Letter 97

Cecilia Volanges to the Marchioness de Merteuil

Ah, Madam! I am the most miserable creature on earth; my affliction is very great, indeed. To whom shall I fly for consolation? or who will give me advice in my distress? Mr. de Valmont and Danceny⁠—the very name of Danceny distracts me⁠—How shall I begin? How shall I tell you?⁠—I don’t know how to go about it; my heart is full⁠—I must, however, disburden myself to someone: and you are the only person in whom I can or dare confide; you have been so kind to me. But I am no longer worthy of your friendship; I will even say, I do not wish for it. Everyone here has been uneasy about me, and they only augmented my grief; I am so convinced I am unworthy of it. Rather scold me, abuse me, for I am guilty; yet save me from ruin. If you do not compassionate and advise me, I shall expire of grief.

I must tell you then⁠—my hand shakes so, I can hardly hold the pen, and I am as red as scarlet; but it is the blush of shame. Well, I will bear it, as the first punishment of my crime. I will relate the whole.

I must tell you that Mr. Valmont, who has always hitherto delivered me Mr. Danceny’s letters, on a sudden discovered so much difficulty in it, that he would have the key of my chamber. I assure you, I was very much against it: but he wrote to Danceny about it; and Danceny also insisted on it. It gives me so much pain to refuse him anything, especially since our absence, which makes him so unhappy, that I consented; not in the least suspecting what would be the consequence.

Yesterday Mr. Valmont made use of this key to get into my chamber while I was asleep. I so little expected such a visit, that I was greatly frightened at waking: but as he spoke to me instantly, I knew him, and did not cry out; as I immediately thought he came to bring me a letter from Danceny. No such thing. He wanted to kiss me directly; and while I was struggling, he contrived to do what I would not have suffered for the whole world. But he would have a kiss first; which I was forced to comply with: for what could I do? I endeavoured to call out; but, besides that I could not, he told me, that if anyone should come he would throw all the fault on me; which, indeed, was very easy to be done on account of the key. After that, he did not go away any more. Then he would have a second kiss; and I don’t know how that was, but it gave me a strange perturbation; and after that it was still worse. At last, after⁠—but you must excuse me from telling the rest; for I am as unhappy as it is possible. But what I reproach myself most for, and that I can’t help mentioning, is, I am afraid I did not make as much resistance as I could. I can’t tell how it was, for certainly I don’t love Mr. Valmont, but on the contrary; yet there were some moments that I was as if I loved him⁠—however, you may well think I always said no: but I was sensible I did not do as I said; and it was as if in spite of me; and I was, moreover, in great trouble. If it is always so hard to defend one’s self, one must be very well used to it. Mr. de Valmont speaks to one in such a way, that one does not know how to answer him: and would you believe it, when he went away I was vexed; and yet I was silly enough to consent to his coming again this night: that afflicts me more than all the rest.

Notwithstanding, I promise you I will prevent him from coming. He was hardly gone, but I found I did very wrong to promise him, and I cried all the rest of the time. My greatest trouble is about Danceny. Every time I think of him, my tears almost choke me, and I am always thinking of him⁠—and even now you may see the effect, for the paper is wet with my tears. I shall never be able to get the better of it, if it was only on his account. I was quite exhausted, and yet I could not close my eyes. When I got up, and looked in the glass, I was enough to frighten one, I was so altered.

Mama perceived it as soon as I appeared, and asked me, what was the matter with me? I burst out crying immediately. I thought she would have chide me, and maybe that would not have been so distressing to me; however, it was quite otherwise; she spoke to me with great mildness, which I did not deserve. She desired I would not afflict myself so; but she did not know the cause of my distress; and that I should make myself sick. I often wish I was dead. I could hold out no longer. I flung myself in her arms, sobbing, and told her, “Ah, mama! your daughter is very unhappy.” Mama could no longer contain herself, and wept a little. All this increased my sorrow. Fortunately she did not ask the reason; for if she had, I should not known what to say.

I entreat you, dear Madam, to write to me as soon as possible, and inform me how I am to act; for I have no power to think of anything, my affliction is so great. Please to enclose your letter to Mr. Valmont: but if you write to him at the same time, I entreat you not to mention a word of this.

I have the honour to be, with great friendship, Madam, your most humble and obedient servant.

I dare not sign this letter.