Bel Ami, by Guy de Maupassant

Chapter 4

Duroy Learns Something

Georges Duroy did not sleep well, so anxious was he to see his article in print. He rose at daybreak, and was on the street long before the newsboys. When he secured a paper and saw his name at the end of a column in large letters, he became very much excited. He felt inclined to enact the part of a newsboy and cry out to the hurrying throng: “Buy this! it contains an article by me!” He strolled along to a cafe and seated himself in order to read the article through; that done he decided to go to the railroad office, draw his salary, and hand in his resignation.

With great pomposity he informed the chief clerk that he was on the staff of “La Vie Francaise,” and by that means was avenged for many petty insults which had been offered him. He then had some cards written with his new calling beneath his name, made several purchases, and repaired to the office of “La Vie Francaise.” Forestier received him loftily as one would an inferior.

“Ah, here you are! Very well; I have several things for you to do. Just wait ten minutes till I finish this work.” He continued writing.

At the other end of the table sat a short, pale man, very stout and bald. Forestier asked him, when his letter was completed, “Saint- Potin, at what time shall you interview those people?”

“At four o’clock.”

“Take Duroy, who is here, with you and initiate him into the business.”

“Very well.”

Then turning to his friend, Forestier added: “Have you brought the other paper on Algeria? The article this morning was very successful.”

Duroy stammered: “No, I thought I should have time this afternoon. I had so much to do — I could not.”

The other shrugged his shoulders. “If you are not more careful, you will spoil your future. M. Walter counted on your copy. I will tell him it will be ready to-morrow. If you think you will be paid for doing nothing, you are mistaken.” After a pause, he added: “You should strike while the iron is hot.”

Saint-Potin rose: “I am ready,” said he.

Forestier turned around in his chair and said, to Duroy: “Listen. The Chinese general Li-Theng-Fao, stopping at the Continental, and Rajah Taposahib Ramaderao Pali, stopping at Hotel Bishop, have been in Paris two days. You must interview them.” Addressing Saint-Potin, he said: “Do not forget the principal points I indicated to you. Ask the general and the rajah their opinions on the dealings of England in the extreme East, their ideas of their system of colonization and government, their hopes relative to the intervention of Europe and of France in particular.” To Duroy he said: “Observe what Saint- Potin says; he is an excellent reporter, and try to learn how to draw out a man in five minutes.” Then he resumed his work.

The two men walked down the boulevard together, while Saint-Potin gave Duroy a sketch of all the officials connected with the paper, sparing no one in his criticism. When he mentioned Forestier, he said: “As for him, he was fortunate in marrying his wife.”

Duroy asked: “What about his wife?”

Saint-Potin rubbed his hands. “Oh, she is beloved by an old fellow named Vaudrec — he dotes upon her.”

Duroy felt as if he would like to box Saint-Potin’s ears. To change the subject he said: “It seems to me that it is late, and we have two noble lords to call upon!”

Saint-Potin laughed: “You are very innocent! Do you think that I am going to interview that Chinese and that Indian? As if I did not know better than they do what they should think to please the readers of ‘La Vie Francaise’! I have interviewed five hundred Chinese, Prussians, Hindoos, Chilians, and Japanese. They all say the same thing. I need only copy my article on the last comer, word for word, changing the heading, names, titles, and ages: in that there must be no error, or I shall be hauled over the coals by the ‘Figaro’ or ‘Gaulois.’ But on that subject the porter of the hotels will post me in five minutes. We will smoke our cigars and stroll in that direction. Total — one hundred sous for cabfare. That is the way, my dear fellow.”

When they arrived at the Madeleine, Saint-Potin said to his companion: “If you have anything to do, I do not need you.”

Duroy shook hands with him and walked away. The thought of the article he had to write that evening haunted him. Mentally he collected the material as he wended his way to the cafe at which he dined. Then he returned home and seated himself at his table to work. Before his eyes was the sheet of blank paper, but all the material he had amassed had escaped him. After trying for an hour, and after filling five pages with sentences which had no connection one with the other, he said: “I am not yet familiar with the work. I must take another lesson.”

At ten o’clock the following morning he rang the bell, at his friend’s house. The servant who opened the door, said: “Monsieur is busy.”

Duroy had not expected to find Forestier at home. However he said: “Tell him it is M. Duroy on important business.”

In the course of five minutes he was ushered into the room in which he had spent so happy a morning. In the place Mme. Forestier had occupied, her husband was seated writing, while Mme. Forestier stood by the mantelpiece and dictated to him, a cigarette between her lips.

Duroy paused upon the threshold and murmured: “I beg your pardon, I am interrupting you.”

His friend growled angrily: “What do you want again? Make haste; we are busy.”

Georges stammered: “It is nothing.”

But Forestier persisted: “Come, we are losing time; you did not force your way into the house for the pleasure of bidding us good morning.”

Duroy, in confusion, replied: “No, it is this: I cannot complete my article, and you were — so — so kind the last time that I hoped — that I dared to come —”

Forestier interrupted with: “So you think I will do your work and that you have only to take the money. Well, that is fine!” His wife smoked on without interfering.

Duroy hesitated: “Excuse me. I believed — I— thought —” Then, in a clear voice, he said: “I beg a thousand pardons, Madame, and thank you very much for the charming article you wrote for me yesterday.” Then he bowed, and said to Charles: “I will be at the office at three o’clock.”

He returned home saying to himself: “Very well, I will write it alone and they shall see.” Scarcely had he entered than he began to write, anger spurring him on. In an hour he had finished an article, which was a chaos of absurd matter, and took it boldly to the office. Duroy handed Forestier his manuscript. “Here is the rest of Algeria.”

“Very well, I will hand it to the manager. That will do.”

When Duroy and Saint-Potin, who had some political information to look up, were in the hall, the latter asked: “Have you been to the cashier’s room?”

“No, why?”

“Why? To get your pay? You should always get your salary a month in advance. One cannot tell what might happen. I will introduce you to the cashier.”

Duroy drew his two hundred francs together with twenty-eight francs for his article of the preceding day, which, in addition to what remained to him of his salary from the railroad office, left him three hundred and forty francs. He had never had so much, and he thought himself rich for an indefinite time. Saint-Potin took him to the offices of four or five rival papers, hoping that the news he had been commissioned to obtain had been already received by them and that he could obtain it by means of his diplomacy.

When evening came, Duroy, who had nothing more to do, turned toward the Folies-Bergeres, and walking up to the office, he said: “My name is Georges Duroy. I am on the staff of ‘La Vie Francaise.’ I was here the other night with M. Forestier, who promised to get me a pass. I do not know if he remembered it.”

The register was consulted, but his name was not inscribed upon it. However, the cashier, a very affable man, said to him: “Come in, M. Duroy, and speak to the manager yourself; he will see that everything is all right.”

He entered and almost at once came upon Rachel, the woman he had seen there before. She approached him: “Good evening, my dear; are you well?”

“Very well; how are you?”

“I am not ill. I have dreamed of you twice since the other night.”

Duroy smiled. “What does that mean?”

“That means that I like you”; she raised her eyes to the young man’s face, took his arm and leaning upon it, said: “Let us drink a glass of wine and then take a walk. I should like to go to the opera like this, with you, to show you off.”

* * * * * * *

At daybreak he again sallied forth to obtain a “Vie Francaise.” He opened the paper feverishly; his article was not there. On entering the office several hours later, he said to M. Walter: “I was very much surprised this morning not to see my second article on Algeria.”

The manager raised his head and said sharply: “I gave it to your friend, Forestier, and asked him to read it; he was dissatisfied with it; it will have to be done over.”

Without a word, Duroy left the room, and entering his friend’s office, brusquely asked: “Why did not my article appear this morning?”

The journalist, who was smoking a cigar, said calmly: “The manager did not consider it good, and bade me return it to you to be revised. There it is.” Duroy revised it several times, only to have it rejected. He said nothing more of his “souvenirs,” but gave his whole attention to reporting. He became acquainted behind the scenes at the theaters, and in the halls and corridors of the chamber of deputies; he knew all the cabinet ministers, generals, police agents, princes, ambassadors, men of the world, Greeks, cabmen, waiters at cafes, and many others. In short he soon became a remarkable reporter, of great value to the paper, so M. Walter said. But as he only received ten centimes a line in addition to his fixed salary of two hundred francs and as his expenses were large, he never had a sou. When he saw certain of his associates with their pockets full of money, he wondered what secret means they employed in order to obtain it. He determined to penetrate that mystery, to enter into the association, to obtrude himself upon his comrades, and make them share with him. Often at evening, as he watched the trains pass his window, he dreamed of the conduct he might pursue.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09