Robert Tronge 11

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

Such was the state of my mind; I had read much; moreover I had learned to paint. I knew by heart a great many things, but nothing in order, so that my head was like a sponge, swollen but empty. I fell in love with all the poets one after another; but being of an impressionable nature the last acquaintance disgusted me with the rest. I had made of myself a great warehouse of odds and ends, so that having no more thirst after drinking of the novel and the unknown, I became an oddity myself. Nevertheless, about me there was still something of youth: it was the hope of my heart, which was still childlike. That hope, which nothing had withered or corrupted and which love had exalted to excess, had now received a mortal wound. The perfidy of my mistress had struck deep, and when I thought of it, I felt in my soul a swooning away, the convulsive flutter of a wounded bird in agony. Society, which works so much evil, is like that serpent of the Indies whose habitat is under a shrub, the leaves of which afford the antidote to its venom; in nearly every case it brings the remedy with the wound it causes. For example, the man whose life is one of routine, who has his business cares to claim his attention upon rising, visits at one hour, loves at another, can lose his mistress and suffer no evil effects. His occupations and his thoughts are like impassive soldiers ranged in line of battle; a single shot strikes one down, his neighbors close the gap and the line is intact. I had not that resource, since I was alone: nature, the kind mother, seemed, on the contrary, vaster and more empty than before. Had I been able to forget my mistress, I should have been saved. How many there are who can be cured with even less than that. Such men are incapable of loving a faithless woman, and their conduct, under the circumstances, is admirable in its firmness. But is it thus one loves at nineteen when, knowing nothing of the world, desiring everything, one feels, within, the germ of all the passions? Everywhere some voice appeals to him. All is desire, all is revery. There is no reality which holds him when the heart is young; there is no oak so gnarled that it may not give birth to a dryad; and if one had a hundred arms one need not fear to open them; one has but to clasp his mistress and all is well. As for me, I did not understand what else there was to do but love, and when any one spoke to me of other occupations I did not reply. My passion for my mistress had something fierce about it, for all my life had been severely monachal. Let me cite a single instance. She gave me her miniature in a medallion. I wore it over my heart, a practice much affected by men; but one day, while idly rummaging about a shop filled with curiosities, I found an iron "discipline whip" such as was used by the mediaeval flagellants. At the end of this whip was a metal plate bristling with sharp iron points; I had the medallion riveted to this plate and then returned it to its place over my heart. The sharp points pierced my bosom with every movement and caused such strange, voluptuous anguish that I sometimes pressed it down with my hand in order to intensify the sensation. I knew very well that I was committing a folly; love is responsible for many such idiocies. But since this woman deceived me I loathed the cruel medallion. I can not tell with what sadness I removed that iron circlet, and what a sigh escaped me when it was gone. "Ah! poor wounds!" I said, "you will soon heal, but what balm is there for that other deeper wound?" I had reason to hate this woman; she was, so to speak, mingled with the blood of my veins; I cursed her, but I dreamed of her. What could I do with a dream? By what effort of the will could I drown a memory of flesh and blood? Lady Macbeth, having killed Duncan, saw that the ocean would not wash her hands clean again; it would not have washed away my wounds. I said to Desgenais: "When I sleep, her head is on my pillow." My life had been wrapped up in this woman; to doubt her was to doubt all; to deny her, to curse all; to lose her, to renounce all. I no longer went out; the world seemed peopled with monsters, with horned deer and crocodiles. To all that was said to distract my mind, I replied: "Yes, that is all very well, but you may rest assured I shall do nothing of the kind." I sat in my window and said: "She will come, I am sure of it; she is coming, she is turning the corner at this moment, I can feel her approach. She can no more live without me than I without her. What shall I say? How shall I receive her?" Then the thought of her perfidy occurred to me. "Ah! let her come! I will kill her!" Since my last letter I had heard nothing of her. "What is she doing?" I asked myself. "She loves another? Then I will love another also. Whom shall I love?" While thinking, I heard a far distant voice crying: "Thou, love another? Two beings who love, who embrace, and who are not thou and I! Is such a thing possible? Are you a fool?" "Coward!" said Desgenais, "when will you forget that woman? Is she such a great loss? Take the first comer and console yourself." "No," I replied, "it is not such a great loss. Have I not done what I ought? Have I not driven her away from here? What have you to say to that? The rest concerns me; the bull wounded in the arena can lie down in a corner with the sword of the matador 'twixt his shoulders, and die in peace. What can I do, tell me? What do you mean by first comer? You will show me a cloudless sky, trees and houses, men who talk, drink, sing, women who dance and horses that gallop. All that is not life, it is the noise of life. Go, go, leave me in peace."