He certainly regretted his two years in the desert.
What a pity he had not stopped there.
But, then, he had hoped something better in returning home.
And now--ah! yes, it was very nice now, was it not?
He clicked his tongue as if to verify the parched state of his palate.
The crowd swept past him slowly, and he kept thinking. "Set of hogs--all these idiots have money in their waistcoat pockets." He pushed against people and softly whistled a lively tune.
Gentlemen whom he thus elbowed turned grumbling, and women murmured:
"What a brute!"
He passed the Vaudeville Theater and stopped before the American cafe, asking himself whether he should not take his bock, so greatly did thirst torture him.
Before making up his mind, he glanced at the illuminated clock.
It was a quarter past nine.
He knew himself that as soon as the glassful of beer was before him he would gulp it down.
What would he do then up to eleven o'clock?
He passed on. "I will go as far as the Madeleine," he said, "and walk back slowly."
As he reached the corner of the Palace de l'Opera, he passed a stout young fellow, whose face he vaguely recollected having seen somewhere.
He began to follow him, turning over his recollections and repeating to himself half-aloud:
"Where the deuce did I know that joker?"
He searched without being able to recollect, and then all at once, by a strange phenomenon of memory, the same man appeared to him thinner, younger, and clad in a hussar uniform.
He exclaimed aloud: "What, Forestier!" and stepping out he tapped the other on the shoulder.
The promenader turned round and looked at him, and then said:
"What is it, sir?"
Duroy broke into a laugh.
"Don't you know me?" said he.
"George Duroy, of the 6th Hussars."
Forestier held out his hands, exclaiming:
"What, old fellow!
How are you?"
"Very well, and you?"
"Oh, not very brilliant!
Just fancy, I have a chest in brown paper now. I cough six months out of twelve, through a cold I caught at Bougival the year of my return to Paris, four years ago."
And Forestier, taking his old comrade's arm, spoke to him of his illness, related the consultations, opinions, and advice of the doctors, and the difficulty of following this advice in his position.
He was told to spend the winter in the South, but how could he?
He was married, and a journalist in a good position.
"I am political editor of the _Vie Francaise_.
I write the proceedings in the Senate for the _Salut_, and from time to time literary criticisms for the _Planete_.
That is so. I have made my way."
Duroy looked at him with surprise.
He was greatly changed, matured.
He had now the manner, bearing, and dress of a man in a good position and sure of himself, and the stomach of a man who dines well.
Formerly he had been thin, slight, supple, heedless, brawling, noisy, and always ready for a spree.
In three years Paris had turned him into someone quite different, stout and serious, and with some white hairs about his temples, though he was not more than twenty-seven.
Forestier asked: "Where are you going?"
Duroy answered: "Nowhere; I am just taking a stroll before turning in."
"Well, will you come with me to the _Vie Francaise_, where I have some proofs to correct, and then we will take a bock together?"
They began to walk on, arm-in-arm, with that easy familiarity existing between school-fellows and men in the same regiment.
"What are you doing in Paris?" asked Forestier.
Duroy shrugged his shoulders.