Part 2 out of 2
that, notwithstanding the inevitable joltings, the inmates were not
unduly jostled one against the other. Casanova begged Amalia to tell him
her dream. She smiled cordially, almost brightly, no longer displaying
any trace of mortification or resentment.
"In my dream, Casanova, I saw you driving past a white building in a
splendid carriage drawn by six chestnut horses. Or rather, the carriage
pulled up in front of this building, and at first I did not know who was
seated inside. Then you got out. You were wearing a magnificent white
court dress embroidered with gold, so that your appearance was almost
more resplendent than it is to-day." Her tone conveyed a spice of gentle
mockery. "You were wearing, I am sure of it, the thin gold chain you are
wearing to-day, and yet I had never seen it until this morning!" This
chain, with the gold watch and gold snuff-box set with garnets (Casanova
was fingering it as she spoke), were the only trinkets of value still
left to him. "An old man, looking like a beggar, opened the carriage
door. It was Lorenzi. As for you, Casanova, you were young, quite young,
younger even than you seemed to me in those days." She said "in those
days" quite unconcernedly, regardless of the fact that in the train of
these words all her memories came attendant, winging their way like a
flight of birds. "You bowed right and left, although there was not a
soul within sight; then you entered the house. The door slammed to
behind you. I did not know whether the storm had slammed it, or Lorenzi.
So startling was the noise that the horses took fright and galloped away
with the carriage. Then came a clamor from neighboring streets, as if
people were trying to save themselves from being run over; but soon all
was quiet again. Next I saw you at one of the windows. Now I knew it was
a gaming-house. Once more you bowed in all directions, though the whole
time there was no one to be seen. You looked over your shoulder, as if
someone were standing behind you in the room; but I knew that no one was
there. Now, of a sudden, I saw you at another window, in a higher story,
where the same gestures were repeated. Then higher still, and higher,
and yet higher, as if the building were piled story upon story,
interminably. From each window in succession, you bowed towards the
street, and then turned to speak to persons behind you--who were not
really there at all. Lorenzi, meanwhile, kept on running up the stairs,
flight after flight, but was never able to overtake you. He wanted you
because you had forgotten to give him a gratuity....."
"What next?" enquired Casanova, when Amalia paused.
"There was a great deal more, but I have forgotten," said Amalia.
Casanova was disappointed. In such cases, whether he was relating a
dream or giving an account of real incidents, it was his way to
round off the narrative, attempting to convey a meaning. He remarked
discontentedly: "How strangely everything is distorted in dreams. Fancy,
that I should be wealthy; and that Lorenzi should be a beggar, and old!"
"As far as Lorenzi is concerned," interjected Olivo, "there is not much
wealth about him. His father is fairly well off, but no one can say that
of the son."
Casanova had no need to ask questions. He was speedily informed that
it was through the Marchese that they had made the Lieutenant's
acquaintance. The Marchese had brought Lorenzi to the house only a few
weeks before. A man of the Chevalier's wide experience would hardly
need prompting to enlighten him as to the nature of the young officer's
relationship to the Marchesa. After all, if the husband had no
objection, the affair was nobody else's business.
"I think, Olivo," said Casanova, "that you have allowed yourself to be
convinced of the Marchese's complaisance too easily. Did you not notice
his manner towards the young man, the mingling of contempt and ferocity?
I should not like to wager that all will end well."
Marcolina remained impassive. She seemed to pay no attention to this
talk about Lorenzi, but sat with unruffled countenance, and to all
appearance quietly delighting in the landscape. The road led upwards by
a gentle ascent zigzagging through groves of olives and holly trees.
Now they reached a place where the horses had to go more slowly, and
Casanova alighted to stroll beside the carriage. Marcolina talked of
the lovely scenery round Bologna, and of the evening walks she was
in the habit of taking with Professor Morgagni's daughter. She also
mentioned that she was planning a journey to France next year, in
order to make the personal acquaintance of Saugrenue, the celebrated
mathematician at the university of Paris, with whom she had
corresponded. "Perhaps," she said with a smile, "I may look in at Ferney
on the way, in order to learn from Voltaire's own lips how he has
been affected by the polemic of the Chevalier de Seingalt, his most
Casanova was walking with a hand on the side of the carriage, close to
Marcolina's arm. Her loose sleeve was touching his fingers. He answered
quietly: "It matters less what M. Voltaire thinks about the matter
than what posterity thinks. A final decision upon the merits of the
controversy must be left to the next generation."
"Do you really think," said Marcolina earnestly, "that final decisions
can be reached in questions of this character?"
"I am surprised that you should ask such a thing, Marcolina. Though your
philosophic views, and (if the term be appropriate) your religious
views, seem to me by no means irrefutable, at least they must be firmly
established in your soul--if you believe that there is a soul."
Marcolina, ignoring the personal animus in Casanova's words, sat looking
skyward over the tree-crests, and tranquilly rejoined: "Ofttimes, and
especially on a day like this"--to Casanova, knowing what he knew, the
words conveyed the thrill of reverence in the newly awakened heart of a
woman--"I feel as if all that people speak of as philosophy and religion
were no more than playing with words. A sport nobler perhaps than
others, nevertheless more unmeaning than them all. Infinity and eternity
will never be within the grasp of our understanding. Our path leads from
birth to death. What else is left for us than to live a life accordant
with the law that each of us bears within--or a life of rebellion
against that law? For rebellion and submissiveness both issue from God."
Olivo looked at his niece with timid admiration, then turned to
contemplate Casanova with some anxiety. Casanova was in search of a
rejoinder which should convince Marcolina that she was in one breath
affirming and denying God, or should prove to her that she was
proclaiming God and the Devil to be the same. He realized, however, that
he had nothing but empty words to set against her feelings, and to-day
words did not come to him readily. His expression showed him to be
somewhat at a loss, and apparently reminded Amalia of the confused
menaces he had uttered on the previous day. So she hastened to remark:
"Marcolina is deeply religious all the same, I can assure you,
"We are all religious in our several ways," said Casanova civilly.
Now came a turn in the road, and the nunnery was in sight. The slender
tops of cypresses showed above the encircling wall. At the sound of the
approaching carriage, the great doors had swung open. The porter, an old
man with a flowing white beard, bowed gravely and gave them admittance.
Through the cloisters, between the columns of which they caught glimpses
of an overgrown garden, they advanced towards the main building, from
whose unadorned, grey, and prison-like exterior an unpleasantly cool
air was wafted. Olivo pulled the bellrope; the answering sound was
high-pitched, and died away in a moment. A veiled nun silently appeared,
and ushered the guests into the spacious parlor. It contained merely
a few plain wooden chairs, and the back was cut off by a heavy iron
grating, beyond which nothing could be seen but a vague darkness.
With bitterness in his heart, Casanova recalled the adventure which
still seemed to him the most wonderful of all his experiences. It had
begun in just such surroundings as the present. Before his eyes loomed
the forms of the two inmates of the Murano convent who had been friends
in their love for him. In conjunction they had bestowed upon him hours
of incomparable sweetness. When Olivo, in a whisper, began to speak
of the strict discipline imposed upon this sisterhood--once they were
professed, the nuns must never appear unveiled before a man, and they
were vowed to perpetual silence--a smile flitted across Casanova's face.
The Abbess suddenly emerged from the gloom, and was standing in their
midst. In silence she saluted her guests, and with an exaggerated
reverence of her veiled head acknowledged Casanova's expressions of
gratitude for the admission of himself, a stranger. But when Marcolina
wished to kiss her hand, the Abbess gathered the girl in her arms. Then,
with a wave of the hand inviting them to follow, she led the way through
a small room into a cloister surrounding a quadrangular flower-garden.
In contrast to the outer garden, which had run wild, this inner garden
was tended with especial care. The flower-beds, brilliant in the
sunshine, showed a wonderful play of variegated colors. The warm odors
were almost intoxicating. One, intermingled with the rest, aroused no
responsive echo in Casanova's memory. Puzzled, he was about to say a
word on the subject to Marcolina, when he perceived that the enigmatic,
stimulating fragrance emanated from herself. She had removed her shawl
from her shoulders and was carrying it over her arm. From the opening of
her gown came a perfume at once kindred to that of the thousand flowers
of the garden, and yet unique.
The Abbess, still without a word, conducted the visitors between the
flower-beds upon narrow, winding paths which traversed the garden like
a lovely labyrinth. The graceful ease of her gait showed that she was
enjoying the chance of showing others the motley splendors of her
garden. As if she had determined to make her guests giddy, she moved on
faster and ever faster like the leader of a lively folk-dance. Then,
quite suddenly, so that Casanova seemed to awaken from a confusing
dream, they all found themselves in the parlor once more. On the other
side of the grating, dim figures were moving. It was impossible to
distinguish whether, behind the thick bars, three or five or twenty
veiled women were flitting to and fro like startled ghosts. Indeed, none
but Casanova, with eyes preternaturally acute to pierce the darkness,
could discern that they were human outlines at all.
The Abbess attended her guests to the door, mutely gave them a sign
of farewell, and vanished before they had found time to express their
thanks for her courtesy.
Suddenly, just as they were about to leave the parlor, a woman's voice
near the grating breathed the word "Casanova." Nothing but his name, in
a tone that seemed to him quite unfamiliar. From whom came this breach
of a sacred vow? Was it a woman he had once loved, or a woman he had
never seen before? Did the syllables convey the ecstasy of an unexpected
reencounter, or the pain of something irrecoverably lost; or did it
convey the lamentation that an ardent wish of earlier days had been so
late and so fruitlessly fulfilled? Casanova could not tell. All that he
knew was that his name, which had so often voiced the whispers of tender
affection, the stammerings of passion, the acclamations of happiness,
had to-day for the first time pierced his heart with the full resonance
of love. But, for this very reason, to probe the matter curiously would
have seemed to him ignoble and foolish. The door closed behind the
party, shutting in a secret which he was never to unriddle. Were it not
that the expression on each face had shown timidly and fugitively that
the call to Casanova had reached the ears of all, each might have
fancied himself or herself a prey to illusion. No one uttered a word as
they walked through the cloisters to the great doors. Casanova brought
up the rear, with bowed head, as if on the occasion of some profoundly
The porter was waiting. He received his alms. The visitors stepped into
the carriage, and started on the homeward road. Olivo seemed perplexed;
Amalia was distrait. Marcolina, however, was quite unmoved. Too
pointedly, in Casanova's estimation, she attempted to engage Amalia in a
discussion of household affairs, a topic upon which Olivo was compelled
to come to his wife's assistance. Casanova soon joined in the
discussion, which turned upon matters relating to kitchen and cellar. An
expert on these topics, he saw no reason why he should hide his light
under a bushel, and he seized the opportunity of giving a fresh proof
of versatility. Thereupon, Amalia roused herself from her brown study.
After their recent experience--at once incredible and haunting--to all,
and especially to Casanova, there was a certain comfort derivable from
an extremely commonplace atmosphere of mundane life. When the carriage
reached home, where an inviting odor of roast meat and cooking
vegetables assailed their nostrils, Casanova was in the midst of an
appetizing description of a Polish pasty, a description to which even
Marcolina attended with a flattering air of domesticity.
In a strangely tranquillized, almost happy mood, which was a surprise
to himself, Casanova sat at table with the others, and paid court to
Marcolina in the sportive manner which might seem appropriate from a
distinguished elderly gentleman towards a well-bred young woman of the
burgher class. She accepted his attentions gracefully, in the spirit in
which they appeared to be offered. He found it difficult to believe that
his demure neighbor was the same Marcolina from whose bedroom window he
had seen a young officer emerge, a man who had obviously held her in
his arms but a few moments earlier. It was equally difficult for him to
realize how this tender girl, who was fond of romping on the grass with
other children, could conduct a learned correspondence with Saugrenue,
the renowned mathematician of Paris. Yet simultaneously he derided
himself for the inertness of his imagination. Had he not learned a
thousand times that in the souls of all persons who are truly alive,
discrepant elements, nay, apparently hostile elements, may coexist in
perfect harmony? He himself, who shortly before had been so profoundly
moved, had been desperate, had been ready for evil deeds, was now so
gentle, so kindly, in so merry a mood, that Olivo's little daughters
were shaking their sides with laughter. Nevertheless, as was usual with
him after strong excitement, his appetite was positively ferocious, and
this served to warn him that order was not yet fully restored in his
With the last course, the maid brought in a despatch which had just
arrived for the Chevalier by special messenger from Mantua. Olivo
noticed that Casanova grew pale. He told the servant to provide the
messenger with refreshment, then turned to his guest.
"Pray don't stand upon ceremony, Chevalier. Read your letter."
"If you will excuse me," answered Casanova. He went to the window and
opened the missive with simulated indifference. It was from Signor
Bragadino, an old friend of the family and a confirmed bachelor, over
eighty years of age, and for the last decade a member of the Supreme
Council. He had shown more interest than other patrons in pressing
Casanova's suit. The letter was beautifully written, although the
characters were a little shaky. It was as follows:
"My dear Casanova:
"I am delighted, at length, to be able to send you news which will, I
hope, be substantially accordant with your wishes. The Supreme Council,
at its last sitting, which took place yesterday evening, did not merely
express its willingness to permit your return to Venice. It went
further. The Council desires that your advent should be as speedy as
possible, since there is an intention to turn to immediate account the
active gratitude which you have foreshadowed in so many of your letters.
"Since Venice has been deprived for so long of the advantage of your
presence, you may perhaps be unaware, my dear Casanova, that quite
recently the internal affairs of our beloved native city have taken a
rather unfavorable trend both politically and morally. Secret societies
have come into existence, directed against the constitution of the
Venetian state, and even, it would seem, aiming at its forcible
overthrow. As might be expected, the members of these societies, persons
whom it would not be too harsh to denominate conspirators, are chiefly
drawn from certain free-thinking, irreligious, and lawless circles. Not
to speak of what goes on in private, we learn that in the public squares
and in coffee houses, the most outrageous, the most treasonable
conversations, take place. But only in exceptional instances has it been
possible to catch the guilty in the act, or to secure definite proof
against the offenders. A few admissions have been enforced by the rack,
but these confessions have proved so untrustworthy that several members
of the Council are of opinion that for the future it would be better to
abstain from methods of investigation which are not only cruel but are
apt to lead us astray. Of course there is no lack of individuals
well-affected towards public order and devoted to the welfare of the
state, individuals who would be delighted to place their services at the
disposal of the government; but most of them are so well known as
stalwart supporters of the existing constitution that when they are
present people are chary in their utterances and are most unlikely to
give vent to treasonable expressions.
"At yesterday's sitting, one of the senators, whom I will not name,
expressed the opinion that a man who had the reputation of being without
moral principle and who was furthermore regarded as a freethinker--in
short, Casanova, such a man as yourself--if recalled to Venice would not
fail to secure prompt and sympathetic welcome in the very circles which
the government regards with such well-grounded suspicion. If he played
his cards well, such a man would soon inspire the most absolute
"In my opinion, irresistibly, and as if by the force of a law of nature,
there would gravitate around your person the very elements which the
Supreme Council, in its indefatigable zeal for the state, is most eager
to render harmless and to punish in an exemplary manner. For your
part, my dear Casanova, you would give us an acceptable proof of your
patriotic zeal, and would furnish in addition an infallible sign of your
complete conversion from all those tendencies for which, during your
imprisonment in The Leads, you had to atone by punishment which, though
severe, was not, as you now see for yourself (if we are to believe your
epistolary assurances), altogether unmerited. I mean, should you be
prepared, immediately on your return home, to act in the way previously
suggested, to seek acquaintance with the elements sufficiently specified
above, to introduce yourself to them in the friendliest fashion as
one who cherishes the same tendencies, and to furnish the Senate
with accurate and full reports of everything which might seem to you
suspicious or worthy of note.
"For these services the authorities would offer you, to begin with,
a salary of two hundred and fifty lire per month, apart from special
payments in cases of exceptional importance. I need hardly say that you
would receive in addition, without too close a scrutiny of the items, an
allowance for such expenses as you might incur in the discharge of your
duties (I refer, for instance, to the treating of this individual or of
that, little gifts made to women, and so on).
"I do not attempt to conceal from myself that you may have to fight down
certain scruples before you will feel inclined to fulfil our wishes.
Permit me, however, as your old and sincere friend (who was himself
young once), to remind you that it can never be regarded as dishonorable
for a man to perform any services that may be essential for the safety
of his beloved fatherland--even if, to a shallow-minded and unpatriotic
citizen, such services might seem to be of an unworthy character.
Let me add, Casanova, that your knowledge of human nature will certainly
enable you to draw a distinction between levity and criminality, to
differentiate the jester from the heretic. Thus it will be within your
power, in appropriate cases, to temper justice with mercy, and to
deliver up to punishment those only who, in your honest opinion, may
"Above all I would ask you to consider that, should you reject the
gracious proposal of the Supreme Council, the fulfilment of your dearest
wish--your return to Venice--is likely to be postponed for a long and I
fear for an indefinite period; and that I myself, if I may allude to the
matter, as an old man of eighty-one, should be compelled in all human
probability to renounce the pleasing prospect of ever seeing you again
in this life.
"Since, for obvious reasons, your appointment will be of a confidential
and not of a public nature, I beg you to address to me personally your
reply, for which I make myself responsible, and which I wish to present
to the Council at its next sitting a week hence. Act with all convenient
speed, for, as I have previously explained, we are daily receiving
offers from thoroughly trustworthy persons who, from patriotic
motives, voluntarily place themselves at the disposal of the Supreme
Council. Nevertheless, there is hardly one among them who can compare
with you, my dear Casanova, in respect of experience or intelligence.
If, in addition to all the arguments I have adduced, you take my
personal feelings into account, I find it difficult to doubt that you
will gladly respond to the call which now reaches you from so exalted
and so friendly a source.
"Till then, receive the assurances of my undying friendship.
"Postscript. Immediately upon receipt of your acceptance, it will be a
pleasure to me to send you a remittance of two hundred lire through the
banking firm of Valori in Mantua. The sum is to defray the cost of your
* * * * *
Long after Casanova had finished reading the letter, he stood holding
the paper so as to conceal the deathly pallor of his countenance. From
the dining-table came a continuous noise, the rattle of plates and the
clinking of glasses; but conversation had entirely ceased. At length
Amalia ventured to say: "The food is getting cold, Chevalier; won't
you go on with your meal?"
"You must excuse me," replied Casanova, letting his face be seen once
more, for by now, owing to his extraordinary self-control, he had
regained outward composure. "I have just received the best possible news
from Venice, and I must reply instantly. With your leave, I will go to
"Suit yourself, Chevalier," said Olivo. "But do not forget that our card
party begins in an hour."
In the turret chamber Casanova sank into a chair. A chill sweat broke
out over his body; he shivered as if in the cold stage of a fever; he
was seized with such nausea that he felt as if he were about to choke.
For a time he was unable to think clearly, and he could do no more than
devote his energies to the task of self-restraint without quite knowing
why he did so. But there was no one in the house upon whom he could vent
his fury; and he could not fail to realize the utter absurdity of a
half-formed idea that Marcolina must be in some way contributory to the
intolerable shame which had been put upon him.
As soon as he was in some degree once more master of himself, his first
thought was to take revenge upon the scoundrels who had believed that he
could be hired as a police spy. He would return to Venice in disguise,
and would exert all his cunning to compass the death of these
wretches--or at least of whomever it was that had conceived the
Was Bragadino the prime culprit? Why not? An old man so lost to all
sense of shame that he had dared to write such a letter to Casanova; a
dotard who could actually believe that Casanova, whom he had personally
known, would set his hand to this ignominious task. He no longer knew
Casanova! Nor did anyone know him, in Venice or elsewhere. But people
should learn to know him once more.
It was true that he was no longer young enough or handsome enough to
seduce an honest girl. Nor did he now possess the skill and the agility
requisite for an escape from prison, or for gymnastic feats upon the
roof-tops. But in spite of his age, he was cleverer than anyone else!
Once back in Venice, he could do anything he pleased. The first step,
the essential step, was to get back. Perhaps it would not be necessary
to kill anyone. There were other kinds of revenge, grimmer, more
devilish, than a commonplace murder. If he were to feign acceptance of
the Council's proposal, it would be the easiest thing in the world to
compass the destruction of those whom he wished to destroy, instead of
bringing about the ruin of those whom the authorities had in mind, and
who were doubtless the finest fellows among all the inhabitants of
Venice! Monstrous! Because they were the enemies of this infamous
government, because they were reputed heretics, were they to languish in
The Leads where he had languished twenty-five years ago, or were they to
perish under the executioner's axe? He detested the government a hundred
times more than they did, and with better reason. He had been a lifelong
heretic; was a heretic to-day, upon sincerer conviction than them all.
What a queer comedy he had been playing of late years--simply from
tedium and disgust. He to believe in God? What sort of a God was it who
was gracious only to the young, and left the old in the lurch? A God
who, when the fancy took him, became a devil; who transformed wealth
into poverty, fortune into misfortune, happiness into despair. "You play
with us--and we are to worship you? To doubt your existence is the only
resource left open to us if we are not to blaspheme you! You do not
exist; for if you did exist, I should curse you!"
Shaking his clenched fists heavenward, he rose to his feet.
Involuntarily, a detested name rose to his lips. Voltaire! Yes, now he
was in the right mood to finish his polemic against the sage of Ferney.
To finish it? No, now was the time to begin it. A new one! A different
one! One in which the ridiculous old fool should be shown up as he
deserved: for his pusillanimity, his half-heartedness, his subservience.
He an unbeliever? A man of whom the latest news was that he was on
excellent terms with the priests, that he visited church, and on feast
days actually went to confession! He a heretic? He was a chatterbox, a
boastful coward, nothing more! But the day of reckoning was at hand,
and soon there would be nothing left of the great philosopher but a
What airs he had given himself, this worthy M. Voltaire! "My dear M.
Casanova, I am really vexed with you. What concern have I with the works
of Merlin? It is your fault that I have wasted four hours over such
All a matter of taste, excellent M. Voltaire! People will continue to
read Merlin long after _La Pucelle_ has been forgotten. Possibly they
will continue to prize my sonnets, the sonnets you returned to me with
a shameless smile, and without saying a word about them. But these
are trifles. Do not let us spoil a great opportunity because of our
sensitiveness as authors. We are concerned with philosophy--with God! We
shall cross swords, M. Voltaire, unless you die before I have a chance
to deal with you.
He was already in the mind to begin his new polemic, when it occurred to
him that the messenger was waiting for an answer. He hastily indited
a letter to the old duffer Bragadino, a letter full of hypocritical
humility and simulated delight. With joy and gratitude he accepted the
pardon of the Council. He would expect the remittance by return of post,
so that with all possible speed he might present himself before his
patrons, and above all before the honored old family friend, Bragadino.
When he was in the act of sealing the letter, someone knocked gently at
the door. At the word, Olivo's eldest daughter, the thirteen-year-old
Teresina, entered, to tell him that the whole company was assembled
below, and that the Chevalier was impatiently awaited at the card
table. Her eyes gleamed strangely; her cheeks were flushed; her thick,
black hair lay loose upon her temples; her little mouth was half open.
"Have you been drinking wine, Teresina?" asked Casanova striding towards
"Yes. How did you know?" She blushed deeper, and in her embarrassment
she moistened her lips with her tongue.
Casanova seized her by the shoulders, and, breathing in her face, drew
her to the bed. She looked at him with great helpless eyes in which
the light was now extinguished. But when she opened her mouth as if to
scream, Casanova's aspect was so menacing that she was almost paralyzed
with fear, and let him do whatever be pleased.
He kissed her with a tender fierceness, whispering: "You must not tell
the Abbate anything about this, Teresina, not even in confession. Some
day, when you have a lover or a husband, there is no reason why he
should know anything about it. You should always keep your own counsel.
Never tell the truth to your father, your mother, or your sisters, that
it may be well with you on earth. Mark my words." As he spoke thus
blasphemously, Teresina seemed to regard his utterance as a pious
admonition, for she seized his hand and kissed it reverently as if it
had been a priest's.
He laughed. "Come," he said, "come, little wife, we will walk arm in arm
into the room downstairs!"
She seemed a little coy at first, but smiled with genuine gratification.
It was high time for them to go down, for they met Olivo coming up. He
was flushed and wore a frown, so that Casanova promptly inferred that
the Marchese or the Abbate had roused his suspicions by some coarse jest
concerning Teresina's prolonged absence. His brow cleared when he beheld
Casanova on the threshold, standing arm in arm with the girl as if in
"I'm sorry to have kept you all waiting, Olivo," said Casanova. "I had
to finish my letter." He held the missive out to Olivo in proof of his
"Take it," said Olivo to Teresina, smoothing her rumpled hair. "Hand it
to the messenger."
"Here are two gold pieces for the man," added Casanova. "He must bestir
himself, so that the letter may leave Mantua for Venice to-day. And ask
him to tell my hostess at the inn that I shall return this evening."
"This evening?" exclaimed Olivo. "Impossible!"
"Oh, well, we'll see," observed Casanova affably. "Here, Teresina, take
this, a gold piece for yourself." When Olivo demurred, Casanova added:
"Put it in your moneybox, Teresina. That letter is worth any amount of
Teresina tripped away, and Casanova nodded to himself contentedly. In
days gone by he had possessed the girl's mother and grandmother also,
and he thought it a particularly good joke that he was paying the little
wench for her favors under the very eyes of her father.
When Casanova entered the hall with Olivo, cards had already begun. He
acknowledged with serene dignity the effusive greeting of the company,
and took his place opposite the Marchese, who was banker. The windows
into the garden were open. Casanova heard voices outside; Marcolina
and Amalia strolled by, glanced into the room for a moment, and then
While the Marchese was dealing, Lorenzi turned to Casanova with
ceremonious politeness, saying: "My compliments, Chevalier. You were
better informed than I. My regiment is under orders to march tomorrow
The Marchese looked surprised. "Why did you not tell us sooner,
"The matter did not seem of such supreme importance."
"It is of no great importance to me," said the Marchese. "But don't
you think it is of considerable importance to my wife?" He laughed
raucously. "As a matter of fact, I have some interest in the matter
myself. You won four hundred ducats from me yesterday, and there is not
much time left in which to win them back."
"The Lieutenant won money from us too," said the younger Ricardi. The
elder, silent as usual, looked over his shoulder at his brother, who
stood behind the elder's chair as on the previous day.
"Luck and women....." began the Abbate.
The Marchese finished the sentence for him: ".....cannot be
Lorenzi carelessly scattered his gold on the table. "There you are. I
will stake it all upon a single card, if you like, Marchese, so that you
need not wait for your money."
Casanova suddenly became aware of a feeling of compassion for Lorenzi,
a feeling he was puzzled to account for. But he believed himself to be
endowed with second-sight, and he had a premonition that the Lieutenant
would fall in his first encounter.
The Marchese did not accept the suggestion of high stakes, nor did
Lorenzi insist. They resumed the game, therefore, much as on the
previous night, everyone taking a hand at first, and only moderate sums
being ventured. A quarter of an hour later, however, the stakes began
to rise, and ere long Lorenzi had lost his four hundred ducats to the
Casanova had no constancy either in luck or ill-luck. He won, lost, and
won again, in an almost ludicrously regular alternation.
Lorenzi drew a breath of relief when his last gold piece had gone
the way of the others. Rising from the table, he said: "I thank you,
gentlemen. This," he hesitated for a moment, "this will prove to have
been my last game for a long time in your hospitable house. If you will
allow me, Signor Olivo, I will take leave of the ladies before
riding into town. I must reach Mantua ere nightfall in order to make
preparations for to-morrow."
"Shameless liar," thought Casanova. "You will return here to-night, to
Marcolina's arms!" Rage flamed up in him anew.
"What!" exclaimed the Marchese maliciously. "The evening will not come
for hours. Is the game to stop so early? If you like, Lorenzi, my
coachman shall drive home with a message to the Marchesa to let her know
that you will be late."
"I am going to ride to Mantua," rejoined Lorenzi impatiently. The
Marchese, ignoring this statement, went on: "There is still plenty of
time. Put up some of your own money, if it be but a single gold piece."
He dealt Lorenzi a card.
"I have not a single gold piece left," said Lorenzi wearily.
"Not one," asserted Lorenzi, as if tired of the whole matter.
"Never mind," said the Marchese, with a sudden assumption of amiability
which was far from congenial. "I will trust you as far as ten ducats
goes, or even for a larger sum if needs must."
"All right, a ducat, then," said Lorenzi, taking up the card dealt to
The Marchese won. Lorenzi went on with the game, as if this were now a
matter of course, and was soon in the Marchese's debt to the amount of
one hundred ducats.
At this stage Casanova became banker, and had even better luck than the
Marchese. There remained only three players. To-day the brothers
Ricardi stood aside without complaint. Olivo and the Abbate were merely
No one uttered a syllable. Only the cards spoke, and they spoke in
unmistakable terms. By the hazard of fortune all the cash found its way
to Casanova. In an hour he had won two thousand ducats; he had won them
from Lorenzi, though they came out of the pockets of the Marchese, who
at length sat there without a soldo.
Casanova offered him whatever gold pieces he might need. The Marchese
shook his head. "Thanks," he said, "I have had enough. The game is over
as far as I am concerned."
From the garden came the laughing voices of the girls. Casanova heard
Teresina's voice in particular, but he was sitting with his back to
the window and did not turn round. He tried once more to persuade the
Marchese to resume the game--for the sake of Lorenzi, though he hardly
knew what moved him. The Marchese refused with a yet more decisive
Lorenzi rose, saying: "I shall have the honor, Signor Marchese, of
handing the amount I owe you to you personally, before noon to-morrow."
The Marchese laughed drily. "I am curious to know how you will manage
that, Lieutenant Lorenzi. There is not a soul, in Mantua or elsewhere,
who would lend you as much as ten ducats, not to speak of two thousand,
especially to-day. For to-morrow you will be on the march, and who can
tell whether you will ever return?"
"I give you my word of honor, Signor Marchese, that you shall have the
money at eight o'clock to-morrow morning."
"Your word of honor," said the Marchese, "is not worth a single ducat to
me, let alone two thousand."
The others held their breath. Lorenzi, apparently unmoved, merely
answered: "You will give me satisfaction, Signor Marchese."
"With pleasure, Signor Lieutenant," rejoined the Marchese, "as soon as
you have paid your debt."
Olivo, who was profoundly distressed, here intervened, stammering
slightly: "I stand surety for the amount, Signor Marchese. Unfortunately
I have not sufficient ready money on the spot; but there is the house,
the estate....." He closed the sentence with an awkward wave of the
"I refuse to accept your surety, for your own sake," said the Marchese.
"You would lose your money."
Casanova saw that all eyes were turned towards the gold that lay on
the table before him. "What if I were to stand surety for Lorenzi," he
thought. "What if I were to pay the debt for him? The Marchese could not
refuse my offer. I almost think I ought to do it. It was the Marchese's
But he said not a word. He felt that a plan was taking shape hi his
mind, and that above all he needed tune in which he might become clear
as to its details.
"You shall have the money this evening, before nightfall," said Lorenzi.
"I shall be in Mantua in an hour."
"Your horse may break its neck," replied the Marchese. "You too;
"Anyhow," said the Abbate indignantly, "the Lieutenant cannot get the
money here by magic."
The two Ricardis laughed; but instantly restrained their mirth.
Olivo once more addressed the Marchese. "It is plain that you must grant
Lieutenant Lorenzi leave to depart."
"Yes, if he gives me a pledge," exclaimed the Marchese with flashing
eyes, as if this idea gave him peculiar delight.
"That seems rather a good plan," said Casanova, a little
absent-mindedly, for his scheme was ripening.
Lorenzi drew a ring from his finger and flicked it across the table.
The Marchese took it up, saying: "That is good for a thousand."
"What about this one?" Lorenzi threw down another ring in front of the
The latter nodded, saying: "That is good for the same amount."
"Are you satisfied now, Signor Marchese?" enquired Lorenzi, moving as if
"I am satisfied," answered the Marchese, with an evil chuckle; "all the
more, seeing that the rings are stolen."
Lorenzi turned sharply, clenching his fist as if about to strike the
Marchese. Olivo and the Abbate seized Lorenzi's arm.
"I know both the stones, though they have been reset," said the Marchese
without moving from his place. "Look, gentlemen, the emerald is slightly
flawed, or it would be worth ten times the amount. The ruby is flawless,
but it is not a large one. Both the stones come from a set of jewels
which I once gave my wife. And, since it is quite impossible for me
to suppose that the Marchesa had them reset in rings for Lieutenant
Lorenzi, it is obvious that they have been stolen--that the whole set
has been stolen. Well, well, the pledge suffices, Signor Lieutenant, for
"Lorenzi!" cried Olivo, "we all give you our word that no one shall ever
hear a syllable from us about what has just happened."
"And whatever Signor Lorenzi may have done," said Casanova, "you, Signor
Marchese, are the greater rascal of the two."
"I hope so," replied the Marchese. "When anyone is as old as we
are, Chevalier de Seingalt, assuredly he should not need lessons in
rascality. Good-evening, gentlemen."
He rose to his feet. No one responded to his farewell, and he went out.
For a space the silence was so intense, that once again the girls'
laughter was heard from the garden, now seeming unduly loud.
Who would have ventured to utter the word that was searing Lorenzi's
soul, as he stood at the table with his arm still raised? Casanova, the
only one of the company who had remained seated, derived an involuntary
artistic pleasure from the contemplation of this fine, threatening
gesture, meaningless now, but seemingly petrified, as if the young man
had been transformed into a statue.
At length Olivo turned to him with a soothing air; the Ricardis, too,
drew near; and the Abbate appeared to be working himself up for a
speech. But a sort of shiver passed over Lorenzi's frame. Automatically
but insistently he silently indicated his rejection of any offers at
intervention. Then, with a polite inclination of the head, he quietly
left the room.
Casanova, who had meanwhile wrapped up the money in a silken kerchief,
instantly followed. Without looking at the others' faces, he could feel
that they were convinced it was his instant intention to do what they
had all the while been expecting, namely, to place his winnings at
Casanova overtook Lorenzi in the chestnut avenue. Speaking lightly,
he said: "May I have the pleasure of accompanying you on your walk,
Lorenzi, without looking at him, answered in an arrogant tone which
seemed hardly in keeping with his situation: "As you please, Chevalier;
but I am afraid you will not find me an amusing companion."
"Perhaps, Lieutenant, you will on the other hand find me an entertaining
companion. If you have no objection, let us take the path through the
vineyard, where our conversation will be undisturbed."
They turned aside from the high-road into the narrow footway running
beside the garden wall, along which Casanova had walked with Olivo on
the previous day.
"You are right in supposing," began Casanova, "that I have it in mind to
offer you the sum of money which you owe to the Marchese. Not as a loan.
That, if you will excuse my saying so, seems to me rather too risky a
venture. I could let you have it as a slight return for a service which
I think you may be able to do me."
"Go on," said Lorenzi coldly.
"Before I say any more," answered Casanova, in a similar tone, "I must
make a condition upon your acceptance of which the continuance of this
"Name your condition."
"Give me your word of honor that you will listen to me without
interruption, even though what I have to say may arouse your displeasure
or your wrath. When you have heard me to the end, it will rest entirely
with yourself whether you accept a proposal which, I am well aware,
is of an extremely unusual nature. But I want you to answer it with
a simple Yes or No. Whatever the issue, no one is to hear a word
concerning what passes at this interview between two men of honor, who
are perhaps no better than they should be."
"I am ready to listen to your proposal."
"You accept my condition?"
"I will not interrupt you."
"And you will answer nothing beyond Yes or No?"
"Nothing beyond Yes or No."
"Very well," said Casanova. They walked slowly up the hill, between the
vine stocks, in the sultry heat of the late afternoon. Casanova began to
speak: "We shall perhaps understand one another best if we discuss the
matter logically. It is obvious that you have absolutely no chance of
obtaining the money you owe the Marchese within the prescribed time.
There can be no doubt that he has made up his mind to ruin you should
you fail to pay. Since he knows more of you than he actually disclosed
to us to-day"--Casanova was venturing beyond the limits of his own
knowledge, but he loved to take these little risks when following up a
path decided on in advance--"you are absolutely in the power of the old
ruffian, and your fate as an officer and a gentleman would be sealed.
There you have one side of the question. On the other hand, you will be
saved as soon as you have paid your debt, and as soon as you get back
those rings--however you may have come by them. This will mean the
recovery of an existence which is otherwise practically closed. Since
you are young, handsome, and bold, it will mean the recovery of an
existence which offers splendor, happiness, and renown. This appears
to me a most attractive prospect; especially seeing that the only
alternative is an inglorious, nay, a shameful ruin; for such a prospect,
I should be willing to sacrifice a prejudice which I had never really
possessed. I am well aware, Lorenzi," he added quickly, as if expecting
contradiction and desiring to forestall it, "I am well aware, that you
have no more prejudices than I have or ever had. What I am going to ask
of you is merely what I should in your place under like circumstances
be willing to do, without a moment's hesitation. Indeed, I have never
hesitated, at the call of destiny or as the outcome of caprice, to
commit a rascality, or rather, that to which fools give such a name.
Like you, Lorenzi, I have ever been ready to hazard my life for less
than nothing, and to call it quits. I am ready to do so now, if my
proposal prove inacceptable. We are made of the same stuff, you and I;
we are brothers in spirit; we may therefore disclose our souls to one
another without false shame, proud in our nakedness. Here are my two
thousand ducats. Call them yours, if you enable me to spend to-night
in your place with Marcolina.--Let us not stand still, if you please,
Lorenzi. Let us continue our walk." They walked through the fields,
beneath the fruit trees, between which the vines, heavy with
grape-clusters, were trellised. Casanova went on without a pause: "Don't
answer me yet, Lorenzi, for I have not finished. My request would
naturally be, if not monstrous, at least preposterous, if it were your
intention to make Marcolina your wife, or if Marcolina's own hopes or
wishes turned in this direction. But just as last night was your first
night spent in love together"--he uttered this guess as if he had
absolute knowledge of the fact--"so also was the ensuing night
predestined, according to all human calculation, according to your own
expectations and Marcolina's, to be your last night together for a long
period and probably for ever. I am absolutely convinced that Marcolina
herself, in order to save her lover from certain destruction, and simply
upon his wish, would be perfectly willing to give this one night to his
savior. For she, too, is a philosopher, and is therefore just as free
from prejudices as we are. Nevertheless, certain as I am that she would
meet the test, I am far from intending that it should be imposed upon
her. To possess a woman outwardly passive but inwardly resistant, would
be far from satisfying my desires, least of all in the present case. I
wish, not merely as a lover, but also as one beloved, to taste a rapture
which I should be prepared to pay for with my life. Understand this
clearly, Lorenzi. For the reason I have explained, Marcolina must not
for an instant suspect that I am the man whom she is clasping to her
sweet bosom; she must be firmly convinced that you are in her arms. It
is your part to pave the way for this deception; mine to maintain it.
You will not have much difficulty in making her understand that you will
have to leave her before dawn. Nor need you be at a loss for a pretext
as to the necessity for perfectly mute caresses when you return at
night, as you will promise to return. To avert all danger of discovery
at the last moment, I shall, when the time comes for me to leave, act as
if I heard a suspicious noise outside the window. Seizing my cloak,--or
rather yours, which you must of course lend me for the occasion--I shall
vanish through the window, never to return. For, of course, I shall take
my leave this evening. But half-way back to Mantua, telling the coachman
that I have forgotten some important papers, I shall return here on
foot. Entering the garden by the side door (you must give me the
master-key), I shall creep to Marcolina's window, which must be
opened for me at midnight. I shall have taken off my clothes in the
carriage, even to my shoes and stockings, and shall wear only your
cloak, so that when I take to flight nothing will be left to betray
either you or me. The cloak and the two thousand ducats will be at your
disposal at five o'clock to-morrow morning in the inn at Mantua, so that
you may deliver over the money to the Marchese even before the appointed
hour. I pledge my solemn oath to fulfil my side of the bargain. I have
Suddenly he stood still. The sun was near to setting. A gentle breeze
made the yellow ears rustle; the tower of Olivo's house glowed red in
the evening light. Lorenzi, too, halted. His pale face was motionless,
as he gazed into vacancy over Casanova's shoulder. His arms hung limp by
his sides, whereas Casanova's hand, ready for any emergency, rested as
if by chance upon the hilt of his sword. A few seconds elapsed, and
Lorenzi was still silent. He seemed immersed in tranquil thought, but
Casanova remained on the alert, holding the kerchief with the ducats in
his left hand, but keeping the right upon his sword-hilt. He spoke once
"You have honorably fulfilled my conditions. I know that it has not been
easy. For even though we may be free from prejudices, the atmosphere
in which we live is so full of them that we cannot wholly escape their
influence. And just as you, Lorenzi, during the last quarter of an hour,
have more than once been on the point of seizing me by the throat; so I,
I must confess, played for a time with the idea of giving you the
two thousand ducats as to my friend. Rarely, Lorenzi, have I been so
strangely drawn to anyone as I was to you from the first. But had
I yielded to this generous impulse, the next moment I should have
regretted it bitterly. In like manner you, Lorenzi, hi the moment before
you blow your brains out, would desperately regret having been such a
fool as to throw away a thousand nights of love with new and ever new
women for one single night of love which neither night nor day was to
Lorenzi remained mute. His silence continued for many minutes, until
Casanova began to ask himself how long his patience was to be tried.
He was on the point of departing with a curt salutation, and of thus
indicating that he understood his proposition to have been rejected,
when Lorenzi, without a word slowly moved his right hand backwards into
the tail-pocket of his coat. Casanova, ever on his guard, instantly
stepped back a pace, and was ready to duck. Lorenzi handed him the key
of the garden door.
Casanova's movement, which had certainly betokened fear, brought to
Lorenzi's lips the flicker of a contemptuous smile. Casanova was able to
repress all sign of his rising anger, for he knew that had he given way
to it he might have ruined his design. Taking the key with a nod, he
merely said: "No doubt that means Yes. In an hour from now--an hour will
suffice for your understanding with Marcolina--I shall expect you in
the turret chamber. There, in exchange for your cloak, I shall have the
pleasure of handing you the two thousand gold pieces without further
delay. First of all, as a token of confidence; and secondly because I
really do not know what I should do with the money during the night."
They parted without further formality. Lorenzi returned to the house by
the path along which they had both come. Casanova made his way to the
village by a different route. At the inn there, by paying a considerable
sum as earnest money, he was able to arrange for a carriage to await
him at ten o'clock that evening for the drive from Olivo's house into
Returning to the house, Casanova disposed of his gold in a safe corner
of the turret chamber. Thence he descended to the garden, where a
spectacle awaited him, not in itself remarkable, but one which touched
him strangely in his present mood. Upon a bench at the edge of the
greensward Olivo was sitting beside Amalia, his arm round her waist.
Reclining at their feet were the three girls, tired out by the
afternoon's play. Maria, the youngest, had her head in her mother's lap,
and seemed to be asleep; Nanetta lay at full length on the grass with
her head pillowed on her arm; Teresina was leaning against her father's
knee, and he was stroking her hair. As Casanova drew near, Teresina
greeted him, not with the look of lascivious understanding which he had
involuntarily expected, but with a frank smile of childlike confidence,
as if what had passed between them only a few hours before had been
nothing more than some trivial pastime. Olivo's face lighted up in
friendly fashion, and Amalia nodded a cordial greeting. It was plain to
Casanova that they were receiving him as one who had just performed a
generous deed, but who would prefer, from a sense of refinement, that no
allusion should be made to the matter.
"Are you really determined to leave us tomorrow, Chevalier?" enquired
"Not to-morrow," answered Casanova, "but, as I told you, this very
Olivo would fain have renewed his protests, but Casanova shrugged,
saying in a tone of regret: "Unfortunately, my letter from Venice leaves
me no option. The summons sent to me is so honorable in every respect
that to delay my return home would be an unpardonable affront to my
distinguished patrons." He asked his host and hostess to excuse him for
a brief space. He would go to his room, make all ready for departure,
and would then be able to enjoy the last hours of his stay undisturbed
in his dear friends' company.
Disregarding further entreaties, he went to the turret chamber, and
first of all changed his attire, since the simpler suit must suffice
for the journey. He then packed his valise, and listened for Lorenzi's
footsteps with an interest which grew keener from moment to moment.
Before the time was up, Lorenzi, knocking once at the door, entered,
wearing a dark blue riding-cloak. Without a word, he slipped the cloak
from his shoulders and let it fall to the floor, where it lay between
the two men, a shapeless mass of cloth. Casanova withdrew his kerchief
filled with the gold pieces from beneath the bolster, and emptied the
money on the table. He counted the coins under Lorenzi's eyes--a process
which was soon over, for many of the gold pieces were worth several
ducats each. Putting the stipulated sum into two purses, he handed
these to Lorenzi. This left about a hundred ducats for himself. Lorenzi
stuffed the purses into his tail-pockets, and was about to leave, still
"Wait a moment, Lorenzi," said Casanova. "Our paths in life may cross
once again. If so let us meet as friends. We have made a bargain like
many another bargain; let us cry quits."
Casanova held out his hand. Lorenzi would not take it. He spoke for the
first time. "I cannot recall that anything was said about this in our
agreement." Turning on his heel he left the room. "Do we stand so
strictly upon the letter, my friend?" thought Casanova. "It behooves me
all the more to see to it that I am not duped in the end." In truth, he
had given no serious thought to this possibility. He knew from personal
experience that such men as Lorenzi have their own peculiar code of
honor, a code which cannot be written in formal propositions, but which
they can be relied upon to observe.
He packed Lorenzi's cloak in the top of the valise. Having stowed away
upon his person the remaining gold pieces, he took a final glance round
the room which he was never likely to revisit. Then with sword and hat,
ready for the journey, he made his way to the hall, where he found
Olivo, Amalia, and the children already seated at table. At the same
instant, Marcolina entered by the garden door. The coincidence was
interpreted by Casanova as a propitious sign. She answered his
salutation with a frank inclination of the head.
Supper was now served. The conversation dragged a little at first, as if
all were oppressed by the thought of the imminent leave-taking. Amalia
seemed busied with her girls, concerned to see that they were not helped
to too much or too little. Olivo, somewhat irrelevantly, began to speak
of a trifling lawsuit he had just won against a neighboring landowner.
Next he referred to a business journey to Mantua and Cremona, which he
would shortly have to undertake. Casanova expressed the hope that ere
long he would be able to entertain his friend in Venice, a city which,
by a strange chance, Olivo had never visited. Amalia had seen the place
of wonder as a child. She could not recall the journey thither, but
could only remember having seen an old man wrapped in a scarlet cloak,
disembarking from a long black boat. He had stumbled and had fallen
"Have you never been to Venice either?" asked Casanova of Marcolina, who
was seated facing him, so that she could see over his shoulder into the
deep gloom of the garden. She shook her head. Casanova mused: "If I
could but show you the city in which I passed my youth! Had you but been
young with me!" Another thought, as foolish as both of these, crossed
his mind: "Even now, if I could but take you there with me."
While thus thinking, at the same time, with the ease of manner peculiar
to him in moments of great excitement, he began to speak of his native
city. At first his language was cool; he used an artist's touch, as if
painting a picture. Warming up by degrees, he entered into details of
personal history, so that of a sudden his own figure appeared in the
centre of the canvas, filling it with life. He spoke of his mother,
the celebrated actress, for whom her admirer Goldoni had written his
admirable comedy, _La Pupilla_. Next he recounted the unhappy days spent
in Dr. Gozzi's boarding school. Then he spoke of his childish passion
for the gardener's little daughter, who had subsequently run away with a
lackey; of his first sermon as a young abbate, after which he found in
the offertory bag, in addition to the usual collection, a number of love
letters; of his doings as a fiddler in the orchestra of the San Samueli
Theatre; of the pranks which he and his companions had played in the
alleys, taverns, dancing halls, and gaming-houses of Venice--sometimes
masked and sometimes unmasked. In telling the story of these riotous
escapades, he was careful to avoid the use of any offensive epithet. He
phrased his narrative in choice imaginative language, as if paying due
regard to the presence of the young girls, who, like their elders,
including Marcolina, listened with rapt attention. The hour grew late,
and Amalia sent her daughters to bed. They all kissed Casanova a tender
good-night, Teresina behaving exactly like her sisters. He made them
promise that they would soon come with their father and mother to visit
him in Venice. When they had gone, he spoke with less restraint, but
continued to avoid any unsuitable innuendo or display of vanity. His
audience might have imagined themselves listening to the story of a
Parsifal rather than to that of a Casanova, the dangerous seducer and
He told them of the fair Unknown who had travelled with him for weeks
disguised as a man in officer's uniform, and one morning had suddenly
disappeared from his side; of the daughter of the gentleman cobbler in
Madrid who, in the intervals between their embraces, had studiously
endeavored to make a good Catholic of him; of Lia, the lovely Jewess of
Turin, who had a better seat on horseback than any princess; of Manon
Balletti, sweet and innocent, the only woman he had almost married; of
the singer whom he had hissed in Warsaw because of her bad performance,
whereupon he had had to fight a duel with her lover, General Branitzky,
and had been compelled to flee the city; of the wicked woman Charpillon,
who had made such an abject fool of him in London; of the night when he
crossed the lagoons to Murano on the way to his adored nun, the night
when he nearly lost his life in a storm; of Croce the gamester, who,
after losing a fortune at Spa, had taken a tearful farewell of Casanova
upon the high-road, and had set off on his way to St. Petersburg, just
as he was, wearing silk stockings and a coat of apple-green satin, and
carrying nothing but a walking cane.
He told of actresses, singers, dressmakers, countesses, dancers,
chambermaids; of gamblers, officers, princes, envoys, financiers,
musicians, and adventurers. So carried away was he by the rediscovered
charm of his own past, so completely did the triumph of these splendid
though irrecoverable experiences eclipse the consciousness of the
shadows that encompassed his present, that he was on the point of
telling the story of a pale but pretty girl who in a twilit church at
Mantua had confided her love troubles to him--absolutely forgetting that
this same girl, sixteen years older, now sat at the table before him
as the wife of his friend Olivo--when the maid came in to say that the
carriage was waiting. Instantly, with his incomparable talent for doing
the right thing, Casanova rose to bid adieu. He again pressed Olivo, who
was too much affected to speak, to bring wife and children to visit him
in Venice. Having embraced his friend, he approached Amalia with
intent to embrace her also, but she held out her hand and he kissed it
When he turned to Marcolina, she said: "You ought to write down
everything you told us this evening, Chevalier, and a great deal more,
just as you have penned the story of your flight from The Leads."
"Do you really mean that, Marcolina?" he enquired, with the shyness of a
She smiled with gentle mockery, saying: "I fancy such a book might prove
far more entertaining than your polemic against Voltaire."
"Very likely," he thought. "Perhaps I may follow your advice some day.
If so, you, Marcolina, shall be the theme of the last chapter."
This notion, and still more the thought that the last chapter was to be
lived through that very night, made his face light up so strangely that
Marcolina, who had given him her hand in farewell, drew it away
again before he could stoop to kiss it. Without betraying either
disappointment or anger, Casanova turned to depart, after signifying,
with one of those simple gestures of which he was a master, his desire
that no one, not even Olivo, should follow him.
He strode rapidly through the chestnut avenue, handed a gold piece to
the maid who had brought his valise to the carriage, took his seat and
The sky was overcast. In the village, lamps were still burning in some
of the cottages; but by the time the carriage regained the open road,
the only light piercing the darkness was supplied by the yellow rays of
the lantern dangling from the shaft. Casanova opened the valise, took
out Lorenzi's cloak, flung it over his shoulders, and under this cover
rapidly undressed. He packed the discarded clothing, together with shoes
and stockings, in the valise, and wrapped himself in the cloak. Then he
called to the coachman:
"Stop, we must drive back!"
The coachman turned heavily hi his seat.
"I have left some of my papers in the house. Don't you understand? We
must drive back."
When the coachman, a surly, thin greybeard, still hesitated, Casanova
said: "Of course I will pay you extra for your trouble. Here you are!"
He pressed a gold piece into the man's hand.
The coachman nodded, muttered something, gave his horse a needless cut
with the whip, and turned the carriage round. When they drove back
through the village, all the houses were dark. A little farther on, the
coachman was about to turn into the by-road leading up the gentle ascent
to Olivo's house.
"Halt!" cried Casanova. "We won't drive any nearer, lest we should wake
them all up. Wait for me here at the corner. I shall be back in a minute
or two. If I should happen to keep you longer, you shall have a ducat
for every hour!"
The man by his nod seemed to show he understood what was afoot.
Casanova descended and made quickly past the closed door and along the
wall to the corner. Here began the path leading through the vineyards.
It still led along the wall. Having walked it twice by daylight,
Casanova had no difficulty in the dark. Half way up the hill came a
second angle in the wall. Here he had again to turn to the right, across
soft meadow-land, and in the pitchy night had to feel along the wall
until he found the garden door. At length his fingers recognized the
change from smooth stone to rough wood, and he could easily make out the
framework of the narrow door. He unlocked it, entered the garden, and
made all fast again behind him.
Across the greensward he could now discern house and tower. They seemed
incredibly far off and yet incredibly large. He stood where he was for a
while, looking around. What to other eyes would have been impenetrable
darkness, was to him no more than deep twilight. The gravel path
being painful to his bare feet, he walked upon the greensward, where,
moreover, his footfall made no sound. So light was his tread that he
felt as if soaring.
"Has my mood changed," he thought, "since those days when, as a man of
thirty, I sought such adventures? Do I not now, as then, feel all the
ardors of desire and all the sap of youth course through my veins? Am I
not, as of old, Casanova? Being Casanova, why should I be subject, as
others are subject, to the pitiful law which is called age!"
Growing bolder, he asked himself: "Why am I creeping in disguise to
Marcolina? Is not Casanova a better man than Lorenzi, even though he be
thirty years older? Is not she the one woman who would have understood
the incomprehensible? Was it needful to commit this lesser rascality,
and to mislead another man into the commission of a greater rascality?
Should I not, with a little patience, have reached the same goal?
Lorenzi would in any case have gone to-morrow, whilst I should have
remained. Five days, three days, and she would have given herself to me,
knowing me to be Casanova."
He stood close to the wall of the house beneath Marcolina's window,
which was still closed. His thoughts ran on: "Is it too late? I
could come back to-morrow or the next day. Could begin the work of
seduction--in honorable fashion, so to speak. To-night would be but a
foretaste of the future. Marcolina must not learn that I have been here
to-day--or not until much later."
Marcolina's window was still closed. There was no sign from within. It
wanted a few minutes to midnight. Should he make his presence known in
any way? By tapping gently at the window? Since nothing of this sort had
been arranged, it might arouse Marcolina's suspicions. Better wait. It
could not be much longer. The thought that she might instantly recognize
him, might detect the fraud before he had achieved his purpose, crossed
his mind--not for the first time, yet as a passing fancy, as a remote
possibility which it was logical to take into account, but not anything
to be seriously dreaded.
A ludicrous adventure now recurred to his mind. Twenty years ago he had
spent a night with a middle-aged ugly vixen in Soleure, when he had
imagined himself to be possessing a beautiful young woman whom he
adored. He recalled how next day, in a shameless letter, she had derided
him for the mistake that she had so greatly desired him to make and
that she had compassed with such infamous cunning. He shuddered at the
thought. It was the last thing he would have wished to think of just
now, and he drove the detestable image from his mind.
It must be midnight! How long was he to stand shivering there? Waiting
in vain, perhaps? Cheated, after all? Two thousand ducats for nothing.
Lorenzi behind the curtain, mocking at the fool outside!
Involuntarily he gripped the hilt of the sword he carried beneath the
cloak, pressed to his naked body. After all, with a fellow like Lorenzi
one must be prepared for any tricks.
At that instant he heard a gentle rattling, and knew it was made by the
grating of Marcolina's window hi opening. Then both wings of the window
were drawn back, though the curtain still veiled the interior. Casanova
remained motionless for a few seconds more, until the curtain was pulled
aside by an unseen hand. Taking this as a sign, he swung himself over
the sill into the room, and promptly closed window and grating behind
him. The curtain had fallen across his shoulders, so that he had to push
his way beneath it. Now he would have been in absolute darkness had
there not been shining from the depths of the distance, incredibly far
away, as if awakened by his own gaze, the faintest possible illumination
to show him the way. No more than three paces forward, and eager arms
enfolded him. Letting the sword slip from his hand, the cloak from his
shoulders, he gave himself up to his bliss.
From Marcolina's sigh of surrender, from the tears of happiness which
he kissed from her cheeks, from the ever-renewed warmth with which she
received his caresses, he felt sure that she shared his rapture; and
to him this rapture seemed more intense than he had ever experienced,
seemed to possess a new and strange quality. Pleasure became worship;
passion was transfused with an intense consciousness. Here at last was
the reality which he had often falsely imagined himself to be on the
point of attaining, and which had always eluded his grasp. He held in
his arms a woman upon whom he could squander himself, with whom he could
feel himself inexhaustible; the woman upon whose breast the moment of
ultimate self-abandonment and of renewed desire seemed to coalesce into
a single instant of hitherto unimagined spiritual ecstasy. Were not life
and death, time and eternity, one upon these lips? Was he not a god?
Were not youth and age merely a fable; visions of men's fancy? Were not
home and exile, splendor and misery, renown and oblivion, senseless
distinctions, fit only for the use of the uneasy, the lonely, the
frustrate; had not the words become unmeaning to one who was Casanova,
and who had found Marcolina?
More contemptible, more absurd, as the minutes passed, seemed to him
the prospect of keeping the resolution which he had made when still
pusillanimous, of acting on the determination to flee out of this night
of miracle dumbly, unrecognized, like a thief. With the infallible
conviction that he must be the bringer of delight even as he was the
receiver of delight, he felt prepared for the venture of disclosing his
name, even though he knew all the time that he would thus play for
a great stake, the loss of which would involve the loss of his very
existence. He was still shrouded in impenetrable darkness, and until the
first glimmer of dawn made its way through the thick curtain, he could
postpone a confession upon whose favorable acceptance by Marcolina his
fate, nay his life, depended.
Besides, was not this mute, passionately sweet association the very
thing to bind Marcolina to him more firmly with each kiss that they
enjoyed? Would not the ineffable bliss of this night transmute into
truth what had been conceived in falsehood? His duped mistress, woman
of women, had she not already an inkling that it was not Lorenzi, the
stripling, but Casanova, the man, with whom she was mingling in these
He began to deem it possible that he might be spared the so greatly
desired and 'yet so intensely dreaded moment of revelation. He fancied
that Marcolina, thrilling, entranced, transfigured, would spontaneously
whisper his name. Then, when she had forgiven him, he would take her
with him that very hour. Together they would leave the house in the grey
dawn; together they would seek the carriage that was waiting at the
turn of the road; together they would drive away. She would be his for
evermore. This would be the crown of his life; that at an age when
others were doomed to a sad senility, he, by the overwhelming might of
his unconquerable personality, would have won for himself the youngest,
the most beautiful, the most gifted of women.
For this woman was his as no woman had ever been before. He glided with
her through mysterious, narrow canals, between palaces in whose
shadows he was once more at home, under high-arched bridges which
blurred figures were swiftly crossing. Many of the wayfarers glanced
down for a moment over the parapet, and vanished ere their faces could
Now the gondola drew alongside. A marble stairway led up to the stately
mansion of Senator Bragadino. It was the only palace holding festival.
Masked guests were ascending and descending. Many of them paused with
inquisitive glances; but who could recognize Casanova and Marcolina in
He entered the hall with her. Here was a great company playing for high
stakes. All the senators, Bragadino among them, were seated round the
table in their purple robes. As Casanova came through the door, they
whispered his name as if terror-stricken, for the flashing of his eyes
behind the mask had disclosed his identity. He did not sit down; he did
not take any cards, and yet he joined in the game. He won. He won all
the gold on the table, and this did not suffice. The senators had to
give him notes of hand. They lost their possessions, their palaces,
their purple robes; they were beggars; they crawled round him clad in
rags, kissing his hands.
Nearby, in a hall with crimson hangings, there was music and dancing.
Casanova wished to dance with Marcolina, but she had vanished. Once
again the senators in their purple robes were seated at the table; but
now Casanova knew that the hazards at stake were not those of a game of
cards; he knew that the destinies of accused persons, some criminal and
some innocent, hung in the balance.
What had become of Marcolina? Had he not been holding her by the hand
all the time? He rushed down the staircase. The gondola was waiting.
On, on, through the maze of canals. Of course the gondolier knew where
Marcolina was; but why was he, too, masked? That had not been the custom
of old in Venice. Casanova wished to question him, but was afraid. Does
a man become so cowardly when he grows old?
Onward, ever onward. How huge Venice had grown during these
five-and-twenty years! At length the houses came to an end; the canal
opened out; they were passing between islands; there stood the walls of
the Murano nunnery, to which Marcolina had fled.
There was no gondola now; he had to swim; how delightful! It was true
that in Venice the children were playing with his gold pieces. But what
was money to him? The water was now warm, now cold; it dripped from his
clothing as he climbed over the wall.
"Where is Marcolina?" he enquired in the parlor, in loud, challenging
tones such as only a prince would dare to use.
"I will summon her," said the Lady Abbess, and sank into the ground.
Casanova wandered about; he had wings; he fluttered to and fro along the
gratings, fluttered like a bat. "If I had only known sooner that I can
fly," he thought. "I will teach Marcolina."
Behind the gratings, the figures of women were moving hither and
thither. They were nuns--and yet they were all wearing secular dress.
He knew it, though he could not really see them. He knew who they were.
Henriette the Unknown; Corticelli and Cristina, the dancers; the bride;
Dubois the Beautiful; the accurst vixen of Soleure; Manon Balletti; a
hundred others--but never Marcolina!
"You have betrayed me," he cried to the gondolier, who was waiting for
him beneath. Never had he hated anyone as he hated this gondolier, and
he swore to take an exquisite revenge.
But how foolish he had been to seek Marcolina in the Murano nunnery when
she had gone to visit Voltaire. It was fortunate that he could fly,
since he had no money left with which to pay for a carriage.
He swam away. But he was no longer enjoying himself. The water grew
colder and colder; he was drifting out into the open sea, far from
Murano, far from Venice, and there was no ship within sight; his heavy
gold-embroidered garments were dragging him down; he tried to strip
them off, but it was impossible, for he was holding his manuscript, the
manuscript he had to give to M. Voltaire. The water was pouring into
his mouth and nose; deadly fear seized him; he clutched at impalpable
things; there was a rattling in his throat; he screamed; and with a
great effort he opened his eyes.
Between the curtain and the window-frame the dawn was making its way
through in a narrow strip of light. Marcolina, in her white nightdress
and with hands crossed upon her bosom, was standing at the foot of the
bed contemplating Casanova with unutterable horror. Her glance instantly
recalled him to his senses. Involuntarily he stretched out his arms
towards her with a gesture of appeal. Marcolina, as if rejecting this
appeal, waved him away with her left hand, while with the right she
continued to grasp her raiment convulsively. Casanova sat up, his eyes
riveted upon her. Neither was able to look away from the other. His
expression was one of rage and shame; hers was one of shame and
disgust. Casanova knew how she saw him, for he saw himself figured
in imagination, just as he had seen himself yesterday in the bedroom
mirror. A yellow, evil face, deeply lined, with thin lips and staring
eyes--a face three times worse than that of yesterday, because of
the excesses of the night, the ghastly dream of the morning, and the
terrible awakening. And what he read in Marcolina's countenance was not
what he would a thousand times rather have read there; it was not thief,
libertine, villain. He read only something which crushed him to earth
more ignominiously than could any terms of abuse; he read the word which
to him was the most dreadful of all words, since it passed a final
judgment upon him--old man.
Had it been within his power to annihilate himself by a spell, he would
have done so, that he might be spared from having to creep out of the
bed and display himself to Marcolina in his nakedness, which must appear
to her more loathsome than the sight of some loathsome beast.
But Marcolina, as if gradually collecting herself, and manifestly in
order to give him the opportunity which was indispensable, turned her
face to the wall. He seized the moment to get out of bed, to raise the
cloak from the floor, and to wrap himself in it. He was quick, too, to
make sure of his sword. Now, when he conceived himself to have at least
escaped the worst contumely of all, that of ludicrousness, he began to
wonder whether it would not be possible to throw another light upon this
affair in which he cut so pitiful a figure. He was an adept in the use
of language. Could he not somehow or other, by a few well-chosen words,
give matters a favorable turn?
From the nature of the circumstances, it was evidently impossible for
Marcolina to doubt that Lorenzi had sold her to Casanova. Yet however
intensely she might hate her wretched lover at that moment, Casanova
felt that he himself, the cowardly thief, must seem a thousand times
Perhaps another course offered better promise of satisfaction. He might
degrade Marcolina by mockery and lascivious phrases, full of innuendo.
But this spiteful idea could not be sustained in face of the aspect she
had now assumed. Her expression of horror had gradually been transformed
into one of infinite sadness, as if it had been not Marcolina's
womanhood alone which had been desecrated by Casanova, but as if during
the night that had just closed a nameless and inexpiable offence had
been committed by cunning against trust, by lust against love, by age
against youth. Beneath this gaze which, to Casanova's extremest torment,
reawakened for a brief space all that was still good in him, he turned
away. Without looking round at Marcolina, he went to the window, drew
the curtain aside, opened casement and grating, cast a glance round the
garden which still seemed to slumber in the twilight, and swung himself
across the sill into the open.
Aware of the possibility that someone in the house might already be
awake and might spy him from a window, he avoided the greensward and
sought cover in the shaded alley. Passing through the door in the wall,
he had hardly closed it behind him, when someone blocked his path. "The
gondolier!" was his first idea. For now he suddenly realized that the
gondolier in his dream had been Lorenzi. The young officer stood before
him. His silver-braided scarlet tunic glowed in the morning light.
"What a splendid uniform," was the thought that crossed Casanova's
confused, weary brain. "It looks quite new. I am sure it has not been
paid for." These trivial reflections helped him to the full recovery of
his wits; and as soon as he realized the situation, his mind was filled
with gladness. Drawing himself up proudly, and grasping the hilt of
his sword firmly beneath the cloak, he said in a tone of the utmost
amiability: "Does it not seem to you, Lieutenant Lorenzi, that this
notion of yours has come a thought too late?"
"By no means," answered Lorenzi, looking handsomer than any man Casanova
had ever seen before. "Only one of us two shall leave the place alive."
"What a hurry you are in, Lorenzi," said Casanova in an almost tender
tone. "Cannot the affair rest until we reach Mantua? I shall be
delighted to give you a lift in my carriage, which is waiting at the
turn of the road. There is a great deal to be said for observing the
forms in these matters, especially in such a case as ours."
"No forms are needed. You or I, Casanova, at this very hour." He drew
Casanova shrugged. "Just as you please, Lorenzi. But you might at least
remember that I shall be reluctantly compelled to appear in a very
inappropriate costume." He threw open the cloak and stood there nude,
playing with the sword in his hand.
Hate welled up in Lorenzi's eyes. "You shall not be at any
disadvantage," he said, and began to strip with all possible speed.
Casanova turned away, and for the moment wrapped himself in his cloak
once more, for though the sun was already piercing the morning mists,
the air was chill. Long shadows lay across the fields, cast by the
sparse trees on the hill-top. For an instant Casanova wondered whether
someone might not come down the path. Doubtless it was used only by
Olivo and the members of his household. It occurred to Casanova that
these were perhaps the last minutes of his life, and he was amazed at
his own calmness.
"M. Voltaire is a lucky fellow," came as a passing thought. But in truth
he had no interest in Voltaire, and he would have been glad at this
supreme moment to have been able to call up pleasanter images than that
of the old author's vulturine physiognomy. How strange it was that no
birds were piping in the trees over the wall. A change of weather must
be imminent. But what did the weather matter to him? He would rather
think of Marcolina, of the ecstasy he had enjoyed in her arms, and for
which he was now to pay dear. Dear? Cheap enough! A few years of an old
man's life hi penury and obscurity. What was there left for him to do in
the world? To poison Bragadino? Was it worth the trouble? Nothing was
worth the trouble. How few trees there were on the hill! He began to
count them. "Five ... seven ... ten.--Have I nothing better to do?"
"I am ready, Casanova."
Casanova turned smartly. Lorenzi stood before him, splendid in his
nakedness like a young god. No trace of meanness lingered in his face.
He seemed equally ready to kill or to die.
"What if I were to throw away my sword?" thought Casanova. "What if I
were to embrace him?" He slipped the cloak from his shoulders and stood
like Lorenzi, lean and naked.
Lorenzi lowered his point in salute, in accordance with the rules of
fence. Casanova returned the salute. Next moment they crossed blades,
and the steel glittered like silver in the sun.
"How long is it," thought Casanova, "since last I stood thus measuring
sword with sword?" But none of his serious duels now recurred to his
mind. He could think only of practice with the foils, such as ten years
earlier he used to have every morning with his valet Costa, the rascal
who afterwards bolted with a hundred and fifty thousand lire. "All the
same, he was a fine fencer; nor has my hand forgotten its cunning!
My arm is as true, my vision as keen, as ever..... Youth and age are
fables. Am I not a god? Are we not both gods? If anyone could see us
now. There are women who would pay a high price for the spectacle!"
The blades bent, the points sparkled; at each contact the rapiers sang
softly in the morning air. "A fight? No, a fencing match! Why this look
of horror, Marcolina? Are we not both worthy of your love? He is but a
youngster; I am Casanova!"
Lorenzi sank to the ground, thrust through the heart. The sword fell
from his grip. He opened his eyes wide, as if in utter astonishment.
Once he raised his head for a moment, while his lips were fixed in a wry
smile. Then the head fell back again, his nostrils dilated, there was a
slight rattling in his throat, and he was dead.
Casanova bent over him, kneeled beside the body, saw a few drops of
blood ooze from the wound, held his hand in front of Lorenzi's mouth
--but the breath was stilled. A cold shiver passed through Casanova's
frame. He rose and put on his cloak. Then, returning to the body, he
glanced at the fallen youth, lying stark on the turf in incomparable
beauty. The silence was broken by a soft rustling, as the morning breeze
stirred the tree-tops.
"What shall I do?" Casanova asked himself. "Shall I summon aid? Olivo?
Amalia? Marcolina? To what purpose? No one can bring him back to life."
He pondered with the calmness invariable to him in the most dangerous
moments of his career. "It may be hours before anyone finds him; perhaps
no one will come by before evening; perchance later still. That will
give me time, and time is of the first importance."
He was still holding his sword. Noticing that it was bloody, he wiped it
on the grass. He thought for a moment of dressing the corpse, but to do
this would have involved the loss of precious and irrecoverable minutes.
Paying the last duties, he bent once more and closed Lorenzi's eyes.
"Lucky fellow," he murmured; and then, dreamily, he kissed the dead
He strode along beside the wall, turned the angle, and regained the
road. The carriage was where he had left it, the coachman fast asleep
on the box. Casanova was careful to avoid waking the man at first. Not
until he had cautiously taken his seat did he call out: "Hullo, drive
on, can't you?" and prodded him in the back. The startled coachman
looked round, greatly astonished to find that it was broad daylight.
Then he whipped up his horse and drove off.
Casanova sat far back in the carriage, wrapped in the cloak which had
once belonged to Lorenzi. In the village a few children were to be seen
in the streets, but it was plain that the elders were already at work in
the fields. When the houses had been left behind Casanova drew a long
breath. Opening the valise, he withdrew his clothes, and dressed beneath
the cover of the cloak, somewhat concerned lest the coachman should
turn and discover his fare's strange behavior. But nothing of the sort
happened. Unmolested, Casanova was able to finish dressing, to pack away
Lorenzi's cloak, and resume his own.
Glancing skyward, Casanova saw that the heavens were overcast. He had
no sense of fatigue, but felt tense and wakeful. He thought over his
situation, considering it from every possible point of view, and coming
to the conclusion that, though grave, it was less alarming than it might
have seemed to timid spirits. He would probably be suspected of having
killed Lorenzi, but who could doubt that it had been in an honorable
fight? Besides, Lorenzi had been lying in wait, had forced the encounter
upon him, and no one could consider him a criminal for having fought in
self-defence. But why had he left the body lying on the grass like that
of a dead dog? Well, nobody could reproach him on that account. To flee
away swiftly had been well within his right, had been almost a duty. In
his place, Lorenzi would have done the same. But perhaps Venice would
hand him over? Directly he arrived, he would claim the protection of his
patron Bragadino. Yet this might involve his accusing himself of a deed
which would after all remain undiscovered, or at any rate would perhaps
never be laid to his charge. What proof was there against him? Had he
not been summoned to Venice? Who could say that he went thither as a
fugitive from justice? The coachman maybe, who had waited for him half
the night. One or two additional gold pieces would stop the fellow's
Thus his thoughts ran in a circle. Suddenly he fancied he heard the
sound of horses' hoofs from the road behind him. "Already?" was
his first thought. He leaned over the side of the carriage to look
backwards. All was clear. The carriage had driven past a farm, and the
sound he had heard had been the echo of his own horse's hoofs. The
discovery of this momentary self-deception quieted his apprehensions for
a time, so that it seemed to him the danger was over. He could now see
the towers of Mantua. "Drive on, man, drive on," he said under his
breath, for he did not really wish the coachman to hear. The coachman,
nearing the goal, had given the horse his head. Soon they reached the
gate through which Casanova had left the town with Olivo less than
forty-eight hours earlier. He told the coachman the name of the inn, and
in a few minutes the carriage drew up at the sign of the Golden Lion.
Casanova leaped from the carriage. The hostess stood in the doorway. She
was bright and smiling, in the mood apparently to give Casanova the warm
welcome of a lover whose absence has been regretted and whose return
has been eagerly desired. But Casanova looked warningly towards the
coachman, implying that the man might be an inconvenient witness, and
then told him to eat and drink to his heart's content.
"A letter from Venice arrived for you yesterday, Chevalier," announced
"Another?" enquired Casanova, going upstairs to his room.
The hostess followed. A sealed despatch was lying on the table. Casanova
opened it in great excitement. He was anxious lest it should prove to be
a revocation of the former offer. But the missive contained no more than
a few lines from Bragadino, enclosing a draft for two hundred and fifty
lire, in order that Casanova, should he have made up his mind to accept,
might instantly set out for Venice.
Turning to the hostess, Casanova explained with an air of well-simulated
vexation that he was unfortunately compelled to continue his journey
instantly. Were he to delay, he would risk losing the post which his
friend Bragadino had procured for him in Venice, a post for which there
were fully a hundred applicants. Threatening clouds gathered on the
hostess' face, so Casanova was prompt to add that all he proposed was to
make sure of the appointment and to receive his patent as secretary to
the Supreme Council. As soon as he was installed in office, he would ask
permission to return to Mantua, that he might arrange his affairs. Of
course this request could not be refused. He was going to leave most
of his effects here. When he returned, it would only depend upon his
beloved and charming friend whether she would give up inn-keeping and
accompany him to Venice as his wife. She threw her arms round his neck,
and with brimming eyes asked him whether before starting he would not at
least make a good breakfast, if she might bring it up to his room. He
knew she had in mind to provide a farewell feast, and though he felt
no appetite for it, he agreed to the suggestion simply to be rid of her.
As soon as she was gone, he packed his bag with such underclothing and
books as he urgently needed. Then, making his way to the parlor, where
the coachman was enjoying a generous meal, he asked the man whether, for
a sum which was more than double the usual fare, he would with the same
horse drive along the Venice road as far as the next posting station.
The coachman agreed without demur, thus relieving Casanova of his
principal anxiety for the time.
Now the hostess entered, flushed with annoyance, to ask whether he had
forgotten that his breakfast was awaiting him in his room. Casanova
nonchalantly replied that he had not forgotten for a moment, and begged
her, since he was short of time, to take his draft to the bank, and to
bring back the two hundred and fifty lire. While she was hastening to
fetch the money, Casanova returned to his room, and began to eat with
wolfish voracity. He continued his meal when the hostess came back;
stopping merely for an instant to pocket the money she brought him.
When he had finished eating, he turned to the woman. Thinking that her
hour had at length come, she had drawn near, and was pressing up against
him in a manner which could not be misunderstood. He clasped her
somewhat roughly, kissed her on both cheeks, and, although she was
obviously ready to grant him the last favors then and there, exclaimed:
"I must be off. Till our next meeting!" He tore himself away with
such violence that she fell back on to the corner of the couch. Her
expression, with its mingling of disappointment, rage, and impotence,
was so irresistibly funny that Casanova, as he closed the door behind
him, burst out laughing.
The coachman could not fail to realize that his fare was in a hurry, but
it was not his business to ask questions. He sat ready oil the box when
Casanova came out of the inn, and whipped up the horse the very moment
the passenger was seated. On his own initiative he decided not to drive
through the town, but to skirt it, and to rejoin the posting road upon
the other side. The sun was not yet high, for it was only nine o'clock.
Casanova reflected: "It is likely enough that Lorenzi's body has not
been found yet." He hardly troubled to think that he himself had killed
Lorenzi. All he knew was that he was glad to be leaving Mantua farther
and farther behind, and glad to have rest at last.
He fell into a deep sleep, the deepest he had ever known. It lasted
practically two days and two nights. The brief interruptions to his
slumbers necessitated by the change of horses from time to time, and the
interruptions that occurred when he was sitting in inns, or walking up
and down in front of posting stations, or exchanging a few casual words
with postmasters, innkeepers, customhouse officers, and travellers, did
not linger in his memory as individual details. Thus it came to pass
that the remembrance of these two days and nights merged as it were into
the dream he had dreamed in Marcolina's bed. Even the duel between the
two naked men upon the green turf in the early sunshine seemed somehow
to belong to this dream, wherein often enough, in enigmatic fashion, he
was not Casanova but Lorenzi; not the victor but the vanquished; not the
fugitive, but the slain round whose pale young body the lonely wind of
morning played. Neither he nor Lorenzi was any more real than were the
senators in the purple robes who had knelt before him like beggars; nor
any less real than such as that old fellow leaning against the parapet
of a bridge, to whom at nightfall he had thrown alms from the carriage.
Had not Casanova bent his powers of reason to the task of distinguishing
between real experiences and dream experiences, he might well have
imagined that in Marcolina's arms he had fallen into a mad dream from
which he did not awaken until he caught sight of the Campanile of
It was on the third morning of his journey that Casanova, having reached
Mestre, sighted once more the hell tower after over twenty years of
longing--a pillar of grey stone looming distantly in the twilight. It
was but two leagues now to the beloved city in which he had been young.
He paid the driver without remembering whether this was the fifth or
the sixth with whom he had had to settle since quitting Mantua, and,
followed by a lad carrying his baggage, walked through the mean streets
to the harbor from which to-day, just as five-and-twenty years earlier,
the boat was to leave for Venice at six in the morning.
The vessel seemed to have been waiting for him; hardly had he seated
himself upon a narrow bench, among petty traders, manual workers, and
women bringing their wares to market, when she cast off. It was a cloudy
morning; mist was rolling across the lagoons; there was a smell of
bilge-water, damp wood, fish, and fruit. The Campanile grew ever higher;
additional towers appeared; cupolas became visible. The light of the
morning sun was reflected from one roof, from two, from many. Individual
houses were distinguishable, growing larger by degrees. Boats, great and
small, showed through the mist; greetings were shouted from vessel to
vessel. The chatter around him grew louder. A little girl offered him
some grapes for sale. Munching the purple berries, he spat the skins
over the side after the manner of his countrymen. He entered into
friendly talk with someone who expressed satisfaction that the weather
seemed to be clearing at last.
"What, has it been raining here for three days? That is news to me. I
come from the south, from Naples and Rome."
The boat had entered the canals of the suburbs. Sordid houses stared at
him with dirty windows, as if with vacant, hostile eyes. Twice or thrice
the vessel stopped at a quay, and passengers came aboard; young fellows,
one of whom had a great portfolio under his arm; women with baskets.
Here, at last, was familiar ground. Was not that the church where
Martina used to go to confession? Was not that the house in which, after
his own fashion, he had restored the pallid and dying Agatha to ruddy
health? Was not that the place in which he had dealt with the charming
Sylvia's rascal of a brother, had beaten the fellow black and blue? Up
that canal to the right, in the small yellow house upon whose splashed
steps the fat, bare-footed woman was standing....
Before he had fully recaptured the distant memory attaching to the house
in question, the boat had entered the Grand Canal, and was passing
slowly up the broad waterway with palaces on either hand. To Casanova,
in his dreamy reflections, it seemed as if but yesterday he had
traversed the same route.
He disembarked at the Rialto Bridge, for, before visiting Signor
Bragadino, he wished to make sure of a room in a modest hostelry
nearby--he knew where it was, though he could not recall the name.
The place seemed more decayed, or at least more neglected, than he
remembered it of old. A sulky waiter, badly in need of a shave, showed
him to an uninviting room looking upon the blind wall of a house
opposite. Casanova had no time to lose. Moreover, since he had spent
nearly all his cash on the journey, the cheapness of these quarters was
a great attraction. He decided, therefore, to make his lodging there
for the present. Having removed the stains of travel, he deliberated for
a while whether to put on his finer suit; then decided it was better to
wear the soberer raiment, and walked out of the inn.
It was but a hundred paces, along a narrow alley and across a bridge, to
Bragadino's small but elegant palace. A young servingman with a rather
impudent manner took in Casanova's name in a way which implied that its
celebrity had no meaning for him. Returning from his master's apartments
with a more civil demeanor, he bade the guest enter.
Bragadino was seated at breakfast beside the open window, and made as if
to rise; but Casanova begged him not to disturb himself.
"My dear Casanova," exclaimed Bragadino, "How delighted I am to see
you once more! Who would have thought we should ever meet again?" He
extended both hands to the newcomer.
Casanova seized them as if to kiss them, but did not do so. He answered
the cordial greeting with warm words of thanks in the grandiloquent
manner usual to him on such occasions. Bragadino begged him to be
seated, and asked him whether he had breakfasted. Told that his guest
was still fasting, Bragadino rang for his servant and gave the
necessary orders. As soon as the man had gone, Bragadino expressed his
gratification that Casanova had so unreservedly accepted the Supreme
Council's offer. He would certainly not suffer for having decided to
devote himself to the service of his country. Casanova responded
by saying that he would deem himself happy if he could but win the
Such were Casanova's words, while his thoughts ran on. He could no
longer detect in himself any feeling of hatred towards Bragadino. Nay,
he realized that he was rather sorry for this man advanced in years and
grown a trifle foolish, who sat facing him with a sparse white beard and
red-rimmed eyes, and whose skinny hand trembled as he held his cup. The
last time Casanova had seen him, Bragadino had probably been about as
old as Casanova was to-day; but even then, to Casanova, Bragadino had
seemed an old man.
The servant brought in Casanova's breakfast. The guest needed little
pressing to induce him to make a hearty meal, for on the road he had had
no more than a few snacks.
"I have journeyed here from Mantua without pausing for a night's rest,
so eager was I to show my readiness to serve the Council and to prove
my undying gratitude to my benefactor."--This was his excuse for
the almost unmannerly greed with which he gulped down the steaming
Through the window, from the Grand Canal and the lesser canals, rose the
manifold noises of Venetian life. All other sounds were dominated by the
monotonous shouts of the gondoliers. Somewhere close at hand, perhaps in
the opposite palace (was it not the Fogazzari palace?), a woman with a
fine soprano voice was practising; the singer was young--someone who
could not have been born at the time when Casanova escaped from The
He ate rolls and butter, eggs, cold meat, continually excusing himself
for his outrageous hunger, while Bragadino looked on well pleased.
"I do like young people to have a healthy appetite," said the Senator.
"As far as I can remember, my dear Casanova, you have always been a
good trencherman!" He recalled to mind a meal which he and Casanova had
enjoyed together in the early days of their acquaintance. "Or rather, as
now, I sat looking on while you ate. I had not taken a long walk, as
you had. It was shortly after you had kicked that physician out of the
house, the man who had almost been the death of me with his perpetual
They went on talking of old times--when life had been better in Venice
than it was to-day.
"Not everywhere," said Casanova, with a smiling allusion to The Leads.
Bragadino waved away the suggestion, as if this were not a suitable time
for a reference to such petty disagreeables. "Besides, you must know
that I did everything I could to save you from punishment, though
unfortunately my efforts proved unavailing. Of course, if in those days
I had already been a member of the Council of Ten!"
This broached the topic of political affairs. Warming to his theme, the
old man recovered much of the wit and liveliness of earlier days.
He told Casanova many remarkable details concerning the unfortunate
tendencies which had recently begun to affect some of the Venetian
youth, and concerning the dangerous intrigues of which infallible signs
were now becoming manifest.
Casanova was thus well posted for his work. He spent the day in the
gloomy chamber at the inn; and, simply as a means to secure calm after
the recent excitements, he passed the hours in arranging his papers, and
in burning those of which he wished to be rid. When evening fell, he
made his way to the Cafe Quadri in the Square of St. Mark, since
this was supposed to be the chief haunt of the freethinkers and
revolutionists. Here he was promptly recognized by an elderly musician
who had at one time been conductor of the orchestra in the San Samueli
Theatre, where Casanova had been a violinist thirty years before. By
this old acquaintance, and without any advances on his own part, he was
introduced to the company. Most of them were young men, and many of
their names were those which Bragadino had mentioned in the morning as
belonging to persons of suspicious character.
But the name of Casanova did not produce upon his new acquaintances the
effect which he felt himself entitled to anticipate. It was plain that
most of them knew nothing more of Casanova than that, a great many years
ago, he had for one reason or another, and perhaps for no reason at
all, been imprisoned in The Leads; and that, surmounting all possible
dangers, he had made his escape. The booklet wherein, some years
earlier, he had given so lively a description of his flight, had
not indeed passed unnoticed; but no one seemed to have read it with
sufficient attention. Casanova found it amusing to reflect that it lay
within his power to help everyone of these young gentlemen to a speedy
personal experience of the conditions of prison life in The Leads, and
to a realization of the difficulties of escape. He was far, however,
from betraying the slightest trace that he harbored so ill-natured an
idea. On the contrary, he was able to play the innocent and to adopt an
amiable role. After his usual fashion, he entertained the company
by recounting all sorts of lively adventures, describing them as
experiences he had had during his last journey from Rome to Venice. In
substance these incidents were true enough, but they all dated from
fifteen or twenty years earlier. He secured an eager and interested
Another member of the company announced as a noteworthy item of news
that an officer of Mantua on a visit to a friend, a neighboring
landowner, had been murdered, and that the robbers had stripped him to
the skin. The story attracted no particular attention, for in those days
such occurrences were far from rare. Casanova resumed his narrative
where it had been interrupted, resumed it as if this Mantua affair
concerned him just as little as it concerned the rest of the company. In
fact, being now freed from a disquiet whose existence he had hardly been
willing to admit even to himself, his manner became brighter and bolder
It was past midnight when, after a light-hearted farewell, he walked
alone across the wide, empty square. The heavens were veiled in luminous
mist. He moved with the confident step of a sleep-walker. Without being
really conscious that he was on a path which he had not traversed for
five-and-twenty years, he found the way through tortuous alleys,
between dark houses, and over narrow bridges. At length he reached the
dilapidated inn, and had to knock repeatedly before the door was opened
to him with a slow unfriendliness.
When, a few minutes later, having but half undressed, he threw himself
upon his uneasy pallet, he was overwhelmed with a weariness amounting
to pain, while upon his lips was a bitter after-taste which seemed to
permeate his whole being. Thus, at the close of his long exile, did
he first woo sleep in the city to which he had so eagerly desired to
return. And here, when morning was about to break, the heavy and
dreamless sleep of exhaustion came to console the aging adventurer.
It is a historical fact that Casanova visited Voltaire at Ferney. There
is, however, no historical warrant for the account of the matter given
in the foregoing novel, and still less for the statement that Casanova
wrote a polemic against Voltaire. It is a historical fact, likewise,
that Casanova, when between fifty and sixty years of age, found it
necessary to enter Venetian service as a spy. Of this, and of many other
doings of the celebrated adventurer to which casual allusion is made in
the course of the novel, fuller and more accurate accounts will be found
in Casanova's _Memoirs_. Speaking generally, nevertheless, _Casanova's
Homecoming_ is to be regarded throughout as a work of fiction.