Dangerous Liaisons —170—


I MOVE, MY DEAR friend, from surprise to surprise and from sorrow to sorrow. One must be a mother to form an idea of what I suffered yesterday all the morning: and, if my most cruel anxiety has been calmed since, there still remains to me a keen affliction, the end of which I cannot foresee.

Yesterday, about ten o’clock in the morning, astonished that I had not yet seen my daughter, I sent my waiting maid to know what could have occasioned her delay. She returned a moment later, highly alarmed, and alarmed me even more by informing me that my daughter was not in her apartment, and that, since the morning, her maid had not seen her there. Judge of my situation! I summoned all my people, and the porter in especial: all swore to me they knew nothing, and could give me no information upon this event. I went at once to my daughter’s room. The disorder which obtained there assured me that she had apparently only gone that morning: but I found no further clue. I searched her presses, her writing desk; I found everything in its place and all her wardrobe, with the exception of the dress in which she had left. She had not even taken the small stock of money which she possessed.

As she had only heard yesterday of all that is said of Madame de Merteuil; as she is greatly attached to her, to such a degree, indeed, that she did naught but weep all the evening; as I remembered, also, that she did not know Madame de Merteuil was in the country, my first idea was that she had wished to see her friend, and had been so imprudent as to go alone. But the time which elapsed without her returning brought back all my uneasiness. Each moment augmented my trouble, and, burning as I was for information, I dared take no steps to obtain it, for fear of giving publicity to a proceeding which, afterward, I might wish, perhaps, to be able to hide from everybody. Never in my life have I so suffered.

Finally, it was not until past two o’clock, I received at the same time a letter from my daughter and one from the Superior of the Convent of … My daughter’s letter only said that she had feared lest I should oppose the vocation, which she felt, to become a nun, and that she had not dared speak to me of it: the rest only consisted of excuses for the course she had adopted without my permission, which I would assuredly not disapprove of, she added, if I knew her motives, into which she begged me, however, not to enquire.

The Superior wrote to me that, seeing a young person arrive alone, she had at first refused to receive her; but that, having questioned her and learned who she was, she had thought to do me a service by giving my daughter shelter, in order not to expose her to further journeys, upon which she seemed resolved. The Superior, while offering, as a matter of course, to restore my daughter to me, if I were to demand her, urges me, obeying her condition,ka not to oppose a vocation which she declares to be firm; she told me also that she could not inform me earlier of this event, owing to the difficulty she had in making my daughter write to me, as her plan was to leave everyone in ignorance of the place of her retreat. It is a cruel thing when our children argue so ill!

I went immediately to the convent; and, after seeing the Superior, asked to see my daughter; she only came reluctantly, and in a very tremulous state. I spoke to her before the nuns, and I spoke to her alone: all that I could extract from her, amid many tears, was that she could only be happy in the convent; I decided to let her remain there, but without as yet entering the rank of postulants,kb as she desired. I fear that the deaths of Madame de Tourvel and M. de Valmont have unduly affected her young head. Whatever my respect for a religious vocation, I could not see my daughter embrace that career without sorrow, and even without alarm. Methinks we have already duties enough to perform, without creating fresh ones; and, again, it is hardly at her age that we best know what befits us.

What enhances my embarrassment is the nearness of M. de Gercourt’s return; must this most advantageous marriage be broken off? How, then, are we to make our children’s happiness, if it is not sufficient to desire it and devote all our cares to it? You will greatly oblige me by telling me what you would do in my place; I cannot fix upon any course: I find nothing more terrible than to have to decide another’s lot, and I am equally afraid of bringing to this occasion the severity of a judge or the weakness of a mother.

I reproach myself unceasingly for augmenting your sorrows by speaking to you of my own; but I know your heart: the consolation which you could give to others would become to you the greatest you could yourself receive.

Adieu, my dear and revered friend; I await your two replies with much impatience.