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Return to Holland, Casanova, v11 by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

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where people saw deeper into affairs knew that the truth was quite

On M. d'Afri's hearing that I was staying with a Jew, he advised me
to keep my own counsel when with Jews, "because," said he, "in
business, most honest and least knavish mean pretty much the same
thing. If you like," he added, "I will give you a letter of
introduction to M. Pels, of Amsterdam." I accepted his offer with
gratitude, and in the hope of being useful to me in the matter of my
foreign shares he introduced me to the Swedish ambassador, who sent
me to M. d'O----.

Wanting to be present at a great festival of Freemasons on St.
John's Day, I remained at the Hague till the day after the
celebration. The Comte de Tot, brother of the baron, who lost all
his money at the seraglio, and whom I had met again at the Hague,
introduced me. I was not sorry to be in company with all the best
society in Holland.

M. d'Afri introduced me to the mother of the stadtholder, who was
only twelve, and whom I thought too grave for his years. His mother
was a worthy, patient kind of woman, who fell asleep every minute,
even while she was speaking. She died shortly after, and it was
discovered at the postmortem examination that she had a disease of
the brain which caused her extreme propensity to sleep. Beside her I
saw Count Philip de Zinzendorf, who was looking for twelve millions
for the empress--a task which was not very difficult, as he offered
five per cent. interest.

At the play I found myself sitting next to the Turkish minister, and
I thought he would die with laughter before my eyes. It happened

They were playing Iphigenia, that masterpiece of Racine's. The
statue of Diana stood in the midst of the stage, and at the end of
one act Iphigenia and her train of priestesses, while passing before
it, all made a profound bow to the goddess. The candlesnuffer, who
perhaps may have been a bad wit, crossed the stage just after wards,
and likewise bowed to the goddess. This put pit and boxes in a good
humour, and peals of laughter sounded from all parts of the house.
All this had to be explained to the Turk, and he fell into such a fit
of laughter that I thought he would burst. At last he was carried to
his inn still laughing but almost senseless.

To have taken no notice of the Dutchman's heavy wit would have been,
I confess, a mark of stupidity, but no one but a Turk could have
laughed like that. It may be said that a great Greek philosopher
died of laughter at seeing a toothless old woman trying to eat figs.
But there is a great difference between a Turk and a Greek,
especially an ancient Greek.

Those who laugh a good deal are more fortunate than those who do not
laugh at all, as laughter is good for the digestion; but there is a
just mean in everything.

When I had gone two leagues from Amsterdam in my posting-chaise on
two wheels, my servant sitting beside me, I met a carriage on four
wheels, drawn like mine by two horses, and containing a fine-looking
young man and his servant. His coachman called out to mine to make
way for him. My coachman answered that if he did he might turn me
into the ditch, but the other insisted on it. I spoke to the master,
begging him to tell his coachman to make way for me.

"I am posting, sir," said I; "and, moreover, I am a foreigner."

"Sir," answered he, "in Holland we take no notice of posting or not
posting; and if you are foreigner, as you say, you must confess that
you have fewer rights than I who am in my own country."

The blood rushed to my face. I flung open the door with one hand and
took my sword with the other; and leaping into the snow, which was up
to my knees, I drew my sword, and summoned the Dutchman to give way
or defend himself. He was cooler than I, and replied, smiling, that
he was not going to fight for so foolish a cause, and that I might
get into my carriage again, as he would make way for me. I was
somewhat interested in his cool but pleasant manner. I got back into
my chaise, and the next night reached Amsterdam.

I put up at the excellent inn "L'Etoile d'Orient," and in the morning
I went on 'Change and found M. Pels. He told me he would think my
business over, and finding M, d'O---- directly afterwards he offered
to do me my sixty bills and give me twelve per cent. M. Pels told me
to wait, as he said he could get me fifteen per cent. He asked me to
dinner, and, on my admiring his Cape wine, he told me with a laugh
that he had made it himself by mixing Bordeaux and Malaga.

M. d'O---- asked me to dinner on the day following; and on calling I
found him with his daughter Esther, a young lady of fourteen, well
developed for her age, and exquisite in all respects except her
teeth, which were somewhat irregular. M. d'O was a widower, and had
this only child; consequently, Esther was heiress to a large fortune.
Her excellent father loved her blindly, and she deserved his love.
Her skin was snow white, delicately tinted with red; her hair was
black as ebony, and she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
She made an impression on me. Her father had given her an excellent
education; she spoke French perfectly, played the piano admirably,
and was passionately fond of reading.

After dinner M. d'O---- shewed me the uninhabited part of the house,
for since the death of his wife, whose memory was dear to him, he
lived on the ground floor only. He shewed me a set of rooms where he
kept a treasure in the way of old pottery. The walls and windows
were covered with plates of marble, each room a different colour, and
the floors were of mosaic, with Persian carpets. The dining-hall was
cased in alabaster, and the table and the cupboards were of cedar
wood. The whole house looked like a block of solid marble, for it
was covered with marble without as well as within, and must have cost
immense sums. Every Saturday half-a-dozen servant girls, perched on
ladders, washed down these splendid walls. These girls wore wide
hoops, being obliged to put on breeches, as otherwise they would have
interested the passers by in an unseemly manner. After looking at
the house we went down again, and M. d'O---- left me alone with
Esther in the antechamber, where he worked with his clerks. As it
was New Year's Day there was not business going on.

After playing a sonata, Mdlle. d'O---- asked me if I would go to a
concert. I replied that, being in her company, nothing could make me
stir. "But would you, mademoiselle, like to go?"

"Yes, I should like to go very well, but I cannot go by myself."

"If I might presume to offer to escort you . . . but I dare not
think you would accept."

"I should be delighted, and if you were to ask my father I am sure he
would not refuse his permission."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Quite sure, for otherwise he would be guilty of impoliteness, and my
father would not do such a thing. But I see you don't know the
manners of the country."

"I confess I do not:"

"Young ladies enjoy great liberty here--liberty which they lose only
by marrying. Go and ask, and you will see:"

I went to M. d'O---- and made my request, trembling lest I should
meet with a refusal.

"Have you a carriage?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I need not give orders to get mine ready. Esther!"

"Yes, father."

"Go and dress, my dear; M. Casanova has been kind enough to offer to
take you to the concert."

"How good of him! Thank you, papa, for letting me go."

She threw her arms around his neck, ran to dress, and reappeared an
hour after, as fair as the joy which was expressed on her every
feature. I could have wished she had used a little powder, but
Esther was jealous of her ebon tresses, which displayed the whiteness
of her skin to admiration. The chief aim of women in making their
toilette is to please men, but how poor is the judgment of most men
in such matters compared to the unerring instinct of the generality
of women!

A beautiful lace kerchief veiled her bosom, whose glories made my
heart beat faster.

We went down the stair, I helped her into the carriage, and stopped,
thinking she would be accompanied by one of her women; but seeing
nobody I got in myself. The door was shut, and we were off. I was
overwhelmed with astonishment. A treasure like this in my keeping I
could hardly think. I asked myself whether I was to remember that I
was a free-lance of love, or whether honour bade me forget it.
Esther, in the highest spirits, told me that we were going to hear an
Italian singer whose voice was exquisite, and noticing my confusion
she asked what was the matter. I did not know what to say, and began
to stammer out something, but at last succeeded in saying that she
was a treasure of whom I was not worthy to be the keeper.

"I know that in other countries a young girl would not be trusted
alone with a gentleman, but here they teach us discretion and how to
look after ourselves."

"Happy the man who is charged with your welfare, and happier still he
on whom your choice has fallen!"

"That choice is not for me to make; 'tis my father's business."

"But supposing your father's choice is not pleasing to you, or
supposing you love another?"

"We are not allowed to love a man until we know he is to be our

"Then you are not in love with anyone?"

"No, and I have never felt the desire to love."

"Then I may kiss your hand?"

"Why should you kiss my hand?"

She drew away her hand and offered me her lovely lips. I took a
kiss, which she gave modestly enough, but which went to my heart. My
delight was a little alloyed when she said that she would give me
another kiss before her father whenever I liked.

We reached the concert-room, where Esther found many of her young
friends--all daughters of rich merchants, some pretty, some plain,
and all curious to know who I was. The fair Esther, who knew no more
than my name, could not satisfy them. All at once seeing a fair
young girl a little way off she pointed her out to me and asked me my
opinion of her. Naturally enough I replied that I did not care for
fair girls.

"All the same, I must introduce you to her, for she may be a relation
of yours. Her name is the same; that is her father over there:"

"M. Casanova," said she, speaking to a gentleman, "I beg to introduce
to you M. Casanova, a friend of my father's."

"Really? The same name; I wish, sir, you were my friend, as we are,
perhaps, related. I belong to the Naples branch."

"Then we are related, though distantly, as my father came from Parma.
Have you your pedigree?"

"I ought to have such a thing, but to tell you the truth, I don't
think much of such matters. Besants d'or and such heraldic moneys
are not currency in a mercantile republic."

"Pedigree-hunting is certainly a somewhat foolish pursuit; but it may
nevertheless afford us a few minutes' amusement without our making
any parade of our ancestry."

"With all my heart."

"I shall have the honour of calling on you to-morrow, and I will
bring my family-tree with me. Will you be vexed if you find the root
of your family also?"

"Not at all; I shall be delighted. I will call on you myself to-
morrow. May I ask if you are a business man?"

"No, I am a financial agent in the employ of the French ministry. I
am staying with M. Pels."

M. Casanova made a sign to his daughter and introduced me to her.
She was Esther's dearest friend, and I sat down between them, and the
concert began.

After a fine symphony, a concerto for the violin, another for the
hautbois, the Italian singer whose repute was so great and who was
styled Madame Trend made her appearance. What was my surprise when I
recognized in her Therese Imer, wife of the dancer Pompeati, whose
name the reader may remember. I had made her acquaintance eighteen
years ago, when the old senator Malipiero had struck me because we
were playing together. I had seen her again at Venice in 1753, and
then our pastime had been of a more serious nature. She had gone to
Bayreuth, where she had been the margrave's mistress. I had promised
to go and see her, but C---- C---- and my fair nun M---- M---- had
left me neither the time nor the wish to do so. Soon after I was put
under the Leads, and then I had other things to think about. I was
sufficiently self-controlled not to shew my astonishment, and
listened to an aria which she was singing, with her exquisite voice,
beginning "Eccoti giunta al fin, donna infelice," words which seemed
made for the case.

The applause seemed as if it would never come to an end. Esther told
me that it was not known who she was, but that she was said to be a
woman with a history, and to be very badly off. "She goes from one
town to another, singing at all the public concerts, and all she
receives is what those present choose to give her on a plate which
she takes round."

"Does she find that pay?"

"I should suspect not, as everyone has paid already at coming in.
She cannot get more than thirty or forty florins. The day after to-
morrow she will go to the Hague, then to Rotterdam, then back here
again. She had been performing for six months, and she is always
well received."

"Has she a lover?"

"She is said to have lovers in every town, but instead of enriching
her they make her poorer. She always wears black, not only because
she is a widow, but also on account of a great grief she is reported
to have gone through. She will soon be coming round." I took out my
purse; and counted out twelve ducats, which I wrapped in paper; my
heart beating all the while in a ridiculous manner, for I had really
nothing to be excited about.

When Therese was going along the seats in front of me, I glanced at
her for an instant, and I saw that she looked surprised. I turned my
head to speak to Esther, and when she was directly in front of me I
put my little packet on the plate without looking at her, and she
passed on. A little girl, four or five years old, followed her, and
when she got to the end of the bench she came back to kiss my hand.
I could not help recognizing in her a facsimile of myself, but I
concealed my emotion. The child stood still, and gazed at me
fixedly, to my no small confusion. "Would you like some sweets, my
dear?" said I, giving her my box, which I should have been glad to
turn into gold. The little girl took it smilingly, made me a curtsy,
and went on.

"Does it strike you, M. Casanova," said Esther, with a laugh, "that
you and that little girl are as like each other as two peas?"

"Yes, indeed," added Mdlle. Casanova, "there is a striking likeness."

"These resemblances are often the work of chance."

"Just so," said Esther, with a wicked smile, "but you admit a
likeness, don't you?"

"I confess I was struck with it, though of course I cannot judge so
well as you."

After the concert M. d'O---- arrived, and giving back his daughter to
his care I betook myself to my lodging. I was just sitting down to a
dish of oysters, before going to bed, when Therese made her
appearance, holding her child by the hand. Although I had not
expected her to visit me that evening, I was nevertheless not much
surprised to see her. I, of course, rose to greet her, when all at
once she fell fainting on the sofa, though whether the fainting fit
was real or assumed I cannot say. Thinking that she might be really
ill I played my part properly, and brought her to herself by
sprinkling her with cold water and putting my vinaigrette to her
nose. As soon as she came to herself she began to gaze at me without
saying a word. At last, tired of her silence, I asked her if she
would take any supper; and on her replying in the affirmative, I rang
the bell and ordered a good supper for three, which kept us at the
table till seven o'clock in the morning, talking over our various
fortunes and misfortunes. She was already acquainted with most of my
recent adventures, but I knew nothing at all about hers, and she
entertained me with a recital of them for five or six hours.

Sophie, the little girl, slept in my bed till day, and her mother,
keeping the best of her tale to the last, told me that she was my
daughter, and shewed me her baptismal certificate. The birth of the
child fell in with the period at which I had been intimate with
Therese, and her perfect likeness to myself left no room for doubt.
I therefore raised no objections, but told the mother that I was
persuaded of my paternity, and that, being in a position to give the
child a good education, I was ready to be a father to her.

"She is too precious a treasure in my sight; if we were separated I
should die."

"You are wrong; for if I took charge of the little girl I should see
that she was well provided for."

"I have a son of twelve to whom I cannot give a proper education;
take charge of him instead of Sophie."

"Where is he?"

"He is boarding, or rather in pawn, at Rotterdam."

"What do you mean by in pawn?"

"I mean that he will not be returned to me until I pay the person who
has got him all my debts."

"How much do you owe?"

"Eighty florins. You have already given me sixty-two, give me four
ducats more; you can then take my son, and I shall be the happiest of
mothers. I will send my son to you at the Hague next week, as I
think you will be there."

"Yes, my dear Therese; and instead of four ducats, here are twenty."

"We shall see each other again at the Hague."

She was grateful to excess, but I only felt pity for her and a sort
of friendly interest, and kept quite cool, despite the ardour of her
embraces. Seeing that her trouble was of no avail, she sighed, shed
some tears, and, taking her daughter, she bid me adieu, promising
once more to send me her son.

Therese was two years older than I. She was still pretty, and even
handsome, but her charms no longer retained their first beauty, and
my passion for her, having been a merely physical one, it was no
wonder that she had no longer any attraction for me. Her adventures
during the six years in which I had lost her would certainly interest
my readers, and form a pleasing episode in my book, and I would tell
the tale if it were a true one; but not being a romance writer, I am
anxious that this work shall contain the truth and nothing but the
truth. Convicted by her amorous and jealous margarve of infidelity,
she had been sent about her business. She was separated from her
husband Pompeati, had followed a new lover to Brussels, and there had
caught the fancy of Prince Charles de Lorraine, who had obtained her
the direction of all the theatres in the Austrian Low Countries. She
had then undertaken this vast responsibility, entailing heavy
expenditure, till at last, after selling all her diamonds and lace,
she had fled to Holland to avoid arrest. Her husband killed himself
at Vienna in a paroxysm caused by internal pain--he had cut open his
stomach with a razor, and died tearing at his entrails.

My business left me no time for sleep. M. Casanova came and asked me
to dinner, telling me to meet him on the Exchange--a place well worth
seeing. Millionaires are as plentiful as blackberries, and anyone
who is not worth more than a hundred thousand florins is considered
a poor man. I found M. d'O---- there, and was asked by him to dinner
the following day at a small house he had on the Amstel. M. Casanova
treated me with the greatest courtesy. After reading my pedigree he
went for his own, and found it exactly the same; but he merely
laughed, and seemed to care little about it, differing in that
respect from Don Antonio of Naples, who set such store by my
pedigree, and treated me with such politeness on that account.
Nevertheless, he bade me make use of him in anything relating to
business if I did anything in that way. I thought his daughter
pretty, but neither her charms nor her wit made any impression on me.
My thoughts were taken up with Esther, and I talked so much about her
at dinner that at last my cousin declared that she did not consider
her pretty. Oh, you women! beauty is the only unpardonable offence
in your eyes. Mdlle. Casanova was Esther's friend, and yet she could
not bear to hear her praised.

On my seeing M. d'O---- again after dinner, he told me that if I
cared to take fifteen per cent. on my shares, he would take them from
me and save broker's expenses. I thought the offer a good one, and I
accepted it, taking a bill of exchange on Tourton & Baur. At the
rate of exchange at Hamburg I found I should have seventy-two
thousand francs, although at five per cent. I had only expected
sixty-nine thousand. This transaction won me high favour with Madame
d'Urfe, who, perhaps, had not expected me to be so honest.

In the evening I went with M. Pels to Zaandam, in a boat placed on a
sleigh and impelled by a sail. It was an extraordinary, but at the
same time an amusing and agreeable, mode of travelling. The wind was
strong, and we did fifteen miles an hour; we seemed to pass through
the air as swiftly as an arrow. A safer and more convenient method
of travelling cannot be imagined; it would be an ideal way of
journeying round the world if there were such a thing as a frozen sea
all round. The wind, however, must be behind, as one cannot sail on
a side wind, there being no rudder. I was pleased and astonished at
the skill of our two sailors in lowering sail exactly at the proper
time; for the sleigh ran a good way, from the impetus it had already
received, and we stopped just at the bank of the river, whereas if
the sail had been lowered a moment later the sleigh might have been
broken to pieces. We had some excellent perch for dinner, but the
strength of the wind prevented us from walking about. I went there
again, but as Zaandam is well known as the haunt of the millionaire
merchants who retire and enjoy life there in their own way, I will
say no more about it. We returned in a fine sleigh drawn by two
horses, belonging to M. Pels, and he kept me to supper. This worthy
man, whose face bore witness to his entire honesty, told me that as I
was now the friend of M. d'O---- and himself, I should have nothing
whatever to do with the Jews, but should address myself to them
alone. I was pleased with this proposal, which made a good many of
my difficulties disappear, and the reader will see the results of
this course.

Next day snow fell in large flakes, and I went early to M. d'O----'s,
where I found Esther in the highest of spirits. She gave me a warm
welcome, and began to rally me on having spent the whole night with
Madame Trenti.

I might possibly have shewn some slight confusion, but her father
said an honest man had nothing to be ashamed of in admiring talent.
Then, turning to me, he said,

"Tell me, M. Casanova, who this woman is?"

"She is a Venetian whose husband died recently; I knew her when I was
a lad, and it was six years since I had seen her last."

"You were agreeably surprised, then, to see your daughter?" said

"Why do you think the child is my daughter? Madame Trenti was
married then."

"The likeness is really too strong. And how about your falling
asleep yesterday when you were supping with M. Pels?"

"It was no wonder that I went asleep, as I had not closed an eye the
night before."

"I am envious of anyone who possesses the secret of getting a good
sleep, for I have always to wait long hours before sleep comes to me,
and when I awake, instead of being refreshed, I feel heavy and
languid from fatigue."

"Try passing the night in listening to one in whom you take an
interest, telling the story of her life, and I promise you that you
will sleep well the night after."

"There is no such person for me."

"No, because you have as yet only seen fourteen summers; but
afterwards there will be someone."

"Maybe, but what I want just now is books, and the help of someone
who will guide my reading."

"That would be an easy matter for anyone who knew your tastes."

"I like history and travels, but for a book to please me it must be
all true, as I lay it down at the slightest suspicion of its

"Now I think I may venture to offer my services, and if you will
accept them I believe I shall be able to give satisfaction."

"I accept your offer, and shall keep you to your word."

"You need not be afraid of my breaking it, and before I leave for the
Hague I will prove that I am reliable."

She then began to rally me on the pleasure I should have at the
Hague, where I should see Madame Trenti again. Her freedom, mirth,
and extreme beauty set my blood on fire, and M. d'O---- laughed
heartily at the war his charming daughter waged on me. At eleven
o'clock we got into a well-appointed sleigh and we set out for his
small house, where she told me I should find Mdlle. Casanova and her

"Nevertheless," said I, "you will continue to be my only attraction."

She made no answer, but it was easy to perceive that my avowal had
not displeased her.

When we had gone some distance we saw the lovers, who had come out,
in spite of the snow, to meet us. We got down, and after taking off
our furs we entered the house. I gazed at the young gentleman, who
looked at me a moment in return and then whispered in Mdlle.
Casanova's ear. She smiled and whispered something to Esther.
Esther stepped up to her father and said a few words to him in a low
voice, and everybody began to laugh at once. They all looked at me
and I felt certain that I was somehow the point of the joke, but I
put on an indifferent air.

"There may be a mistake," said M. d'O---- ; "at any rate we should
ascertain the truth of the matter."

"M. Casanova, had you any adventures on your journey from the Hague
to Amsterdam?"

At this I looked again at the young gentleman, and I guessed what
they were talking about.

"No adventure to speak of," I answered, "except a meeting with a fine
fellow who desired to see my carriage turn upside down into the
ditch, and who I think is present now."

At these words the laughter broke out afresh, and the gentleman and I
embraced each other; but after he had given the true account of the
adventure his mistress pretended to be angry, and told him that he
ought to have fought. Esther observed that he had shewn more true
courage in listening to reason, and M. d'O---- said he was strongly
of his daughter's opinion; however, Mdlle. Casanova, after airing her
high-flown ideas, began to sulk with her lover.

To restore the general mirth, Esther said, gaily, "Come, come, let us
put on our skates, and try the Amstel, for I am afraid that unless we
go forthwith the ice will have melted." I was ashamed to ask her to
let me off, though I would gladly have done so! but what will not
love do! M. d'O---- left us to our own devices. Mdlle. Casanova's
intended put on my skates, and the ladies put on their short
petticoats with black velvet drawers to guard against certain
accidents. We reached the river, and as I was a perfect neophyte in
this sport the figure I cut may be imagined. However, I resolutely
determined to conquer my awkwardness, and twenty times, to the peril
of my spine, did I fall down upon the ice. I should have been wiser
to have left off, but I was ashamed to do so, and I did not stop
till, to my huge delight, we were summoned in to dinner. But I paid
dear for my obstinacy, for when I tried to rise from the table I felt
as if I had lost the use of my limbs. Esther pitied me, and said she
would cure me. There was a good deal of laughter at my expense, and
I let them laugh, as I felt certain that the whole thing had been
contrived to turn me into derision, and wishing to make Esther love
me I thought it best to stimulate a good temper. I passed the
afternoon with M. d'O----, letting the young people go by themselves
on the Amstel, where they stopped till dusk.

Next morning when I awoke I thought I was a lost man. I suffered a
martyrdom of pain. The last of my vertebral bones, called by doctors
the os sacrum, felt as if it had been crushed to atoms, although I
had used almost the whole of a pot of ointment which Esther had given
me for that purpose. In spite of my torments I did not forget my
promise, and I had myself taken to a bookseller's where I bought all
the books I thought likely to interest her. She was very grateful,
and told me to come and embrace her before I started if I wanted a
pretty present.

It was not likely that I was going to refuse such an invitation as
that, so I went early in the morning, leaving my post-chaise at the
door Her governess took me to her bed, where she was lying as fair
and gay as Venus herself.

"I am quite sure," said she, "that you would not have come at all
unless I had asked you to come and embrace me."

At this my lips were fastened on her mouth, her eyes, and on every
spot of her lovely face. But seeing my eyes straying towards her
bosom, and guessing that I should make myself master of it, she
stopped laughing and put herself on the defensive.

"Go away," said she, slyly, "go away and enjoy yourself at the Hague
with the fair Trenti, who possesses so pretty a token of your love."

"My dear Esther, I am going to the Hague to talk business with the
ambassador, and for no other reason, and in six days at latest you
will see me back again, as much your lover as before, and desiring
nothing better than to please you."

"I rely upon your word of honour, but mind you do not deceive me."

With these words she put up her mouth and gave me so tender and
passionate a kiss that I went away feeling certain of my bliss being
crowned on my return. That evening, at supper-time, I reached Boaz's

Book of the day:
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