Dangerous Liaisons —50—


Is IT THUS THEN, Monsieur, that you carry out the conditions upon which I consented sometimes to receive your letters? And have I no reason for complaint when you speak to me only of a sentiment to which I should still fear to abandon myself, even if I could do so without violating all my duties? For the rest, if I had need of fresh reasons to preserve this salutary dread, it seems to me that I could find them in your last letter. In effect, at the very moment when you think to make an apology for love, what else are you doing but revealing to me its redoubtable storms? Who can wish for happiness bought at the expense of reason, whose short-lived pleasures are followed at any rate by regret, if not by remorse?

You yourself, in whom the habit of this dangerous delirium ought to diminish its effect, are you not, however, compelled to confess that it often becomes stronger than yourself; and are you not the first to lament the involuntary trouble which it causes you? What fearful ravages then would it not effect on a fresh and sensitive heart, which would still augment its empire, by the sacrifices it would be forced to make to it?

You believe, Monsieur, or you feign to believe that love leads to happiness; and I—I am so convinced that it would render me unhappy that I would not even hear its name pronounced. It seems to me that only to speak of it destroys tranquillity; and it is as much from inclination as from duty that I beg you to be good enough to keep silence on this subject.

After all, this request should be very easy for you to grant me at present. Returned to Paris, you will find there occasions enough to forget a sentiment which, perhaps, only owed its birth to the habit you are in of occupying yourself with such subjects, and its strength to the idleness of country life. Are you not then in that town where you had seen me with so much indifference? Can you take a step there without encountering an example of your readiness to change? And are you not surrounded there by women who, all more amiable than myself, have better right to your homage?

I am without the vanity with which my sex is reproached; I have still less of that false modesty which is nothing but a refinement of pride; and it is with the utmost good faith that I tell you here, I know how few pleasing qualities I possess: had I all there were, I should not believe them sufficient to retain you. To ask you then to occupy yourself no longer with me is only to beg you to do today what you had already done before, and what you would most assuredly do again in a short time, even if I were to ask the contrary.

This truth, which I do not lose sight of, would be, itself, a reason strong enough to disincline me to listen to you. I have still a thousand others, but without entering upon a long discussion, I confine myself to begging you, as I have done before, to correspond with me no further upon a sentiment to which I must not listen, and to which I ought even less to reply.