An anonymous narrator remembers her wedding night and the events that ensued. On that night she lies in her train berth too excited to sleep, as she goes from her mother’s small Paris apartment to the Breton castle of the man she has just married. Her husband sleeps in an adjoining berth; they have agreed to delay consummating the marriage until they arrive at the castle.
The narrator scarcely knows her husband, except for the facts that he is older, richer, and more experienced than she. She is only seventeen, and quite innocent, whereas the Marquis has already been married three times. She does not love him, she tells her mother; but she does want to marry him. She remembers when he took her to the opera the night before the wedding. He insisted that she wear one particular item from the trousseau he had bought—a thin white muslin shift, tied under the breast—as well as his wedding gift, a choker of rubies that resembles “an exquisitely precious slit throat.” When he stared lasciviously at her, she averted her eyes until she caught sight of herself in a mirror, suddenly seeing her own body through his eyes and sensing in herself, for the first time, “a potentiality for corruption.”
At dawn they arrive at his castle, which the tide cuts off from the mainland half of each day. Her husband introduces her to the sinister housekeeper, displays his other wedding presents—a piano and a portrait of St. Cecila—and leads her to a bedroom filled with mirrors, funereal lilies, and an enormous bed. There he undresses her, examines her, and fondles her until she begins to respond. Suddenly, he leaves her to explore the house on her own while he attends to some business. In the music room, she discovers that her new piano is out of tune. In the library she discovers a collection of pornography. When her husband finds her there, aghast, he leads her back to the bedroom, makes...
(The entire section is 778 words.)