Robert Tronge 15

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

She sent a servant to lead my horse and I entered her carriage; she was alone, and we at once took the road to Paris. Rain began to fall, and the carriage curtains were drawn; thus shut up together we rode on in silence. I looked at her with inexpressible sadness; she was not only the friend of my faithless one but her confidante. She had often formed one of our party when I called on my mistress in the evening. With what impatience had I endured her presence! How often I counted the minutes that must elapse before she would leave! That was probably the cause of my aversion to her. I knew that she approved of our love; she even went so far as to defend me in our quarrels. In spite of the services she had rendered me, I considered her ugly and tiresome. Alas! now I found her beautiful! I looked at her hands, her clothes; every gesture went straight to my heart; all the past was associated with her. She noticed the change in manner and understood that I was oppressed by sad memories of the past. Thus we sped on our way, I looking at her, she smiling at me. When we reached Paris she took my hand: "Well?" she said. "Well?" I replied, sobbing, "tell her if you wish." Tears rushed from my eyes. After dinner we sat before the fire. "But tell me," she said, "is it irrevocable? Can nothing be done?" "Alas! Madame," I replied, "there is nothing irrevocable except the grief that is killing me. My condition can be expressed in a few words: I can not love her, I can not love another, and I can not cease loving." At these words she moved uneasily in her chair, and I could see an expression of compassion on her face. For some time she appeared to be reflecting, as if pondering over my fate and seeking some remedy for my sorrow. Her eyes were closed and she appeared lost in revery. She extended her hand and I took it in mine. "And I, too," she murmured, "that is just my experience." She stopped, overcome by emotion. Of all the sisters of love, the most beautiful is pity. I held Madame Levasseur's hand as she began to speak of my mistress, saying all she could think of in her favor. My sadness increased. What could I reply? Finally she came to speak of herself. Not long since, she said, a man who loved her abandoned her. She had made great sacrifices for him; her fortune was compromised, as well as her honor and her name. Her husband, whom she knew to be vindictive, had made threats. Her tears flowed as she continued, and I began to forget my own sorrow in my sympathy for her. She had been married against her will; she struggled a long time; but she regretted nothing except that she had not been able to inspire a more sincere affection. I believe she even accused herself because she had not been able to hold her lover's heart, and because she had been guilty of apparent indifference. When she had unburdened her heart she became silent. "Madame," I said, "it was not chance that brought about our meeting in the Bois de Boulogne. I believe that human sorrows are but wandering sisters and that some good angel unites the trembling hands that are stretched out for aid. Do not repent having told me your sorrow. The secret you have confided to me is only a tear which has fallen from your eye, but has rested on my heart. Permit me to come again and let us suffer together." Such lively sympathy took possession of me that without reflection I kissed her; it did not occur to my mind that it could offend her, and she did not appear even to notice it. Our conversation continued in this tone of expansive friendship. She told me her sorrows, I told her mine, and between these two experiences which touched each other, I felt arise a sweetness, a celestial accord born of two voices in anguish. All this time I had seen nothing but her face. Suddenly I noticed that her dress was in disorder. It appeared singular to me that, seeing my embarrassment, she did not rearrange it, and I turned my head to give her an opportunity. She did nothing. Finally, meeting her eyes and seeing that she was perfectly aware of the state she was in, I felt as if I had been struck by a thunderbolt, for I now clearly understood that I was the plaything of her monstrous effrontery, that grief itself was for her but a means of seducing the senses. I took my hat without a word, bowed profoundly, and left the room. Upon returning to my apartments I found a large box in the centre of the room. One of my aunts had died, and I was one of the heirs to her fortune, which was not large. The box contained, among other things, a number of musty old books. Not knowing what to do, and being afflicted with ennui, I began to read one of them. They were for the most part romances of the time of Louis XV; my pious aunt had probably inherited them herself and never read them, for they were, so to speak, catechisms of vice. I was singularly disposed to reflect on everything that came to my notice, to give everything a mental and moral significance; I treated events as pearls in a necklace which I tried to string together. It struck me that there was something significant about the arrival of these books at this time. I devoured them with a bitterness and a sadness born of despair. "Yes, you are right," I said to myself, "you alone possess the secret of life, you alone dare to say that nothing is true and real but debauchery, hypocrisy, and corruption. Be my friends, throw on the wound in my soul your corrosive poisons, teach me to believe in you." While buried in these shadows, I allowed my favorite poets and text-books to accumulate dust. I even ground them under my feet in excess of wrath. "You wretched dreamers!" I said to them; "you who teach me only suffering, miserable shufflers of words, charlatans, if you know the truth, fools, if you speak in good faith, liars in either case, who make fairy-tales of the woes of the human heart. I will burn the last one of you!"