Dangerous Liaisons —148—


O YOU WHOM I love! 0 thou whom I adore! 0 you who have commenced my happiness! 0 thou who hast crowned it! Compassionate friend, tender mistress, why must the recollection of thy sorrow come to trouble the charm which I undergo? Ah, Madame, be calm, ‘tis friendship which implores you. O my friend, be happy, ’tis the prayer of love.

Nay, what reproaches have you to make to yourself? Believe me, you are misled by your delicacy. The regrets it causes you, the injuries of which it accuses me, are equally imaginary; and my heart feels that between us two there has been no other seducer but love. Dread no longer, then, to yield to the sentiments you inspire, to let yourself be penetrated by all the fires you yourself have kindled. What! would our hearts be less pure, if they had been later illuminated ? Doubtless, no. ’Tis seduction, on the contrary, which, acting never except by plan, can regulate its progress and its methods, and, from a distance, foresee events. But true love does not thus permit itself to meditate and reflect: it distracts us from our thoughts by our sentiments; its sway is never stronger than when it is unknown ; and it is in shadow and silence that it entangles us in bonds which it is alike impossible to notice or to break.

Thus, as late as yesterday, in spite of the lively emotion which the idea of your return caused me, in spite of the extreme pleasure I felt at seeing you, I nevertheless thought myself to be called and guided still by calm friendship only: or rather, abandoned wholly to the soft sentiments of my heart, I was very little concerned to unravel their origin or their cause. Like myself, my tender friend, you experienced, unconsciously, that imperious charm which handed over our souls to the sweet impressions of affection; and neither of us recognized Love, until we had issued from the intoxication in which the god had plunged us.

But that very fact justifies instead of condemning us. No, you have not been false to friendship, and I have not abused your confidence. ’Tis true, we were both ignorant of our feelings; but we only underwent this illusion, we did not seek to give birth to it. Ah, far from complaining of it, let us only think of the happiness it has procured us; and, without troubling it with unjust reproaches, let us only be concerned to enhance it by the charm of constancy and security! O my friend, how my heart dotes on this hope! Yes, freed, henceforward, from every fear, and given over wholly to love, you will participate in my desires, my transports, the delirium of my senses, the intoxication of my soul; and every moment of our fortunate days shall be marked by a new enjoyment.

Adieu, thou whom I adore! I shall see thee, this evening, but shall I find thee alone? I dare not hope it. Nay! you do not desire it as much as I do!