Newman possessed a remarkable talent for sitting still when it was necessary, and he had an opportunity to use it on his journey to Switzerland. Th_uccessive hours of the night brought him no sleep, but he sat motionless i_is corner of the railway-carriage, with his eyes closed, and the mos_bservant of his fellow-travelers might have envied him his apparent slumber.
Toward morning slumber really came, as an effect of mental rather than o_hysical fatigue. He slept for a couple of hours, and at last, waking, foun_is eyes resting upon one of the snow-powdered peaks of the Jura, behind whic_he sky was just reddening with the dawn. But he saw neither the cold mountai_or the warm sky; his consciousness began to throb again, on the very instant, with a sense of his wrong. He got out of the train half an hour before i_eached Geneva, in the cold morning twilight, at the station indicated i_alentin's telegram. A drowsy station-master was on the platform with _antern, and the hood of his overcoat over his head, and near him stood _entleman who advanced to meet Newman. This personage was a man of forty, wit_ tall lean figure, a sallow face, a dark eye, a neat mustache, and a pair o_resh gloves. He took off his hat, looking very grave, and pronounced Newman'_ame. Our hero assented and said, "You are M. de Bellegarde's friend?"
"I unite with you in claiming that sad honor," said the gentleman. "I ha_laced myself at M. de Bellegarde's service in this melancholy affair, together with M. de Grosjoyaux, who is now at his bedside. M. de Grosjoyaux, _elieve, has had the honor of meeting you in Paris, but as he is a bette_urse than I he remained with our poor friend. Bellegarde has been eagerl_xpecting you."
"And how is Bellegarde?" said Newman. "He was badly hit?"
"The doctor has condemned him; we brought a surgeon with us. But he will di_n the best sentiments. I sent last evening for the cure of the nearest Frenc_illage, who spent an hour with him. The cure was quite satisfied."
"Heaven forgive us!" groaned Newman. "I would rather the doctor wer_atisfied! And can he see me—shall he know me?"
"When I left him, half an hour ago, he had fallen asleep after a feverish, wakeful night. But we shall see." And Newman's companion proceeded to lead th_ay out of the station to the village, explaining as he went that the littl_arty was lodged in the humblest of Swiss inns, where, however, they ha_ucceeded in making M. de Bellegarde much more comfortable than could at firs_ave been expected. "We are old companions in arms," said Valentin's second;
"it is not the first time that one of us has helped the other to lie easily.
It is a very nasty wound, and the nastiest thing about it is that Bellegarde'_dversary was not shot. He put his bullet where he could. It took it into it_ead to walk straight into Bellegarde's left side, just below the heart."
As they picked their way in the gray, deceptive dawn, between the manure-heap_f the village street, Newman's new acquaintance narrated the particulars o_he duel. The conditions of the meeting had been that if the first exchange o_hots should fail to satisfy one of the two gentlemen, a second should tak_lace. Valentin's first bullet had done exactly what Newman's companion wa_onvinced he had intended it to do; it had grazed the arm of M. Stanisla_app, just scratching the flesh. M. Kapp's own projectile, meanwhile, ha_assed at ten good inches from the person of Valentin. The representatives o_. Stanislas had demanded another shot, which was granted. Valentin had the_ired aside and the young Alsatian had done effective execution. "I saw, whe_e met him on the ground," said Newman's informant, "that he was not going t_e commode. It is a kind of bovine temperament." Valentin had immediately bee_nstalled at the inn, and M. Stanislas and his friends had withdrawn t_egions unknown. The police authorities of the canton had waited upon th_arty at the inn, had been extremely majestic, and had drawn up a long proces- verbal; but it was probable that they would wink at so very gentlemanly a bi_f bloodshed. Newman asked whether a message had not been sent to Valentin'_amily, and learned that up to a late hour on the preceding evening Valenti_ad opposed it. He had refused to believe his wound was dangerous. But afte_is interview with the cure he had consented, and a telegram had bee_ispatched to his mother. "But the marquise had better hurry!" said Newman'_onductor.
"Well, it's an abominable affair!" said Newman. "That's all I have to say!" T_ay this, at least, in a tone of infinite disgust was an irresistible need.
"Ah, you don't approve?" questioned his conductor, with curious urbanity.
"Approve?" cried Newman. "I wish that when I had him there, night before last, I had locked him up in my cabinet de toilette!"
Valentin's late second opened his eyes, and shook his head up and down two o_hree times, gravely, with a little flute-like whistle. But they had reache_he inn, and a stout maid-servant in a night-cap was at the door with _antern, to take Newman's traveling-bag from the porter who trudged behin_im. Valentin was lodged on the ground-floor at the back of the house, an_ewman's companion went along a stone-faced passage and softly opened a door.
Then he beckoned to Newman, who advanced and looked into the room, which wa_ighted by a single shaded candle. Beside the fire sat M. de Grosjoyaux aslee_n his dressing-gown—a little plump, fair man whom Newman had seen severa_imes in Valentin's company. On the bed lay Valentin, pale and still, with hi_yes closed—a figure very shocking to Newman, who had seen it hitherto awak_o its finger tips. M. de Grosjoyaux's colleague pointed to an open doo_eyond, and whispered that the doctor was within, keeping guard. So long a_alentin slept, or seemed to sleep, of course Newman could not approach him; so our hero withdrew for the present, committing himself to the care of th_alf-waked bonne. She took him to a room above-stairs, and introduced him to _ed on which a magnified bolster, in yellow calico, figured as a counterpane.
Newman lay down, and, in spite of his counterpane, slept for three or fou_ours. When he awoke, the morning was advanced and the sun was filling hi_indow, and he heard, outside of it, the clucking of hens. While he wa_ressing there came to his door a messenger from M. de Grosjoyaux and hi_ompanion proposing that he should breakfast with them. Presently he wen_own-stairs to the little stone-paved dining-room, where the maid-servant, wh_ad taken off her night-cap, was serving the repast. M. de Grosjoyaux wa_here, surprisingly fresh for a gentleman who had been playing sick-nurse hal_he night, rubbing his hands and watching the breakfast table attentively.
Newman renewed acquaintance with him, and learned that Valentin was stil_leeping; the surgeon, who had had a fairly tranquil night, was at presen_itting with him. Before M. de Grosjoyaux's associate reappeared, Newma_earned that his name was M. Ledoux, and that Bellegarde's acquaintance wit_im dated from the days when they served together in the Pontifical Zouaves.
M. Ledoux was the nephew of a distinguished Ultramontane bishop. At last th_ishop's nephew came in with a toilet in which an ingenious attempt at harmon_ith the peculiar situation was visible, and with a gravity tempered by _ecent deference to the best breakfast that the Croix Helvetique had ever se_orth. Valentin's servant, who was allowed only in scanty measure the honor o_atching with his master, had been lending a light Parisian hand in th_itchen. The two Frenchmen did their best to prove that if circumstances migh_vershadow, they could not really obscure, the national talent fo_onversation, and M. Ledoux delivered a neat little eulogy on poor Bellegarde, whom he pronounced the most charming Englishman he had ever known.
"Do you call him an Englishman?" Newman asked.
M. Ledoux smiled a moment and then made an epigram. "C'est plus qu'u_nglais—c'est un Anglomane!" Newman said soberly that he had never noticed it; and M. de Grosjoyaux remarked that it was really too soon to deliver a funera_ration upon poor Bellegarde. "Evidently," said M. Ledoux. "But I couldn'_elp observing this morning to Mr. Newman that when a man has taken suc_xcellent measures for his salvation as our dear friend did last evening, i_eems almost a pity he should put it in peril again by returning to th_orld." M. Ledoux was a great Catholic, and Newman thought him a quee_ixture. His countenance, by daylight, had a sort of amiably saturnine cast; he had a very large thin nose, and looked like a Spanish picture. He appeare_o think dueling a very perfect arrangement, provided, if one should get hit, one could promptly see the priest. He seemed to take a great satisfaction i_alentin's interview with the cure, and yet his conversation did not at al_ndicate a sanctimonious habit of mind. M. Ledoux had evidently a high sens_f the becoming, and was prepared to be urbane and tasteful on all points. H_as always furnished with a smile (which pushed his mustache up under hi_ose) and an explanation. Savoir-vivre—knowing how to live—was his specialty, in which he included knowing how to die; but, as Newman reflected, with a goo_eal of dumb irritation, he seemed disposed to delegate to others th_pplication of his learning on this latter point. M. de Grosjoyaux was o_uite another complexion, and appeared to regard his friend's theologica_nction as the sign of an inaccessibly superior mind. He was evidently doin_is utmost, with a kind of jovial tenderness, to make life agreeable t_alentin to the last, and help him as little as possible to miss the Boulevar_es Italiens; but what chiefly occupied his mind was the mystery of a bunglin_rewer's son making so neat a shot. He himself could snuff a candle, etc., an_et he confessed that he could not have done better than this. He hastened t_dd that on the present occasion he would have made a point of not doing s_ell. It was not an occasion for that sort of murderous work, que diable! H_ould have picked out some quiet fleshy spot and just tapped it with _armless ball. M. Stanislas Kapp had been deplorably heavy-handed; but really, when the world had come to that pass that one granted a meeting to a brewer'_on!… This was M. de Grosjoyaux's nearest approach to a generalization. H_ept looking through the window, over the shoulder of M. Ledoux, at a slende_ree which stood at the end of a lane, opposite to the inn, and seemed to b_easuring its distance from his extended arm and secretly wishing that, sinc_he subject had been introduced, propriety did not forbid a little speculativ_istol-practice.
Newman was in no humor to enjoy good company. He could neither eat nor talk; his soul was sore with grief and anger, and the weight of his double sorro_as intolerable. He sat with his eyes fixed upon his plate, counting th_inutes, wishing at one moment that Valentin would see him and leave him fre_o go in quest of Madame de Cintre and his lost happiness, and mentall_alling himself a vile brute the next, for the impatient egotism of the wish.
He was very poor company, himself, and even his acute preoccupation and hi_eneral lack of the habit of pondering the impression he produced did no_revent him from reflecting that his companions must be puzzled to see ho_oor Bellegarde came to take such a fancy to this taciturn Yankee that he mus_eeds have him at his death-bed. After breakfast he strolled forth alone int_he village and looked at the fountain, the geese, the open barn doors, th_rown, bent old women, showing their hugely darned stocking-heels at the end_f their slowly-clicking sabots, and the beautiful view of snowy Alps an_urple Jura at either end of the little street. The day was brilliant; earl_pring was in the air and in the sunshine, and the winter's damp was tricklin_ut of the cottage eaves. It was birth and brightness for all nature, even fo_hirping chickens and waddling goslings, and it was to be death and burial fo_oor, foolish, generous, delightful Bellegarde. Newman walked as far as th_illage church, and went into the small grave-yard beside it, where he sa_own and looked at the awkward tablets which were planted around. They wer_ll sordid and hideous, and Newman could feel nothing but the hardness an_oldness of death. He got up and came back to the inn, where he found M.
Ledoux having coffee and a cigarette at a little green table which he ha_aused to be carried into the small garden. Newman, learning that the docto_as still sitting with Valentin, asked M. Ledoux if he might not be allowed t_elieve him; he had a great desire to be useful to his poor friend. This wa_asily arranged; the doctor was very glad to go to bed. He was a youthful an_ather jaunty practitioner, but he had a clever face, and the ribbon of th_egion of Honor in his buttonhole; Newman listened attentively to th_nstructions he gave him before retiring, and took mechanically from his han_ small volume which the surgeon recommended as a help to wakefulness, an_hich turned out to be an old copy of "Faublas." Valentin was still lying wit_is eyes closed, and there was no visible change in his condition. Newman sa_own near him, and for a long time narrowly watched him. Then his eye_andered away with his thoughts upon his own situation, and rested upon th_hain of the Alps, disclosed by the drawing of the scant white cotton curtai_f the window, through which the sunshine passed and lay in squares upon th_ed-tiled floor. He tried to interweave his reflections with hope, but he onl_alf succeeded. What had happened to him seemed to have, in its violence an_udacity, the force of a real calamity—the strength and insolence of Destin_erself. It was unnatural and monstrous, and he had no arms against it. A_ast a sound struck upon the stillness, and he heard Valentin's voice.
"It can't be about me you are pulling that long face!" He found, when h_urned, that Valentin was lying in the same position; but his eyes were open, and he was even trying to smile. It was with a very slender strength that h_eturned the pressure of Newman's hand. "I have been watching you for _uarter of an hour," Valentin went on; "you have been looking as black a_hunder. You are greatly disgusted with me, I see. Well, of course! So am I!"
"Oh, I shall not scold you," said Newman. "I feel too badly. And how are yo_etting on?"
"Oh, I'm getting off! They have quite settled that; haven't they?"
"That's for you to settle; you can get well if you try," said Newman, wit_esolute cheerfulness.
"My dear fellow, how can I try? Trying is violent exercise, and that sort o_hing isn't in order for a man with a hole in his side as big as your hat, that begins to bleed if he moves a hair's-breadth. I knew you would come," h_ontinued; "I knew I should wake up and find you here; so I'm not surprised.
But last night I was very impatient. I didn't see how I could keep still unti_ou came. It was a matter of keeping still, just like this; as still as _ummy in his case. You talk about trying; I tried that! Well, here I a_et—these twenty hours. It seems like twenty days." Bellegarde talked slowl_nd feebly, but distinctly enough. It was visible, however, that he was i_xtreme pain, and at last he closed his eyes. Newman begged him to remai_ilent and spare himself; the doctor had left urgent orders. "Oh," sai_alentin, "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow—to-morrow"—and he paused again.
"No, not to-morrow, perhaps, but today. I can't eat and drink, but I can talk.
What's to be gained, at this pass, by renun—renunciation? I mustn't use suc_ig words. I was always a chatterer; Lord, how I have talked in my day!"
"That's a reason for keeping quiet now," said Newman. "We know how well yo_alk, you know."
But Valentin, without heeding him, went on in the same weak, dying drawl. "_anted to see you because you have seen my sister. Does she know—will sh_ome?"
Newman was embarrassed. "Yes, by this time she must know."
"Didn't you tell her?" Valentin asked. And then, in a moment, "Didn't yo_ring me any message from her?" His eyes rested upon Newman's with a certai_oft keenness.
"I didn't see her after I got your telegram," said Newman. "I wrote to her."
"And she sent you no answer?"
Newman was obliged to reply that Madame de Cintre had left Paris. "She wen_esterday to Fleurieres."
"Yesterday—to Fleurieres? Why did she go to Fleurieres? What day is this? Wha_ay was yesterday? Ah, then I shan't see her," said Valentin, sadly.
"Fleurieres is too far!" And then he closed his eyes again. Newman sat silent, summoning pious invention to his aid, but he was relieved at finding tha_alentin was apparently too weak to reason or to be curious. Bellegarde, however, presently went on. "And my mother—and my brother—will they come? Ar_hey at Fleurieres?"
"They were in Paris, but I didn't see them, either," Newman answered. "If the_eceived your telegram in time, they will have started this morning. Otherwis_hey will be obliged to wait for the night-express, and they will arrive a_he same hour as I did."
"They won't thank me—they won't thank me," Valentin murmured. "They will pas_n atrocious night, and Urbain doesn't like the early morning air. I don'_emember ever in my life to have seen him before noon—before breakfast. No on_ver saw him. We don't know how he is then. Perhaps he's different. Who knows?
Posterity, perhaps, will know. That's the time he works, in his cabinet, a_he history of the Princesses. But I had to send for them—hadn't I? And then _ant to see my mother sit there where you sit, and say good-by to her.
Perhaps, after all, I don't know her, and she will have some surprise for me.
Don't think you know her yet, yourself; perhaps she may surprise YOU. But if _an't see Claire, I don't care for anything. I have been thinking of it—and i_y dreams, too. Why did she go to Fleurieres to-day? She never told me. Wha_as happened? Ah, she ought to have guessed I was here—this way. It is th_irst time in her life she ever disappointed me. Poor Claire!"
"You know we are not man and wife quite yet,—your sister and I," said Newman.
"She doesn't yet account to me for all her actions." And, after a fashion, h_miled.
Valentin looked at him a moment. "Have you quarreled?"
"Never, never, never!" Newman exclaimed.
"How happily you say that!" said Valentin. "You are going to be happy—VA!" I_nswer to this stroke of irony, none the less powerful for being s_nconscious, all poor Newman could do was to give a helpless and transparen_tare. Valentin continued to fix him with his own rather over-bright gaze, an_resently he said, "But something is the matter with you. I watched you jus_ow; you haven't a bridegroom's face."
"My dear fellow," said Newman, "how can I show YOU a bridegroom's face? If yo_hink I enjoy seeing you lie there and not being able to help you"—
"Why, you are just the man to be cheerful; don't forfeit your rights! I'm _roof of your wisdom. When was a man ever gloomy when he could say, 'I tol_ou so?' You told me so, you know. You did what you could about it. You sai_ome very good things; I have thought them over. But, my dear friend, I wa_ight, all the same. This is the regular way."
"I didn't do what I ought," said Newman. "I ought to have done somethin_lse."
"Oh, something or other. I ought to have treated you as a small boy."
"Well, I'm a very small boy, now," said Valentin. "I'm rather less than a_nfant. An infant is helpless, but it's generally voted promising. I'm no_romising, eh? Society can't lose a less valuable member."
Newman was strongly moved. He got up and turned his back upon his friend an_alked away to the window, where he stood looking out, but only vaguel_eeing. "No, I don't like the look of your back," Valentin continued. "I hav_lways been an observer of backs; yours is quite out of sorts."
Newman returned to his bedside and begged him to be quiet. "Be quiet and ge_ell," he said. "That's what you must do. Get well and help me."
"I told you you were in trouble! How can I help you?" Valentin asked.
"I'll let you know when you are better. You were always curious; there i_omething to get well for!" Newman answered, with resolute animation.
Valentin closed his eyes and lay a long time without speaking. He seemed eve_o have fallen asleep. But at the end of half an hour he began to talk again.
"I am rather sorry about that place in the bank. Who knows but what I migh_ave become another Rothschild? But I wasn't meant for a banker; bankers ar_ot so easy to kill. Don't you think I have been very easy to kill? It's no_ike a serious man. It's really very mortifying. It's like telling you_ostess you must go, when you count upon her begging you to stay, and the_inding she does no such thing. 'Really—so soon? You've only just come!' Lif_oesn't make me any such polite little speech."
Newman for some time said nothing, but at last he broke out. "It's a ba_ase—it's a bad case—it's the worst case I ever met. I don't want to sa_nything unpleasant, but I can't help it. I've seen men dying before—and I'v_een men shot. But it always seemed more natural; they were not so clever a_ou. Damnation—damnation! You might have done something better than this. It'_bout the meanest winding-up of a man's affairs that I can imagine!"
Valentin feebly waved his hand to and fro. "Don't insist—don't insist! It i_ean—decidedly mean. For you see at the bottom—down at the bottom, in a littl_lace as small as the end of a wine-funnel—I agree with you!"
A few moments after this the doctor put his head through the half-opened doo_nd, perceiving that Valentin was awake, came in and felt his pulse. He shoo_is head and declared that he had talked too much—ten times too much.
"Nonsense!" said Valentin; "a man sentenced to death can never talk too much.
Have you never read an account of an execution in a newspaper? Don't the_lways set a lot of people at the prisoner—lawyers, reporters, priests—to mak_im talk? But it's not Mr. Newman's fault; he sits there as mum as _eath's-head."
The doctor observed that it was time his patient's wound should be dresse_gain; MM. de Grosjoyaux and Ledoux, who had already witnessed this delicat_peration, taking Newman's place as assistants. Newman withdrew and learne_rom his fellow-watchers that they had received a telegram from Urbain d_ellegarde to the effect that their message had been delivered in the Rue d_'Universite too late to allow him to take the morning train, but that h_ould start with his mother in the evening. Newman wandered away into th_illage again, and walked about restlessly for two or three hours. The da_eemed terribly long. At dusk he came back and dined with the doctor and M.
Ledoux. The dressing of Valentin's wound had been a very critical operation; the doctor didn't really see how he was to endure a repetition of it. He the_eclared that he must beg of Mr. Newman to deny himself for the present th_atisfaction of sitting with M. de Bellegarde; more than any one else, apparently, he had the flattering but inconvenient privilege of exciting him.
M. Ledoux, at this, swallowed a glass of wine in silence; he must have bee_ondering what the deuce Bellegarde found so exciting in the American.
Newman, after dinner, went up to his room, where he sat for a long tim_taring at his lighted candle, and thinking that Valentin was dying down- stairs. Late, when the candle had burnt low, there came a soft rap at hi_oor. The doctor stood there with a candlestick and a shrug.
"He must amuse himself, still!" said Valentin's medical adviser. "He insist_pon seeing you, and I am afraid you must come. I think at this rate, that h_ill hardly outlast the night."
Newman went back to Valentin's room, which he found lighted by a taper on th_earth. Valentin begged him to light a candle. "I want to see your face," h_aid. "They say you excite me," he went on, as Newman complied with thi_equest, "and I confess I do feel excited. But it isn't you—it's my ow_houghts. I have been thinking—thinking. Sit down there, and let me look a_ou again." Newman seated himself, folded his arms, and bent a heavy gaze upo_is friend. He seemed to be playing a part, mechanically, in a lugubriou_omedy. Valentin looked at him for some time. "Yes, this morning I was right; you have something on your mind heavier than Valentin de Bellegarde. Come, I'_ dying man and it's indecent to deceive me. Something happened after I lef_aris. It was not for nothing that my sister started off at this season of th_ear for Fleurieres. Why was it? It sticks in my crop. I have been thinking i_ver, and if you don't tell me I shall guess."
"I had better not tell you," said Newman. "It won't do you any good."
"If you think it will do me any good not to tell me, you are very muc_istaken. There is trouble about your marriage."
"Yes," said Newman. "There is trouble about my marriage."
"Good!" And Valentin was silent again. "They have stopped it."
"They have stopped it," said Newman. Now that he had spoken out, he found _atisfaction in it which deepened as he went on. "Your mother and brother hav_roken faith. They have decided that it can't take place. They have decide_hat I am not good enough, after all. They have taken back their word. Sinc_ou insist, there it is!"
Valentin gave a sort of groan, lifted his hands a moment, and then let the_rop.
"I am sorry not to have anything better to tell you about them," Newma_ursued. "But it's not my fault. I was, indeed, very unhappy when you_elegram reached me; I was quite upside down. You may imagine whether I fee_ny better now."
Valentin moaned gaspingly, as if his wound were throbbing. "Broken faith, broken faith!" he murmured. "And my sister—my sister?"
"Your sister is very unhappy; she has consented to give me up. I don't kno_hy. I don't know what they have done to her; it must be something pretty bad.
In justice to her you ought to know it. They have made her suffer. I haven'_een her alone, but only before them! We had an interview yesterday morning.
They came out, flat, in so many words. They told me to go about my business.
It seems to me a very bad case. I'm angry, I'm sore, I'm sick."
Valentin lay there staring, with his eyes more brilliantly lighted, his lip_oundlessly parted, and a flush of color in his pale face. Newman had neve_efore uttered so many words in the plaintive key, but now, in speaking t_alentin in the poor fellow's extremity, he had a feeling that he was makin_is complaint somewhere within the presence of the power that men pray to i_rouble; he felt his outgush of resentment as a sort of spiritual privilege.
"And Claire,"—said Bellegarde,—"Claire? She has given you up?"
"I don't really believe it," said Newman.
"No. Don't believe it, don't believe it. She is gaining time; excuse her."
"I pity her!" said Newman.
"Poor Claire!" murmured Valentin. "But they—but they"—and he paused again.
"You saw them; they dismissed you, face to face?"
"Face to face. They were very explicit."
"What did they say?"
"They said they couldn't stand a commercial person."
Valentin put out his hand and laid it upon Newman's arm. "And about thei_romise—their engagement with you?"
"They made a distinction. They said it was to hold good only until Madame d_intre accepted me."
Valentin lay staring a while, and his flush died away. "Don't tell me an_ore," he said at last. "I'm ashamed."
"You? You are the soul of honor," said Newman simply.
Valentin groaned and turned away his head. For some time nothing more wa_aid. Then Valentin turned back again and found a certain force to pres_ewman's arm. "It's very bad—very bad. When my people—when my race—come t_hat, it is time for me to withdraw. I believe in my sister; she will explain.
Excuse her. If she can't—if she can't, forgive her. She has suffered. But fo_he others it is very bad—very bad. You take it very hard? No, it's a shame t_ake you say so." He closed his eyes and again there was a silence. Newma_elt almost awed; he had evoked a more solemn spirit than he expected.
Presently Valentin looked at him again, removing his hand from his arm. "_pologize," he said. "Do you understand? Here on my death-bed. I apologize fo_y family. For my mother. For my brother. For the ancient house of Bellegarde.
Voila!" he added, softly.
Newman for an answer took his hand and pressed it with a world of kindness.
Valentin remained quiet, and at the end of half an hour the doctor softly cam_n. Behind him, through the half-open door, Newman saw the two questionin_aces of MM. de Grosjoyaux and Ledoux. The doctor laid his hand on Valentin'_rist and sat looking at him. He gave no sign and the two gentlemen came in, M. Ledoux having first beckoned to some one outside. This was M. le cure, wh_arried in his hand an object unknown to Newman, and covered with a whit_apkin. M. le cure was short, round, and red: he advanced, pulling off hi_ittle black cap to Newman, and deposited his burden on the table; and then h_at down in the best arm-chair, with his hands folded across his person. Th_ther gentlemen had exchanged glances which expressed unanimity as to th_imeliness of their presence. But for a long time Valentin neither spoke no_oved. It was Newman's belief, afterwards, that M. le cure went to sleep. A_ast abruptly, Valentin pronounced Newman's name. His friend went to him, an_e said in French, "You are not alone. I want to speak to you alone." Newma_ooked at the doctor, and the doctor looked at the cure, who looked back a_im; and then the doctor and the cure, together, gave a shrug. "Alone—for fiv_inutes," Valentin repeated. "Please leave us."
The cure took up his burden again and led the way out, followed by hi_ompanions. Newman closed the door behind them and came back to Valentin'_edside. Bellegarde had watched all this intently.
"It's very bad, it's very bad," he said, after Newman had seated himself clos_o him. "The more I think of it the worse it is."
"Oh, don't think of it," said Newman.
But Valentin went on, without heeding him. "Even if they should come roun_gain, the shame—the baseness—is there."
"Oh, they won't come round!" said Newman.
"Well, you can make them."
"I can tell you something—a great secret—an immense secret. You can use i_gainst them—frighten them, force them."
"A secret!" Newman repeated. The idea of letting Valentin, on his death-bed, confide him an "immense secret" shocked him, for the moment, and made him dra_ack. It seemed an illicit way of arriving at information, and even had _ague analogy with listening at a key-hole. Then, suddenly, the thought of
"forcing" Madame de Bellegarde and her son became attractive, and Newman ben_is head closer to Valentin's lips. For some time, however, the dying man sai_othing more. He only lay and looked at his friend with his kindled, expanded, troubled eye, and Newman began to believe that he had spoken in delirium. Bu_t last he said,—
"There was something done—something done at Fleurieres. It was foul play. M_ather—something happened to him. I don't know; I have been ashamed—afraid t_now. But I know there is something. My mother knows—Urbain knows."
"Something happened to your father?" said Newman, urgently.
Valentin looked at him, still more wide-eyed. "He didn't get well."
"Get well of what?"
But the immense effort which Valentin had made, first to decide to utter thes_ords and then to bring them out, appeared to have taken his last strength. H_apsed again into silence, and Newman sat watching him. "Do you understand?"
he began again, presently. "At Fleurieres. You can find out. Mrs. Bread knows.
Tell her I begged you to ask her. Then tell them that, and see. It may hel_ou. If not, tell, every one. It will—it will"—here Valentin's voice sank t_he feeblest murmur—"it will avenge you!"
The words died away in a long, soft groan. Newman stood up, deeply impressed, not knowing what to say; his heart was beating violently. "Thank you," he sai_t last. "I am much obliged." But Valentin seemed not to hear him, he remaine_ilent, and his silence continued. At last Newman went and opened the door. M.
le cure reentered, bearing his sacred vessel and followed by the thre_entlemen and by Valentin's servant. It was almost processional.