Dangerous Liaisons —161—


CRUEL AND WICKED BEING, will you never cease to persecute me? Does it not suffice you to have tortured, degraded, vilified me? Would you ravish from me even the peace of the grave? What! In this abode of shadow, where ignominy has forced me to bury myself, are my sorrows to be without cessation, is hope to be unknown? I do not implore for mercy, which I do not deserve: to suffer without complaining, I shall be content if my sufferings do not exceed my strength. But do not render my torments unbearable. In leaving me my sorrow, take away from me the cruel memory of the good I have lost. When you have ravished it from me,jn trace no more before my eyes its desolating image. I was innocent and at peace: because I saw you, I lost my repose; by listening to you I became criminal. Author of my faults, what right have you to punish them?

Where are the friends who cherished me, where are they? My misfortune has terrified them. None dares come near me. I am borne down, and they leave me without succor! I am dying, and no one weeps over me. All consolation is refused me. Pity stops short on the brink of the abyss into which the guilty one has plunged. She is torn by remorse and her cries are not heeded!

And you, whom I have outraged; you, whose esteem adds to my punishment; you, who alone would have the right to avenge yourself on me, what are you doing far away from me? Come and punish an unfaithful wife. Let me suffer, at last, the torments I have deserved. I should have already submitted to your vengeance: but the courage failed me to tell you of your shame. It was not dissimulation, it was respect. Let this letter, at least, tell you of my repentance. Heaven has taken your part; it avenges you for a wrong you do not know. ’Tis Heaven which has tied my tongue and retained my words; it feared lest you should remit a fault which it wished to punish. It has withdrawn me from your indulgence, which would have infringed its justice.

Pitiless in its vengeance, it has abandoned me to the very one who ruined me. It is at once for him and through him that I suffer. I seek to flee him in vain; he follows me; he is there; he assails me unceasingly. But how different he is from himself! His eyes express naught but hatred and contempt. His lips proffer only insults and reproach. His arms are only thrown round me to destroy me. Who will save me from his barbarous fury?

But what! It is he…. I am not mistaken; it is he whom I see once more. O my beloved, take me in your arms; hide me in your bosom: yes, it is you, it is indeed you! What dread illusion made me misunderstand you? How I have suffered in your absence! Let us part no more, let us never part again. Let me breathe. Feel my heart, how it throbs! Ah, it is with fear no longer, it is the soft emotion of love! Why do you turn away from my tender caresses? Cast your sweet glance upon me! What are those bonds you are trying to break? Why are you getting ready those preparations for death? What can change your features thus? What are you doing? Leave me: I shudder! God! It is that monster again! My friends, do not desert me. You, who urged me to fly from him, help me to struggle against him; and you, more indulgent, who promised me a diminution of my pains, come to my side. Where have you both gone? If I am not allowed to see you again, at least, answer this letter: let me know that you still love me.

Leave me then, cruel one! What fresh fury seizes you? Do you fear lest any gentle sentiment should penetrate my soul? You redouble my torments; you force me to hate you. Oh, what a grievous thing is hatred! How it corrodes the heart which distills it! Why do you persecute me? What more can you have to say to me? Have you not made it as impossible for me to listen to you as to answer you? Expect nothing more of me. Monsieur, farewell.