Letter 43

The Presidente de Tourvel to the Viscount de Valmont

Why, Sir, do you endeavour at a diminution of my gratitude to you? Why obey me only by halves, and in some measure make a bargain of a simple, genteel act? It is not, then, sufficient that I am sensible of its value! You not only ask a great deal of me, but you demand what it is impossible to grant. If my friends have talked of you to me, they could only do so from regard for me: should they even be mistaken, their intention was not the less good; and yet you require that I should repay this proof of their esteem, by giving you up their names. I must own I have been very wrong in acquainting you of it; and I now feel it in a very sensible manner. What would have been only candour with anyone else, becomes imprudence with you, and would be a crime was I to attend to your request. I appeal to yourself, to your honour; how could you think me capable of such a proceeding? Ought you even to have made me such a proposition? No, certainly; and I am sure, when you reflect, you will desist from this request.

The other you make of writing to me is little easier to grant; and if you will think a moment, you cannot in justice blame me. I do not mean to offend you; but after the character you have required, and which you yourself confess to have partly merited, what woman can avow holding a correspondence with you? And what virtuous woman could resolve to do that which she would be obliged to conceal?

If I was even certain that your letters would be such as would give me no cause of discontent, and that I could always be conscious I was sufficiently justified in receiving them, then, perhaps, the desire of proving to you that reason, not hatred, guided me, would make me surmount those powerful considerations, and cause me to do what I ought not, in giving you sometimes permission to write to me; and if, indeed, you wish it as much as you express, you will readily submit to the only condition that can possibly make me consent to it: and if you have any gratitude for this condescension, you will not delay your departure a moment.

Give me leave to make one observation on this occasion: you received a letter this morning, and you did not make use of that opportunity to acquaint Madame de Rosemonde of your intended departure as you promised me; I now hope that nothing will prevent you from keeping your word. I hope much that you will not wait for the interview you ask, which I absolutely will not agree to; and that, instead of the order that you pretend to be so necessary, you will be satisfied with my request, which I again renew to you. Farewell, Sir!