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Chapter 15

SUZANNE


Morocco had been conquered; France, the mistress of Tangiers, had
guaranteed the debt of the annexed country. It was rumored that two
ministers, Laroche-Mathieu being one of them, had made twenty
millions.

As for Walter, in a few days he had become one of the masters of the
world--a financier more omnipotent than a king. He was no longer the
Jew, Walter, the director of a bank, the proprietor of a yellow
newspaper; he was M. Walter the wealthy Israelite, and he wished to
prove it.

Knowing the straitened circumstances of the Prince de Carlsbourg who
owned one of the fairest mansions on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore,
he proposed to buy it. He offered three million francs for it. The
prince, tempted by the sum, accepted his offer; the next day, Walter
took possession of his new dwelling. Then another idea occurred to
him--an idea of conquering all Paris--an idea a la Bonaparte.

At that time everyone was raving over a painting by the Hungarian,
Karl Marcovitch, exhibited by Jacques Lenoble and representing
"Christ Walking on the Water." Art critics enthusiastically declared
it to be the most magnificent painting of the age. Walter bought it,
thereby causing entire Paris to talk of him, to envy him, to censure
or approve his action. He issued an announcement in the papers that
everyone was invited to come on a certain evening to see it.

Du Roy was jealous of M. Walter's success. He had thought himself
wealthy with the five hundred thousand francs extorted from his
wife, and now he felt poor as he compared his paltry fortune with
the shower of millions around him. His envious rage increased daily.
He cherished ill will toward everyone--toward the Walters, even
toward his wife, and above all toward the man who had deceived him,
made use of him, and who dined twice a week at his house. Georges
acted as his secretary, agent, mouthpiece, and when he wrote at his
dictation, he felt a mad desire to strangle him. Laroche reigned
supreme in the Du Roy household, having taken the place of Count de
Vaudrec; he spoke to the servants as if he were their master.
Georges submitted to it all, like a dog which wishes to bite and
dares not. But he was often harsh and brutal to Madeleine, who
merely shrugged her shoulders and treated him as one would a fretful
child. She was surprised, too, at his constant ill humor, and said:
"I do not understand you. You are always complaining. Your position
is excellent."

His only reply was to turn his back upon her. He declared that he
would not attend M. Walter's fete--that he would not cross the
miserable Jew's threshold. For two months Mme. Walter had written to
him daily, beseeching him to come to see her, to appoint a meeting
where he would, in order that she might give him the seventy
thousand francs she had made for him. He did not reply and threw her
letters into the fire. Not that he would have refused to accept his
share of the profits, but he enjoyed treating her scornfully,
trampling her under foot; she was too wealthy; he would be
inflexible.

The day of the exhibition of the picture, as Madeleine chided him
for not going, he replied: "Leave me in peace. I shall remain at
home."

After they had dined, he said suddenly, "I suppose I shall have to
go through with it. Get ready quickly."

"I shall be ready in fifteen minutes," she said.

As they entered the courtyard of the Hotel de Carlsbourg it was one
blaze of light. A magnificent carpet was spread upon the steps
leading to the entrance, and upon each one stood a man in livery, as
rigid as marble.

Du Roy's heart was torn with jealousy. He and his wife ascended the
steps and gave their wraps to the footmen who approached them.

At the entrance to the drawing-room, two children, one in pink, the
other in blue, handed bouquets to the ladies.

The rooms were already well filled. The majority of the ladies were
in street costumes, a proof that they came thither as they would go
to any exhibition. The few who intended to remain to the ball which
was to follow wore evening dress.

Mme. Walter, surrounded by friends, stood in the second salon and
received the visitors. Many did not know her, and walked through the
rooms as if in a museum--without paying any heed to the host and
hostess.

When Virginie perceived Du Roy, she grew livid and made a movement
toward him; then she paused and waited for him to advance. He bowed
ceremoniously, while Madeleine greeted her effusively. Georges left
his wife near Mme. Walter and mingled with the guests. Five drawing-
rooms opened one into the other; they were carpeted with rich,
oriental rugs, and upon their walls hung paintings by the old
masters. As he made his way through the throng, some one seized his
arm, and a fresh, youthful voice whispered in his ear: "Ah, here you
are at last, naughty Bel-Ami! Why do we never see you any more?"

It was Suzanne Walter, with her azure eyes and wealth of golden
hair. He was delighted to see her, and apologized as they shook
hands.

"I have been so busy for two months that I have been nowhere."

She replied gravely: "That is too bad. You have grieved us deeply,
for mamma and I adore you. As for myself, I cannot do without you.
If you are not here, I am bored to death. You see I tell you so
frankly, that you will not remain away like that any more. Give me
your arm; I will show you 'Christ Walking on the Water' myself; it
is at the very end, behind the conservatory. Papa put it back there
so that everyone would be obliged to go through the rooms. It is
astonishing how proud papa is of this house."

As they walked through the rooms, all turned to look at that
handsome man and that bewitching girl. A well-known painter said:
"There is a fine couple." Georges thought: "If my position had been
made, I would have married her. Why did I never think of it? How
could I have taken the other one? What folly! One always acts too
hastily--one never reflects sufficiently." And longing, bitter
longing possessed him, corrupting all his pleasure, rendering life
odious.

Suzanne said: "You must come often, Bel-Ami; we can do anything we
like now papa is rich."

He replied: "Oh, you will soon marry--some prince, perhaps, and we
shall never meet any more."

She cried frankly: "Oh, oh, I shall not! I shall choose some one I
love very dearly. I am rich enough for two."

He smiled ironically and said: "I give you six months. By that time
you will be Madame la Marquise, Madame la Duchesse, or Madame la
Princesse, and you will look down upon me, Mademoiselle."

She pretended to be angry, patted his arm with her fan, and vowed
that she would marry according to the dictates of her heart.

He replied: "We shall see; you are too wealthy."

"You, too, have inherited some money."

"Barely twenty thousand livres a year. It is a mere pittance
nowadays."

"But your wife has the same."

"Yes, we have a million together; forty thousand a year. We cannot
even keep a carriage on that."

They had, in the meantime, reached the last drawing-room, and before
them lay the conservatory with its rare shrubs and plants. To their
left, under a dome of palms, was a marble basin, on the edges of
which four large swans of delftware emitted the water from their
beaks.

The journalist stopped and said to himself: "This is luxury; this is
the kind of house in which to live. Why can I not have one?"

His companion did not speak. He looked at her and thought once more:
"If I only had taken her!"

Suddenly Suzanne seemed to awaken from her reverie. "Come," said
she, dragging Georges through a group which barred their way, and
turning him to the right. Before him, surrounded by verdure on all
sides, was the picture. One had to look closely at it in order to
understand it. It was a grand work--the work of a master--one of
those triumphs of art which furnishes one for years with food for
thought.

Du Roy gazed at it for some time, and then turned away, to make room
for others. Suzanne's tiny hand still rested upon his arm. She
asked:

"Would you like a glass of champagne? We will go to the buffet; we
shall find papa there."

Slowly they traversed the crowded rooms. Suddenly Georges heard a
voice say: "That is Laroche and Mme. du Roy."

He turned and saw his wife passing upon the minister's arm. They
were talking in low tones and smiling into each other's eyes. He
fancied he saw some people whisper, as they gazed at them, and he
felt a desire to fall upon those two beings and smite them to the
earth. His wife was making a laughing-stock of him. Who was she? A
shrewd little parvenue, that was all. He could never make his way
with a wife who compromised him. She would be a stumbling-block in
his path. Ah, if he had foreseen, if he had known. He would have
played for higher stakes. What a brilliant match he might have made
with little Suzanne! How could he have been so blind?

They reached the dining-room with its marble columns and walls hung
with old Gobelins tapestry. Walter spied his editor, and hastened to
shake hands. He was beside himself with joy. "Have you seen
everything? Say, Suzanne, have you shown him everything? What a lot
of people, eh? Have you seen Prince de Guerche? he just drank a
glass of punch." Then he pounced upon Senator Rissolin and his wife.

A gentleman greeted Suzanne--a tall, slender man with fair whiskers
and a worldly air. Georges heard her call him Marquis de Cazolles,
and he was suddenly inspired with jealousy. How long had she known
him? Since she had become wealthy no doubt. He saw in him a possible
suitor. Some one seized his arm. It was Norbert de Varenne. The old
poet said: "This is what they call amusing themselves. After a while
they will dance, then they will retire, and the young girls will be
satisfied. Take some champagne; it is excellent."

Georges scarcely heard his words. He was looking for Suzanne, who
had gone off with the Marquis de Cazolles; he left Norbert de
Varenne abruptly and went in pursuit of the young girl. The thirsty
crowd stopped him; when he had made his way through it, he found
himself face to face with M. and Mme. de Marelle. He had often met
the wife, but he had not met the husband for some time; the latter
grasped both of his hands and thanked him for the message he had
sent him by Clotilde relative to the stocks.

Du Roy replied: "In exchange for that service I shall take your
wife, or rather offer her my arm. Husband and wife should always be
separated."

M. de Marelle bowed. "Very well. If I lose you we can meet here
again in an hour."

The two young people disappeared in the crowd, followed by the
husband. Mme. de Marelle said: "There are two girls who will have
twenty or thirty millions each, and Suzanne is pretty in the
bargain."

He made no reply; his own thought coming from the lips of another
irritated him. He took Clotilde to see the painting. As they crossed
the conservatory he saw his wife seated near Laroche-Mathieu, both
of them almost hidden behind a group of plants. They seemed to say:
"We are having a meeting in public, for we do not care for the
world's opinion."

Mme. de Marelle admired Karl Marcovitch's painting, and they turned
to repair to the other rooms. They were separated from M. de
Marelle. He asked: "Is Laurine still vexed with me?"

"Yes. She refuses to see you and goes away when you are mentioned."

He did not reply. The child's sudden enmity grieved and annoyed him.

Suzanne met them at a door and cried: "Oh, here you are! Now, Bel-
Ami, you are going to be left alone, for I shall take Clotilde to
see my room." And the two women glided through the throng. At that
moment a voice at his side murmured: "Georges!"

It was Mme. Walter. She continued in a low voice: "How cruel you
are! How needlessly you inflict suffering upon me. I bade Suzanne
take that woman away that I might have a word with you. Listen: I
must speak to you this evening--or--or--you do not know what I shall
do. Go into the conservatory. You will find a door to the left
through which you can reach the garden. Follow the walk directly in
front of you. At the end of it you will see an arbor. Expect me in
ten minutes. If you do not meet me, I swear I will cause a scandal
here at once!"

He replied haughtily: "Very well, I shall be at the place you named
in ten minutes."

But Jacques Rival detained him. When he reached the alley, he saw
Mme. Walter in front of him; she cried: "Ah, here you are! Do you
wish to kill me?"

He replied calmly: "I beseech you, none of that, or I shall leave
you at once."

Throwing her arms around his neck, she exclaimed: "What have I done
to you that you should treat me so?"

He tried to push her away: "You twisted your hair around my coat
buttons the last time we met, and it caused trouble between my wife
and myself."

She shook her head: "Ah, your wife would not care. It was one of
your mistresses who made a scene."

"I have none."

"Indeed! Why do you never come to see me? Why do you refuse to dine
with me even once a week? I have no other thoughts than of you. I
suffer terribly. You cannot understand that your image, always
present, closes my throat, stifles me, and leaves me scarcely
strength enough to move my limbs in order to walk. So I remain all
day in my chair thinking of you."

He looked at her in astonishment. These were the words of a
desperate woman, capable of anything. He, however, cherished a vague
project and replied: "My dear, love is not eternal. One loves and
one ceases to love. When it lasts it becomes a drawback. I want none
of it! However, if you will be reasonable, and will receive and
treat me as a friend, I will come to see you as formerly. Can you do
that?"

She murmured: "I can do anything in order to see you."

"Then it is agreed that we are to be friends, nothing more."

She gasped: "It is agreed"; offering him her lips she cried in her
despair: "One more kiss--one last kiss!"

He gently drew back. "No, we must adhere to our rules."

She turned her head and wiped away two tears, then drawing from her
bosom a package of notes tied with pink ribbon, she held it toward
Du Roy: "Here is your share of the profits in that Moroccan affair.
I was so glad to make it for you. Here, take it."

He refused: "No, I cannot accept that money."

She became excited: "Oh, you will not refuse it now! It is yours,
yours alone. If you do not take it, I will throw it in the sewer.
You will not refuse it, Georges!"

He took the package and slipped it into his pocket "We must return
to the house; you will take cold."

"So much the better; if I could but die!"

She seized his hand, kissed it passionately, and fled toward the
house. He returned more leisurely, and entered the conservatory with
head erect and smiling lips. His wife and Laroche were no longer
there. The crowd had grown thinner. Suzanne, leaning on her sister's
arm, advanced toward him. In a few moments, Rose, whom they teased
about a certain Count, turned upon her heel and left them.

Du Roy, finding himself alone with Suzanne, said in a caressing
voice: "Listen, my dear little one; do you really consider me a
friend?"

"Why, yes, Bel-Ami."

"You have faith in me?"

"Perfect faith."

"Do you remember what I said to you a while since?"

"About what?"

"About your, marriage, or rather the man you would marry."

"Yes."

"Well, will you promise me one thing?"

"Yes; what is it?"

"To consult me when you receive a proposal and to accept no one
without asking my advice."

"Yes, I will gladly."

"And it is to be a secret between us--not a word to your father or
mother."

"Not a word."

Rival approached them saying: "Mademoiselle, your father wants you
in the ballroom."

She said: "Come, Bel-Ami," but he refused, for he had decided to
leave at once, wishing to be alone with his thoughts. He went in
search of his wife, and found her drinking chocolate at the buffet
with two strange men. She introduced her husband without naming
them.

In a short while, he asked: "Shall we go?"

"Whenever you like."

She took his arm and they passed through the almost deserted rooms.

Madeleine asked: "Where is Mme. Walter; I should like to bid her
good-bye."

"It is unnecessary. She would try to keep us in the ballroom, and I
have had enough."

"You are right."

On the way home they did not speak. But when they had entered their
room, Madeleine, without even taking off her veil, said to him with
a smile: "I have a surprise for you."

He growled ill-naturedly: "What is it?"

"Guess."

"I cannot make the effort."

"The day after to-morrow is the first of January."

"Yes."

"It is the season for New Year's gifts."

"Yes."

"Here is yours, which Laroche handed me just now." She gave him a
small black box which resembled a jewel-casket.

He opened it indifferently and saw the cross of the Legion of Honor.
He turned a trifle pale, then smiled, and said: "I should have
preferred ten millions. That did not cost him much."

She had expected a transport of delight and was irritated by his
indifference.

"You are incomprehensible. Nothing seems to satisfy you."

He replied calmly: "That man is only paying his debts; he owes me a
great deal more."

She was astonished at his tone, and said: "It is very nice, however,
at your age."

He replied: "I should have much more."

He took the casket, placed it on the mantelpiece, and looked for
some minutes at the brilliant star within it, then he closed it with
a shrug of his shoulders and began to prepare to retire.

"L'Officiel" of January 1 announced that M. Prosper Georges du Roy
had been decorated with the Legion of Honor for exceptional
services. The name was written in two words, and that afforded
Georges more pleasure than the decoration itself.

An hour after having read that notice, he received a note from Mme.
Walter, inviting him to come and bring his wife to dine with them
that evening, to celebrate his distinction.

At first he hesitated, then throwing the letter in the fire, he said
to Madeleine: "We shall dine at the Walters' this evening."

In her surprise she exclaimed: "Why, I thought you would never set
your foot in their house again."

His sole reply was: "I have changed my mind."

When they arrived at Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, they found Mme.
Walter alone in the dainty boudoir in which she received her
intimate friends. She was dressed in black and her hair was
powdered. At a distance she appeared like an old lady, in proximity,
like a youthful one.

"Are you in mourning?" asked, Madeleine.

She replied sadly: "Yes and no. I have lost none of my relatives,
but I have arrived at an age when one should wear somber colors. I
wear it to-day to inaugurate it; hitherto I have worn it in my
heart."

The dinner was somewhat tedious. Suzanne alone talked incessantly.
Rose seemed preoccupied. The journalist was overwhelmed with
congratulations, after the meal, when all repaired to the drawing-
rooms. Mme. Walter detained him as they were about to enter the
salon, saying: "I will never speak of anything to you again, only
come to see me, Georges. It is impossible for me to live without
you. I see you, I feel you, in my heart all day and all night. It is
as if I had drunk a poison which preyed upon me. I cannot bear it. I
would rather be as an old woman to you. I powdered my hair for that
reason to-night; but come here--come from time to time as a friend."

He replied calmly: "Very well. It is unnecessary to speak of it
again. You see I came to-day on receipt of your letter."

Walter, who had preceded them, with his two daughters and Madeleine,
awaited Du Roy near the picture of "Christ Walking on the Water."

"Only think," said he, "I found my wife yesterday kneeling before
that painting as if in a chapel. She was praying!"

Mme. Walter replied in a firm voice, in a voice in which vibrated a
secret exaltation: "That Christ will save my soul. He gives me fresh
courage and strength every time that I look at Him." And pausing
before the picture, she murmured: "How beautiful He is! How
frightened those men are, and how they love Him! Look at His head,
His eyes, how simple and supernatural He is at the same time!"

Suzanne cried: "Why, He looks like you, Bel-Ami! I am sure He looks
like you. The resemblance is striking."

She made him stand beside the painting and everyone recognized the
likeness. Du Roy was embarrassed. Walter thought it very singular;
Madeleine, with a smile, remarked that Jesus looked more manly. Mme.
Walter stood by motionless, staring fixedly at her lover's face, her
cheeks as white as her hair.

Guy de Maupassant

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