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Victor Cherbuliez
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about Samuel Brohl and Company.

“The abbe still insisted.  ‘In our century,’ said he, ’less than any other, can one live on air.’

“‘I have lived on it sometimes,’ replied the count, gaily, ’and I did not find it bad.  My health is proof against accidents.  Ah! where money is concerned, you have no idea how far my indifference goes.  It is not a virtue with me, it is an infirmity; it is because of my nationality, because I am my father’s son.  I feel myself incapable of thinking of the future, of practising thoroughly French habits of economy.  If my purse is full, I soon empty it; after which I condemn myself to privations—­no, that does not express it—­I enjoy them.  According to me, there is no true happiness into which a little suffering does not enter.  Besides, I have a taste for contrasts.  At times I believe myself a millionaire, I have the pretensions of a nabob; I give full scope to my fancies; the next day, my bed is hard and I live on bread-and-water, and am perfectly happy.  In short, I am a fool once in the year, and a philosopher the rest of the time.’

“‘The trouble is,’ returned the abbe, ’that one day of folly will sometimes suffice to compromise forever the future of a philosopher.’

“‘Oh, reassure yourself,’ replied he; ’my extravagances never are very dangerous.  There was method in Hamlet’s madness, and there is always a little reason in mine.’

“While making this declaration of principles, he had seated himself at the piano, and idly began running his fingers over the keys.  Suddenly he began to sing a German song, which I got Abbe Miollens to translate for me, and which is not long.  The hero of the song is an amorous pine, standing on the summit of a barren mountain of the north.  He is alone; he is weary; the snow and ice wrap him in a white mantle, and he spends his dreary hours of leisure in dreaming of a palm, which in days of yore he met, it seems, in his travels.

“M.  Larinski sang this little melody with so much pathos that the good abbe was touched, and I became anxious.  Anxiety, once felt, is apt to be constantly returning.  I asked myself if he had met his palm in the Engadine, and added aloud, rather dryly:  ’Is the day of your departure definitely fixed? will you not do us the favour of granting us a reprieve?’

“He executed the most pearly chromatic scale, and replied:  ’Alas! madame, I am only deferring my departure on account of a letter that cannot be much longer delayed; in less than a week, I shall have the distress of bidding you farewell.’

“‘You shall not leave,’ said Abbe Miollens, ’without letting us hear once again the poem of the pine.  You sang it with so much soul that it seemed to me you must be relating an episode of your own history.  My dear count, did you ever chance to dream of a palm?’

“He answered:  ’I have no longer the right to dream; I am no longer free.’

“The abbe started and cried out, in his simple-hearted way, ’Ah! what, are you married?’

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