Dangerous Liaisons —84—


YOU SAW HOW GREATLY the chance was against us yesterday. All day long I was unable to hand you the letter which I had for you; I know not whether I shall find it any easier today. I am afraid of compromising you, by showing more zeal than discretion; and I should never forgive myself for an imprudence which might prove so fatal to you, and cause the despair of my friend, by rendering you eternally miserable. However, I am aware of the impatience of love; I feel how painful it must be to you, in your situation, to meet with any delay in the only consolation you can know at this moment. By dint of busying myself with the means of removing the obstacles, I have found one the execution of which, if you take some pains, will be easy.

I think I have remarked that the key of the door of your chamber, which opens into the corridor, is always on your Mamma’s mantelshelf. Everything would be easy with this key, you must be well aware; but in default of it,ff I will procure you one like it, which will serve in its stead. To succeed in this, it will be sufficient to have the other at my disposition for an hour or two. You will easily find an opportunity for taking it; and, in order that its absence may not be noticed, I enclose, in this, one of my own which is so far like it that no difference will be seen, unless they try it; this they are not likely to do. You must only take care to tie it to a faded blue ribbon, like that which is on your own.

It would be well to try and have this key by tomorrow or the day after, at breakfast time; because it will be easier for you to give it me then, and it can be returned to its place in the evening, a time when your Mamma might pay more attention to it. I shall be able to return it to you at dinnertime, if we arrange well.

You know that, when we move from the salon to the dining room, it is always Madame de Rosemonde who walks last. I shall give her my hand. You will only have to take some time in putting away your tapestry, or even to let something drop, so that you may remain behind: you will see then how to take the key from me, which I shall be careful to hold behind me. You must not neglect, as soon as you have taken it, to rejoin my old aunt and pay her a few attentions. If by chance you should let the key fall, do not lose your countenance; I will feign that it was done by me, and I answer for everything.

The lack of confidence your Mamma shows in you, and her harsh behavior toward you, authorize this little deception. It is, moreover, the only way to continue to receive the letters of Danceny, and to forward him yours; all others are really too dangerous and might ruin you both irretrievably: thus my prudent friendship would reproach itself, were I to employ them further.

Once having the key, there remain some precautions for us to take against the noise of door and lock; but they are very easy. You will find, beneath the same press where I placed your paper, oil and a feather. You sometimes go to your room at times when you are alone there: you must profit by it to oil the lock and hinges. The only attention you need pay is to be careful of stains which might betray you. You had better wait also until night arrives, because, if it be done with the intelligence of which you are capable, there will be no trace of it on the following morning. If, however, it should be perceived, then you must say that it is the indoor polisher. You must in this case specify the time, and even the conversation which you had with him: as, for instance, that he takes this precaution against rust with all the locks which are not in use. For you see that it would be unlikely that you should have witnessed this proceeding without asking the reason. It is these little details which give probability; and probability renders a lie without consequence, by diminishing people’s desire to verify it.

After you have read this letter, I beg you to read it again and even to study it: to begin with, one should be well acquainted with what one wishes to do well; next, to assure yourself that I have omitted nothing. Little accustomed to employ finesse on my own account, I have no great use for it; indeed it needed nothing less than my keen friendship for Danceny, and the interest which you inspire in me, to induce me to employ these means, however innocent they may be. I hate anything which has the air of deception; that is my character. But your misfortunes have touched me to such a degree that I will attempt everything to alleviate them.

You can imagine that, with this means of communication once established between us, it will be far easier for me to procure for you the interview with Danceny which he desires. However, do not yet speak to him of all this: you would only increase his impatience, and the moment for satisfying it is not yet quite arrived. You owe it to him, I think, to calm rather than to excite him. I depend in this matter on your delicacy. Adieu, my fair pupil, for you are my pupil. Love your tutor a little, and above all be docile to him: you will be rewarded. I am occupied with your happiness; rest assured that I shall find therein my own.