Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


They had sacked, pillaged, swept away everything.

These details were related by the servants, who pulled long faces to hide their impulse to laugh right out.

"The ladies were worse than the gentlemen," they asserted, "and ate and drank enough to make themselves ill."

It was like the story of the survivors after the sack of a captured town.

There was nothing left but to depart.

Gentlemen openly regretted the twenty francs given at the collection; they were indignant that those upstairs should have feasted without paying anything.

The lady patronesses had collected upwards of three thousand francs.

All expenses paid, there remained two hundred and twenty for the orphans of the Sixth Arrondissement.

Du Roy, escorting the Walter family, waited for his landau.

As he drove back with them, seated in face of Madame Walter, he again caught her caressing and fugitive glance, which seemed uneasy.

He thought: "Hang it all! I fancy she is nibbling," and smiled to recognize that he was really very lucky as regarded women, for Madame de Marelle, since the recommencement of their amour, seemed frantically in love with him.

He returned home joyously.

Madeleine was waiting for him in the drawing-room.

"I have some news," said she.

"The Morocco business is getting into a complication.

France may very likely send out an expeditionary force within a few months.

At all events, the opportunity will be taken of it to upset the Ministry, and Laroche-Mathieu will profit by this to get hold of the portfolio of foreign affairs."

Du Roy, to tease his wife, pretended not to believe anything of the kind.

They would never be mad enough to recommence the Tunisian bungle over again.

But she shrugged her shoulders impatiently, saying:

"But I tell you yes, I tell you yes.

You don't understand that it is a matter of money.

Now-a-days, in political complications we must not ask: 'Who is the woman?' but 'What is the business?'"

He murmured "Bah!" in a contemptuous tone, in order to excite her, and she, growing irritated, exclaimed:

"You are just as stupid as Forestier."

She wished to wound him, and expected an outburst of anger.

But he smiled, and replied:

"As that cuckold of a Forestier?"

She was shocked, and murmured:

"Oh, George!"

He wore an insolent and chaffing air as he said: "Well, what?

Did you not admit to me the other evening that Forestier was a cuckold?"

And he added: "Poor devil!" in a tone of pity.

Madeleine turned her back on him, disdaining to answer; and then, after a moment's silence, resumed: "We shall have visitors on Tuesday.

Madame Laroche-Mathieu is coming to dinner with the Viscountess de Percemur.

Will you invite Rival and Norbert de Varenne?

I will call to-morrow and ask Madame Walter and Madame de Marelle.

Perhaps we shall have Madame Rissolin, too."

For some time past she had been strengthening her connections, making use of her husband's political influence to attract to her house, willy-nilly, the wives of the senators and deputies who had need of the support of the _Vie Francaise_.

George replied: "Very well.

I will see about Rival and Norbert."

He was satisfied, and rubbed his hands, for he had found a good trick to annoy his wife and gratify the obscure rancor, the undefined and gnawing jealousy born in him since their drive in the Bois.

He would never speak of Forestier again without calling him cuckold.

He felt very well that this would end by enraging Madeleine.

And half a score of times, in the course of the evening, he found means to mention with ironical good humor the name of "that cuckold of a Forestier."

He was no longer angry with the dead! he was avenging him.

His wife pretended not to notice it, and remained smilingly indifferent.

The next day, as she was to go and invite Madame Walter, he resolved to forestall her, in order to catch the latter alone, and see if she really cared for him.

It amused and flattered him.

And then--why not--if it were possible?