“Ah!” said he. “You have saved me! You are my friend, my only friend, my brother.”
They talked for more than two hours.
“Come,” said Sauvresy at last, “let us arrange our plans. You want to disappear awhile; I see that. But to-night you must write four lines to the papers. To-morrow I propose to take your affairs in hand, that’s a thing I know how to do. I don’t know exactly how you stand; but I will agree to save something from the wreck. We’ve got money, you see; your creditors will be easy with us.”
“But where shall I go?” asked Hector, whom the mere idea of isolation terrified.
“What? You’ll come home with me, parbleu, to Valfeuillu. Don’t you know that I am married? Ah, my friend, a happier man than I does not exist! I’ve married—for love—the loveliest and best of women. You will be a brother to us. But come, my carriage is right here near the door.”
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.