“Take this, from Hector,” said he, “he will not permit you to suffer for anything; but, believe me, you had best let him get married.”
Then he mechanically took up his gun, opened the door, and went out. His dogs leaped upon him to caress him; he kicked them off. Where was he going? What was he going to do?
A small, fine, chilly rain had succeeded the morning fog; but Sauvresy did not perceive it. He went across the fields with his head bare, wandering at hazard, without aim or discretion. He talked aloud as he went, stopping ever and anon, then resuming his course. The peasants who met him—they all knew him—turned to look at him after having saluted him, asking themselves whether the master of Valfeuillu had not gone mad. Unhappily he was not mad. Overwhelmed by an unheard-of, unlooked-for catastrophe, his brain had been for a moment paralyzed. But one by one he collected his scattered ideas and acquired the faculty of thinking and of suffering. Each one of his reflections increased his mortal anguish. Yes, Bertha and Hector had deceived, had dishonored him. She, beloved to idolatry; he, his best and oldest friend, a wretch that he had snatched from misery, who owed him everything. And it was in his house, under his own roof, that this infamy had taken place. They had taken advantage of his noble trust, had made a dupe of him. The frightful discovery not only embittered the future, but also the past. He longed to blot out of his life these years passed with Bertha, with whom, but the night before, he had recalled these “happiest years of his life.” The memory of his former happiness filled his soul with disgust. But how had this been done? When? How was it he had seen nothing of it? And now things came into his mind which should have warned him had he not been blind. He recalled certain looks of Bertha, certain tones of voice, which were an avowal. At times, he tried to doubt. There are misfortunes so great that to be believed there must be more than evidence.
“It is not possible!” muttered he.
Seating himself upon a prostrate tree in the midst of Mauprevoir forest, he studied the fatal letter for the tenth time within four hours.
“It proves all,” said he, “and it proves nothing.”
And he read once more.
“Do not go to-morrow to Petit-Bourg—”
Well, had he not again and again, in his idiotic confidence, said to Hector:
“I shall be away to-morrow, stay here and keep Bertha company.”
This sentence, then, had no positive signification. But why add:
“Or rather, return before breakfast.”
This was what betrayed fear, that is, the fault. To go away and return again anon, was to be cautious, to avoid suspicion. Then, why “he,” instead of, “Clement?” This word was striking. “He”— that is, the dear one, or else, the master that one hates. There is no medium—’tis the husband, or the lover. “He,” is never an indifferent person. A husband is lost when his wife, in speaking of him, says, “He.”