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Chapter 21
There is a pretty public walk at Poitiers, laid out upon the crest of the high hill
around which the little city clusters, planted with thick trees and looking down
upon the fertile fields in which the old English princes fought for their right and
held it. Newman paced up and down this quiet promenade for the greater part of
the next day and let his eyes wander over the historic prospect; but he would
have been sadly at a loss to tell you afterwards whether the latter was made up
of coal-fields or of vineyards. He was wholly given up to his grievance, or which
reflection by no means diminished the weight. He feared that Madame de Cintre
was irretrievably lost; and yet, as he would have said himself, he didn't see his
way clear to giving her up. He found it impossible to turn his back upon
Fleurieres and its inhabitants; it seemed to him that some germ of hope or
reparation must lurk there somewhere, if he could only stretch his arm out far
enough to pluck it. It was as if he had his hand on a door-knob and were closing
his clenched fist upon it: he had thumped, he had called, he had pressed the
door with his powerful knee and shaken it with all his strength, and dead,
damning silence had answered him. And yet something held him there--
something hardened the grasp of his fingers. Newman's satisfaction had been
too intense, his whole plan too deliberate and mature, his prospect of happiness
too rich and comprehensive for this fine moral fabric to crumble at a stroke. The
very foundation seemed fatally injured, and yet he felt a stubborn desire still to try
to save the edifice. He was filled with a sorer sense of wrong than he had ever
known, or than he had supposed it possible he should know. To accept his injury
and walk away without looking behind him was a stretch of good-nature of which
he found himself incapable. He looked behind him intently and continually, and
what he saw there did not assuage his resentment. He saw himself trustful,
generous, liberal, patient, easy, pocketing frequent irritation and furnishing
unlimited modesty. To have eaten humble pie, to have been snubbed and
patronized and satirized and have consented to take it as one of the conditions of
the bargain--to have done this, and done it all for nothing, surely gave one a right
to protest. And to be turned off because one was a commercial person! As if he
had ever talked or dreamt of the commercial since his connection with the
Bellegardes began-- as if he had made the least circumstance of the commercial-
- as if he would not have consented to confound the commercial fifty times a day,
if it might have increased by a hair's breadth the chance of the Bellegardes' not
playing him a trick! Granted that being commercial was fair ground for having a
trick played upon one, how little they knew about the class so designed and its
enterprising way of not standing upon trifles! It was in the light of his injury that
the weight of Newman's past endurance seemed so heavy; his actual irritation
had not been so great, merged as it was in his vision of the cloudless blue that
overarched his immediate wooing. But now his sense of outrage was deep,
rancorous, and ever present; he felt that he was a good fellow wronged. As for
Madame de Cintre's conduct, it struck him with a kind of awe, and the fact that he
was powerless to understand it or feel the reality of its motives only deepened