Then Samuel Brohl recovered strength, life, movement; clinching his hands, he sprang forward to dispute with Abel Larinski his prey. Suddenly, with a shiver of terror and dismay, he paused; he had heard proceeding from a distant corner of the chamber a shrill, malignant laugh. He turned, and distinctly perceived his father—a greasy cap on his head, wrapped in a forlorn, threadbare, dirty caftan. This was unquestionably Jeremiah Brohl, and this night it seemed truly that the whole world had arisen from the dead. The little old man continued to laugh jeeringly; then in a sharp, peevish voice, he cried: “Schandbube! vermaledeiter Schlingel! ich will dich zu Brei schlagen!” which signifies: “Scoundrel! accursed blackguard! I will beat you to a jelly!” It was a mode of address that Samuel had heard often in his infancy; but familiar though he might be with paternal amenities, when he saw his father uplift a withered, claw-like hand, a cry escaped his lips; he started back to evade the blow, entangled his feet in the legs of a chair, stumbled, and flung himself violently against a table.
He opened his eyes and saw no one. He ran to the window and threw open the shutter; the growing dawn illumined the chamber with its grayish light. Thank God! there was no one there. The vision had been so real that it was some time before Samuel Brohl could fully regain his senses, and persuade himself that his nightmare was forever dissipated, that phantoms were phantoms, that cemeteries do not surrender their prey. When he had once acquired this rejoicing conviction, he spoke to the dead man who had appeared to him, and whose provoking visit had indiscreetly troubled his sleep, and with considerable hauteur he said, in a tone of superb defiance: “We must be resigned, my poor Abel; we shall see each other again only in the valley of Jehosaphat; I have seen twenty shovelfuls of earth cast upon you—you are dead; I live, and she is mine!”
Thereupon he hastened to settle his account, and to quit the Coeur-Volant, within whose walls he promised himself never again to set foot.
At the very same moment, M. Moriaz, who had risen early, was engaged in writing the following letter:
“It is done, my dear friend—I have yielded. Pray, do not reproach me with my weakness; what else could I do? When one has been for twenty years the most submissive of fathers, one does not emancipate one’s self in a day; I never have been in the habit of erecting barriers, and it is scarcely likely that I could learn to do so at my age. Ah! mon Dieu! who knows if, after all, her heart has not counselled her well, if one day she will not satisfy us all that she was in the right. It must be confessed that this diable of a man has an indescribable charm about him. I can detect only one fault in him: he has committed the error of existing at all; it is a grave error, I admit, but thus far I have nothing else with which to reproach him.