Summary: Part Two, Chapter 2
Frédéric buys a home. He considers asking Deslauriers to live with him but decides he needs to live alone so that he can be ready to have a mistress. He overspends but does not worry. He writes to Madame Dambreuse requesting permission to visit, which she grants.
Frédéric is overcome by the luxuriousness of the Dambreuses’ home. However, the talk among the people who are gathered there is trivial and annoying. Frédéric is impressed by Madame Dambreuse’s appearance and behavior, and she invites him to return every Wednesday.
Frédéric visits Rosanette, who tells him she will be dining out that evening. Her hairdresser arrives, and she tells him she is staying at home. The conversation among her and her servants bothers Frédéric; it reminds him of the idle talk at the Dambreuses’ home. Mademoiselle Vatnaz arrives, and Frédéric loans her some change. Rosanette tells Mlle. Vatnaz that she will be going to Alphonsine’s tonight. Frédéric is confused by her changes in story. She asks him to tell Arnoux to visit her. Frédéric believes Rosanette will become his mistress one day, then he immediately thinks of Madame Arnoux.
When he next visits Madame Arnoux, she is sewing. She asks him questions about his background and career plans and holds out her hand to him before he leaves. Frédéric feels like this is a promise of some kind.
Frédéric wants to have a housewarming party, and he invites Hussonnet, Pellerin, Deslauriers, Senecal, Cisy, and Dussardier. Senecal has lost his teaching job because of his political views, and he no longer lives with Deslauriers. The men discuss politics; Senecal is referred to as the Socialist. Pellerin hints at a scandal Arnoux is embroiled in, involving a lawsuit about some land. They insult various aspects of Frédéric’s home, asking him why he has chosen to decorate as he did and why he doesn’t have certain books. Frédéric gives Deslauriers some money to repay a debt, and Deslauriers asks for more to help support Hussonnet’s newspaper, which Frédéric refuses.
When the men leave Frédéric’s, they decide that Frédéric had been a perfect host, but they idly criticize the lunch and the décor. Frédéric, alone now, feels distant from his friends. He wonders if Arnoux is actually in trouble and if Madame Arnoux is okay. He visits her and tries to find out what’s going on; Arnoux is indeed in some financial trouble from borrowing against his land. Frédéric promises Madame Arnoux to help if he can, reassuring her that her problems are temporary.