Dangerous Liaisons —58—


PRAY, MADAME, HOW HAVE I deserved the reproaches which you make me, and the anger which you display? The liveliest attachment and, withal,cz the most respectful, the most entire submission to your least wishes: there, in two words, is the history of my sentiments and my conduct. Oppressed by the pains of an unhappy love, I had no other consolation than that of seeing you; you bade me deprive myself of that; I obeyed you without permitting myself a murmur. As a reward for this sacrifice, you allowed me to write to you, and today you would rob me of that solitary pleasure. Shall I see it ravished from me without seeking to defend it? No, without a doubt: ah, how should it not be dear to my heart? It is the only one which remains to me, and I owe it to you.

My letters, you say, are too frequent! But reflect, I beseech you, that during the ten days of my exile, I have not passed one moment without thinking of you, and that yet you have only received two letters from me. I only speak to you of my love! Ah, what can I say, save that which I think? All that I could do was to weaken the expression of that; and you can believe me that I only let you see what it was impossible for me to hide. Finally, you threaten me that you will no longer reply to me! Thus, the man who prefers you to everybody, and who respects even more than he loves you: not content with treating him with severity, you would add to it your contempt! And why these threats and this anger? What need have you of them? Are you not sure of being obeyed, even when your orders are unjust? Is it possible for me then to dispute even one of your desires, have I not already proved it? But will you abuse this empire which you have over me? After having rendered me unhappy, after having become unjust, will you find it so easy then to enjoy that tranquillity which you assure me is so necessary to you? Will you never say to yourself: he has made me mistress of his fate, and I have made him unhappy? He implored my aid, and I looked at him without pity? Do you know to what point my despair may carry me? No. To be able to appreciate my sufferings, you would need to know the extent to which I love you, and you do not know my heart.

To what do you sacrifice me? To chimerical fears. And who inspires them in you? A man who adores you; a man over whom you will never cease to hold an absolute empire. What do you fear, what can you fear, from a sentiment over which you will ever be mistress, to direct as you will? But your imagination creates monsters for itself, and you attribute the fright which they cause you to love. A little confidence, and these phantoms will disappear.

A wise man said that, to dispel fears, it is almost always sufficient to penetrate into their causes.da It is in love especially that this truth finds its application. Love, and your fears will vanish. In the place of objects which affright you, you will find a delicious emotion, a lover tender and submissive, and all your days, marked by happiness, will leave you no other regret than that of having lost any by indifference. I myself, since I repented of my errors and exist only for love, regretdb a time which I thought I had passed in pleasure; and I feel that it lies with you alone to make me happy. But, I beseech you, let not the pleasure which I take in writing to you be disturbed by the fear of displeasing you. I would not disobey you; but I am at your knees; it is there I claim the happiness of which you would rob me, the only one which you have left me; I cry to you, heed my prayers and behold my tears; ah, Madame, will you refuse me?

AT … , 7TH SEPTEMBER, 17–.