The Mystery of Orcival
The Count de Tremorel did not anticipate that the respite which Bertha begged would last
long. Sauvresy had seemed better during the last week. He got up every day, and
commenced to go about the house; he even received numerous visits from the neighbors;
without apparent fatigue. But alas, the master of Valfeuillu was only the shadow of
himself. His friends would never have recognized in that emaciated form and white face,
and burning, haggard eye, the robust young man with red lips and beaming visage whom
they remembered. He had suffered so! He did not wish to die before avenging himself on
the wretches who had filched his happiness and his life. But what punishment should he
inflict? This fixed idea burning in his brain, gave his look a fiery eagerness. Ordinarily,
there are three modes in which a betrayed husband may avenge himself. He has the right,
and it is almost a duty - to deliver the guilty ones up to the law, which is on his side. He
may adroitly watch them, surprise them and kill them. There is a law which does not
absolve, but excuses him, in this. Lastly, he may affect a stolid indifference, laugh the
first and loudest at his misfortune, drive his wife from his roof, and leave her to starve.
But what poor, wretched methods of vengeance. Give up his wife to the law? Would not
that be to offer his name, honor, and life to public ridicule? To put himself at the mercy
of a lawyer, who would drag him through the mire. They do not defend the erring wife,
they attack her husband. And what satisfaction would he get? Bertha and Tremorel would
be condemned to a year's imprisonment, perhaps eighteen months, possibly two years. It
seemed to him simpler to kill them. He might go in, fire a revolver at them, and they
would not have time to comprehend it, for their agony would be but for a moment; and
then? Then, he must become a prisoner, submit to a trial, invoke the judge's mercy, and
risk conviction. As to turning his wife out of doors, that was to hand her over quietly to
Hector. He imagined them leaving Valfeuillu, hand in hand, happy and smiling, and
laughing in his face. At this thought he had a fit of cold rage; his self-esteem adding the
sharpest pains to the wounds in his heart. None of these vulgar methods could satisfy
him. He longed for some revenge unheard-of, strange, monstrous, as his tortures were.
Then he thought of all the horrible tales he had read, seeking one to his purpose; he had a
right to be particular, and he was determined to wait until he was satisfied. There was
only one thing that could balk his progress - Jenny's letter. What had become of it? Had
he lost it in the woods? He had looked for it everywhere, and could not find it.
He accustomed himself, however, to feign, finding a sort of fierce pleasure in the
constraint. He learned to assume a countenance which completely hid his thoughts. He
submitted to his wife's caresses without an apparent shudder; and shook Hector by the
hand as heartily as ever. In the evening, when they were gathered about the drawing-
room table, he was the gayest of the three. He built a hundred air-castles, pictured a
hundred pleasure-parties, when he was able to go abroad again. Hector rejoiced at his
"Clement is getting on finely," said he to Bertha, one evening.
She understood only too well what he meant.