Dangerous Liaisons —171—


AFTER WHAT YOU HAVE brought to my knowledge, Monsieur, nothing is left for me but to be silent and to weep. One regrets that one still lives, after learning such horrors; one blushes to be a woman, when one finds one capable of such excesses.

I will willingly concur with you, Monsieur, so far as I am concerned, in leaving in silence and oblivion all that may relate to these sad events. I even hope that they may never cause you any other grief than that inseparable from the unhappy advantage which you obtained over my nephew. In spite of his errors, which I cannot but recognize, I feel that I shall never console myself for his loss: but my eternal affliction will be the sole vengeance I shall permit myself to obtain from you; I leave it to your heart to appreciate its extent.

If you will permit to my age a reflection which is rarely made at yours, it is that, were one enlightened as to one’s true happiness, one would never seek it outside the bounds prescribed by religion and the laws.

You may rest assured that I will keep faithfully and willingly the deposit you have confided to me, but I ask you to authorize me to give it up to no one, not even to you, Monsieur, unless it should become necessary for your justification. I venture to believe that you will not refuse me this request, and that you have already realized how often one laments for having indulged in even the most just revenge.

I do not pause here in my requests: convinced as I am of your generosity and delicacy, it would be very worthy of both of these if you were also to place in my hands the letters of Mademoiselle de Volanges, which, apparently, you have retained, and which, doubtless, are of no further interest to you. I know that that young person has wronged you greatly; but I do not think that you have thought of punishing her; and, were it only out of respect for yourself, you will not degrade the object you have so greatly loved. I have no need to add, then, that the consideration which the daughter does not deserve is due at any rate to the mother, to that meritorious woman, in regard to whom you are not without having much to repair: for, after all, whatever illusion one may seek to impose on oneself by a pretended delicacy of sentiment, he who first attempts to seduce a heart still virtuous and simple makes himself, from that fact alone, the first abettor of its corruption, and must be, forever, responsible for the excesses and errors which ensue.

Do not be surprised, Monsieur, at so much severity on my part: it is the greatest proof I can give you of my complete esteem. You will acquire fresh rights to it still, by lending yourself, as I desire, to the security of a secret the publication of which would do yourself a wrong and deal death to a mother’s heart which you have already wounded. In a word, Monsieur, I desire to do this service to my friend; and, if I could be afraid that you would refuse me this consolation, I would ask you to reflect beforehand that it is the only one you have left me.

I have the honor to be, etc.