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Chapter 2
He wandered back to the divan and seated himself on the other side, in view of
the great canvas on which Paul Veronese had depicted the marriage-feast of
Cana. Wearied as he was he found the picture entertaining; it had an illusion for
him; it satisfied his conception, which was ambitious, of what a splendid banquet
should be. In the left-hand corner of the picture is a young woman with yellow
tresses confined in a golden head-dress; she is bending forward and listening,
with the smile of a charming woman at a dinner-party, to her neighbor. Newman
detected her in the crowd, admired her, and perceived that she too had her
votive copyist--a young man with his hair standing on end. Suddenly he became
conscious of the germ of the mania of the "collector;" he had taken the first step;
why should he not go on? It was only twenty minutes before that he had bought
the first picture of his life, and now he was already thinking of art-patronage as a
fascinating pursuit. His reflections quickened his good-humor, and he was on the
point of approaching the young man with another "Combien?" Two or three facts
in this relation are noticeable, although the logical chain which connects them
may seem imperfect. He knew Mademoiselle Nioche had asked too much; he
bore her no grudge for doing so, and he was determined to pay the young man
exactly the proper sum. At this moment, however, his attention was attracted by
a gentleman who had come from another part of the room and whose manner
was that of a stranger to the gallery, although he was equipped with neither
guide-book nor opera-glass. He carried a white sun-umbrella, lined with blue silk,
and he strolled in front of the Paul Veronese, vaguely looking at it, but much too
near to see anything but the grain of the canvas. Opposite to Christopher
Newman he paused and turned, and then our friend, who had been observing
him, had a chance to verify a suspicion aroused by an imperfect view of his face.
The result of this larger scrutiny was that he presently sprang to his feet, strode
across the room, and, with an outstretched hand, arrested the gentleman with the
blue-lined umbrella. The latter stared, but put out his hand at a venture. He was
corpulent and rosy, and though his countenance, which was ornamented with a
beautiful flaxen beard, carefully divided in the middle and brushed outward at the
sides, was not remarkable for intensity of expression, he looked like a person
who would willingly shake hands with any one. I know not what Newman thought
of his face, but he found a want of response in his grasp.
"Oh, come, come," he said, laughing; "don't say, now, you don't know me-- if I
have NOT got a white parasol!"
The sound of his voice quickened the other's memory, his face expanded to its
fullest capacity, and he also broke into a laugh. "Why, Newman-- I'll be blowed!
Where in the world--I declare--who would have thought? You know you have
"You haven't!" said Newman.
"Not for the better, no doubt. When did you get here?"
"Three days ago."
"Why didn't you let me know?"
"I had no idea YOU were here."