Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
THE ETERNAL QUEST, Volume 2a--PARIS AND HOLLAND
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
PARIS AND HOLLAND
Count Tiretta of Trevisa Abbe Coste--Lambertini, the Pope's Niece Her
Nick--Name for Tiretta The Aunt and Niece--Our Talk by the Fireside--
Punishment of Damien--Tiretta's Mistake Anger of Madame***--Their
Reconciliation--My Happiness with Mdlle. de la Meure Silvia's
Daughter--Mdlle, de la Meure Marries My Despair and Jealousy--A
Change far the Better
In the beginning of March, 1757, I received a letter from my friend
Madame Manzoni, which she sent to me by a young man of good
appearance, with a frank and high-born air, whom I recognized as a
Venetian by his accent. He was young Count Tiretta de Trevisa,
recommended to my care by Madame Manzoni, who said that he would tell
me his story, which I might be sure would be a true one. The kind
woman sent to me by him a small box in which she told me I should
find all my manuscripts, as she did not think she would ever see me
I gave Tiretta the heartiest of welcomes, telling him that he could
not have found a better way to my favour than through a woman to whom
I was under the greatest obligations.
"And now, that you may be at your ease with me, I should like to know
in what manner I can be of service to you?"
"I have need of your friendship, perhaps of your purse, but at any
rate of your protection."
"You have my friendship and my protection already, and my purse is at
After expressing his gratitude to me, Tiretta said,
"A year ago the Supreme Council of my country entrusted me with an
employment dangerous to one of my years. I was made, with some other
young gentlemen of my own age, a keeper of the Mont de Piete. The
pleasures of the carnival having put us to a good deal of expense, we
were short of money, and borrowed from the till hoping to be able to
make up the money before balancing-day, but hoping all in vain.
"The fathers of my two companions, richer than mine, paid the sums
they had taken, and I, not being able to pay, took the part of
escaping by flight from the shame and the punishment I should have
"Madame Manzoni advised me to throw myself on your mercy, and she
gave me a little box which you shall have to-day. I only got to
Paris yesterday, and have only two louis, a little linen, and the
clothes on my back. I am twenty-five, have an iron constitution, and
a determination to do all in my power to make an honest living; but I
can do nothing. I have not cultivated any one talent in a manner to
make use of it now. I can play on the flute, but only as an amateur.
I only know my own language, and I have no taste for literature. So
what can you make of me? I must add that I have not a single
expectation, least of all from my father, for to save the honour of
the family he will be obliged to sell my portion of the estate, to
which I shall have to bid an eternal farewell."
If the count's story had surprised me, the simplicity with which he
told it had given me pleasure; and I was resolved to do honour to
Madame Manzoni's introduction, feeling that it was my duty to serve a
fellow-countryman, who was really guilty of nothing worse than gross
"Begin," said I, "by bringing your small belongings to the room next
to mine, and get your meals there. I will pay for everything while I
am looking out for something which may do for you.
"We will talk of business to-morrow, for as I never dine here I
rarely if ever come home till late, and I do not expect to have the
honour of seeing you again today. Leave me for the present, as I
have got some work to do; and if you go out to walk, beware of bad
company, and whatever you do keep your own counsel. You are fond of
gaming, I suppose?"
"I hate it, as it has been the cause of half my troubles."
"And the other half, I'll wager, was caused by women."
"You have guessed aright--oh, those women!"
"Well, don't be angry with them, but make them pay for the ill they
have done you."
"I will, with the greatest pleasure, if I can."
"If you are not too particular in your goods, you will find Paris
rich in such commodities."
"What do you mean by particular? I would never be a prince's
"No, no, I was not thinking of that. I mean by 'particular' a man
who cannot be affectionate unless be is in love. The man who...."
"I see what you mean, and I can lay no claim to such a character.
Any hag with golden eyes will always find me as affectionate as a
"Well said! I shall soon be able to arrange matters for you."
"I hope you will."
"Are you going to the ambassador's?"
"Good God!--no! What should I do when I got there? Tell him my
story? He might make things unpleasant for me."
"Not without your going to see him, but I expect he is not concerning
himself with your case."
"That's all I ask him."
"Everybody, my dear count, is in mourning in Paris, so go to my
tailor's and get yourself a black suit. Tell him you come from me,
and say you want it by tomorrow. Good bye."
I went out soon after, and did not come back till midnight. I found
the box which Madame Manzoni had sent me in my room, and in it my
manuscripts and my beloved portraits, for I never pawned a snuff-box
without taking the portrait out.
Next day Tiretta made his appearance all in black, and thanked me for
"They are quick, you see, at Paris. It would have taken a week at
"Trevisa, my dear fellow, is not Paris."
As I said this, the Abbe de la Coste was announced. I did not know
the name, but I gave orders for him to be admitted; and there
presently appeared the same little priest with whom I had dined at
Versailles after leaving the Abbe de la Ville.
After the customary greetings he began by complimenting me on the
success of my lottery, and then remarked that I had distributed
tickets for more than six thousand francs.
"Yes," I said, "and I have tickets left for several thousands more."
"Very good, then I will invest a thousand crowns in it."
"Whenever you please. If you call at my office you can choose the
"No, I don't think I'll trouble to do so; give me any numbers just as
"Very good; here is the list you can choose from."
He chose numbers to the amount of three thousand francs, and then
asked me for a piece of paper to write an acknowledgment.
"Why so? I can't do business that way, as I only dispose of my
tickets for cash."
"But you may be certain that you will have the money to-morrow."
"I am quite sure I should, but you ought to be certain that you will
have the tickets to-morrow. They are registered at my office, and I
can dispose of them in no other manner."
"Give me some which are not registered."
"Impossible; I could not do it."
"Because if they proved to be winning numbers I should have to pay
out of my own pocket an honour I do not desire."
"Well, I think you might run the risk."
"I think not, if I wish to remain an honest man, at all events."
The abbe, who saw he could get nothing out of me, turned to Tiretta,
and began to speak to him in bad Italian, and at last offered to
introduce him to Madame de Lambertini, the widow of one of the Pope's
nephews. Her name, her relationship to the Pope, and the abbe's
spontaneous offer, made me curious to know more, so I said that my
friend would accept his offer, and that I would have the honour to be
of the party; whereupon we set out.
We got down at the door of the supposed niece of the Holy Father in
the Rue Christine, and we proceeded to go upstairs. We saw a woman
who, despite her youthful air, was, I am sure, not a day under forty.
She was rather thin, had fine black eyes, a good complexion, lively
but giddy manners, was a great laugher, and still capable of exciting
a passing fancy. I soon made myself at home with her, and found out,
when she began to talk, that she was neither a widow nor the niece of
the Pope. She came from Modena, and was a mere adventuress. This
discovery shewed me what sort of a man the abbe was.
I thought from his expression that the count had taken a fancy to
her, and when she asked us to dinner I refused on the plea of an
engagement; but Tiretta, who took my meaning, accepted. Soon after I
went away with the abbe, whom I dropped at the Quai de la Ferraille,
and I then went to beg a dinner at Calsabigi's.
After dinner Calsabigi took me on one side, and told me that M. du
Vernai had commissioned him to warn me that I could not dispose of
tickets on account.
"Does M. du Vernai take me for a fool or a knave? As I am neither,
I shall complain to M. de Boulogne."
"You will be wrong; he merely wanted to warn you and not offend you."
"You offend me very much yourself, sir, in talking to me in that
fashion; and you may make up your mind that no one shall talk to me
thus a second time."
Calsabigi did all in his power to quiet me down, and at last
persuaded me to go with him to M. du Vernai's. The worthy old
gentleman seeing the rage I was in apologized to me for what he had
said, and told me that a certain Abbe de la Coste had informed him
that I did so. At this I was highly indignant, and I told him what
had happened that morning, which let M. du Vernai know what kind of a
man the abbe was. I never saw him again, either because he got wind
of my discovery, or because a happy chance kept him out of my way;
but I heard, three years after, that he had been condemned to the
hulks for selling tickets of a Trevaux lottery which was non-
existent, and in the hulks he died.
Next day Tiretta came in, and said he had only just returned.
"You have been sleeping out, have you, master profligate?"
"Yes, I was so charmed with the she-pope that I kept her company all
"You were not afraid of being in the way?"
"On the contrary, I think she was thoroughly satisfied with my
"As far as I can see, you had to bring into play all your powers of
"She is so well pleased with my fluency that she has begged me to
accept a room in her house, and to allow her to introduce me as a
cousin to M. le Noir, who, I suppose, is her lover."
"You will be a trio, then; and how do you think you will get on
"That's her business. She says this gentleman will give me a good
situation in the Inland Revenue."
"Have you accepted her offer?"
"I did not refuse it, but I told her that I could do nothing without
your advice. She entreated me to get you to come to dinner with her
"I shall be happy to go."
I went with my friend, and as soon as the harebrain saw us she fell
on Tiretta's neck, calling him dear Count "Six-times"--a name which
stuck to him all the time he was at Paris.
"What has gained my friend so fine a title, madam?"
"His erotic achievements. He is lord of an honour of which little is
known in France, and I am desirous of being the lady."
"I commend you for so noble an ambition."
After telling me of his feats with a freedom which chewed her
exemption from vulgar prejudice, she informed me that she wished her
cousin to live in the same house, and had already obtained M. le
Noir's permission, which was given freely.
"M. le Noir," added the fair Lambertini, "will drop in after.
dinner, and I am dying to introduce Count 'Sixtimes' to him."
After dinner she kept on speaking of the mighty deeds of my
countryman, and began to stir him up, while he, no doubt, pleased to
have a witness to his exploits, reduced her to silence. I confess
that I witnessed the scene without excitement, but as I could not
help seeing the athletic person of the count, I concluded that he
might fare well everywhere with the ladies.
About three o'clock two elderly women arrived, to whom the Lambertini
eagerly introduced Count "Six-times." In great astonishment they
enquired the origin of his title, and the heroine of the story having
whispered it to them, my friend became an object of interest.
"I can't believe it," said one of these ladies, ogling the count,
while his face seemed to say,
"Would you like to try?"
Shortly after, a coach stopped at the door, and a fat woman of
middle-aged appearance and a very pretty girl were ushered in; after
them came a pale man in a black suit and a long wig. After greeting
them in a manner which implied intimacy, the Pope's niece introduced
her cousin Count "Six-strokes". The elderly woman seemed to be
astonished at such a name, but the Lambertini gave no explanation.
Nevertheless, people seemed to think it rather curious that a man who
did not know a word of French should be living in Paris, and that in
spite of his ignorance he continued to jabber away in an easy manner,
though nobody could understand what he was talking about.
After some foolish conversation, the Pope's niece proposed a game at
Loo. She asked me to play but on my refusing did not make a point of
it, but she insisted on her cousin being her partner.
"He knows nothing about cards," said she; "but that's no matter, he
will learn, and I will undertake to instruct him."
As the girl, by whose beauty I was struck, did not understand the
game, I offered her a seat by the fire, asking her to grant me the
honour of keeping her company, whereupon the elderly woman who had
brought her began to laugh, and said I should have some difficulty in
getting her niece to talk about anything, adding, in a polite manner,
that she hoped I would be lenient with her as she had only just left
a convent. I assured her that I should have no difficulty in amusing
myself with one so amiable, and the game having begun I took up my
position near the pretty niece.
I had been near her for several minutes, and solely occupied in mute
admiration of her beauty, when she asked me who was that handsome
gentleman who talked so oddly.
"He is a nobleman, and a fellow-countryman of mine, whom an affair of
honour has banished from his country."
"He speaks a curious dialect."
"Yes, but the fact is that French is very little spoken in Italy; he
will soon pick it up in Paris, and then he will be laughed at no
longer. I am sorry to have brought him here, for in less than
twenty-four hours he was spoiled."
"I daren't tell you as, perhaps, your aunt would not like it."
"I don't think I should tell her, but, perhaps, I should not have
"Oh, yes! you should; and as you wish to know I will make no mystery
of it. Madame Lambertini took a fancy to him; they passed the night
together, and in token of the satisfaction he gave her she has given
him the ridiculous nickname of 'Count Sixtimes.' That's all. I am
vexed about it, as my friend was no profligate."
Astonishment--and very reasonable astonishment--will be expressed
that I dared to talk in this way to a girl fresh from a convent; but
I should have been astonished myself at the bare idea of any
respectable girl coming to Lambertini's house. I fixed my gaze on my
fair companion, and saw the blush of shame mounting over her pretty
face; but I thought that might have more than one meaning.
Judge of my surprise when, two minutes afterwards, I heard this
"But what has 'Sixtimes' got to do with sleeping with Madame
"My dear young lady, the explanation is perfectly simple: my friend
in a single night did what a husband often takes six weeks to do."
"And you think me silly enough to tell my aunt of what we have been
talking? Don't believe it."
"But there's another thing I am sorry about."
"You shall tell me what that is directly."
The reason which obliged the charming niece to retire for a few
minutes may be guessed without our going into explanations. When she
came back she went behind her aunt's chair, her eyes fixed on
Tiretta, and then came up to me, and taking her seat again, said:
"Now, what else is it that you are sorry about?" her eyes sparkling
as she asked the question.
"May I tell you, do you think?"
"You have said so much already, that I don't think you need have any
scruples in telling me the rest."
"Very good: you must know, then, that this very day and in my
presence he ------ her."
"If that displeased you, you must be jealous."
"Possibly, but the fact is that I was humbled by a circumstance I
dare not tell you."
"I think you are laughing at me with your 'dare not tell you.'"
"God forbid, mademoiselle! I will confess, then, that I was humbled
because Madame Lambertini made me see that my friend was taller than
myself by two inches."
"Then she imposed on you, for you are taller than your friend."
"I am not speaking of that kind of tallness, but another; you know
what I mean, and there my friend is really monstrous."
"Monstrous! then what have you to be sorry about? Isn't it better
not to be monstrous?"
"Certainly; but in the article we are discussing, some women, unlike
you, prefer monstrosity."
"I think that's absurd of them, or rather mad; or perhaps, I have not
sufficiently clear ideas on the subject to imagine what size it would
be to be called monstrous; and I think it is odd that such a thing
should humble you."
"You would not have thought it of me, to see me?"
"Certainly not, for when I came into the room I thought you looked a
well-proportioned man, but if you are not I am sorry for you."
"I won't leave you in doubt on the subject; look for yourself, and
tell me what you think."
"Why, it's you who are the monster! I declare you make me feel quite
At this she began to perspire violently, and went behind her aunt's
chair. I did not stir, as I was sure she would soon come back,
putting her down in my own mind as very far removed from silliness or
innocence either. I supposed she wished to affect what she did not
possess. I was, moreover, delighted at having taken the opportunity
so well. I had punished her for having tried to impose on me; and as
I had taken a great fancy to her, I was pleased that she seemed to
like her punishment. As for her possession of wit, there could be no
doubt on that point, for it was she who had sustained the chief part
in our dialogue, and my sayings and doings were all prompted by her
questions, and the persevering way in which she kept to the subject.
She had not been behind her aunt's chair for five minutes when the
latter was looed. She, not knowing whom to attack, turned on her
niece and said, "Get you gone, little silly, you are bringing me bad
luck! Besides, it is bad manners to leave the gentleman who so
kindly offered to keep you company all by himself."
The amiable niece made not answer, and came back to me smiling. "If
my aunt knew," said she, "what you had done to me, she would not have
accused me of bad manners."
"I can't tell you how sorry I am. I want you to have some evidence
of my repentance, but all that I can do is to go. Will you be
offended if I do?"
"If you leave me, my aunt will call me a dreadful stupid, and will
say that I have tired you out."
"Would you like me to stay, then?"
"You can't go."
"Had you no idea what I shewed you was like till just now?"
"My ideas on the subject were inaccurate. My aunt only took me out
of the convent a month ago, and I had been there since I was seven."
"How old are you now?"
"Seventeen. They tried to make me take the veil, but not having any
relish for the fooleries of the cloister I refused."
"Are you vexed with me?"
"I ought to be very angry with you, but I know it was my fault, so I
will only ask you to be discreet."
"Don't be afraid, if I were indiscreet I should be the first to
"You have given me a lesson which will come in useful. Stop! stop!
or I will go away."
"No, keep quiet; it's done now."
I had taken her pretty hand, with which she let me do as I liked, and
at last when she drew it back she was astonished to find it wanted
"What is that?"
"The most pleasant of substances, which renovates the world."
"I see you are an excellent master. Your pupils make rapid progress,
and you give your lessons with such a learned air."
"Now don't be angry with me for what has happened. I should never
have dared to go so far if your beauty had not inspired me."
"Am I to take that speech as a declaration of love?"
"Yes, it is bold, sweetheart, but it is sincere. If it were not, I
should be unworthy both of you and of myself."
"Can I believe you?"
"Yes, with all your heart. But tell me if I may hope for your love?"
"I don't know. All I know at present is that I ought to hate you,
for in the space of a quarter of an hour you have taught me what I
thought I should never know till I was married."
"Are you sorry?"
"I ought to be, although I feel that I have nothing more to learn on
a matter which I never dared to think about. But how is it that you
have got so quiet?"
"Because we are talking reasonably and after the rapture love
requires some repose. But look at this!"
"What! again? Is that the rest of the lesson?"
"It is the natural result of it."
"How is it that you don't frighten me now?"
"The soldier gets used to fire."
"I see our fire is going out."
With these words she took up a stick to poke the fire, and as she was
stooping down in a favourable position my rash hand dared to approach
the porch of the temple, and found the door closed in such sort that
it would be necessary to break it open if one wished to enter the
sanctuary. She got up in a dignified way, and told me in a polite
and feeling manner that she was a well-born girl and worthy of
respect. Pretending to be confused I made a thousand excuses, and I
soon saw the amiable expression return to the face which it became so
well. I said that in spite of my repentance I was glad to know that
she had never made another man happy.
"Believe me," she said, "that if I make anyone happy it will be my
husband, to whom I have given my hand and heart."
I took her hand, which she abandoned to my rapturous kisses. I had
reached this pleasant stage in the proceedings when M. le Noir was
announced, he having come to enquire what the Pope's niece had to say
M. le Noir, a man of a certain age and of a simple appearance, begged
the company to remain seated. The Lambertini introduced me to him,
and he asked if I were the artist; but on being informed that I was
his elder brother, he congratulated me on my lottery and the esteem
in which M. du Vernai held me. But what interested him most was the
cousin whom the fair niece of the Pope introduced to him under his
real name of Tiretta, thinking, doubtless, that his new title would
not carry much weight with M. le Noir. Taking up the discourse, I
told him that the count was commanded to me by a lady whom I greatly
esteemed, and that he had been obliged to leave his country for the
present on account of an affair of honour. The Lambertini added that
she wished to accommodate him, but had not liked to do so till she
had consulted M. le Noir. "Madam," said the worthy man, "you have
sovereign power in your house, and I shall be delighted to see the
count in your society."
As M. le Noir spoke Italian very well, Tiretta left the table, and we
sat down all four of us by the fire, where my fresh conquest had an
opportunity of shewing her wit. M. le Noir was a man of much
intelligence and great experience. He made her talk of the convent
where she had been, and as soon as he knew her name he began to speak
of her father, with whom he had been well acquainted. He was a
councillor of the Parliament of Rouen, and had enjoyed a great
reputation during his lifetime.
My sweetheart was above the ordinary height, her hair was a fine
golden colour, and her regular features, despite the brilliance of
her eyes, expressed candour and modesty. Her dress allowed me to
follow all the lines of her figure, and the eyes dwelt pleasantly on
the beauty of her form, and on the two spheres which seemed to lament
their too close confinement. Although M. le Noir said nothing of all
this, it was easy to see that in his own way he admired her
perfections no less than I. He left us at eight o'clock, and half an
hour afterwards the fat aunt went away followed by her charming niece
and the pale man who had come with them. I lost no time in taking
leave with Tiretta, who promised the Pope's niece to join her on the
morrow, which he did.
Three or four days later I received at my office a letter from Mdlle.
de la Meure--the pretty niece. It ran as follows: "Madame, my aunt,
my late mother's sister, is a devotee, fond of gaming, rich, stingy,
and unjust. She does not like me, and not having succeeded in
persuading me to take the veil, she wants to marry me to a wealthy
Dunkirk merchant, whom I do not know, but (mark this) whom she does
not know any more than I do. The matrimonial agent has praised him
very much, and very naturally, as a man must praise his own goods.
This gentleman is satisfied with an income of twelve hundred francs
per annum, but he promises to leave me in his will no less than a
hundred and fifty thousand francs. You must know that by my mother's
will my aunt is obliged to pay me on my wedding day twenty-five
"If what has taken place between us has not made me contemptible in
your sight, I offer you my hand and heart with sixty-five thousand
francs, and as much more on my aunt's death.
"Don't send me any answer, as I don't know how or by whom to receive
your letter. You can answer me in your own person next Sunday at
Madame Lambertini's. You will thus have four days whereon to
consider this most important question. I do not exactly know whether
I love you, but I am quite sure that I prefer you to any other man.
I know that each of us has still to gain the other's esteem, but I am
sure you would make my life a happy one, and that I should be a
faithful wife. If you think that the happiness I seek can add to
your own, I must warn you that you will need the aid of a lawyer, as
my aunt is miserly, and will stick at trifles.
"If you decide in the affirmative you must find a convent for me to
take refuge in before I commit myself to anything, as otherwise I
should be exposed to the harsh treatment I wish to avoid. If, on the
other hand, my proposal does not meet your views, I have one favour
to ask by granting which you will earn my everlasting gratitude.
This is that you will endeavour to see me no more, and will take care
not to be present in any company in which you think I am to be found.
Thus you will help me to forget you, and this is the least you can do
for me. You may guess that I shall never be happy till I have become
your wife or have forgotten you. Farewell! I reckon upon seeing you
This letter affected me. I felt that it was dictated by prudent,
virtuous, and honourable feelings, and I found even more merit in the
intellectual endowments of the girl than in her beauty. I blushed at
having in a manner led her astray, and I should have thought myself
worthy of punishment if I had been capable of refusing the hand
offered to me with so much nobility of feeling. And a second but
still a powerful consideration made me look complacently upon a
fortune larger than I could reasonably expect to win. Nevertheless,
the idea of the marriage state, for which I felt I had no vocation,
made me tremble.
I knew myself too well not to be aware that as a married man I should
be unhappy, and, consequently, with the best intentions I should fail
in making the woman's life a happy one. My uncertainty in the four
days which she had wisely left me convinced me that I was not in love
with her. In spite of that, so weak was I that I could not summon up
courage to reject her offer--still less to tell her so frankly, which
would have made her esteem me.
During these four days I was entirely absorbed in this one subject.
I bitterly repented of having outraged her modesty, for I now
esteemed and respected her, but yet I could not make up my mind to
repair the wrong I had done her. I could not bear to incur her
dislike, but the idea of tying myself down was dreadful to me; and
such is the condition of a man who has to choose between two
alternatives, and cannot make up his mind.
Fearing lest my evil genius should take me to the opera or elsewhere,
and in spite of myself make me miss my appointment, I resolved to
dine with the Lambertini without having come to any decision. The
pious niece of the Pope was at mass when I reached her house. I
found Tiretta engaged in playing on the flute, but as soon as he saw
me he dropped the instrument, ran up to me, embraced me, and gave me
back the money his suit had cost me.
"I see you are in cash, old fellow; I congratulate you."
"It's a grievous piece of luck to me, for the money is stolen, and I
am sorry I have got it though I was an accomplice in the theft."
"What! the money is stolen?"
"Yes, sharping is done here, and I have been taught to help. I share
in their ill-gotten gains because I have not the strength of mind to
refuse. My landlady and two or three women of the same sort pluck
the pigeons. The business does not suit me, and I am thinking of
leaving it. Sooner or later I shall kill or be killed, and either
event will be the death of me, so I am thinking of leaving this
cutthroat place as soon as possible."
"I advise you--nay, I bid you do so by all means, and I should think
you had better be gone to-day than to-morrow."
"I don't want to do anything suddenly, as M. le Noir is a gentleman
and my friend, and he thinks me a cousin to this wretched woman. As
he knows nothing of the infamous trade she carries on, he would
suspect something, and perhaps would leave her after learning the
reason of my departure. I shall find some excuse or other in the
course of the next five or six days, and then I will make haste and
return to you."
The Lambertini thanked me for coming to dinner in a friendly manner,
and told me that we should have the company of Mdlle. de la Meure and
her aunt. I asked her if she was still satisfied with my friend
"Sixtimes," and she told me that though the count did not always
reside on his manor, she was for all that delighted with him; and
"I am too good a monarch to ask too much of my vassals."
I congratulated her, and we continued to jest till the arrival of the
two other guests.
As soon as Mdlle. de la Meure saw me she could scarcely conceal her
pleasure. She was in half mourning, and looked so pretty in this
costume, which threw up the whiteness of her skin, that I still
wonder why that instant did not determine my fate.
Tiretta, who had been making his toilette, rejoined us, and as
nothing prevented me from shewing the liking I had taken for the
amiable girl I paid her all possible attention. I told the aunt that
I found her niece so pretty that I would renounce my bachelorhood if
I could find such a mate.
"My niece is a virtuous and sweet-tempered 'girl, sir, but she is
utterly devoid either of intelligence or piety."
"Never mind the intelligence," said the niece, "but I was never found
wanting in piety at the convent."
"I dare say the nuns are of the jesuitical party."
"What has that got to do with it, aunt?"
"Very much, child; the Jesuits and their adherents are well known to
have no vital religion. But let us talk of something else. All that
I want you to do is to know how to please your future husband."
"Is mademoiselle about to marry, then?"
"Her intended will probably arrive at the beginning of next month."
"Is he a lawyer?"
"No, sir; he is a well-to-do merchant."
"M. le Noir told me that your niece was the daughter of a councillor,
and I did not imagine that you would sanction her marrying beneath
"There will be no question of such a thing in this instance, sir;
and, after all, what is marrying beneath one? My niece's intended
is an honest, and therefore a noble, man, and I am sure it will be
her fault if she does not lead a life of perfect happiness with him"
"Quite so, supposing she loves him."
"Oh! love and all that kind of thing will come in good time, you
As these remarks could only give pain to the young lady, who listened
in silence, I changed the conversation to the enormous crowd which
would be present at the execution of Damien, and finding them
extremely desirous of witnessing this horrible sight I offered them a
large window with an excellent view. The ladies accepted with great
pleasure, and I promised to escort them in good time.
I had no such thing as a window, but I knew that in Paris, as
everywhere, money will procure anything. After dinner I went out on
the plea of business, and, taking the first coach I came across, in a
quarter of an hour I succeeded in renting a first floor window in
excellent position for three louis. I paid in advance, taking care
to have a receipt.
My business over, I hastened to rejoin the company, and found them
engaged in piquet. Mdlle. de la Meure, who knew nothing about it,
was tired of looking on. I came up to her, and having something to
say we went to the other end of the room.
"Your letter, dearest, has made me the happiest of men. You have
displayed in it such intelligence and such admirable characteristics
as would win you the fervent adoration of every man of good sense."
"I only want one man's love. I will be content with the esteem of
"My angel, I will make you my wife, and I shall bless till my latest
breath the lucky audacity to which I owe my being chosen before other
men who would not have refused your hand, even without the fifty
thousand crowns, which are nothing in comparison with your beauty and
"I am very glad you like me so much."
"Could I do otherwise? And now that you know my heart, do nothing
hastily, but trust in me."
"You will not forget how I am placed."
"I will bear it in mind. Let me have time to take a house, to
furnish it and to put myself in a position in which I shall be worthy
of your hand. You must remember that I am only in furnished
apartments; that you are well connected, and that I should not like
to be regarded as a fortune-hunter."
"You know that my intended husband will soon arrive?"
"Yes, I will take care of that."
"When he does come, you know, matters will be pushed on rapidly."
"Not too rapidly for me to be able to set you free in twenty-four
hours, and without letting your aunt know that the blow comes from
me. You may rest assured, dearest, that the minister for foreign
affairs, on being assured that you wish to marry me, and me only,
will get you an inviolable asylum in the best convent in Paris. He
will also retain counsel on your behalf, and if your mother's will is
properly drawn out your aunt will soon be obliged to hand over your
dowry, and to give security for the rest of the property. Do not
trouble yourself about the matter, but let the Dunkirk merchant come
when he likes. At all hazards, you may reckon upon me, and you may
be sure you will not be in your aunt's house on the day fixed for the
"I confide in you entirely, but for goodness' sake say no more on a
circumstance which wounds my sense of modesty. You said that I
offered you marriage because you took liberties with me?"
"Was I wrong?"
"Yes, partly, at all events; and you ought to know that if I had not
good reasons I should have done a very foolish thing in offering to
marry you, but I may as well tell you that, liberties or no
liberties, I should always have liked you better than anyone."
I was beside myself with joy, and seizing her hand I covered it with
tender and respectful kisses; and I feel certain that if a notary and
priest had been then and there available, I should have married her
without the smallest hesitation.
Full of each other, like all lovers, we paid no attention to the
horrible racket that was going on at the other end of the room. At
last I thought it my duty to see what was happening, and leaving my
intended I rejoined the company to quiet Tiretta.
I saw on the table a casket, its lid open, and full of all sorts of
jewels; close by were two men who were disputing with Tiretta, who
held a book in one hand. I saw at once that they were talking about
a lottery, but why were they disputing? Tiretta told me they were a
pair of knaves who had won thirty or forty louis of him by means of
the book, which he handed to me.
"Sir," said one of the gamesters, "this book treats of a lottery in
which all the calculations are made in the fairest manner possible.
It contains twelve hundred leaves, two hundred being winning leaves,
while the rest are blanks. Anyone who wants to play has only to pay
a crown, and then to put a pin's point at random between two leaves
of the closed book. The book is then opened at the place where the
pin is, and if the leaf is blank the player loses; but if, on the
other hand, the leaf bears a number, he is given the corresponding
ticket, and an article of the value indicated on the ticket is then
handed to him. Please to observe, sir, that the lowest prize is
twelve francs, and there are some numbers worth as much as six
hundred francs, and even one to the value of twelve hundred. We have
been playing for an hour, and have lost several costly articles, and
madam," pointing to my sweetheart's aunt, "has won a ring worth six
louis, but as she preferred cash, she continued playing and lost the
money she had gained."
"Yes," said the aunt, "and these gentlemen have won everybody's money
with their accursed game; which proves it is all a mere cheat."
"It proves they are rogues," said Tiretta.
"But gentlemen," answered one of them, "in that case the receivers of
the Government lottery are rogues too"; whereon Tiretta gave him a
box on the ear. I threw myself between the two combatants, and told
them not to speak a word.
"All lotteries," said I, "are advantageous to the holders, but the
king is at the head of the Government lottery, and I am the principal
receiver, in which character I shall proceed to confiscate this
casket, and give you the choice of the following alternatives: You
can, if you like, return to the persons present the money you have
unlawfully won from them, whereupon I will let you go with your box.
If you refuse to do so, I shall send for a policeman, who will take
you to prison, and to-morrow you will be tried by M. Berier, to whom
I shall take this book in the morning. We shall soon see whether we
are rogues as well as they."
Seeing that they had to do with a man of determination, and that
resistance would only result in their losing all, they resolved with
as good a grace as they could muster to return all their winnings,
and for all I know double the sum, for they were forced to return
forty louis, though they swore they had only won twenty. The company
was too select for me to venture to decide between them. In point of
fact I was rather inclined to believe the rascals, but I was angry
with them, and I wanted them to pay a good price for having made a
comparison, quite right in the main, but odious to me in the extreme.
The same reason, doubtless, prevented me from giving them back their
book, which I had no earthly right to keep, and which they asked me
in vain to return to them. My firmness and my threats, and perhaps
also the fear of the police, made them think themselves lucky to get
off with their jewel-box. As soon as they were gone the ladies, like
the kindly creatures they were, began to pity them. "You might have
given them back their book," they said to me.
"And you, ladies, might have let them keep their money."
"But they cheated us of it."
"Did they? Well, their cheating was done with the book, and I have
done them a kindness by taking it from them."
They felt the force of my remarks, and the conversation took another
Early next morning the two gamesters paid me a visit bringing with
them as a bribe a beautiful casket containing twenty-four lovely
pieces of Dresden china. I found this argument irresistible, and I
felt obliged to return them the book, threatening them at the same
time with imprisonment if they dared to carry on their business in
Paris for the future. They promised me to abstain from doing so--no
doubt with a mental reservation, but I cared nothing about that.
I resolved to offer this beautiful gift to Mdlle. de la Meure, and I
took it to her the same day. I had a hearty welcome, and the aunt
loaded me with thanks.
On March the 28th, the day of Damien's martyrdom, I went to fetch the
ladies in good time; and as the carriage would scarcely hold us all,
no objection was made to my taking my sweetheart on my knee, and in
this order we reached the Place de Greve. The three ladies packing
themselves together as tightly as possible took up their positions at
the window, leaning forward on their elbows, so as to prevent us
seeing from behind. The window had two steps to it, and they stood
on the second; and in order to see we had to stand on the same step,
for if we had stood on the first we should not have been able to see
over their heads. I have my reasons for giving these minutiae, as
otherwise the reader would have some difficulty in guessing at the
details which I am obliged to pass over in silence.
We had the courage to watch the dreadful sight for four hours. The
circumstances of Damien's execution are too well known to render it
necessary for me to speak of them; indeed, the account would be too
long a one, and in my opinion such horrors are an offence to our
Damien was a fanatic, who, with the idea of doing a good work and
obtaining a heavenly reward, had tried to assassinate Louis XV.; and
though the attempt was a failure, and he only gave the king a slight
wound, he was torn to pieces as if his crime had been consummated.
While this victim of the Jesuits was being executed, I was several
times obliged to turn away my face and to stop my ears as I heard his
piercing shrieks, half of his body having been torn from him, but the
Lambertini and the fat aunt did not budge an inch. Was it because
their hearts were hardened? They told me, and I pretended to
believe them, that their horror at the wretch's wickedness prevented
Them feeling that compassion which his unheard-of torments should
have excited. The fact was that Tiretta kept the pious aunt
curiously engaged during the whole time of the execution, and this,
perhaps, was what prevented the virtuous lady from moving or even
turning her head round.
Finding himself behind her, he had taken the precaution to lift up
her dress to avoid treading on it. That, no doubt, was according to
the rule; but soon after, on giving an involuntary glance in their
direction, I found that Tiretta had carried his precautions rather
far, and, not wishing to interrupt my friend or to make the lady feel
awkward, I turned my head and stood in such a way that my sweetheart
could see nothing of what was going on; this put the good lady at her
ease. For two hours after I heard a continuous rustling, and
relishing the joke I kept quiet the whole time. I admired Tiretta's
hearty appetite still more than his courage, but what pleased me most
was the touching resignation with which the pious aunt bore it all.
At the end of this long session I saw Madame turn round, and doing
the same I fixed my gaze on Tiretta, and found him looking as fresh
and cool as if nothing had happened, but the aunt seemed to me to
have a rather pensive appearance. She had been under the fatal
necessity of keeping quiet and letting Tiretta do what he liked for
fear of the Lambertini's jests, and lest her niece might be
scandalized by the revelation of mysteries of which she was supposed
to know nothing.
We set out, and having dropped the Pope's niece at her door, I begged
her to lend me Tiretta for a few hours, and I then took Madame to her
house in the Rue St. Andre-des-Arts. She asked me to come and see
her the following day as she had something to tell me, and I remarked
that she took no notice of my friend as she left us. We went to the
"Hotel de Russie," where they gave you an excellent dinner for six
francs a head, and I thought my mad friend stood in need of
recruiting his strength.
"What were you doing behind Madame--?" said I.
"I am sure you saw nothing, or anybody else either."
"No, because when I saw the beginning of your manoeuvres, and guessed
what was coming, I stood in such a way that neither the Lambertini or
the pretty niece could see you. I can guess what your goal was, and
I must say I admire your hearty appetite. But your wretched victim
appears to be rather angry."
"Oh! my dear fellow, that's all the affectation of an old maid. She
may pretend to be put out, but as she kept quiet the whole time I am
certain she would be glad to begin all over again."
"I think so, too, in her heart of hearts; but her pride might suggest
that you had been lacking in respect, and the suggestion would be by
no means groundless."
"Respect, you say; but must one not always be lacking in respect to
women when one wants to come to the point?"
"Quite so, but there's a distinction between what lovers may do when
they are together, and what is proper in the presence of a mixed
"Yes, but I snatched four distinct favours from her, without the
least opposition; had I not therefore good reasons for taking her
consent for granted?"
"You reason well, but you see she is out of humour with you. She
wants to speak to me to-morrow, and I have no doubt that you will be
the subject of our conversation."
"Possibly, but still I should think she would not speak to you of the
comic piece of business; it would be very silly of her."
"Why so? You don't know these pious women. They are brought up by
Jesuits, who often give them some good lessons on the subject, and
they are delighted to confess to a third party; and these confessions
with a seasoning of tears gives them in their own eyes quite a halo
"Well, let her tell you if she likes. We shall see what comes of
"Possibly she may demand satisfaction; in which case I shall be glad
to do my best for her."
"You make me laugh! I can't imagine what sort of satisfaction she
could claim, unless she wants to punish me by the 'Lex talionis',
which would be hardly practicable without a repetition of the
original offence. If she had not liked the game, all she had to do
was to give me a push which would have sent me backwards."
"Yes, but that would have let us know what you had been trying to
"Well, if it comes to that, the slightest movement would have
rendered the whole process null and void; but as it was she stood in
the proper position as quiet as a lamb; nothing could be easier."
"It's an amusing business altogether. But did you notice that the
Lambertini was angry with you, too? She, perhaps, saw what you were
doing, and felt hurt."
"Oh! she has got another cause of complaint against me. We have
fallen out, and I am leaving her this evening."
"Yes, I will tell you all about it. Yesterday evening, a young
fellow in the Inland Revenue who had been seduced to sup with us by a
hussy of Genoa, after losing forty louis, threw, the cards in the
face of my landlady and called her a thief. On the impulse of the
moment I took a candle and put it out on his face. I might have
destroyed one of his eyes, but I fortunately hit him on the cheek.
He immediately ran for his sword, mine was ready, and if the Genoese
had not thrown herself between us murder might have been committed.
When the poor wretch saw his cheek in the glass, he became so furious
that nothing short of the return of all his money would appease him.
They gave it him back, in spite of my advice, for in doing so they
admitted, tacitly at all events, that it had been won by cheating.
This caused a sharp dispute between the Lambertini and myself after
he had gone. She said we should have kept the forty louis, and
nothing would have happened except for my interference, that it was
her and not me whom the young man had insulted. The Genoese added
that if we had kept cool we should have had the plucking of him, but
that God alone knew what he would do now with the mark of the burn on
his face. Tired of the talk of these infamous women, I was about to
leave them, but my landlady began to ride the high horse, and went so
far as to call me a beggar.
"If M. le Noir had not come in just then, she would have had a bad
time of it, as my stick was already in my hand. As soon as they saw
him they told me to hold my tongue, but my blood was up; and turning
towards the worthy man I told him that his mistress had called me a
beggar, that she was a common prostitute, that I was not her cousin,
nor in any way related to her, and that I should leave her that very
day. As soon as I had come to the end of this short and swift
discourse, I went out and shut myself up in my room. In the course
of the next two hours I shall go and fetch my linen, and I hope to
breakfast with you to-morrow."
Tiretta did well. His heart was in the right place, and he was wise
not to allow the foolish impulses of youth to plunge him in the sink
of corruption. As long as a man has not committed a dishonourable
action, as long as his heart is sound, though his head may go astray,
the path of duty is still open to him. I should say the same of
women if prejudice were not so strong in their case, and if they were
not much more under the influence of the heart than the head.
After a good dinner washed down by some delicious Sillery we parted,
and I spent the evening in writing. Next morning I did some
business, and at noon went to see the distressed devotee, whom I
found at home with her charming niece. We talked a few minutes about
the weather, and she then told my sweetheart to leave us as she
wanted to speak to me. I was prepared for what was coming and I
waited for her to break the silence which all women of her position
observe. "You will be surprised, sir, at what I am going to tell
you, for I have determined to bring before you a complaint of an
unheard-of character. The case is really of the most delicate
nature, and I am impelled to make a confidant of you by the
impression you made on me when I first saw you. I consider you to be
a man of discretion, of honour, and above all a moral man; in short,
I believe you have experienced religion, and if I am making a mistake
it will be a pity, for though I have been insulted I don't lack means
of avenging myself, and as you are his friend you will be sorry for
"Is Tiretta the guilty party, madam?"
"And what is his crime?"
"He is a villain; he has insulted me in the most monstrous manner."
"I should not have thought him capable of doing so."
"I daresay not, but then you are a moral man."
"But what was the nature of his offence? You may confide in my
"I really couldn't tell you, it's quite out of the question; but I
trust you will be able to guess it. Yesterday, during the execution
of the wretched Damien, he strongly abused the position in which he
found himself behind me."
"I see; I understand what you mean; you need say no more. You have
cause for anger, and he is to blame for acting in such a manner. But
allow me to say that the case is not unexampled or even uncommon, and
I think you might make some allowance for the strength of love, the
close quarters, and above all for the youth and passion of the
sinner. Moreover, the offence is one which may be expiated in a
number of ways, provided the parties come to an agreement. Tiretta
is young and a perfect gentleman, he is handsome and at bottom a good
fellow; could not a marriage be arranged?"
I waited for a reply, but perceiving that the injured party kept
silence (a circumstance which seemed to me a good omen) I went on.
"If marriage should not meet your views, we might try a lasting
friendship, in which he could shew his repentance and prove himself
deserving of pardon. Remember, madam, that Tiretta is only a man,
and therefore subject to all the weaknesses of our poor human nature;
and even you have your share of the blame."
"Involuntarily, madam, involuntarily; not you but your charms led him
astray. Nevertheless, without this incentive the circumstance would
never have taken place, and I think you should consider your beauty
as a mitigation of the offence."
"You plead your cause well, sir, but I will do you justice and
confess that all your remarks have been characterized by much
Christian feeling. However, you are reasoning on false premises; you
are ignorant of his real crime, yet how should you guess it?"
With this she burst into tears, leading me completely off the scent,
and not knowing what to think.
"He can't have stolen her purse," said I to myself, "as I don't think
him capable of such an action; and if I did I'd blow his brains out."
The afflicted lady soon dried her tears, and went on as follows:
"You are thinking of a deed which one might possibly succeed in
reconciling with reason, and in making amends for; but the crime of
which that brute has been guilty I dare scarcely imagine, as it is
almost enough to drive me mad."
"Good heavens! you can't mean it? This is dreadful; do I hear you
"Yes. You are moved, I see, but such are the circumstances of the
case. Pardon my tears, which flow from anger and the shame with
which I am covered."
"Yes, and from outraged religion, too."
"Certainly, certainly. That is the chief source of my grief, and I
should have mentioned it if I had not feared you were not so strongly
attached to religion as myself."
"Nobody, God be praised! could be more strongly attached to religion
than I, and nothing can ever unloose the ties which bind me to it:"
"You will be grieved, then, to hear that I am destined to suffer
eternal punishment, for I must and will be avenged."
"Not so, madam, perish the thought, as I could not become your
accomplice in such a design, and if you will not abandon it at least
say nothing to me on the subject. I will promise you to tell him
nothing, although as he lives with me the sacred laws of hospitality
oblige me to give him due warning."
"I thought he lived with the Lambertini"
"He left her yesterday. The connection between them was a criminal
one, and I have drawn him back from the brink of the precipice."
"You don't mean to say so!"
"Yes, upon my word of honour:"
"You astonish one. This is very edifying. I don't wish the young
man's death, but you must confess he owes me some reparation."
"He does indeed. A charming Frenchwoman is not to be handled in the
Italian manner without signal amends, but I can think of nothing at
all commensurate with the offence. There is only one plan, which I
will endeavour to carry out if you will agree to it."
"What is that?"
"I will put the guilty party in your power without his knowing what
is to happen, and I will leave you alone, so that you can wreak all
your wrath upon him, provided you will allow me to be, unknown to
him, in the next room, as I shall regard myself as responsible for
"I consent. You will stay in this room, and he must be left in the
other where I shall receive you, but take care he has no suspicion of
"He shan't dream of it. He will not even know where I am taking him,
for he must not think that I have been informed of his misdoings. As
soon as we be there, and the conversation becomes general, I shall
leave the room, pretending to be going away."
"When will you bring him? I long to cover him with confusion. I
will make him tremble. I am curious to hear how he will justify
himself for such an offence."
"I can't say, but I think and hope that your presence will make him
eloquent, as I should like to see your differences adjusted."
At one o'clock the Abbe des Forges arrived, and she made me sit down
to dinner with them. This abbe was a pupil of the famous Bishop of
Auxerre, who was still living. I talked so well on the subject of
grace, and made so many quotations from St. Augustine, that the abbe
and the devotee took me for a zealous Jansenista character with which
my dress and appearance did not at all correspond. My sweetheart did
not give me a single glance while the meal was going on, and thinking
she had some motives I abstained from speaking to her.
After dinner, which, by the way, was a very good one, I promised the
offended lady to bring her the culprit bound hand and foot next day,
after the play was over. To put her at her ease I said I should
walk, as I was certain that he would not recognize the house in the
As soon as I saw Tiretta, I began with a seriocomic air to reproach
him for the dreadful crime he had committed on the body of a lady in
every way virtuous and respectable, but the mad fellow began to
laugh, and it would have been waste of time for me to try to stop
"What!" said he, "she has had the courage to tell you all?"
"You don't deny the fact, then?"
"If she says it is so, I don't think I can give her the lie, but I am
ready to swear that I don't know how the land lay. In the position I
was in it was impossible for me to say where I took up my dwelling.
However, I will quiet her indignation, as I shall come to the point
quickly, and not let her wait."
"You will ruin the business if you don't take care; be as long as you
can; she will like that best, and it will be to your interest. Don't
hurry yourself, and never mind me, as I am sure to get on all right
while you are changing anger into a softer passion. Remember not to
know that I am in the house, and if you only stay with her a short
time (which I don't think will be the case) take a coach and be off.
You know the least a pious woman like her can do will be to provide
me with fire and company. Don't forget that she is well-born like
yourself. These women of quality are, no doubt, as immoral as any
other women, since they are constructed of the same material, but
they like to have their pride flattered by certain attentions. She
is rich, a devote, and, what is more, inclined to pleasure; strive to
gain her friendship 'faciem ad faciem', as the King of Prussia says.
You may, perhaps, make your fortune."
"If she asks you why you have left the Pope's niece, take care not to
tell her the reason. She will be pleased with your discretion. In
short, do your best to expiate the enormity of your offence."
"I have only to speak the truth. I went in in the dark."
"That's an odd reason, but it may seem convincing to a Frenchwoman."
I need not tell the reader that I gave Tiretta a full account of my
conversation with the lady. If any complain of this breach of
honour, I must tell them that I had made a mental reservation not to
keep my promise, and those who are acquainted with the morality of
the children of Ignatius will understand that I was completely at my
Next day we went to the opera, and afterwards, our plans made out, we
walked to the house of the insulted and virtuous lady. She received
us with great dignity, but yet there was an agreeable undercurrent in
her voice and manner which I thought very promising.
"I never take supper," she said, "but if you had forewarned me of
your visit I should have got something for you:"
After telling her all the news I had heard in the theatre, I
pretended to be obliged to go, and begged her to let me leave the
count with her for a few minutes.
"If I am more than a quarter of an hour," said I to the count, "don't
wait. Take a coach home and we shall see each other to-morrow."
Instead of going downstairs I went into the next room, and two
minutes after who should enter but my sweetheart, who looked charmed
and yet puzzled at my appearance.
"I think I must be dreaming," said she, "but my aunt has charged me
not to leave you alone, and to tell her woman not to come upstairs
unless she rings the bell. Your friend is with her, and she told me
to speak low as he is not to know that you are here. What does it
"You are curious, are you?"
"I confess I am in this instance, for all this mystery seems designed
to excite curiosity."
"Dearest, you shall know all; but how cold it is."
"My aunt has told me to make a good fire, she has become liberal or
rather lavish all of a sudden; look at the wax candles."
"That's a new thing, is it?"
"Oh, quite new."
As soon as we were seated in front of the fire I began to tell her
the story, to which she listened with all the attention a young girl
can give to such a matter; but as I had thought it well to pass over
some of the details, she could not properly understand what crime it
was that Tiretta had committed. I was not sorry to be obliged to
tell her the story in plain language, and to give more expression I
employed the language of gesture, which made her blush and laugh at
the same time. I then told her that, having taken up the question of
the reparation that was due to her aunt, I had so arranged matters
that I was certain of being alone with her all the time my friend was
engaged. Thereupon I began to cover her pretty face with kisses, and
as I allowed myself no other liberties she received my caresses as a
proof of the greatness of my love and the purity of my feelings.
"Dearest," she said, "what you say puzzles me; there are two things
which I can't understand. How could Tiretta succeed in committing
this crime with my aunt, which I think would only be possible with
the consent of the party attacked, but quite impossible without it;
and this makes me believe that if the thing was done it was done with
her hearty good will."
"Very true, for if she did not like it she had only to change her
"Not so much as that; she need only have kept the door shut."
"There, sweetheart, you are wrong, for a properly-made man only asks
you to keep still and he will overcome all obstacles. Moreover, I
don't expect that your aunt's door is so well shut as yours."
"I believe that I could defy all the Tirettas in the world.
"There's another thing I don't understand, and that is how my blessed
aunt came to tell you all about it; for if she had any sense she
might have known that it would only make you laugh. And what
satisfaction does she expect to get from a brute like that, who
possibly thinks the affair a matter of no consequence. I should
think he would do the same to any woman who occupied the same
position as my aunt."
"You are right, for he told me he went in like a blind man, not
knowing where he was going."
"Your friend is a queer fellow, and if other men are like him I am
sure I should have no feeling but contempt for them."
"She has told me nothing about the satisfaction she is thinking of,
and which she possibly feels quite sure of attaining; but I think I
can guess what it will benamely, a formal declaration of love; and I
suppose he will expiate his crime by becoming her lover, and
doubtless this will be their wedding night."
"The affair is getting amusing. I can't believe it. My dear aunt is
too anxious about her salvation; and how do you imagine the young man
can ever fall in love with her, or play the part with such a face as
hers before his eyes. Have you ever seen a countenance as disgusting
as my aunt's? Her skin is covered with pimples, her eyes distil
humours, and her teeth and breath are enough to discourage any man.
"All that is nothing to a young spark of twenty-five; one is always
ready for an assault at that age; not like me who only feel myself a
man in presence of charms like yours, of which I long to be the
"You will find me the most affectionate of wives, and I feel quite
sure that I shall have your heart in such good keeping that I shall
never be afraid of losing it."
We had talked thus pleasantly for an hour, and Tiretta was still with
the aunt. I thought things pointed towards a reconciliation, and
judged the matter was getting serious. I told my sweetheart my
opinion, and asked her to give me something to eat.
"I can only give you," said she, "some bread and cheese, a slice of
ham, and some wine which my aunt pronounces excellent."
"Bring them quick, then; I am fainting with hunger."
She soon laid the table for two, and put on it all the food she had.
The cheese was Roquefort, and the ham had been covered with jelly.
About ten persons with reasonable appetites should have been able to
sup on what there was; but (how I know not) the whole disappeared,
and also two bottles of Chambertin, which I seem to taste now. My
sweetheart's eyes gleamed with pleasure: truly Chambertin and
Roquefort are excellent thinks to restore an old love and to ripen a
"Don't you want to know what your aunt has been doing the last two
hours with M. Sixtimes?"
"They are playing, perhaps; but there is a small hole in the wall,
and I will look and see. I can only see the two candles, and the
wicks are an inch long."
"Didn't I say so? Give me a coverlet and I will sleep on the sofa
here, and do you go to bed. But let me look at it first:"
She made me come into her little room, where I saw a pretty bed, a
prayer desk, and a large crucifix.
"Your bed is too small for you, dear heart."
"Oh, not at all! I am very comfortable"; and so saying she laid down
at full length.
"What a beautiful wife I shall have! Nay, don't move, let me look at
you so." My hand began to press the bosom of her dress, where were
imprisoned two spheres which seemed to lament their captivity. I
went farther, I began to untie strings . . . for where does desire
"Sweetheart, I cannot resist, but you will not love me afterwards."
"I will always love you:"
Soon her beautiful breasts were exposed to my burning kisses. The
flame of my love lit another in her heart, and forgetting her former
self she opened her arms to me, making me promise not to despise her,
and what would one not promise! The modesty inherent in the sex, the
fear of results, perhaps a kind of instinct which reveals to them the
natural faithlessness of men make women ask for such promises, but
what mistress, if really amorous, would even think of asking her
lover to respect her in the moment of delirious ecstacy, when all
one's being is centred on the fulfilment of desire?
After we had passed an hour in these amorous toyings, which set my
sweetheart on fire, her charms having never before been exposed to
the burning lips or the free caresses of a man, I said to her,
"I grieve to leave you without having rendered to your beauty the
greatest homage which it deserves so well."
A sigh was her only answer.
It was cold, the fire was out, and I had to spend the night on the
"Give me a coverlet, dearest, that I may go away from you, for I
should die here between love and cold if you made me abstain."
"Lie where I have been, sweetheart. I will get up and rekindle the
She got up in all her naked charms, and as she put a stick to the
fire the flame leapt up; I rose, I found her standing so as to
display all her beauties, and I could refrain no longer. I pressed
her to my heart, she returned my caresses, and till day-break we gave
ourselves up to an ecstacy of pleasure.
We had spent four or five delicious hours on the sofa. She then left
me, and after making a good fire she went to her room, and I remained
on the sofa and slept till noon. I was awakened by Madame, who wore
a graceful undress.
"Still asleep, M. Casanova?"
"Ah! good morning, madam, good morning. And what has become of my
"He has become mine, I have forgiven him."
"What has he done to be worthy of so generous a pardon?"
"He proved to me that he made a mistake."
"I am delighted to hear it; where is he?"
"He has gone home, where you will find him; but don't say anything
about your spending the night here, or he will think it was spent
with my niece. I am very much obliged to you for what you have done,
and I have only to ask you to be discreet."
"You can count on me entirely, for I am grateful to you for having
forgiven my friend."
"Who would not do so? The dear young man is something more than
mortal. If you knew how he loved me! I am grateful to him, and I
have taken him to board for a year; he will be well lodged, well fed,
and so on."
"What a delightful plan! You have arranged the terms, I suppose."
"All that will be settled in a friendly way, and we shall not need to
have recourse to arbitration. We shall set out to-day for Villette,
where I have a nice little house; for you know that it is necessary,
at first, to act in such a way as to give no opportunity to
slanderers. My lover will have all he wants, and whenever you, sir,
honour us with your presence you will find a pretty room and a good
bed at your disposal. All I am sorry for is that you will find it
tedious; my poor niece is so dull."
"Madam, your niece is delightful; she gave me yesterday evening an
excellent supper and kept me company till three o'clock this
"Really? I can't make it out how she gave you anything, as there was
nothing in the house."
"At any rate, madam, she gave me an excellent supper, of which there
are no remains, and after keeping me company she went to bed, and I
have had a good night on this comfortable sofa."
"I am glad that you, like myself, were pleased with everything, but I
did not think my niece so clever."
"She is very clever, madam--in my eyes, at all events:"
"Oh, sir! you are a judge of wit, let us go and see her. She has
locked her door. Come open the door, why have you shut yourself up,
you little prude? what are you afraid of. My Casanova is incapable
of hurting you."
The niece opened her door and apologized for the disorder of her
dress, but what costume could have suited her better? Her costume
"There she is," said the aunt, "and she is not so bad looking after
all, but it is a pity she is so stupid. You were very right to give
this gentleman a supper. I am much obliged to you for doing so.
I have been playing all night, and when one is playing one only
thinks of the game. I have determined on taking young Tiretta to
board with us. He is an excellent and clever young man, and I am
sure he will learn to speak French before long. Get dressed, my
dear, as we must begin to pack. We shall set out this afternoon for
Villette, and shall spend there the whole of the spring. There is no
need, you know, to say anything about this to my sister:"
"I, aunt? Certainly not. Did I ever tell her anything on the other
"Other occasions! You see what a silly girl it is. Do you mean by
'other occasions,' that I have been circumstanced like this before?"
"No, aunt. I only meant to say that I had never told her anything of
what you did."
"That's right, my dear, but you must learn to express yourself
properly. We dine at two, and I hope to have the pleasure of M.
Casanova's company at dinner; we will start immediately after the
meal. Tiretta promised to bring his small portmanteau with him, and
it will go with our luggage."
After promising to dine with them, I bade the ladies good-bye; and I
went home as fast as I could walk, for I was as curious as a woman to
know what arrangements had been made.
"Well," said I to Tiretta, "I find you have got a place. Tell me all
"My dear fellow, I have sold myself for a year. My pay is to be
twenty-five louis a month, a good table, good lodging, etc., etc."
"I congratulate you."
"Do you think it is worth the trouble?"
"There's no rose without a thorn. She told me you were something
more than mortal."
"I worked hard all night to prove it to her; but I am quite sure your
time was better employed than mine."
"I slept like a king. Dress yourself, as I am coming to dinner, and
I want to see you set out for Villette. I shall come and see you
there now and then, as your sweetheart has told me that a room shall
be set apart for my convenience."
We arrived at two o'clock. Madame dressed in a girlish style
presented a singular appearance, but Mdlle. de la Meure's beauty
shone like a star. Love and pleasure had given her a new life, a new
being. We had a capital dinner, as the good lady had made the repast
dainty like herself; but in the dishes there was nothing absurd,
while her whole appearance was comic in the highest degree. At four
they all set out, and I spent my evening at the Italian comedy.
I was in love with Mdlle. de la Meure, but Silvia's daughter, whose
company at supper was all I had of her, weakened a love which now
left nothing more to desire.
We complain of women who, though loving us and sure of our love,
refuse us their favours; but we are wrong in doing so, for if they
love they have good reason to fear lest they lose us in the moment of
satisfying our desires. Naturally they should do all in their power
to retain our hearts, and the best way to do so is to cherish our
desire of possessing them; but desire is only kept alive by being
denied: enjoyment kills it, since one cannot desire what one has got.
I am, therefore, of opinion that women are quite right to refuse us.
But if it be granted that the passions of the two sexes are of equal
strength, how comes it that a man never refuses to gratify a woman
who loves him and entreats him to be kind?
We cannot receive the argument founded on the fear of results, as
that is a particular and not a general consideration. Our
conclusion, then, will be that the reason lies in the fact that a man
thinks more of the pleasure he imparts than that which he receives,
and is therefore eager to impart his bliss to another. We know,
also, that, as a general rule, women, when once enjoyed, double their
love and affection. On the other hand, women think more of the
pleasure they receive than of that which they impart, and therefore
put off enjoyment as long as possible, since they fear that in giving
themselves up they lose their chief good--their own pleasure. This
feeling is peculiar to the sex, and is the only cause of coquetry,
pardonable in a woman, detestable in a man.
Silvia's daughter loved me, and she knew I loved her, although I had
never said so, but women's wit is keen. At the same time she
endeavoured not to let me know her feelings, as she was afraid of
encouraging me to ask favours of her, and she did not feel sure of
her strength to refuse them; and she knew my inconstant nature. Her
relations intended her for Clement, who had been teaching her the
clavichord for the last three years. She knew of the arrangement and
had no objection, for though she did not love him she liked him very
well. Most girls are wedded without love, and they are not sorry for
it afterwards. They know that by marriage they become of some
consequence in the world, and they marry to have a house of their own
and a good position in society. They seem to know that a husband and
a lover need not be synonymous terms. At Paris men are actuated by
the same views, and most marriages are matters of convenience. The
French are jealous of their mistresses, but never of their wives.
There could be no doubt that M. Clement was very much in love, and
Mdlle. Baletti was delighted that I noticed it, as she thought this
would bring me to a declaration, and she was quite right. The
departure of Mdlle. de la Meure had a good deal to do with my
determination to declare myself; and I was very sorry to have done so
afterwards, for after I had told her I loved her Clement was
dismissed, and my position was worse than before. The man who
declares his love for a woman in words wants to be sent to school
Three days after the departure of Tiretta, I took him what small
belongings he had, and Madame seemed very glad to see me. The Abbe
des Forges arrived just as we were sitting down to dinner, and though
he had been very friendly to me at Paris he did not so much as look
at me all through the meal, and treated Tiretta in the same way.
I, for my part, took no notice of him, but Tiretta, not so patient as
I, at last lost his temper and got up, begging Madame to tell him
when she was going to have that fellow to dine with her. We rose
from table without saying a word, and the silent abbe went with madam
into another room.
Tiretta took me to see his room, which was handsomely furnished, and,
as was right, adjoined his sweetheart's. Whilst he was putting his
things in order, Mdlle. de la Meure made me come and see my
apartment. It was a very nice room on the ground floor, and facing
hers. I took care to point out to her how easily I could pay her a
visit after everyone was in bed, but she said we should not be
comfortable in her room, and that she would consequently save me the
trouble of getting out of bed. It will be guessed that I had no
objections to make to this arrangement.
She then told me of her aunt's folly about Tiretta.
"She believes," said she, "that we do not know he sleeps with her."
"Believes, or pretends to believe."
"Possibly. She rang for me at eleven o'clock this morning and told
me to go and ask him what kind of night he had passed. I did so, but
seeing his bed had not been slept in I asked him if he had not been
"'No,' said he, 'I have been writing all night, but please don't say
anything about it to your aunt: I promised with all my heart to be as
silent as the grave."
"Does he make sheep's eyes at you?"
"No, but if he did it would be all the same. Though he is not over
sharp he knows, I think, what I think of him."
"Why have you such a poor opinion of him?"
"Why? My aunt pays him. I think selling one's self is a dreadful
"But you pay me."
"Yes, but in the same coin as you give me."
The old aunt was always calling her niece stupid, but on the contrary
I thought her very clever, and as virtuous as clever. I should never
have seduced her if she had not been brought up in a convent.
I went back to Tiretta, and had some pleasant conversation with him.
I asked him how he liked his place.
"I don't like it much, but as it costs me nothing I am not absolutely
"But her face!"
"I don't look at it, and there's one thing I like about her--she is
"Does she take good care of you?"
"O yes, she is full of feeling for me. This morning she refused the
greeting I offered her. 'I am sure,' said she, 'that my refusal will
pain you, but your health is so dear to me that I feel bound to look
As soon as the gloomy Abbe des Forges was gone and Madame was alone,
we rejoined her. She treated me as her gossip, and played the timid
child for Tiretta's benefit, and he played up to her admirably, much
to my admiration.
"I shall see no more of that foolish priest," said she; "for after
telling me that I was lost both in this world and the next he
threatened to abandon me, and I took him at his word."
An actress named Quinault, who had left the stage and lived close by,
came to call, and soon after Madame Favart and the Abbe de Voisenon
arrived, followed by Madame Amelin with a handsome lad named Calabre,
whom she called her nephew. He was as like her as two peas, but she
did not seem to think that a sufficient reason for confessing she was
his mother. M. Patron, a Piedmontese, who also came with her, made a
bank at faro and in a couple of hours won everybody's money with the
exception of mine, as I knew better than to play. My time was better
occupied in the company of my sweet mistress. I saw through the
Piedmontese, and had put him down as a knave; but Tiretta was not so
sharp, and consequently lost all the money he had in his pockets and
a hundred louis besides. The banker having reaped a good harvest put
down the cards, and Tiretta told him in good Italian that he was a
cheat, to which the Piedmontese replied with the greatest coolness
that he lied. Thinking that the quarrel might have an unpleasant
ending, I told him that Tiretta was only jesting, and I made my
friend say so, too. He then left the company and went to his room.
Eight years afterwards I saw this Patron at St. Petersburg, and in
the year 1767 he was assassinated in Poland.
The same evening I preached Tiretta a severe yet friendly sermon.
I pointed out to him that when he played he was at the mercy of the
banker, who might be a rogue but a man of courage too, and so in
calling him a cheat he was risking his life.
"Am I to let myself be robbed, then?"
"Yes, you have a free choice in the matter; nobody will make you
"I certainly will not pay him that hundred louis."
"I advise you to do so, and to do so before you are asked."
"You have a knack of persuading one to do what you will, even though
one be disposed to take no notice of your advice."
"That's because I speak from heart and head at once, and have some
experience in these affairs as well."
Three quarters of an hour afterwards I went to bed and my mistress
came to me before long. We spent a sweeter night than before, for it
is often a matter of some difficulty to pluck the first flower; and
the price which most men put on this little trifle is founded more on
egotism than any feeling of pleasure.
Next day, after dining with the family and admiring the roses on my
sweetheart's cheeks, I returned to Paris. Three or four days later
Tiretta came to tell me that the Dunkirk merchant had arrived, that
he was coming to dine at Madame's, and that she requested me to make
one of the party. I was prepared for the news, but the blood rushed
into my face. Tiretta saw it, and to a certain extent divined my
feelings. "You are in love with the niece," said he.
"Why do you think so?"
"By the mystery you make about her; but love betrays itself even by
"You are a knowing fellow, Tiretta. I will come to dinner, but don't
say a word to anybody."
My heart was rent in twain. Possibly if the merchant had put off his
arrival for a month I should have welcomed it; but to have only just
lifted the nectar to my lips, and to see the precious vessel escape
from my hands! To this day I can recall my feelings, and the very
recollection is not devoid of bitterness.
I was in a fearful state of perplexity, as I always was whenever it
was necessary for me to resolve, and I felt that I could not do so.
If the reader has been placed in the same position he will understand
my feelings. I could not make up my mind to consent to her marrying,
nor could I resolve to wed her myself and gain certain happiness.
I went to Villette and was a little surprised to find Mdlle. de la
Meure more elaborately dressed than usual.
"Your intended," I said, "would have pronounced you charming without
"My aunt doesn't think so"
"You have not seen him yet?"
"No, but I should like to, although I trust with your help never to
become his wife."
Soon after, she arrived with Corneman, the banker, who had been the
agent in this business transaction. The merchant was a fine man,
about forty, with a frank and open face. His dress was good though
not elaborate. He introduced himself simply but in a polite manner
to Madame, and he did not look at his future wife till the aunt
presented her to him. His manner immediately became more pleasing;
and without making use of flowers of speech he said in a very feeling
way that he trusted the impression he had made on her was equal to
that which she had made on him. Her only answer was a low curtsy,
but she studied him carefully.
Dinner was served, and in the course of the meal we talked of almost
everything--except marriage. The happy pair only caught each other's
eyes by chance, and did not speak to one another. After dinner
Mdlle. de la Meure went to her room, and the aunt went into her
closet with the banker and the merchant, and they were in close
conversation for two hours. At the end of that time the gentlemen
were obliged to return to Paris, and Madame, after summoning her
niece, told the merchant she would expect him to dinner on the day
following, and that she was sure that her niece would be glad to see
"Won't you, my dear?"
"Yes, aunt, I shall be very glad to see the gentleman again."
If she had not answered thus, the merchant would have gone away
without hearing his future bride speak.
"Well," said the aunt, "what do you think of your husband?"
"Allow me to put off my answer till to-morrow; but be good enough,
when we are at table, to draw me into the conversation, for it is
very possible that my face has not repelled him, but so far he knows
nothing of my mental powers; possibly my want of wit may destroy any
slight impression my face may have made."
"Yes, I am afraid you will begin to talk nonsense, and make him lose
the good opinion he seems to have formed of you."
"It is not right to deceive anybody. If he is disabused of his
fictitious ideas by the appearance of the truth, so much the better
for him; and so much the worse for both of us, if we decide on
marrying without the slightest knowledge of each other's habits and
ways of thought."
"What do you think of him?"
"I think he is rather nice-looking, and his manners are kind and
polite; but let us wait till to-morrow."
"Perhaps he will have nothing more to say to me; I am so stupid."
"I know very well that you think yourself very clever, and that's
where your fault lies; it's your self-conceit which makes you stupid,
although M. Casanova takes you for a wit."
"Perhaps he may know what he is talking about."
"My poor dear, he is only laughing at you."
"I have good reasons for thinking otherwise, aunt."
"There you go; you will never get any sense."
"Pardon me, madam, if I cannot be of your opinion. Mademoiselle is
quite right in saying that I do not laugh at her. I dare to say that
to-morrow she will shine in the conversation."
"You think so? I am glad to hear it. Now let us have a game at
piquet, and I will play against you and my niece, for she must learn
Tiretta asked leave of his darling to go to the play, and we played
on till supper-time. On his return, Tiretta made us almost die of
laughing with his attempts to tell us in his broken French the plot
of the play he had seen.
I had been in my bedroom for a quarter of an hour, expecting to see
my sweetheart in some pretty kind of undress, when all of a sudden I
saw her come in with all her clothes on. I was surprised at this
circumstance, and it seemed to me of evil omen.
"You are astonished to see me thus," said she, "but I want to speak
to you for a moment, and then I will take off my clothes. Tell me
plainly whether I am to consent to this marriage or no?"
"How do you like him?"
"Very good; farewell! From this moment our love ends, and our
friendship begins. Get you to bed, and I will go and do the same.
"No, stay, and let our friendship begin to-morrow."
"Not so, were my refusal to cost the lives of both of us. You know
what it must cost me to speak thus, but it is my irrevocable
determination. If I am to become another's wife, I must take care to
be worthy of him; perhaps I may be happy. Do not hold me, let me go.
You know how well I love you."
"At least, let us have one final embrace."
"You are weeping."
"No, I am not. In God's name let me go."
"Dear heart, you go but to weep in your chamber; stay here. I will
"Nay, no more of that."
With these words she made an effort, escaped from my hands, and fled
from the room. I was covered with shame and regret, and could not
sleep. I hated myself, for I knew not whether I had sinned most
grievously in seducing her or in abandoning her to another.
I stayed to dinner next day in spite of my heartbreak and my sadness.
Mdlle. de la Meure talked so brilliantly and sensibly to her intended
that one could easily see he was enchanted with her. As for me,
feeling that I had nothing pleasant to say, I pretended to have the
toothache as an excuse for not talking. Sick at heart, absent-
minded, and feeling the effects of a sleepless night, I was well-nigh
mad with love, jealousy, and despair. Mdlle. de la Meure did not