Letter 140

The Viscount de Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

How comes it, my charming friend, I receive no answers from you? I think, however, my last letter deserved one; these three days have I been expecting it, and must still wait! I really am vexed, and shall not relate a syllable of my grand affairs.

Such as the reconciliation had its full effect: that instead of reproaches and dissidence, it produced fresh proofs of affection; that I now actually receive the excuse and satisfaction due to my suspected candour; not a word shall you know⁠—had it not been for the unforeseen event of last night, I should not have wrote to you at all; but as it relates to your pupil, who probably cannot give you any information herself, at least for some time, I have taken upon me to acquaint you with it.

For reasons you may or may not guess, Madame de Tourvel, has not engaged my attention for some days: as those reasons could not exist with the little Volanges, I became more assiduous there. Thanks to the obliging porter, I had no obstacles to surmount; and your pupil and I led a comfortable, regular life⁠—Custom brings on negligence; at first we had not taken proper precautions for our security; we trembled behind the locks: yesterday an incredible absence of mind occasioned the accident I am going to relate; as to myself, fear was my only punishment, but the little girl did not come off so well.

We were not asleep, but reposing in the abandonment consequent to voluptuousness, when on a sudden, we heard the room door open, I instantly seized my sword to defend myself and our pupil; I advanced, and saw no one; but the door was open: as we had a light, I examined all about the room, and did not find a mortal; then I recollected we had forgot our usual precautions, and certainly the door being only pushed or not properly shut, opened of itself.

Returning to my terrified companion to quiet her, I did not find her in the bed; she fell out, or hid herself by the bedside; at length I found her there, stretched senseless on the ground, in strong convulsions⁠—You may judge my embarrassment⁠—However, I brought her to herself, and got her into bed again, but she had hurt herself in the fall, and was not long before she felt its effect.

Pains in the loins, violent cholics, and other symptoms less equivocal, soon informed me her condition⁠—To make her sensible of it, it was necessary to acquaint her with the one she was in before, of which she had not the least suspicion: never anyone before her, perhaps, went to work so innocently to get rid of it⁠—she does not lose her time in reflection.

But she lost a great deal in afflicting herself, and I found it necessary to come to some resolution: therefore we agreed I should immediately go to the physician and surgeon of the family, to inform them they would be sent for; I was to make them a confidence of the whole business, under a promise of secrecy⁠—That she should ring for her waiting maid, and should or should not make her a confidence of her situation, as she thought proper; but at all events, send for assistance, and should forbid her from disturbing Madame de Volanges. An attentive delicacy natural to a girl who feared to give her mother uneasiness.

I made my two visits and confessions as expeditiously as I could, and then went home, from whence I have not since stirred. The surgeon, who I knew before, came to me at noon, to give me an account of the state of his patient⁠—I was not mistaken⁠—He hopes, however, it will not be attended with any bad consequences. Provided no accident happens, it will not be discovered in the house; the waiting woman is in the secret; the physician has given the disorder a name, and this affair will be settled as a thousand others have been, unless hereafter it might be useful to us to have it mentioned.

Have you and I mutual interests or no? Your silence makes me dubious of it; I would not even think at all of it, if my inclinations did not lead me on to every method of preserving the hope of it. Adieu, my charming friend! yet in anger.