Letter 15

Viscount Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

Indeed you are very kind not to abandon me to my melancholy fate: the life I lead here is really fatiguing, from excess of repose and insipid uniformity. Reading your letter with the particulars of your delightful excursion, I was tempted twenty times to pretend business, fly to your feet, and beg of you to commit, in my favour, an infidelity to your Chevalier, who really does not deserve his bliss. Do you know you have roused my jealousy? Why tell me of an eternal rupture? I recant an oath taken in a fit of frenzy. We should not have been entitled to so solemn a privilege, had we seriously intended to keep it. Ah, may I be one day revenged in your embraces, for the vexation the Chevalier’s happiness gives me! I am all indignation I own, to think that a man who has scarce common sense, without taking the least trouble, and only simply following the instinct of his heart, should find a happiness I can’t attain. Oh, I will disturb him: promise me I shall disturb him! But have you not humiliated yourself? You take the trouble to deceive him, and he is happier than you. You think you have him in your toils, but you are in his. He sleeps quietly, whilst you wake for his pleasures. What could his slaves do more?

Hark ye, my lovely friend, while you divide yourself among many, I am not in the least jealous; I then look down on your lovers as on Alexander’s successors; incapable of preserving among them that empire where I reigned sole monarch; but that you should give yourself up entirely to one of them, that another should exist as happy as me, I will not suffer; don’t expect I’ll bear it! Either take me again, or take another; and do not, by any exclusive caprice, betray the inviolable friendship we have sworn to each other.

Is it not curious, that I should have reason to complain of love? You see I give into your ideas, and confess my errors. If not to be able to exist without the possession of what we desire, if to sacrifice time, pleasure, and life for it, then am I really in love; and I have made no progress. I should not even have a word to say to you on the subject, but for an accident that racks my imagination, and leaves me in suspense between hope and fear.

You know my huntsman; a treasure of intrigue, and a true valet as ever dramatic pen drew. You may conceive he had it in his instructions to be in love with the waiting-maid, and make the servants drunk.

The rascal is happier than his master; he has already succeeded; and has just discovered that Madame de Tourvel has appointed one of her people to observe me, and even to follow me in my morning excursions, as much as possible, without being perceived.

What does this woman mean? Thus, then, the most virtuous of them will venture to do things, that one of us would not dare think on! Well, I swear⁠—but before I think of being revenged for this female artifice, I will endeavour to convert it to my advantage. Hitherto those suspected excursions had no view; I must give them one. This deserves my utmost attention, and I quit you to reflect on it. Adieu, my charming friend!