M. de Bellegarde turned to his sister with a smile too intense to be easy. "I hope you appreciate a compliment that is paid you at your brother's expense," he said. "Come, come, madame." And offering Madame de Cintre his arm he led her rapidly out of the room. Valentin rendered the same service to young Madame de Bellegarde, who had apparently been reflecting on the fact that the ball dress of her sister-in-law was much less brilliant than her own, and yet had failed to derive absolute comfort from the reflection. With a farewell smile she sought the complement of her consolation in the eyes of the American visitor, and perceiving in them a certain mysterious brilliancy, it is not improbable that she may have flattered herself she had found it.
Newman, left alone with old Madame de Bellegarde, stood before her a few moments in silence. "Your daughter is very beautiful," he said at last.
"She is very strange," said Madame de Bellegarde.
"I am glad to hear it," Newman rejoined, smiling. "It makes me hope."
"That she will consent, some day, to marry me."
The old lady slowly rose to her feet. "That really is your project, then?"
"Yes; will you favor it?"
"Favor it?" Madame de Bellegarde looked at him a moment and then shook her head. "No!" she said, softly.
"Will you suffer it, then? Will you let it pass?"
"You don't know what you ask. I am a very proud and meddlesome old woman."
"Well, I am very rich," said Newman.
Madame de Bellegarde fixed her eyes on the floor, and Newman thought it probable she was weighing the reasons in favor of resenting the brutality of this remark. But at last, looking up, she said simply, "How rich?"
Newman expressed his income in a round number which had the magnificent sound that large aggregations of dollars put on when they are translated into francs. He added a few remarks of a financial character, which completed a sufficiently striking presentment of his resources.
Madame de Bellegarde listened in silence. "You are very frank," she said finally. "I will be the same. I would rather favor you, on the whole, than suffer you. It will be easier."
"I am thankful for any terms," said Newman. "But, for the present, you have suffered me long enough. Good night!" And he took his leave.