Dangerous Liaisons —100—


MY FRIEND, I AM tricked, betrayed, lost, I am in despair; Madame de Tourvel has gone. She has gone, and I did not know it! And I was not there to oppose departure, to reproach her with her unworthy treachery! Ah, do not think I would have let her leave; she would have stayed; yes, she would have stayed, if I had had to employ violence ! But think! in credulous security, I slept tranquilly; I slept, and the thunderbolt has fallen upon me. No, I do not understand this departure at all; I must abandon all hope of understanding women.

When I recall the events of yesterday! What do I say? Even of yesterday night! That glance so sweet, that voice so tender, and that pressure of the hand! And all the time, she was planning flight from me! O women, women! After this, complain that you are deceived! Yes, any perfidygm that one employs is a theft from your store.gn

What pleasure I shall take in avenging myself! I shall find her again, this perfidious woman; I shall resume my empire over her. If love sufficed to procure me the means of that, what will it not do when assisted by vengeance? I shall see her again at my knees, trembling and bathed in tears, crying for mercy with her deceitful voice; and I-I shall be pitiless.

What does she at present? What does she think? Perhaps she applauds herself for having deceived me; and, faithful to the tastes of her sex, this pleasure seems to her the sweetest. What the so greatly vaunted virtue could not obtain, the spirit of ruse has brought about without an effort. Madman that I was, I dreaded her virtue; it was her ill faith that I had to fear.

And to be obliged to swallow my resentment! To dare show no more than a gentle sorrow, when I have a heart full of rage! To see myself reduced once more to be suppliant to a rebellious woman who has escaped from my sway! Ought I to be humiliated to such a degree? And by whom? By a timid woman, who was never practiced in fight. What does it serve me to have established myself in her heart, to have scorched her with all the fires of love, to have carried the trouble of her senses to the verge of delirium, if, calm in her retreat, she can today plume herself more on her escape than I upon my victories? And should I suffer it? My friend, you do not believe it; you have no such humiliating idea of me!

But what fatality attaches me to this woman? Are there not a hundred others who desire my attentions? Will they not be eager to respond to them? Even if none were worth this one, does not the attraction of variety, the charm of fresh conquests, the pride of numbers offer pleasure sweet enough? Why run after that which eludes us, and neglect what is in our path? Ah, why? … I know not, but I feel it extremely.

There is no happiness or peace for me, save in the possession of this woman whom I hate and love with equal fury. I will only support my lot from the moment when I shall dispose of hers. Then, tranquil and satisfied, I shall see her in her turn given over to the storms which I experience at this moment; I will excite a thousand others more! Hope and fear, security and distrust, all the ills devised by hate, all the good that love affords, I want them to fill her heart, to succeed one another at my will. That time shall come…. But how many labors yet! How near I was yesterday! And how far away I see myself today! How to approach her again? I dare not take any measure; I feel that, before I adopt any course, I need greater calmness, and my blood leaps within my veins.

What enhances my torment is the calm with which everyone here replies to my questions upon this event, upon its cause, and all the extraordinary features it presents…. No one knows anything, no one cares to know anything: they would hardly have spoken of it, had I allowed them to speak of anything else. Madame de Rosemonde, to whom I hastened this morning when I learned the news, answered me, with the indifference of her age, that it was the natural result of the indisposition which seized Madame de Tourvel yesterday; that she had been afraid of an illness, and had preferred to be at home: she thinks it quite simple; she would have done the same, she told me: as if there could be anything in common between the two! Between her, who has only death before her, and the other, who is the charm and torment of my life!

Madame de Volanges, whom I at first suspected of being an accomplice, seems only to be affected in that she was not consulted as to the step. I am delighted, I confess, that she has not had the pleasure of harming me. That proves again that she is not in this woman’s confidence to the extent I feared: that is always one enemy the less. How pleased she would be with herself, if she knew that it was I who was the cause of the flight! How swollen with pride, if it had been through her counsels! How her importance would have been enhanced! Great God, how I hate her! Oh, I will begin again with her daughter, I will mold her to my fantasy: I think, therefore, I shall remain here for some time; at least, the little reflection I have been able to make leads me to this course.

Do you not think, in fact, that, after so marked a step, my ingrate must dread my presence? If then the idea has come to her that I might follow her, she will not fail to close her door to me; and I wish as little to accustom her to that means as to endure the humiliation. I prefer, on the contrary, to announce to her that I shall remain here; I will even make entreaties for her return; and when she is persuaded of my absence, I will appear at her house: we shall see how she supports the interview. But I must postpone it, in order to enhance the effect, and I know not yet if I have the patience; twenty times today I have opened my mouth to call for my horses. However, I will command myself; I promise to await your reply here; I only beg you, my lovely friend, not to keep me waiting for it.

The thing which would thwart me the most would be not to know what is passing; but my chasseur, who is in Paris, has certain rights of access to the waiting maid; he will be able to serve me. I am sending him instructions and money. I beg you to find it good that I join both to this letter, and also to be at the pains to send them to him by one of your people, with orders to place them in his own hands. I take this precaution because the rascal is in the habit of failing to receive the letters I write to him, when they command him some task which irks him. And for the moment he does not seem to me so enamored of his conquest as I could wish him to be.

Adieu, my lovely friend; if any happy idea comes to you, any means of accelerating my progress, inform me of it. I have, more than once, had experience of how useful your friendship can be to me; I experience it once again at this moment: for I feel calmer since I have written to you; at least I am speaking to some one who understands me, and not to the automata with whom I vegetate since this morning. In truth, the farther I go the more am I tempted to believe that you and I are the only people in the world who are of any consequence.