Letter 16

Cecilia Volanges to Sophia Carnay

Ah, Sophia, I have a deal of news! But may be I should not tell you: I must tell it, however, to somebody, I can’t keep it. Chevalier Danceny⁠—I’m in such trouble, I can’t write; I don’t know where to begin. Since the agreeable evening that I related to you I spent at Mamma’s,7 with him and Madame de Merteuil, I said no more of him: that was because I resolved not to say any more of him to anyone; but I was always thinking of him notwithstanding. Since that, he is become so melancholy, that it makes me uneasy; and when I asked him the reason, he answered me he was not so, but I could plainly see he was. He was yesterday more so than usual; that did not, however, prevent him from singing with his usual complaisance; but every time he looked at me, my heart was ready to break. After we had done singing, he locked up my harpsichord; and bringing me the key, begged I would play again in the evening when I was alone. I had no suspicion of anything; I even refused him: but he insisted so much, that I promised I would. He had his reasons for it. When I retired to my room, and my maid was gone, I went to my harpsichord. I found hid among the strings an unsealed letter from him. Ah, if you did but know all he writes! Since I read his letter, I am in such raptures I can think of nothing else. I read it over four times running, and then locked it in my desk. I got it by heart; and when I laid down I repeated it so often, I could not think of sleeping; as soon as I shut my eyes, I thought I saw him, telling me everything I had just read. I did not sleep till very late; and, as soon as I awoke, (though it was very early,) I got up for the letter, to read it at my leisure; I took it into bed, and began to kiss it; as if⁠—but may be I did wrong to kiss a letter thus, but I could not help it.

Now, my dear friend, if I am very well pleased, I am also very much troubled; for certainly I must not answer it. I know that must not be, and yet he urges it; and if I don’t answer it, I am certain he will be again melancholy. It is a great pity; what would you advise me to? But you know no more than I. I have a great mind to tell Madame de Merteuil, who has a great affection for me. I wish I could console him; but I would not do anything wrong. We are taught good-nature, and yet we are forbid to follow its dictates, when a man is in question. That I can’t understand. Is not a man our neighbour as well as a woman, and still more so? For have we not a father as well as a mother, a brother as well as a sister, and there is the husband besides? Yet if I was to do anything that was not right, perhaps Mr. Danceny himself would no longer have a good opinion of me! Oh, then I would rather he should be melancholy! And I shall still be time enough; though he wrote yesterday, I am not obliged to write today; and I shall see Madame de Merteuil this evening, and if I can have so much resolution, I will tell her all. Following her advice, I shall have nothing to reproach myself; and may be she may tell me I may give him a few words of answer, that he may not be melancholy. I’m in great uneasiness! Adieu! Be sure tell me what you think I ought to do.