Dangerous Liaisons —87—


I WRITE TO YOU from my bed, my dear, kind friend. The most disagreeable event, and the most impossible to have foreseen, has made me ill with fright and annoyance. It is, assuredly, not because I have aught to reproach myself with; but it is always so painful for a virtuous woman, who retains the modesty which becomes her sex, to have public attention drawn upon her that I would give anything in the world to have been able to avoid this unhappy adventure; and I am still uncertain whether I may not decide to go to the country and wait until it be forgotten. This is the affair I allude to.

I met at the Maréchale de —’s a certain M. de Prévan, whom you are sure to know by name, and whom I knew in no other way. But, meeting him at such a house, I was, it seems to me, quite justified in believing him to be of good society. He is well enough made personally, and seemed to me not lacking in wit. Chance and the tedium of play left me the only woman alone with him and the Bishop of —, the rest of the company being occupied with lansquenet. The three of us conversed together till suppertime. At the table, a new piece, of which there was some talk, gave him the occasion to offer his box to the Maréchale, who accepted it; and it was arranged that I should have a place in it. It was for Monday last at the Français. As the Maréchale was coming to sup with me at the close of the performance, I proposed to this gentleman to accompany her, and he came. Two days later he paid me a visit, which passed with the customary compliments, and without the occurrence of anything marked. On the following day, he came to see me in the morning, and this appeared to me a trifle bold; but I thought that, instead of making him feel this by my fashion of receiving him, it were better to remind him, by a politeness, that we were not yet on so intimate a footing as he seemed to imply. To this end I sent him that same day a very dry and very ceremonious invitation for a supper that I was giving the day before yesterday. I did not speak four words to him all the evening; and he, on his side, retired as soon as his game was finished. You will admit that thus far nothing has less the air of leading up to an adventure: after the other games, we played a medley which lasted till nearly two o’clock, and finally I went to bed.

It must have been a mortal half hour at least after my women had retired, when I heard a noise in my room. I opened my curtains with much alarm, and saw a man enter by the door which leads into my boudoir. I uttered a piercing cry; and I recognized, by the light of my night-light, this M. de Prévan, who, with inconceivable effrontery, told me not to alarm myself; that he would enlighten me as to the mystery of his conduct; and that he begged me not to make any noise. Thus speaking, he lit a candle; I was so confounded that I could not speak. His tranquil and assured air petrified me, I think, even more. But he had not said two words, when I saw what this pretended mystery was; and my only reply, as you will believe, was to clutch my bell rope. By an incredible piece of good fortune, all my household had been sitting up with one of my women, and were not yet in bed. My chambermaid, who, on coming to me, heard me speaking with much heat, was alarmed, and summoned all this company. You can imagine what a scandal! My people were furious; there was a moment when I thought my valet-de-chambre would kill Prévan. I confess that, at the moment, I was quite relieved to find myself in force: on reflection today, I should have found it preferable if only my chambermaid had come; she would have sufficed, and I should, perhaps, have escaped all this noise which afflicts me.

In place of that, the tumult awoke the neighbors, the household talked, and it is the gossip of all Paris since yesterday. M. de Prévan is in prison by order of the commanding officer of his regiment, who had the courtesy to call upon me to offer me his excuses, he said. This arrest will still further augment the noise, but I could not obtain that it should be otherwise. The Town and the Court have been to inscribe their names at my door, which I have closed to everyone. The few persons I have seen tell me that justice is rendered me, and that public indignation against Prévan is at its height: assuredly, he well merits it, but that does not detract from the disagreeables of this adventure. Moreover, the man has certainly some friends; and his friends are bound to be mischievous; who knows, who can tell what they will invent to my injury? Ah, Lord! how unfortunate to be a young woman! She has done nothing yet, when she has put herself out of the reach of slander; she has need even to give the lie to calumny.

Write me, I beg of you, what you would have done, what you would do in my place; in short, all your thought. It is always from you that I receive the sweetest consolation and the most prudent counsel; it is from you also that I love best to receive it.

Adieu, my dear and kind friend; you know the sentiments which forever attach me to you. I embrace your amiable daughter.