Letter 153

Viscount de Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

I reply to your letter on the instant, and will endeavour to be explicit; which is not an easy matter with you, when you have once determined not to understand.

Many words are not necessary to convince us, each has the power of ruining the other; we have an equal interest to keep fair with one another: that is not the business at present. But between the violent determination of destruction, and doubtless the more eligible one of being still united as hitherto, or of even being more so, by renewing our first attachment; between those two parties, I say, there are a thousand more to be taken. It was not, then, ridiculous to tell you, neither is it to repeat, that from this day I will either be your lover or your enemy.

I am very sensible the choice will give you some uneasiness; that it would be more convenient for you to shuffle. I am also satisfied, you never liked to be confined to yes or no: but you must be sensible, I cannot let you from this small circle, without risking being deceived; and you ought to have foreseen, I would not bear it. You are now to decide. I may leave you the choice, but will not remain in uncertainty.

I only inform you beforehand, I will not be imposed on by your arguments, good or bad; that I will no longer be seduced by any ornamental wheedling with which you might embellish a refusal; and that the hour of frankness is arrived. I wish for nothing more than to set you the example; and I declare with pleasure, I prefer peace and union. If it is necessary to break one or the other, I think I have the right and the means.

Therefore I will add, the least obstacle you make, I shall consider as a declaration of war. You will observe, the answer I demand does not require either long or studied sentences: two words will be sufficient.