Dangerous Liaisons —130—


AND WHY, MY DEAREST fair, would you cease to be my child? Why do you seem to announce to me that all correspondence will cease between us? Is it to punish me for not having guessed what was against all probability; or do you suspect me of having pained you willfully? Nay, I know your heart too well to believe that it can think thus of mine. The pain, therefore, which your letter caused me is far less relative to me than to yourself!

O my youthful friend! I tell it you with sorrow: you are far too worthy of being loved that ever love should make you happy. Ah! what woman who was truly delicate and sensitive has not found misfortune in this very sentiment which promised her so much felicity! Do men know how to appreciate the woman they possess?

’Tis not that many are not honorable in their actions, and constant in their affections: but, even among these, how few know how to put themselves in unison with our hearts! Do not suppose, my dear child, that their love is like our own. Indeed, they experience the same intoxication, often even they bring more ardor to it; but they do not know that anxious eagerness, that delicate solicitude which causes in us those tender and constant cares of which the beloved object is ever the single aim. The man’s pleasure lies in the happiness which he feels, the woman’s in that which she bestows. This difference, so essential and so little noticed, has, however, a very sensibleil influence on the sum of their respective conduct. The pleasure of the one is ever to gratify his desires; that of the other is, especially, to arouse them. To please, with him, is but a means to success; whereas, with her, it is success itself. And coquetry, with which women are so often reproached, is nothing else than the abuse of this manner of feeling, and by that very fact proves its reality. In short, that exclusive taste, which particularly characterizes love, is in the man naught but a preference, serving at the most to enhance a pleasure which, perhaps, another object would diminish, but would not destroy; while in women it is a profound sentiment, which not only destroys every extraneous desire, but which, stronger than nature, and removed from its dominion, allows them to experience only repugnance and disgust at the very point where it seems that pleasure should be born.

And do not deem that more or less numerous exceptions, which one might quote, can successfully contradict these general truths. They are guaranteed by the public voice, which has distinguished infidelity from inconstancyim for men alone; a distinction by which they prevail when they should be humiliated, and which, for our sex, has never been adopted save by those depraved women who are its shame, and to whom all means seem good which they hope can save them from the painful feeling of their baseness.

I had thought, my dearest fair, that it might be of use to you to have these reflections to oppose to the chimerical ideas of perfect happiness with which love never fails to abuse our imagination: the lying spirit, to which one still clings even when forced to abandon it, and the loss of which irritates and multiplies the sorrows, already too real, that are inseparable from a lively passion! This task of alleviating your pains, or of diminishing their number, is the only one I would or can fulfill at this moment. In disorders without remedy it is to the regimen alone that advice can be applied. The only thing I ask of you is to remember that to pity a sick person is not to blame him. Who are we, pray, that any of us should blame another? Let us leave the right to judge to Him alone who reads in our hearts, and I even dare believe that, in His paternal sight, a host of virtues may redeem a single weakness.

But I conjure you, my dear friend, guard yourself above all from those violent resolutions which are less a proof of strength than of entire discouragement: do not forget that, in rendering another possessor of your existence, to employ your own expression, it is not in your power to deprive your friends of the part of it which they previously possessed and will never cease to reclaim.

Adieu, my dear daughter; think sometimes of your affectionate mother, and believe that you will ever be, and above all else, the object of her dearest thoughts.