He only owed two hundred and eighty.
Forestier, skeptical on the point, inquired: "Whom do you owe it to?"
Duroy could not answer right off.
"To--to--a Monsieur de Carleville."
"Ah! and where does he live?"
Forestier began to laugh.
"Number ought, Nowhere Street, eh?
I know that gentleman, my dear fellow.
If you want twenty francs, I have still that much at your service, but no more."
Duroy took the offered louis.
Then he went from door to door among the people he knew, and wound up by having collected at about five o'clock the sum of eighty francs.
And he still needed two hundred more; he made up his mind, and keeping for himself what he had thus gleaned, murmured:
"Bah! I am not going to put myself out for that cat.
I will pay her when I can."
For a fortnight he lived regularly, economically, and chastely, his mind filled with energetic resolves.
Then he was seized with a strong longing for love.
It seemed to him that several years had passed since he last clasped a woman in his arms, and like the sailor who goes wild on seeing land, every passing petticoat made him quiver.
So he went one evening to the Folies Bergere in the hope of finding Rachel.
He caught sight of her indeed, directly he entered, for she scarcely went elsewhere, and went up to her smiling with outstretched hand.
But she merely looked him down from head to foot, saying:
"What do you want with me?"
He tried to laugh it off with,
"Come, don't be stuck-up."
She turned on her heels, saying:
"I don't associate with ponces."
She had picked out the bitterest insult. He felt the blood rush to his face, and went home alone.
Forestier, ill, weak, always coughing, led him a hard life at the paper, and seemed to rack his brain to find him tiresome jobs. One day, even, in a moment of nervous irritation, and after a long fit of coughing, as Duroy had not brought him a piece of information he wanted, he growled out:
"Confound it! you are a bigger fool than I thought."
The other almost struck him, but restrained himself, and went away muttering:
"I'll manage to pay you out some day."
An idea shot through his mind, and he added:
"I will make a cuckold of you, old fellow!"
And he took himself off, rubbing his hands, delighted at this project.
He resolved to set about it the very next day.
He paid Madame Forestier a visit as a reconnaissance.
He found her lying at full length on a couch, reading a book.
She held out her hand without rising, merely turning her head, and said:
He felt as though he had received a blow.
"Why do you call me that?" he said.
She replied, with a smile: "I saw Madame de Marelle the other day, and learned how you had been baptized at her place."
He felt reassured by her amiable air.
Besides, what was there for him to be afraid of?
She resumed: "You spoil her.
As to me, people come to see me when they think of it--the thirty-second of the month, or something like it."
He sat down near her, and regarded her with a new species of curiosity, the curiosity of the amateur who is bargain-hunting.
She was charming, a soft and tender blonde, made for caresses, and he thought:
"She is better than the other, certainly."
He did not doubt his success, it seemed to him that he had only to stretch out his hand and take her, as one gathers a fruit.