The notion of the article to be written that evening worried him, and he began to think.
He stored his mind with ideas, reflections, opinions, and anecdotes as he walked along, and went as far as the end of the Avenue des Champs Elysees, where only a few strollers were to be seen, the heat having caused Paris to be evacuated.
Having dined at a wine shop near the Arc de Triomphe, he walked slowly home along the outer boulevards and sat down at his table to work.
But as soon as he had the sheet of blank paper before his eyes, all the materials that he had accumulated fled from his mind as though his brain had evaporated.
He tried to seize on fragments of his recollections and to retain them, but they escaped him as fast as he laid hold of them, or else they rushed on him altogether pell-mell, and he did not know how to clothe and present them, nor which one to begin with.
After an hour of attempts and five sheets of paper blackened by opening phrases that had no continuation, he said to himself:
"I am not yet well enough up in the business.
I must have another lesson."
And all at once the prospect of another morning's work with Madame Forestier, the hope of another long and intimate _tete-a-tete_ so cordial and so pleasant, made him quiver with desire.
He went to bed in a hurry, almost afraid now of setting to work again and succeeding all at once.
He did not get up the next day till somewhat late, putting off and tasting in advance the pleasure of this visit.
It was past ten when he rang his friend's bell.
The man-servant replied: "Master is engaged at his work."
Duroy had not thought that the husband might be at home.
He insisted, however, saying:
"Tell him that I have called on a matter requiring immediate attention."
After waiting five minutes he was shown into the study in which he had passed such a pleasant morning.
In the chair he had occupied Forestier was now seated writing, in a dressing-gown and slippers and with a little Scotch bonnet on his head, while his wife in the same white gown leant against the mantelpiece and dictated, cigarette in mouth.
Duroy, halting on the threshold, murmured:
"I really beg your pardon; I am afraid I am disturbing you."
His friend, turning his face towards him--an angry face, too--growled: "What is it you want now?
Be quick; we are pressed for time."
The intruder, taken back, stammered: "It is nothing; I beg your pardon."
But Forestier, growing angry, exclaimed:
"Come, hang it all, don't waste time about it; you have not forced your way in just for the sake of wishing us good-morning, I suppose?"
Then Duroy, greatly perturbed, made up his mind. "No--you see--the fact is--I can't quite manage my article--and you were--so--so kind last time--that I hoped--that I ventured to come--"
Forestier cut him short. "You have a pretty cheek.
So you think I am going to do your work, and that all you have to do is to call on the cashier at the end of the month to draw your screw?
No, that is too good."
The young woman went on smoking without saying a word, smiling with a vague smile, which seemed like an amiable mask, concealing the irony of her thoughts.
Duroy, colored up, stammered: "Excuse me--I fancied--I thought--" then suddenly, and in a clear voice, he went on: "I beg your pardon a thousand times, Madame, while again thanking you most sincerely for the charming article you produced for me yesterday."
He bowed, remarked to Charles:
"I shall be at the office at three," and went out.
He walked home rapidly, grumbling:
"Well, I will do it all alone, and they shall see--"
Scarcely had he got in than, excited by anger, he began to write.
He continued the adventure began by Madame Forestier, heaping up details of catch-penny romance, surprising incidents, and inflated descriptions, with the style of a schoolboy and the phraseology of the barrack-room.
Within an hour he had finished an article which was a chaos of nonsense, and took it with every assurance to the _Vie Francaise_.
The first person he met was Saint-Potin, who, grasping his hand with the energy of an accomplice, said:
"You have read my interview with the Chinese and the Hindoo?
Isn't it funny?
It has amused everyone.
And I did not even get a glimpse of them."
Duroy, who had not read anything, at once took up the paper and ran his eye over a long article headed:
"India and China," while the reporter pointed out the most interesting passages.
Forestier came in puffing, in a hurry, with a busy air, saying:
"Good; I want both of you."
And he mentioned a number of items of political information that would have to be obtained that very afternoon.
Duroy held out his article.
"Here is the continuation about Algeria."