“I am thankful for any terms,” said Newman. “But, for the present, you have suffered me long enough. Good night!” And he took his leave.
Newman, on his return to Paris, had not resumed the study of French conversation with M. Nioche; he found that he had too many other uses for his time. M. Nioche, however, came to see him very promptly, having learned his whereabouts by a mysterious process to which his patron never obtained the key. The shrunken little capitalist repeated his visit more than once. He seemed oppressed by a humiliating sense of having been overpaid, and wished apparently to redeem his debt by the offer of grammatical and statistical information in small installments. He wore the same decently melancholy aspect as a few months before; a few months more or less of brushing could make little difference in the antique lustre of his coat and hat. But the poor old man’s spirit was a trifle more threadbare; it seemed to have received some hard rubs during the summer Newman inquired with interest about Mademoiselle Noemie; and M. Nioche, at first, for answer, simply looked at him in lachrymose silence.
“Don’t ask me, sir,” he said at last. “I sit and watch her, but I can do nothing.”
“Do you mean that she misconducts herself?”
“I don’t know, I am sure. I can’t follow her. I don’t understand her. She has something in her head; I don’t know what she is trying to do. She is too deep for me.”
“Does she continue to go to the Louvre? Has she made any of those copies for me?”
“She goes to the Louvre, but I see nothing of the copies. She has something on her easel; I suppose it is one of the pictures you ordered. Such a magnificent order ought to give her fairy-fingers. But she is not in earnest. I can’t say anything to her; I am afraid of her. One evening, last summer, when I took her to walk in the Champs Elysees, she said some things to me that frightened me.”
“What were they?”
“Excuse an unhappy father from telling you,” said M. Nioche, unfolding his calico pocket-handkerchief.
Newman promised himself to pay Mademoiselle Noemie another visit at the Louvre. He was curious about the progress of his copies, but it must be added that he was still more curious about the progress of the young lady herself. He went one afternoon to the great museum, and wandered through several of the rooms in fruitless quest of her. He was bending his steps to the long hall of the Italian masters, when suddenly he found himself face to face with Valentin de Bellegarde. The young Frenchman greeted him with ardor, and assured him that he was a godsend. He himself was in the worst of humors and he wanted some one to contradict.
“In a bad humor among all these beautiful things?” said Newman. “I thought you were so fond of pictures, especially the old black ones. There are two or three here that ought to keep you in spirits.”