Dangerous Liaisons —151—


I DO NOT SUPPOSE, Marquise, that you deem me so inexperienced as to have failed to set its due value upon the tête-à-tête in which I found you this evening, nor upon the remarkable chance which brought Danceny to your house! It is not that your practiced countenance did not know marvelously well how to assume an expression of calm and serenity, nor that you betrayed yourself by any of those phrases which the lips of confusion or repentance sometimes let fall. I admit, also, that your docile gaze served you to perfection; and, if it had but known how to make itself believed as well as understood, far from feeling or retaining the least suspicion, I should not have suspected for a moment the extreme vexation caused you by that importunatejj third party. But, if you would not lavish such great talents in vain, if you would obtain the success you promised yourself, and produce, in short, the illusion you sought, you must begin by forming your novice of a lover with greater care.

Since you are beginning to undertake educations, teach your pupils not to blush and be put out of countenance at the slightest pleasantry; not to deny so earnestly, in the case of one woman only, the things against which they defend themselves so feebly in the case of all the others. Teach them, again, how to listen to the praises of their mistress, without deeming themselves bound to do the honors for her; and, if you permit them to gaze at you in company, let them, at least, know beforehand how to disguise that look of possession, so easy to recognize, which they confound so clumsily with that of love. You will then be able to exhibit them in your public appearances, without their conduct putting their sage instructress to the blush; and I myself, only too happy to have a hand in your celebrity, promise to compose and publish the programs of this new college.

But, until then, I am, I confess, astonished that it should be I whom you have chosen to treat like a schoolboy. Oh, on any other woman how speedily I would be avenged! What a pleasure I should make of it! And how far it would surpass that of which she believed she had robbed me! Yes, it is, indeed, in your case alone that I can prefer reparation to revenge; and do not think that I am held back by the least doubt, the least uncertainty; I know all.

You have been in Paris for the last four days; and every day you have seen Danceny, and you have seen him only. Even today, your door was still closed; and your porter only failed to prevent my reaching you, for want of an assurance equal to your own. Nonetheless, I was not to doubt, you wrote to me, that I should be the first to be informed of your arrival; of that arrival of which you could not yet tell me the date, although you wrote to me on the eve of your departure. Will you deny these facts, or will you attempt to excuse them? Either course is alike impossible; and yet I still contain myself ! There you behold the force of your dominion: but believe me, rest satisfied with having tried it, abuse it no more. We both know one another, Marquise: that word ought to suffice.

Tomorrow, you told me, you will be out all day? Well and good, if you are really going out; and you may imagine that I shall know. But at any rate you will return in the evening; and, for our difficult reconciliation, the time betwixt then and the next morning will not be too long. Let me know then, if it is to be at your house, or in the other place, that our numerous and reciprocal expiationsjk are to be made. Above all, no more of Danceny. Your naughty head was full of his idea, and I cannot be jealous of that frenzy of your imagination : but reflect that, from this moment, what was but a fantasy would become a marked preference. I do not think that I was made for such humiliations, and I do not expect to receive them from you.

I even hope that this sacrifice will not seem one to you. But, even if it should cost you anything, it seems to me that I have set you a fine enough example, and that a woman of sensibility and beauty, who lived for me alone, who, perhaps, at this very moment, is dying of love and regret, is worth at least as much as a young schoolboy, who lacks, if you will, neither good looks nor intelligence, but who, as yet, has neither constancy nor knowledge of the world!

Adieu, Marquise; I say nothing of my sentiments toward you. All that I can do, at this moment, is not to search my heart. I wait for your reply. Reflect, when you make it, reflect carefully that the easier it is for you to make me forget the offense you have given me, the more indelibly would a refusal on your part, a simple postponement even, engrave it upon my heart.