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Chapter 15
Valentin de Bellegarde's announcement of the secession of Mademoiselle
Nioche from her father's domicile and his irreverent reflections upon the attitude
of this anxious parent in so grave a catastrophe, received a practical commentary
in the fact that M. Nioche was slow to seek another interview with his late pupil. It
had cost Newman some disgust to be forced to assent to Valentin's somewhat
cynical interpretation of the old man's philosophy, and, though circumstances
seemed to indicate that he had not given himself up to a noble despair, Newman
thought it very possible he might be suffering more keenly than was apparent. M.
Nioche had been in the habit of paying him a respectful little visit every two or
three weeks and his absence might be a proof quite as much of extreme
depression as of a desire to conceal the success with which he had patched up
his sorrow. Newman presently learned from Valentin several details touching this
new phase of Mademoiselle Noemie's career.
"I told you she was remarkable," this unshrinking observer declared, "and the
way she has managed this performance proves it. She has had other chances,
but she was resolved to take none but the best. She did you the honor to think for
a while that you might be such a chance. You were not; so she gathered up her
patience and waited a while longer. At last her occasion came along, and she
made her move with her eyes wide open. I am very sure she had no innocence
to lose, but she had all her respectability. Dubious little damsel as you thought
her, she had kept a firm hold of that; nothing could be proved against her, and
she was determined not to let her reputation go till she had got her equivalent.
About her equivalent she had high ideas. Apparently her ideal has been satisfied.
It is fifty years old, bald-headed, and deaf, but it is very easy about money."
"And where in the world," asked Newman, "did you pick up this valuable
"In conversation. Remember my frivolous habits. In conversation with a young
woman engaged in the humble trade of glove-cleaner, who keeps a small shop in
the Rue St. Roch. M. Nioche lives in the same house, up six pair of stairs, across
the court, in and out of whose ill-swept doorway Miss Noemie has been flitting for
the last five years. The little glove-cleaner was an old acquaintance; she used to
be the friend of a friend of mine, who has married and dropped such friends. I
often saw her in his society. As soon as I espied her behind her clear little
window-pane, I recollected her. I had on a spotlessly fresh pair of gloves, but I
went in and held up my hands, and said to her, 'Dear mademoiselle, what will
you ask me for cleaning these?' 'Dear count,' she answered immediately, 'I will
clean them for you for nothing.' She had instantly recognized me, and I had to
hear her history for the last six years. But after that, I put her upon that of her
neighbors. She knows and admires Noemie, and she told me what I have just
A month elapsed without M. Nioche reappearing, and Newman, who every
morning read two or three suicides in the "Figaro," began to suspect that,
mortification proving stubborn, he had sought a balm for his wounded pride in the