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Chapter 26
In that uninitiated observation of the great spectacle of English life upon which I
have touched, it might be supposed that Newman passed a great many dull
days. But the dullness of his days pleased him; his melancholy, which was
settling into a secondary stage, like a healing wound, had in it a certain acrid,
palatable sweetness. He had company in his thoughts, and for the present he
wanted no other. He had no desire to make acquaintances, and he left
untouched a couple of notes of introduction which had been sent him by Tom
Tristram. He thought a great deal of Madame de Cintre--sometimes with a
dogged tranquillity which might have seemed, for a quarter of an hour at a time, a
near neighbor to forgetfulness. He lived over again the happiest hours he had
known--that silver chain of numbered days in which his afternoon visits, tending
sensibly to the ideal result, had subtilized his good humor to a sort of spiritual
intoxication. He came back to reality, after such reveries, with a somewhat
muffled shock; he had begun to feel the need of accepting the unchangeable. At
other times the reality became an infamy again and the unchangeable an
imposture, and he gave himself up to his angry restlessness till he was weary.
But on the whole he fell into a rather reflective mood. Without in the least
intending it or knowing it, he attempted to read the moral of his strange
misadventure. He asked himself, in his quieter hours, whether perhaps, after all,
he WAS more commercial than was pleasant. We know that it was in obedience
to a strong reaction against questions exclusively commercial that he had come
out to pick up aesthetic entertainment in Europe; it may therefore be understood
that he was able to conceive that a man might be too commercial. He was very
willing to grant it, but the concession, as to his own case, was not made with any
very oppressive sense of shame. If he had been too commercial, he was ready to
forget it, for in being so he had done no man any wrong that might not be as
easily forgotten. He reflected with sober placidity that at least there were no
monuments of his "meanness" scattered about the world. If there was any reason
in the nature of things why his connection with business should have cast a
shadow upon a connection-- even a connection broken--with a woman justly
proud, he was willing to sponge it out of his life forever. The thing seemed a
possibility; he could not feel it, doubtless, as keenly as some people, and it hardly
seemed worth while to flap his wings very hard to rise to the idea; but he could
feel it enough to make any sacrifice that still remained to be made. As to what
such sacrifice was now to be made to, here Newman stopped short before a
blank wall over which there sometimes played a shadowy imagery. He had a
fancy of carrying out his life as he would have directed it if Madame de Cintre
had been left to him-- of making it a religion to do nothing that she would have
disliked. In this, certainly, there was no sacrifice; but there was a pale, oblique
ray of inspiration. It would be lonely entertainment--a good deal like a man talking
to himself in the mirror for want of better company. Yet the idea yielded Newman
several half hours' dumb exaltation as he sat, with his hands in his pockets and
his legs stretched, over the relics of an expensively poor dinner, in the undying