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Bel-Ami

Bel-Ami

Guy de Maupassant

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 POVERTY

  • 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?"
  • "No."
  • "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?"
  • "Yes, gladly."
  • 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?"
  • "Yes."
  • "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?"
  • "Certainly."
  • 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.
  • "Box 17?"
  • "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.
  • "Gladly."
  • 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.