Dangerous Liaisons —128—


I ONLY RECEIVED YESTERDAY, Madame, your tardy reply. It would have killed me on the instant, if my existence had still been in my own hands; but another is its possessor, and that other is M. de Valmont. You see that I hide nothing from you. If you must consider me no longer worthy of your friendship, I fear even less to lose it than to retain it by guile. All that I can tell you is that, placed by M. de Valmont between his death or his happiness, I resolved in favor of the latter. I neither vaunt myself on this, nor accuse myself; I simply state the fact.

You will easily understand, after this, what impression your letter must have made upon me, with the severe truths which it contains. Do not believe, however, that it was able to give birth to a regret in me, nor that it can ever cause me to change in sentiment or in conduct. It is not that I do not have cruel moments: but when my heart is most torn, when I fear that I can no longer endure my torments, I say to myself: Valmont is happy; and all vanishes before this idea, or rather it converts all into pleasures.

It is to your nephew then that I have devoted myself; it is for him that I have ruined myself. He has become the one center of my thoughts, my sentiments, my actions. As long as my life is necessary to his happiness, it will be precious to me, and I shall deem it fortunate. If someday he thinks differently … he shall hear from me neither complaint nor reproach. I have already dared to cast my eyes upon that fatal moment; and I have resolved on my course.

You see, now, how little I need be affected by the fear you seem to have, lest one day M. de Valmont should ruin me: for, ere he can wish for that, he will have ceased to love me; and what will then be vain reproaches to me which I shall not hear? He alone shall be my judge. As I shall have lived but for him, it will be in him that my memory shall repose; and if he is forced to admit that I loved him, I shall be sufficiently justified.

You have now read, Madame, in my heart. I preferred the misfortune of losing your esteem by my frankness to that of rendering myself unworthy of it by the degradation of a lie. I thought I owed this complete confidence to the kindness you have shown me. To add one word more would be to lead you to suspect that I have the vanity to count upon it still, when, on the contrary, I do myself justice in ceasing to pretend to it.

I am with respect, Madame, your most humble and obedient servant.