The American HTML version

Chapter 13
Newman kept his promise, or his menace, of going often to the Rue de
l'Universite, and during the next six weeks he saw Madame de Cintre more times
than he could have numbered. He flattered himself that he was not in love, but
his biographer may be supposed to know better. He claimed, at least, none of the
exemptions and emoluments of the romantic passion. Love, he believed, made a
fool of a man, and his present emotion was not folly but wisdom; wisdom sound,
serene, well-directed. What he felt was an intense, all-consuming tenderness,
which had for its object an extraordinarily graceful and delicate, and at the same
time impressive, woman who lived in a large gray house on the left bank of the
Seine. This tenderness turned very often into a positive heart-ache; a sign in
which, certainly, Newman ought to have read the appellation which science has
conferred upon his sentiment. When the heart has a heavy weight upon it, it
hardly matters whether the weight be of gold or of lead; when, at any rate,
happiness passes into that place in which it becomes identical with pain, a man
may admit that the reign of wisdom is temporarily suspended. Newman wished
Madame de Cintre so well that nothing he could think of doing for her in the
future rose to the high standard which his present mood had set itself. She
seemed to him so felicitous a product of nature and circumstance that his
invention, musing on future combinations, was constantly catching its breath with
the fear of stumbling into some brutal compression or mutilation of her beautiful
personal harmony. This is what I mean by Newman's tenderness: Madame de
Cintre pleased him so, exactly as she was, that his desire to interpose between
her and the troubles of life had the quality of a young mother's eagerness to
protect the sleep of her first-born child. Newman was simply charmed, and he
handled his charm as if it were a music-box which would stop if one shook it.
There can be no better proof of the hankering epicure that is hidden in every
man's temperament, waiting for a signal from some divine confederate that he
may safely peep out. Newman at last was enjoying, purely, freely, deeply.
Certain of Madame de Cintre's personal qualities--the luminous sweetness of her
eyes, the delicate mobility of her face, the deep liquidity of her voice--filled all his
consciousness. A rose-crowned Greek of old, gazing at a marble goddess with
his whole bright intellect resting satisfied in the act, could not have been a more
complete embodiment of the wisdom that loses itself in the enjoyment of quiet
He made no violent love to her--no sentimental speeches. He never trespassed
on what she had made him understand was for the present forbidden ground. But
he had, nevertheless, a comfortable sense that she knew better from day to day
how much he admired her. Though in general he was no great talker, he talked
much, and he succeeded perfectly in making her say many things. He was not
afraid of boring her, either by his discourse or by his silence; and whether or no
he did occasionally bore her, it is probable that on the whole she liked him only
the better for his absense of embarrassed scruples. Her visitors, coming in often
while Newman sat there, found a tall, lean, silent man in a half-lounging attitude,
who laughed out sometimes when no one had meant to be droll, and remained