Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 13

MADAME DE MARELLE


Autumn had come. The Du Roys had spent the entire summer in Paris,
leading a vigorous campaign in "La Vie Francaise," in favor of the
new cabinet. Although it was only the early part of October, the
chamber was about to resume its sessions, for affairs in Morocco
were becoming menacing. The celebrated speech made by Count de
Lambert Sarrazin had furnished Du Roy with material for ten articles
on the Algerian colony. "La Vie Francaise" had gained considerable
prestige by its connection with the power; it was the first to give
political news, and every newspaper in Paris and the provinces
sought information from it. It was quoted, feared, and began to be
respected: it was no longer the organ of a group of political
intriguers, but the avowed mouthpiece of the cabinet. Laroche-
Mathieu was the soul of the journal and Du Roy his speaking-trumpet.
M. Walter retired discreetly into the background. Madeleine's salon
became an influential center in which several members of the cabinet
met every week. The president of the council had even dined there
twice; the minister of foreign affairs was quite at home at the Du
Roys; he came at any hour, bringing dispatches or information, which
he dictated either to the husband or wife as if they were his
secretaries. After the minister had departed, when Du Roy was alone
with Madeleine, he uttered threats and insinuations against the
"parvenu," as he called him. His wife simply shrugged her shoulders
scornfully, repeating: "Become a minister and you can do the same;
until then, be silent."

His reply was: "No one knows of what I am capable; perhaps they will
find out some day."

She answered philosophically: "He who lives will see."

The morning of the reopening of the Chamber, Du Roy lunched with
Laroche-Mathieu in order to receive instructions from him, before
the session, for a political article the following day in "La Vie
Francaise," which was to be a sort of official declaration of the
plans of the cabinet. After listening to Laroche-Mathieu's eloquence
for some time with jealousy in his heart, Du Roy sauntered slowly
toward the office to commence his work, for he had nothing to do
until four o'clock, at which hour he was to meet Mme. de Marelle at
Rue de Constantinople. They met there regularly twice a week,
Mondays and Wednesdays.

On entering the office, he was handed a sealed dispatch; it was from
Mme. Walter, and read thus:

"It is absolutely necessary that I should see you to-day. It is
important. Expect me at two o'clock at Rue de Constantinople. I
can render you a great service; your friend until death,"

"VIRGINIE."

He exclaimed: "Heavens! what a bore!" and left the office at once,
too much annoyed to work.

For six weeks he had ineffectually tried to break with Mme. Walter.
At three successive meetings she had been a prey to remorse, and had
overwhelmed her lover with reproaches. Angered by those scenes and
already weary of the dramatic woman, he had simply avoided her,
hoping that the affair would end in that way.

But she persecuted him with her affection, summoned him at all times
by telegrams to meet her at street corners, in shops, or public
gardens. She was very different from what he had fancied she would
be, trying to attract him by actions ridiculous in one of her age.
It disgusted him to hear her call him: "My rat--my dog--my treasure-
-my jewel--my blue-bird"--and to see her assume a kind of childish
modesty when he approached. It seemed to him that being the mother
of a family, a woman of the world, she should have been more sedate,
and have yielded With tears if she chose, but with the tears of a
Dido and not of a Juliette. He never heard her call him "Little one"
or "Baby," without wishing to reply "Old woman," to take his hat
with an oath and leave the room.

At first they had often met at Rue de Constantinople, but Du Roy,
who feared an encounter with Mme. de Marelle, invented a thousand
and one pretexts in order to avoid that rendezvous. He was therefore
obliged to either lunch or dine at her house daily, when she would
clasp his hand under cover of the table or offer him her lips behind
the doors. Above all, Georges enjoyed being thrown so much in
contact with Suzanne; she made sport of everything and everybody
with cutting appropriateness. At length, however, he began to feel
an unconquerable repugnance to the love lavished upon him by the
mother; he could no longer see her, hear her, nor think of her
without anger. He ceased calling upon her, replying to her letters,
and yielding to her appeals. She finally divined that he no longer
loved her, and the discovery caused her unutterable anguish; but she
watched him, followed him in a cab with drawn blinds to the office,
to his house, in the hope of seeing him pass by. He would have liked
to strangle her, but he controlled himself on account of his
position on "La Vie Francaise" and he endeavored by means of
coldness, and even at times harsh words, to make her comprehend that
all was at an end between them.

Then, too, she persisted in devising ruses for summoning him to Rue
de Constantinople, and he was in constant fear that the two women
would some day meet face to face at the door.

On the other hand, his affection for Mme. de Marelle had increased
during the summer. They were both Bohemians by nature; they took
excursions together to Argenteuil, Bougival, Maisons, and Poissy,
and when he was forced to return and dine at Mme. Walter's, he
detested his mature mistress more thoroughly, as he recalled the
youthful one he had just left. He was congratulating himself upon
having freed himself almost entirely from the former's clutches,
when he received the telegram above mentioned.

He re-read it as he walked along. He thought: "What does that old
owl want with me? I am certain she has nothing to tell me except
that she adores me. However, I will see, perhaps there is some truth
in it. Clotilde is coming at four, I must get rid of the other one
at three or soon after, provided they do not meet. What jades women
are!"

As he uttered those words he was reminded of his wife, who was the
only one who did not torment him; she lived by his side and seemed
to love him very much at the proper time, for she never permitted
anything to interfere with her ordinary occupations of life. He
strolled toward the appointed place of meeting, mentally cursing
Mme. Walter.

"Ah, I will receive her in such a manner that she will not tell me
anything. First of all, I will give her to understand that I shall
never cross her threshold again."

He entered to await her. She soon arrived and, seeing him,
exclaimed: "Ah, you received my dispatch! How fortunate!"

"Yes, I received it at the office just as I was setting out for the
Chamber. What do you want?" he asked ungraciously.

She had raised her veil in order to kiss him, and approached him
timidly and humbly with the air of a beaten dog.

"How unkind you are to me; how harshly you speak! What have I done
to you? You do not know what I have suffered for you!"

He muttered: "Are you going to begin that again?"

She stood near him awaiting a smile, a word of encouragement, to
cast herself into his arms, and whispered: "You need not have won me
to treat me thus; you might have left me virtuous and happy. Do you
remember what you said to me in the church and how you forced me to
enter this house? And now this is the way you speak to me, receive
me! My God, my God, how you maltreat me!"

He stamped his foot and said violently: "Enough, be silent! I can
never see you a moment without hearing that refrain. You were mature
when you gave yourself to me. I am much obliged to you; I am
infinitely grateful, but I need not be tied to your apron-strings
until I die! You have a husband and I a wife. Neither of us is free;
it was all a caprice, and now it is at an end!"

She said: "How brutal you are, how coarse and villainous! No, I was
no longer a young girl, but I had never loved, never wavered in my
dignity."

He interrupted her: "I know it, you have told me that twenty times;
but you have had two children."

She drew back as if she had been struck: "Oh, Georges!" And pressing
her hands to her heart, she burst into tears.

When she began to weep, he took his hat: "Ah, you are crying again!
Good evening! Is it for this that you sent for me?"

She took a step forward in order to bar the way, and drawing a
handkerchief from her pocket she wiped her eyes. Her voice grew
steadier: "No, I came to--to give you--political news--to give you
the means of earning fifty thousand francs--or even more if you wish
to."

Suddenly softened he asked: "How?"

"By chance last evening I heard a conversation between my husband
and Laroche. Walter advised the minister not to let you into the
secret for you would expose it."

Du Roy placed his hat upon a chair and listened attentively.

"They are going to take possession of Morocco!"

"Why, I lunched with Laroche this morning, and he told me the
cabinet's plans!"

"No, my dear, they have deceived you, because they feared their
secret would be made known."

"Sit down," said Georges.

He sank into an armchair, while she drew up a stool and took her
seat at his feet. She continued:

"As I think of you continually, I pay attention to what is talked of
around me," and she proceeded to tell him what she had heard
relative to the expedition to Tangiers which had been decided upon
the day that Laroche assumed his office; she told him how they had
little by little bought up, through agents who aroused no
suspicions, the Moroccan loan, which had fallen to sixty-four or
sixty-five francs; how when the expedition was entered upon the
French government would guarantee the debt, and their friends would
make fifty or sixty millions.

He cried: "Are you sure of that?"

She replied: "Yes, I am sure."

He continued: "That is indeed fine! As for that rascal of a Laroche,
let him beware! I will get his ministerial carcass between my
fingers yet!"

Then, after a moment's reflection, he muttered: "One might profit by
that!"

"You too can buy some stock," said she; "it is only seventy-two
francs."

He replied: "But I have no ready money."

She raised her eyes to his--eyes full of supplication.

"I have thought of that, my darling, and if you love me a little,
you will let me lend it to you."

He replied abruptly, almost harshly: "No, indeed."

She whispered imploringly: "Listen, there is something you can do
without borrowing money. I intended buying ten thousand francs'
worth of the stock; instead, I will take twenty thousand and you can
have half. There will be nothing to pay at once. If it succeeds, we
will make seventy thousand francs; if not, you will owe me ten
thousand which you can repay at your pleasure."

He said again: "No, I do not like those combinations."

She tried to persuade him by telling him that she advanced nothing--
that the payments were made by Walter's bank. She pointed out to him
that he had led the political campaign in "La Vie Francaise," and
that he would be very simple not to profit by the results he had
helped to bring about. As he still hesitated, she added: "It is in
reality Walter who will advance the money, and you have done enough
for him to offset that sum."

"Very well," said he, "I will do it. If we lose I will pay you back
ten thousand francs."

She was so delighted that she rose, took his head between her hands,
and kissed him. At first he did not repulse her, but when she grew
more lavish with her caresses, he said:

"Come, that will do."

She gazed at him sadly. "Oh, Georges, I can no longer even embrace
you."

"No, not to-day. I have a headache."

She reseated herself with docility at his feet and asked:

"Will you dine with us to-morrow? It would give me such pleasure,"

He hesitated at first, but dared not refuse.

"Yes, certainly."

"Thank you, dearest." She rubbed her cheek against the young man's
vest; as she did so, one of her long black hairs caught on a button;
she twisted it tightly around, then she twisted another around
another button and so on. When he rose, he would tear them out of
her head, and would carry away with him unwittingly a lock of her
hair. It would be an invisible bond between them. Involuntarily he
would think, would dream of her; he would love her a little more the
next day.

Suddenly he said: "I must leave you, for I am expected at the
Chamber for the close of the session. I cannot be absent to-day."

She sighed: "Already!" Then adding resignedly: "Go, my darling, but
you will come to dinner tomorrow"; she rose abruptly. For a moment
she felt a sharp, stinging pain, as if needles had been stuck into
her head, but she was glad to have suffered for him.

"Adieu," said she.

He took her in his arms and kissed her eyes coldly; then she offered
him her lips which he brushed lightly as he said: "Come, come, let
us hurry; it is after three o'clock."

She passed out before him saying: "To-morrow at seven"; he repeated
her words and they separated.

Du Roy returned at four o'clock to await his mistress. She was
somewhat late because her husband had come home for a week. She
asked:

"Can you come to dinner to-morrow? He will be delighted to see you."

"No; I dine at the Walters. We have a great many political and
financial matters to talk over."

She took off her hat. He pointed to a bag on the mantelpiece: "I
bought you some sweetmeats."

She clapped her hands. "What a darling you are!" She took them,
tasted one, and said: "They are delicious. I shall not leave one.
Come, sit down in the armchair, I will sit at your feet and eat my
bonbons."

He smiled as he saw her take the seat a short while since occupied
by Mme. Walter. She too, called him "darling, little one, dearest,"
and the words seemed to him sweet and caressing from her lips, while
from Mme. Walter's they irritated and nauseated him.

Suddenly he remembered the seventy thousand francs he was going to
make, and bluntly interrupting Mme. de Marelle's chatter, he said:

"Listen, my darling; I am going to intrust you with a message to
your husband. Tell him from me to buy to-morrow ten thousand francs'
worth of Moroccan stock which is at seventy-two, and I predict that
before three months are passed he will have made eighty thousand
francs. Tell him to maintain absolute silence. Tell him that the
expedition to Tangiers, is decided upon, and that the French
government will guarantee the Moroccan debt. It is a state secret I
am confiding to you, remember!"

She listened to him gravely and murmured:

"Thank you. I will tell my husband this evening. You may rely upon
him; he will not speak of it; he can be depended upon; there is no
danger."

She had eaten all of her bonbons and began to toy with the buttons
on his vest. Suddenly she drew a long hair out of the buttonhole and
began to laugh.

"See! Here is one of Madeleine's hairs; you are a faithful husband!"
Then growing serious, she examined the scarcely perceptible thread
more closely and said: "It is not Madeleine's, it is dark."

He smiled. "It probably belongs to the housemaid."

But she glanced at the vest with the care of a police-inspector and
found a second hair twisted around a second button; then she saw a
third; and turning pale and trembling somewhat, she exclaimed: "Oh,
some woman has left hairs around all your buttons."

In surprise, he stammered: "Why you--you are mad."

She continued to unwind the hairs and cast them upon the floor. With
her woman's instinct she had divined their meaning and gasped in her
anger, ready to cry:

"She loves you and she wished you to carry away with you something
of hers. Oh, you are a traitor." She uttered a shrill, nervous cry:
"Oh, it is an old woman's hair--here is a white one--you have taken
a fancy to an old woman now. Then you do not need me--keep the other
one." She rose.

He attempted to detain her and stammered: "No--Clo--you are absurd--
I do not know whose it is--listen--stay--see--stay--"

But she repeated: "Keep your old woman--keep her--have a chain made
of her hair--of her gray hair--there is enough for that--"

Hastily she donned her hat and veil, and when he attempted to touch
her she struck him in the face, and made her escape while he was
stunned by the blow. When he found that he was alone, he cursed Mme.
Walter, bathed his face, and went out vowing vengeance. That time he
would not pardon. No, indeed.

He strolled to the boulevard and stopped at a jeweler's to look at a
chronometer he had wanted for some time and which would cost
eighteen hundred francs. He thought with joy: "If I make my seventy
thousand francs, I can pay for it"--and he began to dream of all the
things he would do when he got the money. First of all he would
become a deputy; then he would buy the chronometer; then he would
speculate on 'Change, and then, and then--he did not enter the
office, preferring to confer with Madeleine before seeing Walter
again and writing his article; he turned toward home. He reached Rue
Drouot when he paused; he had forgotten to inquire for Count de
Vaudrec, who lived on Chaussee d'Antin. He retraced his steps with a
light heart, thinking of a thousand things--of the fortune he would
make,--of that rascal of a Laroche, and of old Walter.

He was not at all uneasy as to Clotilde's anger, knowing that she
would soon forgive him.

When he asked the janitor of the house in which Count de Vaudrec
lived: "How is M. de Vaudrec? I have heard that he has been ailing
of late," the man replied; "The Count is very ill, sir; they think
he will not live through the night; the gout has reached his heart."

Du Roy was so startled he did not know what to do! Vaudrec dying! He
stammered: "Thanks--I will call again"--unconscious of what he was
saying. He jumped into a cab and drove home. His wife had returned.
He entered her room out of breath: "Did you know? Vaudrec is dying!"

She was reading a letter and turning to him asked: "What did you
say?"

"I said that Vaudrec is dying of an attack of gout."

Then he added: "What shall you do?"

She rose; her face was livid; she burst into tears and buried her
face in her hands. She remained standing, shaken by sobs, torn by
anguish. Suddenly she conquered her grief and wiping her eyes, said:
"I am going to him--do not worry about me--I do not know what time I
shall return--do not expect me."

He replied: "Very well. Go."

They shook hands and she left in such haste that she forgot her
gloves. Georges, after dining alone, began to write his article. He
wrote it according to the minister's instructions, hinting to the
readers that the expedition to Morocco would not take place. He took
it, when completed, to the office, conversed several moments with M.
Walter, and set out again, smoking, with a light heart, he knew not
why.

His wife had not returned. He retired and fell asleep. Toward
midnight Madeleine came home. Georges sat up in bed and asked:
"Well?"

He had never seen her so pale and agitated. She whispered: "He is
dead!"

"Ah--and--he told you nothing?"

"Nothing. He was unconscious when I arrived."

Questions which he dared not ask arose to Georges' lips.

"Lie down and rest," said he.

She disrobed hastily and slipped into bed.

He continued: "Had he any relatives at his death-bed?"

"Only a nephew."

"Ah! Did he often see that nephew?"

"They had not met for ten years."

"Had he other relatives?"

"No, I believe not."

"Will that nephew be his heir?"

"I do not know."

"Was Vaudrec very rich?"

"Yes, very."

"Do you know what he was worth?"

"No, not exactly--one or two millions perhaps."

He said no more. She extinguished the light. He could not sleep. He
looked upon Mme. Walter's promised seventy thousand francs as very
insignificant. Suddenly he thought he heard Madeleine crying. In
order to insure himself he asked: "Are you asleep?"

"No." Her voice was tearful and unsteady.

He continued: "I forgot to tell you that your minister has deceived
us."

"How?"

He gave her a detailed account of the combination prepared by
Laroche and Walter. When he concluded she asked: "How did you know
that?"

He replied: "Pardon me if I do not tell you! You have your means of
obtaining information into which I do not inquire; I have mine which
I desire to keep. I can vouch at any rate for the truth of my
statements."

She muttered: "It may be possible. I suspected that they were doing
something without our knowledge."

As she spoke Georges drew near her; she paid no heed to his
proximity, however, and turning toward the wall, he closed his eyes
and fell asleep.

Guy de Maupassant

Sorry, no summary available yet.