Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Widger and PG Distributed Proofreaders
The Translation of this book was made by EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL
Casanova was in his fifty-third year. Though no longer driven by the
lust of adventure that had spurred him in his youth, he was still hunted
athwart the world, hunted now by a restlessness due to the approach of
old age. His yearning for Venice, the city of his birth, grew so intense
that, like a wounded bird slowly circling downwards in its death flight,
he began to move in ever-narrowing circles. Again and again, during the
last ten years of his exile, he had implored the Supreme Council for
leave to return home. Erstwhile, in the drafting of these petitions--a
work in which he was a past master--a defiant, wilful spirit seemed to
have guided his pen; at times even he appeared to take a grim delight in
his forwardness. But of late his requests had been couched in humble,
beseeching words which displayed, ever more plainly, the ache of
homesickness and genuine repentance.
The sins of his earlier years (the most unpardonable to the Venetian
councillors was his free-thinking, not his dissoluteness, or
quarrelsomeness, or rather sportive knavery) were by degrees passing
into oblivion, and so Casanova had a certain amount of confidence that
he would receive a hearing. The history of his marvellous escape from
The Leads of Venice, which he had recounted on innumerable occasions at
the courts of princes, in the palaces of nobles, at the supper tables of
burghers, and in houses of ill fame, was beginning to make people forget
any disrepute which had attached to his name. Moreover, in letters to
Mantua, where he had been staying for two months, persons of influence
had conveyed hope to the adventurer, whose inward and outward lustre
were gradually beginning to fade, that ere long there would come a
favorable turn in his fortunes.
Since his means were now extremely slender, Casanova had decided to
await the expected pardon in the modest but respectable inn where he had
stayed in happier years. To make only passing mention of less spiritual
amusements, with which he could not wholly dispense--he spent most of
his time in writing a polemic against the slanderer Voltaire, hoping
that the publication of this document would serve, upon his return to
Venice, to give him unchallenged position and prestige in the eyes of
all well-disposed citizens.
One morning he went out for a walk beyond the town limits to excogitate
the final touches for some sentences that were to annihilate the infidel
Frenchman. Suddenly he fell prey to a disquiet that almost amounted
to physical distress. He turned over in his mind the life he had
been leading for the last three months. It had grown wearisomely
familiar--the morning walks into the country, the evenings spent in
gambling for petty stakes with the reputed Baron Perotti and the
latter's pock-marked mistress. He thought of the affection lavished upon
himself by his hostess, a woman ardent but no longer young. He thought
of how he had passed his time over the writings of Voltaire and over the
composition of an audacious rejoinder which until that moment had seemed
to him by no means inadequate. Yet now, in the dulcet atmosphere of a
morning in late summer, all these things appeared stupid and repulsive.
Muttering a curse without really knowing upon whose head he wished it
to alight, gripping the hilt of his sword, darting angry glances in all
directions as if invisible scornful eyes were watching him in the
surrounding solitude, he turned on his heel and retraced his steps
back to the town, determined to make arrangements that very hour for
immediate departure. He felt convinced that a more genial mood would
possess him were he to diminish even by a few miles the distance that
separated him from the home for which he longed. It was necessary to
hasten, so that he might be sure of booking a place in the diligence. It
was to leave at eventide by the eastward road. There was little else
to do, for he really need not bother to pay a farewell visit to
Baron Perotti. Half an hour would suffice for the packing of all his
possessions. He thought of the two suits, the shabbier of which he
was wearing at that moment; of the much darned, though once elegant,
underlinen. With two or three snuffboxes, a gold watch and chain, and a
few books, these comprised his whole worldly wealth. He called to mind
past splendors, when he had travelled as a man of distinction,
driving in a fine carriage; when he had been well furnished both with
necessaries and with superfluities; when he had even had his own
servingman--who had usually, of course, been a rogue. These memories
brought impotent anger in their train, and his eyes filled with tears.
A young woman drove towards him, whip in hand. In her little cart, amid
sacks and various odds and ends, lay her husband, drunk and snoring.
Casanova strode by beneath the chestnut trees that lined the highway,
his face working with wrath, unintelligible phrases hissing from between
his clenched teeth. The woman glanced at him inquisitively and mockingly
at first, then, on encountering an angry glare, with some alarm, and
finally, after she had passed, there was amorous invitation in the look
she gave him over her shoulder. Casanova, who was well aware that rage
and hatred can assume the semblance of youth more readily than can
gentleness and amiability, was prompt to realize that a bold response on
his part would bring the cart to a standstill, and that the young woman
would be ready to give him any assignation he pleased. Nevertheless,
although the recognition of this fact put him in a better humor for the
nonce, it seemed hardly worth while to waste minutes upon so trivial
an adventure. He was content, therefore, to allow the peasant woman to
drive her cart and all its contents unimpeded through the dust of the
The sun was now high in the heavens, and the shade of the trees hardly
tempered the heat. Casanova was soon compelled to moderate his pace.
Under the thick powder of dust the shabbiness of his garments was no
longer apparent, so that by his dress and bearing he might easily have
been taken for a gentleman of station who had been pleased for once in a
way to walk instead of drive. He had almost reached the arched gateway
near his inn, when he met a heavy country carriage lumbering along the
road. In it was seated a stoutish man, well dressed, and still fairly
young. His hands were clasped across his stomach, his eyelids drooped,
and he seemed about to doze off, when of a sudden he caught sight
of Casanova, and a great change took place in him. His whole aspect
betrayed great excitement. He sprang to his feet, but too quickly, and
fell back into his seat. Rising again, he gave the driver a punch in the
back, to make the fellow pull up. But since the carriage did not stop
instantly, the passenger turned round so as not to lose sight of
Casanova, signalled with both hands, and finally called to him thrice by
name, in a thin, clear voice. Not till he heard the voice, did Casanova
recognize who it was. By now the carriage had stopped, and Casanova
smilingly seized two hands outstretched towards him, saying:
"Olivo, is it really you?"
"Yes, Signor Casanova, it is I. You recognize me, then?"
"Why not? Since I last saw you, on your wedding day, you've put on
flesh; but very likely I've changed a good deal, too, in these fifteen
years, though not perhaps in the same fashion."
"Not a bit of it," exclaimed Olivo. "Why, Signor Casanova, you have
hardly changed at all! And it is more than fifteen years; the sixteen
years were up a few days ago. As you can imagine, Amalia and I had a
good talk about you on the anniversary of our wedding."
"Indeed?" said Casanova cordially. "You both think of me at times?"
The tears came to Olivo's eyes. He was still holding Casanova's hands,
and he pressed them fondly.
"We have so much to thank you for, Signor Casanova. How could we ever
forget our benefactor? Should we do so ..."
"Don't speak of it," interrupted Casanova. "How is Signora Amalia? Do
you know, I have been living in Mantua three months, very quietly to
be sure, but taking plenty of walks as I always have done. How is it,
Olivo, that I never met you or your wife before?"
"The matter is simple, Signor Casanova. Both Amalia and I detest the
town, and we gave up living there a long time ago. Would you do me the
favor to jump in? We shall be at home in an hour."
Casanova tried to excuse himself, but Olivo insisted.
"I will take no denial. How delighted Amalia will be to see you once
more, and how proud to show you our three children. Yes, we have three,
Signor Casanova. All girls. Thirteen, ten, and eight--not one of them
old enough yet--you'll excuse me, won't you--to have her head turned by
He laughed good-humoredly, and made as if to help Casanova into the
carriage. The latter shook his head. He had been tempted for a moment
by natural curiosity to accept Olivo's invitation. Then his impatience
returned in full force, and he assured his would-be host that
unfortunately urgent business called him away from Mantua that very
What could he expect to find in Olivo's house? Sixteen years were a long
time! Amalia would be no younger and no prettier. At his age, a girl of
thirteen would not find him interesting. Olivo, too, whom he had known
in old days as a lean and eager student, was now a portly, countrified
paterfamilias. The proposed visit did not offer sufficient attractions
to induce Casanova to abandon a journey that was to bring him thirty or
forty miles nearer to Venice.
Olivo, however, was disinclined to take no for an answer. Casanova must
at least accept a lift back to the inn, a kindly suggestion that could
not decently be refused. It was only a few minutes' drive. The hostess,
a buxom woman in the middle thirties, welcomed Casanova with a glance
that did not fail to disclose to Olivo the tender relationship between
the pair. She shook hands with Olivo as an old acquaintance. She was a
customer of Signer Olivo's, she explained to Casanova, for an excellent
medium-dry wine grown on his estate.
Olivo hastened to announce that the Chevalier de Seingalt (the hostess
had addressed Casanova by this title, and Olivo promptly followed suit)
was so churlish as to refuse the invitation of an old friend, on the
ridiculous plea that to-day of all days he had to leave Mantua. The
woman's look of gloom convinced Olivo that this was the first she had
heard of Casanova's intended departure, and the latter felt it desirable
to explain that his mention of the journey had been a mere pretext, lest
he should incommode his friend's household by an unexpected visit, and
that he had, in fact, an important piece of writing to finish during the
next few days, and no place was better suited for the work than the inn,
where his room was agreeably cool and quiet.
Olivo protested that the Chevalier de Seingalt would do his modest home
the greatest possible honor by finishing the work in question there. A
change to the country could not but be helpful in such an undertaking.
If Casanova should need learned treatises and works of reference, there
would be no lack of them, for Olivo's niece, the daughter of a deceased
half-brother, a girl who though young was extremely erudite, had arrived
a few weeks before with a whole trunkful of books. Should any guests
drop in at times of an evening, the Chevalier need not put himself
about--unless, indeed, after the labors of the day, cheerful
conversation or a game of cards might offer welcome distraction.
Directly Casanova heard of the niece, he decided he would like to make
her acquaintance, and after a show of further reluctance he yielded to
Olivo's solicitation, declaring, however, that on no account would he be
able to leave Mantua for more than a day or two. He begged the hostess
to forward promptly by messenger any letters that should arrive during
his absence, since they might be of the first importance.
Matters having thus been arranged to Olivo's complete satisfaction,
Casanova went to his room, made ready for the journey, and returned to
the parlor in a quarter of an hour. Olivo, meanwhile, had been having a
lively business talk with the hostess. He now rose, drank off his glass
of wine, and with a significant wink promised to bring the Chevalier
back, not perhaps to-morrow or the day after, but in any case in good
order and condition. Casanova, however, had suddenly grown distrait and
irritable. So cold was his farewell to the fond hostess that, at the
carriage door, she whispered a parting word in his ear which was
anything but amiable.
During the drive along the dusty road beneath the glare of the noonday
sun, Olivo gave a garrulous and somewhat incoherent account of his life
since the friends' last meeting. Shortly after his marriage he had
bought a plot of land near the town, and had started in a small way as
market gardener. Doing well at this trade, he had gradually been able to
undertake more ambitious farming ventures. At length, under God's favor,
and thanks to his own and his wife's efficiency, he had been able three
years earlier to buy from the pecuniarily embarrassed Count Marazzani
the latter's old and somewhat dilapidated country seat with a vineyard
attached. He, his wife, and his children were comfortably settled upon
this patrician estate, though with no pretence to patrician splendor.
All these successes were ultimately due to the hundred and fifty gold
pieces that Casanova had presented to Amalia, or rather to her mother.
But for this magical aid, Olivo's lot would still have been the same.
He would still have been giving instruction in reading and writing to
ill-behaved youngsters. Most likely, he would have been an old bachelor
and Amalia an old maid.
Casanova let him ramble on without paying much heed. The incident was
one among many of the date to which it belonged. As he turned it over in
his mind, it seemed to him the most trivial of them all, it had hardly
even troubled the waters of memory.
He had been travelling from Rome to Turin or Paris--he had forgotten
which. During a brief stay in Mantua, he caught sight of Amalia in
church one morning. Pleased with her appearance, with her handsome but
pale and somewhat woebegone face, he gallantly addressed her a friendly
question. In those days everyone had been complaisant to Casanova.
Gladly opening her heart to him, the girl told him that she was not well
off; that she was in love with an usher who was likewise poor; that his
father and her own mother were both unwilling to give their consent to
so inauspicious a union. Casanova promptly declared himself ready
to help matters on. He sought an introduction to Amalia's mother, a
good-looking widow of thirty-six who was still quite worthy of being
courted. Ere long Casanova was on such intimate terms with her that
his word was law. When her consent to the match had been won, Olivo's
father, a merchant in reduced circumstances, was no longer adverse,
being specially influenced by the fact that Casanova (presented to him
as a distant relative of the bride's mother) undertook to defray the
expenses of the wedding and to provide part of the dowry. To Amalia, her
generous patron seemed like a messenger from a higher world. She showed
her gratitude in the manner prompted by her own heart. When, the evening
before her wedding, she withdrew with glowing cheeks from Casanova's
last embrace, she was far from thinking that she had done any wrong
to her future husband, who after all owed his happiness solely to the
amiability and open-handedness of this marvellous friend. Casanova had
never troubled himself as to whether Amalia had confessed to Olivo the
length to which she had gone in gratitude to her benefactor; whether,
perchance, Olivo had taken her sacrifice as a matter of course, and had
not considered it any reason for retrospective jealousy; or whether
Olivo had always remained in ignorance of the matter. Nor did Casanova
allow these questions to harass his mind to-day.
The heat continued to increase. The carriage, with bad springs and hard
cushions, jolted the occupants abominably. Olivo went on chattering in
his high, thin voice; talking incessantly of the fertility of his land,
the excellencies of his wife, the good behavior of his children, and
the innocent pleasures of intercourse with his neighbors--farmers and
landed gentry. Casanova was bored. He began to ask himself irritably why
on earth he had accepted an invitation which could bring nothing but
petty vexations, if not positive disagreeables. He thought longingly of
the cool parlor in Mantua, where at this very hour he might have been
working unhindered at his polemic against Voltaire. He had already made
up his mind to get out at an inn now in sight, hire whatever conveyance
might be available, and drive back to the town, when Olivo uttered a
loud "Hullo!" A pony trap suddenly pulled up, and their own carriage
came to a halt, as if by mutual understanding. Three young girls sprang
out, moving with such activity that the knife-board on which they had
been sitting flew into the air and was overturned.
"My daughters," said Olivo, turning to Casanova with a proprietary air.
Casanova promptly moved as if to relinquish his seat in the carriage.
"Stay where you are, my dear Chevalier," said Olivo. "We shall be at
home in a quarter of an hour, and for that little while we can all make
shift together. Maria, Nanetta, Teresina, this is the Chevalier de
Seingalt, an old friend of mine. Shake hands with him. But for him you
He broke off, and whispered to Casanova: "I was just going to say
Amending his phrase, he said: "But for him, things would have been very
Like their father, the girls had black hair and dark eyes. All of them
including Teresina, the eldest, who was still quite the child, looked at
the stranger with frank rustic curiosity. Casanova did not stand upon
ceremony; he kissed each of the girls upon either cheek. Olivo said a
word or two to the lad who was driving the trap in which the children
had come, and the fellow whipped up the pony and drove along the road
Laughing and joking, the girls took possession of the seat opposite
Olivo and Casanova. They were closely packed; they all spoke at once;
and since their father likewise went on talking, Casanova found it far
from easy at first to follow the conversation. One name caught his ear,
that of Lieutenant Lorenzi. Teresina explained that the Lieutenant had
passed them on horseback not long before, had said he intended to call
in the evening, and had sent his respects to Father. Mother had at first
meant to come with them to meet Father, but as it was so frightfully
hot she had thought it better to stay at home with Marcolina. As for
Marcolina, she was still in bed when they left home. When they came
along the garden path they had pelted her with hazel nuts through the
open window, or she would still be asleep.
"That's not Marcolina's way," said Olivo to his guest. "Generally she is
at work in the garden at six or even earlier, and sits over her books
till dinner time. Of course we had visitors yesterday, and were up later
than usual. We had a mild game of cards--not the sort of game you are
used to, for we are innocent folk and don't want to win money from one
another. Besides, our good Abbate usually takes a hand, so you can
imagine, Chevalier, that we don't play for high stakes."
At the mention of the Abbate, the three girls laughed again, had an
anecdote to tell, and this made them laugh more than ever. Casanova
nodded amicably, without paying much attention. In imagination he saw
Marcolina, as yet unknown to him, lying in her white bed, opposite the
window. She had thrown off the bedclothes; her form was half revealed;
still heavy with sleep she moved her hands to ward off the hail of nuts.
His senses flamed. He was as certain that Marcolina and Lieutenant
Lorenzi were in love with one another as if he had seen them in a
passionate embrace. He was just as ready to detest the unknown Lorenzi
as to long for the never seen Marcolina.
Through the shimmering haze of noon, a small, square tower now became
visible, thrusting upward through the greyish-green foliage. The
carriage turned into a by-road. To the left were vineyards rising on a
gentle slope; to the right the crests of ancient trees showed above the
wall of a garden. The carriage halted at a doorway in the wall. The
weather-worn door stood wide. The passengers alighted, and at the
master's nod the coachman drove away to the stable. A broad path led
through a chestnut avenue to the house, which at first sight had an
almost neglected appearance. Casanova's attention was especially
attracted by a broken window in the first story. Nor did it escape his
notice that the battlements of the squat tower were crumbling in places.
But the house door was gracefully carved; and directly he entered
the hall it was plain that the interior was carefully kept, and was
certainly in far better condition than might have been supposed from the
"Amalia," shouted Olivo, so loudly that the vaulted ceiling rang. "Come
down as quickly as you can! I have brought a friend home with me, an old
friend whom you'll be delighted to see!"
Amalia had already appeared on the stairs, although to most of those
who had just come out of the glaring sunlight she was invisible in the
twilit interior. Casanova, whose keen vision enabled him to see well
even in the dark, had noted her presence sooner than Olivo. He smiled,
and was aware that the smile made him look younger. Amalia had not grown
fat, as he had feared. She was still slim and youthful. She recognized
"What a pleasant surprise!" she exclaimed without the slightest
embarrassment, hastening down the stairs, and offering her cheek to
Casanova. The latter, nothing loath, gave her a friendly hug.
"Am I really to believe," said he, "that Maria, Nanetta, and Teresina
are your very own daughters, Amalia? No doubt the passage of the years
makes it possible...."
"And all the other evidence is in keeping," supplemented Olivo. "Rely
upon that, Chevalier!"
Amalia let her eyes dwell reminiscently upon the guest. "I suppose," she
said, "it was your meeting with the Chevalier that has made you so late,
"Yes, that is why I am late. But I hope there is still something to
"Marcolina and I were frightfully hungry, but of course we have waited
dinner for you."
"Can you manage to wait a few minutes longer," asked Casanova, "while I
get rid of the dust of the drive?"
"I will show you your room immediately," answered Olivo. "I do hope,
Chevalier, you will find it to your taste; almost as much to your
taste," he winked, and added in a low tone, "as your room in the inn at
Mantua--though here one or two little things may be lacking."
He led the way upstairs into the gallery surrounding the hall. From one
of the corners a narrow wooden stairway led into the tower. At the top,
Olivo opened the door into the turret chamber, and politely invited
Casanova to enter the modest guest chamber. A maidservant brought up
the valise. Casanova was then left alone in a medium-sized room, simply
furnished, but equipped with all necessaries. It had four tall and
narrow bay-windows, commanding views to the four points of the compass,
across the sunlit plain with its green vineyards, bright meadows, golden
fields, white roads, light-colored houses, and dusky gardens. Casanova
concerned himself little about the view, and hastened to remove the
stains of travel, being impelled less by hunger than by an eager
curiosity to see Marcolina face to face. He did not change, for he
wished to reserve his best suit for evening wear.
When Casanova reentered the hall, a panelled chamber on the ground
floor, there were seated at the well-furnished board, his host and
hostess, their three daughters, and a young woman. She was wearing
a simple grey dress of some shimmering material. She had a graceful
figure. Her gaze rested on him as frankly and indifferently as if he
were a member of the household, or had been a guest a hundred times
before. Her face did not light up in the way to which he had grown
accustomed in earlier years, when he had been a charming youth, or later
in his handsome prime. But for a good while now Casanova had ceased to
expect this from a new acquaintance. Nevertheless, even of late the
mention of his name had usually sufficed to arouse on a woman's face an
expression of tardy admiration, or at least some trace of regret, which
was an admission that the hearer would have loved to meet him a few
years earlier. Yet now, when Olivo introduced him to Marcolina as Signor
Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt, she smiled as she would have smiled at
some utterly indifferent name that carried with it no aroma of adventure
and mystery. Even when he took his seat by her side, kissed her hand,
and allowed his eyes as they dwelt on her to gleam with delight and
desire, her manner betrayed nothing of the demure gratification that
might have seemed an appropriate answer to so ardent a wooing.
After a few polite commonplaces, Casanova told his neighbor that he had
been informed of her intellectual attainments, and asked what was her
chosen subject of study. Her chief interest, she rejoined, was in the
higher mathematics, to which she had been introduced by Professor
Morgagni, the renowned teacher at the university of Bologna. Casanova
expressed his surprise that so charming a young lady should have an
interest, certainly exceptional, in a dry and difficult subject.
Marcolina replied that in her view the higher mathematics was the most
imaginative of all the sciences; one might even say that its nature made
it akin to the divine. When Casanova asked for further enlightenment
upon a view so novel to him, Marcolina modestly declined to continue
the topic, declaring that the others at table, and above all her uncle,
would much rather hear some details of a newly recovered friend's
travels than listen to a philosophical disquisition.
Amalia was prompt to second the proposal; and Casanova, always willing
to oblige in this matter, said in easy-going fashion that during recent
years he had been mainly engaged in secret diplomatic missions. To
mention only places of importance, he had continually been going to and
fro between Madrid, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg. He
gave an account of meetings and conversations, some grave and some gay,
with men and women of all classes, and did not forget to speak of his
friendly reception at the court of Catharine of Russia. He jestingly
related how Frederick the Great had nearly appointed him instructor at a
cadet school for Pomeranian junkers--a danger from which he had escaped
by a precipitous flight. Of these and many other things he spoke as
recent happenings, although in reality they had occurred years or
decades before. Romancing freely, he was hardly conscious when he was
lying either on a small scale or on a large, being equally delighted
with his own conceits and with the pleasure he was giving to his
auditors. While thus recounting real and imaginary incidents, he could
almost delude himself into the belief that he was still the bold,
radiant Casanova, the favorite of fortune and of beautiful women, the
honored guest of secular and spiritual princes, the man whose spendings
and gamblings and gifts must be reckoned in thousands. It was possible
for him to forget that he was a decayed starveling, supported by pitiful
remittances from former friends in England and Spain---doles which often
failed to arrive, so that he was reduced to the few and paltry gold
pieces which he could win from Baron Perotti or from the Baron's guests.
He could even forget that his highest aim now was to return to his
natal city where he had been cast into prison and from which, since
his escape, he had been banned; to return as one of the meanest of its
citizens, as writer, as beggar, as nonentity; to accept so inglorious a
close to a once brilliant career.
Marcolina listened attentively like the others, but with the same
expression as if she had been listening to someone reading aloud from an
amusing narrative. Her face did not betray the remotest realization of
the fact that the speaker was Casanova; that she was listening to the
man who had had all these experiences and many more; that she was
sitting beside the lover of a thousand women. Very different was the
fire in Amalia's eyes. To her, Casanova was the same as ever. To her,
his voice was no less seductive than it had been sixteen years earlier.
He could not but be aware that at a word or a sign, and as soon as he
pleased, he could revive this old adventure. But what to him was Amalia
at this hour, when he longed for Marcolina as he had never longed for
woman before. Beneath the shimmering folds of her dress he seemed to
see her naked body; her firm young breasts allured him; once when she
stooped to pick up her handkerchief, Casanova's inflamed fancy made him
attach so ardent a significance to her movement that he felt near to
swooning. Marcolina did not fail to notice the involuntary pause in
the flow of his conversation; she perceived that his gaze had begun to
flicker strangely. In her countenance he could read a sudden hostility,
a protest, a trace of disgust.
Casanova speedily recovered his self-command, and was about to continue
his reminiscences with renewed vigor, when a portly priest entered.
Olivo introduced him as Abbate Rossi, and Casanova at once recognized
him as the man he had met twenty-seven years earlier upon a market boat
plying between Venice and Chioggia.
"You had one eye bandaged," said Casanova, who rarely missed a chance
of showing off his excellent memory. "A young peasant-woman wearing a
yellow kerchief round her head advised you to use a healing unguent
which an apothecary with an exceedingly hoarse voice happened to have
The Abbate nodded, and smiled, well-pleased. Then, with a sly
expression, he came quite close to Casanova, as if about to tell him a
secret. But he spoke out loud.
"As for you, Signor Casanova, you were with a wedding party. I don't
know whether you were one of the ordinary guests or whether you
were best man, but I remember that the bride looked at you far more
languishingly than at the bridegroom. The wind rose; there was half a
gale; you began to read a risky poem."
"No doubt the Chevalier only did so in order to lay the storm," said
"I never claim the powers of a wizard," rejoined Casanova. "But I will
not deny that after I had begun to read, no one bothered about the
storm." The three girls had encircled the Abbate. For an excellent
reason. From his capacious pockets he produced quantities of luscious
sweets, and popped them into the children's mouths with his stumpy
fingers. Meanwhile Olivo gave the newcomer a circumstantial account of
the rediscovery of Casanova. Dreamily Amalia continued to gaze at the
beloved guest's masterful brown forehead.
The children ran out into the garden; Marcolina had risen from the table
and was watching them through the open window. The Abbate had brought a
message from the Marchese Celsi, who proposed to call that evening, with
his wife, upon his dear friend Olivo.
"Excellent," said Olivo. "We shall have a pleasant game of cards in
honor of the Chevalier. I am expecting the two Ricardis; and Lorenzi is
also coming--the girls met him out riding this morning."
"Is he still here?" asked the Abbate. "A week ago I was told he had to
rejoin his regiment."
"I expect the Marchesa got him an extension of leave from the Colonel."
"I am surprised," interjected Casanova, "that any Mantuese officers can
get leave at present." He went on: "Two friends of mine, one from Mantua
and the other from Cremona, left last night with their regiments,
marching towards Milan."
"Has war broken out?" inquired Marcolina from the window. She had turned
round; her face betrayed nothing, but there was a slight quaver in her
voice which no one but Casanova noticed.
"It may come to nothing," he said lightly. "But the Spaniards seem
rather bellicose, and it is necessary to be on the alert."
Olivo looked important and wrinkled his brow. "Does anyone know," he
asked, "whether we shall side with Spain or with France?"
"I don't think Lieutenant Lorenzi will care a straw about that,"
suggested the Abbate. "All he wants is a chance to prove his military
"He has done so already," said Amalia. "He was in the battle at Pavia
three years ago."
Marcolina said not a word.
Casanova knew enough. He went to the window beside Marcolina and looked
out into the garden. He saw nothing but the wide greensward where the
children were playing. It was surrounded by a close-set row of stately
trees within the encompassing wall.
"What lovely grounds," he said, turning to Olivo. "I should so like to
have a look at them."
"Nothing would please me better, Chevalier," answered Olivo, "than to
show you my vineyards and the rest of my estate. You need only ask
Amalia, and she will tell you that during the years since I bought this
little place I have had no keener desire than to welcome you as guest
upon my own land and under my own roof. Ten times at least I was on the
point of writing you an invitation, but was always withheld by the doubt
whether my letter would reach you. If I did happen to hear from some one
that he had recently seen you in Lisbon, I could be quite sure that in
the interval you would have left for Warsaw or Vienna. Now, when as
if by miracle I have caught you on the point of quitting Mantua, and
when--I can assure you, Amalia, it was no easy matter--I have succeeded
in enticing you here, you are so niggard with your time that--would you
believe it, Signor Abbate, he refuses to spare us more than a couple of
"Perhaps the Chevalier will allow himself to be persuaded to prolong his
visit," said the Abbate, who was contentedly munching a huge mouthful of
peach. As he spoke, he glanced at Amalia in a way that led Casanova to
infer that his hostess had told the Abbate more than she had told her
"I fear that will be quite impossible," said Casanova with decision.
"I need not conceal from friends who are so keenly interested in my
fortunes, that my Venetian fellow-citizens are on the point of atoning
for the injustice of earlier years. The atonement comes rather late, but
is all the more honorable. I should seem ungrateful, or even rancorous,
were I to resist their importunities any longer." With a wave of his
hand he warded off an eager but respectful enquiry which he saw taking
shape upon his host's lips, and hastened to remark: "Well, Olivo, I am
ready. Show me your little kingdom."
"Would it not be wiser," interposed Amalia, "to wait until it is cooler?
I am sure the Chevalier would prefer to rest for a while, or to stroll
in the shade." Her eyes sought Casanova's with shy entreaty, as if she
thought her fate would be decided once again during such a walk in the
No one had anything to say against Amalia's suggestion, and they all
went out of doors. Marcolina, who led the way, ran across the sunlit
greensward to join the children in their game of battledore and
shuttlecock. She was hardly taller than the eldest of the three girls;
and when her hair came loose in the exercise and floated over her
shoulders she too looked like a child. Olivo and the Abbate seated
themselves on a stone bench beneath the trees, not far from the house.
Amalia sauntered on with Casanova. As soon as the two were out of
hearing, she began to converse with Casanova in a tone which seemed to
ignore the lapse of years.
"So we meet again, Casanova! How I have longed for this day. I never
doubted its coming."
"A mere chance has brought me," said Casanova coldly.
Amalia smiled. "Have it your own way," she said. "Anyhow, you are here!
All these sixteen years I have done nothing but dream of this day!"
"I can't help thinking," countered Casanova, "that throughout the long
interval you must have dreamed of many other things--and must have done
more than dream."
Amalia shook her head. "You know better, Casanova. Nor had you forgotten
me, for were it otherwise, in your eagerness to get to Venice, you would
never have accepted Olivo's invitation."
"What do you mean, Amalia? Can you imagine I have come here to betray
"How can you use such a phrase, Casanova? Were I to be yours once again,
there would be neither betrayal nor sin."
Casanova laughed. "No sin? Wherefore not? Because I'm an old man?"
"You are not old. For me you can never be an old man. In your arms I had
my first taste of bliss, and I doubt not it is my destiny that my last
bliss shall be shared with you!"
"Your last?" rejoined Casanova cynically, though he was not altogether
unmoved. "I think my friend Olivo would have a word to say about that."
"What you speak of," said Amalia reddening, "is duty, and even pleasure;
but it is not and never has been bliss."
They did not walk to the end of the grass alley. Both seemed to shun the
neighborhood of the greensward, where Marcolina and the children were
playing. As if by common consent they retraced their steps, and, silent
now, approached the house again. One of the ground-floor windows at the
gable end of the house was open. Through this Casanova glimpsed in the
dark interior a half-drawn curtain, from behind which the foot of a bed
projected. Over an adjoining chair was hanging a light, gauzy dress.
"Is that Marcolina's room?" enquired Casanova.
Amalia nodded. "Do you like her?" she said--nonchalantly, as it seemed
"Of course, since she is good looking."
"She's a good girl as well."
Casanova shrugged, as if the goodness were no concern of his. Then:
"Tell me, Amalia, did you think me still handsome when you first saw me
"I do not know if your looks have changed. To me you seem just the same
as of old. You are as I have always seen you, as I have seen you in my
"Look well, Amalia. See the wrinkles on my forehead; the loose folds of
my neck; the crow's-feet round my eyes. And look," he grinned, "I have
lost one of my eye teeth. Look at these hands, too, Amalia. My fingers
are like claws; there are yellow spots on the finger-nails; the blue
veins stand out. They are the hands of an old man."
She clasped both his hands as he held them out for her to see, and
affectionately kissed them one after the other in the shaded walk.
"To-night, I will kiss you on the lips," she said, with a mingling of
humility and tenderness, which roused his gall.
Close by, where the alley opened on to the greensward, Marcolina was
stretched on the grass, her hands clasped beneath her head, looking
skyward while the shuttlecocks flew to and fro. Suddenly reaching
upwards, she seized one of them in mid air, and laughed triumphantly.
The girls flung themselves upon her as she lay defenceless.
Casanova thrilled. "Neither my lips nor my hands are yours to kiss.
Your waiting for me and your dreams of me will prove to have been
vain--unless I should first make Marcolina mine."
"Are you mad, Casanova?" exclaimed Amalia, with distress in her voice.
"If I am, we are both on the same footing," replied Casanova. "You are
mad because in me, an old man, you think that you can rediscover the
beloved of your youth; I am mad because I have taken it into my head
that I wish to possess Marcolina. But perhaps we shall both be
restored to reason. Marcolina shall restore me to youth--for you. So
help me to my wishes, Amalia!"
"You are really beside yourself, Casanova. What you ask is impossible.
She will have nothing to do with any man."
Casanova laughed. "What about Lieutenant Lorenzi?"
"Lorenzi? What do you mean?"
"He is her lover. I am sure of it."
"You are utterly mistaken. He asked for her hand, and she rejected his
proposal. Yet he is young and handsome. I almost think him handsomer
than you ever were, Casanova!"
"He was a suitor for her hand?"
"Ask Olivo if you don't believe me."
"Well, what do I care about that? What care I whether she be virgin or
strumpet, wife or widow--I want to make her mine!"
"I can't give her to you, my friend!" Amalia's voice expressed genuine
"You see for yourself," he said, "what a pitiful creature I have become.
Ten years ago, five years ago, I should have needed neither helper nor
advocate, even though Marcolina had been the very goddess of virtue. And
now I am trying to make you play the procuress. If I were only a rich
man. Had I but ten thousand ducats. But I have not even ten. I am a
"Had you a hundred thousand, you could not buy Marcolina. What does she
care about money? She loves books, the sky, the meadows, butterflies,
playing with children. She has inherited a small competence which more
than suffices for her needs."
"Were I but a sovereign prince," cried Casanova, somewhat theatrically,
as was his wont when strongly moved. "Had I but the power to commit men
to prison, to send them to the scaffold. But I am nothing. A beggar, and
a liar into the bargain. I importune the Supreme Council for a post, a
crust of bread, a home! What a poor thing have I become! Are you not
sickened by me, Amalia?"
"I love you, Casanova!"
"Then give her to me, Amalia. It rests with you, I am confident. Tell
her what you please. Say I have threatened you. Say you think I am
capable of setting fire to the house. Say I am a fool, a dangerous
lunatic escaped from an asylum, but that the embraces of a virgin will
restore me to sanity. Yes, tell her that."
"She does not believe in miracles."
"Does not believe in miracles? Then she does not believe in God either.
So much the better! I have influence with the Archbishop of Milan. Tell
her so. I can ruin her. I can destroy you all. It is true, Amalia. What
books does she read? Doubtless some of them are on the Index. Let me see
them. I will compile a list. A hint from me...."
"Not a word more, Casanova! Here she comes. Keep yourself well in hand;
do not let your eyes betray you. Listen, Casanova; I have never known a
purer-minded girl. Did she suspect what I have heard from you, she would
feel herself soiled, and for the rest of your stay she would not so much
as look at you. Talk to her; talk to her. You will soon ask her pardon
Marcolina came up with the girls, who ran on into the house. She paused,
as if out of courtesy to the guest, standing before him, while Amalia
deliberately withdrew. Indeed, it actually seemed to Casanova that
from those pale, half-parted lips, from the smooth brow crowned with
light-brown hair now restored to order, there emanated an aroma of
aloofness and purity. Rarely had he had this feeling with regard to any
woman; nor had he had it in the case of Marcolina when they were within
four walls. A devotional mood, a spirit of self-sacrifice knowing
nothing of desire, seemed to take possession of his soul. Discreetly, in
a respectful tone such as at that day was customary towards persons
of rank, in a manner which she could not but regard as flattering, he
enquired whether it was her purpose to resume her studies that evening.
She answered that in the country her work was somewhat irregular.
Nevertheless, even during free hours, mathematical problems upon
which she had recently been pondering, would at times invade her mind
unawares. This had just happened while she was lying on the greensward
gazing up into the sky.
Casanova, emboldened by the friendliness of her demeanor, asked
jestingly what was the nature of this lofty, urgent problem. She
replied, in much the same tone, that it had nothing whatever to do with
the Cabala, with which, so rumor ran, the Chevalier de Seingalt worked
wonders. He would therefore not know what to make of her problem.
Casanova was piqued that she should speak of the Cabala with such
unconcealed contempt. In his rare hours of heart-searching he was well
aware that the mystical system of numbers which passed by that name had
neither sense nor purpose. He knew it had no correspondence with any
natural reality; that it was no more than an instrument whereby cheats
and jesters--Casanova assumed these roles by turn, and was a master
player in both capacities--could lead credulous fools by the nose.
Nevertheless, in defiance of his own better judgment, he now undertook
to defend the Cabala as a serious and perfectly valid science. He spoke
of the divine nature of the number seven, to which there are so many
references in Holy Writ; of the deep prophetic significance of pyramids
of figures, for the construction of which he had himself invented a new
system; and of the frequent fulfilment of the forecasts he had based
upon this system. In Amsterdam, a few years ago, through the use of
arithmancy, he had induced Hope the banker to take over the insurance of
a ship which was already reported lost, whereby the banker had made two
hundred thousand gold guilders. He held forth so eloquently in defence
of his preposterous theories that, as often happened, he began to
believe all the nonsense he was talking. At length he went so far as to
maintain that the Cabala was not so much a branch of mathematics as the
metaphysical perfectionment of mathematics.
At this point, Marcolina, who had been listening attentively and
with apparent seriousness, suddenly assumed a half-commiserating,
half-mischievous expression, and said:
"You are trying, Signor Casanova"--she seemed deliberately to avoid
addressing him as Chevalier--"to give me an elaborate proof of your
renowned talent as entertainer, and I am extremely grateful to you.
But of course you know as well as I do that the Cabala has not merely
nothing to do with mathematics, but is in conflict with the very essence
of mathematics. The Cabala bears to mathematics the same sort of
relationship that the confused or fallacious chatter of the Sophists
bore to the serene, lofty doctrines of Plato and of Aristotle."
"Nevertheless, beautiful and learned Marcolina, you will admit,"
answered Casanova promptly, "that even the Sophists were far from being
such contemptible, foolish apprentices as your harsh criticism would
imply. Let me give you a contemporary example. M. Voltaire's whole
technique of thought and writing entitles us to describe him as an
Arch-Sophist. Yet no one will refuse the due meed of honor to his
extraordinary talent. I would not myself refuse it, though I am at this
moment engaged in composing a polemic against him. Let me add that I am
not allowing myself to be influenced in his favor by recollection of the
extreme civility he was good enough to show me when I visited him at
Ferney ten years ago."
"It is really most considerate of you to be so lenient in your criticism
of the greatest mind of the century!" Marcolina smilingly retorted.
"A great mind--the greatest of the century!" exclaimed Casanova. "To
give him such a designation seems to me inadmissible, were it only
because, for all his genius, he is an ungodly man--nay positively an
atheist. No atheist can be a man of great mind."
"As I see the matter, there is no such incompatibility. But the first
thing you have to prove is your title to describe Voltaire as an
Casanova was now in his element. In the opening chapter of his polemic
he had cited from Voltaire's works, especially from the famous
_Pucelle_, a number of passages that seemed peculiarly well-fitted to
justify the charge of atheism. Thanks to his unfailing memory, he
was able to repeat these citations verbatim, and to marshal his own
counter-arguments. But in Marcolina he had to cope with an opponent who
was little inferior to himself in extent of knowledge and mental acumen;
and who, moreover, excelled him, not perhaps in fluency of speech, but
at any rate in artistry of presentation and clarity of expression. The
passages Casanova had selected as demonstrating Voltaire's spirit of
mockery, his scepticism, and his atheism, were adroitly interpreted by
Marcolina as testifying to the Frenchman's scientific genius, to his
skill as an author, and to his indefatigable ardor in the search for
truth. She boldly contended that doubt, mockery, nay unbelief itself, if
associated with such a wealth of knowledge, such absolute honesty, and
such high courage, must be more pleasing to God than the humility of
the pious, which was apt to be a mask for lack of capacity to think
logically, and often enough--there were plenty of examples--a mask for
cowardice and hypocrisy.
Casanova listened with growing astonishment. He felt quite incompetent
to convert Marcolina to his own way of thinking; all the more as he
increasingly realized that her counterstrokes were threatening to
demolish the tottering intellectual edifice which, of late years, he
had been accustomed to mistake for faith. He took refuge in the trite
assertion that such views as Marcolina's were a menace, not only to
the ecclesiastical ordering of society, but to the very foundations of
social life. This enabled him to make a clever change of front, to pass
into the field of politics, where he hoped that his wide experience and
his knowledge of the world would render it possible for him to get the
better of his adversary. But although she lacked acquaintance with
the notable personalities of the age; although she was without inside
knowledge of courtly and diplomatic intrigues; although, therefore, she
had to renounce any attempt to answer Casanova in detail, even when
she felt there was good reason to distrust the accuracy of his
assertions--nevertheless, it was clear to him from the tenor of her
remarks, that she had little respect for the princes of the earth or
for the institutions of state; and she made no secret of her conviction
that, alike in small things and in great, the world was not so much a
world ruled by selfishness and lust for power, as a world in a condition
of hopeless confusion. Rarely had Casanova encountered such freedom of
thought in women; never had he met with anything of the kind in a girl
who was certainly not yet twenty years old. It was painful to him
to remember that in earlier and better days his own mind had with
deliberate, self-complacent boldness moved along the paths whereon
Marcolina was now advancing--although in her case there did not seem
to exist any consciousness of exceptional courage. Fascinated by the
uniqueness of her methods of thought and expression, he almost forgot
that he was walking beside a young, beautiful, desirable woman, a
forgetfulness all the more remarkable as the two were alone in the leafy
alley, and at a considerable distance from the house.
Suddenly, breaking off in the middle of a sentence, Marcolina joyfully
exclaimed, "Here comes my uncle!"
Casanova, as if he had to rectify an omission, whispered in her ear:
"What a nuisance. I should have liked to go on talking to you for hours,
Marcolina." He was aware that his eyes were again lighting up with
At this Marcolina, who in the spirited exchange of their recent
conversation had almost abandoned her defensive attitude, displayed a
renewed reserve. Her expression manifested the same protest, the same
repulsion, which had wounded Casanova earlier in the day.
"Am I really so repulsive?" he anxiously asked himself. Then, replying
in thought to his own question: "No, that is not the reason. Marcolina
is not really a woman. She is a she-professor, a she-philosopher, one of
the wonders of the world perhaps--but not a woman."
Yet even as he mused, he knew he was merely attempting to deceive
himself, console himself, save himself; and all his endeavors were vain.
Olivo, who had now come up, addressed Marcolina. "Have I not done well
to invite some one here with whom you can converse as learnedly as with
your professors at Bologna?"
"Indeed, Uncle," answered Marcolina, "there was not one of them who
would have ventured to challenge Voltaire to a duel!"
"What, Voltaire? The Chevalier has called him out?" cried Olivo,
misunderstanding the jest.
"Your witty niece, Olivo, refers to the polemic on which I have been at
work for the last few days, the pastime of leisure hours. I used to have
Marcolina, ignoring this remark, said: "You will find it pleasantly cool
now for your walk. Goodbye for the present." She nodded a farewell, and
moved briskly across the greensward to the house.
Casanova, repressing an impulse to follow her with his eyes, enquired:
"Is Signora Amalia coming with us?"
"No, Chevalier," answered Olivo. "She has a number of things to attend
to in the house; and besides, this is the girls' lesson time."
"What an excellent housewife and mother! You're a lucky fellow, Olivo!"
"I tell myself the same thing every day," responded Olivo, with tears in
They passed by the gable end of the house. Marcolina's window was still
open; the pale, diaphanous gown showed up against the dark background of
the room. Along the wide chestnut avenue they made their way on to the
road, now completely in the shade. Leisurely, they walked up the slope
skirting the garden wall. Where it ended, the vineyard began. Between
tall poles, from which purple clusters hung, Olivo led his guest to the
summit. With a complacent air of ownership, he waved towards the house,
lying at the foot of the hill. Casanova fancied he could detect a female
figure flitting to and fro in the turret chamber.
The sun was near to setting, but the heat was still considerable. Beads
of perspiration coursed down Olivo's cheeks, but Casanova's brow showed
no trace of moisture. Strolling down the farther slope, they reached an
olive grove. From tree to tree vines were trained trellis-wise, while
between the rows of olive trees golden ears of corn swayed in the
"In a thousand ways," said Casanova appreciatively, "the sun brings
With even greater wealth of detail than before, Olivo recounted how he
had acquired this fine estate, and how two great vintage years and two
good harvests had made him a well-to-do, in fact a wealthy, man.
Casanova pursued the train of his own thoughts, attending to Olivo's
narrative only in so far as was requisite to enable him from time to
time to interpose a polite question or to make an appropriate comment.
Nothing claimed his interest until Olivo, after talking of all and
sundry, came back to the topic of his family, and at length to
Marcolina. But Casanova learned little that was new. She had lost her
mother early. Her father, Olivo's half-brother, had been a physician in
Bologna. Marcolina, while still a child, had astonished everyone by her
precocious intelligence; but the marvel was soon staled by custom. A few
years later, her father died. Since then she had been an inmate in the
household of a distinguished professor at the university of Bologna,
Morgagni to wit, who hoped that his pupil would become a woman of great
learning. She always spent the summer with her uncle. There had been
several proposals for her hand; one from a Bolognese merchant; one from
a neighboring landowner; and lastly the proposal of Lieutenant Lorenzi.
She had refused them all, and it seemed to be her design to devote her
whole life to the service of knowledge. As Olivo rambled on with his
story, Casanova's desires grew beyond measure, while the recognition
that these desires were utterly foolish and futile reduced him almost to
Casanova and Olivo regained the highroad. In a cloud of dust, a carriage
drove up, and as they drew near the occupants shouted greetings. The
newcomers were an elderly gentleman in elegant attire and a lady who was
somewhat younger, of generous proportions, and conspicuously rouged.
"The Marchese," whispered Olivo to his companion.
The carriage halted.
"Good evening, my dear Olivo," said the Marchese. "Will you be so good
as to introduce me to the Chevalier de Seingalt? I have no doubt that it
is the Chevalier whom I have the pleasure of seeing."
Casanova bowed, saying: "Yes, I am he."
"I am the Marchese Celsi. Let me present the Marchesa, my spouse." The
lady offered her finger tips. Casanova touched them with his lips.
The Marchese was two or three inches taller than Casanova, and
unnaturally lean. He had a narrow face, of a yellow, waxy tint; his
greenish eyes were piercing; his thick eyebrows were of reddish color,
and met across the root of the nose. These characteristics gave him a
somewhat formidable aspect. "My good Olivo," he said, "we are all going
to the same destination. Since it is little more than half a mile to
your house, I shall get out and walk with you. You won't mind driving
the rest of the way alone," he added, turning to the Marchesa, who had
meanwhile been gazing at Casanova with searching, passionate eyes.
Without awaiting his wife's answer, the Marchese nodded to the coachman,
who promptly lashed the horses furiously, as if he had some reason for
driving his mistress away at top speed. In an instant the carriage
vanished in a whirl of dust.
"The whole neighborhood," said the Marchese, "is already aware that
the Chevalier de Seingalt has come to spend a few days with his friend
Olivo. It must be glorious to bear so renowned a name."
"You flatter me, Signor Marchese," replied Casanova. "I have not yet
abandoned the hope of winning such a name, but I am still far from
having done so. It may be that a work on which I am now engaged will
bring me nearer to the goal."
"We can take a short cut here," said Olivo, turning into a path which
led straight to the wall of his garden.
"Work?" echoed the Marchese with a doubtful air. "May I enquire to what
work you refer, Chevalier?"
"If you ask me that question, Signor Marchese, I shall in my turn feel
impelled to enquire what you meant just now when you referred to my
Arrogantly he faced the Marchese's piercing eyes. He knew perfectly well
that neither his romance _Icosameron_ nor yet his _Confutazione della
storia del governo veneto d'Amelot de la Houssaie_ had brought him any
notable reputation as an author. Nevertheless it was his pose to imply
that for him no other sort of reputation was desirable. He therefore
deliberately misunderstood the Marchese's tentative observations and
cautious allusions, which implied that Casanova was a celebrated
seducer, gamester, man of affairs, political emissary, or what not.
Celsi made no reference to authorship, for he had never heard of
either the _Refutation of Amelot_ or the _Icosameron_. At length,
therefore, in polite embarrassment, he said: "After all, there is
only one Casanova."
"There, likewise, you are mistaken, Signer Marchese," said Casanova
coldly. "I have relatives, and a connoisseur like yourself must surely
be acquainted with the name of one of my brothers, Francesco Casanova,
It seemed that the Marchese had no claim to connoisseurship in this
field either, and he turned the conversation to acquaintances living in
Naples, Rome, Milan, or Mantua, persons whom Casanova was not unlikely
to have met. In this connection he also mentioned the name of Baron
Perotti, but somewhat contemptuously.
Casanova was constrained to admit that he often played cards at the
Baron's house. "For distraction," he explained; "for half an hour's
relaxation before bedtime. In general, I have given up this way of
wasting my time."
"I am sorry," said the Marchese, "for I must own it has been one of the
dreams of my life to cross swords with you. Not only, indeed, at the
card table; for when I was younger I would gladly have been your rival
in other fields. Would you believe it--I forget how long ago it was--I
once entered Spa on the very day, at the very hour, when you left the
place. Our carriages must have passed one another on the road. In
Ratisbon, too, I had the same piece of ill luck. There I actually
occupied the room of which your tenancy had just expired."
"It is indeed unfortunate," said Casanova, flattered in spite of
himself, "that people's paths so often cross too late in life."
"Not yet too late!" exclaimed the Marchese. "There are certain respects
in which I shall not be loath to avow myself vanquished before the
fight begins. But as regards games of chance, my dear Chevalier, we are
perhaps both of us precisely at the age...."
Casanova cut him short. "At the age--very likely. Unfortunately,
however, I can no longer look forward to the pleasure of measuring
myself at the card table with a partner of your rank. The reason is
simple." He spoke in the tone of a dethroned sovereign. "Despite my
renown, my dear Marchese, I am now practically reduced to the condition
of a beggar."
The Marchese involuntarily lowered his eyes before Casanova's haughty
gaze. He shook his head incredulously, as if he had been listening to a
strange jest. Olivo, who had followed the conversation with the keenest
attention, and had accompanied the skilful parries of his marvellous
friend with approving nods, could hardly repress a gesture of alarm.
They had just reached a narrow wooden door in the garden wall. Olivo
produced a key, and turned the creaking lock. Giving the Marchese
precedence into the garden, he arrested Casanova by the arm, whispering:
"You must take back those last words, Chevalier, before you set foot
in my house again. The money I have been owing you these sixteen years
awaits you. I was only afraid to speak of it. Amalia will tell you. It
is counted out and ready. I had proposed to hand it over to you on your
Casanova gently interrupted him. "You owe me nothing, Olivo. You know
perfectly well that those paltry gold pieces were a wedding present from
the friend of Amalia's mother. Please drop the subject. What are a few
ducats to me?" He raised his voice as he spoke, so that the Marchese,
who had paused at a few paces' distance could hear the concluding words.
"I stand at a turning-point in my fortunes."
Olivo exchanged glances with Casanova, as if asking permission, and then
explained to the Marchese: "You must know that the Chevalier has been
summoned to Venice, and will set out for home in a few days."
"I would rather put it," remarked Casanova as they approached the house,
"that summonses, growing ever more urgent, have been reaching me for
a considerable while. But it seems to me that the senators took long
enough to make up their minds, and may in their turn practise the virtue
"Unquestionably," said the Marchese, "you are entitled to stand upon
your dignity, Chevalier."
They emerged from the avenue on to the greensward, across which the
shadow of the house had now lengthened. Close to the dwelling, the rest
of the little company was awaiting them. All rose and came to meet them.
The Abbate led the way, with Marcolina and Amalia on either side. They
were followed by the Marchesa, with whom came a tall, young officer,
clad in a red uniform trimmed with silver lace, and wearing
jack-boots--evidently Lorenzi. As he spoke to the Marchesa, he scanned
her powdered shoulders as if they were well-known samples of other
beauties with which he was equally familiar. The Marchesa smiled
up at him beneath half-closed lids. Even a tyro in such matters could
hardly fail to realize the nature of their relationship, or to perceive
that they were quite unconcerned at its disclosure. They were conversing
in animated fashion, but in low tones; and they ceased talking only when
they caught up with the others.
Olivo introduced Casanova and Lorenzi to one another. They exchanged
glances with a cold aloofness that seemed to offer mutual assurances of
dislike; then, with a forced smile, both bowed stiffly without offering
to shake hands. Lorenzi was handsome, with a narrow visage and features
sharply cut for his age. At the back of his eyes something difficult
to grasp seemed to lurk, something likely to suggest caution to one of
experience. For a moment, Casanova was in doubt as to who it was that
Lorenzi reminded him of. Then he realized that his own image stood
before him, the image of himself as he had been thirty years before.
"Have I been reincarnated in his form?" Casanova asked himself. "But I
must have died before that could happen." It flashed through his mind:
"Have I not been dead for a long time? What is there left of the
Casanova who was young, handsome, and happy?" Amalia broke in upon his
musings. As if from a distance, though she stood close at hand, she
asked him how he had enjoyed his walk. Raising his voice so that all
could hear, he expressed his admiration for the fertile, well-managed
Meanwhile upon the greensward the maidservant was laying the table for
supper. The two elder girls were "helping." With much fuss and giggling,
they brought out of the house the silver, the wine glasses, and other
Gradually the dusk fell; a cool breeze stirred through the garden.
Marcolina went to the table, to put the finishing touches to the work of
the maidservant and the girls. The others wandered about the greensward
and along the alleys. The Marchesa was extremely polite to Casanova. She
said that the story of his remarkable escape from The Leads in Venice
was not unknown to her, but it would be a pleasure to hear it from his
own lips. With a meaning smile she added that she understood him to
have had far more dangerous adventures, which he might perhaps be less
inclined to recount. Casanova rejoined that he had indeed had a number
of lively experiences, but had never made serious acquaintance with that
mode of existence whose meaning and very essence were danger. Although,
many years before, during troublous times, he had for a few months been
a soldier upon the island of Corfu (was there any profession on earth
into which the current of fate had not drifted him?), he had never had
the good fortune to go through a real campaign, such as that which, he
understood, Lieutenant Lorenzi was about to experience--a piece of luck
for which he was inclined to envy the Lieutenant.
"Then you know more than I do, Signor Casanova," said Lorenzi in a
challenging tone. "Indeed, you are better informed than the Colonel
himself, for he has just given me an indefinite extension of leave."
"Is that so?" exclaimed the Marchese, unable to master his rage. He
added spitefully: "Do you know, Lorenzi, we, or rather my wife, had
counted so definitely on your leaving, that we had invited one of our
friends, Baldi the singer, to stay with us next week."
"No matter," rejoined Lorenzi, unperturbed. "Baldi and I are the best of
friends. We shall get on famously together. You think so, don't you?"
he said, turning to the Marchesa with a smile. "You'd better!" said the
Marchesa, laughing gaily.
As she spoke she seated herself at the table, beside Olivo, with Lorenzi
on the other hand. Opposite sat Amalia, between the Marchese and
Casanova. Next to Casanova, at one end of the long, narrow table, was
Marcolina; next to Olivo, at the other end, sat the Abbate. Supper, like
dinner, was a simple but tasteful meal. The two elder girls, Teresina
and Nanetta, waited on the guests, and served the excellent wine grown
on Olivo's hillsides. Both the Marchese and the Abbate paid their thanks
to the young waitresses with playful and somewhat equivocal caresses
which a stricter parent than Olivo would probably have discountenanced.
Amalia seemed to be unaware of all this. She was pale, dejected, and
looked like a woman determined to be old, since her own youth had ceased
to interest her.
"Is this all that remains of my empire?" thought Casanova bitterly,
contemplating her in profile. Yet perhaps it was the illumination which
gave so gloomy a cast to Amalia's features. From the interior of the
house a broad beam of light fell upon the guests. Otherwise the glimmer
in the sky sufficed them. The dark crests of the trees limited the
outlook; Casanova was reminded of the eerie garden in which, late one
evening many years before, he had awaited the coming of his mistress.
"Murano!" he whispered to himself, and trembled. Then he spoke aloud:
"On an island near Venice there is a convent garden where I last set
foot several decades ago. At night, there, the scent is just like this."
"Were you ever a monk?" asked the Marchesa, sportively.
"All but," replied Casanova with a smile, explaining, truthfully enough,
that when he was a lad of fifteen he had been given minor orders by the
archbishop of Venice, but that before attaining full manhood he had
decided to lay aside the cassock.
The Abbate mentioned that there was a nunnery close at hand, and
strongly recommended Casanova to visit the place if he had never seen
it. Olivo heartily endorsed the recommendation, singing the praises
of the picturesque old building, the situation, and the diversified
beauties of the approach.
"The Lady Abbess, Sister Serafina," continued the Abbate, "is an
extremely learned woman, a duchess by birth. She has told me--by letter,
of course, for the inmates are under a vow of perpetual silence--that
she has heard of Marcolina's erudition, and would like to meet her face
"I hope, Marcolina," said Lorenzi, speaking to her for the first time,
"that you will not attempt to imitate the noble abbess in other respects
as well as learning."
"Why should I?" rejoined Marcolina serenely. "We can maintain our
freedom without vows. Better without than with, for a vow is a form of
Casanova was sitting next to her. He did not dare to let his foot touch
hers lightly, or to press his knee against hers. He was certain that
should she for the third tune look at him with that expression of horror
and loathing, he would be driven to some act of folly. As the meal
progressed, as the number of emptied glasses grew and the conversation
waxed livelier and more general, Casanova heard, once more as from afar,
"I have spoken to Marcolina."
"You have spoken to her?" A mad hope flamed up in him. "Calm yourself,
Casanova. We did not speak of you, but only of her and her plans for the
future. I say to you again, she will never give herself to any man."
Olivo, who had been drinking freely, suddenly rose, glass in hand, and
delivered himself of a few stumbling phrases concerning the great honor
conferred upon his humble home by the visit of his dear friend, the
Chevalier de Seingalt.
"But where, my dear Olivo, is the Chevalier de Seingalt of whom you
speak?" enquired Lorenzi in his clear, insolent voice.
Casanova's first impulse was to throw the contents of his glass in
Amalia touched his arm lightly, to restrain him, and said: "Many people
to-day, Chevalier, still know you best by the old and more widely
renowned name of Casanova."
"I was not aware," said Lorenzi, with offensive gravity, "that the King
of France had ennobled Signor Casanova."
"I was able to save the King that trouble," answered Casanova quietly.
"I trust, Lieutenant Lorenzi, that you will be satisfied with an
explanation to which the Burgomaster of Nuremberg offered no objection
when I gave it to him in circumstances with which I need not weary the
company." There was a moment of silent expectation. Casanova continued:
"The alphabet is our common heritage. I chose a collocation of letters
which pleased my taste, and ennobled myself without being indebted to
any prince, who might perhaps have been disinclined to allow my claim.
I style myself Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt. I am indeed sorry,
Lieutenant Lorenzi, if this name fails to meet with your approval."
"Seingalt! It is a splendid name," said the Abbate, repeating it several
times, as if he were tasting it.
"There is not a man in the world," exclaimed Olivo, "who has a better
right to name himself Chevalier than my distinguished friend Casanova!"
"As for you, Lorenzi," added the Marchese, "when your reputation has
reached as far as that of Signor Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt, we
shall be willing enough, should you so desire, to give you also the
title of Chevalier."
Casanova, somewhat nettled at not being allowed to fight his own battle,
was about to resume the defence in person, when out of the dusk of the
garden two elderly gentlemen, soberly habited, put in an appearance
beside the table. Olivo greeted them with effusive cordiality, being
delighted to turn the conversation and to put an end to a dispute that
threatened to destroy the harmony of the evening. The newcomers were
the brothers Ricardi. As Casanova had learned from Olivo, they were
old bachelors. At one time members of the great world, they had been
unfortunate in various undertakings. At length they had returned to
their birthplace, the neighboring village, to lead a retired life in
a tiny house they had rented. They were eccentric fellows, but quite
The Ricardis expressed their delight at renewing their acquaintance with
the Chevalier, whom, they said, they had met in Paris a good many years
Casanova could not recall the meeting.
"Perhaps it was in Madrid?" said the Ricardis.
"Maybe," replied Casanova, though he was absolutely certain that he had
never seen either of them before.
The younger of the two was spokesman. The elder, who looked as if he
might be ninety at least, accompanied his brother's words with incessant
nods and grimaces. By now every one had left the table, and before this
the children had disappeared. Lorenzi and the Marchesa were strolling in
the dusk across the greensward. Marcolina and Amalia were in the hall,
setting out the table for cards.
"What is the aim of all this?" said Casanova to himself, as he stood
alone in the garden. "Do they imagine me to be rich? Are they on the
lookout for plunder?"
These preparations, the ingratiating manners of the Marchese, the
sedulous attentions of the Abbate, the appearance of the brothers
Ricardi on the scene, were arousing his suspicions. Was it not possible
that Lorenzi might be a party to the intrigue? Or Marcolina? Or even
Amalia? For a moment it flashed through his mind that his enemies might
be at work upon some scheme of the eleventh hour to make his return to
Venice difficult or impossible. But a moment's reflection convinced
him the notion was absurd--were it only because he no longer had any
enemies. He was merely an old fellow in reduced circumstances. Who was
likely to take any trouble to hinder his return to Venice? Glancing
through the open window, he saw the company assembling round the table,
where the cards lay ready, and the filled wine-glasses were standing.
It seemed to him clear beyond all possibility of doubt that there was
nothing afoot except an ordinary, innocent game of cards, in which the
coming of a new player is always an agreeable change.
Marcolina passed him, and wished him good luck.
"Aren't you going to take a hand?" he said. "At least you will look on?"
"I have something else to do. Good night, Chevalier."
From the interior, voices called out into the night:
"Lorenzi."--"Chevalier."--"We are waiting for you."
Casanova, standing in the darkness, could see that the Marchesa was
leading Lorenzi away from the open greensward into the greater darkness
under the trees. There she would fain have drawn him into her arms, but
Lorenzi roughly tore himself away and strode towards the house. Meeting
Casanova in the entry, he gave him precedence with mock politeness.
Casanova accepted the precedence without a word of thanks.
The Marchese was the first banker. Olivo, the brothers Ricardi, and the
Abbate staked such trifling amounts that to Casanova--even to-day when
his whole worldly wealth consisted of no more than a few ducats--the
game seemed ludicrous. All the more was this the case since the Marchese
raked in his winnings and paid out his losses with a ceremonious air, as
if he were handling enormous sums. Suddenly Lorenzi, who had hitherto
taken no part in the game, staked a ducat, won, let the doubled stake
stand; won again and again, and continued to have the same luck with but
occasional interruptions. The other men, however, went on staking petty
coins, and the two Ricardis in particular seemed quite annoyed if the
Marchese failed to give them as much attention as he gave to Lieutenant
Lorenzi. The two brothers played together upon the same hazard. Beads of
perspiration formed upon the brow of the elder, who handled the cards.
The younger, standing behind his brother, talked unceasingly, with the
air of giving infallible counsel. When the silent brother won, the
loquacious brother's eyes gleamed; but at a loss, he raised despairing
eyes heavenward. The Abbate, impassive for the most part, occasionally
enunciated some scrap of proverbial wisdom. For instance: "Luck and
women cannot be constrained." Or, "The earth is round, and heaven is far
away." At times he looked at Casanova with an air of sly encouragement,
his eyes moving on from Casanova to rest upon Amalia where she sat
beside her husband. It seemed as if his chief concern must be to bring
the erstwhile lovers together once again.
As for Casanova, all he could think of was that Marcolina was in her
room, undressing in leisurely fashion, and that if the window were open
her white skin must be gleaming into the night. Seized with desire so
intense as almost to put him beside himself, he moved to rise from his
place by the Marchese and to leave the room. The Marchese, however,
interpreting this movement as a resolve to take a hand in the game,
"At last! We were sure you would not be content to play the part of
The Marchese dealt him a card. Casanova staked all he had on his person,
about ten ducats, which was nearly the whole of his entire wealth.
Without counting the amount, he emptied his purse on the table, hoping
to lose it at a single cast. That would be a sign of luck. He had not
troubled to think precisely what sort of luck it would signify, whether
his speedy return to Venice, or the desired sight of Marcolina's nudity.
Ere he had made up his mind upon this point, the Marchese had lost the
venture. Like Lorenzi, Casanova let the double stake lie; and just as in
Lorenzi's case, fortune stood by him. The Marchese no longer troubled
himself to deal to the others. The silent Ricardi rose somewhat
mortified; the other Ricardi wrung his hands. Then the two withdrew,
dumbfounded, to a corner of the room. The Abbate and Olivo took matters
more phlegmatically. The former ate sweets and repeated his proverbial
tags. The latter watched the turn of the cards with eager attention.
At length the Marchese had lost five hundred ducats to Casanova and
Lorenzi. The Marchesa moved to depart, and looked significantly at the
Lieutenant on her way out of the room. Amalia accompanied her guest. The
Marchesa waddled in a manner that was extremely distasteful to Casanova.
Amalia walked along beside her humbly and deprecatingly.
Now that the Marchese had lost all his ready cash, Casanova became
banker, and, considerably to the Marchese's annoyance, he insisted that
the others should return to the game. The brothers Ricardi eagerly
accepted the invitation. The Abbate shook his head, saying he had had
enough. Olivo played merely because he did not wish to be discourteous
to his distinguished guest.
Lorenzi's luck held. When he had won four hundred ducats in all, he rose
from the table, saying: "To-morrow I shall be happy to give you your
revenge. But now, by your leave, I shall ride home."
"Home!" cried the Marchese with a scornful laugh--he had won back a few
ducats by this time. "That is a strange way to phrase it!" He turned
to the others: "The Lieutenant is staying with me. My wife has already
driven home. I hope you'll have a pleasant time, Lorenzi!"
"You know perfectly well," rejoined Lorenzi imperturbably, "that I shall
ride straight to Mantua, and not to your place, to which you were so
good as to invite me yesterday."
"You can ride to hell for all I care!" said the other.
Lorenzi politely took his leave of the rest of the company, and, to
Casanova's astonishment, departed without making any suitable retort to
Casanova went on with the game, still winning, so that the Marchese ere
long was several hundred ducats in his debt. "What's the use of it all?"
thought Casanova at first. But by degrees he was once more ensnared by
the lure of the gaming table. "After all," he mused, "this is a lucky
turn of fortune. I shall soon be a thousand to the good, perhaps even
two thousand. The Marchese will not fail to pay his debt. It would be
pleasant to take a modest competence with me to Venice. But why Venice?
Who regains wealth, regains youth. Wealth is everything. At any rate,
I shall now be able to buy her. Whom? The only woman I want.... She
is standing naked at the window.... I am sure she is waiting there,
expecting me to come.... She is standing at the window to drive me mad!"
All the same, with unruffled brow he continued dealing the cards, not
only to the Marchese, but also to Olivo and to the brothers Ricardi. To
the latter from time to time he pushed over a gold piece to which they
had no claim, but which they accepted without comment. The noise of a
trotting horse came from the road. "Lorenzi," thought Casanova. The
hoofbeats echoed for a time from the garden wall, until sound and echo
gradually died away.
At length Casanova's luck turned. The Marchese staked more and more
boldly. By midnight Casanova was as poor as at the beginning; nay,
poorer, for he had lost the few ducats with which he had made his first
venture. Pushing the cards away, he stood up with a smile, saying:
"Thank you, gentlemen, for a pleasant game."
Olivo stretched out both hands towards Casanova. "Dear friend, let us
go on with the game. .... You have a hundred and fifty ducats. Have you
forgotten them? Not only a hundred and fifty ducats, but all that I
have, everything, everything." His speech was thick, for he had been
drinking throughout the evening.
Casanova signified his refusal with an exaggerated but courtly gesture.
"Luck and women cannot be constrained," he said, bowing towards the
Abbate, who nodded contentedly and clapped his hands.
"Till to-morrow, then, my dear Chevalier," said the Marchese. "We will
join forces to win the money back from Lieutenant Lorenzi."
The brothers Ricardi insistently demanded that the game should continue.
The Marchese, who was in a jovial mood, opened a bank for them. They
staked the gold pieces which Casanova had allowed them to win. In a
couple of minutes they had lost them all to the Marchese, who declined
to go on playing unless they could produce cash. They wrung their hands.
The elder began to cry like a child. The younger, to comfort his
brother, kissed him on both cheeks. The Marchese enquired whether the
carriage had returned, and the Abbate said he had heard it drive up half
an hour earlier. Thereupon the Marchese offered the Abbate and the two
Ricardis a lift, promising to set them down at their doors. All four
left the house together.
When they had gone, Olivo took Casanova by the arm, and assured his
guest repeatedly, with tears in his voice, that everything in the house
was at Casanova's absolute disposal. They walked past Marcolina's
window. Not merely was the window closed, but the iron grating had
been fastened; within, the window was curtained. There had been times,
thought Casanova, when all these precautions had been unavailing, or had
been without significance. They reentered the house. Olivo would not be
dissuaded from accompanying the guest up the creaking staircase into the
turret chamber. He embraced Casanova as he bade him good-night.
"To-morrow," he said, "you shall see the nunnery. But sleep as late as
you please. We are not early risers here; anyhow we shall adapt the
hours to your convenience. Good-night!" He closed the door quietly, but
his heavy tread resounded through the house.
The room in which Casanova was now left to his own devices was dimly
lighted by two candles. His gaze roamed successively to the four
windows, looking to the four quarters of heaven. The prospect was much
the same from them all. The landscape had a bluish sheen. He saw broad
plains with no more than trifling elevations, except to the northward
where the mountains were faintly visible. A few isolated houses, farms,
and larger buildings, could be made out. Among these latter was one
which stood higher than the rest. Here there was still a light in one of
the windows, and Casanova imagined it must be the Marchese's mansion.
The furniture of the room was simple. The double bed stood straight out
into the room. The two candles were on a long table. There were a few
chairs, and a chest of drawers bearing a gilt-framed mirror. Everything
was in perfect order, and the valise had been unpacked. On the table,
locked, lay the shabby portfolio containing Casanova's papers. There
were also some books which he was using in his work; writing materials
had been provided.
He did not feel sleepy. Taking his manuscript out of the portfolio, he
reread what he had last written. Since he had broken off in the middle
of a sentence, it was easy for him to continue. He took up the pen,
wrote a phrase or two, then paused.
"To what purpose?" he demanded of himself, as if in a cruel flash of
inner illumination. "Even if I knew that what I am writing, what I am
going to write, would be considered incomparably fine; even if I could
really succeed in annihilating Voltaire, and in making my renown greater
than his--would I not gladly commit these papers to the flames could I
but have Marcolina in my arms? For that boon, should I not be willing to
vow never to set foot in Venice again, even though the Venetians should
wish to escort me back to the city in triumph?"
"Venice!"..... He breathed the word once more. Its splendor captivated
his imagination, and in a moment its old power over him had been
restored. The city of his youth rose before his eyes, enshrined in all
the charms of memory. His heart ached with yearning more intense than
any that he could recall. To renounce the idea of returning home seemed
to him the most incredible of the sacrifices which his destiny might
demand. How could he go on living in this poor and faded world without
the hope, without the certainty, that he was one day to see the beloved
city again? After the years and decades of wanderings and adventures,
after all the happiness and unhappiness he had experienced, after
all the honor and all the shame, after so many triumphs and so many
discomfitures--he must at length find a resting place, must at length
find a home.
Was there any other home for him than Venice? Was there any good fortune
reserved for him other than this, that he should have a home once
more? It was long since in foreign regions he had been able to command
enduring happiness. He could still at times grasp happiness, but for
a moment only; he could no longer hold it fast. His power over his
fellows, over women no less than over men, had vanished. Only where he
evoked memories could his words, his voice, his glance, still conjure;
apart from this, his presence was void of interest. His day was done!
He was willing to admit what he had hitherto been sedulous to conceal
from himself, that even his literary labors, including the polemic
against Voltaire upon which his last hopes reposed, would never secure
any notable success. Here, likewise, he was too late. Had he in youth
but had leisure and patience to devote himself seriously to the work of
the pen, he was confident he could have ranked with the leading members
of the profession of authorship, with the greatest imaginative writers
and philosophers. He was as sure of this as he was sure that, granted
more perseverance and foresight than he actually possessed, he could
have risen to supreme eminence as financier or as diplomat.
But what availed his patience and his foresight, what became of all his
plans in life, when the lure of a new love adventure summoned? Women,
always women. For them he had again and again cast everything to the
winds; sometimes for women who were refined, sometimes for women who
were vulgar; for passionate women and for frigid women; for maidens
and for harlots. All the honors and all the joys in the world had ever
seemed cheap to him in comparison with a successful night upon a new
Did he regret what he had lost through his perpetual seeking and
never or ever finding, through this earthly and superearthly flitting
from craving to pleasure and from pleasure back to craving once more?
No, he had no regrets. He had lived such a life as none other before
him; and could he not still live it after his own fashion? Everywhere
there remained women upon his path, even though they might no longer be
quite so crazy about him as of old.
Amalia? He could have her for the asking, at this very hour, in her
drunken husband's bed. The hostess in Mantua; was she not in love with
him, fired with affection and jealousy as if he were a handsome lad?
Perotti's mistress, pockmarked, but a woman with a fine figure? The
very name of Casanova had intoxicated her with its aroma of a thousand
conquests. Had she not implored him to grant her but a single night of
love; and had he not spumed her as one who could still choose where he
But Marcolina--such as Marcolina were no longer at his disposal. Had
such as Marcolina ever been at his disposal? Doubtless there were women
of that kind. Perchance he had met more than one such woman before.
Always, however, some more willing than she had been available, and he
had never been the man to waste a day in vain sighing. Since not even
Lorenzi had succeeded with Marcolina, since she had rejected the hand of
this comely officer who was as handsome and as bold as he, Casanova, had
been in youth, Marcolina might well prove to be that wonder of the world
in the existence of which he had hitherto disbelieved--the virtuous
At this juncture he laughed, so that the walls reechoed. "The
bungler, the greenhorn!" he exclaimed out loud, as so often in such
self-communings. "He did not know how to make a good use of his
opportunities. Or the Marchesa was hanging round his neck all the time.
Or perhaps he took her as a next-best, when Marcolina, the philosopher,
the woman of learning, proved unattainable!"
Suddenly a thought struck him. "To-morrow I will read her my polemic
against Voltaire. I can think of no one else who would be a competent
critic. I shall convince her. She will admire me. She will say:
'Excellent, Signor Casanova. Your style is that of a most brilliant old
gentleman!' God!..... 'You have positively annihilated Voltaire, you
He paced the chamber like a beast in a cage, hissing out the words in
his anger. A terrible wrath possessed him, against Marcolina, against
Voltaire, against himself, against the whole world. It was all he could
do to restrain himself from roaring aloud in his rage. At length he
threw himself upon the bed without undressing, and lay with eyes wide
open, looking up at the joists among which spiders' webs were visible,
glistening in the candlelight. Then, as often happened to him after
playing cards late at night, pictures of cards chased one another
swiftly through his brain, until he sank into a dreamless sleep.
His slumber was brief. When he awakened it was to a mysterious silence.
The southern and the eastern windows of the turret chamber were open.
Through them from the garden and the fields entered a complex of sweet
odors. Gradually the silence was broken by the vague noises from near
and from far which usually herald the dawn. Casanova could no longer lie
quiet; a vigorous impulse towards movement gripped him, and lured him
into the open. The song of the birds called to him; the cool breeze of
early morning played upon his brow. Softly he opened the door and moved
cautiously down the stairs. Cunning, from long experience, he was able
to avoid making the old staircase creak. The lower flight, leading to
the ground floor, was of stone. Through the hall, where half-emptied
glasses were still standing on the table, he made his way into the
garden. Since it was impossible to walk silently on the gravel, he
promptly stepped on to the greensward, which now, in the early twilight,
seemed an area of vast proportions. He slipped into the side alley,
from which he could see Marcolina's window. It was closed, barred, and
curtained, just as it had been overnight. Barely fifty paces from the
house, Casanova seated himself upon a stone bench. He heard a cart roll
by on the other side of the wall, and then everything was quiet again. A
fine grey haze was floating over the greensward, giving it the aspect of
a pond with fugitive outlines. Once again Casanova thought of that night
long ago in the convent garden at Murano; he thought of another garden
on another night; he hardly knew what memories he was recalling;
perchance it was a composite reminiscence of a hundred nights, just as
at times a hundred women whom he had loved would fuse in memory into one
figure that loomed enigmatically before his questioning senses. After
all, was not one night just like another? Was not one woman just like
another? Especially when the affair was past and gone? The phrase,
"past and gone," continued to hammer upon his temples, as if destined
henceforth to become the pulse of his forlorn existence.
It seemed to him that something was rattling behind him along the wall.
Or was it only an echo that he heard? Yes, the noise had really come
from the house. Marcolina's window had suddenly been opened, the iron
grating had been pushed back, the curtain drawn. A shadowy form
was visible against the dark interior. Marcolina, clad in a white
nightdress, was standing at the window, as if to breathe the fragrance
of morning. In an instant, Casanova slipped behind the bench. Peeping
over the top of it, through the foliage in the avenue, he watched
Marcolina as if spellbound. She stood unthinking, it seemed, her gaze
vaguely piercing the twilight. Not until several seconds had elapsed did
she appear to collect herself, to grow fully awake and aware, directing
her eyes slowly, now to right and now to left. Then she leaned forward,
as if seeking for something on the gravel, and next she turned her head,
from which her hair was hanging loosely, and looked up towards the
windows in the upper story. Thereafter, she stood motionless for a
while, supporting herself with a hand on either side of the window-frame
as though she were fastened to an invisible cross. Now at length,
suddenly illumined as it were from within, her features grew plain to
Casanova's vision. A smile flitted across her face. Her arms fell to her
sides; her lips moved strangely, as if whispering a prayer; once
more she looked searchingly across the garden, then nodded almost
imperceptibly, and at the instant someone who must hitherto have been
crouching at her feet swung across the sill into the open. It was
Lorenzi. He flew rather than walked across the gravel into the alley,
which he crossed barely ten yards from Casanova, who held his breath
as he lay behind the bench. Lorenzi, hastening on, made his way down a
narrow strip of grass running along the wall, and disappeared from view.
Casanova heard a door groan on its hinges--the very door doubtless
through which he, Olivo, and the Marchese had reentered the garden
on the previous day--and then all was still. Marcolina had remained
motionless. As soon as she knew that Lorenzi was safely away, she drew a
deep breath, and closed grating and window. The curtain fell back into
its place, and all was as it had been. Except for one thing; for now, as
if there were no longer any reason for delay, day dawned over house and
Casanova was still lying behind the bench, his arms outstretched before
him. After a while he crept on all fours to the middle of the alley, and
thence onward till he reached a place where he could not be seen from
Marcolina's window or from any of the others. Rising to his feet with an
aching back, he stretched body and limbs, and felt himself restored to
his senses, as though re-transformed from a whipped hound into a human
being--doomed to feel the chastisement, not as bodily pain, but as
"Why," he asked himself, "did I not go to the window while it was still
open? Why did I not leap over the sill? Could she have offered any
resistance; would she have dared to do so; hypocrite, liar, strumpet?"
He continued to rail at her as though he had a right to do so, as though
he had been her lover to whom she had plighted troth and whom she had
betrayed. He swore to question her face to face; to denounce her before
Olivo, Amalia, the Marchese, the Abbate, the servants, as nothing better
than a lustful little whore. As if for practice, he recounted to himself
in detail what he had just witnessed, delighting in the invention of
incidents which would degrade her yet further. He would say that she had
stood naked at the window; that she had permitted the unchaste caresses
of her lover while the morning wind played upon them both.
After thus allaying the first vehemence of his anger, he turned
to consider whether he might not make a better use of his present
knowledge. Was she not in his power? Could he not now exact by threats
the favors which she had not been willing to grant him for love? But
this infamous design was speedily abandoned; not so much because
Casanova realized its infamy, as because, even while the plan crossed
his mind, he was aware of its futility. Why should Marcolina,
accountable to no one but herself, be concerned at his threats? In the
last resort she was astute enough, if needs must, to have him driven
from the house as a slanderer and blackmailer. Even if, for one reason
or another, she were willing to give herself to him in order to preserve
the secret of her amours with Lorenzi (he was aware that he was
speculating on something beyond the bounds of possibility), a pleasure
thus extorted would become for him a nameless torment. Casanova
knew himself to be one whose rapture in a love relationship was a
thousandfold greater when conferring pleasure than when receiving it.
Such a victory as he was contemplating would drive him to frenzy and
Suddenly he found himself at the door in the garden wall. It was locked.
Then Lorenzi had a master-key! But who, it now occurred to him to ask,
had ridden the horse he had heard trotting away after Lorenzi had left
the card table? A servant in waiting for the purpose, obviously.
Involuntarily Casanova smiled his approval. They were worthy of one
another, these two, Marcolina and Lorenzi, the woman philosopher and the
officer. A splendid career lay before them.
"Who will be Marcolina's next lover?" he thought questioningly. "The
professor in Bologna in whose house she lives? Fool, fool! That is
doubtless an old story. Who next? Olivo? The Abbate? Wherefore not? Or
the serving-lad who stood gaping at the door yesterday when we drove up?
She has given herself to all of them. I am sure of it. But Lorenzi does
not know. I have stolen a march on him there."
Yet all the while he was inwardly convinced that Lorenzi was Marcolina's
first lover. Nay, he even suspected that the previous night was the
first on which she had given herself to Lorenzi. Nevertheless, as he
made the circuit in the garden within the wall, he continued to indulge
these spiteful, lascivious fantasies.
At length he reached the hall door, which he had left open. He must
regain the turret chamber unseen and unheard. With all possible caution
he crept upstairs, and sank into the armchair which stood in front
of the table. The loose leaves of the manuscript seemed to have been
awaiting his return. Involuntarily his eyes fell upon the sentence in
the middle of which he had broken off. He read: "Voltaire will doubtless
prove immortal. But this immortality will have been purchased at the
price of his immortal part. Wit has consumed his heart just as doubt has
consumed his soul, and therefore....."
At this moment the morning sun flooded the chamber with red light, so
that the page in his hand glowed. As if vanquished, he laid it on the
table beside the others. Suddenly aware that his lips were dry, he
poured himself a glass of water from the carafe on the table; the drink
was lukewarm and sweetish to the taste. Nauseated, he turned his head
away from the glass, and found himself facing his image in the mirror
upon the chest of drawers. A wan, aging countenance with dishevelled
hair stared back at him. In a self-tormenting mood he allowed the
corners of his mouth to droop as if he were playing the part of
pantaloon on the stage; disarranged his hair yet more wildly; put out
his tongue at his own image in the mirror; croaked a string of inane
invectives against himself; and finally, like a naughty child, blew the
leaves of his manuscript from the table on to the floor.
Then he began to rail against Marcolina again. He loaded her with
obscene epithets. "Do you imagine," he hissed between his teeth, "that
your pleasure will last? You will become fat and wrinkled and old just
like the other women who were young when you were young. You will be an
old woman with flaccid breasts; your hair will be dry and grizzled; you
will be toothless, you will have a bad smell. Last of all you will die.
Perhaps you will die while you are still quite young. You will become a
mass of corruption, food for worms."
To wreak final vengeance upon her, he endeavored to picture her as dead.
He saw her lying in an open coffin, wrapped in a white shroud. But he
was unable to attach to her image any sign of decay, and her unearthly
beauty aroused him to renewed frenzy. Through his closed eyelids he saw
the coffin transform itself into a nuptial bed. Marcolina lay laughing
there with lambent eyes. As if in mockery, with her small, white hands
she unveiled her firm little breasts. But as he stretched forth his
arms towards her, in the moment when he was about to clasp her in his
passionate embrace, the vision faded.
Someone was knocking at the door. Casanova awoke from a heavy sleep to
find Olivo standing before him.
"At your writing so early?"
Casanova promptly collected his wits. "It is my custom," he said, "to
work the first thing in the morning. What time is it?"
"Eight o'clock," answered Olivo. "Breakfast is ready in the garden.
We will start on our drive to the nunnery as early as you please,
Chevalier. How the wind has blown your papers about!"
He stooped to pick up the fallen leaves. Casanova did not interfere. He
had moved to the window, and was looking down upon the breakfast table
which had been set on the greensward in the shade of the house. Amalia,
Marcolina, and the three young girls, dressed in white, were at
breakfast. They called up a good-morning. He had no eyes for anyone but
Marcolina, who smiled at him frankly and in the friendliest fashion.
In her lap was a plateful of early-ripe grapes, which she was eating
Contempt, anger, and hatred vanished from Casanova's heart. All he knew
was that he loved her. Made drunken by the very sight of her, he turned
away from the window to find Olivo on hands and knees still assembling
the scattered pages of manuscript from under the table and chest of
drawers. "Don't trouble any further," he said to his host. "Leave me to
myself for a moment while I get ready for the drive."
"No hurry," answered Olivo, rising, and brushing the dust from his
knees. "We shall easily be home in time for dinner. We want to get back
early, anyhow, for the Marchese would like us to begin cards soon after
our meal. I suppose he wants to leave before sunset."
"It doesn't matter to me what time you begin cards," said Casanova, as
he arranged his manuscript in the portfolio. "Whatever happens, I shall
not take a hand in the game."
"Yes you will," explained Olivo with a decision foreign to his usual
manner. Laying a roll of gold pieces on the table, he continued: "Thus
do I pay my debt, Chevalier. A belated settlement, but it comes from a
grateful heart." Casanova made a gesture of refusal.
"I insist," said Olivo. "If you do not take the money, you will wound
us deeply. Besides, last night Amalia had a dream which will certainly
induce you--but I will let her tell the story herself." He turned and
left the room precipitately.
Casanova counted the money. Yes, there were one hundred and fifty gold
pieces, the very sum that fifteen years earlier he had presented to the
bridegroom, the bride, or the bride's mother--he had forgotten which.
"The best thing I could do," he mused, "would be to pack up the money,
say farewell to Olivo and Amalia, and leave the place at once, if
possible without seeing Marcolina again. Yet when was I ever guided by
reason?--I wonder if news has reached Mantua from Venice? But my good
hostess promised to forward without fail anything that might arrive."
The maid meanwhile had brought a large earthenware pitcher filled with
water freshly drawn from the spring. Casanova sponged himself all over.
Greatly refreshed, he dressed in his best suit, the one he had intended
to wear the previous evening had there been time to change. Now,
however, he was delighted that he would be able to appear before
Marcolina better clad than on the previous day, to present himself in a
new form as it were.
So he sauntered into the garden wearing a coat of grey satin richly
embroidered and trimmed with Spanish lace; a yellow waistcoat; and
knee-breeches of cherry-colored silk. His aspect was that of a man who
was distinguished without being proud. An amiable smile played about his
lips, and his eyes sparkled with the fire of inextinguishable youth. To
his disappointment, he found no one but Olivo, who bade him be seated,
and invited him to fall to upon the modest fare. Casanova's breakfast
consisted of bread, butter, milk, and eggs, followed by peaches and
grapes, which seemed to him the finest he had ever eaten. Now the three
girls came running across the lawn. Casanova kissed them in turn,
bestowing on the thirteen-year-old Teresina such caresses as the Abbate
had been free with on the previous day. Her eyes gleamed in a way with
which Casanova was familiar. He was convinced this meant something more
to her than childish amusement.
Olivo was delighted to see how well the Chevalier got on with the girls.
"Must you really leave us to-morrow morning?" he enquired tentatively.
"This very evening," rejoined Casanova jovially. "You know, my dear
Olivo, I must consider the wishes of the Venetian senators...."
"How have they earned the right to any such consideration from you?"
broke in Olivo. "Let them wait. Stay here for another two days at least;
or, better still, for a week."
Casanova slowly shook his head. He had seized Teresina's hands, and held
her prisoner between his knees. She drew herself gently away, with a
smile no longer that of a child. At this moment Amalia and Marcolina
emerged from the house. Olivo besought them to second his invitation.
But when neither found a word to say on the matter, Casanova's voice and
expression assumed an unduly severe emphasis as he answered: "Quite out
of the question."
On the way through the chestnut avenue to the road, Marcolina asked
Casanova whether he had made satisfactory progress with the polemic.
Olivo had told her that his guest had been at the writing-table since
Casanova was half inclined to make an answer that would have been
malicious in its ambiguity, and would have startled his auditor without
betraying himself. Reflecting, however, that premature advances could
do his cause nothing but harm, he held his wit in leash, and civilly
rejoined that he had been content to make a few emendations, the fruit
of his conversation with her yesterday.
Now they all seated themselves in the lumbering carriage. Casanova sat
opposite Marcolina, Olivo opposite Amalia. The vehicle was so roomy