Dangerous Liaisons —38—


YOUR ENORMOUS BUDGET,bx MY dear Vicomte, has this moment arrived. If the date on it is exact, I ought to have received it twenty-four hours earlier; be that as it may, if I were to take the time to read it, I should have none left to reply to it. I prefer then simply to acknowledge it now, and we will talk of something else. It is not that I have anything to say to you on my own account; the autumn leaves hardly a single man with a human face in Paris, so that for the last month I have been perishing with virtue; and anyone else than my Chevalier would be fatigued with the proofs of my constancy. Being unable to occupy myself, I distract myself with the little Volanges, and it is of her that I wish to speak.

Do you know that you have lost more than you believe, in not undertaking this child? She is really delicious! She has neither character nor principles; judge how sweet and easy her society will be. I do not think she will ever shine by sentiment; but everything announces in her the liveliest sensations. Lacking wit and subtilty, she has, however, if one may so speak, a certain natural falseness which sometimes astonishes even me, and which will be all the more successful, in that her face presents the image of candor and ingenuousness. She is naturally very caressing, and I sometimes amuse myself thereby: her little head grows excited with incredible rapidity, and she is then all the more delightful, because she knows nothing, absolutely nothing, of all that she so greatly desires to know. She is seized with quite droll fits of impatience; she laughs, pouts, cries, and then begs me to teach her with a truly seductive good faith. Really, I am almost jealous of the man for whom that pleasure is reserved.

I do not know if I have told you that for the last four or five days I have had the honor of being in her confidence. You can very well guess that, at first, I acted severely: but as soon as I perceived that she thought she had convinced me with her bad reasons, I had the air of taking them for good ones; and she is intimately persuaded that she owes this success to her eloquence: this precaution was necessary in order not to compromise myself. I have permitted her to write, and to say I love; and the same day, without her suspecting it, I contrived for her a tête-à-tête with her Danceny. But imagine, he is still such a fool that he did not even obtain a kiss. The lad, however, writes mighty pretty verses! La, how silly these witty folks are! This one is, to such a degree that he embarrasses me; for, as for him, I cannot well drive him!

It is at this moment that you would be very useful to me. You are sufficiently intimate with Danceny to obtain his confidence, and, if he once gave it you, we should advance at full speed. Make haste, then, with your Présidente; for, indeed, I will not have Gercourt escape : for the rest, I spoke of him yesterday to the little person, and depicted him so well to her that, if she had been his wife for ten years, she could not hate him more. I preached much to her, however, upon the subject of conjugal fidelity; nothing could equal my severity on this point. By that, on the one side, I restore my reputation for virtue with her, which too much condescension might destroy; on the other, I augment in her that hatred with which I wish to gratify her husband. And, finally, I hope that, by making her believe that it is not permitted her to give way to love, except during the short time that she remains a girl, she will more quickly decide to lose none of that time.

Adieu, Vicomte; I am going to attend to my toilette, what timeby I will read your volume.