Dangerous Liaisons —51—


REALLY, VICOMTE, YOU ARE insupportable. You treat me as lightly as though I were your mistress. Do you know that I shall get angry, and that at the present moment I am in a fearful temper? Why! you have to see Danceny tomorrow morning; you know how important it is that I should speak to you before that interview; and without troubling yourself any more about it, you keep me waiting all day to run off I know not where. You are the cause of my arriving at Madame de Volanges’ indecently late, and of my being found surprising by all the old women. I was obliged to flatter them during the whole of the evening in order to appease them: for one must never annoy the old women; it is they who make the young ones’ reputations.

It is now one o’clock in the morning; and instead of going to bed, which I am dying to do, I must needs write you a long letter, which will make me twice as sleepy from the ennuict it will cause me. You are most fortunate that I have not time to scold you further. Do not believe for that reason that I forgive you: it is only that I am pressed for time. Listen to me then, I hasten to come to the point.

However little skill you may exert, you are bound tomorrow to have Danceny’s confidence. The moment is favorable for confidence: it is the moment of unhappiness. The little girl has been to confession: like a child, she has told everything; and ever since she has been tormented to such a degree by the fear of the devil that she insists on breaking it off. She related to me all her little scruples with a vivacity which told me how excited she was. She showed me her letter announcing the rupture, which was a real sermon. She babbled for an hour to me, without uttering one word of common sense. But she embarrassed me nonetheless; for you can imagine that I could not risk opening my mind to such a wrongheaded creature.

I saw, however, through all this verbiage, that she is as fond of her Danceny as ever; I even remarkedcu one of those resources which love never fails to find, and of which the little girl is an amusing dupe. Tormented by her desire to occupy herself with her lover, and by the fear of being damned if she does so, she has invented the plan of praying God that she may be able to forget him; and as she repeats this prayer at every moment of the day, she finds a means thereby of thinking of him unceasingly.

With anyone more experienced than Danceny, this little incident would perhaps be more favorable than the reverse; but the young man is so much of a CéladonI that, if we do not help him, he will require so much time to overcome the slightest obstacles that there will be none left for us to carry out our project.

You are quite right; it is a pity, and I am as vexed as you, that he should be the hero of this adventure: but what would you have? What is done is done; and it is your fault. I asked to see his reply;cv it was really pitiful. He produces arguments till he is out of breath, to prove to her that an involuntary sentiment cannot be a crime: as if it did not cease to be involuntary once one ceases to fight against it! That idea is so simple that it even suggested itself to the little girl. He complains of his unhappiness in a manner that is touching enough: but his grief is so gentle, and seems so strong and so sincere, that it seems to me impossible that a woman who finds occasion to reduce a man to such a degree of despair, and with so little danger, is not tempted to get rid of her fancy. Finally he explains that he is not a monk,2 as the little one believed; and that is, without contradiction, the best thing he has done: for, if it is a question of going so far as to abandon yourself to monastic loves, it is assuredly not the Knights of Malta who would deserve the preference.

Be that as it may, instead of wasting time in arguments which would have compromised me, perhaps without convincing, I approved her project of rupture: but I said that it was nicer, in such a case, to tell your reasons rather than to write them; that it was customary also to return letters and any other trifles one might have received; and appearing thus to enter into the views of the little person, I persuaded her to grant an interview to Danceny. We formed our plans on the spot, and I charged myself with the task of persuading the mother to go abroad without her daughter; it is tomorrow afternoon that this decisive moment will arrive. Danceny is already informed of it; but for God’s sake, if you get an opportunity, please persuade this pretty swain to be less languorous, and teach him—since he must be told everything—that the true fashion to overcome scruples is to leave nothing to be lost by those who possess them.

For the rest, in order to save a repetition of this ridiculous scene, I did not fail to excite certain doubts in the little girl’s mind, as to the discretion of confessors; and I assure you, she is paying now for the fright which she gave me, by her terror lest hers should go and tell everything to her mother. I hope that, after I have talked once or twice more with her, she will give up going thus to tell her follies to the first comer.cw

Adieu, Vicomte; take charge of Danceny and guide his way. It would be shameful if we could not do what we will with two children. If we find it more difficult than we had thought at first, let us reflect, to animate our zeal—you, that it is the daughter of Madame de Volanges who is in question, I, that she is destined to become the wife of Gercourt. Adieu.