Part 2 out of 3
speak to me once, did not so much as look at me. She was quite
right, but I did not think so then. I thought the dinner would never
come to an end, and I do not think I was ever present at so painful a
As we rose from the table, Madame went into her closet with her niece
and nephew that was to be, and the niece came out in the course of an
hour and bade us congratulate her, as she was to be married in a
week, and after the wedding she would accompany her husband to
Dunkirk. "To-morrow," she added, "we are all to dine with M.
Corneman, where the deed of settlement will be signed."
I cannot imagine how it was I did not fall dead on the spot. My
anguish cannot be expressed.
Before long it was proposed that we should go to the play, but
excusing myself on the plea of business I returned to Paris. As I
got to my door I seemed to be in a fever, and I lay down on my bed,
but instead of the rest I needed I experienced only remorse and
fruitless repentance-the torments of the damned. I began to think it
was my duty to stop the marriage or die. I was sure that Mdlle. de
la Meure loved me, and I fancied she would not say no if I told her
that her refusal to marry me would cost me my life. Full of that
idea I rose and wrote her a letter, strong with all the strength of
tumultuous passion. This was some relief, and getting into bed I
slept till morning. As soon as I was awake I summoned a messenger
and promised him twelve francs if he would deliver my letter, and
report its receipt in an hour and a half. My letter was under cover
of a note addressed to Tiretta, in which I told him that I should not
leave the house till I had got an answer. I had my answer four hours
after; it ran as follows: "Dearest, it is too late; you have decided
on my destiny, and I cannot go back from my word. Come to dinner at
M. Corneman's, and be sure that in a few weeks we shall be
congratulating ourselves on having won a great victory. Our love,
crowned all too soon, will soon live only in our memories. I beg of
you to write to me no more."
Such was my fate. Her refusal, with the still more cruel charge not
to write to her again, made me furious. In it I only saw
inconstancy. I thought she had fallen in love with the merchant. My
state of mind may be judged from the fact that I determined to kill
my rival. The most savage plans, the most cruel designs, ran a race
through my bewildered brain. I was jealous, in love, a different
being from my ordinary self; anger, vanity, and shame had destroyed
my powers of reasoning. The charming girl whom I was forced to
admire, whom I should have esteemed all the more for the course she
had taken, whom I had regarded as an angel, became in my eyes a
hateful monster, a meet object for punishment. At last I determined
on a sure method of revenge, which I knew to be both dishonourable
and cowardly, but in my blind passion I did not hesitate for a
moment. I resolved to go to the merchant at M. Corneman's, where he
was staying, to tell him all that had passed between the lady and
myself, and if that did not make him renounce the idea of marrying
her I would tell him that one of us must die, and if he refused my
challenge I determined to assassinate him.
With this terrible plan in my brain, which makes me shudder now when
I think of it, I ate with the appetite of a wild beast, lay down and
slept till day. I was in the same mind when I awoke, and dressed
myself hastily yet carefully, put two good pistols in my pocket and
went to M. Corneman's. My rival was still asleep; I waited for him,
and for a quarter of an hour my thoughts only grew more bitter and my
determination more fixed. All at once he came into the room, in his
dressing-gown, and received me with open arms, telling me in the
kindest of voices that he had been expecting me to call, as he could
guess what feelings I, a friend of his future wife's, could have for
him, and saying that his friendship for me should always be as warm
as hers. His honest open face, his straightforward words,
overwhelmed me, and I was silent for a few minutes--in fact I did not
know what to say. Luckily he gave me enough time to recollect
myself, as he talked on for a quarter of an hour without noticing
that I did not open my lips.
M. Corneman then came in; coffee was served, and my speech returned
to me; but I am happy to say I refrained from playing the
dishonourable part I had intended; the crisis was passed.
It may be remarked that the fiercest spirits are like a cord
stretched too tight, which either breaks or relaxes. I have known
several persons of that temperament--the Chevalier L----, amongst
others, who in a fit of passion used to feel his soul escaping by
every pore. If at the moment when his anger burst forth he was able
to break something and make a great noise, he calmed down in a
moment; reason resumed her sway, and the raging lion became as mild
as a lamb.
After I had taken a cup of coffee, I felt myself calmed but yet dizzy
in the head, so I bade them good morning and went out. I was
astonished but delighted that I had not carried my detestable scheme
into effect. I was humbled by being forced to confess to myself that
chance and chance alone had saved me from becoming a villain. As I
was reflecting on what had happened I met my brother, and he
completed my cure. I took him to dine at Silvia's and stayed there
till midnight. I saw that Mdlle. Baletti would make me forget the
fair inconstant, whom I wisely determined not to see again before the
wedding. To make sure I set out the next day for Versailles, to look
after my interests with the Government.
The Abby de la Ville--The Abby Galiani--The Neapolitan Dialect--I Set
Out for Dunkirk on a Secret Mission I Succeed--I Return to Paris by
Amiens--My Adventure by the Way--M. de la Bretonniere--My Report
Gives Satisfaction--I Am Paid Five Hundred Louis--Reflections.
A new career was opening before me. Fortune was still my friend, and
I had all the necessary qualities to second the efforts of the blind
goddess on my behalf save one--perseverance. My immoderate life of
pleasure annulled the effect of all my other qualities.
M. de Bernis received me in his usual manner, that is more like a
friend than a minister. He asked me if I had any inclination for a
"Have I the necessary talents?"
"I think so."
"I have an inclination for all honest means of earning a livelihood,
and as for my talents I will take your excellency's opinion for
This last observation made him smile, as I had intended.
After a few words spoken at random on the memories of bygone years
which time had not entirely defaced, the minister told me to go to
the Abbe de la Ville and use his name.
This abbe, the chief permanent official of the foreign office, was a
man of cold temperament, a profound diplomatist, and the soul of the
department, and high in favour with his excellency the minister. He
had served the state well as an agent at The Hague, and his grateful
king rewarded him by giving him a bishopric on the day of his death.
It was a little late, but kings have not always sufficient leisure to
remember things. His heir was a wealthy man named Gamier, who had
formerly been chief cook at M. d'Argenson's, and had become rich by
profiting by the friendship the Abbe de la Ville had always had for
him. These two friends, who were nearly of the same age, had
deposited their wills in the hands of the same attorney, and each had
made the other his residuary legatee.
After the abbe had delivered a brief discourse on the nature of
secret missions and the discretion necessary to those charged with
them, he told me that he would let me know when anything suitable for
me presented itself.
I made the acquaintance of the Abbe Galiani, the secretary of the
Neapolitan Embassy. He was a brother to the Marquis de Galiani, of
whom I shall speak when we come to my Italian travels. The Abbe
Galiani was a man of wit. He had a knack of making the most serious
subjects appear comic; and being a good talker, speaking French with
the ineradicable Neapolitan accent, he was a favourite in every
circle he cared to enter. The Abbe de la Ville told him that
Voltaire had complained that his Henriade had been translated into
Neapolitan verse in such sort that it excited laughter.
"Voltaire is wrong," said Galiani, "for the Neapolitan dialect is of
such a nature that it is impossible to write verses in it that are
not laughable. And why should he be vexed; he who makes people laugh
is sure of being beloved. The Neapolitan dialect is truly a singular
one; we have it in translations of the Bible and of the Iliad, and
both are comic."
"I can imagine that the Bible would be, but I should not have thought
that would have been the case with the Iliad."
"It is, nevertheless."
I did not return to Paris till the day before the departure of Mdlle.
de la Meure, now Madame P----. I felt in duty bound to go and see
her, to give her my congratulations, and to wish her a pleasant
journey. I found her in good spirits and quite at her ease, and, far
from being vexed at this, I was pleased, a certain sign that I was
cured. We talked without the slightest constraint, and I thought her
husband a perfect gentleman. He invited us to visit him at Dunkirk,
and I promised to go without intending to do so, but the fates willed
Tiretta was now left alone with his darling, who grew more infatuated
with her Strephon every day, so well did he prove his love for her.
With a mind at ease, I now set myself to sentimentalize with Mdlle.
Baletti, who gave me every day some new mark of the progress I was
The friendship and respect I bore her family made the idea of
seduction out of the question, but as I grew more and more in love
with her, and had no thoughts of marriage, I should have been puzzled
to say at what end I was aiming, so I let myself glide along the
stream without thinking where I was going.
In the beginning of May the Abbe de Bernis told me to come and call
on him at Versailles, but first to see the Abbe de la Ville. The
first question the abbe asked me was whether I thought myself capable
of paying a visit to eight or ten men-of-war in the roads at Dunkirk,
of making the acquaintance of the officers, and of completing a
minute and circumstantial report on the victualling, the number of
seamen, the guns, ammunition, discipline, etc., etc.
"I will make the attempt," I said, "and will hand you in my report on
my return, and it will be for you to say if I have succeeded or not."
"As this is a secret mission, I cannot give you a letter of
commendation; I can only give you some money and wish you a pleasant
"I do not wish to be paid in advance--on my return you can give me
what you think fit. I shall want three or four days before setting
out, as I must procure some letters of introduction."
"Very good. Try to come back before the end of the month. I have no
further instructions to give you."
On the same day I had some conversation at the Palais Bourbon with my
patron, who could not admire sufficiently my delicacy in refusing
payment in advance; and taking advantage of my having done so he made
me accept a packet of a hundred Louis. This was the last occasion on
which I made use of his purse; I did not borrow from him at Rome
fourteen years afterwards.
"As you are on a secret mission, my dear Casanova, I cannot give you
a passport. I am sorry for it, but if I did so your object would be
suspected. However, you will easily be able to get one from the
first gentleman of the chamber, on some pretext or other. Silvia
will be more useful to you in that way than anybody else. You quite
understand how discreet your behaviour must be. Above all, do not
get into any trouble; for I suppose you know that, if anything
happened to you, it would be of no use to talk of your mission. We
should be obliged to know nothing about you, for ambassadors are the
only avowed spies. Remember that you must be even more careful and
reserved than they, and yet, if you wish to succeed, all this must be
concealed, and you must have an air of freedom from constraint that
you may inspire confidence. If, on your return, you like to shew me
your report before handing it in, I will tell you what may require to
be left out or added."
Full of this affair, the importance of which I exaggerated in
proportion to my inexperience, I told Silvia that I wanted to
accompany some English friends as far as Calais, and that she would
oblige me by getting me a passport from the Duc de Gesvres. Always
ready to oblige me, she sat down directly and wrote the duke a
letter, telling me to deliver it myself since my personal description
was necessary. These passports carry legal weight in the Isle de
France only, but they procure one respect in all the northern parts
of the kingdom.
Fortified with Silvia's letter, and accompanied by her husband, I
went to the duke who was at his estate at St. Toro, and he had
scarcely read the letter through before he gave me the passport.
Satisfied on this point I went to Villette, and asked Madame if she
had anything I could take to her niece. "You can take her the box of
china statuettes," said she, "if M. Corneman has not sent them
already." I called on the banker who gave me the box, and in return
for a hundred Louis a letter of credit on a Dunkirk house. I begged
him to name me in the letter in a special manner, as I was going for
the sake of pleasure. He seemed glad to oblige me, and I started the
same evening, and three days later I was at the "Hotel de la
Conciergerie," in Dunkirk.
An hour after my arrival I gave the charming Madame P---- an
agreeable surprise by handing her the box, and giving her her aunt's
messages. Just as she was praising her husband, and telling me how
happy she was, he came in, saying he was delighted to see me and
asked me to stay in his house, without enquiring whether my stay in
Dunkirk would be a long or short one. I of course thanked him, and
after promising to dine now and again at his house I begged him to
take me to the banker on whom I had a letter.
The banker read my letter, and gave me the hundred louis, and asked
me to wait for him at my inn where he would come for me with the
governor, a M. de Barail. This gentleman who, like most Frenchmen,
was very polite, after making some ordinary enquiries, asked me to
sup with him and his wife who was still at the play. The lady gave
me as kind a reception as I had received from her husband. After we
had partaken of an excellent supper several persons arrived, and play
commenced in which I did not join, as I wished to study the society
of the place, and above all certain officers of both services who
were present. By means of speaking with an air of authority about
naval matters, and by saying that I had served in the navy of the
Venetian Republic, in three days I not only knew but was intimate
with all the captains of the Dunkirk fleet. I talked at random about
naval architecture, on the Venetian system of manoeuvres, and I
noticed that the jolly sailors were better pleased at my blunders
than at my sensible remarks.
Four days after I had been at Dunkirk, one of the captains asked me
to dinner on his ship, and after that all the others did the same;
and on every occasion I stayed in the ship for the rest of the day.
I was curious about everything--and Jack is so trustful! I went into
the hold, I asked questions innumerable, and I found plenty of young
officers delighted to shew their own importance, who gossipped
without needing any encouragement from me. I took care, however, to
learn everything which would be of service to me, and in the evenings
I put down on paper all the mental notes I had made during the day.
Four or five hours was all I allowed myself for sleep, and in fifteen
days I had learnt enough.
Pleasure, gaming, and idleness--my usual companions--had no part in
this expedition, and I devoted all my energies to the object of my
mission. I dined once with the banker, once with Madame P----, in
the town, and once in a pretty country house which her husband had,
at about a league's distance from Dunkirk. She took me there
herself, and on finding myself alone with the woman I had loved so
well I delighted her by the delicacy of my behaviour, which was
marked only by respect and friendship. As I still thought her
charming, and as our connection had only ended six weeks ago, I was
astonished to see myself so quiet, knowing my disposition too well to
attribute my restraint to virtue. What, then, was the reason? An
Italian proverb, speaking for nature, gives the true solution of the
'La Mona non vuol pensieri', and my head was full of thought.
My task was done, and bidding good-bye to all my friends, I set out
in my post-chaise for Paris, going by another way for the sake of the
change. About midnight, on my asking for horses at some stage, the
name of which I forget, they told me that the next stage was the
fortified town of Aire, which we should not be allowed to pass
through at midnight.
"Get me the horses," said I, "I will make them open the gates."
I was obeyed, and in due time we reached the gates.
The postillion cracked his whip and the sentry called out, "Who goes
After making me wait for an hour the gate was opened, and I was told
that I must go and speak to the governor. I did so, fretting and
fuming on my way as if I were some great person, and I was taken to a
room where a man in an elegant nightcap was lying beside a very
"Whose messenger are you?"
"Nobody's, but as I am in a hurry."
"That will do. We will talk the matter over tomorrow. In the
meanwhile you will accept the hospitality of the guard-room."
"But, sir . . ."
"But me no buts, if you please; leave the room."
I was taken to the guard-room where I spent the night seated on the
ground. The daylight appeared. I shouted, swore, made all the
racket I could, said I wanted to go on, but nobody took any notice of
Ten o'clock struck. More impatient than I can say, I raised my voice
and spoke to the officer, telling him that the governor might
assassinate me if he liked, but had no right to deny me pen and
paper, or to deprive me of the power of sending a messenger to Paris.
"Your name, sir?"
"Here is my passport."
He told me that he would take it to the governor, but I snatched it
away from him.
"Would you like to see the governor?"
"Yes, I should."
We started for the governor's apartments. The officer was the first
to enter, and in two minutes came out again and brought me in. I
gave up my passport in proud silence. The governor read it through,
examining me all the while to see if I was the person described; he
then gave it me back, telling me that I was free to go where I liked.
"Not so fast, sir, I am not in such a hurry now. I shall send a
messenger to Paris and wait his return; for by stopping me on my
journey you have violated all the rights of the subject."
"You violated them yourself in calling yourself a messenger."
"Not at all; I told you that I was not one."
"Yes, but you told your postillion that you were, and that comes to
the same thing."
"The postillion is a liar, I told him nothing of the kind."
"Why didn't you shew your passport?"
"Why didn't you give me time to do so? In the course of the next
few days we shall see who is right."
"Just as you please."
I went out with the officer who took me to the posting-place, and a
minute afterwards my carriage drew up. The posting-place was also an
inn, and I told the landlord to have a special messenger ready to
carry out my orders, to give me a good room and a good bed, and to
serve me some rich soup immediately; and I warned him that I was
accustomed to good fare. I had my portmanteau and all my belongings
taken into my room, and having washed and put on my dressing-gown I
sat down to write, to whom I did not know, for I was quite wrong in
my contention. However, I had begun by playing the great man, and I
thought myself bound in honour to sustain the part, without thinking
whether I stood to have to back out of it or no. All the same I was
vexed at having to wait in Aire till the return of the messenger,
whom I was about to send to the-moon! In the meanwhile, not having
closed an eye all night, I determined to take a rest. I was sitting
in my shirt-sleeves and eating the soup which had been served to me,
when the governor came in unaccompanied. I was both surprised and
delighted to see him.
"I am sorry for what has happened, sir, and above all that you think
you have good reason for complaint, inasmuch as I only did my duty,
for how was I to imagine that your postillion had called you a
messenger on his own responsibility."
"That's all very well, sir, but your sense of duty need not have made
you drive me from your room."
"I was in need of sleep."
"I am in the same position at the present moment, but a feeling of
politeness prevents me from imitating your example."
"May I ask if you have ever been in the service?"
"I have served by land and sea, and have left off when most people
are only beginning."
"In that case you will be aware that the gates of a fortified town
are only opened by night to the king's messengers or to military
"Yes, I know; but since they were opened the thing was done, and you
might as well have been polite."
"Will you not put on your clothes, and walk a short distance with
His invitation pleased me as well as his pride had displeased me. I
had been thinking of a duel as a possible solution of the difficulty,
but the present course took all trouble out of my hands. I answered
quietly and politely that the honour of walking with him would be
enough to make me put off all other calls, and I asked him to be
seated while I made haste to dress myself.
I drew on my breeches, throwing the splendid pistols in my pockets on
to the bed, called up the barber, and in ten minutes was ready. I
put on my sword, and we went out.
We walked silently enough along two or three streets, passed through
a gate, up a court, till we got to a door where my guide stopped
short. He asked me to come in, and I found myself in a fine room
full of people. I did not think of going back, but behaved as if I
had been in my own house.
"Sir-my wife," said the governor; and turning to her without pausing,
"here is M. de Casanova, who has come to dinner with us."
"I am delighted to hear it, sir, as otherwise I should have had no
chance of forgiving you for waking me up the other night."
"I paid dearly for my fault, madam, but after the purgatory I had
endured I am sure you will allow me to be happy in this paradise."
She answered with a charming smile, and after asking me to sit beside
her she continued whatever conversation was possible in the midst of
a game at cards.
I found myself completely outwitted, but the thing was done so
pleasantly that all I could do was to put a good face on it--a feat
which I found sufficiently easy from the relief I felt at no longer
being bound to send a messenger to I did not know whom.
The governor well satisfied with his victory, got all at once into
high spirits, and began to talk about military matters, the Court,
and on general topics, often addressing me with that friendly ease
which good French society knows so well how to reconcile with the
rules of politeness; no one could have guessed that there had ever
been the slightest difference between us. He had made himself
the hero of the piece by the dexterous manner in which he had led up
to the situation, but I had a fair claim to the second place, for I
had made an experienced officer high in command give me the most
flattering kind of satisfaction, which bore witness to the esteem
with which I had inspired him.
The dinner was served. The success of my part depended on the manner
in which it was played, and my wit has seldom been keener than during
this meal. The whole conversation was in a pleasant vein, and I took
great care to give the governor's wife opportunities for shining in
it. She was a charming and pretty woman, still quite youthful, for
she was at least thirty years younger than the governor. Nothing was
said about my six hours' stay in the guard-room, but at dessert the
governor escaped speaking plainly by a joke that was not worth the
trouble of making.
"You're a nice man," said he, "to think I was going to fight you.
Ah! ha! I have caught you, haven't I?"
"Who told you that I was meditating a duel?"
"Confess that such was the case?"
"I protest; there is a great difference between believing and
supposing; the one is positive, the other merely hypothetical. I
must confess, however, that your invitation to take a walk roused my
curiosity as to what was to come next, and I admire your wit. But
you must believe me that I do not regard myself as caught in a trap--
far from that, I am so well pleased that I feel grateful to you."
In the afternoon we all took a walk, and I gave my arm to the
charming mistress of the house. In the evening I took my leave, and
set out early the next day having made a fair copy of my report.
At five o'clock in the morning I was fast asleep in my carriage, when
I was suddenly awakened. We were at the gate of Amiens. The fellow
at the door was an exciseman--a race everywhere detested and with
good cause, for besides the insolence of their manners nothing makes
a man feel more like a slave than the inquisitorial search they are
accustomed to make through one's clothes and most secret possessions.
He asked me if I had anything contraband; and being in a bad temper
at being deprived of my sleep to answer such a question I replied
with an oath that I had nothing of the sort, and that he would have
done better to let me sleep.
"As you talk in that style," said the creature, "we will see what we
He ordered the postillion to pass on with the carriage. He had my
luggage hauled down, and not being able to hinder him I fumed in
I saw my mistake, but there was nothing to be done; and having no
contraband goods I had nothing to fear, but my bad temper cost me two
weary hours of delay. The joys of vengeance were depicted on the
features of the exciseman. At the time of which I am writing these
gaugers were the dregs of the people, but would become tractable on
being treated with a little politeness. The sum of twenty-four sous
given with good grace would make them as supple as a pair of gloves;
they would bow to the travellers, wish them a pleasant journey, and
give no trouble. I knew all this, but there are times when a man
acts mechanically as I had done, unfortunately.
The scoundrels emptied my boxes and unfolded everything even to my
shirts, between which they said I might have concealed English lace.
After searching everything they gave me back my keys, but they had
not yet done with us; they began to search my carriage. The rascal
who was at the head of them began to shout "victory," he had
discovered the remainder of a pound of snuff which I had bought at
St. Omer on my way to Dunkirk.
With a voice of triumph the chief exciseman gave orders that my
carriage should be seized, and warned me that I would have to pay a
fine of twelve hundred francs.
For the nonce my patience was exhausted, and I leave the names I
called them to the imagination of the reader; but they were proof
against words. I told them to take me to the superintendent's.
"You can go if you like," said they, "we are not your servants."
Surrounded by a curious crowd, whom the noise had drawn together, I
began to walk hurriedly towards the town, and entering the first open
shop I came to, I begged the shopkeeper to take me to the
superintendent's. As I was telling the circumstances of the case, a
man of good appearance, who happened to be in the shop, said that he
would be glad to show me the way himself, though he did not think I
should find the superintendent in, as he would doubtless be warned of
"Without your paying either the fine or caution money," said he, "you
will find it a hard matter to get yourself out of the difficulty."
I entreated him to shew me the way to the superintendent's, and not
to trouble about anything else. He advised me to give the rabble a
louis to buy drink, and thus to rid myself of them, on which I gave
him the louis, begging him to see to it himself, and the bargain was
soon struck. He was a worthy attorney, and knew his men.
We got to the superintendent's; but, as my guide had warned me, my
gentleman was not to be seen. The porter told us that he had gone
out alone, that he would not be back before night, and that he did
not know where he had gone.
"There's a whole day lost, then," said the attorney.
"Let us go and hunt him up; he must have well-known resorts and
friends, and we will find them out. I will give you a louis for the
day's work; will that be enough?"
We spent in vain four hours in looking for the superintendent in ten
or twelve houses. I spoke to the masters of all of them,
exaggerating considerably the injury that had been done to me. I was
listened to, condoled with, and comforted with the remark that he
would certainly be obliged to return to his house at night, and then
he could not help hearing what I had to say. That would not suit me,
so I continued the chase.
At one o'clock the attorney took me to an old lady, who was thought a
great deal of in the town. She was dining all by herself. After
giving great attention to my story, she said that she did not think
she could be doing wrong in telling a stranger the whereabouts of an
individual who, in virtue of his office, ought never to be
"And so, sir, I may reveal to you what after all is no secret. My
daughter told me yesterday evening that she was going to dine at
Madame N----'s, and that the superintendent was to be there. Do you
go after him now, and you will find him at table in the best society
in Amiens, but," said she, with a smile, "I advise you not to give
your name at the door. The numerous servants will shew you the way
without asking for your name. You can then speak to him whether he
likes it or not, and though you don't know him he will hear all you
say. I am sorry that I cannot be present at so fine a situation."
I gratefully took leave of the worthy lady, and I set off in all
haste to the house I had been told of, the attorney, who was almost
tired out, accompanying me. Without the least difficulty he and I
slipped in between the crowds of servants till we got to a hall where
there were more than twenty people sitting down to a rich and
"Ladies and gentlemen, you will excuse my troubling your quiet on
this festive occasion with a tale of terror."
At these words, uttered in the voice of Jupiter Tonans, everybody
rose. The surprise of the high-born company of knights and ladies at
my apparition can easily be imagined.
"Since seven o'clock this morning I have been searching from door to
door and from street to street for his honour the superintendent,
whom I have at last been fortunate enough to find here, for I know
perfectly well that he is present, and that if he have ears he hears
me now. I am come to request him to order his scoundrelly myrmidons
who have seized my carriage to give it up, so that I may continue my
journey. If the laws bid me pay twelve hundred francs for seven
ounces of snuff for my own private use, I renounce those laws and
declare that I will not pay a farthing. I shall stay here and send a
messenger to my ambassador, who will complain that the 'jus gentium'
has been violated in the Ile-de-France in my person, and I will have
reparation. Louis XV. is great enough to refuse to become an
accomplice in this strange onslaught. And if that satisfaction which
is my lawful right is not granted me, I will make the thing an affair
of state, and my Republic will not revenge itself by assaulting
Frenchmen for a few pinches of snuff, but will expel them all root
and branch. If you want to know whom I am, read this."
Foaming with rage, I threw my passport on the table.
A man picked it up and read it, and I knew him to be the
superintendent. While my papers were being handed round I saw
expressed on every face surprise and indignation, but the
superintendent replied haughtily that he was at Amiens to administer
justice, and that I could not leave the town unless I paid the fine
or gave surety.
"If you are here to do justice, you will look upon my passport as a
positive command to speed me on my way, and I bid you yourself be my
surety if you are a gentleman."
"Does high birth go bail for breaches of the law in your country?"
"In my country men of high birth do not condescend to take
"No service under the king can be dishonourable."
"The hangman would say the same thing."
"Take care what you say."
"Take care what you do. Know, sir, that I am a free man who has been
grievously outraged, and know, too, that I fear no one. Throw me out
of the window, if you dare."
"Sir," said a lady to me in the voice of the mistress of the house,
"in my house there is no throwing out of windows."
"Madam, an angry man makes use of terms which his better reason
disowns. I am wronged by a most cruel act of injustice, and I humbly
crave your pardon for having offended you. Please to reflect that
for the first time in my life I have been oppressed and insulted, and
that in a kingdom where I thought myself safe from all but highway
robbers. For them I have my pistols, and for the worthy
superintendents I have a passport, but I find the latter useless.
For the sake of seven ounces of snuff which I bought at St. Omer
three weeks ago, this gentleman robs me and interrupts my journey,
though the king's majesty is my surety that no one shall interfere
with me; he calls on me to pay fifty louis, he delivers me to the
rage of his impudent menials and to the derision of the mob, from
whom I had to rid myself by my money and the aid of this worthy man
beside me. I am treated like a scoundrel, and the man who should
have been my defender and deliverer slinks away and hides himself,
and adds to the insults I have received. His myrmidons have turned
my clothes upside down, and pitchforked my linen at the foot of the
town gates, to revenge themselves on me for not giving them twenty,
four sous. To-morrow the manner in which I have been treated will be
known to the diplomatic bodies at Versailles and Paris, and in a few
days it will be in all the newspapers. I will pay not a farthing
because I owe not a farthing. Now, sir, am I to send a courier to
the Duc de Gesvres?"
"What you have got to do is to pay, and if you do not care to pay,
you may do whatever you like."
"Then, ladies and gentlemen, good-bye. As for you, sir, we shall
As I was rushing out of the room like a madman, I heard somebody
calling out to me in good Italian to wait a minute. I turned round,
and saw the voice had proceeded from a man past middle age, who
addressed the superintendent thus:--
"Let this gentleman proceed on his journey; I will go bail for him.
Do you understand me, superintendent? I will be his surety. You
don't know these Italians. I went through the whole of the last war
in Italy, and I understand the national character. Besides, I think
the gentleman is in the right."
"Very good," said the official, turning to me. "All you have to do
is to pay a matter of thirty or forty francs at the customs' office
as the affair is already booked."
"I thought I told you that I would not pay a single farthing, and I
tell it you again. But who are you, sir," said I, turning to the
worthy old man, "who are good enough to become surety for me without
"I am a commissary of musters, sir, and my name is de la Bretonniere.
I live in Paris at the 'Hotel de Saxe,' Rue Colombien, where I shall
be glad to see you after to-morrow. We will go together to M.
Britard, who, after hearing your case, will discharge my bail."
After I had expressed my gratitude, and told him that I would wait
upon him without fail, I made my excuses to the mistress of the house
and the guests, and left them.
I took my worthy attorney to dinner at the best inn in the place, and
I gave him two louis for his trouble. Without his help and that of
the commissary I should have been in great difficulty; it would have
been a case of the earthen pot and the iron pot over again; for with
jacks-in-office reason is of no use, and though I had plenty of money
I would never have let the wretches rob me of fifty louis.
My carriage was drawn up at the door of the tavern; and just as I was
getting in, one of the excisemen who had searched my luggage came and
told me that I should find everything just as I left it:--
"I wonder at that since it has been left in the hands of men of your
stamp; shall I find the snuff?"
"The snuff has been confiscated, my lord."
"I am sorry for you, then; for if it had been there I would have
given you a louis."
"I will go and look for it directly."
"I have no time to wait for it. Drive on, postillion."
I got to Paris the next day, and four days after I waited on M. de la
Bretonniere, who gave me a hearty welcome, and took me to M.
Britard, the fermier-general, who discharged his bail. This M.
Britard was a pleasant young man. He blushed when he heard all I had
I took my report to M. de Bernis, at the "Hotel Bourbon," and his
excellence spent two hours over it, making me take out all
unnecessary matter. I spent the time in making a fair copy, and the
next day I took it to M. de la Ville, who read it through in silence,
and told me that he would let me know the result. A month after I
received five hundred louis, and I had the pleasure of hearing that
M. de Cremille, the first lord of the admiralty, had pronounced my
report to be not only perfectly accurate but very suggestive.
Certain reasonable apprehensions prevented me from making myself
known to him--an honour which M. de Bernis wished to procure for me.
When I told him my adventures on the way back, he laughed, but said
that the highest merit of a secret agent was to keep out of
difficulties; for though he might have the tact to extricate himself
from them, yet he got talked of, which it should be his chief care to
This mission cost the admiralty twelve thousand francs, and the
minister might easily have procured all the information I gave him
without spending a penny. Any intelligent young naval officer would
have done it just as well, and would have acquitted himself with zeal
and discretion, to gain the good opinion of the ministers. But all
the French ministers are the same. They lavished money which came
out of other people's pockets to enrich their creatures, and they
were absolute; the downtrodden people counted for nothing, and of
this course the indebtedness of the state and the confusion of the
finances were the inevitable results. It is quite true that the
Revolution was a necessity, but it should have been marked with
patriotism and right feeling, not with blood. However, the nobility
and clergy were not men of sufficient generosity to make the
necessary sacrifices to the king, the state, and to themselves.
Silvia was much amused at my adventures at Aire and Amiens, and her
charming daughter shewed much pity for the bad night I had passed in
the guard-room. I told her that the hardship would have been much
less if I had had a wife beside me. She replied that a wife, if a
good one, would have been only too happy to alleviate my troubles by
sharing in them, but her mother observed that a woman of parts, after
seeing to the safety of my baggage and my coach, would have busied
herself in taking the necessary steps for setting me at liberty, and
I supported this opinion as best indicating the real duty of a good
The Count de la Tour D'Auvergne and Madame D'Urfe--Camille--My
Passion for the Count's Mistress--The Ridiculous Incident Which Cured
Me--The Count de St. Germain
In spite of my love for Mdlle. Baletti, I did not omit to pay my
court to the most noted ladies of the pavement; but I was chiefly
interested in kept women, and those who consider themselves as
belonging to the public only in playing before them night by night,
queens or chamber-maids.
In spite of this affection, they enjoy what they call their
independence, either by devoting themselves to Cupid or to Plutus,
and more frequently to both together. As it is not very difficult to
make the acquaintance of these priestesses of pleasure and
dissipation, I soon got to know several of them.
The halls of the theatres are capital places for amateurs to exercise
their talents in intriguing, and I had profited tolerably well by the
lessons I had learnt in this fine school.
I began by becoming the friend of their lovers, and I often succeeded
by pretending to be a man of whom nobody need be afraid.
Camille, an actress and dancer at the Italian play, with whom I had
fallen in love at Fontainebleu seven years ago, was one of those of
whom I was most fond, liking the society at her pretty little house,
where she lived with the Count d'Eigreville, who was a friend of
mine, and fond of my company. He was a brother of the Marquis de
Gamache and of the Countess du Rumain, and was a fine young fellow of
an excellent disposition. He was never so well pleased as when he
saw his mistress surrounded by people--a taste which is rarely found,
but which is very convenient, and the sign of a temperament not
afflicted by jealousy. Camille had no other lovers--an astonishing
thing in an actress of the kind, but being full of tact and wit she
drove none of her admirers to despair. She was neither over sparing
nor over generous in the distribution of her favours, and knew how to
make the whole town rave about her without fearing the results of
indiscretion or sorrows of being abandoned.
The gentleman of whom, after her lover, she took most notice, was the
Count de la Tour d'Auvergne, a nobleman of an old family, who
idolized her, and, not being rich enough to possess her entirely, had
to be content with what she gave him. Camille had given him a young
girl, for whose keep she paid, who lived with Tour d'Auvergne in
furnished apartments in the Rue de Taranne, and whom he said he loved
as one loves a portrait, because she came from Camille. The count
often took her with him to Camille's to supper. She was fifteen,
simple in her manners, and quite devoid of ambition. She told her
lover that she would never forgive him an act of infidelity except
with Camille, to whom she felt bound to yield all since to her she
I became so much in love with her that I often went to Camille's
solely to see her and to enjoy those artless speeches with which she
delighted the company. I strove as best I could to conceal my flame,
but often I found myself looking quite sad at the thought of the
impossibility of my love being crowned with success. If I had let my
passion be suspected I should have been laughed at, and should have
made myself a mark for the pitiless sarcasms of Camille. However, I
got my cure in the following ridiculous manner:--
Camille lived at the Barriere Blanche, and on leaving her house, one
rainy evening, I sought in vain for a coach to take me home.
"My dear Casanova," said Tour d'Auvergne, "I can drop you at your own
door without giving myself the slightest inconvenience, though my
carriage is only seated for two; however, my sweetheart can sit on
I accepted his offer with pleasure, and we seated ourselves in the
carriage, the count on my left hand and Babet on both our knees.
Burning with amorous passion I thought I would take the opportunity,
and, to lose no time, as the coachman was driving fast, I took her
hand and pressed it softly. The pressure was returned. Joy! I
carried the hand to my lips, and covered it with affectionate though
noiseless kisses. Longing to convince her of the ardour of my
passion, and thinking that her hand would not refuse to do me a sweet
service, I . . . but just at critical moment,
"I am really very much obliged to you, my dear fellow," said the
Count de la Tour d'Auvergne, "for a piece of politeness thoroughly
Italian, of which, however, I do not feel worthy; at least, I hope
it's meant as politeness and not as a sign of contempt."
At these dreadful words I stretched out my hand and felt the sleeve
of his coat. Presence of mind was no good in a situation like this,
when his words were followed by a peal of loud laughter which would
have confounded the hardiest spirit. As for me, I could neither join
in his laughter nor deny his accusation; the situation was a fearful
one, or would have been if the friendly shades of night had not
covered my confusion. Babet did her best to find out from the count
why he laughed so much, but he could not tell her for laughing, for
which I gave thanks with all my heart. At last the carriage stopped
at my house, and as soon as my servant had opened the door of my
carriage I got down as fast as I could, and wished them good night--a
compliment which Tour d'Auvergne returned with fresh peals of
laughter. I entered my house in a state of stupefaction, and half an
hour elapsed before I, too, began to laugh at the adventure. What
vexed me most was the expectation of having malicious jests passed
upon me, for I had not the least right to reckon on the count's
discretion. However, I had enough sense to determine to join in the
laughter if I could, and if not, to take it well, for this is, and
always will be, the best way to get the laughers on one's own side at
For three days I saw nothing of the delightful count, and on the
fourth I resolved to ask him to take breakfast with me, as Camille
had sent to my house to enquire how I was. My adventure would not
prevent me visiting her house, but I was anxious to know how it had
As soon as Tour d'Auvergne saw me he began to roar with laughter, and
I joined in, and we greeted each other in the friendliest manner
possible. "My dear count," said I, "let us forget this foolish
story. You have no business to attack me, as I do not know how to
"Why should you defend yourself, my dear fellow. We like you all the
better for it, and this humorous adventure makes us merry every
"Everybody knows it, then?"
"Of course, why not? It makes Camille choke with laughter. Come
this evening; I will bring Babet, and she will amuse you as she
maintains that you were not mistaken."
"She is right."
"Eh? what? You do me too much honour, and I don't believe you; but
have it as you like."
"I can't do better, but I must confess when all's said that you were
not the person to whom my fevered imagination offered such ardent
At supper I jested, pretended to be astonished at the count's
indiscretion, and boasted of being cured of my passion. Babet called
me a villain, and maintained that I was far from cured; but she was
wrong, as the incident had disgusted me with her, and had attached me
to the count, who, indeed, was a man of the most amiable character.
Nevertheless, our friendship might have been a fatal one, as the
reader will see presently.
One evening, when I was at the Italian theatre, Tour d'Auvergne came
up to me and asked me to lend him a hundred louis, promising to repay
me next Saturday.
"I haven't got the money," I said, "but my purse and all it contains
is at your service."
"I want a hundred louis, my dear fellow, and immediately, as I lost
them at play yesterday evening at the Princess of Anhalt's."
"But I haven't got them."
"The receiver of the lottery ought always to be able to put his hand
on a hundred louis."
"Yes, but I can't touch my cash-box; I have to give it up this day
"So you can; as I will repay you on Saturday. Take a hundred louis
from the box, and put in my word of honour instead; don't you think
that is worth a hundred Louis?"
"I have nothing to say to that, wait for me a minute."
I ran to my office, took out the money and gave it to him. Saturday
came but no count, and as I had no money I pawned my diamond ring and
replaced the hundred louis I owed the till. Three or four days
afterwards, as I was at the Comedie Francaise, the Count de la Tour
d'Auvergne came up to me and began to apologize. I replied by
shewing my hand, and telling him that I had pawned my ring to save my
honour. He said, with a melancholy air, that a man had failed to
keep his word with him, but he would be sure to give me the hundred
louis on the Saturday following, adding, "I give you my word of
"Your word of honour is in my box, so let's say nothing about that.
You can repay me when you like."
The count grew as pale as death.
"My word of honour, my dear Casanova, is more precious to me than my
life; and I will give you the hundred louis at nine o'clock to-morrow
morning at a hundred paces from the cafe at the end of the Champs-
Elysees. I will give you them in person, and nobody will see us. I
hope you will not fail to be there, and that you will bring your
sword. I shall have mine."
"Faith, count! that's making me pay rather dear for my jest. You
certainly do me a great honour, but I would rather beg your pardon,
if that would prevent this troublesome affair from going any
"No, I am more to blame than you, and the blame can only be removed
by the sword's point. Will you meet me?
"I do not see how I can refuse you, although I am very much averse to
I left him and went to Silvia's, and took my supper sadly, for I
really liked this amiable nobleman, and in my opinion the game we
were going to play was not worth the candle. I would not have fought
if I could have convinced myself that I was in the wrong, but after
turning the matter well-over, and looking at it from every point of
view, I could not help seeing that the fault lay in the count's
excessive touchiness, and I resolved to give him satisfaction. At
all hazards I would not fail to keep the appointment.
I reached the cafe a moment after him. We took breakfast together
and he payed. We then went out and walked towards the Etoile. When
we got to a sheltered place he drew a bundle of a hundred louis from
his pocket, gave it to me with the greatest courtesy, and said that
one stroke of the sword would be sufficient. I could not reply.
He went off four paces and drew his sword. I did the same without
saying a word, and stepping forward almost as soon as our blades
crossed I thrust and hit him. I drew back my sword and summoned him
to keep his word, feeling sure that I had wounded him in his chest.
He gently kissed his sword, and putting his hand into his breast he
drew it out covered with blood, and said pleasantly to me, "I am
I said to him all that I could, and all that it was my duty to say in
the way of compliment, while he was stanching the blood with his
handkerchief, and on looking at the point of my sword I was delighted
to find that the wound was of the slightest. I told him so offering
to see him home. He thanked me and begged me to keep my own counsel,
and to reckon him henceforth amongst my truest friends. After I had
embraced him, mingling my tears with my embraces, I returned home,
sad at heart but having learnt a most useful lesson. No one ever
knew of our meeting, and a week afterwards we supped together at
A few days after, I received from M. de la Ville the five hundred
louis for my Dunkirk mission. On my going to see Camille she told me
that Tour d'Auvergne was kept in bed by an attack of sciatica, and
that if I liked we could pay him a visit the next day. I agreed, and
we went. After breakfast was over I told him in a serious voice that
if he would give me a free hand I could cure him, as he was not
suffering from sciatica but from a moist and windy humour which I
could disperse my means of the Talisman of Solomon and five mystic
words. He began to laugh, but told me to do what I liked.
"Very good, then I will go out and buy a brush."
"I will send a servant."
"No, I must get it myself, as I want some drugs as well." I bought
some nitre, mercury, flower of sulphur, and a small brush, and on my
return said, "I must have a little of your -----, this liquid is
indispensable, and it must be quite fresh."
Camille and he began to laugh, but I succeeded in keeping the serious
face suitable to my office. I handed him a mug and modestly lowered
the curtains, and he then did what I wanted.
I made a mixture of the various ingredients, and I told Camille that
she must rub his thigh whilst I spoke the charm, but I warned her
that if she laughed while she was about it it would spoil all. This
threat only increased their good humour, and they laughed without
cessation; for as soon as they thought they had got over it, they
would look at one another, and after repressing themselves as long as
they could would burst out afresh, till I began to think that I had
bound them to an impossible condition. At last, after holding their
sides for half an hour, they set themselves to be serious in real
earnest, taking my imperturbable gravity for their example. De la
Tour d'Auvergne was the first to regain a serious face, and he then
offered Camille his thigh, and she, fancying herself on the boards,
began to rub the sick man, whilst I mumbled in an undertone words
which they would not have understood however clearly I had spoken,
seeing that I did not understand them myself.
I was nearly spoiling the efficacy of the operation when I saw the
grimaces they made in trying to keep serious. Nothing could be more
amusing than the expression on Camille's face. At last I told her
that she had rubbed enough, and dipping the brush into the mixture I
drew on his thigh the five-pointed star called Solomon's seal. I
then wrapped up the thigh in three napkins, and I told him that if he
would keep quiet for twenty-four hours without taking off--his
napkins, I would guarantee a cure.
The most amusing part of it all was, that by the time I had done the
count and Camille laughed no more, their faces wore a bewildered
look, and as for me . . . I could have sworn I had performed the
most wonderful work in the world. If one tells a lie a sufficient
number of times, one ends by believing it.
A few minutes after this operation, which I had performed as if by
instinct and on the spur of the moment, Camille and I went away in a
coach, and I told her so many wonderful tales that when she got out
at her door she looked quite mazed.
Four or five days after, when I had almost forgotten the farce, I
heard a carriage stopping at my door, and looking out of my window
saw M. de la Tour d'Auvergne skipping nimbly out of the carriage.
"You were sure of success, then," said he, "as you did not come to
see me the day after your astounding operation."
"Of course I was sure, but if I had not been too busy you would have
seen me, for all that."
"May I take a bath?"
"No, don't bathe till you feel quite well."
"Very good. Everybody is in a state of astonishment at your feat, as
I could not help telling the miracle to all my acquaintances. There
are certainly some sceptics who laugh at me, but I let them talk."
"You should have kept your own counsel; you know what Paris is like.
Everybody will be considering me as a master-quack."
"Not at all, not at all. I have come to ask a favour of you."
"I have an aunt who enjoys a great reputation for her skill in the
occult sciences, especially in alchemy. She is a woman of wit, very,
rich, and sole mistress of her fortune; in short, knowing her will do
you no harm. She longs to see you, for she pretends to know you, and
says that you are not what you seem. She has entreated me to take
you to dine with her, and I hope you will accept the invitation. Her
name is the Marchioness d'Urfe"
I did not know this lady, but the name of d'Urfe caught my attention
directly, as I knew all about the famous Anne d'Urfe who flourished
towards the end of the seventeenth century. The lady was the widow
of his great-grandson, and on marrying into the family became a
believer in the mystical doctrines of a science in which I was much
interested, though I gave it little credit. I therefore replied that
I should be glad to go, but on the condition that the party should
not exceed the count, his aunt, and myself.
"She has twelve people every day to dinner, and you will find
yourself in the company of the best society in Paris."
"My dear fellow, that's exactly what I don't want; for I hate to be
thought a magician, which must have been the effect of the tales you
"Oh, no! not at all; your character is well known, and you will find
yourself in the society of people who have the greatest regard for
"Are you sure of that?"
"The Duchess de l'Oragnais told me, that, four or five years ago, you
were often to be seen at the Palais Royal, and that you used to spend
whole days with the Duchess d'Orleans; Madame de Bouffers, Madame de
Blots, and Madame de Melfort have also talked to me about you. You
are wrong not to keep up your old acquaintances. I know at least a
hundred people of the first rank who are suffering from the same
malady as that of which you cured me, and would give the half of
their goods to be cured."
De la Tour d'Auvergne had reason on his side, but as I knew his
wonderful cure had been due to a singular coincidence, I had no
desire to expose myself to public ridicule. I therefore told him
that I did not wish to become a public character, and that he must
tell Madame d'Urfe that I would have the honour of calling on her in
strict privacy only, and that she might tell me the day and hour on
which I should kneel before her.
The same evening I had a letter from the count making an appointment
at the Tuileries for the morrow; he was to meet me there, and take me
to his aunt's to dinner. No one else was to be present.
The next day we met each other as had been arranged, and went to see
Madame d'Urfe, who lived on the Quai des Theatins, on the same side
as the "Hotel Bouillon."
Madame d'Urfe, a woman advanced in years, but still handsome,
received me with all the courtly grace of the Court of the Regency.
We spent an hour and a half in indifferent conversation, occupied in
studying each other's character. Each was trying to get at the
bottom of the other.
I had not much trouble in playing the part of the unenlightened, for
such, in point of fact, was my state of mind, and Madame d'Urfe
unconsciously betrayed the desire of shewing her learning; this put
me at my ease, for I felt sure I could make her pleased with me if I
succeeded in making her pleased with herself.
At two o'clock the same dinner that was prepared every day for twelve
was served for us three. Nothing worthy of note (so far as
conversation went) was done at dinner, as we talked commonplace after
the manner of people of fashion.
After the dessert Tour d'Auvergne left us to go and see the Prince de
Turenne, who was in a high fever, and after he was gone Madame d'Urfe
began to discuss alchemy and magic, and all the other branches of her
beloved science, or rather infatuation. When we got on to the magnum
opus, and I asked her if she knew the nature of the first matter, it
was only her politeness which prevented her from laughing; but
controlling herself, she replied graciously that she already
possessed the philosopher's stone, and that she was acquainted with
all the operations of the work. She then shewed me a collection of
books which had belonged to the great d'Urfe, and Renee of Savoy, his
wife; but she had added to it manuscripts which had cost her more
than a hundred thousand francs. Paracelsus was her favourite author,
and according to her he was neither man, woman, nor hermaphrodite,
and had the misfortune to poison himself with an overdose of his
panacea, or universal medicine. She shewed me a short manuscript in
French, where the great work was clearly explained. She told me that
she did not keep it under lock and key, because it was written in a
cypher, the secret of which was known only to herself.
"You do not believe, then, in steganography."
"No, sir, and if you would like it, I will give you this which has
been copied from the original."
"I accept it, madam, with all the more gratitude in that I know its
From the library we went into the laboratory, at which I was truly
astonished. She shewed me matter that had been in the furnace for
fifteen years, and was to be there for four or five years more. It
was a powder of projection which was to transform instantaneously all
metals into the finest gold. She shewed me a pipe by which the coal
descended to the furnace, keeping it always at the same heat. The
lumps of coal were impelled by their own weight at proper intervals
and in equal quantities, so that she was often three months without
looking at the furnace, the temperature remaining the same the whole
time. The cinders were removed by another pipe, most ingeniously
contrived, which also answered the purpose of a ventilator.
The calcination of mercury was mere child's play to this wonderful
woman. She shewed me the calcined matter, and said that whenever I
liked she would instruct me as to the process. I next saw the Tree
of Diana of the famous Taliamed, whose pupil she was. His real name
was Maillot, and according to Madame d'Urfe he had not, as was
supposed, died at Marseilles, but was still alive; "and," added she,
with a slight smile, "I often get letters from him. If the Regent of
France," said she, "had listened to me he would be alive now. He was
my first friend; he gave me the name of Egeria, and he married me to
She possessed a commentary on Raymond Lully, which cleared up all
difficult points in the comments of Arnold de Villanova on the works
of Roger Bacon and Heber, who, according to her, were still alive.
This precious manuscript was in an ivory casket, the key of which she
kept religiously; indeed her laboratory was a closed room to all but
myself. I saw a small cask full of 'platina del Pinto', which she
told me she could transmute into gold when she pleased. It had been
given her by M. Vood himself in 1743. She shewed me the same metal
in four phials. In the first three the platinum remained intact in
sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic acid, but in the fourth, which
contained 'aqua regia', the metal had not been able to resist the
action of the acid. She melted it with the burning-glass, and said
it could be melted in no other way, which proved, in her opinion, its
superiority to gold. She shewed me some precipitated by sal
ammoniac, which would not precipitate gold.
Her athanor had been alight for fifteen years. The top was full of
black coal, which made me conclude that she had been in the
laboratory two or three days before. Stopping before the Tree of
Diana, I asked her, in a respectful voice, if she agreed with those
who said it was only fit to amuse children. She replied, in a
dignified manner, that she had made it to divert herself with the
crystallization of the silver, spirit of nitre, and mercury, and that
she looked upon it as a piece of metallic vegetation, representing in
little what nature performed on a larger scale; but she added, very
seriously, that she could make a Tree of Diana which should be a very
Tree of the Sun, which would produce golden fruit, which might be
gathered, and which would continue to be produced till no more
remained of a certain ingredient. I said modestly that I could not
believe the thing possible without the powder of projection, but her
only answer was a pleased smile.
She then pointed out a china basin containing nitre, mercury, and
sulphur, and a fixed salt on a plate.
"You know the ingredients, I suppose?" said she.
"Yes; this fixed salt is a salt of urine."
"You are right."
"I admire your sagacity, madam. You have made an analysis of the
mixture with which I traced the pentacle on your nephew's thigh, but
in what way can you discover the words which give the pentacle its
"In the manuscript of an adept, which I will shew you, and where you
will find the very words you used."
I bowed my head in reply, and we left this curious laboratory.
We had scarcely arrived in her room before Madame d'Urfe drew from a
handsome casket a little book, bound in black, which she put on the
table while she searched for a match. While she was looking about, I
opened the book behind her back, and found it to be full of
pentacles, and by good luck found the pentacle I had traced on the
count's thigh. It was surrounded by the names of the spirits of the
planets, with the exception of those of Saturn and Mars. I shut up
the book quickly. The spirits named were the same as those in the
works of Agrippa, with which I was acquainted. With an unmoved
countenance I drew near her, and she soon found the match, and her
appearance surprised me a good deal; but I will speak of that another
The marchioness sat down on her sofa, and making me to do the like
she asked me if I was acquainted with the talismans of the Count de
"I have never heard of them, madam, but I know those of Poliphilus:"
"It is said they are the same."
"I don't believe it."
"We shall see. If you will write the words you uttered, as you drew
the pentacle on my nephew's thigh, and if I find the same talisman
with the same words around it, the identity will be proved."
"It will, I confess. I will write the words immediately."
I wrote out the names of the spirits. Madame d'Urfe found the
pentacle and read out the names, while I pretending astonishment,
gave her the paper, and much to her delight she found the names to be
"You see," said she, "that Poliphilus and the Count de Treves
possessed the same art."
"I shall be convinced that it is so, if your book contains the manner
of pronouncing the ineffable names. Do you know the theory of the
"I think so, but they are not needed in this operation."
"They are indispensable, madam, for without them one cannot work with
any certainty. I drew Solomon's pentacle on the thigh of Count de la
Tour d'Auvergne in the hour of Venus, and if I had not begun with
Arael, the spirit of Venus, the operation would have had no effect."
"I did not know that. And after Arael?"
"Next comes Mercury, then the Moon, then Jupiter, and then the Sun.
It is, you see, the magic cycle of Zoroaster, in which Saturn and
Mars are omitted."
"And how would you have proceeded if you had gone to work in the hour
of the Moon?"
"I should have begun with Jupiter, passed to the Sun, then to Arael
or Venus, and I should have finished at Mercury."
"I see sir, that you are most apt in the calculation of the planetary
"Without it one can do nothing in magic, as one would have no proper
data; however, it is an easy matter to learn. Anyone could pick it
up in a month's time. The practical use, however, is much more
difficult than the theory; this, indeed, is a complicated affair. I
never leave my house without ascertaining the exact number of minutes
in the day, and take care that my watch is exact to the time, for a
minute more or less would make all the difference in the world"
"Would you have the goodness to explain the theory to me."
"You will find it in Artephius and more clearly in Sandivogius."
"I have both works, but they are in Latin."
"I will make you a translation of them."
"You are very kind; I shall be extremely obliged to you."
"I have seen such things here, madam, that I could not refuse, for
reasons which I may, perhaps, tell you to-morrow."
"Why not to-day?"
"Because I ought to know the name of your familiar spirit before I
"You know, then, that I have a familiar? You should have one, if it
is true that you possess the powder of projection."
"I have one."
"Give me the oath of the order."
"I dare not, and you know why."
"Perhaps I shall be able to remove your fears by tomorrow."
This absurd oath was none other than that of the princes of the Rosy
Cross, who never pronounce it without being certain that each party
is a Rosicrucian, so Madame d'Urfe was quite right in her caution,
and as for me I had to pretend to be afraid myself. The fact is I
wanted to gain time, for I knew perfectly well the nature of the
oath. It may be given between men without any indecency, but a woman
like Madame d'Urfe would probably not relish giving it to a man whom
she saw for the first time.
"When we find this oath alluded to in the Holy Scriptures," she said,
"it is indicated by the words 'he swore to him by laying his hand on
"But the thigh is not really what is meant; and consequently we never
find any notice of a man taking this oath to a woman, as a woman has
The Count de la Tour d'Auvergne came back at nine o'clock in the
evening, and he skewed no little astonishment at seeing me still with
his aunt. He told us that his cousin's fever had increased, and that
small-pox had declared itself; "and I am going to take leave of you,
my dear aunt, at least for a month, as I intend to shut myself up
with the sick man."
Madame d'Urfe praised his zeal, and gave him a little bag on his
promising to return it to her after the cure of the prince.
"Hang it round his neck and the eruption will come out well, and he
will be perfectly cured."
He promised to do so, and having wished us good evening he went out.
"I do not know, madam, what your bag contains, but if it have aught
to do with magic, I have no confidence in its efficacy, as you have
neglected to observe the planetary hour."
"It is an electrum, and magic and the observance of the hour have
nothing to do with it."
"I beg your pardon."
She then said that she thought my desire for privacy praiseworthy,
but she was sure I should not be ill pleased with her small circle,
if I would but enter it.
"I will introduce you to all my friends," said she, "by asking them
one at a time, and you will then be able to enjoy the company of them
I accepted her proposition.
In consequence of this arrangement I dined the next day with M. Grin
and his niece, but neither of them took my fancy. The day after, I
dined with an Irishman named Macartney, a physician of the old
school, who bored me terribly. The next day the guest was a monk who
talked literature, and spoke a thousand follies against Voltaire,
whom I then much admired, and against the "Esprit des Lois," a
favourite work of mine, which the cowled idiot refused to attribute
to Montesquieu, maintaining it had been written by a monk. He might
as well have said that a Capuchin created the heavens and the earth.
On the day following Madame d'Urfe asked me to dine with the
Chevalier d'Arzigny, a man upwards of eighty, vain, foppish, and
consequently ridiculous, known as "The Last of the Beaus." However,
as he had moved in the court of Louis XIV., he was interesting
enough, speaking with all the courtesy of the school, and having a
fund of anecdote relating to the Court of that despotic and luxurious
His follies amused me greatly. He used rouge, his clothes were cut
in the style which obtained in the days of Madame de Sevigne, he
professed himself still the devoted lover of his mistress, with whom
he supped every night in the company of his lady friends, who were
all young and all delightful, and preferred his society to all
others; however, in spite of these seductions, he remained faithful
to his mistress.
The Chevalier d'Arzigny had an amiability of character which gave
whatever he said an appearance of truth, although in his capacity of
courtier truth was probably quite unknown to him. He always wore a
bouquet of the most strongly-smelling flowers, such as tuberoses,
jonquils, and Spanish jasmine; his wig was plastered down with amber-
scented pomade, his teeth were made of ivory, and his eyebrows dyed
and perfumed, and his whole person exhaled an odour to which Madame
d'Urfe did not object, but which I could scarcely bear. If it had
not been for this drawback I should probably have cultivated his
society. He was a professed Epicurean, and carried out the system
with an amazing tranquillity. He said that he would undertake to
receive twenty-four blows with the stick every morning on the
condition that he should not die within the twenty-four hours, and
that the older he grew the more blows he would gladly submit to.
This was being in love with life with a vengeance.
Another day I dined with M. Charon, who was a counsellor, and in
charge of a suit between Madame d'Urfe and her daughter Madame du
Chatelet, whom she disliked heartily. The old counsellor had been
the favoured lover of the marchioness forty years before, and he
thought himself bound by the remembrance of their love-passages to
support the cause of his old sweetheart. In those days French
magistrates thought they had a right to take the side of their
friends, or of persons in whom they had an interest, sometimes for
friendship's sake, and sometimes for a monetary consideration; they
thought, in fact, that they were justified in selling justice.
M. Charon bored me like the others, as was natural, considering we
had no two tastes in common.
The scene was changed the next day when I was amused with the company
of M. de Viarme, a young counsellor, a nephew of Madame d'Urfe's, and
his pretty and charming wife. He was the author of the
"Remonstrances to the King," a work which got him a great reputation,
and had been read eagerly by the whole town. He told me that the
business of a counsellor was to oppose everything done by the crown,
good and bad. His reasons for this theory were those given by all
minorities, and I do not think I need trouble my readers with them.
The most enjoyable dinner I had was with Madame de Gergi, who came
with the famous adventurer, known by the name of the Count de St.
Germain. This individual, instead of eating, talked from the
beginning of the meal to the end, and I followed his example in one
respect as I did not eat, but listened to him with the greatest
attention. It may safely be said that as a conversationalist he was
St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at
exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was
scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect
ladies' man. For awhile he gave them paints and cosmetics; he
flattered them, not that he would make them young again (which he
modestly confessed was beyond him) but that their beauty would be
preserved by means of a wash which, he said, cost him a lot of money,
but which he gave away freely.
He had contrived to gain the favour of Madame de Pompadour, who had
spoken about him to the king, for whom he had made a laboratory, in
which the monarch--a martyr to boredom--tried to find a little
pleasure or distraction, at all events, by making dyes. The king had
given him a suite of rooms at Chambord, and a hundred thousand francs
for the construction of a laboratory, and according to St. Germain
the dyes discovered by the king would have a materially beneficial
influence on the quality of French fabrics.
This extraordinary man, intended by nature to be the king of
impostors and quacks, would say in an easy, assured manner that he
was three hundred years old, that he knew the secret of the Universal
Medicine, that he possessed a mastery over nature, that he could melt
diamonds, professing himself capable of forming, out of ten or twelve
small diamonds, one large one of the finest water without any loss of
weight. All this, he said, was a mere trifle to him.
Notwithstanding his boastings, his bare-faced lies, and his manifold
eccentricities, I cannot say I thought him offensive. In spite of my
knowledge of what he was and in spite of my own feelings, I thought
him an astonishing man as he was always astonishing me. I shall have
something more to say of this character further on.
When Madame d'Urfe had introduced me to all her friends, I told her
that I would dine with her whenever she wished, but that with the
exception of her relations and St. Germain, whose wild talk amused
me, I should prefer her to invite no company. St. Germain often
dined with the best society in the capital, but he never ate
anything, saying that he was kept alive by mysterious food known only
to himself. One soon got used to his eccentricities, but not to his
wonderful flow of words which made him the soul of whatever company
he was in.
By this time I had fathomed all the depths of Madame d'Urfe's
character. She firmly believed me to be an adept of the first order,
making use of another name for purposes of my own; and five or six
weeks later she was confirmed in this wild idea on her asking me if I
had diciphered the manuscript which pretended to explain the Magnum
"Yes," said I, "I have deciphered it, and consequently read it, and I
now beg to return it you with my word of honour that I have not made
a copy; in fact, I found nothing in it that I did not know before."
"Without the key you mean, but of course you could never find out
"Shall I tell you the key?"
"Pray do so."
I gave her the word, which belonged to no language that I know of,
and the marchioness was quite thunderstruck.
"This is too amazing," said she; "I thought myself the sole possessor
of that mysterious word--for I had never written it down, laying it
up in my memory--and I am sure I have never told anyone of it."
I might have informed her that the calculation which enabled me to
decipher the manuscript furnished me also with the key, but the whim
took me to tell her that a spirit had revealed it to me. This
foolish tale completed my mastery over this truly learned and
sensible woman on everything but her hobby. This false confidence
gave me an immense ascendancy over Madame d'Urfe, and I often abused
my power over her. Now that I am no longer the victim of those
illusions which pursued me throughout my life, I blush at the
remembrance of my conduct, and the penance I impose on myself is to
tell the whole truth, and to extenuate nothing in these Memoirs.
The wildest notion in the good marchioness's brain was a firm belief
in the possibility of communication between mortals and elementary
spirits. She would have given all her goods to attain to such
communication, and she had several times been deceived by impostors
who made her believe that she attained her aim.
"I did not think," said she, sadly, "that your spirit would have been
able to force mine to reveal my secrets."
"There was no need to force your spirit, madam, as mine knows all
things of his own power."
"Does he know the inmost secrets of my soul?"
"Certainly, and if I ask him he is forced to disclose all to me."
"Can you ask him when you like?"
"Oh, yes! provided I have paper and ink. I can even ask him
questions through you by telling you his name."
"And will you tell it me?"
"I can do what I say; and, to convince you, his name is Paralis. Ask
him a simple question in writing, as you would ask a common mortal.
Ask him, for instance, how I deciphered your manuscript, and you
shall see I will compel him to answer you."
Trembling with joy, Madame d'Urfe put her question, expressed it in
numbers, then following my method in pyramid shape; and I made her
extract the answer, which she wrote down in letters. At first she
only obtained consonants, but by a second process which supplied the
vowels she received a clear and sufficient answer. Her every feature
expressed astonishment, for she had drawn from the pyramid the word
which was the key to her manuscript. I left her, carrying with me
her heart, her soul, her mind, and all the common sense which she had
Absurd Ideas of Madame D'Urfe on My Supernatural Powers--Marriage of
My Brother--I Conceive a Plan on His Wedding Day--I Go to Holland on
a Financial Mission--The Jew Boaz Gives Me a Lesson--M. d'Afri--
Esther--Another Casanova--I Find Therese Imer Again
By the time that the Prince du Turenne had recovered from the small-
pox and the Count de la Tour d'Auvergne had left him, the latter,
knowing his aunt's taste for the occult sciences, was not surprised
to find me become her confident and most intimate friend.
I was glad so see him and all the relations of the marchioness at
dinner, as I was delighted with the courtesy with which they treated
me. I am referring more especially to her brothers MM. de Pont-Carre
and de Viarme who had lately been chosen head of the trade companies,
and his son. I have already spoken of Madame du Chatelet, the
marchioness's daughter, but an unlucky lawsuit separated them, and
she no longer formed one of the family circle.
De la Tour d'Auvergne having been obliged to rejoin his regiment
which was in garrison in Brittany, the marchioness and I dined
together almost every day and people looked upon me as her husband,
and despite the improbability of the supposition this was the only
way in which they could account for the long hours we spent together.
Madame d'Urfe thought that I was rich and looked upon my position at
the lottery as a mere device for preserving my incognito.
I was the possessor in her estimation, not only of the philosopher's
stone, but also of the power of speaking with the whole host of
elementary spirits; from which premises she drew the very logical
deduction that I could turn the world upside down if I liked, and be
the blessing or the plague of France; and she thought my object in
remaining incognito was to guard myself from arrest and imprisonment;
which according to her would be the inevitable result of the
minister's discovering my real character. These wild notions were
the fruit of the nocturnal revelations of her genius, that is, of the
dreams of her disordered spirit, which seemed to her realities. She
did not seem to think that if I was endowed as she supposed no one
would have been able to arrest me, in the first place, because I
should have had foreknowledge of the attempt, and in the second place
because my power would have been too strong for all bolts and bars.
All this was clear enough, but strong passion and prejudice cannot
One day, in the course of conversation, she said, with the utmost
seriousness, that her genius had advised her that not even I had
power to give her speech with the spirits, since she was a woman, and
the genii only communicated with men, whose nature is more perfect.
Nevertheless, by a process which was well known to me, I might make
her soul pass into the body of a male child born of the mystic
connection between a mortal and an immortal, or, in other words,
between an ordinary man and a woman of a divine nature.
If I had thought it possible to lead back Madame d'Urfe to the right
use of her senses I would have made the attempt, but I felt sure that
her disease was without remedy, and the only course before me seemed
to abet her in her ravings and to profit by them.
If I had spoken out like an honest man and told her that her theories
were nonsensical, she would not have believed me; she would have
thought me jealous of her knowledge, and I should have lost her
favour without any gain to her or to myself. I thus let things take
their course, and to speak the truth I was flattered to see myself
treated as one of the most profound brothers of the Rosy Cross, as
the most powerful of men by so distinguished a lady, who was in high
repute for her learning, who entertained and was related to the first
families of France, and had an income of eighty thousand francs, a
splendid estate, and several magnificent houses in Paris. I was
quite sure that she would refuse me nothing, and though I had no
definite plan of profiting by her wealth I experienced a certain
pleasure at the thought that I could do so if I would.
In spite of her immense fortune and her belief in her ability to make
gold, Madame d'Urfe was miserly in her habits, for she never spent
more than thirty thousand francs in a year, and she invested her
savings in the exchange, and in this way had nearly doubled them. A
brother used to buy her in Government securities at their lowest rate
and sell at their rise, and in this manner, being able to wait for
their rise, and fall, she had amassed a considerable sum.
She had told me more than once that she would give all she possessed
to become a man, and that she knew I could do this for her if I
would. One day, as she was speaking to me on this subject in a tone
of persuasion almost irresistible, I told her that I must confess I
had the power to do what she wanted, but that I could not make up my
mind to perform the operation upon her as I should have to kill her
first. I thought this would effectually check her wish to go any
further, but what was my surprise to hear her say,
"I know that, and what is more I know the death I shall have to die;
but for all that I am ready."
"What, then, is that death, madam?"
"It is by the same poison which killed Paracelsus."
"Do you think that Paracelsus obtained the hypostasis?"
"No, but I know the reason of his not doing so."
"What is the reason?"
"It is that he was neither man or woman, and a composite nature is
incapable of the hypostasis, to obtain which one must be either the
one or the other."
"Very true, but do you know how to make the poison, and that the
thing is impossible without the aid of a salamander?"
"That may or may not be! I beseech you to enquire of the oracle
whether there be anyone in Paris in possession of this potion."
It was easy to see that she thought herself in possession of it, so I
had no hesitation in extracting her name from the oracular pyramid.
I pretended to be astonished at the answer, but she said boastfully,
"You see that all we want is a male child born of an immortal. This,
I am advised, will be provided by you; and I do not think you will be
found wanting out of a foolish pity for this poor old body of mine."
At these words I rose and went to the window, where I stayed for more
than a quarter of an hour reflecting on her infatuation. When I
returned to the table where she was seated she scanned my features
attentively, and said, with much emotion, "Can it be done, my dear
friend? I see that you have been weeping."
I did not try to undeceive her, and, taking my sword and hat, I took
leave of her sadly. Her carriage, which was always at my disposal,
was at the door, and I drove to the Boulevards, where I walked till
the evening, wondering all the while at the extraordinary fantasies
of the marchioness.
My brother had been made a member of the Academy, on the exhibition
of a battle piece which had taken all the critics by storm. The
picture was purchased by the Academy for five hundred louis.
He had fallen in love with Caroline, and would have married her but
for a piece of infidelity on her part, which so enraged him that in a
week after he married an Italian dancer. M. de Sanci, the
ecclesiastical commissioner, gave the wedding party. He was fond of
the girl, and out of gratitude to my brother for marrying her he got
him numerous orders among his friends, which paved the way to the
large fortune and high repute which my brother afterwards attained.
M. Corneman, the banker, who was at my brother's wedding, spoke to me
at considerable length on the great dearth of money, and asked me to
discuss the matter with the comptroller-general.
He told me that one might dispose of Government securities to an
association of brokers at Amsterdam, and take in exchange the
securities of any other country whose credit was higher than that of
France, and that these securities could easily be realized. I begged
him to say no more about it, and promised to see what I could do.
The plan pleased me, and I turned it over all night; and the next day
I went to the Palais Bourbon to discuss the question with M. de
Bernis. He thought the whole idea an excellent one, and advised me
to go to Holland with a letter from M. de Choiseul for M. d'Afri, the
ambassador at the Hague. He thought that the first person I should
consult with M. de Boulogne, with whom he warned me to appear as if I
was sure of my ground.
"As you do not require money in advance," said he, "you will be able
to get as many letters of recommendation as you like."
The same day I went to the comptroller-general, who approved of my
plan, and told me that M. le Duc de Choiseul would be at the
Invalides the next day, and that I should speak to him at once, and
take a letter he would write for me.
"For my part," said he, "I will credit our ambassador with twenty
millions, and if, contrary to my hopes, you do not succeed, the paper
can be sent back to France."
I answered that there would be no question of the paper being
returned, if they would be content with a fair price.
"The margin will be a small one; however, you will hear about that
from the ambassador, who will have full instructions."
I felt so flattered by this mission that I passed the night in
thinking it over. The next day I went to the Invalides, and M. de
Choiseul, so famous for taking decisive action, had no sooner read
M. de Boulogne's letter and spoken a few words to me on the subject,
than he got me to write a letter for M. d'Afri, which he signed,
sealed, returned to me, and wished me a prosperous journey.
I immediately got a passport from M. de Berkenrode, and the same day
took leave of Madame Baletti and all my friends except Madame d'Urfe,
with whom I was to spend the whole of the next day. I gave my clerk
at the lottery office full authority to sign all tickets.
About a month before, a girl from Brussels, as excellent as she was
pretty, had been married under my auspices to an Italian named
Gaetan, by trade a broker. This fellow, in his fit of jealousy, used
to ill-treat her shamefully; I had reconciled them several times
already, and they regarded me as a kind of go-between. They came to
see me on the day on which I was making my preparations for going to
Holland. My brother and Tiretta were with me, and as I was still
living in furnished apartments I took them all to Laudel's, where
they gave one an excellent dinner. Tiretta, drove his coach-and-
four; he was ruining his ex-methodist, who was still desperately in
love with him.
In the course of dinner Tiretta, who was always in high spirits and
loved a jest, began to flirt with the girl, whom he saw for the first
time. She, who neither meant nor suspected any ill, was quite at her
ease, and we should have enjoyed the joke, and everything would have
gone on pleasantly, if her husband had possessed some modicum of
manners and common sense, but he began to get into a perfect fury of
jealousy. He ate nothing, changed colour ten times in a minute, and
looked daggers at his wife, as much as to say he did not see the
joke. To crown all, Tiretta began to crack jests at the poor
wretch's expense, and I, foreseeing unpleasantness, endeavoured,
though all in vain, to moderate his high spirits and his sallies. An
oyster chanced to fall on Madame Gaetan's beautiful breast; and
Tiretta, who was sitting near her, took it up with his lips as quick
as lightning. Gaetan was mad with rage and gave his wife such a
furious box on the ear that his hand passed on from her cheek to that
of her neighbour. Tiretta now as enraged as Gaetan took him by his
middle and threw him down, where, having no arms, he defended himself
with kicks and fisticuffs, till the waiter came, and we put him out
of the room.
The poor wife in tears, and, like Tiretta, bleeding at the nose,
besought me to take her away somewhere, as she feared her husband
would kill her if she returned to him. So, leaving Tiretta with my
brother, I got into a carriage with her and I took her, according to
her request, to her kinsman, an old attorney who lived in the fourth
story of a house in the Quai de Gevres. He received us politely, and
after having heard the tale, he said,
"I am a poor man, and I can do nothing for this unfortunate girl;
while if I had a hundred crowns I could do everything."
"Don't let that stand in your way," said I, and drawing three hundred
francs from my pockets I gave him the money.
"Now, sir," said he, "I will be the ruin of her husband, who shall
never know where his wife is."
She thanked me and I left her there; the reader shall hear what
became of her when I return from my journey.
On my informing Madame d'Urfe that I was going to Holland for the
good of France, and that I should be coming back at the beginning of
February, she begged me to take charge of some shares of hers and to
sell them for her. They amounted in value to sixty thousand francs,
but she could not dispose of them on the Paris Exchange owing to the
tightness in the money market. In addition, she could not obtain the
interest due to her, which had mounted up considerably, as she had
not had a dividend for three years.
I agreed to sell the shares for her, but it was necessary for me to
be constituted depositary and owner of the property by a deed, which
was executed the same day before a notary, to whose office we both
On returning to her house I wished to give her an I O U for the
moneys, but she would not hear of such a thing, and I let her remain
satisfied of my honesty.
I called on M. Corneman who gave me a bill of exchange for three
hundred florins on M. Boaz, a Jewish banker at the Hague, and I then
set out on my journey. I reached Anvers in two days, and finding a
yacht ready to start I got on board and arrived at Rotterdam the next
day. I got to the Hague on the day following, and after depositing
my effects at the "Hotel d'Angleterre" I proceeded to M. d'Afri's,
and found him reading M. de Choiseul's letter, which informed him of
my business. He asked me to dine in his company and in that of the
ambassador of the King of Poland, who encouraged me to proceed in my
undertaking though he had not much opinion of my chances of success.
Leaving the ambassador I went to see Boaz, whom I found at table in
the midst of a numerous and ugly family. He read my letter and told
me he had just received a letter from M. Corneman in which I was
highly commended to him. By way of a joke he said that as it was
Christmas Eve he supposed I should be going to rock the infant Jesus
asleep, but I answered that I was come to keep the Feast of the
Maccabees with him--a reply which gained me the applause of the whole
family and an invitation to stay with them. I accepted the offer
without hesitation, and I told my servant to fetch my baggage from
the hotel. Before leaving the banker I asked him to shew me some way
of making twenty thousand florins in the short time I was going to
stay in Holland.
Taking me quite seriously he replied that the thing might easily be
done and that he would think it over.
The next morning after breakfast, Boaz said,
"I have solved your problem, sir; come in here and I will tell you
He took me into his private office, and, after counting out three
thousand florins in notes and gold, he told me that if I liked I
could undoubtedly make the twenty thousand florins I had spoken of.
Much surprised at the ease with which money may be got in Holland, as
I had been merely jesting in the remarks I had made, I thanked him
for his kindness, and listened to his explanation.
"Look at this note," said he, "which I received this morning from the
Mint. It informs me that an issue of four hundred thousand ducats is
about to be made which will be disposed of at the current rate of
gold, which is fortunately not high just now. Each ducat will fetch
five florins, two stivers and three-fifths. This is the rate of
exchange with Frankfort. Buy in four hundred thousand ducats; take
them or send them to Frankfort, with bills of exchange on Amsterdam,
and your business is done. On every ducat you will make a stiver and
one-ninth, which comes to twenty-two thousand, two hundred and
twenty-two of our florins. Get hold of the gold to-day, and in a
week you will have your clear profit. That's my idea."
"But," said I, "will the clerks of the Mint trust me with such a
"Certainly not, unless you pay them in current money or in good
"My dear sir, I have neither money nor credit to that amount."
"Then you will certainly never make twenty thousand florins in a
week. By the way you talked yesterday I took you for a millionaire."
"I am very sorry you were so mistaken."
"I shall get one of my sons to transact the business to-day."
After giving me this rather sharp lesson, M. Boaz went into his
office, and I went to dress.
M. d'Afri had paid his call on me at the "Hotel d'Angleterre," and
not finding me there he had written me a letter asking me to come and
see him. I did so, and he kept me to dinner, shewing me a letter he
had received from M. de Boulogne, in which he was instructed not to
let me dispose of the twenty millions at a greater loss than eight
per cent., as peace was imminent. We both of us laughed at this calm
confidence of the Parisian minister, while we who were in a country