Dangerous Liaisons —145—


SERIOUSLY, VICOMTE, HAVE YOU left the Présidente? Have you sent her the letter which I wrote you for her? Really, you are charming ; and you have surpassed my expectations! In all good faith, I confess that this triumph gratifies me more than all those I have hitherto obtained. You will think, perhaps, that I set a very high value on this woman, whom recently I so disparaged; not at all: but it is not over her that I have gained the advantage; it is over you: that is the amusing and really delicious part of it.

Yes, Vicomte, you loved Madame de Tourvel much, and you love her still; you are madly in love with her: but, because I amused myself by making you ashamed of it, you bravely sacrificed her. You would have sacrificed a thousand of her, rather than submit to raillery.je To what lengths will not vanity carry us! The wise man was right, indeed, when he said that it was the enemy of happiness.

Where would you be now, if I had only wished to play you a trick? But I am incapable of deceit, as you well know; and, should you even reduce me in my turn to the convent and despair, I will run the risk, and surrender to my victor.

If I capitulate, however, it is really mere frailty: for, if I liked, what quibbles I might set up! And perhaps you would deserve them! I admire, for instance, the skill, or the awkwardness, with which you sweetly propose to me that you should be allowed to renew with the Présidente. It would suit you mightily, would it not? To take all the merit of this rupture, without losing thereby the pleasures of enjoyment? And then, as this apparent sacrifice would be no longer one for you, you offer to repeat it when I wish it! By this arrangement, the celestial prude would always believe herself to be the single choice of your heart, while I should plume myself on being the preferred rival; we should both of us be deceived, but you would be happy; and what does the rest matter?

’Tis a pity that, with such a genius for conceiving projects, you should have so little for their execution; and that, by a single ill-considered step, you should have yourself put an invincible obstacle to what you most desire.

What! You had an idea of renewing, and you could write my letter ! You must have thought me clumsy indeed! Ah, believe me, Vicomte, when one woman strikes at another’s heart, she rarely fails to find the vital spot, and the wound is incurable. When I was striking this one, or rather guiding your blows, I had not forgotten that the woman was my rival, that you had, for one moment, preferred her to me, and, in short, that you had rated me below her. If my vengeance has been deceived, I consent to bear the blame. Thus I am satisfied that you should try every means: I even invite you to do so, and promise you not to be vexed at your success, if you should attain it. I am so easy on the subject that I will trouble no further about it. Let us speak of something else.

For instance, of the health of the little Volanges. You will give me definite news of it on my return, will you not? I shall be very glad to have some. After that, it will be for you to judge whether it will suit you best to restore her to her lover or to endeavor to become once more the founder of a new branch of the Valmonts, under the name of Gercourt. This idea strikes me as rather diverting ; and, in leaving you your choice, I ask you not to take any definite step until we have talked of it together. This does not delay you very long, for I shall be in Paris immediately. I cannot tell you the precise day; but you may be sure that you will be the first informed of my arrival.

Adieu, Vicomte; in spite of my peevishness, my malice, and my reproaches, I have still much love for you, and I am preparing to prove it to you. Au revoir, my friend.