On a brilliant day in May, in the
year 1868, a gentleman was reclining at his ease on the great
circular divan which at that period occupied the centre of the
Salon Carre, in the Museum of the Louvre. This commodious ottoman
has since been removed, to the extreme regret of all weak-kneed
lovers of the fine arts, but the gentleman in question had taken
serene possession of its softest spot, and, with his head thrown
back and his legs outstretched, was staring at Murillo's beautiful
moon-borne Madonna in profound enjoyment of his posture. He had
removed his hat, and flung down beside him a little red guide-book
and an opera-glass. The day was warm; he was heated with walking,
and he repeatedly passed his handkerchief over his forehead, with a
somewhat wearied gesture. And yet he was evidently not a man to
whom fatigue was familiar; long, lean, and muscular, he suggested
the sort of vigor that is commonly known as "toughness." But his
exertions on this particular day had been of an unwonted sort, and
he had performed great physical feats which left him less jaded
than his tranquil stroll through the Louvre. He had looked out all
the pictures to which an asterisk was affixed in those formidable
pages of fine print in his Badeker; his attention had been strained
and his eyes dazzled, and he had sat down with an aesthetic
headache. He had looked, moreover, not only at all the pictures,
but at all the copies that were going forward around them, in the
hands of those innumerable young women in irreproachable toilets
who devote themselves, in France, to the propagation of
masterpieces, and if the truth must be told, he had often admired
the copy much more than the original. His physiognomy would have
sufficiently indicated that he was a shrewd and capable fellow, and
in truth he had often sat up all night over a bristling bundle of
accounts, and heard the cock crow without a yawn. But Raphael and
Titian and Rubens were a new kind of arithmetic, and they inspired
our friend, for the first time in his life, with a vague
An observer with anything of an eye for national types would
have had no difficulty in determining the local origin of this
undeveloped connoisseur, and indeed such an observer might have
felt a certain humorous relish of the almost ideal completeness
with which he filled out the national mould. The gentleman on the
divan was a powerful specimen of an American. But he was not only a
fine American; he was in the first place, physically, a fine man.
He appeared to possess that kind of health and strength which, when
found in perfection, are the most impressive-- the physical capital
which the owner does nothing to "keep up." If he was a muscular
Christian, it was quite without knowing it. If it was necessary to
walk to a remote spot, he walked, but he had never known himself to
"exercise." He had no theory with regard to cold bathing or the use
of Indian clubs; he was neither an oarsman, a rifleman, nor a
fencer--he had never had time for these amusements--and he was
quite unaware that the saddle is recommended for certain forms of
indigestion. He was by inclination a temperate man; but he had
supped the night before his visit to the Louvre at the Cafe
Anglais-- some one had told him it was an experience not to be
omitted-- and he had slept none the less the sleep of the just. His
usual attitude and carriage were of a rather relaxed and lounging
kind, but when under a special inspiration, he straightened
himself, he looked like a grenadier on parade. He never smoked. He
had been assured--such things are said-- that cigars were excellent
for the health, and he was quite capable of believing it; but he
knew as little about tobacco as about homeopathy. He had a very
well-formed head, with a shapely, symmetrical balance of the
frontal and the occipital development, and a good deal of straight,
rather dry brown hair. His complexion was brown, and his nose had a
bold well-marked arch. His eye was of a clear, cold gray, and save
for a rather abundant mustache he was clean-shaved. He had the flat
jaw and sinewy neck which are frequent in the American type; but
the traces of national origin are a matter of expression even more
than of feature, and it was in this respect that our friend's
countenance was supremely eloquent. The discriminating observer we
have been supposing might, however, perfectly have measured its
expressiveness, and yet have been at a loss to describe it. It had
that typical vagueness which is not vacuity, that blankness which
is not simplicity, that look of being committed to nothing in
particular, of standing in an attitude of general hospitality to
the chances of life, of being very much at one's own disposal so
characteristic of many American faces. It was our friend's eye that
chiefly told his story; an eye in which innocence and experience
were singularly blended. It was full of contradictory suggestions,
and though it was by no means the glowing orb of a hero of romance,
you could find in it almost anything you looked for. Frigid and yet
friendly, frank yet cautious, shrewd yet credulous, positive yet
skeptical, confident yet shy, extremely intelligent and extremely
good-humored, there was something vaguely defiant in its
concessions, and something profoundly reassuring in its reserve.
The cut of this gentleman's mustache, with the two premature
wrinkles in the cheek above it, and the fashion of his garments, in
which an exposed shirt-front and a cerulean cravat played perhaps
an obtrusive part, completed the conditions of his identity. We
have approached him, perhaps, at a not especially favorable moment;
he is by no means sitting for his portrait. But listless as he
lounges there, rather baffled on the aesthetic question, and guilty
of the damning fault (as we have lately discovered it to be) of
confounding the merit of the artist with that of his work (for he
admires the squinting Madonna of the young lady with the boyish
coiffure, because he thinks the young lady herself uncommonly
taking), he is a sufficiently promising acquaintance. Decision,
salubrity, jocosity, prosperity, seem to hover within his call; he
is evidently a practical man, but the idea in his case, has
undefined and mysterious boundaries, which invite the imagination
to bestir itself on his behalf.
As the little copyist proceeded with her work, she sent every now
and then a responsive glance toward her admirer. The cultivation of
the fine arts appeared to necessitate, to her mind, a great deal of
byplay, a great standing off with folded arms and head drooping
from side to side, stroking of a dimpled chin with a dimpled hand,
sighing and frowning and patting of the foot, fumbling in
disordered tresses for wandering hair-pins. These performances were
accompanied by a restless glance, which lingered longer than
elsewhere upon the gentleman we have described. At last he rose
abruptly, put on his hat, and approached the young lady. He placed
himself before her picture and looked at it for some moments,
during which she pretended to be quite unconscious of his
inspection. Then, addressing her with the single word which
constituted the strength of his French vocabulary, and holding up
one finger in a manner which appeared to him to illuminate his
meaning, "Combien?" he abruptly demanded.
The artist stared a moment, gave a little pout, shrugged her
shoulders, put down her palette and brushes, and stood rubbing her
"How much?" said our friend, in English. "Combien?"
"Monsieur wishes to buy it?" asked the young lady in French.
"Very pretty, splendide. Combien?" repeated the American.
"It pleases monsieur, my little picture? It's a very beautiful
subject," said the young lady.
"The Madonna, yes; I am not a Catholic, but I want to buy it.
Combien? Write it here." And he took a pencil from his pocket and
showed her the fly-leaf of his guide-book. She stood looking at him
and scratching her chin with the pencil. "Is it not for sale?" he
asked. And as she still stood reflecting, and looking at him with
an eye which, in spite of her desire to treat this avidity of
patronage as a very old story, betrayed an almost touching
incredulity, he was afraid he had offended her. She simply trying
to look indifferent, and wondering how far she might go. "I haven't
made a mistake--pas insulte, no?" her interlocutor continued.
"Don't you understand a little English?"
The young lady's aptitude for playing a part at short notice was
remarkable. She fixed him with her conscious, perceptive eye and
asked him if he spoke no French. Then, "Donnez!" she said briefly,
and took the open guide-book. In the upper corner of the fly-leaf
she traced a number, in a minute and extremely neat hand. Then she
handed back the book and took up her palette again.
Our friend read the number: "2,000 francs." He said nothing for a
time, but stood looking at the picture, while the copyist began
actively to dabble with her paint. "For a copy, isn't that a good
deal?" he asked at last. "Pas beaucoup?"
The young lady raised her eyes from her palette, scanned him from
head to foot, and alighted with admirable sagacity upon exactly the
right answer. "Yes, it's a good deal. But my copy has remarkable
qualities, it is worth nothing less."
The gentleman in whom we are interested understood no French, but I
have said he was intelligent, and here is a good chance to prove
it. He apprehended, by a natural instinct, the meaning of the young
woman's phrase, and it gratified him to think that she was so
honest. Beauty, talent, virtue; she combined everything! "But you
must finish it," he said. "FINISH, you know;" and he pointed to the
unpainted hand of the figure.
"Oh, it shall be finished in perfection; in the perfection of
perfections!" cried mademoiselle; and to confirm her promise, she
deposited a rosy blotch in the middle of the Madonna's cheek.
But the American frowned. "Ah, too red, too red!" he rejoined. "Her
complexion," pointing to the Murillo, "is--more delicate."
"Delicate? Oh, it shall be delicate, monsieur; delicate as Sevres
biscuit. I am going to tone that down; I know all the secrets of my
art. And where will you allow us to send it to you? Your address?"
"My address? Oh yes!" And the gentleman drew a card from his
pocket-book and wrote something upon it. Then hesitating a moment
he said, "If I don't like it when it it's finished, you know, I
shall not be obliged to take it."
The young lady seemed as good a guesser as himself. "Oh, I am very
sure that monsieur is not capricious," she said with a roguish
"Capricious?" And at this monsieur began to laugh. "Oh no, I'm not
capricious. I am very faithful. I am very constant. Comprenez?"
"Monsieur is constant; I understand perfectly. It's a rare virtue.
To recompense you, you shall have your picture on the first
possible day; next week--as soon as it is dry. I will take the card
of monsieur." And she took it and read his name: "Christopher
Newman." Then she tried to repeat it aloud, and laughed at her bad
accent. "Your English names are so droll!"
"Droll?" said Mr. Newman, laughing too. "Did you ever hear of
"Bien sur! He invented America; a very great man. And is he your
"Your patron-saint, in the calendar."
"Oh, exactly; my parents named me for him."
"Monsieur is American?"
"Don't you see it?" monsieur inquired.
"And you mean to carry my little picture away over there?" and she
explained her phrase with a gesture.
"Oh, I mean to buy a great many pictures--beaucoup, beaucoup," said
"The honor is not less for me," the young lady answered, "for I am
sure monsieur has a great deal of taste."
"But you must give me your card," Newman said; "your card, you
The young lady looked severe for an instant, and then said, "My
father will wait upon you."
But this time Mr. Newman's powers of divination were at fault.
"Your card, your address," he simply repeated.
"My address?" said mademoiselle. Then with a little shrug, "Happily
for you, you are an American! It is the first time I ever gave my
card to a gentleman." And, taking from her pocket a rather greasy
porte-monnaie, she extracted from it a small glazed visiting card,
and presented the latter to her patron. It was neatly inscribed in
pencil, with a great many flourishes, "Mlle. Noemie Nioche." But
Mr. Newman, unlike his companion, read the name with perfect
gravity; all French names to him were equally droll.
"And precisely, here is my father, who has come to escort me home,"
said Mademoiselle Noemie. "He speaks English. He will arrange with
you." And she turned to welcome a little old gentleman who came
shuffling up, peering over his spectacles at Newman. M. Nioche wore
a glossy wig, of an unnatural color which overhung his little meek,
white, vacant face, and left it hardly more expressive than the
unfeatured block upon which these articles are displayed in the
barber's window. He was an exquisite image of shabby gentility. His
scant ill-made coat, desperately brushed, his darned gloves, his
highly polished boots, his rusty, shapely hat, told the story of a
person who had "had losses" and who clung to the spirit of nice
habits even though the letter had been hopelessly effaced. Among
other things M. Nioche had lost courage. Adversity had not only
ruined him, it had frightened him, and he was evidently going
through his remnant of life on tiptoe, for fear of waking up the
hostile fates. If this strange gentleman was saying anything
improper to his daughter, M. Nioche would entreat him huskily, as a
particular favor, to forbear; but he would admit at the same time
that he was very presumptuous to ask for particular favors.
"Monsieur has bought my picture," said Mademoiselle Noemie. "When
it's finished you'll carry it to him in a cab."
"In a cab!" cried M. Nioche; and he stared, in a bewildered way, as
if he had seen the sun rising at midnight.
"Are you the young lady's father?" said Newman. "I think she said
you speak English."
"Speak English--yes," said the old man slowly rubbing his hands. "I
will bring it in a cab."
"Say something, then," cried his daughter. "Thank him a little--
not too much."
"A little, my daughter, a little?" said M. Nioche perplexed. "How
"Two thousand!" said Mademoiselle Noemie. "Don't make a fuss or
he'll take back his word."
"Two thousand!" cried the old man, and he began to fumble for his
snuff-box. He looked at Newman from head to foot; he looked at his
daughter and then at the picture. "Take care you don't spoil it!"
he cried almost sublimely.
"We must go home," said Mademoiselle Noemie. "This is a good day's
work. Take care how you carry it!" And she began to put up her
"How can I thank you?" said M. Nioche. "My English does not
"I wish I spoke French as well," said Newman, good-naturedly. "Your
daughter is very clever."
"Oh, sir!" and M. Nioche looked over his spectacles with tearful
eyes and nodded several times with a world of sadness. "She has had
an education--tres-superieure! Nothing was spared. Lessons in
pastel at ten francs the lesson, lessons in oil at twelve francs. I
didn't look at the francs then. She's an artiste, ah!"
"Do I understand you to say that you have had reverses?" asked
"Reverses? Oh, sir, misfortunes--terrible."
"Unsuccessful in business, eh?"
"Very unsuccessful, sir."
"Oh, never fear, you'll get on your legs again," said Newman
The old man drooped his head on one side and looked at him with an
expression of pain, as if this were an unfeeling jest.
"What does he say?" demanded Mademoiselle Noemie. M. Nioche took a
pinch of snuff. "He says I will make my fortune again."
"Perhaps he will help you. And what else?"
"He says thou art very clever."
"It is very possible. You believe it yourself, my father?"
"Believe it, my daughter? With this evidence!" And the old man
turned afresh, with a staring, wondering homage, to the audacious
daub on the easel.
"Ask him, then. if he would not like to learn French."
"To learn French?"
"To take lessons."
"To take lessons, my daughter? From thee?"
"From me, my child? How should I give lessons?"
"Pas de raisons! Ask him immediately!" said Mademoiselle Noemie,
with soft brevity. M. Nioche stood aghast, but under his daughter's
eye he collected his wits, and, doing his best to assume an
agreeable smile, he executed her commands. "Would it please you to
receive instruction in our beautiful language?" he inquired, with
an appealing quaver.
"To study French?" asked Newman, staring.
M. Nioche pressed his finger-tips together and slowly raised his
shoulders. "A little conversation!"
"Conversation--that's it!" murmured Mademoiselle Noemie, who had
caught the word. "The conversation of the best society."
"Our French conversation is famous, you know," M. Nioche ventured
to continue. "It's a great talent."
"But isn't it awfully difficult?" asked Newman, very simply.
"Not to a man of esprit, like monsieur, an admirer of beauty in
every form!" and M. Nioche cast a significant glance at his
"I can't fancy myself chattering French!" said Newman with a laugh.
"And yet, I suppose that the more a man knows the better."
"Monsieur expresses that very happily. Helas, oui!"
"I suppose it would help me a great deal, knocking about Paris, to
know the language."
"Ah, there are so many things monsieur must want to say: difficult
"Everything I want to say is difficult. But you give lessons?"
Poor M. Nioche was embarrassed; he smiled more appealingly. "I am
not a regular professor," he admitted. "I can't nevertheless tell
him that I'm a professor," he said to his daughter.
"Tell him it's a very exceptional chance," answered Mademoiselle
Noemie; "an homme du monde--one gentleman conversing with another!
Remember what you are--what you have been!"
"A teacher of languages in neither case! Much more formerly and
much less to-day! And if he asks the price of the lessons?"
"He won't ask it," said Mademoiselle Noemie.
"What he pleases, I may say?"
"Never! That's bad style."
"If he asks, then?"
Mademoiselle Noemie had put on her bonnet and was tying the
ribbons. She smoothed them out, with her soft little chin thrust
forward. "Ten francs," she said quickly.
"Oh, my daughter! I shall never dare."
"Don't dare, then! He won't ask till the end of the lessons, and
then I will make out the bill." M. Nioche turned to the confiding
foreigner again, and stood rubbing his hands, with an air of
seeming to plead guilty which was not intenser only because it was
habitually so striking. It never occurred to Newman to ask him for
a guarantee of his skill in imparting instruction; he supposed of
course M. Nioche knew his own language, and his appealing
forlornness was quite the perfection of what the American, for
vague reasons, had always associated with all elderly foreigners of
the lesson-giving class. Newman had never reflected upon
philological processes. His chief impression with regard to
ascertaining those mysterious correlatives of his familiar English
vocables which were current in this extraordinary city of Paris
was, that it was simply a matter of a good deal of unwonted and
rather ridiculous muscular effort on his own part. "How did you
learn English?" he asked of the old man.
"When I was young, before my miseries. Oh, I was wide awake, then.
My father was a great commercant; he placed me for a year in a
counting-house in England. Some of it stuck to me; but I have
"How much French can I learn in a month?"
"What does he say?" asked Mademoiselle Noemie.
M. Nioche explained.
"He will speak like an angel!" said his daughter.
But the native integrity which had been vainly exerted to secure M.
Nioche's commercial prosperity flickered up again. "Dame,
monsieur!" he answered. "All I can teach you!" And then, recovering
himself at a sign from his daughter, "I will wait upon you at your
"Oh yes, I should like to learn French," Newman went on, with
democratic confidingness. "Hang me if I should ever have thought of
it! I took for granted it was impossible. But if you learned my
language, why shouldn't I learn yours?" and his frank, friendly
laugh drew the sting from the jest. "Only, if we are going to
converse, you know, you must think of something cheerful to
"You are very good, sir; I am overcome!" said M. Nioche, throwing
out his hands. "But you have cheerfulness and happiness for two!"
"Oh no," said Newman more seriously. "You must be bright and
lively; that's part of the bargain."
M. Nioche bowed, with his hand on his heart. "Very well, sir; you
have already made me lively."
"Come and bring me my picture then; I will pay you for it, and we
will talk about that. That will be a cheerful subject!"
Mademoiselle Noemie had collected her accessories, and she gave the
precious Madonna in charge to her father, who retreated backwards
out of sight, holding it at arm's-length and reiterating his
obeisance. The young lady gathered her shawl about her like a
perfect Parisienne, and it was with the smile of a Parisienne that
she took leave of her patron.
He wandered back to the divan and
seated himself on the other side, in view of the great canvas on
which Paul Veronese had depicted the marriage-feast of Cana.
Wearied as he was he found the picture entertaining; it had an
illusion for him; it satisfied his conception, which was ambitious,
of what a splendid banquet should be. In the left-hand corner of
the picture is a young woman with yellow tresses confined in a
golden head-dress; she is bending forward and listening, with the
smile of a charming woman at a dinner-party, to her neighbor.
Newman detected her in the crowd, admired her, and perceived that
she too had her votive copyist--a young man with his hair standing
on end. Suddenly he became conscious of the germ of the mania of
the "collector;" he had taken the first step; why should he not go
on? It was only twenty minutes before that he had bought the first
picture of his life, and now he was already thinking of
art-patronage as a fascinating pursuit. His reflections quickened
his good-humor, and he was on the point of approaching the young
man with another "Combien?" Two or three facts in this relation are
noticeable, although the logical chain which connects them may seem
imperfect. He knew Mademoiselle Nioche had asked too much; he bore
her no grudge for doing so, and he was determined to pay the young
man exactly the proper sum. At this moment, however, his attention
was attracted by a gentleman who had come from another part of the
room and whose manner was that of a stranger to the gallery,
although he was equipped with neither guide-book nor opera-glass.
He carried a white sun-umbrella, lined with blue silk, and he
strolled in front of the Paul Veronese, vaguely looking at it, but
much too near to see anything but the grain of the canvas. Opposite
to Christopher Newman he paused and turned, and then our friend,
who had been observing him, had a chance to verify a suspicion
aroused by an imperfect view of his face. The result of this larger
scrutiny was that he presently sprang to his feet, strode across
the room, and, with an outstretched hand, arrested the gentleman
with the blue-lined umbrella. The latter stared, but put out his
hand at a venture. He was corpulent and rosy, and though his
countenance, which was ornamented with a beautiful flaxen beard,
carefully divided in the middle and brushed outward at the sides,
was not remarkable for intensity of expression, he looked like a
person who would willingly shake hands with any one. I know not
what Newman thought of his face, but he found a want of response in
"Oh, come, come," he said, laughing; "don't say, now, you
don't know me-- if I have NOT got a white parasol!"
The sound of his voice quickened the other's memory, his face
expanded to its fullest capacity, and he also broke into a laugh.
"Why, Newman-- I'll be blowed! Where in the world--I declare--who
would have thought? You know you have changed."
"You haven't!" said Newman.
"Not for the better, no doubt. When did you get here?"
"Three days ago."
"Why didn't you let me know?"
"I had no idea YOU were here."
"I have been here these six years."
"It must be eight or nine since we met."
"Something of that sort. We were very young."
"It was in St. Louis, during the war. You were in the army."
"Oh no, not I! But you were."
"I believe I was."
"You came out all right?"
"I came out with my legs and arms--and with satisfaction. All that
seems very far away."
"And how long have you been in Europe?"
"Yes, very much so."
"Made your everlasting fortune?"
Christopher Newman was silent a moment, and then with a tranquil
smile he answered, "Yes."
"And come to Paris to spend it, eh?"
"Well, we shall see. So they carry those parasols here--the
"Of course they do. They're great things. They understand comfort
"Where do you buy them?"
"Well, Tristram, I'm glad to get hold of you. You can show me the
ropes. I suppose you know Paris inside out."
Mr. Tristram gave a mellow smile of self-gratulation. "Well, I
guess there are not many men that can show me much. I'll take care
"It's a pity you were not here a few minutes ago. I have just
bought a picture. You might have put the thing through for me."
"Bought a picture?" said Mr. Tristram, looking vaguely round at the
walls. "Why, do they sell them?"
"I mean a copy."
"Oh, I see. These," said Mr. Tristram, nodding at the Titians and
Vandykes, "these, I suppose, are originals."
"I hope so," cried Newman. "I don't want a copy of a copy."
"Ah," said Mr. Tristram, mysteriously, "you can never tell. They
imitate, you know, so deucedly well. It's like the jewelers, with
their false stones. Go into the Palais Royal, there; you see
'Imitation' on half the windows. The law obliges them to stick it
on, you know; but you can't tell the things apart. To tell the
truth," Mr. Tristram continued, with a wry face, "I don't do much
in pictures. I leave that to my wife."
"Ah, you have got a wife?"
"Didn't I mention it? She's a very nice woman; you must know her.
She's up there in the Avenue d'Iena."
"So you are regularly fixed--house and children and all."
"Yes, a tip-top house and a couple of youngsters."
"Well," said Christopher Newman, stretching his arms a little, with
a sigh, "I envy you."
"Oh no! you don't!" answered Mr. Tristram, giving him a little poke
with his parasol.
"I beg your pardon; I do!"
"Well, you won't, then, when--when--"
"You don't certainly mean when I have seen your establishment?"
"When you have seen Paris, my boy. You want to be your own master
"Oh, I have been my own master all my life, and I'm tired of it."
"Well, try Paris. How old are you?"
"C'est le bel age, as they say here."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that a man shouldn't send away his plate till he has
eaten his fill."
"All that? I have just made arrangements to take French lessons."
"Oh, you don't want any lessons. You'll pick it up. I never took
"I suppose you speak French as well as English?"
"Better!" said Mr. Tristram, roundly. "It's a splendid language.
You can say all sorts of bright things in it."
"But I suppose," said Christopher Newman, with an earnest desire
for information, "that you must be bright to begin with."
"Not a bit; that's just the beauty of it."
The two friends, as they exchanged these remarks, had remained
standing where they met, and leaning against the rail which
protected the pictures. Mr. Tristram at last declared that he was
overcome with fatigue and should be happy to sit down. Newman
recommended in the highest terms the great divan on which he had
been lounging, and they prepared to seat themselves. "This is a
great place; isn't it?" said Newman, with ardor.
"Great place, great place. Finest thing in the world." And then,
suddenly, Mr. Tristram hesitated and looked about him. "I suppose
they won't let you smoke here."
Newman stared. "Smoke? I'm sure I don't know. You know the
regulations better than I."
"I? I never was here before!"
"Never! in six years?"
"I believe my wife dragged me here once when we first came to
Paris, but I never found my way back."
"But you say you know Paris so well!"
"I don't call this Paris!" cried Mr. Tristram, with assurance.
"Come; let's go over to the Palais Royal and have a smoke."
"I don't smoke," said Newman.
"A drink, then."
And Mr. Tristram led his companion away. They passed through the
glorious halls of the Louvre, down the staircases, along the cool,
dim galleries of sculpture, and out into the enormous court. Newman
looked about him as he went, but he made no comments, and it was
only when they at last emerged into the open air that he said to
his friend, "It seems to me that in your place I should have come
here once a week."
"Oh, no you wouldn't!" said Mr. Tristram. "You think so, but you
wouldn't. You wouldn't have had time. You would always mean to go,
but you never would go. There's better fun than that, here in
Paris. Italy's the place to see pictures; wait till you get there.
There you have to go; you can't do anything else. It's an awful
country; you can't get a decent cigar. I don't know why I went in
there, to-day; I was strolling along, rather hard up for amusement.
I sort of noticed the Louvre as I passed, and I thought I would go
in and see what was going on. But if I hadn't found you there I
should have felt rather sold. Hang it, I don't care for pictures; I
prefer the reality!" And Mr. Tristram tossed off this happy formula
with an assurance which the numerous class of persons suffering
from an overdose of "culture" might have envied him.
The two gentlemen proceeded along the Rue de Rivoli and into the
Palais Royal, where they seated themselves at one of the little
tables stationed at the door of the cafe which projects into the
great open quadrangle. The place was filled with people, the
fountains were spouting, a band was playing, clusters of chairs
were gathered beneath all the lime-trees, and buxom, white-capped
nurses, seated along the benches, were offering to their infant
charges the amplest facilities for nutrition. There was an easy,
homely gayety in the whole scene, and Christopher Newman felt that
it was most characteristically Parisian.
"And now," began Mr. Tristram, when they had tested the decoction
which he had caused to be served to them, "now just give an account
of yourself. What are your ideas, what are your plans, where have
you come from and where are you going? In the first place, where
are you staying?"
"At the Grand Hotel," said Newman.
Mr. Tristram puckered his plump visage. "That won't do! You must
"Change?" demanded Newman. "Why, it's the finest hotel I ever was
"You don't want a 'fine' hotel; you want something small and quiet
and elegant, where your bell is answered and you-- your person is
"They keep running to see if I have rung before I have touched the
bell," said Newman "and as for my person they are always bowing and
scraping to it."
"I suppose you are always tipping them. That's very bad style."
"Always? By no means. A man brought me something yesterday, and
then stood loafing in a beggarly manner. I offered him a chair and
asked him if he wouldn't sit down. Was that bad style?"
"But he bolted, instantly. At any rate, the place amuses me. Hang
your elegance, if it bores me. I sat in the court of the Grand
Hotel last night until two o'clock in the morning, watching the
coming and going, and the people knocking about."
"You're easily pleased. But you can do as you choose--a man in your
shoes. You have made a pile of money, eh?"
"I have made enough"
"Happy the man who can say that? Enough for what?"
"Enough to rest awhile, to forget the confounded thing, to look
about me, to see the world, to have a good time, to improve my
mind, and, if the fancy takes me, to marry a wife." Newman spoke
slowly, with a certain dryness of accent and with frequent pauses.
This was his habitual mode of utterance, but it was especially
marked in the words I have just quoted.
"Jupiter! There's a programme!" cried Mr. Tristram. "Certainly, all
that takes money, especially the wife; unless indeed she gives it,
as mine did. And what's the story? How have you done it?"
Newman had pushed his hat back from his forehead, folded his arms,
and stretched his legs. He listened to the music, he looked about
him at the bustling crowd, at the plashing fountains, at the nurses
and the babies. "I have worked!" he answered at last.
Tristram looked at him for some moments, and allowed his placid
eyes to measure his friend's generous longitude and rest upon his
comfortably contemplative face. "What have you worked at?" he
"Oh, at several things."
"I suppose you're a smart fellow, eh?"
Newman continued to look at the nurses and babies; they imparted to
the scene a kind of primordial, pastoral simplicity. "Yes," he said
at last, "I suppose I am." And then, in answer to his companion's
inquiries, he related briefly his history since their last meeting.
It was an intensely Western story, and it dealt with enterprises
which it will be needless to introduce to the reader in detail.
Newman had come out of the war with a brevet of brigadier-general,
an honor which in this case--without invidious comparisons-- had
lighted upon shoulders amply competent to bear it. But though he
could manage a fight, when need was, Newman heartily disliked the
business; his four years in the army had left him with an angry,
bitter sense of the waste of precious things--life and time and
money and "smartness" and the early freshness of purpose; and he
had addressed himself to the pursuits of peace with passionate zest
and energy. He was of course as penniless when he plucked off his
shoulder-straps as when he put them on, and the only capital at his
disposal was his dogged resolution and his lively perception of
ends and means. Exertion and action were as natural to him as
respiration; a more completely healthy mortal had never trod the
elastic soil of the West. His experience, moreover, was as wide as
his capacity; when he was fourteen years old, necessity had taken
him by his slim young shoulders and pushed him into the street, to
earn that night's supper. He had not earned it but he had earned
the next night's, and afterwards, whenever he had had none, it was
because he had gone without it to use the money for something else,
a keener pleasure or a finer profit. He had turned his hand, with
his brain in it, to many things; he had been enterprising, in an
eminent sense of the term; he had been adventurous and even
reckless, and he had known bitter failure as well as brilliant
success; but he was a born experimentalist, and he had always found
something to enjoy in the pressure of necessity, even when it was
as irritating as the haircloth shirt of the mediaeval monk. At one
time failure seemed inexorably his portion; ill-luck became his
bed-fellow, and whatever he touched he turned, not to gold, but to
ashes. His most vivid conception of a supernatural element in the
world's affairs had come to him once when this pertinacity of
misfortune was at its climax; there seemed to him something
stronger in life than his own will. But the mysterious something
could only be the devil, and he was accordingly seized with an
intense personal enmity to this impertinent force. He had known
what it was to have utterly exhausted his credit, to be unable to
raise a dollar, and to find himself at nightfall in a strange city,
without a penny to mitigate its strangeness. It was under these
circumstances that he made his entrance into San Francisco, the
scene, subsequently, of his happiest strokes of fortune. If he did
not, like Dr. Franklin in Philadelphia, march along the street
munching a penny-loaf, it was only because he had not the
penny-loaf necessary to the performance. In his darkest days he had
had but one simple, practical impulse-- the desire, as he would
have phrased it, to see the thing through. He did so at last,
buffeted his way into smooth waters, and made money largely. It
must be admitted, rather nakedly, that Christopher Newman's sole
aim in life had been to make money; what he had been placed in the
world for was, to his own perception, simply to wrest a fortune,
the bigger the better, from defiant opportunity. This idea
completely filled his horizon and satisfied his imagination. Upon
the uses of money, upon what one might do with a life into which
one had succeeded in injecting the golden stream, he had up to his
thirty-fifth year very scantily reflected. Life had been for him an
open game, and he had played for high stakes. He had won at last
and carried off his winnings; and now what was he to do with them?
He was a man to whom, sooner or later, the question was sure to
present itself, and the answer to it belongs to our story. A vague
sense that more answers were possible than his philosophy had
hitherto dreamt of had already taken possession of him, and it
seemed softly and agreeably to deepen as he lounged in this
brilliant corner of Paris with his friend.
"I must confess," he presently went on, "that here I don't feel at
all smart. My remarkable talents seem of no use. I feel as simple
as a little child, and a little child might take me by the hand and
lead me about."
"Oh, I'll be your little child," said Tristram, jovially; "I'll
take you by the hand. Trust yourself to me"
"I am a good worker," Newman continued, "but I rather think I am a
poor loafer. I have come abroad to amuse myself, but I doubt
whether I know how."
"Oh, that's easily learned."
"Well, I may perhaps learn it, but I am afraid I shall never do it
by rote. I have the best will in the world about it, but my genius
doesn't lie in that direction. As a loafer I shall never be
original, as I take it that you are."
"Yes," said Tristram, "I suppose I am original; like all those
immoral pictures in the Louvre."
"Besides," Newman continued, "I don't want to work at pleasure, any
more than I played at work. I want to take it easily. I feel
deliciously lazy, and I should like to spend six months as I am
now, sitting under a tree and listening to a band. There's only one
thing; I want to hear some good music."
"Music and pictures! Lord, what refined tastes! You are what my
wife calls intellectual. I ain't, a bit. But we can find something
better for you to do than to sit under a tree. To begin with, you
must come to the club."
"The Occidental. You will see all the Americans there; all the best
of them, at least. Of course you play poker?"
"Oh, I say," cried Newman, with energy, "you are not going to lock
me up in a club and stick me down at a card-table! I haven't come
all this way for that."
"What the deuce HAVE you come for! You were glad enough to play
poker in St. Louis, I recollect, when you cleaned me out."
"I have come to see Europe, to get the best out of it I can. I want
to see all the great things, and do what the clever people do."
"The clever people? Much obliged. You set me down as a blockhead,
Newman was sitting sidewise in his chair, with his elbow on the
back and his head leaning on his hand. Without moving he looked a
while at his companion with his dry, guarded, half-inscrutable, and
yet altogether good-natured smile. "Introduce me to your wife!" he
said at last.
Tristram bounced about in his chair. "Upon my word, I won't. She
doesn't want any help to turn up her nose at me, nor do you,
"I don't turn up my nose at you, my dear fellow; nor at any one, or
anything. I'm not proud, I assure you I'm not proud. That's why I
am willing to take example by the clever people."
"Well, if I'm not the rose, as they say here, I have lived near it.
I can show you some clever people, too. Do you know General
Packard? Do you know C. P. Hatch? Do you know Miss Kitty Upjohn?"
"I shall be happy to make their acquaintance; I want to cultivate
Tristram seemed restless and suspicious; he eyed his friend
askance, and then, "What are you up to, any way?" he demanded. "Are
you going to write a book?"
Christopher Newman twisted one end of his mustache a while, in
silence, and at last he made answer. "One day, a couple of months
ago, something very curious happened to me. I had come on to New
York on some important business; it was rather a long story--a
question of getting ahead of another party, in a certain particular
way, in the stock-market. This other party had once played me a
very mean trick. I owed him a grudge, I felt awfully savage at the
time, and I vowed that, when I got a chance, I would, figuratively
speaking, put his nose out of joint. There was a matter of some
sixty thousand dollars at stake. If I put it out of his way, it was
a blow the fellow would feel, and he really deserved no quarter. I
jumped into a hack and went about my business, and it was in this
hack--this immortal, historical hack--that the curious thing I
speak of occurred. It was a hack like any other, only a trifle
dirtier, with a greasy line along the top of the drab cushions, as
if it had been used for a great many Irish funerals. It is possible
I took a nap; I had been traveling all night, and though I was
excited with my errand, I felt the want of sleep. At all events I
woke up suddenly, from a sleep or from a kind of a reverie, with
the most extraordinary feeling in the world-- a mortal disgust for
the thing I was going to do. It came upon me like THAT!" and he
snapped his fingers--"as abruptly as an old wound that begins to
ache. I couldn't tell the meaning of it; I only felt that I loathed
the whole business and wanted to wash my hands of it. The idea of
losing that sixty thousand dollars, of letting it utterly slide and
scuttle and never hearing of it again, seemed the sweetest thing in
the world. And all this took place quite independently of my will,
and I sat watching it as if it were a play at the theatre. I could
feel it going on inside of me. You may depend upon it that there
are things going on inside of us that we understand mighty little
"Jupiter! you make my flesh creep!" cried Tristram. "And while you
sat in your hack, watching the play, as you call it, the other man
marched in and bagged your sixty thousand dollars?"
"I have not the least idea. I hope so, poor devil! but I never
found out. We pulled up in front of the place I was going to in
Wall Street, but I sat still in the carriage, and at last the
driver scrambled down off his seat to see whether his carriage had
not turned into a hearse. I couldn't have got out, any more than if
I had been a corpse. What was the matter with me? Momentary idiocy,
you'll say. What I wanted to get out of was Wall Street. I told the
man to drive down to the Brooklyn ferry and to cross over. When we
were over, I told him to drive me out into the country. As I had
told him originally to drive for dear life down town, I suppose he
thought me insane. Perhaps I was, but in that case I am insane
still. I spent the morning looking at the first green leaves on
Long Island. I was sick of business; I wanted to throw it all up
and break off short; I had money enough, or if I hadn't I ought to
have. I seemed to feel a new man inside my old skin, and I longed
for a new world. When you want a thing so very badly you had better
treat yourself to it. I didn't understand the matter, not in the
least; but I gave the old horse the bridle and let him find his
way. As soon as I could get out of the game I sailed for Europe.
That is how I come to be sitting here."
"You ought to have bought up that hack," said Tristram; "it isn't a
safe vehicle to have about. And you have really sold out, then; you
have retired from business?"
"I have made over my hand to a friend; when I feel disposed, I can
take up the cards again. I dare say that a twelvemonth hence the
operation will be reversed. The pendulum will swing back again. I
shall be sitting in a gondola or on a dromedary, and all of a
sudden I shall want to clear out. But for the present I am
perfectly free. I have even bargained that I am to receive no
"Oh, it's a real caprice de prince," said Tristram. "I back out; a
poor devil like me can't help you to spend such very magnificent
leisure as that. You should get introduced to the crowned heads."
39 Newman looked at him a moment, and then, with his easy smile,
"How does one do it?" he asked.
"Come, I like that!" cried Tristram. "It shows you are in earnest."
"Of course I am in earnest. Didn't I say I wanted the best? I know
the best can't be had for mere money, but I rather think money will
do a good deal. In addition, I am willing to take a good deal of
"You are not bashful, eh?"
"I haven't the least idea. I want the biggest kind of entertainment
a man can get. People, places, art, nature, everything! I want to
see the tallest mountains, and the bluest lakes, and the finest
pictures and the handsomest churches,. and the most celebrated men,
and the most beautiful women."
"Settle down in Paris, then. There are no mountains that I know of,
and the only lake is in the Bois du Boulogne, and not particularly
blue. But there is everything else: plenty of pictures and
churches, no end of celebrated men, and several beautiful women."
"But I can't settle down in Paris at this season, just as summer is
"Oh, for the summer go up to Trouville."
"What is Trouville?"
"The French Newport. Half the Americans go."
"Is it anywhere near the Alps?"
"About as near as Newport is to the Rocky Mountains."
"Oh, I want to see Mont Blanc," said Newman, "and Amsterdam, and
the Rhine, and a lot of places. Venice in particular. I have great
ideas about Venice."
"Ah," said Mr. Tristram, rising, "I see I shall have to introduce
you to my wife!"