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Chapter 17

THE FINAL PLOT


Three months had elapsed. Georges du Roy's divorce had been
obtained. His wife had resumed the name of Forestier.

As the Walters were going to Trouville on the fifteenth of July,
they decided to spend a day in the country before starting.

The day chosen was Thursday, and they set out at nine o'clock in the
morning in a large six-seated carriage drawn by four horses. They
were going to lunch at Saint-Germain. Bel-Ami had requested that he
might be the only young man in the party, for he could not bear the
presence of the Marquis de Cazolles. At the last moment, however, it
was decided that Count de Latour-Ivelin should go, for he and Rose
had been betrothed a month. The day was delightful. Georges, who was
very pale, gazed at Suzanne as they sat in the carriage and their
eyes met.

Mme. Walter was contented and happy. The luncheon was a long and
merry one. Before leaving for Paris, Du Roy proposed a walk on the
terrace. They stopped on the way to admire the view; as they passed
on, Georges and Suzanne lingered behind. The former whispered
softly: "Suzanne, I love you madly."

She whispered in return: "I love you too, Bel-Ami."

He continued: "If I cannot have you for my wife, I shall leave the
country."

She replied: "Ask papa. Perhaps he will consent."

He answered impatiently: "No, I repeat that it is useless; the door
of the house would be closed against me. I would lose my position on
the journal, and we would not even meet. Those are the consequences
a formal proposal would produce. They have promised you to the
Marquis de Cazolles; they hope you will finally say 'yes' and they
are waiting."

"What can we do?"

"Have you the courage to brave your father and mother for my sake?"

"Yes."

"Truly?"

"Yes."

"Well! There is only one way. It must come from you and not from me.
You are an indulged child; they let you say anything and are not
surprised at any audacity on your part. Listen, then! This evening
on returning home, go to your mother first, and tell her that you
want to marry me. She will be very much agitated and very angry."

Suzanne interrupted him: "Oh, mamma would be glad."

He replied quickly: "No, no, you do not know her. She will be more
vexed than your father. But you must insist, you must not yield; you
must repeat that you will marry me and me alone. Will you do so?"

"I will."

"And on leaving your mother, repeat the same thing to your father
very decidedly."

"Well, and then--"

"And then matters will reach a climax! If you are determined to be
my wife, my dear, dear, little Suzanne, I will elope with you."

She clapped her hands, as all the charming adventures in the
romances she had read occurred to her, and cried:

"Oh, what bliss! When will you elope with me?"

He whispered very low: "To-night!"

"Where shall we go?"

"That is my secret. Think well of what you are doing. Remember that
after that flight you must become my wife. It is the only means, but
it is dangerous--very dangerous--for you."

"I have decided. Where shall I meet you?"

"Meet me about midnight in the Place de la Concorde."

"I will be there."

He clasped her hand. "Oh, how I love you! How brave and good you
are! Then you do not want to marry Marquis de Cazolles?"

"Oh, no!"

Mme. Walter, turning her head, called out: "Come, little one; what
are you and Bel-Ami doing?"

They rejoined the others and returned by way of Chatou. When the
carriage arrived at the door of the mansion, Mme. Walter pressed
Georges to dine with them, but he refused, and returned home to look
over his papers and destroy any compromising letters. Then he
repaired in a cab with feverish haste to the place of meeting. He
waited there some time, and thinking his ladylove had played him
false, he was about to drive off, when a gentle voice whispered at
the door of his cab: "Are you there, Bel-Ami?"

"Is it you, Suzanne?"

"Yes."

"Ah, get in." She entered the cab and he bade the cabman drive on.

He asked: "Well, how did it all pass off?"

She murmured faintly:

"Oh, it was terrible, with mamma especially."

"Your mamma? What did she say? Tell me!"

"Oh, it was frightful! I entered her room and made the little speech
I had prepared. She turned pale and cried: 'Never!' I wept, I
protested that I would marry only you; she was like a mad woman; she
vowed I should be sent to a convent. I never saw her like that,
never. Papa, hearing her agitated words, entered. He was not as
angry as she was, but he said you were not a suitable match for me.
As they had vexed me, I talked louder than they, and papa with a
dramatic air bade me leave the room. That decided me to fly with
you. And here I am; where shall we go?"

He replied, encircling her waist with his arm: "It is too late to
take the train; this cab will take us to Sevres where we can spend
the night, and to-morrow we will leave for La Roche-Guyon. It is a
pretty village on the banks of the Seine between Mantes and
Bonnieres."

The cab rolled on. Georges took the young girl's hand and kissed it
respectfully. He did not know what to say to her, being unaccustomed
to Platonic affection. Suddenly he perceived that she was weeping.
He asked in affright:

"What ails you, my dear little one?"

She replied tearfully: "I was thinking that poor mamma could not
sleep if she had found out that I was gone!"

* * * * * * *

Her mother indeed was not asleep.

When Suzanne left the room, Mine. Walter turned to her husband and
asked in despair: "What does that mean?"

"It means that that intriguer has influenced her. It is he who has
made her refuse Cazolles. You have flattered and cajoled him, too.
It was Bel-Ami here, Bel-Ami there, from morning until night. Now
you are paid for it!"

"I?"

"Yes, you. You are as much infatuated with him as Madeleine,
Suzanne, and the rest of them. Do you think that I did not see that
you could not exist for two days without him?"

She rose tragically: "I will not allow you to speak to me thus. You
forget that I was not brought up like you, in a shop."

With an oath, he left the room, banging the door behind him.

When he was gone, she thought over all that had taken place. Suzanne
was in love with Bel-Ami, and Bel-Ami wanted to marry Suzanne! No,
it was not true! She was mistaken; he would not be capable of such
an action; he knew nothing of Suzanne's escapade. They would take
Suzanne away for six months and that would end it.

She rose, saying: "I cannot rest in this uncertainty. I shall lose
my reason. I will arouse Suzanne and question her."

She proceeded to her daughter's room. She entered; it was empty; the
bed had not been slept in. A horrible suspicion possessed her and
she flew to her husband. He was in bed, reading.

She gasped: "Have you seen Suzanne?"

"No--why?"

"She is--gone! she is not in her room."

With one bound he was out of bed; he rushed to his daughter's room;
not finding her there, he sank into a chair. His wife had followed
him.

"Well?" she asked.

He had not the strength to reply: he was no longer angry; he
groaned: "He has her--we are lost."

"Lost, how?"

"Why, he must marry her now!"

She cried wildly: "Marry her, never! Are you mad?"

He replied sadly: "It will do no good to yell! He has disgraced her.
The best thing to be done is to give her to him, and at once, too;
then no one will know of this escapade."

She repeated in great agitation: "Never; he shall never have
Suzanne."

Overcome, Walter murmured: "But he has her. And he will keep her as
long as we do not yield; therefore, to avoid a scandal we must do so
at once."

But his wife replied: "No, no, I will never consent."

Impatiently he returned: "It is a matter of necessity. Ah, the
scoundrel--how he has deceived us! But he is shrewd at any rate. She
might have done better as far as position, but not intelligence and
future, is concerned. He is a promising young man. He will be a
deputy or a minister some day."

Mme. Walter, however, repeated wildly: "I will never let him marry
Suzanne! Do you hear--never!"

In his turn he became incensed, and like a practical man defended
Bel-Ami. "Be silent! I tell you he must marry her! And who knows?
Perhaps we shall not regret it! With men of his stamp one never
knows what may come about. You saw how he downed Laroche-Mathieu in
three articles, and that with a dignity which was very difficult to
maintain in his position as husband. So, we shall see."

Mme. Walter felt a desire to cry aloud and tear her hair. But she
only repeated angrily: "He shall not have her!"

Walter rose, took up his lamp, and said: "You are silly, like all
women! You only act on impulse. You do not know how to accommodate
yourself to circumstances. You are stupid! I tell you he shall marry
her; it is essential." And he left the room.

Mme. Walter remained alone with her suffering, her despair. If only
a priest were at hand! She would cast herself at his feet and
confess all her errors and her agony--he would prevent the marriage!
Where could she find a priest? Where should she turn? Before her
eyes floated, like a vision, the calm face of "Christ Walking on the
Water," as she had seen it in the painting. He seemed to say to her:
"Come unto Me. Kneel at My feet. I will comfort and instruct you as
to what to do."

She took the lamp and sought the conservatory; she opened the door
leading into the room which held the enormous canvas, and fell upon
her knees before it. At first she prayed fervently, but as she
raised her eyes and saw the resemblance to Bel-Ami, she murmured:
"Jesus--Jesus--" while her thoughts were with her daughter and her
lover. She uttered a wild cry, as she pictured them together--alone-
-and fell into a swoon. When day broke they found Mme. Walter still
lying unconscious before the painting. She was so ill, after that,
that her life was almost despaired of.

M. Walter explained his daughter's absence to the servants by saying
to them that she had been sent to a convent for a short time. Then
he replied to a long letter from Du Roy, giving his consent to his
marriage with his daughter. Bel-Ami had posted that epistle when he
left Paris, having prepared it the night of his departure. In it he
said in respectful terms that he had loved the young girl a long
time; that there had never been any understanding between them, but
that as she came to him to say: "I will be your wife," he felt
authorized in keeping her, in hiding her, in fact, until he had
obtained a reply from her parents, whose wishes were to him of more
value than those of his betrothed.

Georges and Suzanne spent a week at La Roche-Guyon. Never had the
young girl enjoyed herself so thoroughly. As she passed for his
sister, they lived in a chaste and free intimacy, a kind of living
companionship. He thought it wiser to treat her with respect, and
when he said to her: "We will return to Paris to-morrow; your father
has bestowed your hand upon me" she whispered naively: "Already?
This is just as pleasant as being your wife."

Guy de Maupassant

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