Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


He felt his influence increasing by the pressure of hands and the lifting of hats.

His wife, too, filled him with stupefaction and admiration by the ingenuity of her mind, the value of her information, and the number of her acquaintances.

Continually he would find in his drawing-room, on returning home, a senator, a deputy, a magistrate, a general, who treated Madeleine as an old friend, with serious familiarity.

Where had she met all these people?

In society, so she said.

But how had she been able to gain their confidence and their affection?

He could not understand it.

"She would make a terrible diplomatist," he thought.

She often came in late at meal times, out of breath, flushed, quivering, and before even taking off her veil would say:

"I have something good to-day.

Fancy, the Minister of Justice has just appointed two magistrates who formed a part of the mixed commission.

We will give him a dose he will not forget in a hurry."

And they would give the minister a dose, and another the next day, and a third the day after.

The deputy, Laroche-Mathieu, who dined at the Rue Fontaine every Tuesday, after the Count de Vaudrec, who began the week, would shake the hands of husband and wife with demonstrations of extreme joy.

He never ceased repeating: "By Jove, what a campaign!

If we don't succeed after all?"

He hoped, indeed, to succeed in getting hold of the portfolio of foreign affairs, which he had had in view for a long time.

He was one of those many-faced politicians, without strong convictions, without great abilities, without boldness, and without any depth of knowledge, a provincial barrister, a local dandy, preserving a cunning balance between all parties, a species of Republican Jesuit and Liberal mushroom of uncertain character, such as spring up by hundreds on the popular dunghill of universal suffrage.

His village machiavelism caused him to be reckoned able among his colleagues, among all the adventurers and abortions who are made deputies.

He was sufficiently well-dressed, correct, familiar, and amiable to succeed.

He had his successes in society, in the mixed, perturbed, and somewhat rough society of the high functionaries of the day.

It was said everywhere of him:

"Laroche will be a minister," and he believed more firmly than anyone else that he would be.

He was one of the chief shareholders in Daddy Walter's paper, and his colleague and partner in many financial schemes.

Du Roy backed him up with confidence and with vague hopes as to the future.

He was, besides, only continuing the work begun by Forestier, to whom Laroche-Mathieu had promised the Cross of the Legion of Honor when the day of triumph should come.

The decoration would adorn the breast of Madeleine's second husband, that was all.

Nothing was changed in the main.

It was seen so well that nothing was changed that Du Roy's comrades organized a joke against him, at which he was beginning to grow angry.

They no longer called him anything but Forestier.

As soon as he entered the office some one would call out:

"I say, Forestier."

He would pretend not to hear, and would look for the letters in his pigeon-holes.

The voice would resume in louder tones,

"Hi! Forestier."

Some stifled laughs would be heard, and as Du Roy was entering the manager's room, the comrade who had called out would stop him, saying:

"Oh, I beg your pardon, it is you I want to speak to.

It is stupid, but I am always mixing you up with poor Charles.

It is because your articles are so infernally like his.

Everyone is taken in by them."

Du Roy would not answer, but he was inwardly furious, and a sullen wrath sprang up in him against the dead man.

Daddy Walter himself had declared, when astonishment was expressed at the flagrant similarity in style and inspiration between the leaders of the new political editor and his predecessor:

"Yes, it is Forestier, but a fuller, stronger, more manly Forestier."

Another time Du Roy, opening by chance the cupboard in which the cup and balls were kept, had found all those of his predecessor with crape round the handles, and his own, the one he had made use of when he practiced under the direction of Saint-Potin, ornamented with a pink ribbon.

All had been arranged on the same shelf according to size, and a card like those in museums bore the inscription:

"The Forestier-Du Roy (late Forestier and Co.) Collection."

He quietly closed the cupboard, saying, in tones loud enough to be heard:

"There are fools and envious people everywhere."

But he was wounded in his pride, wounded in his vanity, that touchy pride and vanity of the writer, which produce the nervous susceptibility ever on the alert, equally in the reporter and the genial poet.

The word "Forestier" made his ears tingle. He dreaded to hear it, and felt himself redden when he did so.