NEWMAN called upon the comical duchess, and found her at home. An old gentleman with a high nose and a gold-headed cane was just taking leave of her; he made Newman a protracted obeisance as he retired, and our hero supposed that he was one of the mysterious grandees with whom he had shaken hands at Madame de Bellegarde’s ball. The duchess, in her arm-chair, from which she did not move, with a great flower-pot on one side of her, a pile of pink-covered novels on the other, and a large piece of tapestry depending from her lap, presented an expansive and imposing front; but her greeting was in the highest degree gracious, and there was nothing in her manner to cheek the effusion of his confidence. She talked to him about flowers and books, getting under way with marvelous promptitude; about the theatres, about the peculiar institutions of his native country, about the humidity of Paris, about the pretty complexions of the American ladies, about his impressions of France, and his opinion of its female inhabitants. All this was a brilliant monologue on the part of the duchess, who, like many of her country-women, was a person of an affirmative rather than an interrogative cast of mind, who made mots and herself put them into circulation, and who was apt to offer you a present of a convenient little opinion, neatly enveloped in the gilt paper of a happy Gallicism. Newman had come to her with a grievance, but he found himself in an atmosphere in which, apparently, no cognizance was taken of grievances; an atmosphere into which the chill of discomfort had never penetrated, and which seemed exclusively made up of mild, sweet, stale intellectual perfumes. The feeling with which he had watched Madame d’Outreville at the treacherous festival of the Bellegardes came back to him; she struck him as a wonderful old lady in a comedy, particularly well up in her part. He observed before long that she asked him no questions about their common friends; she made no allusion to the circumstances under which he had been presented to her. She neither feigned ignorance of a change in these circumstances nor pretended to condole with him upon it; but she smiled and discoursed and compared the tender-tinted wools of her tapestry, as if the Bellegardes and their wickedness were not of this world. “ She is fighting shy! ” said Newman to himself; and, having made the observation, he was prompted to observe, further, how the duchess would carry off her indifference. She did so in a masterly manner. There was not a gleam of disguised consciousness in those small, clear, demonstrative eyes which constituted her nearest claim to personal loveliness; there was not a symptom of.apprehension that Newman would trench upon the ground she proposed to avoid. “ Upon my word, she does it very well,” he tacitly commented. ‘‘ They all hold together bravely, and, whether any one else can trust them or not, they can certainly trust each other.”
Newman, at this juncture, fell to admiring the duchess for her fine manners. He felt, most accurately, that she was not a grain less urbane than she would have been if his marriage were still in prospect; but he felt also that she was not a particle more urbane. He had come, so reasoned the duchess— Heaven knew why he had come, after what had happened; and for the half hour, therefore, she would be charmante. But she would never see him again. Finding no ready-made opportunity to tell his story, Newman pondered these things more dispassionately than might have been expected; he stretched his legs, as usual, and even chuckled a little, appreciatively and noiselessly. And then, as the duchess went on relating a mot with which her mother had snubbed the great Napoleon, it occurred to Newman that her evasion of a chapter of French history more interesting to himself might possibly, after all, be the result of an extreme consideration for his feelings. Perhaps it was delicacy on the duchess’s part, — not policy. He was on the point of saying something himself, to make the chance which he had determined to give her still better, when the servant, announced another visitor. The duchess, on hearing the name — it was that of an Italian prince — gave a little imperceptible pant, and said to Newman, rapidly: " I beg you to remain; I desire this visit to be short.” Newman said to himself, at this, that Madame d’Outreville did intend that they should discuss the Bellegardes together.
The prince was a short, stout man, with a head disproportionately large. He had a dusky complexion and a bushy eyebrow, beneath which his eye wore a fixed and somewhat defiant expression; he seemed to be defying you to insinuate that he was top-heavy. The duchess, judging from her charge to Newman, regarded him as a bore; but this was not apparent from the unchecked flow of her conversation. She made a fresh series of mots, characterized with great felicity the Italian intellect and the taste of the figs at Sorrento, predicted the ultimate future of the Italian kingdom (disgust with the brutal Sardinian rule and complete reversion, throughout the peninsula, to the sacred sway of the Holy Father), and, finally, gave a history of the love affairs of tlie Princess X—.
This narrative provoked some rectifications on the part of the prince, who, as he said, pretended to know something about that matter; and having satisfied himself that Newman was in no laughing mood, either with regard to the size of his head or anything else, he entered into the controversy with an animation for which the duchess, when she set him down as a bore, could not have been prepared. The sentimental vicissitudes of the Princess X—led to a discussion of the heart history of Florentine nobility in general; the duchess had spent five weeks in Florence and had gathered much information on the subject. This was merged, in turn, in an examination of the Italian heart per se. The duchess took a brilliantly heterodox view,— thought it the least susceptible organ of its kind that she had ever encountered, related examples of its want of susceptibility, and declared that for her the Italians were a people of ice. The prince became flame to refute her, and his visit proved really charming. Newman was naturally out of the conversation. He sat with his head a little on one side, watching the interlocutors. The duchess, as she talked, frequently looked at him with a smile, as if to intimate to him, in the charming manner of her nation, that it lay only with him to say something very much to the point. But he said nothing at all, and at last his thoughts began to wander. A singular feeling came over him, — a sudden sense of the folly of his errand. What under the sun had he to say to the duchess, after all ? Wherein would it profit him to tell her that the Bellegardes were traitors and that the old lady, into the bargain, was a murderess? He seemed morally to have turned a sort of somersault, and to find things looking differently in consequence. He felt a sudden stiffening of his will and quickening of his reserve. What in the world had he been thinking of when he fancied the duchess could help him, and that it would conduce to his comfort to make her think ill of the Bellegardes? What did her opinion of the Bellegardes matter to him ? It was only a shade more important than the opinion the Bellegardes entertained of her. The duchess help him — that cold, stout, soft, artificial woman help him? —she who in the last twenty minutes had built up between them a wall of polite conversation in which she evidently flattered herself that he would never find a gate. Had it come to that — that he was asking favors of conceited people, and appealing for sympathy where he had no sympathy to give? He rested his arms on the sides of his knees, and sat for some minutes staring into his hat. As he did so his ears tingled, — he had come very near being an ass. Whether or no the duchess would hear his story, he would n’t tell it. Was he to sit there another half hour for the sake of exposing the Bellegardes? The Bellegardes be hanged! He got up abruptly, and advanced to shake hands with his liostess.
“ You can’t stay longer? ” she asked, very graciously.
“ I am afraid not,” he said.
She hesitated a moment, and then, “ I had an idea you had something particular to say to me,” she declared.
Newman looked at her; he felt a little dizzy; for the moment he seemed tobe turning his somersault again. The little Italian prince came to his help: “ Ah, madame, who has not that? ” he softly sighed.
‘1 Don’t teach Mr. Newman to say fadaises,” said the duchess. “ It is his merit that he doesn’t know how.”
“ Yes, I don’t know how to say fadaises,” said Newman, “ and I don’t want to say anything unpleasant,”
“ I am sure you are very considerate,” said the duchess with a smile; and she gave him a little nod for good-by, with which he took his departure.
Once in the street, he stood for some time on the pavement, wondering whether, after all, he was not an ass not to have discharged his pistol. And then again he decided that to talk to any one whomsoever about the Bellegardes would be extremely disagreeable to him. The least disagreeable thing, under the circumstarices, was to banish them from his mind, and never think of them again. Indecision had not hitherto been one of Newman’s weaknesses, and in this case it was not of long duration. For three days after this h did not, or at least he tried not to think of the Bellegardes. He dined with Mrs. Tristram, and on her mentioning their name he begged her, almost severely, to desist. This gave Tom Tristram a much-coveted opportunity to offer his condolences.
He leaned forward, laying his hand on Newman’s arm, compressing his lips and shaking his head. “The fact is, my dear fellow, you see, that you ought never to have gone into it. It, was not your doing, I know, — it was all my wife. If you want to come down on her, I 'll stand off; I give you leave to hit her as hard as you like. You know she has never had a word of reproach from me in her life, and I think she is in need of something of the kind. “Why didn’t you listen to me ? You know I did n’t believe in the thing. I thought, it at the best an amiable delusion. I don’t profess to be a Don Juan or a gay Lothario, — that class of man, you know; but I do pretend to know something about the harder sex. I have never disliked a woman in my life that she has not turned out badly. I was not at all deceived in Lizzie, for instance; I always had my doubts about her. Whatever you may think of my present situation, I must at least admit that I got into it with my eyes open. Now, suppose you had got into something like this box with Madame de Cintré. You may depend upon it she would have turned out a stiff one. And upon my word I don’t see where vou could have found your comfort. Not from the marquis, my dear Newman; he was n’t a man you could go and talk things over with in a sociable, commonsense way. Did he ever seem to want to have you on the premises — did he ever try to see you alone? Did he ever ask you to come and smoke a cigar with him of an evening, or step in, when you had been calling on the ladies, and take something? I don’t think you would have got much encouragement out of him.
And as for the old lady, she struck me as an uncommonly strong dose. They have a great expression here, you know; they call it ' sympathetic.’ Everything is sympathetic, — or ought to be. Now Madame de Bellegarde is about as sympathetic as that mustard-pot. They ’re a d—d cold-blooded lot, any way. I felt it awfully at that ball of theirs. I felt as if I were walking up and down in the Armory, in the Tower of London! My dear boy, don’t think me a vulgar brute for hinting at it, but you may depend upon it, all they wanted was your money. I know something about that; I can tell when people want one’s money! Why they stopped wanting yours I don't know; I suppose because they could get some one else’s without working so hard for it. It is n’t worth finding out, any way. It may be that it was not Madame de Cintre that backed out first; very likely the old woman put her up to it. I suspect she and her mother are really as thick as thieves, eh? You are well out of it, my boy; make up your mind to that. If I express myself strongly it is all because I love you so much; and from that point of view I may say I should as soon have thought of making up to that piece of pale high-mightiness as I should have thought of making up to the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde.”
Newman sat gazing at Tristram during this harangue with a lack-lustre eye. Never yet had he seemed to himself to have outgrown so completely the phase of equal comradeship with Tom Tristram. Mrs. Tristram’s glance at her husband had more of a spark; she turned to Newman with a slightly lurid smile. “ You must at least do justice,” she said, “ to the felicity with which Mr. Tristram repairs the indiscretions of a too zealous wife.”
But even without the aid of Tom Tristram’s conversational felicities, Newman would have begun to think of the Bellegardes again. He could cease to think of them only when he ceased to think of his loss and his privation, and the days had as yet but scantily lightened the weight of this incommodity. In vain Mrs. Tristram begged liim to cheer up; she assured him that the sight of his countenance made her miserable.
“How can I help it V ” he demanded with a trembling voice. “ I feel like a widower, —and a widower who has not even the consolation of going to stand beside the grave of his wife, — who has not the right to wear so much mourning as a weed in his hat. J feel,” he added in a moment, “as if my wife had been murdered and her assassins were still at large.”
Mrs. Tristram made no immediate rejoinder, but at last she said, with a smile which, in so far as it was a forced one, was less successfully simulated than such smiles, on her lips, usually were: “ Are you very sure that you would have been happy ? ”
Newman stared a moment, and then shook his head. “That’s weak,” he said; “ that won’t do.”
“ Well,” said Mrs. Tristram with a more triumphant bravery, “ I don’t believe you would have been happy.”
Newman gave a little laugh. “ Say I should have been miserable, then ; it’s a misery I should have preferred to any happiness.”
Mrs. Tristram began to muse. “I should have been curious to see; it would have been very strange.”
“ Was it from curiosity that you urged me to try and marry her? ”
“ A little,” said Mrs. Tristram, growing still more audacious. Newman gave her the one angry look he had been destined ever to give her, turned away, and took up his hat. She watched him a moment, and then she said, “ That sounds very cruel, but it is less so than it sounds. Curiosity has a share in almost everything I do. I wanted very much to see, first, whether such a marriage could actually take place; second, what would happen if it should take place.”
“ So you didn’t believe,” said Newman, resentfully.
“Yes, I believed — I believed that it would take place, and that you would be happy. Otherwise I should have been, among my speculations, a very heartless creature. But,” she continued, laying her hand upon Newman’s arm and hazarding a grave smile, “ it was the highest flight ever taken by a tolerably bold imagination.”
Shortly after this she recommended him to leave Paris and travel for three months. Change of scene would do him good, and he would forget his misfortune sooner in absence from the objects which had witnessed it. “ I really feel,” Newman rejoined, “ as if to leave you, at least, would do me good, — and cost me very little effort. You are growing cynical; you shock me and pain me.”
“ Very good,” said Mrs. Tristram, good-naturedly or cynically, as may be thought most probable. “I shall certainly see you again.”
Newman was very willing to get away from Paris ; the brilliant streets he had walked through in his happier hours, and which then seemed to wear a higher brilliancy in honor of his happiness, appeared now to be in the secret of his defeat and to look down upon it in shining mockery. He would go somewhere, he cared little where; and he made his preparations. Then, one morning, at haphazard, he drove to the train that would transport him to Boulogne and dispatch him thence to the shores of Britain. As he rolled along in the train he asked himself what had become of his revenge, and he was able to say to himself that it was provisionally pigeon-holed in a very safe place; it would keep until called for.
He arrived in London in the midst of what is called “ the season,” and it seemed to him at first that he might here put himself iu the way of being diverted from his heavy-heartedness. He knew no one in all England, but the spectacle of the mighty metropolis roused him somewhat from his apathy. Anything that was enormous usually found favor with Newman, and the multitudinous energies and industries of England stirred within him a dull vivacity of contemplation. It is on record that the weather, at that moment, was of the finest English quality; he took long walks and explored London in every direction; he sat by the hour in Kensington Gardens and beside the adjoining drive, watching the people and the horses and the carriages; the rosy English beauties, the wonderful English dandies, and the splendid flunkies. He went to the opera and found it better than in Paris; he went to the theatre and found a surprising charm in listening to dialogue, the finest points of which came within the range of his comprehension. He made several excursions into the country, recommended by the waiter at his hotel, with whom, on this and similar points, he had established confidential relations. He watched the deer in Windsor Forest and admired the Thames from Richmond Hill. He ate white-bait and brown-bread and butter at Greenwich, and strolled in the grassy shadow of the Cathedral of Canterbury. He also visited the Tower of London and Madame Tussaud’s exhibition. One day he thought he would go to Sheffield, and then, thinking of it again, he gave it up. Why should he go to Sheffield ? He had a feeling that the link which bound him to a possible interest in the manufacture of cutlery was broken. He had no desire for an “ inside view ’’ of any successful enterprise whatever, and he would not have given the smallest sum for the privilege of talking over the details of the most “ splendid ” business with the shrewdest of overseers.
One afternoon he had walked into Hyde Park, and was slowly threading his way through the human maze which edges the drive. The stream of carriages was no less dense, and Newman, as usual, marveled at the strange, dingy figures which he saw taking the air in some of the stateliest vehicles. They reminded him of what he had read of eastern and southern countries, in which grotesque idols and fetiches were sometimes taken out of their temples and carried abroad in golden chariots to be displayed to the multitude. He saw a great many pretty cheeks beneath high-plumed hats as he squeezed his way through serried waves of crumpled muslin; and sitting on little chairs at the base of the great, serious English trees, he observed a number of quiet-eyed maidens who only seemed to remind him afresh that the magic of beauty had gone out of the world with Madame de Cintré; to say nothing of other maidens, whose eyes were not quiet, and who struck him still more as a satire on possible consolation. He had been walking for some time, when, directly in front of him, borne back by the summer breeze, he heard a few words uttered in that bright Parisian idiom to which his ears had begun to disaccustom themselves. The voice in which the words were spoken made them seem even more like a thing with which he had once been familiar, and as he bent his eyes it lent an identity to the commonplace elegance of the back hair and shoulders of a young lady walking in the same direction as himself. Mademoiselle Nioclie, apparently, had come to seek a more rapid advancement in London, and another glance led Newman to suppose that she had found it. A gentleman was strolling beside her, lending a most attentive ear to her conversation, and too entranced to open his lips. Newman did not hear his voice, but he perceived that he presented the dorsal expression of a well-dressed Englishman. Mademoiselle Nioehe was evidently attracting attention: the ladies who passed her turned round to survey the Parisian perfection of her toilet. A great cataract of flounces rolled down from the young lady’s waist to Newman’s feet; he had to step aside to avoid treading upon it. He stepped aside, indeed, with a decision of movement which the occasion scarcely demanded; for even this imperfect glimpse of Miss Noémie had excited his displeasure. She seemed an odious blot upon the face of nature; he wanted to put her out of his sight. He thought of Valentin de Bellegarde, still green in the earth of las burial, — his young life clipped by this flourishing impudence. The perfume of the young lady’s finery sickened him. He turned his head and tried to deflect his course; but the pressure of the crowd kept him near her a few minutes longer, so that he heard what she was saying.
“ Ah, I am sure he will miss me,” she murmured. “ It was very cruel in me to leave him; I am afraid you will think me a very heartless creature. He might perfectly well have come with us. I don’t think he is very well,” she added; “it seemed to me to-day that his spirits were low. ”
Newman wondered whom she was talking about, but just then an opening among his neighbors enabled him to turn away, and he said to himself that she was probably paying a tribute to British propriety and playing at tender solicitude about her papa. Was that miserable old man still treading the path of vice in her train? Was he still giving her the benefit of his experience of affairs, and had he crossed the sea to serve as her interpreter? Newman walked some distance farther, and then began to retrace his steps, taking care not to traverse again the orbit of Mademoiselle Nioche. At last he looked for a chair under the trees, but he had some difficulty in finding an empty one. He was about to give up the search when he saw a gentleman rise from the seat he had been occupying, leaving Newman to take it without looking at his neighbors. He sat there for some time without heeding them; his attention was lost in the irritation and bitterness produced by his recent glimpse of Mademoiselle Noémie’s iniquitous vitality.
At the end of a quarter of an hour, dropping his eyes, he perceived a small pug-dog squatted upon the path near his feet, a diminutive but very perfect specimen of its interesting species. The pug was sniffing at the fashionable world, as it passed him, with his little black muzzle, and was kept from extending his investigations by a large blue ribbon attached to his collar with an enormous rosette and held in the hand of a person seated next to Newman. To this person Newman transferred his attention, and immediately perceived that he was the object of all that of his neighbor, who was staring up at him from a pair of little fixed white eyes. These eyes Newman instantly recognized; he had been sitting for the last quarter of an hour beside M. Nioche. He had vaguely felt that some one was staring at him. M. Nioche continued to stare; he appeared afraid to move, even to the extent of evading Newman’s own glance.
“ Dear me,” said Newman; “ are you here, too? ” And he looked at his neighbor’s helplessness more grimly than he knew. M. Nioche had a new hat and a pair of kid gloves; his clothes, too, seemed to belong to a more recent antiquity than of yore. Over his arm was suspended a lady’s mantilla — a light and brilliant tissue, fringed with white lace — which had apparently been committed to his keeping, and the little dog’s blue ribbon was wound tightly round his hand. There was no expression of recognition in his face, — or of anything, indeed, save a sort of feeble fascinated dread; Newman looked at the pug and the lace mantilla, and then he met the old man’s eyes again. “ You know me, I see,” he pursued. “ You might have spoken to me before.” M. Nioche. still Said nothing, but it seemed to Newman that his eyes began faintly to water. “ I did n’t expect,” our hero went on, “ to meet you so far from — from the. Café de la Patrie.” The old man remained silent, but decidedly Newman had touched the source of tears. He sat staring, and the latter added, “ What’s the matter, M. Nioche? You used to talk, — to talk very prettily. Don’t you remember you even gave lessons in conversation? ”
At this M. Nioche decided to change his attitude. He stooped and picked up the pug, lifted it to his face, and wiped his eyes on its little soft back. “ I am afraid to speak to you,” he presently said, looking over the puppy’s back. “ I hoped you would n’t notice me. I should have moved away, but I was afraid that if I moved you would see me. So I sat very still.”
“ I suspect you have a bad conscience, sir,” said Newman.
The old man put down the little dog and held it carefully in his lap. Then he shook his head, with his eyes still fixed upon his interlocutor. “No, Mr. Newman, I have a good conscience,” he murmured.
“ Then why should you want to slink away from me? ”
“ Because — because you don’t understand my position.”
“ Oh, I think you once explained it to me,” said Newman. “ But it seems improved. ”
“ Improved? ” exclaimed M. Nioehe, under his breath. “ Do you call this improvement? ” And he glanced at the treasures in his arms.
“ Why, you are on your travels,” Newman rejoined. “ A visit to London in ' the season ’ is certainly a sign of prosperity.”
M. Nioehe, in answer to this cruel piece of irony, lifted the puppy up to his face again, peering at Newman with his small, blank eye-holes. There was something almost imbecile in the movement, and Newman hardly knew whether he was taking refuge in an affectation of convenient unreason, or whether he had in fact paid for his dishonor by the loss of his wits. In the latter case, just now, he felt no more tenderly to the foolish old man than in the former. Responsible or not, he was equally an accomplice of his detestably mischievous little daughter. Newman was going to leave him abruptly, when a ray of entreaty appeared to disengage itself from the old man’s misty gaze. “ Are you going away? ” he asked.
“Do you want me to stay?” said Newman.
“ I should have left you — from consideration. But my dignity suffers at your leaving me — that way.’ ’
“ Have you got anything particular to say to me ? ’ ’
M. Nioehe looked round him to see that no one was listening, and then he said, very softly but distinctly, “ I have not forgiven her! ”
Newman gave a sharp laugh, but the old man seemed, for the moment, not to perceive it; he was gazing away, absently, at some metaphysical image of his implacability. “It doesn’t much matter whether you forgive her or not,” said Newman. “There are other people who won’t, I assure you.”
“What has she done?” M. Nioehe softly questioned, turning round again. “I don’t know what she does, — you know.”
“ She has done a devilish mischief; it does n’t matter what,” said Newman.
“ She’s a nuisance; she ought to be stopped.”
M. Nioehe stealthily put out his hand and laid it very gently upon Newman’s arm. “ Stopped, yes,” he whispered; 1 ‘ That’s it. Stopped short. She is running away, —she must be stopped.” Then he paused a moment and looked round him. “I mean to stop her,” he went on. “I am only waiting for my chance. ”
“ I see,” said Newman, laughing briefly again. “ She is running away and you are running after her. You have run a long distance! ”
But M. Nioche stared, insistently. “ I shall stop her! ” he softly repeated.
He had hardly spoken when the crowd in front of them separated, as if by the impulse to make way for an important personage. Presently, through the opening, advanced Mademoiselle Nioche, attended by the gentleman whom Newman had lately observed. His face being now presented to our hero, the latter recognized the irregular features, the hardly more regular complexion, and the amiable expression of Lord Deepmere. Miss Noémie, on finding herself suddenly confronted with Newman, who, like M. Nioche, had risen from his seat, faltered for a barely perceptible instant.
She gave him a little nod, as if she had seen him yesterday, and then, with a good-natured smile, “ Tiens, how we keep meeting ! ” she said. She looked consummately pretty, and the front of her dress was a wonderful work of art. She went up to her father, stretching out her hands for the little dog, which he submissively placed in them, and she began to kiss it and murmur over it: “To think of leaving him all alone,— what a wicked, abominable creature he must believe me! He has been very unwell,” she added, turning and affecting to explain to Newman, with a spark of infernal impudence, fine as a needle point, in her eye. “I don’t think the English climate agrees with him.”
“ It seems to agree wonderfully well with his mistress,” said Newman.
“Do you mean me ? I have never been better, thank you,” Miss Noémie declared. “ But with milord ” — and she gave a brilliant glance at her late companion, — “ how can one help being well? ” She seated herself in the chair from which her father had risen, and began to arrange the little dog’s rosette.
Lord Deepmere carried off such embarrassment as might be incidental to this unexpected encounter with the inferior grace of a male and a Briton. He blushed a good deal, and greeted the object of his late momentary aspiration to rivalry in the favor of a person other than the mistress of the invalid pug with an awkward nod and a rapid ejaculation, — an ejaculation to which Newman, who often found it hard to understand the speech of English people, was able to attach no meaning. Then the young man stood there, with his hand on his hip, and With a conscious grin, staring askance, at Miss Noémie. Suddenly an idea seemed to strike him, and he said, turning to Newman, “ Oh, you know her? ”
“ Yes,” said Newman, “ I know her.
I don’t believe you do.”
“Oh dear, yes, I do!” said Lord Deepmere, with another grin. “ I knew her in Paris, — by my poor cousin Bellegarde, you know. He knew her, pomfellow, didn’t he? It was she, you know, who was at the bottom of his affair. Awfully sad, wasn’t it?” continued the young man, talking off his embarrassment as his simple nature permitted. " They got up some story about its being for the Pope; about the other man having said something against the Pope’s morals. They always do that, you know. They put it on the Pope because Bellegarde was once in the Zouaves. But it was about her morals, —she was the Pope!” Lord Deepmere pursued, directing an eye illumined by this pleasantry toward Mademoiselle Nioclie, who was bending gracefully over her lap-dog, apparently absorbed in conversation with it. “I dare say you think it rather odd that I should — a — keep up the acquaintance,” the young man resumed. “But she couldn’t help it, you know, and Bellegarde was only my twentieth cousin. I dare say you think it’s rather cheeky, my showing with her in Hyde Park. But you see she is n’t known yet, and she’s in such very good form ” — And Lord Deepmere’s conclusion was lost in the attesting glance which he again directed toward the young lady.
Newman turned away; he was having more of her than he relished. M. Nioclie had stepped aside on his daughter’s approach, and he stood there, within a very small compass, looking down very hard at the ground. It had never yet, as between him and Newman, been so apposite to place on record the fact that he had not forgiven his daughter. As Newman was moving away he looked up and drew near to him, and Newman, seeing the old man had something particular to say, bent his head for an instant.
“ You will see it some day in the papers,” murmured M. Nioclie.
Our hero departed to hide his smile, and to this day, though the newspapers form his principal reading, his eyes have not been arrested by any paragraph illuminating the mystery of the old man’s assurance.
In that unstinted observation of the great spectacle of English life upon which I have touched, it might be supposed that Newman passed a great many dull days. But the dullness of his days pleased him; his melancholy, which was settling into a Secondary stage, like a healing wound, had in it a certain acrid, palatable sweetness. He had company in his thoughts, and for the present he wanted no other. He had no desire to make acquaintances, and he left untouched a couple of notes of introduction which had been sent him by Tom Tristram. He thought a great deal of Madame de Cintré, sometimes with a dogged tranquillity which might have seemed, for a quarter of an hour at a time, a near neighbor to forgetfulness. He lived over again the happiest hours he had known, — that silver chain of numbered days in which his afternoon visits, tending sensibly to the ideal result, had subtilized his good humor to a sort of spiritual intoxication. He came back to reality, after such reveries, with a somewhat muffled shock; he had begun to feel the need of accepting the unchangeable. At other times the reality became an infamy again and the unchangeable an imposture, and he gave himself up to his angry restlessness till he was weary. But on the whole he fell into a rather reflective mood. Without in the least intending it or knowing it, he attempted to read the moral of his strange misadventure. He asked himself, in his quieter hours, whether perhaps, after all, he was more commercial than was pleasant. We know that it was in obedience to a strong reaction against questions exclusively commercial that he had come out to pick up æsthetic entertainment in Europe; it may therefore be understood that be was able to conceive that a man might be too commercial. He was very willing to grant it, but the concession, as to Ids own case, was not made with any very oppressive sense of shame. If he had been too commercial, he was ready to forgot it, for in being so he had done no man any wrong that might not be as easily forgotten. He reflected with sober placidity that at least there were no monuments of his “ meanness ” scattered about the world. If there was any reason in the nature of things why his connection with business should have cast a shadow upon a connection—even a connection broken — with a woman justly proud, be was willing to sponge it out of his life forever. The thing seemed a possibility; he could not feel it, doubtless, as keenly as some people, and it hardly seemed worth while to flap his wings very hard to rise to the idea; but he could feel it enough to make any sacrifice that still remained to be made. As to what such sacrifice was now to be made to, here Newman stopped short before a blank wall over which there sometimes played a shadowy imagery. He had a fancy of carrying out his life as he would have directed it if Madame de Cintré had been left to him, — of making it a religion to do nothing that she would have disliked. In this, certainly, there was no sacrifice; but there was a pale, oblique ray of inspiration. It would be lonely entertainment, — a good deal like a man talking to himself in the mirror for want of better company. Yet the idea yielded Newman several half hours’ dumb exaltation as he sat, with his hands in his pockets and his legs stretched, over the relics of an expensively poor dinner, in the undying English twilight. If, however, his commercial indignation was dead, he felt no contempt for the surviving actualities begotten by it. He was glad he had been prosperous and had been a great, man of business rather than a small one; he was extremely glad he was rich. He felt no impulse to sell all he had and give to the poor, or to retire into meditative economy and asceticism. He was glad he was rich and tolerably young; if it was possible to think too much about buying and selling, it was a gain to have a good slice of life left in which not to think about them. Come, wliat should he think about now? Again and again Newman could think only of one thing; his thoughts always came back to it, and as they did so, with an emotional rush which seemed physically to express itself in a sudden upward choking; he leaned forward — the waiter having left the room — and, resting his arms on the table, buried his troubled face.
He remained in England till midsummer, and spent a month in the country, wandering about among cathedrals, castles, and ruins. Several times, taking a walk from his inn into meadows and parks, he stopped by a well-worn stile, looked across through the early evening at a gray church tower, with its dusky nimbus of thick-circling swallows, and remembered that this might have been part of the entertainment of his honeymoon. He had never been so much alone or indulged so little in accidental dialogue. The period of recreation appointed by Mrs. Tristram had at last expired, and he asked himself what he should do now. Mrs. Tristram had written to him, proposing to him that he should join her in the Pyrenees; but he was not in the humor to return to France. The simplest thing was to repair to Liverpool and embark on the first American steamer. Newman made his way to the great seaport and secured his berth; and the night before sailing he sat in his room at the hotel, staring down, vacantly and wearily, at an open portmanteau. A number of papers were lying upon it, which he had been meaning to look over; some of them might conveniently be destroyed. But at last he shuffled them roughly together, and pushed them into a corner of the valise; they were business papers, and he was in no humor for sifting them. Then he drew forth his pocket-book and took out a paper of smaller size than I hose he had dismissed. He did not unfold it; he simply sat looking at the back of it. If he had momentarily entertained the idea of destroying it, the idea quickly expired. What the paper suggested was the feeling that lay in his innermost heart, and that no reviving cheerfulness could long quench, — the feeling that after all and above all he was a good fellow wronged. With it came a hearty hope that the Bellegardes were enjoying their suspense as to what he would do yet. The more it was prolonged, the more they would enjoy it ! He had hung fire once, yes; perhaps, in his present queer state of mind, he might hang fire again. But he restored the little paper to his pocket-book very tenderly, and felt better for thinking of the suspense of the Bellegardes. He felt better every time he thought of it after that, as he sailed the summer seas. He landed in New York and journeyed across the continent to San Francisco, and nothing that be observed by the way contributed to mitigate his sense of being a good fellow wronged.
He saw a great many other good fellows,—his old friends, — but he told none of them of the trick that had been played him. He said simply that the lady he was to have married had changed her mind, and when he was asked if he had changed his own he said, “ Suppose we change the subject.” He told his friends that he had brought home no “ new ideas” from Europe, and his conduct probably struck them as an eloquent proof of failing invention. He took no interest in chatting about his affairs, and manifested no desire to look over his accounts. He asked half a dozen questions which, like those of an eminent physician inquiring for particular symptoms, showed that he still knew what he was talking about; but he made no comments and gave no directions. He not only puzzled the gentlemen on the stock-exchange, but he was himself surprised at the extent of his indifference. As it seemed only to increase, he made an effort to combat it; he tried to interest himself and to take up his old occupations. But they appeared unreal to him; do what be would he somehow could not believe in them. Sometimes he began to fear that there was something the matter with his head; that, his brain, perhaps, had softened, and that the end of his strong activities had come. This idea came back to him with an exasperating force. A hopeless, helpless loafer, useful to no one and detestable to himself, — this was what the treachery of the Bellegardes had made of him. In his restless idleness he came back from San Francisco to New York, and sat for three days in the lobby of his hotel, looking out through a huge wall of plate-glass at the unceasing stream of pretty girls in Parisian-looking dresses, undulating past with little parcels nursed against their neat figures. At the end of three days he returned to San Francisco, and having arrived there he wished he had stayed away. He had nothing to do, his occupation was gone, and it seemed to him that he should never find it again. He had nothing to do here, he sometimes said to himself; but there was something beyond the ocean that he was still to do; something that he had left undone experimentally and speculatively, to see if it could content itself to remain undone. But it was not content: it kept pulling at his heart-strings and thumping at his reason; it murmured in his ears and hovered perpetually before his eyes. It interposed between all new resolutions and their fulfillment; it seemed like a stubborn ghost, dumbly entreating to be laid. Till that was done he could never do anything else.
One day, toward the end of the winter, after a long interval, he received a letter from Mrs. Tristram, who apparently was animated by a charitable desire to amuse and distract her correspondent. She gave him much Paris gossip, talked of General Packard and Miss Kitty Upjohn, enumerated the new plays at the theatres, and inclosed a note from her husband who had gone down to spend a month at Nice. Then came her signature, and after this her postscript. The latter consisted of these few lines: “I heard three days since from my friend, the Abbé Aubert, that Madame de Cintré last week took the veil at the Carmelites. It was on her twentyseventh birthday, and she took the name of her patron, St. Veronica. Sœur Véroniqne has a life-time before her! ”
This letter came to Newman in the morning; in the evening he started for Paris. His wound began to ache with its first fierceness, and during his long, bleak journey the thought of Madame de Cintré’s “life-time” passed within prison walls on whose outer side be might stand kept him perpetual company. Now he would fix himself in Paris forever; he would extort a sort of happiness from the knowledge that if she was not there, at least the strong sepulchre that held her was. He descended, unannounced, upon Mrs. Bread, whom he found keeping lonely watch in his great empty saloons on the Boulevard Haussmann. They were as neat as a Dutch village; Mrs. Bread’s only occupation had been removing individual dust particles. She made no complaint, however, of her loneliness, for in her philosophy a servant was but a mysteriously projected machine, and it would be as fantastic for a housekeeper to comment upon a gentleman’s absences as for a clock to remark upon not being wound up. No particular clock, Mrs. Bread supposed, kept all the time, and no particular servant could enjoy all the sunshine diffused by the career of an exacting master. She ventured, nevertheless, to express a modest hope that Newman meant to remain a while in Paris. Newman laid his hand on hers and shook it gently. “I mean to remain forever,” he said.
He went after this to see Mrs. Tristram, to whom he had telegraphed, and who expected him. She looked at him a moment and shook her head. “This won’t do,” she said; “you have come hack too soon.” He sat down and asked about her husband and her children, tried even to inquire about Miss Dora Finch. In the midst of this — “Do you know where she is? ” he asked, abruptly.
Mrs. Tristram hesitated a moment; of course ho could n’t mean Miss Dora Finch. Then she answered, properly: “ She has gone to the other house,—in the Rue d’Enfer.” After Newman had sat a while longer, looking very sombre, she went on: “ You are not so good a man as I thought. You are more—you are more ’ ’ —
“ More what?” Newman asked.
“Good God!” cried Newman; “do you expect me to foi’give? ”
“No, not that. I have not forgiven, so of course you can’t. But you might forget! You have a worse temper about it than I should have expected. You look wicked, — you look dangerous.”
“ I may be dangerous,” he said; “but I am not wicked. No, I am not wicked,” And he got up to go. Mrs. Tristram asked him to come back to dinner; but he answered that he did not feel like pledging himself to be present at an entertainment, even as a solitary guest. Later in the evening, if he should he able, he would come.
He walked away through the city, beside the Seine and over it, and took the direction of the Rue d’Enfer. The day had the softness of early spring, but the weather was gray and humid. Newman found himself in a part of Paris which he little knew, —a region of convents and prisons, of streets bordered by long dead walls and traversed by few wayfarers. At the intersection of two of these streets stood the house of the Carmelites, — a dull, plain edifice, with a high-shouldered blank wall all around it. From without Newman could see its upper windows, its steep roof, and its chimneys. But these things revealed no symptoms of human life; the place looked dumb, deaf, inanimate. The pale, dead, discolored wall stretched beneath it, far down the empty side street, — a vista without a human figure. Newman stood there a long time; there were no passers; he was free to gaze his fill. This seemed the goal of his journey; it was what he had come for. It was a strange satisfaction, and yet it was a satisfaction. The barren stillness of the place seemed to be his own release from ineffectual longing. It told him that the woman within was lost beyond recall, and that the days and years of the future would pile themselves above her like the huge, immovable slab of a tomb. These days and years, in this place, would always be just so gray and silent. Suddenly, from the thought of their seeing him stand there, again the charm utterly departed. He would never stand there again; it was gratuitous dreariness. He turned away with a heavy heart, hut a heart lighter than the one he had brought. Everything was over, and he too at last could rest. He walked down through narrow, winding streets to the edge of the Seine again, and there he saw, close above him, the soft, vast towers of Notre Dame. He crossed one of the bridges and stood a moment in the empty place before the great cathedral. Then he went in beneath the gravely imaged portals. He wandered some distance up the nave and sat down in the splendid dimness. He sat along time; he heard far-away bells chiming off, at long intervals, to the rest of the world. He was very tired; this was the best place he could be in. He said no prayers; he had no prayers to say. He had nothing to he thankful for, and he had nothing to ask: nothing to ask, because now he must take care of himself. But a great cathedral offers a very various hospitality, and Newman sat in his place, because while he was there he was out of the world. The most unpleasant thing that had ever happened to him had reached its formal conclusion, as it were; he could close the book and put it away. He leaned his head for a long time on the chair in front of him; when he took it up he felt that he was himself again. Somewhere in his mind, a tight knot seemed to have loosened. He thought of the Bellegardes; he had almost forgotten them. He remembered them as a people he had meant to do something to. He gave a groan as he remembered what he had meant to do. He was annoyed at having meant to do it; the bottom, suddenly, had fallen out of his revenge. Whether it was Christian charity or unregenerate good nature — what it was, in the background of his soul — I don’t pretend to say; but Newman’s last thought was that of course he would let the Bellegardes go. If he had spoken it aloud he would have said that he did n’t want to hurt them. He was ashamed of having wanted to hurt them. They had hurt him, but such things were really not his game. At last he got up and came out of the darkening church; not with the elastic step of a man who has won a victory or taken a resolve, but strolling soberly, like a good-natured man who is still a little ashamed.
Going home, he said to Mrs. Bread that he must trouble her to put back his things into the portmanteau she had unpacked the evening before. The mild old woman looked at him through eyes a trifle bedimmed. “ Dear me, sir,” she exclaimed, “ I thought you said that you were going to stay forever.”
“I meant that I was going to stay away forever,” said Newman kindly. And since his departure from Paris on the following day he has certainly not returned. The gilded apartments I have so often spoken of stand ready to receive him; but they serve only as a spacious residence for Mrs. Bread, who wanders eternally from room to room, adjusting the tassels of the curtains, and keeps her wages, which are regularly brought her by a banker’s clerk, in a great pink Sevres vase on the drawingroom mantel-shelf.
Late in the evening Newman went to Mrs. Tristram’s, and found Tom Tristram by the domestic fireside. “ I’m glad to see you back in Paris,” this gentleman declared. “ You know it ’s really the only place for a white man to live.” Mr. Tristram made his friend welcome, according to his own rosy light, and offered him a convenient résumé of the Franco-American gossip of the last six months. Then at last he got up and said he would go for half an hour to the club. “ I suppose a man who has been for six months in California wants a little intellectual conversation. I ’ll let my wife have a go at you.”
Newman shook hands heartily with his host, but did not ask him to remain; and then he relapsed into his place on the sofa, opposite to Mrs. Tristram. She presently asked him what he had done after leaving her. “ Nothing particular,” said Newman.
“ You struck me,” she rejoined, “ as a man with a plot in his head. You looked as if you were bent on some dubious errand, and after you had left me I wondered whether I ought to have let you go.”
“I only went over to the other side of the river — to the Carmelites,” said Newman.
Mrs. Tristram looked at him a moment and smiled. “ What did you do there? Try to scale the wall? ”
“ I did nothing. I looked at the place for a few minutes and then came away.”
Mrs. Tristram gave him a sympathetic glance. “ Yon did n’t happen to meet M. de Bellegarde,” she asked, “ staring hopelessly at the convent wall as well? I am told he takes his sister’s conduct very hard.”
“ No, I did n’t meet him, I am happy to say,” Newman replied, after a pause.
“ They are in the country,"’ Mrs. Tristram went on; “ at — what is the name of the place, — Fleurières? They went there at the time you left Paris, and have been spending the year in extreme seclusion. The little marquise must enjoy it; I expect to hear that she has eloped with her daughter’s music-master!”
Newman was looking at the light wood fire; but he listened to this with extreme interest. At last he spoke: “I mean never to mention the name of those people again, and I don’t want to hear anything more about them.” And then he took out his pocket-book and drew forth a scrap of paper. He looked at it an instant, and got up and stood by the fire. “ I am going to burn them up,” he said, “d am glad to have you as a witness. There they go! ” And he tossed the paper into the flame.
Mrs. Tristram sat with her embroidery needle suspended. " What is that paper? ” she asked.
Newman, leaning against the fire-place, stretched his arms and drew a longer breath than usual. Then after a moment, " I can tell you, now,” he said. “It was a paper containing a secret of the Bellegardes,—something which would damn them if it were known.”
Mrs. Tristram dropped her embroidery with a reproachful moan. “ All, why did n’t you show me? ”
“ I thought of showing you; I thought of showing every one; I thought of paying my debt to the Bellegardes that way. So I told them, and I frightened them. They have been staying in the country, as you tell me, to keep out of the way. But I have given it up.”
Mrs. Tristram began to take slow stitches again. “ Have you quite given it up? ”
“ Oh yes.”
“Is it very bad, this secret? ”
“ Yes, very bad.”
“ For myself,” said Mrs. Tristram, “ I am sorry you have given it up. I should have liked immensely to see your paper. They have wronged me too, you know, as your sponsor and guarantee, and it would have served for my revenge as well. How did you come into possession of your secret? ”
“ It’s a long story. But honestly, at any rate.”
“ And they know you were master of it ? ”
“ Oh, I told them.”
“Dear me, how interesting!” cried Mrs. Tristram. “ And you humbled them at your feet ? ”
Newman was silent a moment. “No, not at all. They pretended not to care, — not to be afraid. But I know they did care, —they were afraid.”
“ Are you very sure? ”
Newman stared a moment. “Yes, I’m sure.”
Mrs. Tristram resumed her stitching. “ They defied you, eh? ”
“ Yes" said Newman, “it was about that.”
“ You tried by the threat of exposure to make them retract? ”
“ Yes, but they wouldn’t. I gave them their choice, and they chose to take their chance of bluffing off the charge and convicting me of fraud. But they were frightened,” Newman added, “ and I have had ail the vengeance I want.”
“ It is too provoking,” said Mrs. Tristram, “ to hear your talk of the ' charge ’ when the charge is burnt up. Is it quite consumed? ” she asked, glancing at the fire.
Newman assured her that there was nothing left of it.
“Well, then,” she said, “I suppose there is no harm in saying that you probably did not make them so very uncomfortable. My impression would be that since, as you say, they defied you, it was because they believed that, after all, you would never really come to the point. Their confidence, after counsel taken of each other, was not in their innocence, nor in their talents for bluffing things off; it was in your fundamental good nature! You see they were right.”
Newman instinctively turned to see if the little paper was in fact consumed; but there was nothing left of it.
Henry James, Jr.