Chapter 9: The Final Plot?
Translated by: Rachna Shah
Friday evenings at the Walters belonged to Bel Ami. Most evenings, Georges dined there alone, for Madeleine preferred to remain at home. Mme. Walter would embrace him and whisper her love in his ear, but he repulsed(1) her coldly each time, saying: “If you continue that, I will never come again.”
Toward the end of March, people began to talk of the two sisters’ marriages. Rose was to marry Count de Latour-Ivelin and Suzanne, the Marquis de Cazolles. One morning, Georges discerned(2) Suzanne one day when she had returned home with her father for lunch.
“Come, let us feed the ducks some bread.” His voice rustled(3) in her ear.
They leaned over the edge of the marble basin’s conservatory, beaming(4) at their reflections. Suddenly, Georges said. “It is not right to keep secrets from me, Suzanne. You vowed(5) to speak with me each time you received a proposal. And now, you have received one from a fop(6).”
“He is not a fop.”
“But he is no match for you! He is a cretin(7).”
She glanced at him, suspiciously: “What’s wrong with you?”
He spoke slowly, as if painfully. “I-I am grudging(8)-because I love you.”
“You are ludicrous(9), Bel-Ami!”
“I know that I am! I, a married man, to you, a young girl. You must forgive me, Suzanne.”
Half sadly, half happily, she murmured: “It cannot be changed that you are married.”
Precipitously(10), Georges turned towards her: “Would you consider me if I was single?”
“Yes-I love you more than all the others.”
Stammering, he expeditiously(11) rose, nearly knocking himself over. “Wait for me, promise me–”
Somewhat confused, she nodded.
Throwing the rest of the bread into the water, Du Roy fled.
The following Friday, Du Roy followed Madeleine to No. 17 Rue Fontaine. In front of the house, seated in a cab, he saw her infiltrate(12) the house. After a few minutes, he said to the cabman: “Take me to the restaurant Du Coq-Faisan.”
After a sedate(13) dinner, Georges left and took a cab to Rue La Rochefoucauld, where he asked the maid on the third floor: “Is M. Guibert de Lorme at home?”
He was shown into the drawing-room, where after some time, the police commissioner(14) entered.
“My wife is with her lover,” Du Roy relayed, bowing.
Returning the bow, the magistrate said: “Sir, I am at your service.”
With three other officers, the two men proceeded(15) to his wife’s apartments. One officer stood by the exit, and the other two waited with Georges as he rang the doorbell several times. A woman’s voice, shrouded(16) as a man’s one, asked: “Who is there?”
“I am the police commissioner,” the magistrate said. “Open, or I will force the door.”
“What do you want?”
“It is I,” Du Roy interrupted. The footsteps receded(17), and Du Roy shook the door so vigorously(18) the creaking lock gave way. Madeleine stood, her feet bare and her hair loosened. With relish(19) in his eyes, the police officer asked: “What are you doing here?”
She did not reply, despite the repeated questions. A man could be seen concealed under the covers of the bed – it was M. Laroche-Mathieu. Madeleine, regaining her composure(20), seeing that there was little purpose in pretense now, took a cigarette and began to smoke.
The man in the bed dressed himself. “I am indeed Laroche-Mathieu, a minister. And that man is wearing a cross of honor I gave him.”
Livid, Georges threw it off. “It means nothing to me.”
Madeleine continued to smoke, smiling. “Madame,” the police commissioner said. “Do you confess that this gentleman is your lover?”
“I don’t deny it,” she replied boldly.
After making several notes, the magistrate and Georges existed. An hour later, he entered the office of La Vie Francaise, where M. Walter was working. “Why are you not at my house?”
“My wife and the minister of foreign affairs have been found together. He is ruined.”
“You are joking, surely?”
“I wouldn’t risk my editorial integrity. After all, I am to write an article on it.”
The manager stammered. “Your wife?”
“I will divorce her. I will be free.”
M. Walter nodded. “It is only justice.”
Three months had passed, wherein the divorce had been finalized. Madeleine du Roy was once more Madeleine Forestier and the Walters spent most Thursdays in the country. Georges accompanied them on one lunch, and as they walked together on the terrace after lunch, Georges lingered behind with Suzanne. “I love you madly,” he whispered.
“I love you too, Bel-Ami,” she returned. “Ask papa.”
“No-I would lose my position in the journal. Would you risk your mother and father’s disapproval for me?”
“Well! Then it must come from you, not me. Tonight, go to your mother and tell her you want to marry me. She will be very angry–”
“She would be glad.”
“Oh, no,” he interrupted. “You do not know your mother like I do. Then,” he continued. “Tell her that you must marry me, and repeat the same thing to your father.”
“And then, my dear, my dear, little Suzanne, I will elope with you!”
She clapped her hands together as though this was a charming adventure. “Where shall we meet?”
“At midnight in the Place de la Concorde.”
They rejoined the others and when the carriage returned that night at the mansion, Georges took his leave and returned home. At a few minutes before midnight, he hailed a cab to the place of meeting. After waiting there some time, with no Suzanne in sight, he heard: “Are you there, Bel-Ami?”
“Yes.” She entered the cab, who drove onwards. “It was terrible, Bel-Ami, especially with mama. She turned pale and cried: Never! I’ve never seen her like that.”
He encircled her waist with his arm. “We will go to La Roche-Guyon tomorrow. It is a pretty village.”
Yet Suzanne cried: “My mother will not be able to sleep!”
Indeed, Suzanne knew her mother well. Mme. Walter was in conversation with her husband, who responded: “It is that man who has changed her. It is perhaps your fault as well, your constant association with that flatterer.”
“You cannot exist for a day without him!”
Dramatically, she rose. “You cannot speak to me like that.”
With an oath, he left the room. I must speak to Suzanne, her mother thought. Yet upon entering her daughter’s bedroom, she found her to be gone, and she immediately yelled for her husband. Finding the truth, he cried out: “He must marry her now!”
“Never!” She cried, wildly.
“He has disgraced her, her reputation is gone,” he continued, sadly.
“I will never consent.”
“He is quite cunning, deceiving-yet clever. Perhaps one day he will be a minister?”
“Never! Do you hear me? Never! Never! Nev–”
“Stop being so silly! You cannot act based on your emotions. He must marry her. She must marry him. It is essential.”
So, Mme. Walter was left behind to suffer with her thoughts and memories of the past.
Meanwhile, Suzanne was spending the most enjoyable days of her life in La Roche-Guyon. They pretended to be sister and brother to draw the attention away from themselves, and though their affections remained platonic, Georges enjoyed treating a women with respect.
“We will return to Paris tomorrow,” he told her. “Your father has sent a letter consenting to our marriage.”
“Already?” She replied, naively. “This is just as pleasant as being your wife.”
1/repulse(v): drive back (an attack or attacking enemy) by force
2/discern(v): perceive or recognize (something)
3/rustle(v): make a soft, muffled crackling sound like that caused by the movement of dry leaves or paper
4/beam(v): to have a big smile on their face because they are happy, pleased, or proud about something
5/vow(v): solemnly promise to do a specified thing.
6/fop(n): a man who is concerned with his clothes and appearance in an affected and excessive way; a dandy.
7/cretin(n): a stupid person (used as a general term of abuse).
8/grudge(n): a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.
9/ludicrous(adj): so foolish, unreasonable, or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous.
10/precipitously(adv): hastily and without careful consideration.
11/expeditiously(adv): with speed and efficiency.
12/infiltrate(v): enter or gain access to (an organization, place, etc.) surreptitiously and gradually, especially in order to acquire secret information.
13/sedate(adj): calm, dignified, and unhurried.
14/commissioner(n): a representative of the supreme authority in an area.
15/proceed(v): begin or continue a course of action.
16/shroud(v): a thing that envelops or obscures something.
17/recede(v): go or move back or further away from a previous position.
18/vigorously(adv): in a way that involves physical strength, effort, or energy; strenuously.
19/relish(n): great enjoyment.
20/composure(n): the state or feeling of being calm and in control of oneself.