It was dark in the apartments in the Rue de Constantinople, when Georges d_oy and Clotilde de Marelle, having met at the door, entered them. Withou_iving him time to raise the shades, the latter said:
"So you are going to marry Suzanne Walter?"
He replied in the affirmative, adding gently: "Did you not know it?"
She answered angrily: "So you are going to marry Suzanne Walter? For thre_onths you have deceived me. Everyone knew of it but me. My husband told me.
Since you left your wife you have been preparing for that stroke, and you mad_se of me in the interim. What a rascal you are!"
He asked: "How do you make that out? I had a wife who deceived me; I surprise_er, obtained a divorce, and am now going to marry another. What is mor_imple than that?"
She murmured: "What a villain!"
He said with dignity: "I beg of you to be more careful as to what you say."
She rebelled at such words from him: "What! Would you like me to handle yo_ith gloves? You have conducted yourself like a rascal ever since I have know_ou, and now you do not want me to speak of it. You deceive everyone; yo_ather pleasure and money everywhere, and you want me to treat you as a_onest man."
He rose; his lips twitched: "Be silent or I will make you leave these rooms."
She cried: "Leave here—you will make me—you? You forget that it is I who hav_aid for these apartments from the very first, and you threaten to put me ou_f them. Be silent, good-for-nothing! Do you think I do not know how you stol_ portion of Vaudrec's bequest from Madeleine? Do you think I do not kno_bout Suzanne?"
He seized her by her shoulders and shook her. "Do not speak of that; I forbi_ou."
"I know you have ruined her!"
He would have taken anything else, but that lie exasperated him. He repeated:
"Be silent—take care"—and he shook her as he would have shaken the bough of _ree. Still she continued; "You were her ruin, I know it." He rushed upon he_nd struck her as if she had been a man. Suddenly she ceased speaking, an_roaned beneath his blows. Finally he desisted, paced the room several time_n order to regain his self-possession, entered the bedroom, filled the basi_ith cold water and bathed his head. Then he washed his hands and returned t_ee what Clotilde was doing. She had not moved. She lay upon the floor weepin_oftly. He asked harshly:
"Will you soon have done crying?"
She did not reply. He stood in the center of the room, somewhat embarrassed, somewhat ashamed, as he saw the form lying before him. Suddenly he seized hi_at. "Good evening. You can leave the key with the janitor when you are ready.
I will not await your pleasure."
He left the room, closed the door, sought the porter, and said to him: "Madam_s resting. She will go out soon. You can tell the proprietor that I hav_iven notice for the first of October."
His marriage was fixed for the twentieth; it was to take place at th_adeleine. There had been a great deal of gossip about the entire affair, an_any different reports were circulated. Mme. Walter had aged greatly; her hai_as gray and she sought solace in religion.
In the early part of September "La Vie Francaise" announced that Baron du Ro_e Cantel had become its chief editor, M. Walter reserving the title o_anager. To that announcement were subjoined the names of the staff of art an_heatrical critics, political reporters, and so forth. Journalists no longe_neered in speaking of "La Vie Francaise;" its success had been rapid an_omplete. The marriage of its chief editor was what was called a "Parisia_vent," Georges du Roy and the Walters having occasioned much comment for som_ime.
The ceremony took place on a clear, autumn day. At ten o'clock the curiou_egan to assemble; at eleven o'clock, detachments of officers came to dispers_he crowd. Soon after, the first guests arrived; they were followed by others, women in rich costumes, men, grave and dignified. The church slowly began t_ill. Norbert de Varenne espied Jacques Rival, and joined him.
"Well," said he, "sharpers always succeed."
His companion, who was not envious, replied: "So much the better for him. Hi_ortune is made."
Rival asked: "Do you know what has become of his wife?"
The poet smiled. "Yes and no—she lives a very retired life, I have been told, in the Montmartre quarter. But—there is a but—for some time I have rea_olitical articles in 'La Plume,' which resemble those of Forestier and D_oy. They are supposed to be written by a Jean Le Dol, a young, intelligent, handsome man—something like our friend Georges—who has become acquainted wit_me. Forestier. From that I have concluded that she likes beginners and tha_hey like her. She is, moreover, rich; Vaudrec and Laroche-Mathieu were no_ttentive to her for nothing."
Rival asked: "Tell me, is it true that Mme. Walter and Du Roy do not speak?"
"Yes. She did not wish to give him her daughter's hand. But he threatened th_ld man with shocking revelations. Walter remembered Laroche-Mathieu's fat_nd yielded at once; but his wife, obstinate like all women, vowed that sh_ould never address a word to her son-in-law. It is comical to see the_ogether! She looks like the statue of vengeance, and he is ver_ncomfortable, although he tries to appear at his ease."
Suddenly the beadle struck the floor three times with his staff. All th_eople turned to see what was coming, and the young bride appeared in th_oorway leaning upon her father's arm. She looked like a beautiful doll, crowned with a wreath of orange blossoms. She advanced with bowed head. Th_adies smiled and murmured as she passed them. The men whispered:
M. Walter walked by her side with exaggerated dignity. Behind them came fou_aids of honor dressed in pink and forming a charming court for so dainty _ueen.
Mme. Walter followed on the arm of Count de Latour-Ivelin's aged father. Sh_id not walk; she dragged herself along, ready to faint at every step. She ha_ged and grown thinner.
Next came Georges du Roy with an old lady, a stranger. He held his hea_roudly erect and wore upon his coat, like a drop of blood, the red ribbon o_he Legion of Honor.
He was followed by the relatives: Rose, who had been married six weeks, with _enator; Count de Latour-Ivelin with Viscountess de Percemur. Following the_as a motley procession of associates and friends of Du Roy, country cousin_f Mme. Walter's, and guests invited by her husband.
The tones of the organ filled the church; the large doors at the entrance wer_losed, and Georges kneeled beside his bride in the choir. The new bishop o_angiers, cross in hand, miter on head, entered from the sacristy, to unit_hem in the name of the Almighty. He asked the usual questions, rings wer_xchanged, words pronounced which bound them forever, and then he delivered a_ddress to the newly married couple.
The sound of stifled sobs caused several to turn their heads. Mme. Walter wa_eeping, her face buried in her hands. She had been obliged to yield; bu_ince the day on which she had told Du Roy: "You are the vilest man I know; never speak to me again, for I will not answer you," she had suffere_ntolerable anguish. She hated Suzanne bitterly; her hatred was caused b_nnatural jealousy. The bishop was marrying a daughter to her mother's lover, before her and two thousand persons, and she could say nothing; she could no_top him. She could not cry: "He is mine, that man is my lover. That union yo_re blessing is infamous."
Several ladies, touched by her apparent grief, murmured: "How affected tha_oor mother is!"
The bishop said: "You are among the favored ones of the earth. You, sir, wh_re raised above others by your talent—you who write, instruct, counsel, guid_he people, have a grand mission to fulfill—a fine example to set."
Du Roy listened to him proudly. A prelate of the Roman Church spoke thus t_im. A number of illustrious people had come thither on his account. It seeme_o him that an invisible power was impelling him on. He would become one o_he masters of the country—he, the son of the poor peasants of Canteleu. H_ad given his parents five thousand francs of Count de Vaudrec's fortune an_e intended sending them fifty thousand more; then they could buy a smal_state and live happily.
The bishop had finished his harangue, a priest ascended the altar, and th_rgan pealed forth. Suddenly the vibrating tones melted into delicate, melodious ones, like the songs of birds; then again they swelled into deep, full tones and human voices chanted over their bowed heads. Vauri and Landec_f the Opera were singing.
Bel-Ami, kneeling beside Suzanne, bowed his head. At that moment he fel_lmost pious, for he was filled with gratitude for the blessings showered upo_im. Without knowing just whom he was addressing, he offered up thanks for hi_uccess. When the ceremony was over, he rose, and, giving his arm to his wife, they passed into the sacristy. A stream of people entered. Georges fancie_imself a king whom the people were coming to greet. He shook hands, uttere_ords which signified nothing, and replied to congratulations with the words:
"You are very kind."
Suddenly he saw Mme. de Marelle, and the recollection of all the kisses he ha_iven her and which she had returned, of all their caresses, of the sound o_er voice, possessed him with the mad desire to regain her. She was so pretty, with her bright eyes and roguish air! She advanced somewhat timidly an_ffered him her hand. He took, retained, and pressed it as if to say: "I shal_ove you always, I am yours."
Their eyes met, smiling, bright, full of love. She murmured in her soft tones:
"Until we meet again, sir!" and he gaily repeated her words.
Others approached, and she passed on. Finally the throng dispersed. George_laced Suzanne's hand upon his arm to pass through the church with her. It wa_illed with people, for all had resumed their seats in order to see them leav_he sacred edifice together. He walked along slowly, with a firm step, hi_ead erect. He saw no one. He only thought of himself.
When they reached the threshold he saw a crowd gathered outside, come to gaz_t him, Georges du Roy. The people of Paris envied him. Raising his eyes, h_aw beyond the Place de la Concorde, the chamber of deputies, and it seemed t_im that it was only a stone's throw from the portico of the Madeleine to tha_f the Palais Bourbon.
Leisurely they descended the steps between two rows of spectators, but George_id not see them; his thoughts had returned to the past, and before his eyes, dazzled by the bright sunlight, floated the image of Mme. de Marelle, rearranging the curly locks upon her temples before the mirror in thei_partments.