Dangerous Liaisons —174—


YOU ARE RIGHT, MADAME, and certainly I will refuse you nothing within my power to which you attach any value. The packet which I have the honor to forward you contains all Mademoiselle de Volanges’ letters. If you read them, you will see, not without astonishment perhaps, what a wealth of perfidy and ingenuousness can be united. That is, at least, what struck me most, on my last perusal of them.

Above all, can one refrain from the liveliest indignation against Madame de Merteuil, when one reflects with what a hideous pleasure she brought all her pains to bear on the corruption of so much innocence and candor?

No, my love is dead. I retain nothing of a sentiment so basely betrayed; and it is not that which makes me seek to justify Mademoiselle de Volanges. Nevertheless, would not that simple heart, that gentle and pliable character, have been influenced for good more easily even than they were seduced to evil? What young person, issuing similarly from a convent, without experience and almost without ideas, and bringing into the world, as almost always happens then, an equal ignorance of good and evil; what young person, I say, would have been able to offer more resistance to such culpable artifices? Ah, to be indulgent it suffices to reflect upon how many circumstances beyond our own control the terrible alternative between the delicacy and the depravation of our sentiments depends. You rendered justice to me, then, Madame, in deeming that the wrongs of Mademoiselle de Volanges, which I felt most keenly, did not, however, inspire me with any ideas of vengeance. ’Tis quite enough to be obliged to renounce my love of her! It would cost me too much to hate her.

I needed no reflection to desire that all which concerns and could harm her should remain for ever unknown to the world. If I have seemed to delay the fulfillment of your desires in this matter, I think I need not conceal my motive from you; I wished to be sure, beforehand, that I was not to be troubled with the consequences of my unfortunate duel. At a time when I was craving your indulgence, when I even dared believe I had some right to it, I should have feared to have too much the appearance of buying it by this condescension on my part; and, convinced of the purity of my motives, I was proud enough, I will confess, to wish you to be left in no doubt of them. I hope you will pardon this delicacy, perhaps too susceptible, in view of the veneration which you inspire in me, and the value which I attach to your esteem.

It is the same sentiment which bids me ask of you, as a last favor, to be so good as to let me know if, in your judgment, I have fulfilled all the duties which have been imposed upon me by the unhappy circumstances in which I was placed. Once at ease in this respect, my intention is fixed; I leave for Malta; I will go there to make gladly, and keep religiously, the vows which will separate me from a world of which, while still so young, I have had such good reason to complain; I shall go, in short, to seek to lose, beneath an alien sky, the thought of so many accumulated horrors, whose memory could only sadden and wither my soul.

I am with respect, Madame, your most humble, etc.