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Samuel Brohl and Company   By: (1829-1899)

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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 considerable.

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... Continue reading book >>

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