Newman was fond of music and went often to the opera. A couple of evening_fter Madame de Bellegarde's ball he sat listening to "Don Giovanni," havin_n honor of this work, which he had never yet seen represented, come to occup_is orchestra-chair before the rising of the curtain. Frequently he took _arge box and invited a party of his compatriots; this was a mode o_ecreation to which he was much addicted. He liked making up parties of hi_riends and conducting them to the theatre, and taking them to drive on hig_rags or to dine at remote restaurants. He liked doing things which involve_is paying for people; the vulgar truth is that he enjoyed "treating" them.
This was not because he was what is called purse-proud; handling money i_ublic was on the contrary positively disagreeable to him; he had a sort o_ersonal modesty about it, akin to what he would have felt about making _oilet before spectators. But just as it was a gratification to him to b_andsomely dressed, just so it was a private satisfaction to him (he enjoye_t very clandestinely) to have interposed, pecuniarily, in a scheme o_leasure. To set a large group of people in motion and transport them to _istance, to have special conveyances, to charter railway-carriages an_teamboats, harmonized with his relish for bold processes, and mad_ospitality seem more active and more to the purpose. A few evenings befor_he occasion of which I speak he had invited several ladies and gentlemen t_he opera to listen to Madame Alboni—a party which included Miss Dora Finch.
It befell, however, that Miss Dora Finch, sitting near Newman in the box, discoursed brilliantly, not only during the entr'actes, but during many of th_inest portions of the performance, so that Newman had really come away wit_n irritated sense that Madame Alboni had a thin, shrill voice, and that he_usical phrase was much garnished with a laugh of the giggling order. Afte_his he promised himself to go for a while to the opera alone.
When the curtain had fallen upon the first act of "Don Giovanni" he turne_ound in his place to observe the house. Presently, in one of the boxes, h_erceived Urbain de Bellegarde and his wife. The little marquise was sweepin_he house very busily with a glass, and Newman, supposing that she saw him, determined to go and bid her good evening. M. de Bellegarde was leanin_gainst a column, motionless, looking straight in front of him, with one han_n the breast of his white waistcoat and the other resting his hat on hi_high. Newman was about to leave his place when he noticed in that obscur_egion devoted to the small boxes which in France are called, not inaptly,
"bathing-tubs," a face which even the dim light and the distance could no_ake wholly indistinct. It was the face of a young and pretty woman, and i_as surmounted with a coiffure of pink roses and diamonds. This person wa_ooking round the house, and her fan was moving to and fro with the mos_racticed grace; when she lowered it, Newman perceived a pair of plump whit_houlders and the edge of a rose-colored dress. Beside her, very close to th_houlders and talking, apparently with an earnestness which it pleased he_cantily to heed, sat a young man with a red face and a very low shirt-collar.
A moment's gazing left Newman with no doubts; the pretty young woman wa_oemie Nioche. He looked hard into the depths of the box, thinking her fathe_ight perhaps be in attendance, but from what he could see the young man'_loquence had no other auditor. Newman at last made his way out, and in doin_o he passed beneath the baignoire of Mademoiselle Noemie. She saw him as h_pproached and gave him a nod and smile which seemed meant as an assuranc_hat she was still a good-natured girl, in spite of her enviable rise in th_orld. Newman passed into the foyer and walked through it. Suddenly he pause_n front of a gentleman seated on one of the divans. The gentleman's elbow_ere on his knees; he was leaning forward and staring at the pavement, los_pparently in meditations of a somewhat gloomy cast. But in spite of his ben_ead Newman recognized him, and in a moment sat down beside him. Then th_entleman looked up and displayed the expressive countenance of Valentin d_ellegarde.
"What in the world are you thinking of so hard?" asked Newman.
"A subject that requires hard thinking to do it justice," said Valentin. "M_mmeasurable idiocy."
"What is the matter now?"
"The matter now is that I am a man again, and no more a fool than usual. But _ame within an inch of taking that girl au serieux."
"You mean the young lady below stairs, in a baignoire in a pink dress?" sai_ewman.
"Did you notice what a brilliant kind of pink it was?" Valentin inquired, b_ay of answer. "It makes her look as white as new milk."
"White or black, as you please. But you have stopped going to see her?"
"Oh, bless you, no. Why should I stop? I have changed, but she hasn't," sai_alentin. "I see she is a vulgar little wretch, after all. But she is a_musing as ever, and one MUST be amused."
"Well, I am glad she strikes you so unpleasantly," Newman rejoiced. "I suppos_ou have swallowed all those fine words you used about her the other night.
You compared her to a sapphire, or a topaz, or an amethyst—some preciou_tone; what was it?"
"I don't remember," said Valentin, "it may have been to a carbuncle! But sh_on't make a fool of me now. She has no real charm. It's an awfully low thin_o make a mistake about a person of that sort."
"I congratulate you," Newman declared, "upon the scales having fallen fro_our eyes. It's a great triumph; it ought to make you feel better."
"Yes, it makes me feel better!" said Valentin, gayly. Then, checking himself, he looked askance at Newman. "I rather think you are laughing at me. If yo_ere not one of the family I would take it up."
"Oh, no, I'm not laughing, any more than I am one of the family. You make m_eel badly. You are too clever a fellow, you are made of too good stuff, t_pend your time in ups and downs over that class of goods. The idea o_plitting hairs about Miss Nioche! It seems to me awfully foolish. You say yo_ave given up taking her seriously; but you take her seriously so long as yo_ake her at all."
Valentin turned round in his place and looked a while at Newman, wrinkling hi_orehead and rubbing his knees. "Vous parlez d'or. But she has wonderfull_retty arms. Would you believe I didn't know it till this evening?"
"But she is a vulgar little wretch, remember, all the same," said Newman.
"Yes; the other day she had the bad taste to begin to abuse her father, to hi_ace, in my presence. I shouldn't have expected it of her; it was _isappointment; heigho!"
"Why, she cares no more for her father than for her door-mat," said Newman. "_iscovered that the first time I saw her."
"Oh, that's another affair; she may think of the poor old beggar what sh_leases. But it was low in her to call him bad names; it quite threw me off.
It was about a frilled petticoat that he was to have fetched from the washer- woman's; he appeared to have neglected this graceful duty. She almost boxe_is ears. He stood there staring at her with his little blank eyes an_moothing his old hat with his coat-tail. At last he turned round and went ou_ithout a word. Then I told her it was in very bad taste to speak so to one'_apa. She said she should be so thankful to me if I would mention it to he_henever her taste was at fault; she had immense confidence in mine. I tol_er I couldn't have the bother of forming her manners; I had had an idea the_ere already formed, after the best models. She had disappointed me. But _hall get over it," said Valentin, gayly.
"Oh, time's a great consoler!" Newman answered with humorous sobriety. He wa_ilent a moment, and then he added, in another tone, "I wish you would thin_f what I said to you the other day. Come over to America with us, and I wil_ut you in the way of doing some business. You have a very good head, if yo_ill only use it."
Valentin made a genial grimace. "My head is much obliged to you. Do you mea_he place in a bank?"
"There are several places, but I suppose you would consider the bank the mos_ristocratic."
Valentin burst into a laugh. "My dear fellow, at night all cats are gray! Whe_ne derogates there are no degrees."
Newman answered nothing for a minute. Then, "I think you will find there ar_egrees in success," he said with a certain dryness.
Valentin had leaned forward again, with his elbows on his knees, and he wa_cratching the pavement with his stick. At last he said, looking up, "Do yo_eally think I ought to do something?"
Newman laid his hand on his companion's arm and looked at him a moment throug_agaciously-narrowed eyelids. "Try it and see. You are not good enough for it, but we will stretch a point."
"Do you really think I can make some money? I should like to see how it feel_o have a little."
"Do what I tell you, and you shall be rich," said Newman. "Think of it." An_e looked at his watch and prepared to resume his way to Madame d_ellegarde's box.
"Upon my word I will think of it," said Valentin. "I will go and listen t_ozart another half hour—I can always think better to music—and profoundl_editate upon it."
The marquis was with his wife when Newman entered their box; he was bland, remote, and correct as usual; or, as it seemed to Newman, even more tha_sual.
"What do you think of the opera?" asked our hero. "What do you think of th_on?"
"We all know what Mozart is," said the marquis; "our impressions don't dat_rom this evening. Mozart is youth, freshness, brilliancy, facility—a littl_oo great facility, perhaps. But the execution is here and there deplorabl_ough."
"I am very curious to see how it ends," said Newman.
"You speak as if it were a feuilleton in the 'Figaro,'" observed the marquis.
"You have surely seen the opera before?"
"Never," said Newman. "I am sure I should have remembered it. Donna Elvir_eminds me of Madame de Cintre; I don't mean in her circumstances, but in th_usic she sings."
"It is a very nice distinction," laughed the marquis lightly. "There is n_reat possibility, I imagine, of Madame de Cintre being forsaken."
"Not much!" said Newman. "But what becomes of the Don?"
"The devil comes down—or comes up," said Madame de Bellegarde, "and carrie_im off. I suppose Zerlina reminds you of me."
"I will go to the foyer for a few moments," said the marquis, "and give you _hance to say that the commander—the man of stone—resembles me." And he passe_ut of the box.
The little marquise stared an instant at the velvet ledge of the balcony, an_hen murmured, "Not a man of stone, a man of wood." Newman had taken he_usband's empty chair. She made no protest, and then she turned suddenly an_aid her closed fan upon his arm. "I am very glad you came in," she said. "_ant to ask you a favor. I wanted to do so on Thursday, at my mother-in-law'_all, but you would give me no chance. You were in such very good spirits tha_ thought you might grant my little favor then; not that you look particularl_oleful now. It is something you must promise me; now is the time to take you; after you are married you will be good for nothing. Come, promise!"
"I never sign a paper without reading it first," said Newman. "Show me you_ocument."
"No, you must sign with your eyes shut; I will hold your hand. Come, befor_ou put your head into the noose. You ought to be thankful to me for givin_ou a chance to do something amusing."
"If it is so amusing," said Newman, "it will be in even better season after _m married."
"In other words," cried Madame de Bellegarde, "you will not do it at all. Yo_ill be afraid of your wife."
"Oh, if the thing is intrinsically improper," said Newman, "I won't go int_t. If it is not, I will do it after my marriage."
"You talk like a treatise on logic, and English logic into the bargain!"
exclaimed Madame de Bellegarde. "Promise, then, after you are married. Afte_ll, I shall enjoy keeping you to it."
"Well, then, after I am married," said Newman serenely.
The little marquise hesitated a moment, looking at him, and he wondered wha_as coming. "I suppose you know what my life is," she presently said. "I hav_o pleasure, I see nothing, I do nothing. I live in Paris as I might live a_oitiers. My mother-in-law calls me—what is the pretty word?—a gad-about?
accuses me of going to unheard-of places, and thinks it ought to be joy enoug_or me to sit at home and count over my ancestors on my fingers. But wh_hould I bother about my ancestors? I am sure they never bothered about me. _on't propose to live with a green shade on my eyes; I hold that things wer_ade to look at. My husband, you know, has principles, and the first on th_ist is that the Tuileries are dreadfully vulgar. If the Tuileries are vulgar, his principles are tiresome. If I chose I might have principles quite as wel_s he. If they grew on one's family tree I should only have to give mine _hake to bring down a shower of the finest. At any rate, I prefer cleve_onapartes to stupid Bourbons."
"Oh, I see; you want to go to court," said Newman, vaguely conjecturing tha_he might wish him to appeal to the United States legation to smooth her wa_o the imperial halls.
The marquise gave a little sharp laugh. "You are a thousand miles away. I wil_ake care of the Tuileries myself; the day I decide to go they will be ver_lad to have me. Sooner or later I shall dance in an imperial quadrille. _now what you are going to say: 'How will you dare?' But I SHALL dare. I a_fraid of my husband; he is soft, smooth, irreproachable; everything that yo_now; but I am afraid of him—horribly afraid of him. And yet I shall arrive a_he Tuileries. But that will not be this winter, nor perhaps next, an_eantime I must live. For the moment, I want to go somewhere else; it's m_ream. I want to go to the Bal Bullier."
"To the Bal Bullier?" repeated Newman, for whom the words at first mean_othing.
"The ball in the Latin Quarter, where the students dance with thei_istresses. Don't tell me you have not heard of it."
"Oh yes," said Newman; "I have heard of it; I remember now. I have even bee_here. And you want to go there?"
"It is silly, it is low, it is anything you please. But I want to go. Some o_y friends have been, and they say it is awfully drole. My friends g_verywhere; it is only I who sit moping at home."
"It seems to me you are not at home now," said Newman, "and I shouldn'_xactly say you were moping."
"I am bored to death. I have been to the opera twice a week for the last eigh_ears. Whenever I ask for anything my mouth is stopped with that: Pray, madam, haven't you an opera box? Could a woman of taste want more? In the firs_lace, my opera box was down in my contrat; they have to give it to me. To- night, for instance, I should have preferred a thousand times to go to th_alais Royal. But my husband won't go to the Palais Royal because the ladie_f the court go there so much. You may imagine, then, whether he would take m_o Bullier's; he says it is a mere imitation—and a bad one—of what they do a_he Princess Kleinfuss's. But as I don't go to the Princess Kleinfuss's, th_ext best thing is to go to Bullier's. It is my dream, at any rate, it's _ixed idea. All I ask of you is to give me your arm; you are less compromisin_han any one else. I don't know why, but you are. I can arrange it. I shal_isk something, but that is my own affair. Besides, fortune favors the bold.
Don't refuse me; it is my dream!"
Newman gave a loud laugh. It seemed to him hardly worth while to be the wif_f the Marquis de Bellegarde, a daughter of the crusaders, heiress of si_enturies of glories and traditions, to have centred one's aspirations upo_he sight of a couple of hundred young ladies kicking off young men's hats. I_truck him as a theme for the moralist; but he had no time to moralize upo_t. The curtain rose again; M. de Bellegarde returned, and Newman went back t_is seat.
He observed that Valentin de Bellegarde had taken his place in the baignoir_f Mademoiselle Nioche, behind this young lady and her companion, where he wa_isible only if one carefully looked for him. In the next act Newman met hi_n the lobby and asked him if he had reflected upon possible emigration. "I_ou really meant to meditate," he said, "you might have chosen a better plac_or it."
"Oh, the place was not bad," said Valentin. "I was not thinking of that girl.
I listened to the music, and, without thinking of the play or looking at th_tage, I turned over your proposal. At first it seemed quite fantastic. An_hen a certain fiddle in the orchestra—I could distinguish it—began to say a_t scraped away, 'Why not, why not?' And then, in that rapid movement, all th_iddles took it up and the conductor's stick seemed to beat it in the air:
'Why not, why not?' I'm sure I can't say! I don't see why not. I don't see wh_ shouldn't do something. It appears to me really a very bright idea. Thi_ort of thing is certainly very stale. And then I could come back with a trun_ull of dollars. Besides, I might possibly find it amusing. They call me _affine; who knows but that I might discover an unsuspected charm in shop- keeping? It would really have a certain romantic, picturesque side; it woul_ook well in my biography. It would look as if I were a strong man, a first- rate man, a man who dominated circumstances."
"Never mind how it would look," said Newman. "It always looks well to hav_alf a million of dollars. There is no reason why you shouldn't have them i_ou will mind what I tell you—I alone—and not talk to other parties." H_assed his arm into that of his companion, and the two walked for some time u_nd down one of the less frequented corridors. Newman's imagination began t_low with the idea of converting his bright, impracticable friend into _irst-class man of business. He felt for the moment a sort of spiritual zeal, the zeal of the propagandist. Its ardor was in part the result of that genera_iscomfort which the sight of all uninvested capital produced in him; so fin_n intelligence as Bellegarde's ought to be dedicated to high uses. Th_ighest uses known to Newman's experience were certain transcendent sagacitie_n the handling of railway stock. And then his zeal was quickened by hi_ersonal kindness for Valentin; he had a sort of pity for him which he wa_ell aware he never could have made the Comte de Bellegarde understand. H_ever lost a sense of its being pitiable that Valentin should think it a larg_ife to revolve in varnished boots between the Rue d'Anjou and the Rue d_'Universite, taking the Boulevard des Italiens on the way, when over there i_merica one's promenade was a continent, and one's Boulevard stretched fro_ew York to San Francisco. It mortified him, moreover, to think that Valenti_acked money; there was a painful grotesqueness in it. It affected him as th_gnorance of a companion, otherwise without reproach, touching som_udimentary branch of learning would have done. There were things that on_new about as a matter of course, he would have said in such a case. Just so, if one pretended to be easy in the world, one had money as a matter of course, one had made it! There was something almost ridiculously anomalous to Newma_n the sight of lively pretensions unaccompanied by large investments i_ailroads; though I may add that he would not have maintained that suc_nvestments were in themselves a proper ground for pretensions. "I will mak_ou do something," he said to Valentin; "I will put you through. I know half _ozen things in which we can make a place for you. You will see some livel_ork. It will take you a little while to get used to the life, but you wil_ork in before long, and at the end of six months—after you have done a thin_r two on your own account—you will like it. And then it will be very pleasan_or you, having your sister over there. It will be pleasant for her to hav_ou, too. Yes, Valentin," continued Newman, pressing his friend's ar_enially, "I think I see just the opening for you. Keep quiet and I'll pus_ou right in."
Newman pursued this favoring strain for some time longer. The two men strolle_bout for a quarter of an hour. Valentin listened and questioned, many of hi_uestions making Newman laugh loud at the naivete of his ignorance of th_ulgar processes of money-getting; smiling himself, too, half ironical an_alf curious. And yet he was serious; he was fascinated by Newman's plai_rose version of the legend of El Dorado. It is true, however, that though t_ccept an "opening" in an American mercantile house might be a bold, original, and in its consequences extremely agreeable thing to do, he did not quite se_imself objectively doing it. So that when the bell rang to indicate the clos_f the entr'acte, there was a certain mock-heroism in his saying, with hi_rilliant smile, "Well, then, put me through; push me in! I make myself ove_o you. Dip me into the pot and turn me into gold."
They had passed into the corridor which encircled the row of baignoires, an_alentin stopped in front of the dusky little box in which Mademoiselle Nioch_ad bestowed herself, laying his hand on the doorknob. "Oh, come, are yo_oing back there?" asked Newman.
"Mon Dieu, oui," said Valentin.
"Haven't you another place?"
"Yes, I have my usual place, in the stalls."
"You had better go and occupy it, then."
"I see her very well from there, too," added Valentin, serenely, "and to-nigh_he is worth seeing. But," he added in a moment, "I have a particular reaso_or going back just now."
"Oh, I give you up," said Newman. "You are infatuated!"
"No, it is only this. There is a young man in the box whom I shall annoy b_oing in, and I want to annoy him."
"I am sorry to hear it," said Newman. "Can't you leave the poor fellow alone?"
"No, he has given me cause. The box is not his. Noemie came in alone an_nstalled herself. I went and spoke to her, and in a few moments she asked m_o go and get her fan from the pocket of her cloak, which the ouvreuse ha_arried off. In my absence this gentleman came in and took the chair besid_oemie in which I had been sitting. My reappearance disgusted him, and he ha_he grossness to show it. He came within an ace of being impertinent. I don'_now who he is; he is some vulgar wretch. I can't think where she picks u_uch acquaintances. He has been drinking, too, but he knows what he is about.
Just now, in the second act, he was unmannerly again. I shall put in anothe_ppearance for ten minutes—time enough to give him an opportunity to commi_imself, if he feels inclined. I really can't let the brute suppose that he i_eeping me out of the box."
"My dear fellow," said Newman, remonstrantly, "what child's play! You are no_oing to pick a quarrel about that girl, I hope."
"That girl has nothing to do with it, and I have no intention of picking _uarrel. I am not a bully nor a fire-eater. I simply wish to make a point tha_ gentleman must."
"Oh, damn your point!" said Newman. "That is the trouble with you Frenchmen; you must be always making points. Well," he added, "be short. But if you ar_oing in for this kind of thing, we must ship you off to America in advance."
"Very good," Valentin answered, "whenever you please. But if I go to America, I must not let this gentleman suppose that it is to run away from him."
And they separated. At the end of the act Newman observed that Valentin wa_till in the baignoire. He strolled into the corridor again, expecting to mee_im, and when he was within a few yards of Mademoiselle Nioche's box saw hi_riend pass out, accompanied by the young man who had been seated beside it_air occupant. The two gentlemen walked with some quickness of step to _istant part of the lobby, where Newman perceived them stop and stand talking.
The manner of each was perfectly quiet, but the stranger, who looked flushed, had begun to wipe his face very emphatically with his pocket-handkerchief. B_his time Newman was abreast of the baignoire; the door had been left ajar, and he could see a pink dress inside. He immediately went in. Mademoisell_ioche turned and greeted him with a brilliant smile.
"Ah, you have at last decided to come and see me?" she exclaimed. "You jus_ave your politeness. You find me in a fine moment. Sit down." There was _ery becoming little flush in her cheek, and her eye had a noticeable spark.
You would have said that she had received some very good news.
"Something has happened here!" said Newman, without sitting down.
"You find me in a very fine moment," she repeated. "Two gentlemen—one of the_s M. de Bellegarde, the pleasure of whose acquaintance I owe to you—have jus_ad words about your humble servant. Very big words too. They can't come of_ithout crossing swords. A duel—that will give me a push!" cried Mademoisell_oemie clapping her little hands. "C'est ca qui pose une femme!"
"You don't mean to say that Bellegarde is going to fight about YOU!" exclaime_ewman, disgustedly.
"Nothing else!" and she looked at him with a hard little smile. "No, no, yo_re not galant! And if you prevent this affair I shall owe you a grudge—an_ay my debt!"
Newman uttered an imprecation which, though brief—it consisted simply of th_nterjection "Oh!" followed by a geographical, or more correctly, perhaps _heological noun in four letters—had better not be transferred to these pages.
He turned his back without more ceremony upon the pink dress and went out o_he box. In the corridor he found Valentin and his companion walking toward_im. The latter was thrusting a card into his waistcoat pocket. Mademoisell_oemie's jealous votary was a tall, robust young man with a thick nose, _rominent blue eye, a Germanic physiognomy, and a massive watch-chain. Whe_hey reached the box, Valentin with an emphasized bow made way for him to pas_n first. Newman touched Valentin's arm as a sign that he wished to speak wit_im, and Bellegarde answered that he would be with him in an instant. Valenti_ntered the box after the robust young man, but a couple of minutes afterward_e reappeared, largely smiling.
"She is immensely tickled," he said. "She says we will make her fortune. _on't want to be fatuous, but I think it is very possible."
"So you are going to fight?" said Newman.
"My dear fellow, don't look so mortally disgusted. It was not my choice. Th_hing is all arranged."
"I told you so!" groaned Newman.
"I told HIM so," said Valentin, smiling.
"What did he do to you?"
"My good friend, it doesn't matter what. He used an expression—I took it up."
"But I insist upon knowing; I can't, as your elder brother, have you rushin_nto this sort of nonsense."
"I am very much obliged to you," said Valentin. "I have nothing to conceal, but I can't go into particulars now and here."
"We will leave this place, then. You can tell me outside."
"Oh no, I can't leave this place, why should I hurry away? I will go to m_rchestra-stall and sit out the opera."
"You will not enjoy it; you will be preoccupied."
Valentin looked at him a moment, colored a little, smiled, and patted him o_he arm. "You are delightfully simple! Before an affair a man is quiet. Th_uietest thing I can do is to go straight to my place."
"Ah," said Newman, "you want her to see you there—you and your quietness. I a_ot so simple! It is a poor business."
Valentin remained, and the two men, in their respective places, sat out th_est of the performance, which was also enjoyed by Mademoiselle Nioche and he_ruculent admirer. At the end Newman joined Valentin again, and they went int_he street together. Valentin shook his head at his friend's proposal that h_hould get into Newman's own vehicle, and stopped on the edge of the pavement.
"I must go off alone," he said; "I must look up a couple of friends who wil_ake charge of this matter."
"I will take charge of it," Newman declared. "Put it into my hands."
"You are very kind, but that is hardly possible. In the first place, you are, as you said just now, almost my brother; you are about to marry my sister.
That alone disqualifies you; it casts doubts on your impartiality. And if i_idn't, it would be enough for me that I strongly suspect you of disapprovin_f the affair. You would try to prevent a meeting."
"Of course I should," said Newman. "Whoever your friends are, I hope they wil_o that."
"Unquestionably they will. They will urge that excuses be made, prope_xcuses. But you would be too good-natured. You won't do."
Newman was silent a moment. He was keenly annoyed, but he saw it was useles_o attempt interference. "When is this precious performance to come off?" h_sked.
"The sooner the better," said Valentin. "The day after to-morrow, I hope."
"Well," said Newman, "I have certainly a claim to know the facts. I can'_onsent to shut my eyes to the matter."
"I shall be most happy to tell you the facts," said Valentin. "They are ver_imple, and it will be quickly done. But now everything depends on my puttin_y hands on my friends without delay. I will jump into a cab; you had bette_rive to my room and wait for me there. I will turn up at the end of an hour."
Newman assented protestingly, let his friend go, and then betook himself t_he picturesque little apartment in the Rue d'Anjou. It was more than an hou_efore Valentin returned, but when he did so he was able to announce that h_ad found one of his desired friends, and that this gentleman had taken upo_imself the care of securing an associate. Newman had been sitting withou_ights by Valentin's faded fire, upon which he had thrown a log; the blaz_layed over the richly-encumbered little sitting-room and produced fantasti_leams and shadows. He listened in silence to Valentin's account of what ha_assed between him and the gentleman whose card he had in his pocket—M.
Stanislas Kapp, of Strasbourg—after his return to Mademoiselle Nioche's box.
This hospitable young lady had espied an acquaintance on the other side of th_ouse, and had expressed her displeasure at his not having the civility t_ome and pay her a visit. "Oh, let him alone!" M. Stanislas Kapp had hereupo_xclaimed. "There are too many people in the box already." And he had fixe_is eyes with a demonstrative stare upon M. de Bellegarde. Valentin ha_romptly retorted that if there were too many people in the box it was eas_or M. Kapp to diminish the number. "I shall be most happy to open the doo_or YOU!" M. Kapp exclaimed. "I shall be delighted to fling you into the pit!"
Valentin had answered. "Oh, do make a rumpus and get into the papers!" Mis_oemie had gleefully ejaculated. "M. Kapp, turn him out; or, M. de Bellegarde, pitch him into the pit, into the orchestra—anywhere! I don't care who doe_hich, so long as you make a scene." Valentin answered that they would make n_cene, but that the gentleman would be so good as to step into the corrido_ith him. In the corridor, after a brief further exchange of words, there ha_een an exchange of cards. M. Stanislas Kapp was very stiff. He evidentl_eant to force his offence home.
"The man, no doubt, was insolent," Newman said; "but if you hadn't gone bac_nto the box the thing wouldn't have happened."
"Why, don't you see," Valentin replied, "that the event proves the extrem_ropriety of my going back into the box? M. Kapp wished to provoke me; he wa_waiting his chance. In such a case—that is, when he has been, so to speak, notified—a man must be on hand to receive the provocation. My not returnin_ould simply have been tantamount to my saying to M. Stanislas Kapp, 'Oh, i_ou are going to be disagreeable'"—
"'You must manage it by yourself; damned if I'll help you!' That would hav_een a thoroughly sensible thing to say. The only attraction for you seems t_ave been the prospect of M. Kapp's impertinence," Newman went on. "You tol_e you were not going back for that girl."
"Oh, don't mention that girl any more," murmured Valentin. "She's a bore."
"With all my heart. But if that is the way you feel about her, why couldn'_ou let her alone?"
Valentin shook his head with a fine smile. "I don't think you quit_nderstand, and I don't believe I can make you. She understood the situation; she knew what was in the air; she was watching us."
"A cat may look at a king! What difference does that make?"
"Why, a man can't back down before a woman."
"I don't call her a woman. You said yourself she was a stone," cried Newman.
"Well," Valentin rejoined, "there is no disputing about tastes. It's a matte_f feeling; it's measured by one's sense of honor."
"Oh, confound your sense of honor!" cried Newman.
"It is vain talking," said Valentin; "words have passed, and the thing i_ettled."
Newman turned away, taking his hat. Then pausing with his hand on the door,
"What are you going to use?" he asked.
"That is for M. Stanislas Kapp, as the challenged party, to decide. My ow_hoice would be a short, light sword. I handle it well. I'm an indifferen_hot."
Newman had put on his hat; he pushed it back, gently scratching his forehead, high up. "I wish it were pistols," he said. "I could show you how to lodge _ullet!"
Valentin broke into a laugh. "What is it some English poet says abou_onsistency? It's a flower or a star, or a jewel. Yours has the beauty of al_hree!" But he agreed to see Newman again on the morrow, after the details o_is meeting with M. Stanislas Kapp should have been arranged.
In the course of the day Newman received three lines from him, saying that i_ad been decided that he should cross the frontier, with his adversary, an_hat he was to take the night express to Geneva. He should have time, however, to dine with Newman. In the afternoon Newman called upon Madame de Cintre, bu_is visit was brief. She was as gracious and sympathetic as he had ever foun_er, but she was sad, and she confessed, on Newman's charging her with her re_yes, that she had been crying. Valentin had been with her a couple of hour_efore, and his visit had left her with a painful impression. He had laughe_nd gossiped, he had brought her no bad news, he had only been, in his manner, rather more affectionate than usual. His fraternal tenderness had touched her, and on his departure she had burst into tears. She had felt as if somethin_trange and sad were going to happen; she had tried to reason away the fancy, and the effort had only given her a headache. Newman, of course, was perforc_ongue-tied about Valentin's projected duel, and his dramatic talent was no_qual to satirizing Madame de Cintre's presentiment as pointedly as perfec_ecurity demanded. Before he went away he asked Madame de Cintre whethe_alentin had seen his mother.
"Yes," she said, "but he didn't make her cry."
It was in Newman's own apartment that Valentin dined, having brought hi_ortmanteau, so that he might adjourn directly to the railway. M. Stanisla_app had positively declined to make excuses, and he, on his side, obviously, had none to offer. Valentin had found out with whom he was dealing. M.
Stanislas Kapp was the son of and heir of a rich brewer of Strasbourg, a yout_f a sanguineous—and sanguinary—temperament. He was making ducks and drakes o_he paternal brewery, and although he passed in a general way for a goo_ellow, he had already been observed to be quarrelsome after dinner. "Qu_oulez-vous?" said Valentin. "Brought up on beer, he can't stand champagne."
He had chosen pistols. Valentin, at dinner, had an excellent appetite; he mad_ point, in view of his long journey, of eating more than usual. He took th_iberty of suggesting to Newman a slight modification in the composition of _ertain fish-sauce; he thought it would be worth mentioning to the cook. Bu_ewman had no thoughts for fish-sauce; he felt thoroughly discontented. As h_at and watched his amiable and clever companion going through his excellen_epast with the delicate deliberation of hereditary epicurism, the folly of s_harming a fellow traveling off to expose his agreeable young life for th_ake of M. Stanislas and Mademoiselle Noemie struck him with intolerabl_orce. He had grown fond of Valentin, he felt now how fond; and his sense o_elplessness only increased his irritation.
"Well, this sort of thing may be all very well," he cried at last, "but _eclare I don't see it. I can't stop you, perhaps, but at least I can protest.
I do protest, violently."
"My dear fellow, don't make a scene," said Valentin. "Scenes in these case_re in very bad taste."
"Your duel itself is a scene," said Newman; "that's all it is! It's a wretche_heatrical affair. Why don't you take a band of music with you outright? It'_—d barbarous and it's d—d corrupt, both."
"Oh, I can't begin, at this time of day, to defend the theory of dueling,"
said Valentin. "It is our custom, and I think it is a good thing. Quite apar_rom the goodness of the cause in which a duel may be fought, it has a kind o_icturesque charm which in this age of vile prose seems to me greatly t_ecommend it. It's a remnant of a higher-tempered time; one ought to cling t_t. Depend upon it, a duel is never amiss."
"I don't know what you mean by a higher-tempered time," said Newman. "Becaus_our great-grandfather was an ass, is that any reason why you should be? Fo_y part I think we had better let our temper take care of itself; it generall_eems to me quite high enough; I am not afraid of being too meek. If you_reat-grandfather were to make himself unpleasant to me, I think I coul_anage him yet."
"My dear friend," said Valentin, smiling, "you can't invent anything that wil_ake the place of satisfaction for an insult. To demand it and to give it ar_qually excellent arrangements."
"Do you call this sort of thing satisfaction?" Newman asked. "Does it satisf_ou to receive a present of the carcass of that coarse fop? does it gratif_ou to make him a present of yours? If a man hits you, hit him back; if a ma_ibels you, haul him up."
"Haul him up, into court? Oh, that is very nasty!" said Valentin.
"The nastiness is his—not yours. And for that matter, what you are doing i_ot particularly nice. You are too good for it. I don't say you are the mos_seful man in the world, or the cleverest, or the most amiable. But you ar_oo good to go and get your throat cut for a prostitute."
Valentin flushed a little, but he laughed. "I shan't get my throat cut if _an help it. Moreover, one's honor hasn't two different measures. It onl_nows that it is hurt; it doesn't ask when, or how, or where."
"The more fool it is!" said Newman.
Valentin ceased to laugh; he looked grave. "I beg you not to say any more," h_aid. "If you do I shall almost fancy you don't care about—about"—and h_aused.
"About that matter—about one's honor."
"Fancy what you please," said Newman. "Fancy while you are at it that I car_bout YOU—though you are not worth it. But come back without damage," he adde_n a moment, "and I will forgive you. And then," he continued, as Valentin wa_oing, "I will ship you straight off to America."
"Well," answered Valentin, "if I am to turn over a new page, this may figur_s a tail-piece to the old." And then he lit another cigar and departed.
"Blast that girl!" said Newman as the door closed upon Valentin.