Dangerous Liaisons —172—


HAD I BEEN OBLIGED, my dear friend, to await and receive from Paris the enlightenment which you ask me for concerning Madame de Merteuil, it would have been impossible for me to give it you as yet; and doubtless that which I received would have been vague and uncertain: but there has reached me information which I neither expected nor had reason to expect; and this is only too certain. O my friend, how that woman has deceived you!

I shrink from entering into any details of this mass of horrors; but, whatever may be reported, rest assured that it still falls short of the truth. I hope, my dear friend, that you know me well enough to believe my word for it, and that you will require no proofs from me. Let the knowledge suffice you that there exists a mass of them, and that, at this very moment, they are in my hands.

It is not without extreme pain that I beseech you also not to compel me to give a reason for the advice you ask of me, respecting Mademoiselle de Volanges. I recommend you not to oppose the vocation she displays. Assuredly, no reason can justify one in forcing such a condition of life upon one who is not called to it: but sometimes it is a great happiness that it should be so; and you see that your daughter tells you herself that you would not disapprove, if you knew her motives. He who inspires our sentiments knows better than our vain wisdom what is right for each one of us, and, often, what seems an act of His severity is, on the contrary, one of His clemency.

In short, my advice, which I am quite sensible will afflict you, and which, from that fact alone, you must believe I would not give you unless I had greatly reflected upon it, is that you should leave Mademoiselle de Volanges at the convent, since this step is of her own choice; that you should encourage, instead of thwarting, the project she seems to have formed; and that, in awaiting its execution, you should not hesitate to break off the marriage you had arranged.

After fulfilling these painful duties of friendship, and in the impotence in which I am to add any consolation, the one favor it remains for me to beg of you, my dear friend, is to ask me no further questions bearing in any way upon these sad events: let us leave them in the oblivion which befits them; and, without seeking to throw useless and painful lights upon them, submit ourselves to the decrees of Providence, and believe in the wisdom of its views, even where we are not permitted to understand them. Adieu, my dear friend.