Letter 158

The Viscount de Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

Well, Marchioness, how are you after the pleasures of last night? Are you not a little fatigued? You must acknowledge Danceny is a charming fellow! That lad is a prodigy! You did not expect such things from him; is it not true? I must do myself justice; such a rival deserved I should be sacrificed to him. Seriously he has a number of good qualities! So much love, so much constancy, so much delicacy! Ah! if ever he loves you as he does his Cecilia, you will have no occasion to dread being rivalled; he has proved it this night. Perhaps through dint of coquetry, another woman may entice him for a short time; a young man hardly knows how to resist incitements; but you see a single word from the beloved object is sufficient to dissipate the illusion; so that there is nothing wanting to complete your happiness, but being that beloved object.

Certainly you will not be mistaken; you have such exquisite feeling it is not to be apprehended: yet the friendship that unites us, as sincere on my side as acknowledged on yours, made me wish you should experience the proof of this night; it is an effort of my zeal⁠—It has succeeded⁠—But no acknowledgements⁠—it is not worth while⁠—nothing more easy.

But to the point; what did it cost me? Why a slight sacrifice, and a little address. I consented to share with the young man the favours of his mistress; but he had as great a right to them as I had, and I was not in the least uneasy about them. The letter the young creature wrote him, I dictated; but it was only to gain a little time, as we could employ it to so much better purpose. What I wrote with it was nothing, almost nothing. Some few friendly reflections to direct the new lover; but upon honour they were useless⁠—To tell the truth, he did not hesitate a moment. Moreover, he is to wait on you today to relate all; and it certainly will give you great pleasure! He will tell you, read my heart, so he writes me; and you see that I will settle everything. I hope that in reading what he pleases, you will also perhaps read, that such young lovers are dangerous⁠—and also, that it is better to have me for a friend than an enemy.