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Chapter 23
Newman returned to Paris the second day after his interview with Mrs. Bread.
The morrow he had spent at Poitiers, reading over and over again the little
document which he had lodged in his pocket-book, and thinking what he would
do in the circumstances and how he would do it. He would not have said that
Poitiers was an amusing place; yet the day seemed very short. Domiciled once
more in the Boulevard Haussmann, he walked over to the Rue de l'Universite
and inquired of Madame de Bellegarde's portress whether the marquise had
come back. The portress told him that she had arrived, with M. le Marquis, on the
preceding day, and further informed him that if he desired to enter, Madame de
Bellegarde and her son were both at home. As she said these words the little
white-faced old woman who peered out of the dusky gate-house of the Hotel de
Bellegarde gave a small wicked smile--a smile which seemed to Newman to
mean, "Go in if you dare!" She was evidently versed in the current domestic
history; she was placed where she could feel the pulse of the house. Newman
stood a moment, twisting his mustache and looking at her; then he abruptly
turned away. But this was not because he was afraid to go in--though he doubted
whether, if he did so, he should be able to make his way, unchallenged, into the
presence of Madame de Cintre's relatives. Confidence--excessive confidence,
perhaps--quite as much as timidity prompted his retreat. He was nursing his
thunder-bolt; he loved it; he was unwilling to part with it. He seemed to be holding
it aloft in the rumbling, vaguely-flashing air, directly over the heads of his victims,
and he fancied he could see their pale, upturned faces. Few specimens of the
human countenance had ever given him such pleasure as these, lighted in the
lurid fashion I have hinted at, and he was disposed to sip the cup of
contemplative revenge in a leisurely fashion. It must be added, too, that he was
at a loss to see exactly how he could arrange to witness the operation of his
thunder. To send in his card to Madame de Bellegarde would be a waste of
ceremony; she would certainly decline to receive him. On the other hand he
could not force his way into her presence. It annoyed him keenly to think that he
might be reduced to the blind satisfaction of writing her a letter; but he consoled
himself in a measure with the reflection that a letter might lead to an interview.
He went home, and feeling rather tired--nursing a vengeance was, it must be
confessed, a rather fatiguing process; it took a good deal out of one-- flung
himself into one of his brocaded fauteuils, stretched his legs, thrust his hands into
his pockets, and, while he watched the reflected sunset fading from the ornate
house-tops on the opposite side of the Boulevard, began mentally to compose a
cool epistle to Madame de Bellegarde. While he was so occupied his servant
threw open the door and announced ceremoniously, "Madame Brett!"
Newman roused himself, expectantly, and in a few moments perceived upon his
threshold the worthy woman with whom he had conversed to such good purpose
on the starlit hill-top of Fleurieres. Mrs. Bread had made for this visit the same
toilet as for her former expedition. Newman was struck with her distinguished
appearance. His lamp was not lit, and as her large, grave face gazed at him