Chapter 8: The Will
When Du Roy and his wife left the church, they did not speak. Georges, at last, spoke: “Vaudrec-why, it is confounding(1).”
“That one can die this young?”
“That he left us nothing!”
Madeleine colored. “Why should he leave us anything at all?” Then, after a pause: “Perhaps there is a will at the lawyer’s.”
“He had no family and he was our best friend.”
When they entered the house, the footman handed Madeleine a letter, wherein the notary(2) invited them to his office. After lunch, they set out for M. Lamaneur’s. The notary was a short, round man; his head was a ball attached to another ball with legs so pithy(3) his feet appeared to be balls as well.
Once they were seated, he turned to Madeleine. “Count de Vaudrec has bequeathed(4) his entire fortune to you, Mme. Claire Madeleine. Six hundred thousand francs rest in stocks and bonds and five hundred thousand in property. The date of this will is this past May-May 10th, I believe.”
Georges twisted his mustache apprehensively(5) and Madeleine turned pale. Du Roy rose and said: “I ask time for reflection.”
The notary smiled and replied pleasantly: “I understand. I may add, however, that his nephew is ready to inherit this fortune, if you are unwilling to.”
When they arrived home, Du Roy threw his hat on the bed. “What relationship did you have with Vaudrec?! One does not leave one’s entire fortune to a woman, unless–”
She quivered(6) so much that she could scarcely remove her veil. Stammering, she said: “We have been friends very long.”
Pacing, Georges finally decided. “You cannot accept it.”
“Very well,” she responded, insouciantly(7). “Inform M. Lamaneur at once, then.”
Georges paused before her, attempting to ogle(8) into her conscience. “Confess your relationship.”
She shrugged: “He was simply fond of me.”
Like a child, Georges stamped his foot. “You’re lying!”
“We were his only friends-rather, I was his only friend. It is possible he loved me a little, but–”
“We cannot accept his heritage. My journalists are already ready to vilify(9) me, and I cannot afford to condemn(10) my reputation any further.”
“Very well. It will be a million less in our pockets.”
“He did not think, did he!” Georges was no longer speaking to his wife but to the room. Then, he turned to her: “Perhaps, we could each bequeath half of the fortune. I will not become a laughing-stock for the world.”
She threw a strident(11) glance at him. “As you wish.”
But then, he hesitated. “Perhaps it would be more illustrious(12) if we renounced it entirely. Or, I could go on your behalf to M. Lamaneur and accept the inheritance so that you would not be compromising yourself.”
“As you wish,” Madeleine repeated.
Georges continued: “I am simply inheriting a fortune from a friend. I–”
“You can go now.”
He spluttered(13), a little startled: “I will go.”
At the notary’s, Georges expressed that his wife had devised(14) the arrangement. They signed the agreement for five hundred thousand francs, which Madeleine would give to her husband. When they left the office, Georges and Madeleine took a stroll along the boulevards; he was very altruistic(15) and considerate of her, laughing joyously while she remained pensive and grave.
When they came across a shop, he gazed at a trinket. “Shall I buy you something?”
“As you wish.” As they entered the store, she exclaimed upon viewing a chain of idiosyncratic(16) stones. “That is a lovely bracelet!”
“It is three thousand francs, madame,” the jeweler responded.
“I will take it for 4000 along with the chronometer(17). Engrave G. R. C. on it.”
As they left, she smiled. Her husband was becoming an astute(18) man. With a fortune, one must also have a title. After a pleasant dinner at Mme de Marelle’s, they retired home triumphantly, a million francs richer.
Morocco had been conquered. One of the ministers, Laroche-Mathieu it was rumored, had made twenty million francs. Walter was no longer stigmatized(19) for being a Jew, for he had become on of the wealthiest financiers of the world. He became a conqueror after possessing a mansion worth three million francs and the esteemed Hungarian painting “Christ Walking on the Water.” All of Paris talked of him, envied him-so, one evening, M. Walter invited all to see it.
Du Roy, who had thought himself wealthy with five hundred thousand francs, now felt poor. He felt enraged and deceived by his boss, like a dog to a master. Madeleine was surprised: “Your position is excellent, do not complain.”
Mme. Walter beseeched(20) him to come see her so that she might give him seventy thousand francs, but he would not set his feet past her husband’s doorstep. She was too wealthy for him now. The day of the painting’s exhibition, he would not go.
Yet, after dinner, he said: “I suppose I must.”
The courtyard of the Hotel de Carlsbourg was flooded with light and a crimson carpet adorned the steps. The rooms were well filled, ladies dressed in evening dress or street wear, as though this was a museum rather than a house.
Mme. Walter grew livid upon perceiving Du Roy but accepted his and Madeleine’s cordial greeting. Leaving his wife with Virginie, Georges was seized by Suzanne Walter. “There are you are at least, Bel-Ami! We never see you any more.”
He was delighted to see her and her wealthy golden hair. “I have been nowhere for two months.”
“That is too bad – but come, I will show you Christ.”
As they walked through the rooms, well-known ladies and men remarked that they seemed to be a “fine couple.” And then, Georges thought, what a mistake it had been to marry the other one!
“Will you not marry soon and forget me?” He said, smiling ironically.
She pretended to be angry. “I will marry according to my heart.”
He saw his wife passing by upon the minister’s arm, the two smiling into each other’s eyes. As he saw some people around them whisper and chatter, Du Roy snarled. Little Suzanne would have been a brilliant match.
Walter greeted him briefly before jumping to meet Senator Rissolin and his wife. A gentleman with whiskers – Marquis de Cazolles – whisked Suzanne away and Georges was left in the company of Norbert de Varenne, the old poet. “Take some champagne,” he recommended. “It is the only worthwhile aspect of this event.”
Georges scarcely heard him, so enraptured he was in looking for Suzanne, but then he was interrupted by Mme. Marelle. They spoke of Laurine but as they reached the door, Suzanne exclaimed: “Oh, here you are! Clotilde, I shall show you my room.”
With no moment to breathe, Mme. Walter came by his side. “Georges! How cruel you are. Go into the conservatory in ten minutes or I will cause a scandal here.”
In the conservatory, he tried to push her away. “You caused trouble between me and my wife with your hair around my buttons.”
“Your wife would not have cared. It must have been…a mistress?”
“I have none.”
“Yet you never have time to see me. I remain sitting all day of thinking of you-I suffer thinking of what potential we had, of the eternal love you had promised–”
He looked at her in astonishment. She was truly desperate. “Love is only temporary. I can only see you as a friend. Can you manage that?”
“Anything to see you once more.”
He stood to leave but she gasped. “One last kiss!” As he refused, she held her Moroccan profits to him in a package.
He slipped it into his pocket and fled into the house. Entering leisurely, he came across Suzanne. “I would like to ask you a favor.”
“Gladly,” she replied.
“Consult me when you are to be married and accept no suitor without my advice.”
She smiled and replied: “Gladly.”
Madeleine and Georges left before eleven; both had enough of ballroom talk. “I have a gift for you,” she smiled, handing him a small black box.
He opened it indifferently and saw the Cross of the Legion of Honor. He turned pale, but then he turned his head away. “I would preferred ten million francs.”
She sighed. “Nothing satisfies you! At your age, this is an achievement.”
But the following night, he bowed his head down and accepted a dinner invitation at the Walters’. The dinner was tedious – Mme. Walter was dressed in mourning (“I am old enough to die”), Suzanne talked incessantly, and Mme. Walter detained him in between courses, begging him to come daily, if only as a friend.
As they came across the painting of Christ, M. Walter remarked: “I found my wife kneeling before this painting yesterday. She was praying!”
“Christ will save my soul. Look how beautiful He is!”
“He looks like you, Bel-Ami!” Suzanne cried out.
Du Roy was embarrassed, Madeleine expressed that Jesus was more masculine, and Mme. Walter cheeks had become as white as her hair.
1/confounding(adj)-cause surprise or confusion in (someone), especially by acting against their expectations
2/notary(n)-a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up or certify contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions.
3/pithy(adj)-(of language or style) concise and forcefully expressive.
4/bequeath(v)-leave (a personal estate or one’s body) to a person or other beneficiary by a will.
5/apprehensively(adv)-uneasy or fearful about something that might happen
6/quiver(v)-tremble or shake with a slight rapid motion.
7/insouciantly(adv)-showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent.
8/ogle(v)-stare at in a lecherous manner.
9/vilify(v)-speak or write about in an abusively disparaging manner.
10/condemn(v)-express complete disapproval of, typically in public; censure.
11/strident(adj)-loud and harsh; grating.
12/illustrious(adj)-well known, respected, and admired for past achievements.
13/splutter(v)-make a series of short explosive spitting or choking sounds.
14/devise(v)-plan or invent (a complex procedure, system, or mechanism) by careful thought.
15/altruistic(adj)-showing a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish.
16/idiosyncratic(adj)-relating to idiosyncrasy; peculiar or individual.
17/chronometer(n)-an instrument for measuring time, especially one designed to keep accurate time in spite of motion or variations in temperature, humidity, and air pressure.
18/astute(adj)-having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one’s advantage.
19/stimagatize(v)-describe or regard as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval.
20/beseech(v)-ask (someone) urgently and fervently to do something; implore; entreat.