Dangerous Liaisons —175—


THE FATE OF MADAME de Merteuil, my dear and revered friend, seems to be at length complete; and it is such that her greatest enemies are divided between the indignation she merits and the pity she inspires. I was right, indeed, in saying that it would be a happiness for her to die of her smallpox. She has recovered, it is true, but she has been fearfully disfigured; and, in particular, she has lost an eye. You will imagine that I have not seen her; but I am told that she is really hideous.

The Marquis de —, who never misses an occasion for saying something malicious, said yesterday, in speaking of her, that the disease had transformed her, and that now her soul was to be seen in her face. Unhappily, everyone found the expression just.

A further event has just come to add to her disgrace and to her prejudice. Her case was tried the day before yesterday, and the verdict was given against her unanimously. Costs, damages, restitution of the funds received, all was adjudged to the minors: so that the small remnant of her fortune which was not compromised in this case is absorbed, and more than absorbed, by the costs.

Immediately she received this intelligence, although still sick, she made her arrangements, and started off at night, alone and posting. Her servants say today that none of them would follow her. It is believed she has taken the road to Holland.

This departure makes more noise than all the rest, from the fact that she has carried off her diamonds, a possession of great value, which should have returned to her husband’s estate; her plate, jewels; in short, everything that she could; and that she leaves behind her nearly fifty thousand livres of debts. It is a real bankruptcy.

The family is to assemble tomorrow to make arrangements with the creditors. Although only a distant relation, I have offered to contribute, but I shall not be present at this assembly, having to assist at an even sadder ceremony. Tomorrow, my daughter takes the habit of a postulant. I hope that you will not forget, my dear friend, that, in making this great sacrifice, I have no other motive for feeling compelled to it than the silence which you have maintained toward me.

M. Danceny left Paris nearly a fortnight ago. It is said that he is on his way to Malta where it is his intention to remain. There would be still time, perhaps, to recall him! … My friend! … My daughter is guilty indeed, then? … You will forgive a mother, no doubt, for only yielding to this awful certainty with difficulty.

What a fatality has fallen upon me of late, and stricken me in the objects dearest to me! My daughter and my friend!

Who is there who would not shudder, if he were to reflect upon the misfortunes that may be caused by even one dangerous acquaintance! And what troubles would one not avert by reflecting on this more often! What woman would not fly before the first proposal of a seducer! What mother could see another person than herself speak to her daughter, and tremble not! But these tardy reflections never come until after the event; and one of the most important of truths, as it is, perhaps, one of the most generally recognized, lies stifled and void of use in the whirlpool of our inconsequent manners.

Adieu,my dear and revered friend; I feel at this moment that our reason, which is already so insufficient to avert our misfortunes, is even more inadequate to console us for them.kf


We cannot, at this moment, give our reader the continuation of Mademoiselle de Volanges’ adventures, nor acquaint him with the sinister events which culminated the misfortunes, or completed the punishment, of Madame de Merteuil.

Perhaps someday it will be in our power to complete this work; but we can give no undertaking in this matter: and, even were we able to do so, we should still deem it our duty first to consult the taste of the public, which has not our reasons for taking an interest in this narration [Laclos’s note].