Dangerous Liaisons —26—


ASSUREDLY, MONSIEUR, YOU WOULD never have received any letter from me, did not my foolish conduct of yesterday evening compel me today to have an explanation with you. Yes, I wept, I confess it: perhaps, too, the words which you are so careful to quote to me did escape me; tears and words, you remarked everything; I must then explain to you everything.

Accustomed to inspire only honorable sentiments, to hear only conversation to which I can listen without a blush, and consequently to enjoy a feeling of security which I venture to say I deserve, I know not how either to dissimulate or to combat the impressions I receive. The astonishment and embarrassment into which your conduct threw me; a fear, I know not of what, inspired by a situation which should never have been thrust upon me; perhaps, even the revolting idea of seeing myself confounded with the women whom you despise, and treated as lightly as they are: all these causes in conjunction provoked my tears, and may have made me say, I think with reason, that I was wretched. This expression, which you think so strong, would certainly have been far too weak, if my tears and utterance had another motive; if, instead of disapproving sentiments which must need offend me, I could have feared lest I should share them.

No, Monsieur, I have not that fear; if I had, I would fly a hundred leagues away from you, I would go and weep in a desert at the misfortune of having known you. Perhaps even, in spite of the certainty in which I am of not loving you, of never loving you, perhaps I should have done better to follow the counsels of my friends, and forbid you to approach me.

I believed, and it is my sole error, I believed that you would respect a virtuous woman, who asked nothing better than to find you so and to do you justice; who already was defending you, while you were outraging her with your criminal avowals. You do not know me; no, Monsieur, you do not know me. Otherwise you would not have thought to make a right out of your error: because you had made proposals to me which I ought not to hear, you would not have thought yourself authorized to write me a letter which I ought not to read: and you ask me to guide your conduct, to dictate to you your speech! Very well, Monsieur, silence and forgetfulness, those are the counsels which it becomes me to give you, as it will you to follow them; then you will indeed have rights to my indulgence: it will only rest with you to obtain even my gratitude…. But no, I will not address a request to a man who has not respected me; I will give no mark of confidence to a man who has abused my security. You force me to fear, perhaps to hate you: I did not want to; I wished to see in you naught else than the nephew of my most respected friend; I opposed the voice of friendship to the public voice which accused you. You have destroyed it all; and I foresee, you will not want to repair it.

I am anxious, Monsieur, to make it clear to you that your sentiments offend me; that their avowal is an outrage to me; and, above all, that, so far from my coming one day to share them, you would force me to refuse ever again to see you, if you do not impose on yourself, as to this subject, the silence which it seems to me I have the right to expect and even to demand from you. I enclose in this letter that which you have written to me, and I beg that you will similarly return me this: I should be sincerely grieved if any trace remained of an incident which ought never to have occurred.

I have the honor to be, etc.