He did not expect to see her so gentle and subdued; who would have looked for such concessions, so easily obtained? The idea of a snare did not occur to him. In his delight he betrayed how he rejoiced in his liberty, which ought to have undeceived Bertha; but she did not perceive it. He grasped her hand, and cried:
“Ah, you are very good—you really love me.”
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.