“Who is the gentleman with the dog?” he asked of the old woman who reappeared. He had begun to learn French.
“That is Monsieur le Comte.”
“And the other?”
“That is Monsieur le Marquis.”
“A marquis?” said Christopher in English, which the old woman fortunately did not understand. “Oh, then he’s not the butler!”
Early one morning, before Christopher Newman was dressed, a little old man was ushered into his apartment, followed by a youth in a blouse, bearing a picture in a brilliant frame. Newman, among the distractions of Paris, had forgotten M. Nioche and his accomplished daughter; but this was an effective reminder.
“I am afraid you had given me up, sir,” said the old man, after many apologies and salutations. “We have made you wait so many days. You accused us, perhaps, of inconstancy of bad faith. But behold me at last! And behold also the pretty Madonna. Place it on a chair, my friend, in a good light, so that monsieur may admire it.” And M. Nioche, addressing his companion, helped him to dispose the work of art.
It had been endued with a layer of varnish an inch thick and its frame, of an elaborate pattern, was at least a foot wide. It glittered and twinkled in the morning light, and looked, to Newman’s eyes, wonderfully splendid and precious. It seemed to him a very happy purchase, and he felt rich in the possession of it. He stood looking at it complacently, while he proceeded with his toilet, and M. Nioche, who had dismissed his own attendant, hovered near, smiling and rubbing his hands.
“It has wonderful finesse,” he murmured, caressingly. “And here and there are marvelous touches, you probably perceive them, sir. It attracted great attention on the Boulevard, as we came along. And then a gradation of tones! That’s what it is to know how to paint. I don’t say it because I am her father, sir; but as one man of taste addressing another I cannot help observing that you have there an exquisite work. It is hard to produce such things and to have to part with them. If our means only allowed us the luxury of keeping it! I really may say, sir—” and M. Nioche gave a little feebly insinuating laugh—“I really may say that I envy you! You see,” he added in a moment, “we have taken the liberty of offering you a frame. It increases by a trifle the value of the work, and it will save you the annoyance—so great for a person of your delicacy—of going about to bargain at the shops.”
The language spoken by M. Nioche was a singular compound, which I shrink from the attempt to reproduce in its integrity. He had apparently once possessed a certain knowledge of English, and his accent was oddly tinged with the cockneyism of the British metropolis. But his learning had grown rusty with disuse, and his vocabulary was defective and capricious. He had repaired it with large patches of French, with