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Chapter 12
Three days after his introduction to the family of Madame de Cintre, Newman,
coming in toward evening, found upon his table the card of the Marquis de
Bellegarde. On the following day he received a note informing him that the
Marquise de Bellegarde would be grateful for the honor of his company at dinner.
He went, of course, though he had to break another engagement to do it. He was
ushered into the room in which Madame de Bellegarde had received him before,
and here he found his venerable hostess, surrounded by her entire family. The
room was lighted only by the crackling fire, which illuminated the very small pink
slippers of a lady who, seated in a low chair, was stretching out her toes before it.
This lady was the younger Madame de Bellegarde. Madame de Cintre was
seated at the other end of the room, holding a little girl against her knee, the child
of her brother Urbain, to whom she was apparently relating a wonderful story.
Valentin was sitting on a puff, close to his sister-in-law, into whose ear he was
certainly distilling the finest nonsense. The marquis was stationed before the fire,
with his head erect and his hands behind him, in an attitude of formal
Old Madame de Bellegarde stood up to give Newman her greeting, and there
was that in the way she did so which seemed to measure narrowly the extent of
her condescension. "We are all alone, you see, we have asked no one else," she
said, austerely.
"I am very glad you didn't; this is much more sociable," said Newman. "Good
evening, sir," and he offered his hand to the marquis.
M. de Bellegarde was affable, but in spite of his dignity he was restless. He
began to pace up and down the room, he looked out of the long windows, he
took up books and laid them down again. Young Madame de Bellegarde gave
Newman her hand without moving and without looking at him.
"You may think that is coldness," exclaimed Valentin; "but it is not, it is warmth. It
shows she is treating you as an intimate. Now she detests me, and yet she is
always looking at me."
"No wonder I detest you if I am always looking at you!" cried the lady. "If Mr.
Newman does not like my way of shaking hands, I will do it again."
But this charming privilege was lost upon our hero, who was already making his
way across the room to Madame de Cintre. She looked at him as she shook
hands, but she went on with the story she was telling her little niece. She had
only two or three phrases to add, but they were apparently of great moment. She
deepened her voice, smiling as she did so, and the little girl gazed at her with
round eyes.
"But in the end the young prince married the beautiful Florabella," said Madame
de Cintre, "and carried her off to live with him in the Land of the Pink Sky. There
she was so happy that she forgot all her troubles, and went out to drive every day
of her life in an ivory coach drawn by five hundred white mice. Poor Florabella,"
she exclaimed to Newman, "had suffered terribly."
"She had had nothing to eat for six months," said little Blanche.