Dangerous Liaisons —163—



It is with great regret that I undertake the sad task of announcing to you news which will cause you such cruel sorrow. Allow me, first, to recommend to you that pious resignation which we have all so much admired in you, and which alone enables us to support the ills with which our wretched life is strewn.

Your nephew … Gracious Heaven! Must I afflict so greatly so venerable a lady! Your nephew has had the misfortune to fall in a duel which he had this morning with M. le Chevalier Danceny. I am entirely ignorant of the motive of this quarrel; but it appears, from the missive which I found still in the pocket of M. le Vicomte, and which I have the honor to forward you; it appears, I say, that he was not the aggressor. Yet it needs must be he whom Heaven allowed to fall!

I had been to wait upon M. le Vicomte, precisely at the hour when he was brought back to the hôtel. Imagine my terror, when I saw your nephew carried by two of his servants, and bathed in his blood. He had two sword thrusts through his body, and was already very weak. M. Danceny was there also, and he even wept. Ah, certainly, he has reason to weep: but it is a fine time to shed tears, when one has caused an irreparable misfortune!

As for me, I could not contain myself; and, in spite of my humble condition,jo I nonetheless told him my fashion of thinking. But it was then that M. le Vicomte showed himself truly great. He ordered me to be silent; and, taking the hand of the very man who was his murderer, he called him his friend, embraced him before us all and said to us, “I command you to treat Monsieur with all the consideration that is due to a brave and gallant man.” He further caused him to be presented, in my presence, with a voluminous mass of papers, the contents of which I am not acquainted with, but to which I am well aware he attached vast importance. He then desired that we should leave them alone together for a moment. Meanwhile, I had sent in search of every kind of succor, both spiritual and temporal: but, alas, the ill was incurable! Less than half an hour later, M. le Vicomte lost consciousness. He was only able to receive extreme unction;jp and the ceremony was hardly over, when he rendered his last breath.

Great God! When I received in my arms, at his birth, this precious propjq of so illustrious a house, how little did I foresee that it was to be in my arms that he would expire, and that I should have to weep for his death! A death so premature and so unfortunate! My tears flow in spite of myself. I ask your pardon, Madame, for thus daring to mingle my grief with your own: but, in every condition, we have hearts and sensibility; and I should be ungrateful, indeed, if I did not weep all my life for a lord who showed me so much kindness, and honored me with so great confidence.

Tomorrow, after the removal of the body, I will have the sealsjr placed on everything, and you can depend entirely on my care. You will be aware, Madame, that this unhappy event cuts off the entail,js and leaves the disposition of your property entirely free. If I can be of any use to you, I beg you to be good enough to convey to me your orders: I will employ all my zeal in their punctual fulfillment.

I remain, with the most profound respect, Madame, your most humble, etc.