Letter 54

The Marchioness de Merteuil to the Viscount de Valmont

Yes, to be sure, Danceny is a very proper person to get anything out of. If he has said anything to you, he is a braggart. I do not know such a fool in love matters, and I reproach myself more and more for the pains we take for him. Do you know, I had like to be exposed on his account, and for no purpose whatever? Oh! I shall be revenged, I assure him.

When I called yesterday on Madame de Volanges, she had altered her mind; she would not go out; she said she was indisposed, and I was forced to make use of all my eloquence to bring her to a resolution; and the moment was drawing near that Danceny would have arrived before we set out; which would have been so much the more awkward, as Madame de Volanges had told him the evening before, she would not be at home: her daughter and I were upon thorns.

At length we set out; and the little thing squeezed my hand so affectionately, bidding me adieu, that in spite of her project for a rupture, which she was seriously engaged in, I prognosticated wonders from the evening’s amusement.

But my uneasiness was not to end thus. We were scarcely half an hour at Madame de ⸻’s, when Madame de Volanges was really taken ill, and wanted to return home: but I, who was afraid that we should surprise the young people, as there was every reason to dread, took the resolution to alarm her on the score of her health, which fortunately is not very difficult, and detained her an hour and a half without consenting to bring her back, lest the motion of the carriage should be prejudicial to her. At length we returned at the hour agreed on. By the bashful look I observed at our arrival, I own I thought that, at least, our labour was not lost.

The strong inclination that I had to be satisfied, made me remain with Madame de Volanges, who immediately went to bed; and after having supped by her bedside, we came away soon, in order to leave her to her repose, and went into her daughter’s apartment. She, on her part, did everything I expected from her; scruples fled, new oaths of constancy, etc. etc. but that blockhead Danceny did not advance a step farther than he was before. One can quarrel with him safely, for the reconciliation would not be difficult; the little thing, however, says, that he wanted farther advantages, but she knew how to defend herself: I would venture, however, to lay a wager, that she brags, or, at least, excuses him, and I am even almost certain of it. I took it into my head, to know what defence she was capable of making; and from question to question, I warmed her imagination to such a degree⁠—in short, you may believe me, there never was a person more susceptible of a sensitive surprise than she is. This little dear creature is truly amiable; she deserves a better lover; she, at least, shall have a good friend, for I am most sincerely attached to her. I have promised to model her, and I believe I’ll keep my word. I have often perceived the want of a female confident, and I would rather have her than any other; but I can’t make anything of her, until she is⁠—what she must be; that is one more reason for being angry with Danceny.

Farewell, Viscount; do not come to my house tomorrow, unless it be in the morning. I have acquiesced to the pressing invitations of the Chevalier for a night at the villa.