The American HTML version

Chapter 16
The next ten days were the happiest that Newman had ever known. He saw
Madame de Cintre every day, and never saw either old Madame de Bellegarde
or the elder of his prospective brothers-in-law. Madame de Cintre at last seemed
to think it becoming to apologize for their never being present. "They are much
taken up," she said, "with doing the honors of Paris to Lord Deepmere." There
was a smile in her gravity as she made this declaration, and it deepened as she
added, "He is our seventh cousin, you know, and blood is thicker than water. And
then, he is so interesting!" And with this she laughed.
Newman met young Madame de Bellegarde two or three times, always roaming
about with graceful vagueness, as if in search of an unattainable ideal of
amusement. She always reminded him of a painted perfume-bottle with a crack
in it; but he had grown to have a kindly feeling for her, based on the fact of her
owing conjugal allegiance to Urbain de Bellegarde. He pitied M. de Bellegarde's
wife, especially since she was a silly, thirstily-smiling little brunette, with a
suggestion of an unregulated heart. The small marquise sometimes looked at
him with an intensity too marked not to be innocent, for coquetry is more finely
shaded. She apparently wanted to ask him something or tell him something; he
wondered what it was. But he was shy of giving her an opportunity, because, if
her communication bore upon the aridity of her matrimonial lot, he was at a loss
to see how he could help her. He had a fancy, however, of her coming up to him
some day and saying (after looking around behind her) with a little passionate
hiss, "I know you detest my husband; let me have the pleasure of assuring you
for once that you are right. Pity a poor woman who is married to a clock-image in
papier-mache!" Possessing, however, in default of a competent knowledge of the
principles of etiquette, a very downright sense of the "meanness" of certain
actions, it seemed to him to belong to his position to keep on his guard; he was
not going to put it into the power of these people to say that in their house he had
done anything unpleasant. As it was, Madame de Bellegarde used to give him
news of the dress she meant to wear at his wedding, and which had not yet, in
her creative imagination, in spite of many interviews with the tailor, resolved itself
into its composite totality. "I told you pale blue bows on the sleeves, at the
elbows," she said. "But to-day I don't see my blue bows at all. I don't know what
has become of them. To-day I see pink-- a tender pink. And then I pass through
strange, dull phases in which neither blue nor pink says anything to me. And yet I
must have the bows."
"Have them green or yellow," said Newman.
"Malheureux!" the little marquise would cry. "Green bows would break your
marriage--your children would be illegitimate!"
Madame de Cintre was calmly happy before the world, and Newman had the
felicity of fancying that before him, when the world was absent, she was almost
agitatedly happy. She said very tender things. "I take no pleasure in you. You
never give me a chance to scold you, to correct you. I bargained for that, I
expected to enjoy it. But you won't do anything dreadful; you are dismally