The American, by Henry James

Chapter 7

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

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

“Too late for what?” asked Newman.

“To smoke a cigar with you.”

“You would have to come early to do that,” said Newman. “I don’t smoke.”

“Ah, you are a strong man!”

“But I keep cigars,” Newman added. “Sit down.”

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

“What is the matter? Is the room too small?”

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

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

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

Newman looked at him a moment, and then, “So it IS very ugly?” he inquired.

“Ugly, my dear sir? It is magnificent.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Rather so,” said Newman.

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

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

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

“Give me a specimen,” said Newman.

“You live here all alone?”

“Absolutely. With whom should I live?”

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

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

“But at any rate you had a reason.”

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

“And you are enjoying it?”

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

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

“Oh, I do enjoy it!” said Newman, good-naturedly. “I’m much obligated to you.”

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

“In what way are you a failure?” asked Newman.

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

“Why not?”

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

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

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

“Oh, I never quarrel,” said Newman.

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

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

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

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

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

“I had not a penny when I began to range.”

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

“So you have no profession — you do nothing,” said Newman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then it’s the privilege of being an American citizen,” said Newman. “That sets a man up.”

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

“Oh, come,” said Newman, “you will make me proud!”

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

“I don’t know what I have to lose,” said Newman, “but I certainly have something to gain.”

“What is it?” asked his visitor.

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

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

“Perhaps you may,” said Newman.

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, I think there is something,” said Newman.

“What is it?”

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

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

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

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

“Stop her? How stop her?”

“Talk to her; give her some good advice.”

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

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

“Oh, I give it up,” said Newman, simply.

“Then you are as bad as I!” said Bellegarde.

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

Bellegarde stared. “Go and see Madame Dandelard — my sister?”

“She might talk to her to very good purpose.”

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

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

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

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

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

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38