“Exactly. I noticed him perfectly; be sure I do him justice. He has had losses, des malheurs, as we say. He is very low-spirited, and his daughter is too much for him. He is the pink of respectability, and he has sixty years of honesty on his back. All this I perfectly appreciate. But I know my fellow-men and my fellow-Parisians, and I will make a bargain with you.” Newman gave ear to his bargain and he went on. “He would rather his daughter were a good girl than a bad one, but if the worst comes to the worst, the old man will not do what Virginius did. Success justifies everything. If Mademoiselle Noemie makes a figure, her papa will feel—well, we will call it relieved. And she will make a figure. The old gentleman’s future is assured.”
“I don’t know what Virginius did, but M. Nioche will shoot Miss Noemie,” said Newman. “After that, I suppose his future will be assured in some snug prison.”
“I am not a cynic; I am simply an observer,” Valentin rejoined. “Mademoiselle Noemie interests me; she is extremely remarkable. If there is a good reason, in honor or decency, for dismissing her from my thoughts forever, I am perfectly willing to do it. Your estimate of the papa’s sensibilities is a good reason until it is invalidated. I promise you not to look at the young girl again until you tell me that you have changed your mind about the papa. When he has given distinct proof of being a philosopher, you will raise your interdict. Do you agree to that?”
“Do you mean to bribe him?”
“Oh, you admit, then, that he is bribable? No, he would ask too much, and it would not be exactly fair. I mean simply to wait. You will continue, I suppose, to see this interesting couple, and you will give me the news yourself.”
“Well,” said Newman, “if the old man turns out a humbug, you may do what you please. I wash my hands of the matter. For the girl herself, you may be at rest. I don’t know what harm she may do to me, but I certainly can’t hurt her. It seems to me,” said Newman, “that you are very well matched. You are both hard cases, and M. Nioche and I, I believe, are the only virtuous men to be found in Paris.”
Soon after this M. de Bellegarde, in punishment for his levity, received a stern poke in the back from a pointed instrument. Turning quickly round he found the weapon to be a parasol wielded by a lady in green gauze bonnet. Valentin’s English cousins had been drifting about unpiloted, and evidently deemed that they had a grievance. Newman left him to their mercies, but with a boundless faith in his power to plead his cause.
Three days after his introduction to the family of Madame de Cintre, Newman, coming in toward evening, found upon his table the card of the Marquis de Bellegarde. On the following day he received a note informing him that the Marquise de Bellegarde would be grateful for the honor of his company at dinner.