Frédéric travels back to Paris, feeling satisfied with his life. When he arrives, he goes immediately to find Madame Arnoux, but Arnoux’s shop is closed up. He tries to find the couple at home, but he is told they no longer live there. Frédéric inquires at several shops as well as the police station, but to no avail.
He decides to find Regimbart, certain he’ll know where the Arnouxes live now. He visits all the cafes where he knows Regimbart is a regular, but everyone evades his questions and it seems Frédéric has always just missed him. He eventually finds him, and Regimbart reveals the Arnouxes’ new address.
Frédéric finally finds the Arnouxes. But when he sees Madame Arnoux, he is surprised by how little he feels. Arnoux explains that he is no longer an art dealer—he is now a pottery dealer. Once Frédéric leaves, he vows not to think of Madame Arnoux anymore.
Frédéric seeks out Deslauriers, who has failed his exams and is now struggling to get by. Deslauriers is excited about Frédéric’s newfound fortune, but Frédéric feels reluctant to share it so readily. Deslauriers reveals that Hussonnet now owns Arnoux’s old art magazine and is planning to turn it into a political journal. As they spend more time together, Frédéric warms to Deslauriers once again.
Frédéric buys new clothes and plans to visit the Dambreuses. Instead, he calls on Arnoux. Madame Arnoux is ill, but Arnoux invites him to a party at the home of Mademoiselle Rose-Annette Bron, called Rosanette. Frédéric is surprised by the number of people there, and he feels uneasy at the merriment, knowing that Madame Arnoux is at home. But he tries to pull himself together. He runs into Hussonnet and Pellerin, who point out various notable people at the party. Rosanette is engaged in conversation with an actor named Delmar. She also talks to an old man named Monsieur Oudry. Eventually, Mademoiselle Vatnaz appears, and she talks to Arnoux. They disappear together briefly, and Frédéric sees Rosanette crying. One woman, whom Flaubert refers to as “The Sphinx,” coughs up blood, and Frédéric is overcome with sadness.
The guests begin breaking china over their heads, and Arnoux remarks cryptically that he expects payment, which suggests that he had been Rosanette’s lover but isn’t anymore. Champagne is served; birds from the aviary escape and fly around the room. When morning comes, guests start to leave. Arnoux and Frédéric leave together. Frédéric feels the desire for a more luxurious life.