Dangerous Liaisons —108—


O MY INDULGENT MOTHER, how many thanks I have to render you, and what need I had of your letter! I have read it again and again; I cannot put it away from me. I owe to it the few less painful moments I have spent since my departure. How good you are! Prudence and virtue know then how to compassionatehf weakness! You take pity on my ills! Ah, if you knew them! … they are terrible. I thought I had experienced the pains of love; but the inexpressible torment, that which one must have felt to have any idea of it, is to be separated from the object of one’s love, to be separated for ever! … Yes, the pain which crushes me today will return tomorrow, the day after, all my life! My God, how young I am still, and how long a time I have to suffer!

To be one’s self the architect of one’s own misery; to tear out one’s heart with one’s own hands; and, while suffering these insupportable sorrows, to feel at each instant that one can make them cease with a word, and that this word is a crime! Ah, my friend! …

When I adopted this painful course, and separated myself from him, I hoped that absence would augment my courage and my strength: how greatly I was deceived! It seems, on the contrary, as though it had completed the work of destruction. I had more to struggle against, ’tis true: but, even while resisting, all was not privation; at least I sometimes saw him; often even, without daring to direct my eyes toward him, I felt his own were fixed on me. Yes, my friend, I felt them; it seemed as though they warmed my soul; and without passing through my eyes, they nonetheless arrived at my heart. Now, in my grievous solitude, isolated from all that is dear to me, closeted with my misfortune, every moment of my sorrowful existence is marked by my tears, and nothing sweetens its bitterness; no consolation is mingled with my sacrifices; and those I have thus far made have only served to render more dolorous those which are left to make.

Yesterday again, I had a lively feeling of this. Among the letters they brought me, there was one from him; they were still two paces off from me when I recognized it among the rest. I rose involuntarily, I trembled, I could hardly hide my emotion; and this state was not altogether unpleasant. A moment later, finding myself alone, this deceitful sweetness soon vanished, and left me but one sacrifice the more to make. Could I actually open this letter, which, however, I burned to read? In the fatality which pursues me, the consolations which seem to present themselves do nothing, on the contrary, but impose fresh privations; and those become crueler still from the thought that M. de Valmont shares them.

There it is at last, that name which so constantly fills my mind, and which it costs me so much to write; the sort of reproach you make me really alarmed me. I beg you to believe that a false shame has not altered my confidence in you; and why should I fear to name him? Ah, I blush for my sentiments, but not for the object which causes them! Who other than he is worthy to inspire them? However, I know not why, this name does not come naturally to my pen; and, even this time, I had need of reflection to write it. I return to him.

You tell me that he seemed to you keenly grieved at my departure. What, then, did he do? What did he say? Did he speak of returning to Paris? I beg you to dissuade him as much as you can. If he has judged me aright, he cannot bear me any ill will for this step: but he must feel also that it is a course from which there is no return. One of my greatest torments is not to know what he thinks. I have still his letter there… but you are surely of my opinion that I ought not to open it.

It is only through you, my indulgent friend, that I can feel myself not entirely separated from him. I would not abuse your kindness ; I understand, perfectly, that your letters cannot be long ones: but you will not deny your child two words; one to sustain her courage, and the other to console her. Adieu, my venerable friend.