Robert Tronge 8

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

The man I had surprised with my mistress was one of my most intimate friends. I went to his house the next day, in company with a young lawyer named Desgenais; we took pistols, another witness, and repaired to the woods of Vincennes. On the way I avoided speaking to my adversary or even approaching him; thus I resisted the temptation to insult or strike him, a useless form of violence at a time when the law recognized the code. But I could not remove my eyes from him. He was the companion of my childhood, and we had lived in the closest intimacy for many years. He understood perfectly my love for my mistress, and had several times intimated that bonds of this kind were sacred to a friend, and that he would be incapable of an attempt to supplant me, even if he loved the same woman. In short, I had perfect confidence in him and I had perhaps never pressed the hand of any human creature more cordially than his. Eagerly and curiously I scrutinized this man whom I had heard speak of love like an antique hero and whom yet I had caught caressing my mistress. It was the first time in my life I had seen a monster; I measured him with a haggard eye to see what manner of man was this. He whom I had known since he was ten years old, with whom I had lived in the most perfect friendship, it seemed to me I had never seen him. Allow me a comparison. There is a Spanish play, familiar to all the world, in which a stone statue comes to sup with a profligate, sent thither by divine justice. The profligate puts a good face on the matter and forces himself to affect indifference; but the statue asks for his hand, and when he has extended it he feels himself seized by a mortal chill and falls in convulsions. Whenever I have loved and confided in any one, either friend or mistress, and suddenly discover that I have been deceived, I can only describe the effect produced on me by comparing it to the clasp of that marble hand. It is the actual impression of marble, it is as if a man of stone had embraced me. Alas! this horrible apparition has knocked more than once at my door; more than once we have supped together. When the arrangements were all made we placed ourselves in line, facing each other and slowly advancing. My adversary fired the first shot, wounding me in the right arm. I immediately seized my pistol in the other hand; but my strength failed, I could not raise it; I fell on one knee. Then I saw my enemy running up to me with an expression of great anxiety on his face, and very pale. Seeing that I was wounded, my seconds hastened to my side, but he pushed them aside and seized my wounded arm. His teeth were set, and I could see that he was suffering intense anguish. His agony was as frightful as man can experience. "Go!" he cried; "go, stanch your wound at the house of -----" He choked, and so did I. I was placed in a cab, where I found a physician. My wound was not dangerous, the bone being untouched, but I was in such a state of excitation that it was impossible properly to dress my wound. As they were about to drive from the field I saw a trembling hand at the door of my cab; it was that of my adversary. I shook my head in reply; I was in such a rage that I could not pardon him, although I felt that his repentance was sincere. By the time I reached home I had lost much blood and felt relieved, for feebleness saved me from the anger which was doing me more harm than my wound. I willingly retired to my bed and called for a glass of water, which I gulped down with relish. But I was soon attacked by fever. It was then I began to shed tears. I could understand that my mistress had ceased to love me, but not that she could deceive me. I could not comprehend why a woman, who was forced to it by neither duty nor interest, could lie to one man when she loved another. Twenty times a day I asked my friend Desgenais how that could be possible. "If I were her husband," I said, "or if I supported her, I could easily understand how she might be tempted to deceive me; but if she no longer loves me, why deceive me?" I did not understand how any one could lie for love; I was but a child, then, but I confess that I do not understand it yet. Every time I have loved a woman I have told her of it, and when I ceased to love her I have confessed it with the same sincerity, having always thought that in matters of this kind the will was not concerned and that there was no crime but falsehood. To all this Desgenais replied: "She is unworthy; promise me that you will never see her again." I solemnly promised. He advised me, moreover, not to write to her, not even to reproach her, and if she wrote to me not to reply. I promised all, with some surprise that he should consider it necessary to exact such a pledge. Nevertheless, the first thing I did when I was able to leave my room was to visit my mistress. I found her alone, seated in the corner of her room, with an expression of sorrow on her face and an appearance of general disorder in her surroundings. I overwhelmed her with violent reproaches; I was intoxicated with despair. In a paroxysm of grief I fell on the bed and gave free course to my tears. "Ah! faithless one! wretch!" I cried between my sobs, "you knew that it would kill me. Did the prospect please you? What have I done to you?"