(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Early in the day that was to mark his first theatrical triumph, Maurice met Jeanne, his mistress, and Marion, their young daughter, in the Montparnasse Cemetery. He promised them that the success of his play was assured and that with the money he would make he would finally be able to marry Jeanne. Unable to leave Marion to attend the performance of the play, Jeanne presented Maurice with a tie and a pair of gloves to wear in her honor in his hour of victory.

That afternoon Maurice went to the headquarters of his set, the cremerie of Madame Catherine. There he saw for the first time the beautiful Henriette, the mistress of his painter-friend, Adolphe. Immediately attracted to her, he felt, at the same time, a strange premonition of evil. Madame Catherine, also sensing the evil, and thinking of Jeanne and her child, pleaded with him to leave. He started to go out but, ironically, collided with Emile, Jeanne’s brother, as he walked toward the door. While Emile was apologizing, Henriette came up to him. Once in her presence, he found it impossible to retreat. When Adolphe finally arrived, he realized at once that he had lost his mistress to his friend.

Maurice’s play was as great a success as he had hoped. Although his friends arranged a victory celebration for him at the cremerie, he never appeared; he and Henriette had gone to an inn, ostensibly to wait for Adolphe. Adolphe, having misunderstood the meeting place, failed to appear, and Maurice and Henriette openly declared their passion for each other. Henriette, even though she admitted her propensity for evil and acknowledged that she had once committed a crime, easily convinced Maurice that she was more worthy of sharing his triumph than the dull, uneducated Jeanne. To stress her point she threw Jeanne’s present, the tie and gloves, into the fire and placed her own laurel wreath on Maurice’s brow.

When Adolphe finally met the pair the next morning, he realized the situation that now existed. After he had discreetly retired, Henriette attempted to persuade Maurice to run away with her. Maurice admitted that it was not Jeanne who held him, but the child Marion. Henriette replied that she wished the child were dead. Maurice agreed that things would be simpler if she were, and that he would go away with Henriette if she would consent to his seeing the child once before he left. Henriette reluctantly granted this favor, and Maurice went off for his last visit with...

(The entire section is 1003 words.)