Henri Rene Guy De Maupassant
Part 2 out of 4
He took a seat near his hostess and glanced at her curiously; she
was a charming blonde, fair and plump, made for caresses, and he
thought: "She is certainly nicer than the other one." He did not
doubt that he would only have to extend his hand in order to gather
the fruit. As he gazed upon her she chided him for his neglect of
He replied: "I did not come because it was for the best--"
"Why? Can you not guess?"
"Because I loved you; a little, only a little, and I did not wish to
love you any more."
She did not seem surprised, nor flattered; she smiled indifferently
and replied calmly: "Oh, you can come just the same; no one loves me
"Because it is useless, and I tell them so at once. If you had
confessed your fears to me sooner, I would have reassured you. My
dear friend, a man in love is not only foolish but dangerous. I
cease all intercourse with people who love me or pretend to;
firstly, because they bore me, and secondly, because I look upon
them with dread, as I would upon a mad dog. I know that your love is
only a kind of appetite; while with me it would be a communion of
souls. Now, look me in the face--" she no longer smiled. "I will
never be your sweetheart; it is therefore useless for you to persist
in your efforts. And now that I have explained, shall we be
He knew that that sentence was irrevocable, and delighted to be able
to form such an alliance as she proposed, he extended both hands,
"I am yours, Madame, to do with as you will"
He kissed her hands and raising his head said: "If I had found a
woman like you, how gladly would I have married her."
She was touched by those words, and in a soft voice, placing her
hand upon his arm, she said: "I am going to begin my offices at
once. You are not diplomatic--" she hesitated. "May I speak freely?"
"Call upon Mme. Walter who has taken a fancy to you. But be guarded
as to your compliments, for she is virtuous. You will make a better
impression there by being careful in your remarks. I know that your
position at the office is unsatisfactory, but do not worry; all
their employees are treated alike."
He said: "Thanks; you are an angel--a guardian angel."
As he took his leave, he asked again: "Are we friends--is it
Having observed the effect of his last compliment, he said: "If you
ever become a widow, I have put in my application!" Then he left the
room hastily in order not to allow her time to be angry.
Duroy did not like to call on Mme. Walter, for he had never been
invited, and he did not wish to commit a breach of etiquette. The
manager had been kind to him, appreciated his services, employed him
to do difficult work, why should he not profit by that show of favor
to call at his house? One day, therefore, he repaired to the market
and bought twenty-five pears. Having carefully arranged them in a
basket to make them appear as if they came from a distance he took
them to Mme. Walter's door with his card on which was inscribed:
"Georges Duroy begs Mme. Walter to accept the fruit which he
received this morning from Normandy."
The following day he found in his letter-box at the office an
envelope containing Mme, Walter's card on which was written:
"Mme. Walter thanks M. Georges Duroy very much, and is at home
The next Saturday he called. M. Walter lived on Boulevard
Malesherbes in a double house which he owned. The reception-rooms
were on the first floor. In the antechamber were two footmen; one
took Duroy's overcoat, the other his cane, put it aside, opened a
door and announced the visitor's name. In the large mirror in the
apartment Duroy could see the reflection of people seated in another
room. He passed through two drawing-rooms and entered a small
boudoir in which four ladies were gathered around a tea-table.
Notwithstanding the assurance he had gained during his life in
Paris, and especially since he had been thrown in contact with so
many noted personages, Duroy felt abashed. He stammered:
"Madame, I took the liberty."
The mistress of the house extended her hand and said to him: "You
are very kind, M. Duroy, to come to see me." She pointed to a chair.
The ladies chatted on. Visitors came and went. Mme. Walter noticed
that Duroy said nothing, that no one addressed him, that he seemed
disconcerted, and she drew him into the conversation which dealt
with the admission of a certain M. Linet to the Academy. When Duroy
had taken his leave, one of the ladies said: "How odd he is! Who is
Mme. Walter replied: "One of our reporters; he only occupies a minor
position, but I think he will advance rapidly."
In the meantime, while he was being discussed, Duroy walked gaily
down Boulevard Malesherbes.
The following week he was appointed editor of the "Echoes," and
invited to dine at Mme. Walter's. The "Echoes" were, M. Walter said,
the very pith of the paper. Everything and everybody should be
remembered, all countries, all professions, Paris and the provinces,
the army, the arts, the clergy, the schools, the rulers, and the
courtiers. The man at the head of that department should be wide
awake, always on his guard, quick to judge of what was best to be
said and best to be omitted, to divine what would please the public
and to present it well. Duroy was just the man for the place.
He was enjoying the fact of his promotion, when he received an
engraved card which read:
"M. and Mme. Walter request the pleasure of M. Georges Duroy's
company at dinner on Thursday, January 20."
He was so delighted that he kissed the invitation as if it had been
Then he sought the cashier to settle the important question of his
salary. At first twelve hundred francs were allowed Duroy, who
intended to save a large share of the money. He was busy two days
getting settled in his new position, in a large room, one end of
which he occupied, and the other end of which was allotted to
Boisrenard, who worked with him.
The day of the dinner-party he left the office in good season, in
order to have time to dress, and was walking along Rue de Londres
when he saw before him a form which resembled Mme. de Marelle's. He
felt his cheeks glow and his heart throb. He crossed the street in
order to see the lady's face; he was mistaken, and breathed more
freely. He had often wondered what he should do if he met Clotilde
face to face. Should he bow to her or pretend not to see her? "I
should not see her," thought he.
When Duroy entered his rooms he thought: "I must change my
apartments; these will not do any longer." He felt both nervous and
gay, and said aloud to himself: "I must write to my father."
Occasionally he wrote home, and his letters always delighted his old
parents. As he tied his cravat at the mirror he repeated: "I must
write home to-morrow. If my father could see me this evening in the
house to which I am going, he would be surprised. Sacristi, I shall
soon give a dinner which has never been equaled!"
Then he recalled his old home, the faces of his father and mother.
He saw them seated at their homely board, eating their soup. He
remembered every wrinkle on their old faces, every movement of their
hands and heads; he even knew what they said to each other every
evening as they supped. He thought: "I will go to see them some
day." His toilette completed, he extinguished his light and
descended the stairs.
On reaching his destination, he boldly entered the antechamber,
lighted by bronze lamps, and gave his cane and his overcoat to the
two lackeys who approached him. All the salons were lighted. Mme.
Walter received in the second, the largest. She greeted Duroy with a
charming smile, and he shook hands with two men who arrived after
him, M. Firmin and M. Laroche-Mathieu; the latter had especial
authority at the office on account of his influence in the chamber
Then the Forestiers arrived, Madeleine looking charming in pink.
Charles had become very much emaciated and coughed incessantly.
Norbert de Varenne and Jacques Rival came together. A door opened at
the end of the room, and M. Walter entered with two tall young girls
of sixteen and seventeen; one plain, the other pretty. Duroy knew
that the manager was a paterfamilias, but he was astonished. He had
thought of the manager's daughters as one thinks of a distant
country one will never see. Then, too, he had fancied them children,
and he saw women. They shook hands upon being introduced and seated
themselves at a table set apart for them. One of the guests had not
arrived, and that embarrassing silence which precedes dinners in
general reigned supreme.
Duroy happening to glance at the walls, M. Walter said: "You are
looking at my pictures? I will show them all to you." And he took a
lamp that they might distinguish all the details. There were
landscapes by Guillemet; "A Visit to the Hospital," by Gervex; "A
Widow," by Bouguereau; "An Execution," by Jean Paul Laurens, and
Duroy exclaimed: "Charming, charming, char--" but stopped short on
hearing behind him the voice of Mme. de Marelle who had just
entered. M. Walter continued to exhibit and explain his pictures;
but Duroy saw nothing--heard without comprehending. Mme. de Marelle
was there, behind him. What should he do? If he greeted her, might
she not turn her back upon him or utter some insulting remark? If he
did not approach her, what would people think? He was so ill at ease
that at one time he thought he should feign indisposition and return
The pictures had all been exhibited. M. Walter placed the lamp on
the table and greeted the last arrival, while Duroy recommenced
alone an examination of the canvas, as if he could not tear himself
away. What should he do? He heard their voices and their
conversation. Mme. Forestier called him; he hastened toward her. It
was to introduce him to a friend who was on the point of giving a
fete, and who wanted a description of it in "La Vie Francaise."
He stammered: "Certainly, Madame, certainly."
Madame de Marelle was very near him; he dared not turn to go away.
Suddenly to his amazement, she exclaimed: "Good evening, Bel-Ami; do
you not remember me?"
He turned upon his heel hastily; she stood before him smiling, her
eyes overflowing with roguishness and affection. She offered him her
hand; he took it doubtfully, fearing some perfidy. She continued
calmly: "What has become of you? One never sees you!"
Not having regained his self-possession, he murmured: "I have had a
great deal to do, Madame, a great deal to do. M. Walter has given me
another position and the duties are very arduous."
"I know, but that is no excuse for forgetting your friends."
Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a large woman,
decollette, with red arms, red cheeks, and attired in gay colors. As
she was received with effusion, Duroy asked Mme. Forestier: "Who is
"Viscountess de Percemur, whose nom de plume is 'Patte Blanche.'"
He was surprised and with difficulty restrained a burst of laughter.
"Patte Blanche? I fancied her a young woman like you. Is that Patte
Blanche? Ah, she is handsome, very handsome!"
A servant appeared at the door and announced: "Madame is served."
Duroy was placed between the manager's plain daughter, Mlle. Rose,
and Mme. de Marelle. The proximity of the latter embarrassed him
somewhat, although she appeared at ease and conversed with her usual
spirit. Gradually, however, his assurance returned, and before the
meal was over, he knew that their relations would be renewed.
Wishing, too, to be polite to his employer's daughter, he addressed
her from time to time. She responded as her mother would have done,
without any hesitation as to what she should say. At M. Walter's
right sat Viscountess de Percemur, and Duroy, looking at her with a
smile, asked Mme. de Marelle in a low voice: "Do you know the one
who signs herself 'Domino Rose'?"
"Yes, perfectly; Baroness de Livar."
"Is she like the Countess?"
"No. But she is just as comical. She is sixty years old, has false
curls and teeth, wit of the time of the Restoration, and toilettes
of the same period."
When the guests returned to the drawing-room, Duroy asked Mme. de
Marelle: "May I escort you home?"
"Because M. Laroche-Mathieu, who is my neighbor, leaves me at my
door every time that I dine here."
"When shall I see you again?"
"Lunch with me to-morrow."
They parted without another word. Duroy did not remain late; as he
descended the staircase, he met Norbert de Varenne, who was likewise
going away. The old poet took his arm; fearing no rivalry on the
newspaper, their work being essentially different, he was very
friendly to the young man.
"Shall we walk along together?"
"I shall be pleased to," replied Duroy.
The streets were almost deserted that night. At first the two men
did not speak. Then Duroy, in order to make some remark, said: "That
M. Laroche-Mathieu looks very intelligent."
The old poet murmured: "Do you think so?"
The younger man hesitated in surprise: "Why, yes! Is he not
considered one of the most capable men in the Chamber?"
"That may be. In a kingdom of blind men the blind are kings. All
those people are divided between money and politics; they are
pedants to whom it is impossible to speak of anything that is
familiar to us. Ah, it is difficult to find a man who is liberal in
his ideas! I have known several, they are dead. Still, what
difference does a little more or a little less genius make, since
all must come to an end?" He paused, and Duroy said with a smile:
"You are gloomy to-night, sir!"
The poet replied: "I always am, my child; you will be too in a few
years. While one is climbing the ladder, one sees the top and feels
hopeful; but when one has reached that summit, one sees the descent
and the end which is death. It is slow work ascending, but one
descends rapidly. At your age one is joyous; one hopes for many
things which never come to pass. At mine, one expects nothing but
Duroy laughed: "Egad, you make me shudder."
Norbert de Varenne continued: "You do not understand me now, but
later on you will remember what I have told you. We breathe, sleep,
drink, eat, work, and then die! The end of life is death. What do
you long for? Love? A few kisses and you will be powerless. Money?
What for? To gratify your desires. Glory? What comes after it all?
Death! Death alone is certain."
He stopped, took Duroy by his coat collar and said slowly: "Ponder
upon all that, young man; think it over for days, months, and years,
and you will see life from a different standpoint. I am a lonely,
old man. I have neither father, mother, brother, sister, wife,
children, nor God. I have only poetry. Marry, my friend; you do not
know what it is to live alone at my age. It is so lonesome. I seem
to have no one upon earth. When one is old it is a comfort to have
When they reached Rue de Bourgogne, the poet halted before a high
house, rang the bell, pressed Duroy's hand and said: "Forget what I
have said to you, young man, and live according to your age. Adieu!"
With those words he disappeared in the dark corridor.
Duroy felt somewhat depressed on leaving Varenne, but on his way a
perfumed damsel passed by him and recalled to his mind his
reconciliation with Mme. de Marelle. How delightful was the
realization of one's hopes!
The next morning he arrived at his lady-love's door somewhat early;
she welcomed him as if there had been no rupture, and said as she
"You do not know how annoyed I am, my beloved; I anticipated a
delightful honeymoon and now my husband has come home for six weeks.
But I could not let so long a time go by without seeing you,
especially after our little disagreement, and this is how I have
arranged matters: Come to dinner Monday. I will introduce you to M.
de Marelle, I have already spoken of you to him."
Duroy hesitated in perplexity; he feared he might betray something
by a word, a glance. He stammered:
"No, I would rather not meet your husband."
"Why not? How absurd! Such things happen every day. I did not think
you so foolish."
"Very well, I will come to dinner Monday."
"To make it more pleasant, I will have the Forestiers, though I do
not like to receive company at home."
On Monday as he ascended Mme. de Marelle's staircase, he felt
strangely troubled; not that he disliked to take her husband's hand,
drink his wine, and eat his bread, but he dreaded something, he knew
not what. He was ushered into the salon and he waited as usual. Then
the door opened, and a tall man with a white beard, grave and
precise, advanced toward him and said courteously:
"My wife has often spoken of you, sir; I am charmed to make your
Duroy tried to appear cordial and shook his host's proffered hand
with exaggerated energy. M. de Marelle put a log upon the fire and
"Have you been engaged in journalism a long time?"
Duroy replied: "Only a few months." His embarrassment wearing off,
he began to consider the situation very amusing. He gazed at M. de
Marelle, serious and dignified, and felt a desire to laugh aloud. At
that moment Mme. de Marelle entered and approached Duroy, who in the
presence of her husband dared not kiss her hand. Laurine entered
next, and offered her brow to Georges. Her mother said to her:
"You do not call M. Duroy Bel-Ami to-day."
The child blushed as if it were a gross indiscretion to reveal her
When the Forestiers arrived, Duroy was startled at Charles's
appearance. He had grown thinner and paler in a week and coughed
incessantly; he said they would leave for Cannes on the following
Thursday at the doctor's orders. They did not stay late; after they
had left, Duroy said, with a shake of his head:
"He will not live long."
Mme. de Marelle replied calmly: "No, he is doomed! He was a lucky
man to obtain such a wife."
Duroy asked: "Does she help him very much?"
"She does all the work; she is well posted on every subject, and she
always gains her point, as she wants it, and when she wants it! Oh,
she is as maneuvering as anyone! She is a treasure to a man who
wishes to succeed."
Georges replied: "She will marry very soon again, I have no doubt."
"Yes! I should not even be surprised if she had some one in view--a
deputy! but I do not know anything about it."
M. de Marelle said impatiently: "You infer so many things that I do
not like! We should never interfere in the affairs of others.
Everyone should make that a rule."
Duroy took his leave with a heavy heart. The next day he called on
the Forestiers, and found them in the midst of packing. Charles lay
upon a sofa and repeated: "I should have gone a month ago." Then he
proceeded to give Duroy innumerable orders, although everything had
been arranged with M. Walter. When Georges left him, he pressed his
comrade's hand and said:
"Well, old fellow, we shall soon meet again."
Mme. Forestier accompanied him to the door and he reminded her of
their compact. "We are friends and allies, are we not? If you should
require my services in any way, do not hesitate to call upon me.
Send me a dispatch or a letter and I will obey."
She murmured: "Thank you, I shall not forget."
As Duroy descended the staircase, he met M. de Vaudrec ascending.
The Count seemed sad--perhaps at the approaching departure.
The journalist bowed, the Count returned his salutation courteously
but somewhat haughtily.
On Thursday evening the Forestiers left town.
A DUEL WITH AN END
Charles's absence gave Duroy a more important position on "La Vie
Francaise." Only one matter arose to annoy him, otherwise his sky
An insignificant paper, "La Plume," attacked him constantly, or
rather attacked the editor of the "Echoes" of "La Vie Francaise."
Jacques Rival said to him one day: "You are very forbearing."
"What should I do? It is no direct attack."
But, one afternoon when he entered the office, Boisrenard handed him
a number of "La Plume."
"See, here is another unpleasant remark for you."
"Relative to what?"
"To the arrest of one Dame Aubert."
Georges took the paper and read a scathing personal denunciation.
Duroy, it seems, had written an item claiming that Dame Aubert who,
as the editor of "La Plume," claimed, had been put under arrest, was
a myth. The latter retaliated by accusing Duroy of receiving bribes
and of suppressing matter that should be published.
As Saint-Potin entered, Duroy asked him: "Have you seen the
paragraph in 'La Plume'?"
"Yes, and I have just come from Dame Aubert's; she is no myth, but
she has not been arrested; that report has no foundation."
Duroy went at once to M. Walter's office. After hearing the case,
the manager bade him go to the woman's house himself, find out the
details, and reply, to the article.
Duroy set out upon his errand and on his return to the office, wrote
"An anonymous writer in 'La Plume' is trying to pick a quarrel
with me on the subject of an old woman who, he claims, was
arrested for disorderly conduct, which I deny. I have myself
seen Dame Aubert, who is sixty years old at least; she told me
the particulars of her dispute with a butcher as to the weight
of some cutlets, which dispute necessitated an explanation
before a magistrate. That is the whole truth in a nutshell. As
for the other insinuations I scorn them. One never should reply
to such things, moreover, when they are written under a mask.
M. Walter and Jacques Rival considered that sufficient, and it was
decided that it should be published in that day's issue.
Duroy returned home rather agitated and uneasy. What would this
opponent reply? Who was he? Why that attack? He passed a restless
night. When he re-read his article in the paper the next morning, he
thought it more aggressive in print than it was in writing. He
might, it seemed to him, have softened certain terms. He was excited
all day and feverish during-the night. He rose early to obtain an
issue of "La Plume" which should contain the reply to his note. He
ran his eyes over the columns and at first saw nothing. He was
beginning to breathe more freely when these words met his eye:
"M. Duroy of 'La Vie Francaise' gives us the lie! In doing so,
he lies. He owns, however, that a woman named Aubert exists,
and that she was taken before a magistrate by an agent. Two
words only remain to be added to the word 'agent,' which are
'of morals' and all is told. But the consciences of certain
journalists are on a par with their talents."
"I sign myself, Louis Langremont."
Georges's heart throbbed violently, and he returned home in order to
dress himself. He had been insulted and in such a manner that it was
impossible to hesitate. Why had he been insulted? For nothing! On
account of an old woman who had quarreled with her butcher.
He dressed hastily and repaired to M. Walter's house, although it
was scarcely eight o'clock. M. Walter was reading "La Plume."
"Well," he said gravely, on perceiving Duroy, "you cannot let that
pass." The young man did not reply.
The manager continued: "Go at once in search of Rival, who will look
after your interests."
Duroy stammered several vague words and set out for Rival's house.
Jacques was still in bed, but he rose when the bell rang, and having
read the insulting paragraph, said: "Whom would you like to have
"I do not know."
"Are you a good swordsman?"
"A good shot?"
"I have used a pistol a good deal."
"Good! Come and exercise while I attend to everything. Wait a
He entered his dressing-room and soon reappeared, washed, shaven,
"Come with me," said he. He lived on the ground floor, and he led
Duroy into a cellar converted into a room for the practice of
fencing and shooting. He produced a pair of pistols and began to
give his orders as briefly as if they were on the dueling ground. He
was well satisfied with Duroy's use of the weapons, and told him to
remain there and practice until noon, when he would return to take
him to lunch and tell him the result of his mission. Left to his own
devices, Duroy aimed at the target several times and then sat down
Such affairs were abominable anyway! What would a respectable man
gain by risking his life? And he recalled Norbert de Varenne's
remarks, made to him a short while before. "He was right!" he
declared aloud. It was gloomy in that cellar, as gloomy as in a
tomb. What o'clock was it? The time dragged slowly on. Suddenly he
heard footsteps, voices, and Jacques Rival reappeared accompanied by
Boisrenard. The former cried on perceiving Duroy: "All is settled!"
Duroy thought the matter had terminated with a letter of apology;
his heart gave a bound and he stammered: "Ah--thank you!"
Rival continued: "M. Langremont has accepted every condition.
Twenty-five paces, fire when the pistol is leveled and the order
given." Then he added: "Now let us lunch; it is past twelve
They repaired to a neighboring restaurant. Duroy was silent. He ate
that they might not think he was frightened, and went in the
afternoon with Boisrenard to the office, where he worked in an
absent, mechanical manner. Before leaving, Jacques Rival shook hands
with him and warned him that he and Boisrenard would call for him in
a carriage the next morning at seven o'clock to repair to the wood
at Vesinet, where the meeting was to take place.
All had been settled without his saying a word, giving his opinion,
accepting or refusing, with such rapidity that his brain whirled and
he scarcely knew what was taking place. He returned home about nine
o'clock in the evening after having dined with Boisrenard, who had
not left him all day. When he was alone, he paced the floor; he was
too confused to think. One thought alone filled his mind and that
was: a duel to-morrow! He sat down and began to meditate. He had
thrown upon his table his adversary's card brought him by Rival. He
read it for the twentieth time that day:
176 Rue Montmartre."
Nothing more! Who was the man? How old was he? How tall? How did he
look? How odious that a total stranger should without rhyme or
reason, out of pure caprice, annoy him thus on account of an old,
woman's quarrel with her butcher! He said aloud: "The brute!" and
glared angrily at the card.
He began to feel nervous; the sound of his voice made him start; he
drank a glass of water and laid down. He turned from his right side
to his left uneasily. He was thirsty; he rose, he felt restless
"Am I afraid?" he asked himself.
Why did his heart palpitate so wildly at the slightest sound? He
began to reason philosophically on the possibility of being afraid.
No, certainly he was not, since he was ready to fight. Still he felt
so deeply moved that he wondered if one could be afraid in spite of
oneself. What would happen if that state of things should exist? If
he should tremble or lose his presence of mind? He lighted his
candle and looked in the glass; he scarcely recognized his own face,
it was so changed.
Suddenly he thought: "To-morrow at this time I may be dead." He
turned to his couch and saw himself stretched lifeless upon it. He
hastened to the window and opened it; but the night air was so
chilly that he closed it, lighted a fire, and began to pace the
floor once more, saying mechanically: "I must be more composed. I
will write to my parents, in case of accident." He took a sheet of
paper and after several attempts began:
"My dear father and mother:"
"At daybreak I am going to fight a duel, and as something
He could write no more, he rose with a shudder. It seemed to him
that notwithstanding his efforts, he would not have the strength
necessary to face the meeting. He wondered if his adversary had ever
fought before; if he were known? He had never heard his name.
However, if he had not been a remarkable shot, he would not have
accepted that dangerous weapon without hesitation. He ground his
teeth to prevent his crying aloud. Suddenly he remembered that he
had a bottle of brandy; he fetched it from the cupboard and soon
emptied it. Now he felt his blood course more warmly through his
veins. "I have found a means," said he.
Day broke. He began to dress; when his heart failed him, he took
more brandy. At length there was a knock at the door. His friends
had come; they were wrapped in furs. After shaking hands, Rival
said: "It is as cold as Siberia. Is all well?"
"Are you calm?"
"Have you eaten and drunk something?"
"I do not need anything."
They descended the stairs. A gentleman was seated in the carriage.
Rival said: "Dr. Le Brument." Duroy shook hands with him and
stammered: "Thank you," as he entered the carriage. Jacques Rival
and Boisrenard followed him, and the coachman drove off. He knew
where to go.
The conversation flagged, although the doctor related a number of
anecdotes. Rival alone replied to him. Duroy tried to appear self-
possessed, but he was haunted continually by the fear of showing his
feelings or of losing his self-possession. Rival addressed him,
saying: "I took the pistols to Gastine Renette. He loaded them. The
box is sealed."
Duroy replied mechanically: "Thank you."
Then Rival proceeded to give him minute directions, that he might
make no mistakes. Duroy repeated those directions as children learn
their lessons in order to impress them upon his memory. As he
muttered the phrases over and over, he almost prayed that some
accident might happen to the carriage; if he could only break his
At the end of a glade he saw a carriage standing and four gentlemen
stamping their feet in order to keep them warm, and he was obliged
to gasp in order to get breath. Rival and Boisrenard alighted first,
then the doctor and the combatant.
Rival took the box of pistols, and with Boisrenard approached the
two strangers, who were advancing toward them. Duroy saw them greet
one another ceremoniously, then walk through the glade together as
they counted the paces.
Dr. Le Brument asked Duroy: "Do you feel well? Do you not want
"Nothing, thank you." It seemed to him that he was asleep, that he
was dreaming. Was he afraid? He did not know. Jacques Rival returned
and said in a low voice: "All is ready. Fortune has favored us in
the drawing of the pistols." That was a matter of indifference to
Duroy. They helped him off with his overcoat, led him to the ground
set apart for the duel, and gave him his pistol. Before him stood a
man, short, stout, and bald, who wore glasses. That was his
adversary. A voice broke the silence--a voice which came from afar:
"Are you ready, sirs?"
Georges cried: "Yes."
The same voice commanded: "Fire!"
Duroy heard nothing more, saw nothing more; he only knew that he
raised his arm and pressed with all his strength upon the trigger.
Soon he saw a little smoke before him; his opponent was still
standing in the same position, and there was a small white cloud
above his head. They had both fired. All was over! His second and
the doctor felt him, unbuttoned his garments, and asked anxiously:
"Are you wounded?" He replied: "No, I think not."
Langremont was not wounded either, and Jacques Rival muttered
discontentedly: "That is always the way with those cursed pistols,
one either misses or kills one's opponent"
Duroy was paralyzed with surprise and joy. All was over! He felt
that he could fight the entire universe. All was over! What bliss!
He felt brave enough to provoke anyone. The seconds consulted
several moments, then the duelists and their friends entered the
carriages and drove off. When the official report was drawn up, it
was handed to Duroy who was to insert it in the "Echoes." He was
surprised to find that two balls had been fired.
He said to Rival: "We only fired once!"
The latter smiled: "Yes--once--once each--that makes twice!"
And Duroy, satisfied with that explanation, asked no more questions.
M. Walter embraced him.
"Bravo! you have defended the colors of 'La Vie Francaise'! Bravo!"
The following day at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, Duroy received
"My God! I have been frightened. Come at once to Rue de
Constantinople that I may embrace you, my love. How brave you are. I
adore you. Clo."
He repaired to the place appointed, and Mme. de Marelle rushed into
his arms, covering him with kisses.
"Oh, my darling, if you only knew how I felt when I read the morning
papers! Tell me, tell me all about it."
Duroy was obliged to give her a detailed account.
"You must have had a terrible night before the duel!"
"Why, no; I slept very well."
"I should not have closed my eyes. Tell me what took place on the
Forthwith he proceeded to give her a graphic description of the
duel. When he had concluded, she said to him: "I cannot live without
you! I must see you, and with my husband in Paris it is not very
convenient. I often have an hour early in the morning when I could
come and embrace you, but I cannot enter that horrible house of
yours! What can we do?"
He asked abruptly: "How much do you pay here?"
"One hundred francs a month."
"Very well, I will take the apartments on my own account, and I will
move at once. Mine are not suitable anyway for me now."
She thought a moment and then replied: "No I do not want you to."
He asked in surprise: "Why not?"
"That is no reason. These rooms suit me very well. I am here; I
shall remain." He laughed. "Moreover, they were hired in my name!"
But she persisted: "No, no, I do not wish you to."
"Why not, then?"
She whispered softly, tenderly: "Because you would bring others
here, and I do not wish you to."
Indignantly he cried: "Never, I promise you!"
"You would do so in spite of your promise."
"I swear I will not."
"Truly--upon my word of honor. This is our nest--ours alone!"
She embraced him in a transport of delight. "Then I agree, my
dearest. But if you deceive me once--just once, that will end all
between us forever."
He protested, and it was agreed that he should settle in the rooms
that same day. She said to him:
"You must dine with us Sunday. My husband thinks you charming."
He was flattered. "Indeed?"
"Yes, you have made a conquest. Did you not tell me that your home
was in the country?"
"Then you know something about agriculture?"
"Very well; talk to him of gardening and crops; he enjoys those
"All right. I shall not forget."
She left him, after lavishing upon him innumerable caresses.
DEATH AND A PROPOSAL
Duroy moved his effects to the apartments in Rue de Constantinople.
Two or three times a week, Mme. de-Marelle paid him visits. Duroy,
to counterbalance them, dined at her house every Thursday, and
delighted her husband by talking agriculture to him.
It was almost the end of February. Duroy was free from care. One
night, when he returned home, he found a letter under his door. He
examined the postmark; it was from Cannes. Having opened it, he
"Cannes, Villa Jolie."
"Dear sir and friend: You told me, did you not, that I could
count upon you at any time? Very well. I have a favor to ask
of you; it is to come and help me--not to leave me alone during
Charles's last moments. He may not live through the week,
although he is not confined to his bed, but the doctor has
warned me. I have not the strength nor the courage to see that
agony day and night, and I think with terror of the approaching
end I can only ask such a thing of you, for my husband has no
relatives. You were his comrade; he helped you to your
position; come, I beg of you; I have no one else to ask."
Georges murmured: "Certainly I will go. Poor Charles!"
The manager, to whom he communicated the contents of that letter,
grumblingly gave his consent. He repeated: "But return speedily, you
are indispensable to us."
Georges Duroy left for Cannes the next day by the seven o'clock
express, after having warned Mme. de Marelle by telegram. He arrived
the following day at four o'clock in the afternoon. A
commissionnaire conducted him to Villa Jolie. The house was small
and low, and of the Italian style of architecture.
A servant opened the door and cried: "Oh, sir, Madame is awaiting
Duroy asked: "How is your master?"
"Not very well, sir. He will not be here long."
The floor of the drawing-room which the young man entered was
covered with a Persian rug; the large windows looked upon the
village and the sea.
Duroy murmured: "How cozy it is here! Where the deuce do they get
the money from?"
The rustling of a gown caused him to turn. Mme. Forestier extended
both her hands, saying:
"How kind of you to come."
She was a trifle paler and thinner, but still as bright as ever, and
perhaps prettier for being more delicate. She whispered: "It is
terrible--he knows he cannot be saved and he tyrannizes over me. I
have told him of your arrival. But where is your trunk?"
Duroy replied: "I left it at the station, not knowing which hotel
you would advise me to stop at, in order to be near you."
She hesitated, then said: "You must stop here, at the villa. Your
chamber is ready. He might die any moment, and if it should come in
the night, I would be alone. I will send for your luggage."
He bowed. "As you will."
"Now, let us go upstairs," said she; he followed her. She opened a
door on the first floor, and Duroy saw a form near a window, seated
in an easy-chair, and wrapped in coverlets. He divined that it was
his friend, though he scarcely recognized him. Forestier raised his
hand slowly and with difficulty, saying:
"You are here; you have come to see me die. I am much obliged."
Duroy forced a smile. "To see you die? That would not be a very
pleasant sight, and I would not choose that occasion on which to
visit Cannes. I came here to rest."
"Sit down," said Forestier, and he bowed his head as if deep in
hopeless meditation. Seeing that he did not speak, his wife
approached the window and pointing to the horizon, said, "Look at
that? Is it not beautiful?"
In spite of himself Duroy felt the grandeur of the closing day and
exclaimed: "Yes, indeed, it is magnificent"
Forestier raised his head and said to his wife: "Give me more air."
She replied: "You must be careful; it is late, the sun is setting;
you will catch more cold and that would be a serious thing in your
He made a feeble gesture of anger with his right hand, and said: "I
tell you I am suffocating! What difference does it make if I die a
day sooner or later, since I must die?"
She opened the window wide. The air was soft and balmy. Forestier
inhaled it in feverish gasps. He grasped the arms of his chair and
said in a low voice: "Shut the window. I would rather die in a
His wife slowly closed the window, then leaned her brow against the
pane and looked out. Duroy, ill at ease, wished to converse with the
invalid to reassure him, but he could think of no words of comfort.
He stammered: "Have you not been better since you are here?"
His friend shrugged his shoulders impatiently: "You will see very
soon." And he bowed his head again.
Duroy continued: "At home it is still wintry. It snows, hails,
rains, and is so dark that they have to light the lamps at three
o'clock in the afternoon."
Forestier asked: "Is there anything new at the office?"
"Nothing. They have taken little Lacrin of the 'Voltaire' to fill
your place, but he is incapable. It is time you came back."
The invalid muttered: "I? I will soon be writing under six feet of
sod." A long silence ensued.
Mme. Forestier did not stir; she stood with her back to the room,
her face toward the window. At length Forestier broke the silence in
a gasping voice, heartrending to listen to: "How many more sunsets
shall I see--eight--ten--fifteen--twenty--or perhaps thirty--no
more. You have more time, you two--as for me--all is at an end. And
everything will go on when I am gone as if I were here." He paused a
few moments, then continued: "Everything that I see reminds me that
I shall not see them long. It is horrible. I shall no longer see the
smallest objects--the glasses--the dishes--the beds on which we
rest--the carriages. It is fine to drive in the evening. How I loved
Again Norbert de Varenne's words occurred to Duroy. The room grew
dark. Forestier asked irritably:
"Are we to have no lamp to-night? That is what is called caring for
The form outlined against the window disappeared and an electric
bell was heard to ring. A servant soon entered and placed a lamp
upon the mantel-piece. Mme. Forestier asked her husband: "Do you
wish to retire, or will you go downstairs to dinner?"
"I will go down to dinner."
The meal seemed to Duroy interminable, for there was no
conversation, only the ticking of a clock broke the silence. When
they had finished, Duroy, pleading fatigue, retired to his room and
tried in vain to invent some pretext for returning home as quickly
as possible. He consoled himself by saying: "Perhaps it will not be
The next morning Georges rose early and strolled down to the beach.
When he returned the servant said to him: "Monsieur has asked for
you two or three times. Will you go upstairs?"
He ascended the stairs. Forestier appeared to be in a chair; his
wife, reclining upon a couch, was reading. The invalid raised his
head. Duroy asked:
"Well, how are you? You look better this morning."
Forestier murmured: "Yes, I am better and stronger. Lunch as hastily
as you can with Madeleine, because we are going to take a drive."
When Mme. Forestier was alone with Duroy, she said to him: "You see,
to-day he thinks he is better! He is making plans for to-morrow. We
are now going to Gulf Juan to buy pottery for our rooms in Paris. He
is determined to go, but he cannot stand the jolting on the road."
The carriage arrived, Forestier descended the stairs, step by step,
supported by his servant. When he saw the closed landau, he wanted
it uncovered. His wife opposed him: "It is sheer madness! You will
He persisted: "No, I am going to be better, I know it."
They first drove along a shady road and then took the road by the
sea. Forestier explained the different points of interest. Finally
they arrived at a pavilion over which were these words: "Gulf Juan
Art Pottery," and the carriage drew up at the door. Forestier wanted
to buy a vase to put on his bookcase. As he could not leave the
carriage, they brought the pieces to him one by one. It took him a
long time to choose, consulting his wife and Duroy: "You know it is
for my study. From my easy-chair I can see it constantly. I prefer
the ancient form--the Greek."
At length he made his choice. "I shall return to Paris in a few
days," said he.
On their way home along the gulf a cool breeze suddenly sprang up,
and the invalid began to cough. At first it was nothing, only a
slight attack, but it grew worse and turned to a sort of hiccough--a
rattle; Forestier choked, and every time he tried to breathe he
coughed violently. Nothing quieted him. He had to be carried from
the landau to his room. The heat of the bed did not stop the attack,
which lasted until midnight. The first words the sick man uttered
were to ask for a barber, for he insisted on being shaved every
morning. He rose to be shaved, but was obliged to go to bed at once,
and began to breathe so painfully that Mme. Forestier in affright
woke Duroy and asked him to fetch the doctor. He returned almost
immediately with Dr. Gavant who prescribed for the sick man. When
the journalist asked him his opinion, he said: "It is the final
stage. He will be dead to-morrow morning. Prepare that poor, young
wife and send for a priest. I can do nothing more. However, I am
entirely at your disposal" Duroy went to Mme. Forestier. "He is
going to die. The doctor advises me to send for a priest. What will
She hesitated a moment and then said slowly:
"I will go and tell him that the cure wishes to see him. Will you be
kind enough to procure one who will require nothing but the
confession, and who will not make much fuss?"
The young man brought with him a kind, old priest who accommodated
himself to circumstances. When he had entered the death chamber,
Mme. Forestier went out and seated herself with Duroy in an
"That has upset him," said she. "When I mentioned the priest to him,
his face assumed a scared expression. He knew that the end was near.
I shall never forget his face."
At that moment they heard the priest saying to him: "Why no, you are
not so low as that. You are ill, but not in danger. The proof of
that is that I came as a friend, a neighbor." They could not hear
his reply. The priest continued: "No, I shall not administer the
sacrament. We will speak of that when you are better. If you will
only confess, I ask no more. I am a pastor; I take advantage of
every occasion to gather in my sheep."
A long silence followed. Then suddenly the priest said, in the tone
of one officiating at the altar:
"The mercy of God is infinite; repeat the 'Confiteor,' my son.
Perhaps you have forgotten it; I will help you. Repeat with me:
'Confiteor Deo omnipotenti; Beata Mariae semper virgini.'" He paused
from time to time to permit the dying man to catch up to him.
Then he said: "Now, confess." The sick man murmured something. The
priest repeated: "You have committed sins: of what kind, my son?"
The young woman rose and said simply: "Let us go into the garden. We
must not listen to his secrets."
They seated themselves upon a bench before the door, beneath a
blossoming rosebush. After several moments of silence Duroy asked:
"Will it be some time before you return to Paris?"
"No," she replied; "when all is over, I will go back."
"In about ten days?"
"Yes, at most."
He continued; "Charles has no relatives then?"
"None, save cousins. His father and mother died when he was very
In the course of a few minutes, the servant came to tell them that
the priest had finished, and together they ascended the stairs.
Forestier seemed to have grown thinner since the preceding day. The
priest was holding his hand.
"Au revoir, my son. I will come again to-morrow morning"; and he
left. When he was gone, the dying man, who was panting, tried to
raise his two hands toward his wife and gasped:
"Save me--save me, my darling. I do not want to die--oh, save me--go
for the doctor. I will take anything. I do not want to die." He
wept; the tears coursed down his pallid cheeks. Then his hands
commenced to wander hither and thither continually, slowly, and
regularly, as if gathering something on the coverlet. His wife, who
was also weeping, sobbed:
"No, it is nothing. It is only an attack; you will be better to-
morrow; you tired yourself with that drive."
Forestier drew his breath quickly and so faintly that one could
scarcely hear him. He repeated:
"I do not want to die! Oh, my God--my God--what has happened to me?
I cannot see. Oh, my God!" His staring eyes saw something invisible
to the others; his hands plucked continually at the counterpane.
Suddenly he shuddered and gasped: "The cemetery--me--my God!" He did
not speak again. He lay there motionless and ghastly. The hours
dragged on; the clock of a neighboring convent chimed noon.
Duroy left the room to obtain some food. He returned an hour later;
Mme. Forestier would eat nothing. The invalid had not stirred. The
young woman was seated in an easy-chair at the foot of the bed.
Duroy likewise seated himself, and they watched in silence. A nurse,
sent by the doctor, had arrived and was dozing by the window.
Duroy himself was almost asleep when he felt a presentiment that
something was about to happen. He opened his eyes just in time to
see Forestier close his. He coughed slightly, and two streams of
blood issued from the corners of his mouth and flowed upon his night
robe; his hands ceased their perpetual motion; he had breathed his
last. His wife, perceiving it, uttered a cry and fell upon her knees
by the bedside. Georges, in surprise and affright, mechanically made
the sign of the cross.
The nurse, awakening, approached the bed and said: "It has come."
Duroy, recovering his self-possession, murmured with a sigh of
relief: "It was not as hard as I feared it would be."
That night Mme. Forestier and Duroy watched in the chamber of death.
They were alone beside him who was no more. They did not speak,
Georges's eyes seemed attracted to that emaciated face which the
flickering light made more hollow. That was his friend, Charles
Forestier, who the day before had spoken to him. For several years
he had lived, eaten, laughed, loved, and hoped as did everyone--and
now all was ended for him forever.
Life lasted a few months or years, and then fled! One was born,
grew, was happy, and died. Adieu! man or woman, you will never
return to earth! He thought of the insects which live several hours,
of the feasts which live several days, of the men who live several
years, of the worlds which last several centuries. What was the
difference between one and the other? A few more dawns, that was
Duroy turned away his eyes in order not to see the corpse. Mme.
Forestier's head was bowed; her fair hair enhanced the beauty of her
sorrowful face. The young man's heart grew hopeful. Why should he
lament when he had so many years still before him? He glanced at the
handsome widow. How had she ever consented to marry that man? Then
he pondered upon all the hidden secrets of their lives. He
remembered that he had been told of a Count de Vaudrec who had
dowered and given her in marriage. What would she do now? Whom would
she marry? Had she projects, plans? He would have liked to know. Why
that anxiety as to what she would do?
Georges questioned himself, and found that it was caused by a desire
to win her for himself. Why should he not succeed? He was positive
that she liked him; she would have confidence in him, for she knew
that he was intelligent, resolute, tenacious. Had she not sent for
him? Was not that a kind of avowal? He was impatient to question
her, to find out her intentions. He would soon have to leave that
villa, for he could not remain alone with the young widow; therefore
he must find out her plans before returning to Paris, in order that
she might not yield to another's entreaties. He broke the oppressive
silence by saying:
"You must be fatigued."
"Yes, but above all I am grieved."
Their voices sounded strange in that room. They glanced
involuntarily at the corpse as if they expected to see it move.
"It is a heavy blow for you, and will make a complete change in your
She sighed deeply, but did not reply. He added:
"It is very sad for a young woman like you to be left alone." He
paused; she still did not reply, and he stammered: "At any rate, you
will remember the compact between us; you can command me as you
will. I am yours."
She held out her hand to him and said mournfully and gently:
"Thanks, you are very kind. If I can do anything for you, I say too:
'Count on me.'"
He took her proffered hand, gazed at it, and was seized with an
ardent desire to kiss it. Slowly he raised it to his lips and then
relinquished it. As her delicate fingers lay upon her knee the young
widow said gravely:
"Yes, I shall be all alone, but I shall force myself to be brave."
He did not know how to tell her that he would be delighted to wed
her. Certainly it was no time to speak to her on such a subject;
however, he thought he might be able to express himself by means of
some phrase which would have a hidden meaning and would infer what
he wished to say. But that rigid corpse lay between them. The
atmosphere became oppressive, almost suffocating. Duroy asked: "Can
we not open the window a little? The air seems to be impure."
"Certainly," she replied; "I have noticed it too."
He opened the window, letting in the cool night air. He turned:
"Come and look out, it is delightful."
She glided softly to his side. He whispered: "Listen to me. Do not
be angry that I broach the subject at such a time, but the day after
to-morrow I shall leave here and when you return to Paris it might
be too late. You know that I am only a poor devil, who has his
position to make, but I have the will and some intelligence, and I
am advancing. A man who has attained his ambition knows what to
count on; a man who has his way to make does not know what may come-
-it may be better or worse. I told you one day that my most
cherished dream was to have a wife like you."
"I repeat it to you to-day. Do not reply, but let me continue. This
is no proposal--the time and place would render it odious. I only
wish to tell you that by a word you can make me happy, and that you
can make of me as you will, either a friend or a husband--for my
heart and my body are yours. I do not want you to answer me now. I
do not wish to speak any more on the subject here. When we meet in
Paris, you can tell me your decision."
He uttered these words without glancing at her, and she seemed not
to have heard them, for she stood by his side motionless, staring
vaguely and fixedly at the landscape before her, bathed in
At length she murmured: "It is rather chilly," and turned toward the
bed. Duroy followed her. They did not speak but continued their
watch. Toward midnight Georges fell asleep. At daybreak the nurse
entered and he started up. Both he and Mme. Forestier retired to
their rooms to obtain some rest. At eleven o'clock they rose and
lunched together; while through the open window was wafted the
sweet, perfumed air of spring. After lunch, Mme. Forestier proposed
that they take a turn in the garden; as they walked slowly along,
she suddenly said, without turning her head toward him, in a low,
"Listen to me, my dear friend; I have already reflected upon what
you proposed to me, and I cannot allow you to depart without a word
of reply. I will, however, say neither yes nor no. We will wait, we
will see; we will become better acquainted. You must think it well
over too. Do not yield to an impulse. I mention this to you before
even poor Charles is buried, because it is necessary, after what you
have said to me, that you should know me as I am, in order not to
cherish the hope you expressed to me any longer, if you are not a
man who can understand and bear with me."
"Now listen carefully: Marriage, to me, is not a chain but an
association. I must be free, entirely unfettered, in all my actions-
-my coming and my going; I can tolerate neither control, jealousy,
nor criticism as to my conduct. I pledge my word, however, never to
compromise the name of the man I marry, nor to render him ridiculous
in the eyes of the world. But that man must promise to look upon me
as an equal, an ally, and not as an inferior, or as an obedient,
submissive wife. My ideas, I know, are not like those of other
people, but I shall never change them. Do not answer me, it would be
useless. We shall meet again and talk it all over later. Now take a
walk; I shall return to him. Good-bye until to-night."
He kissed her hand and left her without having uttered a word. That
night they met at dinner; directly after the meal they sought their
rooms, worn out with fatigue.
Charles Forestier was buried the next day in the cemetery at Cannes
without any pomp, and Georges returned to Paris by the express which
left at one-thirty. Mme. Forestier accompanied him to the station.
They walked up and down the platform awaiting the hour of departure
and conversing on indifferent subjects.
The train arrived, the journalist took his seat; a porter cried:
"Marseilles, Lyons, Paris! All aboard!" The locomotive whistled and
the train moved slowly out of the station.
The young man leaned out of the carriage, and looked at the youthful
widow standing on the platform gazing after him. Just as she was
disappearing from his sight, he threw her a kiss, which she returned
with a more discreet wave of her hand.
Georges Duroy resumed his old habits. Installed in the cozy
apartments on Rue de Constantinople, his relations with Mme. de
Marelle became quite conjugal.
Mme. Forestier had not returned; she lingered at Cannes. He,
however, received a letter from her announcing her return about the
middle of April, but containing not a word as to their parting. He
waited. He was resolved to employ every means to marry her if she
seemed to hesitate; he had faith in his good fortune, in that power
of attraction which he felt within him--a power so irresistible that
all women yielded to it.
At length a short note admonished him that the decisive moment had
"I am in Paris. Come to see me."
Nothing more. He received it at nine o'clock. At three o'clock of
the same day he called at her house. She extended both hands to him
with a sweet smile, and they gazed into each other's eyes for
several seconds, then she murmured:
"How kind of you to come!"
He replied: "I should have come, whensoever you bade me."
They sat down; she inquired about the Walters, his associates, and
"I miss that very much," said she. "I had become a journalist in
spirit. I like the profession." She paused. He fancied he saw in her
smile, in her voice, in her words, a kind of invitation, and
although he had resolved not to hasten matters, he stammered:
"Well--why--why do you not resume--that profession--under--the name
She became suddenly serious, and placing her hand on his arm, she
said: "Do not let us speak of that yet."
Divining that she would accept him, he fell upon his knees, and
passionately kissed her hands, saying:
"Thank you--thank you--how I love you."
She rose, she was very pale. Duroy kissed her brow. When she had
disengaged herself from his embrace, she said gravely: "Listen, my
friend, I have not yet fully decided; but my answer may be 'yes.'
You must wait patiently, however, until I disclose the secret to
He promised and left her, his heart overflowing with joy. He worked
steadily, spent little, tried to save some money that he might not
be without a sou at the time of his marriage, and became as miserly
as he had once been prodigal. Summer glided by; then autumn, and no
one suspected the tie existing between Duroy and Mme. Forestier, for
they seldom met in public.
One evening Madeleine said to him: "You have not yet told Mme. de
Marelle our plans?"
"No, my dear; as you wished them kept secret, I have not mentioned
them to a soul."
"Very well; there is plenty of time. I will tell the Walters."
She turned away her head and continued: "If you wish, we can be
married the beginning of May."
"I obey you in all things joyfully."
"The tenth of May, which falls on Saturday, would please me, for it
is my birthday."
"Very well, the tenth of May."
"Your parents live near Rouen, do they not?"
"Yes, near Rouen, at Canteleu."
"I am very anxious to see them!"
He hesitated, perplexed: "But--they are--" Then he added more
firmly: "My dear, they are plain, country people, innkeepers, who
strained every nerve to give me an education. I am not ashamed of
them, but their--simplicity--their rusticity might annoy you."
She smiled sweetly. "No, I will love them very much. We will visit
them; I wish to. I, too, am the child of humble parents--but I lost
mine--I have no one in the world"--she held out her hand to him--
He was affected, conquered as he had never been by any woman.
"I have been thinking of something," said she, "but it is difficult
He asked: "What is it?"
"It is this: I am like all women. I have my--my weaknesses. I should
like to bear a noble name. Can you not on the occasion of our
marriage change your name somewhat?" She blushed as if she had
proposed something indelicate.
He replied simply: "I have often thought of it, but it does not seem
easy to me."
He laughed. "Because I am afraid I should be ridiculed."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Not at all--not at all. Everyone does
it, and no one laughs. Separate your name in this way: Du Roy. It
sounds very well."
He replied: "No, that will not do; it is too common a proceeding. I
have thought of assuming the name of my native place, first as a
literary pseudonym and then as my surname in conjunction with Duroy,
which might later on, as you proposed, be separated."
She asked: "Is your native place Canteleu?"
"I do not like the termination. Could we not modify it?"
She took a pen and wrote down the names in order to study them.
Suddenly she cried: "Now I have it," and held toward him a sheet of
paper on which was written: "Mme. Duroy de Cantel."
Gravely he replied: "Yes, it is very nice."
She was delighted, and repeated: "Duroy de Cantel. Mme. Duroy de
Cantel. It is excellent, excellent!"
Then she added with an air of conviction: "You will see how easily
it will be accepted by everyone! After to-morrow, sign your articles
'D. de Cantel,' and your 'Echoes' simply 'Duroy.' That is done on
the press every day and no one will be surprised to see you take a
nom de plume. What is your father's name?"
She murmured "Alexandre!" two or three times in succession; then she
wrote upon a blank sheet:
"M. and Mme. Alexandre du Roy de Cantel announce the marriage of
their son, M. Georges du Roy de Cantel with Mme. Forestier."
She examined her writing, and, charmed with the effect, exclaimed:
"With a little method one can succeed in anything."
When Georges reached the street resolved to call himself,
henceforth, "Du Roy," or even "Du Roy de Cantel," it seemed to him
that he was of more importance. He swaggered more boldly, held his
head more erect and walked as he thought gentlemen should. He felt a
desire to inform the passers-by, "My name is Du Roy de Cantel."
Scarcely had he entered his apartments when the thought of Mme. de
Marelle rendered him uneasy, and he wrote to her immediately,
appointing a meeting for the following day.
"It will be hard," thought he. "There will be a quarrel surely."
The next morning he received a telegram from Madame, informing him
that she would be with him at one o'clock. He awaited her
impatiently, determined to confess at once and afterward to argue
with her, to tell her that he could not remain a bachelor
indefinitely, and that, as M. de Marelle persisted in living, he had
been compelled to choose some one else as a legal companion. When
the bell rang, his heart gave a bound.
Mme. de Marelle entered and cast herself into his arms, saying:
"Good afternoon, Bel-Ami." Perceiving that his embrace was colder
than usual, she glanced up at him and asked: "What ails you?"
"Take a seat," said he. "We must talk seriously."
She seated herself without removing her hat, and waited. He cast
down his eyes; he was preparing to commence.
Finally he said slowly: "My dear friend, you see that I am very much
perplexed, very sad, and very much embarrassed by what I have to
confess to you. I love you; I love you with all my heart, and the
fear of giving you pain grieves me more than what I have to tell
She turned pale, trembled, and asked: "What is it? Tell me quickly."
He said sadly but resolutely: "I am going to be married."
She sighed like one about to lose consciousness; then she gasped,
but did not speak.
He continued: "You cannot imagine how much I suffered before taking
that resolution. But I have neither position nor money. I am alone
in Paris, I must have near me some one who can counsel, comfort, and
support me. What I need is an associate, an ally, and I have found
one!" He paused, hoping that she would reply, expecting an outburst
of furious rage, reproaches, and insults. She pressed her hand to
her heart and breathed with difficulty. He took the hand resting on
the arm of the chair, but she drew it away and murmured as if
stupefied: "Oh, my God!"
He fell upon his knees before her, without, however, venturing to
touch her, more moved by her silence than he would have been by her
"Clo, my little Clo, you understand my position. Oh, if I could have
married you, what happiness it would have afforded me! But you were
married! What could I do? Just think of it! I must make my way in
the world and I can never do so as long as I have no domestic ties.
If you knew. There are days when I should like to kill your
husband." He spoke in a low, seductive voice. He saw two tears
gather in Mme. de Marelle's eyes and trickle slowly down her cheeks.
He whispered: "Do not weep, Clo, do not weep, I beseech you. You
break my heart."
She made an effort to appear dignified and haughty, and asked,
though somewhat unsteadily: "Who is it?"
For a moment he hesitated before he replied: "Madeleine Forestier!"
Mme. de Marelle started; her tears continued to flow. She rose.
Duroy saw that she was going to leave him without a word of reproach
or pardon, and he felt humbled, humiliated. He seized her gown and
"Do not leave me thus."
She looked at him with that despairing, tearful glance so charming
and so touching, which expresses all the misery pent-up in a woman's
heart, and stammered: "I have nothing--to say; I can do nothing.
You--you are right; you have made a good choice."
And disengaging herself she left the room.
With a sigh of relief at escaping so easily, he repaired to Mme.
Forestier's, who asked him: "Have you told Mme. de Marelle?"
He replied calmly: "Yes."
"Did it affect her?"
"Not at all. On the contrary, she thought it an excellent plan."
The news was soon noised abroad. Some were surprised, others
pretended to have foreseen it, and others again smiled, inferring
that they were not at all astonished. The young man, who signed his
articles, "D. de Cantel," his "Echoes," "Duroy," and his political
sketches, "Du Roy," spent the best part of his time with his
betrothed, who had decided that the date fixed for the wedding
should be kept secret, that the ceremony should be celebrated in the
presence of witnesses only, that they should leave the same evening
for Rouen, and that the day following they should visit the
journalist's aged parents and spend several days with them. Duroy
had tried to persuade Madeleine to abandon that project, but not
succeeding in his efforts he was finally compelled to submit.
The tenth of May arrived. Thinking a religious ceremony unnecessary,
as they had issued no invitations, the couple were married at a
magistrate's and took the six o'clock train for Normandy.
As the train glided along, Duroy seated in front of his wife, took
her hand, kissed it, and said: "When we return we will dine at
She murmured: "We shall have a great many things to do!" in a tone
which seemed to say: "We must sacrifice pleasure to duty."
He retained her hand wondering anxiously how he could manage to
caress her. He pressed her hand slightly, but she did not respond to
He said: "It seems strange that you should be my wife."
She appeared surprised: "Why?"
"I do not know. It seems droll. I want to embrace you and I am
surprised that I have the right."
She calmly offered him her cheek which he kissed as he would have
kissed his sister's. He continued:
"The first time I saw you (you remember, at that dinner to which I
was invited at Forestier's), I thought: 'Sacristi, if I could only
find a wife like that!' And now I have one."
She glanced at him with smiling eyes.
He said to himself: "I am too cold. I am stupid. I should make more
advances." And he asked: "How did you make Forestier's
She replied with provoking archness: "Are we going to Rouen to talk
He colored. "I am a fool. You intimidate me."
She was delighted. "I? Impossible."
He seated himself beside her. She exclaimed: "Ah! a stag!" The train
was passing through the forest of Saint-Germain and she had seen a
frightened deer clear an alley at a bound. As she gazed out of the
open window, Duroy bending over her, pressed a kiss upon her neck.
For several moments she remained motionless, then raising her head,
she said: "You tickle me, stop!"
But he did not obey her.
She repeated: "Stop, I say!"
He seized her head with his right hand, turned it toward him and
pressed his lips to hers. She struggled, pushed him away and
He did not heed her. With an effort, she freed herself and rising,
said: "Georges, have done. We are not children, we shall soon reach
"Very well," said he, gaily, "I will wait."
Reseating herself near him she talked of what they would do on their
return; they would keep the apartments in which she had lived with
her first husband, and Duroy would receive Forestier's position on
"La Vie Francaise." In the meantime, forgetting her injunctions and
his promise, he slipped his arm around her waist, pressed her to him
and murmured: "I love you dearly, my little Made."
The gentleness of his tone moved the young woman, and leaning toward
him she offered him her lips; as she did so, a whistle announced the
proximity of the station. Pushing back some stray locks upon her
temples, she exclaimed:
"We are foolish."
He kissed her hands feverishly and replied:
"I adore you, my little Made."
On reaching Rouen they repaired to a hotel where they spent the
night. The following morning, when they had drunk the tea placed
upon the table in their room, Duroy clasped his wife in his arms and
said: "My little Made, I feel that I love you very, very much."
She smiled trustfully and murmured as she returned his kisses: "I
love you too--a little."
The visit to his parents worried Georges, although he had prepared
his wife. He began again: "You know they are peasants, real, not
sham, comic-opera peasants."
She smiled. "I know it, you have told me often enough."
"We shall be very uncomfortable. There is only a straw bed in my
room; they do not know what hair mattresses are at Canteleu."
She seemed delighted. "So much the better. It would be charming to
sleep badly--when--near you--and to be awakened by the crowing of
He walked toward the window and lighted a cigarette. The sight of
the harbor, of the river filled with ships moved him and he
exclaimed: "Egad, but that is fine!"
Madeleine joined him and placing both of her hands on her husband's
shoulder, cried: "Oh, how beautiful! I did not know that there were
so many ships!"
An hour later they departed in order to breakfast with the old
couple, who had been informed several days before of their intended
arrival. Both Duroy and his wife were charmed with the beauties of
the landscape presented to their view, and the cabman halted in
order to allow them to get a better idea of the panorama before
them. As he whipped up his horse, Duroy saw an old couple not a
hundred meters off, approaching, and he leaped from the carriage
crying: "Here they are, I know them."
The man was short, corpulent, florid, and vigorous, notwithstanding
his age; the woman was tall, thin, and melancholy, with stooping
shoulders--a woman who had worked from childhood, who had never
laughed nor jested.
Madeleine, too, alighted and watched the couple advance, with a
contraction of her heart she had not anticipated. They did not
recognize their son in that fine gentleman, and they would never
have taken that handsome lady for their daughter-in-law. They walked
along, passed the child they were expecting, without glancing at the
Georges cried with a laugh: "Good day, Father Duroy."
Both the old man and his wife were struck dumb with astonishment;
the latter recovered her self-possession first and asked: "Is it
The young man replied: "Yes, it is I, Mother Duroy," and approaching
her, he kissed her upon both cheeks and said: "This is my wife."
The two rustics stared at Madeleine as if she were a curiosity, with
anxious fear, combined with a sort of satisfied approbation on the
part of the father and of jealous enmity on that of the mother.
M. Duroy, senior, who was naturally jocose, made so bold as to ask
with a twinkle in his eye: "May I kiss you too?" His son uttered an
exclamation and Madeleine offered her cheek to the old peasant; who
afterward wiped his lips with the back of his hand. The old woman,
in her turn, kissed her daughter-in-law with hostile reserve. Her
ideal was a stout, rosy, country lass, as red as an apple and as
The carriage preceded them with the luggage. The old man took his
son's arm and asked him: "How are you getting on?"
"That is right. Tell me, has your wife any means?"
Georges replied: "Forty thousand francs."
His father whistled softly and muttered: "Whew!" Then he added: "She
is a handsome woman." He admired his son's wife, and in his day had
considered himself a connoisseur.
Madeleine and the mother walked side by side in silence; the two men
joined them. They soon reached the village, at the entrance to which
stood M. Duroy's tavern. A pine board fastened over the door
indicated that thirsty people might enter. The table was laid. A
neighbor, who had come to assist, made a low courtesy on seeing so
beautiful a lady appear; then recognizing Georges, she cried: "Oh
Lord, is it you?"
He replied merrily: "Yes, it is I, Mother Brulin," and he kissed her
as he had kissed his father and mother. Then he turned to his wife:
"Come into our room," said he, "you can lay aside your hat."
They passed through a door to the right and entered a room paved
with brick, with whitewashed walls and a bed with cotton hangings.
A crucifix above a holy-water basin and two colored prints,
representing Paul and Virginia beneath a blue palm-tree, and
Napoleon I. on a yellow horse, were the only ornaments in that neat,
but bare room.
When they were alone, Georges embraced Madeleine.
"Good morning, Made! I am glad to see the old people once more. When
one is in Paris one does not think of this place, but when one
returns, one enjoys it just the same."
At that moment his father cried, knocking on the partition with his
fist: "Come, the soup is ready."
They re-entered the large public-room and took their seats at the
table. The meal was a long one, served in a truly rustic fashion.
Father Duroy, enlivened by the cider and several glasses of wine,
related many anecdotes, while Georges, to whom they were all
familiar, laughed at them.
Mother Duroy did not speak, but sat at the board, grim and austere,
glancing at her daughter-in-law with hatred in her heart.
Madeleine did not speak nor did she eat; she was depressed.
Wherefore? She had wished to come; she knew that she was coming to a
simple home; she had formed no poetical ideas of those peasants, but
she had perhaps expected to find them somewhat more polished,
refined. She recalled her own mother, of whom she never spoke to
anyone--a governess who had been betrayed and who had died of grief
and shame when Madeleine was twelve years old. A stranger had had
the little girl educated. Her father without doubt. Who was he? She
did not know positively, but she had vague suspicions.
The meal was not yet over when customers entered, shook hands with
M. Duroy, exclaimed on seeing his son, and seating themselves at the
wooden tables began to drink, smoke, and play dominoes. The smoke
from the clay pipes and penny cigars filled the room.
Madeleine choked and asked: "Can we go out? I cannot remain here any
Old Duroy grumbled at being disturbed. Madeleine rose and placed her
chair at the door in order to wait until her father-in-law and his
wife had finished their coffee and wine.
Georges soon joined her.
"Would you like to stroll down to the Seine?"
Joyfully she cried: "Yes."
They descended the hillside, hired a boat at Croisset, and spent the
remainder of the afternoon beneath the willows in the soft, warm,
spring air, and rocked gently by the rippling waves of the river.
They returned at nightfall. The evening repast by candle-light was
more painful to Madeleine than that of the morning. Neither Father
Duroy nor his wife spoke. When the meal was over, Madeleine drew her
husband outside in order not to have to remain in that room, the
atmosphere of which was heavy with smoke and the fumes of liquor.
When they were alone, he said: "You are already weary."
She attempted to protest; he interrupted her:
"I have seen it. If you wish we will leave tomorrow."
She whispered: "I should like to go."
They walked along and entered a narrow path among high trees, hedged
in on either side by impenetrable brushwood.
She asked: "Where are we?"
He replied: "In the forest--one of the largest in France."
Madeleine, on raising her head, could see the stars between the
branches and hear the rustling of the leaves. She felt strangely
nervous. Why, she could not tell. She seemed to be lost, surrounded
by perils, abandoned, alone, beneath that vast vaulted sky.
She murmured: "I am afraid; I should like to return."
"Very well, we will."
On their return they found the old people in bed. The next morning
Madeleine rose early and was ready to leave at daybreak. When
Georges told his parents that they were going to return home, they
guessed whose wish it was.
His father asked simply: "Shall I see you soon again?"
"Yes--in the summer-time."
His mother grumbled: "I hope you will not regret what you have
Georges gave them two hundred francs to appease them, and the cab
arriving at ten o'clock, the couple kissed the old peasants and set
As they were descending the side of the hill, Duroy laughed. "You
see," said he, "I warned you. I should, however, not have presented
you to M. and Mme. du Roy de Cantel, senior."
She laughed too and replied: "I am charmed now! They are nice people
whom I am beginning to like very much. I shall send them confections
from Paris." Then she murmured: "Du Roy de Cantel. We will say that
we spent a week at your parents' estate," and drawing near him, she
kissed him saying:
"Good morning, Georges."
He replied: "Good morning, Madeleine," as he slipped his arm around
The Du Roys had been in Paris two days and the journalist had
resumed work; he had given up his own especial province to assume
that of Forestier, and to devote himself entirely to politics. On
this particular evening he turned his steps toward home with a light
heart. As he passed a florist's on Rue Notre Dame de Lorette he
bought a bouquet of half-open roses for Madeleine. Having forgotten
his key, on arriving at his door, he rang and the servant answered
Georges asked: "Is Madame at home?" "Yes, sir."
In the dining-room he paused in astonishment to see covers laid for
three: the door of the salon being ajar, he saw Madeleine arranging
in a vase on the mantelpiece a bunch of roses similar to his.
He entered the room and asked: "Have you invited anyone to dinner?"
She replied without turning her head and continuing the arrangement
of her flowers: "Yes and no: it is my old friend, Count de Vaudrec,
who is in the habit of dining here every Monday and who will come
now as he always has,"
Georges murmured: "Very well."
He stopped behind her, the bouquet in his hand, the desire strong
within him to conceal it--to throw it away. However, he said:
"Here, I have brought you some roses!"
She turned to him with a smile and said: "Ah, how thoughtful of
you!" and she kissed him with such evident affection that he felt
She took the flowers, inhaled their perfume, and put them in an
empty vase. Then she said as she noted the effect: "Now I am
satisfied; my mantelpiece looks pretty," adding with an air of
"Vaudrec is charming; you will become intimate with him at once,"
A ring announced the Count. He entered as if he were at home. After
gallantly kissing Mme. Du Roy's hand, he turned to her husband and
cordially offered his hand, saying: "How are you, my dear Du Roy?"
He had no longer that haughty air, but was very affable. One would
have thought in the course of five minutes, that the two men had
known one another for ten years. Madeleine, whose face was radiant,
said: "I will leave you together. I have work to superintend in the
kitchen." The dinner was excellent and the Count remained very late.
When he was gone, Madeleine said to her husband: "Is he not nice? He
improves, too, on acquaintance. He is a good, true, faithful friend.
Ah, without him--"
She did not complete her sentence and Georges replied: "Yes, he is
very pleasant, I think we shall understand each other well."
"You do not know," she said, "that we have work to do to-night
before retiring. I did not have time to tell you before dinner, for
Vaudrec came. Laroche-Mathieu brought me important news of Morocco.
We must make a fine article of that. Let us set to work at once.
Come, take the lamp."
He carried the lamp and they entered the study. Madeleine leaned,
against the mantelpiece, and having lighted a cigarette, told him
the news and gave him her plan of the article. He listened
attentively, making notes as she spoke, and when she had finished he
raised objections, took up the question and, in his turn, developed
another plan. His wife ceased smoking, for her interest was aroused
in following Georges's line of thought. From time to time she
murmured: "Yes, yes; very good--excellent--very forcible--" And when
he had finished speaking, she said: "Now let us write."
It was always difficult for him to make a beginning and she would
lean over his shoulder and whisper the phrases in his ear, then he
would add a few lines; when their article was completed, Georges re-
read it. Both he and Madeleine pronounced it admirable and kissed
one another with passionate admiration.
The article appeared with the signature of "G. du Roy de Cantel,"
and made a great sensation. M. Walter congratulated the author, who
soon became celebrated in political circles. His wife, too,
surprised him by the ingenuousness of her mind, the cleverness of
her wit, and the number of her acquaintances. At almost any time
upon returning home he found in his salon a senator, a deputy, a
magistrate, or a general, who treated Madeleine with grave
Deputy Laroche-Mathieu, who dined at Rue Fontaine every Tuesday, was
one of the largest stockholders of M. Walter's paper and the
latter's colleague and associate in many business transactions. Du
Roy hoped, later on, that some of the benefits promised by him to
Forestier might fall to his share. They would be given to
Madeleine's new husband--that was all--nothing was changed; even his
associates sometimes called him Forestier, and it made Du Roy
furious at the dead. He grew to hate the very name; it was to him
almost an insult. Even at home the obsession continued; the entire
house reminded him of Charles.
One evening Du Roy, who liked sweetmeats, asked:
"Why do we never have sweets?"
His wife replied pleasantly: "I never think of it, because Charles
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