Dangerous Liaisons —138—


I INSIST, MY CHARMING friend: no, I am not in love, and it is not my fault if circumstances force me to play the part. Only consent, and return; you shall soon see for yourself how sincere I am. I made proof of it yesterday, and it cannot be destroyed by what occurs today.

Know then I was with the tender prude, and was quite without any other business: for the little Volanges, in spite of her condition, was to pass the whole night at Madame V—’s infants’ ball.iv My lack of employment had, at first, inclined me to prolong the evening, and I had even demanded a slight sacrifice with this view; but hardly was it granted, when the pleasure I had promised myself was disturbed by the idea of this love which you persist in ascribing to me, or at least, in reproaching me with; so much so that I felt no other desire except that of being able to assure myself, and convince you, that it was pure calumny on your part.

I made a violent resolve therefore; and, under some trivial pretext, left my fair much surprised and, doubtless, even more grieved. For myself, I went tranquilly to meet Emilie at the Opera; and she could testify to you, that, until this morning, when we separated, no regret came to trouble our pleasures.

I had, however, fine cause enough for uneasiness, had not my utter indifference saved me from it; for you must know that I was hardly four doors away from the Opera, with Emilie in my carriage, when that of the austere Puritan drew up exactly beside mine, and a block which occurred left us for nearly half a quarter of an hour side by side. We could see each other as clearly as at noon, and there was no means of escape.

Nor is this all; I took it into my head to confide to Émilie that it was the woman of the letter. (You will remember, perhaps, that piece of folly, and that Émilie was the desk).iw She had not forgotten it, and, as she is a laughter-loving creature, she could not be at peace until she had examined, at her ease, this piece of virtue, as she said, and this with peals of such scandalous laughter as would have angered anyone.

Still this is not all; the jealous woman sentix to my house the very same night! I was not there; but, in her obstinacy, she sent a second time, with orders to wait for me. As soon as I had made up my mind to sleep with Émilie, I had sent back my carriage, with no other order to the coachman but to return and fetch me this morning; and as, on reaching home, he found the messenger of love, he told him very simply that I should not be back that night. You can well imagine the effect of this news, and that on my return I found my dismissal announced with all the dignity proper to the occasion.

Thus this adventure, which in your view was never to be determined, could have been finished, as you see, this morning; if it is not finished, that is not, as you will believe, because I set any price on its continuation: it is, first, because I did not think it decent that I should let myself be quitted; and again, because I wished to reserve for you the honor of the sacrifice.

I answered this severe note, therefore, in a long letter full of sentiment ; I gave lengthy reasons and relied on love to make them acceptable. I have already succeeded. I have just received a second note, still very rigorous and confirming the eternal rupture, as it ought to be; the tone of it, however, is not the same. Above all, I am not to be seen again: this resolution is announced four times in the most irrevocable fashion. I concluded thereby, that I was not to lose a moment before I presented myself. I have already sent my chasseur to win over the porter; and, in an instant, I shall go myself, to have my pardon sealed: for in sins of this nature, there is only one formula which carries a general absolution; and that can only be performed at an audience.iy

Adieu, my charming friend; I fly to make trial of this great event.