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Chapter 6 A STEP UPWARD

  • The next morning Georges Duroy arose, dressed himself, and determined to hav_oney; he sought Forestier. His friend received him in his study.
  • "What made you rise so early?" he asked.
  • "A very serious matter. I have a debt of honor."
  • "A gaming debt?"
  • He hesitated, then repeated: "A gaming debt."
  • "Is it large?"
  • "Five hundred francs." He only needed two hundred and eighty.
  • Forestier asked sceptically: "To whom do you owe that amount?"
  • Duroy did not reply at once. "To—to—a—M. de Carleville."
  • "Ah, where does he live?"
  • "Rue—Rue—"
  • Forestier laughed. "I know the gentleman! If you want twenty francs you ca_ave them, but no more."
  • Duroy took the gold-piece, called upon more friends, and by five o'clock ha_ollected eighty francs. As he required two hundred more, he kept what he ha_egged and muttered: "I shall not worry about it. I will pay it when I can."
  • For two weeks he lived economically, but at the end of that time, the goo_esolutions he had formed vanished, and one evening he returned to the Folie_ergeres in search of Rachel; but the woman was implacable and heaped coars_nsults upon him, until he felt his cheeks tingle and he left the hall.
  • Forestier, out of health and feeble, made Duroy's existence at the offic_nsupportable. The latter did not reply to his rude remarks, but determined t_e avenged. He called upon Mme. Forestier. He found her reclining upon _ouch, reading. She held out her hand without rising and said: "Good morning, Bel-Ami!"
  • "Why do you call me by that name?"
  • She replied with a smile: "I saw Mme. de Marelle last week and I know wha_hey have christened you at her house."
  • He took a seat near his hostess and glanced at her curiously; she was _harming blonde, fair and plump, made for caresses, and he thought: "She i_ertainly nicer than the other one." He did not doubt that he would only hav_o extend his hand in order to gather the fruit. As he gazed upon her sh_hided him for his neglect of her.
  • He replied: "I did not come because it was for the best—"
  • "How? Why?"
  • "Why? Can you not guess?"
  • "No!"
  • "Because I loved you; a little, only a little, and I did not wish to love yo_ny more."
  • She did not seem surprised, nor flattered; she smiled indifferently an_eplied calmly: "Oh, you can come just the same; no one loves me long."
  • "Why not?"
  • "Because it is useless, and I tell them so at once. If you had confessed you_ears to me sooner, I would have reassured you. My dear friend, a man in lov_s not only foolish but dangerous. I cease all intercourse with people wh_ove me or pretend to; firstly, because they bore me, and secondly, because _ook upon them with dread, as I would upon a mad dog. I know that your love i_nly 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 _ave explained, shall we be friends?"
  • He knew that that sentence was irrevocable, and delighted to be able to for_uch an alliance as she proposed, he extended both hands, saying:
  • "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 lik_ou, how gladly would I have married her."
  • She was touched by those words, and in a soft voice, placing her hand upon hi_rm, she said: "I am going to begin my offices at once. You are no_iplomatic—" she hesitated. "May I speak freely?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Call upon Mme. Walter who has taken a fancy to you. But be guarded as to you_ompliments, for she is virtuous. You will make a better impression there b_eing careful in your remarks. I know that your position at the office i_nsatisfactory, 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 settled?"
  • "It is."
  • Having observed the effect of his last compliment, he said: "If you eve_ecome a widow, I have put in my application!" Then he left the room hastil_n order not to allow her time to be angry.
  • Duroy did not like to call on Mme. Walter, for he had never been invited, an_e did not wish to commit a breach of etiquette. The manager had been kind t_im, appreciated his services, employed him to do difficult work, why shoul_e 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 carefull_rranged them in a basket to make them appear as if they came from a distanc_e 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 thi_orning from Normandy."
  • The following day he found in his letter-box at the office an envelop_ontaining Mme, Walter's card on which was written:
  • "Mme. Walter thanks M. Georges Duroy very much, and is at home on Saturdays."
  • The next Saturday he called. M. Walter lived on Boulevard Malesherbes in _ouble house which he owned. The reception-rooms were on the first floor. I_he antechamber were two footmen; one took Duroy's overcoat, the other hi_ane, put it aside, opened a door and announced the visitor's name. In th_arge mirror in the apartment Duroy could see the reflection of people seate_n another room. He passed through two drawing-rooms and entered a smal_oudoir in which four ladies were gathered around a tea-table. Notwithstandin_he assurance he had gained during his life in Paris, and especially since h_ad 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 ver_ind, M. Duroy, to come to see me." She pointed to a chair. The ladies chatte_n. Visitors came and went. Mme. Walter noticed that Duroy said nothing, tha_o one addressed him, that he seemed disconcerted, and she drew him into th_onversation which dealt with the admission of a certain M. Linet to th_cademy. When Duroy had taken his leave, one of the ladies said: "How odd h_s! Who is he?"
  • 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 dow_oulevard Malesherbes.
  • The following week he was appointed editor of the "Echoes," and invited t_ine at Mme. Walter's. The "Echoes" were, M. Walter said, the very pith of th_aper. Everything and everybody should be remembered, all countries, al_rofessions, Paris and the provinces, the army, the arts, the clergy, th_chools, the rulers, and the courtiers. The man at the head of that departmen_hould be wide awake, always on his guard, quick to judge of what was best t_e said and best to be omitted, to divine what would please the public and t_resent it well. Duroy was just the man for the place.
  • He was enjoying the fact of his promotion, when he received an engraved car_hich read:
  • "M. and Mme. Walter request the pleasure of M. Georges Duroy's company a_inner on Thursday, January 20."
  • He was so delighted that he kissed the invitation as if it had been a love- letter.
  • Then he sought the cashier to settle the important question of his salary. A_irst twelve hundred francs were allowed Duroy, who intended to save a larg_hare 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 wa_llotted to Boisrenard, who worked with him.
  • The day of the dinner-party he left the office in good season, in order t_ave time to dress, and was walking along Rue de Londres when he saw befor_im a form which resembled Mme. de Marelle's. He felt his cheeks glow and hi_eart throb. He crossed the street in order to see the lady's face; he wa_istaken, and breathed more freely. He had often wondered what he should do i_e 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; thes_ill not do any longer." He felt both nervous and gay, and said aloud t_imself: "I must write to my father." Occasionally he wrote home, and hi_etters always delighted his old parents. As he tied his cravat at the mirro_e repeated: "I must write home to-morrow. If my father could see me thi_vening in the house to which I am going, he would be surprised. Sacristi, _hall soon give a dinner which has never been equaled!"
  • Then he recalled his old home, the faces of his father and mother. He saw the_eated at their homely board, eating their soup. He remembered every wrinkl_n their old faces, every movement of their hands and heads; he even knew wha_hey said to each other every evening as they supped. He thought: "I will g_o see them some day." His toilette completed, he extinguished his light an_escended the stairs.
  • On reaching his destination, he boldly entered the antechamber, lighted b_ronze lamps, and gave his cane and his overcoat to the two lackeys wh_pproached him. All the salons were lighted. Mme. Walter received in th_econd, the largest. She greeted Duroy with a charming smile, and he shoo_ands 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 i_he chamber of deputies.
  • Then the Forestiers arrived, Madeleine looking charming in pink. Charles ha_ecome very much emaciated and coughed incessantly.
  • Norbert de Varenne and Jacques Rival came together. A door opened at the en_f the room, and M. Walter entered with two tall young girls of sixteen an_eventeen; one plain, the other pretty. Duroy knew that the manager was _aterfamilias, but he was astonished. He had thought of the manager'_aughters as one thinks of a distant country one will never see. Then, too, h_ad fancied them children, and he saw women. They shook hands upon bein_ntroduced and seated themselves at a table set apart for them. One of th_uests had not arrived, and that embarrassing silence which precedes dinner_n general reigned supreme.
  • Duroy happening to glance at the walls, M. Walter said: "You are looking at m_ictures? I will show them all to you." And he took a lamp that they migh_istinguish all the details. There were landscapes by Guillemet; "A Visit t_he Hospital," by Gervex; "A Widow," by Bouguereau; "An Execution," by Jea_aul Laurens, and many others.
  • Duroy exclaimed: "Charming, charming, char—" but stopped short on hearin_ehind him the voice of Mme. de Marelle who had just entered. M. Walte_ontinued to exhibit and explain his pictures; but Duroy saw nothing—hear_ithout comprehending. Mme. de Marelle was there, behind him. What should h_o? If he greeted her, might she not turn her back upon him or utter som_nsulting remark? If he did not approach her, what would people think? He wa_o ill at ease that at one time he thought he should feign indisposition an_eturn home.
  • The pictures had all been exhibited. M. Walter placed the lamp on the tabl_nd greeted the last arrival, while Duroy recommenced alone an examination o_he canvas, as if he could not tear himself away. What should he do? He hear_heir voices and their conversation. Mme. Forestier called him; he hastene_oward her. It was to introduce him to a friend who was on the point of givin_ 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 t_is amazement, she exclaimed: "Good evening, Bel-Ami; do you not remember me?"
  • He turned upon his heel hastily; she stood before him smiling, her eye_verflowing with roguishness and affection. She offered him her hand; he too_t doubtfully, fearing some perfidy. She continued calmly: "What has become o_ou? One never sees you!"
  • Not having regained his self-possession, he murmured: "I have had a great dea_o do, Madame, a great deal to do. M. Walter has given me another position an_he 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 wa_eceived with effusion, Duroy asked Mme. Forestier: "Who is that person?"
  • "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. d_arelle. The proximity of the latter embarrassed him somewhat, although sh_ppeared at ease and conversed with her usual spirit. Gradually, however, hi_ssurance returned, and before the meal was over, he knew that their relation_ould be renewed. Wishing, too, to be polite to his employer's daughter, h_ddressed 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 sa_iscountess de Percemur, and Duroy, looking at her with a smile, asked Mme. d_arelle 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 an_eeth, 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?"
  • "No."
  • "Why not?"
  • "Because M. Laroche-Mathieu, who is my neighbor, leaves me at my door ever_ime 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 descende_he staircase, he met Norbert de Varenne, who was likewise going away. The ol_oet took his arm; fearing no rivalry on the newspaper, their work bein_ssentially 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 no_peak. 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 o_he most capable men in the Chamber?"
  • "That may be. In a kingdom of blind men the blind are kings. All those peopl_re divided between money and politics; they are pedants to whom it i_mpossible to speak of anything that is familiar to us. Ah, it is difficult t_ind 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, sinc_ll 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 whe_ne 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 i_oyous; one hopes for many things which never come to pass. At mine, on_xpects nothing but death."
  • Duroy laughed: "Egad, you make me shudder."
  • Norbert de Varenne continued: "You do not understand me now, but later on yo_ill remember what I have told you. We breathe, sleep, drink, eat, work, an_hen die! The end of life is death. What do you long for? Love? A few kisse_nd 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 al_hat, young man; think it over for days, months, and years, and you will se_ife from a different standpoint. I am a lonely, old man. I have neithe_ather, 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 s_onesome. I seem to have no one upon earth. When one is old it is a comfort t_ave children."
  • When they reached Rue de Bourgogne, the poet halted before a high house, ran_he 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 h_isappeared in the dark corridor.
  • Duroy felt somewhat depressed on leaving Varenne, but on his way a perfume_amsel passed by him and recalled to his mind his reconciliation with Mme. d_arelle. How delightful was the realization of one's hopes!
  • The next morning he arrived at his lady-love's door somewhat early; sh_elcomed him as if there had been no rupture, and said as she kissed him:
  • "You do not know how annoyed I am, my beloved; I anticipated a delightfu_oneymoon and now my husband has come home for six weeks. But I could not le_o long a time go by without seeing you, especially after our littl_isagreement, 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 s_oolish."
  • "Very well, I will come to dinner Monday."
  • "To make it more pleasant, I will have the Forestiers, though I do not like t_eceive company at home."
  • On Monday as he ascended Mme. de Marelle's staircase, he felt strangel_roubled; not that he disliked to take her husband's hand, drink his wine, an_at his bread, but he dreaded something, he knew not what. He was ushered int_he salon and he waited as usual. Then the door opened, and a tall man with _hite beard, grave and precise, advanced toward him and said courteously:
  • "My wife has often spoken of you, sir; I am charmed to make you_cquaintance."
  • Duroy tried to appear cordial and shook his host's proffered hand wit_xaggerated energy. M. de Marelle put a log upon the fire and asked:
  • "Have you been engaged in journalism a long time?"
  • Duroy replied: "Only a few months." His embarrassment wearing off, he began t_onsider the situation very amusing. He gazed at M. de Marelle, serious an_ignified, and felt a desire to laugh aloud. At that moment Mme. de Marell_ntered and approached Duroy, who in the presence of her husband dared no_iss her hand. Laurine entered next, and offered her brow to Georges. He_other 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 secret.
  • When the Forestiers arrived, Duroy was startled at Charles's appearance. H_ad grown thinner and paler in a week and coughed incessantly; he said the_ould leave for Cannes on the following Thursday at the doctor's orders. The_id 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 t_btain 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 alway_ains her point, as she wants it, and when she wants it! Oh, she is a_aneuvering 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! bu_ 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 tha_ rule."
  • Duroy took his leave with a heavy heart. The next day he called on th_orestiers, and found them in the midst of packing. Charles lay upon a sof_nd repeated: "I should have gone a month ago." Then he proceeded to giv_uroy 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 thei_ompact. "We are friends and allies, are we not? If you should require m_ervices in any way, do not hesitate to call upon me. Send me a dispatch or _etter and I will obey."
  • She murmured: "Thank you, I shall not forget."
  • As Duroy descended the staircase, he met M. de Vaudrec ascending. The Coun_eemed sad—perhaps at the approaching departure.
  • The journalist bowed, the Count returned his salutation courteously bu_omewhat haughtily.
  • On Thursday evening the Forestiers left town.