Part 6 out of 8
should think it a large life to revolve in varnished boots
between the Rue d'Anjou and the Rue de l'Universite, 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 naivete 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.
Noemie 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 Noemie 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 Noemie clapping
her little hands. "C'est ca 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 Noemie'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 Noemie 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 Cintre, 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
Cintre's presentiment as pointedly as perfect security demanded.
Before he went away he asked Madame de Cintre 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 Noemie 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
"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 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.
Newman went the next morning to see Madame de Cintre, timing his visit
so as to arrive after the noonday breakfast. In the court of the hotel,
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 Fleurieres? 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 Cintre'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 Cintre; 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 arm-chair, 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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Cintre. "But I am going away."
"Where are you going?"
"To the country, to Fleurieres; to be alone."
"To leave me?" said Newman, slowly.
"I can't see you, now," said Madame de Cintre.
"I am ashamed," said Madame de Cintre, 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 Cintre.
"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-by." 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-by."
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 Cintre,
"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,
"Ah, you have used authority," Newman exclaimed. "They have
used authority," he went on, turning to Madame de Cintre.
"What is it? how did they use it?"
"My mother commanded," said Madame de Cintre.
"Commanded you to give me up--I see. And you obey--I see.
But why do you obey?" asked Newman.
Madame de Cintre 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 Cintre;
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 portiere 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.
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 any one 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 Cintre'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--Fleurieres?
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 Cintre."
"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 Fleurieres; 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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Chateau de Fleurieres.
But he wrote to Madame de Cintre 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.
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 mustache, 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 cure of the nearest French village, who spent an hour with him.
The cure 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 proces-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 cure 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 finger tips.
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 down-stairs
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 Helvetique 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 cure, 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 mustache 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 Cintre
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 grave-yard 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 "Faublas."
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 today.
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 Cintre had left Paris.
"She went yesterday to Fleurieres."
"Yesterday--to Fleurieres? Why did she go to Fleurieres?
What day is this? What day was yesterday? Ah, then I shan't
see her," said Valentin, sadly. "Fleurieres 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 Fleurieres?"
"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-by 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 Fleurieres 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."
"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 what 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'Universite 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 any one 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 down-stairs. 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 Fleurieres.
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--
"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 Cintre 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.
Voila!" 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 some one outside. This was M. le cure,
who carried in his hand an object unknown to Newman, and covered
with a white napkin. M. le cure 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 arm-chair, 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 cure 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 cure, who looked back at him;
and then the doctor and the cure, together, gave a shrug.
"Alone--for five minutes," Valentin repeated. "Please leave us."
The cure 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."
"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 key-hole. 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 Fleurieres.
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 Fleurieres.
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, every one.
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 cure reentered, bearing his
sacred vessel and followed by the three gentlemen and by Valentin's servant.
It was almost processional.
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 Cintre, 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
church-yard of Fleurieres, 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 Cintre's
answer to his letter enabled him to time his arrival at Fleurieres.
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 Fleurieres.
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 inclose 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 Cintre a note,
saying that he would call upon her in the afternoon, and in
accordance with this he again took his way to Fleurieres.
He left his vehicle at the tavern in the village street,
and obeyed the simple instructions which were given him for
finding the chateau.
"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 chateau 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 facade 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 chateau.
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 chateau he waited for some moments, and this
gave him a chance to observe that Fleurieres 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'Universite. 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 chateau. 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 Cintre 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 Cintre.
"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 Cintre, 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 Cintre 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 Cintre shook her head. "I remember; I was sorry afterwards."
"You were sorry when she came down and put on the thumb-screws.
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 Cintre 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 Cintre 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 Cintre, "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 Cintre 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 Cintre. "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 Cintre 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 Cintre.
"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 Cintre.
"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 Cintre'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--