Letter 47

The Viscount de Valmont to the Marchioness de Merteuil

I shall not see you today, my charming friend; and I will give you my reasons, which I hope you will accept with your usual good nature.

Instead of returning directly to town yesterday, I stopped at the Countess de ⸻’s, whose country seat was almost in my road; where I dined, and did not arrive in Paris till near seven o’clock, and alighted at the opera, where I thought you might be.

When the opera was over, I went into the greenroom to see my old acquaintances; there I found my old friend Emily in the midst of a numerous circle, male and female, who were engaged to sup with her that night at P⁠⸺. I no sooner came among them, but, by the unanimous voice, I was entreated to be of the party. One, a short, thick figure, who stammered out his invitation in Dutch French, I immediately recognised to be the master of the feast. I yielded.

I learned, on our way there, that the house we were going to was the price agreed on for Emily’s condescension to this grotesque figure, and that this supper was in fact a wedding feast. The little man could not contain himself for joy, in expectation of the happiness that awaited him; and I saw him so enraptured with it, that I felt a strong inclination to disturb it; which I effected.

The only difficulty was to bring Emily to consent, in whom the burgomaster’s riches had raised some scruples: however, after some solicitation, I brought her at length to consent to my scheme, which was, to fill this little beer hogshead with wine, and thus get rid of him.

The sublime idea we entertained of a drunken Dutchman, made us exert ourselves. We succeeded so well, that by the time the dessert was brought on the table, he was not able to hold his glass, whilst the tender Emily and I plied him incessantly, till, at length, he fell under the table so drunk, that it must have lasted at least eight days. We then determined to send him back to Paris; and as he had not kept his carriage, I ordered him to be packed into mine, and I remained in his room. I then received the compliments of the company, who retired soon after, and left me master of the field of battle. This frolic, and perhaps my long retirement, made Emily so desirable, that I promised to remain with her until the resurrection of the Dutchman.

This condescension is a return for that she has just had for me, in submitting to serve me as a desk to write to my lovely devotee, to whom it struck me as a pleasant thought, to write in bed with, and almost in the arms of, a girl, where I was interrupted by a complete infidelity. In this letter I give her an exact account of my conduct and situation. Emily, who read the epistle, laughed immoderately, and I expect it will make you laugh also.

As my letter must be marked at the Paris post office, I leave it open for you, enclosed. Read it, seal it, and send it there. But, pray, do not use your own seal, nor even any amorous emblem⁠—an antique head only. Adieu, my lovely friend!