Letter 146

The Marchioness de Merteuil to the Chevalier Danceny

At last I set out, my young friend; tomorrow evening I shall be in Paris. The hurry always attending a removal will prevent me from seeing anyone. Yet if you should have any pressing confidential business to impart, I shall except you from the general rule: but I except you alone; therefore request my arrival may be a secret. I shall not even inform Valmont of it.

Whoever would have told me, sometime ago, you would have my exclusive confidence, I would not have believed them: but yours drew on mine. I should be inclined to think you had made use of some address, or, perhaps, seduction. That would be wrong, indeed! however, it would not at present be very dangerous; you have other business in hand. When the heroine is on the stage, we seldom take notice of the confidant.

And, indeed, you have not had time to impart your late success to me. When your Cecilia was absent, the days were too short to listen to your plaintive strains. You would have told them to the echo, if I had not been ready to hear them. Since, when she was ill, you even honoured me with a recital of your troubles; you wanted someone to tell them to: but now your love is in Paris, that she is quite recovered, and you sometimes see her, your friends are quite neglected.

I do not blame you in the least, it is a fault of youth; for it is a received truth, that from Alcibiades down to you, young people are unacquainted with friendship but in adversity. Happiness sometimes makes them indiscreet, but never presumptuous. I will say, with Socrates, I like my friends to come to me when they are unhappy: but, as a philosopher, he did very well without them if they did not come. I am not quite so wise as he, for I felt your silence with all the weakness of a woman.

However, do not think me too exacting; far from it. The same sentiment that leads me to observe those privations, makes me bear them with fortitude, when they are proofs, or the cause of the happiness of my friends. I shall, therefore, not depend on you for tomorrow evening, only as far as is consistent with love and want of occupation; and I positively forbid you to make me the least sacrifice.

Adieu, Chevalier! it will be an absolute regale to see you again⁠—will you come?