Letter 174

The Chevalier Danceny to Madame de Rosemonde

You are very right, Madam; most certainly I will not refuse you anything that depends on me, and on which you are inclined to set a value. The packet I have the honour to send you, contains all Mademoiselle de Volanges’ letters. If you will take the trouble to read them, you will be astonished to see so much candour united with such perfidiousness. This is, at least, what has made the strongest impression on my mind, at my last perusal of them.

But it is impossible to avoid being filled with the greatest indignation against M. de Merteuil, when one recollects what horrible pleasure and pains she took to destroy so much innocence and candour.

No, Madam, I am no longer in love. I have not the least spark of a sentiment so unworthily betrayed; and it is not love that puts me on means to justify Mademoiselle de Volanges. Still would not that innocent heart, that soft and easy temper, be moulded to good more readily than it was hurried to evil? What young person, just come out of a convent, without experience, and almost divested of ideas, and bringing with her into the world, as most always happens, an equal share of ignorance of good and evil; what young person could have resisted such culpable artifices more? In order to inspire us with some indulgence, it is sufficient to reflect on how many circumstances, independent of us, is the frightful alternative from delicacy, to the depravity of sentiment. You, then, did me justice, Madam, in believing me incapable of having any idea of revenge, for the injuries I received from Mademoiselle de Volanges, and which, notwithstanding, I felt very sensibly. The sacrifice is great, in being obliged to give over loving her: but the attempt would be too great for me to hate her.

I had no need of reflection to wish everything that concerns, or that could be prejudicial to her, should ever be kept secret from the world. If I have appeared something dilatory in fulfilling your wishes on this occasion, I believe I may tell you my motive; I wished first to be certain I should not be troubled on my late unhappy affair. At a time when I was soliciting your indulgence, when I even dared to think I had some right to it, I should have dreaded having the least appearance in a manner of purchasing it by this condescension: certain of the purity of my motives, I had, I own, the vanity to wish you could not have the least doubt of them.

I hope you will pardon this delicacy, perhaps too susceptible, to the veneration with which you have inspired me, and to the great value of your esteem.

The same sentiment makes me request as a favour, you will be so obliging to let me know if you think I have fulfilled all the obligations the unhappy circumstances I was in required. Once satisfied on this point, my resolution is taken; I set out for Malta: there I shall with pleasure take and religiously keep vows which will separate me from a world, with which, though young, I have so much reason to be dissatisfied⁠—I will endeavour in a foreign clime, to lose the idea of so many accumulated horrors, whose remembrance can only bring sorrow to my head.