The Mystery of Orcival
The Count Hector de Tremorel, at twenty-six, was the model and ideal of the polished
man of the world, proper to our age; a man useless alike to himself and to others, harmful
even, seeming to have been placed on earth expressly to play at the expense of all.
Young, noble, elegant, rich by millions, endowed with vigorous health, this last
descendant of a great family squandered most foolishly and ignobly both his youth and
his patrimony. He acquired by excesses of all kinds a wide and unenviable celebrity.
People talked of his stables, his carriages, his servants, his furniture, his dogs, his favorite
loves. His cast-off horses still took prizes, and a jade distinguished by his notice was
eagerly sought by the young bloods of the town. Do not think, however, that he was
naturally vicious; he had a warm heart, and even generous emotions at twenty. Six years
of unhealthy pleasures had spoiled him to the marrow. Foolishly vain, he was ready to do
anything to maintain his notoriety. He had the bold and determined egotism of one who
has never had to think of anyone but himself, and has never suffered. Intoxicated by the
flatteries of the so-called friends who drew his money from him, he admired himself,
mistaking his brutal cynicism for wit, and his lofty disdain of all morality and his idiotic
scepticism, for character. He was also feeble; he had caprices, but never a will; feeble as
a child, a woman, a girl. His biography was to be found in the petty journals of the day,
which retailed his sayings - or what he might have said; his least actions and gestures
One night when he was supping at the Cafe-de Paris, he threw all the plates out the
window. It cost him twenty thousand francs. Bravo! One morning gossiping Paris learned
with stupefaction that he had eloped to Italy with the wife of X-, the banker, a lady
nineteen years married. He fought a duel, and killed his man. The week after, he was
wounded in another. He was a hero! On one occasion he went to Baden, where he broke
the bank. Another time, after playing sixty hours, he managed to lose one hundred and
twenty thousand francs - won by a Russian prince.
He was one of those men whom success intoxicates, who long for applause, but who care
not for what they are applauded. Count Hector was more than ravished by the noise he
made in the world. It seemed to him the acme of honor and glory to have his name or
initials constantly in the columns of the Parisian World. He did not betray this, however,
but said, with charming modesty, after each new adventure:
"When will they stop talking about me?"
On great occasions, he borrowed from Louis XIV the epigram:
"After me the deluge."
The deluge came in his lifetime.