Chapter 7: A Meeting and a Result
Translated by: Rachna Shah
Du Roy stood near the door of a church, casually and then not so inadvertently(1) examining his watch. Three o’ clock. Three and a quarter. Where could she have gone?
Suddenly, he heard the susurration(2) of a gown which pushed past him to the High Altar. He kneeled beside her praying figure, and said: “I adore you.”
“Never speak to me again,” she responded.
“I expect nothing but a reply.”
She paused: “I love you too.”
He stood up in consternation(3), but Mme. Walter had already fled from the church, wreaths of tears falling on her chest. She did not wish to yield(4) to such a dastardly(5) being, to risk the lives and reputations of her husband, her daughters, herself…then, a miracle happened. A priest walked before her and she ran forward, clutching his sleeve. He stopped in surprise.
“Save me, I am lost!”
The young man thought her mad. “What can I do for you, madame?”
“Receive my confession.”
“I confess every Saturday from–”
“Now, at once! He is here, he is waiting for me.”
The priest asked: “Who is he?”
She fell upon her knees and sobbed. “Save me!”
Realizing that he could not free himself, the priest led Madame to the confession room.
After leaving Mme. Walter to collect herself for a few minutes, Du Roy entered the church once more. When he could not find her, he was incensed(6). Then, he heard her voice and neared it – there she was, confessing! He was overcome by the desire to seize her and take her away from this madness.
When she rose after awhile, she approached and spoke to him callously(7). “Sir, do not follow me. You will not be admitted into my house. Adieu!”
Du Roy let her leave only because he knew she would return to him. Strolling into the office of La Vie Francaise, the manager welcomed him gaily(8): “Bel Ami!”
Du Roy turned in surprise, expecting one of his (how many now?) mistresses.
The manager apologized. “My wife and daughters have been using that name so often, I’ve acclimated(9) to it myself. Is it a bother to you?”
Georges laughed, “Not at all.”
“Very well, then. Great changes have taken place. Marrot is forming a new cabinet, with the government being vanquished(10), and our friend Laroche-Mathieu will be the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is a great deal to write about this.”
“I will write you an article shortly.” He brought back his first article: “Souvenirs of a Soldier in Africa.”
The manager declared it to be “impeccable(11).”
His wife awaited at home , and exclaimed vigorously(12): “Laroche is to be a minister!”
Just then, the servant entered with a telegram reading: “Come tomorrow at four o’clock to Park Monceau.”
The following day, Du Roy found Mme. Walter, overwrought(13) and unhappy. “How many people there are here!” The garden was indeed swarmed(14) with couples and children, seeking shelter from the summer heat.
He understood her fear of being seen. “Meet me in five minutes by the gate – I will bring a car.”
The cab drove them to his apartments on the Rue de Constantinople. “You must respect me,” she beseeched(15) him.
A smile lurked(16) beneath his mustache. “I am your slave.”
She began telling him of how she had conceived(17) her love for him when the carriage stopped and Du Roy opened the door. “Where are we?”
“We shall be alone here.”
“Where are we?”
“These are my bachelor apartments, which I have rented,” he lied. “Just for you.”
She clung to the cab, stammering. “No-no.”
“I swear I respect you.”
Seeing that a crowd was gathering to watch them, she rushed into the house. When at last the door closed behind them, she submitted to his caresses(18)-and returned them.
“I have never had a lover,” she whispered later that afternoon.
“Neither have I,” he murmured.
It was a brisk summer that galloped into a vigorous autumn. The affairs in Morocco were growing more demanding by the day, which only accelerated the recognition and fame of La Vie Francaise, which was the first to report on political news. Laroche-Mathieu became the soul of the journal, and Du Roy became his mouthpiece. M. Walter was nowhere to be seen.
Madeleine’s salon became a meeting place for ministers and presidents.
Du Roy would yearn(19) for their exits to complain to his wife: “When I am minister–”
“What will happens, will happen,” she spoke, philosophically.
The morning that the Chamber reopened, Du Roy lunched with Laroche-Mathieu. With no other work to do, he wandered to the Rue de Constantinople, where he met Mme. de Marelle twice a week. Yet, as soon as he entered his office, he received a telegram from Mme. Walter: “I must see you today at two o’ clock at Rue de Constantinople. This will help you greatly. -Virginie.”
“What a bore!” He exclaimed. Du Roy had been trying to rid himself of her dramatics for weeks, but she pursued him at all times in all places. She called him “her dog, her treasure,” as though he was a child. When this old woman called him her “baby”, he wanted to call her “old woman.”
At the same time, the company of Suzanne, her daughter, brought him much delight. Yet, simultaneously, his affection for Mme. de Marelle, his more youthful mistress, had grown during the summer.
“For Clotilde is coming at four, I must get rid of this one by three, so they do not meet. What things that women are!”
Only his wife did not torment him. It was unlikely that she loved him, but she never interfered with the occupations of his life and neither he in hers.
Du Roy entered the apartments to await Virginie, and when she arrived, she exclaimed: “You received my dispatch! How fortunate?”
“What do you want?” He asked rudely.
She raised her veil, timidly(20). “How harshly you speak to me! You forced me to enter this house, and now you mistreat me.”
Exasperated, he stomped his foot. “Enough, be silent! Be mature, woman. You have a husband and I have a wife. Neither of us believed that this would be anything more than a caprice!”
“I had never loved a man–”
“You have had two children.”
She drew back as though he had struck to her. Pressing her hands to her heart, she weeped.
He rolled his eyes. “Is this why you came?”
She wiped her tears slowly, and her voice grew steadier. “No. I have political news that could earn you fifty thousand francs.”
His voice softened at the allure of money, and he moved to sit by her side, listening attentively. “How?”
“I overheard my husband and Laroche speaking. The cabinet plans to overtake Morocco.” She proceeded to tell him of the cabinet’s initial expeditions, the agents that had been procured, and how Laroche and his friends would benefit in the millions of francs.
Du Roy cried: “Are you sure? That rascal!”
“You can also buy some stock in the venture,” she said. “Seventy two francs is a pittance.”
“I have no money.”
“If you love me a little, darling,” she murmured. “I will lend some to you.”
He replied harshly. “No.”
“Or you could share some of my stock?”
“No,” he said again.
She persuaded, he hesitated and then said: “Very well. I will do it.”
She was so delighted that she kissed him, to which he repulsed. “You can leave now. I have a headache.”
She sat by his feet. “Will you dine with us tomorrow?”
Daring not to refuse, he said: “Yes, certainly.”
As he was distracted with thoughts of great fortune, she twisted her long black hairs along each of his buttons. He would dream of her now, would he not? It would be an invisible bond.
He kissed her coldly before she left, and Du Roy waited there until four to await his other mistress.
Upon entering, she asked: “Will you dine with us tomorrow? My husband has returned, and he would be delighted to see you.”
“No, there are a great deal of political matters to talk with the Walters tomorrow.”
When she took off her heat, he pointed to a bag on the mantelpiece: “I have brought you some sweetmeats.”
She clapped her hands in delight and upon tasting one, declared that she would eat them all. The same sweet words from Mme. Walter’s that had nauseated him seemed sweet from Mme. Marelle. He advised her to tell her husband to buy Moroccan stock.
Having finished her bonbons, she began to play with his button. Suddenly, she drew a long hair out of the button. Madeleine’s hair is not dark.
“It is surely that of the servant’s,” Du Roy said leisurely.
But she glanced at the vest, and found a second, and then a third hair-a hair on each button! And they were white, too! “You are a traitor,” she uttered a shrill cry. “Keep your old woman, and let me go!”
Stammering, Du Roy tried to detain her. “Clo–my dear Clo–” She was gone.
Upon returning home, Madeleine announced, gravely, that Vaudrec was dying.
“I am going to him,” she spoke rapidly, preparing her belongings and sobbing. “Do not wait for me.”
“Very well,” he replied. “Go.”
When she returned toward midnight, Georges sat up in bed and asked: “Well?”
He had never seen her so pale, not even when Charles had died. “He is dead!”
“Does he have any relatives?”
“Only a distant nephew.”
“And he was worth quite a lot, is that right?”
“One or two million francs.” She extinguished the light, but he could not sleep. The seventy thousand francs of Mme. Walter suddenly seemed significant. He fell asleep smiling.
1/inadvertently(adv)-without intention; accidentally.
2/susurration(n)-whispering, murmuring, or rustling
3/consternation(n)-feelings of anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected.
4/yield(v)-give way to arguments, demands, or pressure
5/dastardly(adj)-wicked and cruel.
6/incensed(adj)-very angry; enraged.
7/callously(adv)-in a way that shows an insensitive and cruel disregard for others; unfeelingly
8/gaily(adv)-in a cheerful or lighthearted way.
9/acclimate(v)-become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions
11/impeccable(adj)-(of behavior, performance, or appearance) in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless.
12/vigorously(adv)-in a way that involves physical strength, effort, or energy; strenuously
13/overwrought(adj)-in a state of nervous excitement or anxiety.
14/swarm(v)-move somewhere in large numbers.
15/beseech(v)-ask (someone) urgently and fervently to do something; implore; entreat.
16/lurk(v)-(of a person or animal) be or remain hidden so as to wait in ambush for someone or something.
17/conceive(v)-form or devise (a plan or idea) in the mind; become pregnant with (a child).
18/caress(v)-touch or stroke gently or lovingly
19/yearn(v)-have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from
20/timidly(adv)-in a manner that shows a lack of courage or confidence.