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Chapter 8
"Tell me something about your sister," Newman began abruptly.
Bellegarde turned and gave him a quick look. "Now that I think of it, you have
never yet asked me a question about her."
"I know that very well."
"If it is because you don't trust me, you are very right," said Bellegarde. "I can't
talk of her rationally. I admire her too much."
"Talk of her as you can," rejoined Newman. "Let yourself go."
"Well, we are very good friends; we are such a brother and sister as have not
been seen since Orestes and Electra. You have seen her; you know what she is:
tall, thin, light, imposing, and gentle, half a grande dame and half an angel; a
mixture of pride and humility, of the eagle and the dove. She looks like a statue
which had failed as stone, resigned itself to its grave defects, and come to life as
flesh and blood, to wear white capes and long trains. All I can say is that she
really possesses every merit that her face, her glance, her smile, the tone of her
voice, lead you to expect; it is saying a great deal. As a general thing, when a
woman seems very charming, I should say 'Beware!' But in proportion as Claire
seems charming you may fold your arms and let yourself float with the current;
you are safe. She is so good! I have never seen a woman half so perfect or so
complete. She has everything; that is all I can say about her. There!" Bellegarde
concluded; "I told you I should rhapsodize."
Newman was silent a while, as if he were turning over his companion's words.
"She is very good, eh?" he repeated at last.
"Divinely good!"
"Kind, charitable, gentle, generous?"
"Generosity itself; kindness double-distilled!"
"Is she clever?"
"She is the most intelligent woman I know. Try her, some day, with something
difficult, and you will see."
"Is she fond of admiration?"
"Parbleu!" cried Bellegarde; "what woman is not?"
"Ah, when they are too fond of admiration they commit all kinds of follies to get
"I did not say she was too fond!" Bellegarde exclaimed. "Heaven forbid I should
say anything so idiotic. She is not too anything! If I were to say she was ugly, I
should not mean she was too ugly. She is fond of pleasing, and if you are
pleased she is grateful. If you are not pleased, she lets it pass and thinks the
worst neither of you nor of herself. I imagine, though, she hopes the saints in
heaven are, for I am sure she is incapable of trying to please by any means of
which they would disapprove."
"Is she grave or gay?" asked Newman.
"She is both; not alternately, for she is always the same. There is gravity in her
gayety, and gayety in her gravity. But there is no reason why she should be
particularly gay."