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The Mystery of Orcival

Chapter 14
M. Plantat stopped. His companions had not suffered a gesture or a word to interrupt him.
M. Lecoq, as he listened, reflected. He asked himself where M. Plantat could have got all
these minute details. Who had written Tremorel's terrible biography? As he glanced at the
papers from which Plantat read, he saw that they were not all in the same handwriting.
The old justice of the peace pursued the story:
Bertha Lechaillu, though by an unhoped-for piece of good fortune she had become
Madame Sauvresy, did not love her husband. She was the daughter of a poor country
school-master, whose highest ambition had been to be an assistant teacher in a Versailles
school; yet she was not now satisfied. Absolute queen of one of the finest domains in the
land, surrounded by every luxury, spending as she pleased, beloved, adored, she was not
content. Her life, so well regulated, so constantly smooth, without annoyances and
disturbance, seemed to her insipid. There were always the same monotonous pleasures,
always recurring each in its season. There were parties and receptions, horse rides, hunts,
drives - and it was always thus! Alas, this was not the life she had dreamed of; she was
born for more exciting pleasures. She yearned for unknown emotions and sensations, the
unforeseen, abrupt transitions, passions, adventures. She had not liked Sauvresy from the
first day she saw him, and her secret aversion to him increased in proportion as her
influence over him grew more certain. She thought him common, vulgar, ridiculous. She
thought the simplicity of his manners, silliness. She looked at him, and saw nothing in
him to admire. She did not listen to him when he spoke, having already decided in her
wisdom that he could say nothing that was not tedious or commonplace. She was angry
that he had not been a wild young man, the terror of his family.
He had, however, done as other young men do. He had gone to Paris and tried the sort of
life which his friend Tremorel led. He had enough of it in six months, and hastily
returned to Valfeuillu, to rest after such laborious pleasures. The experience cost him a
hundred thousand francs, but he said he did not regret purchasing it at this price.
Bertha was wearied with the constancy and adoration of her husband. She had only to
express a desire to be at once obeyed, and this blind submission to all her wishes
appeared to her servile in a man. A man is born, she thought, to command, and not to
obey; to be master, and not slave. She would have preferred a husband who would come
in in the middle of the night, still warm from his orgy, having lost at play, and who would
strike her if she upbraided him. A tyrant, but a man. Some months after her marriage she
suddenly took it into her head to have absurd freaks and extravagant caprices. She wished
to prove him, and see how far his constant complacence would go. She thought she
would tire him out. It was intolerable to feel absolutely sure of her husband, to know that
she so filled his heart that he had room for no other, to have nothing to fear, not even the
caprice of an hour. Perhaps there was yet more than this in Bertha's aversion. She knew
herself, and confessed to herself that had Sauvresy wished, she wouldhave been his
without being his wife. She was so lonely at her father's, so wretched in her poverty, that
 
 
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