After changing his five-franc piece Georges Duroy left the restaurant. H_wisted his mustache in military style and cast a rapid, sweeping glance upo_he diners, among whom were three saleswomen, an untidy music-teacher o_ncertain age, and two women with their husbands.
When he reached the sidewalk, he paused to consider what route he should take.
It was the twenty-eighth of June and he had only three francs in his pocket t_ast him the remainder of the month. That meant two dinners and no lunches, o_wo lunches and no dinners, according to choice. As he pondered upon thi_npleasant state of affairs, he sauntered down Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, preserving his military air and carriage, and rudely jostled the people upo_he streets in order to clear a path for himself. He appeared to be hostile t_he passers-by, and even to the houses, the entire city.
Tall, well-built, fair, with blue eyes, a curled mustache, hair naturally wav_nd parted in the middle, he recalled the hero of the popular romances.
It was one of those sultry, Parisian evenings when not a breath of air i_tirring; the sewers exhaled poisonous gases and the restaurants th_isagreeable odors of cooking and of kindred smells. Porters in their shirt- sleeves, astride their chairs, smoked their pipes at the carriage gates, an_edestrians strolled leisurely along, hats in hand.
When Georges Duroy reached the boulevard he halted again, undecided as t_hich road to choose. Finally he turned toward the Madeleine and followed th_ide of people.
The large, well-patronized cafes tempted Duroy, but were he to drink only tw_lasses of beer in an evening, farewell to the meager supper the followin_ight! Yet he said to himself: "I will take a glass at the Americain. By Jove, I am thirsty."
He glanced at men seated at the tables, men who could afford to slake thei_hirst, and he scowled at them. "Rascals!" he muttered. If he could hav_aught one of them at a corner in the dark he would have choked him without _cruple! He recalled the two years spent in Africa, and the manner in which h_ad extorted money from the Arabs. A smile hovered about his lips at th_ecollection of an escapade which had cost three men their lives, a fora_hich had given his two comrades and himself seventy fowls, two sheep, money, and something to laugh about for six months. The culprits were never found; indeed, they were not sought for, the Arab being looked upon as the soldier'_rey.
But in Paris it was different; there one could not commit such deeds wit_mpunity. He regretted that he had not remained where he was; but he had hope_o improve his condition—and for that reason he was in Paris!
He passed the Vaudeville and stopped at the Cafe Americain, debating as t_hether he should take that "glass." Before deciding, he glanced at a clock; it was a quarter past nine. He knew that when the beer was placed in front o_im, he would drink it; and then what would he do at eleven o'clock? So h_alked on, intending to go as far as the Madeleine and return.
When he reached the Place de l'Opera, a tall, young man passed him, whose fac_e fancied was familiar. He followed him, repeating: "Where the deuce have _een that fellow?"
For a time he racked his brain in vain; then suddenly he saw the same man, bu_ot so corpulent and more youthful, attired in the uniform of a Hussar. H_xclaimed: "Wait, Forestier!" and hastening up to him, laid his hand upon th_an's shoulder. The latter turned, looked at him, and said: "What do you want, sir?"
Duroy began to laugh: "Don't you remember me?"
"Not remember Georges Duroy of the Sixth Hussars."
Forestier extended both hands.
"Ah, my dear fellow, how are you?"
"Very well. And how are you?"
"Oh, I am not very well. I cough six months out of the twelve as a result o_ronchitis contracted at Bougival, about the time of my return to Paris fou_ears ago."
"But you look well."
Forestier, taking his former comrade's arm, told him of his malady, of th_onsultations, the opinions and the advice of the doctors and of th_ifficulty of following their advice in his position. They ordered him t_pend the winter in the south, but how could he? He was married and was _ournalist in a responsible editorial position.
"I manage the political department on 'La Vie Francaise'; I report the doing_f the Senate for 'Le Salut,' and from time to time I write for 'La Planete.'
That is what I am doing."
Duroy, in surprise, glanced at him. He was very much changed. Formerl_orestier had been thin, giddy, noisy, and always in good spirits. But thre_ears of life in Paris had made another man of him; now he was stout an_erious, and his hair was gray on his temples although he could not numbe_ore than twenty-seven years.
Forestier asked: "Where are you going?"
Duroy replied: "Nowhere in particular."
"Very well, will you accompany me to the 'Vie Francaise' where I have som_roofs to correct; and afterward take a drink with me?"
They walked along arm-in-arm with that familiarity which exists betwee_choolmates and brother-officers.
"What are you doing in Paris?" asked Forestier, Duroy shrugged his shoulders.
"Dying of hunger, simply. When my time was up, I came hither to make m_ortune, or rather to live in Paris—and for six months I have been employed i_ railroad office at fifteen hundred francs a year."
Forestier murmured: "That is not very much."
"But what can I do?" answered Duroy. "I am alone, I know no one, I have n_ecommendations. The spirit is not lacking, but the means are."
His companion looked at him from head to foot like a practical man who i_xamining a subject; then he said, in a tone of conviction: "You see, my dea_ellow, all depends on assurance, here. A shrewd, observing man can sometime_ecome a minister. You must obtrude yourself and yet not ask anything. But ho_s it you have not found anything better than a clerkship at the station?"
Duroy replied: "I hunted everywhere and found nothing else. But I know where _an get three thousand francs at least—as riding-master at the Pelleri_chool."
Forestier stopped him: "Don't do it, for you can earn ten thousand francs. Yo_ill ruin your prospects at once. In your office at least no one knows you; you can leave it if you wish to at any time. But when you are once a riding- master all will be over. You might as well be a butler in a house to which al_aris comes to dine. When you have given riding lessons to men of the world o_o their sons, they will no longer consider you their equal."
He paused, reflected several seconds and then asked:
"Are you a bachelor?"
"Yes, though I have been smitten several times."
"That makes no difference. If Cicero and Tiberius were mentioned would yo_now who they were?"
"Good, no one knows any more except about a score of fools. It is no_ifficult to pass for being learned. The secret is not to betray you_gnorance. Just maneuver, avoid the quicksands and obstacles, and the rest ca_e found in a dictionary."
He spoke like one who understood human nature, and he smiled as the crow_assed them by. Suddenly he began to cough and stopped to allow the paroxys_o spend itself; then he said in a discouraged tone:
"Isn't it tiresome not to be able to get rid of this bronchitis? And here i_idsummer! This winter I shall go to Mentone. Health before everything."
They reached the Boulevarde Poissoniere; behind a large glass door an ope_aper was affixed; three people were reading it. Above the door was printe_he legend, "La Vie Francaise."
Forestier pushed open the door and said: "Come in." Duroy entered; the_scended the stairs, passed through an antechamber in which two clerks greete_heir comrade, and then entered a kind of waiting-room.
"Sit down," said Forestier, "I shall be back in five minutes," and h_isappeared.
Duroy remained where he was; from time to time men passed him by, entering b_ne door and going out by another before he had time to glance at them.
Now they were young men, very young, with a busy air, holding sheets of pape_n their hands; now compositors, their shirts spotted with ink—carefull_arrying what were evidently fresh proofs. Occasionally a gentleman entered, fashionably dressed, some reporter bringing news.
Forestier reappeared arm-in-arm with a tall, thin man of thirty or forty, dressed in a black coat, with a white cravat, a dark complexion, and a_nsolent, self-satisfied air. Forestier said to him: "Adieu, my dear sir," an_he other pressed his hand with: "Au revoir, my friend." Then he descended th_tairs whistling, his cane under his arm.
Duroy asked his name.
"That is Jacques Rival, the celebrated writer and duelist. He came to correc_is proofs. Garin, Montel and he are the best witty and realistic writers w_ave in Paris. He earns thirty thousand francs a year for two articles _eek."
As they went downstairs, they met a stout, little man with long hair, who wa_scending the stairs whistling. Forestier bowed low.
"Norbert de Varenne," said he, "the poet, the author of 'Les Soleils Morts,'—_ery expensive man. Every poem he gives us costs three hundred francs and th_ongest has not two hundred lines. But let us go into the Napolitain, I a_etting thirsty."
When they were seated at a table, Forestier ordered two glasses of beer. H_mptied his at a single draught, while Duroy sipped his beer slowly as if i_ere something rare and precious. Suddenly his companion asked, "Why don't yo_ry journalism?"
Duroy looked at him in surprise and said: "Because I have never writte_nything."
"Bah, we all have to make a beginning. I could employ you myself by sendin_ou to obtain information. At first you would only get two hundred and fift_rancs a month but your cab fare would be paid. Shall I speak to the manager?"
"If you will."
"Well, then come and dine with me to-morrow; I will only ask five or six t_eet you; the manager, M. Walter, his wife, with Jacques Rival, and Norbert d_arenne whom you have just seen, and also a friend of Mme. Forestier, Will yo_ome?"
Duroy hesitated, blushing and perplexed. Finally he, murmured: "I have n_uitable clothes."
Forestier was amazed. "You have no dress suit? Egad, that is indispensable. I_aris, it is better to have no bed than no clothes." Then, fumbling in hi_est-pocket, he drew from it two louis, placed them before his companion, an_aid kindly: "You can repay me when it is convenient. Buy yourself what yo_eed and pay an installment on it. And come and dine with us at half pas_even, at 17 Rue Fontaine."
In confusion Duroy picked up the money and stammered: "You are very kind—I a_uch obliged—be sure I shall not forget."
Forestier interrupted him: "That's all right, take another glass of beer.
Waiter, two more glasses!" When he had paid the score, the journalist asked:
"Would you like a stroll for an hour?"
They turned toward the Madeleine. "What shall we do?" asked Forestier. "The_ay that in Paris an idler can always find amusement, but it is not true. _urn in the Bois is only enjoyable if you have a lady with you, and that is _are occurrence. The cafe concerts may divert my tailor and his wife, but the_o not interest me. So what can we do? Nothing! There ought to be a summe_arden here, open at night, where a man could listen to good music whil_rinking beneath the trees. It would be a pleasant lounging place. You coul_alk in alleys bright with electric light and seat yourself where you please_o hear the music. It would be charming. Where would you like to go?"
Duroy did not know what to reply; finally he said: "I have never been to th_olies Bergeres. I should like to go there."
His companion exclaimed: "The Folies Bergeres! Very well!"
They turned and walked toward the Faubourg Montmartre. The brilliantl_lluminated building loomed up before them. Forestier entered, Duroy stoppe_im. "We forgot to pass through the gate."
The other replied in a consequential tone: "I never pay," and approached th_ox-office.
"Have you a good box?"
"Certainly, M. Forestier."
He took the ticket handed him, pushed open the door, and they were within th_all. A cloud of tobacco smoke almost hid the stage and the opposite side o_he theater. In the spacious foyer which led to the circular promenade, brilliantly dressed women mingled with black-coated men.
Forestier forced his way rapidly through the throng and accosted an usher.
"This way, sir."
The friends were shown into a tiny box, hung and carpeted in red, with fou_hairs upholstered in the same color. They seated themselves. To their righ_nd left were similar boxes. On the stage three men were performing o_rapezes. But Duroy paid no heed to them, his eyes finding more to interes_hem in the grand promenade. Forestier remarked upon the motley appearance o_he throng, but Duroy did not listen to him. A woman, leaning her arms upo_he edge of her loge, was staring at him. She was a tall, voluptuous brunette, her face whitened with enamel, her black eyes penciled, and her lips painted.
With a movement of her head, she summoned a friend who was passing, a blond_ith auburn hair, likewise inclined to embonpoint, and said to her in _hisper intended to be heard; "There is a nice fellow!"
Forestier heard it, and said to Duroy with a smile: "You are lucky, my dea_oy. My congratulations!"
The ci-devant soldier blushed and mechanically fingered the two pieces of gol_n his pocket.
The curtain fell—the orchestra played a valse—and Duroy said:
"Shall we walk around the gallery?"
"If you like."
Soon they were carried along in the current of promenaders. Duroy drank i_ith delight the air, vitiated as it was by tobacco and cheap perfume, bu_orestier perspired, panted, and coughed.
"Let us go into the garden," he said. Turning to the left, they entered a kin_f covered garden in which two large fountains were playing. Under the yews, men and women sat at tables drinking.
"Another glass of beer?" asked Forestier.
They took their seats and watched the promenaders. Occasionally a woman woul_top and ask with a coarse smile: "What have you to offer, sir?"
Forestier's invariable answer was: "A glass of water from the fountain." An_he woman would mutter, "Go along," and walk away.
At last the brunette reappeared, arm-in-arm with the blonde. They made _andsome couple. The former smiled on perceiving Duroy, and taking a chair sh_almly seated herself in front of him, and said in a clear voice: "Waiter, tw_lasses."
In astonishment, Forestier exclaimed: "You are not at all bashful!"
She replied: "Your friend has bewitched me; he is such a fine fellow. _elieve he has turned my head."
Duroy said nothing.
The waiter brought the beer, which the women swallowed rapidly; then the_ose, and the brunette, nodding her head and tapping Duroy's arm with her fan, said to him: "Thank you, my dear! However, you are not very talkative."
As they disappeared, Forestier laughed and said: "Tell, me, old man, did yo_now that you had a charm for the weaker sex? You must be careful."
Without replying, Duroy smiled. His friend asked: "Shall you remain an_onger? I am going; I have had enough."
Georges murmured: "Yes, I will stay a little longer: it is not late."
Forestier arose: "Very well, then, good-bye until to-morrow. Do not forget: 1_ue Fontaine at seven thirty."
"I shall not forget. Thank you."
The friends shook hands and the journalist left Duroy to his own devices.
Forestier once out of sight, Duroy felt free, and again he joyously touche_he gold pieces in his pocket; then rising, he mingled with the crowd.
He soon discovered the blonde and the brunette. He went toward them, but whe_ear them dared not address them.
The brunette called out to him: "Have you found your tongue?"
He stammered: "Zounds!" too bashful to say another word. A pause ensued, during which the brunette took his arm and together they left the hall.