“For how long?”
“For six months. It must be a solemn promise.”
“Very well, I promise.”
“Good-by, then,” she said, and extended her hand.
He held it a moment, as if he were going to say something more. But he only looked at her; then he took his departure.
That evening, on the Boulevard, he met Valentin de Bellegarde. After they had exchanged greetings, Newman told him that he had seen Madame de Cintre a few hours before.
“I know it,” said Bellegarde. “I
dined in the Rue de l’Universite.”
And then, for some moments, both men were silent. Newman wished to ask
Bellegarde what visible impression his visit had made and the Count
Valentin had a question of his own. Bellegarde spoke first.
“It’s none of my business, but what the deuce did you say to my sister?”
“I am willing to tell you,” said Newman, “that I made her an offer of marriage.”
“Already!” And the young man gave a whistle. “‘Time is money!’ Is that what you say in America? And Madame de Cintre?” he added, with an interrogative inflection.
“She did not accept my offer.”
“She couldn’t, you know, in that way.”
“But I’m to see her again,” said Newman.
“Oh, the strangeness of woman!” exclaimed Bellegarde. Then he stopped, and held Newman off at arms’-length. “I look at you with respect!” he exclaimed. “You have achieved what we call a personal success! Immediately, now, I must present you to my brother.”
“Whenever you please!” said Newman.
Newman continued to see his friends the Tristrams with a good deal of frequency, though if you had listened to Mrs. Tristram’s account of the matter you would have supposed that they had been cynically repudiated for the sake of grander acquaintance. “We were all very well so long as we had no rivals—we were better than nothing. But now that you have become the fashion, and have your pick every day of three invitations to dinner, we are tossed into the corner. I am sure it is very good of you to come and see us once a month; I wonder you don’t send us your cards in an envelope. When you do, pray have them with black edges; it will be for the death of my last illusion.” It was in this incisive strain that Mrs. Tristram moralized over Newman’s so-called neglect, which was in reality a most exemplary constancy. Of course she was joking, but there was always something ironical in her jokes, as there was always something jocular in her gravity.
“I know no better proof that I have treated you very well,” Newman had said, “than the fact that you make so free with my character. Familiarity breeds contempt; I have made myself too cheap. If I had a little proper pride I would stay away a while, and when you asked me to dinner say I was going to the Princess Borealska’s. But I have not any pride where my pleasure is concerned,