“When one loses a battle, nothing remains but to plan an orderly retreat. Count Larinski, I regret to inform you, is armed with all needful weapons; he carries with him his certificate of birth, and certificate of the registry of death of both his parents. No pretext can be made on this score, and my future son-in-law will not aid me to gain time. The sole point upon which we must henceforth direct our attention is the contract. We scarcely can take too many precautions; we must see that this Pole’s hands are absolutely tied. If you will permit me, I will one day ask you to confer with me and my notary, who is also yours. I venture to hope that upon this point Antoinette will consent to be guided by our counsels.
“I am not gay, my friend; but, having been born a philosopher, I bear my misfortunes patiently, and I will forthwith reread Le Monde comme il va, ou la Vision de Babouc, in order to endeavour to persuade myself that, if all is not well, all is at least supportable.”
The evening of the same day, M. Moriaz received the following response:
“I never will pardon you. You are a great chemist, I grant, but a pitiful, a most deplorable father. Your weakness, which well merits another name, is without excuse. You should have resisted; you should have stood your ground firmly. Antoinette, although she is of age, never in the world would have decided to address to you a formal request of consent to this marriage. She would have made some scenes; she would have pouted; she would have endeavoured to soften you by assuming the airs of a tearful, heart-broken widow; she would have draped herself in black crape. And after that? Desperate case! These Artemisias are very tiresome, I admit; but one can accustom one’s self to anything. Should philosophers, who plead such sublime indifference about the affairs of this mundane sphere, be at the mercy of a fit of the sulks, or a dress of black crape? Besides, black is all the fashion just now, even for those who are not in mourning.
“You speak of contracts! You are surely jesting! What! distrustful of a Pole? take precautions against an antique man?—I quote from Abbe Miollens—against a soul as noble as great? Think what you are doing! At the mere thought of his disinterestedness being called into question, M. Larinski would swoon away as he did in my salon. It is a little way he has, which is most excellent, since it proves successful. Do not think of such trifles as contracts; marry them with equal rights, and leave the consequences to Providence! Follies have neither beauty nor merit, unless they are complete. Ah, my good friend, Poland has its charm, has it? Admirable! But you must swallow the whole thing. I am your obedient servant.”