Sometimes Bergenfield just listened. Edwards always talked about his children and often of his late wife, Elizabeth, and, after a while, he usually got around to the matter of Rielle Hunter, the woman with whom he had an affair and a child. These were the characters of the soap opera that Edwards’s life had descended to — the Would-Be President, the Other Woman, the Love Child, the Courageous Wife, the Dying Wife — but here in this large, lonesome house, the conversations were intimate and introspective. Edwards sounded utterly befuddled by what he had done, as if he were talking about a stranger…

“He knows he made mistakes,” Bergenfield says on the eve of Edwards’s trial, which is set to begin Thursday with jury selection. “But John thinks that the treatment of him is so unflinchingly horrible and that what he did is not so different from what others did — JFK, Clinton, the whole rogues’ gallery. We’ve had this conversation about his situation, and I remember he did compare it to Clinton. He said, ‘I did a horrendous thing, but I don’t know why I’m getting such an unforgiving treatment when you think of what other people have done.’”…

But what must it be for Edwards, he wonders. This is where Edwards spends most of his time now, preparing for his trial. “Being in the house is a reminder of Elizabeth for John,” he says. “And that means the other things, too. I think it’s hard for him to be there without thinking about what a horrible mess this has all been, about all his mistakes and regrets. He has said as much to me.”