Dangerous Liaisons —126—


I SHOULD HAVE REPLIED to you before, my amiable child, if the fatigue consequent on my last letter had not brought back my pains, which have once more deprived me during these last days of the use of my arm. I was most anxious to thank you for the good news which you have given me of my nephew, and I was no less eager to offer you my sincere congratulations on your own account. One is forced to recognize in this a real effect of Providence, which, by touching the heart of one, has also saved the other. Yes, my dearest fair, God, who only wished to try you, has succored you at a moment when your strength was exhausted; and, in spite of your little murmur, you owe Him, methinks, your thanksgiving. It is not that I do not feel that it would have been more agreeable to you, if this resolution had come to you first, and that Valmont’s had been only the consequence of it; it seems even, humanly speaking, that the rights of our sex would have been better preserved, and we would not lose any of them! But what are these slight considerations in view of the important objects which have been obtained? Does a man who has been saved from shipwreck complain that he has not had a choice of means?

You will soon find, my dear daughter, that the sorrow which you dread will alleviate itself; and, even if it were to subsist forever and in its entirety, you would nonetheless feel that it was still easier to endure than remorse for crime and contempt of yourself. It would have been useless for me to speak to you earlier with this apparent severity: love is an involuntary sentiment which prudence can avoid, but which it could not vanquish, and which, once born, dies only by its fine death, or from the absolute lack of hope. It is this last case, in which you are, which gives me the courage and the right to tell you frankly my opinion. It is cruel to alarm one hopelessly sick, who is no longer susceptible to aught save consolations and palliation;ii but it is right to enlighten a convalescent as to the dangers he has incurred, in order to inspire him with that prudence of which he has need, and with submission to counsels which may still be necessary to him.

Since you choose me for your physician, it is as such that I speak to you, and that I tell you that the little indisposition which you experience at present, and which perhaps demands some remedies, is nothing in comparison with the alarming malady from which your recovery is assured. Next, as your friend, as the friend of a reasonable and virtuous woman, I will permit myself to add that this passion, which has subjugated you, already so unfortunate in itself, became even more so through its object. If I am to believe what is told me, my nephew, whom I confess I love, perhaps to weakness, and who, indeed, unites many laudable qualities to many attractions, is not without danger for women; there are women whom he has wronged, and he sets almost an equal price upon their seduction and their ruin. Indeed, I believe that you may have converted him. Never, doubtless, was there a person more worthy to do this: but so many others have flattered themselves with the same thought, and their hopes have been deceived, that I love better far to think you should not be reduced to this resource.

Consider now, my dearest fair, that instead of the many risks you would have had to run, you will have, besides the repose of your conscience and your own peace of mind, the satisfaction of having been the principal cause of Valmont’s happy reformation. For myself, I do not doubt but that this is, in large part, the result of your courageous resistance, and that a moment of weakness on your part might have left my nephew, perhaps, in eternal error. I love to think so, and desire to see you think the same; you will find in that your first consolations, and I, fresh reasons for loving you more.

I expect you here within a few days, my amiable daughter, as you have announced. Come and recover calm and happiness in the same spot where you had lost it; come, above all, to rejoice with your fond mother that you have so happily kept the word you gave her, to do nothing unworthy of her or of yourself!