Georges Duroy resumed his old habits. Installed in the cozy apartments on Ru_e Constantinople, his relations with Mme. de Marelle became quite conjugal.
Mme. Forestier had not returned; she lingered at Cannes. He, however, receive_ letter from her announcing her return about the middle of April, bu_ontaining not a word as to their parting. He waited. He was resolved t_mploy every means to marry her if she seemed to hesitate; he had faith in hi_ood fortune, in that power of attraction which he felt within him—a power s_rresistible that all women yielded to it.
At length a short note admonished him that the decisive moment had arrived.
> "I am in Paris. Come to see me."
> > "Madeleine Forestier."
Nothing more. He received it at nine o'clock. At three o'clock of the same da_e called at her house. She extended both hands to him with a sweet smile, an_hey 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 th_ewspaper.
"I miss that very much," said she. "I had become a journalist in spirit. _ike the profession." She paused. He fancied he saw in her smile, in he_oice, in her words, a kind of invitation, and although he had resolved not t_asten matters, he stammered:
"Well—why—why do you not resume—that profession—under—the name of Duroy?"
She became suddenly serious, and placing her hand on his arm, she said: "D_ot let us speak of that yet."
Divining that she would accept him, he fell upon his knees, and passionatel_issed her hands, saying:
"Thank you—thank you—how I love you."
She rose, she was very pale. Duroy kissed her brow. When she had disengage_erself from his embrace, she said gravely: "Listen, my friend, I have not ye_ully decided; but my answer may be 'yes.' You must wait patiently, however, until I disclose the secret to you."
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 a_he 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 betwee_uroy and Mme. Forestier, for they seldom met in public.
One evening Madeleine said to him: "You have not yet told Mme. de Marelle ou_lans?"
"No, my dear; as you wished them kept secret, I have not mentioned them to _oul."
"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 th_eginning of May."
"I obey you in all things joyfully."
"The tenth of May, which falls on Saturday, would please me, for it is m_irthday."
"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 giv_e an education. I am not ashamed of them, but their—simplicity—thei_usticity might annoy you."
She smiled sweetly. "No, I will love them very much. We will visit them; _ish to. I, too, am the child of humble parents—but I lost mine—I have no on_n the world"—she held out her hand to him—"but you."
He was affected, conquered as he had never been by any woman.
"I have been thinking of something," said she, "but it is difficult t_xplain."
He asked: "What is it?"
"It is this: I am like all women. I have my—my weaknesses. I should like t_ear a noble name. Can you not on the occasion of our marriage change you_ame 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 t_e."
He laughed. "Because I am afraid I should be ridiculed."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Not at all—not at all. Everyone does it, and n_ne 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 hav_hought of assuming the name of my native place, first as a literary pseudony_nd then as my surname in conjunction with Duroy, which might later on, as yo_roposed, 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 sh_ried: "Now I have it," and held toward him a sheet of paper on which wa_ritten: "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 i_xcellent, excellent!"
Then she added with an air of conviction: "You will see how easily it will b_ccepted by everyone! After to-morrow, sign your articles 'D. de Cantel,' an_our 'Echoes' simply 'Duroy.' That is done on the press every day and no on_ill 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 wrot_pon 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 _ittle method one can succeed in anything."
When Georges reached the street resolved to call himself, henceforth, "D_oy," or even "Du Roy de Cantel," it seemed to him that he was of mor_mportance. He swaggered more boldly, held his head more erect and walked a_e thought gentlemen should. He felt a desire to inform the passers-by, "M_ame is Du Roy de Cantel."
Scarcely had he entered his apartments when the thought of Mme. de Marell_endered him uneasy, and he wrote to her immediately, appointing a meeting fo_he 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 sh_ould be with him at one o'clock. He awaited her impatiently, determined t_onfess at once and afterward to argue with her, to tell her that he could no_emain a bachelor indefinitely, and that, as M. de Marelle persisted i_iving, 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: "Goo_fternoon, Bel-Ami." Perceiving that his embrace was colder than usual, sh_lanced 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 hi_yes; he was preparing to commence.
Finally he said slowly: "My dear friend, you see that I am very muc_erplexed, very sad, and very much embarrassed by what I have to confess t_ou. I love you; I love you with all my heart, and the fear of giving you pai_rieves me more than what I have to tell you."
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 no_peak.
He continued: "You cannot imagine how much I suffered before taking tha_esolution. But I have neither position nor money. I am alone in Paris, I mus_ave near me some one who can counsel, comfort, and support me. What I need i_n associate, an ally, and I have found one!" He paused, hoping that she woul_eply, expecting an outburst of furious rage, reproaches, and insults. Sh_ressed her hand to her heart and breathed with difficulty. He took the han_esting on the arm of the chair, but she drew it away and murmured as i_tupefied: "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 anger.
"Clo, my little Clo, you understand my position. Oh, if I could have marrie_ou, what happiness it would have afforded me! But you were married! Wha_ould I do? Just think of it! I must make my way in the world and I can neve_o so as long as I have no domestic ties. If you knew. There are days when _hould like to kill your husband." He spoke in a low, seductive voice. He sa_wo 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 m_eart."
She made an effort to appear dignified and haughty, and asked, though somewha_nsteadily: "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 tha_he was going to leave him without a word of reproach or pardon, and he fel_umbled, humiliated. He seized her gown and implored:
"Do not leave me thus."
She looked at him with that despairing, tearful glance so charming and s_ouching, which expresses all the misery pent-up in a woman's heart, an_tammered: "I have nothing—to say; I can do nothing. You—you are right; yo_ave 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 hav_oreseen it, and others again smiled, inferring that they were not at al_stonished. The young man, who signed his articles, "D. de Cantel," his
"Echoes," "Duroy," and his political sketches, "Du Roy," spent the best par_f his time with his betrothed, who had decided that the date fixed for th_edding should be kept secret, that the ceremony should be celebrated in th_resence 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 an_pend several days with them. Duroy had tried to persuade Madeleine to abando_hat project, but not succeeding in his efforts he was finally compelled t_ubmit.
The tenth of May arrived. Thinking a religious ceremony unnecessary, as the_ad issued no invitations, the couple were married at a magistrate's and too_he 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 Chatou sometimes."
She murmured: "We shall have a great many things to do!" in a tone whic_eemed to say: "We must sacrifice pleasure to duty."
He retained her hand wondering anxiously how he could manage to caress her. H_ressed her hand slightly, but she did not respond to the pressure.
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 tha_ have the right."
She calmly offered him her cheek which he kissed as he would have kissed hi_ister's. He continued:
"The first time I saw you (you remember, at that dinner to which I was invite_t 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 acquaintance?"
She replied with provoking archness: "Are we going to Rouen to talk of him?"
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 wa_assing through the forest of Saint-Germain and she had seen a frightened dee_lear an alley at a bound. As she gazed out of the open window, Duroy bendin_ver her, pressed a kiss upon her neck. For several moments she remaine_otionless, 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 hi_ips to hers. She struggled, pushed him away and repeated: "Stop!"
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 Rouen."
"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 th_eantime, forgetting her injunctions and his promise, he slipped his ar_round her waist, pressed her to him and murmured: "I love you dearly, m_ittle Made."
The gentleness of his tone moved the young woman, and leaning toward him sh_ffered him her lips; as she did so, a whistle announced the proximity of th_tation. 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. Th_ollowing morning, when they had drunk the tea placed upon the table in thei_oom, Duroy clasped his wife in his arms and said: "My little Made, I fee_hat I love you very, very much."
She smiled trustfully and murmured as she returned his kisses: "I love yo_oo—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-oper_easants."
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 d_ot know what hair mattresses are at Canteleu."
She seemed delighted. "So much the better. It would be charming to slee_adly—when—near you—and to be awakened by the crowing of the cocks."
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 i_ine!"
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 ha_een informed several days before of their intended arrival. Both Duroy an_is wife were charmed with the beauties of the landscape presented to thei_iew, and the cabman halted in order to allow them to get a better idea of th_anorama before them. As he whipped up his horse, Duroy saw an old couple no_ 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 wh_ad worked from childhood, who had never laughed nor jested.
Madeleine, too, alighted and watched the couple advance, with a contraction o_er heart she had not anticipated. They did not recognize their son in tha_ine gentleman, and they would never have taken that handsome lady for thei_aughter-in-law. They walked along, passed the child they were expecting, without glancing at the "city folks."
Georges cried with a laugh: "Good day, Father Duroy."
Both the old man and his wife were struck dumb with astonishment; the latte_ecovered her self-possession first and asked: "Is it you, son?"
The young man replied: "Yes, it is I, Mother Duroy," and approaching her, h_issed her upon both cheeks and said: "This is my wife."
The two rustics stared at Madeleine as if she were a curiosity, with anxiou_ear, combined with a sort of satisfied approbation on the part of the fathe_nd of jealous enmity on that of the mother.
M. Duroy, senior, who was naturally jocose, made so bold as to ask with _winkle in his eye: "May I kiss you too?" His son uttered an exclamation an_adeleine offered her cheek to the old peasant; who afterward wiped his lip_ith 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 a_n apple and as round.
The carriage preceded them with the luggage. The old man took his son's ar_nd 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 _andsome woman." He admired his son's wife, and in his day had considere_imself a connoisseur.
Madeleine and the mother walked side by side in silence; the two men joine_hem. They soon reached the village, at the entrance to which stood M. Duroy'_avern. A pine board fastened over the door indicated that thirsty peopl_ight enter. The table was laid. A neighbor, who had come to assist, made _ow 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 ha_issed 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 Pau_nd Virginia beneath a blue palm-tree, and Napoleon I. on a yellow horse, wer_he 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 i_aris one does not think of this place, but when one returns, one enjoys i_ust 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. Th_eal was a long one, served in a truly rustic fashion. Father Duroy, enlivene_y the cider and several glasses of wine, related many anecdotes, whil_eorges, to whom they were all familiar, laughed at them.
Mother Duroy did not speak, but sat at the board, grim and austere, glancin_t her daughter-in-law with hatred in her heart.
Madeleine did not speak nor did she eat; she was depressed. Wherefore? She ha_ished to come; she knew that she was coming to a simple home; she had forme_o poetical ideas of those peasants, but she had perhaps expected to find the_omewhat more polished, refined. She recalled her own mother, of whom sh_ever spoke to anyone—a governess who had been betrayed and who had died o_rief and shame when Madeleine was twelve years old. A stranger had had th_ittle girl educated. Her father without doubt. Who was he? She did not kno_ositively, 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 bega_o drink, smoke, and play dominoes. The smoke from the clay pipes and penn_igars filled the room.
Madeleine choked and asked: "Can we go out? I cannot remain here any longer."
Old Duroy grumbled at being disturbed. Madeleine rose and placed her chair a_he door in order to wait until her father-in-law and his wife had finishe_heir 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 remainde_f the afternoon beneath the willows in the soft, warm, spring air, and rocke_ently by the rippling waves of the river. They returned at nightfall. Th_vening repast by candle-light was more painful to Madeleine than that of th_orning. 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 tha_oom, 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 o_ither 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 an_ear the rustling of the leaves. She felt strangely nervous. Why, she coul_ot 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 Madelein_ose early and was ready to leave at daybreak. When Georges told his parent_hat 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 done."
Georges gave them two hundred francs to appease them, and the cab arriving a_en o'clock, the couple kissed the old peasants and set out.
As they were descending the side of the hill, Duroy laughed. "You see," sai_e, "I warned you. I should, however, not have presented you to M. and Mme. d_oy de Cantel, senior."
She laughed too and replied: "I am charmed now! They are nice people whom I a_eginning to like very much. I shall send them confections from Paris." The_he murmured: "Du Roy de Cantel. We will say that we spent a week at you_arents' estate," and drawing near him, she kissed him saying:
"Good morning, Georges."
He replied: "Good morning, Madeleine," as he slipped his arm around her waist.