“I shall be glad to see you,” she answered, simply. And then, in a moment. “You probably think it very strange that there should be such a solemnity—as you say—about your coming.”
“Well, yes; I do, rather.”
“Do you remember what my brother Valentin said, the first time you came to see me—that we were a strange, strange family?”
“It was not the first time I came, but the second,” said Newman.
“Very true. Valentin annoyed me at the time, but now I know you better, I may tell you he was right. If you come often, you will see!” and Madame de Cintre turned away.
Newman watched her a while, talking with other people, and then he took his leave. He shook hands last with Valentin de Bellegarde, who came out with him to the top of the staircase. “Well, you have got your permit,” said Valentin. “I hope you liked the process.”
“I like your sister, more than ever. But don’t worry your brother any more for my sake,” Newman added. “I don’t mind him. I am afraid he came down on you in the smoking-room, after I went out.”
“When my brother comes down on me,” said Valentin, “he falls hard. I have a peculiar way of receiving him. I must say,” he continued, “that they came up to the mark much sooner than I expected. I don’t understand it, they must have had to turn the screw pretty tight. It’s a tribute to your millions.”
“Well, it’s the most precious one they have ever received,” said Newman.
He was turning away when Valentin stopped him, looking at him with a brilliant, softly-cynical glance. “I should like to know whether, within a few days, you have seen your venerable friend M. Nioche.”
“He was yesterday at my rooms,” Newman answered.
“What did he tell you?”
“You didn’t see the muzzle of a pistol sticking out of his pocket?”
“What are you driving at?” Newman demanded. “I thought he seemed rather cheerful for him.”
Valentin broke into a laugh. “I am delighted to hear it! I win my bet. Mademoiselle Noemie has thrown her cap over the mill, as we say. She has left the paternal domicile. She is launched! And M. Nioche is rather cheerful—for him! Don’t brandish your tomahawk at that rate; I have not seen her nor communicated with her since that day at the Louvre. Andromeda has found another Perseus than I. My information is exact; on such matters it always is. I suppose that now you will raise your protest.”
“My protest be hanged!” murmured Newman, disgustedly.
But his tone found no echo in that in which Valentin, with his hand on the door, to return to his mother’s apartment, exclaimed, “But I shall see her now! She is very remarkable—she is very remarkable!”