Dangerous Liaisons —118—


IF I AM TO believe my almanac, my adorable friend, it is but two days that you have been absent; but, if I am to believe my heart, it is two centuries. Now, I have it from yourself, it is always one’s heart that one should believe; it is therefore quite time then that you should return, and all your affairs must be more than finished. How can you expect me to be interested in your lawsuit, when, be it lost or won, I must equally pay the costs by the tedium of your absence? Oh, how querulous I feel! And how sad it is to have so fair a subject for ill humor, but no right to show it!

Is it not, however, a real infidelity, a black betrayal, to leave your friend far away from you, after having accustomed him to be unable to dispense with your presence? In vain will you consult your advocates, they will find you no justification for this ill behavior; and then those gentry do but talk of reasons, and reasons are not sufficient answer to sentiments.

For myself, you have told me so often that it was reason which sent you on this journey, that I have entirely done with it. I will no longer listen to it, not even when it tells me to forget you. That is, however, a most reasonable reason: in fact, it would not be so difficult as you suppose. It would be sufficient merely to lose the habit of always thinking of you; and nothing here, I assure you, would recall you to me.

Our loveliest women, those who are said to be the most amiable, are yet so far below you that they could but give a very feeble idea of you. I think even that, with practiced eyes, the more one thought at first they resembled you, the more difference one would remark afterward: in vain their efforts, in vain their display of all they know, they always fail in being you; and therein, positively, lies the charm. Unhappily, when the days are so long, and one is unoccupied, one dreams, one builds castles in the air, one creates one’s chimera; little by little the imagination is exalted; one would fainhy beautify one’s work, one gathers together all that may please, finally one arrives at perfection; and, as soon as one is there, the portrait recalls the model, and one is astonished to find that one has but dreamed of you.

At this very moment, I am again the dupe of an almost similar error. You will believe, perhaps, that it was in order to occupy myself with you that I started to write to you? Not at all: it was to distract myself from you. I had a hundred things to say of which you were not the object, things which, as you know, interest me very keenly; and it is from these, nevertheless, that I have been distracted. And since when, pray, does the charm of friendship divert us from that of love? Ah, if I were to look closely into the matter, perhaps I should have a slight reproach to make myself! But hush! Let us forget this little error, for fear of reverting to it, and let my friend herself ignore it.

Why, then, are you not here to reply to me, to lead me back if I go astray, to talk to me of my Cecile, to enhance, if that be possible, the happiness I derive from her love by the sweet thought that, in loving her, I love your friend? Yes, I confess it, the love which she inspires in me has become even more precious since you have been kind enough to receive my confidence. I love so much to open my heart to you, to pour my sentiments unreservedly into yours! It seems to me that I cherish them the more, when you deignhz to receive them; and again I look at you and say to myself: It is in her that all my happiness is bound up.

I have nothing new to tell you with regard to my situation. The last letter I received from her increases and assures my hope, but delays it still. However, her motives are so tender and so pure that I can neither blame her for them nor complain. Perhaps you do not understand too well what I am telling you; but why are you not here? Although one may say all to one’s friend, one dare not write it. The secrets of love, especially, are so delicate that one may not let them go thus upon their parole.ia If one allows them out sometimes, one must at least never let them out of sight; one must, as it were, see them reach their new refuge. Ah, come back then, my adorable friend; you see how very necessary is your return. Forget, in short, the thousand reasons which detain you where you are, or teach me to live where you are not.

I have the honor to be, etc.