Dangerous Liaisons —74—


AH, SINCE WHEN, MY friend, do you take alarm so easily? Is this Prévan so very formidable then? But see how simple and modest am I! I have often met him, this haughty conqueror; I hardly looked at him! It required nothing less than your letter to cause me to pay him any attention. I repaired my injustice yesterday. He was at the Opera, almost exactly opposite me, and I took stock of him. He is handsome at any rate, yes, very handsome: fine and delicate features! He must gain by being seen close at hand. And you tell me he wants to have me! Assuredly it will be my honor and pleasure. Seriously, I have a fancy for it, and I now confide to you that I have taken the first steps. I do not know if they will succeed. Thus the matter stands.

He was not two paces off from me, as we came out from the Opera, and I, very loudly, made an appointment with the Marquise de — to sup on Friday with the Marechale. It is, I think, the only house where I can meet him. I have no doubt that he heard me…. If the ungrateful fellow were not to come! But tell me, do you think he will come? Do you know that, if he were not to come, I should be in a bad humor all the evening? You see that he will not find so much difficulty in following me; what will more astonish you is that he will have still less in pleasing me. He would, he said, kill six horses in paying his court to me! Oh, I will save those horses’ lives! I shall never have the patience to wait so long a time. You know it is not one of my principles to leave people languishing, when once I am decided; and I am for him.

Please now confess that there is some pleasure in talking reason to me! Has not your important warning been a great success? But what would you have? I have been vegetating for so long! It is more than six weeks since I permitted myself a diversion. This one presents itself; can I refuse myself it? Is not the object worth the trouble? Is there any more agreeable, in whatever sense you take the word?

You yourself are forced to do him justice; you do more than praise him, you are jealous of him. Ah, well! I will set up as judge between the two of you; but, to begin with, one should investigate, and that is what I want to do. I shall be an impartial judge, and you shall both be weighed in the same balance. As for you, I already have your papers, and your affair is thoroughly enquired into. Is it not only just that I should now occupy myself with your adversary? Come now, yield with a good grace; and as a commencement, let me hear, I beg you, what is this triple adventure of which he is the hero. You speak of it to me as though I knew of nothing else, and I do not know the first word of it. Apparently, it must have occurred during my expedition to Geneva, and your jealousy prevented you from writing to me about it. Repair this fault at the earliest possible; remember that nothing which interests him is alien to me.9 I certainly think that they were still talking of it when I returned; but I was otherwise occupied, and I rarely listen to anything of that sort which is not the affair of today or of yesterday.

Even if what I ask of you should go somewhat against the grain, is it not the least price you can pay for the pains I have taken for you? Have these not sent you back to your Présidente, when your blunders had separated you from her? Was it not I, again, who put into your hands the wherewithal to revenge yourself for the bitter zeal of Madame de Volanges? You have complained so often of the time you waste in searching after your adventures! Now, you have them under your thumb. Betwixt love and hate, you have but to choose; they both lie under the same roof; and you can double your existence, caress with one hand and strike with the other. It is even to me, again, that you owe the adventure of the Vicomtesse. I am quite satisfied with it; but, as you say, it must be talked about; for if the situation could induce you, as I conceive, to prefer for a moment mystery to éclat,dy it must be admitted, nonetheless, that the woman did not merit so honorable a procedure.

I have, besides, cause of complaint against her. The Chevalier de Belleroche finds her prettier than is to my liking; and, for many reasons, I shall be glad to have a pretext for breaking with her: now none is more convenient than to be obliged to say: One cannot possibly know that woman any longer.

Adieu, Vicomte; remember that, situated as you are, time is precious; I shall employ mine by occupying myself with Prévan’s happiness.