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Chapter 6
Newman gave up Damascus and Bagdad and returned to Paris before the
autumn was over. He established himself in some rooms selected for him by
Tom Tristram, in accordance with the latter's estimate of what he called his social
position. When Newman learned that his social position was to be taken into
account, he professed himself utterly incompetent, and begged Tristram to
relieve him of the care. "I didn't know I had a social position," he said, "and if I
have, I haven't the smallest idea what it is. Isn't a social position knowing some
two or three thousand people and inviting them to dinner? I know you and your
wife and little old Mr. Nioche, who gave me French lessons last spring. Can I
invite you to dinner to meet each other? If I can, you must come to-morrow."
"That is not very grateful to me," said Mrs. Tristram, "who introduced you last
year to every creature I know."
"So you did; I had quite forgotten. But I thought you wanted me to forget," said
Newman, with that tone of simple deliberateness which frequently marked his
utterance, and which an observer would not have known whether to pronounce a
somewhat mysteriously humorous affection of ignorance or a modest aspiration
to knowledge; "you told me you disliked them all."
"Ah, the way you remember what I say is at least very flattering. But in future,"
added Mrs. Tristram, "pray forget all the wicked things and remember only the
good ones. It will be easily done, and it will not fatigue your memory. But I
forewarn you that if you trust my husband to pick out your rooms, you are in for
something hideous."
"Hideous, darling?" cried Tristram.
"To-day I must say nothing wicked; otherwise I should use stronger language."
"What do you think she would say, Newman?" asked Tristram. "If she really tried,
now? She can express displeasure, volubly, in two or three languages; that's
what it is to be intellectual. It gives her the start of me completely, for I can't
swear, for the life of me, except in English. When I get mad I have to fall back on
our dear old mother tongue. There's nothing like it, after all."
Newman declared that he knew nothing about tables and chairs, and that he
would accept, in the way of a lodging, with his eyes shut, anything that Tristram
should offer him. This was partly veracity on our hero's part, but it was also partly
charity. He knew that to pry about and look at rooms, and make people open
windows, and poke into sofas with his cane, and gossip with landladies, and ask
who lived above and who below--he knew that this was of all pastimes the
dearest to Tristram's heart, and he felt the more disposed to put it in his way as
he was conscious that, as regards his obliging friend, he had suffered the warmth
of ancient good-fellowship somewhat to abate. Besides, he had no taste for
upholstery; he had even no very exquisite sense of comfort or convenience. He
had a relish for luxury and splendor, but it was satisfied by rather gross
contrivances. He scarcely knew a hard chair from a soft one, and he possessed
a talent for stretching his legs which quite dispensed with adventitious facilities.
His idea of comfort was to inhabit very large rooms, have a great many of them,
and be conscious of their possessing a number of patented mechanical devices--