Chapter Three: The First Intrigue
Two months had passed since Duroy first began working at La Vie Francaise, and no rewards were in sight. Forestier no longer invited him to cordial(1) dinners, but he remembered Mme. de Marelle, who had invited him to visit her home.
So one afternoon, rather than going to work, he went to her house. A maid led him into the drawing-room, an untidy and squalid(2) place. Mme. de Marelle entered in a dressing gown, and she exclaimed in delight upon seeing him.
“You’ve come to visit! How kind of you.” She held out her hand for him to benignly(3) kiss it. “Well, what is the news?”
They sat down and chatted like old friends for hours. “We shall become good friends, should we not?” She invited, smiling.
“Certainly,” he replied for he found her quite bewitching(4).
There was a knock at the door before Madame’s child’s entered. “Come in, my darling.”
The child advanced to Duroy who kissed her hand. When she did not flinch(5), as the child often did, Madame exclaimed. “That truly is an accomplishment.”
The child sat by his side, but it had just rung three o’ clock and Duroy reluctantly rose.
“Come often,” Madame encouraged him; he nodded as his promise.
Over the next few days, Duroy paid a few visits to the enchantress. Laurine, her daughter, welcomed him while her mother got dressed, and he convinced her into playing a game of tag.
Clotilde entered and cried out in delight when she saw her child smiling. Subsequently, however, she sent Laurine to her room so that she and Duroy could be alone. “I am not too well off, as you can see, so every Saturday, I host a dinner at the Cafe Riche. I would like you to join us.”
Duroy accepted gladly. The next day, he was the first one to arrive and was invited in to sit on a low bench. The room was simple, with a table laid for four and a candelabra(6) to light their meal.
Forestier arrived and shook his hand as though their office conflicts has never occurred. Madame Forestier and Madame de Marelle followed him shortly-and then the champagne.
As the courses were served, the four began to chat about a scandal in town that Forestier was very amused by.
“It is such an illusion of love that she fell into,” Duroy remarked, smiling. “Short term happiness lured(7) her.”
“The poor husbands!” Forestier cried out.
“When I love a woman, that is all I love.”
“It is only the first love that is that true,” Madame Forestier murmured.
M. De Marelle simply shrugged. “I have no opinion on love.”
The conversation stalled(8) and was prolonged only by desserts and cigarettes. Mme de Marelle, eyes blurry from her drinks, handed her bill to Duroy. His eyes widened – 130 francs. “Here, pay it for me,” she asked, placing her purse in his hand.
For she was in no condition to even recognize her home, after bidding goodbye to the Forestiers, Duroy escorted(9) her home. During the cab ride to her house, he wished to embrace her, but the fear of scandal restrained him.
Suddenly, her foot brushed against his and he leaned forward, seeing her lips with his. She cried out in surprised but quickly gave herself up to him.
When the cab reached her carriage, they paused, gently. “When shall I see you again?”
She got out in silence and stared at him, forlorn(10). “Come tomorrow, mid-morning.”
With that, she disappeared. Duroy felt a triumphant air engulf(11) him – he had conquered a married woman, a Parisian no less!
The next day, his confidence had been drained. The servant ushered him into the salon, where he stood facing the mirror, adjusting his cravat(12). Soon, a woman appeared next to him, and he smiled though pretended not to see her. They looked at each other in the mirror and he could not wait any longer, rushing toward her and clasping her to his breast. “How I love you!”
She drew back, smiling. “We are alone, I have sent Laurine to a friend’s.” Leading him to a couch, they sat side by side, so close that he nearly lost his mind.
“You do not love me,” he sighed.
“Hush! The servant is still here.”
The door flew open: “Lunch is served.”
They ate lunch barely knowing what they were eating, so allured were they by each other’s presence. When the meal was finished, she still worried of the servant or another visitor.
“When can I tell you I love you!” He whispered.
“I will come visit you soon,” she said softly.
He stammered. “My apartment is modest(13).”
“I will be coming to see you, not your apartment.”
“Tomorrow, at five o’ clock?”
She smiled at his childish urgency. “That it shall be.”
Having settled the difficult matter of love, they chatted like friends until Laurine returned, running up to Duroy, crying out excitedly: “Bel Ami!”
Mme de. Marelle laughed. “That’s a pretty name. I shall call you Bel-Ami too!”
After Duroy had finished his journalistic work for the day, he attempted to make his apartment suitable for a visitor. The next morning, he bought cake and wine and a little past five, she entered.
“Why,” she exclaimed. “There are a great number of people on the stairs!”
In silence, perhaps ashamed, he embraced and kissed her. A few weeks passed in this manner until Mme de Marelle declared that he must move.
“Yes,” she said, anticipating his response. “This normally takes time, but I have already secured a place.”
No. 127 on Rue de Constantinople was a lavish(14) apartment of two rooms. “This will cost me a fortune,” Duroy thought uneasily.
Clotilde entered, exuberant(15). “Is it not wonderful?” She placed a large package on the floor, with soap and hairpins and amused herself by moving in.
The question burst forth. “When must I pay?”
She laughed, lightly. “It’s already paid.”
A little taken aback, he pretended to be irate. “I must not let you do that.”
She laid her head upon his shoulder. “Georges, it is my pleasure.”
A few days later, he received a telegram that her husband had returned home and that she would not be able to visit him for some time. He had forgotten that she was married.
When they met next, he decided to take her to dinner. “Tell me the place and it will be done.”
“A restaurant the working people eat at.”
He was startled but did not deny her request. At a merchant’s dîner, they partook in some mutton(16) but her curiosity was satisfied before the meal was even over.
Later that night, Duroy considered his expenses. He had no money left and had even been taking loans from friends and colleagues for days.
The next time he received a telegram for dinner, he declined. At nine o’ clock, Clotilde arrived at his door. “Let us take a walk,” she entreated.
“No!” He was agitated. What was she interested in – him or the rest of the world?
She rolled her eyes and pushed past him. He stepped forward, embracing her from behind. “I have no money,” he said, softly.
Turning, she did not believe him until he turned his pockets inside out. “What a disaster,” she cried, and held his hand tightly. “Shall I lend you some money?”
He recoiled(17). “I’d rather—no.”
She sighed. “I truly do love you.” On taking leave, she asked: “Shall we meet tomorrow?”
“Of course, my darling.”
When Duroy fumbled in his pants pocket later that night for a cigarette, he found a twenty franc piece. Clotilde!
He awoke late and humiliated, but hungry, he used some of the francs on lunch and dinner. When she arrived that night, Duroy decided to not bring up the matter.
One evening, she asked him to take her to the Folies-Bergeres. He feared her meeting Rachel, but he remembered that that had been before. All was well.
When they entered the crowded hall, he immediately felt the malignant(18) eyes of a brunette upon him.
She approached him and said loudly, “Good evening, Georges.” When he ignored Rachel for the third time, she laughed spitefully(19). “Is this how it is? You only acknowledge a woman to get in bed with her?”
Clotilde fled to the streets and Georges rushed after her into a cab. She was already breaking down in sobs.
He stammered: “It’s not my fault, Clo. This is a woman from the far, far past.”
She cried out. “Did I give you money for that wretch(20)? Oh, what a fool I have been!” She suddenly leaned forward for the cabman’s sleeve and opened the door.
“I forbid you to follow me,” she said coldly. He did not – for fear of a scandal.
1/cordial(adj): warm and friendly
2/squalid(adj): (of a place) extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect.
3/benignly(adv): having a kindly disposition; gracious
4/bewitch(v): cast a spell on and gain control over (someone) by magic
5/flinch(v): make a quick, nervous movement of the face or body as an instinctive reaction to surprise, fear or pain
6/candelabra(n): a large branched candlestick or holder for several candles or lamps
7/lure(v): tempt (a person or an animal) to do something or to go somewhere, especially by offering some form of reward
8/stall(v): a stand, booth, or compartment for the sale of goods in a market or large covered area
9/escort(v): accompany (someone or something) somewhere, especially for protection or security, or as a mark of rank
10/forlorn(adj): pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely
11/engulf(v): (of a natural force) sweep over (something) so as to surround or cover it completely.
12/cravat(n): a short, wide strip of fabric worn by men around the neck and tucked inside an open-necked shirt
13/modest(adj): unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities or achievements
14/lavish(adj): sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious
15/exuberant(adj): filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement
16/mutton(n): the meat of domestic sheep
17/recoil(v): suddenly spring or flinch back in fear, horror, or disgust
19/spitefully(adv): revengeful, vindictive refer to a desire to inflict a wrong or injury on someone, usually in return for one received
20/wretch(n): a despicable or contemptible person