Dangerous Liaisons —57—


I FOUND YOUR LETTER yesterday on my arrival. Your anger quite delighted me. You could not have had a more lively sense of Danceny’s delinquencies, if they had been exercised against yourself. It is no doubt out of vengeance that you get his mistress into the habit of showing him slight infidelities; you are a very wicked person! Yes, you are charming, and I am not surprised that you are more irresistible than Danceny.

At last I know him by heart, this pretty hero of romance! He has no more secrets for me. I have told him so often that virtuous love was the supreme good, that one emotion was worth ten intrigues, that I was myself, at this moment, amorous and timid; he found in me, in short, a fashion of thinking so conformable with his own, that, in the enchantment which he felt at my candor, he told me everything and vowed me a friendship without reserve. We are no more advanced for that in our project.

At first, it seemed to me that he went on the theory that a young girl demands much more consideration than a woman, in that she has more to lose. He thinks, above all, that nothing can justify a man for putting a girl into the necessity of marrying him, or living dishonored, when the girl is far richer than the man, which is the case in which he finds himself. The mother’s sense of security, the girl’s candor, all this intimidates and arrests him. The difficulty would not be simply to dispute these arguments, however true they may be. With a little skill, and helped by passion, they would soon be destroyed; all the more, in that they tend to be ridiculous, and one would have the sanction of custom on one’s side. But what hinders one from having any hold over him is that he is happy as he is. Indeed, if a first love appears generally more virtuous, and, as one says, purer; if, at least, its course is slower, it is not, as people think, from delicacy or shyness; it is that the heart, astonished at an unknown emotion, halts, so to speak, at every step, to relish the charm which it experiences, and that this charm is so potent over a young heart that it occupies it to such an extent that it is unmindful of every other pleasure. That is so true, that a libertine in love—if such may befall a libertine—becomes from that instant in less haste for pleasure; in fact, between Danceny’s behavior toward the little Volanges, and my own toward the more prudish Madame de Tourvel, there is but a shade of difference of degree.

It would have needed, to warm our young man, more obstacles than he has encountered; above all, that there should have been need for more mystery, for mystery begets boldness. I am coming to believe that you have hurt us by serving him so well; your conduct would have been excellent with a man of experience, who would have only felt desires: but you might have foreseen that, with a young man who is honorable and in love, the greatest value of favors is that they should be the proof of love; and, consequently, that, the surer he were of being beloved, the less enterprising he would become. What is to be done at present? I know nothing; but I have no hope that the child will be caught before marriage, and we shall have wasted our time: I am sorry for it, but I see no remedy.

While I am thus discoursing, you are doing better with your Chevalier. That reminds me that you have promised me an infidelity in my favor; I have your promise in writing, and I do not want it to be a dishonored draft. I admit that the date of payment has not yet come; but it would be generous of you not to wait for that; and on my side, I would take charge of the interest. What do you say, my lovely friend? Are you not tired of your constancy? Is this Chevalier then such a miracle? Oh, give me my way; I will indeed compel you to admit that if you have found some merit in him, it is because you have forgotten me.

Farewell, my lovely friend; I embrace you with all the ardor of my desire; I defy all the kisses of the Chevalier to contain as much.

AT … , 5TH SEPTEMBER, 17–.