NEWMAN returned to Paris the second day after his interview with Mrs. Bread. The morrow he had spent at Poitiers, reading over and over again the little document which he had lodged in his pocket-book, and thinking what he would do in the circumstances and how he would do it. He would not have said that Poitiers was an amusing place; yet the day seemed very short. Domiciled once more in the Boulevard Haussinann, he walked over to the Rue de l’Université and inquired of Madame de Bellegarde’s portress whether the marquise had come back. The portress told him that she had arrived, with M. le Marquis, on the preceding day, and further informed him that if he desired to enter, Madame de Bellegarde and her son were both at home. As she said these words the little white-faced old woman who peered out of the dusky gate-house of the Hotel de Bellegarde gave a small, wicked smile, — a smile which seemed to Newman to mean, “ Go in if you dare! ” She was evidently versed in the current domestic history ; she was placed where she could feel the pulse of the house. Newman stood a moment, twisting his mustache and looking at her; then he abruptly turned away. But this was not because be was afraid to go in, — though he doubted whether, if he did so, he should be able to make his way, unchallenged, into the presence of Madame de Cintré’s relatives. Confidence — excessive confidence, perhaps — quite as much as timidity prompted his retreat. He was nursing his thunder-bolt; he loved it; he was unwilling to part with it. He seemed to be holding it aloft in the rumbling, vaguely-flashing air, directly over the heads of his victims, and he fancied he could see their pale,.upturned faces. Few specimens of the human countenance had ever given him such pleasure as these, lighted in the lurid fashion I have hinted at, and he was disposed to sip the cup of contemplative revenge in a leisurely fashion. It must be added, too, that he was at a loss to see exactly how he could arrange to witness the operation of his thunder. To send in his card to Madame de Bellegarde would be a waste of ceremony; she would certainly decline to receive him. On the other hand he could not force his way into her presence. It annoyed him keenly to think that he might be reduced to the blind satisfaction of writing her a letter; but he consoled himself, in a measure, with the reflection that a letter might lead to an interview. He went home, and feeling rather tired — nursing a vengeance was, it must be confessed, a rather fatiguing process; it took a good deal out of one — flung himself into one of his brocaded fauteuils, stretched his legs, thrust his hands into his pockets, and, while he watched the reflected sunset fading from the ornate house-tops on the opposite side of the Boulevard, began mentally to compose a cool epistle to Madame de Bellegarde. While he was so occupied his servant threw open the door and announced ceremoniously,
“ Madame Bread! ”
Newman roused himself, expectantly, and in a few moments perceived upon his threshold the worthy woman with whom he had conversed to such good purpose on the starlit hill-top of Fleurières. Mrs. Bread had made for this visit the same toilet as for her former expedition. Newman was struck with her distinguished appearance. His lamp was not lit, and as her large, grave face gazed at him through the light dusk from under the shadow of her ample bonnet he felt the incongruity of such a person presenting herself as a servant. He greeted her with high geniality and bade her come in and sit down and make herself comfortable. There was something which might have touched the springs both of mirth and of melancholy in the ancient maidenliness with which Mrs. Bread endeavored to comply with these directions. She was not playing at being fluttered, which would have been simply ridiculous; she was doing her best to carry herself as a person so humble that, for her, even embarrassment would have been pretentious; but evidently she had never dreamed of its being in her horoscope to pay a visit, at night-fall, to a friendly single gentleman who lived in theatrical-looking rooms on one of the new Boulevards.
“ I truly hope I am not forgetting my place, sir,” she murmured.
“ Forgetting your place ? ” cried Newman. “ Why, you are remembering it. This is your place, you know. You are already in my service; your wages, as housekeeper, began a fortnight ago. I can tell you my house wants keeping! Why don’t you take off your bonnet and stay? ”
“ Take off my bonnet? ” said Mrs. Bread, with timid literalness. “ Oh, sir, I have n’t my cap. And with your leave, sir, I could n’t keep house in my best gown.”
“ Never mind your gown,” said Newman, cheerfully. “ You shall have a better gown than that.”
Mrs. Bread stared solemnly and then stretched her hands over her lustreless satin skirt, as if the perilous side of her situation were defining itself. “ Oh, sir, I am fond of my own clothes,” she murmured.
“ I hope you have left those wicked people, at any rate,” said Newman.
“ Well, sir, here I am!” said Mrs. Bread. “ That’s all I can tell you. Here I sit poor Catherine Bread. It’s a strange place for me to be. I don’t know myself; I never supposed I was so hold. But indeed, sir, I have gone as far as my own strength will cany me.”
“ Oh, come, Mrs. Bread,” said Newman, almost caressingly, “ don’t make yourself uncomfortable. Now ’s the time to feel lively, you know.”
She began to speak again with a trembling voice. “ I think it would be more respectable if I could — if I could” — and her voice trembled to a pause.
“ If you could give up this sort of thing altogether? ” said Newman, kindly, trying to anticipate her meaning, which he supposed might be a wish to retire from service.
“ If I could give up everything, sir! All I should ask is a decent Protestant burial.”
“ Burial! ” cried Newman, with a burst of laughter. “ Why, to bury you now would be a sad piece of extravagance. It’s only rascals who have to he buried to get respectable. Honest folks like you and me can live our time out, — and live together. Come! did you bring your baggage? ”
“ My box is locked and corded ; but I have n’t yet spoken to my lady.”
“ Speak to her, then, and have done with it. I should like to have your chance! ” cried Newman.
“ I would gladly give it you, sir. I have passed some weary hours in my lady’s dressing-room; but this will be one of the longest. She will tax me with ingratitude. ”
“ Well,” said Newman, “ so long as you can tax her with murder ” —
“ Oh, sir, I can’t; not I,” sighed Mrs. Bread.
“ You don’t mean to say anything about it? So much the better. Leave that to me.”
“ If she calls me a thankless old woman,” said Mrs. Bread, “I shall have nothing to say. But it is better so,” she softly added. “ She shall be ray lady to the last. That will be more respectable.”
“ And then you will come to me and I shall, be your gentleman,” said Newman; “that will be more respectable still!”
Mrs. Bread rose, with lowered eyes, and stood a moment; then, looking up, she rested her eyes upon Newman’s face. The disordered proprieties were somehow settling to rest. She looked at Newman so long and so fixedly, with such a dull, intense devotedness, that he himself might have had a pretext for embarrassment, At lust she said gently, “You are not looking well, sir.”
“ That’s natural enough,” said Newman. “ I have nothing to feel well about. To he very indifferent and very fierce, very dull and very jovial, very sick and very lively, all at once, — why, it rather mixes one up.”
Mrs. Bread gave a noiseless sigh. “ I can tell you something that will make you feel duller still, if you want to feel all one way. About Madame de Cintré.”
“ What can you tell me? ” Newman demanded. “ Not that yon have seen her ? ’ ’
She shook her head. “ No, indeed, sir, nor ever shall. That’s the dullness of it. Nor my lady. Nor M. de Bellegarde.”
“ You mean that she is kept so close.”
“ Close, close,” said Mrs. Bread, very softly.
These words, for an instant, seemed to check the beating of Newman’s heart. He leaned back in his chair, staring up at the old woman. “ They have tried to see her, and she would n’t — she could n’t? ”
“She refused—forever! I had it from my lady’s own maid,” said Mrs. Bread, “ who had it from my lady. To speak of it to such a person my lady must have felt the shock. Madame de Cintré won’t see them now, and now is her only chance. A while hence she will have no chance. ”
“You mean the other women — the mothers, the daughters, the sisters; what is it they call them ? — won’t let her ? ’ ’
“ It is what they call the rule of the house, — or of the order, I believe,” said Mrs. Bread. “ There is no rule so strict as that of the Carmelites. Tire bad women in the reformatories are fine ladies to them. They wear old brown cloaks — so the femme de chambre told me — that you would n’t use for a horse blanket. And the poor countess was so fond of soft-feeling dresses; she would never have anything stiff! They sleep on the ground,” Mrs. Bread went on; “they are no better, no better,” — and she hesitated for a comparison, — “ they are no better than tinkers’ wives. They give up everything, down to the very name their poor old nurses called them by. They give up father and mother, brother and sister, — to say nothing of other persons,” Mrs. Bread delicately added. “ They wear a shroud under their brown cloaks and a rope round their waists, and they get up on winter nights and go off into cold places to pray to the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary is a hard mistress! ”
Mrs. Bread, dwelling on these terrible facts, sat dry-eyed and pale, with her hands clasped in her satin lap. Newman gave a melancholy groan and fell forward, leaning his head in his hands. There was a long silence, broken only by the ticking of the great gilded clock on the chimney-piece.
“ Where is this place, — where is the convent? ” Newman asked at last, looking up.
“ There are two houses,” said Mrs, Bread. “ I found out; I thought you would like to know, —though it ’s poor comfort, I think. One is in the Avenue de Messine; they have learned that Madame de Cintré is there. The other is in the Rue d’Enfer. That’s a terrible name; I suppose you know what it means. ”
Newman got up and walked away to the end of his long room. When he came back Mrs. Bread had got up, and stood by the fire with folded hands. “Tell me this,” he said. “Can I get near her, — even if I don’t see her? Can I look through a grating, or some such thing, at the place where she is? ”
It is said that all women love a lover, and Mrs. Bread’s sense of the preëstablished harmony which kept servants in their “ place,” even as planets in their orbits (not that Mrs. Bread had ever consciously likened herself to a planet), barely availed to temper the maternal melancholy with which she leaned her head on one side and gazed at her new employer. She probably felt for the moment as if, forty years before, she had held him also in her arms. “That wouldn’t help you, sir. It would only make her seem further away.”
“ I want to go there, any way,” said Newman. “Avenue de Messine, you say? And what is it they call themselves? ”
“ Carmelites,” said Mrs. Bread.
“ I shall remember that.”
Mrs. Bread hesitated a moment, and then, “It’s my duty to tell you this, sir,” she went on. “ The convent has a chapel, and some people are admitted on Sunday to the Mass. You don’t see the poor creatures that are shut up there, but I am told you can hear them sing. It ’s a wonder they have any heart for singing! Some Sunday I shall make bold to go. It seems to me I should know her voice in fifty.”
Newman looked at his visitor very gratefully; then he held out his hand and shook hers. “ Thank you,” he said. “If any one can get in, I will.” A moment later Mrs. Bread proposed, deferentially, to retire, but he checked her and put a lighted candle into her hand. “ There are half a dozen rooms there I don’t use,” he said, pointing through an open door. “ Go and look at them and take your choice. You can live in the one you like best.” From this bewildering opportunity Mrs. Bread at first recoiled; but finally, yielding to Newman’s gentle, reassuring push, she wandered off into the dusk with her tremulous taper. She remained absent a quarter of an hour, during which Newman paced up and down, stopped occasionally to look out of the window at the lights on the Boulevard, and then resumed his walk. Mrs. Bread’s relish for her investigations apparently increased as she proceeded; but at last she reappeared and deposited her candlestick on the chimney-piece.
“ Well, have you picked one out?” asked Newman.
“ A room, sir? They are all too fine for a dingy old body like me. There is n’t one that has n’t a bit of gilding.”
“It’s only tinsel, Mrs. Bread,” said Newman. “ If you stay round awhile it will all peel off of itself.” And he gave a dismal smile.
“ Oh, sir, there are things enough peeling off already!” rejoined Mrs. Bread, with a head-shake. “ Since I was there I thought I would look about me. I don’t believe you know, sir. The corners are most dreadful. You do want a housekeeper, that you do; you want a tidy Englishwoman that isn’t above taking hold of a broom.”
Newman assured her that he suspected, if he had not measured, his domestic abuses, and that to reform them was a mission worthy of her powers. She held her candlestick aloft again and looked round the salon with invidious glances; then she intimated that she accepted the mission, and that its sacred character would sustain her in her rupture with Madame de Bellegarde. With this she courtesied herself away.
She came back the next day with her worldly goods, and Newman, going into his drawing-room, found her upon her aged knees before a divan, sewing up some detached fringe. He questioned her as to her leave-taking with her late mistress, and she said it had proved easier than she feared. “ I was perfectly civil, sir, but the Lord helped me to remember that a good woman has no call to tremble before a bad one.”
“ I should think so! ” cried Newman. “ And does she know you have come to me?”
“ She asked me where I was going, and I mentioned your name,” said Mrs. Bread.
“ What did she say to that? ”
“ She looked at me very hard, and she turned very red. Then she bade me leave her. I was all ready to go, and I had got the coachman, who is an Englishman, to bring down my poor box and to fetch me a cab. But when I went down myself to the gate I found it closed. My lady had sent orders to the porter not to let me pass, and by the same orders the porter’s wife — she is a dreadful sly old body—had gone out in a cab to fetch home M. de Bellegarde from his club.”
Newman slapped his knee. “ She is scared! she is scared!” he cried, exultantly.
“ I was frightened, too, sir,” said Mrs. Bread, “but I was also mightily vexed. I took it very high with the porter and asked him by what right he used violence to an honorable Englishwoman who had lived in the house for thirty years before he was heard of. Oh, sir, I was very grand, aud I brought the man down. He drew his bolts and let me out and I promised the cabman something handsome if he would drive fast. But he was terribly slow; it seemed as if we should never reach your blessed door. I am all of a tremble still; it took me five minutes, just now, to thread my needle. ”
Newman told her, with a gleeful laugh, that if she chose she might have a little maid on purpose to thread her needles; and he went away murmuring to himself again that the old woman was scared, — she was scared!
He had not shown Mrs. Tristram the little paper that he carried in his pocketbook, but since his return to Paris he had seen her several times, and she had told him that he seemed to her to be in a strange way, — an even stranger way than his sad situation made natural. Had his disappointment gone to his head? He looked like a man who was going to be ill, and yet she had never seen him more restless and active. One day he would sit hanging his head and looking as if he were firmly resolved never to smile again; on another he would indulge in laughter that was almost unseemly and make jokes that were bad even for him. If he was trying to carry off his sorrow, he at such times really went too far. She begged him of all things not to be “ strange.” Feeling in a measure responsible as she did for the affair which had turned out so ill for him, she could endure anything but his strangeness. He might be melancholy if he would, or he might be stoical; he might be cross and cantankerous with her and ask her why she had ever dared to meddle with his destiny: to this she would submit; for this she would make allowances. Only, for Heaven’s sake, let him not be incoherent. That would be extremely unpleasant. It was like people talking in their sleep; they always frightened her. And Mrs. Tristram intimated that, taking very high ground as regards the moral obligation which events had laid upon her, she proposed not to rest quiet until she should have confronted him with the least inadequate substitute for Madame de Cintré that two hemispheres contained.
“ Oh,” Said Newman, “ we are square now, and I guess we had better not open a new account! You may bury me some day, but you shall never marry me. It’s too rough. I hope, at any rate,” he added, “ that there is nothing incoherent in this, — that I want to go next Sunday to the Carmelite chapel in the Avenue de Messine. You know one of the Catholic ministers—an abbé, is that it? — I have seen him here, you know; that motherly old gentleman with the big waist band. Please ask him if I need a special leave to go in, and if I do, beg him to obtain it for me.”
Mrs. Tristram gave expression to the liveliest joy. “ I am so glad you have asked me to do something!” she cried. “ You shall get into the chapel if the abbé is excommunicated for his share in it.” And two days afterwards she told him that it was all arranged; the abbé was enchanted to serve him, and if he would present himself civilly at the convent gate there would be no difficulty.
Sunday was as yet two days off; but meanwhile, to beguile his impatience, Newman took his way to the Avenue de Messine and got what comfort be could in staring at the blank outer wall of Madame de Cintré’s present residence. The street in question, as some travelers will remember, adjoins tlie Pare Monceau, which is one of the prettiest corners of Paris. The quarter has an air of modern opulence and convenience which seems at variance with the ascetic institution, and the impression made upon Newman’s gloomily-irritated gaze by the fresh - looking, windowless expanse behind which the woman he loved was perhaps even then pledging herself to pass the rest of her days was less exasperating than he had feared. The place suggested a convent with the modern improvements, — an asylum in which privacy, though unbroken, might be not quite identical with privation, and meditation, though monotonous, might be of a cheerful cast. And yet he knew the case was otherwise; only at present it was not a reality to him. It was too strange and too mocking to be real; it was like a page torn out of a romance, with no context in his own experience.
On Sunday morning, at the hour which Mrs. Tristram had indicated, he rang at the gate in the blank wall. It instantly opened and admitted him into a clean, cold-looking court, from beyond which a dull, plain edifice looked down upon him. A robust lay sister with a cheerful countenance emerged from a porter’s lodge, and, on his stating his errand, pointed to the open door of the chapel, an edifice which occupied the right side of the court and was preceded by a high flight of steps. Newman ascended the steps and immediately entered the open door. Service had not vet begun; the place was dimly lighted and it was some moments before he could distinguish its features. Then he saw it was divided by a large close iron screen into two unequal portions. The altar was on the hither side of the screen, and between it and the entrance were disposed several benches and chairs. Three or four of these were occupied by vague, motionless figures, — figures that he presently perceived to be women, deeply absorbed in their devotion. The place seemed to Newman very cold; the smell of the incense itself was cold. Besides this there was a twinkle of tapers and here and there a glow of colored glass. Newman seated himself; the praying women kept still, with their hacks turned. He saw they were visitors like himself and he would have liked to sec their faces; for he believed that they were the mourning mothers and sisters of other women who had had the same pitiless courage as Madame de Cintré. But they were better off than be, for they at least shared the faith to which the others had sacrificed themselves. Three or four persons came in; two of them were elderly gentlemen. Every one was very quiet. Newman fastened his eyes upon the screen behind the altar. That was the convent, the real convent, the place where she was. But he could see nothing ; no light came through the crevices, He got up and approached the partition very gently, trying to look through. But behind it there was darkness, with nothing stirring. He went back to his place, and after that a priest and two altar boys came in and began to say mass. Newman watched their genuflectious and gyrations with a grim, still enmity; they seemed aids and abettors of Madame de Cintré’s desertion; they were mouthing and droning out their triumph. The priest’s long, dismal intonings acted upon his nerves and deepened his wrath; there was something defiant in his unintelligible drawl; it seemed meant for Newman himself. Suddenly there arose from the depths of the chapel, from behind the inexorable grating, a sound which drew his attention from the altar, — the sound of a strange, lugubrious chant, uttered by women’s voices. It began softly, but it presently grew louder, and as it increased it became more of a wail and a dirge. It was the chant of the Carmelite nuns, their only human utterance. It was their dirge over their buried affections and over the vanity of earthly desires. At first Newman was bewildered — almost stunned — by the strangeness of the sound; then, as he comprehended its meaning, he listened intently and his heart began to throb. He listened for Madame de Cintré’s voice, and in the very heart of the tuneless harmony he imagined he made it out. (We are obliged to believe that he was wrong, inasmuch as she had obviously not yet had time to become a member of the invisible sisterhood.) The chant kept on, mechanical and monotonous, with dismal repetitions and despairing cadences. It was hideous, it was horrible; as it continued, Newman felt that he needed all his self-control. He was growing more agitated; he felt tears in his eyes. At last, as in its full force the thought came over him that this confused, impersonal wail was all that either he or the world she had deserted should ever hear of the voice he had found so sweet, he felt that he could bear it no longer. He rose abruptly and made his way out. On the threshold he paused, listened again to the dreary strain, and then hastily descended into the court. As he did so he saw that the good sister with the high-colored cheeks and the fan-like frill to her coiffure, who had admitted him, was in conference at the gate with two persons who had just come in. A second glance informed him that these persons were Madame de Bellegarde and her son, and they were about to avail themselves of that method of approach to Madame de Cintré which Newman had found but a mockery of consolation. As he crossed the court M. de Bellegarde recognized him; the marquis was coming to the steps, leading his mother. The old lady also gave Newman a look, and it resembled that of her son. Both faces expressed a franker perturbation, something more akin to the humbleness of dismay, than Newman had yet seen in them. Evidently he startled the mother and son, and they had not their grand behavior immediately in hand. Newman hurried past them, guided only by the desire to get out of the convent walls and into the street. The gate opened itself at his approach; he strode over the threshold and it closed behind him. A carriage, which appeared to have been standing there, was just turning away from the sidewalk. Newman looked at it. for a moment, blankly; then he became conscious, through the dusky mist that swam before his eyes, that a lady seated in it was bowing to him. The vehicle had turned away before he recognized her; it was an ancient landau with one half the cover lowered. The lady’s bow was very positive and accompanied with a smile; a little giid was seated beside her. He raised his hat, and then the lady bade the coachman stop. The carriage halted again beside the pavement, and she sat there and beckoned to Newman, —beckoned with the demonstrative grace of Madame Urbain de Bellegarde. Newman hesitated a moment before he obeyed her summons; during this moment he had time to curse his stupidity for letting the others escape him. He had been wondering how he could get at them; fool that he was for not stopping them then and there! What better place than beneath the very prison walls to which they hail consigned the promise of his joy? He had been too bewildered to stop them, but now he felt ready to wait for them at the gate. Madame Urbain, with a certain attractive petulance, beckoned to him again, and this time he went over to the carriage. She leaned out and gave him her hand, looking at him kindly, and smiling.
“Come,” she said, “you don’t include me in your wrath. I had nothing to do with it. ”
“ Oh, I don’t suppose you could have prevented it,” Newman answered in a tone which was not that of studied gallantry.
“ What you say is too true for me to resent the small account it makes of my influence. I forgive you, at any rate, because you look as if you had seen a ghost.”
“ I have! ” said Newman.
“ I am glad, then, T did n’t go in with Madame de Bellegarde and my husband. You must have seen them, eh? Was the meeting affectionate? Did you hear the chanting? They say it’s like the lamentations of the damned. I would n’t go in: one is certain to hear that soon enough. Poor Claire, — in a white shroud and a big brown cloak! That’s the toilette of the Carmelites, you know. Well, she was always fond of long, loose things. But I must not speak of her to you, only I must say that I am very sorry for you, that if I could have helped you I would, and that I think every one has been very shabby, I was afraid of it, you know; I felt it in the air for a fortnight before it came. When I saw you at my mother-in-law’s ball, taking it all so easily, I felt as if you were dancing on your grave. But, what could I do? I wish you all the good I can think of. You will say that is n’t much! Yes; they have been very shabby; I am not a bit afraid to say it; I assure you every one thinks so. We are not all like that. I am sorry I am not going to see you again; you know I think you very good company. I would prove it by asking you to get into the carriage and drive with me for a quarter of an hour, while T wait for my mother-in-law. Only if we were seen — considering what has passed, and every one knows you have been turned away — it might be thought I was going a little too far, even for me. But I shall see you sometimes, — somewhere, eh? You know”—this was said in English —“we have a plan for a little amusement.”
Newman stood there with his hand on the carriage-door, listening to this consolatory murmur with an unlighted eye. He hardly knew what Madame de Bellegarde was saying; he was only conscious that she was chattering ineffectively. But suddenly it occurred to him that, with her pretty professions, there was a way of making her effective; she might help him to get at the old woman and the marquis. “ They are coming back soon, — your companions? ” he said. “ You are waiting for them ? ”
“ They hear the mass out; there is nothing to keep them longer. Claire has refused to see them.”
“ I want to speak to them,” said Newman ; “ and you can help me, you can do me a favor. Delay your return for five minutes and give me a chance at them. I will wait for them here.”
Madame de Bellegarde clasped her hands with a tender grimace. “ My poor friend, what do you want to do to them? To beg them to come back to you? It will be wasted words. They will never come back! ”
“ I want to speak to them, all the same. Pray do what 1 ask you. Stay away and leave them to me for five minutes; you need n’t be afraid; I shall not be violent; I am very quiet.”
“Yes, you look very quiet! If they had le cœur tendre you would move them. But they have n’t! However, I will do better for you than what you proposed. The understanding is not that I shall come back for them. I am going into the Parc Monceau with my little girl to give her a walk, and my mother-in-law, who comes so rarely into this quarter, is to profit by the same opportunity to take the air. We are to wait for her in the park, where my husband is to bring her to us. Follow me now; just within the gates I shall get out of my carriage. Sit down on a chair in some quiet corner and I will bring them near you. There’s devotion for you! Le reste vous regarde.”
This proposal seemed to Newman extremely felicitous; it revived his drooping spirit, and he reflected that Madame Urbain was not such a goose as she seemed. He promised immediately to overtake her, and the carriage drove away.
The Parc Monceau is a very pretty piece of landscape-gardening, but Newman, passing into it, bestowed little attention upon its elegant vegetation, which was full of the freshness of spring. He found Madame de Bellegarde promptly, seated in one of the quiet corners of which she had spoken, while before her, in the alley, her little girl, attended by the footman and the little pug-dog, walked up and down as if she were taking a lesson in deportment. Newman sat down beside the mamma, and she talked a great deal, apparently with the design of convincing him that —if he would only see it — poor dear Claire did not belong to the most fascinating type of woman. She was too tall and thin, too stiff and cold ; her month was too wide and her nose too narrow. She had no dimples anywhere. And then she was eccentric, eccentric in cold blood ; she was an Anglaise, after all. Newman was very impatient; he was counting the minutes until his victims should reappear. He sat silent, leaning upon his cane, looking absently and insensibly at the little marquise. At length Madame do Bellegarde said she would walk toward the gate of the park and meet her companions; but before she went she dropped her eyes and, after playing a moment with the lace of her sleeve, looked up again at Newman.
“Do you remember,” she asked, “the promise you made methree weeks ago ? ” And then, as Newman, vainly consulting his memory, was obliged to confess that the promise had escaped it, she declared that he had made her, at the time, a very queer answer, — an answer at which, viewing it in the light of the sequel, she had fair ground for taking offense. “ You promised to take me to Bullier’s after your marriage. After your marriage, — you made a great point of that. Three days after that your marriage was broken off. Do you know, when I heard the news, the first thing I said to myself? ‖ Oh Heaven, now he won’t go with me to Bullier’s ! ’ And I really began to wonder if you had not been expecting the rupture.”
“ Oh, my dear lady,” murmured Newman, looking down the path to see if the others were not coming.
“ I shall be good-natured,” said Madame de Bellegarde. “ One must not ask too much of a gentleman who is in love with a cloistered nun. Besides, I can’t go to Bullier’s while we are in mourning. But I have n’t given it up for that. The parlie is arranged; I have my cavalier. Lord Deepmere, if you please! He has gone back to his dear Dublin; but. a few months hence I am to name any evening and he will come over from Ireland, on purpose. That’s what I call gallantry! ”
Shortly after this Madame de Bellegarde walked away with her little girl. Newman sat in his place; the time seemed terribly long. He felt how fiercely his quarter of an hour in the convent chapel had raked over the glowing coals of his resentment. Madame de Bellegarde kept him waiting, but she proved as good as her word. At last she reappeared at the end of the path, with her little girl and her footman; beside her slowly walked her husband, with his mother on his arm. They were a long time advancing, during which Newman sat unmoved. Tingling as he was with passion, it was extremely characteristic of him that he was able to modulate his expression of it, as he would have turned down a flaring gas-burner. His native coolness, shrewdness, and deliberateness, his life-long submissiveness to the sentiment that words were acts and acts were steps in life, and that in this matter of taking steps curveting and prancing were exclusively reserved for quadrupeds and foreigners,— all this admonished him that rightful wrath had no connection with being a fool and indulging in spectacular violence. So as he rose, when old Madame de Bellegarde and her son were close to him, he only felt very tall and light. He had been sitting beside some shrubbery, in such a way as not to be noticeable at a distance ; but M. de Bellegarde had evidently already perceived him. His mother and he were holding their course, but Newman stepped in front of them, and they were obliged to pause. He lifted his hat slightly, and looked at them for a moment; they were pale with amazement and disgust.
“ Excuse me for stopping you,” he said in a low tone, “ hut I must profit by the occasion. I have ten words to say to you. Will you listen to them? ”
The marquis glared at him and then turned to his mother. “ Can Mr. Newman possibly have anything to say that is worth our listening to ? ”
“I assure you I have something,” said Newman; “besides, it is my duty to say it. It’s a notification, — a warning.”
“Your duty?” said old Madame de Bellegarde, her thin lips curving like scorched paper. “ That is your affair, not ours. ”
Madame Urbain meanwhile had seized her little girl by the hand, with a gesture of surprise and impatience which struck Newman, intent as he was upon his own words, with its dramatic effectiveness. “If Mr. Newman is going to make a scene in public,” she exclaimed, “ I will take my poor child out of the mêlée! She is too young to see such naughtiness!” and she instantly resumed her walk.
“You had much better listen to me,” Newman went on. “ Whether you do or not, things will be disagreeable for you; but at any rate you will be prepared.”
“We have already heard something of your threats,” said the marquis, “ and you know what we think of them.”
“ You think a good deal more than you admit. A moment,” Newman added in reply to an exclamation of the old lady. “ I remember perfectly that we are in a public place, and you see I am very quiet. I am not going to tell your secret to the passers-by; I shall keep it, to begin with, for certain picked listeners. Any one who observes us will think that we are having a friendly chat, and that I am complimenting yon, madam, on your venerable virtues.”
The marquis gave three short sharp raps on the ground with his stick. “ I demand of you to step out of our path! ” he hissed.
Newman instantly complied, and M. de Bellegarde stepped forward with Ins mother. Then Newman said, “ Half an hour hence Madame de Bellegarde will regret that she did n’t learn exactly what I mean.”
The marquise had taken a few steps, but at these words she paused, looking at Newman with eyes like two scintillating globules of ice. “ You are like a peddler with something to sell,” she said, with a little cold laugh which only partially concealed the tremor in her voice.
“ Oh, no, not to sell,” Newman rejoined; “ I give it to you for nothing.” And he approached nearer to her, looking her straight in the eyes. “ You killed your husband,” he said, almost in a whisper. “ That is, you tried once and failed, and then, without trying, you succeeded.”
Madame de Bellegarde closed her eyes and gave a little cough which, as a piece of dissimulation, struck Newman as really heroic. “Dear mother,” said the marquis, “ does this stuff amuse you so much? ”
“The rest is more amusing,” said Newman. “ You had better not lose it.”
Madame de Bellegarde opened her eyes; the scintillations had gone out of them; they were fixed and dead. But she smiled superbly with her narrow little lips and repeated Newman’s word. “ Amusing? Have I killed some one else?”
“I don’t count your daughter,” said Newman, “though I might! Your husband knew what you were doing. I have a proof of it whose existence you have never suspected.” And he turned to the marquis, who was terribly white, — whiter than Newman had ever seen any one out of a picture. “ A paper written by' the hand, and signed with the name of Henri-Urbain de Bellegarde. Written after you, madam, had left him for dead, and while you, sir, had gone — not very fast — for the doctor.”
The marquis looked at his mother; she turned away, looking vaguely round her.
“ I must sit down,” she said in a low tone, going toward the bench on which Newman had been sitting.
“Couldn’t you have spoken to me alone?” said the marquis to Newman, with a strange look.
“ Well, yes, if I could have been sure of speaking to your mother alone, too,”
ewman answered. “But I have had to take you as I could get you.”
Madame de Bellegarde, with a movement very eloquent of wliat he would have called her “ grit,” her steel-cold pluck and her instinctive appeal to her own personal resources, drew her hand out of her son’s arm and went and seated herself upon the bench. There she remained, with her hands folded in her lap, looking straight at Newman. The expression of her face was such that he fancied at first that she was smiling; hut he went and stood in front of her and saw that her elegant features were distorted by agitation. He saw, however, equally, that she was resisting her agitation with all the rigor of her inflexible will, and there was nothing like either fear or submission in her stony stare. She had been startled, but she was not terrified. Newman had an exasperating feeling that she would get the better of him still; he would not have believed it possible that he could so utterly fail to be touched by the sight of a woman (criminal or other) in so tight a place. Madame de Bellegarde gave a glance at her son which seemed tantamount to an injunction to be silent and leave her to her own devices. The marquis stood beside her, with his hands behind him, looking at Newman.
“ What paper is this you speak of? ” asked the old lady, with an imitation of tranquillity which would have been applauded in a veteran aetress.
“ Exactly what I have told yon,” said Newman. “ A paper written by your husband after you had left him for dead, and during the couple of hours before you returned. You see he had the time; you should n't have stayed away so long. It declares distinctly his wife’s murderous intent.”
“ I should like to see it,” Madame de Bellegarde observed.
“ I thought you might,” said Newman, “and I have taken a copy.” And he drew from his waistcoat pocket a small, folded sheet.
“ Give it to my son,” said Madame de Bellegarde. Newman handed it to the marquis, whose mother, glancing at him. said simply, “ Look at it.” M. de Bellegarde’s eyes had a pale eagerness which it was useless for him to try to dissimulate; he took the paper in Ins lightgloved fingers and opened it. There was a silence, during which he read it. He had more than time to read it, but still he said nothing; he stood staring at it. “Where is the original?” asked Madame de Bellegarde, in a voice which was really a consummate negation of impatience.
“In a very safe place. Of course I can’t show you that,” said Newman. “ You might want to take hold of it,” he added with conscious quaintness. “ But that ’s a very correct copy, — except, of course, the handwriting. I am keeping the original to show some one else.”
M. de Bellegarde at last looked up and his eyes were still very eager. “ To whom do you mean to show it? ”
“ Well, I’m thinking of beginning with the duchess,” said Newman; “ that stout lady I saw at your ball. She asked me to come and see her, you know. I thought at the moment I should n’t have much to say to her; but my little document will give us something to talk about.”
“You had better keep it, my son,” said Madame de Bellegarde.
“ By all means,” said Newman; “ keep it and show it to your mother when you get home.”
“ And after showing it to the duchess?”—asked the marquis, folding the paper and putting it away.
“ Well, I ’ll take up the dukes,” said Newman. “ Then the. counts and the barons, — all the people you had the cruelty to introduce me to in a character of which you meant immediately to deprive me. I have made out a list.”
For a moment neither Madame de Bellegarde nor her son said a word; the old lady sat with her eyes upon the ground; M. de Bellegarde’s blanched pupils were fixed upon her face. Then, looking at Newman, “Is that all you have to say? ” she asked.
“ No, I want to say a few words more. I want to say that I hope you quite understand what I ’m about. This is my revenge, you know. You have treated me before the world — convened for the express purpose —as if I wore not good enough for you. I mean to show the world that, however bad I may be, you are not quite the people to say it.”
Madame de Bellegarde was silent again, and then she broke her silence. Her self-possession continued to be extraordinary. “ I need n’t ask you who has been your accomplice. Mrs. Bread told me that you had purchased her services. ’ ’
“Don’t accuse Mrs. Bread of venality,” said Newman. “ She has kept your secret all these years. She has given you a long respite. It was beneath her eyes your husband wrote that paper; he put it into her hands with a solemn injunction that she was to make it public. She was too good-hearted to make use of it.”
The old lady appeared for an instant to. hesitate, and then, “She was my husband’s mistress,” she said, softly. This was the only concession to selfdefense that she condescended to make.
“I doubt that,” said Newman.
Madame de Bellegarde got up from her bench. “ It was not to your opinions I undertook to listen, and if you have nothing left but them to tell me I think this remarkable interview may terminate.” And turning to the marquis she took his arm again. “ My son,” she said, “ say something! ”
M. de Bellegarde looked down at his mother, passing his hand over his forehead, and then, tenderly, caressingly, “ What shall I say? ” he asked.
“There is only one thing to say,” said the marquise. “ That it was really not worth while to have interrupted our walk. ”
But the marquis thought he could improve this. “ Your paper’s a forgery,” he said to Newman.
Newman shook his head a little, with a tranquil grin. “ M. de Bellegarde,” he said, “ your mother does better. She has done better all along, from the first of my knowing you. You ’re a mighty plucky woman, madam,” he continued. “ It’s a great pity you have made me your enemy. I should have been one of your greatest admirers.”
“ Mon pauvre ami,” said Madame de Bellegarde to her son in French, and as if she had not heard these words; “you must take me immediately to my carriage.”
Newman stepped back and let them leave him; he watched them a moment and saw Madame Urbain, with her little girl, come out of a by-path to meet them. The old lady stooped and kissed her grandchild. “ Damn it, she is plucky!” said Newman, and he walked home with a slight sense of being balked. She was so inexpressively defiant! But on reflection he decided that what he had witnessed was no real sense of security, still less a real innocence. It was only a very superior style of brazen assurance. “ Wait till she reads the paper! ” he said to himself; and he concluded that he should hear from her soon.
He heard sooner than he expected. The next morning, before midday, when he was about to give orders for his breakfast to be served, M. de Bellegarde’s card was brought to him. “She has read the paper and she has passed a bad night,” said Newman. He instantly admitted his visitor, who came in with the air of the ambassador of a great, power meeting the delegate of a barbarous tribe whom an absurd accident should have enabled for the moment to be abominably annoying. The ambassador, at all events, had passed a had night, and his faultlessly careful toilet only threw into relief the frigid rancor in his eyes and the mottled tones of his refined complexion. He stood before Newman a moment, breathing quickly and softly, and shaking his forefinger curtly as his host pointed to a chair.
“ What I have come to say is soon said,” he declared, “ and can only be said without ceremony.”
“ I am good for as much or for as little as you desire,” said Newman.
The marquis looked round the room a moment, and then, “ On what terms will you part with your scrap of paper? ”
“On none!” And while Newman. with his head on one side and his hands behind him sounded the marquis’s turbid gaze with his own, he added, “ Certainly, that is not worth sitting down about.”
M. de Bellegarde meditated a moment, as if he had not heard Newman’s refusal. “My mother and I, last evening,” he said, “ talked over your story. You will be surprised to learn that we think your little document is — a” — and he held back his word a moment — “ is genuine.”
“ You forget that with you I am used to surprises! ” exclaimed Newman, with a laugh.
“ The very smallest amount of respect that we owe to my father’s memory,” the marquis continued, “makes us desire that he should not be held up to the world as the author of so — so infernal an attack upon the reputation of a wife whose only fault was that she had been submissive to accumulated injury.”
“ Oh, I see,” said Newman. “It’s for your father’s sake.” And he laughed the laugh in which he indulged when he was most amused, — a noiseless laugh, with his lips closed.
But M. de Bellegarde’s gravity held good. “ There are a few of my father’s particular friends for whom the knowledge of so — so unfortunate an—inspiration — would be a real grief. Even say we firmly established by medical evidence the presumption of a mind disordered by fever, il en resterait quelque chose. At the best it would look ill in him. Very ill!”
“Don’t try medical evidence,” said Newman. “ Don’t touch the doctors and they won’t touch you. I don’t mind your knowing that I have not written to them.”
Newman fancied that he saw signs in M. de Bellegarde’s discolored mask that this information was extremely pertinent. But it may have been merely fancy; for the marquis remained majestically argumentative, “ For instance, Madame de Outreville,” he said, “ of whom you spoke yesterday. I can imagine nothing that would shock her more.”
“ Oh, I am quite prepared to shock Madame de Outreville, you know. That’s on the cards. I expect to shock a great many people.”
M. de Bellegarde examined for a moment the stitching on the back of one of his gloves. Then, without looking up, “We don’t offer you money,” he said. “ That we suppose to be useless.”
Newman, turning away, took a few turns about the room, and then came back. “ What do you offer me? By what I can make out, the generosity is all to be on my side.”
The marquis dropped his arms at his side and held his head a little higher. “ What we offer you is a chance, — a chance that a gentleman should appreciate. A chance to abstain from inflicting a terrible blot upon the memory of a man who certainly had his faults, but who, personally, had done you no wrong.”
“ There are two things to say to that,” said Newman. “ The first is, as regards appreciating your ‘chance,’ that you don’t consider me a gentleman. That’s your great point, you know. It ’s a poor rule that won’t work both ways. The second is that — well, in a word, you are talking great nonsense! ”
Newman, who in the midst of his bitterness had, as I have said, kept well before his eyes a certain ideal of saying nothing rude, was immediately somewhat regretfully conscious of the sharpness of these words. But he speedily observed that the marquis took them more quietly than might have been expected. M. de Bellegarde, like the stately ambassador that he was, continued the policy of ignoring what was disagreeable in his adversary’s replies. He gazed at the gilded arabesques on the opposite wall, and then presently transferred his glance to Newman, as if he too were a large grotesque in a rather vulgar system of chamber decoration. “ I suppose you know that as regards yourself, it won’t do at all.”
“ How do you mean it won’t do? ”
“ Why, of course you damn yourself. But I suppose that’s in your programme. You propose to throw mud at us; you believe, you hope, that some of it may stick. We know, of course, it can’t,” explained the marquis in a tone of conscious lucidity; “but you take the chance, and are willing at any rate to show that you yourself have dirty hands.”
“That’s a good comparison, at least half of it,” said Newman. “ I take the chance of something sticking. But as regards my hands, they are clean. I have taken the matter up with my finger tips.”
M. de Bellegarde looked a moment into his hat. “ All our friends are quite with us,” he said. “ They would have done exactly as we have done.”
“ I shall believe that when I hear them say it. Meanwhile I shall think better of human nature.”
The marquis looked into his hat again. “ Madame de Cintré was extremely fond of her father. If she knew of the existence of the few written words of which you propose to make this scandalous use, she would demand of you proudly for his sake to give it up to her, and she would destroy it without reading it.”
“ Very possibly,” Newman rejoined. “ But she will not know. I was in that convent yesterday and I know what she is doing. Lord deliver us! You can guess whether it made me feel forgiving! ”
M. de Bellegarde appeared to have nothing more to suggest; hut he continued to stand there, rigid and elegant, like a man who believed that his mere personal presence had an argumentative value. Newman watched him and, without yielding an inch on the main issue, felt an incongruously good-natured impulse to help him to retreat in good order.
“ Your visit’s a failure, you see,” he said. “ You offer too little.”
“ Propose something yourself,” said the marquis.
“ Give me back Madame de Cintré in the same state in which you took her from me.”
M. de Bellegarde threw back his head and his pale face flushed. “ Never! ” he said.
“ You can’t! ”
“ We would n’t if we could! In the sentiment which led us to deprecate her marriage nothing is changed.”
“ ‘ Deprecate ’ is good! ” cried Newman. “ It was hardly worth while to come here only to tell me that you are not ashamed of yourselves. I could have guessed that! ”
The marquis slowly walked toward the door, and Newman, following, opened it for him. “ What you propose to do will be very disagreeable,” M. de Bellegarde said. “ That is very evident. But it will he nothing more.”
“ As I understand it,” Newman answered, “ that will be quite enough.”
M. de Bellegarde stood a moment looking on the ground, as if he were ransacking his ingenuity to see what else he could do to save his father’s reputation. Then, with a little cold sigh, he seemed to signify that he regretfully surrendered the late marquis to the penalty of his turpitude. He gave a hardly perceptible shrug, took his neat umbrella from the servant in the vestibule, and, with his gentlemanly walk, passed out. Newman stood listening till he heard the door close; then he slowly exclaimed. “Well, I ought to begin and be satisfied now! ”
Henry James, Jr.