Dangerous Liaisons —132—


DEEPLY TOUCHED, MADAME, WITH your kindness to me, I would abandon myself entirely to it, were I not prevented in some sort from accepting it by the fear of profaning it. Why must it be that, while I see it to be so precious, I feel at the same time that I am no longer worthy of it! Ah! I will at least venture to express to you my gratitude; I will admire above all that indulgent virtue which only knows our frailties to compassionate them, and whose potent charm preserves so soft and strong an empire over hearts, even by the side of the charm of love.

But can I still deserve a friendship which no longer suffices for my happiness? I say the same of your counsels: I feel their worth, but I cannot follow them. And how should I not believe in a perfect happiness, when I experience it at this moment? Yes, if men are such as you say, we ought to shun them, they deserve to be hated; but then Valmont is so far from resembling them! If, like them, he has that violence of passion which you call ardor, how far it is surpassed by his excessive delicacy. O my friend! You talk of sharing my troubles; take a part, then, in my happiness; I owe it to love, and how greatly does the object enhance its value! You love your nephew, you say, perhaps, foolishly. Ah, if you did but know him as I do! I love him with idolatry, and, even so, far less than he deserves. He may, doubtless, have been led astray by certain errors; he admits it himself; but who ever knew true love as he does? What more can I say to you? He feels it as he inspires it.

You will think that this is one of those chimerical ideas with which love never fails to abuse our imagination: but, in that case, why should he have become more tender, more ardent, when he has nothing further to obtain? I will confess, before, I found in him an air of reflection, of reserve, which rarely abandoned him, and which often reminded me, in spite of myself, of the cruel and false impressions which had been given me of him. But, since he has been able to abandon himself without constraint to the movements of his heart, he seems to guess all the desires of mine. Who knows if we were not born for each other! If this happiness was not reserved for me, of being necessary to his! Ah, if it is an illusion, let me die, then, before it comes to an end. But no; I am fain to live to cherish, to adore him. Why should he cease to love me? What other woman could he render happier than me? And I feel, from my own experience, that the happiness one arouses is the strongest tie, the only one which really attaches. Yes, it is this delicious sentiment which ennobles love, which purifies it in some sort, and makes it worthy of a tender and generous soul, such as Valmont’s.

Adieu, my dear, my venerable, my indulgent friend. It is in vain that I would write to you at greater length: here is the hour at which he has promised to come, and every other thought forsakes me. Forgive me! But you wish me happiness, and, at this moment, it is so great that I can scarcely support it.