I should never have expected
it, Marquis. What! My zeal in your behalf has drawn
your reproaches down upon me? I share with the Countess the
bad humor her severity has caused you. Do you know?
If what you say were well founded, nothing could be more piquant
for me than the ironical tone in which you laud my principles.
But to render me responsible for your success, as you attempt, have
you dared think for an instant, that my object in writing you, was
ever for the purpose of giving you lessons in seduction? Do
you not perceive any difference in teaching you to please, and exciting
you toward seduction? I have told you the motives that incline
women to love, it is true, but have I ever said that they were easier
to vanquish? Have I ever told you to attack them by sensuality,
and that in attacking them to suppose them without delicacy?
I do not believe it.
When your inexperience
and your timidity might cause you to play the rôle of a ridiculous
personage among women, I explained the harm these defects might
cause you in the world. I advised you to have more confidence,
in order to lead you insensibly in the direction of that noble and
respectful boldness you should have when with women. But as
soon as I saw that your pretensions were going too far, and that
they might wound the reputation of the Countess, I did not dissimulate,
I took sides against you, and nothing was more reasonable – I had
become her friend. You see, then, how unjust you are in my
regard, and you are no less so in regard to her. You treat
her as if she were an equivocal character. According to your
idea, she has neither decided for nor against gallantry, and what
you clearly see in her conduct is, that she is a more logical coquette
than other women. What an opinion!
But there is much to pardon
in your situation. However, a man without prejudice, would
see in the Countess only a lover as reasonable as she is tender,
a woman who, without having an ostentatious virtue, nevertheless
remains constantly attached to it, a woman, in a word, who seeks
in good faith the proper means of reconciling love and duty.
The difficulty in allying these two contraries is not slight, and
it is the source of the inequalities that wound you. Figure
to yourself the combats she must sustain, the revolutions she suffers,
her embarrassment in endeavoring to preserve a lover whom too uniform
a resistance might repel. If she were sure of keeping you
by resisting your advances, but you carry your odd conduct to the
extent of leaving her when her resistance is too prolonged.
While praising our virtue, you abandon us, and then, what shame
for us! But since in both cases it is not certain that her
lover will be held, it is preferable to accept the inconvenient,
rather than cause you to lose her heart and her esteem.
That is our advice, for
the Countess and I think precisely alike on the subject. Be
more equitable, Marquis; complain of her rather than criticize her.
If her character were more decided, perhaps you would be better
satisfied with her, but even in that case would you be satisfied
very long? I doubt it.
Adieu. We count
on seeing you this evening at Madame de La Fayette’s, and that you
will prove more reasonable. The Abbé Gedoyn will be presented
me. The assembly will be brilliant, but you will doubtless
be bored, for you will not see the only object that can attract
you, and you will say of my apartment, what Malherbe so well says
of the garden of the Louvre:
“Mais quoi que vous
ayez, vous n’avez point Caliste,
Et moi je ne vois rien,
quand je ne la vois pas.”
(“Whatever you may have,
Caliste you have not got,
And I, I can see nothing
when I see her not.”)