Letter 74

Marchioness de Merteuil to Viscount de Valmont

You are very soon alarmed, my dear friend: this Prevan must be formidable indeed, but what a simple modest creature am I, who have often met this haughty conqueror, and have scarce ever looked at him; nothing less than your letter would have made me pay the least attention to him. I corrected my error yesterday; he was at the Opera, almost opposite to me; I was captivated with him. He is not only handsome, but very handsome; fine delicate features, and must improve on a clearer inspection. You say, he wants to have me, he certainly will do me a great deal of honour and pleasure; but seriously, I have taken a fancy to him, and tell you, in confidence, I have taken the first step towards an advance. I do not know whether I shall succeed, but this is fact.

He was at a very little distance from me, coming out of the Opera, and I gave a rendezvous to the Marquis de ⸻, to sup on Friday at the Lady Marechale’s, so loud that he might hear, which, I believe, is the only house I can meet him in; and have not the least doubt but he heard me. If the ungrateful wretch should not come⁠—Tell me sincerely, do you think he will? I protest if he does not, I shall be out of temper the whole evening. You see he will not find so much difficulty in following me; and what will surprise you more is, he will find less, in pleasing me. He says he will kill six horses in paying his addresses to me; oh! the poor animals shall not die. I should never have patience to wait so long. You know it is not my principle to make anyone languish, when once I am decided in their favour, as I really am in his.

Now, you must agree, there is some pleasure in talking rationally to me, has not your important advice had great success; but what can I do? I vegetate for a long time; it is more than six weeks since I have permitted myself a gaiety; this is the first, how can I refuse it? Is not the subject worth the trouble? Can there be anyone more agreeable in every sense of the word?

You are obliged to do him justice; you do more than praise him; you are jealous of him. Well, I shall judge between you both, but first I must take informations, and that is what I mean to do. Be assured I shall be an upright judge; you shall be both weighed in the same scale; for your part, I have already received your memorial, am entirely acquainted with your affairs. Is it not reasonable that I should also know your adversary’s case? Come, go through your business with a good grace, and to begin, inform me, I beg of you, this triple adventure, of which he is the hero. You talk to me as if I knew the whole matter, who never heard a word of it. Probably it happened during the time of my journey to Geneva, and your jealousy prevented you from giving me an account of it. Repair this fault immediately; remember that everything that interests him, is of consequence to me. I think it was spoke of at my return; but I was so taken up with other matters, I rarely pay attention to anything of this kind that is not new.

If what I require should be even contrary to your inclination, remember how much you are indebted to me for the cares and solicitude I have had upon your account. Is it not to them you are indebted for being now with your Presidente, when your own folly drove you from her? Have I not put it in your power to be revenged of Madame de Volanges, for her acrimonious zeal against you? How often have you deplored the time you lost in search of adventures, now you have them at command? Love, hatred, make your choice, they are under the same roof with you; by doubling your existence, you can caress with the one hand, and strike with the other.

It is to me even you are indebted, for the adventure of the Viscountess⁠—It pleases me. I agree with you it must be published, for if the opportunity influenced you, as I am apt to think, to prefer mystery to rumour; at that time must acknowledge, notwithstanding, this woman does not deserve so handsome a procedure.

Moreover, I have reason to dislike her; the Chevalier de Belleroche thinks her handsomer than me, and for several reasons I would be glad to break off with her; there is none more plausible than to have a story to relate, one cannot keep company with her after.

Farewell, Viscount! Remember that as you are situated, time is precious: I will employ mine in thinking how to make Prevan happy.