Dangerous Liaisons —140—


How COMES IT, MY lovely friend, that I receive no reply from you? Yet my last letter seemed to me to deserve one; these three days I could have received it, and I am awaiting it still! Indeed, I am vexed; I shall not speak to you at all, therefore, of my grand affairs.

That the reconciliation had its full effect; that, instead of reproaches and distrust, it but called forth fresh proofs of fondness; that it is I, at present, who receive the excuses and reparation due to my suspected candor, I shall tell you no word of this: and but for the unexpected occurrence of last night, I should not write to you at all. But, as that concerns your pupil, who probably will not be in a condition to tell you of it herself, at any rate for some time to come, I have charged myself with the task.

For reasons which you may or may not guess, Madame de Tourvel has not engaged my attention for some days past; and as these reasons could not exist in the case of the little Volanges, I became more attentive to her. Thanks to the obliging porter, I had no obstacles to overcome, and we led, your pupil and I, a comfortable and regular life. But habit leads to negligence: during the first days, we could never take precautions enough for our safety; we trembled even behind the bolts. Yesterday, an incredible piece of forgetfulness caused the accident of which I have to inform you; and if, for my part, I escaped with a fright, it has cost the little girl considerably more.

We were not asleep, but were in that state of repose and abandonment which succeeds toiz pleasure, when we heard, on a sudden, the door of the room open. I at once seized my sword, as much for my own defense as for that of our common pupil; I advanced, and saw no one: but, indeed, the door was open. As we had a light, I made a search, but found no living soul. I remembered, then, that we had forgotten our ordinary precautions, and no doubt the door, which had been only pushed to or badly shut, had opened of itself.

On rejoining my timid companion, with a view to calming her, I no longer found her in the bed; she had fallen, or hidden herself, betwixt the bed and wall: she was stretched there without consciousness, with no other movements than violent convulsions. You may imagine my embarrassment! I succeeded, however, in putting her back in the bed, and even in bringing her to, but she had hurt herself in her fall, and it was not long before she felt the effects.

Pains in the loins, violent colic pains, symptoms even less ambiguous, had soon enlightened me as to her condition: but, to acquaint her with it, I had first to tell her of that in which she was before; for she had no suspicion of it. Never perhaps, before her, did anyone preserve so much innocence, after doing so well all that is necessary to get rid of it! Oh, this one loses no time in reflection!

But she lost a great deal in bewailing herself, and I felt it was time to come to a resolution. I agreed with her, then, that I would go at once to the physician and to the surgeon of the family, and, informing them they would be sent for, would confide the whole truth to them, under a promise of secrecy; that she, on her side, should ring for her waiting maid; that she should, or should not, take her into her confidence, as she liked, but that she should send her to seek assistance, and forbid her, above all, to awake Madame de Volanges; a natural and delicate attention on the part of a daughter who fears to cause her mother anxiety.

I made my two visits and my two confessions with what speed I could, and thence returned home, nor have I gone abroad since; but the surgeon, whom I knew before, came at noon to give me an account of his patient’s condition. I was not mistaken; but he hopes that, if no accident occurs, nothing will be noticed in the house. The maid is in the secret; the physician has given the complaint a name; and this business will be settled like a thousand others, unless it be useful for us to speak of it hereafter.

But have we still any interests in common, you and I? Your silence would lead me to doubt it; I should not even believe it at all, did not my desire lead me to seek every means of preserving the hope of it.

Adieu, my lovely friend; I embrace you, though I bear you a grudge.