THE FIRST INTRIGUE
Two months elapsed. It was September. The fortune which Duroy had
hoped to make so rapidly seemed to him slow in coming. Above all he
was dissatisfied with the mediocrity of his position; he was
appreciated, but was treated according to his rank. Forestier
himself no longer invited him to dinner, and treated him as an
inferior. Often he had thought of making Mme. Forestier a visit, but
the remembrance of their last meeting restrained him. Mme. de
Marelle had invited him to call, saying: "I am always at home about
three o'clock." So one afternoon, when he had nothing to do, he
proceeded toward her house. She lived on Rue Verneuil, on the fourth
floor. A maid answered his summons, and said: "Yes, Madame is at
home, but I do not know whether she has risen." She conducted Duroy
into the drawing-room, which was large, poorly furnished, and
somewhat untidy. The shabby, threadbare chairs were ranged along the
walls according to the servant's fancy, for there was not a trace
visible of the care of a woman who loves her home. Duroy took a seat
and waited some time. Then a door opened and Mme. de Marelle entered
hastily, clad in a Japanese dressing-gown. She exclaimed:
"How kind of you to come to see me. I was positive you had forgotten
me." She held out her hand to him with a gesture of delight; and
Duroy, quite at his ease in that shabby apartment, kissed it as he
had seen Norbert de Varenne do.
Examining him from head to foot, she cried: "How you have changed!
Well; tell me the news."
They began to chat at once as if they were old acquaintances, and in
five minutes an intimacy, a mutual understanding, was established
between those two beings alike in character and kind. Suddenly the
young woman said in surprise: "It is astonishing how I feel with
you. It seems to me as if I had known you ten years. We shall
undoubtedly become good friends; would that please you?"
He replied: "Certainly," with a smile more expressive than words. He
thought her very bewitching in her pretty gown. When near Mme.
Forestier, whose impassive, gracious smile attracted yet held at a
distance, and seemed to say: "I like you, yet take care," he felt a
desire to cast himself at her feet, or to kiss the hem of her
garment. When near Mme. de Marelle, he felt a more passionate
A gentle rap came at the door through which Mme. de Marelle had
entered, and she cried: "You may come in, my darling."
The child entered, advanced to Duroy and offered him her hand. The
astonished mother murmured: "That is a conquest." The young man,
having kissed the child, seated her by his side, and with a serious
air questioned her as to what she had done since they last met. She
replied in a flute-like voice and with the manner of a woman. The
clock struck three; the journalist rose.
"Come often," said Mme. de Marelle; "it has been a pleasant
causerie. I shall always be glad to welcome you. Why do I never meet
you at the Forestiers?"
"For no particular reason. I am very busy. I hope, however, that we
shall meet there one of these days."
In the course of a few days he paid another visit to the
enchantress. The maid ushered him into the drawing-room and Laurine
soon entered; she offered him not her hand but her forehead, and
said: "Mamma wishes me to ask you to wait for her about fifteen
minutes, for she is not dressed. I will keep you company."
Duroy, who was amused at the child's ceremonious manner, replied:
"Indeed, Mademoiselle, I shall be enchanted to spend a quarter of an
hour with you." When the mother entered they were in the midst of an
exciting game, and Mme. de Marelle paused in amazement, crying:
"Laurine playing? You are a sorcerer, sir!" He placed the child,
whom he had caught in his arms, upon the floor, kissed the lady's
hand, and they seated themselves, the child between them. They tried
to converse, but Laurine, usually so silent, monopolized the
conversation, and her mother was compelled to send her to her room.
When they were alone, Mme. de Marelle lowered her voice and said: "I
have a great project. It is this: As I dine every week at the
Foresters', I return it from time to time by inviting them to a
restaurant. I do not like to have company at home; I am not so
situated that I can have any. I know nothing about housekeeping or
cooking. I prefer a life free from care; therefore I invite them to
the cafe occasionally; but it is not lively when we are only three.
I am telling you this in order to explain such an informal
gathering. I should like you to be present at our Saturdays at the
Cafe Riche at seven-thirty. Do you know the house?"
Duroy accepted gladly. He left her in a transport of delight and
impatiently awaited the day of the dinner. He was the first to
arrive at the place appointed and was shown into a small private
room, in which the table was laid for four; that table looked very
inviting with its colored glasses, silver, and candelabra.
Duroy seated himself upon a low bench. Forestier entered and shook
hands with him with a cordiality he never evinced at the office.
"The two ladies will come together," said he. "These dinners are
Very soon the door opened and Mesdames Forestier and De Marelle
appeared, heavily veiled, surrounded by the charming mystery
necessary to a rendezvous in a place so public. As Duroy greeted the
former, she took him to task for not having been to see her; then
she added with a smile: "Ah, you prefer Mme. de Marelle; the time
passes more pleasantly with her."
When the waiter handed the wine-list to Forestier, Mme. de Marelle
exclaimed: "Bring the gentle-men whatever they want; as for us, we
want nothing but champagne."
Forestier, who seemed not to have heard her, asked: "Do you object
to my closing the window? My cough has troubled me for several
"Not at all."
His wife did not speak. The various courses were duly served and
then the guests began to chat. They discussed a scandal which was
being circulated about a society belle. Forestier was very much
amused by it. Duroy said with a smile: "How many would abandon
themselves to a caprice, a dream of love, if they did not fear that
they would pay for a brief happiness with tears and an irremediable
Both women glanced at him approvingly. Forestier cried with a
sceptical laugh: "The poor husbands!" Then they talked of love.
Duroy said: "When I love a woman, everything else in the world is
Mme. Forestier murmured:, "There is no happiness comparable to that
first clasp of the hand, when one asks: 'Do you love me?' and the
other replies: 'Yes, I love you.'" Mme. de Marelle cried gaily as
she drank a glass of champagne: "I am less Platonic."
Forestier, lying upon the couch, said in serious tone: "That
frankness does you honor and proves you to be a practical woman. But
might one ask, what is M. de Marelle's opinion?"
She shrugged her shoulders disdainfully and said: "M. de Marelle has
no opinion on that subject."
The conversation grew slow. Mme. de Marelle seemed to offer
provocation by her remarks, while Mme. Forestier's charming reserve,
the modesty in her voice, in her smile, all seemed to extenuate the
bold sallies which issued from her lips. The dessert came and then
followed the coffee. The hostess and her guests lighted cigarettes,
but Forestier suddenly began to cough. When the attack was over, he
growled angrily: "These parties are not good for me; they are
stupid. Let us go home."
Mme. de Marelle summoned the waiter and asked for her bill. She
tried to read it, but the figures danced before her eyes; she handed
the paper to Duroy.
"Here, pay it for me; I cannot see." At the same time, she put her
purse in his hand.
The total was one hundred and thirty francs. Duroy glanced at the
bill and when it was settled, whispered: "How much shall I give the
"Whatever you like; I do not know."
He laid five francs upon the plate and handed the purse to its
owner, saying: "Shall I escort you home?"
"Certainly; I am unable to find the house."
They shook hands with the Forestiers and were soon rolling along in
a cab side by side. Duroy could think of nothing to say; he felt
impelled to clasp her in his arms. "If I should dare, what would she
do?" thought he. The recollection of their conversation at dinner
emboldened, but the fear of scandal restrained him. Mme. de Marelle
reclined silently in her corner. He would have thought her asleep,
had he not seen her eyes glisten whenever a ray of light penetrated
the dark recesses of the carriage. Of what was she thinking?
Suddenly she moved her foot, nervously, impatiently. That movement
caused him to tremble, and turning quickly, he cast himself upon
her, seeking her lips with his. She uttered a cry, attempted to
repulse him and then yielded to his caresses as if she had not the
strength to resist.
The carriage stopped at her door, but she did not rise; she did not
move, stunned by what had just taken place. Fearing that the cabman
would mistrust something, Duroy alighted from the cab first and
offered his hand to the young woman. Finally she got out, but in
silence. Georges rang the bell, and when the door was opened, he
asked timidly: "When shall I see you again?"
She whispered so low that he could barely hear her: "Come and lunch
with me to-morrow." With those words she disappeared.
Duroy gave the cabman a five-franc piece, and turned away with a
triumphant, joyful air. He had at last conquered a married woman! A
woman of the world! A Parisian! How easy it had been!
He was somewhat nervous the following day as he ascended Mme. de
Marelle's staircase. How would she receive him? Suppose she forbade
him to enter her house? If she had told--but no, she could not tell
anything without telling the whole truth! He was master of the
The little maid-servant opened the door. She was as pleasant as
usual. Duroy felt reassured and asked: "Is Madame well?"
"Yes, sir; as well as she always is," was the reply, and he was
ushered into the salon. He walked to the mantelpiece to see what
kind of an appearance he presented: he was readjusting his cravat
when he saw in the mirror the young woman standing on the threshold
looking at him. He pretended not to have seen her, and for several
moments they gazed at one another in the mirror. Then he turned. She
had not moved; she seemed to be waiting. He rushed toward her
crying: "How I love you!" He clasped her to his breast. He thought:
"It is easier than I thought it would be. All is well." He looked at
her with a smile, without uttering a word, trying to put into his
glance a wealth of love. She too smiled and murmured: "We are alone.
I sent Laurine to lunch with a friend."
He sighed, and kissing her wrists said: "Thanks; I adore you." She
took his arm as if he had been her husband, and led him to a couch,
upon which they seated themselves side by side. Duroy stammered,
incoherently: "You do not care for me."
She laid her hand upon his lips. "Be silent!"
"How I love you!" said he.
She repeated: "Be silent!"
They could hear the servant laying the table in the dining-room. He
rose: "I cannot sit so near you. I shall lose my head."
The door opened: "Madame is served!"
He offered her his arm gravely. They lunched without knowing what
they were eating. The servant came and went without seeming to
notice anything. When the meal was finished, they returned to the
drawing-room and resumed their seats on the couch side by side.
Gradually he drew nearer her and tried to embrace her.
"Be careful, some one might come in."
He whispered: "When can I see you alone to tell you how I love you?"
She leaned toward him and said softly: "I will pay you a visit one
of these days."
He colored. "My rooms--are--are--very modest."
She smiled: "That makes no difference. I shall come to see you and
not your rooms."
He urged her to tell him when she would come. She fixed a day in the
following week, while he besought her with glowing eyes to hasten
the day. She was amused to see him implore so ardently and yielded a
day at a time. He repeated: "To-morrow, say--to-morrow." Finally she
consented. "Yes, to-morrow at five o'clock."
He drew a deep breath; then they chatted together as calmly as if
they had known one another for twenty years. A ring caused them to
start; they separated. She murmured: "It is Laurine."
The child entered, paused in surprise, then ran toward Duroy
clapping her hands, delighted to see him, and crying: "Ah, 'Bel-
Mme. de Marelle laughed. "Bel-Ami! Laurine has christened you. It is
a pretty name. I shall call you Bel-Ami, too!"
He took the child upon his knee. At twenty minutes of three he rose
to go to the office; at the half-open door he whispered: "To-morrow,
five o'clock." The young woman replied: "Yes," with a smile and
After he had finished his journalistic work, he tried to render his
apartments more fit to receive his expected visitor. He was well
satisfied with the results of his efforts and retired, lulled to
rest by the whistling of the trains. Early the next morning he
bought a cake and a bottle of Madeira. He spread the collation on
his dressing-table which was covered with a napkin. Then he waited.
She came at a quarter past five and exclaimed as she entered: "Why,
it is nice here. But there were a great many people on the stairs."
He took her in his arms and kissed her hair. An hour and a half
later he escorted her to a cab-stand on the Rue de Rome. When she
was seated in the cab, he whispered: "Tuesday, at the same hour."
She repeated his words, and as it was night, she kissed him. Then as
the cabman started up his horse, she cried:" Adieu, Bel-Ami!" and
the old coupe rumbled off.
For three weeks Duroy received Mme. de Marelle every two or three
days, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening.
As he was awaiting her one afternoon, a noise on the staircase drew
him to his door. A child screamed. A man's angry voice cried: "What
is the brat howling about?"
A woman's voice replied: "Nicolas has been tripped up on the
landing-place by the journalist's sweetheart."
Duroy retreated, for he heard the rustling of skirts. Soon there was
a knock at his door, which he opened, and Mme. de Marelle rushed in,
crying: "Did you hear?" Georges feigned ignorance of the matter.
"How they insulted me?"
"Those miserable people below."
"Why, no; what is it? Tell me."
She sobbed and could not speak. He was forced to place her upon his
bed and to lay a damp cloth upon her temples. When she grew calmer,
anger succeeded her agitation. She wanted Duroy to go downstairs at
once, to fight them, to kill them.
He replied: "They are working-people. Just think, it would be
necessary to go to court where you would be recognized; one must not
compromise oneself with such people."
She said: "What shall we do? I cannot come here again."
He replied: "That is very simple. I will move."
She murmured: "Yes, but that will take some time."
Suddenly she said: "Listen to me, I have found a means; do not worry
about it. I will send you a 'little blue' to-morrow morning." She
called a telegram a "little blue."
She smiled with delight at her plans, which she would not reveal.
She was, however, very much affected as she descended the staircase
and leaned with all her strength upon her lover's arm. They met no
He was still in bed the following morning when the promised telegram
was handed him. Duroy opened it and read:
"Come at five o'clock to Rue de Constantinople, No. 127. Ask
for the room rented by Mme. Duroy. CLO."
At five o'clock precisely he entered a large furnished house and
asked the janitor: "Has Mme. Duroy hired a room here?"
"Will you show me to it, if you please?"
The man, accustomed no doubt to situations in which it was necessary
to be prudent, looked him straight in the eyes; then selecting a
key, he asked: "Are you M. Duroy?"
He opened a small suite, comprising two rooms on the ground floor.
Duroy thought uneasily: "This will cost a fortune. I shall have to
run into debt. She has done a very foolish thing."
The door opened and Clotilde rushed in. She was enchanted. "Is it
not fine? There are no stairs to climb; it is on the ground floor!
One could come and go through the window without the porter seeing
He embraced her nervously, not daring to ask the question that
hovered upon his lips. She had placed a large package on the stand
in the center of the room. Opening it she took out a tablet of soap,
a bottle of Lubin's extract, a sponge, a box of hairpins, a button-
hook, and curling-tongs. Then she amused herself by finding places
in which to put them.
She talked incessantly as she opened the drawers: "I must bring some
linen in order to have a change. We shall each have a key, besides
the one at the lodge, in case we should forget ours. I rented the
apartments for three months--in your name, of course, for I could
not give mine."
Then he asked: "Will you tell me when to pay?"
She replied simply: "It is paid, my dear."
He made a pretense of being angry: "I cannot permit that."
She laid her hand upon his shoulder and said in a supplicatory tone:
"Georges, it will give me pleasure to have the nest mine. Say that
you do not care, dear Georges," and he yielded. When she had left
him, he murmured: "She is kind-hearted, anyway."
Several days later he received a telegram which read:
"My husband is coming home this evening. We shall therefore not
meet for a week. What a bore, my dearest!"
Duroy was startled; he had not realized the fact that Mme. de
Marelle was married. He impatiently awaited her husband's departure.
One morning he received the following telegram:
When they met, she rushed into his arms, kissed him passionately,
and asked: "After a while will you take me to dine?"
"Certainly, my darling, wherever you wish to go."
"I should like to go to some restaurant frequented by the working-
They repaired to a wine merchant's where meals were also served.
Clotilde's entrance caused a sensation on account of the elegance of
her dress. They partook of a ragout of mutton and left that place to
enter a ball-room in which she pressed more closely to his side. In
fifteen minutes her curiosity was satisfied and he conducted her
home. Then followed a series of visits to all sorts of places of
amusement. Duroy soon began to tire of those expeditions, for he had
exhausted all his resources and all means of obtaining money. In
addition to that he owed Forestier a hundred francs, Jacques Rival
three hundred, and he was hampered with innumerable petty debts
ranging from twenty francs to one hundred sous.
On the fourteenth of December, he was left without a sou in his
pocket. As he had often done before, he did not lunch, and spent the
afternoon working at the office. At four o'clock he received a
telegram from Mme. de Marelle, saying: "Shall we dine together and
afterward have a frolic?"
He replied at once: "Impossible to dine," then he added: "But I will
expect you at our apartments at nine o'clock." Having sent a boy
with the note in order to save the money for a telegram, he tried to
think of some way by which he could obtain his evening meal. He
waited until all of his associates had gone and when he was alone,
he rang for the porter, put his hand in his pocket and said:
"Foucart, I have left my purse at home and I have to dine at the
Luxembourg. Lend me fifty sous to pay for my cab."
The man handed him three francs and asked:
"Is that enough?"
"Yes, thank you." Taking the coins, Duroy rushed down the staircase
and dined at a cookshop.
At nine o'clock, Mme. de Marelle, whom he awaited in the tiny salon,
arrived. She wished to take a walk and he objected. His opposition
"I shall go alone, then. Adieu!"
Seeing that the situation was becoming grave, he seized her hands
and kissed them, saying:
"Pardon me, darling; I am nervous and out of sorts this evening. I
have been annoyed by business matters."
Somewhat appeased but still, vexed, she replied:
"That does not concern me; I will not be the butt for your ill
He clasped her in his arms and murmured his apologies. Still she
persisted in her desire to go out.
"I beseech you, remain here by the fire with me. Say yes."
"No," she replied, "I will not yield to your caprices."
He insisted: "I have a reason, a serious reason--"
"If you will not go with me, I shall go alone. Adieu!"
She disengaged herself from his embrace and fled to the door. He
"Listen Clo, my little Clo, listen to me--"
She shook her head, evaded his caresses and tried to escape from his
"I have a reason--"
Looking him in the face, she said: "You lie! What is it?"
He colored, and in order to avoid a rupture, confessed in accents of
despair: "I have no money!"
She would not believe him until he had turned all his pockets inside
out, to prove his words. Then she fell upon his breast: "Oh, my poor
darling! Had I known! How did it happen?"
He invented a touching story to this effect: That his father was in
straitened circumstances, that he had given him not only his
savings, but had run himself into debt.
"I shall have to starve for the next six months."
"Shall I lend you some?" she whispered.
He replied with dignity: "You are very kind, dearest; but do not
mention that again; it wounds me."
She murmured: "You will never know how much I love you." On taking
leave of him, she asked: "Shall we meet again the day after to-
"At the same time?"
"Yes, my darling."
When Duroy opened his bedroom door and fumbled in his vest pocket
for a match, he was amazed to find in it a piece of money--a twenty-
franc piece! At first he wondered by what miracle it had got there;
suddenly it occurred to him that Mme. de Marelle had given him alms!
Angry and humiliated, he determined to return it when next they met.
The next morning it was late when he awoke; he tried to overcome his
hunger. He went out and as he passed the restaurants he could
scarcely resist their temptations. At noon he said: "Bah, I shall
lunch upon Clotilde's twenty francs; that will not hinder me from
returning the money to-morrow."
He ate his lunch, for which he paid two francs fifty, and on
entering the office of "La Vie Francaise" he repaid the porter the
three francs he had borrowed from him. He worked until seven
o'clock, then he dined, and he continued to draw upon the twenty
francs until only four francs twenty remained. He decided to say to
Mme. de Marelle upon her arrival:
"I found the twenty-franc piece you slipped into my pocket. I will
not return the money to-day, but I will repay you when we next
When Madame came, he dared not broach the delicate subject. They
spent the evening together and appointed their next meeting for
Wednesday of the following week, for Mme. de Marelle had a number of
engagements. Duroy continued to accept money from Clotilde and
quieted his conscience by assuring himself: "I will give it back in
a lump. It is nothing but borrowed money anyway." So he kept account
of all that he received in order to pay it back some day.
One evening, Mme. de Marelle said to him: "Would you believe that I
have never been to the Folies-Bergeres; will you take me there?"
He hesitated, fearing a meeting with Rachel. Then he thought: "Bah,
I am not married after all. If she should see me, she would take in
the situation and not accost me. Moreover, we would have a box."
When they entered the hall, it was crowded; with difficulty they
made their way to their seats. Mme. de Marelle did not look at the
stage; she was interested in watching the women who were
promenading, and she felt an irresistible desire to touch them, to
see of what those beings were made. Suddenly she said:
"There is a large brunette who stares at us all the time. I think
every minute she will speak to us. Have you seen her?"
He replied: "No, you are mistaken."
He told an untruth, for he had noticed the woman, who was no other
than Rachel, with anger in her eyes and violent words upon her lips.
Duroy had passed her when he and Mme. de Marelle entered and she had
said to him: "Good evening," in a low voice and with a wink which
said "I understand." But he had not replied; for fear of being seen
by his sweetheart he passed her coldly, disdainfully. The woman, her
jealousy aroused, followed the couple and said in a louder key:
"Good evening, Georges." He paid no heed to her. Then she was
determined to be recognized and she remained near their box,
awaiting a favorable moment. When she saw that she was observed by
Mme. de Marelle, she touched Duroy's shoulder with the tip of her
finger, and said:
"Good evening. How are you?"
But Georges did not turn his head.
She continued: "Have you grown deaf since Thursday?"
Still he did not reply. She laughed angrily and cried:
"Are you dumb, too? Perhaps Madame has your tongue?"
With a furious glance, Duroy then exclaimed:
"How dare you accost me? Go along or I will have you arrested."
With flaming eyes, she cried: "Ah, is that so! Because you are with
another is no reason that you cannot recognize me. If you had made
the least sign of recognition when you passed me, I would not have
molested you. You did not even say good evening to me when you met
During that tirade Mme. de Marelle in affright opened the door of
the box and fled through the crowd seeking an exit. Duroy rushed
after her. Rachel, seeing him disappear, cried: "Stop her! she has
stolen my lover!"
Two men seized the fugitive by the shoulder, but Duroy, who had
caught up with her, bade them desist, and together he and Clotilde
reached the street.
They entered a cab. The cabman asked: "Where shall I drive to?"
Duroy replied: "Where you will!"
Clotilde sobbed hysterically. Duroy did not know what to say or do.
At length he stammered:
"Listen Clo--my dearest Clo, let me explain. It is not my fault. I
knew that woman--long ago--"
She raised her head and with the fury of a betrayed woman, she cried
disconnectedly: "Ah, you miserable fellow--what a rascal you are! Is
it possible? What disgrace, oh, my God! You gave her my money--did
you not? I gave him the money--for that woman--oh, the wretch!"
For several moments she seemed to be vainly seeking an epithet more
forcible. Suddenly leaning forward she grasped the cabman's sleeve.
"Stop!" she cried, and opening the door, she alighted. Georges was
about to follow her but she commanded: "I forbid you to follow me,"
in a voice so loud that the passers-by crowded around her, and Duroy
dared not stir for fear of a scandal.
She drew out her purse, and taking two francs fifty from it, she
handed it to the cabman, saying aloud: "Here is the money for your
hour. Take that rascal to Rue Boursault at Batignolles!"
The crowd applauded; one man said: "Bravo, little one!" and the cab
moved on, followed by the jeers of the bystanders.