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Chapter 11
Newman, on his return to Paris, had not resumed the study of French
conversation with M. Nioche; he found that he had too many other uses for his
time. M. Nioche, however, came to see him very promptly, having learned his
whereabouts by a mysterious process to which his patron never obtained the
key. The shrunken little capitalist repeated his visit more than once. He seemed
oppressed by a humiliating sense of having been overpaid, and wished
apparently to redeem his debt by the offer of grammatical and statistical
information in small installments. He wore the same decently melancholy aspect
as a few months before; a few months more or less of brushing could make little
difference in the antique lustre of his coat and hat. But the poor old man's spirit
was a trifle more threadbare; it seemed to have received some hard rubs during
the summer Newman inquired with interest about Mademoiselle Noemie; and M.
Nioche, at first, for answer, simply looked at him in lachrymose silence.
"Don't ask me, sir," he said at last. "I sit and watch her, but I can do nothing."
"Do you mean that she misconducts herself?"
"I don't know, I am sure. I can't follow her. I don't understand her. She has
something in her head; I don't know what she is trying to do. She is too deep for
"Does she continue to go to the Louvre? Has she made any of those copies for
"She goes to the Louvre, but I see nothing of the copies. She has something on
her easel; I suppose it is one of the pictures you ordered. Such a magnificent
order ought to give her fairy-fingers. But she is not in earnest. I can't say anything
to her; I am afraid of her. One evening, last summer, when I took her to walk in
the Champs Elysees, she said some things to me that frightened me."
"What were they?"
"Excuse an unhappy father from telling you," said M. Nioche, unfolding his calico
Newman promised himself to pay Mademoiselle Noemie another visit at the
Louvre. He was curious about the progress of his copies, but it must be added
that he was still more curious about the progress of the young lady herself. He
went one afternoon to the great museum, and wandered through several of the
rooms in fruitless quest of her. He was bending his steps to the long hall of the
Italian masters, when suddenly he found himself face to face with Valentin de
Bellegarde. The young Frenchman greeted him with ardor, and assured him that
he was a godsend. He himself was in the worst of humors and he wanted some
one to contradict.
"In a bad humor among all these beautiful things?" said Newman. "I thought you
were so fond of pictures, especially the old black ones. There are two or three
here that ought to keep you in spirits."
"Oh, to-day," answered Valentin, "I am not in a mood for pictures, and the more
beautiful they are the less I like them. Their great staring eyes and fixed positions
irritate me. I feel as if I were at some big, dull party, in a room full of people I