Dangerous Liaisons —11—


YOUR SEVERE LETTER WOULD have alarmed me, Madame, if happily I had not found here more causes for security than you give me for being afraid. This redoubtableau M. de Valmont, who must be the terror of every woman, seems to have laid down his murderous arms before coming to this château. Far from forming any projects there, he has not even advanced any pretensions: and the quality of an amiable man, which even his enemies accord him, almost disappears here, to be superseded by that of frank good nature.

It is apparently the country air which has brought about this miracle. What I can assure you is that, being constantly with me, even seeming to take pleasure in my company, he has not let fall one word which resembles love, not one of those phrases which all men permit themselves, without having, like him, what is required to justify them. He never compels one to that reserve which every woman who respects herself is forced to maintain nowadays, in order to repress the men who encircle her. He knows how not to abuse the gaiety which he inspires. He is perhaps somewhat of a flatterer; but it is with so much delicacy, that he would accustom modesty itself to praise. In short, if I had a brother, I should desire him to be such as M. de Valmont reveals himself here. Perhaps, many women would ask a more marked gallantry from him; and I admit that I owe him infinite thanks for knowing how to judge me so well as not to confound me with them.

Doubtless, this portrait differs mightily from that which you send me; and in spite of that, neither need contradict the other, if one compares the dates. He confesses himself that he has committed many faults; and some others will have been fathered on him. But I have met few men who spoke of virtuous women with greater respect, I might almost say enthusiasm. You teach me that at least in this matter he is no deceiver. His conduct toward Madame de Merteuil is a proof of this. He talks much to us of her, and it is always with so much praise, and with the air of so true an attachment, that I believed, until I received your letter, that what he called the friendship between the two was actually love. I reproach myself for this hasty judgment, wherein I was all the more wrong, in that he himself has often been at the pains to justify her. I confess that I took for cunning what was honest sincerity on his part. I do not know, but it seems to me a man who is capable of so persistent a friendship for a woman so estimable cannot be a libertine beyond salvation. I am, for the rest, ignorant as to whether we owe the quiet manner of life which he leads here to any projects he cherishes in the vicinity, as you assume. There are, indeed, certain amiable women near us, but he rarely goes abroad, except in the morning, and then he tells us that it is to shoot. It is true that he rarely brings back any game; but he assures us that he is not a skillful sportsman. Moreover, what he may do without causes me little anxiety; and if I desired to know, it would only be in order to be convinced of your opinion or to bring you back to mine.

As to your suggestion to me to endeavor to cut short the stay which M. de Valmont proposes to make here, it seems to me very difficult to dare to ask his aunt not to have her nephew in her house, the more so in that she is very fond of him. I promise you, however, but only out of deference and not for any need, to seize any opportunity of making this request, either to her or to himself. As for myself, M. de Tourvel is aware of my project of remaining here until his return, and he would be astonished, and rightly so, at my frivolity, were I to change my mind.

These, Madame, are my very lengthy explanations: but I thought I owed it to truth to bear my testimony in M. de Valmont’s favor; it seems to me he stood in great need of it with you. I am nonetheless sensible of the friendship which dictated your counsels. To that also I am indebted for your obliging remarks to me on the occasion of the delay as to your daughter’s marriage. I thank you for them most sincerely: but however great the pleasure which I promise myself in passing those moments with you, I would sacrifice them with a good will to my desire to know Mile. de Volanges more speedily happy, if, indeed, she could ever be more so than with a mother so deserving of all her affection and respect. I share with her those two sentiments which attach me to you, and I pray you kindly to receive my assurance of them.

I have the honor to be, etc.