Dangerous Liaisons —150—


WHILE I WAIT FOR the happiness of seeing you, I abandon myself, my tender friend, to the pleasure of writing to you, and it is by occupying myself with you that I dispel my regret for your absence. To retrace my sentiments for you, to recall your own, is a real delight to my heart; and it is thus that even a time of privation offers me still a thousand benefits precious to my love. However, if I am to believe you, I shall obtain no reply from you: this very letter is to be the last, and we must refrain from a correspondence which, according to you, is dangerous, and of which we have no need. Assuredly, I will believe you, if you insist: for what can you wish that does not become my own wish, for that very reason? But, before being wholly resolved, will you not permit me to discuss the matter with you?

Of the question of danger, you must be the sole judge: I can calculate nothing, and I confine myself to begging you to watch over your safety; for I can have no peace while you are uneasy. For this purpose, it is not we two who are but one, but you who are both of us. It is not the same with our wants: here we can have but one thought; and if our opinion differs, it can only be for lack of explanation or from misunderstanding. This, then, methinks, is what I feel.

No doubt a letter seems by no means indispensable, when we can see each other freely. What could it say that a word, a glance, or even silence would not say a hundred times better still? This seems to me so true that, at the moment when you spoke of our ceasing to correspond, the idea easily crept into my soul; it troubled it perhaps, but did not wound it. It is even, as it were, when, wishing to press a kiss upon your bosom, I meet with a riband or a veil; I do but thrust it aside, and have no feeling of an obstacle.

But, since then, we are separated; and, now that you are no longer here, this thought of our correspondence has come back to torture me. Why, say I to myself, this privation the more? Nay, is it a reason, because one is far away, that one should have no more to say? I will assume that, favored by circumstance, we pass a whole day together; must we waste the time in talking which is meant for pleasure? Yes, for pleasure, my tender friend; for, by your side, even the moments of repose are full of a delicious enjoyment. But at last, however long the time may be, one ends by separation; and then one is all alone! ’Tis then that a letter is precious! If one reads it not, at least one gazes at it…. Ah! do not doubt, one may look at a letter without reading it, as, methinks, I should still find some pleasure in touching your portrait in the night….

Your portrait, do I say? But a letter is the portrait of the soul. It has not, like a cold resemblance, that stagnation which is so remote from love; it lends itself to our every movement: by turns it is animated, feels enjoyment, is in repose…. All your sentiments are so precious to me! Will you rob me of a means of cherishing them?

Are you sure, pray, that the need to write to me will never torment you? In solitude, if your heart expands or is depressed, if a movement of joy thrills through your soul, if an involuntary sadness, for a moment, troubles it: where will you deposeji your gladness or your sorrow, except upon the bosom of your friend? Will you, then, have a sentiment which he does not share? Will you allow yourself to be lost in solitary dreams apart? My love … my tender love! But it is your privilege to pronounce sentence. I did but wish to discuss, and not to beguile you; I do but give you reasons, I dare believe that my prayers had been of more avail. If you persist, therefore, I will endeavor not to grieve; I will make an effort to tell myself what you would have written to me: but, ah, you would say it better than I; and, above all, I should have more pleasure in hearing it.

Adieu, my charming friend; the hour is drawing nigh when I shall be able to see you: I take leave of you in all haste, that I may come and find you the sooner.