Letter 144

Viscount de Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

Yesterday, at three in the afternoon, being impatient, my lovely friend, at not having any news, I presented myself at the house of the fair abandoned, and was told she was gone out. In this reply I could see nothing more than a refusal to admit me, which neither surprised nor vexed me; I retired, in hope this step would induce so polished a woman to give me an answer. The desire I had to receive one, made me call home about nine, but found nothing. Astonished at this silence, which I did not expect, I sent my huntsman on the enquiry for information, whether the tender fair was dead or dying. At my return, he informed me, Madame de Tourvel had actually gone out at eleven in the morning with her waiting maid; that she ordered her carriage to the convent of ⸻; that at seven in the evening she had sent her carriage and servants back, sending word they should not expect her home. This is certainly acting with propriety. The convent is the only asylum for a widow; and if she persists in so laudable a resolution, I shall add to all the obligations I already lay under, the celebrity this adventure will now have.

I told you sometime ago, notwithstanding your uneasiness, I would again appear in the world with more brilliant éclat. Let those severe critics now show themselves, who accused me of a romantic passion; let them make a more expeditious and shining rupture: no, let them do more; bid them go offer their consolations⁠—the road is chalked out for them; let them only dare run the career I have gone over entirely, and if anyone obtains the least success, I will yield him up the first place: but they shall all experience when I am in earnest; the impression I leave is indelible. This one I affirm will be so. I should even look on all former triumphs as trifles, if I was ever to have a favoured rival.

I own the step she has taken flatters my vanity; yet I am sorry she had so much fortitude to separate from me. There will be no obstacle, then, between us, but of my own formation. If I should be inclined to renew our connection, she, perhaps, would refuse; perhaps not pant for it, not think it the summit of happiness! Is this love? And do you think, my charming friend, I should bear it? Could I not, for example, and would it not be better, endeavour to bring this woman to the point of foreseeing a possibility of a reconciliation, always wished for while there is hope? I could try this course without any consequence, without giving you umbrage. It would be only a mere trial we would make in concert. Even if I should be successful, it would be only an additional means of renewing, at your pleasure, a sacrifice which has seemed agreeable to you. Now, my charming friend, I am yet to receive my reward, and all my vows are for your return. Come, then, speedily to your lover, your pleasures, your friends, and the pursuit of adventures.

That of the little Volanges has had a surprising turn. Yesterday, as my uneasiness would not suffer me to stay long in a place, in my various excursions I called at Madame Volanges’. I found your pupil in the saloon, in the drapery of a sick person, but in full health, fresher, and more interesting. Some of you ladies, in such a case would keep your beds for a month, Oh, rare lasses! Egad, this one has given me a strong inclination to know if the cure be complete.

I had almost forgot to tell you, the little girl’s accident had like to have turned your sentimental Danceny’s brain: at first it was for grief, but now it is with joy. His Cecilia was sick. You will agree, the brain must turn with such a misfortune. Three times a day did he send to enquire about her, and never missed every day going himself; at last, he wrote a fine epistle to the mama, begging leave to go and congratulate her on the recovery of so dear an object; Madame de Volanges assented; so that I found the young man established as heretofore, only not quite so familiar. This narrative I had from himself; for I came out with him, and made him prate. You can’t conceive what an effect this visit had on him; his joy, his wishes, his transports are inexpressible. As I am fond of grand emotions, I finished him, by telling him, in a few days I hoped to place him much nearer his fair one.

I am determined to give her up to him as soon as I have made my trial. I will devote myself entirely to you; moreover, I don’t see it would be worth while your pupil should be my scholar, if she had only a husband to deceive. The chef d’oeuvre is to deceive the lover! and the first lover too! For I can’t reproach myself with even having pronounced the word love.

Adieu, my lovely friend! Return as soon as possible to resume your empire over me, to receive my homage, and give me my reward.