Dangerous Liaisons —56—


HOw, MONSIEUR, WOULD THE answer which you ask of me serve you? To believe in your sentiments, would not that be one reason the more to fear them? And without attacking or defending their sincerity, does it not suffice, ought it not to suffice for yourself, to know that I will not and may not reply to them?

Supposing that you were to love me really (and it is only to prevent a return to this subject that I consent to the supposition), would the obstacles which separate us be less insurmountable? And should I have aught else to do, but to wish that you might soon conquer this love, and above all, to help you with all my power by hastening to deprive you of any hope? You admit yourself that this sentiment is painful, when the object which inspires it does not reciprocate. Now, you are thoroughly well aware that it is impossible for me to reciprocate ; and even if this misfortune should befall me, I should be the more to be pitied, without making you any happier. I hope that you respect me enough, not to doubt of that for a moment. Cease then, I conjure you, cease from troubling a heart to which tranquillity is so necessary; do not force me to regret that I have known you.

Loved and esteemed by a husband whom I both love and respect, my duty and my pleasure are centred in the same object. I am happy, I must be so. If pleasures more keen exist, I do not desire them; I would not know them. Can there be any that are sweeter than that of being at peace with oneself, of knowing only days that are serene, of sleeping without trouble and awaking without remorse? What you call happiness is but a tumult of the senses, a tempest of passions of which the mere view from the shore is terrible. Ah! why confront these tempests? How dare embark upon a sea covered with the debris of so many thousand shipwrecks? And with whom? No, Monsieur, I stay on the shore; I cherish the bonds which unite me to it. I would not break them if I could; were I not held by them, I should hasten to procure them.

Why attach yourself to my life? Why this obstinate resolve to follow me? Your letters, which should be few, succeed each other with rapidity. They should be sensible, and you speak to me in them of nothing but your mad love. You besiege me with your idea, more than you did with your person. Removed in one form, you reproduce yourself under another. The things which I asked you not to say, you repeat only in another way. It pleases you to embarrass me with captious arguments; you shun my own. I do not wish to answer you, I will answer you no more…. How you treat the women whom you have seduced! With what contempt you speak of them! I would fain believe that some of them deserve it: but are they all then so despicable? Ah, doubtless, since they have violated their duties in order to give themselves up to a criminal love. From that moment they have lost everything, even the esteem of him for whom they have sacrificed everything. The punishment is just, but the mere idea makes one tremble. What matters it, after all? Why should I occupy myself with them or with you? By what right do you come to trouble my tranquillity? Leave me, see me no more; do not write to me again, I beg you; I demand it of you. This letter is the last which you will receive from me.