
employed years of my life. I am my father's own son. He dreamed of
cutting through an isthmus, I of inventing a gun. I spent four years
of my life in fabricating it, and the first time it was used it
And thereupon he plunged into a somewhat humorous description of his
invention, his hopes, his golden dreams, his disappointments, and his
chagrin. "The only admirable thing in the whole affair," he concluded,
"and something that I believe never has happened to any other
inventor, is that I am cured entirely of my chimera; I defy it to take
possession of me again. I propose to put myself under discipline in
order to expiate my extravagance. So soon as my cure is entirely
finished I will set out for Paris, where I will do penance."
"What kind of penance?" asked M. Moriaz. "Paris is not a hermitage."
"Nor is it my intention to live there as a hermit," was the reply,
given with perfect simplicity. "I go to give lessons in music and in
"Indeed!" exclaimed M. Moriaz. "Do you see no other career open to
you, my dear count?"
"I am no longer a count," he replied, with an heroic smile. "Counts do
not run about giving private lessons." And a strange light flashed in
his eyes as he spoke. "I shall run about giving private lessons until
I hear anew the voice that spoke to me in California. It will find me
ever ready; my reply will be: 'I belong to thee; dispose of me at thy
pleasure.' Ah! this chimera is one that I never will renounce!"
Then suddenly he started as one just awakening from a dream; he drew
his hand over his brow, looked confusedly around him, and said:
"/Grand Dieu!/ here I have been talking to you of myself for two
hours! It is the most stupid way of passing one's time, and I promise
you it shall not happen again."
With these words he rose, took up his hat, and left.
M. Moriaz paced the floor for some moments, his hands behind his back;
presently he said: "This /diable/ of a man has strangely moved me. One
thing alone spoils his story for me--that is the gun. A man who once
has drunk will drink again; one who has invented will invent again. No
man in the world ever remained satisfied with his first gun."
"I beg of you, monsieur," cried Mlle. Moiseney, "could you not speak
to the Minister of War about adopting the Larinski musket?"
"Are you your country's enemy?" he asked. "Do you wish its
destruction? Have you sworn that after Alsace we must lose Champagne?"
"I am perfectly sure," she replied, mounting on her high horse, "that
the Larinski musket is a /chef-d'oeuvre/, and I would pledge my life
that he who invented it is a man of genius."
"If you would pledge your word of honour to that, mademoiselle," he
replied, making her a profound bow, "you may well feel assured that
the French Government would not hesitate a moment."
Mlle. Moriaz took no part in this conversation. Her face slightly
contracted, buried in her thoughts as in a solitude inaccessible to
earthly sounds, her cheek resting in the palm of her left hand, she
held in her right hand a paper-cutter, and she kept pricking the point
into one of the grooves of the table on which her elbow rested, while
her half-closed eyes were fixed on a knot of the mahogany. She saw in
this knot the Isthmus of Panama, San Francisco, the angelic
countenance of the beautiful Polish woman who had given birth to Count
Abel Larinski; she saw there also fields of snow, ambuscades, retreats
more glorious than victories, and, beyond all else, the bursting of a
gun and of a man's heart.
She arose, and saluted her father without a word. In crossing the
/salon/ she perceived that M. Larinski had forgotten a book he had
left on the piano when he came in. She opened the volume; he had
written his name on the top of the first page, and Antoinette
recognised the handwriting of the note.
Shut up in her own room, while taking down and combing her hair, her
imagination long wandered through California and Poland. She compared
M. Larinski with all the other men she ever had known, and she
concluded that he resembled none of them. And it was he who had
written: "I arrived in this village disgusted with life, sorrowful and
so weary that I longed to die. I saw you pass by, and I know not what
mysterious virtue entered into me. I will live."
It seemed to her that for long years she had been seeking some one,
and that she had done well to come to the Engadine, because here she
had found the object of her search.
Two, three, four days passed without Count Larinski reappearing at the
Hotel Badrutt, where every evening he was expected. This prolonged
absence keenly affected Mlle. Moriaz. She sought an explanation
thereof; the search occupied part of her days, and troubled her sleep.
She had too much character not to conceal her trouble and anxiety.
Those about her had not the least suspicion that she asked herself a
hundred times in the twenty-four hours: "Why does he not come? will he
never come again? is it a fixed resolution? Does he blame us for
drawing out, by our questions, the secret of his life? or does he
suspect that I have discovered him to be the writer of the anonymous
letter? Will he leave Engadine without bidding us good-bye? Perhaps he
has already gone, and we shall never see him again." This thought
caused Mlle. Moriaz a heart-burn that she had never before
experienced. Her day had come; her heart was no longer free: the bird
had allowed itself to be caught.
Mlle. Moiseney said to her one evening: "It seems certain to me that
we never shall see Count Larinski again."
She replied in an almost indifferent tone, "No doubt he has found
people at Cellarina, or elsewhere, who are more entertaining than we."
"You mean to say," said Mlle. Moiseney, "that M. Moriaz and the
/bezique/ has frightened him away. I would not for worlds speak ill of
your father; he has all the good qualities imaginable, except a
certain delicacy of sentiment, which is not to be learned in dealing
with acids. Think of condemning a Count Larinski to play /bezique/!
There are some things that your father does not and never will
M. Moriaz had entered meanwhile. "Please oblige me by explaining what
it is that I do not understand," said he to Mlle. Moiseney.
She replied with some embarrassment, "You do not understand, monsieur,
that certain visits were a charming diversion to us, and that now we
"And do you think that I do not miss them? It has been four days since
I have had a game of cards. But how can it be helped? Poles are fickle
--more fools they who trust them."
"It may be simply that M. Larinski has been ill," interrupted
Antoinette, with perfect tranquility. "I think, father, that it would
be right for us to make inquiries."
The following day M. Moriaz went to Cellarina. He brought back word
that M. Larinski had gone on a walking-excursion through the
mountains; that he had started out with the intention of climbing to
the summit of Piz-Morteratsch, and of attempting the still more
difficult ascent of Piz-Roseg. Mlle. Moriaz found it hard to decide
whether this news was good or bad news. All depended on what point of
view was taken, and she changed hers every hour.
Since his mishap, M. Moriaz had become less rash than formerly.
Experience had taught him that there are treacherous rocks that can be
climbed without much difficulty, but from which it is impossible to
descend--rocks exposing one to the danger of ending one's days in
their midst, if there is no Pole near at hand. Certain truths stamp
themselves indelibly on the mind; so M. Moriaz never ventured again on
the mountains without being attended by a guide, who received orders
from Antoinette not to leave him, and not to let him expose himself.
One day he came in later than usual, and his daughter reproached him,
with some vivacity, for the continual anxiety he caused her. "The
glaciers and precipices will end by giving me the nightmare," she said
"Pray on whose account, my dear?" he playfully rejoined. "I assure you
the ascent that I have just made was neither more difficult nor more
dangerous than that of Montmartre, nor of the Sannois Hill, and as to
glaciers, I have firmly resolved to keep shy of them. I have passed
the age of prowess. My guide has been making me tremble by relating
the dangers to which he was exposed in 1864 on Morteratsch, where he
had accompanied Professor Tyndall and another English tourist. They
were all swept away by an avalanche. Attached to the same rope, they
went down with the snow. A fall of three hundred metres! They would
have been lost, if, through the presence of mind of one of the guides,
they had not succeeded in stopping themselves two feet from a
frightful precipice, which was about to swallow them up. I am a
father, and I do not despise life. Let him ascend Morteratsch who
likes! I wish our friend Larinski had made the descent safe and sound.
If he has met an avalanche on the way, he will invent no more guns."
Antoinette was no longer mistress of her nerves: during the entire
evening she was so preoccupied that M. Moriaz could not fail to notice
it; but he had no suspicion of the cause. He was profoundly versed in
qualitative and quantitative analysis, but less skilled in the
analysis of his daughter's heart. "How pale you are!" he said to her.
"Are you not well? You are cold.--Pray, Mlle. Moiseney, make yourself
useful and prepare her a mulled egg; you know I do not permit her to
It was not the mulled egg that restored Mlle. Moriaz's color. The next
morning as she was giving a drawing lesson to her /protegee/, Count
Abel was announced. She trembled; the blood rose in her cheeks, and
she could not conceal her agitation from the penetrating gaze of the
audacious charmer. It might easily be seen that he had just descended
from where the eagles themselves seldom ascend. His face was weather-
beaten by the ice and snow. He had successfully accomplished the
double ascent, of which he was compelled to give an account. In
descending from Morteratsch he had been overtaken by a storm, and had
come very near never again seeing the valley or Mlle. Moriaz. He owed
his life to the presence of mind and courage of his guide, on whom he
could not bestow sufficient praise.
While he modestly narrated his exploits, Antoinette had dismissed her
pupil. He seemed embarrassed by the /tete-a-tete/ which, nevertheless,
he had sought. He rose, saying: "I regret not being able to see M.
Moriaz; I came to bid him farewell. I leave this evening."
She summoned courage and replied: "You did well to come; you left a
volume of Shakespeare--here it is." Then drawing from her notebook a
paper--"I have still another restitution to make to you. I have had
the misfortune to discover that it was you who wrote this letter."
With these words she handed him the anonymous note. He changed
countenance, and it was now his turn to grow red. "Who can prove to
you," he demanded, "that I am the author of this offence, or rather
"Every bad case may be denied, but do not you deny."
After a moment's silence, he replied: "I will not lie, I am not
capable of lying. Yes, I am the guilty one; I confess it with sorrow,
because you are offended by my audacity."
"I never liked madrigals, either in prose or verse, signed or
anonymous," she returned, rather dryly.
He exclaimed, "You took this letter for a madrigal?" Then, having
reread it, he deliberately tore it up, throwing the pieces into the
fireplace, and added, smiling: "It certainly lacked common-sense; he
who wrote it is a fool, and I have nothing to say in his defence."
Crossing her hands on her breast, and uplifting to him her brown eyes,
that were as proud as gentle, she softly murmured, "What more?"
"I came to Chur," he replied, "I entered a church, I there saw a fair
unknown, and I forgot myself in gazing at her. That evening I saw her
again; she was walking in a garden where there was music, and this
music of harps and violins was grateful to me. I said within myself:
'What a thing is the heart of man! The woman who has passed me by
without seeing me does not know me, will never know of my existence; I
am ignorant of even her name, and I wish to remain so, but I am
conscious that she exists, and I am glad, content, almost happy. She
will be for me the fair unknown; she cannot prevent me from
remembering her. I will think sometimes of the fair unknown of
"Very good," said she, "but this does not explain the letter."
"We are coming to that," he continued. "I was seated in a copse, by
the roadside. I had the blues--was profoundly weary; there are times
when life weighs on me like a torturing burden. I thought of
disappointed expectations, of dissipated illusions, of the bitterness
of my youth and of my future. You passed by on the road, and I said to
myself, 'There is good in life, because of such encounters, in which
we catch renewed glimpses of what was once pleasant for us to see.' "
"And the note?" she asked again, in a dreamy tone.
He went on: "I never was a philosopher; wisdom consists in performing
only useful actions, and I was born with a taste for the useless. That
evening I saw you climb a hill, in order to gather some flowers; the
hill was steep and you could not reach the flowers. I gathered them
for you, and, in sending my bouquet, I could not resist the temptation
of adding a word. 'Before doing penance,' I said to myself, 'let me
commit this one folly; it shall be the last.' We always flatter
ourselves that each folly will be our last. The unfortunate note had
scarcely gone, when I regretted having sent it; I would have given
much to have had it back; I felt all its impropriety; I have dealt
justly by it in tearing it to pieces. My only excuse was my firm
resolution not to meet you, not to make your acquaintance. Chance
ordered otherwise: I was presented to you, you know by whom, and how;
I ended by coming here every evening, but I rebelled against my own
weakness, I condemned myself to absence for a few days, so as to break
a dangerous habit, and, thank God! I have broken my chain."
She lightly tapped the floor with the tip of her foot, and demanded
with the air of a queen recalling a subject to his allegiance, "Are
you to be believed?"
He had spoken in a half-serious, half-jesting tone, tinged with the
playful melancholy that was natural to him. He changed countenance,
his face flushed, and he cried out abruptly, "I regained my strength
and will on the summit of Morteratsch, and I only return to bid you
farewell, and to give you the assurance that I never will see you
"It is a strange case," she replied; "but I pardon you, on condition
that you do not execute your threat. You are resolved to be wise; the
wise avoid extremes. You will remember that you have friends in Paris.
My father has many connections; if we can be of service to you in any
He did not permit her to finish, and responded proudly: "I thank you,
with all my heart. I have sworn to be under obligations to none but
"Very well," she replied, "you will visit us for our pleasure. In a
month we shall be at Cormeilles."
He shook his head in sign of refusal. She looked fixedly at him, and
said, "It must be so."
This look, these words, sent to Count Abel's brain such a thrill of
joy and of hope that for a moment he thought he had betrayed himself.
He nearly fell on his knees before Mlle. Moriaz, but, speedily
mastering his emotions, he bowed gravely, casting down his eyes. She
herself immediately resumed her usual voice and manner, and questioned
him on his journey. He told her, in reply, that he proposed to go by
the route of Soleure, and to stay there a day in order to visit in
Gurzelengasse the house where Kosciuszko, the greatest of Poles, had
died. He had thought of this pilgrimage for a long time. He added:
"Still another useless action. Ah! when shall I improve?"
"Don't improve too much," she said, smiling. And then he went away.
M. Moriaz returned to the hotel about noon: his guide being engaged
elsewhere, he had taken only a short ramble. After breakfast his
daughter proposed to him that he should go down with her to the banks
of the lake. They made the descent, which is not difficult. This
pretty piece of water, that has been falsely accused of resembling a
shaving-dish, is said to be not less than a mile in length. When the
father and daughter reached the entrance of the woods that pedestrians
pass through in going to Pontresina, they seated themselves on the
grass at the foot of a larch. They remained some time silent.
Antoinette watched the cows grazing, and stroked the smooth, glossy
leaves of a yellow gentian with the end of her parasol. M. Moriaz
busied himself with neither the cows nor the yellow gentian--he
thought of M. Camille Langis, and felt more than a little guilty in
that quarter; he had not written to him, having nothing satisfactory
to tell him. He could see the young man waiting in vain, at the Hotel
Steinbock. To pass a fortnight at Chur is a torture that the most
robust constitution scarcely can endure, and it is an increased
torture to watch every evening and every morning for a letter that
never comes. M. Moriaz resolved to open hostilities, to begin a new
assault on the impregnable place. He was seeking in his mind for a
beginning for his first phrase. He had just found it, when suddenly
Antoinette said to him, in a low, agitated, but distinct voice: "I
have a question for you. What would you think if I should some day
marry M. Abel Larinski?"
M. Moriaz started up, and his cane, slipping from his hand, rolled to
the bottom of the declivity. He looked at his daughter, and said to
her: "I beg of you to repeat what you just said to me. I fear I have
She answered in a firmer voice, "I am curious to know what you would
think if I should marry, some day or other, Count Larinski."
He was startled, thunderstruck. He never had foreseen that such a
catastrophe could occur, nor had the least suspicion that anything had
passed between his daughter and M. Larinski. Of all the ideas that had
suggested themselves to him, this seemed the least admissible, the
most improbable and ridiculous. After a long silence, he said to
Antoinette, "You want to frighten me--this is not serious."
"Do you dislike M. Larinski?" she asked.
"Certainly not; I by no means dislike him. He has good manners, he
speaks well, and I must acknowledge that he had a very graceful way of
taking me from off my rock, where I should still be had it not been
for him. I am grateful to him for it; but, from that to giving him my
daughter, there is a wide margin. If he wanted me to give him a medal
he should have it."
"Let us talk seriously," said she. "What objections have you to make?"
"First, M. Larinski is a stranger, and I mistrust strangers. Then, I
know him but slightly. I naturally demand additional information.
Finally, I own that the state of his affairs--"
"Ah! that is the main point," she interrupted. "He is poor; that is