Two months after his visit home, Frédéric is in Paris for law school. He has convinced Monsieur Roque to introduce him to Monsieur Dambreuse, and he visits Dambreuse with Roque’s letter of introduction. Dambreuse works in industry and is very wealthy, with important political connections. Madame Dambreuse is a socialite. Dambreuse asks Frédéric a few questions and then sends him away. As he walks home, he passes a shop and sees a sign saying Jacques Arnoux—it is Monsieur Arnoux’s art shop. Frédéric hopes to spot Madame Arnoux, but she does not appear.
Depressed and aimless, Frédéric stops attending classes and scorns his friend Baptiste Martinon’s version of happiness. He wanders the streets of Paris, seeing echoes of Madame Arnoux in women’s faces. He never receives an invitation from the Dambreuses, and the friend Deslauriers suggests he contact, a math teacher named Senecal, never returns his attempted visits. He goes back to law school. He tries to write a novel, and he tries to compose music on the piano.
One night at the theater, he spots Arnoux with two women. Arnoux is wearing a black mourning band around his hat, and Frédéric wonders if Madame Arnoux is dead. He goes to Arnoux’s shop and asks a clerk if the couple are doing well; they are. Reassured, he leaves the shop, but he is still melancholy. He visits home, then he returns to Paris and gets a new apartment. He begins to lose interest in Madame Arnoux.
As Frédéric goes to class one morning, he sees chaos in the streets. He asks a young man named Hussonnet what’s going on. Hussonnet says that no one knows—it’s a riot where even the rioters don’t know what they’re rioting about. Various political events from the past few months have resulted in frequent protests.
Frédéric’s friend Martinon appears, frightened of potential secret societies among the rioters. Hussonnet says the government has made up the idea of secret societies to instill fear in the middle class. The riot begins breaking up, and a professor named Samuel Rondelot appears on his way to class. The crowd turns on him simply because he is an authority figure, and he retreats. The rowdy crowd starts heckling the police. A fight ensues, and a policeman pushes a young protestor. A large man carrying a box drops the box and tackles the offending policeman. As police lead him to jail, he announces that his name is Dussardier and that he wants his box. Frédéric and Hussonnet follow him.
In jail, they ask to see Dussardier, who doesn’t know them. They try to get him to say he is a law student as a way of indicating that they are there to help him, but it takes him a while to catch on. Dussardier takes a smashed pipe from his pocket—a pipe he’d spent years making and which was broken in the fight. Frédéric gives Dussardier some cigars, and Dussardier is overcome with gratitude.