Letter 64

The Chevalier Danceny to Madame de Volanges

(Annexed to the 66th Letter, from the Viscount to the Marchioness.)

Without seeking, Madam, to justify my conduct, and without the least cause of complaint of yours, I can only lament the unhappiness of three persons all worthy of a better fate. I beg leave to assure you, my chagrin, on this occasion, proceeds more from being the cause than the victim. Since yesterday, I have often endeavoured to do myself the honour of answering your letter, without being able to perform my resolution; yet I have so many things to say, that I must overcome every other consideration; and if this letter is incoherent, you may very well imagine that I stand in great need of your indulgence in my present painful situation.

Permit me, therefore, Madam, to demur against the first position of your letter. I venture to assure you, I have neither abused your confidence, nor Mademoiselle de Volanges’ innocence: I have paid a proper respect to one and the other, they alone depend on me; and were you to make me responsible for an involuntary sentiment, I shall not be afraid to declare, that the one Mademoiselle your daughter inspired me with, may perhaps displease, but ought by no means to offend you. This motive, which I feel more than I can express, I leave you and my letters to determine on.

You forbid me to come to your house in future, and I most certainly will submit to your pleasure on this occasion; but give me leave to remonstrate, that such an abrupt absence will give as much cause to remarks you wish to avoid, as the orders you have declined giving, for the same reason, would create; and I think this consideration more important on Mademoiselle de Volanges’ account than my own. I therefore beseech you to weigh attentively those things, and not suffer your severity to get the better of your prudence. I am confident that the interest of your daughter alone will govern your resolutions; I shall therefore wait your farther commands.

Yet, if you should think proper to permit me to wait upon you sometimes, I engage myself, Madam, (and you may depend upon my promise), I shall not attempt to abuse your condescension, by presuming to speak in private to Mademoiselle de Volanges, or convey any letter to her. The dread of doing anything that might affect her reputation, influences me to this sacrifice; and the happiness of some time seeing her would be a sufficient recompence.

This part of my letter is the only answer I can make to the fate you intend for Mademoiselle de Volanges, and which you mean to be dependent on my conduct. It would be deceiving you to promise more. A vile seducer may make his projects subservient to circumstances, and calculate them to events; but the passion with which I am inspired admits of only two sentiments, courage and constancy.

What me, Madam! me consent to be forgotten by Mademoiselle de Volanges, and I to forget her? No, never! I will be constant to her; she has received my vows, and I now again renew them. Forgive me, Madam; I am going astray; I must resume my reason.

One thing more remains to be mentioned, in reply to the letters you require. I am really unhappy to be obliged to add a refusal to the wrongs you already charge me with: but I beseech you to attend to my reasons, and vouchsafe to remember to enhance their value: that the only consolation I have left for the loss of your friendship, is the hope of preserving your esteem.

Mademoiselle de Volanges’ letters, ever precious to me, become more so at this moment. They are my only felicity; they bring back to my remembrance the only charm of my life! Yet, I beg you will believe me, I would not hesitate a moment to sacrifice them to you; and the regret of being deprived of them, would give way to my strong desire of proving my most respectful obedience to your orders; but, very powerful considerations, which I am confident you yourself will not blame, prevent me.

It is true you have got the secret from Mademoiselle de Volanges; but permit me to say, and I believe I am authorised, that it is the effect of surprise, and not of confidence. I do not pretend to blame the step you have taken, which may be sanctioned by your maternal care. I respect your right; but that will not dispense me from doing my duty. The most sacred of all, I conceive, is not to betray the confidence reposed in us. I should therefore be in the highest degree guilty, were I to expose to the eyes of another the secrets of a heart, which has been disclosed to me alone. If Mademoiselle your daughter consents they should be given up to you, let her speak⁠—her letters are useless to you: if, on the contrary, she should think proper to keep her secrets to herself, you certainly will not expect, Madam, that I should disclose them.

As to the secrecy in which you wish this event may remain, rest satisfied, Madam, that in everything that concerns Mademoiselle de Volanges, I may even set the heart of a mother at defiance. But to take away all manner of uneasiness from you, I have provided against every accident. This precious deposit, which formerly was superscribed, Papers to be burnt, is endorsed at present, Papers belonging to Madame de Volanges. This resolution may sufficiently convince you that my refusal is not influenced by any dread that you should find in those letters, a single sentiment that you should have any personal cause to complain of.

This, Madam, is a very long letter. It would yet, however, be too short, if it left you room for the least doubt of the honour of my sentiments, the sincere regret I am under of having displeased you, and the profound respect with which I have the honour to be, etc.