Stage 3 (Journeyman): Bel Ami, chapter 2

Chapter Two: First Attempts

It was a genial(1) evening, but there would be many more pleasant evenings if he was granted the job. Thus, Duroy returned to his home to work on the articles M. Walter desired. His tenement was a small, thronged(2) place that could easily be confused for the residence of a few men, rather than twenty families.

He climbed the staircase, looking upon the quarters with disgust. When he sat down on his disk, the only words he was able to emit(3) were the ones suggested by others, the title: Souvenirs of a Soldier in Africa.

He looked out the window for ingenuity(4) and was met with the nothingness of life. So, he began with his departure, and then with a small descriptions of Algiers, but this were stammering words, and Duroy threw down his pen with despondency(5). He knew what he wanted to say but the words would not come.

When he stood by the window once more, his eyes rested on his parent’s home. His mother and father kept an inn and had wanted their son to become a gentleman. After attending college, he joined the army but revolted(6) with military life, he moved to Paris to make his fortune.

“My mind is not clear this night,” he murmured to himself, in a daze from drink. He fell asleep immediately.

The next morning, he took in a breath of fresh air and sat straight away at his table. Yet there were still no words he could think of. “I shall go to Forestier,” he decided. “He will help me; after all, I am but a tyro(7).”

It was too early to present himself at his friend’s house, so Duroy strolled through the boulevards of central Paris. When he finally reached the residence of Forestier, he met his friend leaving his house and spluttered(8). “I cannot write that article. I have the ideas in my mind but I do not have the means with which to express them.”

The other simply smiled and patted his friend on the shoulder. “Do not be dismayed(9). Go to my wife upstairs, she will be able to help you. I have no time this morning otherwise I would assist you myself.”

Duroy was taken aback. “At this hour?”

“Oh yes, of course. She’ll be in my study.” Forestier was already walking away.

Madame Forestier was seated at the desk and she looked at him perplexed(10) upon his entrance.

“I did not want to come, Madame, but your husband entreated(11) that I do so. I am in need of assistance in writing an article.”

Her laugh was of bells. “He sent you to me? Very well, then.” She took a cigarette and a pad of paper with an ink pen. “Begin your story, as though you were addressing a friend in a letter.”

It followed smoothly from there: a description of Algeria, his trip to Oran and Saida, an adventure with a voluptuous Spanish maid, and then, that was it. Duroy could unearth(12) no words with which to thank Madame Forestier, so he used all of the ones that he knew.

As she had just begun to speak, the door swung open to admit a modish(13) gentleman. “Count de Vaudrec.” In a completely different voice, she introduced: “M. Georges Duroy, a budding journalist.”

The two men bowed and Duroy quickly took his leave. He took lunch at Duval’s and strolled through the boulevards some more until it was three o’ clock, when he entered the office of “La Vie Francaise.”

“Is M. Walter in?” He asked the receptionist.

“He’s otherwise occupied currently, but you can wait along with the others.”

After waiting for half an hour, Duroy went to find M. Forestier, who laughing at what the receptionist told him, replied: “I will take you to M. Forestier. If you wait in that room, you’ll be there until the evening.”

In the manager’s room, Norbert de Varenne was sitting in an armchair and Jacques Rival was lying down on the couch. When they approached M. Walter, he looked at the man and inquired: “Have you brought the article with you?”

Duroy fumbled for the pages and handed them over. M. Walter placed them on the far right of his table and went back to playing his game of cards.

Forestier and Duroy returned to the main hallway. “You must come here every day at three o’ clock, and from there, I will tell you where to go,” Forestier articulated(14). “First, you must meet the police chief, and then his staff. You will receive 200 francs per month and 2 sous for each additional article.”

“What shall I do today?” Duroy questioned.

“There is no work for you today. You may go, if you would like.”

Tipping his hat, Duroy left with a lightened heart.

Georges Duroy did not sleep all night, so adrenalized(15) was he to see his article in the newspaper. He rushed out into the streets even before the newsboys had begun distributing papers. When he finally secured a newspaper, he did not see his name on the front cover. He rummaged(16) through the pages and when he found his article on the third page, Duroy burst into laughter.

Satisfied with the article, he went at once to the railroad office to resign.

Forestier received him in an off-handed manner that day, as though Duroy was his inferior rather than his colleague. “Hello,” he said, briefly introducing him to a short man. “This is Saint-Potin, one of our best interviewers. He’ll acclimate(17) you to the business.” Turning back to Duroy, he queried: “Have you brought another article on Algeria?”

“I’ve been very busy,” Duroy stammered.

Forestier sighed. “M. Walter and I expect much of you, Duroy. We’re not paying you for nothing.” Turning back towards Saint-Potin, he said: “Remember to question the Rajah of his opinions of the dealings of England in the East and vice versa to the Chinese general.

Saint-Potin and Duroy exited the building briskly(18). The latter looked nervously at his watch. “It is nearly four,” he told Saint-Potin. “Will we not be late for the general and the Rajah?”

The interviewer laughed. “How guileless(19) you are! Would I really interview a Chinese and an Indian? Rather, I have interviewed hundreds of Chinese and Indians. Rather than wasting our time, we can smoke cigars with the money Forestier gave us for the cab’s fare. This,” he said, smiling. “Is the way of Paris.”

Duroy shook hands with Saint-Potin and excused himself. He knew of his assignment towrite an article, but he could not. The following morning, he returned once more to M. Forestier’s.

“It is on compelling(20) and urgent business that I come,” he told the servant.

He was then quickly ushered into the living room, where Mme. Forestier was smoking a cigarette and M. Forestier was writing.

“I beg your pardon,” Duroy paused before entering.

  1. Forestier threw down his pen angrily. “What do you want now! More help with an article? I’m paying you to write, not the other way around.”

Duroy hesitated and took a step back. “Excuse me,” he said softly. “I had thought-that is all. I will be at the office tomorrow at three o’ clock.”

He flew home in a fit of anger. “They will see how I can write,” he urged himself forward. Within an hour, the pandemonium within his heart had manifested itself into scribbles on the page.

After handing in the article to a disgruntled Forestier, Duroy was accosted by Saint-Potin. “Have you been to the cashier’s room yet?”

Duroy shook his head. “For what reason?”

“For what reason? For your pay, of course! Come, I will introduce you to the cashier.”

The cashier allowed Duroy to draw his pay in advance – two hundred and twenty-eight francs, more money than he had ever had in his hands at once.

Having nothing to do, he traveled that night to the Folies-Bergeres. As though by chance, he immediately came across Rachel, the striking woman he had met there once before.

“How are you, my dear?” She asked, approaching him.

“Very well. And you?”

“Not too bad either. I’ve dreamed of you a few times since that night.” Eyeing him, she smiled. “That means I like you. Come,” she continued, taking his arm. “Let us get a drink.”

At dawn, Duroy once more ventured forth to purchase a copy of La Vie Francaise, but this time, his article was nowhere to be found.

“Forestier was very dissatisfied with it,” M. Walter told him. “You’ll have to rewrite it.”

Duroy stormed into Forestier’s office, only to hear: “M. Walter was very dissatisfied with it. You’ll have to rewrite it.”

So, he did. Several times, in fact, but none were deemed proper for publication. From that point onwards, he abandoned his stories of souvenirs. Instead, he became acquainted with politics and men of great affairs, both local and abroad. He was a great value to the paper, so it was said by Forestier and M. Walter both, but he only received two hundred francs per month.

Eyeing the pockets of his colleagues and friends, he wondered where that money was acquired. At night, he dreamed only of that mystery.


1/genial(adj)-friendly and cheerful

2/throng(v)-(of a crowd) fill or be present in (a place or area)

3/emit(v)-produce and discharge (something, especially gas or radiation)

4/ingenuity(n)-the quality of being clever, original, and inventive

5/despondency(n)-a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage

6/revolt(v)-rise in rebellion

7/tyro(n)-a beginner or novice

8/splutter(v)-make a series of short explosive spitting or choking sounds

9/dismayed(adj)-cause (someone) to feel consternation and distress

10/perplexed(adj)-completely baffled; very puzzled

11/entreated(adj)-ask someone earnestly or anxiously to do something

12/unearth(v)-discover (something hidden, lost, or kept secret) by investigation or searching

13/modish(adj)-conforming to or following what is currently popular and fashionable

14/articulate(v)-(of a person or a person’s words) having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently

15/adrenalize(v)-to stir to action; excite

16/rummage(v)-search unsystematically and untidily through a mass or receptacle

17/acclimate(v)-become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions

18/briskly(adv)-in an active, quick, or energetic way

19/guileless(adj)-devoid of guile; innocent and without deception

20/compelling(adj)-evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way

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