“Do you call this sort of thing satisfaction?” Newman asked. “Does it satisfy you to receive a present of the carcass of that coarse fop? does it gratify you to make him a present of yours? If a man hits you, hit him back; if a man libels 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 is not particularly nice. You are too good for it. I don’t say you are the most useful man in the world, or the cleverest, or the most amiable. But you are too 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 I can help it. Moreover, one’s honor hasn’t two different measures. It only knows 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,” he said. “If you do I shall almost fancy you don’t care about—about”—and he paused.
“About that matter—about one’s honor.”
“Fancy what you please,” said Newman. “Fancy while you are at it that I care about you—though you are not worth it. But come back without damage,” he added in a moment, “and I will forgive you. And then,” he continued, as Valentin was going, “I will ship you straight off to America.”
“Well,” answered Valentin, “if I am to turn over a new page, this may figure as 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.
Newman went the next morning to see Madame de Cintre, timing his visit so as to arrive after the noonday breakfast. In the court of the hotel, before the portico, stood Madame de Bellegarde’s old square carriage. The servant who opened the door answered Newman’s inquiry with a slightly embarrassed and hesitating murmur, and at the same moment Mrs. Bread appeared in the background, dim-visaged as usual, and wearing a large black bonnet and shawl.
“What is the matter?” asked Newman. “Is Madame la Comtesse at home, or not?”
Mrs. Bread advanced, fixing her eyes upon him: he observed that she held a sealed letter, very delicately, in her fingers. “The countess has left a message for you, sir; she has left this,” said Mrs. Bread, holding out the letter, which Newman took.
“Left it? Is she out? Is she gone away?”
“She is going away, sir; she is leaving town,” said Mrs. Bread.
“Leaving town!” exclaimed Newman. “What has happened?”
“It is not for me to say, sir,” said Mrs. Bread, with her eyes on the ground. “But I thought it would come.”
“What would come, pray?” Newman demanded. He had broken the seal of the letter, but he still questioned. “She is in the house? She is visible?”