Dangerous Liaisons —157—


Do NOT DOUBT, MY dear Vicomte, either of my heart or of my proceedings! How could I resist a desire of my dear Cécile’s? Ah, it is indeed she, she alone whom I love, whom I shall always love! Her ingenuousness, her tenderness have a charm for me from which I may have been weak enough to allow myself to be distracted, but which nothing will ever efface. Embarked upon another adventure without, so to speak, having perceived it, often has the memory of Cécile come to trouble me, in the midst of my sweetest pleasures; and, perhaps, my heart has never rendered her truer homage than at the very moment I was unfaithful to her. However, my friend, let us spare her delicacy and hide my wrongdoings from her; not to surprise her, but so as not to give her pain. Cécile’s happiness is the most ardent vow that I frame; I would never forgive myself a fault which had cost her a tear.

I feel I have deserved your jesting remarks upon what you call my new principles: but you can believe me when I say that it is not by them I am guided at this moment; and from tomorrow I am determined to prove it. I will go and accuse myself to the very woman who has been the cause of my error, who has participated in it; I will say to her, “Read my heart; it has the most tender friendship for you; friendship united to desire so greatly resembles love! … Both of us have been deceived; but, though susceptible to error, I am not capable of a breach of faith.” I know my friend; she is as noble as she is indulgent; she will do more than pardon me, she will approve. She herself often reproached herself with betraying friendship ; often her delicacy took alarm at her love. Wiser than I, she will strengthen in my soul those useful fears which I rashly sought to stifle in hers. I shall owe it to her that I am better, as to you that I am happier. O my friends, divide my gratitude. The idea that I owe my happiness to you enhances its value.

Adieu, my dear Vicomte. The excess of my joy does not prevent me from thinking of your sorrows, and from sharing them. Why can I not be of use to you! Does Madame de Tourvel remain inexorable then? I am told also that she is very ill. God, how I pity you! May she regain at the same time her health and her indulgence, and forever make your happiness! These are the prayers of friendship ; I dare hope that they will be heard by Love.

I should like to talk longer with you; but the hour approaches, and perhaps Cécile already awaits me.