Dangerous Liaisons —144—


YESTERDAY, AT THREE O‘CLOCK in the evening, my lovely friend, being out of patience at having received no news, I presented myself at the house of the deserted fair; I was told that she was out. I saw nothing more in this phrase than a refusal to receive me, at which I was neither vexed nor surprised; and I retired, in the hope that this step would induce so polite a woman to honor me with at least a word of reply. The desire I had to receive it brought me home on purpose about nine o’clock, but I found nothing there. Astonished at this silence, for which I was not prepared, I sent my chasseur for information, and to discover if the sensitive person was dying or dead. At last, when I had returned, he informed me that Madame de Tourvel had, indeed, gone out at eleven in the forenoon with her waiting maid; that she was driven to the Convent of … ; and that, at seven o’clock in the evening, she sent back her carriage and servants, saying that they were not to expect her home. This is certainly acting according to rule. The convent is the widow’s right asylum; and, if she persists in so laudable a resolution, I shall add to all the other obligations which I owe her that of the celebrity which this adventure will assume.

I told you some time ago that, in spite of your uneasiness, I should only reappear upon the stage of the world brilliant with new éclat. Let them show themselves, then, these severe critics, who accused me of a romantic and unhappy passion; let them make quicker or more brilliant ruptures: nay, let them do better, let them present themselves as consolers, the way is clear for them. Well, let them only dare to attempt the course which I have run from end to end; and, if one of them obtains the least success, I yield him the place of honor. But they will all discover that, when I am at any pains, the impression I leave is ineffaceable. This one I am sure will be so; and I should look upon all my other triumphs as nothing, if in this case I was ever to have a favored rival.

The course she has taken flatters my self-love, I admit; but I am annoyed that she should have found sufficient strength to separate herself so much from me. There will be no obstacles between us, then, save those of my own formation! What! If I wished to renew with her, she might be unwilling? What am I saying? She would not desire it, deem it no more her supreme happiness? Is it thus that one loves? And do you think, my lovely friend, that I ought to suffer it? Could I not, for instance, and would it not be better, endeavor to bring this woman to the point of seeing the possibility of a reconciliation, which one always desires, as long as one has hope? I could try this course without attaching any importance to it, and consequently without your taking umbrage. On the contrary, it would be a simple experiment which we would perform in concert; and, even if I should succeed, it would but be one means the more of repeating, when you wished it, a sacrifice which seems to have been agreeable to you. Now, my fair one, I am waiting to receive the reward, and all my prayers are for your return. Come quickly then to recover your lover, your pleasures, your friends and the current of adventure.

That of the little Volanges has turned out amazing well. Yesterday, my uneasiness not allowing me to remain in one place, I called, among my various excursions, upon Madame de Volanges. I found your pupil already in the salon, still in the costume of an invalid, but in full convalescence, looking only fresher and more interesting. You women, in a like situation, would have lain a month on your long chair: my faith, long live our demoiselles! This one, in truth, gave me a desire to see if the recovery was a complete one!

I have still to tell you that the little girl’s accident had like to have turned your sentimental Danceny’s head. At first it was grief; today it is joy. His Cécile was ill! You can imagine how the brain reels at such a calamity. Three times a day he sent to enquire after her, and on no occasion omitted to present himself; finally, in a noble epistle, he asked mamma’s permission to go and congratulate her on the convalescence of so dear an object, and Madame de Volanges consented: so much so that I found the young man established as in the old days, save for a certain familiarity which as yet he dares not permit himself.

It is from himself that I have learned these details, for I left at the same time with him, and made him chatter. You can have no notion of the effect this visit has had on him. Joy, desires, transports impossible to describe. I, with my fondness for grand emotions, completed the work of turning his head, by assuring him that, in a very few days, I would put him in the way of seeing his fair one at closer quarters.

Indeed, I am determined to hand her over to him as soon as I have made my experiment. I wish to consecrate myself to you wholly; and then, would it be worthwhile that your pupil should also be my scholar, if she were to deceive nobody but her husband? The masterpiece is to deceive her lover, and above all her first lover! As for myself, I have not to reproach myself with having uttered the word love.

Adieu, my lovely friend; return soon, then, to enjoy your empire over me, to receive its homage, and to pay me its reward.