“Very possibly,” Newman rejoined. “But she will not know. I was in that convent yesterday and I know what she is doing. Lord deliver us! You can guess whether it made me feel forgiving!”
M. de Bellegarde appeared to have nothing more to suggest; but he continued to stand there, rigid and elegant, as a man who believed that his mere personal presence had an argumentative value. Newman watched him, and, without yielding an inch on the main issue, felt an incongruously good-natured impulse to help him to retreat in good order.
“Your visit’s a failure, you see,” he said. “You offer too little.”
“Propose something yourself,” said the marquis.
“Give me back Madame de Cintre in the same state in which you took her from me.”
M. de Bellegarde threw back his head and his pale face flushed. “Never!” he said.
“We wouldn’t if we could! In the sentiment which led us to deprecate her marriage nothing is changed.”
“‘Deprecate’ is good!” cried Newman. “It was hardly worth while to come here only to tell me that you are not ashamed of yourselves. I could have guessed that!”
The marquis slowly walked toward the door, and Newman, following, opened it for him. “What you propose to do will be very disagreeable,” M. de Bellegarde said. “That is very evident. But it will be nothing more.”
“As I understand it,” Newman answered, “that will be quite enough!”
M. de Bellegarde stood for a moment looking on the ground, as if he were ransacking his ingenuity to see what else he could do to save his father’s reputation. Then, with a little cold sigh, he seemed to signify that he regretfully surrendered the late marquis to the penalty of his turpitude. He gave a hardly perceptible shrug, took his neat umbrella from the servant in the vestibule, and, with his gentlemanly walk, passed out. Newman stood listening till he heard the door close; then he slowly exclaimed, “Well, I ought to begin to be satisfied now!”
Newman called upon the comical duchess and found her at home. An old gentleman with a high nose and a gold-headed cane was just taking leave of her; he made Newman a protracted obeisance as he retired, and our hero supposed that he was one of the mysterious grandees with whom he had shaken hands at Madame de Bellegarde’s ball. The duchess, in her arm-chair, from which she did not move, with a great flower-pot on one side of her, a pile of pink-covered novels on the other, and a large piece of tapestry depending from her lap, presented an expansive and imposing front; but her aspect was in the highest degree gracious, and there was nothing in her manner to check the effusion of his confidence. She talked to him about flowers and books, getting launched with marvelous promptitude; about the theatres, about the peculiar institutions of his native country, about