Dangerous Liaisons —103—


I WAS MORE GRIEVED at your departure, my fairest dear, than surprised at its cause; a long experience and the interest which you inspire in me had sufficed to enlighten me as to the state of your heart; and, if all must be told, there was nothing, or almost nothing, that your letter taught me. If it had been my only source of information, I should be still in ignorance of whom it was you loved; for, in speaking to me of him all the time, you did not even once write his name. I had no need of that; I am well aware who it is. But I remark it, because I remind myself that that is ever the style of love. I see that it is still the same as in past times.

I had hardly expected ever to be in the case to hark back to memories so far removed from me, and so alien to my age. Since yesterday, nevertheless, I have truly been much occupied with them, through the desire which I felt to find in them something which might be useful to you. But what can I do, except admire and pity you? I praise the wise course you have taken: but it alarms me, because I conclude from it that you judged it necessary; and, when one has gone so far, it is very difficult to remain always at a distance from him to whom our heart is incessantly attracting us. However, do not lose courage. Nothing should be impossible to your noble soul; and, even if you should someday have the misfortune to succumb (which God forbid!), believe me, my fairest dear, reserve for yourself at least the consolation of having struggled with all your power. And then, what human prudence cannot effect, divine grace will, if it be so pleased. Perhaps you are on the eve of its succor; and your virtue, proved by these grievous struggles, will issue from them purer and more lustrous. Hope that you may receive tomorrow the strength which you lack today. Do not count upon this in order to repose upon it, but to encourage you to use all your own.

While leaving to Providence the care of succoring you in a danger against which I can do nothing, I reserve to myself that of sustaining and consoling you, as far as within me lies. I shall not assuage your pains, but I will share them. It is by virtue of this that I will gladly receive your confidences. I feel that your heart must have need of unburdening itself. I open mine to you; age has not yet so chilled it that it is insensible to friendship. You will always find it ready to receive you. It will be a poor solace to your sorrow; but at least you will not weep alone: and when this unhappy love, obtaining too much power over you, compels you to speak of it, it is better that it should be with me than with him. Here am I talking like you; and I think that, between us, we shall succeed in avoiding his name: for the rest, we understand one another.

I know not whether I am doing right in telling you that he seemed keenly grieved at your departure; it would be wiser, perhaps, not to speak of it: but I have no love for the prudence which grieves its friends. Yet I am forced to speak about it at no greater length. My weak sight and tremulous hands do not admit of long letters, when I have to write them myself.

Adieu then, my fairest dear; adieu, my amiable child: yes, I gladly adopt you for my daughter, and you have, indeed, all that is needed to make the pride and pleasure of a mother.