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Title: The American
Author: James, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The American" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE AMERICAN

by Henry James


1877



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI



CHAPTER I

On a brilliant day in May, in the year 1868, a gentleman was reclining
at his ease on the great circular divan which at that period occupied
the centre of the Salon Carré, in the Museum of the Louvre. This
commodious ottoman has since been removed, to the extreme regret of all
weak-kneed lovers of the fine arts, but the gentleman in question had
taken serene possession of its softest spot, and, with his head thrown
back and his legs outstretched, was staring at Murillo's beautiful
moon-borne Madonna in profound enjoyment of his posture. He had removed
his hat, and flung down beside him a little red guide-book and an
opera-glass. The day was warm; he was heated with walking, and he
repeatedly passed his handkerchief over his forehead, with a somewhat
wearied gesture. And yet he was evidently not a man to whom fatigue was
familiar; long, lean, and muscular, he suggested the sort of vigor that
is commonly known as "toughness." But his exertions on this particular
day had been of an unwonted sort, and he had performed great physical
feats which left him less jaded than his tranquil stroll through the
Louvre. He had looked out all the pictures to which an asterisk was
affixed in those formidable pages of fine print in his Bädeker; his
attention had been strained and his eyes dazzled, and he had sat down
with an æsthetic headache. He had looked, moreover, not only at all the
pictures, but at all the copies that were going forward around them, in
the hands of those innumerable young women in irreproachable toilets who
devote themselves, in France, to the propagation of masterpieces, and if
the truth must be told, he had often admired the copy much more than the
original. His physiognomy would have sufficiently indicated that he was
a shrewd and capable fellow, and in truth he had often sat up all night
over a bristling bundle of accounts, and heard the cock crow without a
yawn. But Raphael and Titian and Rubens were a new kind of arithmetic,
and they inspired our friend, for the first time in his life, with a
vague self-mistrust.

An observer with anything of an eye for national types would have had
no difficulty in determining the local origin of this undeveloped
connoisseur, and indeed such an observer might have felt a certain
humorous relish of the almost ideal completeness with which he filled
out the national mould. The gentleman on the divan was a powerful
specimen of an American. But he was not only a fine American; he was
in the first place, physically, a fine man. He appeared to possess that
kind of health and strength which, when found in perfection, are the
most impressive--the physical capital which the owner does nothing to
"keep up." If he was a muscular Christian, it was quite without knowing
it. If it was necessary to walk to a remote spot, he walked, but he had
never known himself to "exercise." He had no theory with regard to
cold bathing or the use of Indian clubs; he was neither an oarsman, a
rifleman, nor a fencer--he had never had time for these amusements--and
he was quite unaware that the saddle is recommended for certain forms
of indigestion. He was by inclination a temperate man; but he had supped
the night before his visit to the Louvre at the Café Anglais--someone
had told him it was an experience not to be omitted--and he had slept
none the less the sleep of the just. His usual attitude and carriage
were of a rather relaxed and lounging kind, but when under a special
inspiration, he straightened himself, he looked like a grenadier on
parade. He never smoked. He had been assured--such things are said--that
cigars were excellent for the health, and he was quite capable of
believing it; but he knew as little about tobacco as about homœopathy.
He had a very well-formed head, with a shapely, symmetrical balance of
the frontal and the occipital development, and a good deal of straight,
rather dry brown hair. His complexion was brown, and his nose had a
bold well-marked arch. His eye was of a clear, cold gray, and save for
a rather abundant moustache he was clean-shaved. He had the flat jaw and
sinewy neck which are frequent in the American type; but the traces of
national origin are a matter of expression even more than of feature,
and it was in this respect that our friend's countenance was supremely
eloquent. The discriminating observer we have been supposing might,
however, perfectly have measured its expressiveness, and yet have been
at a loss to describe it. It had that typical vagueness which is not
vacuity, that blankness which is not simplicity, that look of being
committed to nothing in particular, of standing in an attitude of
general hospitality to the chances of life, of being very much at
one's own disposal so characteristic of many American faces. It was our
friend's eye that chiefly told his story; an eye in which innocence
and experience were singularly blended. It was full of contradictory
suggestions, and though it was by no means the glowing orb of a hero of
romance, you could find in it almost anything you looked for. Frigid
and yet friendly, frank yet cautious, shrewd yet credulous, positive
yet sceptical, confident yet shy, extremely intelligent and extremely
good-humored, there was something vaguely defiant in its concessions,
and something profoundly reassuring in its reserve. The cut of this
gentleman's moustache, with the two premature wrinkles in the cheek
above it, and the fashion of his garments, in which an exposed
shirt-front and a cerulean cravat played perhaps an obtrusive part,
completed the conditions of his identity. We have approached him,
perhaps, at a not especially favorable moment; he is by no means sitting
for his portrait. But listless as he lounges there, rather baffled
on the æsthetic question, and guilty of the damning fault (as we have
lately discovered it to be) of confounding the merit of the artist with
that of his work (for he admires the squinting Madonna of the young
lady with the boyish coiffure, because he thinks the young lady herself
uncommonly taking), he is a sufficiently promising acquaintance.
Decision, salubrity, jocosity, prosperity, seem to hover within his
call; he is evidently a practical man, but the idea in his case, has
undefined and mysterious boundaries, which invite the imagination to
bestir itself on his behalf.

As the little copyist proceeded with her work, she sent every now and
then a responsive glance toward her admirer. The cultivation of the fine
arts appeared to necessitate, to her mind, a great deal of by-play, a
great standing off with folded arms and head drooping from side to side,
stroking of a dimpled chin with a dimpled hand, sighing and frowning
and patting of the foot, fumbling in disordered tresses for wandering
hair-pins. These performances were accompanied by a restless glance,
which lingered longer than elsewhere upon the gentleman we have
described. At last he rose abruptly, put on his hat, and approached the
young lady. He placed himself before her picture and looked at it for
some moments, during which she pretended to be quite unconscious of his
inspection. Then, addressing her with the single word which constituted
the strength of his French vocabulary, and holding up one finger in a
manner which appeared to him to illuminate his meaning, "_Combien?_" he
abruptly demanded.

The artist stared a moment, gave a little pout, shrugged her shoulders,
put down her palette and brushes, and stood rubbing her hands.

"How much?" said our friend, in English. "_Combien?_"

"Monsieur wishes to buy it?" asked the young lady in French.

"Very pretty, _splendide. Combien?_" repeated the American.

"It pleases monsieur, my little picture? It's a very beautiful subject,"
said the young lady.

"The Madonna, yes; I am not a Catholic, but I want to buy it. _Combien?_
Write it here." And he took a pencil from his pocket and showed her the
fly-leaf of his guide-book. She stood looking at him and scratching her
chin with the pencil. "Is it not for sale?" he asked. And as she still
stood reflecting, and looking at him with an eye which, in spite of her
desire to treat this avidity of patronage as a very old story, betrayed
an almost touching incredulity, he was afraid he had offended her. She
was simply trying to look indifferent, and wondering how far she might
go. "I haven't made a mistake--_pas insulté_, no?" her interlocutor
continued. "Don't you understand a little English?"

The young lady's aptitude for playing a part at short notice was
remarkable. She fixed him with her conscious, perceptive eye and asked
him if he spoke no French. Then, "_Donnez!_" she said briefly, and took
the open guide-book. In the upper corner of the fly-leaf she traced a
number, in a minute and extremely neat hand. Then she handed back the
book and took up her palette again.

Our friend read the number: "2,000 francs." He said nothing for a time,
but stood looking at the picture, while the copyist began actively to
dabble with her paint. "For a copy, isn't that a good deal?" he asked at
last. "_Pas beaucoup?_"

The young lady raised her eyes from her palette, scanned him from head
to foot, and alighted with admirable sagacity upon exactly the right
answer. "Yes, it's a good deal. But my copy has remarkable qualities, it
is worth nothing less."

The gentleman in whom we are interested understood no French, but I
have said he was intelligent, and here is a good chance to prove it.
He apprehended, by a natural instinct, the meaning of the young woman's
phrase, and it gratified him to think that she was so honest. Beauty,
talent, virtue; she combined everything! "But you must finish it," he
said. "_finish_, you know;" and he pointed to the unpainted hand of the
figure.

"Oh, it shall be finished in perfection; in the perfection of
perfections!" cried mademoiselle; and to confirm her promise, she
deposited a rosy blotch in the middle of the Madonna's cheek.

But the American frowned. "Ah, too red, too red!" he rejoined. "Her
complexion," pointing to the Murillo, "is--more delicate."

"Delicate? Oh, it shall be delicate, monsieur; delicate as Sèvres
_biscuit_. I am going to tone that down; I know all the secrets of my
art. And where will you allow us to send it to you? Your address?"

"My address? Oh yes!" And the gentleman drew a card from his pocket-book
and wrote something upon it. Then hesitating a moment he said, "If I
don't like it when it it's finished, you know, I shall not be obliged to
take it."

The young lady seemed as good a guesser as himself. "Oh, I am very sure
that monsieur is not capricious," she said with a roguish smile.

"Capricious?" And at this monsieur began to laugh. "Oh no, I'm not
capricious. I am very faithful. I am very constant. _Comprenez?_"

"Monsieur is constant; I understand perfectly. It's a rare virtue. To
recompense you, you shall have your picture on the first possible day;
next week--as soon as it is dry. I will take the card of monsieur." And
she took it and read his name: "Christopher Newman." Then she tried to
repeat it aloud, and laughed at her bad accent. "Your English names are
so droll!"

"Droll?" said Mr. Newman, laughing too. "Did you ever hear of
Christopher Columbus?"

"_Bien sûr!_ He invented America; a very great man. And is he your
patron?"

"My patron?"

"Your patron-saint, in the calendar."

"Oh, exactly; my parents named me for him."

"Monsieur is American?"

"Don't you see it?" monsieur inquired.

"And you mean to carry my little picture away over there?" and she
explained her phrase with a gesture.

"Oh, I mean to buy a great many pictures--_beaucoup, beaucoup_," said
Christopher Newman.

"The honor is not less for me," the young lady answered, "for I am sure
monsieur has a great deal of taste."

"But you must give me your card," Newman said; "your card, you know."

The young lady looked severe for an instant, and then said, "My father
will wait upon you."

But this time Mr. Newman's powers of divination were at fault. "Your
card, your address," he simply repeated.

"My address?" said mademoiselle. Then with a little shrug, "Happily for
you, you are an American! It is the first time I ever gave my card to
a gentleman." And, taking from her pocket a rather greasy portemonnaie,
she extracted from it a small glazed visiting card, and presented the
latter to her patron. It was neatly inscribed in pencil, with a great
many flourishes, "Mlle. Noémie Nioche." But Mr. Newman, unlike his
companion, read the name with perfect gravity; all French names to him
were equally droll.

"And precisely, here is my father, who has come to escort me home," said
Mademoiselle Noémie. "He speaks English. He will arrange with you."
And she turned to welcome a little old gentleman who came shuffling up,
peering over his spectacles at Newman.

M. Nioche wore a glossy wig, of an unnatural color which overhung his
little meek, white, vacant face, and left it hardly more expressive
than the unfeatured block upon which these articles are displayed in
the barber's window. He was an exquisite image of shabby gentility. His
scant ill-made coat, desperately brushed, his darned gloves, his highly
polished boots, his rusty, shapely hat, told the story of a person who
had "had losses" and who clung to the spirit of nice habits even though
the letter had been hopelessly effaced. Among other things M. Nioche had
lost courage. Adversity had not only ruined him, it had frightened him,
and he was evidently going through his remnant of life on tiptoe, for
fear of waking up the hostile fates. If this strange gentleman was
saying anything improper to his daughter, M. Nioche would entreat him
huskily, as a particular favor, to forbear; but he would admit at the
same time that he was very presumptuous to ask for particular favors.

"Monsieur has bought my picture," said Mademoiselle Noémie. "When it's
finished you'll carry it to him in a cab."

"In a cab!" cried M. Nioche; and he stared, in a bewildered way, as if
he had seen the sun rising at midnight.

"Are you the young lady's father?" said Newman. "I think she said you
speak English."

"Speak English--yes," said the old man slowly rubbing his hands. "I will
bring it in a cab."

"Say something, then," cried his daughter. "Thank him a little--not too
much."

"A little, my daughter, a little?" said M. Nioche perplexed. "How much?"

"Two thousand!" said Mademoiselle Noémie. "Don't make a fuss or he'll
take back his word."

"Two thousand!" cried the old man, and he began to fumble for his
snuff-box. He looked at Newman from head to foot; he looked at his
daughter and then at the picture. "Take care you don't spoil it!" he
cried almost sublimely.

"We must go home," said Mademoiselle Noémie. "This is a good day's work.
Take care how you carry it!" And she began to put up her utensils.

"How can I thank you?" said M. Nioche. "My English does not suffice."

"I wish I spoke French as well," said Newman, good-naturedly. "Your
daughter is very clever."

"Oh, sir!" and M. Nioche looked over his spectacles with tearful eyes
and nodded several times with a world of sadness. "She has had an
education--_très-supérieure!_ Nothing was spared. Lessons in pastel at
ten francs the lesson, lessons in oil at twelve francs. I didn't look at
the francs then. She's an _artiste_, eh?"

"Do I understand you to say that you have had reverses?" asked Newman.

"Reverses? Oh, sir, misfortunes--terrible."

"Unsuccessful in business, eh?"

"Very unsuccessful, sir."

"Oh, never fear, you'll get on your legs again," said Newman cheerily.

The old man drooped his head on one side and looked at him with an
expression of pain, as if this were an unfeeling jest.

"What does he say?" demanded Mademoiselle Noémie.

M. Nioche took a pinch of snuff. "He says I will make my fortune again."

"Perhaps he will help you. And what else?"

"He says thou art very clever."

"It is very possible. You believe it yourself, my father?"

"Believe it, my daughter? With this evidence!" And the old man turned
afresh, with a staring, wondering homage, to the audacious daub on the
easel.

"Ask him, then, if he would not like to learn French."

"To learn French?"

"To take lessons."

"To take lessons, my daughter? From thee?"

"From you!"

"From me, my child? How should I give lessons?"

"_Pas de raisons!_ Ask him immediately!" said Mademoiselle Noémie, with
soft brevity.

M. Nioche stood aghast, but under his daughter's eye he collected his
wits, and, doing his best to assume an agreeable smile, he executed her
commands. "Would it please you to receive instruction in our beautiful
language?" he inquired, with an appealing quaver.

"To study French?" asked Newman, staring.

M. Nioche pressed his finger-tips together and slowly raised his
shoulders. "A little conversation!"

"Conversation--that's it!" murmured Mademoiselle Noémie, who had caught
the word. "The conversation of the best society."

"Our French conversation is famous, you know," M. Nioche ventured to
continue. "It's a great talent."

"But isn't it awfully difficult?" asked Newman, very simply.

"Not to a man of _esprit_, like monsieur, an admirer of beauty in
every form!" and M. Nioche cast a significant glance at his daughter's
Madonna.

"I can't fancy myself chattering French!" said Newman with a laugh. "And
yet, I suppose that the more a man knows the better."

"Monsieur expresses that very happily. _Hélas, oui!_"

"I suppose it would help me a great deal, knocking about Paris, to know
the language."

"Ah, there are so many things monsieur must want to say: difficult
things!"

"Everything I want to say is difficult. But you give lessons?"

Poor M. Nioche was embarrassed; he smiled more appealingly. "I am not a
regular professor," he admitted. "I can't nevertheless tell him that I'm
a professor," he said to his daughter.

"Tell him it's a very exceptional chance," answered Mademoiselle Noémie;
"an _homme du monde_--one gentleman conversing with another! Remember
what you are--what you have been!"

"A teacher of languages in neither case! Much more formerly and much
less to-day! And if he asks the price of the lessons?"

"He won't ask it," said Mademoiselle Noémie.

"What he pleases, I may say?"

"Never! That's bad style."

"If he asks, then?"

Mademoiselle Noémie had put on her bonnet and was tying the ribbons.
She smoothed them out, with her soft little chin thrust forward. "Ten
francs," she said quickly.

"Oh, my daughter! I shall never dare."

"Don't dare, then! He won't ask till the end of the lessons, and then I
will make out the bill."

M. Nioche turned to the confiding foreigner again, and stood rubbing
his hands, with an air of seeming to plead guilty which was not intenser
only because it was habitually so striking. It never occurred to Newman
to ask him for a guarantee of his skill in imparting instruction; he
supposed of course M. Nioche knew his own language, and his appealing
forlornness was quite the perfection of what the American, for vague
reasons, had always associated with all elderly foreigners of the
lesson-giving class. Newman had never reflected upon philological
processes. His chief impression with regard to ascertaining those
mysterious correlatives of his familiar English vocables which were
current in this extraordinary city of Paris was, that it was simply a
matter of a good deal of unwonted and rather ridiculous muscular effort
on his own part. "How did you learn English?" he asked of the old man.

"When I was young, before my miseries. Oh, I was wide awake, then.
My father was a great _commerçant_; he placed me for a year in a
counting-house in England. Some of it stuck to me; but much I have
forgotten!"

"How much French can I learn in a month?"

"What does he say?" asked Mademoiselle Noémie.

M. Nioche explained.

"He will speak like an angel!" said his daughter.

But the native integrity which had been vainly exerted to secure M.
Nioche's commercial prosperity flickered up again. "_Dame_, monsieur!"
he answered. "All I can teach you!" And then, recovering himself at a
sign from his daughter, "I will wait upon you at your hotel."

"Oh yes, I should like to learn French," Newman went on, with democratic
confidingness. "Hang me if I should ever have thought of it! I took for
granted it was impossible. But if you learned my language, why shouldn't
I learn yours?" and his frank, friendly laugh drew the sting from the
jest. "Only, if we are going to converse, you know, you must think of
something cheerful to converse about."

"You are very good, sir; I am overcome!" said M. Nioche, throwing out
his hands. "But you have cheerfulness and happiness for two!"

"Oh no," said Newman more seriously. "You must be bright and lively;
that's part of the bargain."

M. Nioche bowed, with his hand on his heart. "Very well, sir; you have
already made me lively."

"Come and bring me my picture then; I will pay you for it, and we will
talk about that. That will be a cheerful subject!"

Mademoiselle Noémie had collected her accessories, and she gave the
precious Madonna in charge to her father, who retreated backwards out
of sight, holding it at arm's-length and reiterating his obeisance. The
young lady gathered her shawl about her like a perfect Parisienne, and
it was with the smile of a Parisienne that she took leave of her patron.



CHAPTER II

He wandered back to the divan and seated himself on the other side,
in view of the great canvas on which Paul Veronese had depicted
the marriage-feast of Cana. Wearied as he was he found the picture
entertaining; it had an illusion for him; it satisfied his conception,
which was ambitious, of what a splendid banquet should be. In the
left-hand corner of the picture is a young woman with yellow tresses
confined in a golden head-dress; she is bending forward and listening,
with the smile of a charming woman at a dinner-party, to her neighbor.
Newman detected her in the crowd, admired her, and perceived that she
too had her votive copyist--a young man with his hair standing on
end. Suddenly he became conscious of the germ of the mania of the
"collector;" he had taken the first step; why should he not go on? It
was only twenty minutes before that he had bought the first picture
of his life, and now he was already thinking of art-patronage as a
fascinating pursuit. His reflections quickened his good-humor, and he
was on the point of approaching the young man with another "_Combien?_"
Two or three facts in this relation are noticeable, although the logical
chain which connects them may seem imperfect. He knew Mademoiselle
Nioche had asked too much; he bore her no grudge for doing so, and he
was determined to pay the young man exactly the proper sum. At this
moment, however, his attention was attracted by a gentleman who had come
from another part of the room and whose manner was that of a stranger
to the gallery, although he was equipped with neither guide-book nor
opera-glass. He carried a white sun-umbrella, lined with blue silk, and
he strolled in front of the Paul Veronese, vaguely looking at it, but
much too near to see anything but the grain of the canvas. Opposite to
Christopher Newman he paused and turned, and then our friend, who had
been observing him, had a chance to verify a suspicion aroused by an
imperfect view of his face. The result of this larger scrutiny was that
he presently sprang to his feet, strode across the room, and, with an
outstretched hand, arrested the gentleman with the blue-lined umbrella.
The latter stared, but put out his hand at a venture. He was corpulent
and rosy, and though his countenance, which was ornamented with a
beautiful flaxen beard, carefully divided in the middle and brushed
outward at the sides, was not remarkable for intensity of expression, he
looked like a person who would willingly shake hands with anyone. I know
not what Newman thought of his face, but he found a want of response in
his grasp.

"Oh, come, come," he said, laughing; "don't say, now, you don't know
me--if I have _not_ got a white parasol!"

The sound of his voice quickened the other's memory, his face expanded
to its fullest capacity, and he also broke into a laugh. "Why,
Newman--I'll be blowed! Where in the world--I declare--who would have
thought? You know you have changed."

"You haven't!" said Newman.

"Not for the better, no doubt. When did you get here?"

"Three days ago."

"Why didn't you let me know?"

"I had no idea _you_ were here."

"I have been here these six years."

"It must be eight or nine since we met."

"Something of that sort. We were very young."

"It was in St. Louis, during the war. You were in the army."

"Oh no, not I! But you were."

"I believe I was."

"You came out all right?"

"I came out with my legs and arms--and with satisfaction. All that seems
very far away."

"And how long have you been in Europe?"

"Seventeen days."

"First time?"

"Yes, very much so."

"Made your everlasting fortune?"

Christopher Newman was silent a moment, and then with a tranquil smile
he answered, "Yes."

"And come to Paris to spend it, eh?"

"Well, we shall see. So they carry those parasols here--the men-folk?"

"Of course they do. They're great things. They understand comfort out
here."

"Where do you buy them?"

"Anywhere, everywhere."

"Well, Tristram, I'm glad to get hold of you. You can show me the ropes.
I suppose you know Paris inside out."

Mr. Tristram gave a mellow smile of self-gratulation. "Well, I guess
there are not many men that can show me much. I'll take care of you."

"It's a pity you were not here a few minutes ago. I have just bought a
picture. You might have put the thing through for me."

"Bought a picture?" said Mr. Tristram, looking vaguely round at the
walls. "Why, do they sell them?"

"I mean a copy."

"Oh, I see. These," said Mr. Tristram, nodding at the Titians and
Vandykes, "these, I suppose, are originals."

"I hope so," cried Newman. "I don't want a copy of a copy."

"Ah," said Mr. Tristram, mysteriously, "you can never tell. They
imitate, you know, so deucedly well. It's like the jewellers, with their
false stones. Go into the Palais Royal, there; you see 'Imitation' on
half the windows. The law obliges them to stick it on, you know; but you
can't tell the things apart. To tell the truth," Mr. Tristram continued,
with a wry face, "I don't do much in pictures. I leave that to my wife."

"Ah, you have got a wife?"

"Didn't I mention it? She's a very nice woman; you must know her. She's
up there in the Avenue d'Iéna."

"So you are regularly fixed--house and children and all."

"Yes, a tip-top house and a couple of youngsters."

"Well," said Christopher Newman, stretching his arms a little, with a
sigh, "I envy you."

"Oh no! you don't!" answered Mr. Tristram, giving him a little poke with
his parasol.

"I beg your pardon; I do!"

"Well, you won't, then, when--when--"

"You don't certainly mean when I have seen your establishment?"

"When you have seen Paris, my boy. You want to be your own master here."

"Oh, I have been my own master all my life, and I'm tired of it."

"Well, try Paris. How old are you?"

"Thirty-six."

"_C'est le bel âge_, as they say here."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that a man shouldn't send away his plate till he has eaten his
fill."

"All that? I have just made arrangements to take French lessons."

"Oh, you don't want any lessons. You'll pick it up. I never took any."

"I suppose you speak French as well as English?"

"Better!" said Mr. Tristram, roundly. "It's a splendid language. You can
say all sorts of bright things in it."

"But I suppose," said Christopher Newman, with an earnest desire for
information, "that you must be bright to begin with."

"Not a bit; that's just the beauty of it."

The two friends, as they exchanged these remarks, had remained standing
where they met, and leaning against the rail which protected the
pictures. Mr. Tristram at last declared that he was overcome with
fatigue and should be happy to sit down. Newman recommended in the
highest terms the great divan on which he had been lounging, and they
prepared to seat themselves. "This is a great place; isn't it?" said
Newman, with ardor.

"Great place, great place. Finest thing in the world." And then,
suddenly, Mr. Tristram hesitated and looked about him. "I suppose they
won't let you smoke here."

Newman stared. "Smoke? I'm sure I don't know. You know the regulations
better than I."

"I? I never was here before!"

"Never! in six years?"

"I believe my wife dragged me here once when we first came to Paris, but
I never found my way back."

"But you say you know Paris so well!"

"I don't call this Paris!" cried Mr. Tristram, with assurance. "Come;
let's go over to the Palais Royal and have a smoke."

"I don't smoke," said Newman.

"A drink, then."

And Mr. Tristram led his companion away. They passed through the
glorious halls of the Louvre, down the staircases, along the cool, dim
galleries of sculpture, and out into the enormous court. Newman looked
about him as he went, but he made no comments, and it was only when they
at last emerged into the open air that he said to his friend, "It seems
to me that in your place I should have come here once a week."

"Oh, no you wouldn't!" said Mr. Tristram. "You think so, but you
wouldn't. You wouldn't have had time. You would always mean to go, but
you never would go. There's better fun than that, here in Paris. Italy's
the place to see pictures; wait till you get there. There you have to
go; you can't do anything else. It's an awful country; you can't get a
decent cigar. I don't know why I went in there, to-day; I was strolling
along, rather hard up for amusement. I sort of noticed the Louvre as I
passed, and I thought I would go in and see what was going on. But if I
hadn't found you there I should have felt rather sold. Hang it, I don't
care for pictures; I prefer the reality!" And Mr. Tristram tossed off
this happy formula with an assurance which the numerous class of persons
suffering from an overdose of "culture" might have envied him.

The two gentlemen proceeded along the Rue de Rivoli and into the
Palais Royal, where they seated themselves at one of the little tables
stationed at the door of the café which projects into the great open
quadrangle. The place was filled with people, the fountains were
spouting, a band was playing, clusters of chairs were gathered beneath
all the lime-trees, and buxom, white-capped nurses, seated along the
benches, were offering to their infant charges the amplest facilities
for nutrition. There was an easy, homely gaiety in the whole scene, and
Christopher Newman felt that it was most characteristically Parisian.

"And now," began Mr. Tristram, when they had tested the decoction
which he had caused to be served to them, "now just give an account of
yourself. What are your ideas, what are your plans, where have you
come from and where are you going? In the first place, where are you
staying?"

"At the Grand Hotel," said Newman.

Mr. Tristram puckered his plump visage. "That won't do! You must
change."

"Change?" demanded Newman. "Why, it's the finest hotel I ever was in."

"You don't want a 'fine' hotel; you want something small and quiet
and elegant, where your bell is answered and you--your person is
recognized."

"They keep running to see if I have rung before I have touched the
bell," said Newman "and as for my person they are always bowing and
scraping to it."

"I suppose you are always tipping them. That's very bad style."

"Always? By no means. A man brought me something yesterday, and then
stood loafing in a beggarly manner. I offered him a chair and asked him
if he wouldn't sit down. Was that bad style?"

"Very!"

"But he bolted, instantly. At any rate, the place amuses me. Hang your
elegance, if it bores me. I sat in the court of the Grand Hotel last
night until two o'clock in the morning, watching the coming and going,
and the people knocking about."

"You're easily pleased. But you can do as you choose--a man in your
shoes. You have made a pile of money, eh?"

"I have made enough."

"Happy the man who can say that? Enough for what?"

"Enough to rest awhile, to forget the confounded thing, to look about
me, to see the world, to have a good time, to improve my mind, and,
if the fancy takes me, to marry a wife." Newman spoke slowly, with
a certain dryness of accent and with frequent pauses. This was his
habitual mode of utterance, but it was especially marked in the words I
have just quoted.

"Jupiter! There's a programme!" cried Mr. Tristram. "Certainly, all that
takes money, especially the wife; unless indeed she gives it, as mine
did. And what's the story? How have you done it?"

Newman had pushed his hat back from his forehead, folded his arms, and
stretched his legs. He listened to the music, he looked about him at the
bustling crowd, at the plashing fountains, at the nurses and the babies.
"I have worked!" he answered at last.

Tristram looked at him for some moments, and allowed his placid eyes to
measure his friend's generous longitude and rest upon his comfortably
contemplative face. "What have you worked at?" he asked.

"Oh, at several things."

"I suppose you're a smart fellow, eh?"

Newman continued to look at the nurses and babies; they imparted to the
scene a kind of primordial, pastoral simplicity. "Yes," he said at last,
"I suppose I am." And then, in answer to his companion's inquiries,
he related briefly his history since their last meeting. It was an
intensely Western story, and it dealt with enterprises which it will be
needless to introduce to the reader in detail. Newman had come out
of the war with a brevet of brigadier-general, an honor which in this
case--without invidious comparisons--had lighted upon shoulders amply
competent to bear it. But though he could manage a fight, when need was,
Newman heartily disliked the business; his four years in the army
had left him with an angry, bitter sense of the waste of precious
things--life and time and money and "smartness" and the early freshness
of purpose; and he had addressed himself to the pursuits of peace
with passionate zest and energy. He was of course as penniless when he
plucked off his shoulder-straps as when he put them on, and the only
capital at his disposal was his dogged resolution and his lively
perception of ends and means. Exertion and action were as natural to
him as respiration; a more completely healthy mortal had never trod the
elastic soil of the West. His experience, moreover, was as wide as his
capacity; when he was fourteen years old, necessity had taken him by
his slim young shoulders and pushed him into the street, to earn that
night's supper. He had not earned it but he had earned the next night's,
and afterwards, whenever he had had none, it was because he had gone
without it to use the money for something else, a keener pleasure or
a finer profit. He had turned his hand, with his brain in it, to many
things; he had been enterprising, in an eminent sense of the term; he
had been adventurous and even reckless, and he had known bitter failure
as well as brilliant success; but he was a born experimentalist, and he
had always found something to enjoy in the pressure of necessity, even
when it was as irritating as the haircloth shirt of the mediæval monk.
At one time failure seemed inexorably his portion; ill-luck became
his bed-fellow, and whatever he touched he turned, not to gold, but
to ashes. His most vivid conception of a supernatural element in the
world's affairs had come to him once when this pertinacity of misfortune
was at its climax; there seemed to him something stronger in life than
his own will. But the mysterious something could only be the devil,
and he was accordingly seized with an intense personal enmity to this
impertinent force. He had known what it was to have utterly exhausted
his credit, to be unable to raise a dollar, and to find himself
at nightfall in a strange city, without a penny to mitigate its
strangeness. It was under these circumstances that he made his entrance
into San Francisco, the scene, subsequently, of his happiest strokes of
fortune. If he did not, like Dr. Franklin in Philadelphia, march along
the street munching a penny-loaf, it was only because he had not the
penny-loaf necessary to the performance. In his darkest days he had had
but one simple, practical impulse--the desire, as he would have phrased
it, to see the thing through. He did so at last, buffeted his way into
smooth waters, and made money largely. It must be admitted, rather
nakedly, that Christopher Newman's sole aim in life had been to
make money; what he had been placed in the world for was, to his own
perception, simply to wrest a fortune, the bigger the better, from
defiant opportunity. This idea completely filled his horizon and
satisfied his imagination. Upon the uses of money, upon what one might
do with a life into which one had succeeded in injecting the golden
stream, he had up to his thirty-fifth year very scantily reflected. Life
had been for him an open game, and he had played for high stakes. He had
won at last and carried off his winnings; and now what was he to do with
them? He was a man to whom, sooner or later, the question was sure to
present itself, and the answer to it belongs to our story. A vague sense
that more answers were possible than his philosophy had hitherto
dreamt of had already taken possession of him, and it seemed softly and
agreeably to deepen as he lounged in this brilliant corner of Paris with
his friend.

"I must confess," he presently went on, "that here I don't feel at
all smart. My remarkable talents seem of no use. I feel as simple as a
little child, and a little child might take me by the hand and lead me
about."

"Oh, I'll be your little child," said Tristram, jovially; "I'll take you
by the hand. Trust yourself to me."

"I am a good worker," Newman continued, "but I rather think I am a poor
loafer. I have come abroad to amuse myself, but I doubt whether I know
how."

"Oh, that's easily learned."

"Well, I may perhaps learn it, but I am afraid I shall never do it by
rote. I have the best will in the world about it, but my genius doesn't
lie in that direction. As a loafer I shall never be original, as I take
it that you are."

"Yes," said Tristram, "I suppose I am original; like all those immoral
pictures in the Louvre."

"Besides," Newman continued, "I don't want to work at pleasure, any
more than I played at work. I want to take it easily. I feel deliciously
lazy, and I should like to spend six months as I am now, sitting under
a tree and listening to a band. There's only one thing; I want to hear
some good music."

"Music and pictures! Lord, what refined tastes! You are what my wife
calls intellectual. I ain't, a bit. But we can find something better for
you to do than to sit under a tree. To begin with, you must come to the
club."

"What club?"

"The Occidental. You will see all the Americans there; all the best of
them, at least. Of course you play poker?"

"Oh, I say," cried Newman, with energy, "you are not going to lock me up
in a club and stick me down at a card-table! I haven't come all this way
for that."

"What the deuce _have_ you come for! You were glad enough to play poker
in St. Louis, I recollect, when you cleaned me out."

"I have come to see Europe, to get the best out of it I can. I want to
see all the great things, and do what the clever people do."

"The clever people? Much obliged. You set me down as a blockhead, then?"

Newman was sitting sidewise in his chair, with his elbow on the back and
his head leaning on his hand. Without moving he looked a while at his
companion with his dry, guarded, half-inscrutable, and yet altogether
good-natured smile. "Introduce me to your wife!" he said at last.

Tristram bounced about in his chair. "Upon my word, I won't. She doesn't
want any help to turn up her nose at me, nor do you, either!"

"I don't turn up my nose at you, my dear fellow; nor at anyone, or
anything. I'm not proud, I assure you I'm not proud. That's why I am
willing to take example by the clever people."

"Well, if I'm not the rose, as they say here, I have lived near it. I
can show you some clever people, too. Do you know General Packard? Do
you know C. P. Hatch? Do you know Miss Kitty Upjohn?"

"I shall be happy to make their acquaintance; I want to cultivate
society."

Tristram seemed restless and suspicious; he eyed his friend askance, and
then, "What are you up to, anyway?" he demanded. "Are you going to write
a book?"

Christopher Newman twisted one end of his moustache a while, in silence,
and at last he made answer. "One day, a couple of months ago, something
very curious happened to me. I had come on to New York on some important
business; it was rather a long story--a question of getting ahead of
another party, in a certain particular way, in the stock-market. This
other party had once played me a very mean trick. I owed him a grudge, I
felt awfully savage at the time, and I vowed that, when I got a chance,
I would, figuratively speaking, put his nose out of joint. There was a
matter of some sixty thousand dollars at stake. If I put it out of his
way, it was a blow the fellow would feel, and he really deserved no
quarter. I jumped into a hack and went about my business, and it was
in this hack--this immortal, historical hack--that the curious thing I
speak of occurred. It was a hack like any other, only a trifle dirtier,
with a greasy line along the top of the drab cushions, as if it had been
used for a great many Irish funerals. It is possible I took a nap; I
had been traveling all night, and though I was excited with my errand,
I felt the want of sleep. At all events I woke up suddenly, from a sleep
or from a kind of a reverie, with the most extraordinary feeling in the
world--a mortal disgust for the thing I was going to do. It came upon me
like _that!_" and he snapped his fingers--"as abruptly as an old wound
that begins to ache. I couldn't tell the meaning of it; I only felt that
I loathed the whole business and wanted to wash my hands of it. The idea
of losing that sixty thousand dollars, of letting it utterly slide and
scuttle and never hearing of it again, seemed the sweetest thing in the
world. And all this took place quite independently of my will, and I sat
watching it as if it were a play at the theatre. I could feel it going
on inside of me. You may depend upon it that there are things going on
inside of us that we understand mighty little about."

"Jupiter! you make my flesh creep!" cried Tristram. "And while you sat
in your hack, watching the play, as you call it, the other man marched
in and bagged your sixty thousand dollars?"

"I have not the least idea. I hope so, poor devil! but I never found
out. We pulled up in front of the place I was going to in Wall Street,
but I sat still in the carriage, and at last the driver scrambled down
off his seat to see whether his carriage had not turned into a hearse.
I couldn't have got out, any more than if I had been a corpse. What was
the matter with me? Momentary idiocy, you'll say. What I wanted to get
out of was Wall Street. I told the man to drive down to the Brooklyn
ferry and to cross over. When we were over, I told him to drive me out
into the country. As I had told him originally to drive for dear life
down town, I suppose he thought me insane. Perhaps I was, but in that
case I am insane still. I spent the morning looking at the first green
leaves on Long Island. I was sick of business; I wanted to throw it all
up and break off short; I had money enough, or if I hadn't I ought to
have. I seemed to feel a new man inside my old skin, and I longed for
a new world. When you want a thing so very badly you had better treat
yourself to it. I didn't understand the matter, not in the least; but
I gave the old horse the bridle and let him find his way. As soon as I
could get out of the game I sailed for Europe. That is how I come to be
sitting here."

"You ought to have bought up that hack," said Tristram; "it isn't a
safe vehicle to have about. And you have really sold out, then; you have
retired from business?"

"I have made over my hand to a friend; when I feel disposed, I can take
up the cards again. I dare say that a twelvemonth hence the operation
will be reversed. The pendulum will swing back again. I shall be sitting
in a gondola or on a dromedary, and all of a sudden I shall want
to clear out. But for the present I am perfectly free. I have even
bargained that I am to receive no business letters."

"Oh, it's a real _caprice de prince_," said Tristram. "I back out; a
poor devil like me can't help you to spend such very magnificent leisure
as that. You should get introduced to the crowned heads."

Newman looked at him a moment, and then, with his easy smile, "How does
one do it?" he asked.

"Come, I like that!" cried Tristram. "It shows you are in earnest."

"Of course I am in earnest. Didn't I say I wanted the best? I know the
best can't be had for mere money, but I rather think money will do a
good deal. In addition, I am willing to take a good deal of trouble."

"You are not bashful, eh?"

"I haven't the least idea. I want the biggest kind of entertainment a
man can get. People, places, art, nature, everything! I want to see the
tallest mountains, and the bluest lakes, and the finest pictures and the
handsomest churches, and the most celebrated men, and the most beautiful
women."

"Settle down in Paris, then. There are no mountains that I know of, and
the only lake is in the Bois du Boulogne, and not particularly blue.
But there is everything else: plenty of pictures and churches, no end of
celebrated men, and several beautiful women."

"But I can't settle down in Paris at this season, just as summer is
coming on."

"Oh, for the summer go up to Trouville."

"What is Trouville?"

"The French Newport. Half the Americans go."

"Is it anywhere near the Alps?"

"About as near as Newport is to the Rocky Mountains."

"Oh, I want to see Mont Blanc," said Newman, "and Amsterdam, and the
Rhine, and a lot of places. Venice in particular. I have great ideas
about Venice."

"Ah," said Mr. Tristram, rising, "I see I shall have to introduce you to
my wife!"



CHAPTER III

He performed this ceremony on the following day, when, by appointment,
Christopher Newman went to dine with him. Mr. and Mrs. Tristram lived
behind one of those chalk-colored façades which decorate with their
pompous sameness the broad avenues manufactured by Baron Haussmann in
the neighborhood of the Arc de Triomphe. Their apartment was rich in the
modern conveniences, and Tristram lost no time in calling his visitor's
attention to their principal household treasures, the gas-lamps and the
furnace-holes. "Whenever you feel homesick," he said, "you must come up
here. We'll stick you down before a register, under a good big burner,
and--"

"And you will soon get over your homesickness," said Mrs. Tristram.

Her husband stared; his wife often had a tone which he found inscrutable
he could not tell for his life whether she was in jest or in earnest.
The truth is that circumstances had done much to cultivate in Mrs.
Tristram a marked tendency to irony. Her taste on many points differed
from that of her husband, and though she made frequent concessions it
must be confessed that her concessions were not always graceful. They
were founded upon a vague project she had of some day doing something
very positive, something a trifle passionate. What she meant to do she
could by no means have told you; but meanwhile, nevertheless, she was
buying a good conscience, by instalments.

It should be added, without delay, to anticipate misconception, that her
little scheme of independence did not definitely involve the assistance
of another person, of the opposite sex; she was not saving up virtue to
cover the expenses of a flirtation. For this there were various reasons.
To begin with, she had a very plain face and she was entirely without
illusions as to her appearance. She had taken its measure to a hair's
breadth, she knew the worst and the best, she had accepted herself. It
had not been, indeed, without a struggle. As a young girl she had spent
hours with her back to her mirror, crying her eyes out; and later
she had from desperation and bravado adopted the habit of proclaiming
herself the most ill-favored of women, in order that she might--as in
common politeness was inevitable--be contradicted and reassured. It
was since she had come to live in Europe that she had begun to take the
matter philosophically. Her observation, acutely exercised here, had
suggested to her that a woman's first duty is not to be beautiful, but
to be pleasing, and she encountered so many women who pleased without
beauty that she began to feel that she had discovered her mission. She
had once heard an enthusiastic musician, out of patience with a gifted
bungler, declare that a fine voice is really an obstacle to singing
properly; and it occurred to her that it might perhaps be equally true
that a beautiful face is an obstacle to the acquisition of charming
manners. Mrs. Tristram, then, undertook to be exquisitely agreeable, and
she brought to the task a really touching devotion. How well she would
have succeeded I am unable to say; unfortunately she broke off in the
middle. Her own excuse was the want of encouragement in her immediate
circle. But I am inclined to think that she had not a real genius for
the matter, or she would have pursued the charming art for itself. The
poor lady was very incomplete. She fell back upon the harmonies of the
toilet, which she thoroughly understood, and contented herself with
dressing in perfection. She lived in Paris, which she pretended to
detest, because it was only in Paris that one could find things to
exactly suit one's complexion. Besides out of Paris it was always more
or less of a trouble to get ten-button gloves. When she railed at this
serviceable city and you asked her where she would prefer to reside, she
returned some very unexpected answer. She would say in Copenhagen, or
in Barcelona; having, while making the tour of Europe, spent a couple
of days at each of these places. On the whole, with her poetic furbelows
and her misshapen, intelligent little face, she was, when you knew her,
a decidedly interesting woman. She was naturally shy, and if she had
been born a beauty, she would (having no vanity) probably have remained
shy. Now, she was both diffident and importunate; extremely reserved
sometimes with her friends, and strangely expansive with strangers. She
despised her husband; despised him too much, for she had been perfectly
at liberty not to marry him. She had been in love with a clever man
who had slighted her, and she had married a fool in the hope that
this thankless wit, reflecting on it, would conclude that she had no
appreciation of merit, and that he had flattered himself in supposing
that she cared for his own. Restless, discontented, visionary, without
personal ambitions, but with a certain avidity of imagination, she was,
as I have said before, eminently incomplete. She was full--both for
good and for ill--of beginnings that came to nothing; but she had
nevertheless, morally, a spark of the sacred fire.

Newman was fond, under all circumstances, of the society of women, and
now that he was out of his native element and deprived of his habitual
interests, he turned to it for compensation. He took a great fancy to
Mrs. Tristram; she frankly repaid it, and after their first meeting he
passed a great many hours in her drawing-room. After two or three talks
they were fast friends. Newman's manner with women was peculiar, and
it required some ingenuity on a lady's part to discover that he
admired her. He had no gallantry, in the usual sense of the term;
no compliments, no graces, no speeches. Very fond of what is called
chaffing, in his dealings with men, he never found himself on a sofa
beside a member of the softer sex without feeling extremely serious.
He was not shy, and so far as awkwardness proceeds from a struggle with
shyness, he was not awkward; grave, attentive, submissive, often silent,
he was simply swimming in a sort of rapture of respect. This emotion was
not at all theoretic, it was not even in a high degree sentimental; he
had thought very little about the "position" of women, and he was
not familiar either sympathetically or otherwise, with the image of
a President in petticoats. His attitude was simply the flower of
his general good-nature, and a part of his instinctive and genuinely
democratic assumption of everyone's right to lead an easy life. If a
shaggy pauper had a right to bed and board and wages and a vote, women,
of course, who were weaker than paupers, and whose physical tissue was
in itself an appeal, should be maintained, sentimentally, at the public
expense. Newman was willing to be taxed for this purpose, largely, in
proportion to his means. Moreover, many of the common traditions with
regard to women were with him fresh personal impressions; he had never
read a novel! He had been struck with their acuteness, their subtlety,
their tact, their felicity of judgment. They seemed to him exquisitely
organized. If it is true that one must always have in one's work here
below a religion, or at least an ideal, of some sort, Newman found his
metaphysical inspiration in a vague acceptance of final responsibility
to some illumined feminine brow.

He spent a great deal of time in listening to advice from Mrs. Tristram;
advice, it must be added, for which he had never asked. He would
have been incapable of asking for it, for he had no perception of
difficulties, and consequently no curiosity about remedies. The complex
Parisian world about him seemed a very simple affair; it was an immense,
amazing spectacle, but it neither inflamed his imagination nor
irritated his curiosity. He kept his hands in his pockets, looked on
good-humoredly, desired to miss nothing important, observed a great many
things narrowly, and never reverted to himself. Mrs. Tristram's "advice"
was a part of the show, and a more entertaining element, in her abundant
gossip, than the others. He enjoyed her talking about himself; it seemed
a part of her beautiful ingenuity; but he never made an application
of anything she said, or remembered it when he was away from her. For
herself, she appropriated him; he was the most interesting thing she
had had to think about in many a month. She wished to do something with
him--she hardly knew what. There was so much of him; he was so rich
and robust, so easy, friendly, well-disposed, that he kept her fancy
constantly on the alert. For the present, the only thing she could do
was to like him. She told him that he was "horribly Western," but in
this compliment the adverb was tinged with insincerity. She led him
about with her, introduced him to fifty people, and took extreme
satisfaction in her conquest. Newman accepted every proposal, shook
hands universally and promiscuously, and seemed equally unfamiliar
with trepidation or with elation. Tom Tristram complained of his wife's
avidity, and declared that he could never have a clear five minutes with
his friend. If he had known how things were going to turn out, he never
would have brought him to the Avenue d'Iéna. The two men, formerly, had
not been intimate, but Newman remembered his earlier impression of his
host, and did Mrs. Tristram, who had by no means taken him into her
confidence, but whose secret he presently discovered, the justice to
admit that her husband was a rather degenerate mortal. At twenty-five he
had been a good fellow, and in this respect he was unchanged; but of a
man of his age one expected something more. People said he was sociable,
but this was as much a matter of course as for a dipped sponge to
expand; and it was not a high order of sociability. He was a great
gossip and tattler, and to produce a laugh would hardly have spared the
reputation of his aged mother. Newman had a kindness for old memories,
but he found it impossible not to perceive that Tristram was nowadays
a very light weight. His only aspirations were to hold out at poker, at
his club, to know the names of all the _cocottes_, to shake hands all
round, to ply his rosy gullet with truffles and champagne, and to create
uncomfortable eddies and obstructions among the constituent atoms of the
American colony. He was shamefully idle, spiritless, sensual, snobbish.
He irritated our friend by the tone of his allusions to their native
country, and Newman was at a loss to understand why the United States
were not good enough for Mr. Tristram. He had never been a very
conscious patriot, but it vexed him to see them treated as little better
than a vulgar smell in his friend's nostrils, and he finally broke out
and swore that they were the greatest country in the world, that they
could put all Europe into their breeches' pockets, and that an American
who spoke ill of them ought to be carried home in irons and compelled
to live in Boston. (This, for Newman was putting it very vindictively.)
Tristram was a comfortable man to snub, he bore no malice, and he
continued to insist on Newman's finishing his evening at the Occidental
Club.

Christopher Newman dined several times in the Avenue d'Iéna, and his
host always proposed an early adjournment to this institution. Mrs.
Tristram protested, and declared that her husband exhausted his
ingenuity in trying to displease her.

"Oh no, I never try, my love," he answered. "I know you loathe me quite
enough when I take my chance."

Newman hated to see a husband and wife on these terms, and he was sure
one or other of them must be very unhappy. He knew it was not Tristram.
Mrs. Tristram had a balcony before her windows, upon which, during the
June evenings, she was fond of sitting, and Newman used frankly to say
that he preferred the balcony to the club. It had a fringe of perfumed
plants in tubs, and enabled you to look up the broad street and see
the Arch of Triumph vaguely massing its heroic sculptures in the summer
starlight. Sometimes Newman kept his promise of following Mr. Tristram,
in half an hour, to the Occidental, and sometimes he forgot it. His
hostess asked him a great many questions about himself, but on this
subject he was an indifferent talker. He was not what is called
subjective, though when he felt that her interest was sincere, he made
an almost heroic attempt to be. He told her a great many things he
had done, and regaled her with anecdotes of Western life; she was from
Philadelphia, and with her eight years in Paris, talked of herself as a
languid Oriental. But some other person was always the hero of the tale,
by no means always to his advantage; and Newman's own emotions were but
scantily chronicled. She had an especial wish to know whether he had
ever been in love--seriously, passionately--and, failing to gather
any satisfaction from his allusions, she at last directly inquired. He
hesitated a while, and at last he said, "No!" She declared that she was
delighted to hear it, as it confirmed her private conviction that he was
a man of no feeling.

"Really?" he asked, very gravely. "Do you think so? How do you recognize
a man of feeling?"

"I can't make out," said Mrs. Tristram, "whether you are very simple or
very deep."

"I'm very deep. That's a fact."

"I believe that if I were to tell you with a certain air that you have
no feeling, you would implicitly believe me."

"A certain air?" said Newman. "Try it and see."

"You would believe me, but you would not care," said Mrs. Tristram.

"You have got it all wrong. I should care immensely, but I shouldn't
believe you. The fact is I have never had time to feel things. I have
had to _do_ them, to make myself felt."

"I can imagine that you may have done that tremendously, sometimes."

"Yes, there's no mistake about that."

"When you are in a fury it can't be pleasant."

"I am never in a fury."

"Angry, then, or displeased."

"I am never angry, and it is so long since I have been displeased that I
have quite forgotten it."

"I don't believe," said Mrs. Tristram, "that you are never angry. A man
ought to be angry sometimes, and you are neither good enough nor bad
enough always to keep your temper."

"I lose it perhaps once in five years."

"The time is coming round, then," said his hostess. "Before I have known
you six months I shall see you in a fine fury."

"Do you mean to put me into one?"

"I should not be sorry. You take things too coolly. It exasperates me.
And then you are too happy. You have what must be the most agreeable
thing in the world, the consciousness of having bought your pleasure
beforehand and paid for it. You have not a day of reckoning staring you
in the face. Your reckonings are over."

"Well, I suppose I am happy," said Newman, meditatively.

"You have been odiously successful."

"Successful in copper," said Newman, "only so-so in railroads, and a
hopeless fizzle in oil."

"It is very disagreeable to know how Americans have made their money.
Now you have the world before you. You have only to enjoy."

"Oh, I suppose I am very well off," said Newman. "Only I am tired of
having it thrown up at me. Besides, there are several drawbacks. I am
not intellectual."

"One doesn't expect it of you," Mrs. Tristram answered. Then in a
moment, "Besides, you are!"

"Well, I mean to have a good time, whether or no," said Newman. "I am
not cultivated, I am not even educated; I know nothing about history,
or art, or foreign tongues, or any other learned matters. But I am not
a fool, either, and I shall undertake to know something about Europe by
the time I have done with it. I feel something under my ribs here," he
added in a moment, "that I can't explain--a sort of a mighty hankering,
a desire to stretch out and haul in."

"Bravo!" said Mrs. Tristram, "that is very fine. You are the great
Western Barbarian, stepping forth in his innocence and might, gazing a
while at this poor effete Old World and then swooping down on it."

"Oh, come," said Newman. "I am not a barbarian, by a good deal. I am
very much the reverse. I have seen barbarians; I know what they are."

"I don't mean that you are a Comanche chief, or that you wear a blanket
and feathers. There are different shades."

"I am a highly civilized man," said Newman. "I stick to that. If you
don't believe it, I should like to prove it to you."

Mrs. Tristram was silent a while. "I should like to make you prove it,"
she said, at last. "I should like to put you in a difficult place."

"Pray do," said Newman.

"That has a little conceited sound!" his companion rejoined.

"Oh," said Newman, "I have a very good opinion of myself."

"I wish I could put it to the test. Give me time and I will." And Mrs.
Tristram remained silent for some time afterwards, as if she was trying
to keep her pledge. It did not appear that evening that she succeeded;
but as he was rising to take his leave she passed suddenly, as she was
very apt to do, from the tone of unsparing persiflage to that of almost
tremulous sympathy. "Speaking seriously," she said, "I believe in you,
Mr. Newman. You flatter my patriotism."

"Your patriotism?" Christopher demanded.

"Even so. It would take too long to explain, and you probably would not
understand. Besides, you might take it--really, you might take it for a
declaration. But it has nothing to do with you personally; it's what you
represent. Fortunately you don't know all that, or your conceit would
increase insufferably."

Newman stood staring and wondering what under the sun he "represented."

"Forgive all my meddlesome chatter and forget my advice. It is
very silly in me to undertake to tell you what to do. When you are
embarrassed, do as you think best, and you will do very well. When you
are in a difficulty, judge for yourself."

"I shall remember everything you have told me," said Newman. "There are
so many forms and ceremonies over here--"

"Forms and ceremonies are what I mean, of course."

"Ah, but I want to observe them," said Newman. "Haven't I as good a
right as another? They don't scare me, and you needn't give me leave to
violate them. I won't take it."

"That is not what I mean. I mean, observe them in your own way. Settle
nice questions for yourself. Cut the knot or untie it, as you choose."

"Oh, I am sure I shall never fumble over it!" said Newman.

The next time that he dined in the Avenue d'Iéna was a Sunday, a day on
which Mr. Tristram left the cards unshuffled, so that there was a trio
in the evening on the balcony. The talk was of many things, and at last
Mrs. Tristram suddenly observed to Christopher Newman that it was high
time he should take a wife.

"Listen to her; she has the audacity!" said Tristram, who on Sunday
evenings was always rather acrimonious.

"I don't suppose you have made up your mind not to marry?" Mrs. Tristram
continued.

"Heaven forbid!" cried Newman. "I am sternly resolved on it."

"It's very easy," said Tristram; "fatally easy!"

"Well, then, I suppose you do not mean to wait till you are fifty."

"On the contrary, I am in a great hurry."

"One would never suppose it. Do you expect a lady to come and propose to
you?"

"No; I am willing to propose. I think a great deal about it."

"Tell me some of your thoughts."

"Well," said Newman, slowly, "I want to marry very well."

"Marry a woman of sixty, then," said Tristram.

"'Well' in what sense?"

"In every sense. I shall be hard to please."

"You must remember that, as the French proverb says, the most beautiful
girl in the world can give but what she has."

"Since you ask me," said Newman, "I will say frankly that I want
extremely to marry. It is time, to begin with: before I know it I shall
be forty. And then I'm lonely and helpless and dull. But if I marry now,
so long as I didn't do it in hot haste when I was twenty, I must do it
with my eyes open. I want to do the thing in handsome style. I do not
only want to make no mistakes, but I want to make a great hit. I want to
take my pick. My wife must be a magnificent woman."

"_Voilà ce qui s'appelle parler!_" cried Mrs. Tristram.

"Oh, I have thought an immense deal about it."

"Perhaps you think too much. The best thing is simply to fall in love."

"When I find the woman who pleases me, I shall love her enough. My wife
shall be very comfortable."

"You are superb! There's a chance for the magnificent women."

"You are not fair." Newman rejoined. "You draw a fellow out and put him
off guard, and then you laugh at him."

"I assure you," said Mrs. Tristram, "that I am very serious. To prove
it, I will make you a proposal. Should you like me, as they say here, to
marry you?"

"To hunt up a wife for me?"

"She is already found. I will bring you together."

"Oh, come," said Tristram, "we don't keep a matrimonial bureau. He will
think you want your commission."

"Present me to a woman who comes up to my notions," said Newman, "and I
will marry her tomorrow."

"You have a strange tone about it, and I don't quite understand you. I
didn't suppose you would be so coldblooded and calculating."

Newman was silent a while. "Well," he said, at last, "I want a great
woman. I stick to that. That's one thing I _can_ treat myself to, and if
it is to be had I mean to have it. What else have I toiled and struggled
for, all these years? I have succeeded, and now what am I to do with
my success? To make it perfect, as I see it, there must be a beautiful
woman perched on the pile, like a statue on a monument. She must be as
good as she is beautiful, and as clever as she is good. I can give my
wife a good deal, so I am not afraid to ask a good deal myself. She
shall have everything a woman can desire; I shall not even object to
her being too good for me; she may be cleverer and wiser than I can
understand, and I shall only be the better pleased. I want to possess,
in a word, the best article in the market."

"Why didn't you tell a fellow all this at the outset?" Tristram
demanded. "I have been trying so to make you fond of _me!_"

"This is very interesting," said Mrs. Tristram. "I like to see a man
know his own mind."

"I have known mine for a long time," Newman went on. "I made up my mind
tolerably early in life that a beautiful wife was the thing best worth
having, here below. It is the greatest victory over circumstances. When
I say beautiful, I mean beautiful in mind and in manners, as well as in
person. It is a thing every man has an equal right to; he may get it if
he can. He doesn't have to be born with certain faculties, on purpose;
he needs only to be a man. Then he needs only to use his will, and such
wits as he has, and to try."

"It strikes me that your marriage is to be rather a matter of vanity."

"Well, it is certain," said Newman, "that if people notice my wife and
admire her, I shall be mightily tickled."

"After this," cried Mrs. Tristram, "call any man modest!"

"But none of them will admire her so much as I."

"I see you have a taste for splendor."

Newman hesitated a little; and then, "I honestly believe I have!" he
said.

"And I suppose you have already looked about you a good deal."

"A good deal, according to opportunity."

"And you have seen nothing that satisfied you?"

"No," said Newman, half reluctantly, "I am bound to say in honesty that
I have seen nothing that really satisfied me."

"You remind me of the heroes of the French romantic poets, Rolla and
Fortunio and all those other insatiable gentlemen for whom nothing in
this world was handsome enough. But I see you are in earnest, and I
should like to help you."

"Who the deuce is it, darling, that you are going to put upon him?"
Tristram cried. "We know a good many pretty girls, thank Heaven, but
magnificent women are not so common."

"Have you any objections to a foreigner?" his wife continued, addressing
Newman, who had tilted back his chair and, with his feet on a bar of the
balcony railing and his hands in his pockets, was looking at the stars.

"No Irish need apply," said Tristram.

Newman meditated a while. "As a foreigner, no," he said at last; "I have
no prejudices."

"My dear fellow, you have no suspicions!" cried Tristram. "You don't
know what terrible customers these foreign women are; especially the
'magnificent' ones. How should you like a fair Circassian, with a dagger
in her belt?"

Newman administered a vigorous slap to his knee. "I would marry a
Japanese, if she pleased me," he affirmed.

"We had better confine ourselves to Europe," said Mrs. Tristram. "The
only thing is, then, that the person be in herself to your taste?"

"She is going to offer you an unappreciated governess!" Tristram
groaned.

"Assuredly. I won't deny that, other things being equal, I should prefer
one of my own countrywomen. We should speak the same language, and
that would be a comfort. But I am not afraid of a foreigner. Besides, I
rather like the idea of taking in Europe, too. It enlarges the field
of selection. When you choose from a greater number, you can bring your
choice to a finer point!"

"You talk like Sardanapalus!" exclaimed Tristram.

"You say all this to the right person," said Newman's hostess. "I happen
to number among my friends the loveliest woman in the world. Neither
more nor less. I don't say a very charming person or a very estimable
woman or a very great beauty; I say simply the loveliest woman in the
world."

"The deuce!" cried Tristram, "you have kept very quiet about her. Were
you afraid of me?"

"You have seen her," said his wife, "but you have no perception of such
merit as Claire's."

"Ah, her name is Claire? I give it up."

"Does your friend wish to marry?" asked Newman.

"Not in the least. It is for you to make her change her mind. It will
not be easy; she has had one husband, and he gave her a low opinion of
the species."

"Oh, she is a widow, then?" said Newman.

"Are you already afraid? She was married at eighteen, by her parents, in
the French fashion, to a disagreeable old man. But he had the good taste
to die a couple of years afterward, and she is now twenty-five."

"So she is French?"

"French by her father, English by her mother. She is really more English
than French, and she speaks English as well as you or I--or rather much
better. She belongs to the very top of the basket, as they say here.
Her family, on each side, is of fabulous antiquity; her mother is the
daughter of an English Catholic earl. Her father is dead, and since her
widowhood she has lived with her mother and a married brother. There is
another brother, younger, who I believe is wild. They have an old hotel
in the Rue de l'Université, but their fortune is small, and they make a
common household, for economy's sake. When I was a girl I was put into a
convent here for my education, while my father made the tour of Europe.
It was a silly thing to do with me, but it had the advantage that it
made me acquainted with Claire de Bellegarde. She was younger than I
but we became fast friends. I took a tremendous fancy to her, and she
returned my passion as far as she could. They kept such a tight rein on
her that she could do very little, and when I left the convent she had
to give me up. I was not of her _monde_; I am not now, either, but we
sometimes meet. They are terrible people--her _monde_; all mounted upon
stilts a mile high, and with pedigrees long in proportion. It is the
skim of the milk of the old _noblesse_. Do you know what a Legitimist
is, or an Ultramontane? Go into Madame de Cintré's drawing-room
some afternoon, at five o'clock, and you will see the best preserved
specimens. I say go, but no one is admitted who can't show his fifty
quarterings."

"And this is the lady you propose to me to marry?" asked Newman. "A lady
I can't even approach?"

"But you said just now that you recognized no obstacles."

Newman looked at Mrs. Tristram a while, stroking his moustache. "Is she
a beauty?" he demanded.

"No."

"Oh, then it's no use--"

"She is not a beauty, but she is beautiful, two very different things. A
beauty has no faults in her face, the face of a beautiful woman may have
faults that only deepen its charm."

"I remember Madame de Cintré, now," said Tristram. "She is as plain as a
pike-staff. A man wouldn't look at her twice."

"In saying that _he_ would not look at her twice, my husband
sufficiently describes her," Mrs. Tristram rejoined.

"Is she good; is she clever?" Newman asked.

"She is perfect! I won't say more than that. When you are praising
a person to another who is to know her, it is bad policy to go into
details. I won't exaggerate. I simply recommend her. Among all women I
have known she stands alone; she is of a different clay."

"I should like to see her," said Newman, simply.

"I will try to manage it. The only way will be to invite her to dinner.
I have never invited her before, and I don't know that she will come.
Her old feudal countess of a mother rules the family with an iron hand,
and allows her to have no friends but of her own choosing, and to visit
only in a certain sacred circle. But I can at least ask her."

At this moment Mrs. Tristram was interrupted; a servant stepped out upon
the balcony and announced that there were visitors in the drawing-room.
When Newman's hostess had gone in to receive her friends, Tom Tristram
approached his guest.

"Don't put your foot into _this_, my boy," he said, puffing the last
whiffs of his cigar. "There's nothing in it!"

Newman looked askance at him, inquisitive. "You tell another story, eh?"

"I say simply that Madame de Cintré is a great white doll of a woman,
who cultivates quiet haughtiness."

"Ah, she's haughty, eh?"

"She looks at you as if you were so much thin air, and cares for you
about as much."

"She is very proud, eh?"

"Proud? As proud as I'm humble."

"And not good-looking?"

Tristram shrugged his shoulders: "It's a kind of beauty you must be
_intellectual_ to understand. But I must go in and amuse the company."

Some time elapsed before Newman followed his friends into the
drawing-room. When he at last made his appearance there he remained but
a short time, and during this period sat perfectly silent, listening
to a lady to whom Mrs. Tristram had straightway introduced him and who
chattered, without a pause, with the full force of an extraordinarily
high-pitched voice. Newman gazed and attended. Presently he came to bid
good-night to Mrs. Tristram.

"Who is that lady?" he asked.

"Miss Dora Finch. How do you like her?"

"She's too noisy."

"She is thought so bright! Certainly, you are fastidious," said Mrs.
Tristram.

Newman stood a moment, hesitating. Then at last, "Don't forget about
your friend," he said, "Madame What's-her-name? the proud beauty. Ask
her to dinner, and give me a good notice." And with this he departed.

Some days later he came back; it was in the afternoon. He found Mrs.
Tristram in her drawing-room; with her was a visitor, a woman young and
pretty, dressed in white. The two ladies had risen and the visitor was
apparently taking her leave. As Newman approached, he received from
Mrs. Tristram a glance of the most vivid significance, which he was not
immediately able to interpret.

"This is a good friend of ours," she said, turning to her companion,
"Mr. Christopher Newman. I have spoken of you to him and he has an
extreme desire to make your acquaintance. If you had consented to come
and dine, I should have offered him an opportunity."

The stranger turned her face toward Newman, with a smile. He was not
embarrassed, for his unconscious _sang-froid_ was boundless; but as he
became aware that this was the proud and beautiful Madame de Cintré,
the loveliest woman in the world, the promised perfection, the proposed
ideal, he made an instinctive movement to gather his wits together.
Through the slight preoccupation that it produced he had a sense of a
long, fair face, and of two eyes that were both brilliant and mild.

"I should have been most happy," said Madame de Cintré. "Unfortunately,
as I have been telling Mrs. Tristram, I go on Monday to the country."

Newman had made a solemn bow. "I am very sorry," he said.

"Paris is getting too warm," Madame de Cintré added, taking her friend's
hand again in farewell.

Mrs. Tristram seemed to have formed a sudden and somewhat venturesome
resolution, and she smiled more intensely, as women do when they take
such resolution. "I want Mr. Newman to know you," she said, dropping her
head on one side and looking at Madame de Cintré's bonnet ribbons.

Christopher Newman stood gravely silent, while his native penetration
admonished him. Mrs. Tristram was determined to force her friend to
address him a word of encouragement which should be more than one of the
common formulas of politeness; and if she was prompted by charity, it
was by the charity that begins at home. Madame de Cintré was her dearest
Claire, and her especial admiration but Madame de Cintré had found it
impossible to dine with her and Madame de Cintré should for once be
forced gently to render tribute to Mrs. Tristram.

"It would give me great pleasure," she said, looking at Mrs. Tristram.

"That's a great deal," cried the latter, "for Madame de Cintré to say!"

"I am very much obliged to you," said Newman. "Mrs. Tristram can speak
better for me than I can speak for myself."

Madame de Cintré looked at him again, with the same soft brightness.
"Are you to be long in Paris?" she asked.

"We shall keep him," said Mrs. Tristram.

"But you are keeping _me!_" and Madame de Cintré shook her friend's
hand.

"A moment longer," said Mrs. Tristram.

Madame de Cintré looked at Newman again; this time without her smile.
Her eyes lingered a moment. "Will you come and see me?" she asked.

Mrs. Tristram kissed her. Newman expressed his thanks, and she took her
leave. Her hostess went with her to the door, and left Newman alone a
moment. Presently she returned, rubbing her hands. "It was a fortunate
chance," she said. "She had come to decline my invitation. You triumphed
on the spot, making her ask you, at the end of three minutes, to her
house."

"It was you who triumphed," said Newman. "You must not be too hard upon
her."

Mrs. Tristram stared. "What do you mean?"

"She did not strike me as so proud. I should say she was shy."

"You are very discriminating. And what do you think of her face?"

"It's handsome!" said Newman.

"I should think it was! Of course you will go and see her."

"To-morrow!" cried Newman.

"No, not to-morrow; the next day. That will be Sunday; she leaves Paris
on Monday. If you don't see her; it will at least be a beginning." And
she gave him Madame de Cintré's address.

He walked across the Seine, late in the summer afternoon, and made his
way through those gray and silent streets of the Faubourg St. Germain
whose houses present to the outer world a face as impassive and as
suggestive of the concentration of privacy within as the blank walls
of Eastern seraglios. Newman thought it a queer way for rich people
to live; his ideal of grandeur was a splendid façade diffusing its
brilliancy outward too, irradiating hospitality. The house to which he
had been directed had a dark, dusty, painted portal, which swung open
in answer to his ring. It admitted him into a wide, gravelled court,
surrounded on three sides with closed windows, and with a doorway facing
the street, approached by three steps and surmounted by a tin canopy.
The place was all in the shade; it answered to Newman's conception of
a convent. The portress could not tell him whether Madame de Cintré was
visible; he would please to apply at the farther door. He crossed the
court; a gentleman was sitting, bareheaded, on the steps of the portico,
playing with a beautiful pointer. He rose as Newman approached, and, as
he laid his hand upon the bell, said with a smile, in English, that he
was afraid Newman would be kept waiting; the servants were scattered, he
himself had been ringing, he didn't know what the deuce was in them. He
was a young man, his English was excellent, and his smile very frank.
Newman pronounced the name of Madame de Cintré.

"I think," said the young man, "that my sister is visible. Come in, and
if you will give me your card I will carry it to her myself."

Newman had been accompanied on his present errand by a slight sentiment,
I will not say of defiance--a readiness for aggression or defence, as
they might prove needful--but of reflection, good-humored suspicion. He
took from his pocket, while he stood on the portico, a card upon which,
under his name, he had written the words "San Francisco," and while
he presented it he looked warily at his interlocutor. His glance was
singularly reassuring; he liked the young man's face; it strongly
resembled that of Madame de Cintré. He was evidently her brother. The
young man, on his side, had made a rapid inspection of Newman's person.
He had taken the card and was about to enter the house with it when
another figure appeared on the threshold--an older man, of a fine
presence, wearing evening dress. He looked hard at Newman, and Newman
looked at him. "Madame de Cintré," the younger man repeated, as an
introduction of the visitor. The other took the card from his hand,
read it in a rapid glance, looked again at Newman from head to foot,
hesitated a moment, and then said, gravely but urbanely, "Madame de
Cintré is not at home."

The younger man made a gesture, and then, turning to Newman, "I am very
sorry, sir," he said.

Newman gave him a friendly nod, to show that he bore him no malice, and
retraced his steps. At the porter's lodge he stopped; the two men were
still standing on the portico.

"Who is the gentleman with the dog?" he asked of the old woman who
reappeared. He had begun to learn French.

"That is Monsieur le Comte."

"And the other?"

"That is Monsieur le Marquis."

"A marquis?" said Christopher in English, which the old woman
fortunately did not understand. "Oh, then he's not the butler!"



CHAPTER IV

Early one morning, before Christopher Newman was dressed, a little old
man was ushered into his apartment, followed by a youth in a blouse,
bearing a picture in a brilliant frame. Newman, among the distractions
of Paris, had forgotten M. Nioche and his accomplished daughter; but
this was an effective reminder.

"I am afraid you had given me up, sir," said the old man, after many
apologies and salutations. "We have made you wait so many days. You
accused us, perhaps, of inconstancy, of bad faith. But behold me at
last! And behold also the pretty Madonna. Place it on a chair, my
friend, in a good light, so that monsieur may admire it." And M. Nioche,
addressing his companion, helped him to dispose the work of art.

It had been endued with a layer of varnish an inch thick and its frame,
of an elaborate pattern, was at least a foot wide. It glittered and
twinkled in the morning light, and looked, to Newman's eyes, wonderfully
splendid and precious. It seemed to him a very happy purchase, and he
felt rich in the possession of it. He stood looking at it complacently,
while he proceeded with his toilet, and M. Nioche, who had dismissed his
own attendant, hovered near, smiling and rubbing his hands.

"It has wonderful _finesse_," he murmured, caressingly. "And here
and there are marvelous touches, you probably perceive them, sir. It
attracted great attention on the Boulevard, as we came along. And then a
gradation of tones! That's what it is to know how to paint. I don't
say it because I am her father, sir; but as one man of taste addressing
another I cannot help observing that you have there an exquisite work.
It is hard to produce such things and to have to part with them. If our
means only allowed us the luxury of keeping it! I really may say, sir--"
and M. Nioche gave a little feebly insinuating laugh--"I really may
say that I envy you! You see," he added in a moment, "we have taken the
liberty of offering you a frame. It increases by a trifle the value of
the work, and it will save you the annoyance--so great for a person of
your delicacy--of going about to bargain at the shops."

The language spoken by M. Nioche was a singular compound, which I shrink
from the attempt to reproduce in its integrity. He had apparently once
possessed a certain knowledge of English, and his accent was oddly
tinged with the cockneyism of the British metropolis. But his learning
had grown rusty with disuse, and his vocabulary was defective and
capricious. He had repaired it with large patches of French, with words
anglicized by a process of his own, and with native idioms literally
translated. The result, in the form in which he in all humility
presented it, would be scarcely comprehensible to the reader, so that I
have ventured to trim and sift it. Newman only half understood it, but
it amused him, and the old man's decent forlornness appealed to his
democratic instincts. The assumption of a fatality in misery always
irritated his strong good nature--it was almost the only thing that did
so; and he felt the impulse to wipe it out, as it were, with the sponge
of his own prosperity. The papa of Mademoiselle Noémie, however, had
apparently on this occasion been vigorously indoctrinated, and he showed
a certain tremulous eagerness to cultivate unexpected opportunities.

"How much do I owe you, then, with the frame?" asked Newman.

"It will make in all three thousand francs," said the old man, smiling
agreeably, but folding his hands in instinctive suppliance.

"Can you give me a receipt?"

"I have brought one," said M. Nioche. "I took the liberty of drawing it
up, in case monsieur should happen to desire to discharge his debt." And
he drew a paper from his pocket-book and presented it to his patron.
The document was written in a minute, fantastic hand, and couched in the
choicest language.

Newman laid down the money, and M. Nioche dropped the napoleons one by
one, solemnly and lovingly, into an old leathern purse.

"And how is your young lady?" asked Newman. "She made a great impression
on me."

"An impression? Monsieur is very good. Monsieur admires her appearance?"

"She is very pretty, certainly."

"Alas, yes, she is very pretty!"

"And what is the harm in her being pretty?"

M. Nioche fixed his eyes upon a spot on the carpet and shook his head.
Then looking up at Newman with a gaze that seemed to brighten and
expand, "Monsieur knows what Paris is. She is dangerous to beauty, when
beauty hasn't the sou."

"Ah, but that is not the case with your daughter. She is rich, now."

"Very true; we are rich for six months. But if my daughter were a plain
girl I should sleep better all the same."

"You are afraid of the young men?"

"The young and the old!"

"She ought to get a husband."

"Ah, monsieur, one doesn't get a husband for nothing. Her husband must
take her as she is; I can't give her a sou. But the young men don't see
with that eye."

"Oh," said Newman, "her talent is in itself a dowry."

"Ah, sir, it needs first to be converted into specie!" and M. Nioche
slapped his purse tenderly before he stowed it away. "The operation
doesn't take place every day."

"Well, your young men are very shabby," said Newman; "that's all I can
say. They ought to pay for your daughter, and not ask money themselves."

"Those are very noble ideas, monsieur; but what will you have? They are
not the ideas of this country. We want to know what we are about when we
marry."

"How big a portion does your daughter want?"

M. Nioche stared, as if he wondered what was coming next; but he
promptly recovered himself, at a venture, and replied that he knew a
very nice young man, employed by an insurance company, who would content
himself with fifteen thousand francs.

"Let your daughter paint half a dozen pictures for me, and she shall
have her dowry."

"Half a dozen pictures--her dowry! Monsieur is not speaking
inconsiderately?"

"If she will make me six or eight copies in the Louvre as pretty as that
Madonna, I will pay her the same price," said Newman.

Poor M. Nioche was speechless a moment, with amazement and gratitude,
and then he seized Newman's hand, pressed it between his own ten
fingers, and gazed at him with watery eyes. "As pretty as that? They
shall be a thousand times prettier--they shall be magnificent, sublime.
Ah, if I only knew how to paint, myself, sir, so that I might lend a
hand! What can I do to thank you? _Voyons!_" And he pressed his forehead
while he tried to think of something.

"Oh, you have thanked me enough," said Newman.

"Ah, here it is, sir!" cried M. Nioche. "To express my gratitude, I will
charge you nothing for the lessons in French conversation."

"The lessons? I had quite forgotten them. Listening to your English,"
added Newman, laughing, "is almost a lesson in French."

"Ah, I don't profess to teach English, certainly," said M. Nioche. "But
for my own admirable tongue I am still at your service."

"Since you are here, then," said Newman, "we will begin. This is a very
good hour. I am going to have my coffee; come every morning at half-past
nine and have yours with me."

"Monsieur offers me my coffee, also?" cried M. Nioche. "Truly, my _beaux
jours_ are coming back."

"Come," said Newman, "let us begin. The coffee is almighty hot. How do
you say that in French?"

Every day, then, for the following three weeks, the minutely respectable
figure of M. Nioche made its appearance, with a series of little
inquiring and apologetic obeisances, among the aromatic fumes of
Newman's morning beverage. I don't know how much French our friend
learned, but, as he himself said, if the attempt did him no good, it
could at any rate do him no harm. And it amused him; it gratified that
irregularly sociable side of his nature which had always expressed
itself in a relish for ungrammatical conversation, and which often, even
in his busy and preoccupied days, had made him sit on rail fences
in young Western towns, in the twilight, in gossip hardly less than
fraternal with humorous loafers and obscure fortune-seekers. He had
notions, wherever he went, about talking with the natives; he had been
assured, and his judgment approved the advice, that in traveling abroad
it was an excellent thing to look into the life of the country. M.
Nioche was very much of a native and, though his life might not be
particularly worth looking into, he was a palpable and smoothly-rounded
unit in that picturesque Parisian civilization which offered our hero so
much easy entertainment and propounded so many curious problems to his
inquiring and practical mind. Newman was fond of statistics; he liked
to know how things were done; it gratified him to learn what taxes were
paid, what profits were gathered, what commercial habits prevailed, how
the battle of life was fought. M. Nioche, as a reduced capitalist, was
familiar with these considerations, and he formulated his information,
which he was proud to be able to impart, in the neatest possible
terms and with a pinch of snuff between finger and thumb. As a
Frenchman--quite apart from Newman's napoleons--M. Nioche loved
conversation, and even in his decay his urbanity had not grown rusty. As
a Frenchman, too, he could give a clear account of things, and--still as
a Frenchman--when his knowledge was at fault he could supply its lapses
with the most convenient and ingenious hypotheses. The little shrunken
financier was intensely delighted to have questions asked him, and he
scraped together information, by frugal processes, and took notes, in
his little greasy pocket-book, of incidents which might interest his
munificent friend. He read old almanacs at the book-stalls on the quays,
and he began to frequent another _café_, where more newspapers were
taken and his postprandial _demitasse_ cost him a penny extra, and where
he used to con the tattered sheets for curious anecdotes, freaks of
nature, and strange coincidences. He would relate with solemnity the
next morning that a child of five years of age had lately died at
Bordeaux, whose brain had been found to weigh sixty ounces--the brain of
a Napoleon or a Washington! or that Madame P--, _charcutière_ in the Rue
de Clichy, had found in the wadding of an old petticoat the sum of
three hundred and sixty francs, which she had lost five years before.
He pronounced his words with great distinctness and sonority, and Newman
assured him that his way of dealing with the French tongue was very
superior to the bewildering chatter that he heard in other mouths.
Upon this M. Nioche's accent became more finely trenchant than ever, he
offered to read extracts from Lamartine, and he protested that, although
he did endeavor according to his feeble lights to cultivate refinement
of diction, monsieur, if he wanted the real thing, should go to the
Théâtre Français.

Newman took an interest in French thriftiness and conceived a lively
admiration for Parisian economies. His own economic genius was so
entirely for operations on a larger scale, and, to move at his ease, he
needed so imperatively the sense of great risks and great prizes, that
he found an ungrudging entertainment in the spectacle of fortunes made
by the aggregation of copper coins, and in the minute subdivision of
labor and profit. He questioned M. Nioche about his own manner of life,
and felt a friendly mixture of compassion and respect over the recital
of his delicate frugalities. The worthy man told him how, at one period,
he and his daughter had supported existence comfortably upon the sum of
fifteen sous _per diem_; recently, having succeeded in hauling ashore
the last floating fragments of the wreck of his fortune, his budget had
been a trifle more ample. But they still had to count their sous very
narrowly, and M. Nioche intimated with a sigh that Mademoiselle Noémie
did not bring to this task that zealous cooperation which might have
been desired.

"But what will you have?"' he asked, philosophically. "One is young, one
is pretty, one needs new dresses and fresh gloves; one can't wear shabby
gowns among the splendors of the Louvre."

"But your daughter earns enough to pay for her own clothes," said
Newman.

M. Nioche looked at him with weak, uncertain eyes. He would have liked
to be able to say that his daughter's talents were appreciated, and that
her crooked little daubs commanded a market; but it seemed a scandal
to abuse the credulity of this free-handed stranger, who, without a
suspicion or a question, had admitted him to equal social rights. He
compromised, and declared that while it was obvious that Mademoiselle
Noémie's reproductions of the old masters had only to be seen to be
coveted, the prices which, in consideration of their altogether peculiar
degree of finish, she felt obliged to ask for them had kept purchasers
at a respectful distance. "Poor little one!" said M. Nioche, with a
sigh; "it is almost a pity that her work is so perfect! It would be in
her interest to paint less well."

"But if Mademoiselle Noémie has this devotion to her art," Newman once
observed, "why should you have those fears for her that you spoke of the
other day?"

M. Nioche meditated: there was an inconsistency in his position; it made
him chronically uncomfortable. Though he had no desire to destroy the
goose with the golden eggs--Newman's benevolent confidence--he felt a
tremulous impulse to speak out all his trouble. "Ah, she is an artist,
my dear sir, most assuredly," he declared. "But, to tell you the truth,
she is also a _franche coquette_. I am sorry to say," he added in a
moment, shaking his head with a world of harmless bitterness, "that she
comes honestly by it. Her mother was one before her!"

"You were not happy with your wife?" Newman asked.

M. Nioche gave half a dozen little backward jerks of his head. "She was
my purgatory, monsieur!"

"She deceived you?"

"Under my nose, year after year. I was too stupid, and the temptation
was too great. But I found her out at last. I have only been once in my
life a man to be afraid of; I know it very well; it was in that hour!
Nevertheless I don't like to think of it. I loved her--I can't tell you
how much. She was a bad woman."

"She is not living?"

"She has gone to her account."

"Her influence on your daughter, then," said Newman encouragingly, "is
not to be feared."

"She cared no more for her daughter than for the sole of her shoe! But
Noémie has no need of influence. She is sufficient to herself. She is
stronger than I."

"She doesn't obey you, eh?"

"She can't obey, monsieur, since I don't command. What would be the use?
It would only irritate her and drive her to some _coup de tête_. She
is very clever, like her mother; she would waste no time about it. As
a child--when I was happy, or supposed I was--she studied drawing and
painting with first-class professors, and they assured me she had a
talent. I was delighted to believe it, and when I went into society I
used to carry her pictures with me in a portfolio and hand them round
to the company. I remember, once, a lady thought I was offering them for
sale, and I took it very ill. We don't know what we may come to! Then
came my dark days, and my explosion with Madame Nioche. Noémie had no
more twenty-franc lessons; but in the course of time, when she grew
older, and it became highly expedient that she should do something that
would help to keep us alive, she bethought herself of her palette and
brushes. Some of our friends in the _quartier_ pronounced the idea
fantastic: they recommended her to try bonnet making, to get a situation
in a shop, or--if she was more ambitious--to advertise for a place of
_dame de compagnie_. She did advertise, and an old lady wrote her
a letter and bade her come and see her. The old lady liked her, and
offered her her living and six hundred francs a year; but Noémie
discovered that she passed her life in her armchair and had only two
visitors, her confessor and her nephew: the confessor very strict, and
the nephew a man of fifty, with a broken nose and a government clerkship
of two thousand francs. She threw her old lady over, bought a paint-box,
a canvas, and a new dress, and went and set up her easel in the Louvre.
There in one place and another, she has passed the last two years; I
can't say it has made us millionaires. But Noémie tells me that Rome was
not built in a day, that she is making great progress, that I must leave
her to her own devices. The fact is, without prejudice to her genius,
that she has no idea of burying herself alive. She likes to see the
world, and to be seen. She says, herself, that she can't work in
the dark. With her appearance it is very natural. Only, I can't help
worrying and trembling and wondering what may happen to her there all
alone, day after day, amid all that coming and going of strangers. I
can't be always at her side. I go with her in the morning, and I come to
fetch her away, but she won't have me near her in the interval; she says
I make her nervous. As if it didn't make me nervous to wander about
all day without her! Ah, if anything were to happen to her!" cried
M. Nioche, clenching his two fists and jerking back his head again,
portentously.

"Oh, I guess nothing will happen," said Newman.

"I believe I should shoot her!" said the old man, solemnly.

"Oh, we'll marry her," said Newman, "since that's how you manage it; and
I will go and see her tomorrow at the Louvre and pick out the pictures
she is to copy for me."

M. Nioche had brought Newman a message from his daughter, in acceptance
of his magnificent commission, the young lady declaring herself his most
devoted servant, promising her most zealous endeavor, and regretting
that the proprieties forbade her coming to thank him in person. The
morning after the conversation just narrated, Newman reverted to his
intention of meeting Mademoiselle Noémie at the Louvre. M. Nioche
appeared preoccupied, and left his budget of anecdotes unopened; he
took a great deal of snuff, and sent certain oblique, appealing glances
toward his stalwart pupil. At last, when he was taking his leave,
he stood a moment, after he had polished his hat with his calico
pocket-handkerchief, with his small, pale eyes fixed strangely upon
Newman.

"What's the matter?" our hero demanded.

"Excuse the solicitude of a father's heart!" said M. Nioche. "You
inspire me with boundless confidence, but I can't help giving you a
warning. After all, you are a man, you are young and at liberty. Let me
beseech you, then, to respect the innocence of Mademoiselle Nioche!"

Newman had wondered what was coming, and at this he broke into a laugh.
He was on the point of declaring that his own innocence struck him as
the more exposed, but he contented himself with promising to treat the
young girl with nothing less than veneration. He found her waiting for
him, seated upon the great divan in the Salon Carré. She was not in
her working-day costume, but wore her bonnet and gloves and carried her
parasol, in honor of the occasion. These articles had been selected with
unerring taste, and a fresher, prettier image of youthful alertness
and blooming discretion was not to be conceived. She made Newman a most
respectful curtsey and expressed her gratitude for his liberality in a
wonderfully graceful little speech. It annoyed him to have a charming
young girl stand there thanking him, and it made him feel uncomfortable
to think that this perfect young lady, with her excellent manners and
her finished intonation, was literally in his pay. He assured her, in
such French as he could muster, that the thing was not worth mentioning,
and that he considered her services a great favor.

"Whenever you please, then," said Mademoiselle Noémie, "we will pass the
review."

They walked slowly round the room, then passed into the others and
strolled about for half an hour. Mademoiselle Noémie evidently relished
her situation, and had no desire to bring her public interview with her
striking-looking patron to a close. Newman perceived that prosperity
agreed with her. The little thin-lipped, peremptory air with which she
had addressed her father on the occasion of their former meeting had
given place to the most lingering and caressing tones.

"What sort of pictures do you desire?" she asked. "Sacred, or profane?"

"Oh, a few of each," said Newman. "But I want something bright and gay."

"Something gay? There is nothing very gay in this solemn old Louvre. But
we will see what we can find. You speak French to-day like a charm. My
father has done wonders."

"Oh, I am a bad subject," said Newman. "I am too old to learn a
language."

"Too old? _Quelle folie!_" cried Mademoiselle Noémie, with a clear,
shrill laugh. "You are a very young man. And how do you like my father?"

"He is a very nice old gentleman. He never laughs at my blunders."

"He is very _comme il faut_, my papa," said Mademoiselle Noémie, "and as
honest as the day. Oh, an exceptional probity! You could trust him with
millions."

"Do you always obey him?" asked Newman.

"Obey him?"

"Do you do what he bids you?"

The young girl stopped and looked at him; she had a spot of color in
either cheek, and in her expressive French eye, which projected too much
for perfect beauty, there was a slight gleam of audacity. "Why do you
ask me that?" she demanded.

"Because I want to know."

"You think me a bad girl?" And she gave a strange smile.

Newman looked at her a moment; he saw that she was pretty, but he was
not in the least dazzled. He remembered poor M. Nioche's solicitude for
her "innocence," and he laughed as his eyes met hers. Her face was the
oddest mixture of youth and maturity, and beneath her candid brow
her searching little smile seemed to contain a world of ambiguous
intentions. She was pretty enough, certainly to make her father nervous;
but, as regards her innocence, Newman felt ready on the spot to affirm
that she had never parted with it. She had simply never had any; she had
been looking at the world since she was ten years old, and he would have
been a wise man who could tell her any secrets. In her long mornings at
the Louvre she had not only studied Madonnas and St. Johns; she had kept
an eye upon all the variously embodied human nature around her, and she
had formed her conclusions. In a certain sense, it seemed to Newman, M.
Nioche might be at rest; his daughter might do something very audacious,
but she would never do anything foolish. Newman, with his long-drawn,
leisurely smile, and his even, unhurried utterance, was always,
mentally, taking his time; and he asked himself, now, what she was
looking at him in that way for. He had an idea that she would like him
to confess that he did think her a bad girl.

"Oh, no," he said at last; "it would be very bad manners in me to judge
you that way. I don't know you."

"But my father has complained to you," said Mademoiselle Noémie.

"He says you are a coquette."

"He shouldn't go about saying such things to gentlemen! But you don't
believe it?"

"No," said Newman gravely, "I don't believe it."

She looked at him again, gave a shrug and a smile, and then pointed to a
small Italian picture, a Marriage of St. Catherine. "How should you like
that?" she asked.

"It doesn't please me," said Newman. "The young lady in the yellow dress
is not pretty."

"Ah, you are a great connoisseur," murmured Mademoiselle Noémie.

"In pictures? Oh, no; I know very little about them."

"In pretty women, then."

"In that I am hardly better."

"What do you say to that, then?" the young girl asked, indicating a
superb Italian portrait of a lady. "I will do it for you on a smaller
scale."

"On a smaller scale? Why not as large as the original?"

Mademoiselle Noémie glanced at the glowing splendor of the Venetian
masterpiece and gave a little toss of her head. "I don't like that
woman. She looks stupid."

"I do like her," said Newman. "Decidedly, I must have her, as large as
life. And just as stupid as she is there."

The young girl fixed her eyes on him again, and with her mocking smile,
"It certainly ought to be easy for me to make her look stupid!" she
said.

"What do you mean?" asked Newman, puzzled.

She gave another little shrug. "Seriously, then, you want that
portrait--the golden hair, the purple satin, the pearl necklace, the two
magnificent arms?"

"Everything--just as it is."

"Would nothing else do, instead?"

"Oh, I want some other things, but I want that too."

Mademoiselle Noémie turned away a moment, walked to the other side of
the hall, and stood there, looking vaguely about her. At last she came
back. "It must be charming to be able to order pictures at such a rate.
Venetian portraits, as large as life! You go at it _en prince_. And you
are going to travel about Europe that way?"

"Yes, I intend to travel," said Newman.

"Ordering, buying, spending money?"

"Of course I shall spend some money."

"You are very happy to have it. And you are perfectly free?"

"How do you mean, free?"

"You have nothing to bother you--no family, no wife, no _fiancée?_"

"Yes, I am tolerably free."

"You are very happy," said Mademoiselle Noémie, gravely.

"_Je le veux bien!_" said Newman, proving that he had learned more
French than he admitted.

"And how long shall you stay in Paris?" the young girl went on.

"Only a few days more."

"Why do you go away?"

"It is getting hot, and I must go to Switzerland."

"To Switzerland? That's a fine country. I would give my new parasol
to see it! Lakes and mountains, romantic valleys and icy peaks! Oh,
I congratulate you. Meanwhile, I shall sit here through all the hot
summer, daubing at your pictures."

"Oh, take your time about it," said Newman. "Do them at your
convenience."

They walked farther and looked at a dozen other things. Newman pointed
out what pleased him, and Mademoiselle Noémie generally criticised it,
and proposed something else. Then suddenly she diverged and began to
talk about some personal matter.

"What made you speak to me the other day in the Salon Carré?" she
abruptly asked.

"I admired your picture."

"But you hesitated a long time."

"Oh, I do nothing rashly," said Newman.

"Yes, I saw you watching me. But I never supposed you were going to
speak to me. I never dreamed I should be walking about here with you
to-day. It's very curious."

"It is very natural," observed Newman.

"Oh, I beg your pardon; not to me. Coquette as you think me, I have
never walked about in public with a gentleman before. What was my father
thinking of, when he consented to our interview?"

"He was repenting of his unjust accusations," replied Newman.

Mademoiselle Noémie remained silent; at last she dropped into a seat.
"Well then, for those five it is fixed," she said. "Five copies as
brilliant and beautiful as I can make them. We have one more to choose.
Shouldn't you like one of those great Rubenses--the marriage of Marie de
Médicis? Just look at it and see how handsome it is."

"Oh, yes; I should like that," said Newman. "Finish off with that."

"Finish off with that--good!" And she laughed. She sat a moment, looking
at him, and then she suddenly rose and stood before him, with her hands
hanging and clasped in front of her. "I don't understand you," she said
with a smile. "I don't understand how a man can be so ignorant."

"Oh, I am ignorant, certainly," said Newman, putting his hands into his
pockets.

"It's ridiculous! I don't know how to paint."

"You don't know how?"

"I paint like a cat; I can't draw a straight line. I never sold a
picture until you bought that thing the other day." And as she offered
this surprising information she continued to smile.

Newman burst into a laugh. "Why do you tell me this?" he asked.

"Because it irritates me to see a clever man blunder so. My pictures are
grotesque."

"And the one I possess--"

"That one is rather worse than usual."

"Well," said Newman, "I like it all the same!"

She looked at him askance. "That is a very pretty thing to say," she
answered; "but it is my duty to warn you before you go farther. This
order of yours is impossible, you know. What do you take me for? It is
work for ten men. You pick out the six most difficult pictures in the
Louvre, and you expect me to go to work as if I were sitting down to hem
a dozen pocket handkerchiefs. I wanted to see how far you would go."

Newman looked at the young girl in some perplexity. In spite of the
ridiculous blunder of which he stood convicted, he was very far from
being a simpleton, and he had a lively suspicion that Mademoiselle
Noémie's sudden frankness was not essentially more honest than her
leaving him in error would have been. She was playing a game; she
was not simply taking pity on his æsthetic verdancy. What was it she
expected to win? The stakes were high and the risk was great; the prize
therefore must have been commensurate. But even granting that the prize
might be great, Newman could not resist a movement of admiration for his
companion's intrepidity. She was throwing away with one hand, whatever
she might intend to do with the other, a very handsome sum of money.

"Are you joking," he said, "or are you serious?"

"Oh, serious!" cried Mademoiselle Noémie, but with her extraordinary
smile.

"I know very little about pictures or how they are painted. If you can't
do all that, of course you can't. Do what you can, then."

"It will be very bad," said Mademoiselle Noémie.

"Oh," said Newman, laughing, "if you are determined it shall be bad, of
course it will. But why do you go on painting badly?"

"I can do nothing else; I have no real talent."

"You are deceiving your father, then."

The young girl hesitated a moment. "He knows very well!"

"No," Newman declared; "I am sure he believes in you."

"He is afraid of me. I go on painting badly, as you say, because I want
to learn. I like it, at any rate. And I like being here; it is a place
to come to, every day; it is better than sitting in a little dark, damp
room, on a court, or selling buttons and whalebones over a counter."

"Of course it is much more amusing," said Newman. "But for a poor girl
isn't it rather an expensive amusement?"

"Oh, I am very wrong, there is no doubt about that," said Mademoiselle
Noémie. "But rather than earn my living as some girls do--toiling with
a needle, in little black holes, out of the world--I would throw myself
into the Seine."

"There is no need of that," Newman answered; "your father told you my
offer?"

"Your offer?"

"He wants you to marry, and I told him I would give you a chance to earn
your _dot_."

"He told me all about it, and you see the account I make of it! Why
should you take such an interest in my marriage?"

"My interest was in your father. I hold to my offer; do what you can,
and I will buy what you paint."

She stood for some time, meditating, with her eyes on the ground.
At last, looking up, "What sort of a husband can you get for twelve
thousand francs?" she asked.

"Your father tells me he knows some very good young men."

"Grocers and butchers and little _maîtres de cafés!_ I will not marry at
all if I can't marry well."

"I would advise you not to be too fastidious," said Newman. "That's all
the advice I can give you."

"I am very much vexed at what I have said!" cried the young girl. "It
has done me no good. But I couldn't help it."

"What good did you expect it to do you?"

"I couldn't help it, simply."

Newman looked at her a moment. "Well, your pictures may be bad," he
said, "but you are too clever for me, nevertheless. I don't understand
you. Good-bye!" And he put out his hand.

She made no response, and offered him no farewell. She turned away and
seated herself sidewise on a bench, leaning her head on the back of her
hand, which clasped the rail in front of the pictures. Newman stood a
moment and then turned on his heel and retreated. He had understood her
better than he confessed; this singular scene was a practical commentary
upon her father's statement that she was a frank coquette.



CHAPTER V

When Newman related to Mrs. Tristram his fruitless visit to Madame de
Cintré, she urged him not to be discouraged, but to carry out his plan
of "seeing Europe" during the summer, and return to Paris in the autumn
and settle down comfortably for the winter. "Madame de Cintré will
keep," she said; "she is not a woman who will marry from one day to
another." Newman made no distinct affirmation that he would come back
to Paris; he even talked about Rome and the Nile, and abstained from
professing any especial interest in Madame de Cintré's continued
widowhood. This circumstance was at variance with his habitual
frankness, and may perhaps be regarded as characteristic of the
incipient stage of that passion which is more particularly known as the
mysterious one. The truth is that the expression of a pair of eyes that
were at once brilliant and mild had become very familiar to his memory,
and he would not easily have resigned himself to the prospect of never
looking into them again. He communicated to Mrs. Tristram a number of
other facts, of greater or less importance, as you choose; but on this
particular point he kept his own counsel. He took a kindly leave of
M. Nioche, having assured him that, so far as he was concerned, the
blue-cloaked Madonna herself might have been present at his
interview with Mademoiselle Noémie; and left the old man nursing his
breast-pocket, in an ecstasy which the acutest misfortune might have
been defied to dissipate. Newman then started on his travels, with all
his usual appearance of slow-strolling leisure, and all his essential
directness and intensity of aim. No man seemed less in a hurry, and
yet no man achieved more in brief periods. He had certain practical
instincts which served him excellently in his trade of tourist. He found
his way in foreign cities by divination, his memory was excellent when
once his attention had been at all cordially given, and he emerged from
dialogues in foreign tongues, of which he had, formally, not understood
a word, in full possession of the particular fact he had desired to
ascertain. His appetite for facts was capacious, and although many of
those which he noted would have seemed woefully dry and colorless to the
ordinary sentimental traveler, a careful inspection of the list would
have shown that he had a soft spot in his imagination. In the charming
city of Brussels--his first stopping-place after leaving Paris--he
asked a great many questions about the street-cars, and took extreme
satisfaction in the reappearance of this familiar symbol of American
civilization; but he was also greatly struck with the beautiful Gothic
tower of the Hôtel de Ville, and wondered whether it would not be
possible to "get up" something like it in San Francisco. He stood for
half an hour in the crowded square before this edifice, in imminent
danger from carriage-wheels, listening to a toothless old cicerone
mumble in broken English the touching history of Counts Egmont and Horn;
and he wrote the names of these gentlemen--for reasons best known to
himself--on the back of an old letter.

At the outset, on his leaving Paris, his curiosity had not been intense;
passive entertainment, in the Champs Élysées and at the theatres, seemed
about as much as he need expect of himself, and although, as he had said
to Tristram, he wanted to see the mysterious, satisfying _best_, he had
not the Grand Tour in the least on his conscience, and was not given to
cross-questioning the amusement of the hour. He believed that Europe
was made for him, and not he for Europe. He had said that he wanted
to improve his mind, but he would have felt a certain embarrassment, a
certain shame, even--a false shame, possibly--if he had caught himself
looking intellectually into the mirror. Neither in this nor in any other
respect had Newman a high sense of responsibility; it was his prime
conviction that a man's life should be easy, and that he should be able
to resolve privilege into a matter of course. The world, to his sense,
was a great bazaar, where one might stroll about and purchase handsome
things; but he was no more conscious, individually, of social pressure
than he admitted the existence of such a thing as an obligatory
purchase. He had not only a dislike, but a sort of moral mistrust,
of uncomfortable thoughts, and it was both uncomfortable and slightly
contemptible to feel obliged to square one's self with a standard.
One's standard was the ideal of one's own good-humored prosperity, the
prosperity which enabled one to give as well as take. To expand,
without bothering about it--without shiftless timidity on one side, or
loquacious eagerness on the other--to the full compass of what he
would have called a "pleasant" experience, was Newman's most definite
programme of life. He had always hated to hurry to catch railroad
trains, and yet he had always caught them; and just so an undue
solicitude for "culture" seemed a sort of silly dawdling at the
station, a proceeding properly confined to women, foreigners, and other
unpractical persons. All this admitted, Newman enjoyed his journey,
when once he had fairly entered the current, as profoundly as the most
zealous _dilettante_. One's theories, after all, matter little; it is
one's humor that is the great thing. Our friend was intelligent, and
he could not help that. He lounged through Belgium and Holland and
the Rhineland, through Switzerland and Northern Italy, planning about
nothing, but seeing everything. The guides and _valets de place_ found
him an excellent subject. He was always approachable, for he was much
addicted to standing about in the vestibules and porticos of inns, and
he availed himself little of the opportunities for impressive seclusion
which are so liberally offered in Europe to gentlemen who travel
with long purses. When an excursion, a church, a gallery, a ruin, was
proposed to him, the first thing Newman usually did, after surveying
his postulant in silence, from head to foot, was to sit down at a little
table and order something to drink. The cicerone, during this process,
usually retreated to a respectful distance; otherwise I am not sure that
Newman would not have bidden him sit down and have a glass also, and
tell him as an honest fellow whether his church or his gallery was
really worth a man's trouble. At last he rose and stretched his long
legs, beckoned to the man of monuments, looked at his watch, and
fixed his eye on his adversary. "What is it?" he asked. "How far?" And
whatever the answer was, although he sometimes seemed to hesitate, he
never declined. He stepped into an open cab, made his conductor sit
beside him to answer questions, bade the driver go fast (he had a
particular aversion to slow driving) and rolled, in all probability
through a dusty suburb, to the goal of his pilgrimage. If the goal was a
disappointment, if the church was meagre, or the ruin a heap of rubbish,
Newman never protested or berated his cicerone; he looked with an
impartial eye upon great monuments and small, made the guide recite his
lesson, listened to it religiously, asked if there was nothing else to
be seen in the neighborhood, and drove back again at a rattling pace.
It is to be feared that his perception of the difference between good
architecture and bad was not acute, and that he might sometimes have
been seen gazing with culpable serenity at inferior productions. Ugly
churches were a part of his pastime in Europe, as well as beautiful
ones, and his tour was altogether a pastime. But there is sometimes
nothing like the imagination of these people who have none, and Newman,
now and then, in an unguided stroll in a foreign city, before some
lonely, sad-towered church, or some angular image of one who had
rendered civic service in an unknown past, had felt a singular inward
tremor. It was not an excitement or a perplexity; it was a placid,
fathomless sense of diversion.

He encountered by chance in Holland a young American, with whom, for
a time, he formed a sort of traveler's partnership. They were men of a
very different cast, but each, in his way, was so good a fellow that,
for a few weeks at least, it seemed something of a pleasure to share
the chances of the road. Newman's comrade, whose name was Babcock, was
a young Unitarian minister, a small, spare, neatly-attired man, with
a strikingly candid physiognomy. He was a native of Dorchester,
Massachusetts, and had spiritual charge of a small congregation in
another suburb of the New England metropolis. His digestion was weak and
he lived chiefly on Graham bread and hominy--a regimen to which he was
so much attached that his tour seemed to him destined to be blighted
when, on landing on the Continent, he found that these delicacies did
not flourish under the _table d'hôte_ system. In Paris he had purchased
a bag of hominy at an establishment which called itself an American
Agency, and at which the New York illustrated papers were also to
be procured, and he had carried it about with him, and shown extreme
serenity and fortitude in the somewhat delicate position of having his
hominy prepared for him and served at anomalous hours, at the hotels he
successively visited. Newman had once spent a morning, in the course of
business, at Mr. Babcock's birthplace, and, for reasons too recondite
to unfold, his visit there always assumed in his mind a jocular cast.
To carry out his joke, which certainly seems poor so long as it is
not explained, he used often to address his companion as "Dorchester."
Fellow-travelers very soon grow intimate but it is highly improbable
that at home these extremely dissimilar characters would have found any
very convenient points of contact. They were, indeed, as different as
possible. Newman, who never reflected on such matters, accepted the
situation with great equanimity, but Babcock used to meditate over
it privately; used often, indeed, to retire to his room early in the
evening for the express purpose of considering it conscientiously
and impartially. He was not sure that it was a good thing for him to
associate with our hero, whose way of taking life was so little his own.
Newman was an excellent, generous fellow; Mr. Babcock sometimes said to
himself that he was a _noble_ fellow, and, certainly, it was impossible
not to like him. But would it not be desirable to try to exert an
influence upon him, to try to quicken his moral life and sharpen his
sense of duty? He liked everything, he accepted everything, he found
amusement in everything; he was not discriminating, he had not a high
tone. The young man from Dorchester accused Newman of a fault which he
considered very grave, and which he did his best to avoid: what he would
have called a want of "moral reaction." Poor Mr. Babcock was extremely
fond of pictures and churches, and carried Mrs. Jameson's works about
in his trunk; he delighted in æsthetic analysis, and received peculiar
impressions from everything he saw. But nevertheless in his secret soul
he detested Europe, and he felt an irritating need to protest against
Newman's gross intellectual hospitality. Mr. Babcock's moral _malaise_,
I am afraid, lay deeper than where any definition of mine can reach it.
He mistrusted the European temperament, he suffered from the European
climate, he hated the European dinner-hour; European life seemed to him
unscrupulous and impure. And yet he had an exquisite sense of beauty;
and as beauty was often inextricably associated with the above
displeasing conditions, as he wished, above all, to be just and
dispassionate, and as he was, furthermore, extremely devoted to
"culture," he could not bring himself to decide that Europe was utterly
bad. But he thought it was very bad indeed, and his quarrel with Newman
was that this unregulated epicure had a sadly insufficient perception
of the bad. Babcock himself really knew as little about the bad, in any
quarter of the world, as a nursing infant, his most vivid realization of
evil had been the discovery that one of his college classmates, who was
studying architecture in Paris had a love affair with a young woman who
did not expect him to marry her. Babcock had related this incident to
Newman, and our hero had applied an epithet of an unflattering sort to
the young girl. The next day his companion asked him whether he was
very sure he had used exactly the right word to characterize the young
architect's mistress. Newman stared and laughed. "There are a great many
words to express that idea," he said; "you can take your choice!"

"Oh, I mean," said Babcock, "was she possibly not to be considered in
a different light? Don't you think she _really_ expected him to marry
her?"

"I am sure I don't know," said Newman. "Very likely she did; I have no
doubt she is a grand woman." And he began to laugh again.

"I didn't mean that either," said Babcock, "I was only afraid that I
might have seemed yesterday not to remember--not to consider; well, I
think I will write to Percival about it."

And he had written to Percival (who answered him in a really impudent
fashion), and he had reflected that it was somehow, raw and reckless in
Newman to assume in that off-hand manner that the young woman in Paris
might be "grand." The brevity of Newman's judgments very often shocked
and discomposed him. He had a way of damning people without farther
appeal, or of pronouncing them capital company in the face of
uncomfortable symptoms, which seemed unworthy of a man whose conscience
had been properly cultivated. And yet poor Babcock liked him, and
remembered that even if he was sometimes perplexing and painful, this
was not a reason for giving him up. Goethe recommended seeing human
nature in the most various forms, and Mr. Babcock thought Goethe
perfectly splendid. He often tried, in odd half-hours of conversation
to infuse into Newman a little of his own spiritual starch, but Newman's
personal texture was too loose to admit of stiffening. His mind could no
more hold principles than a sieve can hold water. He admired principles
extremely, and thought Babcock a mighty fine little fellow for having
so many. He accepted all that his high-strung companion offered him,
and put them away in what he supposed to be a very safe place; but poor
Babcock never afterwards recognized his gifts among the articles that
Newman had in daily use.

They traveled together through Germany and into Switzerland, where
for three or four weeks they trudged over passes and lounged upon blue
lakes. At last they crossed the Simplon and made their way to Venice.
Mr. Babcock had become gloomy and even a trifle irritable; he seemed
moody, absent, preoccupied; he got his plans into a tangle, and talked
one moment of doing one thing and the next of doing another. Newman led
his usual life, made acquaintances, took his ease in the galleries and
churches, spent an unconscionable amount of time in strolling in the
Piazza San Marco, bought a great many bad pictures, and for a fortnight
enjoyed Venice grossly. One evening, coming back to his inn, he found
Babcock waiting for him in the little garden beside it. The young man
walked up to him, looking very dismal, thrust out his hand, and said
with solemnity that he was afraid they must part. Newman expressed
his surprise and regret, and asked why a parting had become necessary.
"Don't be afraid I'm tired of you," he said.

"You are not tired of me?" demanded Babcock, fixing him with his clear
gray eye.

"Why the deuce should I be? You are a very plucky fellow. Besides, I
don't grow tired of things."

"We don't understand each other," said the young minister.

"Don't I understand you?" cried Newman. "Why, I hoped I did. But what if
I don't; where's the harm?"

"I don't understand _you_," said Babcock. And he sat down and rested his
head on his hand, and looked up mournfully at his immeasurable friend.

"Oh Lord, I don't mind that!" cried Newman, with a laugh.

"But it's very distressing to me. It keeps me in a state of unrest. It
irritates me; I can't settle anything. I don't think it's good for me."

"You worry too much; that's what's the matter with you," said Newman.

"Of course it must seem so to you. You think I take things too hard, and
I think you take things too easily. We can never agree."

"But we have agreed very well all along."

"No, I haven't agreed," said Babcock, shaking his head. "I am very
uncomfortable. I ought to have separated from you a month ago."

"Oh, horrors! I'll agree to anything!" cried Newman.

Mr. Babcock buried his head in both hands. At last looking up, "I don't
think you appreciate my position," he said. "I try to arrive at the
truth about everything. And then you go too fast. For me, you are too
passionate, too extravagant. I feel as if I ought to go over all this
ground we have traversed again, by myself, alone. I am afraid I have
made a great many mistakes."

"Oh, you needn't give so many reasons," said Newman. "You are simply
tired of my company. You have a good right to be."

"No, no, I am not tired!" cried the pestered young divine. "It is very
wrong to be tired."

"I give it up!" laughed Newman. "But of course it will never do to go
on making mistakes. Go your way, by all means. I shall miss you; but you
have seen I make friends very easily. You will be lonely yourself;
but drop me a line, when you feel like it, and I will wait for you
anywhere."

"I think I will go back to Milan. I am afraid I didn't do justice to
Luini."

"Poor Luini!" said Newman.

"I mean that I am afraid I overestimated him. I don't think that he is a
painter of the first rank."

"Luini?" Newman exclaimed; "why, he's enchanting--he's magnificent!
There is something in his genius that is like a beautiful woman. It
gives one the same feeling."

Mr. Babcock frowned and winced. And it must be added that this was, for
Newman, an unusually metaphysical flight; but in passing through Milan
he had taken a great fancy to the painter. "There you are again!"
said Mr. Babcock. "Yes, we had better separate." And on the morrow he
retraced his steps and proceeded to tone down his impressions of the
great Lombard artist.

A few days afterwards Newman received a note from his late companion
which ran as follows:--

My Dear Mr. Newman,--I am afraid that my conduct at Venice, a week ago,
seemed to you strange and ungrateful, and I wish to explain my position,
which, as I said at the time, I do not think you appreciate. I had long
had it on my mind to propose that we should part company, and this step
was not really so abrupt as it seemed. In the first place, you know, I
am traveling in Europe on funds supplied by my congregation, who kindly
offered me a vacation and an opportunity to enrich my mind with the
treasures of nature and art in the Old World. I feel, therefore, as if I
ought to use my time to the very best advantage. I have a high sense of
responsibility. You appear to care only for the pleasure of the hour,
and you give yourself up to it with a violence which I confess I am not
able to emulate. I feel as if I must arrive at some conclusion and fix
my belief on certain points. Art and life seem to me intensely serious
things, and in our travels in Europe we should especially remember the
immense seriousness of Art. You seem to hold that if a thing amuses you
for the moment, that is all you need ask for it, and your relish for
mere amusement is also much higher than mine. You put, however, a kind
of reckless confidence into your pleasure which at times, I confess, has
seemed to me--shall I say it?--almost cynical. Your way at any rate is
not my way, and it is unwise that we should attempt any longer to pull
together. And yet, let me add that I know there is a great deal to be
said for your way; I have felt its attraction, in your society, very
strongly. But for this I should have left you long ago. But I was so
perplexed. I hope I have not done wrong. I feel as if I had a great deal
of lost time to make up. I beg you take all this as I mean it, which,
Heaven knows, is not invidiously. I have a great personal esteem for you
and hope that some day, when I have recovered my balance, we shall
meet again. I hope you will continue to enjoy your travels, only _do_
remember that Life and Art _are_ extremely serious. Believe me your
sincere friend and well-wisher,

BENJAMIN BABCOCK

P. S. I am greatly perplexed by Luini.

This letter produced in Newman's mind a singular mixture of exhilaration
and awe. At first, Mr. Babcock's tender conscience seemed to him a
capital farce, and his traveling back to Milan only to get into a
deeper muddle appeared, as the reward of his pedantry, exquisitely and
ludicrously just. Then Newman reflected that these are mighty mysteries,
that possibly he himself was indeed that baleful and barely mentionable
thing, a cynic, and that his manner of considering the treasures of art
and the privileges of life was probably very base and immoral. Newman
had a great contempt for immorality, and that evening, for a good half
hour, as he sat watching the star-sheen on the warm Adriatic, he felt
rebuked and depressed. He was at a loss how to answer Babcock's letter.
His good nature checked his resenting the young minister's lofty
admonitions, and his tough, inelastic sense of humor forbade his taking
them seriously. He wrote no answer at all but a day or two afterward he
found in a curiosity shop a grotesque little statuette in ivory, of the
sixteenth century, which he sent off to Babcock without a commentary. It
represented a gaunt, ascetic-looking monk, in a tattered gown and cowl,
kneeling with clasped hands and pulling a portentously long face. It was
a wonderfully delicate piece of carving, and in a moment, through one
of the rents of his gown, you espied a fat capon hung round the monk's
waist. In Newman's intention what did the figure symbolize? Did it mean
that he was going to try to be as "high-toned" as the monk looked at
first, but that he feared he should succeed no better than the friar, on
a closer inspection, proved to have done? It is not supposable that he
intended a satire upon Babcock's own asceticism, for this would have
been a truly cynical stroke. He made his late companion, at any rate, a
very valuable little present.

Newman, on leaving Venice, went through the Tyrol to Vienna, and then
returned westward, through Southern Germany. The autumn found him at
Baden-Baden, where he spent several weeks. The place was charming, and
he was in no hurry to depart; besides, he was looking about him and
deciding what to do for the winter. His summer had been very full, and
he sat under the great trees beside the miniature river that trickles
past the Baden flower-beds, he slowly rummaged it over. He had seen and
done a great deal, enjoyed and observed a great deal; he felt older,
and yet he felt younger too. He remembered Mr. Babcock and his desire
to form conclusions, and he remembered also that he had profited very
little by his friend's exhortation to cultivate the same respectable
habit. Could he not scrape together a few conclusions? Baden-Baden
was the prettiest place he had seen yet, and orchestral music in the
evening, under the stars, was decidedly a great institution. This was
one of his conclusions! But he went on to reflect that he had done very
wisely to pull up stakes and come abroad; this seeing of the world was
a very interesting thing. He had learned a great deal; he couldn't say
just what, but he had it there under his hat-band. He had done what he
wanted; he had seen the great things, and he had given his mind a chance
to "improve," if it would. He cheerfully believed that it had improved.
Yes, this seeing of the world was very pleasant, and he would willingly
do a little more of it. Thirty-six years old as he was, he had a
handsome stretch of life before him yet, and he need not begin to
count his weeks. Where should he take the world next? I have said he
remembered the eyes of the lady whom he had found standing in Mrs.
Tristram's drawing-room; four months had elapsed, and he had not
forgotten them yet. He had looked--he had made a point of looking--into
a great many other eyes in the interval, but the only ones he thought
of now were Madame de Cintré's. If he wanted to see more of the world,
should he find it in Madame de Cintré's eyes? He would certainly find
something there, call it this world or the next. Throughout these rather
formless meditations he sometimes thought of his past life and the long
array of years (they had begun so early) during which he had had nothing
in his head but "enterprise." They seemed far away now, for his present
attitude was more than a holiday, it was almost a rupture. He had told
Tristram that the pendulum was swinging back and it appeared that the
backward swing had not yet ended. Still "enterprise," which was over
in the other quarter wore to his mind a different aspect at different
hours. In its train a thousand forgotten episodes came trooping back
into his memory. Some of them he looked complacently enough in the face;
from some he averted his head. They were old efforts, old exploits,
antiquated examples of "smartness" and sharpness. Some of them, as he
looked at them, he felt decidedly proud of; he admired himself as if
he had been looking at another man. And, in fact, many of the qualities
that make a great deed were there: the decision, the resolution, the
courage, the celerity, the clear eye, and the strong hand. Of certain
other achievements it would be going too far to say that he was ashamed
of them for Newman had never had a stomach for dirty work. He was
blessed with a natural impulse to disfigure with a direct, unreasoning
blow the comely visage of temptation. And certainly, in no man could a
want of integrity have been less excusable. Newman knew the crooked from
the straight at a glance, and the former had cost him, first and last,
a great many moments of lively disgust. But none the less some of his
memories seemed to wear at present a rather graceless and sordid mien,
and it struck him that if he had never done anything very ugly, he had
never, on the other hand, done anything particularly beautiful. He had
spent his years in the unremitting effort to add thousands to thousands,
and, now that he stood well outside of it, the business of money-getting
appeared tolerably dry and sterile. It is very well to sneer at
money-getting after you have filled your pockets, and Newman, it may be
said, should have begun somewhat earlier to moralize thus delicately. To
this it may be answered that he might have made another fortune, if he
chose; and we ought to add that he was not exactly moralizing. It had
come back to him simply that what he had been looking at all summer was
a very rich and beautiful world, and that it had not all been made by
sharp railroad men and stock-brokers.

During his stay at Baden-Baden he received a letter from Mrs. Tristram,
scolding him for the scanty tidings he had sent to his friends of the
Avenue d'Iéna, and begging to be definitely informed that he had not
concocted any horrid scheme for wintering in outlying regions, but was
coming back sanely and promptly to the most comfortable city in the
world. Newman's answer ran as follows:--

"I supposed you knew I was a miserable letter-writer, and didn't expect
anything of me. I don't think I have written twenty letters of pure
friendship in my whole life; in America I conducted my correspondence
altogether by telegrams. This is a letter of pure friendship; you have
got hold of a curiosity, and I hope you will value it. You want to know
everything that has happened to me these three months. The best way to
tell you, I think, would be to send you my half dozen guide-books, with
my pencil-marks in the margin. Wherever you find a scratch or a cross,
or a 'Beautiful!' or a 'So true!' or a 'Too thin!' you may know that
I have had a sensation of some sort or other. That has been about my
history, ever since I left you. Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany,
Italy--I have been through the whole list, and I don't think I am any
the worse for it. I know more about Madonnas and church-steeples than I
supposed any man could. I have seen some very pretty things, and shall
perhaps talk them over this winter, by your fireside. You see, my face
is not altogether set against Paris. I have had all kinds of plans and
visions, but your letter has blown most of them away. '_L'appétit vient
en mangeant_,' says the French proverb, and I find that the more I see
of the world the more I want to see. Now that I am in the shafts, why
shouldn't I trot to the end of the course? Sometimes I think of the
far East, and keep rolling the names of Eastern cities under my tongue:
Damascus and Bagdad, Medina and Mecca. I spent a week last month in the
company of a returned missionary, who told me I ought to be ashamed to
be loafing about Europe when there are such big things to be seen out
there. I do want to explore, but I think I would rather explore over in
the Rue de l'Université. Do you ever hear from that pretty lady? If you
can get her to promise she will be at home the next time I call, I will
go back to Paris straight. I am more than ever in the state of mind I
told you about that evening; I want a first-class wife. I have kept an
eye on all the pretty girls I have come across this summer, but none of
them came up to my notion, or anywhere near it. I should have enjoyed
all this a thousand times more if I had had the lady just mentioned
by my side. The nearest approach to her was a Unitarian minister from
Boston, who very soon demanded a separation, for incompatibility of
temper. He told me I was low-minded, immoral, a devotee of 'art for
art'--whatever that is: all of which greatly afflicted me, for he
was really a sweet little fellow. But shortly afterwards I met an
Englishman, with whom I struck up an acquaintance which at first seemed
to promise well--a very bright man, who writes in the London papers
and knows Paris nearly as well as Tristram. We knocked about for a week
together, but he very soon gave me up in disgust. I was too virtuous by
half; I was too stern a moralist. He told me, in a friendly way, that I
was cursed with a conscience; that I judged things like a Methodist and
talked about them like an old lady. This was rather bewildering. Which
of my two critics was I to believe? I didn't worry about it and very
soon made up my mind they were both idiots. But there is one thing in
which no one will ever have the impudence to pretend I am wrong, that
is, in being your faithful friend,

"C. N."



CHAPTER VI

Newman gave up Damascus and Bagdad and returned to Paris before the
autumn was over. He established himself in some rooms selected for him
by Tom Tristram, in accordance with the latter's estimate of what he
called his social position. When Newman learned that his social position
was to be taken into account, he professed himself utterly incompetent,
and begged Tristram to relieve him of the care. "I didn't know I had a
social position," he said, "and if I have, I haven't the smallest idea
what it is. Isn't a social position knowing some two or three thousand
people and inviting them to dinner? I know you and your wife and little
old Mr. Nioche, who gave me French lessons last spring. Can I invite you
to dinner to meet each other? If I can, you must come to-morrow."

"That is not very grateful to me," said Mrs. Tristram, "who introduced
you last year to every creature I know."

"So you did; I had quite forgotten. But I thought you wanted me to
forget," said Newman, with that tone of simple deliberateness which
frequently marked his utterance, and which an observer would not have
known whether to pronounce a somewhat mysteriously humorous affection of
ignorance or a modest aspiration to knowledge; "you told me you disliked
them all."

"Ah, the way you remember what I say is at least very flattering. But
in future," added Mrs. Tristram, "pray forget all the wicked things and
remember only the good ones. It will be easily done, and it will not
fatigue your memory. But I forewarn you that if you trust my husband to
pick out your rooms, you are in for something hideous."

"Hideous, darling?" cried Tristram.

"To-day I must say nothing wicked; otherwise I should use stronger
language."

"What do you think she would say, Newman?" asked Tristram. "If she
really tried, now? She can express displeasure, volubly, in two or three
languages; that's what it is to be intellectual. It gives her the start
of me completely, for I can't swear, for the life of me, except in
English. When I get mad I have to fall back on our dear old mother
tongue. There's nothing like it, after all."

Newman declared that he knew nothing about tables and chairs, and that
he would accept, in the way of a lodging, with his eyes shut, anything
that Tristram should offer him. This was partly veracity on our hero's
part, but it was also partly charity. He knew that to pry about and look
at rooms, and make people open windows, and poke into sofas with his
cane, and gossip with landladies, and ask who lived above and who
below--he knew that this was of all pastimes the dearest to Tristram's
heart, and he felt the more disposed to put it in his way as he was
conscious that, as regards his obliging friend, he had suffered the
warmth of ancient good-fellowship somewhat to abate. Besides, he had no
taste for upholstery; he had even no very exquisite sense of comfort
or convenience. He had a relish for luxury and splendor, but it was
satisfied by rather gross contrivances. He scarcely knew a hard chair
from a soft one, and he possessed a talent for stretching his legs which
quite dispensed with adventitious facilities. His idea of comfort was to
inhabit very large rooms, have a great many of them, and be conscious of
their possessing a number of patented mechanical devices--half of which
he should never have occasion to use. The apartments should be light and
brilliant and lofty; he had once said that he liked rooms in which you
wanted to keep your hat on. For the rest, he was satisfied with the
assurance of any respectable person that everything was "handsome."
Tristram accordingly secured for him an apartment to which this epithet
might be lavishly applied. It was situated on the Boulevard Haussmann,
on the first floor, and consisted of a series of rooms, gilded from
floor to ceiling a foot thick, draped in various light shades of satin,
and chiefly furnished with mirrors and clocks. Newman thought them
magnificent, thanked Tristram heartily, immediately took possession, and
had one of his trunks standing for three months in his drawing-room.

One day Mrs. Tristram told him that her beautiful friend, Madame de
Cintré, had returned from the country; that she had met her three days
before, coming out of the Church of St. Sulpice; she herself having
journeyed to that distant quarter in quest of an obscure lace-mender, of
whose skill she had heard high praise.

"And how were those eyes?" Newman asked.

"Those eyes were red with weeping, if you please!" said Mrs. Tristram.
"She had been to confession."

"It doesn't tally with your account of her," said Newman, "that she
should have sins to confess."

"They were not sins; they were sufferings."

"How do you know that?"

"She asked me to come and see her; I went this morning."

"And what does she suffer from?"

"I didn't ask her. With her, somehow, one is very discreet. But I
guessed, easily enough. She suffers from her wicked old mother and her
Grand Turk of a brother. They persecute her. But I can almost forgive
them, because, as I told you, she is a saint, and a persecution is all
that she needs to bring out her saintliness and make her perfect."

"That's a comfortable theory for her. I hope you will never impart it
to the old folks. Why does she let them bully her? Is she not her own
mistress?"

"Legally, yes, I suppose; but morally, no. In France you must never say
nay to your mother, whatever she requires of you. She may be the most
abominable old woman in the world, and make your life a purgatory; but,
after all, she is _ma mère_, and you have no right to judge her. You
have simply to obey. The thing has a fine side to it. Madame de Cintré
bows her head and folds her wings."

"Can't she at least make her brother leave off?"

"Her brother is the _chef de la famille_, as they say; he is the head of
the clan. With those people the family is everything; you must act, not
for your own pleasure, but for the advantage of the family."

"I wonder what _my_ family would like me to do!" exclaimed Tristram.

"I wish you had one!" said his wife.

"But what do they want to get out of that poor lady?" Newman asked.

"Another marriage. They are not rich, and they want to bring more money
into the family."

"There's your chance, my boy!" said Tristram.

"And Madame de Cintré objects," Newman continued.

"She has been sold once; she naturally objects to being sold again.
It appears that the first time they made rather a poor bargain; M. de
Cintré left a scanty property."

"And to whom do they want to marry her now?"

"I thought it best not to ask; but you may be sure it is to some horrid
old nabob, or to some dissipated little duke."

"There's Mrs. Tristram, as large as life!" cried her husband. "Observe
the richness of her imagination. She has not a single question--it's
vulgar to ask questions--and yet she knows everything. She has the
history of Madame de Cintré's marriage at her fingers' ends. She has
seen the lovely Claire on her knees, with loosened tresses and streaming
eyes, and the rest of them standing over her with spikes and goads and
red-hot irons, ready to come down on her if she refuses the tipsy duke.
The simple truth is that they made a fuss about her milliner's bill or
refused her an opera-box."

Newman looked from Tristram to his wife with a certain mistrust in each
direction. "Do you really mean," he asked of Mrs. Tristram, "that your
friend is being forced into an unhappy marriage?"

"I think it extremely probable. Those people are very capable of that
sort of thing."

"It is like something in a play," said Newman; "that dark old house over
there looks as if wicked things had been done in it, and might be done
again."

"They have a still darker old house in the country Madame de Cintré
tells me, and there, during the summer this scheme must have been
hatched."

"_Must_ have been; mind that!" said Tristram.

"After all," suggested Newman, after a silence, "she may be in trouble
about something else."

"If it is something else, then it is something worse," said Mrs.
Tristram, with rich decision.

Newman was silent a while, and seemed lost in meditation. "Is it
possible," he asked at last, "that they do that sort of thing over here?
that helpless women are bullied into marrying men they hate?"

"Helpless women, all over the world, have a hard time of it," said Mrs.
Tristram. "There is plenty of bullying everywhere."

"A great deal of that kind of thing goes on in New York," said Tristram.
"Girls are bullied or coaxed or bribed, or all three together, into
marrying nasty fellows. There is no end of that always going on in the
Fifth Avenue, and other bad things besides. The Mysteries of the Fifth
Avenue! Someone ought to show them up."

"I don't believe it!" said Newman, very gravely. "I don't believe that,
in America, girls are ever subjected to compulsion. I don't believe
there have been a dozen cases of it since the country began."

"Listen to the voice of the spread eagle!" cried Tristram.

"The spread eagle ought to use his wings," said Mrs. Tristram. "Fly to
the rescue of Madame de Cintré!"

"To her rescue?"

"Pounce down, seize her in your talons, and carry her off. Marry her
yourself."

Newman, for some moments, answered nothing; but presently, "I should
suppose she had heard enough of marrying," he said. "The kindest way to
treat her would be to admire her, and yet never to speak of it. But that
sort of thing is infamous," he added; "it makes me feel savage to hear
of it."

He heard of it, however, more than once afterward. Mrs. Tristram again
saw Madame de Cintré, and again found her looking very sad. But on these
occasions there had been no tears; her beautiful eyes were clear and
still. "She is cold, calm, and hopeless," Mrs. Tristram declared, and
she added that on her mentioning that her friend Mr. Newman was again
in Paris and was faithful in his desire to make Madame de Cintré's
acquaintance, this lovely woman had found a smile in her despair, and
declared that she was sorry to have missed his visit in the spring and
that she hoped he had not lost courage. "I told her something about
you," said Mrs. Tristram.

"That's a comfort," said Newman, placidly. "I like people to know about
me."

A few days after this, one dusky autumn afternoon, he went again to the
Rue de l'Université. The early evening had closed in as he applied for
admittance at the stoutly guarded _Hôtel de Bellegarde_. He was told
that Madame de Cintré was at home; he crossed the court, entered the
farther door, and was conducted through a vestibule, vast, dim, and
cold, up a broad stone staircase with an ancient iron balustrade, to
an apartment on the second floor. Announced and ushered in, he found
himself in a sort of paneled boudoir, at one end of which a lady and
gentleman were seated before the fire. The gentleman was smoking a
cigarette; there was no light in the room save that of a couple of
candles and the glow from the hearth. Both persons rose to welcome
Newman, who, in the firelight, recognized Madame de Cintré. She gave
him her hand with a smile which seemed in itself an illumination, and,
pointing to her companion, said softly, "My brother." The gentleman
offered Newman a frank, friendly greeting, and our hero then perceived
him to be the young man who had spoken to him in the court of the hotel
on his former visit and who had struck him as a good fellow.

"Mrs. Tristram has spoken to me a great deal of you," said Madame de
Cintré gently, as she resumed her former place.

Newman, after he had seated himself, began to consider what, in truth,
was his errand. He had an unusual, unexpected sense of having wandered
into a strange corner of the world. He was not given, as a general
thing, to anticipating danger, or forecasting disaster, and he had had
no social tremors on this particular occasion. He was not timid and he
was not impudent. He felt too kindly toward himself to be the one, and
too good-naturedly toward the rest of the world to be the other. But his
native shrewdness sometimes placed his ease of temper at its mercy; with
every disposition to take things simply, it was obliged to perceive that
some things were not so simple as others. He felt as one does in missing
a step, in an ascent, where one expected to find it. This strange,
pretty woman, sitting in fire-side talk with her brother, in the gray
depths of her inhospitable-looking house--what had he to say to her? She
seemed enveloped in a sort of fantastic privacy; on what grounds had he
pulled away the curtain? For a moment he felt as if he had plunged into
some medium as deep as the ocean, and as if he must exert himself to
keep from sinking. Meanwhile he was looking at Madame de Cintré, and
she was settling herself in her chair and drawing in her long dress and
turning her face towards him. Their eyes met; a moment afterwards she
looked away and motioned to her brother to put a log on the fire. But
the moment, and the glance which traversed it, had been sufficient to
relieve Newman of the first and the last fit of personal embarrassment
he was ever to know. He performed the movement which was so frequent
with him, and which was always a sort of symbol of his taking mental
possession of a scene--he extended his legs. The impression Madame de
Cintré had made upon him on their first meeting came back in an instant;
it had been deeper than he knew. She was pleasing, she was interesting;
he had opened a book and the first lines held his attention.

She asked him several questions: how lately he had seen Mrs. Tristram,
how long he had been in Paris, how long he expected to remain there, how
he liked it. She spoke English without an accent, or rather with that
distinctively British accent which, on his arrival in Europe, had struck
Newman as an altogether foreign tongue, but which, in women, he had come
to like extremely. Here and there Madame de Cintré's utterance had a
faint shade of strangeness but at the end of ten minutes Newman found
himself waiting for these soft roughnesses. He enjoyed them, and he
marveled to see that gross thing, error, brought down to so fine a
point.

"You have a beautiful country," said Madame de Cintré, presently.

"Oh, magnificent!" said Newman. "You ought to see it."

"I shall never see it," said Madame de Cintré with a smile.

"Why not?" asked Newman.

"I don't travel; especially so far."

"But you go away sometimes; you are not always here?"

"I go away in summer, a little way, to the country."

Newman wanted to ask her something more, something personal, he hardly
knew what. "Don't you find it rather--rather quiet here?" he said;
"so far from the street?" Rather "gloomy," he was going to say, but he
reflected that that would be impolite.

"Yes, it is very quiet," said Madame de Cintré; "but we like that."

"Ah, you like that," repeated Newman, slowly.

"Besides, I have lived here all my life."

"Lived here all your life," said Newman, in the same way.

"I was born here, and my father was born here before me, and my
grandfather, and my great-grandfathers. Were they not, Valentin?" and
she appealed to her brother.

"Yes, it's a family habit to be born here!" the young man said with a
laugh, and rose and threw the remnant of his cigarette into the fire,
and then remained leaning against the chimney-piece. An observer would
have perceived that he wished to take a better look at Newman, whom he
covertly examined, while he stood stroking his moustache.

"Your house is tremendously old, then," said Newman.

"How old is it, brother?" asked Madame de Cintré.

The young man took the two candles from the mantel-shelf, lifted one
high in each hand, and looked up toward the cornice of the room, above
the chimney-piece. This latter feature of the apartment was of white
marble, and in the familiar rococo style of the last century; but above
it was a paneling of an earlier date, quaintly carved, painted white,
and gilded here and there. The white had turned to yellow, and the
gilding was tarnished. On the top, the figures ranged themselves into
a sort of shield, on which an armorial device was cut. Above it, in
relief, was a date--1627. "There you have it," said the young man. "That
is old or new, according to your point of view."

"Well, over here," said Newman, "one's point of view gets shifted round
considerably." And he threw back his head and looked about the room.
"Your house is of a very curious style of architecture," he said.

"Are you interested in architecture?" asked the young man at the
chimney-piece.

"Well, I took the trouble, this summer," said Newman, "to examine--as
well as I can calculate--some four hundred and seventy churches. Do you
call that interested?"

"Perhaps you are interested in theology," said the young man.

"Not particularly. Are you a Roman Catholic, madam?" And he turned to
Madame de Cintré.

"Yes, sir," she answered, gravely.

Newman was struck with the gravity of her tone; he threw back his head
and began to look round the room again. "Had you never noticed that
number up there?" he presently asked.

She hesitated a moment, and then, "In former years," she said.

Her brother had been watching Newman's movement. "Perhaps you would like
to examine the house," he said.

Newman slowly brought down his eyes and looked at him; he had a vague
impression that the young man at the chimney-piece was inclined to
irony. He was a handsome fellow, his face wore a smile, his moustaches
were curled up at the ends, and there was a little dancing gleam in his
eye. "Damn his French impudence!" Newman was on the point of saying to
himself. "What the deuce is he grinning at?" He glanced at Madame de
Cintré; she was sitting with her eyes fixed on the floor. She raised
them, they met his, and she looked at her brother. Newman turned again
to this young man and observed that he strikingly resembled his sister.
This was in his favor, and our hero's first impression of the Count
Valentin, moreover, had been agreeable. His mistrust expired, and he
said he would be very glad to see the house.

The young man gave a frank laugh, and laid his hand on one of the
candlesticks. "Good, good!" he exclaimed. "Come, then."

But Madame de Cintré rose quickly and grasped his arm, "Ah, Valentin!"
she said. "What do you mean to do?"

"To show Mr. Newman the house. It will be very amusing."

She kept her hand on his arm, and turned to Newman with a smile. "Don't
let him take you," she said; "you will not find it amusing. It is a
musty old house, like any other."

"It is full of curious things," said the count, resisting. "Besides, I
want to do it; it is a rare chance."

"You are very wicked, brother," Madame de Cintré answered.

"Nothing venture, nothing have!" cried the young man. "Will you come?"

Madame de Cintré stepped toward Newman, gently clasping her hands and
smiling softly. "Would you not prefer my society, here, by my fire, to
stumbling about dark passages after my brother?"

"A hundred times!" said Newman. "We will see the house some other day."

The young man put down his candlestick with mock solemnity, and, shaking
his head, "Ah, you have defeated a great scheme, sir!" he said.

"A scheme? I don't understand," said Newman.

"You would have played your part in it all the better. Perhaps some day
I shall have a chance to explain it."

"Be quiet, and ring for the tea," said Madame de Cintré.

The young man obeyed, and presently a servant brought in the tea, placed
the tray on a small table, and departed. Madame de Cintré, from her
place, busied herself with making it. She had but just begun when the
door was thrown open and a lady rushed in, making a loud rustling sound.
She stared at Newman, gave a little nod and a "Monsieur!" and then
quickly approached Madame de Cintré and presented her forehead to be
kissed. Madame de Cintré saluted her, and continued to make tea. The
new-comer was young and pretty, it seemed to Newman; she wore her bonnet
and cloak, and a train of royal proportions. She began to talk rapidly
in French. "Oh, give me some tea, my beautiful one, for the love of God!
I'm exhausted, mangled, massacred." Newman found himself quite unable to
follow her; she spoke much less distinctly than M. Nioche.

"That is my sister-in-law," said the Count Valentin, leaning towards
him.

"She is very pretty," said Newman.

"Exquisite," answered the young man, and this time, again, Newman
suspected him of irony.

His sister-in-law came round to the other side of the fire with her cup
of tea in her hand, holding it out at arm's-length, so that she might
not spill it on her dress, and uttering little cries of alarm. She
placed the cup on the mantel-shelf and begun to unpin her veil and pull
off her gloves, looking meanwhile at Newman.

"Is there anything I can do for you, my dear lady?" the Count Valentin
asked, in a sort of mock-caressing tone.

"Present monsieur," said his sister-in-law.

The young man answered, "Mr. Newman!"

"I can't courtesy to you, monsieur, or I shall spill my tea," said the
lady. "So Claire receives strangers, like that?" she added, in a low
voice, in French, to her brother-in-law.

"Apparently!" he answered with a smile. Newman stood a moment, and then
he approached Madame de Cintré. She looked up at him as if she were
thinking of something to say. But she seemed to think of nothing; so she
simply smiled. He sat down near her and she handed him a cup of tea. For
a few moments they talked about that, and meanwhile he looked at her.
He remembered what Mrs. Tristram had told him of her "perfection" and of
her having, in combination, all the brilliant things that he dreamed
of finding. This made him observe her not only without mistrust, but
without uneasy conjectures; the presumption, from the first moment he
looked at her, had been in her favor. And yet, if she was beautiful, it
was not a dazzling beauty. She was tall and moulded in long lines;
she had thick fair hair, a wide forehead, and features with a sort of
harmonious irregularity. Her clear gray eyes were strikingly expressive;
they were both gentle and intelligent, and Newman liked them immensely;
but they had not those depths of splendor--those many-colored
rays--which illumine the brows of famous beauties. Madame de Cintré was
rather thin, and she looked younger than probably she was. In her whole
person there was something both youthful and subdued, slender and
yet ample, tranquil yet shy; a mixture of immaturity and repose, of
innocence and dignity. What had Tristram meant, Newman wondered, by
calling her proud? She was certainly not proud now, to him; or if she
was, it was of no use, it was lost upon him; she must pile it up higher
if she expected him to mind it. She was a beautiful woman, and it was
very easy to get on with her. Was she a countess, a _marquise_, a kind
of historical formation? Newman, who had rarely heard these words used,
had never been at pains to attach any particular image to them; but they
occurred to him now and seemed charged with a sort of melodious meaning.
They signified something fair and softly bright, that had easy motions
and spoke very agreeably.

"Have you many friends in Paris; do you go out?" asked Madame de Cintré,
who had at last thought of something to say.

"Do you mean do I dance, and all that?"

"Do you go _dans le monde_ , as we say?"

"I have seen a good many people. Mrs. Tristram has taken me about. I do
whatever she tells me."

"By yourself, you are not fond of amusements?"

"Oh yes, of some sorts. I am not fond of dancing, and that sort of
thing; I am too old and sober. But I want to be amused; I came to Europe
for that."

"But you can be amused in America, too."

"I couldn't; I was always at work. But after all, that was my
amusement."

At this moment Madame de Bellegarde came back for another cup of tea,
accompanied by the Count Valentin. Madame de Cintré, when she had served
her, began to talk again with Newman, and recalling what he had last
said, "In your own country you were very much occupied?" she asked.

"I was in business. I have been in business since I was fifteen years
old."

"And what was your business?" asked Madame de Bellegarde, who was
decidedly not so pretty as Madame de Cintré.

"I have been in everything," said Newman. "At one time I sold leather;
at one time I manufactured wash-tubs."

Madame de Bellegarde made a little grimace. "Leather? I don't like that.
Wash-tubs are better. I prefer the smell of soap. I hope at least they
made your fortune." She rattled this off with the air of a woman who had
the reputation of saying everything that came into her head, and with a
strong French accent.

Newman had spoken with cheerful seriousness, but Madame de Bellegarde's
tone made him go on, after a meditative pause, with a certain light
grimness of jocularity. "No, I lost money on wash-tubs, but I came out
pretty square on leather."

"I have made up my mind, after all," said Madame de Bellegarde, "that
the great point is--how do you call it?--to come out square. I am on my
knees to money; I don't deny it. If you have it, I ask no questions. For
that I am a real democrat--like you, monsieur. Madame de Cintré is very
proud; but I find that one gets much more pleasure in this sad life if
one doesn't look too close."

"Just Heaven, dear madam, how you go at it," said the Count Valentin,
lowering his voice.

"He's a man one can speak to, I suppose, since my sister receives him,"
the lady answered. "Besides, it's very true; those are my ideas."

"Ah, you call them ideas," murmured the young man.

"But Mrs. Tristram told me you had been in the army--in your war," said
Madame de Cintré.

"Yes, but that is not business!" said Newman.

"Very true!" said M. de Bellegarde. "Otherwise perhaps I should not be
penniless."

"Is it true," asked Newman in a moment, "that you are so proud? I had
already heard it."

Madame de Cintré smiled. "Do you find me so?"

"Oh," said Newman, "I am no judge. If you are proud with me, you will
have to tell me. Otherwise I shall not know it."

Madame de Cintré began to laugh. "That would be pride in a sad
position!" she said.

"It would be partly," Newman went on, "because I shouldn't want to know
it. I want you to treat me well."

Madame de Cintré, whose laugh had ceased, looked at him with her head
half averted, as if she feared what he was going to say.

"Mrs. Tristram told you the literal truth," he went on; "I want very
much to know you. I didn't come here simply to call to-day; I came in
the hope that you might ask me to come again."

"Oh, pray come often," said Madame de Cintré.

"But will you be at home?" Newman insisted. Even to himself he seemed a
trifle "pushing," but he was, in truth, a trifle excited.

"I hope so!" said Madame de Cintré.

Newman got up. "Well, we shall see," he said smoothing his hat with his
coat-cuff.

"Brother," said Madame de Cintré, "invite Mr. Newman to come again."

The Count Valentin looked at our hero from head to foot with his
peculiar smile, in which impudence and urbanity seemed perplexingly
commingled. "Are you a brave man?" he asked, eying him askance.

"Well, I hope so," said Newman.

"I rather suspect so. In that case, come again."

"Ah, what an invitation!" murmured Madame de Cintré, with something
painful in her smile.

"Oh, I want Mr. Newman to come--particularly," said the young man. "It
will give me great pleasure. I shall be desolate if I miss one of his
visits. But I maintain he must be brave. A stout heart, sir!" And he
offered Newman his hand.

"I shall not come to see you; I shall come to see Madame de Cintré,"
said Newman.

"You will need all the more courage."

"Ah, Valentin!" said Madame de Cintré, appealingly.

"Decidedly," cried Madame de Bellegarde, "I am the only person here
capable of saying something polite! Come to see me; you will need no
courage," she said.

Newman gave a laugh which was not altogether an assent, and took his
leave. Madame de Cintré did not take up her sister's challenge to be
gracious, but she looked with a certain troubled air at the retreating
guest.



CHAPTER VII

One evening very late, about a week after his visit to Madame de
Cintré, Newman's servant brought him a card. It was that of young M. de
Bellegarde. When, a few moments later, he went to receive his visitor,
he found him standing in the middle of his great gilded parlor and eying
it from cornice to carpet. M. de Bellegarde's face, it seemed to
Newman, expressed a sense of lively entertainment. "What the devil is
he laughing at now?" our hero asked himself. But he put the question
without acrimony, for he felt that Madame de Cintré's brother was a good
fellow, and he had a presentiment that on this basis of good fellowship
they were destined to understand each other. Only, if there was anything
to laugh at, he wished to have a glimpse of it too.

"To begin with," said the young man, as he extended his hand, "have I
come too late?"

"Too late for what?" asked Newman.

"To smoke a cigar with you."

"You would have to come early to do that," said Newman. "I don't smoke."

"Ah, you are a strong man!"

"But I keep cigars," Newman added. "Sit down."

"Surely, I may not smoke here," said M. de Bellegarde.

"What is the matter? Is the room too small?"

"It is too large. It is like smoking in a ball-room, or a church."

"That is what you were laughing at just now?" Newman asked; "the size of
my room?"

"It is not size only," replied M. de Bellegarde, "but splendor, and
harmony, and beauty of detail. It was the smile of admiration."

Newman looked at him a moment, and then, "So it _is_ very ugly?" he
inquired.

"Ugly, my dear sir? It is magnificent."

"That is the same thing, I suppose," said Newman. "Make yourself
comfortable. Your coming to see me, I take it, is an act of friendship.
You were not obliged to. Therefore, if anything around here amuses you,
it will be all in a pleasant way. Laugh as loud as you please; I like
to see my visitors cheerful. Only, I must make this request: that you
explain the joke to me as soon as you can speak. I don't want to lose
anything, myself."

M. de Bellegarde stared, with a look of unresentful perplexity. He laid
his hand on Newman's sleeve and seemed on the point of saying something,
but he suddenly checked himself, leaned back in his chair, and puffed
at his cigar. At last, however, breaking silence,--"Certainly," he said,
"my coming to see you is an act of friendship. Nevertheless I was in a
measure obliged to do so. My sister asked me to come, and a request from
my sister is, for me, a law. I was near you, and I observed lights
in what I supposed were your rooms. It was not a ceremonious hour for
making a call, but I was not sorry to do something that would show I was
not performing a mere ceremony."

"Well, here I am as large as life," said Newman, extending his legs.

"I don't know what you mean," the young man went on "by giving me
unlimited leave to laugh. Certainly I am a great laugher, and it is
better to laugh too much than too little. But it is not in order that we
may laugh together--or separately--that I have, I may say, sought your
acquaintance. To speak with almost impudent frankness, you interest me!"
All this was uttered by M. de Bellegarde with the modulated smoothness
of the man of the world, and in spite of his excellent English, of
the Frenchman; but Newman, at the same time that he sat noting its
harmonious flow, perceived that it was not mere mechanical urbanity.
Decidedly, there was something in his visitor that he liked. M. de
Bellegarde was a foreigner to his finger-tips, and if Newman had met him
on a Western prairie he would have felt it proper to address him with a
"How-d'ye-do, Mosseer?" But there was something in his physiognomy which
seemed to cast a sort of aerial bridge over the impassable gulf produced
by difference of race. He was below the middle height, and robust and
agile in figure. Valentin de Bellegarde, Newman afterwards learned, had
a mortal dread of the robustness overtaking the agility; he was afraid
of growing stout; he was too short, as he said, to afford a belly. He
rode and fenced and practiced gymnastics with unremitting zeal, and if
you greeted him with a "How well you are looking" he started and turned
pale. In your _well_ he read a grosser monosyllable. He had a round
head, high above the ears, a crop of hair at once dense and silky, a
broad, low forehead, a short nose, of the ironical and inquiring rather
than of the dogmatic or sensitive cast, and a moustache as delicate as
that of a page in a romance. He resembled his sister not in feature,
but in the expression of his clear, bright eye, completely void of
introspection, and in the way he smiled. The great point in his face
was that it was intensely alive--frankly, ardently, gallantly alive. The
look of it was like a bell, of which the handle might have been in the
young man's soul: at a touch of the handle it rang with a loud, silver
sound. There was something in his quick, light brown eye which assured
you that he was not economizing his consciousness. He was not living
in a corner of it to spare the furniture of the rest. He was squarely
encamped in the centre and he was keeping open house. When he smiled, it
was like the movement of a person who in emptying a cup turns it upside
down: he gave you the last drop of his jollity. He inspired Newman with
something of the same kindness that our hero used to feel in his earlier
years for those of his companions who could perform strange and clever
tricks--make their joints crack in queer places or whistle at the back
of their mouths.

"My sister told me," M. de Bellegarde continued, "that I ought to come
and remove the impression that I had taken such great pains to produce
upon you; the impression that I am a lunatic. Did it strike you that I
behaved very oddly the other day?"

"Rather so," said Newman.

"So my sister tells me." And M. de Bellegarde watched his host for a
moment through his smoke-wreaths. "If that is the case, I think we had
better let it stand. I didn't try to make you think I was a lunatic, at
all; on the contrary, I wanted to produce a favorable impression.
But if, after all, I made a fool of myself, it was the intention of
Providence. I should injure myself by protesting too much, for I
should seem to set up a claim for wisdom which, in the sequel of our
acquaintance, I could by no means justify. Set me down as a lunatic with
intervals of sanity."

"Oh, I guess you know what you are about," said Newman.

"When I am sane, I am very sane; that I admit," M. de Bellegarde
answered. "But I didn't come here to talk about myself. I should like to
ask you a few questions. You allow me?"

"Give me a specimen," said Newman.

"You live here all alone?"

"Absolutely. With whom should I live?"

"For the moment," said M. de Bellegarde with a smile "I am asking
questions, not answering them. You have come to Paris for your
pleasure?"

Newman was silent a while. Then, at last, "Everyone asks me that!" he
said with his mild slowness. "It sounds so awfully foolish."

"But at any rate you had a reason."

"Oh, I came for my pleasure!" said Newman. "Though it is foolish, it is
true."

"And you are enjoying it?"

Like any other good American, Newman thought it as well not to truckle
to the foreigner. "Oh, so-so," he answered.

M. de Bellegarde puffed his cigar again in silence. "For myself," he
said at last, "I am entirely at your service. Anything I can do for you
I shall be very happy to do. Call upon me at your convenience. Is there
anyone you desire to know--anything you wish to see? It is a pity you
should not enjoy Paris."

"Oh, I do enjoy it!" said Newman, good-naturedly. "I'm much obliged to
you."

"Honestly speaking," M. de Bellegarde went on, "there is something
absurd to me in hearing myself make you these offers. They represent
a great deal of goodwill, but they represent little else. You are a
successful man and I am a failure, and it's a turning of the tables to
talk as if I could lend you a hand."

"In what way are you a failure?" asked Newman.

"Oh, I'm not a tragical failure!" cried the young man with a laugh.
"I have fallen from a height, and my fiasco has made no noise. You,
evidently, are a success. You have made a fortune, you have built up an
edifice, you are a financial, commercial power, you can travel about
the world until you have found a soft spot, and lie down in it with
the consciousness of having earned your rest. Is not that true? Well,
imagine the exact reverse of all that, and you have me. I have done
nothing--I can do nothing!"

"Why not?"

"It's a long story. Some day I will tell you. Meanwhile, I'm right, eh?
You are a success? You have made a fortune? It's none of my business,
but, in short, you are rich?"

"That's another thing that it sounds foolish to say," said Newman. "Hang
it, no man is rich!"

"I have heard philosophers affirm," laughed M. de Bellegarde, "that
no man was poor; but your formula strikes me as an improvement. As a
general thing, I confess, I don't like successful people, and I find
clever men who have made great fortunes very offensive. They tread on
my toes; they make me uncomfortable. But as soon as I saw you, I said
to myself. 'Ah, there is a man with whom I shall get on. He has
the good-nature of success and none of the _morgue_; he has not our
confoundedly irritable French vanity.' In short, I took a fancy to you.
We are very different, I'm sure; I don't believe there is a subject on
which we think or feel alike. But I rather think we shall get on, for
there is such a thing, you know, as being too different to quarrel."

"Oh, I never quarrel," said Newman.

"Never! Sometimes it's a duty--or at least it's a pleasure. Oh, I have
had two or three delicious quarrels in my day!" and M. de Bellegarde's
handsome smile assumed, at the memory of these incidents, an almost
voluptuous intensity.

With the preamble embodied in his share of the foregoing fragment of
dialogue, he paid our hero a long visit; as the two men sat with their
heels on Newman's glowing hearth, they heard the small hours of the
morning striking larger from a far-off belfry. Valentin de Bellegarde
was, by his own confession, at all times a great chatterer, and on this
occasion he was evidently in a particularly loquacious mood. It was a
tradition of his race that people of its blood always conferred a favor
by their smiles, and as his enthusiasms were as rare as his civility was
constant, he had a double reason for not suspecting that his friendship
could ever be importunate. Moreover, the flower of an ancient stem as
he was, tradition (since I have used the word) had in his temperament
nothing of disagreeable rigidity. It was muffled in sociability and
urbanity, as an old dowager in her laces and strings of pearls. Valentin
was what is called in France a _gentilhomme_, of the purest source, and
his rule of life, so far as it was definite, was to play the part of a
_gentilhomme_. This, it seemed to him, was enough to occupy comfortably
a young man of ordinary good parts. But all that he was he was by
instinct and not by theory, and the amiability of his character was so
great that certain of the aristocratic virtues, which in some aspects
seem rather brittle and trenchant, acquired in his application of them
an extreme geniality. In his younger years he had been suspected of low
tastes, and his mother had greatly feared he would make a slip in the
mud of the highway and bespatter the family shield. He had been treated,
therefore, to more than his share of schooling and drilling, but his
instructors had not succeeded in mounting him upon stilts. They could
not spoil his safe spontaneity, and he remained the least cautious and
the most lucky of young nobles. He had been tied with so short a rope in
his youth that he had now a mortal grudge against family discipline.
He had been known to say, within the limits of the family, that,
light-headed as he was, the honor of the name was safer in his hands
than in those of some of its other members, and that if a day ever came
to try it, they should see. His talk was an odd mixture of almost boyish
garrulity and of the reserve and discretion of the man of the world,
and he seemed to Newman, as afterwards young members of the Latin races
often seemed to him, now amusingly juvenile and now appallingly mature.
In America, Newman reflected, lads of twenty-five and thirty have old
heads and young hearts, or at least young morals; here they have young
heads and very aged hearts, morals the most grizzled and wrinkled.

"What I envy you is your liberty," observed M. de Bellegarde, "your wide
range, your freedom to come and go, your not having a lot of people, who
take themselves awfully seriously, expecting something of you. I live,"
he added with a sigh, "beneath the eyes of my admirable mother."

"It is your own fault; what is to hinder your ranging?" said Newman.

"There is a delightful simplicity in that remark! Everything is to
hinder me. To begin with, I have not a penny."

"I had not a penny when I began to range."

"Ah, but your poverty was your capital. Being an American, it was
impossible you should remain what you were born, and being born poor--do
I understand it?--it was therefore inevitable that you should become
rich. You were in a position that makes one's mouth water; you looked
round you and saw a world full of things you had only to step up to and
take hold of. When I was twenty, I looked around me and saw a world with
everything ticketed 'Hands off!' and the deuce of it was that the ticket
seemed meant only for me. I couldn't go into business, I couldn't make
money, because I was a Bellegarde. I couldn't go into politics, because
I was a Bellegarde--the Bellegardes don't recognize the Bonapartes. I
couldn't go into literature, because I was a dunce. I couldn't marry a
rich girl, because no Bellegarde had ever married a _roturière_, and it
was not proper that I should begin. We shall have to come to it, yet.
Marriageable heiresses, _de notre bord_, are not to be had for nothing;
it must be name for name, and fortune for fortune. The only thing I
could do was to go and fight for the Pope. That I did, punctiliously,
and received an apostolic flesh-wound at Castlefidardo. It did neither
the Holy Father nor me any good, that I could see. Rome was doubtless a
very amusing place in the days of Caligula, but it has sadly fallen off
since. I passed three years in the Castle of St. Angelo, and then came
back to secular life."

"So you have no profession--you do nothing," said Newman.

"I do nothing! I am supposed to amuse myself, and, to tell the truth, I
have amused myself. One can, if one knows how. But you can't keep it up
forever. I am good for another five years, perhaps, but I foresee that
after that I shall lose my appetite. Then what shall I do? I think I
shall turn monk. Seriously, I think I shall tie a rope round my waist
and go into a monastery. It was an old custom, and the old customs were
very good. People understood life quite as well as we do. They kept
the pot boiling till it cracked, and then they put it on the shelf
altogether."

"Are you very religious?" asked Newman, in a tone which gave the inquiry
a grotesque effect.

M. de Bellegarde evidently appreciated the comical element in the
question, but he looked at Newman a moment with extreme soberness. "I am
a very good Catholic. I respect the Church. I adore the blessed Virgin.
I fear the Devil."

"Well, then," said Newman, "you are very well fixed. You have got
pleasure in the present and religion in the future; what do you complain
of?"

"It's a part of one's pleasure to complain. There is something in your
own circumstances that irritates me. You are the first man I have ever
envied. It's singular, but so it is. I have known many men who, besides
any factitious advantages that I may possess, had money and brains into
the bargain; but somehow they have never disturbed my good-humor. But
you have got something that I should have liked to have. It is not
money, it is not even brains--though no doubt yours are excellent. It is
not your six feet of height, though I should have rather liked to be a
couple of inches taller. It's a sort of air you have of being thoroughly
at home in the world. When I was a boy, my father told me that it was
by such an air as that that people recognized a Bellegarde. He called my
attention to it. He didn't advise me to cultivate it; he said that as we
grew up it always came of itself. I supposed it had come to me, because
I think I have always had the feeling. My place in life was made for me,
and it seemed easy to occupy it. But you who, as I understand it,
have made your own place, you who, as you told us the other day, have
manufactured wash-tubs--you strike me, somehow, as a man who stands at
his ease, who looks at things from a height. I fancy you going about the
world like a man traveling on a railroad in which he owns a large amount
of stock. You make me feel as if I had missed something. What is it?"

"It is the proud consciousness of honest toil--of having manufactured a
few wash-tubs," said Newman, at once jocose and serious.

"Oh no; I have seen men who had done even more, men who had made not
only wash-tubs, but soap--strong-smelling yellow soap, in great bars;
and they never made me the least uncomfortable."

"Then it's the privilege of being an American citizen," said Newman.
"That sets a man up."

"Possibly," rejoined M. de Bellegarde. "But I am forced to say that I
have seen a great many American citizens who didn't seem at all set up
or in the least like large stock-holders. I never envied them. I rather
think the thing is an accomplishment of your own."

"Oh, come," said Newman, "you will make me proud!"

"No, I shall not. You have nothing to do with pride, or with
humility--that is a part of this easy manner of yours. People are
proud only when they have something to lose, and humble when they have
something to gain."

"I don't know what I have to lose," said Newman, "but I certainly have
something to gain."

"What is it?" asked his visitor.

Newman hesitated a while. "I will tell you when I know you better."

"I hope that will be soon! Then, if I can help you to gain it, I shall
be happy."

"Perhaps you may," said Newman.

"Don't forget, then, that I am your servant," M. de Bellegarde answered;
and shortly afterwards he took his departure.

During the next three weeks Newman saw Bellegarde several times, and
without formally swearing an eternal friendship the two men established
a sort of comradeship. To Newman, Bellegarde was the ideal Frenchman,
the Frenchman of tradition and romance, so far as our hero was concerned
with these mystical influences. Gallant, expansive, amusing, more
pleased himself with the effect he produced than those (even when
they were well pleased) for whom he produced it; a master of all the
distinctively social virtues and a votary of all agreeable sensations;
a devotee of something mysterious and sacred to which he occasionally
alluded in terms more ecstatic even than those in which he spoke of the
last pretty woman, and which was simply the beautiful though somewhat
superannuated image of _honor_; he was irresistibly entertaining and
enlivening, and he formed a character to which Newman was as capable of
doing justice when he had once been placed in contact with it, as he was
unlikely, in musing upon the possible mixtures of our human ingredients,
mentally to have foreshadowed it. Bellegarde did not in the least cause
him to modify his needful premise that all Frenchmen are of a frothy and
imponderable substance; he simply reminded him that light materials may
be beaten up into a most agreeable compound. No two companions could
be more different, but their differences made a capital basis for a
friendship of which the distinctive characteristic was that it was
extremely amusing to each.

Valentin de Bellegarde lived in the basement of an old house in the Rue
d'Anjou St. Honoré, and his small apartments lay between the court of
the house and an old garden which spread itself behind it--one of those
large, sunless humid gardens into which you look unexpectingly in Paris
from back windows, wondering how among the grudging habitations they
find their space. When Newman returned Bellegarde's visit, he hinted
that _his_ lodging was at least as much a laughing matter as his own.
But its oddities were of a different cast from those of our hero's
gilded saloons on the Boulevard Haussmann: the place was low, dusky,
contracted, and crowded with curious bric-à-brac. Bellegarde, penniless
patrician as he was, was an insatiable collector, and his walls were
covered with rusty arms and ancient panels and platters, his doorways
draped in faded tapestries, his floors muffled in the skins of beasts.
Here and there was one of those uncomfortable tributes to elegance in
which the upholsterer's art, in France, is so prolific; a curtain recess
with a sheet of looking-glass in which, among the shadows, you could see
nothing; a divan on which, for its festoons and furbelows, you could not
sit; a fireplace draped, flounced, and frilled to the complete exclusion
of fire. The young man's possessions were in picturesque disorder, and
his apartment was pervaded by the odor of cigars, mingled with perfumes
more inscrutable. Newman thought it a damp, gloomy place to live in,
and was puzzled by the obstructive and fragmentary character of the
furniture.

Bellegarde, according to the custom of his country talked very
generously about himself, and unveiled the mysteries of his private
history with an unsparing hand. Inevitably, he had a vast deal to
say about women, and he used frequently to indulge in sentimental and
ironical apostrophes to these authors of his joys and woes. "Oh, the
women, the women, and the things they have made me do!" he would exclaim
with a lustrous eye. "_C'est égal_, of all the follies and stupidities
I have committed for them I would not have missed one!" On this subject
Newman maintained an habitual reserve; to expatiate largely upon it had
always seemed to him a proceeding vaguely analogous to the cooing of
pigeons and the chattering of monkeys, and even inconsistent with a
fully developed human character. But Bellegarde's confidences greatly
amused him, and rarely displeased him, for the generous young Frenchman
was not a cynic. "I really think," he had once said, "that I am not more
depraved than most of my contemporaries. They are tolerably depraved,
my contemporaries!" He said wonderfully pretty things about his female
friends, and, numerous and various as they had been, declared that on
the whole there was more good in them than harm. "But you are not
to take that as advice," he added. "As an authority I am very
untrustworthy. I'm prejudiced in their favor; I'm an _idealist!_" Newman
listened to him with his impartial smile, and was glad, for his own
sake, that he had fine feelings; but he mentally repudiated the idea
of a Frenchman having discovered any merit in the amiable sex which he
himself did not suspect. M. de Bellegarde, however, did not confine his
conversation to the autobiographical channel; he questioned our hero
largely as to the events of his own life, and Newman told him some
better stories than any that Bellegarde carried in his budget. He
narrated his career, in fact, from the beginning, through all its
variations, and whenever his companion's credulity, or his habits of
gentility, appeared to protest, it amused him to heighten the color
of the episode. Newman had sat with Western humorists in knots, round
cast-iron stoves, and seen "tall" stories grow taller without toppling
over, and his own imagination had learned the trick of piling up
consistent wonders. Bellegarde's regular attitude at last became that
of laughing self-defense; to maintain his reputation as an all-knowing
Frenchman, he doubted of everything, wholesale. The result of this was
that Newman found it impossible to convince him of certain time-honored
verities.

"But the details don't matter," said M. de Bellegarde. "You have
evidently had some surprising adventures; you have seen some strange
sides of life, you have revolved to and fro over a whole continent as
I walked up and down the Boulevard. You are a man of the world with a
vengeance! You have spent some deadly dull hours, and you have done some
extremely disagreeable things: you have shoveled sand, as a boy, for
supper, and you have eaten roast dog in a gold-diggers' camp. You have
stood casting up figures for ten hours at a time, and you have sat
through Methodist sermons for the sake of looking at a pretty girl in
another pew. All that is rather stiff, as we say. But at any rate you
have done something and you are something; you have used your will
and you have made your fortune. You have not stupified yourself
with debauchery and you have not mortgaged your fortune to social
conveniences. You take things easily, and you have fewer prejudices even
than I, who pretend to have none, but who in reality have three or
four. Happy man, you are strong and you are free. But what the deuce,"
demanded the young man in conclusion, "do you propose to do with such
advantages? Really to use them you need a better world than this. There
is nothing worth your while here."

"Oh, I think there is something," said Newman.

"What is it?"

"Well," murmured Newman, "I will tell you some other time!"

In this way our hero delayed from day to day broaching a subject
which he had very much at heart. Meanwhile, however, he was growing
practically familiar with it; in other words, he had called again, three
times, on Madame de Cintré. On only two of these occasions had he found
her at home, and on each of them she had other visitors. Her visitors
were numerous and extremely loquacious, and they exacted much of their
hostess's attention. She found time, however, to bestow a little of it
on Newman, in an occasional vague smile, the very vagueness of which
pleased him, allowing him as it did to fill it out mentally, both at the
time and afterwards, with such meanings as most pleased him. He sat by
without speaking, looking at the entrances and exits, the greetings and
chatterings, of Madame de Cintré's visitors. He felt as if he were at
the play, and as if his own speaking would be an interruption; sometimes
he wished he had a book, to follow the dialogue; he half expected to see
a woman in a white cap and pink ribbons come and offer him one for two
francs. Some of the ladies looked at him very hard--or very soft, as you
please; others seemed profoundly unconscious of his presence. The men
looked only at Madame de Cintré. This was inevitable; for whether one
called her beautiful or not, she entirely occupied and filled one's
vision, just as an agreeable sound fills one's ear. Newman had but
twenty distinct words with her, but he carried away an impression to
which solemn promises could not have given a higher value. She was part
of the play that he was seeing acted, quite as much as her companions;
but how she filled the stage and how much better she did it! Whether she
rose or seated herself; whether she went with her departing friends to
the door and lifted up the heavy curtain as they passed out, and stood
an instant looking after them and giving them the last nod; or whether
she leaned back in her chair with her arms crossed and her eyes resting,
listening and smiling; she gave Newman the feeling that he should like
to have her always before him, moving slowly to and fro along the whole
scale of expressive hospitality. If it might be _to_ him, it would be
well; if it might be _for_ him, it would be still better! She was so
tall and yet so light, so active and yet so still, so elegant and yet so
simple, so frank and yet so mysterious! It was the mystery--it was what
she was off the stage, as it were--that interested Newman most of
all. He could not have told you what warrant he had for talking about
mysteries; if it had been his habit to express himself in poetic figures
he might have said that in observing Madame de Cintré he seemed to see
the vague circle which sometimes accompanies the partly-filled disk of
the moon. It was not that she was reserved; on the contrary, she was
as frank as flowing water. But he was sure she had qualities which she
herself did not suspect.

He had abstained for several reasons from saying some of these things
to Bellegarde. One reason was that before proceeding to any act he was
always circumspect, conjectural, contemplative; he had little eagerness,
as became a man who felt that whenever he really began to move he
walked with long steps. And then, it simply pleased him not to speak--it
occupied him, it excited him. But one day Bellegarde had been dining
with him, at a restaurant, and they had sat long over their dinner. On
rising from it, Bellegarde proposed that, to help them through the
rest of the evening, they should go and see Madame Dandelard. Madame
Dandelard was a little Italian lady who had married a Frenchman who
proved to be a rake and a brute and the torment of her life. Her husband
had spent all her money, and then, lacking the means of obtaining more
expensive pleasures, had taken, in his duller hours, to beating her.
She had a blue spot somewhere, which she showed to several persons,
including Bellegarde. She had obtained a separation from her husband,
collected the scraps of her fortune (they were very meagre) and come to
live in Paris, where she was staying at a _hôtel garni_. She was always
looking for an apartment, and visiting, inquiringly, those of other
people. She was very pretty, very childlike, and she made very
extraordinary remarks. Bellegarde had made her acquaintance, and the
source of his interest in her was, according to his own declaration, a
curiosity as to what would become of her. "She is poor, she is pretty,
and she is silly," he said, "it seems to me she can go only one way.
It's a pity, but it can't be helped. I will give her six months. She has
nothing to fear from me, but I am watching the process. I am curious to
see just how things will go. Yes, I know what you are going to say: this
horrible Paris hardens one's heart. But it quickens one's wits, and it
ends by teaching one a refinement of observation! To see this little
woman's little drama play itself out, now, is, for me, an intellectual
pleasure."

"If she is going to throw herself away," Newman had said, "you ought to
stop her."

"Stop her? How stop her?"

"Talk to her; give her some good advice."

Bellegarde laughed. "Heaven deliver us both! Imagine the situation! Go
and advise her yourself."

It was after this that Newman had gone with Bellegarde to see Madame
Dandelard. When they came away, Bellegarde reproached his companion.
"Where was your famous advice?" he asked. "I didn't hear a word of it."

"Oh, I give it up," said Newman, simply.

"Then you are as bad as I!" said Bellegarde.

"No, because I don't take an 'intellectual pleasure' in her prospective
adventures. I don't in the least want to see her going down hill. I had
rather look the other way. But why," he asked, in a moment, "don't you
get your sister to go and see her?"

Bellegarde stared. "Go and see Madame Dandelard--my sister?"

"She might talk to her to very good purpose."

Bellegarde shook his head with sudden gravity. "My sister can't see that
sort of person. Madame Dandelard is nothing at all; they would never
meet."

"I should think," said Newman, "that your sister might see whom she
pleased." And he privately resolved that after he knew her a little
better he would ask Madame de Cintré to go and talk to the foolish
little Italian lady.

After his dinner with Bellegarde, on the occasion I have mentioned,
he demurred to his companion's proposal that they should go again and
listen to Madame Dandelard describe her sorrows and her bruises.

"I have something better in mind," he said; "come home with me and
finish the evening before my fire."

Bellegarde always welcomed the prospect of a long stretch of
conversation, and before long the two men sat watching the great blaze
which scattered its scintillations over the high adornments of Newman's
ball-room.



CHAPTER VIII

"Tell me something about your sister," Newman began abruptly.

Bellegarde turned and gave him a quick look. "Now that I think of it,
you have never yet asked me a question about her."

"I know that very well."

"If it is because you don't trust me, you are very right," said
Bellegarde. "I can't talk of her rationally. I admire her too much."

"Talk of her as you can," rejoined Newman. "Let yourself go."

"Well, we are very good friends; we are such a brother and sister as
have not been seen since Orestes and Electra. You have seen her; you
know what she is: tall, thin, light, imposing, and gentle, half a
_grande dame_ and half an angel; a mixture of pride and humility, of the
eagle and the dove. She looks like a statue which had failed as stone,
resigned itself to its grave defects, and come to life as flesh and
blood, to wear white capes and long trains. All I can say is that she
really possesses every merit that her face, her glance, her smile, the
tone of her voice, lead you to expect; it is saying a great deal. As a
general thing, when a woman seems very charming, I should say 'Beware!'
But in proportion as Claire seems charming you may fold your arms and
let yourself float with the current; you are safe. She is so good!
I have never seen a woman half so perfect or so complete. She has
everything; that is all I can say about her. There!" Bellegarde
concluded; "I told you I should rhapsodize."

Newman was silent a while, as if he were turning over his companion's
words. "She is very good, eh?" he repeated at last.

"Divinely good!"

"Kind, charitable, gentle, generous?"

"Generosity itself; kindness double-distilled!"

"Is she clever?"

"She is the most intelligent woman I know. Try her, some day, with
something difficult, and you will see."

"Is she fond of admiration?"

"_Parbleu!_" cried Bellegarde; "what woman is not?"

"Ah, when they are too fond of admiration they commit all kinds of
follies to get it."

"I did not say she was too fond!" Bellegarde exclaimed. "Heaven forbid I
should say anything so idiotic. She is not _too_ anything! If I were
to say she was ugly, I should not mean she was too ugly. She is fond
of pleasing, and if you are pleased she is grateful. If you are not
pleased, she lets it pass and thinks the worst neither of you nor of
herself. I imagine, though, she hopes the saints in heaven are, for I
am sure she is incapable of trying to please by any means of which they
would disapprove."

"Is she grave or gay?" asked Newman.

"She is both; not alternately, for she is always the same. There is
gravity in her gaiety, and gaiety in her gravity. But there is no reason
why she should be particularly gay."

"Is she unhappy?"

"I won't say that, for unhappiness is according as one takes things, and
Claire takes them according to some receipt communicated to her by the
Blessed Virgin in a vision. To be unhappy is to be disagreeable, which,
for her, is out of the question. So she has arranged her circumstances
so as to be happy in them."

"She is a philosopher," said Newman.

"No, she is simply a very nice woman."

"Her circumstances, at any rate, have been disagreeable?"

Bellegarde hesitated a moment--a thing he very rarely did. "Oh, my dear
fellow, if I go into the history of my family I shall give you more than
you bargain for."

"No, on the contrary, I bargain for that," said Newman.

"We shall have to appoint a special séance, then, beginning early.
Suffice it for the present that Claire has not slept on roses. She
made at eighteen a marriage that was expected to be brilliant, but that
turned out like a lamp that goes out; all smoke and bad smell. M. de
Cintré was sixty years old, and an odious old gentleman. He lived,
however, but a short time, and after his death his family pounced upon
his money, brought a lawsuit against his widow, and pushed things very
hard. Their case was a good one, for M. de Cintré, who had been trustee
for some of his relatives, appeared to have been guilty of some very
irregular practices. In the course of the suit some revelations were
made as to his private history which my sister found so displeasing that
she ceased to defend herself and washed her hands of the property. This
required some pluck, for she was between two fires, her husband's family
opposing her and her own family forcing her. My mother and my brother
wished her to cleave to what they regarded as her rights. But she
resisted firmly, and at last bought her freedom--obtained my mother's
assent to dropping the suit at the price of a promise."

"What was the promise?"

"To do anything else, for the next ten years, that was asked of
her--anything, that is, but marry."

"She had disliked her husband very much?"

"No one knows how much!"

"The marriage had been made in your horrible French way," Newman
continued, "made by the two families, without her having any voice?"

"It was a chapter for a novel. She saw M. de Cintré for the first time a
month before the wedding, after everything, to the minutest detail, had
been arranged. She turned white when she looked at him, and white she
remained till her wedding-day. The evening before the ceremony she
swooned away, and she spent the whole night in sobs. My mother sat
holding her two hands, and my brother walked up and down the room. I
declared it was revolting and told my sister publicly that if she would
refuse, downright, I would stand by her. I was told to go about my
business, and she became Comtesse de Cintré."

"Your brother," said Newman, reflectively, "must be a very nice young
man."

"He is very nice, though he is not young. He is upward of fifty, fifteen
years my senior. He has been a father to my sister and me. He is a
very remarkable man; he has the best manners in France. He is extremely
clever; indeed he is very learned. He is writing a history of The
Princesses of France Who Never Married." This was said by Bellegarde
with extreme gravity, looking straight at Newman, and with an eye that
betokened no mental reservation; or that, at least, almost betokened
none.

Newman perhaps discovered there what little there was, for he presently
said, "You don't love your brother."

"I beg your pardon," said Bellegarde, ceremoniously; "well-bred people
always love their brothers."

"Well, I don't love him, then!" Newman answered.

"Wait till you know him!" rejoined Bellegarde, and this time he smiled.

"Is your mother also very remarkable?" Newman asked, after a pause.

"For my mother," said Bellegarde, now with intense gravity, "I have
the highest admiration. She is a very extraordinary woman. You cannot
approach her without perceiving it."

"She is the daughter, I believe, of an English nobleman."

"Of the Earl of St. Dunstan's."

"Is the Earl of St. Dunstan's a very old family?"

"So-so; the sixteenth century. It is on my father's side that we go
back--back, back, back. The family antiquaries themselves lose breath.
At last they stop, panting and fanning themselves, somewhere in the
ninth century, under Charlemagne. That is where we begin."

"There is no mistake about it?" said Newman.

"I'm sure I hope not. We have been mistaken at least for several
centuries."

"And you have always married into old families?"

"As a rule; though in so long a stretch of time there have been some
exceptions. Three or four Bellegardes, in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, took wives out of the _bourgeoisie_--married lawyers'
daughters."

"A lawyer's daughter; that's very bad, is it?" asked Newman.

"Horrible! one of us, in the Middle Ages, did better: he married a
beggar-maid, like King Cophetua. That was really better; it was like
marrying a bird or a monkey; one didn't have to think about her family
at all. Our women have always done well; they have never even gone into
the _petite noblesse_. There is, I believe, not a case on record of a
misalliance among the women."

Newman turned this over for a while, and, then at last he said, "You
offered, the first time you came to see me to render me any service you
could. I told you that some time I would mention something you might do.
Do you remember?"

"Remember? I have been counting the hours."

"Very well; here's your chance. Do what you can to make your sister
think well of me."

Bellegarde stared, with a smile. "Why, I'm sure she thinks as well of
you as possible, already."

"An opinion founded on seeing me three or four times? That is putting me
off with very little. I want something more. I have been thinking of it
a good deal, and at last I have decided to tell you. I should like very
much to marry Madame de Cintré."

Bellegarde had been looking at him with quickened expectancy, and with
the smile with which he had greeted Newman's allusion to his promised
request. At this last announcement he continued to gaze; but his
smile went through two or three curious phases. It felt, apparently, a
momentary impulse to broaden; but this it immediately checked. Then it
remained for some instants taking counsel with itself, at the end of
which it decreed a retreat. It slowly effaced itself and left a look of
seriousness modified by the desire not to be rude. Extreme surprise had
come into the Count Valentin's face; but he had reflected that it would
be uncivil to leave it there. And yet, what the deuce was he to do with
it? He got up, in his agitation, and stood before the chimney-piece,
still looking at Newman. He was a longer time thinking what to say than
one would have expected.

"If you can't render me the service I ask," said Newman, "say it out!"

"Let me hear it again, distinctly," said Bellegarde. "It's very
important, you know. I shall plead your cause with my sister, because
you want--you want to marry her? That's it, eh?"

"Oh, I don't say plead my cause, exactly; I shall try and do that
myself. But say a good word for me, now and then--let her know that you
think well of me."

At this, Bellegarde gave a little light laugh.

"What I want chiefly, after all," Newman went on, "is just to let you
know what I have in mind. I suppose that is what you expect, isn't it? I
want to do what is customary over here. If there is anything particular
to be done, let me know and I will do it. I wouldn't for the world
approach Madame de Cintré without all the proper forms. If I ought to
go and tell your mother, why I will go and tell her. I will go and tell
your brother, even. I will go and tell anyone you please. As I don't
know anyone else, I begin by telling you. But that, if it is a social
obligation, is a pleasure as well."

"Yes, I see--I see," said Bellegarde, lightly stroking his chin. "You
have a very right feeling about it, but I'm glad you have begun with
me." He paused, hesitated, and then turned away and walked slowly
the length of the room. Newman got up and stood leaning against the
mantel-shelf, with his hands in his pockets, watching Bellegarde's
promenade. The young Frenchman came back and stopped in front of him.
"I give it up," he said; "I will not pretend I am not surprised. I
am--hugely! _Ouf!_ It's a relief."

"That sort of news is always a surprise," said Newman. "No matter what
you have done, people are never prepared. But if you are so surprised, I
hope at least you are pleased."

"Come!" said Bellegarde. "I am going to be tremendously frank. I don't
know whether I am pleased or horrified."

"If you are pleased, I shall be glad," said Newman, "and I shall
be--encouraged. If you are horrified, I shall be sorry, but I shall not
be discouraged. You must make the best of it."

"That is quite right--that is your only possible attitude. You are
perfectly serious?"

"Am I a Frenchman, that I should not be?" asked Newman. "But why is it,
by the bye, that you should be horrified?"

Bellegarde raised his hand to the back of his head and rubbed his hair
quickly up and down, thrusting out the tip of his tongue as he did so.
"Why, you are not noble, for instance," he said.

"The devil I am not!" exclaimed Newman.

"Oh," said Bellegarde a little more seriously, "I did not know you had a
title."

"A title? What do you mean by a title?" asked Newman. "A count, a duke,
a marquis? I don't know anything about that, I don't know who is and who
is not. But I say I am noble. I don't exactly know what you mean by it,
but it's a fine word and a fine idea; I put in a claim to it."

"But what have you to show, my dear fellow, what proofs?"

"Anything you please! But you don't suppose I am going to undertake to
prove that I am noble. It is for you to prove the contrary."

"That's easily done. You have manufactured wash-tubs."

Newman stared a moment. "Therefore I am not noble? I don't see it. Tell
me something I have _not_ done--something I cannot do."

"You cannot marry a woman like Madame de Cintré for the asking."

"I believe you mean," said Newman slowly, "that I am not good enough."

"Brutally speaking--yes!"

Bellegarde had hesitated a moment, and while he hesitated Newman's
attentive glance had grown somewhat eager. In answer to these last words
he for a moment said nothing. He simply blushed a little. Then he raised
his eyes to the ceiling and stood looking at one of the rosy cherubs
that was painted upon it. "Of course I don't expect to marry any
woman for the asking," he said at last; "I expect first to make myself
acceptable to her. She must like me, to begin with. But that I am not
good enough to make a trial is rather a surprise."

Bellegarde wore a look of mingled perplexity, sympathy, and amusement.
"You should not hesitate, then, to go up to-morrow and ask a duchess to
marry you?"

"Not if I thought she would suit me. But I am very fastidious; she might
not at all."

Bellegarde's amusement began to prevail. "And you should be surprised if
she refused you?"

Newman hesitated a moment. "It sounds conceited to say yes, but
nevertheless I think I should. For I should make a very handsome offer."

"What would it be?"

"Everything she wishes. If I get hold of a woman that comes up to my
standard, I shall think nothing too good for her. I have been a long
time looking, and I find such women are rare. To combine the qualities I
require seems to be difficult, but when the difficulty is vanquished
it deserves a reward. My wife shall have a good position, and I'm not
afraid to say that I shall be a good husband."

"And these qualities that you require--what are they?"

"Goodness, beauty, intelligence, a fine education, personal
elegance--everything, in a word, that makes a splendid woman."

"And noble birth, evidently," said Bellegarde.

"Oh, throw that in, by all means, if it's there. The more the better!"

"And my sister seems to you to have all these things?"

"She is exactly what I have been looking for. She is my dream realized."

"And you would make her a very good husband?"

"That is what I wanted you to tell her."

Bellegarde laid his hand on his companion's arm a moment, looked at
him with his head on one side, from head to foot, and then, with a loud
laugh, and shaking the other hand in the air, turned away. He walked
again the length of the room, and again he came back and stationed
himself in front of Newman. "All this is very interesting--it is very
curious. In what I said just now I was speaking, not for myself, but
for my tradition, my superstitions. For myself, really, your proposal
tickles me. It startled me at first, but the more I think of it the
more I see in it. It's no use attempting to explain anything; you won't
understand me. After all, I don't see why you need; it's no great loss."

"Oh, if there is anything more to explain, try it! I want to proceed
with my eyes open. I will do my best to understand."

"No," said Bellegarde, "it's disagreeable to me; I give it up. I liked
you the first time I saw you, and I will abide by that. It would be
quite odious for me to come talking to you as if I could patronize you.
I have told you before that I envy you; _vous m'imposez_, as we say. I
didn't know you much until within five minutes. So we will let things
go, and I will say nothing to you that, if our positions were reversed,
you would not say to me."

I do not know whether in renouncing the mysterious opportunity to which
he alluded, Bellegarde felt that he was doing something very generous.
If so, he was not rewarded; his generosity was not appreciated. Newman
quite failed to recognize the young Frenchman's power to wound his
feelings, and he had now no sense of escaping or coming off easily.
He did not thank his companion even with a glance. "My eyes are open,
though," he said, "so far as that you have practically told me that your
family and your friends will turn up their noses at me. I have never
thought much about the reasons that make it proper for people to turn up
their noses, and so I can only decide the question off-hand. Looking at
it in that way I can't see anything in it. I simply think, if you want
to know, that I'm as good as the best. Who the best are, I don't pretend
to say. I have never thought much about that either. To tell the
truth, I have always had rather a good opinion of myself; a man who is
successful can't help it. But I will admit that I was conceited. What
I don't say yes to is that I don't stand high--as high as anyone else.
This is a line of speculation I should not have chosen, but you must
remember you began it yourself. I should never have dreamed that I was
on the defensive, or that I had to justify myself; but if your people
will have it so, I will do my best."

"But you offered, a while ago, to make your court as we say, to my
mother and my brother."

"Damn it!" cried Newman, "I want to be polite."

"Good!" rejoined Bellegarde; "this will go far, it will be very
entertaining. Excuse my speaking of it in that cold-blooded fashion, but
the matter must, of necessity, be for me something of a spectacle. It's
positively exciting. But apart from that I sympathize with you, and I
shall be actor, so far as I can, as well as spectator. You are a capital
fellow; I believe in you and I back you. The simple fact that you
appreciate my sister will serve as the proof I was asking for. All men
are equal--especially men of taste!"

"Do you think," asked Newman presently, "that Madame de Cintré is
determined not to marry?"

"That is my impression. But that is not against you; it's for you to
make her change her mind."

"I am afraid it will be hard," said Newman, gravely.

"I don't think it will be easy. In a general way I don't see why a
widow should ever marry again. She has gained the benefits of
matrimony--freedom and consideration--and she has got rid of the
drawbacks. Why should she put her head into the noose again? Her usual
motive is ambition: if a man can offer her a great position, make her a
princess or an ambassadress she may think the compensation sufficient."

"And--in that way--is Madame de Cintré ambitious?"

"Who knows?" said Bellegarde, with a profound shrug. "I don't pretend to
say all that she is or all that she is not. I think she might be touched
by the prospect of becoming the wife of a great man. But in a certain
way, I believe, whatever she does will be the _improbable_. Don't be too
confident, but don't absolutely doubt. Your best chance for success will
be precisely in being, to her mind, unusual, unexpected, original. Don't
try to be anyone else; be simply yourself, out and out. Something or
other can't fail to come of it; I am very curious to see what."

"I am much obliged to you for your advice," said Newman. "And," he added
with a smile, "I am glad, for your sake, I am going to be so amusing."

"It will be more than amusing," said Bellegarde; "it will be inspiring.
I look at it from my point of view, and you from yours. After all,
anything for a change! And only yesterday I was yawning so as to
dislocate my jaw, and declaring that there was nothing new under the
sun! If it isn't new to see you come into the family as a suitor, I am
very much mistaken. Let me say that, my dear fellow; I won't call it
anything else, bad or good; I will simply call it _new_." And overcome
with a sense of the novelty thus foreshadowed, Valentin de Bellegarde
threw himself into a deep armchair before the fire, and, with a fixed,
intense smile, seemed to read a vision of it in the flame of the logs.
After a while he looked up. "Go ahead, my boy; you have my good wishes,"
he said. "But it is really a pity you don't understand me, that you
don't know just what I am doing."

"Oh," said Newman, laughing, "don't do anything wrong. Leave me to
myself, rather, or defy me, out and out. I wouldn't lay any load on your
conscience."

Bellegarde sprang up again; he was evidently excited; there was a warmer
spark even than usual in his eye. "You never will understand--you never
will know," he said; "and if you succeed, and I turn out to have helped
you, you will never be grateful, not as I shall deserve you should be.
You will be an excellent fellow always, but you will not be grateful.
But it doesn't matter, for I shall get my own fun out of it." And he
broke into an extravagant laugh. "You look puzzled," he added; "you look
almost frightened."

"It _is_ a pity," said Newman, "that I don't understand you. I shall
lose some very good jokes."

"I told you, you remember, that we were very strange people," Bellegarde
went on. "I give you warning again. We are! My mother is strange, my
brother is strange, and I verily believe that I am stranger than either.
You will even find my sister a little strange. Old trees have crooked
branches, old houses have queer cracks, old races have odd secrets.
Remember that we are eight hundred years old!"

"Very good," said Newman; "that's the sort of thing I came to Europe
for. You come into my programme."

"_Touchez-là_, then," said Bellegarde, putting out his hand. "It's a
bargain: I accept you; I espouse your cause. It's because I like you, in
a great measure; but that is not the only reason!" And he stood holding
Newman's hand and looking at him askance.

"What is the other one?"

"I am in the Opposition. I dislike someone else."

"Your brother?" asked Newman, in his unmodulated voice.

Bellegarde laid his fingers upon his lips with a whispered _hush!_ "Old
races have strange secrets!" he said. "Put yourself into motion, come
and see my sister, and be assured of my sympathy!" And on this he took
his leave.

Newman dropped into a chair before his fire, and sat a long time staring
into the blaze.



CHAPTER IX

He went to see Madame de Cintré the next day, and was informed by the
servant that she was at home. He passed as usual up the large, cold
staircase and through a spacious vestibule above, where the walls seemed
all composed of small door panels, touched with long-faded gilding;
whence he was ushered into the sitting-room in which he had already been
received. It was empty, and the servant told him that Madame la Comtesse
would presently appear. He had time, while he waited, to wonder whether
Bellegarde had seen his sister since the evening before, and whether
in this case he had spoken to her of their talk. In this case Madame
de Cintré's receiving him was an encouragement. He felt a certain
trepidation as he reflected that she might come in with the knowledge
of his supreme admiration and of the project he had built upon it in her
eyes; but the feeling was not disagreeable. Her face could wear no
look that would make it less beautiful, and he was sure beforehand that
however she might take the proposal he had in reserve, she would not
take it in scorn or in irony. He had a feeling that if she could only
read the bottom of his heart and measure the extent of his good will
toward her, she would be entirely kind.

She came in at last, after so long an interval that he wondered whether
she had been hesitating. She smiled with her usual frankness, and held
out her hand; she looked at him straight with her soft and luminous
eyes, and said, without a tremor in her voice, that she was glad to see
him and that she hoped he was well. He found in her what he had found
before--that faint perfume of a personal shyness worn away by contact
with the world, but the more perceptible the more closely you approached
her. This lingering diffidence seemed to give a peculiar value to
what was definite and assured in her manner; it made it seem like an
accomplishment, a beautiful talent, something that one might compare
to an exquisite touch in a pianist. It was, in fact, Madame de Cintré's
"authority," as they say of artists, that especially impressed and
fascinated Newman; he always came back to the feeling that when he
should complete himself by taking a wife, that was the way he should
like his wife to interpret him to the world. The only trouble, indeed,
was that when the instrument was so perfect it seemed to interpose too
much between you and the genius that used it. Madame de Cintré gave
Newman the sense of an elaborate education, of her having passed through
mysterious ceremonies and processes of culture in her youth, of her
having been fashioned and made flexible to certain exalted social needs.
All this, as I have affirmed, made her seem rare and precious--a very
expensive article, as he would have said, and one which a man with an
ambition to have everything about him of the best would find it highly
agreeable to possess. But looking at the matter with an eye to private
felicity, Newman wondered where, in so exquisite a compound, nature and
art showed their dividing line. Where did the special intention separate
from the habit of good manners? Where did urbanity end and sincerity
begin? Newman asked himself these questions even while he stood ready to
accept the admired object in all its complexity; he felt that he could
do so in profound security, and examine its mechanism afterwards, at
leisure.

"I am very glad to find you alone," he said. "You know I have never had
such good luck before."

"But you have seemed before very well contented with your luck," said
Madame de Cintré. "You have sat and watched my visitors with an air of
quiet amusement. What have you thought of them?"

"Oh, I have thought the ladies were very elegant and very graceful, and
wonderfully quick at repartee. But what I have chiefly thought has
been that they only helped me to admire you." This was not gallantry on
Newman's part--an art in which he was quite unversed. It was simply the
instinct of the practical man, who had made up his mind what he wanted,
and was now beginning to take active steps to obtain it.

Madame de Cintré started slightly, and raised her eyebrows; she had
evidently not expected so fervid a compliment. "Oh, in that case," she
said with a laugh, "your finding me alone is not good luck for me. I
hope someone will come in quickly."

"I hope not," said Newman. "I have something particular to say to you.
Have you seen your brother?"

"Yes, I saw him an hour ago."

"Did he tell you that he had seen me last night?"

"He said so."

"And did he tell you what we had talked about?"

Madame de Cintré hesitated a moment. As Newman asked these questions
she had grown a little pale, as if she regarded what was coming as
necessary, but not as agreeable. "Did you give him a message to me?" she
asked.

"It was not exactly a message--I asked him to render me a service."

"The service was to sing your praises, was it not?" And she accompanied
this question with a little smile, as if to make it easier to herself.

"Yes, that is what it really amounts to," said Newman. "Did he sing my
praises?"

"He spoke very well of you. But when I know that it was by your special
request, of course I must take his eulogy with a grain of salt."

"Oh, that makes no difference," said Newman. "Your brother would not
have spoken well of me unless he believed what he was saying. He is too
honest for that."

"Are you very deep?" said Madame de Cintré. "Are you trying to please me
by praising my brother? I confess it is a good way."

"For me, any way that succeeds will be good. I will praise your brother
all day, if that will help me. He is a noble little fellow. He has made
me feel, in promising to do what he can to help me, that I can depend
upon him."

"Don't make too much of that," said Madame de Cintré. "He can help you
very little."

"Of course I must work my way myself. I know that very well; I only want
a chance to. In consenting to see me, after what he told you, you almost
seem to be giving me a chance."

"I am seeing you," said Madame de Cintré, slowly and gravely, "because I
promised my brother I would."

"Blessings on your brother's head!" cried Newman. "What I told him last
evening was this: that I admired you more than any woman I had ever
seen, and that I should like immensely to make you my wife." He uttered
these words with great directness and firmness, and without any sense of
confusion. He was full of his idea, he had completely mastered it,
and he seemed to look down on Madame de Cintré, with all her gathered
elegance, from the height of his bracing good conscience. It is probable
that this particular tone and manner were the very best he could have
hit upon. Yet the light, just visibly forced smile with which his
companion had listened to him died away, and she sat looking at him
with her lips parted and her face as solemn as a tragic mask. There was
evidently something very painful to her in the scene to which he was
subjecting her, and yet her impatience of it found no angry voice.
Newman wondered whether he was hurting her; he could not imagine why the
liberal devotion he meant to express should be disagreeable. He got up
and stood before her, leaning one hand on the chimney-piece. "I know I
have seen you very little to say this," he said, "so little that it may
make what I say seem disrespectful. That is my misfortune! I could have
said it the first time I saw you. Really, I had seen you before; I had
seen you in imagination; you seemed almost an old friend. So what I say
is not mere gallantry and compliments and nonsense--I can't talk that
way, I don't know how, and I wouldn't, to you, if I could. It's as
serious as such words can be. I feel as if I knew you and knew what a
beautiful, admirable woman you are. I shall know better, perhaps, some
day, but I have a general notion now. You are just the woman I have
been looking for, except that you are far more perfect. I won't make any
protestations and vows, but you can trust me. It is very soon, I know,
to say all this; it is almost offensive. But why not gain time if one
can? And if you want time to reflect--of course you do--the sooner you
begin, the better for me. I don't know what you think of me; but there
is no great mystery about me; you see what I am. Your brother told me
that my antecedents and occupations were against me; that your family
stands, somehow, on a higher level than I do. That is an idea which of
course I don't understand and don't accept. But you don't care anything
about that. I can assure you that I am a very solid fellow, and that if
I give my mind to it I can arrange things so that in a very few years I
shall not need to waste time in explaining who I am and what I am. You
will decide for yourself whether you like me or not. What there is
you see before you. I honestly believe I have no hidden vices or nasty
tricks. I am kind, kind, kind! Everything that a man can give a woman I
will give you. I have a large fortune, a very large fortune; some day,
if you will allow me, I will go into details. If you want brilliancy,
everything in the way of brilliancy that money can give you, you shall
have. And as regards anything you may give up, don't take for granted
too much that its place cannot be filled. Leave that to me; I'll take
care of you; I shall know what you need. Energy and ingenuity can
arrange everything. I'm a strong man! There, I have said what I had
on my heart! It was better to get it off. I am very sorry if it's
disagreeable to you; but think how much better it is that things should
be clear. Don't answer me now, if you don't wish it. Think about it,
think about it as slowly as you please. Of course I haven't said, I
can't say, half I mean, especially about my admiration for you. But take
a favorable view of me; it will only be just."

During this speech, the longest that Newman had ever made, Madame de
Cintré kept her gaze fixed upon him, and it expanded at the last into a
sort of fascinated stare. When he ceased speaking she lowered her eyes
and sat for some moments looking down and straight before her. Then she
slowly rose to her feet, and a pair of exceptionally keen eyes would
have perceived that she was trembling a little in the movement. She
still looked extremely serious. "I am very much obliged to you for
your offer," she said. "It seems very strange, but I am glad you
spoke without waiting any longer. It is better the subject should be
dismissed. I appreciate all you say; you do me great honor. But I have
decided not to marry."

"Oh, don't say that!" cried Newman, in a tone absolutely _naïf_ from
its pleading and caressing cadence. She had turned away, and it made her
stop a moment with her back to him. "Think better of that. You are
too young, too beautiful, too much made to be happy and to make others
happy. If you are afraid of losing your freedom, I can assure you that
this freedom here, this life you now lead, is a dreary bondage to what
I will offer you. You shall do things that I don't think you have ever
thought of. I will take you anywhere in the wide world that you propose.
Are you unhappy? You give me a feeling that you _are_ unhappy. You have
no right to be, or to be made so. Let me come in and put an end to it."

Madame de Cintré stood there a moment longer, looking away from him.
If she was touched by the way he spoke, the thing was conceivable. His
voice, always very mild and interrogative, gradually became as soft
and as tenderly argumentative as if he had been talking to a much-loved
child. He stood watching her, and she presently turned round again, but
this time she did not look at him, and she spoke in a quietness in which
there was a visible trace of effort.

"There are a great many reasons why I should not marry," she said, "more
than I can explain to you. As for my happiness, I am very happy. Your
offer seems strange to me, for more reasons also than I can say. Of
course you have a perfect right to make it. But I cannot accept it--it
is impossible. Please never speak of this matter again. If you cannot
promise me this, I must ask you not to come back."

"Why is it impossible?" Newman demanded. "You may think it is, at first,
without its really being so. I didn't expect you to be pleased at first,
but I do believe that if you will think of it a good while, you may be
satisfied."

"I don't know you," said Madame de Cintré. "Think how little I know
you."

"Very little, of course, and therefore I don't ask for your ultimatum on
the spot. I only ask you not to say no, and to let me hope. I will wait
as long as you desire. Meanwhile you can see more of me and know me
better, look at me as a possible husband--as a candidate--and make up
your mind."

Something was going on, rapidly, in Madame de Cintré's thoughts; she
was weighing a question there, beneath Newman's eyes, weighing it and
deciding it. "From the moment I don't very respectfully beg you to leave
the house and never return," she said, "I listen to you, I seem to give
you hope. I _have_ listened to you--against my judgment. It is because
you are eloquent. If I had been told this morning that I should
consent to consider you as a possible husband, I should have thought
my informant a little crazy. I _am_ listening to you, you see!" And she
threw her hands out for a moment and let them drop with a gesture in
which there was just the slightest expression of appealing weakness.

"Well, as far as saying goes, I have said everything," said Newman. "I
believe in you, without restriction, and I think all the good of you
that it is possible to think of a human creature. I firmly believe that
in marrying me you will be _safe_. As I said just now," he went on with
a smile, "I have no bad ways. I can _do_ so much for you. And if you are
afraid that I am not what you have been accustomed to, not refined and
delicate and punctilious, you may easily carry that too far. I _am_
delicate! You shall see!"

Madame de Cintré walked some distance away, and paused before a great
plant, an azalea, which was flourishing in a porcelain tub before her
window. She plucked off one of the flowers and, twisting it in her
fingers, retraced her steps. Then she sat down in silence, and her
attitude seemed to be a consent that Newman should say more.

"Why should you say it is impossible you should marry?" he continued.
"The only thing that could make it really impossible would be your being
already married. Is it because you have been unhappy in marriage? That
is all the more reason! Is it because your family exert a pressure upon
you, interfere with you, annoy you? That is still another reason; you
ought to be perfectly free, and marriage will make you so. I don't say
anything against your family--understand that!" added Newman, with
an eagerness which might have made a perspicacious observer smile.
"Whatever way you feel toward them is the right way, and anything that
you should wish me to do to make myself agreeable to them I will do as
well as I know how. Depend upon that!"

Madame de Cintré rose again and came toward the fireplace, near which
Newman was standing. The expression of pain and embarrassment had passed
out of her face, and it was illuminated with something which, this time
at least, Newman need not have been perplexed whether to attribute to
habit or to intention, to art or to nature. She had the air of a woman
who has stepped across the frontier of friendship and, looking around
her, finds the region vast. A certain checked and controlled exaltation
seemed mingled with the usual level radiance of her glance. "I will not
refuse to see you again," she said, "because much of what you have said
has given me pleasure. But I will see you only on this condition: that
you say nothing more in the same way for a long time."

"For how long?"

"For six months. It must be a solemn promise."

"Very well, I promise."

"Good-bye, then," she said, and extended her hand.

He held it a moment, as if he were going to say something more. But he
only looked at her; then he took his departure.

That evening, on the Boulevard, he met Valentin de Bellegarde. After
they had exchanged greetings, Newman told him that he had seen Madame de
Cintré a few hours before.

"I know it," said Bellegarde. "I dined in the Rue de l'Université."
And then, for some moments, both men were silent. Newman wished to ask
Bellegarde what visible impression his visit had made and the Count
Valentin had a question of his own. Bellegarde spoke first.

"It's none of my business, but what the deuce did you say to my sister?"

"I am willing to tell you," said Newman, "that I made her an offer of
marriage."

"Already!" And the young man gave a whistle. "'Time is money!' Is
that what you say in America? And Madame de Cintré?" he added, with an
interrogative inflection.

"She did not accept my offer."

"She couldn't, you know, in that way."

"But I'm to see her again," said Newman.

"Oh, the strangeness of woman!" exclaimed Bellegarde. Then he stopped,
and held Newman off at arms'-length. "I look at you with respect!"
he exclaimed. "You have achieved what we call a personal success!
Immediately, now, I must present you to my brother."

"Whenever you please!" said Newman.



CHAPTER X

Newman continued to see his friends the Tristrams with a good deal of
frequency, though if you had listened to Mrs. Tristram's account of the
matter you would have supposed that they had been cynically repudiated
for the sake of grander acquaintance. "We were all very well so long
as we had no rivals--we were better than nothing. But now that you have
become the fashion, and have your pick every day of three invitations to
dinner, we are tossed into the corner. I am sure it is very good of you
to come and see us once a month; I wonder you don't send us your cards
in an envelope. When you do, pray have them with black edges; it will be
for the death of my last illusion." It was in this incisive strain that
Mrs. Tristram moralized over Newman's so-called neglect, which was in
reality a most exemplary constancy. Of course she was joking, but
there was always something ironical in her jokes, as there was always
something jocular in her gravity.

"I know no better proof that I have treated you very well," Newman
had said, "than the fact that you make so free with my character.
Familiarity breeds contempt; I have made myself too cheap. If I had a
little proper pride I would stay away a while, and when you asked me to
dinner say I was going to the Princess Borealska's. But I have not any
pride where my pleasure is concerned, and to keep you in the humor to
see me--if you must see me only to call me bad names--I will agree to
anything you choose; I will admit that I am the biggest snob in Paris."
Newman, in fact, had declined an invitation personally given by the
Princess Borealska, an inquiring Polish lady to whom he had been
presented, on the ground that on that particular day he always dined
at Mrs. Tristram's; and it was only a tenderly perverse theory of
his hostess of the Avenue d'Iéna that he was faithless to his early
friendships. She needed the theory to explain a certain moral irritation
by which she was often visited; though, if this explanation was unsound,
a deeper analyst than I must give the right one. Having launched our
hero upon the current which was bearing him so rapidly along, she
appeared but half-pleased at its swiftness. She had succeeded too well;
she had played her game too cleverly and she wished to mix up the cards.
Newman had told her, in due season, that her friend was "satisfactory."
The epithet was not romantic, but Mrs. Tristram had no difficulty in
perceiving that, in essentials, the feeling which lay beneath it was.
Indeed, the mild, expansive brevity with which it was uttered, and
a certain look, at once appealing and inscrutable, that issued from
Newman's half-closed eyes as he leaned his head against the back of his
chair, seemed to her the most eloquent attestation of a mature sentiment
that she had ever encountered. Newman was, according to the French
phrase, only abounding in her own sense, but his temperate raptures
exerted a singular effect upon the ardor which she herself had so freely
manifested a few months before. She now seemed inclined to take a purely
critical view of Madame de Cintré, and wished to have it understood that
she did not in the least answer for her being a compendium of all the
virtues. "No woman was ever so good as that woman seems," she said.
"Remember what Shakespeare calls Desdemona; 'a supersubtle Venetian.'
Madame de Cintré is a supersubtle Parisian. She is a charming woman, and
she has five hundred merits; but you had better keep that in mind." Was
Mrs. Tristram simply finding out that she was jealous of her dear friend
on the other side of the Seine, and that in undertaking to provide
Newman with an ideal wife she had counted too much on her own
disinterestedness? We may be permitted to doubt it. The inconsistent
little lady of the Avenue d'Iéna had an insuperable need of changing
her place, intellectually. She had a lively imagination, and she was
capable, at certain times, of imagining the direct reverse of her
most cherished beliefs, with a vividness more intense than that of
conviction. She got tired of thinking aright; but there was no serious
harm in it, as she got equally tired of thinking wrong. In the midst of
her mysterious perversities she had admirable flashes of justice. One
of these occurred when Newman related to her that he had made a formal
proposal to Madame de Cintré. He repeated in a few words what he had
said, and in a great many what she had answered. Mrs. Tristram listened
with extreme interest.

"But after all," said Newman, "there is nothing to congratulate me upon.
It is not a triumph."

"I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Tristram; "it is a great triumph. It is
a great triumph that she did not silence you at the first word, and
request you never to speak to her again."

"I don't see that," observed Newman.

"Of course you don't; Heaven forbid you should! When I told you to go on
your own way and do what came into your head, I had no idea you would go
over the ground so fast. I never dreamed you would offer yourself after
five or six morning-calls. As yet, what had you done to make her like
you? You had simply sat--not very straight--and stared at her. But she
does like you."

"That remains to be seen."

"No, that is proved. What will come of it remains to be seen. That you
should propose to marry her, without more ado, could never have come
into her head. You can form very little idea of what passed through her
mind as you spoke; if she ever really marries you, the affair will be
characterized by the usual justice of all human beings towards women.
You will think you take generous views of her; but you will never begin
to know through what a strange sea of feeling she passed before she
accepted you. As she stood there in front of you the other day, she
plunged into it. She said 'Why not?' to something which, a few hours
earlier, had been inconceivable. She turned about on a thousand gathered
prejudices and traditions as on a pivot, and looked where she had never
looked hitherto. When I think of it--when I think of Claire de Cintré
and all that she represents, there seems to me something very fine in
it. When I recommended you to try your fortune with her I of course
thought well of you, and in spite of your sins I think so still. But I
confess I don't see quite what you are and what you have done, to make
such a woman do this sort of thing for you."

"Oh, there is something very fine in it!" said Newman with a laugh,
repeating her words. He took an extreme satisfaction in hearing that
there was something fine in it. He had not the least doubt of it
himself, but he had already begun to value the world's admiration of
Madame de Cintré, as adding to the prospective glory of possession.

It was immediately after this conversation that Valentin de Bellegarde
came to conduct his friend to the Rue de l'Université to present him to
the other members of his family. "You are already introduced," he said,
"and you have begun to be talked about. My sister has mentioned your
successive visits to my mother, and it was an accident that my mother
was present at none of them. I have spoken of you as an American of
immense wealth, and the best fellow in the world, who is looking for
something very superior in the way of a wife."

"Do you suppose," asked Newman, "that Madame de Cintré has related to
your mother the last conversation I had with her?"

"I am very certain that she has not; she will keep her own counsel.
Meanwhile you must make your way with the rest of the family. Thus much
is known about you: you have made a great fortune in trade, you are
a little eccentric, and you frankly admire our dear Claire. My
sister-in-law, whom you remember seeing in Madame de Cintré's
sitting-room, took, it appears, a fancy to you; she has described you
as having _beaucoup de cachet_. My mother, therefore, is curious to see
you."

"She expects to laugh at me, eh?" said Newman.

"She never laughs. If she does not like you, don't hope to purchase
favor by being amusing. Take warning by me!"

This conversation took place in the evening, and half an hour later
Valentin ushered his companion into an apartment of the house of the Rue
de l'Université into which he had not yet penetrated, the salon of the
dowager Marquise de Bellegarde. It was a vast, high room, with elaborate
and ponderous mouldings, painted a whitish gray, along the upper portion
of the walls and the ceiling; with a great deal of faded and carefully
repaired tapestry in the doorways and chair-backs; a Turkey carpet in
light colors, still soft and deep, in spite of great antiquity, on the
floor, and portraits of each of Madame de Bellegarde's children, at the
age of ten, suspended against an old screen of red silk. The room was
illumined, exactly enough for conversation, by half a dozen candles,
placed in odd corners, at a great distance apart. In a deep armchair,
near the fire, sat an old lady in black; at the other end of the room
another person was seated at the piano, playing a very expressive
waltz. In this latter person Newman recognized the young Marquise de
Bellegarde.

Valentin presented his friend, and Newman walked up to the old lady by
the fire and shook hands with her. He received a rapid impression of a
white, delicate, aged face, with a high forehead, a small mouth, and a
pair of cold blue eyes which had kept much of the freshness of youth.
Madame de Bellegarde looked hard at him, and returned his hand-shake
with a sort of British positiveness which reminded him that she was
the daughter of the Earl of St. Dunstan's. Her daughter-in-law stopped
playing and gave him an agreeable smile. Newman sat down and looked
about him, while Valentin went and kissed the hand of the young
marquise.

"I ought to have seen you before," said Madame de Bellegarde. "You have
paid several visits to my daughter."

"Oh, yes," said Newman, smiling; "Madame de Cintré and I are old friends
by this time."

"You have gone fast," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"Not so fast as I should like," said Newman, bravely.

"Oh, you are very ambitious," answered the old lady.

"Yes, I confess I am," said Newman, smiling.

Madame de Bellegarde looked at him with her cold fine eyes, and he
returned her gaze, reflecting that she was a possible adversary and
trying to take her measure. Their eyes remained in contact for some
moments. Then Madame de Bellegarde looked away, and without smiling, "I
am very ambitious, too," she said.

Newman felt that taking her measure was not easy; she was a formidable,
inscrutable little woman. She resembled her daughter, and yet she was
utterly unlike her. The coloring in Madame de Cintré was the same, and
the high delicacy of her brow and nose was hereditary. But her face was
a larger and freer copy, and her mouth in especial a happy divergence
from that conservative orifice, a little pair of lips at once plump and
pinched, that looked, when closed, as if they could not open wider than
to swallow a gooseberry or to emit an "Oh, dear, no!" which probably had
been thought to give the finishing touch to the aristocratic prettiness
of the Lady Emmeline Atheling as represented, forty years before, in
several Books of Beauty. Madame de Cintré's face had, to Newman's eye,
a range of expression as delightfully vast as the wind-streaked,
cloud-flecked distance on a Western prairie. But her mother's white,
intense, respectable countenance, with its formal gaze, and its
circumscribed smile, suggested a document signed and sealed; a thing
of parchment, ink, and ruled lines. "She is a woman of conventions and
proprieties," he said to himself as he looked at her; "her world is the
world of things immutably decreed. But how she is at home in it, and
what a paradise she finds it. She walks about in it as if it were a
blooming park, a Garden of Eden; and when she sees 'This is genteel,' or
'This is improper,' written on a mile-stone she stops ecstatically, as
if she were listening to a nightingale or smelling a rose." Madame de
Bellegarde wore a little black velvet hood tied under her chin, and she
was wrapped in an old black cashmere shawl.

"You are an American?" she said presently. "I have seen several
Americans."

"There are several in Paris," said Newman jocosely.

"Oh, really?" said Madame de Bellegarde. "It was in England I saw
these, or somewhere else; not in Paris. I think it must have been in the
Pyrenees, many years ago. I am told your ladies are very pretty. One of
these ladies was very pretty! such a wonderful complexion! She presented
me a note of introduction from someone--I forgot whom--and she sent with
it a note of her own. I kept her letter a long time afterwards, it was
so strangely expressed. I used to know some of the phrases by heart. But
I have forgotten them now, it is so many years ago. Since then I have
seen no more Americans. I think my daughter-in-law has; she is a great
gad-about, she sees everyone."

At this the younger lady came rustling forward, pinching in a very
slender waist, and casting idly preoccupied glances over the front
of her dress, which was apparently designed for a ball. She was, in a
singular way, at once ugly and pretty; she had protuberant eyes, and
lips strangely red. She reminded Newman of his friend, Mademoiselle
Nioche; this was what that much-obstructed young lady would have liked
to be. Valentin de Bellegarde walked behind her at a distance, hopping
about to keep off the far-spreading train of her dress.

"You ought to show more of your shoulders behind," he said very gravely.
"You might as well wear a standing ruff as such a dress as that."

The young woman turned her back to the mirror over the chimney-piece,
and glanced behind her, to verify Valentin's assertion. The mirror
descended low, and yet it reflected nothing but a large unclad flesh
surface. The young marquise put her hands behind her and gave a downward
pull to the waist of her dress. "Like that, you mean?" she asked.

"That is a little better," said Bellegarde in the same tone, "but it
leaves a good deal to be desired."

"Oh, I never go to extremes," said his sister-in-law. And then, turning
to Madame de Bellegarde, "What were you calling me just now, madame?"

"I called you a gad-about," said the old lady. "But I might call you
something else, too."

"A gad-about? What an ugly word! What does it mean?"

"A very beautiful person," Newman ventured to say, seeing that it was in
French.

"That is a pretty compliment but a bad translation," said the young
marquise. And then, looking at him a moment, "Do you dance?"

"Not a step."

"You are very wrong," she said, simply. And with another look at her
back in the mirror she turned away.

"Do you like Paris?" asked the old lady, who was apparently wondering
what was the proper way to talk to an American.

"Yes, rather," said Newman. And then he added with a friendly
intonation, "Don't you?"

"I can't say I know it. I know my house--I know my friends--I don't know
Paris."

"Oh, you lose a great deal," said Newman, sympathetically.

Madame de Bellegarde stared; it was presumably the first time she had
been condoled with on her losses.

"I am content with what I have," she said with dignity.

Newman's eyes, at this moment, were wandering round the room, which
struck him as rather sad and shabby; passing from the high casements,
with their small, thickly-framed panes, to the sallow tints of two or
three portraits in pastel, of the last century, which hung between
them. He ought, obviously, to have answered that the contentment of his
hostess was quite natural--she had a great deal; but the idea did not
occur to him during the pause of some moments which followed.

"Well, my dear mother," said Valentin, coming and leaning against the
chimney-piece, "what do you think of my dear friend Newman? Is he not
the excellent fellow I told you?"

"My acquaintance with Mr. Newman has not gone very far," said Madame de
Bellegarde. "I can as yet only appreciate his great politeness."

"My mother is a great judge of these matters," said Valentin to Newman.
"If you have satisfied her, it is a triumph."

"I hope I shall satisfy you, some day," said Newman, looking at the old
lady. "I have done nothing yet."

"You must not listen to my son; he will bring you into trouble. He is a
sad scatterbrain."

"Oh, I like him--I like him," said Newman, genially.

"He amuses you, eh?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"Do you hear that, Valentin?" said Madame de Bellegarde. "You amuse Mr.
Newman."

"Perhaps we shall all come to that!" Valentin exclaimed.

"You must see my other son," said Madame de Bellegarde. "He is much
better than this one. But he will not amuse you."

"I don't know--I don't know!" murmured Valentin, reflectively. "But we
shall very soon see. Here comes _Monsieur mon frère_."

The door had just opened to give ingress to a gentleman who stepped
forward and whose face Newman remembered. He had been the author of our
hero's discomfiture the first time he tried to present himself to Madame
de Cintré. Valentin de Bellegarde went to meet his brother, looked at
him a moment, and then, taking him by the arm, led him up to Newman.

"This is my excellent friend Mr. Newman," he said very blandly. "You
must know him."

"I am delighted to know Mr. Newman," said the marquis with a low bow,
but without offering his hand.

"He is the old woman at second-hand," Newman said to himself, as he
returned M. de Bellegarde's greeting. And this was the starting-point of
a speculative theory, in his mind, that the late marquis had been a very
amiable foreigner, with an inclination to take life easily and a sense
that it was difficult for the husband of the stilted little lady by the
fire to do so. But if he had taken little comfort in his wife he had
taken much in his two younger children, who were after his own heart,
while Madame de Bellegarde had paired with her eldest-born.

"My brother has spoken to me of you," said M. de Bellegarde; "and as
you are also acquainted with my sister, it was time we should meet." He
turned to his mother and gallantly bent over her hand, touching it with
his lips, and then he assumed an attitude before the chimney-piece. With
his long, lean face, his high-bridged nose and his small, opaque eye he
looked much like an Englishman. His whiskers were fair and glossy, and
he had a large dimple, of unmistakably British origin, in the middle of
his handsome chin. He was "distinguished" to the tips of his polished
nails, and there was not a movement of his fine, perpendicular person
that was not noble and majestic. Newman had never yet been confronted
with such an incarnation of the art of taking one's self seriously; he
felt a sort of impulse to step backward, as you do to get a view of a
great façade.

"Urbain," said young Madame de Bellegarde, who had apparently been
waiting for her husband to take her to her ball, "I call your attention
to the fact that I am dressed."

"That is a good idea," murmured Valentin.

"I am at your orders, my dear friend," said M. de Bellegarde. "Only,
you must allow me first the pleasure of a little conversation with Mr.
Newman."

"Oh, if you are going to a party, don't let me keep you," objected
Newman. "I am very sure we shall meet again. Indeed, if you would like
to converse with me I will gladly name an hour." He was eager to make
it known that he would readily answer all questions and satisfy all
exactions.

M. de Bellegarde stood in a well-balanced position before the fire,
caressing one of his fair whiskers with one of his white hands, and
looking at Newman, half askance, with eyes from which a particular ray
of observation made its way through a general meaningless smile. "It is
very kind of you to make such an offer," he said. "If I am not mistaken,
your occupations are such as to make your time precious. You are
in--a--as we say, _dans les affaires_."

"In business, you mean? Oh no, I have thrown business overboard for the
present. I am 'loafing,' as _we_ say. My time is quite my own."

"Ah, you are taking a holiday," rejoined M. de Bellegarde. "'Loafing.'
Yes, I have heard that expression."

"Mr. Newman is American," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"My brother is a great ethnologist," said Valentin.

"An ethnologist?" said Newman. "Ah, you collect negroes' skulls, and
that sort of thing."

The marquis looked hard at his brother, and began to caress his other
whisker. Then, turning to Newman, with sustained urbanity, "You are
traveling for your pleasure?" he asked.'

"Oh, I am knocking about to pick up one thing and another. Of course I
get a good deal of pleasure out of it."

"What especially interests you?" inquired the marquis.

"Well, everything interests me," said Newman. "I am not particular.
Manufactures are what I care most about."

"That has been your specialty?"

"I can't say I have any specialty. My specialty has been to make the
largest possible fortune in the shortest possible time." Newman made
this last remark very deliberately; he wished to open the way, if it
were necessary, to an authoritative statement of his means.

M. de Bellegarde laughed agreeably. "I hope you have succeeded," he
said.

"Yes, I have made a fortune in a reasonable time. I am not so old, you
see."

"Paris is a very good place to spend a fortune. I wish you great
enjoyment of yours." And M. de Bellegarde drew forth his gloves and
began to put them on.

Newman for a few moments watched him sliding his white hands into the
white kid, and as he did so his feelings took a singular turn. M. de
Bellegarde's good wishes seemed to descend out of the white expanse of
his sublime serenity with the soft, scattered movement of a shower of
snow-flakes. Yet Newman was not irritated; he did not feel that he was
being patronized; he was conscious of no especial impulse to introduce
a discord into so noble a harmony. Only he felt himself suddenly in
personal contact with the forces with which his friend Valentin had
told him that he would have to contend, and he became sensible of their
intensity. He wished to make some answering manifestation, to stretch
himself out at his own length, to sound a note at the uttermost end of
_his_ scale. It must be added that if this impulse was not vicious or
malicious, it was by no means void of humorous expectancy. Newman was
quite as ready to give play to that loosely-adjusted smile of his, if
his hosts should happen to be shocked, as he was far from deliberately
planning to shock them.

"Paris is a very good place for idle people," he said, "or it is a very
good place if your family has been settled here for a long time, and you
have made acquaintances and got your relations round you; or if you have
got a good big house like this, and a wife and children and mother and
sister, and everything comfortable. I don't like that way of living all
in rooms next door to each other. But I am not an idler. I try to be,
but I can't manage it; it goes against the grain. My business habits are
too deep-seated. Then, I haven't any house to call my own, or anything
in the way of a family. My sisters are five thousand miles away, my
mother died when I was a youngster, and I haven't any wife; I wish I
had! So, you see, I don't exactly know what to do with myself. I am not
fond of books, as you are, sir, and I get tired of dining out and going
to the opera. I miss my business activity. You see, I began to earn my
living when I was almost a baby, and until a few months ago I have never
had my hand off the plow. Elegant leisure comes hard."

This speech was followed by a profound silence of some moments, on the
part of Newman's entertainers. Valentin stood looking at him fixedly,
with his hands in his pockets, and then he slowly, with a half-sidling
motion, went out of the door. The marquis continued to draw on his
gloves and to smile benignantly.

"You began to earn your living when you were a mere baby?" said the
marquise.

"Hardly more--a small boy."

"You say you are not fond of books," said M. de Bellegarde; "but
you must do yourself the justice to remember that your studies were
interrupted early."

"That is very true; on my tenth birthday I stopped going to school. I
thought it was a grand way to keep it. But I picked up some information
afterwards," said Newman, reassuringly.

"You have some sisters?" asked old Madame de Bellegarde.

"Yes, two sisters. Splendid women!"

"I hope that for them the hardships of life commenced less early."

"They married very early, if you call that a hardship, as girls do in
our Western country. One of them is married to the owner of the largest
india-rubber house in the West."

"Ah, you make houses also of india-rubber?" inquired the marquise.

"You can stretch them as your family increases," said young Madame de
Bellegarde, who was muffling herself in a long white shawl.

Newman indulged in a burst of hilarity, and explained that the house in
which his brother-in-law lived was a large wooden structure, but that he
manufactured and sold india-rubber on a colossal scale.

"My children have some little india-rubber shoes which they put on
when they go to play in the Tuileries in damp weather," said the young
marquise. "I wonder whether your brother-in-law made them."

"Very likely," said Newman; "if he did, you may be very sure they are
well made."

"Well, you must not be discouraged," said M. de Bellegarde, with vague
urbanity.

"Oh, I don't mean to be. I have a project which gives me plenty to think
about, and that is an occupation." And then Newman was silent a moment,
hesitating, yet thinking rapidly; he wished to make his point, and yet
to do so forced him to speak out in a way that was disagreeable to
him. Nevertheless he continued, addressing himself to old Madame de
Bellegarde, "I will tell you my project; perhaps you can help me. I want
to take a wife."

"It is a very good project, but I am no matchmaker," said the old lady.

Newman looked at her an instant, and then, with perfect sincerity, "I
should have thought you were," he declared.

Madame de Bellegarde appeared to think him too sincere. She murmured
something sharply in French, and fixed her eyes on her son. At this
moment the door of the room was thrown open, and with a rapid step
Valentin reappeared.

"I have a message for you," he said to his sister-in-law. "Claire bids
me to request you not to start for your ball. She will go with you."

"Claire will go with us!" cried the young marquise. "_En voilà, du
nouveau!_"

"She has changed her mind; she decided half an hour ago, and she is
sticking the last diamond into her hair," said Valentin.

"What has taken possession of my daughter?" demanded Madame de
Bellegarde, sternly. "She has not been into the world these three
years. Does she take such a step at half an hour's notice, and without
consulting me?"

"She consulted me, dear mother, five minutes since," said Valentin,
"and I told her that such a beautiful woman--she is beautiful, you will
see--had no right to bury herself alive."

"You should have referred Claire to her mother, my brother," said M. de
Bellegarde, in French. "This is very strange."

"I refer her to the whole company!" said Valentin. "Here she comes!" And
he went to the open door, met Madame de Cintré on the threshold, took
her by the hand, and led her into the room. She was dressed in white;
but a long blue cloak, which hung almost to her feet, was fastened
across her shoulders by a silver clasp. She had tossed it back, however,
and her long white arms were uncovered. In her dense, fair hair there
glittered a dozen diamonds. She looked serious and, Newman thought,
rather pale; but she glanced round her, and, when she saw him, smiled
and put out her hand. He thought her tremendously handsome. He had a
chance to look at her full in the face, for she stood a moment in the
centre of the room, hesitating, apparently, what she should do, without
meeting his eyes. Then she went up to her mother, who sat in her deep
chair by the fire, looking at Madame de Cintré almost fiercely. With her
back turned to the others, Madame de Cintré held her cloak apart to show
her dress.

"What do you think of me?" she asked.

"I think you are audacious," said the marquise. "It was but three days
ago, when I asked you, as a particular favor to myself, to go to the
Duchess de Lusignan's, that you told me you were going nowhere and
that one must be consistent. Is this your consistency? Why should you
distinguish Madame Robineau? Who is it you wish to please to-night?"

"I wish to please myself, dear mother," said Madame de Cintré. And she
bent over and kissed the old lady.

"I don't like surprises, my sister," said Urbain de Bellegarde;
"especially when one is on the point of entering a drawing-room."

Newman at this juncture felt inspired to speak. "Oh, if you are going
into a room with Madame de Cintré, you needn't be afraid of being
noticed yourself!"

M. de Bellegarde turned to his sister with a smile too intense to be
easy. "I hope you appreciate a compliment that is paid you at your
brother's expense," he said. "Come, come, madame." And offering Madame
de Cintré his arm he led her rapidly out of the room. Valentin rendered
the same service to young Madame de Bellegarde, who had apparently been
reflecting on the fact that the ball-dress of her sister-in-law was
much less brilliant than her own, and yet had failed to derive absolute
comfort from the reflection. With a farewell smile she sought the
complement of her consolation in the eyes of the American visitor, and
perceiving in them a certain mysterious brilliancy, it is not improbable
that she may have flattered herself she had found it.

Newman, left alone with old Madame de Bellegarde, stood before her a few
moments in silence. "Your daughter is very beautiful," he said at last.

"She is very strange," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"I am glad to hear it," Newman rejoined, smiling. "It makes me hope."

"Hope what?"

"That she will consent, some day, to marry me."

The old lady slowly rose to her feet. "That really is your project,
then?"

"Yes; will you favor it?"

"Favor it?" Madame de Bellegarde looked at him a moment and then shook
her head. "No!" she said, softly.

"Will you suffer it, then? Will you let it pass?"

"You don't know what you ask. I am a very proud and meddlesome old
woman."

"Well, I am very rich," said Newman.

Madame de Bellegarde fixed her eyes on the floor, and Newman thought
it probable she was weighing the reasons in favor of resenting the
brutality of this remark. But at last, looking up, she said simply, "How
rich?"

Newman expressed his income in a round number which had the magnificent
sound that large aggregations of dollars put on when they are translated
into francs. He added a few remarks of a financial character, which
completed a sufficiently striking presentment of his resources.

Madame de Bellegarde listened in silence. "You are very frank," she said
finally. "I will be the same. I would rather favor you, on the whole,
than suffer you. It will be easier."

"I am thankful for any terms," said Newman. "But, for the present, you
have suffered me long enough. Good night!" And he took his leave.



CHAPTER XI

Newman, on his return to Paris, had not resumed the study of French
conversation with M. Nioche; he found that he had too many other uses
for his time. M. Nioche, however, came to see him very promptly, having
learned his whereabouts by a mysterious process to which his patron
never obtained the key. The shrunken little capitalist repeated his
visit more than once. He seemed oppressed by a humiliating sense of
having been overpaid, and wished apparently to redeem his debt by the
offer of grammatical and statistical information in small installments.
He wore the same decently melancholy aspect as a few months before; a
few months more or less of brushing could make little difference in the
antique lustre of his coat and hat. But the poor old man's spirit was a
trifle more threadbare; it seemed to have received some hard rubs during
the summer. Newman inquired with interest about Mademoiselle Noémie;
and M. Nioche, at first, for answer, simply looked at him in lachrymose
silence.

"Don't ask me, sir," he said at last. "I sit and watch her, but I can do
nothing."

"Do you mean that she misconducts herself?"

"I don't know, I am sure. I can't follow her. I don't understand her.
She has something in her head; I don't know what she is trying to do.
She is too deep for me."

"Does she continue to go to the Louvre? Has she made any of those copies
for me?"

"She goes to the Louvre, but I see nothing of the copies. She has
something on her easel; I suppose it is one of the pictures you ordered.
Such a magnificent order ought to give her fairy-fingers. But she is
not in earnest. I can't say anything to her; I am afraid of her. One
evening, last summer, when I took her to walk in the Champs Élysées, she
said some things to me that frightened me."

"What were they?"

"Excuse an unhappy father from telling you," said M. Nioche, unfolding
his calico pocket-handkerchief.

Newman promised himself to pay Mademoiselle Noémie another visit at the
Louvre. He was curious about the progress of his copies, but it must
be added that he was still more curious about the progress of the young
lady herself. He went one afternoon to the great museum, and wandered
through several of the rooms in fruitless quest of her. He was bending
his steps to the long hall of the Italian masters, when suddenly he
found himself face to face with Valentin de Bellegarde. The young
Frenchman greeted him with ardor, and assured him that he was a
godsend. He himself was in the worst of humors and he wanted someone to
contradict.

"In a bad humor among all these beautiful things?" said Newman. "I
thought you were so fond of pictures, especially the old black ones.
There are two or three here that ought to keep you in spirits."

"Oh, to-day," answered Valentin, "I am not in a mood for pictures, and
the more beautiful they are the less I like them. Their great staring
eyes and fixed positions irritate me. I feel as if I were at some big,
dull party, in a room full of people I shouldn't wish to speak to. What
should I care for their beauty? It's a bore, and, worse still, it's a
reproach. I have a great many _ennuis_; I feel vicious."

"If the Louvre has so little comfort for you, why in the world did you
come here?" Newman asked.

"That is one of my _ennuis_. I came to meet my cousin--a dreadful
English cousin, a member of my mother's family--who is in Paris for
a week for her husband, and who wishes me to point out the 'principal
beauties.' Imagine a woman who wears a green crape bonnet in December
and has straps sticking out of the ankles of her interminable boots! My
mother begged I would do something to oblige them. I have undertaken to
play _valet de place_ this afternoon. They were to have met me here
at two o'clock, and I have been waiting for them twenty minutes. Why
doesn't she arrive? She has at least a pair of feet to carry her. I
don't know whether to be furious at their playing me false, or delighted
to have escaped them."

"I think in your place I would be furious," said Newman, "because they
may arrive yet, and then your fury will still be of use to you. Whereas
if you were delighted and they were afterwards to turn up, you might not
know what to do with your delight."

"You give me excellent advice, and I already feel better. I will be
furious; I will let them go to the deuce and I myself will go with
you--unless by chance you too have a rendezvous."

"It is not exactly a rendezvous," said Newman. "But I have in fact come
to see a person, not a picture."

"A woman, presumably?"

"A young lady."

"Well," said Valentin, "I hope for you with all my heart that she is not
clothed in green tulle and that her feet are not too much out of focus."

"I don't know much about her feet, but she has very pretty hands."

Valentin gave a sigh. "And on that assurance I must part with you?"

"I am not certain of finding my young lady," said Newman, "and I am not
quite prepared to lose your company on the chance. It does not strike
me as particularly desirable to introduce you to her, and yet I should
rather like to have your opinion of her."

"Is she pretty?"

"I guess you will think so."

Bellegarde passed his arm into that of his companion. "Conduct me to her
on the instant! I should be ashamed to make a pretty woman wait for my
verdict."

Newman suffered himself to be gently propelled in the direction in
which he had been walking, but his step was not rapid. He was turning
something over in his mind. The two men passed into the long gallery of
the Italian masters, and Newman, after having scanned for a moment its
brilliant vista, turned aside into the smaller apartment devoted to
the same school, on the left. It contained very few persons, but at the
farther end of it sat Mademoiselle Nioche, before her easel. She was
not at work; her palette and brushes had been laid down beside her, her
hands were folded in her lap, and she was leaning back in her chair and
looking intently at two ladies on the other side of the hall, who, with
their backs turned to her, had stopped before one of the pictures. These
ladies were apparently persons of high fashion; they were dressed with
great splendor, and their long silken trains and furbelows were spread
over the polished floor. It was at their dresses Mademoiselle Noémie was
looking, though what she was thinking of I am unable to say. I hazard
the supposition that she was saying to herself that to be able to drag
such a train over a polished floor was a felicity worth any price. Her
reflections, at any rate, were disturbed by the advent of Newman and
his companion. She glanced at them quickly, and then, coloring a little,
rose and stood before her easel.

"I came here on purpose to see you," said Newman in his bad French,
offering to shake hands. And then, like a good American, he introduced
Valentin formally: "Allow me to make you acquainted with the Comte
Valentin de Bellegarde."

Valentin made a bow which must have seemed to Mademoiselle Noémie
quite in harmony with the impressiveness of his title, but the graceful
brevity of her own response made no concession to underbred surprise.
She turned to Newman, putting up her hands to her hair and smoothing its
delicately-felt roughness. Then, rapidly, she turned the canvas that was
on her easel over upon its face. "You have not forgotten me?" she asked.

"I shall never forget you," said Newman. "You may be sure of that."

"Oh," said the young girl, "there are a great many different ways
of remembering a person." And she looked straight at Valentin de
Bellegarde, who was looking at her as a gentleman may when a "verdict"
is expected of him.

"Have you painted anything for me?" said Newman. "Have you been
industrious?"

"No, I have done nothing." And taking up her palette, she began to mix
her colors at hazard.

"But your father tells me you have come here constantly."

"I have nowhere else to go! Here, all summer, it was cool, at least."

"Being here, then," said Newman, "you might have tried something."

"I told you before," she answered, softly, "that I don't know how to
paint."

"But you have something charming on your easel, now," said Valentin, "if
you would only let me see it."

She spread out her two hands, with the fingers expanded, over the back
of the canvas--those hands which Newman had called pretty, and which, in
spite of several paint-stains, Valentin could now admire. "My painting
is not charming," she said.

"It is the only thing about you that is not, then, mademoiselle," quoth
Valentin, gallantly.

She took up her little canvas and silently passed it to him. He looked
at it, and in a moment she said, "I am sure you are a judge."

"Yes," he answered, "I am."

"You know, then, that that is very bad."

"_Mon Dieu_," said Valentin, shrugging his shoulders "let us
distinguish."

"You know that I ought not to attempt to paint," the young girl
continued.

"Frankly, then, mademoiselle, I think you ought not."

She began to look at the dresses of the two splendid ladies again--a
point on which, having risked one conjecture, I think I may risk
another. While she was looking at the ladies she was seeing Valentin
de Bellegarde. He, at all events, was seeing her. He put down the
roughly-besmeared canvas and addressed a little click with his tongue,
accompanied by an elevation of the eyebrows, to Newman.

"Where have you been all these months?" asked Mademoiselle Noémie of our
hero. "You took those great journeys, you amused yourself well?"

"Oh, yes," said Newman. "I amused myself well enough."

"I am very glad," said Mademoiselle Noémie with extreme gentleness, and
she began to dabble in her colors again. She was singularly pretty, with
the look of serious sympathy that she threw into her face.

Valentin took advantage of her downcast eyes to telegraph again to his
companion. He renewed his mysterious physiognomical play, making at the
same time a rapid tremulous movement in the air with his fingers. He was
evidently finding Mademoiselle Noémie extremely interesting; the blue
devils had departed, leaving the field clear.

"Tell me something about your travels," murmured the young girl.

"Oh, I went to Switzerland,--to Geneva and Zermatt and Zürich and all
those places you know; and down to Venice, and all through Germany, and
down the Rhine, and into Holland and Belgium--the regular round. How do
you say that, in French--the regular round?" Newman asked of Valentin.

Mademoiselle Nioche fixed her eyes an instant on Bellegarde, and then
with a little smile, "I don't understand monsieur," she said, "when he
says so much at once. Would you be so good as to translate?"

"I would rather talk to you out of my own head," Valentin declared.

"No," said Newman, gravely, still in his bad French, "you must not talk
to Mademoiselle Nioche, because you say discouraging things. You ought
to tell her to work, to persevere."

"And we French, mademoiselle," said Valentin, "are accused of being
false flatterers!"

"I don't want any flattery, I want only the truth. But I know the
truth."

"All I say is that I suspect there are some things that you can do
better than paint," said Valentin.

"I know the truth--I know the truth," Mademoiselle Noémie repeated. And,
dipping a brush into a clot of red paint, she drew a great horizontal
daub across her unfinished picture.

"What is that?" asked Newman.

Without answering, she drew another long crimson daub, in a vertical
direction, down the middle of her canvas, and so, in a moment, completed
the rough indication of a cross. "It is the sign of the truth," she said
at last.

The two men looked at each other, and Valentin indulged in another
flash of physiognomical eloquence. "You have spoiled your picture," said
Newman.

"I know that very well. It was the only thing to do with it. I had sat
looking at it all day without touching it. I had begun to hate it. It
seemed to me something was going to happen."

"I like it better that way than as it was before," said Valentin. "Now
it is more interesting. It tells a story. Is it for sale?"

"Everything I have is for sale," said Mademoiselle Noémie.

"How much is this thing?"

"Ten thousand francs," said the young girl, without a smile.

"Everything that Mademoiselle Nioche may do at present is mine in
advance," said Newman. "It makes part of an order I gave her some months
ago. So you can't have this."

"Monsieur will lose nothing by it," said the young girl, looking at
Valentin. And she began to put up her utensils.

"I shall have gained a charming memory," said Valentin. "You are going
away? your day is over?"

"My father is coming to fetch me," said Mademoiselle Noémie.

She had hardly spoken when, through the door behind her, which opens on
one of the great white stone staircases of the Louvre, M. Nioche made
his appearance. He came in with his usual even, patient shuffle, and
he made a low salute to the two gentlemen who were standing before his
daughter's easel. Newman shook his hands with muscular friendliness, and
Valentin returned his greeting with extreme deference. While the old man
stood waiting for Noémie to make a parcel of her implements, he let
his mild, oblique gaze hover toward Bellegarde, who was watching
Mademoiselle Noémie put on her bonnet and mantle. Valentin was at no
pains to disguise his scrutiny. He looked at a pretty girl as he would
have listened to a piece of music. Attention, in each case, was simple
good manners. M. Nioche at last took his daughter's paint-box in one
hand and the bedaubed canvas, after giving it a solemn, puzzled stare,
in the other, and led the way to the door. Mademoiselle Noémie made the
young men the salute of a duchess, and followed her father.

"Well," said Newman, "what do you think of her?"

"She is very remarkable. _Diable, diable, diable!_" repeated M. de
Bellegarde, reflectively; "she is very remarkable."

"I am afraid she is a sad little adventuress," said Newman.

"Not a little one--a great one. She has the material." And Valentin
began to walk away slowly, looking vaguely at the pictures on the walls,
with a thoughtful illumination in his eye. Nothing could have appealed
to his imagination more than the possible adventures of a young lady
endowed with the "material" of Mademoiselle Nioche. "She is very
interesting," he went on. "She is a beautiful type."

"A beautiful type? What the deuce do you mean?" asked Newman.

"I mean from the artistic point of view. She is an artist,--outside of
her painting, which obviously is execrable."

"But she is not beautiful. I don't even think her very pretty."

"She is quite pretty enough for her purposes, and it is a face and
figure on which everything tells. If she were prettier she would be less
intelligent, and her intelligence is half of her charm."

"In what way," asked Newman, who was much amused at his companion's
immediate philosophisation of Mademoiselle Nioche, "does her
intelligence strike you as so remarkable?"

"She has taken the measure of life, and she has determined to _be_
something--to succeed at any cost. Her painting, of course, is a mere
trick to gain time. She is waiting for her chance; she wishes to launch
herself, and to do it well. She knows her Paris. She is one of fifty
thousand, so far as the mere ambition goes; but I am very sure that
in the way of resolution and capacity she is a rarity. And in one
gift--perfect heartlessness--I will warrant she is unsurpassed. She
has not as much heart as will go on the point of a needle. That is an
immense virtue. Yes, she is one of the celebrities of the future."

"Heaven help us!" said Newman, "how far the artistic point of view may
take a man! But in this case I must request that you don't let it take
you too far. You have learned a wonderful deal about Mademoiselle
Noémie in a quarter of an hour. Let that suffice; don't follow up your
researches."

"My dear fellow," cried Bellegarde with warmth, "I hope I have too good
manners to intrude."

"You are not intruding. The girl is nothing to me. In fact, I rather
dislike her. But I like her poor old father, and for his sake I beg you
to abstain from any attempt to verify your theories."

"For the sake of that seedy old gentleman who came to fetch her?"
demanded Valentin, stopping short. And on Newman's assenting, "Ah no, ah
no," he went on with a smile. "You are quite wrong, my dear fellow; you
needn't mind him."

"I verily believe that you are accusing the poor gentleman of being
capable of rejoicing in his daughter's dishonor."

"_Voyons!_" said Valentin; "who is he? what is he?"

"He is what he looks like: as poor as a rat, but very high-toned."

"Exactly. I noticed him perfectly; be sure I do him justice. He has
had losses, _des malheurs_, as we say. He is very low-spirited, and his
daughter is too much for him. He is the pink of respectability, and he
has sixty years of honesty on his back. All this I perfectly appreciate.
But I know my fellow-men and my fellow-Parisians, and I will make a
bargain with you." Newman gave ear to his bargain and he went on. "He
would rather his daughter were a good girl than a bad one, but if the
worst comes to the worst, the old man will not do what Virginius did.
Success justifies everything. If Mademoiselle Noémie makes a figure,
her papa will feel--well, we will call it relieved. And she will make a
figure. The old gentleman's future is assured."

"I don't know what Virginius did, but M. Nioche will shoot Miss Noémie,"
said Newman. "After that, I suppose his future will be assured in some
snug prison."

"I am not a cynic; I am simply an observer," Valentin rejoined.
"Mademoiselle Noémie interests me; she is extremely remarkable. If
there is a good reason, in honor or decency, for dismissing her from my
thoughts forever, I am perfectly willing to do it. Your estimate of the
papa's sensibilities is a good reason until it is invalidated. I promise
you not to look at the young girl again until you tell me that you have
changed your mind about the papa. When he has given distinct proof of
being a philosopher, you will raise your interdict. Do you agree to
that?"

"Do you mean to bribe him?"

"Oh, you admit, then, that he is bribable? No, he would ask too much,
and it would not be exactly fair. I mean simply to wait. You will
continue, I suppose, to see this interesting couple, and you will give
me the news yourself."

"Well," said Newman, "if the old man turns out a humbug, you may do what
you please. I wash my hands of the matter. For the girl herself, you
may be at rest. I don't know what harm she may do to me, but I certainly
can't hurt her. It seems to me," said Newman, "that you are very well
matched. You are both hard cases, and M. Nioche and I, I believe, are
the only virtuous men to be found in Paris."

Soon after this M. de Bellegarde, in punishment for his levity, received
a stern poke in the back from a pointed instrument. Turning quickly
round he found the weapon to be a parasol wielded by a lady in green
gauze bonnet. Valentin's English cousins had been drifting about
unpiloted, and evidently deemed that they had a grievance. Newman left
him to their mercies, but with a boundless faith in his power to plead
his cause.



CHAPTER XII

Three days after his introduction to the family of Madame de Cintré,
Newman, coming in toward evening, found upon his table the card of the
Marquis de Bellegarde. On the following day he received a note informing
him that the Marquise de Bellegarde would be grateful for the honor of
his company at dinner.

He went, of course, though he had to break another engagement to do it.
He was ushered into the room in which Madame de Bellegarde had received
him before, and here he found his venerable hostess, surrounded by her
entire family. The room was lighted only by the crackling fire, which
illuminated the very small pink slippers of a lady who, seated in a low
chair, was stretching out her toes before it. This lady was the younger
Madame de Bellegarde. Madame de Cintré was seated at the other end
of the room, holding a little girl against her knee, the child of her
brother Urbain, to whom she was apparently relating a wonderful story.
Valentin was sitting on a puff, close to his sister-in-law, into whose
ear he was certainly distilling the finest nonsense. The marquis was
stationed before the fire, with his head erect and his hands behind him,
in an attitude of formal expectancy.

Old Madame de Bellegarde stood up to give Newman her greeting, and there
was that in the way she did so which seemed to measure narrowly the
extent of her condescension. "We are all alone, you see, we have asked
no one else," she said austerely.

"I am very glad you didn't; this is much more sociable," said Newman.
"Good evening, sir," and he offered his hand to the marquis.

M. de Bellegarde was affable, but in spite of his dignity he was
restless. He began to pace up and down the room, he looked out of the
long windows, he took up books and laid them down again. Young Madame
de Bellegarde gave Newman her hand without moving and without looking at
him.

"You may think that is coldness," exclaimed Valentin; "but it is not, it
is warmth. It shows she is treating you as an intimate. Now she detests
me, and yet she is always looking at me."

"No wonder I detest you if I am always looking at you!" cried the lady.
"If Mr. Newman does not like my way of shaking hands, I will do it
again."

But this charming privilege was lost upon our hero, who was already
making his way across the room to Madame de Cintré. She looked at him
as she shook hands, but she went on with the story she was telling her
little niece. She had only two or three phrases to add, but they were
apparently of great moment. She deepened her voice, smiling as she did
so, and the little girl gazed at her with round eyes.

"But in the end the young prince married the beautiful Florabella," said
Madame de Cintré, "and carried her off to live with him in the Land of
the Pink Sky. There she was so happy that she forgot all her troubles,
and went out to drive every day of her life in an ivory coach drawn by
five hundred white mice. Poor Florabella," she exclaimed to Newman, "had
suffered terribly."

"She had had nothing to eat for six months," said little Blanche.

"Yes, but when the six months were over, she had a plum-cake as big as
that ottoman," said Madame de Cintré. "That quite set her up again."

"What a checkered career!" said Newman. "Are you very fond of children?"
He was certain that she was, but he wished to make her say it.

"I like to talk with them," she answered; "we can talk with them so much
more seriously than with grown persons. That is great nonsense that I
have been telling Blanche, but it is a great deal more serious than most
of what we say in society."

"I wish you would talk to me, then, as if I were Blanche's age," said
Newman, laughing. "Were you happy at your ball the other night?"

"Ecstatically!"

"Now you are talking the nonsense that we talk in society," said Newman.
"I don't believe that."

"It was my own fault if I was not happy. The ball was very pretty, and
everyone very amiable."

"It was on your conscience," said Newman, "that you had annoyed your
mother and your brother."

Madame de Cintré looked at him a moment without answering. "That is
true," she replied at last. "I had undertaken more than I could carry
out. I have very little courage; I am not a heroine." She said this with
a certain soft emphasis; but then, changing her tone, "I could never
have gone through the sufferings of the beautiful Florabella," she
added, not even for her prospective rewards.

Dinner was announced, and Newman betook himself to the side of the old
Madame de Bellegarde. The dining-room, at the end of a cold corridor,
was vast and sombre; the dinner was simple and delicately excellent.
Newman wondered whether Madame de Cintré had had something to do with
ordering the repast and greatly hoped she had. Once seated at table,
with the various members of the ancient house of Bellegarde around
him, he asked himself the meaning of his position. Was the old lady
responding to his advances? Did the fact that he was a solitary guest
augment his credit or diminish it? Were they ashamed to show him to
other people, or did they wish to give him a sign of sudden adoption
into their last reserve of favor? Newman was on his guard; he was
watchful and conjectural; and yet at the same time he was vaguely
indifferent. Whether they gave him a long rope or a short one he was
there now, and Madame de Cintré was opposite to him. She had a tall
candlestick on each side of her; she would sit there for the next hour,
and that was enough. The dinner was extremely solemn and measured; he
wondered whether this was always the state of things in "old families."
Madame de Bellegarde held her head very high, and fixed her eyes, which
looked peculiarly sharp in her little, finely-wrinkled white face, very
intently upon the table-service. The marquis appeared to have decided
that the fine arts offered a safe subject of conversation, as not
leading to startling personal revelations. Every now and then, having
learned from Newman that he had been through the museums of Europe, he
uttered some polished aphorism upon the flesh-tints of Rubens and the
good taste of Sansovino. His manners seemed to indicate a fine, nervous
dread that something disagreeable might happen if the atmosphere were
not purified by allusions of a thoroughly superior cast. "What under
the sun is the man afraid of?" Newman asked himself. "Does he think I am
going to offer to swap jack-knives with him?" It was useless to shut his
eyes to the fact that the marquis was profoundly disagreeable to him.
He had never been a man of strong personal aversions; his nerves had not
been at the mercy of the mystical qualities of his neighbors. But here
was a man towards whom he was irresistibly in opposition; a man of
forms and phrases and postures; a man full of possible impertinences
and treacheries. M. de Bellegarde made him feel as if he were standing
bare-footed on a marble floor; and yet, to gain his desire, Newman felt
perfectly able to stand. He wondered what Madame de Cintré thought of
his being accepted, if accepted it was. There was no judging from her
face, which expressed simply the desire to be gracious in a manner which
should require as little explicit recognition as possible. Young Madame
de Bellegarde had always the same manners; she was always preoccupied,
distracted, listening to everything and hearing nothing, looking at
her dress, her rings, her finger-nails, seeming rather bored, and yet
puzzling you to decide what was her ideal of social diversion. Newman
was enlightened on this point later. Even Valentin did not quite seem
master of his wits; his vivacity was fitful and forced, yet Newman
observed that in the lapses of his talk he appeared excited. His eyes
had an intenser spark than usual. The effect of all this was that
Newman, for the first time in his life, was not himself; that he
measured his movements, and counted his words, and resolved that if the
occasion demanded that he should appear to have swallowed a ramrod, he
would meet the emergency.

After dinner M. de Bellegarde proposed to his guest that they should go
into the smoking-room, and he led the way toward a small, somewhat
musty apartment, the walls of which were ornamented with old hangings of
stamped leather and trophies of rusty arms. Newman refused a cigar, but
he established himself upon one of the divans, while the marquis puffed
his own weed before the fire-place, and Valentin sat looking through the
light fumes of a cigarette from one to the other.

"I can't keep quiet any longer," said Valentin, at last. "I must tell
you the news and congratulate you. My brother seems unable to come to
the point; he revolves around his announcement like the priest around
the altar. You are accepted as a candidate for the hand of our sister."

"Valentin, be a little proper!" murmured the marquis, with a look of the
most delicate irritation contracting the bridge of his high nose.

"There has been a family council," the young man continued; "my mother
and Urbain have put their heads together, and even my testimony has
not been altogether excluded. My mother and the marquis sat at a table
covered with green cloth; my sister-in-law and I were on a bench against
the wall. It was like a committee at the Corps Législatif. We were
called up, one after the other, to testify. We spoke of you very
handsomely. Madame de Bellegarde said that if she had not been told who
you were, she would have taken you for a duke--an American duke, the
Duke of California. I said that I could warrant you grateful for the
smallest favors--modest, humble, unassuming. I was sure that you would
know your own place, always, and never give us occasion to remind you of
certain differences. After all, you couldn't help it if you were not
a duke. There were none in your country; but if there had been, it was
certain that, smart and active as you are, you would have got the pick
of the titles. At this point I was ordered to sit down, but I think I
made an impression in your favor."

M. de Bellegarde looked at his brother with dangerous coldness, and
gave a smile as thin as the edge of a knife. Then he removed a spark of
cigar-ash from the sleeve of his coat; he fixed his eyes for a while on
the cornice of the room, and at last he inserted one of his white hands
into the breast of his waistcoat. "I must apologize to you for the
deplorable levity of my brother," he said, "and I must notify you that
this is probably not the last time that his want of tact will cause you
serious embarrassment."

"No, I confess I have no tact," said Valentin. "Is your embarrassment
really painful, Newman? The marquis will put you right again; his own
touch is deliciously delicate."

"Valentin, I am sorry to say," the marquis continued, "has never
possessed the tone, the manner, that belongs to a young man in his
position. It has been a great affliction to his mother, who is very fond
of the old traditions. But you must remember that he speaks for no one
but himself."

"Oh, I don't mind him, sir," said Newman, good-humoredly. "I know what
he amounts to."

"In the good old times," said Valentin, "marquises and counts used
to have their appointed fools and jesters, to crack jokes for them.
Nowadays we see a great strapping democrat keeping a count about him
to play the fool. It's a good situation, but I certainly am very
degenerate."

M. de Bellegarde fixed his eyes for some time on the floor. "My mother
informed me," he said presently, "of the announcement that you made to
her the other evening."

"That I desired to marry your sister?" said Newman.

"That you wished to arrange a marriage," said the marquis, slowly,
"with my sister, the Comtesse de Cintré. The proposal was serious, and
required, on my mother's part, a great deal of reflection. She naturally
took me into her counsels, and I gave my most zealous attention to the
subject. There was a great deal to be considered; more than you appear
to imagine. We have viewed the question on all its faces, we have
weighed one thing against another. Our conclusion has been that we favor
your suit. My mother has desired me to inform you of our decision. She
will have the honor of saying a few words to you on the subject herself.
Meanwhile, by us, the heads of the family, you are accepted."

Newman got up and came nearer to the marquis. "You will do nothing to
hinder me, and all you can to help me, eh?"

"I will recommend my sister to accept you."

Newman passed his hand over his face, and pressed it for a moment upon
his eyes. This promise had a great sound, and yet the pleasure he took
in it was embittered by his having to stand there so and receive his
passport from M. de Bellegarde. The idea of having this gentleman mixed
up with his wooing and wedding was more and more disagreeable to him.
But Newman had resolved to go through the mill, as he imagined it, and
he would not cry out at the first turn of the wheel. He was silent a
while, and then he said, with a certain dryness which Valentin told him
afterwards had a very grand air, "I am much obliged to you."

"I take note of the promise," said Valentin, "I register the vow."

M. de Bellegarde began to gaze at the cornice again; he apparently had
something more to say. "I must do my mother the justice," he resumed, "I
must do myself the justice, to say that our decision was not easy. Such
an arrangement was not what we had expected. The idea that my sister
should marry a gentleman--ah--in business was something of a novelty."

"So I told you, you know," said Valentin raising his finger at Newman.

"The novelty has not quite worn away, I confess," the marquis went on;
"perhaps it never will, entirely. But possibly that is not altogether
to be regretted," and he gave his thin smile again. "It may be that the
time has come when we should make some concession to novelty. There
had been no novelties in our house for a great many years. I made the
observation to my mother, and she did me the honor to admit that it was
worthy of attention."

"My dear brother," interrupted Valentin, "is not your memory just
here leading you the least bit astray? Our mother is, I may say,
distinguished for her small respect of abstract reasoning. Are you
very sure that she replied to your striking proposition in the gracious
manner you describe? You know how terribly incisive she is sometimes.
Didn't she, rather, do you the honor to say, 'A fiddlestick for your
phrases! There are better reasons than that?'"

"Other reasons were discussed," said the marquis, without looking
at Valentin, but with an audible tremor in his voice; "some of them
possibly were better. We are conservative, Mr. Newman, but we are not
also bigots. We judged the matter liberally. We have no doubt that
everything will be comfortable."

Newman had stood listening to these remarks with his arms folded and his
eyes fastened upon M. de Bellegarde, "Comfortable?" he said, with a sort
of grim flatness of intonation. "Why shouldn't we be comfortable? If you
are not, it will be your own fault; I have everything to make _me_ so."

"My brother means that with the lapse of time you may get used to the
change"--and Valentin paused, to light another cigarette.

"What change?" asked Newman in the same tone.

"Urbain," said Valentin, very gravely, "I am afraid that Mr. Newman does
not quite realize the change. We ought to insist upon that."

"My brother goes too far," said M. de Bellegarde. "It is his fatal want
of tact again. It is my mother's wish, and mine, that no such allusions
should be made. Pray never make them yourself. We prefer to assume
that the person accepted as the possible husband of my sister is one
of ourselves, and that he should have no explanations to make. With a
little discretion on both sides, everything, I think, will be easy. That
is exactly what I wished to say--that we quite understand what we
have undertaken, and that you may depend upon our adhering to our
resolution."

Valentin shook his hands in the air and then buried his face in them. "I
have less tact than I might have, no doubt; but oh, my brother, if you
knew what you yourself were saying!" And he went off into a long laugh.

M. de Bellegarde's face flushed a little, but he held his head higher,
as if to repudiate this concession to vulgar perturbability. "I am sure
you understand me," he said to Newman.

"Oh no, I don't understand you at all," said Newman. "But you needn't
mind that. I don't care. In fact, I think I had better not understand
you. I might not like it. That wouldn't suit me at all, you know. I want
to marry your sister, that's all; to do it as quickly as possible, and
to find fault with nothing. I don't care how I do it. I am not marrying
you, you know, sir. I have got my leave, and that is all I want."

"You had better receive the last word from my mother," said the marquis.

"Very good; I will go and get it," said Newman; and he prepared to
return to the drawing-room.

M. de Bellegarde made a motion for him to pass first, and when Newman
had gone out he shut himself into the room with Valentin. Newman had
been a trifle bewildered by the audacious irony of the younger brother,
and he had not needed its aid to point the moral of M. de Bellegarde's
transcendent patronage. He had wit enough to appreciate the force
of that civility which consists in calling your attention to the
impertinences it spares you. But he had felt warmly the delicate
sympathy with himself that underlay Valentin's fraternal irreverence,
and he was most unwilling that his friend should pay a tax upon it.
He paused a moment in the corridor, after he had gone a few steps,
expecting to hear the resonance of M. de Bellegarde's displeasure; but
he detected only a perfect stillness. The stillness itself seemed a
trifle portentous; he reflected however that he had no right to stand
listening, and he made his way back to the salon. In his absence several
persons had come in. They were scattered about the room in groups,
two or three of them having passed into a small boudoir, next to the
drawing-room, which had now been lighted and opened. Old Madame de
Bellegarde was in her place by the fire, talking to a very old gentleman
in a wig and a profuse white neck cloth of the fashion of 1820. Madame
de Cintré was bending a listening head to the historic confidences of
an old lady who was presumably the wife of the old gentleman in the
neckcloth, an old lady in a red satin dress and an ermine cape, who
wore across her forehead a band with a topaz set in it. Young Madame
de Bellegarde, when Newman came in, left some people among whom she was
sitting, and took the place that she had occupied before dinner. Then
she gave a little push to the puff that stood near her, and by a glance
at Newman seemed to indicate that she had placed it in position for him.
He went and took possession of it; the marquis's wife amused and puzzled
him.

"I know your secret," she said, in her bad but charming English; "you
need make no mystery of it. You wish to marry my sister-in-law. _C'est
un beau choix_. A man like you ought to marry a tall, thin woman. You
must know that I have spoken in your favor; you owe me a famous taper!"

"You have spoken to Madame de Cintré?" said Newman.

"Oh no, not that. You may think it strange, but my sister-in-law and
I are not so intimate as that. No; I spoke to my husband and my
mother-in-law; I said I was sure we could do what we chose with you."

"I am much obliged to you," said Newman, laughing; "but you can't."

"I know that very well; I didn't believe a word of it. But I wanted you
to come into the house; I thought we should be friends."

"I am very sure of it," said Newman.

"Don't be too sure. If you like Madame de Cintré so much, perhaps you
will not like me. We are as different as blue and pink. But you and I
have something in common. I have come into this family by marriage; you
want to come into it in the same way."

"Oh no, I don't!" interrupted Newman. "I only want to take Madame de
Cintré out of it."

"Well, to cast your nets you have to go into the water. Our positions
are alike; we shall be able to compare notes. What do you think of my
husband? It's a strange question, isn't it? But I shall ask you some
stranger ones yet."

"Perhaps a stranger one will be easier to answer," said Newman. "You
might try me."

"Oh, you get off very well; the old Comte de la Rochefidèle, yonder,
couldn't do it better. I told them that if we only gave you a chance you
would be a perfect _talon rouge_. I know something about men. Besides,
you and I belong to the same camp. I am a ferocious democrat. By birth
I am _vieille roche_; a good little bit of the history of France is
the history of my family. Oh, you never heard of us, of course! _Ce que
c'est que la gloire!_ We are much better than the Bellegardes, at any
rate. But I don't care a pin for my pedigree; I want to belong to my
time. I'm a revolutionist, a radical, a child of the age! I am sure I go
beyond you. I like clever people, wherever they come from, and I take my
amusement wherever I find it. I don't pout at the Empire; here all the
world pouts at the Empire. Of course I have to mind what I say; but I
expect to take my revenge with you." Madame de Bellegarde discoursed
for some time longer in this sympathetic strain, with an eager abundance
which seemed to indicate that her opportunities for revealing her
esoteric philosophy were indeed rare. She hoped that Newman would never
be afraid of her, however he might be with the others, for, really,
she went very far indeed. "Strong people"--_le gens forts_--were in
her opinion equal, all the world over. Newman listened to her with an
attention at once beguiled and irritated. He wondered what the deuce
she, too, was driving at, with her hope that he would not be afraid of
her and her protestations of equality. In so far as he could understand
her, she was wrong; a silly, rattling woman was certainly not the equal
of a sensible man, preoccupied with an ambitious passion. Madame de
Bellegarde stopped suddenly, and looked at him sharply, shaking her fan.
"I see you don't believe me," she said, "you are too much on your guard.
You will not form an alliance, offensive or defensive? You are very
wrong; I could help you."

Newman answered that he was very grateful and that he would certainly
ask for help; she should see. "But first of all," he said, "I must help
myself." And he went to join Madame de Cintré.

"I have been telling Madame de la Rochefidèle that you are an American,"
she said, as he came up. "It interests her greatly. Her father went over
with the French troops to help you in your battles in the last century,
and she has always, in consequence, wanted greatly to see an American.
But she has never succeeded till to-night. You are the first--to her
knowledge--that she has ever looked at."

Madame de la Rochefidèle had an aged, cadaverous face, with a falling of
the lower jaw which prevented her from bringing her lips together, and
reduced her conversations to a series of impressive but inarticulate
gutturals. She raised an antique eyeglass, elaborately mounted in chased
silver, and looked at Newman from head to foot. Then she said something
to which he listened deferentially, but which he completely failed to
understand.

"Madame de la Rochefidèle says that she is convinced that she must have
seen Americans without knowing it," Madame de Cintré explained. Newman
thought it probable she had seen a great many things without knowing it;
and the old lady, again addressing herself to utterance, declared--as
interpreted by Madame de Cintré--that she wished she had known it.

At this moment the old gentleman who had been talking to the elder
Madame de Bellegarde drew near, leading the marquise on his arm. His
wife pointed out Newman to him, apparently explaining his remarkable
origin. M. de la Rochefidèle, whose old age was rosy and rotund, spoke
very neatly and clearly, almost as prettily, Newman thought, as M.
Nioche. When he had been enlightened, he turned to Newman with an
inimitable elderly grace.

"Monsieur is by no means the first American that I have seen," he said.
"Almost the first person I ever saw--to notice him--was an American."

"Ah?" said Newman, sympathetically.

"The great Dr. Franklin," said M. de la Rochefidèle. "Of course I was
very young. He was received very well in our _monde._"

"Not better than Mr. Newman," said Madame de Bellegarde. "I beg he
will offer his arm into the other room. I could have offered no higher
privilege to Dr. Franklin."

Newman, complying with Madame de Bellegarde's request, perceived that
her two sons had returned to the drawing-room. He scanned their faces
an instant for traces of the scene that had followed his separation from
them, but the marquis seemed neither more nor less frigidly grand than
usual, and Valentin was kissing ladies' hands with at least his habitual
air of self-abandonment to the act. Madame de Bellegarde gave a glance
at her eldest son, and by the time she had crossed the threshold of
her boudoir he was at her side. The room was now empty and offered
a sufficient degree of privacy. The old lady disengaged herself from
Newman's arm and rested her hand on the arm of the marquis; and in this
position she stood a moment, holding her head high and biting her small
under-lip. I am afraid the picture was lost upon Newman, but Madame de
Bellegarde was, in fact, at this moment a striking image of the dignity
which--even in the case of a little time-shrunken old lady--may reside
in the habit of unquestioned authority and the absoluteness of a social
theory favorable to yourself.

"My son has spoken to you as I desired," she said, "and you understand
that we shall not interfere. The rest will lie with yourself."

"M. de Bellegarde told me several things I didn't understand," said
Newman, "but I made out that. You will leave me open field. I am much
obliged."

"I wish to add a word that my son probably did not feel at liberty to
say," the marquise rejoined. "I must say it for my own peace of mind. We
are stretching a point; we are doing you a great favor."

"Oh, your son said it very well; didn't you?" said Newman.

"Not so well as my mother," declared the marquis.

"I can only repeat--I am much obliged."

"It is proper I should tell you," Madame de Bellegarde went on, "that I
am very proud, and that I hold my head very high. I may be wrong, but
I am too old to change. At least I know it, and I don't pretend to
anything else. Don't flatter yourself that my daughter is not proud. She
is proud in her own way--a somewhat different way from mine. You will
have to make your terms with that. Even Valentin is proud, if you touch
the right spot--or the wrong one. Urbain is proud; that you see for
yourself. Sometimes I think he is a little too proud; but I wouldn't
change him. He is the best of my children; he cleaves to his old mother.
But I have said enough to show you that we are all proud together. It is
well that you should know the sort of people you have come among."

"Well," said Newman, "I can only say, in return, that I am _not_
proud; I shan't mind you! But you speak as if you intended to be very
disagreeable."

"I shall not enjoy having my daughter marry you, and I shall not pretend
to enjoy it. If you don't mind that, so much the better."

"If you stick to your own side of the contract we shall not quarrel;
that is all I ask of you," said Newman. "Keep your hands off, and
give me an open field. I am very much in earnest, and there is not the
slightest danger of my getting discouraged or backing out. You will have
me constantly before your eyes; if you don't like it, I am sorry for
you. I will do for your daughter, if she will accept me, everything that
a man can do for a woman. I am happy to tell you that, as a promise--a
pledge. I consider that on your side you make me an equal pledge. You
will not back out, eh?"

"I don't know what you mean by 'backing out,'" said the marquise.
"It suggests a movement of which I think no Bellegarde has ever been
guilty."

"Our word is our word," said Urbain. "We have given it."

"Well, now," said Newman, "I am very glad you are so proud. It makes me
believe that you will keep it."

The marquise was silent a moment, and then, suddenly, "I shall always be
polite to you, Mr. Newman," she declared, "but, decidedly, I shall never
like you."

"Don't be too sure," said Newman, laughing.

"I am so sure that I will ask you to take me back to my armchair without
the least fear of having my sentiments modified by the service you
render me." And Madame de Bellegarde took his arm, and returned to the
salon and to her customary place.

M. de la Rochefidèle and his wife were preparing to take their leave,
and Madame de Cintré's interview with the mumbling old lady was at an
end. She stood looking about her, asking herself, apparently to whom she
should next speak, when Newman came up to her.

"Your mother has given me leave--very solemnly--to come here often," he
said. "I mean to come often."

"I shall be glad to see you," she answered simply. And then, in a
moment: "You probably think it very strange that there should be such a
solemnity--as you say--about your coming."

"Well, yes; I do, rather."

"Do you remember what my brother Valentin said, the first time you came
to see me--that we were a strange, strange family?"

"It was not the first time I came, but the second," said Newman.

"Very true. Valentin annoyed me at the time, but now I know you better,
I may tell you he was right. If you come often, you will see!" and
Madame de Cintré turned away.

Newman watched her a while, talking with other people, and then he took
his leave. He shook hands last with Valentin de Bellegarde, who came out
with him to the top of the staircase. "Well, you have got your permit,"
said Valentin. "I hope you liked the process."

"I like your sister, more than ever. But don't worry your brother any
more for my sake," Newman added. "I don't mind him. I am afraid he came
down on you in the smoking-room, after I went out."

"When my brother comes down on me," said Valentin, "he falls hard. I
have a peculiar way of receiving him. I must say," he continued, "that
they came up to the mark much sooner than I expected. I don't understand
it, they must have had to turn the screw pretty tight. It's a tribute to
your millions."

"Well, it's the most precious one they have ever received," said Newman.

He was turning away when Valentin stopped him, looking at him with a
brilliant, softly-cynical glance. "I should like to know whether, within
a few days, you have seen your venerable friend M. Nioche."

"He was yesterday at my rooms," Newman answered.

"What did he tell you?"

"Nothing particular."

"You didn't see the muzzle of a pistol sticking out of his pocket?"

"What are you driving at?" Newman demanded. "I thought he seemed rather
cheerful for him."

Valentin broke into a laugh. "I am delighted to hear it! I win my bet.
Mademoiselle Noémie has thrown her cap over the mill, as we say. She
has left the paternal domicile. She is launched! And M. Nioche is rather
cheerful--_for him!_ Don't brandish your tomahawk at that rate; I have
not seen her nor communicated with her since that day at the Louvre.
Andromeda has found another Perseus than I. My information is exact;
on such matters it always is. I suppose that now you will raise your
protest."

"My protest be hanged!" murmured Newman, disgustedly.

But his tone found no echo in that in which Valentin, with his hand on
the door, to return to his mother's apartment, exclaimed, "But I shall
see her now! She is very remarkable--she is very remarkable!"



CHAPTER XIII

Newman kept his promise, or his menace, of going often to the Rue de
l'Université, and during the next six weeks he saw Madame de Cintré more
times than he could have numbered. He flattered himself that he was not
in love, but his biographer may be supposed to know better. He claimed,
at least, none of the exemptions and emoluments of the romantic passion.
Love, he believed, made a fool of a man, and his present emotion was not
folly but wisdom; wisdom sound, serene, well-directed. What he felt
was an intense, all-consuming tenderness, which had for its object an
extraordinarily graceful and delicate, and at the same time impressive,
woman who lived in a large gray house on the left bank of the Seine.
This tenderness turned very often into a positive heartache; a sign
in which, certainly, Newman ought to have read the appellation which
science has conferred upon his sentiment. When the heart has a heavy
weight upon it, it hardly matters whether the weight be of gold or of
lead; when, at any rate, happiness passes into that place in which it
becomes identical with pain, a man may admit that the reign of wisdom
is temporarily suspended. Newman wished Madame de Cintré so well that
nothing he could think of doing for her in the future rose to the high
standard which his present mood had set itself. She seemed to him so
felicitous a product of nature and circumstance that his invention,
musing on future combinations, was constantly catching its breath with
the fear of stumbling into some brutal compression or mutilation of her
beautiful personal harmony. This is what I mean by Newman's tenderness:
Madame de Cintré pleased him so, exactly as she was, that his desire
to interpose between her and the troubles of life had the quality of a
young mother's eagerness to protect the sleep of her first-born child.
Newman was simply charmed, and he handled his charm as if it were a
music-box which would stop if one shook it. There can be no better proof
of the hankering epicure that is hidden in every man's temperament,
waiting for a signal from some divine confederate that he may safely
peep out. Newman at last was enjoying, purely, freely, deeply. Certain
of Madame de Cintré's personal qualities--the luminous sweetness of
her eyes, the delicate mobility of her face, the deep liquidity of her
voice--filled all his consciousness. A rose-crowned Greek of old, gazing
at a marble goddess with his whole bright intellect resting satisfied
in the act, could not have been a more complete embodiment of the wisdom
that loses itself in the enjoyment of quiet harmonies.

He made no violent love to her--no sentimental speeches. He never
trespassed on what she had made him understand was for the present
forbidden ground. But he had, nevertheless, a comfortable sense that she
knew better from day to day how much he admired her. Though in general
he was no great talker, he talked much, and he succeeded perfectly in
making her say many things. He was not afraid of boring her, either by
his discourse or by his silence; and whether or no he did occasionally
bore her, it is probable that on the whole she liked him only the better
for his absence of embarrassed scruples. Her visitors, coming in
often while Newman sat there, found a tall, lean, silent man in a
half-lounging attitude, who laughed out sometimes when no one had
meant to be droll, and remained grave in the presence of calculated
witticisms, for appreciation of which he had apparently not the proper
culture.

It must be confessed that the number of subjects upon which Newman had
no ideas was extremely large, and it must be added that as regards those
subjects upon which he was without ideas he was also perfectly without
words. He had little of the small change of conversation, and his stock
of ready-made formulas and phrases was the scantiest. On the other hand
he had plenty of attention to bestow, and his estimate of the importance
of a topic did not depend upon the number of clever things he could say
about it. He himself was almost never bored, and there was no man with
whom it would have been a greater mistake to suppose that silence
meant displeasure. What it was that entertained him during some of his
speechless sessions I must, however, confess myself unable to determine.
We know in a general way that a great many things which were old stories
to a great many people had the charm of novelty to him, but a complete
list of his new impressions would probably contain a number of surprises
for us. He told Madame de Cintré a hundred long stories; he explained
to her, in talking of the United States, the working of various local
institutions and mercantile customs. Judging by the sequel she was
interested, but one would not have been sure of it beforehand. As
regards her own talk, Newman was very sure himself that she herself
enjoyed it: this was as a sort of amendment to the portrait that Mrs.
Tristram had drawn of her. He discovered that she had naturally an
abundance of gaiety. He had been right at first in saying she was shy;
her shyness, in a woman whose circumstances and tranquil beauty afforded
every facility for well-mannered hardihood, was only a charm the more.
For Newman it had lasted some time, and even when it went it left
something behind it which for a while performed the same office. Was
this the tearful secret of which Mrs. Tristram had had a glimpse, and
of which, as of her friend's reserve, her high-breeding, and her
profundity, she had given a sketch of which the outlines were, perhaps,
rather too heavy? Newman supposed so, but he found himself wondering
less every day what Madame de Cintré's secrets might be, and more
convinced that secrets were, in themselves, hateful things to her. She
was a woman for the light, not for the shade; and her natural line was
not picturesque reserve and mysterious melancholy, but frank, joyous,
brilliant action, with just so much meditation as was necessary, and
not a grain more. To this, apparently, he had succeeded in bringing her
back. He felt, himself, that he was an antidote to oppressive secrets;
what he offered her was, in fact, above all things a vast, sunny
immunity from the need of having any.

He often passed his evenings, when Madame de Cintré had so appointed it,
at the chilly fireside of Madame de Bellegarde, contenting himself with
looking across the room, through narrowed eyelids, at his mistress,
who always made a point, before her family, of talking to someone else.
Madame de Bellegarde sat by the fire conversing neatly and coldly
with whomsoever approached her, and glancing round the room with her
slowly-restless eye, the effect of which, when it lighted upon him, was
to Newman's sense identical with that of a sudden spurt of damp air.
When he shook hands with her he always asked her with a laugh whether
she could "stand him" another evening, and she replied, without a laugh,
that thank God she had always been able to do her duty. Newman, talking
once of the marquise to Mrs. Tristram, said that after all it was very
easy to get on with her; it always was easy to get on with out-and-out
rascals.

"And is it by that elegant term," said Mrs. Tristram, "that you
designate the Marquise de Bellegarde?"

"Well," said Newman, "she is wicked, she is an old sinner."

"What is her crime?" asked Mrs. Tristram.

"I shouldn't wonder if she had murdered someone--all from a sense of
duty, of course."

"How can you be so dreadful?" sighed Mrs. Tristram.

"I am not dreadful. I am speaking of her favorably."

"Pray what will you say when you want to be severe?"

"I shall keep my severity for someone else--for the marquis. There's a
man I can't swallow, mix the drink as I will."

"And what has _he_ done?"

"I can't quite make out; it is something dreadfully bad, something
mean and underhand, and not redeemed by audacity, as his mother's
misdemeanors may have been. If he has never committed murder, he has at
least turned his back and looked the other way while someone else was
committing it."

In spite of this invidious hypothesis, which must be taken for nothing
more than an example of the capricious play of "American humor," Newman
did his best to maintain an easy and friendly style of communication
with M. de Bellegarde. So long as he was in personal contact with people
he disliked extremely to have anything to forgive them, and he was
capable of a good deal of unsuspected imaginative effort (for the sake
of his own personal comfort) to assume for the time that they were
good fellows. He did his best to treat the marquis as one; he believed
honestly, moreover, that he could not, in reason, be such a confounded
fool as he seemed. Newman's familiarity was never importunate; his sense
of human equality was not an aggressive taste or an æsthetic theory, but
something as natural and organic as a physical appetite which had
never been put on a scanty allowance and consequently was innocent of
ungraceful eagerness. His tranquil unsuspectingness of the relativity
of his own place in the social scale was probably irritating to M.
de Bellegarde, who saw himself reflected in the mind of his potential
brother-in-law in a crude and colorless form, unpleasantly dissimilar
to the impressive image projected upon his own intellectual mirror. He
never forgot himself for an instant, and replied to what he must have
considered Newman's "advances" with mechanical politeness. Newman, who
was constantly forgetting himself, and indulging in an unlimited amount
of irresponsible inquiry and conjecture, now and then found himself
confronted by the conscious, ironical smile of his host. What the
deuce M. de Bellegarde was smiling at he was at a loss to divine. M.
de Bellegarde's smile may be supposed to have been, for himself, a
compromise between a great many emotions. So long as he smiled he
was polite, and it was proper he should be polite. A smile, moreover,
committed him to nothing more than politeness, and left the degree of
politeness agreeably vague. A smile, too, was neither dissent--which
was too serious--nor agreement, which might have brought on terrible
complications. And then a smile covered his own personal dignity, which
in this critical situation he was resolved to keep immaculate; it was
quite enough that the glory of his house should pass into eclipse.
Between him and Newman, his whole manner seemed to declare there could
be no interchange of opinion; he was holding his breath so as not
to inhale the odor of democracy. Newman was far from being versed in
European politics, but he liked to have a general idea of what was going
on about him, and he accordingly asked M. de Bellegarde several times
what he thought of public affairs. M. de Bellegarde answered with suave
concision that he thought as ill of them as possible, that they were
going from bad to worse, and that the age was rotten to its core. This
gave Newman, for the moment, an almost kindly feeling for the marquis;
he pitied a man for whom the world was so cheerless a place, and the
next time he saw M. de Bellegarde he attempted to call his attention
to some of the brilliant features of the time. The marquis presently
replied that he had but a single political conviction, which was enough
for him: he believed in the divine right of Henry of Bourbon, Fifth
of his name, to the throne of France. Newman stared, and after this he
ceased to talk politics with M. de Bellegarde. He was not horrified nor
scandalized, he was not even amused; he felt as he should have felt if
he had discovered in M. de Bellegarde a taste for certain oddities of
diet; an appetite, for instance, for fishbones or nutshells. Under these
circumstances, of course, he would never have broached dietary questions
with him.

One afternoon, on his calling on Madame de Cintré, Newman was requested
by the servant to wait a few moments, as his hostess was not at liberty.
He walked about the room a while, taking up her books, smelling her
flowers, and looking at her prints and photographs (which he thought
prodigiously pretty), and at last he heard the opening of a door to
which his back was turned. On the threshold stood an old woman whom he
remembered to have met several times in entering and leaving the house.
She was tall and straight and dressed in black, and she wore a cap
which, if Newman had been initiated into such mysteries, would have been
a sufficient assurance that she was not a Frenchwoman; a cap of pure
British composition. She had a pale, decent, depressed-looking face, and
a clear, dull, English eye. She looked at Newman a moment, both intently
and timidly, and then she dropped a short, straight English curtsey.

"Madame de Cintré begs you will kindly wait," she said. "She has just
come in; she will soon have finished dressing."

"Oh, I will wait as long as she wants," said Newman. "Pray tell her not
to hurry."

"Thank you, sir," said the woman, softly; and then, instead of retiring
with her message, she advanced into the room. She looked about her for a
moment, and presently went to a table and began to arrange certain books
and knick-knacks. Newman was struck with the high respectability of
her appearance; he was afraid to address her as a servant. She busied
herself for some moments with putting the table in order and pulling the
curtains straight, while Newman walked slowly to and fro. He perceived
at last from her reflection in the mirror, as he was passing that her
hands were idle and that she was looking at him intently. She evidently
wished to say something, and Newman, perceiving it, helped her to begin.

"You are English?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, please," she answered, quickly and softly; "I was born in
Wiltshire."

"And what do you think of Paris?"

"Oh, I don't think of Paris, sir," she said in the same tone. "It is so
long since I have been here."

"Ah, you have been here very long?"

"It is more than forty years, sir. I came over with Lady Emmeline."

"You mean with old Madame de Bellegarde?"

"Yes, sir. I came with her when she was married. I was my lady's own
woman."

"And you have been with her ever since?"

"I have been in the house ever since. My lady has taken a younger
person. You see I am very old. I do nothing regular now. But I keep
about."

"You look very strong and well," said Newman, observing the erectness of
her figure, and a certain venerable rosiness in her cheek.

"Thank God I am not ill, sir; I hope I know my duty too well to go
panting and coughing about the house. But I am an old woman, sir, and it
is as an old woman that I venture to speak to you."

"Oh, speak out," said Newman, curiously. "You needn't be afraid of me."

"Yes, sir. I think you are kind. I have seen you before."

"On the stairs, you mean?"

"Yes, sir. When you have been coming to see the countess. I have taken
the liberty of noticing that you come often."

"Oh yes; I come very often," said Newman, laughing. "You need not have
been wide-awake to notice that."

"I have noticed it with pleasure, sir," said the ancient tirewoman,
gravely. And she stood looking at Newman with a strange expression of
face. The old instinct of deference and humility was there; the habit
of decent self-effacement and knowledge of her "own place." But there
mingled with it a certain mild audacity, born of the occasion and of a
sense, probably, of Newman's unprecedented approachableness, and, beyond
this, a vague indifference to the old proprieties; as if my lady's own
woman had at last begun to reflect that, since my lady had taken another
person, she had a slight reversionary property in herself.

"You take a great interest in the family?" said Newman.

"A deep interest, sir. Especially in the countess."

"I am glad of that," said Newman. And in a moment he added, smiling, "So
do I!"

"So I suppose, sir. We can't help noticing these things and having our
ideas; can we, sir?"

"You mean as a servant?" said Newman.

"Ah, there it is, sir. I am afraid that when I let my thoughts meddle
with such matters I am no longer a servant. But I am so devoted to the
countess; if she were my own child I couldn't love her more. That is how
I come to be so bold, sir. They say you want to marry her."

Newman eyed his interlocutress and satisfied himself that she was not
a gossip, but a zealot; she looked anxious, appealing, discreet. "It is
quite true," he said. "I want to marry Madame de Cintré."

"And to take her away to America?"

"I will take her wherever she wants to go."

"The farther away the better, sir!" exclaimed the old woman, with sudden
intensity. But she checked herself, and, taking up a paper-weight in
mosaic, began to polish it with her black apron. "I don't mean anything
against the house or the family, sir. But I think a great change would
do the poor countess good. It is very sad here."

"Yes, it's not very lively," said Newman. "But Madame de Cintré is gay
herself."

"She is everything that is good. You will not be vexed to hear that she
has been gayer for a couple of months past than she had been in many a
day before."

Newman was delighted to gather this testimony to the prosperity of his
suit, but he repressed all violent marks of elation. "Has Madame de
Cintré been in bad spirits before this?" he asked.

"Poor lady, she had good reason. M. de Cintré was no husband for a sweet
young lady like that. And then, as I say, it has been a sad house. It is
better, in my humble opinion, that she were out of it. So, if you will
excuse me for saying so, I hope she will marry you."

"I hope she will!" said Newman.

"But you must not lose courage, sir, if she doesn't make up her mind at
once. That is what I wanted to beg of you, sir. Don't give it up, sir.
You will not take it ill if I say it's a great risk for any lady at any
time; all the more when she has got rid of one bad bargain. But if she
can marry a good, kind, respectable gentleman, I think she had better
make up her mind to it. They speak very well of you, sir, in the house,
and, if you will allow me to say so, I like your face. You have a very
different appearance from the late count, he wasn't five feet high. And
they say your fortune is beyond everything. There's no harm in that.
So I beseech you to be patient, sir, and bide your time. If I don't say
this to you, sir, perhaps no one will. Of course it is not for me to
make any promises. I can answer for nothing. But I think your chance is
not so bad, sir. I am nothing but a weary old woman in my quiet corner,
but one woman understands another, and I think I make out the countess.
I received her in my arms when she came into the world and her first
wedding day was the saddest of my life. She owes it to me to show me
another and a brighter one. If you will hold firm, sir--and you look as
if you would--I think we may see it."

"I am much obliged to you for your encouragement," said Newman,
heartily. "One can't have too much. I mean to hold firm. And if Madame
de Cintré marries me you must come and live with her."

The old woman looked at him strangely, with her soft, lifeless eyes. "It
may seem a heartless thing to say, sir, when one has been forty years in
a house, but I may tell you that I should like to leave this place."

"Why, it's just the time to say it," said Newman, fervently. "After
forty years one wants a change."

"You are very kind, sir;" and this faithful servant dropped another
curtsey and seemed disposed to retire. But she lingered a moment and
gave a timid, joyless smile. Newman was disappointed, and his fingers
stole half shyly half irritably into his waistcoat-pocket. His informant
noticed the movement. "Thank God I am not a Frenchwoman," she said. "If
I were, I would tell you with a brazen simper, old as I am, that if you
please, monsieur, my information is worth something. Let me tell you so
in my own decent English way. It _is_ worth something."

"How much, please?" said Newman.

"Simply this: a promise not to hint to the countess that I have said
these things."

"If that is all, you have it," said Newman.

"That is all, sir. Thank you, sir. Good day, sir." And having once
more slid down telescope-wise into her scanty petticoats, the old woman
departed. At the same moment Madame de Cintré came in by an opposite
door. She noticed the movement of the other _portière_ and asked Newman
who had been entertaining him.

"The British female!" said Newman. "An old lady in a black dress and a
cap, who curtsies up and down, and expresses herself ever so well."

"An old lady who curtsies and expresses herself?... Ah, you mean poor
Mrs. Bread. I happen to know that you have made a conquest of her."

"Mrs. Cake, she ought to be called," said Newman. "She is very sweet.
She is a delicious old woman."

Madame de Cintré looked at him a moment. "What can she have said to you?
She is an excellent creature, but we think her rather dismal."

"I suppose," Newman answered presently, "that I like her because she has
lived near you so long. Since your birth, she told me."

"Yes," said Madame de Cintré, simply; "she is very faithful; I can trust
her."

Newman had never made any reflections to this lady upon her mother and
her brother Urbain; had given no hint of the impression they made upon
him. But, as if she had guessed his thoughts, she seemed careful to
avoid all occasion for making him speak of them. She never alluded to
her mother's domestic decrees; she never quoted the opinions of the
marquis. They had talked, however, of Valentin, and she had made no
secret of her extreme affection for her younger brother. Newman listened
sometimes with a certain harmless jealousy; he would have liked to
divert some of her tender allusions to his own credit. Once Madame
de Cintré told him with a little air of triumph about something that
Valentin had done which she thought very much to his honor. It was a
service he had rendered to an old friend of the family; something more
"serious" than Valentin was usually supposed capable of being. Newman
said he was glad to hear of it, and then began to talk about something
which lay upon his own heart. Madame de Cintré listened, but after a
while she said, "I don't like the way you speak of my brother Valentin."
Hereupon Newman, surprised, said that he had never spoken of him but
kindly.

"It is too kindly," said Madame de Cintré. "It is a kindness that costs
nothing; it is the kindness you show to a child. It is as if you didn't
respect him."

"Respect him? Why I think I do."

"You think? If you are not sure, it is no respect."

"Do you respect him?" said Newman. "If you do, I do."

"If one loves a person, that is a question one is not bound to answer,"
said Madame de Cintré.

"You should not have asked it of me, then. I am very fond of your
brother."

"He amuses you. But you would not like to resemble him."

"I shouldn't like to resemble anyone. It is hard enough work resembling
one's self."

"What do you mean," asked Madame de Cintré, "by resembling one's self?"

"Why, doing what is expected of one. Doing one's duty."

"But that is only when one is very good."

"Well, a great many people are good," said Newman. "Valentin is quite
good enough for me."

Madame de Cintré was silent for a short time. "He is not good enough for
me," she said at last. "I wish he would do something."

"What can he do?" asked Newman.

"Nothing. Yet he is very clever."

"It is a proof of cleverness," said Newman, "to be happy without doing
anything."

"I don't think Valentin is happy, in reality. He is clever, generous,
brave; but what is there to show for it? To me there is something sad in
his life, and sometimes I have a sort of foreboding about him. I don't
know why, but I fancy he will have some great trouble--perhaps an
unhappy end."

"Oh, leave him to me," said Newman, jovially. "I will watch over him and
keep harm away."

One evening, in Madame de Bellegarde's salon, the conversation had
flagged most sensibly. The marquis walked up and down in silence, like a
sentinel at the door of some smooth-fronted citadel of the proprieties;
his mother sat staring at the fire; young Madame de Bellegarde worked at
an enormous band of tapestry. Usually there were three or four visitors,
but on this occasion a violent storm sufficiently accounted for the
absence of even the most devoted habitués. In the long silences the
howling of the wind and the beating of the rain were distinctly audible.
Newman sat perfectly still, watching the clock, determined to stay till
the stroke of eleven, but not a moment longer. Madame de Cintré had
turned her back to the circle, and had been standing for some time
within the uplifted curtain of a window, with her forehead against the
pane, gazing out into the deluged darkness. Suddenly she turned round
toward her sister-in-law.

"For Heaven's sake," she said, with peculiar eagerness, "go to the piano
and play something."

Madame de Bellegarde held up her tapestry and pointed to a little white
flower. "Don't ask me to leave this. I am in the midst of a masterpiece.
My flower is going to smell very sweet; I am putting in the smell with
this gold-colored silk. I am holding my breath; I can't leave off. Play
something yourself."

"It is absurd for me to play when you are present," said Madame de
Cintré. But the next moment she went to the piano and began to
strike the keys with vehemence. She played for some time, rapidly and
brilliantly; when she stopped, Newman went to the piano and asked her
to begin again. She shook her head, and, on his insisting, she said, "I
have not been playing for you; I have been playing for myself." She went
back to the window again and looked out, and shortly afterwards left the
room. When Newman took leave, Urbain de Bellegarde accompanied him, as
he always did, just three steps down the staircase. At the bottom stood
a servant with his overcoat. He had just put it on when he saw Madame de
Cintré coming towards him across the vestibule.

"Shall you be at home on Friday?" Newman asked.

She looked at him a moment before answering his question. "You don't
like my mother and my brother," she said.

He hesitated a moment, and then he said softly, "No."

She laid her hand on the balustrade and prepared to ascend the stairs,
fixing her eyes on the first step.

"Yes, I shall be at home on Friday," and she passed up the wide dusky
staircase.

On the Friday, as soon as he came in, she asked him to please to tell
her why he disliked her family.

"Dislike your family?" he exclaimed. "That has a horrid sound. I didn't
say so, did I? I didn't mean it, if I did."

"I wish you would tell me what you think of them," said Madame de
Cintré.

"I don't think of any of them but you."

"That is because you dislike them. Speak the truth; you can't offend
me."

"Well, I don't exactly love your brother," said Newman. "I remember now.
But what is the use of my saying so? I had forgotten it."

"You are too good-natured," said Madame de Cintré gravely. Then, as if
to avoid the appearance of inviting him to speak ill of the marquis, she
turned away, motioning him to sit down.

But he remained standing before her and said presently, "What is of much
more importance is that they don't like me."

"No--they don't," she said.

"And don't you think they are wrong?" Newman asked. "I don't believe I
am a man to dislike."

"I suppose that a man who may be liked may also be disliked. And my
brother--my mother," she added, "have not made you angry?"

"Yes, sometimes."

"You have never shown it."

"So much the better."

"Yes, so much the better. They think they have treated you very well."

"I have no doubt they might have handled me much more roughly," said
Newman. "I am much obliged to them. Honestly."

"You are generous," said Madame de Cintré. "It's a disagreeable
position."

"For them, you mean. Not for me."

"For me," said Madame de Cintré.

"Not when their sins are forgiven!" said Newman. "They don't think I am
as good as they are. I do. But we shan't quarrel about it."

"I can't even agree with you without saying something that has a
disagreeable sound. The presumption was against you. That you probably
don't understand."

Newman sat down and looked at her for some time. "I don't think I really
understand it. But when you say it, I believe it."

"That's a poor reason," said Madame de Cintré, smiling.

"No, it's a very good one. You have a high spirit, a high standard; but
with you it's all natural and unaffected; you don't seem to have stuck
your head into a vise, as if you were sitting for the photograph of
propriety. You think of me as a fellow who has had no idea in life but
to make money and drive sharp bargains. That's a fair description of me,
but it is not the whole story. A man ought to care for something else,
though I don't know exactly what. I cared for money-making, but I never
cared particularly for the money. There was nothing else to do, and
it was impossible to be idle. I have been very easy to others, and to
myself. I have done most of the things that people asked me--I don't
mean rascals. As regards your mother and your brother," Newman added,
"there is only one point upon which I feel that I might quarrel with
them. I don't ask them to sing my praises to you, but I ask them to let
you alone. If I thought they talked ill of me to you, I should come down
upon them."

"They have let me alone, as you say. They have not talked ill of you."

"In that case," cried Newman, "I declare they are only too good for this
world!"

Madame de Cintré appeared to find something startling in his
exclamation. She would, perhaps, have replied, but at this moment
the door was thrown open and Urbain de Bellegarde stepped across the
threshold. He appeared surprised at finding Newman, but his surprise
was but a momentary shadow across the surface of an unwonted joviality.
Newman had never seen the marquis so exhilarated; his pale, unlighted
countenance had a sort of thin transfiguration. He held open the
door for someone else to enter, and presently appeared old Madame de
Bellegarde, leaning on the arm of a gentleman whom Newman had not seen
before. He had already risen, and Madame de Cintré rose, as she always
did before her mother. The marquis, who had greeted Newman almost
genially, stood apart, slowly rubbing his hands. His mother came forward
with her companion. She gave a majestic little nod at Newman, and then
she released the strange gentleman, that he might make his bow to her
daughter.

"My daughter," she said, "I have brought you an unknown relative, Lord
Deepmere. Lord Deepmere is our cousin, but he has done only to-day what
he ought to have done long ago--come to make our acquaintance."

Madame de Cintré smiled, and offered Lord Deepmere her hand. "It is very
extraordinary," said this noble laggard, "but this is the first time
that I have ever been in Paris for more than three or four weeks."

"And how long have you been here now?" asked Madame de Cintré.

"Oh, for the last two months," said Lord Deepmere.

These two remarks might have constituted an impertinence; but a glance
at Lord Deepmere's face would have satisfied you, as it apparently
satisfied Madame de Cintré, that they constituted only a _naïveté_. When
his companions were seated, Newman, who was out of the conversation,
occupied himself with observing the newcomer. Observation, however,
as regards Lord Deepmere's person; had no great range. He was a small,
meagre man, of some three and thirty years of age, with a bald head,
a short nose and no front teeth in the upper jaw; he had round, candid
blue eyes, and several pimples on his chin. He was evidently very shy,
and he laughed a great deal, catching his breath with an odd, startling
sound, as the most convenient imitation of repose. His physiognomy
denoted great simplicity, a certain amount of brutality, and probable
failure in the past to profit by rare educational advantages. He
remarked that Paris was awfully jolly, but that for real, thorough-paced
entertainment it was nothing to Dublin. He even preferred Dublin to
London. Had Madame de Cintré ever been to Dublin? They must all come
over there some day, and he would show them some Irish sport. He always
went to Ireland for the fishing, and he came to Paris for the new
Offenbach things. They always brought them out in Dublin, but he
couldn't wait. He had been nine times to hear La Pomme de Paris. Madame
de Cintré, leaning back, with her arms folded, looked at Lord Deepmere
with a more visibly puzzled face than she usually showed to society.
Madame de Bellegarde, on the other hand, wore a fixed smile. The marquis
said that among light operas his favorite was the Gazza Ladra. The
marquise then began a series of inquiries about the duke and the
cardinal, the old countess and Lady Barbara, after listening to which,
and to Lord Deepmere's somewhat irreverent responses, for a quarter of
an hour, Newman rose to take his leave. The marquis went with him three
steps into the hall.

"Is he Irish?" asked Newman, nodding in the direction of the visitor.

"His mother was the daughter of Lord Finucane," said the marquis; "he
has great Irish estates. Lady Bridget, in the complete absence of
male heirs, either direct or collateral--a most extraordinary
circumstance--came in for everything. But Lord Deepmere's title is
English and his English property is immense. He is a charming young
man."

Newman answered nothing, but he detained the marquis as the latter was
beginning gracefully to recede. "It is a good time for me to thank you,"
he said, "for sticking so punctiliously to our bargain, for doing so
much to help me on with your sister."

The marquis stared. "Really, I have done nothing that I can boast of,"
he said.

"Oh don't be modest," Newman answered, laughing. "I can't flatter myself
that I am doing so well simply by my own merit. And thank your mother
for me, too!" And he turned away, leaving M. de Bellegarde looking after
him.



CHAPTER XIV

The next time Newman came to the Rue de l'Université he had the good
fortune to find Madame de Cintré alone. He had come with a definite
intention, and he lost no time in executing it. She wore, moreover, a
look which he eagerly interpreted as expectancy.

"I have been coming to see you for six months, now," he said, "and I
have never spoken to you a second time of marriage. That was what you
asked me; I obeyed. Could any man have done better?"

"You have acted with great delicacy," said Madame de Cintré.

"Well, I'm going to change now," said Newman. "I don't mean that I am
going to be indelicate; but I'm going to go back to where I began. I
_am_ back there. I have been all round the circle. Or rather, I have
never been away from here. I have never ceased to want what I wanted
then. Only now I am more sure of it, if possible; I am more sure of
myself, and more sure of you. I know you better, though I don't know
anything I didn't believe three months ago. You are everything--you are
beyond everything--I can imagine or desire. You know me now; you _must_
know me. I won't say that you have seen the best--but you have seen the
worst. I hope you have been thinking all this while. You must have seen
that I was only waiting; you can't suppose that I was changing. What
will you say to me, now? Say that everything is clear and reasonable,
and that I have been very patient and considerate, and deserve my
reward. And then give me your hand. Madame de Cintré do that. Do it."

"I knew you were only waiting," she said; "and I was very sure this day
would come. I have thought about it a great deal. At first I was half
afraid of it. But I am not afraid of it now." She paused a moment, and
then she added, "It's a relief."

She was sitting on a low chair, and Newman was on an ottoman, near her.
He leaned a little and took her hand, which for an instant she let him
keep. "That means that I have not waited for nothing," he said. She
looked at him for a moment, and he saw her eyes fill with tears. "With
me," he went on, "you will be as safe--as safe"--and even in his ardor
he hesitated a moment for a comparison--"as safe," he said, with a kind
of simple solemnity, "as in your father's arms."

Still she looked at him and her tears increased. Then, abruptly, she
buried her face on the cushioned arm of the sofa beside her chair, and
broke into noiseless sobs. "I am weak--I am weak," he heard her say.

"All the more reason why you should give yourself up to me," he
answered. "Why are you troubled? There is nothing but happiness. Is that
so hard to believe?"

"To you everything seems so simple," she said, raising her head. "But
things are not so. I like you extremely. I liked you six months ago, and
now I am sure of it, as you say you are sure. But it is not easy, simply
for that, to decide to marry you. There are a great many things to think
about."

"There ought to be only one thing to think about--that we love each
other," said Newman. And as she remained silent he quickly added, "Very
good, if you can't accept that, don't tell me so."

"I should be very glad to think of nothing," she said at last; "not to
think at all; only to shut both my eyes and give myself up. But I can't.
I'm cold, I'm old, I'm a coward; I never supposed I should marry again,
and it seems to me very strange I should ever have listened to you.
When I used to think, as a girl, of what I should do if I were to marry
freely, by my own choice, I thought of a very different man from you."

"That's nothing against me," said Newman with an immense smile; "your
taste was not formed."

His smile made Madame de Cintré smile. "Have you formed it?" she asked.
And then she said, in a different tone, "Where do you wish to live?"

"Anywhere in the wide world you like. We can easily settle that."

"I don't know why I ask you," she presently continued. "I care very
little. I think if I were to marry you I could live almost anywhere.
You have some false ideas about me; you think that I need a great many
things--that I must have a brilliant, worldly life. I am sure you are
prepared to take a great deal of trouble to give me such things. But
that is very arbitrary; I have done nothing to prove that." She paused
again, looking at him, and her mingled sound and silence were so sweet
to him that he had no wish to hurry her, any more than he would have
had a wish to hurry a golden sunrise. "Your being so different, which
at first seemed a difficulty, a trouble, began one day to seem to me a
pleasure, a great pleasure. I was glad you were different. And yet if I
had said so, no one would have understood me; I don't mean simply to my
family."

"They would have said I was a queer monster, eh?" said Newman.

"They would have said I could never be happy with you--you were too
different; and I would have said it was just _because_ you were so
different that I might be happy. But they would have given better
reasons than I. My only reason"--and she paused again.

But this time, in the midst of his golden sunrise, Newman felt the
impulse to grasp at a rosy cloud. "Your only reason is that you love
me!" he murmured with an eloquent gesture, and for want of a better
reason Madame de Cintré reconciled herself to this one.

Newman came back the next day, and in the vestibule, as he entered the
house, he encountered his friend Mrs. Bread. She was wandering about in
honorable idleness, and when his eyes fell upon her she delivered him
one of her curtsies. Then turning to the servant who had admitted him,
she said, with the combined majesty of her native superiority and of
a rugged English accent, "You may retire; I will have the honor of
conducting monsieur." In spite of this combination, however, it appeared
to Newman that her voice had a slight quaver, as if the tone of command
were not habitual to it. The man gave her an impertinent stare, but he
walked slowly away, and she led Newman upstairs. At half its course the
staircase gave a bend, forming a little platform. In the angle of
the wall stood an indifferent statue of an eighteenth-century nymph,
simpering, sallow, and cracked. Here Mrs. Bread stopped and looked with
shy kindness at her companion.

"I know the good news, sir," she murmured.

"You have a good right to be first to know it," said Newman. "You have
taken such a friendly interest."

Mrs. Bread turned away and began to blow the dust off the statue, as if
this might be mockery.

"I suppose you want to congratulate me," said Newman. "I am greatly
obliged." And then he added, "You gave me much pleasure the other day."

She turned around, apparently reassured. "You are not to think that I
have been told anything," she said; "I have only guessed. But when I
looked at you, as you came in, I was sure I had guessed aright."

"You are very sharp," said Newman. "I am sure that in your quiet way you
see everything."

"I am not a fool, sir, thank God. I have guessed something else beside,"
said Mrs. Bread.

"What's that?"

"I needn't tell you that, sir; I don't think you would believe it. At
any rate it wouldn't please you."

"Oh, tell me nothing but what will please me," laughed Newman. "That is
the way you began."

"Well, sir, I suppose you won't be vexed to hear that the sooner
everything is over the better."

"The sooner we are married, you mean? The better for me, certainly."

"The better for everyone."

"The better for you, perhaps. You know you are coming to live with us,"
said Newman.

"I'm extremely obliged to you, sir, but it is not of myself I was
thinking. I only wanted, if I might take the liberty, to recommend you
to lose no time."

"Whom are you afraid of?"

Mrs. Bread looked up the staircase and then down and then she looked at
the undusted nymph, as if she possibly had sentient ears. "I am afraid
of everyone," she said.

"What an uncomfortable state of mind!" said Newman. "Does 'everyone'
wish to prevent my marriage?"

"I am afraid of already having said too much," Mrs. Bread replied. "I
won't take it back, but I won't say any more." And she took her way up
the staircase again and led him into Madame de Cintré's salon.

Newman indulged in a brief and silent imprecation when he found that
Madame de Cintré was not alone. With her sat her mother, and in the
middle of the room stood young Madame de Bellegarde, in her bonnet and
mantle. The old marquise, who was leaning back in her chair with a hand
clasping the knob of each arm, looked at him fixedly without moving.
She seemed barely conscious of his greeting; she appeared to be musing
intently. Newman said to himself that her daughter had been announcing
her engagement and that the old lady found the morsel hard to swallow.
But Madame de Cintré, as she gave him her hand gave him also a look by
which she appeared to mean that he should understand something. Was it
a warning or a request? Did she wish to enjoin speech or silence? He
was puzzled, and young Madame de Bellegarde's pretty grin gave him no
information.

"I have not told my mother," said Madame de Cintré abruptly, looking at
him.

"Told me what?" demanded the marquise. "You tell me too little; you
should tell me everything."

"That is what I do," said Madame Urbain, with a little laugh.

"Let _me_ tell your mother," said Newman.

The old lady stared at him again, and then turned to her daughter. "You
are going to marry him?" she cried, softly.

"_Oui, ma mère_," said Madame de Cintré.

"Your daughter has consented, to my great happiness," said Newman.

"And when was this arrangement made?" asked Madame de Bellegarde. "I
seem to be picking up the news by chance!"

"My suspense came to an end yesterday," said Newman.

"And how long was mine to have lasted?" said the marquise to her
daughter. She spoke without irritation; with a sort of cold, noble
displeasure.

Madame de Cintré stood silent, with her eyes on the ground. "It is over
now," she said.

"Where is my son--where is Urbain?" asked the marquise. "Send for your
brother and inform him."

Young Madame de Bellegarde laid her hand on the bell-rope. "He was to
make some visits with me, and I was to go and knock--very softly, very
softly--at the door of his study. But he can come to me!" She pulled
the bell, and in a few moments Mrs. Bread appeared, with a face of calm
inquiry.

"Send for your brother," said the old lady.

But Newman felt an irresistible impulse to speak, and to speak in a
certain way. "Tell the marquis we want him," he said to Mrs. Bread, who
quietly retired.

Young Madame de Bellegarde went to her sister-in-law and embraced her.
Then she turned to Newman, with an intense smile. "She is charming. I
congratulate you."

"I congratulate you, sir," said Madame de Bellegarde, with extreme
solemnity. "My daughter is an extraordinarily good woman. She may have
faults, but I don't know them."

"My mother does not often make jokes," said Madame de Cintré; "but when
she does they are terrible."

"She is ravishing," the Marquise Urbain resumed, looking at her
sister-in-law, with her head on one side. "Yes, I congratulate you."

Madame de Cintré turned away, and, taking up a piece of tapestry,
began to ply the needle. Some minutes of silence elapsed, which were
interrupted by the arrival of M. de Bellegarde. He came in with his
hat in his hand, gloved, and was followed by his brother Valentin, who
appeared to have just entered the house. M. de Bellegarde looked around
the circle and greeted Newman with his usual finely-measured courtesy.
Valentin saluted his mother and his sisters, and, as he shook hands with
Newman, gave him a glance of acute interrogation.

"_Arrivez donc, messieurs!_" cried young Madame de Bellegarde. "We have
great news for you."

"Speak to your brother, my daughter," said the old lady.

Madame de Cintré had been looking at her tapestry. She raised her eyes
to her brother. "I have accepted Mr. Newman."

"Your sister has consented," said Newman. "You see after all, I knew
what I was about."

"I am charmed!" said M. de Bellegarde, with superior benignity.

"So am I," said Valentin to Newman. "The marquis and I are charmed. I
can't marry, myself, but I can understand it. I can't stand on my head,
but I can applaud a clever acrobat. My dear sister, I bless your union."

The marquis stood looking for a while into the crown of his hat. "We
have been prepared," he said at last "but it is inevitable that in face
of the event one should experience a certain emotion." And he gave a
most unhilarious smile.

"I feel no emotion that I was not perfectly prepared for," said his
mother.

"I can't say that for myself," said Newman, smiling but differently from
the marquis. "I am happier than I expected to be. I suppose it's the
sight of your happiness!"

"Don't exaggerate that," said Madame de Bellegarde, getting up and
laying her hand upon her daughter's arm. "You can't expect an honest old
woman to thank you for taking away her beautiful, only daughter."

"You forgot me, dear madame," said the young marquise demurely.

"Yes, she is very beautiful," said Newman.

"And when is the wedding, pray?" asked young Madame de Bellegarde; "I
must have a month to think over a dress."

"That must be discussed," said the marquise.

"Oh, we will discuss it, and let you know!" Newman exclaimed.

"I have no doubt we shall agree," said Urbain.

"If you don't agree with Madame de Cintré, you will be very
unreasonable."

"Come, come, Urbain," said young Madame de Bellegarde, "I must go
straight to my tailor's."

The old lady had been standing with her hand on her daughter's arm,
looking at her fixedly. She gave a little sigh, and murmured, "No, I did
_not_ expect it! You are a fortunate man," she added, turning to Newman,
with an expressive nod.

"Oh, I know that!" he answered. "I feel tremendously proud. I feel like
crying it on the housetops,--like stopping people in the street to tell
them."

Madame de Bellegarde narrowed her lips. "Pray don't," she said.

"The more people that know it, the better," Newman declared. "I haven't
yet announced it here, but I telegraphed it this morning to America."

"Telegraphed it to America?" the old lady murmured.

"To New York, to St. Louis, and to San Francisco; those are the
principal cities, you know. To-morrow I shall tell my friends here."

"Have you many?" asked Madame de Bellegarde, in a tone of which I am
afraid that Newman but partly measured the impertinence.

"Enough to bring me a great many hand-shakes and congratulations. To
say nothing," he added, in a moment, "of those I shall receive from your
friends."

"They will not use the telegraph," said the marquise, taking her
departure.

M. de Bellegarde, whose wife, her imagination having apparently taken
flight to the tailor's, was fluttering her silken wings in emulation,
shook hands with Newman, and said with a more persuasive accent than the
latter had ever heard him use, "You may count upon me." Then his wife
led him away.

Valentin stood looking from his sister to our hero. "I hope you both
reflected seriously," he said.

Madame de Cintré smiled. "We have neither your powers of reflection nor
your depth of seriousness; but we have done our best."

"Well, I have a great regard for each of you," Valentin continued. "You
are charming young people. But I am not satisfied, on the whole, that
you belong to that small and superior class--that exquisite group
composed of persons who are worthy to remain unmarried. These are rare
souls; they are the salt of the earth. But I don't mean to be invidious;
the marrying people are often very nice."

"Valentin holds that women should marry, and that men should not," said
Madame de Cintré. "I don't know how he arranges it."

"I arrange it by adoring you, my sister," said Valentin ardently.
"Good-bye."

"Adore someone whom you can marry," said Newman. "I will arrange that
for you some day. I foresee that I am going to turn apostle."

Valentin was on the threshold; he looked back a moment with a face
that had turned grave. "I adore someone I can't marry!" he said. And he
dropped the _portière_ and departed.

"They don't like it," said Newman, standing alone before Madame de
Cintré.

"No," she said, after a moment; "they don't like it."

"Well, now, do you mind that?" asked Newman.

"Yes!" she said, after another interval.

"That's a mistake."

"I can't help it. I should prefer that my mother were pleased."

"Why the deuce," demanded Newman, "is she not pleased? She gave you
leave to marry me."

"Very true; I don't understand it. And yet I do 'mind it,' as you say.
You will call it superstitious."

"That will depend upon how much you let it bother you. Then I shall call
it an awful bore."

"I will keep it to myself," said Madame de Cintré, "It shall not bother
you." And then they talked of their marriage-day, and Madame de Cintré
assented unreservedly to Newman's desire to have it fixed for an early
date.

Newman's telegrams were answered with interest. Having dispatched but
three electric missives, he received no less than eight gratulatory
bulletins in return. He put them into his pocket-book, and the next time
he encountered old Madame de Bellegarde drew them forth and displayed
them to her. This, it must be confessed, was a slightly malicious
stroke; the reader must judge in what degree the offense was venial.
Newman knew that the marquise disliked his telegrams, though he could
see no sufficient reason for it. Madame de Cintré, on the other hand,
liked them, and, most of them being of a humorous cast, laughed at them
immoderately, and inquired into the character of their authors. Newman,
now that his prize was gained, felt a peculiar desire that his triumph
should be manifest. He more than suspected that the Bellegardes were
keeping quiet about it, and allowing it, in their select circle, but a
limited resonance; and it pleased him to think that if he were to take
the trouble he might, as he phrased it, break all the windows. No man
likes being repudiated, and yet Newman, if he was not flattered, was
not exactly offended. He had not this good excuse for his somewhat
aggressive impulse to promulgate his felicity; his sentiment was of
another quality. He wanted for once to make the heads of the house of
Bellegarde _feel_ him; he knew not when he should have another chance.
He had had for the past six months a sense of the old lady and her son
looking straight over his head, and he was now resolved that they should
toe a mark which he would give himself the satisfaction of drawing.

"It is like seeing a bottle emptied when the wine is poured too slowly,"
he said to Mrs. Tristram. "They make me want to joggle their elbows and
force them to spill their wine."

To this Mrs. Tristram answered that he had better leave them alone
and let them do things in their own way. "You must make allowances for
them," she said. "It is natural enough that they should hang fire a
little. They thought they accepted you when you made your application;
but they are not people of imagination, they could not project
themselves into the future, and now they will have to begin again. But
they _are_ people of honor, and they will do whatever is necessary."

Newman spent a few moments in narrow-eyed meditation. "I am not hard on
them," he presently said, "and to prove it I will invite them all to a
festival."

"To a festival?"

"You have been laughing at my great gilded rooms all winter; I will show
you that they are good for something. I will give a party. What is the
grandest thing one can do here? I will hire all the great singers from
the opera, and all the first people from the Théâtre Français, and I
will give an entertainment."

"And whom will you invite?"

"You, first of all. And then the old lady and her son. And then everyone
among her friends whom I have met at her house or elsewhere, everyone
who has shown me the minimum of politeness, every duke of them and his
wife. And then all my friends, without exception: Miss Kitty Upjohn,
Miss Dora Finch, General Packard, C. P Hatch, and all the rest.
And everyone shall know what it is about, that is, to celebrate my
engagement to the Countess de Cintré. What do you think of the idea?"

"I think it is odious!" said Mrs. Tristram. And then in a moment: "I
think it is delicious!"

The very next evening Newman repaired to Madame de Bellegarde's salon,
where he found her surrounded by her children, and invited her to honor
his poor dwelling by her presence on a certain evening a fortnight
distant.

The marquise stared a moment. "My dear sir," she cried, "what do you
want to do to me?"

"To make you acquainted with a few people, and then to place you in a
very easy chair and ask you to listen to Madame Frezzolini's singing."

"You mean to give a concert?"

"Something of that sort."

"And to have a crowd of people?"

"All my friends, and I hope some of yours and your daughter's. I want to
celebrate my engagement."

It seemed to Newman that Madame de Bellegarde turned pale. She opened
her fan, a fine old painted fan of the last century, and looked at the
picture, which represented a _fête champêtre_--a lady with a guitar,
singing, and a group of dancers round a garlanded Hermes.

"We go out so little," murmured the marquis, "since my poor father's
death."

"But _my_ dear father is still alive, my friend," said his wife. "I
am only waiting for my invitation to accept it," and she glanced with
amiable confidence at Newman. "It will be magnificent; I am very sure of
that."

I am sorry to say, to the discredit of Newman's gallantry, that this
lady's invitation was not then and there bestowed; he was giving all his
attention to the old marquise. She looked up at last, smiling. "I can't
think of letting you offer me a fête," she said, "until I have offered
you one. We want to present you to our friends; we will invite them all.
We have it very much at heart. We must do things in order. Come to me
about the 25th; I will let you know the exact day immediately. We shall
not have anyone so fine as Madame Frezzolini, but we shall have some
very good people. After that you may talk of your own fête." The old
lady spoke with a certain quick eagerness, smiling more agreeably as she
went on.

It seemed to Newman a handsome proposal, and such proposals always
touched the sources of his good-nature. He said to Madame de Bellegarde
that he should be glad to come on the 25th or any other day, and that it
mattered very little whether he met his friends at her house or at his
own. I have said that Newman was observant, but it must be admitted that
on this occasion he failed to notice a certain delicate glance which
passed between Madame de Bellegarde and the marquis, and which we may
presume to have been a commentary upon the innocence displayed in that
latter clause of his speech.

Valentin de Bellegarde walked away with Newman that evening, and when
they had left the Rue de l'Université some distance behind them he said
reflectively, "My mother is very strong--very strong." Then in answer to
an interrogative movement of Newman's he continued, "She was driven to
the wall, but you would never have thought it. Her fête of the 25th was
an invention of the moment. She had no idea whatever of giving a fête,
but finding it the only issue from your proposal, she looked straight
at the dose--excuse the expression--and bolted it, as you saw, without
winking. She is very strong."

"Dear me!" said Newman, divided between relish and compassion. "I don't
care a straw for her fête, I am willing to take the will for the deed."

"No, no," said Valentin, with a little inconsequent touch of family
pride. "The thing will be done now, and done handsomely."



CHAPTER XV

Valentin de Bellegarde's announcement of the secession of Mademoiselle
Nioche from her father's domicile and his irreverent reflections upon
the attitude of this anxious parent in so grave a catastrophe, received
a practical commentary in the fact that M. Nioche was slow to seek
another interview with his late pupil. It had cost Newman some disgust
to be forced to assent to Valentin's somewhat cynical interpretation of
the old man's philosophy, and, though circumstances seemed to indicate
that he had not given himself up to a noble despair, Newman thought it
very possible he might be suffering more keenly than was apparent. M.
Nioche had been in the habit of paying him a respectful little visit
every two or three weeks and his absence might be a proof quite as much
of extreme depression as of a desire to conceal the success with which
he had patched up his sorrow. Newman presently learned from Valentin
several details touching this new phase of Mademoiselle Noémie's career.

"I told you she was remarkable," this unshrinking observer declared,
"and the way she has managed this performance proves it. She has had
other chances, but she was resolved to take none but the best. She did
you the honor to think for a while that you might be such a chance. You
were not; so she gathered up her patience and waited a while longer. At
last her occasion came along, and she made her move with her eyes wide
open. I am very sure she had no innocence to lose, but she had all her
respectability. Dubious little damsel as you thought her, she had kept
a firm hold of that; nothing could be proved against her, and she was
determined not to let her reputation go till she had got her equivalent.
About her equivalent she had high ideas. Apparently her ideal has been
satisfied. It is fifty years old, bald-headed, and deaf, but it is very
easy about money."

"And where in the world," asked Newman, "did you pick up this valuable
information?"

"In conversation. Remember my frivolous habits. In conversation with a
young woman engaged in the humble trade of glove-cleaner, who keeps a
small shop in the Rue St. Roch. M. Nioche lives in the same house, up
six pair of stairs, across the court, in and out of whose ill-swept
doorway Miss Noémie has been flitting for the last five years. The
little glove-cleaner was an old acquaintance; she used to be the friend
of a friend of mine, who has married and dropped such friends. I often
saw her in his society. As soon as I espied her behind her clear little
window-pane, I recollected her. I had on a spotlessly fresh pair of
gloves, but I went in and held up my hands, and said to her, 'Dear
mademoiselle, what will you ask me for cleaning these?' 'Dear count,'
she answered immediately, 'I will clean them for you for nothing.' She
had instantly recognized me, and I had to hear her history for the last
six years. But after that, I put her upon that of her neighbors. She
knows and admires Noémie, and she told me what I have just repeated."

A month elapsed without M. Nioche reappearing, and Newman, who every
morning read two or three suicides in the _Figaro_, began to suspect
that, mortification proving stubborn, he had sought a balm for his
wounded pride in the waters of the Seine. He had a note of M. Nioche's
address in his pocket-book, and finding himself one day in the
_quartier_, he determined, in so far as he might, to clear up his
doubts. He repaired to the house in the Rue St. Roch which bore the
recorded number, and observed in a neighboring basement, behind a
dangling row of neatly inflated gloves, the attentive physiognomy of
Bellegarde's informant--a sallow person in a dressing-gown--peering into
the street as if she were expecting that amiable nobleman to pass
again. But it was not to her that Newman applied; he simply asked of
the portress if M. Nioche were at home. The portress replied, as the
portress invariably replies, that her lodger had gone out barely
three minutes before; but then, through the little square hole of her
lodge-window taking the measure of Newman's fortunes, and seeing them,
by an unspecified process, refresh the dry places of servitude to
occupants of fifth floors on courts, she added that M. Nioche would have
had just time to reach the Café de la Patrie, round the second corner
to the left, at which establishment he regularly spent his afternoons.
Newman thanked her for the information, took the second turning to
the left, and arrived at the Café de la Patrie. He felt a momentary
hesitation to go in; was it not rather mean to "follow up" poor old
Nioche at that rate? But there passed across his vision an image of a
haggard little septuagenarian taking measured sips of a glass of sugar
and water and finding them quite impotent to sweeten his desolation.
He opened the door and entered, perceiving nothing at first but a dense
cloud of tobacco smoke. Across this, however, in a corner, he presently
descried the figure of M. Nioche, stirring the contents of a deep
glass, with a lady seated in front of him. The lady's back was turned
to Newman, but M. Nioche very soon perceived and recognized his visitor.
Newman had gone toward him, and the old man rose slowly, gazing at him
with a more blighted expression even than usual.

"If you are drinking hot punch," said Newman, "I suppose you are not
dead. That's all right. Don't move."

M. Nioche stood staring, with a fallen jaw, not daring to put out
his hand. The lady, who sat facing him, turned round in her place
and glanced upward with a spirited toss of her head, displaying the
agreeable features of his daughter. She looked at Newman sharply, to see
how he was looking at her, then--I don't know what she discovered--she
said graciously, "How d' ye do, monsieur? won't you come into our little
corner?"

"Did you come--did you come after _me?_" asked M. Nioche very softly.

"I went to your house to see what had become of you. I thought you might
be sick," said Newman.

"It is very good of you, as always," said the old man. "No, I am not
well. Yes, I am _seek_."

"Ask monsieur to sit down," said Mademoiselle Nioche. "Garçon, bring a
chair."

"Will you do us the honor to _seat?_" said M. Nioche, timorously, and
with a double foreignness of accent.

Newman said to himself that he had better see the thing out and he took
a chair at the end of the table, with Mademoiselle Nioche on his left
and her father on the other side. "You will take something, of course,"
said Miss Noémie, who was sipping a glass of madeira. Newman said that
he believed not, and then she turned to her papa with a smile. "What an
honor, eh? he has come only for us." M. Nioche drained his pungent
glass at a long draught, and looked out from eyes more lachrymose in
consequence. "But you didn't come for me, eh?" Mademoiselle Noémie went
on. "You didn't expect to find me here?"

Newman observed the change in her appearance. She was very elegant
and prettier than before; she looked a year or two older, and it was
noticeable that, to the eye, she had only gained in respectability.
She looked "lady-like." She was dressed in quiet colors, and wore her
expensively unobtrusive toilet with a grace that might have come from
years of practice. Her present self-possession and _aplomb_ struck
Newman as really infernal, and he inclined to agree with Valentin de
Bellegarde that the young lady was very remarkable. "No, to tell the
truth, I didn't come for you," he said, "and I didn't expect to find
you. I was told," he added in a moment "that you had left your father."

"_Quelle horreur!_" cried Mademoiselle Nioche with a smile. "Does one
leave one's father? You have the proof of the contrary."

"Yes, convincing proof," said Newman glancing at M. Nioche. The old man
caught his glance obliquely, with his faded, deprecating eye, and then,
lifting his empty glass, pretended to drink again.

"Who told you that?" Noémie demanded. "I know very well. It was M. de
Bellegarde. Why don't you say yes? You are not polite."

"I am embarrassed," said Newman.

"I set you a better example. I know M. de Bellegarde told you. He knows
a great deal about me--or he thinks he does. He has taken a great deal
of trouble to find out, but half of it isn't true. In the first place,
I haven't left my father; I am much too fond of him. Isn't it so, little
father? M. de Bellegarde is a charming young man; it is impossible to be
cleverer. I know a good deal about him too; you can tell him that when
you next see him."

"No," said Newman, with a sturdy grin; "I won't carry any messages for
you."

"Just as you please," said Mademoiselle Nioche, "I don't depend upon
you, nor does M. de Bellegarde either. He is very much interested in me;
he can be left to his own devices. He is a contrast to you."

"Oh, he is a great contrast to me, I have no doubt" said Newman. "But I
don't exactly know how you mean it."

"I mean it in this way. First of all, he never offered to help me to a
_dot_ and a husband." And Mademoiselle Nioche paused, smiling. "I won't
say that is in his favor, for I do you justice. What led you, by the
way, to make me such a queer offer? You didn't care for me."

"Oh yes, I did," said Newman.

"How so?"

"It would have given me real pleasure to see you married to a
respectable young fellow."

"With six thousand francs of income!" cried Mademoiselle Nioche. "Do
you call that caring for me? I'm afraid you know little about women. You
were not _galant_; you were not what you might have been."

Newman flushed a trifle fiercely. "Come!" he exclaimed "that's rather
strong. I had no idea I had been so shabby."

Mademoiselle Nioche smiled as she took up her muff. "It is something, at
any rate, to have made you angry."

Her father had leaned both his elbows on the table, and his head, bent
forward, was supported in his hands, the thin white fingers of which
were pressed over his ears. In his position he was staring fixedly at
the bottom of his empty glass, and Newman supposed he was not hearing.
Mademoiselle Noémie buttoned her furred jacket and pushed back her
chair, casting a glance charged with the consciousness of an expensive
appearance first down over her flounces and then up at Newman.

"You had better have remained an honest girl," Newman said quietly.

M. Nioche continued to stare at the bottom of his glass, and his
daughter got up, still bravely smiling. "You mean that I look so much
like one? That's more than most women do nowadays. Don't judge me yet
awhile," she added. "I mean to succeed; that's what I mean to do. I
leave you; I don't mean to be seen in cafés, for one thing. I can't
think what you want of my poor father; he's very comfortable now. It
isn't his fault, either. _Au revoir_, little father." And she tapped the
old man on the head with her muff. Then she stopped a minute, looking
at Newman. "Tell M. de Bellegarde, when he wants news of me, to come
and get it from _me!_" And she turned and departed, the white-aproned
waiter, with a bow, holding the door wide open for her.

M. Nioche sat motionless, and Newman hardly knew what to say to him. The
old man looked dismally foolish. "So you determined not to shoot her,
after all," Newman said presently.

M. Nioche, without moving, raised his eyes and gave him a long, peculiar
look. It seemed to confess everything, and yet not to ask for pity, nor
to pretend, on the other hand, to a rugged ability to do without it. It
might have expressed the state of mind of an innocuous insect, flat
in shape and conscious of the impending pressure of a boot-sole, and
reflecting that he was perhaps too flat to be crushed. M. Nioche's gaze
was a profession of moral flatness. "You despise me terribly," he said,
in the weakest possible voice.

"Oh no," said Newman, "it is none of my business. It's a good plan to
take things easily."

"I made you too many fine speeches," M. Nioche added. "I meant them at
the time."

"I am sure I am very glad you didn't shoot her," said Newman. "I was
afraid you might have shot yourself. That is why I came to look you up."
And he began to button his coat.

"Neither," said M. Nioche. "You despise me, and I can't explain to you.
I hoped I shouldn't see you again."

"Why, that's rather shabby," said Newman. "You shouldn't drop your
friends that way. Besides, the last time you came to see me I thought
you particularly jolly."

"Yes, I remember," said M. Nioche musingly; "I was in a fever. I didn't
know what I said, what I did. It was delirium."

"Ah, well, you are quieter now."

M. Nioche was silent a moment. "As quiet as the grave," he whispered
softly.

"Are you very unhappy?"

M. Nioche rubbed his forehead slowly, and even pushed back his wig a
little, looking askance at his empty glass. "Yes--yes. But that's an old
story. I have always been unhappy. My daughter does what she will with
me. I take what she gives me, good or bad. I have no spirit, and when
you have no spirit you must keep quiet. I shan't trouble you any more."

"Well," said Newman, rather disgusted at the smooth operation of the old
man's philosophy, "that's as you please."

M. Nioche seemed to have been prepared to be despised but nevertheless
he made a feeble movement of appeal from Newman's faint praise. "After
all," he said, "she is my daughter, and I can still look after her. If
she will do wrong, why she will. But there are many different
paths, there are degrees. I can give her the benefit--give her the
benefit"--and M. Nioche paused, staring vaguely at Newman, who began to
suspect that his brain had softened--"the benefit of my experience," M.
Nioche added.

"Your experience?" inquired Newman, both amused and amazed.

"My experience of business," said M. Nioche, gravely.

"Ah, yes," said Newman, laughing, "that will be a great advantage to
her!" And then he said good-bye, and offered the poor, foolish old man
his hand.

M. Nioche took it and leaned back against the wall, holding it a moment
and looking up at him. "I suppose you think my wits are going," he
said. "Very likely; I have always a pain in my head. That's why I can't
explain, I can't tell you. And she's so strong, she makes me walk as she
will, anywhere! But there's this--there's this." And he stopped, still
staring up at Newman. His little white eyes expanded and glittered for a
moment like those of a cat in the dark. "It's not as it seems. I haven't
forgiven her. Oh, no!"

"That's right; don't," said Newman. "She's a bad case."

"It's horrible, it's horrible," said M. Nioche; "but do you want to know
the truth? I hate her! I take what she gives me, and I hate her
more. To-day she brought me three hundred francs; they are here in my
waistcoat pocket. Now I hate her almost cruelly. No, I haven't forgiven
her."

"Why did you accept the money?" Newman asked.

"If I hadn't," said M. Nioche, "I should have hated her still more.
That's what misery is. No, I haven't forgiven her."

"Take care you don't hurt her!" said Newman, laughing again. And with
this he took his leave. As he passed along the glazed side of the café,
on reaching the street, he saw the old man motioning the waiter, with a
melancholy gesture, to replenish his glass.

One day, a week after his visit to the Café de la Patrie, he called upon
Valentin de Bellegarde, and by good fortune found him at home. Newman
spoke of his interview with M. Nioche and his daughter, and said he
was afraid Valentin had judged the old man correctly. He had found the
couple hobnobbing together in all amity; the old gentleman's rigor was
purely theoretic. Newman confessed that he was disappointed; he should
have expected to see M. Nioche take high ground.

"High ground, my dear fellow," said Valentin, laughing; "there is
no high ground for him to take. The only perceptible eminence in M.
Nioche's horizon is Montmartre, which is not an edifying quarter. You
can't go mountaineering in a flat country."

"He remarked, indeed," said Newman, "that he has not forgiven her. But
she'll never find it out."

"We must do him the justice to suppose he doesn't like the thing,"
Valentin rejoined. "Mademoiselle Nioche is like the great artists whose
biographies we read, who at the beginning of their career have
suffered opposition in the domestic circle. Their vocation has not
been recognized by their families, but the world has done it justice.
Mademoiselle Nioche has a vocation."

"Oh, come," said Newman, impatiently, "you take the little baggage too
seriously."

"I know I do; but when one has nothing to think about, one must think of
little baggages. I suppose it is better to be serious about light things
than not to be serious at all. This little baggage entertains me."

"Oh, she has discovered that. She knows you have been hunting her up
and asking questions about her. She is very much tickled by it. That's
rather annoying."

"Annoying, my dear fellow," laughed Valentin; "not the least!"

"Hanged if I should want to have a greedy little adventuress like that
know I was giving myself such pains about her!" said Newman.

"A pretty woman is always worth one's pains," objected Valentin.
"Mademoiselle Nioche is welcome to be tickled by my curiosity, and to
know that I am tickled that she is tickled. She is not so much tickled,
by the way."

"You had better go and tell her," Newman rejoined. "She gave me a
message for you of some such drift."

"Bless your quiet imagination," said Valentin, "I have been to see
her--three times in five days. She is a charming hostess; we talk of
Shakespeare and the musical glasses. She is extremely clever and a very
curious type; not at all coarse or wanting to be coarse; determined not
to be. She means to take very good care of herself. She is extremely
perfect; she is as hard and clear-cut as some little figure of a
sea-nymph in an antique intaglio, and I will warrant that she has not
a grain more of sentiment or heart than if she was scooped out of a
big amethyst. You can't scratch her even with a diamond.
Extremely pretty,--really, when you know her, she is wonderfully
pretty,--intelligent, determined, ambitious, unscrupulous, capable of
looking at a man strangled without changing color, she is upon my honor,
extremely entertaining."

"It's a fine list of attractions," said Newman; "they would serve as a
police-detective's description of a favorite criminal. I should sum them
up by another word than 'entertaining.'"

"Why, that is just the word to use. I don't say she is laudable or
lovable. I don't want her as my wife or my sister. But she is a
very curious and ingenious piece of machinery; I like to see it in
operation."

"Well, I have seen some very curious machines too," said Newman; "and
once, in a needle factory, I saw a gentleman from the city, who had
stopped too near one of them, picked up as neatly as if he had been
prodded by a fork, swallowed down straight, and ground into small
pieces."

Re-entering his domicile, late in the evening, three days after
Madame de Bellegarde had made her bargain with him--the expression is
sufficiently correct--touching the entertainment at which she was
to present him to the world, he found on his table a card of goodly
dimensions bearing an announcement that this lady would be at home on
the 27th of the month, at ten o'clock in the evening. He stuck it into
the frame of his mirror and eyed it with some complacency; it seemed
an agreeable emblem of triumph, documentary evidence that his prize was
gained. Stretched out in a chair, he was looking at it lovingly, when
Valentin de Bellegarde was shown into the room. Valentin's glance
presently followed the direction of Newman's, and he perceived his
mother's invitation.

"And what have they put into the corner?" he asked. "Not the customary
'music,' 'dancing,' or _'tableaux vivants'?_ They ought at least to put
'An American.'"

"Oh, there are to be several of us," said Newman. "Mrs. Tristram told me
to-day that she had received a card and sent an acceptance."

"Ah, then, with Mrs. Tristram and her husband you will have support. My
mother might have put on her card 'Three Americans.' But I suspect you
will not lack amusement. You will see a great many of the best people in
France. I mean the long pedigrees and the high noses, and all that. Some
of them are awful idiots; I advise you to take them up cautiously."

"Oh, I guess I shall like them," said Newman. "I am prepared to like
every one and everything in these days; I am in high good-humor."

Valentin looked at him a moment in silence and then dropped himself into
a chair with an unwonted air of weariness.

"Happy man!" he said with a sigh. "Take care you don't become
offensive."

"If anyone chooses to take offense, he may. I have a good conscience,"
said Newman.

"So you are really in love with my sister."

"Yes, sir!" said Newman, after a pause.

"And she also?"

"I guess she likes me," said Newman.

"What is the witchcraft you have used?" Valentin asked. "How do _you_
make love?"

"Oh, I haven't any general rules," said Newman. "In any way that seems
acceptable."

"I suspect that, if one knew it," said Valentin, laughing, "you are a
terrible customer. You walk in seven-league boots."

"There is something the matter with you to-night," Newman said in
response to this. "You are vicious. Spare me all discordant sounds until
after my marriage. Then, when I have settled down for life, I shall be
better able to take things as they come."

"And when does your marriage take place?"

"About six weeks hence."

Valentin was silent a while, and then he said, "And you feel very
confident about the future?"

"Confident. I knew what I wanted, exactly, and I know what I have got."

"You are sure you are going to be happy?"

"Sure?" said Newman. "So foolish a question deserves a foolish answer.
Yes!"

"You are not afraid of anything?"

"What should I be afraid of? You can't hurt me unless you kill me by
some violent means. That I should indeed consider a tremendous sell.
I want to live and I mean to live. I can't die of illness, I am too
ridiculously tough; and the time for dying of old age won't come round
yet a while. I can't lose my wife, I shall take too good care of her. I
may lose my money, or a large part of it; but that won't matter, for I
shall make twice as much again. So what have I to be afraid of?"

"You are not afraid it may be rather a mistake for an American man of
business to marry a French countess?"

"For the countess, possibly; but not for the man of business, if you
mean me! But my countess shall not be disappointed; I answer for
her happiness!" And as if he felt the impulse to celebrate his happy
certitude by a bonfire, he got up to throw a couple of logs upon the
already blazing hearth. Valentin watched for a few moments the quickened
flame, and then, with his head leaning on his hand, gave a melancholy
sigh. "Got a headache?" Newman asked.

"_Je suis triste_," said Valentin, with Gallic simplicity.

"You are sad, eh? It is about the lady you said the other night that you
adored and that you couldn't marry?"

"Did I really say that? It seemed to me afterwards that the words had
escaped me. Before Claire it was bad taste. But I felt gloomy as I
spoke, and I feel gloomy still. Why did you ever introduce me to that
girl?"

"Oh, it's Noémie, is it? Lord deliver us! You don't mean to say you are
lovesick about her?"

"Lovesick, no; it's not a grand passion. But the cold-blooded little
demon sticks in my thoughts; she has bitten me with those even little
teeth of hers; I feel as if I might turn rabid and do something crazy
in consequence. It's very low, it's disgustingly low. She's the most
mercenary little jade in Europe. Yet she really affects my peace of
mind; she is always running in my head. It's a striking contrast to your
noble and virtuous attachment--a vile contrast! It is rather pitiful
that it should be the best I am able to do for myself at my present
respectable age. I am a nice young man, eh, _en somme?_ You can't
warrant my future, as you do your own."

"Drop that girl, short," said Newman; "don't go near her again, and your
future will do. Come over to America and I will get you a place in a
bank."

"It is easy to say drop her," said Valentin, with a light laugh. "You
can't drop a pretty woman like that. One must be polite, even with
Noémie. Besides, I'll not have her suppose I am afraid of her."

"So, between politeness and vanity, you will get deeper into the mud?
Keep them both for something better. Remember, too, that I didn't want
to introduce you to her; you insisted. I had a sort of uneasy feeling
about it."

"Oh, I don't reproach you," said Valentin. "Heaven forbid! I wouldn't
for the world have missed knowing her. She is really extraordinary. The
way she has already spread her wings is amazing. I don't know when a
woman has amused me more. But excuse me," he added in an instant; "she
doesn't amuse you, at second hand, and the subject is an impure one.
Let us talk of something else." Valentin introduced another topic, but
within five minutes Newman observed that, by a bold transition, he had
reverted to Mademoiselle Nioche, and was giving pictures of her manners
and quoting specimens of her _mots_. These were very witty, and, for
a young woman who six months before had been painting the most artless
madonnas, startlingly cynical. But at last, abruptly, he stopped, became
thoughtful, and for some time afterwards said nothing. When he rose to
go it was evident that his thoughts were still running upon Mademoiselle
Nioche. "Yes, she's a frightful little monster!" he said.



CHAPTER XVI

The next ten days were the happiest that Newman had ever known. He
saw Madame de Cintré every day, and never saw either old Madame de
Bellegarde or the elder of his prospective brothers-in-law. Madame de
Cintré at last seemed to think it becoming to apologize for their never
being present. "They are much taken up," she said, "with doing the
honors of Paris to Lord Deepmere." There was a smile in her gravity
as she made this declaration, and it deepened as she added, "He is our
seventh cousin, you know, and blood is thicker than water. And then, he
is so interesting!" And with this she laughed.

Newman met young Madame de Bellegarde two or three times, always roaming
about with graceful vagueness, as if in search of an unattainable ideal
of amusement. She always reminded him of a painted perfume-bottle with a
crack in it; but he had grown to have a kindly feeling for her, based
on the fact of her owing conjugal allegiance to Urbain de Bellegarde.
He pitied M. de Bellegarde's wife, especially since she was a silly,
thirstily-smiling little brunette, with a suggestion of an unregulated
heart. The small marquise sometimes looked at him with an intensity
too marked not to be innocent, for coquetry is more finely shaded.
She apparently wanted to ask him something or tell him something; he
wondered what it was. But he was shy of giving her an opportunity,
because, if her communication bore upon the aridity of her matrimonial
lot, he was at a loss to see how he could help her. He had a fancy,
however, of her coming up to him some day and saying (after looking
around behind her) with a little passionate hiss, "I know you detest my
husband; let me have the pleasure of assuring you for once that you
are right. Pity a poor woman who is married to a clock-image in
_papier-mâché!_" Possessing, however, in default of a competent
knowledge of the principles of etiquette, a very downright sense of
the "meanness" of certain actions, it seemed to him to belong to his
position to keep on his guard; he was not going to put it into the
power of these people to say that in their house he had done anything
unpleasant. As it was, Madame de Bellegarde used to give him news of the
dress she meant to wear at his wedding, and which had not yet, in her
creative imagination, in spite of many interviews with the tailor,
resolved itself into its composite totality. "I told you pale blue bows
on the sleeves, at the elbows," she said. "But to-day I don't see my
blue bows at all. I don't know what has become of them. To-day I see
pink--a tender pink. And then I pass through strange, dull phases in
which neither blue nor pink says anything to me. And yet I must have the
bows."

"Have them green or yellow," said Newman.

"_Malheureux!_" the little marquise would cry. "Green bows would break
your marriage--your children would be illegitimate!"

Madame de Cintré was calmly happy before the world, and Newman had the
felicity of fancying that before him, when the world was absent, she
was almost agitatedly happy. She said very tender things. "I take no
pleasure in you. You never give me a chance to scold you, to correct
you. I bargained for that, I expected to enjoy it. But you won't do
anything dreadful; you are dismally inoffensive. It is very stupid;
there is no excitement for me; I might as well be marrying someone
else."

"I am afraid it's the worst I can do," Newman would say in answer to
this. "Kindly overlook the deficiency." He assured her that he, at
least, would never scold her; she was perfectly satisfactory. "If you
only knew," he said, "how exactly you are what I coveted! And I am
beginning to understand why I coveted it; the having it makes all the
difference that I expected. Never was a man so pleased with his good
fortune. You have been holding your head for a week past just as I
wanted my wife to hold hers. You say just the things I want her to say.
You walk about the room just as I want her to walk. You have just the
taste in dress that I want her to have. In short, you come up to the
mark, and, I can tell you, my mark was high."

These observations seemed to make Madame de Cintré rather grave. At last
she said, "Depend upon it, I don't come up to the mark; your mark is too
high. I am not all that you suppose; I am a much smaller affair. She
is a magnificent woman, your ideal. Pray, how did she come to such
perfection?"

"She was never anything else," Newman said.

"I really believe," Madame de Cintré went on, "that she is better than
my own ideal. Do you know that is a very handsome compliment? Well, sir,
I will make her my own!"

Mrs. Tristram came to see her dear Claire after Newman had announced his
engagement, and she told our hero the next day that his good fortune was
simply absurd. "For the ridiculous part of it is," she said, "that you
are evidently going to be as happy as if you were marrying Miss Smith
or Miss Thompson. I call it a brilliant match for you, but you get
brilliancy without paying any tax upon it. Those things are usually a
compromise, but here you have everything, and nothing crowds anything
else out. You will be brilliantly happy as well." Newman thanked her for
her pleasant, encouraging way of saying things; no woman could encourage
or discourage better. Tristram's way of saying things was different; he
had been taken by his wife to call upon Madame de Cintré, and he gave an
account of the expedition.

"You don't catch me giving an opinion on your countess this time," he
said; "I put my foot in it once. That's a d--d underhand thing to do, by
the way--coming round to sound a fellow upon the woman you are going to
marry. You deserve anything you get. Then of course you rush and tell
her, and she takes care to make it pleasant for the poor spiteful wretch
the first time he calls. I will do you the justice to say, however,
that you don't seem to have told Madame de Cintré; or if you have, she's
uncommonly magnanimous. She was very nice; she was tremendously polite.
She and Lizzie sat on the sofa, pressing each other's hands and calling
each other _chère belle_, and Madame de Cintré sent me with every third
word a magnificent smile, as if to give me to understand that I too was
a handsome dear. She quite made up for past neglect, I assure you; she
was very pleasant and sociable. Only in an evil hour it came into her
head to say that she must present us to her mother--her mother wished
to know your friends. I didn't want to know her mother, and I was on the
point of telling Lizzie to go in alone and let me wait for her outside.
But Lizzie, with her usual infernal ingenuity, guessed my purpose and
reduced me by a glance of her eye. So they marched off arm in arm, and
I followed as I could. We found the old lady in her armchair, twiddling
her aristocratic thumbs. She looked at Lizzie from head to foot; but at
that game Lizzie, to do her justice, was a match for her. My wife told
her we were great friends of Mr. Newman. The marquise started a moment,
and then said, 'Oh, Mr. Newman! My daughter has made up her mind to
marry a Mr. Newman.' Then Madame de Cintré began to fondle Lizzie again,
and said it was this dear lady that had planned the match and
brought them together. 'Oh, 'tis you I have to thank for my American
son-in-law,' the old lady said to Mrs. Tristram. 'It was a very clever
thought of yours. Be sure of my gratitude.' And then she began to look
at me and presently said, 'Pray, are you engaged in some species of
manufacture?' I wanted to say that I manufactured broom-sticks for old
witches to ride on, but Lizzie got in ahead of me. 'My husband, Madame
la Marquise,' she said, 'belongs to that unfortunate class of persons
who have no profession and no business, and do very little good in
the world.' To get her poke at the old woman she didn't care where she
shoved me. 'Dear me,' said the marquise, 'we all have our duties.' 'I am
sorry mine compel me to take leave of you,' said Lizzie. And we bundled
out again. But you have a mother-in-law, in all the force of the term."

"Oh," said Newman, "my mother-in-law desires nothing better than to let
me alone."

Betimes, on the evening of the 27th, he went to Madame de Bellegarde's
ball. The old house in the Rue de l'Université looked strangely
brilliant. In the circle of light projected from the outer gate a
detachment of the populace stood watching the carriages roll in; the
court was illumined with flaring torches and the portico carpeted with
crimson. When Newman arrived there were but a few people present. The
marquise and her two daughters were at the top of the staircase, where
the sallow old nymph in the angle peeped out from a bower of plants.
Madame de Bellegarde, in purple and fine laces, looked like an old lady
painted by Vandyke; Madame de Cintré was dressed in white. The old lady
greeted Newman with majestic formality, and looking round her, called
several of the persons who were standing near. They were elderly
gentlemen, of what Valentin de Bellegarde had designated as the
high-nosed category; two or three of them wore cordons and stars. They
approached with measured alertness, and the marquise said that she
wished to present them to Mr. Newman, who was going to marry her
daughter. Then she introduced successively three dukes, three counts,
and a baron. These gentlemen bowed and smiled most agreeably, and Newman
indulged in a series of impartial hand-shakes, accompanied by a "Happy
to make your acquaintance, sir." He looked at Madame de Cintré, but she
was not looking at him. If his personal self-consciousness had been of
a nature to make him constantly refer to her, as the critic before whom,
in company, he played his part, he might have found it a flattering
proof of her confidence that he never caught her eyes resting upon him.
It is a reflection Newman did not make, but we nevertheless risk it,
that in spite of this circumstance she probably saw every movement
of his little finger. Young Madame de Bellegarde was dressed in an
audacious toilet of crimson crape, bestrewn with huge silver moons--thin
crescent and full disks.

"You don't say anything about my dress," she said to Newman.

"I feel," he answered, "as if I were looking at you through a telescope.
It is very strange."

"If it is strange it matches the occasion. But I am not a heavenly
body."

"I never saw the sky at midnight that particular shade of crimson," said
Newman.

"That is my originality; anyone could have chosen blue. My sister-in-law
would have chosen a lovely shade of blue, with a dozen little delicate
moons. But I think crimson is much more amusing. And I give my idea,
which is moonshine."

"Moonshine and bloodshed," said Newman.

"A murder by moonlight," laughed Madame de Bellegarde. "What a delicious
idea for a toilet! To make it complete, there is the silver dagger, you
see, stuck into my hair. But here comes Lord Deepmere," she added in a
moment. "I must find out what he thinks of it." Lord Deepmere came up,
looking very red in the face, and laughing. "Lord Deepmere can't decide
which he prefers, my sister-in-law or me," said Madame de Bellegarde.
"He likes Claire because she is his cousin, and me because I am not.
But he has no right to make love to Claire, whereas I am perfectly
_disponible_. It is very wrong to make love to a woman who is engaged,
but it is very wrong not to make love to a woman who is married."

"Oh, it's very jolly making love to married women," said Lord Deepmere,
"because they can't ask you to marry them."

"Is that what the others do, the spinsters?" Newman inquired.

"Oh dear, yes," said Lord Deepmere; "in England all the girls ask a
fellow to marry them."

"And a fellow brutally refuses," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"Why, really, you know, a fellow can't marry any girl that asks him,"
said his lordship.

"Your cousin won't ask you. She is going to marry Mr. Newman."

"Oh, that's a very different thing!" laughed Lord Deepmere.

"You would have accepted _her_, I suppose. That makes me hope that after
all you prefer me."

"Oh, when things are nice I never prefer one to the other," said the
young Englishman. "I take them all."

"Ah, what a horror! I won't be taken in that way; I must be kept apart,"
cried Madame de Bellegarde. "Mr. Newman is much better; he knows how
to choose. Oh, he chooses as if he were threading a needle. He prefers
Madame de Cintré to any conceivable creature or thing."

"Well, you can't help my being her cousin," said Lord Deepmere to
Newman, with candid hilarity.

"Oh, no, I can't help that," said Newman, laughing back; "neither can
she!"

"And you can't help my dancing with her," said Lord Deepmere, with
sturdy simplicity.

"I could prevent that only by dancing with her myself," said Newman.
"But unfortunately I don't know how to dance."

"Oh, you may dance without knowing how; may you not, milord?" said
Madame de Bellegarde. But to this Lord Deepmere replied that a fellow
ought to know how to dance if he didn't want to make an ass of himself;
and at this moment Urbain de Bellegarde joined the group, slow-stepping
and with his hands behind him.

"This is a very splendid entertainment," said Newman, cheerfully. "The
old house looks very bright."

"If _you_ are pleased, we are content," said the marquis, lifting his
shoulders and bending them forward.

"Oh, I suspect everyone is pleased," said Newman. "How can they help
being pleased when the first thing they see as they come in is your
sister, standing there as beautiful as an angel?"

"Yes, she is very beautiful," rejoined the marquis, solemnly. "But that
is not so great a source of satisfaction to other people, naturally, as
to you."

"Yes, I am satisfied, marquis, I am satisfied," said Newman, with his
protracted enunciation. "And now tell me," he added, looking round, "who
some of your friends are."

M. de Bellegarde looked about him in silence, with his head bent and his
hand raised to his lower lip, which he slowly rubbed. A stream of people
had been pouring into the salon in which Newman stood with his host,
the rooms were filling up and the spectacle had become brilliant. It
borrowed its splendor chiefly from the shining shoulders and profuse
jewels of the women, and from the voluminous elegance of their dresses.
There were no uniforms, as Madame de Bellegarde's door was inexorably
closed against the myrmidons of the upstart power which then ruled the
fortunes of France, and the great company of smiling and chattering
faces was not graced by any very frequent suggestions of harmonious
beauty. It is a pity, nevertheless, that Newman had not been a
physiognomist, for a great many of the faces were irregularly agreeable,
expressive, and suggestive. If the occasion had been different they
would hardly have pleased him; he would have thought the women not
pretty enough and the men too smirking; but he was now in a humor to
receive none but agreeable impressions, and he looked no more narrowly
than to perceive that everyone was brilliant, and to feel that the sun
of their brilliancy was a part of his credit. "I will present you to
some people," said M. de Bellegarde after a while. "I will make a point
of it, in fact. You will allow me?"

"Oh, I will shake hands with anyone you want," said Newman. "Your mother
just introduced me to half a dozen old gentlemen. Take care you don't
pick up the same parties again."

"Who are the gentlemen to whom my mother presented you?"

"Upon my word, I forgot them," said Newman, laughing. "The people here
look very much alike."

"I suspect they have not forgotten you," said the marquis. And he began
to walk through the rooms. Newman, to keep near him in the crowd, took
his arm; after which for some time, the marquis walked straight
along, in silence. At last, reaching the farther end of the suite of
reception-rooms, Newman found himself in the presence of a lady of
monstrous proportions, seated in a very capacious armchair, with several
persons standing in a semicircle round her. This little group had
divided as the marquis came up, and M. de Bellegarde stepped forward and
stood for an instant silent and obsequious, with his hat raised to his
lips, as Newman had seen some gentlemen stand in churches as soon as
they entered their pews. The lady, indeed, bore a very fair likeness to
a reverend effigy in some idolatrous shrine. She was monumentally stout
and imperturbably serene. Her aspect was to Newman almost formidable; he
had a troubled consciousness of a triple chin, a small piercing eye, a
vast expanse of uncovered bosom, a nodding and twinkling tiara of plumes
and gems, and an immense circumference of satin petticoat. With her
little circle of beholders this remarkable woman reminded him of the Fat
Lady at a fair. She fixed her small, unwinking eyes at the new-comers.

"Dear duchess," said the marquis, "let me present you our good friend
Mr. Newman, of whom you have heard us speak. Wishing to make Mr. Newman
known to those who are dear to us, I could not possibly fail to begin
with you."

"Charmed, dear friend; charmed, monsieur," said the duchess in a voice
which, though small and shrill, was not disagreeable, while Newman
executed his obeisance. "I came on purpose to see monsieur. I hope he
appreciates the compliment. You have only to look at me to do so, sir,"
she continued, sweeping her person with a much-encompassing glance.
Newman hardly knew what to say, though it seemed that to a duchess who
joked about her corpulence one might say almost anything. On hearing
that the duchess had come on purpose to see Newman, the gentlemen
who surrounded her turned a little and looked at him with sympathetic
curiosity. The marquis with supernatural gravity mentioned to him the
name of each, while the gentleman who bore it bowed; they were all what
are called in France _beaux noms_. "I wanted extremely to see you," the
duchess went on. "_C'est positif_. In the first place, I am very fond of
the person you are going to marry; she is the most charming creature in
France. Mind you treat her well, or you shall hear some news of me. But
you look as if you were good. I am told you are very remarkable. I have
heard all sorts of extraordinary things about you. _Voyons_, are they
true?"

"I don't know what you can have heard," said Newman.

"Oh, you have your _légende_. We have heard that you have had a career
the most checkered, the most _bizarre_. What is that about your having
founded a city some ten years ago in the great West, a city which
contains to-day half a million of inhabitants? Isn't it half a million,
messieurs? You are exclusive proprietor of this flourishing settlement,
and are consequently fabulously rich, and you would be richer still if
you didn't grant lands and houses free of rent to all new-comers who
will pledge themselves never to smoke cigars. At this game, in three
years, we are told, you are going to be made president of America."

The duchess recited this amazing "legend" with a smooth self-possession
which gave the speech to Newman's mind, the air of being a bit of
amusing dialogue in a play, delivered by a veteran comic actress. Before
she had ceased speaking he had burst into loud, irrepressible laughter.
"Dear duchess, dear duchess," the marquis began to murmur, soothingly.
Two or three persons came to the door of the room to see who was
laughing at the duchess. But the lady continued with the soft, serene
assurance of a person who, as a duchess, was certain of being listened
to, and, as a garrulous woman, was independent of the pulse of her
auditors. "But I know you are very remarkable. You must be, to have
endeared yourself to this good marquis and to his admirable world. They
are very exacting. I myself am not very sure at this hour of really
possessing it. Eh, Bellegarde? To please you, I see, one must be an
American millionaire. But your real triumph, my dear sir, is pleasing
the countess; she is as difficult as a princess in a fairy tale. Your
success is a miracle. What is your secret? I don't ask you to reveal it
before all these gentlemen, but come and see me some day and give me a
specimen of your talents."

"The secret is with Madame de Cintré," said Newman. "You must ask her
for it. It consists in her having a great deal of charity."

"Very pretty!" said the duchess. "That's a very nice specimen, to begin
with. What, Bellegarde, are you already taking monsieur away?"

"I have a duty to perform, dear friend," said the marquis, pointing to
the other groups.

"Ah, for you I know what that means. Well, I have seen monsieur; that
is what I wanted. He can't persuade me that he isn't very clever.
Farewell."

As Newman passed on with his host, he asked who the duchess was. "The
greatest lady in France," said the marquis. M. de Bellegarde then
presented his prospective brother-in-law to some twenty other persons of
both sexes, selected apparently for their typically august character.
In some cases this character was written in good round hand upon the
countenance of the wearer; in others Newman was thankful for such help
as his companion's impressively brief intimation contributed to the
discovery of it. There were large, majestic men, and small demonstrative
men; there were ugly ladies in yellow lace and quaint jewels, and pretty
ladies with white shoulders from which jewels and everything else
were absent. Everyone gave Newman extreme attention, everyone smiled,
everyone was charmed to make his acquaintance, everyone looked at him
with that soft hardness of good society which puts out its hand but
keeps its fingers closed over the coin. If the marquis was going about
as a bear-leader, if the fiction of Beauty and the Beast was supposed
to have found its companion-piece, the general impression appeared to
be that the bear was a very fair imitation of humanity. Newman found his
reception among the marquis's friends very "pleasant;" he could not have
said more for it. It was pleasant to be treated with so much explicit
politeness; it was pleasant to hear neatly turned civilities, with a
flavor of wit, uttered from beneath carefully-shaped moustaches; it was
pleasant to see clever Frenchwomen--they all seemed clever--turn their
backs to their partners to get a good look at the strange American whom
Claire de Cintré was to marry, and reward the object of the exhibition
with a charming smile. At last, as he turned away from a battery of
smiles and other amenities, Newman caught the eye of the marquis looking
at him heavily; and thereupon, for a single instant, he checked himself.
"Am I behaving like a d--d fool?" he asked himself. "Am I stepping
about like a terrier on his hind legs?" At this moment he perceived
Mrs. Tristram at the other side of the room, and he waved his hand in
farewell to M. de Bellegarde and made his way toward her.

"Am I holding my head too high?" he asked. "Do I look as if I had the
lower end of a pulley fastened to my chin?"

"You look like all happy men, very ridiculous," said Mrs. Tristram.
"It's the usual thing, neither better nor worse. I have been watching
you for the last ten minutes, and I have been watching M. de Bellegarde.
He doesn't like it."

"The more credit to him for putting it through," replied Newman. "But I
shall be generous. I shan't trouble him any more. But I am very happy.
I can't stand still here. Please to take my arm and we will go for a
walk."

He led Mrs. Tristram through all the rooms. There were a great many of
them, and, decorated for the occasion and filled with a stately crowd,
their somewhat tarnished nobleness recovered its lustre. Mrs. Tristram,
looking about her, dropped a series of softly-incisive comments upon her
fellow-guests. But Newman made vague answers; he hardly heard her, his
thoughts were elsewhere. They were lost in a cheerful sense of success,
of attainment and victory. His momentary care as to whether he looked
like a fool passed away, leaving him simply with a rich contentment.
He had got what he wanted. The savor of success had always been highly
agreeable to him, and it had been his fortune to know it often. But it
had never before been so sweet, been associated with so much that was
brilliant and suggestive and entertaining. The lights, the flowers, the
music, the crowd, the splendid women, the jewels, the strangeness even
of the universal murmur of a clever foreign tongue were all a vivid
symbol and assurance of his having grasped his purpose and forced along
his groove. If Newman's smile was larger than usual, it was not tickled
vanity that pulled the strings; he had no wish to be shown with the
finger or to achieve a personal success. If he could have looked down at
the scene, invisible, from a hole in the roof, he would have enjoyed it
quite as much. It would have spoken to him about his own prosperity and
deepened that easy feeling about life to which, sooner or later, he made
all experience contribute. Just now the cup seemed full.

"It is a very pretty party," said Mrs. Tristram, after they had walked
a while. "I have seen nothing objectionable except my husband leaning
against the wall and talking to an individual whom I suppose he takes
for a duke, but whom I more than suspect to be the functionary who
attends to the lamps. Do you think you could separate them? Knock over a
lamp!"

I doubt whether Newman, who saw no harm in Tristram's conversing with an
ingenious mechanic, would have complied with this request; but at this
moment Valentin de Bellegarde drew near. Newman, some weeks previously,
had presented Madame de Cintré's youngest brother to Mrs. Tristram, for
whose merits Valentin professed a discriminating relish and to whom he
had paid several visits.

"Did you ever read Keats's Belle Dame sans Merci?" asked Mrs. Tristram.
"You remind me of the hero of the ballad:--


     'Oh, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
     Alone and palely loitering?'"

"If I am alone, it is because I have been deprived of your society,"
said Valentin. "Besides it is good manners for no man except Newman to
look happy. This is all to his address. It is not for you and me to go
before the curtain."

"You promised me last spring," said Newman to Mrs. Tristram, "that six
months from that time I should get into a monstrous rage. It seems to
me the time's up, and yet the nearest I can come to doing anything rough
now is to offer you a _café glacé_."

"I told you we should do things grandly," said Valentin. "I don't allude
to the _cafés glacés_. But everyone is here, and my sister told me just
now that Urbain had been adorable."

"He's a good fellow, he's a good fellow," said Newman. "I love him as a
brother. That reminds me that I ought to go and say something polite to
your mother."

"Let it be something very polite indeed," said Valentin. "It may be the
last time you will feel so much like it!"

Newman walked away, almost disposed to clasp old Madame de Bellegarde
round the waist. He passed through several rooms and at last found
the old marquise in the first saloon, seated on a sofa, with her young
kinsman, Lord Deepmere, beside her. The young man looked somewhat bored;
his hands were thrust into his pockets and his eyes were fixed upon the
toes of his shoes, his feet being thrust out in front of him. Madame de
Bellegarde appeared to have been talking to him with some intensity and
to be waiting for an answer to what she had said, or for some sign of
the effect of her words. Her hands were folded in her lap, and she was
looking at his lordship's simple physiognomy with an air of politely
suppressed irritation.

Lord Deepmere looked up as Newman approached, met his eyes, and changed
color.

"I am afraid I disturb an interesting interview," said Newman.

Madame de Bellegarde rose, and her companion rising at the same time,
she put her hand into his arm. She answered nothing for an instant, and
then, as he remained silent, she said with a smile, "It would be polite
for Lord Deepmere to say it was very interesting."

"Oh, I'm not polite!" cried his lordship. "But it _was_ interesting."

"Madame de Bellegarde was giving you some good advice, eh?" said Newman;
"toning you down a little?"

"I was giving him some excellent advice," said the marquise, fixing her
fresh, cold eyes upon our hero. "It's for him to take it."

"Take it, sir--take it," Newman exclaimed. "Any advice the marquise
gives you to-night must be good. For to-night, marquise, you must speak
from a cheerful, comfortable spirit, and that makes good advice. You see
everything going on so brightly and successfully round you. Your party
is magnificent; it was a very happy thought. It is much better than that
thing of mine would have been."

"If you are pleased I am satisfied," said Madame de Bellegarde. "My
desire was to please you."

"Do you want to please me a little more?" said Newman. "Just drop
our lordly friend; I am sure he wants to be off and shake his heels a
little. Then take my arm and walk through the rooms."

"My desire was to please you," the old lady repeated. And she liberated
Lord Deepmere, Newman rather wondering at her docility. "If this young
man is wise," she added, "he will go and find my daughter and ask her to
dance."

"I have been endorsing your advice," said Newman, bending over her and
laughing, "I suppose I must swallow that!"

Lord Deepmere wiped his forehead and departed, and Madame de Bellegarde
took Newman's arm. "Yes, it's a very pleasant, sociable entertainment,"
the latter declared, as they proceeded on their circuit. "Everyone seems
to know everyone and to be glad to see everyone. The marquis has made
me acquainted with ever so many people, and I feel quite like one of the
family. It's an occasion," Newman continued, wanting to say something
thoroughly kind and comfortable, "that I shall always remember, and
remember very pleasantly."

"I think it is an occasion that we shall none of us forget," said the
marquise, with her pure, neat enunciation.

People made way for her as she passed, others turned round and looked at
her, and she received a great many greetings and pressings of the hand,
all of which she accepted with the most delicate dignity. But though she
smiled upon everyone, she said nothing until she reached the last of the
rooms, where she found her elder son. Then, "This is enough, sir," she
declared with measured softness to Newman, and turned to the marquis. He
put out both his hands and took both hers, drawing her to a seat with an
air of the tenderest veneration. It was a most harmonious family group,
and Newman discreetly retired. He moved through the rooms for some time
longer, circulating freely, overtopping most people by his great
height, renewing acquaintance with some of the groups to which Urbain de
Bellegarde had presented him, and expending generally the surplus of
his equanimity. He continued to find it all extremely agreeable; but
the most agreeable things have an end, and the revelry on this occasion
began to deepen to a close. The music was sounding its ultimate strains
and people were looking for the marquise, to make their farewells. There
seemed to be some difficulty in finding her, and Newman heard a report
that she had left the ball, feeling faint. "She has succumbed to the
emotions of the evening," he heard a lady say. "Poor, dear marquise;
I can imagine all that they may have been for her!" But he learned
immediately afterwards that she had recovered herself and was seated in
an armchair near the doorway, receiving parting compliments from great
ladies who insisted upon her not rising. He himself set out in quest of
Madame de Cintré. He had seen her move past him many times in the rapid
circles of a waltz, but in accordance with her explicit instructions he
had exchanged no words with her since the beginning of the evening.
The whole house having been thrown open, the apartments of the
_rez-de-chaussée_ were also accessible, though a smaller number of
persons had gathered there. Newman wandered through them, observing
a few scattered couples to whom this comparative seclusion appeared
grateful and reached a small conservatory which opened into the garden.
The end of the conservatory was formed by a clear sheet of glass,
unmasked by plants, and admitting the winter starlight so directly that
a person standing there would seem to have passed into the open air. Two
persons stood there now, a lady and a gentleman; the lady Newman, from
within the room and although she had turned her back to it, immediately
recognized as Madame de Cintré. He hesitated as to whether he would
advance, but as he did so she looked round, feeling apparently that he
was there. She rested her eyes on him a moment and then turned again to
her companion.

"It is almost a pity not to tell Mr. Newman," she said softly, but in a
tone that Newman could hear.

"Tell him if you like!" the gentleman answered, in the voice of Lord
Deepmere.

"Oh, tell me by all means!" said Newman advancing.

Lord Deepmere, he observed, was very red in the face, and he had twisted
his gloves into a tight cord as if he had been squeezing them dry.
These, presumably, were tokens of violent emotion, and it seemed to
Newman that the traces of corresponding agitation were visible in Madame
de Cintré's face. The two had been talking with much vivacity. "What
I should tell you is only to my lord's credit," said Madame de Cintré,
smiling frankly enough.

"He wouldn't like it any better for that!" said my lord, with his
awkward laugh.

"Come; what's the mystery?" Newman demanded. "Clear it up. I don't like
mysteries."

"We must have some things we don't like, and go without some we do,"
said the ruddy young nobleman, laughing still.

"It's to Lord Deepmere's credit, but it is not to everyone's," said
Madam de Cintré. "So I shall say nothing about it. You may be sure,"
she added; and she put out her hand to the Englishman, who took it half
shyly, half impetuously. "And now go and dance!" she said.

"Oh yes, I feel awfully like dancing!" he answered. "I shall go and get
tipsy." And he walked away with a gloomy guffaw.

"What has happened between you?" Newman asked.

"I can't tell you--now," said Madame de Cintré. "Nothing that need make
you unhappy."

"Has the little Englishman been trying to make love to you?"

She hesitated, and then she uttered a grave "No! he's a very honest
little fellow."

"But you are agitated. Something is the matter."

"Nothing, I repeat, that need make you unhappy. My agitation is over.
Some day I will tell you what it was; not now. I can't now!"

"Well, I confess," remarked Newman, "I don't want to hear anything
unpleasant. I am satisfied with everything--most of all with you. I
have seen all the ladies and talked with a great many of them; but I am
satisfied with you." Madame de Cintré covered him for a moment with her
large, soft glance, and then turned her eyes away into the starry night.
So they stood silent a moment, side by side. "Say you are satisfied with
me," said Newman.

He had to wait a moment for the answer; but it came at last, low yet
distinct: "I am very happy."

It was presently followed by a few words from another source, which made
them both turn round. "I am sadly afraid Madame de Cintré will take a
chill. I have ventured to bring a shawl." Mrs. Bread stood there softly
solicitous, holding a white drapery in her hand.

"Thank you," said Madame de Cintré, "the sight of those cold stars gives
one a sense of frost. I won't take your shawl, but we will go back into
the house."

She passed back and Newman followed her, Mrs. Bread standing
respectfully aside to make way for them. Newman paused an instant before
the old woman, and she glanced up at him with a silent greeting. "Oh,
yes," he said, "you must come and live with us."

"Well then, sir, if you will," she answered, "you have not seen the last
of me!"



CHAPTER XVII

Newman was fond of music and went often to the opera. A couple of
evenings after Madame de Bellegarde's ball he sat listening to "Don
Giovanni," having in honor of this work, which he had never yet seen
represented, come to occupy his orchestra-chair before the rising of
the curtain. Frequently he took a large box and invited a party of
his compatriots; this was a mode of recreation to which he was much
addicted. He liked making up parties of his friends and conducting them
to the theatre, and taking them to drive on high drags or to dine at
remote restaurants. He liked doing things which involved his paying for
people; the vulgar truth is that he enjoyed "treating" them. This was
not because he was what is called purse-proud; handling money in public
was on the contrary positively disagreeable to him; he had a sort of
personal modesty about it, akin to what he would have felt about making
a toilet before spectators. But just as it was a gratification to him to
be handsomely dressed, just so it was a private satisfaction to him (he
enjoyed it very clandestinely) to have interposed, pecuniarily, in
a scheme of pleasure. To set a large group of people in motion and
transport them to a distance, to have special conveyances, to charter
railway-carriages and steamboats, harmonized with his relish for
bold processes, and made hospitality seem more active and more to the
purpose. A few evenings before the occasion of which I speak he had
invited several ladies and gentlemen to the opera to listen to Madame
Alboni--a party which included Miss Dora Finch. It befell, however, that
Miss Dora Finch, sitting near Newman in the box, discoursed brilliantly,
not only during the entr'actes, but during many of the finest portions
of the performance, so that Newman had really come away with an
irritated sense that Madame Alboni had a thin, shrill voice, and that
her musical phrase was much garnished with a laugh of the giggling
order. After this he promised himself to go for a while to the opera
alone.

When the curtain had fallen upon the first act of "Don Giovanni" he
turned round in his place to observe the house. Presently, in one of
the boxes, he perceived Urbain de Bellegarde and his wife. The little
marquise was sweeping the house very busily with a glass, and Newman,
supposing that she saw him, determined to go and bid her good evening.
M. de Bellegarde was leaning against a column, motionless, looking
straight in front of him, with one hand in the breast of his white
waistcoat and the other resting his hat on his thigh. Newman was about
to leave his place when he noticed in that obscure region devoted to the
small boxes which in France are called, not inaptly, "bathing-tubs,"
a face which even the dim light and the distance could not make wholly
indistinct. It was the face of a young and pretty woman, and it was
surmounted with a _coiffure_ of pink roses and diamonds. This person was
looking round the house, and her fan was moving to and fro with the most
practiced grace; when she lowered it, Newman perceived a pair of plump
white shoulders and the edge of a rose-colored dress. Beside her, very
close to the shoulders and talking, apparently with an earnestness which
it pleased her scantily to heed, sat a young man with a red face and a
very low shirt-collar. A moment's gazing left Newman with no doubts; the
pretty young woman was Noémie Nioche. He looked hard into the depths of
the box, thinking her father might perhaps be in attendance, but from
what he could see the young man's eloquence had no other auditor.
Newman at last made his way out, and in doing so he passed beneath the
_baignoire_ of Mademoiselle Noémie. She saw him as he approached and
gave him a nod and smile which seemed meant as an assurance that she was
still a good-natured girl, in spite of her enviable rise in the world.
Newman passed into the _foyer_ and walked through it. Suddenly he paused
in front of a gentleman seated on one of the divans. The gentleman's
elbows were on his knees; he was leaning forward and staring at the
pavement, lost apparently in meditations of a somewhat gloomy cast. But
in spite of his bent head Newman recognized him, and in a moment
sat down beside him. Then the gentleman looked up and displayed the
expressive countenance of Valentin de Bellegarde.

"What in the world are you thinking of so hard?" asked Newman.

"A subject that requires hard thinking to do it justice," said Valentin.
"My immeasurable idiocy."

"What is the matter now?"

"The matter now is that I am a man again, and no more a fool than usual.
But I came within an inch of taking that girl _au sérieux_."

"You mean the young lady below stairs, in a _baignoire_ in a pink
dress?" said Newman.

"Did you notice what a brilliant kind of pink it was?" Valentin
inquired, by way of answer. "It makes her look as white as new milk."

"White or black, as you please. But you have stopped going to see her?"

"Oh, bless you, no. Why should I stop? I have changed, but she hasn't,"
said Valentin. "I see she is a vulgar little wretch, after all. But she
is as amusing as ever, and one _must_ be amused."

"Well, I am glad she strikes you so unpleasantly," Newman rejoiced. "I
suppose you have swallowed all those fine words you used about her
the other night. You compared her to a sapphire, or a topaz, or an
amethyst--some precious stone; what was it?"

"I don't remember," said Valentin, "it may have been to a carbuncle! But
she won't make a fool of me now. She has no real charm. It's an awfully
low thing to make a mistake about a person of that sort."

"I congratulate you," Newman declared, "upon the scales having fallen
from your eyes. It's a great triumph; it ought to make you feel better."

"Yes, it makes me feel better!" said Valentin, gaily. Then, checking
himself, he looked askance at Newman. "I rather think you are laughing
at me. If you were not one of the family I would take it up."

"Oh, no, I'm not laughing, any more than I am one of the family. You
make me feel badly. You are too clever a fellow, you are made of too
good stuff, to spend your time in ups and downs over that class of
goods. The idea of splitting hairs about Miss Nioche! It seems to me
awfully foolish. You say you have given up taking her seriously; but you
take her seriously so long as you take her at all."

Valentin turned round in his place and looked a while at Newman,
wrinkling his forehead and rubbing his knees. "_Vous parlez d'or_. But
she has wonderfully pretty arms. Would you believe I didn't know it till
this evening?"

"But she is a vulgar little wretch, remember, all the same," said
Newman.

"Yes; the other day she had the bad taste to begin to abuse her father,
to his face, in my presence. I shouldn't have expected it of her; it was
a disappointment; heigho!"

"Why, she cares no more for her father than for her door-mat," said
Newman. "I discovered that the first time I saw her."

"Oh, that's another affair; she may think of the poor old beggar what
she pleases. But it was low in her to call him bad names; it quite threw
me off. It was about a frilled petticoat that he was to have fetched
from the washer-woman's; he appeared to have neglected this graceful
duty. She almost boxed his ears. He stood there staring at her with his
little blank eyes and smoothing his old hat with his coat-tail. At last
he turned round and went out without a word. Then I told her it was
in very bad taste to speak so to one's papa. She said she should be so
thankful to me if I would mention it to her whenever her taste was at
fault; she had immense confidence in mine. I told her I couldn't have
the bother of forming her manners; I had had an idea they were already
formed, after the best models. She had disappointed me. But I shall get
over it," said Valentin, gaily.

"Oh, time's a great consoler!" Newman answered with humorous sobriety.
He was silent a moment, and then he added, in another tone, "I wish you
would think of what I said to you the other day. Come over to America
with us, and I will put you in the way of doing some business. You have
a very good head, if you will only use it."

Valentin made a genial grimace. "My head is much obliged to you. Do you
mean the place in a bank?"

"There are several places, but I suppose you would consider the bank the
most aristocratic."

Valentin burst into a laugh. "My dear fellow, at night all cats are
gray! When one derogates there are no degrees."

Newman answered nothing for a minute. Then, "I think you will find there
are degrees in success," he said with a certain dryness.

Valentin had leaned forward again, with his elbows on his knees, and he
was scratching the pavement with his stick. At last he said, looking up,
"Do you really think I ought to do something?"

Newman laid his hand on his companion's arm and looked at him a moment
through sagaciously-narrowed eyelids. "Try it and see. You are not good
enough for it, but we will stretch a point."

"Do you really think I can make some money? I should like to see how it
feels to have a little."

"Do what I tell you, and you shall be rich," said Newman. "Think of it."
And he looked at his watch and prepared to resume his way to Madame de
Bellegarde's box.

"Upon my word I will think of it," said Valentin. "I will go and listen
to Mozart another half hour--I can always think better to music--and
profoundly meditate upon it."

The marquis was with his wife when Newman entered their box; he was
bland, remote, and correct as usual; or, as it seemed to Newman, even
more than usual.

"What do you think of the opera?" asked our hero. "What do you think of
the Don?"

"We all know what Mozart is," said the marquis; "our impressions
don't date from this evening. Mozart is youth, freshness, brilliancy,
facility--a little too great facility, perhaps. But the execution is
here and there deplorably rough."

"I am very curious to see how it ends," said Newman.

"You speak as if it were a _feuilleton_ in the _Figaro_," observed the
marquis. "You have surely seen the opera before?"

"Never," said Newman. "I am sure I should have remembered it.
Donna Elvira reminds me of Madame de Cintré; I don't mean in her
circumstances, but in the music she sings."

"It is a very nice distinction," laughed the marquis lightly. "There is
no great possibility, I imagine, of Madame de Cintré being forsaken."

"Not much!" said Newman. "But what becomes of the Don?"

"The devil comes down--or comes up," said Madame de Bellegarde, "and
carries him off. I suppose Zerlina reminds you of me."

"I will go to the _foyer_ for a few moments," said the marquis, "and
give you a chance to say that the commander--the man of stone--resembles
me." And he passed out of the box.

The little marquise stared an instant at the velvet ledge of the
balcony, and then murmured, "Not a man of stone, a man of wood." Newman
had taken her husband's empty chair. She made no protest, and then she
turned suddenly and laid her closed fan upon his arm. "I am very glad
you came in," she said. "I want to ask you a favor. I wanted to do so on
Thursday, at my mother-in-law's ball, but you would give me no chance.
You were in such very good spirits that I thought you might grant my
little favor then; not that you look particularly doleful now. It is
something you must promise me; now is the time to take you; after you
are married you will be good for nothing. Come, promise!"

"I never sign a paper without reading it first," said Newman. "Show me
your document."

"No, you must sign with your eyes shut; I will hold your hand. Come,
before you put your head into the noose. You ought to be thankful to me
for giving you a chance to do something amusing."

"If it is so amusing," said Newman, "it will be in even better season
after I am married."

"In other words," cried Madame de Bellegarde, "you will not do it at
all. You will be afraid of your wife."

"Oh, if the thing is intrinsically improper," said Newman, "I won't go
into it. If it is not, I will do it after my marriage."

"You talk like a treatise on logic, and English logic into the bargain!"
exclaimed Madame de Bellegarde. "Promise, then, after you are married.
After all, I shall enjoy keeping you to it."

"Well, then, after I am married," said Newman serenely.

The little marquise hesitated a moment, looking at him, and he wondered
what was coming. "I suppose you know what my life is," she presently
said. "I have no pleasure, I see nothing, I do nothing. I live in Paris
as I might live at Poitiers. My mother-in-law calls me--what is the
pretty word?--a gad-about? accuses me of going to unheard-of places, and
thinks it ought to be joy enough for me to sit at home and count over my
ancestors on my fingers. But why should I bother about my ancestors?
I am sure they never bothered about me. I don't propose to live with
a green shade on my eyes; I hold that things were made to look at. My
husband, you know, has principles, and the first on the list is that
the Tuileries are dreadfully vulgar. If the Tuileries are vulgar, his
principles are tiresome. If I chose I might have principles quite as
well as he. If they grew on one's family tree I should only have to give
mine a shake to bring down a shower of the finest. At any rate, I prefer
clever Bonapartes to stupid Bourbons."

"Oh, I see; you want to go to court," said Newman, vaguely conjecturing
that she might wish him to appeal to the United States legation to
smooth her way to the imperial halls.

The marquise gave a little sharp laugh. "You are a thousand miles away.
I will take care of the Tuileries myself; the day I decide to go they
will be very glad to have me. Sooner or later I shall dance in an
imperial quadrille. I know what you are going to say: 'How will you
dare?' But I _shall_ dare. I am afraid of my husband; he is soft,
smooth, irreproachable; everything that you know; but I am afraid of
him--horribly afraid of him. And yet I shall arrive at the Tuileries.
But that will not be this winter, nor perhaps next, and meantime I must
live. For the moment, I want to go somewhere else; it's my dream. I want
to go to the Bal Bullier."

"To the Bal Bullier?" repeated Newman, for whom the words at first meant
nothing.

"The ball in the Latin Quarter, where the students dance with their
mistresses. Don't tell me you have not heard of it."

"Oh yes," said Newman; "I have heard of it; I remember now. I have even
been there. And you want to go there?"

"It is silly, it is low, it is anything you please. But I want to go.
Some of my friends have been, and they say it is awfully _drôle_. My
friends go everywhere; it is only I who sit moping at home."

"It seems to me you are not at home now," said Newman, "and I shouldn't
exactly say you were moping."

"I am bored to death. I have been to the opera twice a week for the last
eight years. Whenever I ask for anything my mouth is stopped with that:
Pray, madam, haven't you an opera box? Could a woman of taste want more?
In the first place, my opera box was down in my _contrat_; they have
to give it to me. To-night, for instance, I should have preferred a
thousand times to go to the Palais Royal. But my husband won't go to the
Palais Royal because the ladies of the court go there so much. You may
imagine, then, whether he would take me to Bullier's; he says it is
a mere imitation--and a bad one--of what they do at the Princess
Kleinfuss's. But as I don't go to the Princess Kleinfuss's, the next
best thing is to go to Bullier's. It is my dream, at any rate, it's
a fixed idea. All I ask of you is to give me your arm; you are less
compromising than anyone else. I don't know why, but you are. I can
arrange it. I shall risk something, but that is my own affair. Besides,
fortune favors the bold. Don't refuse me; it is my dream!"

Newman gave a loud laugh. It seemed to him hardly worth while to be the
wife of the Marquis de Bellegarde, a daughter of the crusaders, heiress
of six centuries of glories and traditions, to have centred one's
aspirations upon the sight of a couple of hundred young ladies kicking
off young men's hats. It struck him as a theme for the moralist; but
he had no time to moralize upon it. The curtain rose again; M. de
Bellegarde returned, and Newman went back to his seat.

He observed that Valentin de Bellegarde had taken his place in the
_baignoire_ of Mademoiselle Nioche, behind this young lady and her
companion, where he was visible only if one carefully looked for him.
In the next act Newman met him in the lobby and asked him if he had
reflected upon possible emigration. "If you really meant to meditate,"
he said, "you might have chosen a better place for it."

"Oh, the place was not bad," said Valentin. "I was not thinking of that
girl. I listened to the music, and, without thinking of the play or
looking at the stage, I turned over your proposal. At first it seemed
quite fantastic. And then a certain fiddle in the orchestra--I could
distinguish it--began to say as it scraped away, 'Why not, why not?'
And then, in that rapid movement, all the fiddles took it up and the
conductor's stick seemed to beat it in the air: 'Why not, why not?' I'm
sure I can't say! I don't see why not. I don't see why I shouldn't do
something. It appears to me really a very bright idea. This sort of
thing is certainly very stale. And then I could come back with a trunk
full of dollars. Besides, I might possibly find it amusing. They call me
a _raffiné_; who knows but that I might discover an unsuspected charm in
shop-keeping? It would really have a certain romantic, picturesque side;
it would look well in my biography. It would look as if I were a strong
man, a first-rate man, a man who dominated circumstances."

"Never mind how it would look," said Newman. "It always looks well to
have half a million of dollars. There is no reason why you shouldn't
have them if you will mind what I tell you--I alone--and not talk to
other parties." He passed his arm into that of his companion, and
the two walked for some time up and down one of the less frequented
corridors. Newman's imagination began to glow with the idea of
converting his bright, impracticable friend into a first-class man of
business. He felt for the moment a sort of spiritual zeal, the zeal
of the propagandist. Its ardor was in part the result of that general
discomfort which the sight of all uninvested capital produced in him; so
fine an intelligence as Bellegarde's ought to be dedicated to high uses.
The highest uses known to Newman's experience were certain transcendent
sagacities in the handling of railway stock. And then his zeal was
quickened by his personal kindness for Valentin; he had a sort of pity
for him which he was well aware he never could have made the Comte de
Bellegarde understand. He never lost a sense of its being pitiable that
Valentin should think it a large life to revolve in varnished boots
between the Rue d'Anjou and the Rue de l'Université, taking the
Boulevard des Italiens on the way, when over there in America one's
promenade was a continent, and one's Boulevard stretched from New York
to San Francisco. It mortified him, moreover, to think that Valentin
lacked money; there was a painful grotesqueness in it. It affected him
as the ignorance of a companion, otherwise without reproach, touching
some rudimentary branch of learning would have done. There were things
that one knew about as a matter of course, he would have said in such a
case. Just so, if one pretended to be easy in the world, one had money
as a matter of course, one had made it! There was something almost
ridiculously anomalous to Newman in the sight of lively pretensions
unaccompanied by large investments in railroads; though I may add that
he would not have maintained that such investments were in themselves a
proper ground for pretensions. "I will make you do something," he said
to Valentin; "I will put you through. I know half a dozen things in
which we can make a place for you. You will see some lively work. It
will take you a little while to get used to the life, but you will work
in before long, and at the end of six months--after you have done a
thing or two on your own account--you will like it. And then it will
be very pleasant for you, having your sister over there. It will be
pleasant for her to have you, too. Yes, Valentin," continued Newman,
pressing his friend's arm genially, "I think I see just the opening for
you. Keep quiet and I'll push you right in."

Newman pursued this favoring strain for some time longer. The two
men strolled about for a quarter of an hour. Valentin listened and
questioned, many of his questions making Newman laugh loud at the
_naïveté_ of his ignorance of the vulgar processes of money-getting;
smiling himself, too, half ironical and half curious. And yet he was
serious; he was fascinated by Newman's plain prose version of the legend
of El Dorado. It is true, however, that though to accept an "opening"
in an American mercantile house might be a bold, original, and in its
consequences extremely agreeable thing to do, he did not quite see
himself objectively doing it. So that when the bell rang to indicate the
close of the entr'acte, there was a certain mock-heroism in his saying,
with his brilliant smile, "Well, then, put me through; push me in! I
make myself over to you. Dip me into the pot and turn me into gold."

They had passed into the corridor which encircled the row of
_baignoires_, and Valentin stopped in front of the dusky little box in
which Mademoiselle Nioche had bestowed herself, laying his hand on the
doorknob. "Oh, come, are you going back there?" asked Newman.

"_Mon Dieu, oui_," said Valentin.

"Haven't you another place?"

"Yes, I have my usual place, in the stalls."

"You had better go and occupy it, then."

"I see her very well from there, too," added Valentin, serenely, "and
to-night she is worth seeing. But," he added in a moment, "I have a
particular reason for going back just now."

"Oh, I give you up," said Newman. "You are infatuated!"

"No, it is only this. There is a young man in the box whom I shall annoy
by going in, and I want to annoy him."

"I am sorry to hear it," said Newman. "Can't you leave the poor fellow
alone?"

"No, he has given me cause. The box is not his. Noémie came in alone
and installed herself. I went and spoke to her, and in a few moments she
asked me to go and get her fan from the pocket of her cloak, which the
_ouvreuse_ had carried off. In my absence this gentleman came in
and took the chair beside Noémie in which I had been sitting. My
reappearance disgusted him, and he had the grossness to show it. He came
within an ace of being impertinent. I don't know who he is; he is some
vulgar wretch. I can't think where she picks up such acquaintances. He
has been drinking, too, but he knows what he is about. Just now, in the
second act, he was unmannerly again. I shall put in another appearance
for ten minutes--time enough to give him an opportunity to commit
himself, if he feels inclined. I really can't let the brute suppose that
he is keeping me out of the box."

"My dear fellow," said Newman, remonstrantly, "what child's play! You
are not going to pick a quarrel about that girl, I hope."

"That girl has nothing to do with it, and I have no intention of picking
a quarrel. I am not a bully nor a fire-eater. I simply wish to make a
point that a gentleman must."

"Oh, damn your point!" said Newman. "That is the trouble with you
Frenchmen; you must be always making points. Well," he added, "be short.
But if you are going in for this kind of thing, we must ship you off to
America in advance."

"Very good," Valentin answered, "whenever you please. But if I go to
America, I must not let this gentleman suppose that it is to run away
from him."

And they separated. At the end of the act Newman observed that Valentin
was still in the _baignoire_. He strolled into the corridor again,
expecting to meet him, and when he was within a few yards of
Mademoiselle Nioche's box saw his friend pass out, accompanied by
the young man who had been seated beside its fair occupant. The two
gentlemen walked with some quickness of step to a distant part of the
lobby, where Newman perceived them stop and stand talking. The manner
of each was perfectly quiet, but the stranger, who looked flushed, had
begun to wipe his face very emphatically with his pocket-handkerchief.
By this time Newman was abreast of the _baignoire_; the door had been
left ajar, and he could see a pink dress inside. He immediately went in.
Mademoiselle Nioche turned and greeted him with a brilliant smile.

"Ah, you have at last decided to come and see me?" she exclaimed. "You
just save your politeness. You find me in a fine moment. Sit down."
There was a very becoming little flush in her cheek, and her eye had a
noticeable spark. You would have said that she had received some very
good news.

"Something has happened here!" said Newman, without sitting down.

"You find me in a very fine moment," she repeated. "Two gentlemen--one
of them is M. de Bellegarde, the pleasure of whose acquaintance I owe to
you--have just had words about your humble servant. Very big words too.
They can't come off without crossing swords. A duel--that will give me
a push!" cried Mademoiselle Noémie clapping her little hands. "_C'est ça
qui pose une femme!_"

"You don't mean to say that Bellegarde is going to fight about _you!_"
exclaimed Newman disgustedly.

"Nothing else!" and she looked at him with a hard little smile. "No, no,
you are not _galant!_ And if you prevent this affair I shall owe you a
grudge--and pay my debt!"

Newman uttered an imprecation which, though brief--it consisted simply
of the interjection "Oh!" followed by a geographical, or more
correctly, perhaps a theological noun in four letters--had better not
be transferred to these pages. He turned his back without more ceremony
upon the pink dress and went out of the box. In the corridor he found
Valentin and his companion walking towards him. The latter was thrusting
a card into his waistcoat pocket. Mademoiselle Noémie's jealous votary
was a tall, robust young man with a thick nose, a prominent blue eye, a
Germanic physiognomy, and a massive watch-chain. When they reached the
box, Valentin with an emphasized bow made way for him to pass in first.
Newman touched Valentin's arm as a sign that he wished to speak with
him, and Bellegarde answered that he would be with him in an instant.
Valentin entered the box after the robust young man, but a couple of
minutes afterwards he reappeared, largely smiling.

"She is immensely tickled," he said. "She says we will make her fortune.
I don't want to be fatuous, but I think it is very possible."

"So you are going to fight?" said Newman.

"My dear fellow, don't look so mortally disgusted. It was not my choice.
The thing is all arranged."

"I told you so!" groaned Newman.

"I told _him_ so," said Valentin, smiling.

"What did he do to you?"

"My good friend, it doesn't matter what. He used an expression--I took
it up."

"But I insist upon knowing; I can't, as your elder brother, have you
rushing into this sort of nonsense."

"I am very much obliged to you," said Valentin. "I have nothing to
conceal, but I can't go into particulars now and here."

"We will leave this place, then. You can tell me outside."

"Oh no, I can't leave this place, why should I hurry away? I will go to
my orchestra-stall and sit out the opera."

"You will not enjoy it; you will be preoccupied."

Valentin looked at him a moment, colored a little, smiled, and patted
him on the arm. "You are delightfully simple! Before an affair a man is
quiet. The quietest thing I can do is to go straight to my place."

"Ah," said Newman, "you want her to see you there--you and your
quietness. I am not so simple! It is a poor business."

Valentin remained, and the two men, in their respective places, sat
out the rest of the performance, which was also enjoyed by Mademoiselle
Nioche and her truculent admirer. At the end Newman joined Valentin
again, and they went into the street together. Valentin shook his head
at his friend's proposal that he should get into Newman's own vehicle,
and stopped on the edge of the pavement. "I must go off alone," he
said; "I must look up a couple of friends who will take charge of this
matter."

"I will take charge of it," Newman declared. "Put it into my hands."

"You are very kind, but that is hardly possible. In the first place, you
are, as you said just now, almost my brother; you are about to marry
my sister. That alone disqualifies you; it casts doubts on your
impartiality. And if it didn't, it would be enough for me that I
strongly suspect you of disapproving of the affair. You would try to
prevent a meeting."

"Of course I should," said Newman. "Whoever your friends are, I hope
they will do that."

"Unquestionably they will. They will urge that excuses be made, proper
excuses. But you would be too good-natured. You won't do."

Newman was silent a moment. He was keenly annoyed, but he saw it was
useless to attempt interference. "When is this precious performance to
come off?" he asked.

"The sooner the better," said Valentin. "The day after to-morrow, I
hope."

"Well," said Newman, "I have certainly a claim to know the facts. I
can't consent to shut my eyes to the matter."

"I shall be most happy to tell you the facts," said Valentin. "They are
very simple, and it will be quickly done. But now everything depends on
my putting my hands on my friends without delay. I will jump into a cab;
you had better drive to my room and wait for me there. I will turn up at
the end of an hour."

Newman assented protestingly, let his friend go, and then betook himself
to the picturesque little apartment in the Rue d'Anjou. It was more
than an hour before Valentin returned, but when he did so he was able
to announce that he had found one of his desired friends, and that this
gentleman had taken upon himself the care of securing an associate.
Newman had been sitting without lights by Valentin's faded fire, upon
which he had thrown a log; the blaze played over the richly-encumbered
little sitting-room and produced fantastic gleams and shadows. He
listened in silence to Valentin's account of what had passed between him
and the gentleman whose card he had in his pocket--M. Stanislas Kapp,
of Strasbourg--after his return to Mademoiselle Nioche's box. This
hospitable young lady had espied an acquaintance on the other side
of the house, and had expressed her displeasure at his not having the
civility to come and pay her a visit. "Oh, let him alone!" M. Stanislas
Kapp had hereupon exclaimed. "There are too many people in the box
already." And he had fixed his eyes with a demonstrative stare upon M.
de Bellegarde. Valentin had promptly retorted that if there were too
many people in the box it was easy for M. Kapp to diminish the number.
"I shall be most happy to open the door for _you!_" M. Kapp exclaimed.
"I shall be delighted to fling you into the pit!" Valentin had answered.
"Oh, do make a rumpus and get into the papers!" Miss Noémie had
gleefully ejaculated. "M. Kapp, turn him out; or, M. de Bellegarde,
pitch him into the pit, into the orchestra--anywhere! I don't care who
does which, so long as you make a scene." Valentin answered that they
would make no scene, but that the gentleman would be so good as to
step into the corridor with him. In the corridor, after a brief further
exchange of words, there had been an exchange of cards. M. Stanislas
Kapp was very stiff. He evidently meant to force his offence home.

"The man, no doubt, was insolent," Newman said; "but if you hadn't gone
back into the box the thing wouldn't have happened."

"Why, don't you see," Valentin replied, "that the event proves the
extreme propriety of my going back into the box? M. Kapp wished to
provoke me; he was awaiting his chance. In such a case--that is, when
he has been, so to speak, notified--a man must be on hand to receive the
provocation. My not returning would simply have been tantamount to
my saying to M. Stanislas Kapp, 'Oh, if you are going to be
disagreeable'"----

"'You must manage it by yourself; damned if I'll help you!' That would
have been a thoroughly sensible thing to say. The only attraction for
you seems to have been the prospect of M. Kapp's impertinence," Newman
went on. "You told me you were not going back for that girl."

"Oh, don't mention that girl any more," murmured Valentin. "She's a
bore."

"With all my heart. But if that is the way you feel about her, why
couldn't you let her alone?"

Valentin shook his head with a fine smile. "I don't think you quite
understand, and I don't believe I can make you. She understood the
situation; she knew what was in the air; she was watching us."

"A cat may look at a king! What difference does that make?"

"Why, a man can't back down before a woman."

"I don't call her a woman. You said yourself she was a stone," cried
Newman.

"Well," Valentin rejoined, "there is no disputing about tastes. It's a
matter of feeling; it's measured by one's sense of honor."

"Oh, confound your sense of honor!" cried Newman.

"It is vain talking," said Valentin; "words have passed, and the thing
is settled."

Newman turned away, taking his hat. Then pausing with his hand on the
door, "What are you going to use?" he asked.

"That is for M. Stanislas Kapp, as the challenged party, to decide.
My own choice would be a short, light sword. I handle it well. I'm an
indifferent shot."

Newman had put on his hat; he pushed it back, gently scratching his
forehead, high up. "I wish it were pistols," he said. "I could show you
how to lodge a bullet!"

Valentin broke into a laugh. "What is it some English poet says about
consistency? It's a flower, or a star, or a jewel. Yours has the beauty
of all three!" But he agreed to see Newman again on the morrow, after
the details of his meeting with M. Stanislas Kapp should have been
arranged.

In the course of the day Newman received three lines from him, saying
that it had been decided that he should cross the frontier, with his
adversary, and that he was to take the night express to Geneva. He
should have time, however, to dine with Newman. In the afternoon Newman
called upon Madame de Cintré, but his visit was brief. She was as
gracious and sympathetic as he had ever found her, but she was sad, and
she confessed, on Newman's charging her with her red eyes, that she had
been crying. Valentin had been with her a couple of hours before, and
his visit had left her with a painful impression. He had laughed and
gossiped, he had brought her no bad news, he had only been, in his
manner, rather more affectionate than usual. His fraternal tenderness
had touched her, and on his departure she had burst into tears. She had
felt as if something strange and sad were going to happen; she had tried
to reason away the fancy, and the effort had only given her a headache.
Newman, of course, was perforce tongue-tied about Valentin's projected
duel, and his dramatic talent was not equal to satirizing Madame de
Cintré's presentiment as pointedly as perfect security demanded. Before
he went away he asked Madame de Cintré whether Valentin had seen his
mother.

"Yes," she said, "but he didn't make her cry."

It was in Newman's own apartment that Valentin dined, having brought
his portmanteau, so that he might adjourn directly to the railway. M.
Stanislas Kapp had positively declined to make excuses, and he, on his
side, obviously, had none to offer. Valentin had found out with whom he
was dealing. M. Stanislas Kapp was the son of and heir of a rich brewer
of Strasbourg, a youth of a sanguineous--and sanguinary--temperament.
He was making ducks and drakes of the paternal brewery, and although he
passed in a general way for a good fellow, he had already been observed
to be quarrelsome after dinner. "_Que voulez-vous?_" said Valentin.
"Brought up on beer, he can't stand champagne." He had chosen pistols.
Valentin, at dinner, had an excellent appetite; he made a point, in view
of his long journey, of eating more than usual. He took the liberty
of suggesting to Newman a slight modification in the composition of a
certain fish-sauce; he thought it would be worth mentioning to the
cook. But Newman had no thoughts for fish-sauce; he felt thoroughly
discontented. As he sat and watched his amiable and clever companion
going through his excellent repast with the delicate deliberation of
hereditary epicurism, the folly of so charming a fellow traveling off
to expose his agreeable young life for the sake of M. Stanislas and
Mademoiselle Noémie struck him with intolerable force. He had grown fond
of Valentin, he felt now how fond; and his sense of helplessness only
increased his irritation.

"Well, this sort of thing may be all very well," he cried at last, "but
I declare I don't see it. I can't stop you, perhaps, but at least I can
protest. I do protest, violently."

"My dear fellow, don't make a scene," said Valentin. "Scenes in these
cases are in very bad taste."

"Your duel itself is a scene," said Newman; "that's all it is! It's a
wretched theatrical affair. Why don't you take a band of music with you
outright? It's d--d barbarous and it's d--d corrupt, both."

"Oh, I can't begin, at this time of day, to defend the theory of
dueling," said Valentin. "It is our custom, and I think it is a good
thing. Quite apart from the goodness of the cause in which a duel may
be fought, it has a kind of picturesque charm which in this age of
vile prose seems to me greatly to recommend it. It's a remnant of a
higher-tempered time; one ought to cling to it. Depend upon it, a duel
is never amiss."

"I don't know what you mean by a higher-tempered time," said Newman.
"Because your great-grandfather was an ass, is that any reason why you
should be? For my part I think we had better let our temper take care of
itself; it generally seems to me quite high enough; I am not afraid
of being too meek. If your great-grandfather were to make himself
unpleasant to me, I think I could manage him yet."

"My dear friend," said Valentin, smiling, "you can't invent anything
that will take the place of satisfaction for an insult. To demand it and
to give it are equally excellent arrangements."

"Do you call this sort of thing satisfaction?" Newman asked. "Does it
satisfy you to receive a present of the carcass of that coarse fop? does
it gratify you to make him a present of yours? If a man hits you, hit
him back; if a man libels you, haul him up."

"Haul him up, into court? Oh, that is very nasty!" said Valentin.

"The nastiness is his--not yours. And for that matter, what you are
doing is not particularly nice. You are too good for it. I don't say
you are the most useful man in the world, or the cleverest, or the
most amiable. But you are too good to go and get your throat cut for a
prostitute."

Valentin flushed a little, but he laughed. "I shan't get my throat cut
if I can help it. Moreover, one's honor hasn't two different measures.
It only knows that it is hurt; it doesn't ask when, or how, or where."

"The more fool it is!" said Newman.

Valentin ceased to laugh; he looked grave. "I beg you not to say
any more," he said. "If you do I shall almost fancy you don't care
about--about"--and he paused.

"About what?"

"About that matter--about one's honor."

"Fancy what you please," said Newman. "Fancy while you are at it that
I care about _you_--though you are not worth it. But come back without
damage," he added in a moment, "and I will forgive you. And then,"
he continued, as Valentin was going, "I will ship you straight off to
America."

"Well," answered Valentin, "if I am to turn over a new page, this may
figure as a tail-piece to the old." And then he lit another cigar and
departed.

"Blast that girl!" said Newman as the door closed upon Valentin.



CHAPTER XVIII

Newman went the next morning to see Madame de Cintré, timing his
visit so as to arrive after the noonday breakfast. In the court of the
_hôtel_, before the portico, stood Madame de Bellegarde's old square
carriage. The servant who opened the door answered Newman's inquiry with
a slightly embarrassed and hesitating murmur, and at the same moment
Mrs. Bread appeared in the background, dim-visaged as usual, and wearing
a large black bonnet and shawl.

"What is the matter?" asked Newman. "Is Madame la Comtesse at home, or
not?"

Mrs. Bread advanced, fixing her eyes upon him: he observed that she held
a sealed letter, very delicately, in her fingers. "The countess has left
a message for you, sir; she has left this," said Mrs. Bread, holding out
the letter, which Newman took.

"Left it? Is she out? Is she gone away?"

"She is going away, sir; she is leaving town," said Mrs. Bread.

"Leaving town!" exclaimed Newman. "What has happened?"

"It is not for me to say, sir," said Mrs. Bread, with her eyes on the
ground. "But I thought it would come."

"What would come, pray?" Newman demanded. He had broken the seal of the
letter, but he still questioned. "She is in the house? She is visible?"

"I don't think she expected you this morning," the old waiting-woman
replied. "She was to leave immediately."

"Where is she going?"

"To Fleurières."

"To Fleurières? But surely I can see her?"

Mrs. Bread hesitated a moment, and then clasping together her two hands,
"I will take you!" she said. And she led the way upstairs. At the top
of the staircase she paused and fixed her dry, sad eyes upon Newman. "Be
very easy with her," she said; "she is most unhappy!" Then she went on
to Madame de Cintré's apartment; Newman, perplexed and alarmed, followed
her rapidly. Mrs. Bread threw open the door, and Newman pushed back the
curtain at the farther side of its deep embrasure. In the middle of the
room stood Madame de Cintré; her face was pale and she was dressed
for traveling. Behind her, before the fire-place, stood Urbain de
Bellegarde, looking at his finger-nails; near the marquis sat his
mother, buried in an armchair, and with her eyes immediately fixing
themselves upon Newman. He felt, as soon as he entered the room, that he
was in the presence of something evil; he was startled and pained, as he
would have been by a threatening cry in the stillness of the night. He
walked straight to Madame de Cintré and seized her by the hand.

"What is the matter?" he asked commandingly; "what is happening?"

Urbain de Bellegarde stared, then left his place and came and leaned
upon his mother's chair, behind. Newman's sudden irruption had evidently
discomposed both mother and son. Madame de Cintré stood silent, with
her eyes resting upon Newman's. She had often looked at him with all her
soul, as it seemed to him; but in this present gaze there was a sort of
bottomless depth. She was in distress; it was the most touching thing he
had ever seen. His heart rose into his throat, and he was on the point
of turning to her companions, with an angry challenge; but she checked
him, pressing the hand that held her own.

"Something very grave has happened," she said. "I cannot marry you."

Newman dropped her hand and stood staring, first at her and then at the
others. "Why not?" he asked, as quietly as possible.

Madame de Cintré almost smiled, but the attempt was strange. "You must
ask my mother, you must ask my brother."

"Why can't she marry me?" said Newman, looking at them.

Madame de Bellegarde did not move in her place, but she was as pale as
her daughter. The marquis looked down at her. She said nothing for some
moments, but she kept her keen, clear eyes upon Newman, bravely. The
marquis drew himself up and looked at the ceiling. "It's impossible!" he
said softly.

"It's improper," said Madame de Bellegarde.

Newman began to laugh. "Oh, you are fooling!" he exclaimed.

"My sister, you have no time; you are losing your train," said the
marquis.

"Come, is he mad?" asked Newman.

"No; don't think that," said Madame de Cintré. "But I am going away."

"Where are you going?"

"To the country, to Fleurières; to be alone."

"To leave me?" said Newman, slowly.

"I can't see you, now," said Madame de Cintré.

"_Now_--why not?"

"I am ashamed," said Madame de Cintré, simply.

Newman turned toward the marquis. "What have you done to her--what does
it mean?" he asked with the same effort at calmness, the fruit of
his constant practice in taking things easily. He was excited, but
excitement with him was only an intenser deliberateness; it was the
swimmer stripped.

"It means that I have given you up," said Madame de Cintré. "It means
that."

Her face was too charged with tragic expression not fully to confirm her
words. Newman was profoundly shocked, but he felt as yet no resentment
against her. He was amazed, bewildered, and the presence of the old
marquise and her son seemed to smite his eyes like the glare of a
watchman's lantern. "Can't I see you alone?" he asked.

"It would be only more painful. I hoped I should not see you--I should
escape. I wrote to you. Good-bye." And she put out her hand again.

Newman put both his own into his pockets. "I will go with you," he said.

She laid her two hands on his arm. "Will you grant me a last request?"
and as she looked at him, urging this, her eyes filled with tears. "Let
me go alone--let me go in peace. I can't call it peace--it's death. But
let me bury myself. So--good-bye."

Newman passed his hand into his hair and stood slowly rubbing his head
and looking through his keenly-narrowed eyes from one to the other of
the three persons before him. His lips were compressed, and the two
lines which had formed themselves beside his mouth might have made
it appear at a first glance that he was smiling. I have said that his
excitement was an intenser deliberateness, and now he looked grimly
deliberate. "It seems very much as if you had interfered, marquis,"
he said slowly. "I thought you said you wouldn't interfere. I know
you don't like me; but that doesn't make any difference. I thought you
promised me you wouldn't interfere. I thought you swore on your honor
that you wouldn't interfere. Don't you remember, marquis?"

The marquis lifted his eyebrows; but he was apparently determined to be
even more urbane than usual. He rested his two hands upon the back of
his mother's chair and bent forward, as if he were leaning over the edge
of a pulpit or a lecture-desk. He did not smile, but he looked softly
grave. "Excuse me, sir," he said, "I assured you that I would not
influence my sister's decision. I adhered, to the letter, to my
engagement. Did I not, sister?"

"Don't appeal, my son," said the marquise, "your word is sufficient."

"Yes--she accepted me," said Newman. "That is very true, I can't deny
that. At least," he added, in a different tone, turning to Madame de
Cintré, "you _did_ accept me?"

Something in the tone seemed to move her strongly. She turned away,
burying her face in her hands.

"But you have interfered now, haven't you?" inquired Newman of the
marquis.

"Neither then nor now have I attempted to influence my sister. I used no
persuasion then, I have used no persuasion to-day."

"And what have you used?"

"We have used authority," said Madame de Bellegarde in a rich, bell-like
voice.

"Ah, you have used authority," Newman exclaimed. "They have used
authority," he went on, turning to Madame de Cintré. "What is it? how
did they use it?"

"My mother commanded," said Madame de Cintré.

"Commanded you to give me up--I see. And you obey--I see. But why do you
obey?" asked Newman.

Madame de Cintré looked across at the old marquise; her eyes slowly
measured her from head to foot. "I am afraid of my mother," she said.

Madame de Bellegarde rose with a certain quickness, crying, "This is a
most indecent scene!"

"I have no wish to prolong it," said Madame de Cintré; and turning to
the door she put out her hand again. "If you can pity me a little, let
me go alone."

Newman shook her hand quietly and firmly. "I'll come down there," he
said. The _portière_ dropped behind her, and Newman sank with a long
breath into the nearest chair. He leaned back in it, resting his hands
on the knobs of the arms and looking at Madame de Bellegarde and Urbain.
There was a long silence. They stood side by side, with their heads high
and their handsome eyebrows arched.

"So you make a distinction?" Newman said at last. "You make a
distinction between persuading and commanding? It's very neat. But the
distinction is in favor of commanding. That rather spoils it."

"We have not the least objection to defining our position," said M. de
Bellegarde. "We understand that it should not at first appear to you
quite clear. We rather expected, indeed, that you should not do us
justice."

"Oh, I'll do you justice," said Newman. "Don't be afraid. Please
proceed."

The marquise laid her hand on her son's arm, as if to deprecate the
attempt to define their position. "It is quite useless," she said, "to
try and arrange this matter so as to make it agreeable to you. It can
never be agreeable to you. It is a disappointment, and disappointments
are unpleasant. I thought it over carefully and tried to arrange it
better; but I only gave myself a headache and lost my sleep. Say what
we will, you will think yourself ill-treated, and you will publish your
wrongs among your friends. But we are not afraid of that. Besides, your
friends are not our friends, and it will not matter. Think of us as you
please. I only beg you not to be violent. I have never in my life
been present at a violent scene of any kind, and at my age I can't be
expected to begin."

"Is _that_ all you have got to say?" asked Newman, slowly rising out
of his chair. "That's a poor show for a clever lady like you, marquise.
Come, try again."

"My mother goes to the point, with her usual honesty and intrepidity,"
said the marquis, toying with his watch-guard. "But it is perhaps well
to say a little more. We of course quite repudiate the charge of having
broken faith with you. We left you entirely at liberty to make yourself
agreeable to my sister. We left her quite at liberty to entertain your
proposal. When she accepted you we said nothing. We therefore quite
observed our promise. It was only at a later stage of the affair, and
on quite a different basis, as it were, that we determined to speak. It
would have been better, perhaps, if we had spoken before. But really,
you see, nothing has yet been done."

"Nothing has yet been done?" Newman repeated the words, unconscious
of their comical effect. He had lost the sense of what the marquis was
saying; M. de Bellegarde's superior style was a mere humming in his
ears. All that he understood, in his deep and simple indignation, was
that the matter was not a violent joke, and that the people before him
were perfectly serious. "Do you suppose I can take this?" he asked.
"Do you suppose it can matter to me what you say? Do you suppose I can
seriously listen to you? You are simply crazy!"

Madame de Bellegarde gave a rap with her fan in the palm of her hand.
"If you don't take it you can leave it, sir. It matters very little what
you do. My daughter has given you up."

"She doesn't mean it," Newman declared after a moment.

"I think I can assure you that she does," said the marquis.

"Poor woman, what damnable thing have you done to her?" cried Newman.

"Gently, gently!" murmured M. de Bellegarde.

"She told you," said the old lady. "I commanded her."

Newman shook his head, heavily. "This sort of thing can't be, you know,"
he said. "A man can't be used in this fashion. You have got no right;
you have got no power."

"My power," said Madame de Bellegarde, "is in my children's obedience."

"In their fear, your daughter said. There is something very strange
in it. Why should your daughter be afraid of you?" added Newman, after
looking a moment at the old lady. "There is some foul play."

The marquise met his gaze without flinching, and as if she did not
hear or heed what he said. "I did my best," she said, quietly. "I could
endure it no longer."

"It was a bold experiment!" said the marquis.

Newman felt disposed to walk to him, clutch his neck with his fingers
and press his windpipe with his thumb. "I needn't tell you how you
strike me," he said; "of course you know that. But I should think you
would be afraid of your friends--all those people you introduced me to
the other night. There were some very nice people among them; you may
depend upon it there were some honest men and women."

"Our friends approve us," said M. de Bellegarde, "there is not a family
among them that would have acted otherwise. And however that may be,
we take the cue from no one. The Bellegardes have been used to set the
example, not to wait for it."

"You would have waited long before anyone would have set you such an
example as this," exclaimed Newman. "Have I done anything wrong?" he
demanded. "Have I given you reason to change your opinion? Have you
found out anything against me? I can't imagine."

"Our opinion," said Madame de Bellegarde, "is quite the same as at
first--exactly. We have no ill-will towards yourself; we are very far
from accusing you of misconduct. Since your relations with us began you
have been, I frankly confess, less--less peculiar than I expected. It
is not your disposition that we object to, it is your antecedents. We
really cannot reconcile ourselves to a commercial person. We fancied in
an evil hour that we could; it was a great misfortune. We determined to
persevere to the end, and to give you every advantage. I was resolved
that you should have no reason to accuse me of want of loyalty. We let
the thing certainly go very far; we introduced you to our friends. To
tell the truth, it was that, I think, that broke me down. I succumbed
to the scene that took place on Thursday night in these rooms. You must
excuse me if what I say is disagreeable to you, but we cannot release
ourselves without an explanation."

"There can be no better proof of our good faith," said the marquis,
"than our committing ourselves to you in the eyes of the world the other
evening. We endeavored to bind ourselves--to tie our hands, as it were."

"But it was that," added his mother, "that opened our eyes and broke our
bonds. We should have been most uncomfortable! You know," she added in a
moment, "that you were forewarned. I told you we were very proud."

Newman took up his hat and began mechanically to smooth it; the very
fierceness of his scorn kept him from speaking. "You are not proud
enough," he observed at last.

"In all this matter," said the marquis, smiling, "I really see nothing
but our humility."

"Let us have no more discussion than is necessary," resumed Madame de
Bellegarde. "My daughter told you everything when she said she gave you
up."

"I am not satisfied about your daughter," said Newman; "I want to know
what you did to her. It is all very easy talking about authority and
saying you commanded her. She didn't accept me blindly, and she wouldn't
have given me up blindly. Not that I believe yet she has really given me
up; she will talk it over with me. But you have frightened her, you have
bullied her, you have _hurt_ her. What was it you did to her?"

"I did very little!" said Madame de Bellegarde, in a tone which gave
Newman a chill when he afterwards remembered it.

"Let me remind you that we offered you these explanations," the marquis
observed, "with the express understanding that you should abstain from
violence of language."

"I am not violent," Newman answered, "it is you who are violent! But I
don't know that I have much more to say to you. What you expect of
me, apparently, is to go my way, thanking you for favors received, and
promising never to trouble you again."

"We expect of you to act like a clever man," said Madame de Bellegarde.
"You have shown yourself that already, and what we have done is
altogether based upon your being so. When one must submit, one must.
Since my daughter absolutely withdraws, what will be the use of your
making a noise?"

"It remains to be seen whether your daughter absolutely withdraws. Your
daughter and I are still very good friends; nothing is changed in that.
As I say, I will talk it over with her."

"That will be of no use," said the old lady. "I know my daughter well
enough to know that words spoken as she just now spoke to you are final.
Besides, she has promised me."

"I have no doubt her promise is worth a great deal more than your own,"
said Newman; "nevertheless I don't give her up."

"Just as you please! But if she won't even see you,--and she
won't,--your constancy must remain purely Platonic."

Poor Newman was feigning a greater confidence than he felt. Madame de
Cintré's strange intensity had in fact struck a chill to his heart; her
face, still impressed upon his vision, had been a terribly vivid image
of renunciation. He felt sick, and suddenly helpless. He turned away and
stood for a moment with his hand on the door; then he faced about and
after the briefest hesitation broke out with a different accent. "Come,
think of what this must be to me, and let her alone! Why should you
object to me so--what's the matter with me? I can't hurt you. I wouldn't
if I could. I'm the most unobjectionable fellow in the world. What if
I am a commercial person? What under the sun do you mean? A commercial
person? I will be any sort of a person you want. I never talked to you
about business. Let her go, and I will ask no questions. I will take
her away, and you shall never see me or hear of me again. I will stay in
America if you like. I'll sign a paper promising never to come back to
Europe! All I want is not to lose her!"

Madame de Bellegarde and her son exchanged a glance of lucid irony, and
Urbain said, "My dear sir, what you propose is hardly an improvement. We
have not the slightest objection to seeing you, as an amiable foreigner,
and we have every reason for not wishing to be eternally separated
from my sister. We object to the marriage; and in that way," and M. de
Bellegarde gave a small, thin laugh, "she would be more married than
ever."

"Well, then," said Newman, "where is this place of yours--Fleurières? I
know it is near some old city on a hill."

"Precisely. Poitiers is on a hill," said Madame de Bellegarde. "I don't
know how old it is. We are not afraid to tell you."

"It is Poitiers, is it? Very good," said Newman. "I shall immediately
follow Madame de Cintré."

"The trains after this hour won't serve you," said Urbain.

"I shall hire a special train!"

"That will be a very silly waste of money," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"It will be time enough to talk about waste three days hence," Newman
answered; and clapping his hat on his head, he departed.

He did not immediately start for Fleurières; he was too stunned and
wounded for consecutive action. He simply walked; he walked straight
before him, following the river, till he got out of the _enceinte_ of
Paris. He had a burning, tingling sense of personal outrage. He had
never in his life received so absolute a check; he had never been pulled
up, or, as he would have said, "let down," so short; and he found the
sensation intolerable; he strode along, tapping the trees and lamp-posts
fiercely with his stick and inwardly raging. To lose Madame de Cintré
after he had taken such jubilant and triumphant possession of her was as
great an affront to his pride as it was an injury to his happiness.
And to lose her by the interference and the dictation of others, by
an impudent old woman and a pretentious fop stepping in with their
"authority"! It was too preposterous, it was too pitiful. Upon what he
deemed the unblushing treachery of the Bellegardes Newman wasted little
thought; he consigned it, once for all, to eternal perdition. But the
treachery of Madame de Cintré herself amazed and confounded him; there
was a key to the mystery, of course, but he groped for it in vain. Only
three days had elapsed since she stood beside him in the starlight,
beautiful and tranquil as the trust with which he had inspired her, and
told him that she was happy in the prospect of their marriage. What was
the meaning of the change? of what infernal potion had she tasted? Poor
Newman had a terrible apprehension that she had really changed. His very
admiration for her attached the idea of force and weight to her rupture.
But he did not rail at her as false, for he was sure she was unhappy.
In his walk he had crossed one of the bridges of the Seine, and he still
followed, unheedingly, the long, unbroken quay. He had left Paris behind
him, and he was almost in the country; he was in the pleasant suburb of
Auteuil. He stopped at last, looked around him without seeing or caring
for its pleasantness, and then slowly turned and at a slower pace
retraced his steps. When he came abreast of the fantastic embankment
known as the Trocadero, he reflected, through his throbbing pain,
that he was near Mrs. Tristram's dwelling, and that Mrs. Tristram, on
particular occasions, had much of a woman's kindness in her utterance.
He felt that he needed to pour out his ire and he took the road to
her house. Mrs. Tristram was at home and alone, and as soon as she had
looked at him, on his entering the room, she told him that she knew what
he had come for. Newman sat down heavily, in silence, looking at her.

"They have backed out!" she said. "Well, you may think it strange, but
I felt something the other night in the air." Presently he told her his
story; she listened, with her eyes fixed on him. When he had finished
she said quietly, "They want her to marry Lord Deepmere." Newman stared.
He did not know that she knew anything about Lord Deepmere. "But I don't
think she will," Mrs. Tristram added.

"_She_ marry that poor little cub!" cried Newman. "Oh, Lord! And yet,
why did she refuse me?"

"But that isn't the only thing," said Mrs. Tristram. "They really
couldn't endure you any longer. They had overrated their courage. I must
say, to give the devil his due, that there is something rather fine
in that. It was your commercial quality in the abstract they couldn't
swallow. That is really aristocratic. They wanted your money, but they
have given you up for an idea."

Newman frowned most ruefully, and took up his hat again. "I thought you
would encourage me!" he said, with almost childlike sadness.

"Excuse me," she answered very gently. "I feel none the less sorry
for you, especially as I am at the bottom of your troubles. I have not
forgotten that I suggested the marriage to you. I don't believe that
Madame de Cintré has any intention of marrying Lord Deepmere. It is true
he is not younger than she, as he looks. He is thirty-three years old; I
looked in the Peerage. But no--I can't believe her so horribly, cruelly
false."

"Please say nothing against her," said Newman.

"Poor woman, she _is_ cruel. But of course you will go after her and you
will plead powerfully. Do you know that as you are now," Mrs. Tristram
pursued, with characteristic audacity of comment, "you are extremely
eloquent, even without speaking? To resist you a woman must have a very
fixed idea in her head. I wish I had done you a wrong, that you might
come to me in that fine fashion! But go to Madame de Cintré at any rate,
and tell her that she is a puzzle even to me. I am very curious to see
how far family discipline will go."

Newman sat a while longer, leaning his elbows on his knees and his
head in his hands, and Mrs. Tristram continued to temper charity with
philosophy and compassion with criticism. At last she inquired, "And
what does the Count Valentin say to it?" Newman started; he had not
thought of Valentin and his errand on the Swiss frontier since the
morning. The reflection made him restless again, and he took his
leave. He went straight to his apartment, where, upon the table of the
vestibule, he found a telegram. It ran (with the date and place) as
follows: "I am seriously ill; please to come to me as soon as possible.
V. B." Newman groaned at this miserable news, and at the necessity of
deferring his journey to the Château de Fleurières. But he wrote to
Madame de Cintré these few lines; they were all he had time for:--

"I don't give you up, and I don't really believe you give me up. I don't
understand it, but we shall clear it up together. I can't follow you
to-day, as I am called to see a friend at a distance who is very ill,
perhaps dying. But I shall come to you as soon as I can leave my friend.
Why shouldn't I say that he is your brother? C. N."

After this he had only time to catch the night express to Geneva.



CHAPTER XIX

Newman possessed a remarkable talent for sitting still when it was
necessary, and he had an opportunity to use it on his journey to
Switzerland. The successive hours of the night brought him no sleep, but
he sat motionless in his corner of the railway-carriage, with his eyes
closed, and the most observant of his fellow-travelers might have envied
him his apparent slumber. Toward morning slumber really came, as an
effect of mental rather than of physical fatigue. He slept for a couple
of hours, and at last, waking, found his eyes resting upon one of the
snow-powdered peaks of the Jura, behind which the sky was just reddening
with the dawn. But he saw neither the cold mountain nor the warm sky;
his consciousness began to throb again, on the very instant, with a
sense of his wrong. He got out of the train half an hour before it
reached Geneva, in the cold morning twilight, at the station indicated
in Valentin's telegram. A drowsy station-master was on the platform
with a lantern, and the hood of his overcoat over his head, and near him
stood a gentleman who advanced to meet Newman. This personage was a man
of forty, with a tall lean figure, a sallow face, a dark eye, a neat
moustache, and a pair of fresh gloves. He took off his hat, looking very
grave, and pronounced Newman's name. Our hero assented and said, "You
are M. de Bellegarde's friend?"

"I unite with you in claiming that sad honor," said the gentleman.
"I had placed myself at M. de Bellegarde's service in this melancholy
affair, together with M. de Grosjoyaux, who is now at his bedside. M. de
Grosjoyaux, I believe, has had the honor of meeting you in Paris, but as
he is a better nurse than I he remained with our poor friend. Bellegarde
has been eagerly expecting you."

"And how is Bellegarde?" said Newman. "He was badly hit?"

"The doctor has condemned him; we brought a surgeon with us. But he
will die in the best sentiments. I sent last evening for the curé of the
nearest French village, who spent an hour with him. The curé was quite
satisfied."

"Heaven forgive us!" groaned Newman. "I would rather the doctor were
satisfied! And can he see me--shall he know me?"

"When I left him, half an hour ago, he had fallen asleep after a
feverish, wakeful night. But we shall see." And Newman's companion
proceeded to lead the way out of the station to the village, explaining
as he went that the little party was lodged in the humblest of Swiss
inns, where, however, they had succeeded in making M. de Bellegarde much
more comfortable than could at first have been expected. "We are old
companions in arms," said Valentin's second; "it is not the first time
that one of us has helped the other to lie easily. It is a very nasty
wound, and the nastiest thing about it is that Bellegarde's adversary
was not shot. He put his bullet where he could. It took it into its head
to walk straight into Bellegarde's left side, just below the heart."

As they picked their way in the gray, deceptive dawn, between the
manure-heaps of the village street, Newman's new acquaintance narrated
the particulars of the duel. The conditions of the meeting had been that
if the first exchange of shots should fail to satisfy one of the two
gentlemen, a second should take place. Valentin's first bullet had done
exactly what Newman's companion was convinced he had intended it to do;
it had grazed the arm of M. Stanislas Kapp, just scratching the flesh.
M. Kapp's own projectile, meanwhile, had passed at ten good inches from
the person of Valentin. The representatives of M. Stanislas had demanded
another shot, which was granted. Valentin had then fired aside and the
young Alsatian had done effective execution. "I saw, when we met him
on the ground," said Newman's informant, "that he was not going to be
_commode_. It is a kind of bovine temperament." Valentin had immediately
been installed at the inn, and M. Stanislas and his friends had
withdrawn to regions unknown. The police authorities of the canton had
waited upon the party at the inn, had been extremely majestic, and had
drawn up a long _procès-verbal_; but it was probable that they would
wink at so very gentlemanly a bit of bloodshed. Newman asked whether a
message had not been sent to Valentin's family, and learned that up to
a late hour on the preceding evening Valentin had opposed it. He had
refused to believe his wound was dangerous. But after his interview with
the curé he had consented, and a telegram had been dispatched to his
mother. "But the marquise had better hurry!" said Newman's conductor.

"Well, it's an abominable affair!" said Newman. "That's all I have
to say!" To say this, at least, in a tone of infinite disgust was an
irresistible need.

"Ah, you don't approve?" questioned his conductor, with curious
urbanity.

"Approve?" cried Newman. "I wish that when I had him there, night before
last, I had locked him up in my _cabinet de toilette!_"

Valentin's late second opened his eyes, and shook his head up and down
two or three times, gravely, with a little flute-like whistle. But they
had reached the inn, and a stout maid-servant in a night-cap was at the
door with a lantern, to take Newman's traveling-bag from the porter who
trudged behind him. Valentin was lodged on the ground-floor at the back
of the house, and Newman's companion went along a stone-faced passage
and softly opened a door. Then he beckoned to Newman, who advanced
and looked into the room, which was lighted by a single shaded candle.
Beside the fire sat M. de Grosjoyaux asleep in his dressing-gown--a
little plump, fair man whom Newman had seen several times in Valentin's
company. On the bed lay Valentin, pale and still, with his eyes
closed--a figure very shocking to Newman, who had seen it hitherto awake
to its fingertips. M. de Grosjoyaux's colleague pointed to an open door
beyond, and whispered that the doctor was within, keeping guard. So
long as Valentin slept, or seemed to sleep, of course Newman could not
approach him; so our hero withdrew for the present, committing
himself to the care of the half-waked _bonne_. She took him to a room
above-stairs, and introduced him to a bed on which a magnified bolster,
in yellow calico, figured as a counterpane. Newman lay down, and, in
spite of his counterpane, slept for three or four hours. When he awoke,
the morning was advanced and the sun was filling his window, and he
heard, outside of it, the clucking of hens. While he was dressing there
came to his door a messenger from M. de Grosjoyaux and his companion
proposing that he should breakfast with them. Presently he went
downstairs to the little stone-paved dining-room, where the
maid-servant, who had taken off her night-cap, was serving the repast.
M. de Grosjoyaux was there, surprisingly fresh for a gentleman who had
been playing sick-nurse half the night, rubbing his hands and watching
the breakfast table attentively. Newman renewed acquaintance with him,
and learned that Valentin was still sleeping; the surgeon, who had had
a fairly tranquil night, was at present sitting with him. Before M. de
Grosjoyaux's associate reappeared, Newman learned that his name was M.
Ledoux, and that Bellegarde's acquaintance with him dated from the days
when they served together in the Pontifical Zouaves. M. Ledoux was the
nephew of a distinguished Ultramontane bishop. At last the bishop's
nephew came in with a toilet in which an ingenious attempt at harmony
with the peculiar situation was visible, and with a gravity tempered by
a decent deference to the best breakfast that the Croix Helvétique
had ever set forth. Valentin's servant, who was allowed only in scanty
measure the honor of watching with his master, had been lending a light
Parisian hand in the kitchen. The two Frenchmen did their best to prove
that if circumstances might overshadow, they could not really obscure,
the national talent for conversation, and M. Ledoux delivered a neat
little eulogy on poor Bellegarde, whom he pronounced the most charming
Englishman he had ever known.

"Do you call him an Englishman?" Newman asked.

M. Ledoux smiled a moment and then made an epigram. _"C'est plus qu'un
Anglais--c'est un Anglomane!"_ Newman said soberly that he had never
noticed it; and M. de Grosjoyaux remarked that it was really too soon
to deliver a funeral oration upon poor Bellegarde. "Evidently," said M.
Ledoux. "But I couldn't help observing this morning to Mr. Newman that
when a man has taken such excellent measures for his salvation as our
dear friend did last evening, it seems almost a pity he should put it in
peril again by returning to the world." M. Ledoux was a great Catholic,
and Newman thought him a queer mixture. His countenance, by daylight,
had a sort of amiably saturnine cast; he had a very large thin nose,
and looked like a Spanish picture. He appeared to think dueling a very
perfect arrangement, provided, if one should get hit, one could promptly
see the priest. He seemed to take a great satisfaction in Valentin's
interview with the curé, and yet his conversation did not at all
indicate a sanctimonious habit of mind. M. Ledoux had evidently a high
sense of the becoming, and was prepared to be urbane and tasteful on all
points. He was always furnished with a smile (which pushed his moustache
up under his nose) and an explanation. _Savoir-vivre_--knowing how to
live--was his specialty, in which he included knowing how to die; but,
as Newman reflected, with a good deal of dumb irritation, he seemed
disposed to delegate to others the application of his learning on this
latter point. M. de Grosjoyaux was of quite another complexion, and
appeared to regard his friend's theological unction as the sign of an
inaccessibly superior mind. He was evidently doing his utmost, with a
kind of jovial tenderness, to make life agreeable to Valentin to the
last, and help him as little as possible to miss the Boulevard des
Italiens; but what chiefly occupied his mind was the mystery of a
bungling brewer's son making so neat a shot. He himself could snuff a
candle, etc., and yet he confessed that he could not have done better
than this. He hastened to add that on the present occasion he would have
made a point of not doing so well. It was not an occasion for that sort
of murderous work, _que diable!_ He would have picked out some quiet
fleshy spot and just tapped it with a harmless ball. M. Stanislas Kapp
had been deplorably heavy-handed; but really, when the world had come to
that pass that one granted a meeting to a brewer's son!... This was M.
de Grosjoyaux's nearest approach to a generalization. He kept looking
through the window, over the shoulder of M. Ledoux, at a slender tree
which stood at the end of a lane, opposite to the inn, and seemed to be
measuring its distance from his extended arm and secretly wishing that,
since the subject had been introduced, propriety did not forbid a little
speculative pistol-practice.

Newman was in no humor to enjoy good company. He could neither eat nor
talk; his soul was sore with grief and anger, and the weight of his
double sorrow was intolerable. He sat with his eyes fixed upon his
plate, counting the minutes, wishing at one moment that Valentin would
see him and leave him free to go in quest of Madame de Cintré and his
lost happiness, and mentally calling himself a vile brute the next, for
the impatient egotism of the wish. He was very poor company, himself,
and even his acute preoccupation and his general lack of the habit of
pondering the impression he produced did not prevent him from reflecting
that his companions must be puzzled to see how poor Bellegarde came to
take such a fancy to this taciturn Yankee that he must needs have him at
his death-bed. After breakfast he strolled forth alone into the village
and looked at the fountain, the geese, the open barn doors, the brown,
bent old women, showing their hugely darned stocking-heels at the ends
of their slowly-clicking sabots, and the beautiful view of snowy
Alps and purple Jura at either end of the little street. The day was
brilliant; early spring was in the air and in the sunshine, and the
winter's damp was trickling out of the cottage eaves. It was birth
and brightness for all nature, even for chirping chickens and waddling
goslings, and it was to be death and burial for poor, foolish, generous,
delightful Bellegarde. Newman walked as far as the village church, and
went into the small graveyard beside it, where he sat down and looked at
the awkward tablets which were planted around. They were all sordid and
hideous, and Newman could feel nothing but the hardness and coldness
of death. He got up and came back to the inn, where he found M. Ledoux
having coffee and a cigarette at a little green table which he had
caused to be carried into the small garden. Newman, learning that the
doctor was still sitting with Valentin, asked M. Ledoux if he might not
be allowed to relieve him; he had a great desire to be useful to his
poor friend. This was easily arranged; the doctor was very glad to go
to bed. He was a youthful and rather jaunty practitioner, but he had a
clever face, and the ribbon of the Legion of Honor in his buttonhole;
Newman listened attentively to the instructions he gave him before
retiring, and took mechanically from his hand a small volume which the
surgeon recommended as a help to wakefulness, and which turned out to be
an old copy of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses."

Valentin was still lying with his eyes closed, and there was no visible
change in his condition. Newman sat down near him, and for a long time
narrowly watched him. Then his eyes wandered away with his thoughts upon
his own situation, and rested upon the chain of the Alps, disclosed by
the drawing of the scant white cotton curtain of the window, through
which the sunshine passed and lay in squares upon the red-tiled floor.
He tried to interweave his reflections with hope, but he only half
succeeded. What had happened to him seemed to have, in its violence and
audacity, the force of a real calamity--the strength and insolence of
Destiny herself. It was unnatural and monstrous, and he had no arms
against it. At last a sound struck upon the stillness, and he heard
Valentin's voice.

"It can't be about _me_ you are pulling that long face!" He found, when
he turned, that Valentin was lying in the same position; but his eyes
were open, and he was even trying to smile. It was with a very slender
strength that he returned the pressure of Newman's hand. "I have been
watching you for a quarter of an hour," Valentin went on; "you have been
looking as black as thunder. You are greatly disgusted with me, I see.
Well, of course! So am I!"

"Oh, I shall not scold you," said Newman. "I feel too badly. And how are
you getting on?"

"Oh, I'm getting off! They have quite settled that; haven't they?"

"That's for you to settle; you can get well if you try," said Newman,
with resolute cheerfulness.

"My dear fellow, how can I try? Trying is violent exercise, and that
sort of thing isn't in order for a man with a hole in his side as big as
your hat, that begins to bleed if he moves a hair's-breadth. I knew you
would come," he continued; "I knew I should wake up and find you here;
so I'm not surprised. But last night I was very impatient. I didn't see
how I could keep still until you came. It was a matter of keeping still,
just like this; as still as a mummy in his case. You talk about trying;
I tried that! Well, here I am yet--these twenty hours. It seems like
twenty days." Bellegarde talked slowly and feebly, but distinctly
enough. It was visible, however, that he was in extreme pain, and at
last he closed his eyes. Newman begged him to remain silent and spare
himself; the doctor had left urgent orders. "Oh," said Valentin, "let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow--to-morrow"--and he paused again. "No, not
to-morrow, perhaps, but to-day. I can't eat and drink, but I can talk.
What's to be gained, at this pass, by renun--renunciation? I mustn't use
such big words. I was always a chatterer; Lord, how I have talked in my
day!"

"That's a reason for keeping quiet now," said Newman. "We know how well
you talk, you know."

But Valentin, without heeding him, went on in the same weak, dying
drawl. "I wanted to see you because you have seen my sister. Does she
know--will she come?"

Newman was embarrassed. "Yes, by this time she must know."

"Didn't you tell her?" Valentin asked. And then, in a moment, "Didn't
you bring me any message from her?" His eyes rested upon Newman's with a
certain soft keenness.

"I didn't see her after I got your telegram," said Newman. "I wrote to
her."

"And she sent you no answer?"

Newman was obliged to reply that Madame de Cintré had left Paris. "She
went yesterday to Fleurières."

"Yesterday--to Fleurières? Why did she go to Fleurières? What day is
this? What day was yesterday? Ah, then I shan't see her," said Valentin
sadly. "Fleurières is too far!" And then he closed his eyes again.
Newman sat silent, summoning pious invention to his aid, but he was
relieved at finding that Valentin was apparently too weak to reason
or to be curious. Bellegarde, however, presently went on. "And my
mother--and my brother--will they come? Are they at Fleurières?"

"They were in Paris, but I didn't see them, either," Newman answered.
"If they received your telegram in time, they will have started this
morning. Otherwise they will be obliged to wait for the night-express,
and they will arrive at the same hour as I did."

"They won't thank me--they won't thank me," Valentin murmured. "They
will pass an atrocious night, and Urbain doesn't like the early
morning air. I don't remember ever in my life to have seen him before
noon--before breakfast. No one ever saw him. We don't know how he is
then. Perhaps he's different. Who knows? Posterity, perhaps, will
know. That's the time he works, in his _cabinet_, at the history of the
Princesses. But I had to send for them--hadn't I? And then I want to
see my mother sit there where you sit, and say good-bye to her. Perhaps,
after all, I don't know her, and she will have some surprise for me.
Don't think you know her yet, yourself; perhaps she may surprise _you_.
But if I can't see Claire, I don't care for anything. I have been
thinking of it--and in my dreams, too. Why did she go to Fleurières
to-day? She never told me. What has happened? Ah, she ought to have
guessed I was here--this way. It is the first time in her life she ever
disappointed me. Poor Claire!"

"You know we are not man and wife quite yet,--your sister and I," said
Newman. "She doesn't yet account to me for all her actions." And, after
a fashion, he smiled.

Valentin looked at him a moment. "Have you quarreled?"

"Never, never, never!" Newman exclaimed.

"How happily you say that!" said Valentin. "You are going to be
happy--_va!_" In answer to this stroke of irony, none the less powerful
for being so unconscious, all poor Newman could do was to give a
helpless and transparent stare. Valentin continued to fix him with his
own rather over-bright gaze, and presently he said, "But something _is_
the matter with you. I watched you just now; you haven't a bridegroom's
face."

"My dear fellow," said Newman, "how can I show _you_ a bridegroom's
face? If you think I enjoy seeing you lie there and not being able to
help you"--

"Why, you are just the man to be cheerful; don't forfeit your rights!
I'm a proof of your wisdom. When was a man ever gloomy when he could
say, 'I told you so?' You told me so, you know. You did what you could
about it. You said some very good things; I have thought them over. But,
my dear friend, I was right, all the same. This is the regular way."

"I didn't do what I ought," said Newman. "I ought to have done something
else."

"For instance?"

"Oh, something or other. I ought to have treated you as a small boy."

"Well, I'm a very small boy, now," said Valentin. "I'm rather less than
an infant. An infant is helpless, but it's generally voted promising.
I'm not promising, eh? Society can't lose a less valuable member."

Newman was strongly moved. He got up and turned his back upon his friend
and walked away to the window, where he stood looking out, but only
vaguely seeing. "No, I don't like the look of your back," Valentin
continued. "I have always been an observer of backs; yours is quite out
of sorts."

Newman returned to his bedside and begged him to be quiet. "Be quiet and
get well," he said. "That's what you must do. Get well and help me."

"I told you you were in trouble! How can I help you?" Valentin asked.

"I'll let you know when you are better. You were always curious; there
is something to get well for!" Newman answered, with resolute animation.

Valentin closed his eyes and lay a long time without speaking. He seemed
even to have fallen asleep. But at the end of half an hour he began to
talk again. "I am rather sorry about that place in the bank. Who knows
but that I might have become another Rothschild? But I wasn't meant for
a banker; bankers are not so easy to kill. Don't you think I have
been very easy to kill? It's not like a serious man. It's really very
mortifying. It's like telling your hostess you must go, when you count
upon her begging you to stay, and then finding she does no such thing.
'Really--so soon? You've only just come!' Life doesn't make me any such
polite little speech."

Newman for some time said nothing, but at last he broke out. "It's a bad
case--it's a bad case--it's the worst case I ever met. I don't want
to say anything unpleasant, but I can't help it. I've seen men dying
before--and I've seen men shot. But it always seemed more natural; they
were not so clever as you. Damnation--damnation! You might have done
something better than this. It's about the meanest winding-up of a man's
affairs that I can imagine!"

Valentin feebly waved his hand to and fro. "Don't insist--don't insist!
It is mean--decidedly mean. For you see at the bottom--down at the
bottom, in a little place as small as the end of a wine funnel--I agree
with you!"

A few moments after this the doctor put his head through the half-opened
door and, perceiving that Valentin was awake, came in and felt his
pulse. He shook his head and declared that he had talked too much--ten
times too much. "Nonsense!" said Valentin; "a man sentenced to death can
never talk too much. Have you never read an account of an execution in
a newspaper? Don't they always set a lot of people at the
prisoner--lawyers, reporters, priests--to make him talk? But it's not
Mr. Newman's fault; he sits there as mum as a death's-head."

The doctor observed that it was time his patient's wound should be
dressed again; MM. de Grosjoyaux and Ledoux, who had already witnessed
this delicate operation, taking Newman's place as assistants. Newman
withdrew and learned from his fellow-watchers that they had received a
telegram from Urbain de Bellegarde to the effect that their message had
been delivered in the Rue de l'Université too late to allow him to
take the morning train, but that he would start with his mother in the
evening. Newman wandered away into the village again, and walked about
restlessly for two or three hours. The day seemed terribly long. At dusk
he came back and dined with the doctor and M. Ledoux. The dressing of
Valentin's wound had been a very critical operation; the doctor didn't
really see how he was to endure a repetition of it. He then declared
that he must beg of Mr. Newman to deny himself for the present the
satisfaction of sitting with M. de Bellegarde; more than anyone else,
apparently, he had the flattering but inconvenient privilege of exciting
him. M. Ledoux, at this, swallowed a glass of wine in silence; he must
have been wondering what the deuce Bellegarde found so exciting in the
American.

Newman, after dinner, went up to his room, where he sat for a long time
staring at his lighted candle, and thinking that Valentin was dying
downstairs. Late, when the candle had burnt low, there came a soft rap
at his door. The doctor stood there with a candlestick and a shrug.

"He must amuse himself still!" said Valentin's medical adviser. "He
insists upon seeing you, and I am afraid you must come. I think at this
rate, that he will hardly outlast the night."

Newman went back to Valentin's room, which he found lighted by a taper
on the hearth. Valentin begged him to light a candle. "I want to see
your face," he said. "They say you excite me," he went on, as Newman
complied with this request, "and I confess I do feel excited. But it
isn't you--it's my own thoughts. I have been thinking--thinking. Sit
down there and let me look at you again." Newman seated himself, folded
his arms, and bent a heavy gaze upon his friend. He seemed to be playing
a part, mechanically, in a lugubrious comedy. Valentin looked at him for
some time. "Yes, this morning I was right; you have something on your
mind heavier than Valentin de Bellegarde. Come, I'm a dying man and it's
indecent to deceive me. Something happened after I left Paris. It was
not for nothing that my sister started off at this season of the year
for Fleurières. Why was it? It sticks in my crop. I have been thinking
it over, and if you don't tell me I shall guess."

"I had better not tell you," said Newman. "It won't do you any good."

"If you think it will do me any good not to tell me, you are very much
mistaken. There is trouble about your marriage."

"Yes," said Newman. "There is trouble about my marriage."

"Good!" And Valentin was silent again. "They have stopped it."

"They have stopped it," said Newman. Now that he had spoken out, he
found a satisfaction in it which deepened as he went on. "Your mother
and brother have broken faith. They have decided that it can't take
place. They have decided that I am not good enough, after all. They have
taken back their word. Since you insist, there it is!"

Valentin gave a sort of groan, lifted his hands a moment, and then let
them drop.

"I am sorry not to have anything better to tell you about them," Newman
pursued. "But it's not my fault. I was, indeed, very unhappy when your
telegram reached me; I was quite upside down. You may imagine whether I
feel any better now."

Valentin moaned gaspingly, as if his wound were throbbing. "Broken
faith, broken faith!" he murmured. "And my sister--my sister?"

"Your sister is very unhappy; she has consented to give me up. I don't
know why. I don't know what they have done to her; it must be something
pretty bad. In justice to her you ought to know it. They have made
her suffer. I haven't seen her alone, but only before them! We had an
interview yesterday morning. They came out flat, in so many words. They
told me to go about my business. It seems to me a very bad case. I'm
angry, I'm sore, I'm sick."

Valentin lay there staring, with his eyes more brilliantly lighted, his
lips soundlessly parted, and a flush of color in his pale face. Newman
had never before uttered so many words in the plaintive key, but now,
in speaking to Valentin in the poor fellow's extremity, he had a feeling
that he was making his complaint somewhere within the presence of the
power that men pray to in trouble; he felt his outgush of resentment as
a sort of spiritual privilege.

"And Claire,"--said Bellegarde,--"Claire? She has given you up?"

"I don't really believe it," said Newman.

"No. Don't believe it, don't believe it. She is gaining time; excuse
her."

"I pity her!" said Newman.

"Poor Claire!" murmured Valentin. "But they--but they"--and he paused
again. "You saw them; they dismissed you, face to face?"

"Face to face. They were very explicit."

"What did they say?"

"They said they couldn't stand a commercial person."

Valentin put out his hand and laid it upon Newman's arm. "And about
their promise--their engagement with you?"

"They made a distinction. They said it was to hold good only until
Madame de Cintré accepted me."

Valentin lay staring a while, and his flush died away. "Don't tell me
any more," he said at last. "I'm ashamed."

"You? You are the soul of honor," said Newman simply.

Valentin groaned and turned away his head. For some time nothing more
was said. Then Valentin turned back again and found a certain force to
press Newman's arm. "It's very bad--very bad. When my people--when
my race--come to that, it is time for me to withdraw. I believe in
my sister; she will explain. Excuse her. If she can't--if she can't,
forgive her. She has suffered. But for the others it is very bad--very
bad. You take it very hard? No, it's a shame to make you say so." He
closed his eyes and again there was a silence. Newman felt almost awed;
he had evoked a more solemn spirit than he expected. Presently Valentin
looked at him again, removing his hand from his arm. "I apologize,"
he said. "Do you understand? Here on my death-bed. I apologize for
my family. For my mother. For my brother. For the ancient house of
Bellegarde. _Voilà!_" he added softly.

Newman for an answer took his hand and pressed it with a world of
kindness. Valentin remained quiet, and at the end of half an hour the
doctor softly came in. Behind him, through the half-open door, Newman
saw the two questioning faces of MM. de Grosjoyaux and Ledoux. The
doctor laid his hand on Valentin's wrist and sat looking at him. He gave
no sign and the two gentlemen came in, M. Ledoux having first beckoned
to someone outside. This was M. le Curé, who carried in his hand an
object unknown to Newman, and covered with a white napkin. M. le Curé
was short, round, and red: he advanced, pulling off his little black cap
to Newman, and deposited his burden on the table; and then he sat down
in the best armchair, with his hands folded across his person. The other
gentlemen had exchanged glances which expressed unanimity as to the
timeliness of their presence. But for a long time Valentin neither spoke
nor moved. It was Newman's belief, afterwards, that M. le Curé went to
sleep. At last abruptly, Valentin pronounced Newman's name. His friend
went to him, and he said in French, "You are not alone. I want to speak
to you alone." Newman looked at the doctor, and the doctor looked at
the curé, who looked back at him; and then the doctor and the curé,
together, gave a shrug. "Alone--for five minutes," Valentin repeated.
"Please leave us."

The curé took up his burden again and led the way out, followed by
his companions. Newman closed the door behind them and came back to
Valentin's bedside. Bellegarde had watched all this intently.

"It's very bad, it's very bad," he said, after Newman had seated himself
close to him. "The more I think of it the worse it is."

"Oh, don't think of it," said Newman.

But Valentin went on, without heeding him. "Even if they should come
round again, the shame--the baseness--is there."

"Oh, they won't come round!" said Newman.

"Well, you can make them."

"Make them?"

"I can tell you something--a great secret--an immense secret. You can
use it against them--frighten them, force them."

"A secret!" Newman repeated. The idea of letting Valentin, on his
death-bed, confide him an "immense secret" shocked him, for the
moment, and made him draw back. It seemed an illicit way of arriving at
information, and even had a vague analogy with listening at a keyhole.
Then, suddenly, the thought of "forcing" Madame de Bellegarde and her
son became attractive, and Newman bent his head closer to Valentin's
lips. For some time, however, the dying man said nothing more. He only
lay and looked at his friend with his kindled, expanded, troubled eye,
and Newman began to believe that he had spoken in delirium. But at last
he said,--

"There was something done--something done at Fleurières. It was foul
play. My father--something happened to him. I don't know; I have been
ashamed--afraid to know. But I know there is something. My mother
knows--Urbain knows."

"Something happened to your father?" said Newman, urgently.

Valentin looked at him, still more wide-eyed. "He didn't get well."

"Get well of what?"

But the immense effort which Valentin had made, first to decide to utter
these words and then to bring them out, appeared to have taken his last
strength. He lapsed again into silence, and Newman sat watching him. "Do
you understand?" he began again, presently. "At Fleurières. You can find
out. Mrs. Bread knows. Tell her I begged you to ask her. Then tell
them that, and see. It may help you. If not, tell everyone. It will--it
will"--here Valentin's voice sank to the feeblest murmur--"it will
avenge you!"

The words died away in a long, soft groan. Newman stood up, deeply
impressed, not knowing what to say; his heart was beating violently.
"Thank you," he said at last. "I am much obliged." But Valentin seemed
not to hear him, he remained silent, and his silence continued. At last
Newman went and opened the door. M. le Curé re-entered, bearing his
sacred vessel and followed by the three gentlemen and by Valentin's
servant. It was almost processional.



CHAPTER XX

Valentin de Bellegarde died tranquilly, just as the cold faint March
dawn began to illumine the faces of the little knot of friends gathered
about his bedside. An hour afterwards Newman left the inn and drove
to Geneva; he was naturally unwilling to be present at the arrival of
Madame de Bellegarde and her first-born. At Geneva, for the moment, he
remained. He was like a man who has had a fall and wants to sit still
and count his bruises. He instantly wrote to Madame de Cintré,
relating to her the circumstances of her brother's death--with certain
exceptions--and asking her what was the earliest moment at which he
might hope that she would consent to see him. M. Ledoux had told him
that he had reason to know that Valentin's will--Bellegarde had a great
deal of elegant personal property to dispose of--contained a request
that he should be buried near his father in the churchyard of
Fleurières, and Newman intended that the state of his own relations with
the family should not deprive him of the satisfaction of helping to pay
the last earthly honors to the best fellow in the world. He reflected
that Valentin's friendship was older than Urbain's enmity, and that at
a funeral it was easy to escape notice. Madame de Cintré's answer to his
letter enabled him to time his arrival at Fleurières. This answer was
very brief; it ran as follows:--

"I thank you for your letter, and for your being with Valentin. It is
a most inexpressible sorrow to me that I was not. To see you will be
nothing but a distress to me; there is no need, therefore, to wait for
what you call brighter days. It is all one now, and I shall have no
brighter days. Come when you please; only notify me first. My brother is
to be buried here on Friday, and my family is to remain here. C. de C."

As soon as he received this letter Newman went straight to Paris and to
Poitiers. The journey took him far southward, through green Touraine
and across the far-shining Loire, into a country where the early spring
deepened about him as he went. But he had never made a journey during
which he heeded less what he would have called the lay of the land. He
obtained lodging at the inn at Poitiers, and the next morning drove in
a couple of hours to the village of Fleurières. But here, preoccupied
though he was, he could not fail to notice the picturesqueness of the
place. It was what the French call a _petit bourg_; it lay at the base
of a sort of huge mound on the summit of which stood the crumbling ruins
of a feudal castle, much of whose sturdy material, as well as that of
the wall which dropped along the hill to enclose the clustered houses
defensively, had been absorbed into the very substance of the village.
The church was simply the former chapel of the castle, fronting upon its
grass-grown court, which, however, was of generous enough width to
have given up its quaintest corner to a little graveyard. Here the very
headstones themselves seemed to sleep, as they slanted into the grass;
the patient elbow of the rampart held them together on one side, and in
front, far beneath their mossy lids, the green plains and blue distances
stretched away. The way to church, up the hill, was impracticable to
vehicles. It was lined with peasants, two or three rows deep, who stood
watching old Madame de Bellegarde slowly ascend it, on the arm of her
elder son, behind the pall-bearers of the other. Newman chose to lurk
among the common mourners who murmured "Madame la Comtesse" as a tall
figure veiled in black passed before them. He stood in the dusky little
church while the service was going forward, but at the dismal tomb-side
he turned away and walked down the hill. He went back to Poitiers,
and spent two days in which patience and impatience were singularly
commingled. On the third day he sent Madame de Cintré a note, saying
that he would call upon her in the afternoon, and in accordance with
this he again took his way to Fleurières. He left his vehicle at the
tavern in the village street, and obeyed the simple instructions which
were given him for finding the château.

"It is just beyond there," said the landlord, and pointed to the
tree-tops of the park, above the opposite houses. Newman followed the
first cross-road to the right--it was bordered with mouldy cottages--and
in a few moments saw before him the peaked roofs of the towers.
Advancing farther, he found himself before a vast iron gate, rusty and
closed; here he paused a moment, looking through the bars. The château
was near the road; this was at once its merit and its defect; but its
aspect was extremely impressive. Newman learned afterwards, from a
guide-book of the province, that it dated from the time of Henry IV. It
presented to the wide, paved area which preceded it and which was edged
with shabby farm-buildings an immense façade of dark time-stained
brick, flanked by two low wings, each of which terminated in a little
Dutch-looking pavilion capped with a fantastic roof. Two towers rose
behind, and behind the towers was a mass of elms and beeches, now just
faintly green.

But the great feature was a wide, green river which washed the
foundations of the château. The building rose from an island in the
circling stream, so that this formed a perfect moat spanned by a
two-arched bridge without a parapet. The dull brick walls, which here
and there made a grand, straight sweep; the ugly little cupolas of the
wings, the deep-set windows, the long, steep pinnacles of mossy slate,
all mirrored themselves in the tranquil river. Newman rang at the gate,
and was almost frightened at the tone with which a big rusty bell above
his head replied to him. An old woman came out from the gate-house and
opened the creaking portal just wide enough for him to pass, and he went
in, across the dry, bare court and the little cracked white slabs of
the causeway on the moat. At the door of the château he waited for some
moments, and this gave him a chance to observe that Fleurières was not
"kept up," and to reflect that it was a melancholy place of residence.
"It looks," said Newman to himself--and I give the comparison for what
it is worth--"like a Chinese penitentiary." At last the door was opened
by a servant whom he remembered to have seen in the Rue de l'Université.
The man's dull face brightened as he perceived our hero, for Newman, for
indefinable reasons, enjoyed the confidence of the liveried gentry. The
footman led the way across a great central vestibule, with a pyramid of
plants in tubs in the middle of glass doors all around, to what appeared
to be the principal drawing-room of the château. Newman crossed the
threshold of a room of superb proportions, which made him feel at first
like a tourist with a guide-book and a cicerone awaiting a fee. But when
his guide had left him alone, with the observation that he would call
Madame la Comtesse, Newman perceived that the salon contained little
that was remarkable save a dark ceiling with curiously carved rafters,
some curtains of elaborate, antiquated tapestry, and a dark oaken floor,
polished like a mirror. He waited some minutes, walking up and down; but
at length, as he turned at the end of the room, he saw that Madame de
Cintré had come in by a distant door. She wore a black dress, and she
stood looking at him. As the length of the immense room lay between them
he had time to look at her before they met in the middle of it.

He was dismayed at the change in her appearance. Pale, heavy-browed,
almost haggard with a sort of monastic rigidity in her dress, she had
little but her pure features in common with the woman whose radiant good
grace he had hitherto admired. She let her eyes rest on his own, and she
let him take her hand; but her eyes looked like two rainy autumn moons,
and her touch was portentously lifeless.

"I was at your brother's funeral," Newman said. "Then I waited three
days. But I could wait no longer."

"Nothing can be lost or gained by waiting," said Madame de Cintré. "But
it was very considerate of you to wait, wronged as you have been."

"I'm glad you think I have been wronged," said Newman, with that
oddly humorous accent with which he often uttered words of the gravest
meaning.

"Do I need to say so?" she asked. "I don't think I have wronged,
seriously, many persons; certainly not consciously. To you, to whom I
have done this hard and cruel thing, the only reparation I can make is
to say, 'I know it, I feel it!' The reparation is pitifully small!"

"Oh, it's a great step forward!" said Newman, with a gracious smile of
encouragement. He pushed a chair towards her and held it, looking at her
urgently. She sat down, mechanically, and he seated himself near
her; but in a moment he got up, restlessly, and stood before her. She
remained seated, like a troubled creature who had passed through the
stage of restlessness.

"I say nothing is to be gained by my seeing you," she went on, "and yet
I am very glad you came. Now I can tell you what I feel. It is a selfish
pleasure, but it is one of the last I shall have." And she paused, with
her great misty eyes fixed upon him. "I know how I have deceived and
injured you; I know how cruel and cowardly I have been. I see it
as vividly as you do--I feel it to the ends of my fingers." And she
unclasped her hands, which were locked together in her lap, lifted them,
and dropped them at her side. "Anything that you may have said of me in
your angriest passion is nothing to what I have said to myself."

"In my angriest passion," said Newman, "I have said nothing hard of
you. The very worst thing I have said of you yet is that you are the
loveliest of women." And he seated himself before her again abruptly.

She flushed a little, but even her flush was pale. "That is because you
think I will come back. But I will not come back. It is in that hope
you have come here, I know; I am very sorry for you. I would do almost
anything for you. To say that, after what I have done, seems simply
impudent; but what can I say that will not seem impudent? To wrong you
and apologize--that is easy enough. I should not have wronged you." She
stopped a moment, looking at him, and motioned him to let her go on.
"I ought never to have listened to you at first; that was the wrong.
No good could come of it. I felt it, and yet I listened; that was your
fault. I liked you too much; I believed in you."

"And don't you believe in me now?"

"More than ever. But now it doesn't matter. I have given you up."

Newman gave a powerful thump with his clenched fist upon his knee. "Why,
why, why?" he cried. "Give me a reason--a decent reason. You are not a
child--you are not a minor, nor an idiot. You are not obliged to drop me
because your mother told you to. Such a reason isn't worthy of you."

"I know that; it's not worthy of me. But it's the only one I have to
give. After all," said Madame de Cintré, throwing out her hands, "think
me an idiot and forget me! That will be the simplest way."

Newman got up and walked away with a crushing sense that his cause was
lost, and yet with an equal inability to give up fighting. He went to
one of the great windows, and looked out at the stiffly embanked river
and the formal gardens which lay beyond it. When he turned round, Madame
de Cintré had risen; she stood there silent and passive. "You are not
frank," said Newman; "you are not honest. Instead of saying that you are
imbecile, you should say that other people are wicked. Your mother and
your brother have been false and cruel; they have been so to me, and I
am sure they have been so to you. Why do you try to shield them? Why do
you sacrifice me to them? I'm not false; I'm not cruel. You don't know
what you give up; I can tell you that--you don't. They bully you and
plot about you; and I--I"--And he paused, holding out his hands. She
turned away and began to leave him. "You told me the other day that
you were afraid of your mother," he said, following her. "What did you
mean?"

Madame de Cintré shook her head. "I remember; I was sorry afterwards."

"You were sorry when she came down and put on the thumbscrews. In God's
name what _is_ it she does to you?"

"Nothing. Nothing that you can understand. And now that I have given you
up, I must not complain of her to you."

"That's no reasoning!" cried Newman. "Complain of her, on the contrary.
Tell me all about it, frankly and trustfully, as you ought, and we will
talk it over so satisfactorily that you won't give me up."

Madame de Cintré looked down some moments, fixedly; and then, raising
her eyes, she said, "One good at least has come of this: I have made
you judge me more fairly. You thought of me in a way that did me great
honor; I don't know why you had taken it into your head. But it left me
no loophole for escape--no chance to be the common, weak creature I am.
It was not my fault; I warned you from the first. But I ought to have
warned you more. I ought to have convinced you that I was doomed to
disappoint you. But I _was_, in a way, too proud. You see what my
superiority amounts to, I hope!" she went on, raising her voice with
a tremor which even then and there Newman thought beautiful. "I am too
proud to be honest, I am not too proud to be faithless. I am timid and
cold and selfish. I am afraid of being uncomfortable."

"And you call marrying me uncomfortable!" said Newman staring.

Madame de Cintré blushed a little and seemed to say that if begging his
pardon in words was impudent, she might at least thus mutely express
her perfect comprehension of his finding her conduct odious. "It is not
marrying you; it is doing all that would go with it. It's the rupture,
the defiance, the insisting upon being happy in my own way. What right
have I to be happy when--when"--And she paused.

"When what?" said Newman.

"When others have been most unhappy!"

"What others?" Newman asked. "What have you to do with any others but
me? Besides you said just now that you wanted happiness, and that you
should find it by obeying your mother. You contradict yourself."

"Yes, I contradict myself; that shows you that I am not even
intelligent."

"You are laughing at me!" cried Newman. "You are mocking me!"

She looked at him intently, and an observer might have said that she was
asking herself whether she might not most quickly end their common pain
by confessing that she was mocking him. "No; I am not," she presently
said.

"Granting that you are not intelligent," he went on, "that you are
weak, that you are common, that you are nothing that I have believed
you were--what I ask of you is not heroic effort, it is a very common
effort. There is a great deal on my side to make it easy. The simple
truth is that you don't care enough about me to make it."

"I am cold," said Madame de Cintré, "I am as cold as that flowing
river."

Newman gave a great rap on the floor with his stick, and a long, grim
laugh. "Good, good!" he cried. "You go altogether too far--you overshoot
the mark. There isn't a woman in the world as bad as you would make
yourself out. I see your game; it's what I said. You are blackening
yourself to whiten others. You don't want to give me up, at all; you
like me--you like me. I know you do; you have shown it, and I have felt
it. After that, you may be as cold as you please! They have bullied you,
I say; they have tortured you. It's an outrage, and I insist upon saving
you from the extravagance of your own generosity. Would you chop off
your hand if your mother requested it?"

Madame de Cintré looked a little frightened. "I spoke of my mother
too blindly, the other day. I am my own mistress, by law and by her
approval. She can do nothing to me; she has done nothing. She has never
alluded to those hard words I used about her."

"She has made you feel them, I'll promise you!" said Newman.

"It's my conscience that makes me feel them."

"Your conscience seems to me to be rather mixed!" exclaimed Newman,
passionately.

"It has been in great trouble, but now it is very clear," said Madame
de Cintré. "I don't give you up for any worldly advantage or for any
worldly happiness."

"Oh, you don't give me up for Lord Deepmere, I know," said Newman. "I
won't pretend, even to provoke you, that I think that. But that's what
your mother and your brother wanted, and your mother, at that villainous
ball of hers--I liked it at the time, but the very thought of it now
makes me rabid--tried to push him on to make up to you."

"Who told you this?" said Madame de Cintré softly.

"Not Valentin. I observed it. I guessed it. I didn't know at the time
that I was observing it, but it stuck in my memory. And afterwards, you
recollect, I saw Lord Deepmere with you in the conservatory. You said
then that you would tell me at another time what he had said to you."

"That was before--before _this_," said Madame de Cintré.

"It doesn't matter," said Newman; "and, besides, I think I know. He's an
honest little Englishman. He came and told you what your mother was up
to--that she wanted him to supplant me; not being a commercial person.
If he would make you an offer she would undertake to bring you over and
give me the slip. Lord Deepmere isn't very intellectual, so she had to
spell it out to him. He said he admired you 'no end,' and that he wanted
you to know it; but he didn't like being mixed up with that sort of
underhand work, and he came to you and told tales. That was about the
amount of it, wasn't it? And then you said you were perfectly happy."

"I don't see why we should talk of Lord Deepmere," said Madame de
Cintré. "It was not for that you came here. And about my mother, it
doesn't matter what you suspect and what you know. When once my mind
has been made up, as it is now, I should not discuss these things.
Discussing anything, now, is very idle. We must try and live each as we
can. I believe you will be happy again; even, sometimes, when you think
of me. When you do so, think this--that it was not easy, and that I did
the best I could. I have things to reckon with that you don't know. I
mean I have feelings. I must do as they force me--I must, I must. They
would haunt me otherwise," she cried, with vehemence; "they would kill
me!"

"I know what your feelings are: they are superstitions! They are the
feeling that, after all, though I _am_ a good fellow, I have been
in business; the feeling that your mother's looks are law and your
brother's words are gospel; that you all hang together, and that it's
a part of the everlasting proprieties that they should have a hand
in everything you do. It makes my blood boil. That _is_ cold; you are
right. And what I feel here," and Newman struck his heart and became
more poetical than he knew, "is a glowing fire!"

A spectator less preoccupied than Madame de Cintré's distracted wooer
would have felt sure from the first that her appealing calm of manner
was the result of violent effort, in spite of which the tide of
agitation was rapidly rising. On these last words of Newman's it
overflowed, though at first she spoke low, for fear of her voice
betraying her. "No. I was not right--I am not cold! I believe that if I
am doing what seems so bad, it is not mere weakness and falseness. Mr.
Newman, it's like a religion. I can't tell you--I can't! It's cruel of
you to insist. I don't see why I shouldn't ask you to believe me--and
pity me. It's like a religion. There's a curse upon the house; I don't
know what--I don't know why--don't ask me. We must all bear it. I have
been too selfish; I wanted to escape from it. You offered me a great
chance--besides my liking you. It seemed good to change completely, to
break, to go away. And then I admired you. But I can't--it has overtaken
and come back to me." Her self-control had now completely abandoned her,
and her words were broken with long sobs. "Why do such dreadful things
happen to us--why is my brother Valentin killed, like a beast in the
midst of his youth and his gaiety and his brightness and all that we
loved him for? Why are there things I can't ask about--that I am afraid
to know? Why are there places I can't look at, sounds I can't hear?
Why is it given to me to choose, to decide, in a case so hard and so
terrible as this? I am not meant for that--I am not made for boldness
and defiance. I was made to be happy in a quiet, natural way." At this
Newman gave a most expressive groan, but Madame de Cintré went on. "I
was made to do gladly and gratefully what is expected of me. My mother
has always been very good to me; that's all I can say. I must not judge
her; I must not criticize her. If I did, it would come back to me. I
can't change!"

"No," said Newman, bitterly; "_I_ must change--if I break in two in the
effort!"

"You are different. You are a man; you will get over it. You have all
kinds of consolation. You were born--you were trained, to changes.
Besides--besides, I shall always think of you."

"I don't care for that!" cried Newman. "You are cruel--you are terribly
cruel. God forgive you! You may have the best reasons and the finest
feelings in the world; that makes no difference. You are a mystery to
me; I don't see how such hardness can go with such loveliness."

Madame de Cintré fixed him a moment with her swimming eyes. "You believe
I am hard, then?"

Newman answered her look, and then broke out, "You are a perfect,
faultless creature! Stay by me!"

"Of course I am hard," she went on. "Whenever we give pain we are hard.
And we _must_ give pain; that's the world,--the hateful, miserable
world! Ah!" and she gave a long, deep sigh, "I can't even say I am glad
to have known you--though I am. That too is to wrong you. I can say
nothing that is not cruel. Therefore let us part, without more of this.
Good-bye!" And she put out her hand.

Newman stood and looked at it without taking it, and raised his eyes to
her face. He felt, himself, like shedding tears of rage. "What are you
going to do?" he asked. "Where are you going?"

"Where I shall give no more pain and suspect no more evil. I am going
out of the world."

"Out of the world?"

"I am going into a convent."

"Into a convent!" Newman repeated the words with the deepest dismay;
it was as if she had said she was going into an hospital. "Into a
convent--_you!_"

"I told you that it was not for my worldly advantage or pleasure I was
leaving you."

But still Newman hardly understood. "You are going to be a nun," he went
on, "in a cell--for life--with a gown and white veil?"

"A nun--a Carmelite nun," said Madame de Cintré. "For life, with God's
leave."

The idea struck Newman as too dark and horrible for belief, and made
him feel as he would have done if she had told him that she was going
to mutilate her beautiful face, or drink some potion that would make her
mad. He clasped his hands and began to tremble, visibly.

"Madame de Cintré, don't, don't!" he said. "I beseech you! On my knees,
if you like, I'll beseech you."

She laid her hand upon his arm, with a tender, pitying, almost
reassuring gesture. "You don't understand," she said. "You have wrong
ideas. It's nothing horrible. It is only peace and safety. It is to be
out of the world, where such troubles as this come to the innocent,
to the best. And for life--that's the blessing of it! They can't begin
again."

Newman dropped into a chair and sat looking at her with a long,
inarticulate murmur. That this superb woman, in whom he had seen all
human grace and household force, should turn from him and all the
brightness that he offered her--him and his future and his fortune and
his fidelity--to muffle herself in ascetic rags and entomb herself in a
cell was a confounding combination of the inexorable and the grotesque.
As the image deepened before him the grotesque seemed to expand and
overspread it; it was a reduction to the absurd of the trial to which
he was subjected. "You--you a nun!" he exclaimed; "you with your beauty
defaced--you behind locks and bars! Never, never, if I can prevent it!"
And he sprang to his feet with a violent laugh.

"You can't prevent it," said Madame de Cintré, "and it ought--a
little--to satisfy you. Do you suppose I will go on living in the world,
still beside you, and yet not with you? It is all arranged. Good-bye,
good-bye."

This time he took her hand, took it in both his own. "Forever?" he
said. Her lips made an inaudible movement and his own uttered a deep
imprecation. She closed her eyes, as if with the pain of hearing it;
then he drew her towards him and clasped her to his breast. He kissed
her white face; for an instant she resisted and for a moment she
submitted; then, with force, she disengaged herself and hurried away
over the long shining floor. The next moment the door closed behind her.

Newman made his way out as he could.



CHAPTER XXI

There is a pretty public walk at Poitiers, laid out upon the crest of
the high hill around which the little city clusters, planted with thick
trees and looking down upon the fertile fields in which the old English
princes fought for their right and held it. Newman paced up and down
this quiet promenade for the greater part of the next day and let his
eyes wander over the historic prospect; but he would have been sadly
at a loss to tell you afterwards whether the latter was made up of
coal-fields or of vineyards. He was wholly given up to his grievance,
of which reflection by no means diminished the weight. He feared that
Madame de Cintré was irretrievably lost; and yet, as he would have
said himself, he didn't see his way clear to giving her up. He found
it impossible to turn his back upon Fleurières and its inhabitants;
it seemed to him that some germ of hope or reparation must lurk there
somewhere, if he could only stretch his arm out far enough to pluck
it. It was as if he had his hand on a door-knob and were closing his
clenched fist upon it: he had thumped, he had called, he had pressed
the door with his powerful knee and shaken it with all his strength,
and dead, damning silence had answered him. And yet something held
him there--something hardened the grasp of his fingers. Newman's
satisfaction had been too intense, his whole plan too deliberate and
mature, his prospect of happiness too rich and comprehensive for this
fine moral fabric to crumble at a stroke. The very foundation seemed
fatally injured, and yet he felt a stubborn desire still to try to save
the edifice. He was filled with a sorer sense of wrong than he had ever
known, or than he had supposed it possible he should know. To accept
his injury and walk away without looking behind him was a stretch of
good-nature of which he found himself incapable. He looked behind him
intently and continually, and what he saw there did not assuage his
resentment. He saw himself trustful, generous, liberal, patient, easy,
pocketing frequent irritation and furnishing unlimited modesty. To have
eaten humble pie, to have been snubbed and patronized and satirized and
have consented to take it as one of the conditions of the bargain--to
have done this, and done it all for nothing, surely gave one a right to
protest. And to be turned off because one was a commercial person! As if
he had ever talked or dreamt of the commercial since his connection with
the Bellegardes began--as if he had made the least circumstance of the
commercial--as if he would not have consented to confound the commercial
fifty times a day, if it might have increased by a hair's breadth the
chance of the Bellegardes' not playing him a trick! Granted that being
commercial was fair ground for having a trick played upon one, how
little they knew about the class so designed and its enterprising way
of not standing upon trifles! It was in the light of his injury that the
weight of Newman's past endurance seemed so heavy; his actual irritation
had not been so great, merged as it was in his vision of the cloudless
blue that overarched his immediate wooing. But now his sense of outrage
was deep, rancorous, and ever present; he felt that he was a good fellow
wronged. As for Madame de Cintré's conduct, it struck him with a kind
of awe, and the fact that he was powerless to understand it or feel
the reality of its motives only deepened the force with which he had
attached himself to her. He had never let the fact of her Catholicism
trouble him; Catholicism to him was nothing but a name, and to express
a mistrust of the form in which her religious feelings had moulded
themselves would have seemed to him on his own part a rather pretentious
affectation of Protestant zeal. If such superb white flowers as that
could bloom in Catholic soil, the soil was not insalubrious. But it was
one thing to be a Catholic, and another to turn nun--on your hand!
There was something lugubriously comical in the way Newman's thoroughly
contemporaneous optimism was confronted with this dusky old-world
expedient. To see a woman made for him and for motherhood to his
children juggled away in this tragic travesty--it was a thing to rub
one's eyes over, a nightmare, an illusion, a hoax. But the hours passed
away without disproving the thing, and leaving him only the after-sense
of the vehemence with which he had embraced Madame de Cintré. He
remembered her words and her looks; he turned them over and tried to
shake the mystery out of them and to infuse them with an endurable
meaning. What had she meant by her feeling being a kind of religion? It
was the religion simply of the family laws, the religion of which her
implacable little mother was the high priestess. Twist the thing about
as her generosity would, the one certain fact was that they had used
force against her. Her generosity had tried to screen them, but Newman's
heart rose into his throat at the thought that they should go scot-free.

The twenty-four hours wore themselves away, and the next morning Newman
sprang to his feet with the resolution to return to Fleurières and
demand another interview with Madame de Bellegarde and her son. He
lost no time in putting it into practice. As he rolled swiftly over
the excellent road in the little calèche furnished him at the inn at
Poitiers, he drew forth, as it were, from the very safe place in his
mind to which he had consigned it, the last information given him by
poor Valentin. Valentin had told him he could do something with it, and
Newman thought it would be well to have it at hand. This was of course
not the first time, lately, that Newman had given it his attention. It
was information in the rough,--it was dark and puzzling; but Newman was
neither helpless nor afraid. Valentin had evidently meant to put him in
possession of a powerful instrument, though he could not be said to
have placed the handle very securely within his grasp. But if he had not
really told him the secret, he had at least given him the clew to it--a
clew of which that queer old Mrs. Bread held the other end. Mrs. Bread
had always looked to Newman as if she knew secrets; and as he apparently
enjoyed her esteem, he suspected she might be induced to share her
knowledge with him. So long as there was only Mrs. Bread to deal
with, he felt easy. As to what there was to find out, he had only one
fear--that it might not be bad enough. Then, when the image of the
marquise and her son rose before him again, standing side by side,
the old woman's hand in Urbain's arm, and the same cold, unsociable
fixedness in the eyes of each, he cried out to himself that the fear was
groundless. There was blood in the secret at the very least! He arrived
at Fleurières almost in a state of elation; he had satisfied himself,
logically, that in the presence of his threat of exposure they would, as
he mentally phrased it, rattle down like unwound buckets. He remembered
indeed that he must first catch his hare--first ascertain what there was
to expose; but after that, why shouldn't his happiness be as good as new
again? Mother and son would drop their lovely victim in terror and take
to hiding, and Madame de Cintré, left to herself, would surely come back
to him. Give her a chance and she would rise to the surface, return to
the light. How could she fail to perceive that his house would be much
the most comfortable sort of convent?

Newman, as he had done before, left his conveyance at the inn and walked
the short remaining distance to the château. When he reached the gate,
however, a singular feeling took possession of him--a feeling which,
strange as it may seem, had its source in its unfathomable good
nature. He stood there a while, looking through the bars at the large,
time-stained face of the edifice, and wondering to what crime it was
that the dark old house, with its flowery name, had given convenient
occasion. It had given occasion, first and last, to tyrannies and
sufferings enough, Newman said to himself; it was an evil-looking
place to live in. Then, suddenly, came the reflection--What a horrible
rubbish-heap of iniquity to fumble in! The attitude of inquisitor turned
its ignobler face, and with the same movement Newman declared that
the Bellegardes should have another chance. He would appeal once more
directly to their sense of fairness, and not to their fear, and if they
should be accessible to reason, he need know nothing worse about them
than what he already knew. That was bad enough.

The gate-keeper let him in through the same stiff crevice as before,
and he passed through the court and over the little rustic bridge on the
moat. The door was opened before he had reached it, and, as if to put
his clemency to rout with the suggestion of a richer opportunity, Mrs.
Bread stood there awaiting him. Her face, as usual, looked as hopelessly
blank as the tide-smoothed sea-sand, and her black garments seemed of
an intenser sable. Newman had already learned that her strange
inexpressiveness could be a vehicle for emotion, and he was not
surprised at the muffled vivacity with which she whispered, "I thought
you would try again, sir. I was looking out for you."

"I am glad to see you," said Newman; "I think you are my friend."

Mrs. Bread looked at him opaquely. "I wish you well sir; but it's vain
wishing now."

"You know, then, how they have treated me?"

"Oh, sir," said Mrs. Bread, dryly, "I know everything."

Newman hesitated a moment. "Everything?"

Mrs. Bread gave him a glance somewhat more lucent. "I know at least too
much, sir."

"One can never know too much. I congratulate you. I have come to see
Madame de Bellegarde and her son," Newman added. "Are they at home? If
they are not, I will wait."

"My lady is always at home," Mrs. Bread replied, "and the marquis is
mostly with her."

"Please then tell them--one or the other, or both--that I am here and
that I desire to see them."

Mrs. Bread hesitated. "May I take a great liberty, sir?"

"You have never taken a liberty but you have justified it," said Newman,
with diplomatic urbanity.

Mrs. Bread dropped her wrinkled eyelids as if she were curtseying; but
the curtsey stopped there; the occasion was too grave. "You have come to
plead with them again, sir? Perhaps you don't know this--that Madame de
Cintré returned this morning to Paris."

"Ah, she's gone!" And Newman, groaning, smote the pavement with his
stick.

"She has gone straight to the convent--the Carmelites they call it. I
see you know, sir. My lady and the marquis take it very ill. It was only
last night she told them."

"Ah, she had kept it back, then?" cried Newman. "Good, good! And they
are very fierce?"

"They are not pleased," said Mrs. Bread. "But they may well dislike it.
They tell me it's most dreadful, sir; of all the nuns in Christendom the
Carmelites are the worst. You may say they are really not human, sir;
they make you give up everything--forever. And to think of _her_ there!
If I was one that cried, sir, I could cry."

Newman looked at her an instant. "We mustn't cry, Mrs. Bread; we must
act. Go and call them!" And he made a movement to enter farther.

But Mrs. Bread gently checked him. "May I take another liberty? I am
told you were with my dearest Mr. Valentin, in his last hours. If you
would tell me a word about him! The poor count was my own boy, sir; for
the first year of his life he was hardly out of my arms; I taught him
to speak. And the count spoke so well, sir! He always spoke well to his
poor old Bread. When he grew up and took his pleasure he always had a
kind word for me. And to die in that wild way! They have a story that
he fought with a wine-merchant. I can't believe that, sir! And was he in
great pain?"

"You are a wise, kind old woman, Mrs. Bread," said Newman. "I hoped I
might see you with my own children in your arms. Perhaps I shall, yet."
And he put out his hand. Mrs. Bread looked for a moment at his open
palm, and then, as if fascinated by the novelty of the gesture, extended
her own ladylike fingers. Newman held her hand firmly and deliberately,
fixing his eyes upon her. "You want to know all about Mr. Valentin?" he
said.

"It would be a sad pleasure, sir."

"I can tell you everything. Can you sometimes leave this place?"

"The château, sir? I really don't know. I never tried."

"Try, then; try hard. Try this evening, at dusk. Come to me in the old
ruin there on the hill, in the court before the church. I will wait for
you there; I have something very important to tell you. An old woman
like you can do as she pleases."

Mrs. Bread stared, wondering, with parted lips. "Is it from the count,
sir?" she asked.

"From the count--from his death-bed," said Newman.

"I will come, then. I will be bold, for once, for _him_."

She led Newman into the great drawing-room with which he had already
made acquaintance, and retired to execute his commands. Newman waited
a long time; at last he was on the point of ringing and repeating his
request. He was looking round him for a bell when the marquis came in
with his mother on his arm. It will be seen that Newman had a logical
mind when I say that he declared to himself, in perfect good faith, as
a result of Valentin's dark hints, that his adversaries looked grossly
wicked. "There is no mistake about it now," he said to himself as they
advanced. "They're a bad lot; they have pulled off the mask." Madame
de Bellegarde and her son certainly bore in their faces the signs of
extreme perturbation; they looked like people who had passed a sleepless
night. Confronted, moreover, with an annoyance which they hoped they had
disposed of, it was not natural that they should have any very tender
glances to bestow upon Newman. He stood before them, and such eye-beams
as they found available they leveled at him; Newman feeling as if the
door of a sepulchre had suddenly been opened, and the damp darkness were
being exhaled.

"You see I have come back," he said. "I have come to try again."

"It would be ridiculous," said M. de Bellegarde, "to pretend that we are
glad to see you or that we don't question the taste of your visit."

"Oh, don't talk about taste," said Newman, with a laugh, "or that will
bring us round to yours! If I consulted my taste I certainly shouldn't
come to see you. Besides, I will make as short work as you please.
Promise me to raise the blockade--to set Madame de Cintré at
liberty--and I will retire instantly."

"We hesitated as to whether we would see you," said Madame de
Bellegarde; "and we were on the point of declining the honor. But it
seemed to me that we should act with civility, as we have always done,
and I wished to have the satisfaction of informing you that there are
certain weaknesses that people of our way of feeling can be guilty of
but once."

"You may be weak but once, but you will be audacious many times, madam,"
Newman answered. "I didn't come however, for conversational purposes.
I came to say this, simply: that if you will write immediately to your
daughter that you withdraw your opposition to her marriage, I will take
care of the rest. You don't want her to turn nun--you know more about
the horrors of it than I do. Marrying a commercial person is better than
that. Give me a letter to her, signed and sealed, saying you retract and
that she may marry me with your blessing, and I will take it to her at
the convent and bring her out. There's your chance--I call those easy
terms."

"We look at the matter otherwise, you know. We call them very hard
terms," said Urbain de Bellegarde. They had all remained standing
rigidly in the middle of the room. "I think my mother will tell you that
she would rather her daughter should become Sœur Catherine than Mrs.
Newman."

But the old lady, with the serenity of supreme power, let her son make
her epigrams for her. She only smiled, almost sweetly, shaking her head
and repeating, "But once, Mr. Newman; but once!"

Nothing that Newman had ever seen or heard gave him such a sense of
marble hardness as this movement and the tone that accompanied it.
"Could anything compel you?" he asked. "Do you know of anything that
would force you?"

"This language, sir," said the marquis, "addressed to people in
bereavement and grief is beyond all qualification."

"In most cases," Newman answered, "your objection would have some
weight, even admitting that Madame de Cintré's present intentions make
time precious. But I have thought of what you speak of, and I have come
here to-day without scruple simply because I consider your brother and
you two very different parties. I see no connection between you. Your
brother was ashamed of you. Lying there wounded and dying, the poor
fellow apologized to me for your conduct. He apologized to me for that
of his mother."

For a moment the effect of these words was as if Newman had struck
a physical blow. A quick flush leaped into the faces of Madame de
Bellegarde and her son, and they exchanged a glance like a twinkle of
steel. Urbain uttered two words which Newman but half heard, but of
which the sense came to him as it were in the reverberation of the
sound, "_Le misérable!_"

"You show little respect for the living," said Madame de Bellegarde,
"but at least respect the dead. Don't profane--don't insult--the memory
of my innocent son."

"I speak the simple truth," Newman declared, "and I speak it for a
purpose. I repeat it--distinctly. Your son was utterly disgusted--your
son apologized."

Urbain de Bellegarde was frowning portentously, and Newman supposed he
was frowning at poor Valentin's invidious image. Taken by surprise,
his scant affection for his brother had made a momentary concession to
dishonor. But not for an appreciable instant did his mother lower her
flag. "You are immensely mistaken, sir," she said. "My son was sometimes
light, but he was never indecent. He died faithful to his name."

"You simply misunderstood him," said the marquis, beginning to rally.
"You affirm the impossible!"

"Oh, I don't care for poor Valentin's apology," said Newman. "It was
far more painful than pleasant to me. This atrocious thing was not his
fault; he never hurt me, or anyone else; he was the soul of honor. But
it shows how he took it."

"If you wish to prove that my poor brother, in his last moments, was
out of his head, we can only say that under the melancholy circumstances
nothing was more possible. But confine yourself to that."

"He was quite in his right mind," said Newman, with gentle but dangerous
doggedness; "I have never seen him so bright and clever. It was terrible
to see that witty, capable fellow dying such a death. You know I was
very fond of your brother. And I have further proof of his sanity,"
Newman concluded.

The marquise gathered herself together majestically. "This is too
gross!" she cried. "We decline to accept your story, sir--we repudiate
it. Urbain, open the door." She turned away, with an imperious motion
to her son, and passed rapidly down the length of the room. The marquis
went with her and held the door open. Newman was left standing.

He lifted his finger, as a sign to M. de Bellegarde, who closed the
door behind his mother and stood waiting. Newman slowly advanced, more
silent, for the moment, than life. The two men stood face to face. Then
Newman had a singular sensation; he felt his sense of injury almost
brimming over into jocularity. "Come," he said, "you don't treat me
well; at least admit that."

M. de Bellegarde looked at him from head to foot, and then, in the most
delicate, best-bred voice, "I detest you personally," he said.

"That's the way I feel to you, but for politeness sake I don't say
it," said Newman. "It's singular I should want so much to be your
brother-in-law, but I can't give it up. Let me try once more." And he
paused a moment. "You have a secret--you have a skeleton in the closet."
M. de Bellegarde continued to look at him hard, but Newman could not see
whether his eyes betrayed anything; the look of his eyes was always so
strange. Newman paused again, and then went on. "You and your mother
have committed a crime." At this M. de Bellegarde's eyes certainly did
change; they seemed to flicker, like blown candles. Newman could see
that he was profoundly startled; but there was something admirable in
his self-control.

"Continue," said M. de Bellegarde.

Newman lifted a finger and made it waver a little in the air. "Need I
continue? You are trembling."

"Pray where did you obtain this interesting information?" M. de
Bellegarde asked, very softly.

"I shall be strictly accurate," said Newman. "I won't pretend to know
more than I do. At present that is all I know. You have done something
that you must hide, something that would damn you if it were known,
something that would disgrace the name you are so proud of. I don't know
what it is, but I can find out. Persist in your present course and I
_will_ find out. Change it, let your sister go in peace, and I will
leave you alone. It's a bargain?"

The marquis almost succeeded in looking untroubled; the breaking up
of the ice in his handsome countenance was an operation that was
necessarily gradual. But Newman's mildly-syllabled argumentation seemed
to press, and press, and presently he averted his eyes. He stood some
moments, reflecting.

"My brother told you this," he said, looking up.

Newman hesitated a moment. "Yes, your brother told me."

The marquis smiled, handsomely. "Didn't I say that he was out of his
mind?"

"He was out of his mind if I don't find out. He was very much in it if I
do."

M. de Bellegarde gave a shrug. "Eh, sir, find out or not, as you
please."

"I don't frighten you?" demanded Newman.

"That's for you to judge."

"No, it's for you to judge, at your leisure. Think it over, feel
yourself all round. I will give you an hour or two. I can't give you
more, for how do we know how fast they may be making Madame de Cintré
a nun? Talk it over with your mother; let her judge whether she is
frightened. I don't believe she is as easily frightened, in general, as
you; but you will see. I will go and wait in the village, at the inn,
and I beg you to let me know as soon as possible. Say by three o'clock.
A simple _yes_ or _no_ on paper will do. Only, you know, in case of a
_yes_ I shall expect you, this time, to stick to your bargain." And with
this Newman opened the door and let himself out. The marquis did not
move, and Newman, retiring, gave him another look. "At the inn, in the
village," he repeated. Then he turned away altogether and passed out of
the house.

He was extremely excited by what he had been doing, for it was
inevitable that there should be a certain emotion in calling up the
spectre of dishonor before a family a thousand years old. But he went
back to the inn and contrived to wait there, deliberately, for the next
two hours. He thought it more than probable that Urbain de Bellegarde
would give no sign; for an answer to his challenge, in either sense,
would be a confession of guilt. What he most expected was silence--in
other words defiance. But he prayed that, as he imagined it, his shot
might bring them down. It did bring, by three o'clock, a note, delivered
by a footman; a note addressed in Urbain de Bellegarde's handsome
English hand. It ran as follows:--

"I cannot deny myself the satisfaction of letting you know that I return
to Paris, to-morrow, with my mother, in order that we may see my sister
and confirm her in the resolution which is the most effectual reply to
your audacious pertinacity.

"HENRI-URBAIN DE BELLEGARDE."

Newman put the letter into his pocket, and continued his walk up and
down the inn-parlor. He had spent most of his time, for the past week,
in walking up and down. He continued to measure the length of the little
_salle_ of the Armes de France until the day began to wane, when he went
out to keep his rendezvous with Mrs. Bread. The path which led up
the hill to the ruin was easy to find, and Newman in a short time had
followed it to the top. He passed beneath the rugged arch of the castle
wall, and looked about him in the early dusk for an old woman in black.
The castle yard was empty, but the door of the church was open. Newman
went into the little nave and of course found a deeper dusk than
without. A couple of tapers, however, twinkled on the altar and just
enabled him to perceive a figure seated by one of the pillars. Closer
inspection helped him to recognize Mrs. Bread, in spite of the fact
that she was dressed with unwonted splendor. She wore a large black
silk bonnet, with imposing bows of crape, and an old black satin dress
disposed itself in vaguely lustrous folds about her person. She had
judged it proper to the occasion to appear in her stateliest apparel.
She had been sitting with her eyes fixed upon the ground, but when
Newman passed before her she looked up at him, and then she rose.

"Are you a Catholic, Mrs. Bread?" he asked.

"No, sir; I'm a good Church-of-England woman, very Low," she answered.
"But I thought I should be safer in here than outside. I was never out
in the evening before, sir."

"We shall be safer," said Newman, "where no one can hear us." And he led
the way back into the castle court and then followed a path beside the
church, which he was sure must lead into another part of the ruin. He
was not deceived. It wandered along the crest of the hill and terminated
before a fragment of wall pierced by a rough aperture which had once
been a door. Through this aperture Newman passed and found himself in
a nook peculiarly favorable to quiet conversation, as probably many
an earnest couple, otherwise assorted than our friends, had assured
themselves. The hill sloped abruptly away, and on the remnant of its
crest were scattered two or three fragments of stone. Beneath, over the
plain, lay the gathered twilight, through which, in the near distance,
gleamed two or three lights from the château. Mrs. Bread rustled slowly
after her guide, and Newman, satisfying himself that one of the fallen
stones was steady, proposed to her to sit upon it. She cautiously
complied, and he placed himself upon another, near her.



CHAPTER XXII

"I am very much obliged to you for coming," Newman said. "I hope it
won't get you into trouble."

"I don't think I shall be missed. My lady, in these days, is not fond of
having me about her." This was said with a certain fluttered eagerness
which increased Newman's sense of having inspired the old woman with
confidence.

"From the first, you know," he answered, "you took an interest in my
prospects. You were on my side. That gratified me, I assure you. And now
that you know what they have done to me, I am sure you are with me all
the more."

"They have not done well--I must say it," said Mrs. Bread. "But you
mustn't blame the poor countess; they pressed her hard."

"I would give a million of dollars to know what they did to her!" cried
Newman.

Mrs. Bread sat with a dull, oblique gaze fixed upon the lights of the
château. "They worked on her feelings; they knew that was the way.
She is a delicate creature. They made her feel wicked. She is only too
good."

"Ah, they made her feel wicked," said Newman, slowly; and then he
repeated it. "They made her feel wicked,--they made her feel wicked."
The words seemed to him for the moment a vivid description of infernal
ingenuity.

"It was because she was so good that she gave up--poor sweet lady!"
added Mrs. Bread.

"But she was better to them than to me," said Newman.

"She was afraid," said Mrs. Bread, very confidently; "she has always
been afraid, or at least for a long time. That was the real trouble,
sir. She was like a fair peach, I may say, with just one little speck.
She had one little sad spot. You pushed her into the sunshine, sir, and
it almost disappeared. Then they pulled her back into the shade and in
a moment it began to spread. Before we knew it she was gone. She was a
delicate creature."

This singular attestation of Madame de Cintré's delicacy, for all its
singularity, set Newman's wound aching afresh. "I see," he presently
said; "she knew something bad about her mother."

"No, sir, she knew nothing," said Mrs. Bread, holding her head very
stiff and keeping her eyes fixed upon the glimmering windows of the
château.

"She guessed something, then, or suspected it."

"She was afraid to know," said Mrs. Bread.

"But _you_ know, at any rate," said Newman.

She slowly turned her vague eyes upon Newman, squeezing her hands
together in her lap. "You are not quite faithful, sir. I thought it was
to tell me about Mr. Valentin you asked me to come here."

"Oh, the more we talk of Mr. Valentin the better," said Newman. "That's
exactly what I want. I was with him, as I told you, in his last hour.
He was in a great deal of pain, but he was quite himself. You know what
that means; he was bright and lively and clever."

"Oh, he would always be clever, sir," said Mrs. Bread. "And did he know
of your trouble?"

"Yes, he guessed it of himself."

"And what did he say to it?"

"He said it was a disgrace to his name--but it was not the first."

"Lord, Lord!" murmured Mrs. Bread.

"He said that his mother and his brother had once put their heads
together and invented something even worse."

"You shouldn't have listened to that, sir."

"Perhaps not. But I _did_ listen, and I don't forget it. Now I want to
know what it is they did."

Mrs. Bread gave a soft moan. "And you have enticed me up into this
strange place to tell you?"

"Don't be alarmed," said Newman. "I won't say a word that shall be
disagreeable to you. Tell me as it suits you, and when it suits you.
Only remember that it was Mr. Valentin's last wish that you should."

"Did he say that?"

"He said it with his last breath--'Tell Mrs. Bread I told you to ask
her.'"

"Why didn't he tell you himself?"

"It was too long a story for a dying man; he had no breath left in his
body. He could only say that he wanted me to know--that, wronged as I
was, it was my right to know."

"But how will it help you, sir?" said Mrs. Bread.

"That's for me to decide. Mr. Valentin believed it would, and that's why
he told me. Your name was almost the last word he spoke."

Mrs. Bread was evidently awe-struck by this statement; she shook her
clasped hands slowly up and down. "Excuse me, sir," she said, "if I take
a great liberty. Is it the solemn truth you are speaking? I _must_ ask
you that; must I not, sir?"

"There's no offense. It _is_ the solemn truth; I solemnly swear it. Mr.
Valentin himself would certainly have told me more if he had been able."

"Oh, sir, if he knew more!"

"Don't you suppose he did?"

"There's no saying what he knew about anything," said Mrs. Bread, with
a mild head-shake. "He was so mightily clever. He could make you believe
he knew things that he didn't, and that he didn't know others that he
had better not have known."

"I suspect he knew something about his brother that kept the marquis
civil to him," Newman propounded; "he made the marquis feel him. What he
wanted now was to put me in his place; he wanted to give me a chance to
make the marquis feel _me_."

"Mercy on us!" cried the old waiting-woman, "how wicked we all are!"

"I don't know," said Newman; "some of us are wicked, certainly. I am
very angry, I am very sore, and I am very bitter, but I don't know that
I am wicked. I have been cruelly injured. They have hurt me, and I want
to hurt them. I don't deny that; on the contrary, I tell you plainly
that it is the use I want to make of your secret."

Mrs. Bread seemed to hold her breath. "You want to publish them--you
want to shame them?"

"I want to bring them down,--down, down, down! I want to turn the tables
upon them--I want to mortify them as they mortified me. They took me up
into a high place and made me stand there for all the world to see me,
and then they stole behind me and pushed me into this bottomless pit,
where I lie howling and gnashing my teeth! I made a fool of myself
before all their friends; but I shall make something worse of them."

This passionate sally, which Newman uttered with the greater fervor that
it was the first time he had had a chance to say all this aloud, kindled
two small sparks in Mrs. Bread's fixed eyes. "I suppose you have a right
to your anger, sir; but think of the dishonor you will draw down on
Madame de Cintré."

"Madame de Cintré is buried alive," cried Newman. "What are honor or
dishonor to her? The door of the tomb is at this moment closing behind
her."

"Yes, it's most awful," moaned Mrs. Bread.

"She has moved off, like her brother Valentin, to give me room to work.
It's as if it were done on purpose."

"Surely," said Mrs. Bread, apparently impressed by the ingenuity of this
reflection. She was silent for some moments; then she added, "And would
you bring my lady before the courts?"

"The courts care nothing for my lady," Newman replied. "If she has
committed a crime, she will be nothing for the courts but a wicked old
woman."

"And will they hang her, sir?"

"That depends upon what she has done." And Newman eyed Mrs. Bread
intently.

"It would break up the family most terribly, sir!"

"It's time such a family should be broken up!" said Newman, with a
laugh.

"And me at my age out of place, sir!" sighed Mrs. Bread.

"Oh, I will take care of you! You shall come and live with me. You shall
be my housekeeper, or anything you like. I will pension you for life."

"Dear, dear, sir, you think of everything." And she seemed to fall
a-brooding.

Newman watched her a while, and then he said suddenly. "Ah, Mrs. Bread,
you are too fond of my lady!"

She looked at him as quickly. "I wouldn't have you say that, sir. I
don't think it any part of my duty to be fond of my lady. I have served
her faithfully this many a year; but if she were to die to-morrow, I
believe, before Heaven I shouldn't shed a tear for her." Then, after a
pause, "I have no reason to love her!" Mrs. Bread added. "The most she
has done for me has been not to turn me out of the house." Newman felt
that decidedly his companion was more and more confidential--that if
luxury is corrupting, Mrs. Bread's conservative habits were already
relaxed by the spiritual comfort of this preconcerted interview, in
a remarkable locality, with a free-spoken millionaire. All his native
shrewdness admonished him that his part was simply to let her take her
time--let the charm of the occasion work. So he said nothing; he only
looked at her kindly. Mrs. Bread sat nursing her lean elbows. "My lady
once did me a great wrong," she went on at last. "She has a terrible
tongue when she is vexed. It was many a year ago, but I have never
forgotten it. I have never mentioned it to a human creature; I have kept
my grudge to myself. I dare say I have been wicked, but my grudge has
grown old with me. It has grown good for nothing, too, I dare say;
but it has lived along, as I have lived. It will die when I die,--not
before!"

"And what _is_ your grudge?" Newman asked.

Mrs. Bread dropped her eyes and hesitated. "If I were a foreigner,
sir, I should make less of telling you; it comes harder to a decent
Englishwoman. But I sometimes think I have picked up too many foreign
ways. What I was telling you belongs to a time when I was much younger
and very different looking to what I am now. I had a very high color,
sir, if you can believe it, indeed I was a very smart lass. My lady was
younger, too, and the late marquis was youngest of all--I mean in the
way he went on, sir; he had a very high spirit; he was a magnificent
man. He was fond of his pleasure, like most foreigners, and it must be
owned that he sometimes went rather below him to take it. My lady was
often jealous, and, if you'll believe it, sir, she did me the honor to
be jealous of me. One day I had a red ribbon in my cap, and my lady flew
out at me and ordered me to take it off. She accused me of putting it on
to make the marquis look at me. I don't know that I was impertinent, but
I spoke up like an honest girl and didn't count my words. A red ribbon
indeed! As if it was my ribbons the marquis looked at! My lady knew
afterwards that I was perfectly respectable, but she never said a word
to show that she believed it. But the marquis did!" Mrs. Bread presently
added, "I took off my red ribbon and put it away in a drawer, where I
have kept it to this day. It's faded now, it's a very pale pink; but
there it lies. My grudge has faded, too; the red has all gone out of it;
but it lies here yet." And Mrs. Bread stroked her black satin bodice.

Newman listened with interest to this decent narrative, which seemed
to have opened up the deeps of memory to his companion. Then, as she
remained silent, and seemed to be losing herself in retrospective
meditation upon her perfect respectability, he ventured upon a short
cut to his goal. "So Madame de Bellegarde was jealous; I see. And M. de
Bellegarde admired pretty women, without distinction of class. I suppose
one mustn't be hard upon him, for they probably didn't all behave so
properly as you. But years afterwards it could hardly have been jealousy
that turned Madame de Bellegarde into a criminal."

Mrs. Bread gave a weary sigh. "We are using dreadful words, sir, but I
don't care now. I see you have your idea, and I have no will of my own.
My will was the will of my children, as I called them; but I have lost
my children now. They are dead--I may say it of both of them; and
what should I care for the living? What is anyone in the house to me
now--what am I to them? My lady objects to me--she has objected to me
these thirty years. I should have been glad to be something to young
Madame de Bellegarde, though I never was nurse to the present marquis.
When he was a baby I was too young; they wouldn't trust me with him. But
his wife told her own maid, Mamselle Clarisse, the opinion she had of
me. Perhaps you would like to hear it, sir."

"Oh, immensely," said Newman.

"She said that if I would sit in her children's schoolroom I should do
very well for a penwiper! When things have come to that I don't think I
need stand upon ceremony."

"Decidedly not," said Newman. "Go on, Mrs. Bread."

Mrs. Bread, however, relapsed again into troubled dumbness, and all
Newman could do was to fold his arms and wait. But at last she appeared
to have set her memories in order. "It was when the late marquis was an
old man and his eldest son had been two years married. It was when the
time came on for marrying Mademoiselle Claire; that's the way they talk
of it here, you know, sir. The marquis's health was bad; he was very
much broken down. My lady had picked out M. de Cintré, for no good
reason that I could see. But there are reasons, I very well know, that
are beyond me, and you must be high in the world to understand them. Old
M. de Cintré was very high, and my lady thought him almost as good
as herself; that's saying a good deal. Mr. Urbain took sides with his
mother, as he always did. The trouble, I believe, was that my lady would
give very little money, and all the other gentlemen asked more. It was
only M. de Cintré that was satisfied. The Lord willed it he should have
that one soft spot; it was the only one he had. He may have been very
grand in his birth, and he certainly was very grand in his bows and
speeches; but that was all the grandeur he had. I think he was like what
I have heard of comedians; not that I have ever seen one. But I know he
painted his face. He might paint it all he would; he could never make me
like it! The marquis couldn't abide him, and declared that sooner than
take such a husband as that Mademoiselle Claire should take none at
all. He and my lady had a great scene; it came even to our ears in the
servants' hall. It was not their first quarrel, if the truth must be
told. They were not a loving couple, but they didn't often come to
words, because, I think, neither of them thought the other's doings
worth the trouble. My lady had long ago got over her jealousy, and she
had taken to indifference. In this, I must say, they were well matched.
The marquis was very easy-going; he had a most gentlemanly temper. He
got angry only once a year, but then it was very bad. He always took to
bed directly afterwards. This time I speak of he took to bed as usual,
but he never got up again. I'm afraid the poor gentleman was paying for
his dissipation; isn't it true they mostly do, sir, when they get old?
My lady and Mr. Urbain kept quiet, but I know my lady wrote letters
to M. de Cintré. The marquis got worse and the doctors gave him up. My
lady, she gave him up too, and if the truth must be told, she gave him
up gladly. When once he was out of the way she could do what she pleased
with her daughter, and it was all arranged that my poor innocent child
should be handed over to M. de Cintré. You don't know what Mademoiselle
was in those days, sir; she was the sweetest young creature in France,
and knew as little of what was going on around her as the lamb does of
the butcher. I used to nurse the marquis, and I was always in his room.
It was here at Fleurières, in the autumn. We had a doctor from Paris,
who came and stayed two or three weeks in the house. Then there came two
others, and there was a consultation, and these two others, as I said,
declared that the marquis couldn't be saved. After this they went off,
pocketing their fees, but the other one stayed and did what he could.
The marquis himself kept crying out that he wouldn't die, that he
didn't want to die, that he would live and look after his daughter.
Mademoiselle Claire and the viscount--that was Mr. Valentin, you
know--were both in the house. The doctor was a clever man,--that I could
see myself,--and I think he believed that the marquis might get well. We
took good care of him, he and I, between us, and one day, when my lady
had almost ordered her mourning, my patient suddenly began to mend. He
got better and better, till the doctor said he was out of danger. What
was killing him was the dreadful fits of pain in his stomach. But little
by little they stopped, and the poor marquis began to make his jokes
again. The doctor found something that gave him great comfort--some
white stuff that we kept in a great bottle on the chimney-piece. I
used to give it to the marquis through a glass tube; it always made him
easier. Then the doctor went away, after telling me to keep on giving
him the mixture whenever he was bad. After that there was a little
doctor from Poitiers, who came every day. So we were alone in the
house--my lady and her poor husband and their three children. Young
Madame de Bellegarde had gone away, with her little girl, to her
mothers. You know she is very lively, and her maid told me that she
didn't like to be where people were dying." Mrs. Bread paused a moment,
and then she went on with the same quiet consistency. "I think you
have guessed, sir, that when the marquis began to turn my lady was
disappointed." And she paused again, bending upon Newman a face which
seemed to grow whiter as the darkness settled down upon them.

Newman had listened eagerly--with an eagerness greater even than that
with which he had bent his ear to Valentin de Bellegarde's last words.
Every now and then, as his companion looked up at him, she reminded him
of an ancient tabby cat, protracting the enjoyment of a dish of milk.
Even her triumph was measured and decorous; the faculty of exultation
had been chilled by disuse. She presently continued. "Late one night I
was sitting by the marquis in his room, the great red room in the west
tower. He had been complaining a little, and I gave him a spoonful
of the doctor's dose. My lady had been there in the early part of the
evening; she sat far more than an hour by his bed. Then she went away
and left me alone. After midnight she came back, and her eldest son was
with her. They went to the bed and looked at the marquis, and my lady
took hold of his hand. Then she turned to me and said he was not so
well; I remember how the marquis, without saying anything, lay staring
at her. I can see his white face, at this moment, in the great black
square between the bed-curtains. I said I didn't think he was very bad;
and she told me to go to bed--she would sit a while with him. When the
marquis saw me going he gave a sort of groan, and called out to me not
to leave him; but Mr. Urbain opened the door for me and pointed the
way out. The present marquis--perhaps you have noticed, sir--has a very
proud way of giving orders, and I was there to take orders. I went to
my room, but I wasn't easy; I couldn't tell you why. I didn't undress;
I sat there waiting and listening. For what, would you have said, sir? I
couldn't have told you; for surely a poor gentleman might be comfortable
with his wife and his son. It was as if I expected to hear the marquis
moaning after me again. I listened, but I heard nothing. It was a very
still night; I never knew a night so still. At last the very stillness
itself seemed to frighten me, and I came out of my room and went very
softly downstairs. In the anteroom, outside of the marquis's chamber, I
found Mr. Urbain walking up and down. He asked me what I wanted, and I
said I came back to relieve my lady. He said _he_ would relieve my lady,
and ordered me back to bed; but as I stood there, unwilling to turn
away, the door of the room opened and my lady came out. I noticed she
was very pale; she was very strange. She looked a moment at the count
and at me, and then she held out her arms to the count. He went to her,
and she fell upon him and hid her face. I went quickly past her into the
room and to the marquis's bed. He was lying there, very white, with his
eyes shut, like a corpse. I took hold of his hand and spoke to him,
and he felt to me like a dead man. Then I turned round; my lady and
Mr. Urbain were there. 'My poor Bread,' said my lady, 'M. le Marquis is
gone.' Mr. Urbain knelt down by the bed and said softly, '_Mon père, mon
père_.' I thought it wonderful strange, and asked my lady what in the
world had happened, and why she hadn't called me. She said nothing had
happened; that she had only been sitting there with the marquis, very
quiet. She had closed her eyes, thinking she might sleep, and she had
slept, she didn't know how long. When she woke up he was dead. 'It's
death, my son, it's death,' she said to the count. Mr. Urbain said they
must have the doctor, immediately, from Poitiers, and that he would ride
off and fetch him. He kissed his father's face, and then he kissed his
mother and went away. My lady and I stood there at the bedside. As I
looked at the poor marquis it came into my head that he was not dead,
that he was in a kind of swoon. And then my lady repeated, 'My poor
Bread, it's death, it's death;' and I said, 'Yes, my lady, it's
certainly death.' I said just the opposite to what I believed; it was my
notion. Then my lady said we must wait for the doctor, and we sat there
and waited. It was a long time; the poor marquis neither stirred nor
changed. 'I have seen death before,' said my lady, 'and it's terribly
like this.' 'Yes, please, my lady,' said I; and I kept thinking. The
night wore away without the count's coming back, and my lady began to
be frightened. She was afraid he had had an accident in the dark, or met
with some wild people. At last she got so restless that she went below
to watch in the court for her son's return. I sat there alone and the
marquis never stirred."

Here Mrs. Bread paused again, and the most artistic of romancers could
not have been more effective. Newman made a movement as if he were
turning over the page of a novel. "So he _was_ dead!" he exclaimed.

"Three days afterwards he was in his grave," said Mrs. Bread,
sententiously. "In a little while I went away to the front of the house
and looked out into the court, and there, before long, I saw Mr. Urbain
ride in alone. I waited a bit, to hear him come upstairs with his
mother, but they stayed below, and I went back to the marquis's room.
I went to the bed and held up the light to him, but I don't know why
I didn't let the candlestick fall. The marquis's eyes were open--open
wide! they were staring at me. I knelt down beside him and took his
hands, and begged him to tell me, in the name of wonder, whether he was
alive or dead. Still he looked at me a long time, and then he made me a
sign to put my ear close to him: 'I am dead,' he said, 'I am dead. The
marquise has killed me.' I was all in a tremble; I didn't understand
him. He seemed both a man and a corpse, if you can fancy, sir. 'But
you'll get well now, sir,' I said. And then he whispered again, ever
so weak; 'I wouldn't get well for a kingdom. I wouldn't be that woman's
husband again.' And then he said more; he said she had murdered him.
I asked him what she had done to him, but he only replied, 'Murder,
murder. And she'll kill my daughter,' he said; 'my poor unhappy child.'
And he begged me to prevent that, and then he said that he was dying,
that he was dead. I was afraid to move or to leave him; I was almost
dead myself. All of a sudden he asked me to get a pencil and write for
him; and then I had to tell him that I couldn't manage a pencil. He
asked me to hold him up in bed while he wrote himself, and I said he
could never, never do such a thing. But he seemed to have a kind of
terror that gave him strength. I found a pencil in the room and a piece
of paper and a book, and I put the paper on the book and the pencil into
his hand, and moved the candle near him. You will think all this very
strange, sir; and very strange it was. The strangest part of it was that
I believed he was dying, and that I was eager to help him to write. I
sat on the bed and put my arm round him, and held him up. I felt very
strong; I believe I could have lifted him and carried him. It was a
wonder how he wrote, but he did write, in a big scratching hand; he
almost covered one side of the paper. It seemed a long time; I suppose
it was three or four minutes. He was groaning, terribly, all the while.
Then he said it was ended, and I let him down upon his pillows and he
gave me the paper and told me to fold it, and hide it, and give it to
those who would act upon it. 'Whom do you mean?' I said. 'Who are those
who will act upon it?' But he only groaned, for an answer; he couldn't
speak, for weakness. In a few minutes he told me to go and look at the
bottle on the chimney-piece. I knew the bottle he meant; the white
stuff that was good for his stomach. I went and looked at it, but it was
empty. When I came back his eyes were open and he was staring at me; but
soon he closed them and he said no more. I hid the paper in my dress;
I didn't look at what was written upon it, though I can read very well,
sir, if I haven't any handwriting. I sat down near the bed, but it was
nearly half an hour before my lady and the count came in. The marquis
looked as he did when they left him, and I never said a word about his
having been otherwise. Mr. Urbain said that the doctor had been
called to a person in childbirth, but that he promised to set out for
Fleurières immediately. In another half hour he arrived, and as soon as
he had examined the marquis he said that we had had a false alarm. The
poor gentleman was very low, but he was still living. I watched my lady
and her son when he said this, to see if they looked at each other, and
I am obliged to admit that they didn't. The doctor said there was no
reason he should die; he had been going on so well. And then he wanted
to know how he had suddenly fallen off; he had left him so very hearty.
My lady told her little story again--what she had told Mr. Urbain and
me--and the doctor looked at her and said nothing. He stayed all the
next day at the château, and hardly left the marquis. I was always
there. Mademoiselle and Mr. Valentin came and looked at their father,
but he never stirred. It was a strange, deathly stupor. My lady was
always about; her face was as white as her husband's, and she looked
very proud, as I had seen her look when her orders or her wishes had
been disobeyed. It was as if the poor marquis had defied her; and the
way she took it made me afraid of her. The apothecary from Poitiers kept
the marquis along through the day, and we waited for the other doctor
from Paris, who, as I told you, had been staying at Fleurières. They had
telegraphed for him early in the morning, and in the evening he arrived.
He talked a bit outside with the doctor from Poitiers, and then they
came in to see the marquis together. I was with him, and so was Mr.
Urbain. My lady had been to receive the doctor from Paris, and she
didn't come back with him into the room. He sat down by the marquis;
I can see him there now, with his hand on the marquis's wrist, and Mr.
Urbain watching him with a little looking-glass in his hand. 'I'm sure
he's better,' said the little doctor from Poitiers; 'I'm sure he'll come
back.' A few moments after he had said this the marquis opened his eyes,
as if he were waking up, and looked at us, from one to the other. I saw
him look at me very softly, as you'd say. At the same moment my lady
came in on tiptoe; she came up to the bed and put in her head between me
and the count. The marquis saw her and gave a long, most wonderful moan.
He said something we couldn't understand, and he seemed to have a kind
of spasm. He shook all over and then closed his eyes, and the doctor
jumped up and took hold of my lady. He held her for a moment a bit
roughly. The marquis was stone dead! This time there were those there
that knew."

Newman felt as if he had been reading by starlight the report of highly
important evidence in a great murder case. "And the paper--the paper!"
he said, excitedly. "What was written upon it?"

"I can't tell you, sir," answered Mrs. Bread. "I couldn't read it; it
was in French."

"But could no one else read it?"

"I never asked a human creature."

"No one has ever seen it?"

"If you see it you'll be the first."

Newman seized the old woman's hand in both his own and pressed it
vigorously. "I thank you ever so much for that," he cried. "I want to
be the first, I want it to be my property and no one else's! You're the
wisest old woman in Europe. And what did you do with the paper?" This
information had made him feel extraordinarily strong. "Give it to me
quick!"

Mrs. Bread got up with a certain majesty. "It is not so easy as that,
sir. If you want the paper, you must wait."

"But waiting is horrible, you know," urged Newman.

"I am sure _I_ have waited; I have waited these many years," said Mrs.
Bread.

"That is very true. You have waited for me. I won't forget it. And yet,
how comes it you didn't do as M. de Bellegarde said, show the paper to
someone?"

"To whom should I show it?" answered Mrs. Bread, mournfully. "It was not
easy to know, and many's the night I have lain awake thinking of it.
Six months afterwards, when they married Mademoiselle to her vicious old
husband, I was very near bringing it out. I thought it was my duty to do
something with it, and yet I was mightily afraid. I didn't know what
was written on the paper or how bad it might be, and there was no one
I could trust enough to ask. And it seemed to me a cruel kindness to do
that sweet young creature, letting her know that her father had written
her mother down so shamefully; for that's what he did, I suppose. I
thought she would rather be unhappy with her husband than be unhappy
that way. It was for her and for my dear Mr. Valentin I kept quiet.
Quiet I call it, but for me it was a weary quietness. It worried me
terribly, and it changed me altogether. But for others I held my tongue,
and no one, to this hour, knows what passed between the poor marquis and
me."

"But evidently there were suspicions," said Newman. "Where did Mr.
Valentin get his ideas?"

"It was the little doctor from Poitiers. He was very ill-satisfied, and
he made a great talk. He was a sharp Frenchman, and coming to the house,
as he did day after day, I suppose he saw more than he seemed to see.
And indeed the way the poor marquis went off as soon as his eyes fell on
my lady was a most shocking sight for anyone. The medical gentleman from
Paris was much more accommodating, and he hushed up the other. But for
all he could do Mr. Valentin and Mademoiselle heard something; they knew
their father's death was somehow against nature. Of course they couldn't
accuse their mother, and, as I tell you, I was as dumb as that stone.
Mr. Valentin used to look at me sometimes, and his eyes seemed to shine,
as if he were thinking of asking me something. I was dreadfully afraid
he would speak, and I always looked away and went about my business. If
I were to tell him, I was sure he would hate me afterwards, and that I
could never have borne. Once I went up to him and took a great liberty;
I kissed him, as I had kissed him when he was a child. 'You oughtn't to
look so sad, sir,' I said; 'believe your poor old Bread. Such a gallant,
handsome young man can have nothing to be sad about.' And I think he
understood me; he understood that I was begging off, and he made up
his mind in his own way. He went about with his unasked question in
his mind, as I did with my untold tale; we were both afraid of bringing
dishonor on a great house. And it was the same with Mademoiselle. She
didn't know what happened; she wouldn't know. My lady and Mr. Urbain
asked me no questions because they had no reason. I was as still as
a mouse. When I was younger my lady thought me a hussy, and now she
thought me a fool. How should I have any ideas?"

"But you say the little doctor from Poitiers made a talk," said Newman.
"Did no one take it up?"

"I heard nothing of it, sir. They are always talking scandal in these
foreign countries you may have noticed--and I suppose they shook their
heads over Madame de Bellegarde. But after all, what could they say? The
marquis had been ill, and the marquis had died; he had as good a right
to die as anyone. The doctor couldn't say he had not come honestly by
his cramps. The next year the little doctor left the place and bought a
practice in Bordeaux, and if there has been any gossip it died out.
And I don't think there could have been much gossip about my lady that
anyone would listen to. My lady is so very respectable."

Newman, at this last affirmation, broke into an immense, resounding
laugh. Mrs. Bread had begun to move away from the spot where they were
sitting, and he helped her through the aperture in the wall and
along the homeward path. "Yes," he said, "my lady's respectability is
delicious; it will be a great crash!" They reached the empty space in
front of the church, where they stopped a moment, looking at each
other with something of an air of closer fellowship--like two sociable
conspirators. "But what was it," said Newman, "what was it she did to
her husband? She didn't stab him or poison him."

"I don't know, sir; no one saw it."

"Unless it was Mr. Urbain. You say he was walking up and down, outside
the room. Perhaps he looked through the keyhole. But no; I think that
with his mother he would take it on trust."

"You may be sure I have often thought of it," said Mrs. Bread. "I
am sure she didn't touch him with her hands. I saw nothing on him,
anywhere. I believe it was in this way. He had a fit of his great pain,
and he asked her for his medicine. Instead of giving it to him she went
and poured it away, before his eyes. Then he saw what she meant, and,
weak and helpless as he was, he was frightened, he was terrified. 'You
want to kill me,' he said. 'Yes, M. le Marquis, I want to kill you,'
says my lady, and sits down and fixes her eyes upon him. You know my
lady's eyes, I think, sir; it was with them she killed him; it was
with the terrible strong will she put into them. It was like a frost on
flowers."

"Well, you are a very intelligent woman; you have shown great
discretion," said Newman. "I shall value your services as housekeeper
extremely."

They had begun to descend the hill, and Mrs. Bread said nothing until
they reached the foot. Newman strolled lightly beside her; his head was
thrown back and he was gazing at all the stars; he seemed to himself to
be riding his vengeance along the Milky Way. "So you are serious, sir,
about that?" said Mrs. Bread, softly.

"About your living with me? Why of course I will take care of you to the
end of your days. You can't live with those people any longer. And you
oughtn't to, you know, after this. You give me the paper, and you move
away."

"It seems very flighty in me to be taking a new place at this time of
life," observed Mrs. Bread, lugubriously. "But if you are going to turn
the house upside down, I would rather be out of it."

"Oh," said Newman, in the cheerful tone of a man who feels rich in
alternatives. "I don't think I shall bring in the constables, if that's
what you mean. Whatever Madame de Bellegarde did, I am afraid the law
can't take hold of it. But I am glad of that; it leaves it altogether to
me!"

"You are a mighty bold gentleman, sir," murmured Mrs. Bread, looking at
him round the edge of her great bonnet.

He walked with her back to the château; the curfew had tolled for the
laborious villagers of Fleurières, and the street was unlighted and
empty. She promised him that he should have the marquis's manuscript in
half an hour. Mrs. Bread choosing not to go in by the great gate, they
passed round by a winding lane to a door in the wall of the park, of
which she had the key, and which would enable her to enter the château
from behind. Newman arranged with her that he should await outside the
wall her return with the coveted document.

She went in, and his half hour in the dusky lane seemed very long. But
he had plenty to think about. At last the door in the wall opened and
Mrs. Bread stood there, with one hand on the latch and the other holding
out a scrap of white paper, folded small. In a moment he was master of
it, and it had passed into his waistcoat pocket. "Come and see me in
Paris," he said; "we are to settle your future, you know; and I will
translate poor M. de Bellegarde's French to you." Never had he felt so
grateful as at this moment for M. Nioche's instructions.

Mrs. Bread's dull eyes had followed the disappearance of the paper, and
she gave a heavy sigh. "Well, you have done what you would with me, sir,
and I suppose you will do it again. You _must_ take care of me now. You
are a terribly positive gentleman."

"Just now," said Newman, "I'm a terribly impatient gentleman!" And he
bade her good-night and walked rapidly back to the inn. He ordered his
vehicle to be prepared for his return to Poitiers, and then he shut
the door of the common salle and strode toward the solitary lamp on the
chimney-piece. He pulled out the paper and quickly unfolded it. It was
covered with pencil-marks, which at first, in the feeble light, seemed
indistinct. But Newman's fierce curiosity forced a meaning from the
tremulous signs. The English of them was as follows:--

"My wife has tried to kill me, and she has done it; I am dying, dying
horribly. It is to marry my dear daughter to M. de Cintré. With all my
soul I protest,--I forbid it. I am not insane,--ask the doctors, ask
Mrs. B----. It was alone with me here, to-night; she attacked me and put
me to death. It is murder, if murder ever was. Ask the doctors.

"HENRI-URBAIN DE BELLEGARDE"



CHAPTER XXIII

Newman returned to Paris the second day after his interview with Mrs.
Bread. The morrow he had spent at Poitiers, reading over and over again
the little document which he had lodged in his pocket-book, and thinking
what he would do in the circumstances and how he would do it. He would
not have said that Poitiers was an amusing place; yet the day seemed
very short. Domiciled once more in the Boulevard Haussmann, he walked
over to the Rue de l'Université and inquired of Madame de Bellegarde's
portress whether the marquise had come back. The portress told him that
she had arrived, with M. le Marquis, on the preceding day, and further
informed him that if he desired to enter, Madame de Bellegarde and her
son were both at home. As she said these words the little white-faced
old woman who peered out of the dusky gate-house of the Hôtel de
Bellegarde gave a small wicked smile--a smile which seemed to Newman
to mean, "Go in if you dare!" She was evidently versed in the current
domestic history; she was placed where she could feel the pulse of the
house. Newman stood a moment, twisting his moustache and looking at her;
then he abruptly turned away. But this was not because he was afraid
to go in--though he doubted whether, if he did so, he should be able
to make his way, unchallenged, into the presence of Madame de Cintré's
relatives. Confidence--excessive confidence, perhaps--quite as much as
timidity prompted his retreat. He was nursing his thunderbolt; he loved
it; he was unwilling to part with it. He seemed to be holding it aloft
in the rumbling, vaguely-flashing air, directly over the heads of his
victims, and he fancied he could see their pale, upturned faces. Few
specimens of the human countenance had ever given him such pleasure
as these, lighted in the lurid fashion I have hinted at, and he was
disposed to sip the cup of contemplative revenge in a leisurely fashion.
It must be added, too, that he was at a loss to see exactly how he could
arrange to witness the operation of his thunder. To send in his card to
Madame de Bellegarde would be a waste of ceremony; she would certainly
decline to receive him. On the other hand he could not force his way
into her presence. It annoyed him keenly to think that he might be
reduced to the blind satisfaction of writing her a letter; but he
consoled himself in a measure with the reflection that a letter might
lead to an interview. He went home, and feeling rather tired--nursing a
vengeance was, it must be confessed, a rather fatiguing process; it
took a good deal out of one--flung himself into one of his brocaded
fauteuils, stretched his legs, thrust his hands into his pockets, and,
while he watched the reflected sunset fading from the ornate house-tops
on the opposite side of the Boulevard, began mentally to compose a cool
epistle to Madame de Bellegarde. While he was so occupied his servant
threw open the door and announced ceremoniously, "Madame Brett!"

Newman roused himself, expectantly, and in a few moments perceived upon
his threshold the worthy woman with whom he had conversed to such good
purpose on the starlit hill-top of Fleurières. Mrs. Bread had made for
this visit the same toilet as for her former expedition. Newman was
struck with her distinguished appearance. His lamp was not lit, and as
her large, grave face gazed at him through the light dusk from under
the shadow of her ample bonnet, he felt the incongruity of such a person
presenting herself as a servant. He greeted her with high geniality and
bade her come in and sit down and make herself comfortable. There was
something which might have touched the springs both of mirth and of
melancholy in the ancient maidenliness with which Mrs. Bread endeavored
to comply with these directions. She was not playing at being fluttered,
which would have been simply ridiculous; she was doing her best to carry
herself as a person so humble that, for her, even embarrassment would
have been pretentious; but evidently she had never dreamed of its being
in her horoscope to pay a visit, at night-fall, to a friendly single
gentleman who lived in theatrical-looking rooms on one of the new
Boulevards.

"I truly hope I am not forgetting my place, sir," she murmured.

"Forgetting your place?" cried Newman. "Why, you are remembering it.
This is your place, you know. You are already in my service; your wages,
as housekeeper, began a fortnight ago. I can tell you my house wants
keeping! Why don't you take off your bonnet and stay?"

"Take off my bonnet?" said Mrs. Bread, with timid literalness. "Oh, sir,
I haven't my cap. And with your leave, sir, I couldn't keep house in my
best gown."

"Never mind your gown," said Newman, cheerfully. "You shall have a
better gown than that."

Mrs. Bread stared solemnly and then stretched her hands over her
lustreless satin skirt, as if the perilous side of her situation were
defining itself. "Oh, sir, I am fond of my own clothes," she murmured.

"I hope you have left those wicked people, at any rate," said Newman.

"Well, sir, here I am!" said Mrs. Bread. "That's all I can tell you.
Here I sit, poor Catherine Bread. It's a strange place for me to be. I
don't know myself; I never supposed I was so bold. But indeed, sir, I
have gone as far as my own strength will bear me."

"Oh, come, Mrs. Bread," said Newman, almost caressingly, "don't make
yourself uncomfortable. Now's the time to feel lively, you know."

She began to speak again with a trembling voice. "I think it would be
more respectable if I could--if I could"--and her voice trembled to a
pause.

"If you could give up this sort of thing altogether?" said Newman
kindly, trying to anticipate her meaning, which he supposed might be a
wish to retire from service.

"If I could give up everything, sir! All I should ask is a decent
Protestant burial."

"Burial!" cried Newman, with a burst of laughter. "Why, to bury you now
would be a sad piece of extravagance. It's only rascals who have to be
buried to get respectable. Honest folks like you and me can live our
time out--and live together. Come! Did you bring your baggage?"

"My box is locked and corded; but I haven't yet spoken to my lady."

"Speak to her, then, and have done with it. I should like to have your
chance!" cried Newman.

"I would gladly give it you, sir. I have passed some weary hours in my
lady's dressing-room; but this will be one of the longest. She will tax
me with ingratitude."

"Well," said Newman, "so long as you can tax her with murder--"

"Oh, sir, I can't; not I," sighed Mrs. Bread.

"You don't mean to say anything about it? So much the better. Leave that
to me."

"If she calls me a thankless old woman," said Mrs. Bread, "I shall have
nothing to say. But it is better so," she softly added. "She shall be my
lady to the last. That will be more respectable."

"And then you will come to me and I shall be your gentleman," said
Newman; "that will be more respectable still!"

Mrs. Bread rose, with lowered eyes, and stood a moment; then, looking
up, she rested her eyes upon Newman's face. The disordered proprieties
were somehow settling to rest. She looked at Newman so long and so
fixedly, with such a dull, intense devotedness, that he himself might
have had a pretext for embarrassment. At last she said gently, "You are
not looking well, sir."

"That's natural enough," said Newman. "I have nothing to feel well
about. To be very indifferent and very fierce, very dull and very
jovial, very sick and very lively, all at once,--why, it rather mixes
one up."

Mrs. Bread gave a noiseless sigh. "I can tell you something that will
make you feel duller still, if you want to feel all one way. About
Madame de Cintré."

"What can you tell me?" Newman demanded. "Not that you have seen her?"

She shook her head. "No, indeed, sir, nor ever shall. That's the
dullness of it. Nor my lady. Nor M. de Bellegarde."

"You mean that she is kept so close."

"Close, close," said Mrs. Bread, very softly.

These words, for an instant, seemed to check the beating of Newman's
heart. He leaned back in his chair, staring up at the old woman. "They
have tried to see her, and she wouldn't--she couldn't?"

"She refused--forever! I had it from my lady's own maid," said Mrs.
Bread, "who had it from my lady. To speak of it to such a person my lady
must have felt the shock. Madame de Cintré won't see them now, and now
is her only chance. A while hence she will have no chance."

"You mean the other women--the mothers, the daughters, the sisters; what
is it they call them?--won't let her?"

"It is what they call the rule of the house,--or of the order, I
believe," said Mrs. Bread. "There is no rule so strict as that of the
Carmelites. The bad women in the reformatories are fine ladies to them.
They wear old brown cloaks--so the _femme de chambre_ told me--that you
wouldn't use for a horse blanket. And the poor countess was so fond of
soft-feeling dresses; she would never have anything stiff! They sleep on
the ground," Mrs. Bread went on; "they are no better, no better,"--and
she hesitated for a comparison,--"they are no better than tinkers'
wives. They give up everything, down to the very name their poor old
nurses called them by. They give up father and mother, brother and
sister,--to say nothing of other persons," Mrs. Bread delicately added.
"They wear a shroud under their brown cloaks and a rope round their
waists, and they get up on winter nights and go off into cold places to
pray to the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary is a hard mistress!"

Mrs. Bread, dwelling on these terrible facts, sat dry-eyed and pale,
with her hands clasped in her satin lap. Newman gave a melancholy
groan and fell forward, leaning his head on his hands. There was a long
silence, broken only by the ticking of the great gilded clock on the
chimney-piece.

"Where is this place--where is the convent?" Newman asked at last,
looking up.

"There are two houses," said Mrs. Bread. "I found out; I thought you
would like to know--though it's poor comfort, I think. One is in the
Avenue de Messine; they have learned that Madame de Cintré is there. The
other is in the Rue d'Enfer. That's a terrible name; I suppose you know
what it means."

Newman got up and walked away to the end of his long room. When he came
back Mrs. Bread had got up, and stood by the fire with folded hands.
"Tell me this," he said. "Can I get near her--even if I don't see her?
Can I look through a grating, or some such thing, at the place where she
is?"

It is said that all women love a lover, and Mrs. Bread's sense of the
pre-established harmony which kept servants in their "place," even
as planets in their orbits (not that Mrs. Bread had ever consciously
likened herself to a planet), barely availed to temper the maternal
melancholy with which she leaned her head on one side and gazed at
her new employer. She probably felt for the moment as if, forty years
before, she had held him also in her arms. "That wouldn't help you, sir.
It would only make her seem farther away."

"I want to go there, at all events," said Newman. "Avenue de Messine,
you say? And what is it they call themselves?"

"Carmelites," said Mrs. Bread.

"I shall remember that."

Mrs. Bread hesitated a moment, and then, "It's my duty to tell you
this, sir," she went on. "The convent has a chapel, and some people are
admitted on Sunday to the mass. You don't see the poor creatures that
are shut up there, but I am told you can hear them sing. It's a wonder
they have any heart for singing! Some Sunday I shall make bold to go. It
seems to me I should know _her_ voice in fifty."

Newman looked at his visitor very gratefully; then he held out his hand
and shook hers. "Thank you," he said. "If anyone can get in, I will."
A moment later Mrs. Bread proposed, deferentially, to retire, but he
checked her and put a lighted candle into her hand. "There are half a
dozen rooms there I don't use," he said, pointing through an open door.
"Go and look at them and take your choice. You can live in the one
you like best." From this bewildering opportunity Mrs. Bread at first
recoiled; but finally, yielding to Newman's gentle, reassuring push, she
wandered off into the dusk with her tremulous taper. She remained absent
a quarter of an hour, during which Newman paced up and down, stopped
occasionally to look out of the window at the lights on the Boulevard,
and then resumed his walk. Mrs. Bread's relish for her investigation
apparently increased as she proceeded; but at last she reappeared and
deposited her candlestick on the chimney-piece.

"Well, have you picked one out?" asked Newman.

"A room, sir? They are all too fine for a dingy old body like me. There
isn't one that hasn't a bit of gilding."

"It's only tinsel, Mrs. Bread," said Newman. "If you stay there a while
it will all peel off of itself." And he gave a dismal smile.

"Oh, sir, there are things enough peeling off already!" rejoined Mrs.
Bread, with a head-shake. "Since I was there I thought I would look
about me. I don't believe you know, sir. The corners are most dreadful.
You do want a housekeeper, that you do; you want a tidy Englishwoman
that isn't above taking hold of a broom."

Newman assured her that he suspected, if he had not measured, his
domestic abuses, and that to reform them was a mission worthy of her
powers. She held her candlestick aloft again and looked around the salon
with compassionate glances; then she intimated that she accepted the
mission, and that its sacred character would sustain her in her rupture
with Madame de Bellegarde. With this she curtsied herself away.

She came back the next day with her worldly goods, and Newman, going
into his drawing-room, found her upon her aged knees before a divan,
sewing up some detached fringe. He questioned her as to her leave-taking
with her late mistress, and she said it had proved easier than she
feared. "I was perfectly civil, sir, but the Lord helped me to remember
that a good woman has no call to tremble before a bad one."

"I should think so!" cried Newman. "And does she know you have come to
me?"

"She asked me where I was going, and I mentioned your name," said Mrs.
Bread.

"What did she say to that?"

"She looked at me very hard, and she turned very red. Then she bade me
leave her. I was all ready to go, and I had got the coachman, who is an
Englishman, to bring down my poor box and to fetch me a cab. But when I
went down myself to the gate I found it closed. My lady had sent orders
to the porter not to let me pass, and by the same orders the porter's
wife--she is a dreadful sly old body--had gone out in a cab to fetch
home M. de Bellegarde from his club."

Newman slapped his knee. "She _is_ scared! she _is_ scared!" he cried,
exultantly.

"I was frightened too, sir," said Mrs. Bread, "but I was also mightily
vexed. I took it very high with the porter and asked him by what right
he used violence to an honorable Englishwoman who had lived in the house
for thirty years before he was heard of. Oh, sir, I was very grand, and
I brought the man down. He drew his bolts and let me out, and I promised
the cabman something handsome if he would drive fast. But he was
terribly slow; it seemed as if we should never reach your blessed door.
I am all of a tremble still; it took me five minutes, just now, to
thread my needle."

Newman told her, with a gleeful laugh, that if she chose she might
have a little maid on purpose to thread her needles; and he went away
murmuring to himself again that the old woman _was_ scared--she _was_
scared!

He had not shown Mrs. Tristram the little paper that he carried in
his pocket-book, but since his return to Paris he had seen her several
times, and she had told him that he seemed to her to be in a strange
way--an even stranger way than his sad situation made natural. Had his
disappointment gone to his head? He looked like a man who was going to
be ill, and yet she had never seen him more restless and active. One day
he would sit hanging his head and looking as if he were firmly resolved
never to smile again; another he would indulge in laughter that was
almost unseemly and make jokes that were bad even for him. If he was
trying to carry off his sorrow, he at such times really went too far.
She begged him of all things not to be "strange." Feeling in a measure
responsible as she did for the affair which had turned out so ill
for him, she could endure anything but his strangeness. He might be
melancholy if he would, or he might be stoical; he might be cross and
cantankerous with her and ask her why she had ever dared to meddle
with his destiny: to this she would submit; for this she would make
allowances. Only, for Heaven's sake, let him not be incoherent. That
would be extremely unpleasant. It was like people talking in their
sleep; they always frightened her. And Mrs. Tristram intimated that,
taking very high ground as regards the moral obligation which events
had laid upon her, she proposed not to rest quiet until she should have
confronted him with the least inadequate substitute for Madame de Cintré
that the two hemispheres contained.

"Oh," said Newman, "we are even now, and we had better not open a new
account! You may bury me some day, but you shall never marry me. It's
too rough. I hope, at any rate," he added, "that there is nothing
incoherent in this--that I want to go next Sunday to the Carmelite
chapel in the Avenue de Messine. You know one of the Catholic
ministers--an abbé, is that it?--I have seen him here, you know; that
motherly old gentleman with the big waistband. Please ask him if I need
a special leave to go in, and if I do, beg him to obtain it for me."

Mrs. Tristram gave expression to the liveliest joy. "I am so glad you
have asked me to do something!" she cried. "You shall get into the
chapel if the abbé is disfrocked for his share in it." And two days
afterwards she told him that it was all arranged; the abbé was enchanted
to serve him, and if he would present himself civilly at the convent
gate there would be no difficulty.



CHAPTER XXIV

Sunday was as yet two days off; but meanwhile, to beguile his
impatience, Newman took his way to the Avenue de Messine and got
what comfort he could in staring at the blank outer wall of Madame de
Cintré's present residence. The street in question, as some travelers
will remember, adjoins the Parc Monceau, which is one of the prettiest
corners of Paris. The quarter has an air of modern opulence and
convenience which seems at variance with the ascetic institution,
and the impression made upon Newman's gloomily-irritated gaze by the
fresh-looking, windowless expanse behind which the woman he loved was
perhaps even then pledging herself to pass the rest of her days was less
exasperating than he had feared. The place suggested a convent with the
modern improvements--an asylum in which privacy, though unbroken,
might be not quite identical with privation, and meditation, though
monotonous, might be of a cheerful cast. And yet he knew the case was
otherwise; only at present it was not a reality to him. It was too
strange and too mocking to be real; it was like a page torn out of a
romance, with no context in his own experience.

On Sunday morning, at the hour which Mrs. Tristram had indicated, he
rang at the gate in the blank wall. It instantly opened and admitted
him into a clean, cold-looking court, from beyond which a dull, plain
edifice looked down upon him. A robust lay sister with a cheerful
complexion emerged from a porter's lodge, and, on his stating his
errand, pointed to the open door of the chapel, an edifice which
occupied the right side of the court and was preceded by the high flight
of steps. Newman ascended the steps and immediately entered the open
door. Service had not yet begun; the place was dimly lighted, and it was
some moments before he could distinguish its features. Then he saw it
was divided by a large close iron screen into two unequal portions.
The altar was on the hither side of the screen, and between it and the
entrance were disposed several benches and chairs. Three or four of
these were occupied by vague, motionless figures--figures that he
presently perceived to be women, deeply absorbed in their devotion. The
place seemed to Newman very cold; the smell of the incense itself was
cold. Besides this there was a twinkle of tapers and here and there a
glow of colored glass. Newman seated himself; the praying women kept
still, with their backs turned. He saw they were visitors like himself
and he would have liked to see their faces; for he believed that they
were the mourning mothers and sisters of other women who had had the
same pitiless courage as Madame de Cintré. But they were better off
than he, for they at least shared the faith to which the others had
sacrificed themselves. Three or four persons came in; two of them were
elderly gentlemen. Everyone was very quiet. Newman fastened his eyes
upon the screen behind the altar. That was the convent, the real
convent, the place where she was. But he could see nothing; no light
came through the crevices. He got up and approached the partition very
gently, trying to look through. But behind it there was darkness, with
nothing stirring. He went back to his place, and after that a priest and
two altar boys came in and began to say mass.

Newman watched their genuflections and gyrations with a grim, still
enmity; they seemed aids and abettors of Madame de Cintré's desertion;
they were mouthing and droning out their triumph. The priest's long,
dismal intonings acted upon his nerves and deepened his wrath; there
was something defiant in his unintelligible drawl; it seemed meant for
Newman himself. Suddenly there arose from the depths of the chapel, from
behind the inexorable grating, a sound which drew his attention from
the altar--the sound of a strange, lugubrious chant, uttered by women's
voices. It began softly, but it presently grew louder, and as it
increased it became more of a wail and a dirge. It was the chant of
the Carmelite nuns, their only human utterance. It was their dirge over
their buried affections and over the vanity of earthly desires. At first
Newman was bewildered--almost stunned--by the strangeness of the sound;
then, as he comprehended its meaning, he listened intently and his heart
began to throb. He listened for Madame de Cintré's voice, and in the
very heart of the tuneless harmony he imagined he made it out. (We are
obliged to believe that he was wrong, inasmuch as she had obviously not
yet had time to become a member of the invisible sisterhood.) The
chant kept on, mechanical and monotonous, with dismal repetitions and
despairing cadences. It was hideous, it was horrible; as it continued,
Newman felt that he needed all his self-control. He was growing more
agitated; he felt tears in his eyes. At last, as in its full force the
thought came over him that this confused, impersonal wail was all that
either he or the world she had deserted should ever hear of the voice
he had found so sweet, he felt that he could bear it no longer. He rose
abruptly and made his way out. On the threshold he paused, listened
again to the dreary strain, and then hastily descended into the court.
As he did so he saw the good sister with the high-colored cheeks and the
fanlike frill to her coiffure, who had admitted him, was in conference
at the gate with two persons who had just come in. A second glance
informed him that these persons were Madame de Bellegarde and her son,
and that they were about to avail themselves of that method of approach
to Madame de Cintré which Newman had found but a mockery of consolation.
As he crossed the court M. de Bellegarde recognized him; the marquis was
coming to the steps, leading his mother. The old lady also gave Newman
a look, and it resembled that of her son. Both faces expressed a franker
perturbation, something more akin to the humbleness of dismay, than
Newman had yet seen in them. Evidently he startled the Bellegardes, and
they had not their grand behavior immediately in hand. Newman hurried
past them, guided only by the desire to get out of the convent walls and
into the street. The gate opened itself at his approach; he strode over
the threshold and it closed behind him. A carriage which appeared to
have been standing there, was just turning away from the sidewalk.
Newman looked at it for a moment, blankly; then he became conscious,
through the dusky mist that swam before his eyes, that a lady seated in
it was bowing to him. The vehicle had turned away before he recognized
her; it was an ancient landau with one half the cover lowered. The
lady's bow was very positive and accompanied with a smile; a little girl
was seated beside her. He raised his hat, and then the lady bade the
coachman stop. The carriage halted again beside the pavement, and she
sat there and beckoned to Newman--beckoned with the demonstrative grace
of Madame Urbain de Bellegarde. Newman hesitated a moment before
he obeyed her summons, during this moment he had time to curse his
stupidity for letting the others escape him. He had been wondering how
he could get at them; fool that he was for not stopping them then and
there! What better place than beneath the very prison walls to which
they had consigned the promise of his joy? He had been too bewildered
to stop them, but now he felt ready to wait for them at the gate. Madame
Urbain, with a certain attractive petulance, beckoned to him again, and
this time he went over to the carriage. She leaned out and gave him her
hand, looking at him kindly, and smiling.

"Ah, monsieur," she said, "you don't include me in your wrath? I had
nothing to do with it."

"Oh, I don't suppose _you_ could have prevented it!" Newman answered in
a tone which was not that of studied gallantry.

"What you say is too true for me to resent the small account it makes of
my influence. I forgive you, at any rate, because you look as if you had
seen a ghost."

"I have!" said Newman.

"I am glad, then, I didn't go in with Madame de Bellegarde and my
husband. You must have seen them, eh? Was the meeting affectionate?
Did you hear the chanting? They say it's like the lamentations of the
damned. I wouldn't go in: one is certain to hear that soon enough. Poor
Claire--in a white shroud and a big brown cloak! That's the _toilette_
of the Carmelites, you know. Well, she was always fond of long, loose
things. But I must not speak of her to you; only I must say that I am
very sorry for you, that if I could have helped you I would, and that
I think everyone has been very shabby. I was afraid of it, you know; I
felt it in the air for a fortnight before it came. When I saw you at
my mother-in-law's ball, taking it all so easily, I felt as if you were
dancing on your grave. But what could I do? I wish you all the good I
can think of. You will say that isn't much! Yes; they have been very
shabby; I am not a bit afraid to say it; I assure you everyone thinks
so. We are not all like that. I am sorry I am not going to see you
again; you know I think you very good company. I would prove it by
asking you to get into the carriage and drive with me for a quarter
of an hour, while I wait for my mother-in-law. Only if we were
seen--considering what has passed, and everyone knows you have been
turned away--it might be thought I was going a little too far, even for
me. But I shall see you sometimes--somewhere, eh? You know"--this was
said in English--"we have a plan for a little amusement."

Newman stood there with his hand on the carriage-door listening to this
consolatory murmur with an unlighted eye. He hardly knew what Madame
de Bellegarde was saying; he was only conscious that she was chattering
ineffectively. But suddenly it occurred to him that, with her pretty
professions, there was a way of making her effective; she might help
him to get at the old woman and the marquis. "They are coming back
soon--your companions?" he said. "You are waiting for them?"

"They will hear the mass out; there is nothing to keep them longer.
Claire has refused to see them."

"I want to speak to them," said Newman; "and you can help me, you can do
me a favor. Delay your return for five minutes and give me a chance at
them. I will wait for them here."

Madame de Bellegarde clasped her hands with a tender grimace. "My poor
friend, what do you want to do to them? To beg them to come back to you?
It will be wasted words. They will never come back!"

"I want to speak to them, all the same. Pray do what I ask you. Stay
away and leave them to me for five minutes; you needn't be afraid; I
shall not be violent; I am very quiet."

"Yes, you look very quiet! If they had _le cœur tendre_ you would move
them. But they haven't! However, I will do better for you than what you
propose. The understanding is not that I shall come back for them. I am
going into the Parc Monceau with my little girl to give her a walk, and
my mother-in-law, who comes so rarely into this quarter, is to profit
by the same opportunity to take the air. We are to wait for her in the
park, where my husband is to bring her to us. Follow me now; just within
the gates I shall get out of my carriage. Sit down on a chair in some
quiet corner and I will bring them near you. There's devotion for you!
_Le reste vous regarde_."

This proposal seemed to Newman extremely felicitous; it revived his
drooping spirit, and he reflected that Madame Urbain was not such a
goose as she seemed. He promised immediately to overtake her, and the
carriage drove away.

The Parc Monceau is a very pretty piece of landscape-gardening, but
Newman, passing into it, bestowed little attention upon its elegant
vegetation, which was full of the freshness of spring. He found Madame
de Bellegarde promptly, seated in one of the quiet corners of which she
had spoken, while before her, in the alley, her little girl, attended by
the footman and the lap-dog, walked up and down as if she were taking a
lesson in deportment. Newman sat down beside the mamma, and she talked
a great deal, apparently with the design of convincing him that--if
he would only see it--poor dear Claire did not belong to the most
fascinating type of woman. She was too tall and thin, too stiff and
cold; her mouth was too wide and her nose too narrow. She had no dimples
anywhere. And then she was eccentric, eccentric in cold blood; she was
an Anglaise, after all. Newman was very impatient; he was counting the
minutes until his victims should reappear. He sat silent, leaning upon
his cane, looking absently and insensibly at the little marquise. At
length Madame de Bellegarde said she would walk toward the gate of the
park and meet her companions; but before she went she dropped her eyes,
and, after playing a moment with the lace of her sleeve, looked up again
at Newman.

"Do you remember," she asked, "the promise you made me three weeks
ago?" And then, as Newman, vainly consulting his memory, was obliged to
confess that the promise had escaped it, she declared that he had made
her, at the time, a very queer answer--an answer at which, viewing it
in the light of the sequel, she had fair ground for taking offense.
"You promised to take me to Bullier's after your marriage. After your
marriage--you made a great point of that. Three days after that your
marriage was broken off. Do you know, when I heard the news, the
first thing I said to myself? 'Oh heaven, now he won't go with me to
Bullier's!' And I really began to wonder if you had not been expecting
the rupture."

"Oh, my dear lady," murmured Newman, looking down the path to see if the
others were not coming.

"I shall be good-natured," said Madame de Bellegarde. "One must not ask
too much of a gentleman who is in love with a cloistered nun. Besides,
I can't go to Bullier's while we are in mourning. But I haven't given
it up for that. The _partie_ is arranged; I have my cavalier. Lord
Deepmere, if you please! He has gone back to his dear Dublin; but a
few months hence I am to name any evening and he will come over from
Ireland, on purpose. That's what I call gallantry!"

Shortly after this Madame de Bellegarde walked away with her little
girl. Newman sat in his place; the time seemed terribly long. He felt
how fiercely his quarter of an hour in the convent chapel had raked
over the glowing coals of his resentment. Madame de Bellegarde kept him
waiting, but she proved as good as her word. At last she reappeared at
the end of the path, with her little girl and her footman; beside her
slowly walked her husband, with his mother on his arm. They were a long
time advancing, during which Newman sat unmoved. Tingling as he was
with passion, it was extremely characteristic of him that he was able
to moderate his expression of it, as he would have turned down a flaring
gas-burner. His native coolness, shrewdness, and deliberateness, his
life-long submissiveness to the sentiment that words were acts and acts
were steps in life, and that in this matter of taking steps
curveting and prancing were exclusively reserved for quadrupeds
and foreigners--all this admonished him that rightful wrath had no
connection with being a fool and indulging in spectacular violence. So
as he rose, when old Madame de Bellegarde and her son were close to
him, he only felt very tall and light. He had been sitting beside some
shrubbery, in such a way as not to be noticeable at a distance; but M.
de Bellegarde had evidently already perceived him. His mother and he
were holding their course, but Newman stepped in front of them, and they
were obliged to pause. He lifted his hat slightly, and looked at them
for a moment; they were pale with amazement and disgust.

"Excuse me for stopping you," he said in a low tone, "but I must profit
by the occasion. I have ten words to say to you. Will you listen to
them?"

The marquis glared at him and then turned to his mother. "Can Mr. Newman
possibly have anything to say that is worth our listening to?"

"I assure you I have something," said Newman, "besides, it is my duty to
say it. It's a notification--a warning."

"Your duty?" said old Madame de Bellegarde, her thin lips curving like
scorched paper. "That is your affair, not ours."

Madame Urbain meanwhile had seized her little girl by the hand, with a
gesture of surprise and impatience which struck Newman, intent as he was
upon his own words, with its dramatic effectiveness. "If Mr. Newman is
going to make a scene in public," she exclaimed, "I will take my poor
child out of the _mêlée_. She is too young to see such naughtiness!" and
she instantly resumed her walk.

"You had much better listen to me," Newman went on. "Whether you do or
not, things will be disagreeable for you; but at any rate you will be
prepared."

"We have already heard something of your threats," said the marquis,
"and you know what we think of them."

"You think a good deal more than you admit. A moment," Newman added in
reply to an exclamation of the old lady. "I remember perfectly that we
are in a public place, and you see I am very quiet. I am not going to
tell your secret to the passers-by; I shall keep it, to begin with, for
certain picked listeners. Anyone who observes us will think that we are
having a friendly chat, and that I am complimenting you, madam, on your
venerable virtues."

The marquis gave three short sharp raps on the ground with his stick. "I
demand of you to step out of our path!" he hissed.

Newman instantly complied, and M. de Bellegarde stepped forward with his
mother. Then Newman said, "Half an hour hence Madame de Bellegarde will
regret that she didn't learn exactly what I mean."

The marquise had taken a few steps, but at these words she paused,
looking at Newman with eyes like two scintillating globules of ice. "You
are like a peddler with something to sell," she said, with a little cold
laugh which only partially concealed the tremor in her voice.

"Oh, no, not to sell," Newman rejoined; "I give it to you for nothing."
And he approached nearer to her, looking her straight in the eyes. "You
killed your husband," he said, almost in a whisper. "That is, you tried
once and failed, and then, without trying, you succeeded."

Madame de Bellegarde closed her eyes and gave a little cough, which, as
a piece of dissimulation, struck Newman as really heroic. "Dear mother,"
said the marquis, "does this stuff amuse you so much?"

"The rest is more amusing," said Newman. "You had better not lose it."

Madame de Bellegarde opened her eyes; the scintillations had gone out of
them; they were fixed and dead. But she smiled superbly with her narrow
little lips, and repeated Newman's word. "Amusing? Have I killed someone
else?"

"I don't count your daughter," said Newman, "though I might! Your
husband knew what you were doing. I have a proof of it whose existence
you have never suspected." And he turned to the marquis, who was
terribly white--whiter than Newman had ever seen anyone out of a
picture. "A paper written by the hand, and signed with the name, of
Henri-Urbain de Bellegarde. Written after you, madam, had left him for
dead, and while you, sir, had gone--not very fast--for the doctor."

The marquis looked at his mother; she turned away, looking vaguely round
her. "I must sit down," she said in a low tone, going toward the bench
on which Newman had been sitting.

"Couldn't you have spoken to me alone?" said the marquis to Newman, with
a strange look.

"Well, yes, if I could have been sure of speaking to your mother alone,
too," Newman answered. "But I have had to take you as I could get you."

Madame de Bellegarde, with a movement very eloquent of what he would
have called her "grit," her steel-cold pluck and her instinctive appeal
to her own personal resources, drew her hand out of her son's arm and
went and seated herself upon the bench. There she remained, with her
hands folded in her lap, looking straight at Newman. The expression of
her face was such that he fancied at first that she was smiling; but he
went and stood in front of her and saw that her elegant features were
distorted by agitation. He saw, however, equally, that she was resisting
her agitation with all the rigor of her inflexible will, and there was
nothing like either fear or submission in her stony stare. She had been
startled, but she was not terrified. Newman had an exasperating feeling
that she would get the better of him still; he would not have believed
it possible that he could so utterly fail to be touched by the sight of
a woman (criminal or other) in so tight a place. Madame de Bellegarde
gave a glance at her son which seemed tantamount to an injunction to be
silent and leave her to her own devices. The marquis stood beside her,
with his hands behind him, looking at Newman.

"What paper is this you speak of?" asked the old lady, with an imitation
of tranquillity which would have been applauded in a veteran actress.

"Exactly what I have told you," said Newman. "A paper written by your
husband after you had left him for dead, and during the couple of hours
before you returned. You see he had the time; you shouldn't have stayed
away so long. It declares distinctly his wife's murderous intent."

"I should like to see it," Madame de Bellegarde observed.

"I thought you might," said Newman, "and I have taken a copy." And he
drew from his waistcoat pocket a small, folded sheet.

"Give it to my son," said Madame de Bellegarde. Newman handed it to the
marquis, whose mother, glancing at him, said simply, "Look at it." M. de
Bellegarde's eyes had a pale eagerness which it was useless for him to
try to dissimulate; he took the paper in his light-gloved fingers and
opened it. There was a silence, during which he read it. He had more
than time to read it, but still he said nothing; he stood staring at it.
"Where is the original?" asked Madame de Bellegarde, in a voice which
was really a consummate negation of impatience.

"In a very safe place. Of course I can't show you that," said Newman.
"You might want to take hold of it," he added with conscious quaintness.
"But that's a very correct copy--except, of course, the handwriting. I
am keeping the original to show someone else."

M. de Bellegarde at last looked up, and his eyes were still very eager.
"To whom do you mean to show it?"

"Well, I'm thinking of beginning with the duchess," said Newman; "that
stout lady I saw at your ball. She asked me to come and see her, you
know. I thought at the moment I shouldn't have much to say to her; but
my little document will give us something to talk about."

"You had better keep it, my son," said Madame de Bellegarde.

"By all means," said Newman; "keep it and show it to your mother when
you get home."

"And after showing it to the duchess?"--asked the marquis, folding the
paper and putting it away.

"Well, I'll take up the dukes," said Newman. "Then the counts and the
barons--all the people you had the cruelty to introduce me to in a
character of which you meant immediately to deprive me. I have made out
a list."

For a moment neither Madame de Bellegarde nor her son said a word; the
old lady sat with her eyes upon the ground; M. de Bellegarde's blanched
pupils were fixed upon her face. Then, looking at Newman, "Is that all
you have to say?" she asked.

"No, I want to say a few words more. I want to say that I hope you
quite understand what I'm about. This is my revenge, you know. You have
treated me before the world--convened for the express purpose--as if I
were not good enough for you. I mean to show the world that, however bad
I may be, you are not quite the people to say it."

Madame de Bellegarde was silent again, and then she broke her silence.
Her self-possession continued to be extraordinary. "I needn't ask you
who has been your accomplice. Mrs. Bread told me that you had purchased
her services."

"Don't accuse Mrs. Bread of venality," said Newman. "She has kept your
secret all these years. She has given you a long respite. It was beneath
her eyes your husband wrote that paper; he put it into her hands with
a solemn injunction that she was to make it public. She was too
good-hearted to make use of it."

The old lady appeared for an instant to hesitate, and then, "She was my
husband's mistress," she said, softly. This was the only concession to
self-defense that she condescended to make.

"I doubt that," said Newman.

Madame de Bellegarde got up from her bench. "It was not to your opinions
I undertook to listen, and if you have nothing left but them to tell
me I think this remarkable interview may terminate." And turning to the
marquis she took his arm again. "My son," she said, "say something!"

M. de Bellegarde looked down at his mother, passing his hand over his
forehead, and then, tenderly, caressingly, "What shall I say?" he asked.

"There is only one thing to say," said the Marquise. "That it was really
not worth while to have interrupted our walk."

But the marquis thought he could improve this. "Your paper's a forgery,"
he said to Newman.

Newman shook his head a little, with a tranquil smile. "M. de
Bellegarde," he said, "your mother does better. She has done better all
along, from the first of my knowing you. You're a mighty plucky woman,
madam," he continued. "It's a great pity you have made me your enemy. I
should have been one of your greatest admirers."

"_Mon pauvre ami_," said Madame de Bellegarde to her son in French, and
as if she had not heard these words, "you must take me immediately to my
carriage."

Newman stepped back and let them leave him; he watched them a moment and
saw Madame Urbain, with her little girl, come out of a by-path to meet
them. The old lady stooped and kissed her grandchild. "Damn it, she _is_
plucky!" said Newman, and he walked home with a slight sense of being
balked. She was so inexpressively defiant! But on reflection he decided
that what he had witnessed was no real sense of security, still less a
real innocence. It was only a very superior style of brazen assurance.
"Wait till she reads the paper!" he said to himself; and he concluded
that he should hear from her soon.

He heard sooner than he expected. The next morning, before midday,
when he was about to give orders for his breakfast to be served, M. de
Bellegarde's card was brought to him. "She has read the paper and she
has passed a bad night," said Newman. He instantly admitted his visitor,
who came in with the air of the ambassador of a great power meeting the
delegate of a barbarous tribe whom an absurd accident had enabled for
the moment to be abominably annoying. The ambassador, at all events, had
passed a bad night, and his faultlessly careful toilet only threw
into relief the frigid rancor in his eyes and the mottled tones of his
refined complexion. He stood before Newman a moment, breathing quickly
and softly, and shaking his forefinger curtly as his host pointed to a
chair.

"What I have come to say is soon said," he declared "and can only be
said without ceremony."

"I am good for as much or for as little as you desire," said Newman.

The marquis looked round the room a moment, and then, "On what terms
will you part with your scrap of paper?"

"On none!" And while Newman, with his head on one side and his hands
behind him sounded the marquis's turbid gaze with his own, he added,
"Certainly, that is not worth sitting down about."

M. de Bellegarde meditated a moment, as if he had not heard Newman's
refusal. "My mother and I, last evening," he said, "talked over your
story. You will be surprised to learn that we think your little document
is--a"--and he held back his word a moment--"is genuine."

"You forget that with you I am used to surprises!" exclaimed Newman,
with a laugh.

"The very smallest amount of respect that we owe to my father's memory,"
the marquis continued, "makes us desire that he should not be held up to
the world as the author of so--so infernal an attack upon the reputation
of a wife whose only fault was that she had been submissive to
accumulated injury."

"Oh, I see," said Newman. "It's for your father's sake." And he laughed
the laugh in which he indulged when he was most amused--a noiseless
laugh, with his lips closed.

But M. de Bellegarde's gravity held good. "There are a few of my
father's particular friends for whom the knowledge of so--so unfortunate
an--inspiration--would be a real grief. Even say we firmly established
by medical evidence the presumption of a mind disordered by fever, _il
en resterait quelque chose_. At the best it would look ill in him. Very
ill!"

"Don't try medical evidence," said Newman. "Don't touch the doctors and
they won't touch you. I don't mind your knowing that I have not written
to them."

Newman fancied that he saw signs in M. de Bellegarde's discolored mask
that this information was extremely pertinent. But it may have been
merely fancy; for the marquis remained majestically argumentative. "For
instance, Madame d'Outreville," he said, "of whom you spoke yesterday. I
can imagine nothing that would shock her more."

"Oh, I am quite prepared to shock Madame d'Outreville, you know. That's
on the cards. I expect to shock a great many people."

M. de Bellegarde examined for a moment the stitching on the back of one
of his gloves. Then, without looking up, "We don't offer you money," he
said. "That we supposed to be useless."

Newman, turning away, took a few turns about the room and then came
back. "What _do_ you offer me? By what I can make out, the generosity is
all to be on my side."

The marquis dropped his arms at his side and held his head a little
higher. "What we offer you is a chance--a chance that a gentleman should
appreciate. A chance to abstain from inflicting a terrible blot upon the
memory of a man who certainly had his faults, but who, personally, had
done you no wrong."

"There are two things to say to that," said Newman. "The first is,
as regards appreciating your 'chance,' that you don't consider me a
gentleman. That's your great point you know. It's a poor rule that won't
work both ways. The second is that--well, in a word, you are talking
great nonsense!"

Newman, who in the midst of his bitterness had, as I have said, kept
well before his eyes a certain ideal of saying nothing rude, was
immediately somewhat regretfully conscious of the sharpness of these
words. But he speedily observed that the marquis took them more quietly
than might have been expected. M. de Bellegarde, like the stately
ambassador that he was, continued the policy of ignoring what was
disagreeable in his adversary's replies. He gazed at the gilded
arabesques on the opposite wall, and then presently transferred his
glance to Newman, as if he too were a large grotesque in a rather
vulgar system of chamber-decoration. "I suppose you know that as regards
yourself it won't do at all."

"How do you mean it won't do?"

"Why, of course you damn yourself. But I suppose that's in your
programme. You propose to throw mud at us; you believe, you hope, that
some of it may stick. We know, of course, it can't," explained the
marquis in a tone of conscious lucidity; "but you take the chance, and
are willing at any rate to show that you yourself have dirty hands."

"That's a good comparison; at least half of it is," said Newman. "I
take the chance of something sticking. But as regards my hands, they are
clean. I have taken the matter up with my finger-tips."

M. de Bellegarde looked a moment into his hat. "All our friends are
quite with us," he said. "They would have done exactly as we have done."

"I shall believe that when I hear them say it. Meanwhile I shall think
better of human nature."

The marquis looked into his hat again. "Madame de Cintré was extremely
fond of her father. If she knew of the existence of the few written
words of which you propose to make this scandalous use, she would demand
of you proudly for his sake to give it up to her, and she would destroy
it without reading it."

"Very possibly," Newman rejoined. "But she will not know. I was in that
convent yesterday and I know what _she_ is doing. Lord deliver us! You
can guess whether it made me feel forgiving!"

M. de Bellegarde appeared to have nothing more to suggest; but he
continued to stand there, rigid and elegant, as a man who believed that
his mere personal presence had an argumentative value. Newman
watched him, and, without yielding an inch on the main issue, felt an
incongruously good-natured impulse to help him to retreat in good order.

"Your visit's a failure, you see," he said. "You offer too little."

"Propose something yourself," said the marquis.

"Give me back Madame de Cintré in the same state in which you took her
from me."

M. de Bellegarde threw back his head and his pale face flushed. "Never!"
he said.

"You can't!"

"We wouldn't if we could! In the sentiment which led us to deprecate her
marriage nothing is changed."

"'Deprecate' is good!" cried Newman. "It was hardly worth while to come
here only to tell me that you are not ashamed of yourselves. I could
have guessed that!"

The marquis slowly walked toward the door, and Newman, following, opened
it for him. "What you propose to do will be very disagreeable," M. de
Bellegarde said. "That is very evident. But it will be nothing more."

"As I understand it," Newman answered, "that will be quite enough!"

M. de Bellegarde stood for a moment looking on the ground, as if he
were ransacking his ingenuity to see what else he could do to save his
father's reputation. Then, with a little cold sigh, he seemed to signify
that he regretfully surrendered the late marquis to the penalty of his
turpitude. He gave a hardly perceptible shrug, took his neat umbrella
from the servant in the vestibule, and, with his gentlemanly walk,
passed out. Newman stood listening till he heard the door close; then he
slowly exclaimed, "Well, I ought to begin to be satisfied now!"



CHAPTER XXV

Newman called upon the comical duchess and found her at home. An old
gentleman with a high nose and a gold-headed cane was just taking leave
of her; he made Newman a protracted obeisance as he retired, and our
hero supposed that he was one of the mysterious grandees with whom he
had shaken hands at Madame de Bellegarde's ball. The duchess, in her
armchair, from which she did not move, with a great flower-pot on one
side of her, a pile of pink-covered novels on the other, and a large
piece of tapestry depending from her lap, presented an expansive and
imposing front; but her aspect was in the highest degree gracious, and
there was nothing in her manner to check the effusion of his confidence.
She talked to him about flowers and books, getting launched with
marvelous promptitude; about the theatres, about the peculiar
institutions of his native country, about the humidity of Paris about
the pretty complexions of the American ladies, about his impressions
of France and his opinion of its female inhabitants. All this was a
brilliant monologue on the part of the duchess, who, like many of
her country-women, was a person of an affirmative rather than an
interrogative cast of mind, who made _mots_ and put them herself into
circulation, and who was apt to offer you a present of a convenient
little opinion, neatly enveloped in the gilt paper of a happy Gallicism.
Newman had come to her with a grievance, but he found himself in an
atmosphere in which apparently no cognizance was taken of grievance; an
atmosphere into which the chill of discomfort had never penetrated,
and which seemed exclusively made up of mild, sweet, stale intellectual
perfumes. The feeling with which he had watched Madame d'Outreville at
the treacherous festival of the Bellegardes came back to him; she struck
him as a wonderful old lady in a comedy, particularly well up in her
part. He observed before long that she asked him no questions about
their common friends; she made no allusion to the circumstances under
which he had been presented to her. She neither feigned ignorance of a
change in these circumstances nor pretended to condole with him upon it;
but she smiled and discoursed and compared the tender-tinted wools of
her tapestry, as if the Bellegardes and their wickedness were not of
this world. "She is fighting shy!" said Newman to himself; and, having
made the observation, he was prompted to observe, farther, how the
duchess would carry off her indifference. She did so in a masterly
manner. There was not a gleam of disguised consciousness in those
small, clear, demonstrative eyes which constituted her nearest claim to
personal loveliness, there was not a symptom of apprehension that Newman
would trench upon the ground she proposed to avoid. "Upon my word,
she does it very well," he tacitly commented. "They all hold together
bravely, and, whether anyone else can trust them or not, they can
certainly trust each other."

Newman, at this juncture, fell to admiring the duchess for her fine
manners. He felt, most accurately, that she was not a grain less urbane
than she would have been if his marriage were still in prospect; but
he felt also that she was not a particle more urbane. He had come,
so reasoned the duchess--Heaven knew why he had come, after what had
happened; and for the half hour, therefore, she would be _charmante_.
But she would never see him again. Finding no ready-made opportunity to
tell his story, Newman pondered these things more dispassionately than
might have been expected; he stretched his legs, as usual, and even
chuckled a little, appreciatively and noiselessly. And then as the
duchess went on relating a _mot_ with which her mother had snubbed the
great Napoleon, it occurred to Newman that her evasion of a chapter of
French history more interesting to himself might possibly be the result
of an extreme consideration for his feelings. Perhaps it was delicacy on
the duchess's part--not policy. He was on the point of saying something
himself, to make the chance which he had determined to give her still
better, when the servant announced another visitor. The duchess, on
hearing the name--it was that of an Italian prince--gave a little
imperceptible pout, and said to Newman, rapidly: "I beg you to remain;
I desire this visit to be short." Newman said to himself, at this, that
Madame d'Outreville intended, after all, that they should discuss the
Bellegardes together.

The prince was a short, stout man, with a head disproportionately large.
He had a dusky complexion and a bushy eyebrow, beneath which his
eye wore a fixed and somewhat defiant expression; he seemed to be
challenging you to insinuate that he was top-heavy. The duchess, judging
from her charge to Newman, regarded him as a bore; but this was not
apparent from the unchecked flow of her conversation. She made a
fresh series of _mots_, characterized with great felicity the Italian
intellect and the taste of the figs at Sorrento, predicted the ultimate
future of the Italian kingdom (disgust with the brutal Sardinian rule
and complete reversion, throughout the peninsula, to the sacred sway of
the Holy Father), and, finally, gave a history of the love affairs of
the Princess X----. This narrative provoked some rectifications on the
part of the prince, who, as he said, pretended to know something about
that matter; and having satisfied himself that Newman was in no laughing
mood, either with regard to the size of his head or anything else, he
entered into the controversy with an animation for which the duchess,
when she set him down as a bore, could not have been prepared. The
sentimental vicissitudes of the Princess X---- led to a discussion of
the heart history of Florentine nobility in general; the duchess had
spent five weeks in Florence and had gathered much information on the
subject. This was merged, in turn, in an examination of the Italian
heart _per se_. The duchess took a brilliantly heterodox view--thought
it the least susceptible organ of its kind that she had ever
encountered, related examples of its want of susceptibility, and at
last declared that for her the Italians were a people of ice. The prince
became flame to refute her, and his visit really proved charming. Newman
was naturally out of the conversation; he sat with his head a little
on one side, watching the interlocutors. The duchess, as she talked,
frequently looked at him with a smile, as if to intimate, in the
charming manner of her nation, that it lay only with him to say
something very much to the point. But he said nothing at all, and at
last his thoughts began to wander. A singular feeling came over him--a
sudden sense of the folly of his errand. What under the sun had he to
say to the duchess, after all? Wherein would it profit him to tell
her that the Bellegardes were traitors and that the old lady, into the
bargain was a murderess? He seemed morally to have turned a sort of
somersault, and to find things looking differently in consequence. He
felt a sudden stiffening of his will and quickening of his reserve. What
in the world had he been thinking of when he fancied the duchess could
help him, and that it would conduce to his comfort to make her think ill
of the Bellegardes? What did her opinion of the Bellegardes matter to
him? It was only a shade more important than the opinion the Bellegardes
entertained of her. The duchess help him--that cold, stout, soft,
artificial woman help him?--she who in the last twenty minutes had built
up between them a wall of polite conversation in which she evidently
flattered herself that he would never find a gate. Had it come to
that--that he was asking favors of conceited people, and appealing for
sympathy where he had no sympathy to give? He rested his arms on his
knees, and sat for some minutes staring into his hat. As he did so his
ears tingled--he had come very near being an ass. Whether or no the
duchess would hear his story, he wouldn't tell it. Was he to sit
there another half hour for the sake of exposing the Bellegardes? The
Bellegardes be hanged! He got up abruptly, and advanced to shake hands
with his hostess.

"You can't stay longer?" she asked very graciously.

"I am afraid not," he said.

She hesitated a moment, and then, "I had an idea you had something
particular to say to me," she declared.

Newman looked at her; he felt a little dizzy; for the moment he seemed
to be turning his somersault again. The little Italian prince came to
his help: "Ah, madam, who has not that?" he softly sighed.

"Don't teach Mr. Newman to say _fadaises_," said the duchess. "It is his
merit that he doesn't know how."

"Yes, I don't know how to say _fadaises_," said Newman, "and I don't
want to say anything unpleasant."

"I am sure you are very considerate," said the duchess with a smile; and
she gave him a little nod for good-bye with which he took his departure.

Once in the street, he stood for some time on the pavement, wondering
whether, after all, he was not an ass not to have discharged his pistol.
And then again he decided that to talk to anyone whomsoever about
the Bellegardes would be extremely disagreeable to him. The least
disagreeable thing, under the circumstances, was to banish them from his
mind, and never think of them again. Indecision had not hitherto
been one of Newman's weaknesses, and in this case it was not of long
duration. For three days after this he did not, or at least he tried not
to, think of the Bellegardes. He dined with Mrs. Tristram, and on her
mentioning their name, he begged her almost severely to desist. This
gave Tom Tristram a much-coveted opportunity to offer his condolences.

He leaned forward, laying his hand on Newman's arm compressing his lips
and shaking his head. "The fact is my dear fellow, you see, that you
ought never to have gone into it. It was not your doing, I know--it was
all my wife. If you want to come down on her, I'll stand off; I give you
leave to hit her as hard as you like. You know she has never had a word
of reproach from me in her life, and I think she is in need of something
of the kind. Why didn't you listen to _me?_ You know I didn't believe in
the thing. I thought it at the best an amiable delusion. I don't profess
to be a Don Juan or a gay Lothario,--that class of man, you know; but I
do pretend to know something about the harder sex. I have never disliked
a woman in my life that she has not turned out badly. I was not at all
deceived in Lizzie, for instance; I always had my doubts about her.
Whatever you may think of my present situation, I must at least admit
that I got into it with my eyes open. Now suppose you had got into
something like this box with Madame de Cintré. You may depend upon it
she would have turned out a stiff one. And upon my word I don't see
where you could have found your comfort. Not from the marquis, my dear
Newman; he wasn't a man you could go and talk things over with in a
sociable, common-sense way. Did he ever seem to want to have you on the
premises--did he ever try to see you alone? Did he ever ask you to come
and smoke a cigar with him of an evening, or step in, when you had been
calling on the ladies, and take something? I don't think you would have
got much encouragement out of _him_. And as for the old lady, she struck
one as an uncommonly strong dose. They have a great expression here, you
know; they call it 'sympathetic.' Everything is sympathetic--or ought
to be. Now Madame de Bellegarde is about as sympathetic as that
mustard-pot. They're a d--d cold-blooded lot, any way; I felt it awfully
at that ball of theirs. I felt as if I were walking up and down in the
Armory, in the Tower of London! My dear boy, don't think me a vulgar
brute for hinting at it, but you may depend upon it, all they wanted
was your money. I know something about that; I can tell when people
want one's money! Why they stopped wanting yours I don't know; I suppose
because they could get someone else's without working so hard for it. It
isn't worth finding out. It may be that it was not Madame de Cintré that
backed out first, very likely the old woman put her up to it. I suspect
she and her mother are really as thick as thieves, eh? You are well out
of it, my boy; make up your mind to that. If I express myself strongly
it is all because I love you so much; and from that point of view I may
say I should as soon have thought of making up to that piece of pale
high-mightiness as I should have thought of making up to the Obelisk in
the Place de la Concorde."

Newman sat gazing at Tristram during this harangue with a lack-lustre
eye; never yet had he seemed to himself to have outgrown so completely
the phase of equal comradeship with Tom Tristram. Mrs. Tristram's glance
at her husband had more of a spark; she turned to Newman with a slightly
lurid smile. "You must at least do justice," she said, "to the felicity
with which Mr. Tristram repairs the indiscretions of a too zealous
wife."

But even without the aid of Tom Tristram's conversational felicities,
Newman would have begun to think of the Bellegardes again. He could
cease to think of them only when he ceased to think of his loss and
privation, and the days had as yet but scantily lightened the weight
of this incommodity. In vain Mrs. Tristram begged him to cheer up; she
assured him that the sight of his countenance made her miserable.

"How can I help it?" he demanded with a trembling voice. "I feel like
a widower--and a widower who has not even the consolation of going to
stand beside the grave of his wife--who has not the right to wear so
much mourning as a weed on his hat. I feel," he added in a moment "as if
my wife had been murdered and her assassins were still at large."

Mrs. Tristram made no immediate rejoinder, but at last she said, with
a smile which, in so far as it was a forced one, was less successfully
simulated than such smiles, on her lips, usually were; "Are you very
sure that you would have been happy?"

Newman stared a moment, and then shook his head. "That's weak," he said;
"that won't do."

"Well," said Mrs. Tristram with a more triumphant bravery, "I don't
believe you would have been happy."

Newman gave a little laugh. "Say I should have been miserable, then;
it's a misery I should have preferred to any happiness."

Mrs. Tristram began to muse. "I should have been curious to see; it
would have been very strange."

"Was it from curiosity that you urged me to try and marry her?"

"A little," said Mrs. Tristram, growing still more audacious. Newman
gave her the one angry look he had been destined ever to give her,
turned away and took up his hat. She watched him a moment, and then
she said, "That sounds very cruel, but it is less so than it sounds.
Curiosity has a share in almost everything I do. I wanted very much to
see, first, whether such a marriage could actually take place; second,
what would happen if it should take place."

"So you didn't believe," said Newman, resentfully.

"Yes, I believed--I believed that it would take place, and that you
would be happy. Otherwise I should have been, among my speculations,
a very heartless creature. _But_," she continued, laying her hand upon
Newman's arm and hazarding a grave smile, "it was the highest flight
ever taken by a tolerably bold imagination!"

Shortly after this she recommended him to leave Paris and travel for
three months. Change of scene would do him good, and he would forget his
misfortune sooner in absence from the objects which had witnessed it. "I
really feel," Newman rejoined, "as if to leave _you_, at least, would
do me good--and cost me very little effort. You are growing cynical, you
shock me and pain me."

"Very good," said Mrs. Tristram, good-naturedly or cynically, as may be
thought most probable. "I shall certainly see you again."

Newman was very willing to get away from Paris; the brilliant streets he
had walked through in his happier hours, and which then seemed to wear
a higher brilliancy in honor of his happiness, appeared now to be in
the secret of his defeat and to look down upon it in shining mockery. He
would go somewhere; he cared little where; and he made his preparations.
Then, one morning, at haphazard, he drove to the train that would
transport him to Boulogne and dispatch him thence to the shores of
Britain. As he rolled along in the train he asked himself what had
become of his revenge, and he was able to say that it was provisionally
pigeon-holed in a very safe place; it would keep till called for.

He arrived in London in the midst of what is called "the season," and
it seemed to him at first that he might here put himself in the way
of being diverted from his heavy-heartedness. He knew no one in all
England, but the spectacle of the mighty metropolis roused him somewhat
from his apathy. Anything that was enormous usually found favor with
Newman, and the multitudinous energies and industries of England stirred
within him a dull vivacity of contemplation. It is on record that the
weather, at that moment, was of the finest English quality; he took
long walks and explored London in every direction; he sat by the hour in
Kensington Gardens and beside the adjoining Drive, watching the people
and the horses and the carriages; the rosy English beauties, the
wonderful English dandies, and the splendid flunkies. He went to the
opera and found it better than in Paris; he went to the theatre and
found a surprising charm in listening to dialogue the finest points
of which came within the range of his comprehension. He made several
excursions into the country, recommended by the waiter at his hotel,
with whom, on this and similar points, he had established confidential
relations. He watched the deer in Windsor Forest and admired the Thames
from Richmond Hill; he ate white-bait and brown-bread and butter
at Greenwich, and strolled in the grassy shadow of the cathedral of
Canterbury. He also visited the Tower of London and Madame Tussaud's
exhibition. One day he thought he would go to Sheffield, and then,
thinking again, he gave it up. Why should he go to Sheffield? He had
a feeling that the link which bound him to a possible interest in the
manufacture of cutlery was broken. He had no desire for an "inside view"
of any successful enterprise whatever, and he would not have given the
smallest sum for the privilege of talking over the details of the most
"splendid" business with the shrewdest of overseers.

One afternoon he had walked into Hyde Park, and was slowly threading
his way through the human maze which edges the Drive. The stream of
carriages was no less dense, and Newman, as usual, marveled at the
strange, dingy figures which he saw taking the air in some of the
stateliest vehicles. They reminded him of what he had read of eastern
and southern countries, in which grotesque idols and fetiches were
sometimes taken out of their temples and carried abroad in golden
chariots to be displayed to the multitude. He saw a great many pretty
cheeks beneath high-plumed hats as he squeezed his way through serried
waves of crumpled muslin; and sitting on little chairs at the base of
the great serious English trees, he observed a number of quiet-eyed
maidens who seemed only to remind him afresh that the magic of beauty
had gone out of the world with Madame de Cintré: to say nothing of other
damsels, whose eyes were not quiet, and who struck him still more as a
satire on possible consolation. He had been walking for some time, when,
directly in front of him, borne back by the summer breeze, he heard a
few words uttered in that bright Parisian idiom from which his ears had
begun to alienate themselves. The voice in which the words were spoken
made them seem even more like a thing with which he had once been
familiar, and as he bent his eyes it lent an identity to the commonplace
elegance of the back hair and shoulders of a young lady walking in the
same direction as himself. Mademoiselle Nioche, apparently, had come to
seek a more rapid advancement in London, and another glance led Newman
to suppose that she had found it. A gentleman was strolling beside her,
lending a most attentive ear to her conversation and too entranced to
open his lips. Newman did not hear his voice, but perceived that
he presented the dorsal expression of a well-dressed Englishman.
Mademoiselle Nioche was attracting attention: the ladies who passed her
turned round to survey the Parisian perfection of her toilet. A great
cataract of flounces rolled down from the young lady's waist to Newman's
feet; he had to step aside to avoid treading upon them. He stepped
aside, indeed, with a decision of movement which the occasion scarcely
demanded; for even this imperfect glimpse of Miss Noémie had excited
his displeasure. She seemed an odious blot upon the face of nature;
he wanted to put her out of his sight. He thought of Valentin de
Bellegarde, still green in the earth of his burial--his young life
clipped by this flourishing impudence. The perfume of the young lady's
finery sickened him; he turned his head and tried to deflect his course;
but the pressure of the crowd kept him near her a few minutes longer, so
that he heard what she was saying.

"Ah, I am sure he will miss me," she murmured. "It was very cruel in me
to leave him; I am afraid you will think me a very heartless creature.
He might perfectly well have come with us. I don't think he is very
well," she added; "it seemed to me to-day that he was not very gay."

Newman wondered whom she was talking about, but just then an opening
among his neighbors enabled him to turn away, and he said to himself
that she was probably paying a tribute to British propriety and playing
at tender solicitude about her papa. Was that miserable old man still
treading the path of vice in her train? Was he still giving her the
benefit of his experience of affairs, and had he crossed the sea to
serve as her interpreter? Newman walked some distance farther, and then
began to retrace his steps taking care not to traverse again the orbit
of Mademoiselle Nioche. At last he looked for a chair under the trees,
but he had some difficulty in finding an empty one. He was about to give
up the search when he saw a gentleman rise from the seat he had been
occupying, leaving Newman to take it without looking at his neighbors.
He sat there for some time without heeding them; his attention was lost
in the irritation and bitterness produced by his recent glimpse of Miss
Noémie's iniquitous vitality. But at the end of a quarter of an hour,
dropping his eyes, he perceived a small pug-dog squatted upon the path
near his feet--a diminutive but very perfect specimen of its interesting
species. The pug was sniffing at the fashionable world, as it passed
him, with his little black muzzle, and was kept from extending his
investigation by a large blue ribbon attached to his collar with an
enormous rosette and held in the hand of a person seated next to
Newman. To this person Newman transferred his attention, and immediately
perceived that he was the object of all that of his neighbor, who was
staring up at him from a pair of little fixed white eyes. These eyes
Newman instantly recognized; he had been sitting for the last quarter of
an hour beside M. Nioche. He had vaguely felt that someone was staring
at him. M. Nioche continued to stare; he appeared afraid to move, even
to the extent of evading Newman's glance.

"Dear me," said Newman; "are you here, too?" And he looked at his
neighbor's helplessness more grimly than he knew. M. Nioche had a new
hat and a pair of kid gloves; his clothes, too, seemed to belong to a
more recent antiquity than of yore. Over his arm was suspended a lady's
mantilla--a light and brilliant tissue, fringed with white lace--which
had apparently been committed to his keeping; and the little dog's blue
ribbon was wound tightly round his hand. There was no expression of
recognition in his face--or of anything indeed save a sort of feeble,
fascinated dread; Newman looked at the pug and the lace mantilla, and
then he met the old man's eyes again. "You know me, I see," he pursued.
"You might have spoken to me before." M. Nioche still said nothing,
but it seemed to Newman that his eyes began faintly to water. "I didn't
expect," our hero went on, "to meet you so far from--from the Café de la
Patrie." The old man remained silent, but decidedly Newman had touched
the source of tears. His neighbor sat staring and Newman added, "What's
the matter, M. Nioche? You used to talk--to talk very prettily. Don't
you remember you even gave lessons in conversation?"

At this M. Nioche decided to change his attitude. He stooped and picked
up the pug, lifted it to his face and wiped his eyes on its little soft
back. "I'm afraid to speak to you," he presently said, looking over the
puppy's shoulder. "I hoped you wouldn't notice me. I should have moved
away, but I was afraid that if I moved you would notice me. So I sat
very still."

"I suspect you have a bad conscience, sir," said Newman.

The old man put down the little dog and held it carefully in his lap.
Then he shook his head, with his eyes still fixed upon his interlocutor.
"No, Mr. Newman, I have a good conscience," he murmured.

"Then why should you want to slink away from me?"

"Because--because you don't understand my position."

"Oh, I think you once explained it to me," said Newman. "But it seems
improved."

"Improved!" exclaimed M. Nioche, under his breath. "Do you call this
improvement?" And he glanced at the treasures in his arms.

"Why, you are on your travels," Newman rejoined. "A visit to London in
the season is certainly a sign of prosperity."

M. Nioche, in answer to this cruel piece of irony, lifted the puppy up
to his face again, peering at Newman with his small blank eye-holes.
There was something almost imbecile in the movement, and Newman hardly
knew whether he was taking refuge in a convenient affectation of
unreason, or whether he had in fact paid for his dishonor by the loss of
his wits. In the latter case, just now, he felt little more tenderly
to the foolish old man than in the former. Responsible or not, he was
equally an accomplice of his detestably mischievous daughter. Newman
was going to leave him abruptly, when a ray of entreaty appeared to
disengage itself from the old man's misty gaze. "Are you going away?" he
asked.

"Do you want me to stay?" said Newman.

"I should have left you--from consideration. But my dignity suffers at
your leaving me--that way."

"Have you got anything particular to say to me?"

M. Nioche looked around him to see that no one was listening, and then
he said, very softly but distinctly, "I have _not_ forgiven her!"

Newman gave a short laugh, but the old man seemed for the moment not to
perceive it; he was gazing away, absently, at some metaphysical image
of his implacability. "It doesn't much matter whether you forgive her or
not," said Newman. "There are other people who won't, I assure you."

"What has she done?" M. Nioche softly questioned, turning round again.
"I don't know what she does, you know."

"She has done a devilish mischief; it doesn't matter what," said Newman.
"She's a nuisance; she ought to be stopped."

M. Nioche stealthily put out his hand and laid it very gently upon
Newman's arm. "Stopped, yes," he whispered. "That's it. Stopped short.
She is running away--she must be stopped." Then he paused a moment and
looked round him. "I mean to stop her," he went on. "I am only waiting
for my chance."

"I see," said Newman, laughing briefly again. "She is running away and
you are running after her. You have run a long distance!"

But M. Nioche stared insistently: "I shall stop her!" he softly
repeated.

He had hardly spoken when the crowd in front of them separated, as if by
the impulse to make way for an important personage. Presently, through
the opening, advanced Mademoiselle Nioche, attended by the gentleman
whom Newman had lately observed. His face being now presented to our
hero, the latter recognized the irregular features, the hardly more
regular complexion, and the amiable expression of Lord Deepmere. Noémie,
on finding herself suddenly confronted with Newman, who, like M. Nioche,
had risen from his seat, faltered for a barely perceptible instant. She
gave him a little nod, as if she had seen him yesterday, and then, with
a good-natured smile, "_Tiens_, how we keep meeting!" she said. She
looked consummately pretty, and the front of her dress was a wonderful
work of art. She went up to her father, stretching out her hands for the
little dog, which he submissively placed in them, and she began to
kiss it and murmur over it: "To think of leaving him all alone,--what
a wicked, abominable creature he must believe me! He has been very
unwell," she added, turning and affecting to explain to Newman, with a
spark of infernal impudence, fine as a needlepoint, in her eye. "I don't
think the English climate agrees with him."

"It seems to agree wonderfully well with his mistress," said Newman.

"Do you mean me? I have never been better, thank you," Miss Noémie
declared. "But with _milord_"--and she gave a brilliant glance at her
late companion--"how can one help being well?" She seated herself in the
chair from which her father had risen, and began to arrange the little
dog's rosette.

Lord Deepmere carried off such embarrassment as might be incidental
to this unexpected encounter with the inferior grace of a male and
a Briton. He blushed a good deal, and greeted the object of his late
momentary aspiration to rivalry in the favor of a person other than
the mistress of the invalid pug with an awkward nod and a rapid
ejaculation--an ejaculation to which Newman, who often found it hard to
understand the speech of English people, was able to attach no meaning.
Then the young man stood there, with his hand on his hip, and with a
conscious grin, staring askance at Miss Noémie. Suddenly an idea seemed
to strike him, and he said, turning to Newman, "Oh, you know her?"

"Yes," said Newman, "I know her. I don't believe you do."

"Oh dear, yes, I do!" said Lord Deepmere, with another grin. "I knew
her in Paris--by my poor cousin Bellegarde, you know. He knew her, poor
fellow, didn't he? It was she, you know, who was at the bottom of his
affair. Awfully sad, wasn't it?" continued the young man, talking off
his embarrassment as his simple nature permitted. "They got up some
story about its being for the Pope; about the other man having said
something against the Pope's morals. They always do that, you know. They
put it on the Pope because Bellegarde was once in the Zouaves. But it
was about _her_ morals--_she_ was the Pope!" Lord Deepmere pursued,
directing an eye illumined by this pleasantry toward Mademoiselle
Nioche, who was bending gracefully over her lap-dog, apparently absorbed
in conversation with it. "I dare say you think it rather odd that I
should--ah--keep up the acquaintance," the young man resumed; "but she
couldn't help it, you know, and Bellegarde was only my twentieth cousin.
I dare say you think it's rather cheeky, my showing with her in Hyde
Park, but you see she isn't known yet, and she's in such very good
form----" And Lord Deepmere's conclusion was lost in the attesting
glance which he again directed toward the young lady.

Newman turned away; he was having more of her than he relished. M.
Nioche had stepped aside on his daughter's approach, and he stood there,
within a very small compass, looking down hard at the ground. It had
never yet, as between him and Newman, been so apposite to place on
record the fact that he had not forgiven his daughter. As Newman was
moving away he looked up and drew near to him, and Newman, seeing the
old man had something particular to say, bent his head for an instant.

"You will see it some day in the papers," murmured M. Nioche.

Our hero departed to hide his smile, and to this day, though the
newspapers form his principal reading, his eyes have not been arrested
by any paragraph forming a sequel to this announcement.



CHAPTER XXVI

In that uninitiated observation of the great spectacle of English life
upon which I have touched, it might be supposed that Newman passed a
great many dull days. But the dullness of his days pleased him; his
melancholy, which was settling into a secondary stage, like a healing
wound, had in it a certain acrid, palatable sweetness. He had company in
his thoughts, and for the present he wanted no other. He had no desire
to make acquaintances, and he left untouched a couple of notes of
introduction which had been sent him by Tom Tristram. He thought a great
deal of Madame de Cintré--sometimes with a dogged tranquillity which
might have seemed, for a quarter of an hour at a time, a near neighbor
to forgetfulness. He lived over again the happiest hours he had
known--that silver chain of numbered days in which his afternoon visits,
tending sensibly to the ideal result, had subtilized his good humor to
a sort of spiritual intoxication. He came back to reality, after such
reveries, with a somewhat muffled shock; he had begun to feel the need
of accepting the unchangeable. At other times the reality became an
infamy again and the unchangeable an imposture, and he gave himself up
to his angry restlessness till he was weary. But on the whole he fell
into a rather reflective mood. Without in the least intending it or
knowing it, he attempted to read the moral of his strange misadventure.
He asked himself, in his quieter hours, whether perhaps, after all,
he _was_ more commercial than was pleasant. We know that it was in
obedience to a strong reaction against questions exclusively commercial
that he had come out to pick up æsthetic entertainment in Europe; it may
therefore be understood that he was able to conceive that a man might be
too commercial. He was very willing to grant it, but the concession, as
to his own case, was not made with any very oppressive sense of shame.
If he had been too commercial, he was ready to forget it, for in being
so he had done no man any wrong that might not be as easily forgotten.
He reflected with sober placidity that at least there were no monuments
of his "meanness" scattered about the world. If there was any reason in
the nature of things why his connection with business should have cast a
shadow upon a connection--even a connection broken--with a woman justly
proud, he was willing to sponge it out of his life forever. The thing
seemed a possibility; he could not feel it, doubtless, as keenly as some
people, and it hardly seemed worth while to flap his wings very hard to
rise to the idea; but he could feel it enough to make any sacrifice that
still remained to be made. As to what such sacrifice was now to be
made to, here Newman stopped short before a blank wall over which there
sometimes played a shadowy imagery. He had a fancy of carrying out his
life as he would have directed it if Madame de Cintré had been left to
him--of making it a religion to do nothing that she would have disliked.
In this, certainly, there was no sacrifice; but there was a pale,
oblique ray of inspiration. It would be lonely entertainment--a good
deal like a man talking to himself in the mirror for want of better
company. Yet the idea yielded Newman several half hours' dumb exaltation
as he sat, with his hands in his pockets and his legs stretched,
over the relics of an expensively poor dinner, in the undying English
twilight. If, however, his commercial imagination was dead, he felt no
contempt for the surviving actualities begotten by it. He was glad he
had been prosperous and had been a great man of business rather than a
small one; he was extremely glad he was rich. He felt no impulse to sell
all he had and give to the poor, or to retire into meditative economy
and asceticism. He was glad he was rich and tolerably young; if it was
possible to think too much about buying and selling, it was a gain to
have a good slice of life left in which not to think about them. Come,
what should he think about now? Again and again Newman could think only
of one thing; his thoughts always came back to it, and as they did so,
with an emotional rush which seemed physically to express itself in a
sudden upward choking, he leaned forward--the waiter having left the
room--and, resting his arms on the table, buried his troubled face.

He remained in England till midsummer, and spent a month in the country,
wandering about cathedrals, castles, and ruins. Several times, taking
a walk from his inn into meadows and parks, he stopped by a well-worn
stile, looked across through the early evening at a gray church tower,
with its dusky nimbus of thick-circling swallows, and remembered that
this might have been part of the entertainment of his honeymoon. He had
never been so much alone or indulged so little in accidental dialogue.
The period of recreation appointed by Mrs. Tristram had at last expired,
and he asked himself what he should do now. Mrs. Tristram had written
to him, proposing to him that he should join her in the Pyrenees; but
he was not in the humor to return to France. The simplest thing was to
repair to Liverpool and embark on the first American steamer. Newman
made his way to the great seaport and secured his berth; and the night
before sailing he sat in his room at the hotel, staring down, vacantly
and wearily, at an open portmanteau. A number of papers were lying
upon it, which he had been meaning to look over; some of them might
conveniently be destroyed. But at last he shuffled them roughly
together, and pushed them into a corner of the valise; they were
business papers, and he was in no humor for sifting them. Then he drew
forth his pocket-book and took out a paper of smaller size than those he
had dismissed. He did not unfold it; he simply sat looking at the back
of it. If he had momentarily entertained the idea of destroying it, the
idea quickly expired. What the paper suggested was the feeling that
lay in his innermost heart and that no reviving cheerfulness could long
quench--the feeling that after all and above all he was a good fellow
wronged. With it came a hearty hope that the Bellegardes were enjoying
their suspense as to what he would do yet. The more it was prolonged the
more they would enjoy it! He had hung fire once, yes; perhaps, in his
present queer state of mind, he might hang fire again. But he restored
the little paper to his pocket-book very tenderly, and felt better for
thinking of the suspense of the Bellegardes. He felt better every time
he thought of it after that, as he sailed the summer seas. He landed
in New York and journeyed across the continent to San Francisco, and
nothing that he observed by the way contributed to mitigate his sense of
being a good fellow wronged.

He saw a great many other good fellows--his old friends--but he told
none of them of the trick that had been played him. He said simply that
the lady he was to have married had changed her mind, and when he
was asked if he had changed his own, he said, "Suppose we change the
subject." He told his friends that he had brought home no "new ideas"
from Europe, and his conduct probably struck them as an eloquent proof
of failing invention. He took no interest in chatting about his affairs
and manifested no desire to look over his accounts. He asked half a
dozen questions which, like those of an eminent physician inquiring
for particular symptoms, showed that he still knew what he was talking
about; but he made no comments and gave no directions. He not only
puzzled the gentlemen on the stock exchange, but he was himself
surprised at the extent of his indifference. As it seemed only to
increase, he made an effort to combat it; he tried to interest himself
and to take up his old occupations. But they appeared unreal to him; do
what he would he somehow could not believe in them. Sometimes he began
to fear that there was something the matter with his head; that his
brain, perhaps, had softened, and that the end of his strong activities
had come. This idea came back to him with an exasperating force.
A hopeless, helpless loafer, useful to no one and detestable to
himself--this was what the treachery of the Bellegardes had made of him.
In his restless idleness he came back from San Francisco to New York,
and sat for three days in the lobby of his hotel, looking out through
a huge wall of plate-glass at the unceasing stream of pretty girls in
Parisian-looking dresses, undulating past with little parcels nursed
against their neat figures. At the end of three days he returned to San
Francisco, and having arrived there he wished he had stayed away. He
had nothing to do, his occupation was gone, and it seemed to him that
he should never find it again. He had nothing to do _here_, he sometimes
said to himself; but there was something beyond the ocean that he
was still to do; something that he had left undone experimentally and
speculatively, to see if it could content itself to remain undone. But
it was not content: it kept pulling at his heartstrings and thumping at
his reason; it murmured in his ears and hovered perpetually before his
eyes. It interposed between all new resolutions and their fulfillment;
it seemed like a stubborn ghost, dumbly entreating to be laid. Till that
was done he should never be able to do anything else.

One day, toward the end of the winter, after a long interval, he
received a letter from Mrs. Tristram, who apparently was animated by a
charitable desire to amuse and distract her correspondent. She gave
him much Paris gossip, talked of General Packard and Miss Kitty Upjohn,
enumerated the new plays at the theatre, and enclosed a note from her
husband, who had gone down to spend a month at Nice. Then came her
signature, and after this her postscript. The latter consisted of these
few lines: "I heard three days since from my friend, the Abbé Aubert,
that Madame de Cintré last week took the veil at the Carmelites. It was
on her twenty-seventh birthday, and she took the name of her, patroness,
St. Veronica. Sister Veronica has a lifetime before her!"

This letter came to Newman in the morning; in the evening he started for
Paris. His wound began to ache with its first fierceness, and during his
long bleak journey the thought of Madame de Cintré's "life-time,"
passed within prison walls on whose outer side he might stand, kept him
perpetual company. Now he would fix himself in Paris forever; he would
extort a sort of happiness from the knowledge that if she was not
there, at least the stony sepulchre that held her was. He descended,
unannounced, upon Mrs. Bread, whom he found keeping lonely watch in his
great empty saloons on the Boulevard Haussmann. They were as neat as a
Dutch village, Mrs. Bread's only occupation had been removing individual
dust-particles. She made no complaint, however, of her loneliness, for
in her philosophy a servant was but a mysteriously projected machine,
and it would be as fantastic for a housekeeper to comment upon a
gentleman's absences as for a clock to remark upon not being wound up.
No particular clock, Mrs. Bread supposed, went all the time, and no
particular servant could enjoy all the sunshine diffused by the career
of an exacting master. She ventured, nevertheless, to express a modest
hope that Newman meant to remain a while in Paris. Newman laid his hand
on hers and shook it gently. "I mean to remain forever," he said.

He went after this to see Mrs. Tristram, to whom he had telegraphed, and
who expected him. She looked at him a moment and shook her head. "This
won't do," she said; "you have come back too soon." He sat down and
asked about her husband and her children, tried even to inquire about
Miss Dora Finch. In the midst of this--"Do you know where she is?" he
asked, abruptly.

Mrs. Tristram hesitated a moment; of course he couldn't mean Miss Dora
Finch. Then she answered, properly: "She has gone to the other house--in
the Rue d'Enfer." After Newman had sat a while longer looking very
sombre, she went on: "You are not so good a man as I thought. You are
more--you are more--"

"More what?" Newman asked.

"More unforgiving."

"Good God!" cried Newman; "do you expect me to forgive?"

"No, not that. I have forgiven, so of course you can't. But you might
forget! You have a worse temper about it than I should have expected.
You look wicked--you look dangerous."

"I may be dangerous," he said; "but I am not wicked. No, I am not
wicked." And he got up to go. Mrs. Tristram asked him to come back to
dinner; but he answered that he did not feel like pledging himself to
be present at an entertainment, even as a solitary guest. Later in the
evening, if he should be able, he would come.

He walked away through the city, beside the Seine and over it, and took
the direction of the Rue d'Enfer. The day had the softness of early
spring; but the weather was gray and humid. Newman found himself in a
part of Paris which he little knew--a region of convents and prisons, of
streets bordered by long dead walls and traversed by a few wayfarers.
At the intersection of two of these streets stood the house of the
Carmelites--a dull, plain edifice, with a high-shouldered blank wall
all round it. From without Newman could see its upper windows, its steep
roof and its chimneys. But these things revealed no symptoms of human
life; the place looked dumb, deaf, inanimate. The pale, dead, discolored
wall stretched beneath it, far down the empty side street--a vista
without a human figure. Newman stood there a long time; there were
no passers; he was free to gaze his fill. This seemed the goal of his
journey; it was what he had come for. It was a strange satisfaction, and
yet it was a satisfaction; the barren stillness of the place seemed to
be his own release from ineffectual longing. It told him that the woman
within was lost beyond recall, and that the days and years of the future
would pile themselves above her like the huge immovable slab of a tomb.
These days and years, in this place, would always be just so gray and
silent. Suddenly, from the thought of their seeing him stand there,
again the charm utterly departed. He would never stand there again; it
was gratuitous dreariness. He turned away with a heavy heart, but with
a heart lighter than the one he had brought. Everything was over, and he
too at last could rest. He walked down through narrow, winding streets
to the edge of the Seine again, and there he saw, close above him, the
soft, vast towers of Notre Dame. He crossed one of the bridges and stood
a moment in the empty place before the great cathedral; then he went
in beneath the grossly-imaged portals. He wandered some distance up the
nave and sat down in the splendid dimness. He sat a long time; he heard
far-away bells chiming off, at long intervals, to the rest of the world.
He was very tired; this was the best place he could be in. He said no
prayers; he had no prayers to say. He had nothing to be thankful for,
and he had nothing to ask; nothing to ask, because now he must take care
of himself. But a great cathedral offers a very various hospitality, and
Newman sat in his place, because while he was there he was out of the
world. The most unpleasant thing that had ever happened to him had
reached its formal conclusion, as it were; he could close the book and
put it away. He leaned his head for a long time on the chair in front of
him; when he took it up he felt that he was himself again. Somewhere
in his mind, a tight knot seemed to have loosened. He thought of the
Bellegardes; he had almost forgotten them. He remembered them as people
he had meant to do something to. He gave a groan as he remembered what
he had meant to do; he was annoyed at having meant to do it; the bottom,
suddenly, had fallen out of his revenge. Whether it was Christian
charity or unregenerate good nature--what it was, in the background of
his soul--I don't pretend to say; but Newman's last thought was that of
course he would let the Bellegardes go.

If he had spoken it aloud he would have said that he didn't want to hurt
them. He was ashamed of having wanted to hurt them. They had hurt him,
but such things were really not his game. At last he got up and came out
of the darkening church; not with the elastic step of a man who had won
a victory or taken a resolve, but strolling soberly, like a good-natured
man who is still a little ashamed.

Going home, he said to Mrs. Bread that he must trouble her to put back
his things into the portmanteau she had unpacked the evening before. His
gentle stewardess looked at him through eyes a trifle bedimmed. "Dear
me, sir," she exclaimed, "I thought you said that you were going to stay
forever."

"I meant that I was going to stay away forever," said Newman kindly. And
since his departure from Paris on the following day he has certainly not
returned. The gilded apartments I have so often spoken of stand ready to
receive him; but they serve only as a spacious residence for Mrs. Bread,
who wanders eternally from room to room, adjusting the tassels of the
curtains, and keeps her wages, which are regularly brought her by
a banker's clerk, in a great pink Sèvres vase on the drawing-room
mantelshelf.

Late in the evening Newman went to Mrs. Tristram's and found Tom
Tristram by the domestic fireside. "I'm glad to see you back in Paris,"
this gentleman declared. "You know it's really the only place for a
white man to live." Mr. Tristram made his friend welcome, according
to his own rosy light, and offered him a convenient _résumé_ of the
Franco-American gossip of the last six months. Then at last he got up
and said he would go for half an hour to the club. "I suppose a man
who has been for six months in California wants a little intellectual
conversation. I'll let my wife have a go at you."

Newman shook hands heartily with his host, but did not ask him to
remain; and then he relapsed into his place on the sofa, opposite to
Mrs. Tristram. She presently asked him what he had done after leaving
her. "Nothing particular," said Newman.

"You struck me," she rejoined, "as a man with a plot in his head. You
looked as if you were bent on some sinister errand, and after you had
left me I wondered whether I ought to have let you go."

"I only went over to the other side of the river--to the Carmelites,"
said Newman.

Mrs. Tristram looked at him a moment and smiled. "What did you do there?
Try to scale the wall?"

"I did nothing. I looked at the place for a few minutes and then came
away."

Mrs. Tristram gave him a sympathetic glance. "You didn't happen to meet
M. de Bellegarde," she asked, "staring hopelessly at the convent wall as
well? I am told he takes his sister's conduct very hard."

"No, I didn't meet him, I am happy to say," Newman answered, after a
pause.

"They are in the country," Mrs. Tristram went on; "at--what is the name
of the place?--Fleurières. They returned there at the time you left
Paris and have been spending the year in extreme seclusion. The little
marquise must enjoy it; I expect to hear that she has eloped with her
daughter's music-master!"

Newman was looking at the light wood-fire; but he listened to this with
extreme interest. At last he spoke: "I mean never to mention the name of
those people again, and I don't want to hear anything more about them."
And then he took out his pocket-book and drew forth a scrap of paper. He
looked at it an instant, then got up and stood by the fire. "I am going
to burn them up," he said. "I am glad to have you as a witness. There
they go!" And he tossed the paper into the flame.

Mrs. Tristram sat with her embroidery needle suspended. "What is that
paper?" she asked.

Newman leaning against the fireplace, stretched his arms and drew a
longer breath than usual. Then after a moment, "I can tell you now," he
said. "It was a paper containing a secret of the Bellegardes--something
which would damn them if it were known."

Mrs. Tristram dropped her embroidery with a reproachful moan. "Ah, why
didn't you show it to me?"

"I thought of showing it to you--I thought of showing it to everyone. I
thought of paying my debt to the Bellegardes that way. So I told them,
and I frightened them. They have been staying in the country as you tell
me, to keep out of the explosion. But I have given it up."

Mrs. Tristram began to take slow stitches again. "Have you quite given
it up?"

"Oh yes."

"Is it very bad, this secret?"

"Yes, very bad."

"For myself," said Mrs. Tristram, "I am sorry you have given it up. I
should have liked immensely to see your paper. They have wronged me too,
you know, as your sponsor and guarantee, and it would have served for my
revenge as well. How did you come into possession of your secret?"

"It's a long story. But honestly, at any rate."

"And they knew you were master of it?"

"Oh, I told them."

"Dear me, how interesting!" cried Mrs. Tristram. "And you humbled them
at your feet?"

Newman was silent a moment. "No, not at all. They pretended not to
care--not to be afraid. But I know they did care--they were afraid."

"Are you very sure?"

Newman stared a moment. "Yes, I'm sure."

Mrs. Tristram resumed her slow stitches. "They defied you, eh?"

"Yes," said Newman, "it was about that."

"You tried by the threat of exposure to make them retract?" Mrs.
Tristram pursued.

"Yes, but they wouldn't. I gave them their choice, and they chose to
take their chance of bluffing off the charge and convicting me of fraud.
But they _were_ frightened," Newman added, "and I have had all the
vengeance I want."

"It is most provoking," said Mrs. Tristram, "to hear you talk of the
'charge' when the charge is burnt up. Is it quite consumed?" she asked,
glancing at the fire.

Newman assured her that there was nothing left of it. "Well then," she
said, "I suppose there is no harm in saying that you probably did not
make them so very uncomfortable. My impression would be that since, as
you say, they defied you, it was because they believed that, after
all, you would never really come to the point. Their confidence, after
counsel taken of each other, was not in their innocence, nor in their
talent for bluffing things off; it was in your remarkable good nature!
You see they were right."

Newman instinctively turned to see if the little paper was in fact
consumed; but there was nothing left of it.





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