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Chapter 20
Valentin de Bellegarde died, tranquilly, just as the cold, faint March dawn began
to illumine the faces of the little knot of friends gathered about his bedside. An
hour afterwards Newman left the inn and drove to Geneva; he was naturally
unwilling to be present at the arrival of Madame de Bellegarde and her first-born.
At Geneva, for the moment, he remained. He was like a man who has had a fall
and wants to sit still and count his bruises. He instantly wrote to Madame de
Cintre, relating to her the circumstances of her brother's death--with certain
exceptions--and asking her what was the earliest moment at which he might
hope that she would consent to see him. M. Ledoux had told him that he had
reason to know that Valentin's will-- Bellegarde had a great deal of elegant
personal property to dispose of-- contained a request that he should be buried
near his father in the church-yard of Fleurieres, and Newman intended that the
state of his own relations with the family should not deprive him of the
satisfaction of helping to pay the last earthly honors to the best fellow in the
world. He reflected that Valentin's friendship was older than Urbain's enmity, and
that at a funeral it was easy to escape notice. Madame de Cintre's answer to his
letter enabled him to time his arrival at Fleurieres. This answer was very brief; it
ran as follows:--
"I thank you for your letter, and for your being with Valentin. It is a most
inexpressible sorrow to me that I was not. To see you will be nothing but a
distress to me; there is no need, therefore, to wait for what you call brighter days.
It is all one now, and I shall have no brighter days. Come when you please; only
notify me first. My brother is to be buried here on Friday, and my family is to
remain here. C. de C."
As soon as he received this letter Newman went straight to Paris and to Poitiers.
The journey took him far southward, through green Touraine and across the far-
shining Loire, into a country where the early spring deepened about him as he
went. But he had never made a journey during which he heeded less what he
would have called the lay of the land. He obtained lodging at the inn at Poitiers,
and the next morning drove in a couple of hours to the village of Fleurieres. But
here, preoccupied though he was, he could not fail to notice the picturesqueness
of the place. It was what the French call a petit bourg; it lay at the base of a sort
of huge mound on the summit of which stood the crumbling ruins of a feudal
castle, much of whose sturdy material, as well as that of the wall which dropped
along the hill to inclose the clustered houses defensively, had been absorbed into
the very substance of the village. The church was simply the former chapel of the
castle, fronting upon its grass-grown court, which, however, was of generous
enough width to have given up its quaintest corner to a little graveyard. Here the
very headstones themselves seemed to sleep, as they slanted into the grass; the
patient elbow of the rampart held them together on one side, and in front, far
beneath their mossy lids, the green plains and blue distances stretched away.
The way to church, up the hill, was impracticable to vehicles. It was lined with
peasants, two or three rows deep, who stood watching old Madame de