Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
THE ETERNAL QUEST, Volume 3b--RETURN TO PARIS
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
THE ETERNAL QUEST
RETURN TO PARIS
My Fortune in Holland--My Return to Paris with Young Pompeati
Amongst the letters which were waiting for me was one from the
comptroller-general, which advised me that twenty millions in
Government securities had been placed in the hands of M. d'Afri, who
was not to go beyond a loss of eight per cent.; and another letter
from my good patron, M. de Bernis, telling me to do the best I could,
and to be assured that the ambassador would be instructed to consent
to whatever bargain might be made, provided the rate was not more
disadvantageous than that of the exchange at Paris. Boaz, who was
astonished at the bargain I had made with my shares, wanted to
discount the Government securities for me, and I should very likely
have agreed to his terms if he had not required me to give him three
months, and the promise that the agreement should hold even in the
case of peace being concluded in the meanwhile. It was not long
before I saw that I should do well to get back to Amsterdam, but I
did not care to break my word to Therese, whom I had promised to meet
at the Hague. I received a letter from her while I was at the play,
and the servant who brought it told me he was waiting to conduct me
to her. I sent my own servant home, and set out on my quest.
My guide made me climb to the fourth floor of a somewhat wretched
house, and there I found this strange woman in a small room, attended
by her son and daughter. The table stood in the midst of the room,
and was covered with a black cloth, and the two candles standing upon
it made it look like some sort of sepulchral altar. The Hague was a
Court town. I was richly dressed; my elaborate attire made the
saddest possible contrast with the gloom of my surroundings.
Therese, dressed in black and seated between her children at that
black table, reminded me of Medea. To see these two fair young
creatures vowed to a lot of misery and disgrace was a sad and
touching sight. I took the boy between my arms, and pressing him to
my breast called him my son. His mother told him to look upon me as
his father from henceforth. The lad recognized me; he remembered,
much to my delight, seeing me in the May of 1753, in Venice, at
Madame Manzoni's. He was slight but strong; his limbs were well
proportioned, and his features intellectual. He was thirteen years
His sister sat perfectly still, apparently waiting for her turn to
come. I took her on my knee, and as I embraced her, nature herself
seemed to tell me that she was my daughter. She took my kisses in
silence, but it was easy to see that she thought herself preferred to
her brother, and was charmed with the idea. All her clothing was a
slight frock, and I was able to feel every limb and to kiss her
pretty little body all over, delighted that so sweet a being owed her
existence to me.
"Mamma, dear," said she, "is not this fine gentleman the same we saw
at Amsterdam, and who was taken for my papa because I am like him?
But that cannot be, for my papa is dead."
"So he is, sweetheart; but I may be your dear friend, mayn't I?
Would you like to have me for a friend?"
"Yes, yes!" she cried, and throwing her arms about my neck gave me a
thousand kisses, which I returned with delight.
After we had talked and laughed together we sat down at table, and
the heroine Therese gave me a delicate supper accompanied by
exquisite wines. "I have never given the margrave better fare," said
she, "at those nice little suppers we used to take together."
Wishing to probe the disposition of her son, whom I had engaged to
take away with me, I addressed several remarks to him, and soon
discovered that he was of a false and deceitful nature, always on his
guard, taking care of what he said, and consequently speaking only
from his head and not from his heart. Every word was delivered with
a quiet politeness which, no doubt, was intended to please me.
I told him that this sort of thing was all very well on occasion; but
that there were times when a man's happiness depended on his freedom
from constraint; then and only then was his amiability, if he had
any, displayed. His mother, thinking to praise him, told me that
reserve was his chief characteristic, that she had trained him to
keep his counsel at all times and places, and that she was thus used
to his being reserved with her as with everyone else.
"All I can say is," said I, "your system is an abominable one. You
may have strangled in their infancy all the finer qualities with
which nature has endowed your son, and have fairly set him on the way
to become a monster instead of an angel. I don't see how the most
devoted father can possibly have any affection for a son who keeps
all his emotions under lock and key."
This outburst, which proceeded from the tenderness I would fain have
felt for the boy, seemed to strike his mother dumb.
"Tell me, my dear, if you feel yourself capable of shewing me that
confidence which a father has a right to expect of a good son, and if
you can promise to be perfectly open and unreserved towards me?"
"I promise that I will die rather than tell you a falsehood."
"That's just like him," said the mother. "I have succeeded in
inspiring him with the utmost horror of untruthfulness."
"That's all very well, my dear madam, but you might have pursued a
still better course, and one which would have been still more
conducive to his happiness."
"What is that?"
"I will tell you. It was necessary to make him detest a lie; you
should have rather endeavoured to make him a lover of the truth by
displaying it to him in all its native beauty. This is the only way
to make him lovable, and love is the sole bestower of happiness in
"But isn't it the same thing not to lie and to tell the truth," said
the boy, with a smile which charmed his mother and displeased me.
"Certainly not; there is a great difference--for to avoid lying you
have only to hold your tongue; and do you think that comes to the
same thing as speaking the truth? You must open your mind to me, my
son, and tell me all your thoughts, even if you blush in the recital.
I will teach you how to blush, and soon you will have nothing to fear
in laying open all your thoughts and deeds. When we know each other
a little longer we shall see how we agree together. You must
understand that I cannot look upon you as my son until I see cause to
love you, and I cannot have you call me father till you treat me as
the best friend you have. You may be quite sure that I shall find a
way to discover your thoughts, however cleverly you try to hide them.
If I find you deceitful and suspicious I shall certainly entertain no
regard for you. As soon as I have finished my business at Amsterdam
we will set out for Paris. I am leaving the Hague to-morrow, and on
my return I hope to find you instructed by your mother in a system of
morality more consonant with my views, and more likely to lead to
On glancing at my little daughter, who had been listening to me with
the greatest attention, I saw that her eyes were swimming with tears,
which she could hardly retain.
"Why are you crying?" said the mother; "it is silly to cry." And
with that the child ran to her mother and threw her arms round her
"Would you like to come to Paris, too?" said I to her.
"Oh, yes! But mamma must come too, as she would die without me."
"What would you do if I told you to go?" said the mother.
"I would obey you, mamma, but how could I exist away from you?"
Thereupon my little daughter pretended to cry. I say pretended, as
it was quite evident that the child did not mean what she said, and I
am sure that her mother knew it as well as I.
It was really a melancholy thing to see the effects of a bad
education on this young child, to whom nature had given intelligence
and feeling. I took the mother on one side, and said that if she had
intended to make actors of her children she had succeeded to
admiration; but if she wished them to become useful members of
society her system had failed lamentably, as they were in a fair way
to become monsters of deceit. I continued making her the most
pointed remonstrances until, in spite of her efforts to control
herself, she burst into tears. However, she soon recovered her
composure, and begged me to stay at the Hague a day longer, but I
told her it was out of the question, and left the room. I came in
again a few minutes after, and Sophie came up to me and said, in a
loving little voice,
"If you are really my friend, you will give me some proof of your
"And what proof do you want, my dear?"
"I want you to come and sup with me to-morrow."
"I can't, Sophie dear, for I have just said no to your mother, and
she would be offended if I granted you what I had refused her."
"Oh, no! she wouldn't; it was she who told me to ask you just now."
I naturally began to laugh, but on her mother calling the girl a
little fool, and the brother adding that he had never committed such
an indiscretion, the poor child began to tremble all over, and looked
abashed. I reassured her as best I could, not caring whether what I
said displeased her mother or not, and I endeavoured to instill into
her principles of a very different nature to those in which she had
been reared, while she listened with an eagerness which proved that
her heart was still ready to learn the right way. Little by little
her face cleared, and I saw that I had made an impression, and though
I could not flatter myself that any good I might do her would be
lasting in its effects as long as she remained under the bad
influence of her mother, I promised to come and sup with her next
evening, "but on the condition," I said, "that you give me a plain
meal, and one bottle of chambertin only, for you are not too well
"I know that, but mamma says that you pay for everything."
This reply made me go off into a roar of laughter; and in spite of
her vexation the mother was obliged to follow my example. The poor
woman, hardened by the life she led, took the child's simplicity for
stupidity, but I saw in her a rough diamond which only wanted
Therese told me that the wine did not cost her anything, as the son
of the Rotterdam burgomaster furnished her with it, and that he would
sup with us the next day if I would allow him to be present. I
answered smilingly that I should be delighted to see him, and I went
away after giving my daughter, of whom I felt fond, a tender embrace.
I would have done anything to be entrusted with her, but I saw it
would be no good trying to get possession of her, as the mother was
evidently keeping her as a resource for her old age. This is a
common way for adventuresses to look upon their daughters, and
Therese was an adventuress in the widest acceptation of the term. I
gave her twenty ducats to get clothes for my adopted son and Sophie,
who, with spontaneous gratitude, and her eyes filled with tears, came
and gave me a kiss. Joseph was going to kiss my hand, but I told him
that it was degrading for one man to kiss another's hand, and that
for the future he was to shew his gratitude by embracing me as a son
embraces his father.
Just as I was leaving, Therese took me to the closet where the two
children were sleeping. I knew what she was thinking of; but all
that was over long ago; I could think of no one but Esther.
The next day I found the burgomaster's son at my actress's house. He
was a fine young fellow of twenty or twenty-one, but totally devoid
of manner. He was Therese's lover, but he should have regulated his
behaviour in my presence. Therese, seeing that he was posing as
master of the field, and that his manners disgusted me, began to snub
him, much to his displeasure, and after sneering at the poorness of
the dishes, and praising the wine which he had supplied, he went out
leaving us to finish our dessert by ourselves. I left myself at
eleven, telling Therese that I should see her again before I went
away. The Princesse de Galitzin, a Cantimir by birth, had asked me
to dinner, and this made me lose another day.
Next day I heard from Madame d'Urfe, who enclosed a bill of exchange
on Boaz for twelve thousand francs. She said that she had bought her
shares for sixty thousand, that she did not wish to make anything of
them, and that she hoped I would accept the overplus as my broker's
fee. She worded her offer with too much courtesy for me to refuse
it. The remainder of the letter was devoted to the wildest fancies.
She said that her genius had revealed to her that I should bring back
to Paris a boy born of the Mystical Marriage, and she hoped I would
take pity on her. It was a strange coincidence, and seemed likely to
attach the woman still more closely to her visionary theories. I
laughed when I though how she would be impressed by Therese's son,
who was certainly not born of the Mystical Marriage.
Boaz paid me my twelve thousand francs in ducats, and I made him my
friend, as he thanked me for receiving the moneys in ducats, and he
doubtless made a profit on the transaction, gold being a commodity in
Holland, and all payments being made in silver or paper money.
At that time gold was at a low rate, and nobody would take ducats.
After having an excellent dinner with the Princesse de Galitzin, I
put on my cloak and went to the cafe. I found there the
burgomaster's son, who was just beginning a game of billiards. He
whispered to me that I might back him with advantage, and thinking he
was sure of his stroke I thanked him and followed his advice.
However, after losing three games one after the other, I took his
measure and began to lay against him without his knowledge. After
playing for three hours and losing all the time, he stopped play and
came to condole with me on my heavy loss. It is impossible to
describe his amazed expression when I shewed him a handful of ducats,
and assured him that I had spent a very profitable evening in laying
against him. Everybody in the room began to laugh at him, but he was
the sort of young man who doesn't understand a joke, and he went out
in a rage. Soon after I left the billiard-room myself, and,
according to my promise went to see Therese, as I was leaving for
Amsterdam the next day.
Therese was waiting for her young wine merchant, but on my recounting
his adventures she expected him no longer. I took my little daughter
on my knee and lavished my caresses on her, and so left them, telling
them that we should see each other again in the course of three weeks
or a month at latest.
As I was going home in the moonlight by myself, my sword under my
arm, I was encountered all of a sudden by the poor dupe of a
"I want to know," said he, "if your sword has as sharp a point as
I tried to quiet him by speaking common sense, and I kept my sword
wrapped in my cloak, though his was bared and directed against me.
"You are wrong to take my jests in such bad part," said I; "however,
I apologize to you."
"No apologies; look to yourself."
"Wait till to-morrow, you will be cooler then, but if you still wish
it I will give you satisfaction in the midst of the billiard-room."
"The only satisfaction you can give me is to fight; I want to kill
As evidence of his determination, and to provoke me beyond recall, he
struck me with the flat of his sword, the first and last time in my
life in which I have received such and insult. I drew my sword, but
still hoping to bring him to his senses I kept strictly on the
defensive and endeavoured to make him leave off. This conduct the
Dutchman mistook for fear, and pushed hard on me, lunging in a manner
that made me look to myself. His sword passed through my necktie; a
quarter of an inch farther in would have done my business.
I leapt to one side, and, my danger no longer admitting of my
fighting on the defensive, I lunged out and wounded him in the chest.
I thought this would have been enough for him, so I proposed we
should terminate our engagement.
"I'm not dead yet," said he; "I want to kill you."
This was his watchword; and, as he leapt on me in a paroxysm of rage,
more like a madman than a sensible being, I hit him four times. At
the fourth wound he stepped back, and, saying he had had enough,
begged me to leave him.
I went off as fast as I could, and was very glad to see from the look
of my sword that his wounds were slight. I found Boaz still up, and
on hearing what had taken place he advised me to go to Amsterdam at
once, though I assured him that the wounds were not mortal. I gave
in to his advice, and as my carriage was at the saddler's he lent me
his, and I set out, bidding my servant to come on the next day with
my luggage, and to rejoin me at the "Old Bible," in Amsterdam. I
reached Amsterdam at noon and my man arrived in the evening.
I was curious to hear if my duel had made any noise, but as my
servant had left at an early hour he had heard nothing about it.
Fortunately for me nothing whatever was known about it at Amsterdam
for a week after; otherwise, things might not have gone well with me,
as the reputation of being a duellist is not a recommendation to
financiers with whom one is about to transact business of importance.
The reader will not be surprised when I tell him that my first call
was on M. d'O, or rather on his charming daughter Esther, for she
it was on whom I waited. It will be remembered that the way in which
we parted did a good deal towards augmenting the warmth of my
affection for her. On entering the room I found Esther writing at a
"What are you doing Esther, dear?"
"An arithmetical problem."
"Do you like problems?"
"I am passionately fond of anything which contains difficulties and
offers curious results."
"I will give you something which will please you."
I made her, by way of jest, two magic squares, which delighted her.
In return, she spewed me some trifles with which I was well
acquainted, but which I pretended to think very astonishing. My good
genius then inspired me with the idea of trying divination by the
cabala. I told her to ask a question in writing, and assured her
that by a certain kind of calculation a satisfactory answer would be
obtained. She smiled, and asked why I had returned to Amsterdam so
soon. I shewed her how to make the pyramid with the proper numbers
and the other ceremonies, then I made her extract the answer in
numbers, translating it into French, and greatly was she surprised to
find that the cause which had made me return to Amsterdam so soon
Quite confounded, she said it was very wonderful, even though the
answer might not be true, and she wished to know what masters could
teach this mode of calculation.
"Those who know it cannot teach it to anyone."
"How did you learn it, then?"
"From a precious manuscript I inherited from my father."
"Sell it me."
"I have burnt it; and I am not empowered to communicate the secret to
anyone before I reach the age of fifty."
"I don't know; but I do know that if I communicated it to anyone
before that age I should run the risk of losing it myself. The
elementary spirit who is attached to the oracle would leave it."
"How do you know that?"
"I saw it so stated in the manuscript I have spoken of."
"Then you are able to discover all secrets?"
"Yes, or I should be if the replies were not sometimes too obscure to
"As it does not take much time, will you be kind enough to get me an
answer to another question?"
"With pleasure; you can command me in anything not forbidden by my
She asked what her destiny would be, and the oracle replied that she
had not yet taken the first step towards it. Esther was astonished
and called her governess to see the two answers, but the good woman
saw nothing wonderful in them whatever. Esther impatiently called
her a blockhead, and entreated me to let her ask another question. I
begged her to do so, and she asked,
"Who loves me most in Amsterdam?" The oracle replied that no one
loved her as well as he who had given her being: Poor Esther then
told me that I had made her miserable, and that she would die of
grief if she could not succeed in learning the method of calculation.
I gave no answer, and pretended to feel sad at heart. She began to
write down another question, putting her hand in front so as to
screen the paper. I rose as if to get out of her way, but while she
was arranging the pyramid I cast my eyes on the paper whilst walking
up and down the room, and read her question. After she had gone as
far as I had taught her, she asked me to extract the answer, saying
that I could do so without reading the question. I agreed to do so
on the condition that she would not ask a second time.
As I had seen her question, it was easy for me to answer it. She had
asked the oracle if she might shew the questions she had propounded
to her father, and the answer was that she would be happy as long as
she had no secrets from her father.
When she read these words she gave a cry of surprise, and could find
no words wherewith to express her gratitude to me. I left her for
the Exchange, where I had a long business conversation with M. Pels.
Next morning a handsome and gentlemanly man came with a letter of
introduction from Therese, who told me that he would be useful in
case I wanted any assistance in business. His name was Rigerboos.
She informed me that the burgomaster's son was only slightly wounded,
and that I had nothing to fear as the matter was not generally known,
and that if I had business at the Hague I might return there in
perfect safety. She said that my little Sophie talked of me all day,
and that I should find my son much improved on my return. I asked M.
Rigerboos to give me his address, assuring him that at the proper
time I should rely on his services.
A moment after Rigerboos had gone, I got a short note from Esther,
who begged me, in her father's name, to spend the day with her--at
least, if I had no important engagement. I answered that, excepting
a certain matter of which her father knew, I had no chiefer aim than
to convince her that I desired a place in her heart, and that she
might be quite sure that I would not refuse her invitation.
I went to M. d'O---- at dinner time. I found Esther and her father
puzzling over the method which drew reasonable answers out of a
pyramid of numbers. As soon as her father saw me, he embraced me,
saying how happy he was to possess a daughter capable of attracting
"She will attract any man who has sufficient sense to appreciate
"You appreciate her, then?"
"I worship her."
"Then embrace her."
Esther opened her arms, and with a cry of delight threw them round my
neck, and gave the back all my caresses, kiss for kiss.
"I have got through all my business," said M. d'O----, "and the rest
of my day is at your disposal. I have known from my childhood that
there is such a science as the one you profess, and I was acquainted
with a Jew who by its aid made an immense fortune. He, like you,
said that, under pain of losing the secret, it could only be
communicated to one person, but he put off doing so so long that at
last it was too late, for a high fever carried him off in a few days.
I hope you will not do as the Jew did; but in the meanwhile allow me
to say that if You do not draw a profit from this treasure, you do
not know what it really is."
"You call this knowledge of mine a treasure, and yet you possess one
far more excellent," looking at Esther as I spoke.
"We will discuss that again. Yes, sir, I call your science a
"But the answers of the oracle are often very obscure."
"Obscure! The answers my daughter received are as clear as day."
"Apparently, she is fortunate in the way she frames her questions;
for on this the reply depends."
"After dinner we will try if I am so fortunate--at least, if you will
be so kind as to help me."
"I can refuse you nothing, as I consider father and daughter as one
At table we discussed other subjects, as the chief clerks were
present--notably the manager, a vulgar-looking fellow, who had very
evident aspirations in the direction of my fair Esther. After dinner
we went into M. d'O 's private closet, and thereupon he drew two long
questions out of his pocket. In the first he desired to know how to
obtain a favourable decision from the States-General in an important
matter, the details of which he explained. I replied in terms, the
obscurity of which would have done credit to a professed Pythoness,
and I left Esther to translate the answer into common sense, and find
a meaning in it.
With regard to the second answer I acted in a different manner; I was
impelled to answer clearly, and did so. M. d'O asked what had
become of a vessel belonging to the India Company of which nothing
had been heard. It was known to have started on the return voyage,
and should have arrived two months ago, and this delay gave rise to
the supposition that it had gone down. M. d'O---- wished to know if
it were still above water, or whether it were lost, etc. As no
tidings of it had come to hand, the company were on the look-out for
someone to insure it, and offered ten per cent., but nobody cared to
run so great a risk, especially as a letter had been received from an
English sea captain who said he had seen her sink.
I may confess to my readers, though I did not do so to M. d'O----.
that with inexplicable folly I composed an answer that left no doubt
as to the safety of the vessel, pronouncing it safe and sound, and
that we should hear of it in a few days. No doubt I felt the need of
exalting my oracle, but this method was likely to destroy its credit
for ever. In truth, if I had guessed M. d'O----'s design, I would
have curbed my vanity, for I had no wish to make him lose a large sum
without profiting myself.
The answer made him turn pale, and tremble with joy. He told us that
secrecy in the matter was of the last importance, as he had
determined to insure the vessel and drive a good bargain. At this,
dreading the consequences, I hastened to tell him that for all I knew
there might not be a word of truth in the oracle's reply, and that I
should die of grief if I were the involuntary cause of his losing an
enormous sum of money through relying on an oracle, the hidden sense
of which might be completely opposed to the literal translation.
"Have you ever been deceived by it?"
Seeing my distress, Esther begged her father to take no further steps
in the matter. For some moments nobody spoke.
M. d'O---- looked thoughtful and full of the project which his fancy
had painted in such gay colours. He said a good deal about it,
dwelling on the mystic virtues of numbers, and told his daughter to
read out all the questions she had addressed to the oracle with the
answers she had received. There were six or seven of them, all
briefly worded, some direct and some equivocal. Esther, who had
constructed the pyramids, had shone, with my potent assistance, in
extracting the answers, which I had really invented, and her father,
in the joy of his heart, seeing her so clever, imagined that she
would become an adept in the science by the force of intelligence.
The lovely Esther, who was much taken with the trifle; was quite
ready to be of the same opinion.
After passing several hours in the discussion of the answers, which
my host thought divine, we had supper, and at parting M. d'O---- said
that as Sunday was a day for pleasure and not business he hoped I
would honour them by passing the day at their pretty house on the
Amstel, and they were delighted at my accepting their invitation.
I could not help pondering over the mysteries of the commercial mind,
which narrows itself down to considerations of profit and loss.
M. d'O---- was decidedly an honest man; but although he was rich, he
was by no means devoid of the greed incident to his profession. I
asked myself the question, how a man, who would consider it
dishonourable to steal a ducat, or to pick one up in the street and
keep it, knowing to whom it belonged, could reconcile it with his
conscience to make an enormous profit by insuring a vessel of the
safety of which he was perfectly certain, as he believed the oracle
infallible. Such a transaction was certainly fraudulent, as it is
dishonest to play when one is certain of winning.
As I was going home I passed a tea-garden, and seeing a good many
people going in and coming out I went in curious to know how these
places were managed in Holland. Great heavens! I found myself the
witness of an orgy, the scene a sort of cellar, a perfect cesspool of
vice and debauchery. The discordant noise of the two or three
instruments which formed the orchestra struck gloom to the soul and
added to the horrors of the cavern. The air was dense with the fumes
of bad tobacco, and vapours reeking of beer and garlic issued from
every mouth. The company consisted of sailors, men of the lowest-
class, and a number of vile women. The sailors and the dregs of the
people thought this den a garden of delight, and considered its
pleasures compensation for the toils of the sea and the miseries of
daily labour. There was not a single woman there whose aspect had
anything redeeming about it. I was looking at the repulsive sight in
silence, when a great hulking fellow, whose appearance suggested the
blacksmith, and his voice the blackguard, came up to me and asked me
in bad Italian if I would like to dance. I answered in the negative,
but before leaving me he pointed out a Venetian woman who, he said,
would oblige me if I gave her some drink.
Wishing to discover if she was anyone I knew I looked at her
attentively, and seemed to recollect her features, although I could
not decide who she could be. Feeling rather curious on the subject I
sat down next to her, and asked if she came from Venice, and if she
had left that country some time ago.
"Nearly eighteen years," she replied.
I ordered a bottle of wine, and asked if she would take any; she said
yes, and added, if I liked, she would oblige me.
"I haven't time," I said; and I gave the poor wretch the change I
received from the waiter. She was full of gratitude, and would have
embraced me if I had allowed her.
"Do you like being at Amsterdam better than Venice?" I asked.
"Alas, no! for if I were in my own country I should not be following
this dreadful trade."
"How old were you when you left Venice."
"I was only fourteen and lived happily with my father and mother, who
now may have died of grief."
"Who seduced you?"
"A rascally footman."
"In what part of Venice did you live?"
"I did not live in Venice, but at Friuli, not far off."
Friuli . . . eighteen years ago . . . a footman . . . I felt
moved, and looking at the wretched woman more closely I soon
recognized in her Lucie of Pasean. I cannot describe my sorrow,
which I concealed as best I could, and tried hard to keep up my
indifferent air. A life of debauchery rather than the flight of time
had tarnished her beauty, and ruined the once exquisite outlines of
her form. Lucie, that innocent and pretty maiden, grown ugly, vile,
a common prostitute! It was a dreadful thought. She drank like a
sailor, without looking at me, and without caring who I was. I took
a few ducats from my purse, and slipped them into her hand, and
without waiting for her to find out how much I had given her I left
that horrible den.
I went to bed full of saddening thoughts. Not even under the Leads
did I pass so wretched a day. I thought I must have risen under some
unhappy star! I loathed myself. With regard to Lucie I felt the
sting of remorse, but at the thought of M. d'O---- I hated myself.
I considered that I should cause him a loss of three or four hundred
thousand florins; and the thought was a bitter drop in the cup of my
affection for Esther. I fancied, she, as well as her father, would
become my implacable foe; and love that is not returned is no love at
I spent a dreadful night. Lucie, Esther, her father, their hatred of
me, and my hatred of myself, were the groundwork of my dreams. I saw
Esther and her father, if not ruined, at all events impoverished by
my fault, and Lucie only thirty-two years old, and already deep in
the abyss of vice, with an infinite prospect of misery and shame
before her. The dawn was welcome indeed, for with its appearance a
calm came to my spirit; it is, the darkness which is terrible to a
heart full of remorse.
I got up and dressed myself in my best, and went in a coach to do my
suit to the Princesse de Galitzin, who, was staying at the "Etoile
d'Orient." I found her out; she had gone to the Admiralty. I went
there, and found her accompanied by M. de Reissak and the Count de
Tot, who had just received news of my friend Pesselier, at whose
house I made his acquaintance, and who was dangerously ill when I
I sent away my coach and began to walk towards M. d'O----'s house on
the Amsel. The extreme elegance of my costume was displeasing in the
eyes of the Dutch populace, and they hissed and hooted me, after the
manner of the mob all the world over, Esther saw me coming from the
window, drew the rope, and opened the door. I ran in, shut the door
behind me, and as I was going up the wooden staircase, on the fourth
or fifth step my foot struck against some yielding substance. I
looked down and saw a green pocket-book. I stooped down to pick it
up, but was awkward enough to send it through an opening in the
stairs, which had been doubtless made for the purpose of giving light
to a stair below. I did not stop, but went up the steps and was
received with the usual hospitality, and on their expressing some
wonder as to the unusual brilliance of my attire I explained the
circumstances of the case. Esther smiled and said I looked quite
another person, but I saw that both father and daughter were sad at
heart. Esther's governess came in and said something to her in
Dutch, at which, in evident distress, she ran and embraced her
"I see, my friends, that something has happened to you. If my
presence is a restraint, treat me without ceremony, and bid me go."
"It's not so great an ill-hap after all; I have enough money left to
bear the loss patiently"
"If I may ask the question, what is the nature of your loss?"
"I have lost a green pocket-book containing a good deal of money,
which if I had been wise I would have left behind, as I did not
require it till to-morrow."
"And you don't know where you lost it?"
"It must have been in the street, but I can't imagine how it can have
happened. It contained bills of exchange for large amounts, and of
course they don't matter, as I can stop payment of them, but there
were also notes of the Bank of England for heavy sums, and they are
gone, as they are payable to the bearer. Let us give thanks to God,
my dear child, that it is no worse, and pray to Him to preserve to us
what remains, and above all to keep us in good health. I have had
much heavier losses than this, and I have been enabled not only to
bear the misfortune but to make up the loss. Let us say no more
about the matter."
While he was speaking my heart was full of joy, but I kept up the
sadness befitting the scene. I had not the slightest doubt that the
pocket-book in question was the one I had unluckily sent through the
staircase, but which could not be lost irretrievably. My first point
was how to make capital of my grand discovery in the interests of my
cabalistic science. It was too fine an opportunity to be lost,
especially as I still felt the sting of having been the cause of an
enormous loss to the worthy man. I would give them a grand proof of
the infallibility of my oracle: how many miracles are done in the
same way! The thought put me into a good humour. I began to crack
jokes, and my jests drew peals of laughter from Esther.
We had an excellent dinner and choice wine. After we had taken
coffee I said that if they liked we would have a game of cards, but
Esther said that this would be a waste of time, as she would much
prefer making the oracular pyramids. This was exactly what I wanted.
"With all my heart," I said.
"We will do as you suggest."
"Shall I ask where my father lost his pocket-book?"
"Why not? It's a plain question: write it down."
She made the pyramid, and the reply was that the pocket-book had not
been found by anyone. She leapt up from her seat, danced for joy,
and threw her arms round her father's neck, saying,
"We shall find it, we shall find it, papa!"
"I hope so, too, my dear, that answer is really very consoling."
Wherewith Esther gave her father one kiss after another.
"Yes," said I, "there is certainly ground for hope, but the oracle
will be dumb to all questions."
"I was going to say it will be dumb if you do not give me as many
kisses as you have given your father."
"Oh, then I will soon make it speak!" said she, laughing; and
throwing her arms about my neck she began to kiss me, and I to give
her kisses in return.
Ah! what happy days they seem when I recall them; and still I like
dwelling on these days despite my sad old age, the foe of love. When
I recall these events I grow young again and feel once more the
delights of youth, despite the long years which separate me from that
At last Esther sat down again, and asked, "Where is the pocket-book?"
And the pyramid told her that the pocket-book had fallen through the
opening in the fifth step of the staircase.
M. d'O---- said to his daughter,
"Come, my dear Esther, let us go and test the truth of the oracle."
And full of joy and hope they went to the staircase, I following
them, and M. d'O shewed her the hole through which the pocket-book
must have fallen. He lighted a candle and we went down to the
cellar, and before long he picked up the book, which had fallen into
some water. We went up again in high spirits, and there we talked
for over an hour as seriously as you please on the divine powers of
the oracle, which, according to them, should render its possessor the
happiest of mortals.
He opened the pocket-book and shewed us the four thousand pound
notes. He gave two to his daughter, and made me take the two
remaining; but I took them with one hand and with the other gave them
to Esther begging her to keep them for me; but before she would agree
to do so I had to threaten her with the stoppage of the famous
cabalistic oracle. I told M. d'O that all I asked was his
friendship, and thereon he embraced me, and swore to be my friend to
By making the fair Esther the depositary of my two thousand pounds, I
was sure of winning her affection by an appeal, not to her interest,
but to her truthfulness. This charming girl had about her so
powerful an attraction that I felt as if my life was wound up with
I told M. d'O that my chief object was to negotiate the twenty
millions at a small loss.
"I hope to be of service to you in the matter," he said, "but as I.
shall often want to speak to you, you must come and live in our
house, which you must look upon as your own."
"My presence will be a restraint on you. I shall be a trouble."
Esther joined her entreaties to her father's and I gave in, taking
good care not to let them see how pleased I was. I contented myself
with expressing my gratitude, to which they answered that it was I
who conferred a favour.
M. d'O went into his closet, and as soon as I found myself alone with
Esther I kissed her tenderly, saying that I should not be happy till
I had won her heart.
"Do you love me?"
"Dearly, and I will do all in my power to shew how well I love you,
if you will love me in return."
She gave me her hand, which I covered with kisses, and she went on to
say, "As soon as you come and live with us, you must look out for a
good opportunity for asking my hand of my father. You need not be
afraid he will refuse you, but the first thing for you to do is to
move into our house."
"My dear little wife! I will come to-morrow."
We said many sweet things to one another, talked about the future,
and told each other our inmost thoughts; and I was undoubtedly truly
in love, for not a single improper fancy rose in my mind in the
presence of my dear who loved me so well.
The first thing that M. d'O said on his return was, that there would
be a piece of news on the Exchange the next day.
"What is that, papa dear?"
"I have decided to take the whole risk--amounting to three hundred
thousand florins-of the ship which is thought to have gone down.
They will call me mad, but they themselves will be the madmen; which
is what I should be if, after the proof we have had, I doubted the
oracle any more."
"My dear sir, you make me frightened. I have told you that I have
been often deceived by the oracle."
"That must have been, my dear fellow, when the reply was obscure, and
you did not get at the real sense of it; but in the present case
there is no room, for doubt. I shall make three million florins, or,
if the worst comes to the worse, my loss won't ruin me."
Esther, whom the finding of the pocket-book had made enthusiastic,
told her father to lose no time. As for me, I could not recall what
I had done, but I was again overwhelmed with sadness. M. d'O---- saw
it, and taking my hand said, "If the oracle does lie this time, I
shall be none the less your friend."
"I am glad to hear it," I answered; "but as this is a matter of the
utmost importance, let me consult the oracle a second time before you
risk your three hundred thousand florins." This proposition pleased
the father and daughter highly; they could not express their
gratitude to me for being so careful of their interests.
What followed was truly surprising--enough to make one believe in
fatality. My readers probably will not believe it; but as these
Memoirs will not be published till I have left this world, it would
be of no use for me to disguise the truth in any way, especially as
the writing of them is only the amusement of my leisure hours. Well,
let him who will believe it; this is absolutely what happened. I
wrote down the question myself, erected the pyramid, and carried out
all the magical ceremonies without letting Esther have a hand in it.
I was delighted to be able to check an act of extreme imprudence, and
I was determined to do so. A double meaning, which I knew how to
get, would abate M. d'O----'s courage and annihilate his plans. I
had thought over what I wanted to say, and I thought I had expressed
it properly in the numbers. With that idea, as Esther knew the
alphabet perfectly well, I let her extract the answer, and transfer
it into letters. What was my surprise when I heard her read these
"In a matter of this kind neither fear nor hesitate. Your repentance
would be too hard for you to bear."
That was enough. Father and daughter ran to embrace me, and M. d'O-
said that when the vessel was sighted a tithe of the profits should
be mine. My surprise prevented me giving any answer; I had intended
to write trust and hazard, and I had written fear and hesitate. But
thanks to his prejudice, M. d'O---- only saw in my silence
confirmation of the infallibility of the oracle. In short, I could
do nothing more, and I took my leave leaving everything to the care
of chance, who sometimes is kind to us in spite of ourselves.
The next morning I took up my abode in a splendid suite of rooms in
Esther's house, and the day after I took her to a concert, where she
joked with me on the grief I should endure on account of the absence
of Madame Trend and my daughter. Esther was the only mistress of my
soul. I lived but to adore her, and I should have satisfied my love
had not Esther been a girl of good principles. I could not gain
possession of her, and was full of longing and desire.
Four or five days after my installation in my new quarters, M. d'O---
communicated to me the result of a conference which he had had with
M. Pels and six other bankers on the twenty millions. They offered
ten millions in hard cash and seven millions in paper money, bearing
interest at five or six per cent. with a deduction of one per cent.
brokerage. Furthermore, they would forgive a sum of twelve hundred
thousand florins owed by the French India Company to the Dutch
With such conditions I could not venture to decide on my own
responsibility, although, personally, I thought them reasonable
enough, the impoverished state of the French treasury being taken
into consideration. I sent copies of the proposal to M. de Boulogne
and M. d'Afri, begging from them an immediate reply. At the end of a
week I received an answer in the writing of M. de Courteil, acting
for M. de Boulogne, instructing me to refuse absolutely any such
proposal, and to report myself at Paris if I saw no chance of making
a better bargain. I was again informed that peace was imminent,
though the Dutch were quite of another opinion.
In all probability I should have immediately left for Paris, but for
a circumstance which astonished nobody but myself in the family of
which I had become a member. The confidence of M. d'O---- increased
every day, and as if chance was determined to make me a prophet in
spite of myself, news was received of the ship which was believed to
be lost, and which, on the faith of my oracle, M. d'O had bought for
three hundred thousand florins. The vessel was at Madeira. The joy
of Esther, and still more my own, may be imagined when we saw the
worthy man enter the house triumphantly with confirmation of the good
"I have insured the vessel from Madeira to the mouth of the Texel for
a trifle," said he, "and so," turning to me, "you may count from this
moment on the tenth part of the profit, which I owe entirely to you."
The reader may imagine my delight; but there is one thing he will not
imagine, unless he knows my character better than I do myself, the
confusion into which I was thrown by the following remarks:
"You are now rich enough," said M. d'O----, "to set up for yourself
amongst us, and you are positively certain to make an enormous
fortune in a short time merely by making use of your cabala. I will
be your agent; let us live together, and if you like my daughter as
she likes you, you can call yourself my son as soon as you please."
In Esther's face shone forth joy and happiness, and in mine, though I
adored her, there was to be seen, alas! nothing but surprise. I was
stupid with happiness and the constraint in which I held myself. I
did not analyze my feelings, but, though I knew it not, there can be
no doubt that my insuperable objection to the marriage tie was
working within my soul. A long silence followed; and last,
recovering my powers of speech, I succeeded, with an effort, in
speaking to them of my gratitude, my happiness, my love, and I ended
by saying that, in spite of my affection for Esther, I must, before
settling in Holland, return to Paris, and discharge the confidential
and responsible duty which the Government had placed in my hands. I
would then return to Amsterdam perfectly independent.
This long peroration won their approval. Esther was quite pleased,
and we spent the rest of the day in good spirits. Next day M. d'O---
gave a splendid dinner to several of his friends, who congratulated
him on his good fortune, being persuaded that his courageous action
was to be explained by his having had secret information of the
safety of the vessel, though none of them could see from what source
he, and he only, had obtained it.
A week after this lucky event he gave me an ultimatum on the matter
of the twenty millions, in which he guaranteed that France should not
lose more than nine per cent. in the transaction.
I immediately sent a copy of his proposal to M. d'Afri, begging him
to be as prompt as possible, and another copy to the comptroller-
general, with a letter in which I warned him that the thing would
certainly fall through if he delayed a single day in sending full
powers to M. d'Afri to give me the necessary authority to act.
I wrote to the same effect to M. de Courteil and the Duc de Choiseul,
telling them that I was to receive no brokerage; but that I should
all the same accept a proposal which I thought a profitable one, and
saying that I had no doubt of obtaining my expenses from the French
As it was a time of rejoicing with us, M. d'O---- thought it would be
a good plan to give a ball. All the most distinguished people in
Amsterdam were invited to it. The ball and supper were of the most
splendid description, and Esther, who was a blaze of diamonds, danced
all the quadrilles with me, and charmed every beholder by her grace
I spent all my time with Esther, and every day we grew more and more
in love, and more unhappy, for we were tormented by abstinence, which
irritated while it increased our desires.
Esther was an affectionate mistress, but discreet rather by training
than disposition the favours she accorded me were of the most
insignificant description. She was lavish of nothing but her kisses,
but kisses are rather irritating than soothing. I used to be nearly
wild with love. She told me, like other virtuous women, that if she
agreed to make me happy she was sure I would not marry her, and that
as soon as I made her my wife she would be mine and mine only. She
did not think I was married, for I had given her too many assurances
to the contrary, but she thought I had a strong attachment to someone
in Paris. I confessed that she was right, and said that I was going
there to put an end to it that I might be bound to her alone. Alas!
I lied when I said so, for Esther was inseparable from her father, a
man of forty, and I could not make up my mind to pass the remainder
of my days in Holland.
Ten or twelve days after sending the ultimatum, I received a letter
from M. de Boulogne informing me that M. d'Afri had all necessary
instructions for effecting the exchange of the twenty millions, and
another letter from the ambassador was to the same effect. He warned
me to take care that everything was right, as he should not part with
the securities before receiving 18,200,000 francs in current money.
The sad time of parting at last drew near, amid many regrets and
tears from all of us. Esther gave me the two thousand pounds I had
won so easily, and her father at my request gave me bills of exchange
to the amount of a hundred thousand florins, with a note of two
hundred thousand florins authorizing me to draw upon him till the
whole sum was exhausted. Just as I was going, Esther gave me fifty
shirts and fifty handkerchiefs of the finest quality.
It was not my love for Manon Baletti, but a foolish vanity and a
desire to cut a figure in the luxurious city of Paris, which made me
leave Holland. But such was the disposition that Mother Nature had
given me that fifteen months under The Leads had not been enough to
cure this mental malady of mine. But when I reflect upon after
events of my life I am not astonished that The Leads proved
ineffectual, for the numberless vicissitudes which I have gone
through since have not cured me--my disorder, indeed, being of the
incurable kind. There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves
shape our lives, notwithstanding that saying of the Stoics, 'Volentem
ducit, nolentem trahit'.
After promising Esther to return before the end of the year, I set
out with a clerk of the company who had brought the French
securities, and I reached the Hague, where Boaz received me with a
mingled air of wonder and admiration. He told me that I had worked a
miracle; "but," he added, "to succeed thus you must have persuaded
them that peace was on the point of being concluded."
"By no means," I answered; "so far from my persuading them, they are
of the opposite opinion; but all the same I may tell you that peace
is really imminent."
"If you like to give me that assurance in writing," said he, "I will
make you a present of fifty thousand florins' worth of diamonds."
"Well," I answered, "the French ambassador is of the same opinion as
myself; but I don't think the certainty is sufficiently great as yet
for you to risk your diamonds upon it."
Next day I finished my business with the ambassador, and the clerk
returned to Amsterdam.
I went to supper at Therese's, and found her children very well
dressed. I told her to go on to Rotterdam the next day and wait for
me there with her son, as I had no wish to give scandal at the Hague.
At Rotterdam, Therese told me that she knew I had won half a million
at Amsterdam, and that her fortune would be made if she could leave
Holland for London. She had instructed Sophie to tell me that my
good luck was the effect of the prayers she had addressed to Heaven
on my behalf. I saw where the land lay, and I enjoyed a good laugh
at the mother's craft and the child's piety, and gave her a hundred
ducats, telling her that she should have another hundred when she
wrote to me from London. It was very evident that she thought the
sum a very moderate one, but I would not give her any more. She
waited for the moment when I was getting into my carriage to beg me
to give her another hundred ducats, and I said, in a low tone, that
she should have a thousand if she would give me her daughter. She
thought it over for a minute, and then said that she could not part
"I know very well why," I answered; and drawing a watch from my fob I
gave it to Sophie, embraced her, and went on my way. I arrived at
Paris on February 10th, and took sumptuous apartments near the Rue
I Meet With a Flattering Reception From My Patron--Madame D'Urfe's
Infatuation--Madame X. C. V. And Her Family--Madame du Rumain
During my journey from the Hague to Paris, short as it was, I had
plenty of opportunities for seeing that the mental qualities of my
adopted son were by no means equal to his physical ones.
As I had said, the chief point which his mother had impressed on him
was reserve, which she had instilled into him out of regard for her
own interests. My readers will understand what I mean, but the
child, in following his mother's instructions, had gone beyond the
bounds of moderation; he possessed reserve, it is true, but he was
also full of dissimulation, suspicion, and hypocrisy--a fine trio of
deceit in one who was still a boy. He not only concealed what he
knew, but he pretended to know that which he did not. His idea of
the one quality necessary to success in life was an impenetrable
reserve, and to obtain this he had accustomed himself to silence the
dictates of his heart, and to say no word that had not been carefully
weighed. Giving other people wrong impressions passed with him for
discretion, and his soul being incapable of a generous thought, he
seemed likely to pass through life without knowing what friendship
Knowing that Madame d'Urfe counted on the boy for the accomplishment
of her absurd hypostasis, and that the more mystery I made of his
birth the more extravagant would be her fancies about it, I told the
lad that if I introduced him to a lady who questioned him by himself
about his birth, he was to be perfectly open with her.
On my arrival at Paris my first visit was to my patron, whom I found
in grand company amongst whom I recognized the Venetian ambassador,
who pretended not to know me.
"How long have you been in Paris?" said the minister, taking me by
"I have only just stepped out of my chaise."
"Then go to Versailles. You will find the Duc de Choiseul and the
comptroller-general there. You have been wonderfully successful, go
and get your meed of praise and come and see me afterwards. Tell the
duke that Voltaire's appointment to be a gentleman-in-ordinary to the
king is ready."
I was not going to start for Versailles at midday, but ministers in
Paris are always talking in this style, as if Versailles were at the
end of the street. Instead of going there, I went to see Madame
She received me with the words that her genius had informed her that
I should come to-day, and that she was delighted with the fulfilment
of the prophecy.
"Corneman tells me that you have been doing wonders in Holland; but I
see more in the matter than he does, as I am quite certain that you
have taken over the twenty millions yourself. The funds have risen,
and a hundred millions at least will be in circulation in the course
of the next week. You must not be offended at my shabby present,
for, of course, twelve thousand francs are nothing to you. You must
look upon them as a little token of friendship."
"I am going to tell my servants to close all the doors, for I am too
glad to see you not to want to have you all to myself."
A profound bow was the only reply I made to this flattering speech,
and I saw her tremble with joy when I told her that I had brought a
lad of twelve with me, whom I intended to place in the best school I
could find that he might have a good education.
"I will send him myself to Viar, where my nephews are. What is his
name? Where is he? I know well what this boy is, I long to see
him. Why did you not alight from your journey at my house?"
Her questions and replies followed one another in rapid succession.
I should have found it impossible to get in a word edgeways, even if
I had wanted to, but I was very glad to let her expend her
enthusiasm, and took good care not to interrupt her. On the first
opportunity, I told her that I should have the pleasure of presenting
the young gentleman to her the day after tomorrow, as on the morrow I
had an engagement at Versailles.
"Does the dear lad speak French? While I am arranging for his going
to school you must really let him come and live with me."
"We will discuss that question on the day after tomorrow, madam."
"Oh, how I wish the day after to-morrow was here!"
On leaving Madame d'Urfe I went to my lottery office and found
everything in perfect order. I then went to the Italian play, and
found Silvia and her daughter in their dressing-room.
"My dear friend," said she when she saw me, "I know that you have
achieved a wonderful success in Holland, and I congratulate you."
I gave her an agreeable surprise by saying that I had been working
for her daughter, and Marion herself blushed, and lowered her eyes in
a very suggestive manner. "I will be with you at supper," I added,
"and then we can talk at our ease." On leaving them I went to the
amphitheatre, and what was my surprise to see in one of the first
boxes Madame X---- C---- V----, with all her family. My readers will
be glad to hear their history.
Madame X---- C---- V----, by birth a Greek, was the widow of an
Englishman, by whom she had six children, four of whom were girls.
On his death-bed he became a Catholic out of deference to the tears
of his wife; but as his children could not inherit his forty thousand
pounds invested in England, without conforming to the Church of
England, the family returned to London, where the widow complied with
all the obligations of the law of England. What will people not do
when their interests are at stake! though in a case like this there
is no need to blame a person for yielding, to prejudices which had
the sanction of the law.
It was now the beginning of the year 1758, and five years before,
when I was at Padua, I fell in love with the eldest daughter, but a
few months after, when we were at Venice, Madame X. C. V. thought
good to exclude me from her family circle. The insult which the
mother put upon me was softened by the daughter, who wrote me a
charming letter, which I love to read even now. I may as well
confess that my grief was the easier to bear as my time was taken up
by my fair nun, M---- M----, and my dear C---- C-----. Nevertheless,
Mdlle. X. C. V., though only fifteen, was of a perfect beauty, and
was all the more charming in that to her physical advantages she
joined those of a cultured mind.
Count Algarotti, the King of Prussia's chamberlain, gave her lessons,
and several young nobles were among her suitors, her preference
apparently being given to the heir of the family of Memmo de St.
Marcuola. He died a year afterwards, while he was procurator.
My surprise at seeing this family at such a time and place may be
imagined. Mdlle. X. C. V. saw me directly, and pointed me out to her
mother, who made a sign to me with her fan to come to their box.
She received me in the friendliest manner possible, telling me that
we were not at Venice now, and that she hoped I would often come and
see them at the "Hotel de Bretagne," in the Rue St. Andre des Arts.
I told them that I did not wish to recall any events which might have
happened at Venice, and her daughter having joined her entreaties to
those of her mother, I promised to accept their invitation.
Mdlle. X. C. V. struck me as prettier than ever; and my love, after
sleeping for five years, awoke to fresh strength and vigour. They
told me that they were going to pass six months at Paris before
returning to Venice. In return I informed them that I intended
making Paris my home, that I had just left Holland, that I was going
to Versailles the next day, so that I could not pay my respects to
them till the day after. I also begged them to accept my services,
in a manner which let them know I was a person of some importance.
Mdlle. X. C. V. said that she was aware that the results of my Dutch
mission should render me dear to France, that she had always lived in
hopes of seeing me once more, that my famous flight from The Leads
had delighted them; "for," she added, "we have always been fond of
"I fancy your mother has kept her fondness for me very much to
herself," I whispered to her.
"We won't say anything about that," said she in the same tone. "We
learnt all the circumstances of your wonderful flight from a letter
of sixteen pages you wrote to M. Memmo. We trembled with joy and
shuddered with fear as we read it."
"How did you know I have been in Holland?"
"M. de la Popeliniere told us about it yesterday."
M. de la Popeliniere, the fermier-general, whom I had known seven
years ago at Passi, came into the box just as his name was spoken.
After complimenting me he said that if I could carry through the same
operation for the India Company my fortune would be made.
"My advice to you is," he said, "to get yourself naturalized before
it becomes generally known that you have made half a million of
"Half a million! I only wish I had!"
"You must have made that at the lowest calculation."
"On the contrary, I give you my assurance, that if my claim for
brokerage is not allowed, the transaction will prove absolutely
ruinous to me."
"Ah! no doubt you are right to take that tone. Meanwhile, everyone
wants to make your acquaintance, for France is deeply indebted to
you. You have caused the funds to recover in a very marked degree."
After the play was over I went to Silvia's, where I was received as
if I had been the favourite child of the family; but on the other
hand I gave them certain proofs that I wished to be regarded in that
light. I was impressed with the idea that to their unshaken
friendship I owed all my good luck, and I made the father, mother,
the daughter, and the two sons, receive the presents I had got for
them. The best was for the mother, who handed it on to her daughter.
It was a pair of diamond ear-rings of great beauty, for which I had
given fifteen thousand francs. Three days after I sent her a box
containing fine linen from Holland, and choice Mechlin and Alencon
lace. Mario, who liked smoking, got a gold pipe; the father a choice
gold and enamelled snuff-box, and I gave a repeater to the younger
son, of whom I was very fond. I shall have occasion later on to
speak of this lad, whose natural qualities were far superior to his
position in life. But, you will ask, was I rich enough to make such
presents? No, I was not, and I knew it perfectly well; but I gave
these presents because I was afraid of not being able to do so if I
I set out for Versailles at day-break, and M. de Choiseul received me
as before, his hair was being dressed, but for a moment he laid down
his pen, which shewed that I had become a person of greater
importance in his eyes. After a slight but grateful compliment, he
told me that if I thought myself capable of negotiating a loan of a
hundred millions to bear interest at four per cent., he would do all
in his power to help me. My answer was that I would think it over
when I heard how much I was to have for what I had done already.
"But everybody says that you have made two hundred thousand florins
"That would not be so bad; half a million of francs would be a fair
foundation on which to build a fortune; but I can assure your
excellence that there is not a word of truth in the report. I defy
anyone to prove it; and till some substantial proof is offered, I
think I can lay claim to brokerage."
"True, true. Go to the comptroller-general and state your views to
M. de Boulogne stopped the occupation on which he was engaged to give
me a most friendly greeting, but when I said that he owed me a
hundred thousand florins he smiled sardonically.
"I happen to know," he said, "that you have bills of exchange to the
amount of a hundred thousand crowns payable to yourself."
"Certainly, but that money has no connection with my mission, as I
can prove to you by referring you to M. d'Afri. I have in my head an
infallible project for increasing the revenue by twenty millions, in
a manner which will cause no irritation."
"You don't say so! Communicate your plan, and I promise to get you a
pension of a hundred thousand francs, and letters of nobility as
well, if you like to become a Frenchman."
"I will think it over."
On leaving M. de Boulogne I went to the Palace, where a ballet was
going on before the Marquise de Pompadour.
She bowed to me as soon as she saw me, and on my approaching her she
told me that I was an able financier, and that the "gentlemen below"
could not appreciate my merits. She had not forgotten what I had
said to her eight years before in the theatre at Fontainebleau. I
replied that all good gifts were from above, whither, with her help,
I hoped to attain.
On my return to Paris I went to the "Hotel Bourbon" to inform my
patron of the result of my journey. His advice to me was to continue
to serve the Government well, as its good fortune would come to be
mine. On my telling him of my meeting with the X. C. V.'s, he said
that M. de la Popeliniere was going to marry the elder daughter.
When I got to my house my son was nowhere to be found. My landlady
told me that a great lady had come to call on my lord, and that she
had taken him away with her. Guessing that this was Madame d'Urfe, I
went to bed without troubling myself any further. Early next morning
my clerk brought me a letter. It came from the old attorney, uncle
to Gaetan's wife, whom I had helped to escape from the jealous fury
of her brutal husband. The attorney begged me to come and speak to
him at the courts, or to make an appointment at some place where he
could see me. I went to the courts and found him there.
"My niece," he began, "found herself obliged to go into a convent;
and from this vantage ground she is pleading against her husband,
with the aid of a barrister, who will be responsible for the costs.
However, to win our case, we require the evidence of yourself, Count
Tiretta, and other servants who witnessed the scene at the inn."
I did all I could, and four months afterwards Gaetan simplified
matters by a fraudulent bankruptcy, which obliged him to leave
France: in due time and place, I shall have something more to say
about him. As for his wife, who was young and pretty, she paid her
counsel in love's money, and was very happy with him, and may be
happy still for all I know, but I have entirely lost sight of her.
After my interview with the old attorney I went to Madame---- to see
Tiretta, who was out. Madame was still in love with him, and he
continued to make a virtue of necessity. I left my address, and went
to the "Hotel de Bretagne" to pay my first call on Madame X. C. V.
The lady, though she was not over fond of me, received me with great
politeness. I possibly cut a better figure in her eyes when rich,
and at Paris, then when we were in Venice. We all know that diamonds
have the strange power of fascination, and that they form an
excellent substitute for virtue!
Madame X. C. V. had with her an old Greek named Zandiri, brother to
M. de Bragadin's major-domo, who was just dead. I uttered some
expressions of sympathy, and the boor did not take the trouble to
answer me, but I was avenged for his foolish stiffness by the
enthusiasm with which I was welcomed by everyone else. The eldest
girl, her sisters, and the two sons, almost overwhelmed me with
friendliness. The eldest son was only fourteen, and was a young
fellow of charming manners, but evidently extremely independent, and
sighed for the time when he would be able to devote himself to a
career of profligacy for which he was well fitted. Mdlle. X. C. V.
was both beautiful and charming in her manner, and had received an
excellent education of which, however, she made no parade. One could
not stay in her presence without loving her, but she was no flirt,
and I soon saw that she held out no vain hopes to those who had the
misfortune not to please her. Without being rude she knew how to be
cold, and it was all the worse for those whom her coldness did not
shew that their quest was useless.
The first hour I passed in her company chained me a captive to her
triumphant car. I told her as much, and she replied that she was
glad to have such a captive. She took the place in my heart where
Esther had reigned a week before, but I freely confess that Esther
yielded only because she was away. As to my attachment to Sylvia's
daughter, it was of such a nature as not to hinder me falling in love
with any other woman who chanced to take my fancy. In the
libertine's heart love cannot exist without substantial food, and
women who have had some experience of the world are well aware of
this fact. The youthful Baletti was a beginner, and so knew nothing
of these things.
M. Farsetti, a Venetian of noble birth, a knight of Malta, a great
student of the occult sciences, and a good Latin versifier, came in
at one o'clock. Dinner was just ready and Madame X. C. V. begged him
to stay. She asked me also to dine with them, but wishing to dine
with Madame d'Urfe I refused the invitation for the nonce.
M. Farsetti, who had known me very well at Venice, only noticed me by
a side-glance, and without shewing any vexation I paid him back in
the same coin. He smiled at Mdlle. X. C. V.'s praise of my courage.
She noticed his expression, and as if to punish him for it went on to
say that I had now the admiration of every Venetian, and that the
French were anxious to have the honour of calling me a fellow-
citizen. M. Farsetti asked me if my post at the lottery paid well. I
"Oh, yes, well enough for me to pay my clerks' salaries."
He understood the drift of my reply, and Mdlle. X. C. V. smiled.
I found my supposed son with Madame d'Urfe, or rather in that amiable
visionary's arms. She hastened to apologize for carrying him off,
and I turned it off with a jest, having no other course to take.
"I made him sleep with me," she said, "but I shall be obliged to
deprive myself of this privilege for the future, unless he promises
to be more discreet."
I thought the idea a grand one, and the little fellow, in spite of
his blushes, begged her to say how he had offended.
"We shall have the Comte de St. Germain," said Madame d'Urfe, "to
dinner. I know he amuses you, and I like you to enjoy yourself in my
"For that, madam, your presence is all I need; nevertheless, I thank
you for considering me."
In due course St. Germain arrived, and in his usual manner sat
himself down, not to eat but to talk. With a face of imperturbable
gravity he told the most incredible stories, which one had to pretend
to believe, as he was always either the hero of the tale or an eye
witness of the event. All the same, I could not help bursting into
laughter when he told us of something that happened as he was dining
with the Fathers of the Council of Trent.
Madame d'Urfe wore on her neck a large magnet. She said that it
would one day happen that this magnet would attract the lightning,
and that she would consequently soar into the sun. I longed to tell
her that when, she got there she could be no higher up than on the
earth, but I restrained myself; and the great charlatan hastened to
say that there could be no doubt about it, and that he, and he only,
could increase the force of the magnet a thousand times. I said,
dryly, that I would wager twenty thousand crowns he would not so much
as double its force, but Madame d'Urfe would not let us bet, and
after dinner she told me in private that I should have lost, as St.
Germain was a magician. Of course I agreed with her.
A few days later, the magician set out for Chambord, where the king
had given him a suite of rooms and a hundred thousand francs, that he
might be at liberty to work on the dyes which were to assure the
superiority of French materials over those of any other country. St.
Germain had got over the king by arranging a laboratory where he
occasionally tried to amuse himself, though he knew little about
chemistry, but the king was the victim of an almost universal
weariness. To enjoy a harem recruited from amongst the most
ravishing beauties, and often from the ranks of neophytes, with whom
pleasure had its difficulties, one would have needed to be a god, and
Louis XV. was only a man after all.
It was the famous marquise who had introduced the adept to the king
in the hope of his distracting the monarch's weariness, by giving him
a taste for chemistry. Indeed Madame de Pompadour was under the
impression that St. Germain had given her the water of perpetual
youth, and therefore felt obliged to make the chemist a good return.
This wondrous water, taken according to the charlatan's directions,
could not indeed make old age retire and give way to youth, but
according to the marquise it would preserve one in statu quo for
As a matter of fact, the water, or the giver of it, had worked
wonders, if not on her body, at least on her mind; she assured the
king that she was not getting older. The king was as much deluded by
this grand impostor as she was, for one day he shewed the Duc des
Deux-Ponts a diamond of the first water, weighing twelve carats,
which he fancied he had made himself. "I melted down," said Louis
XV., "small diamonds weighing twenty-four carats, and obtained this
one large one weighing twelve." Thus it came to pass that the
infatuated monarch gave the impostor the suite formerly occupied by
Marshal Saxe. The Duc des Deux-Ponts told me this story with his own
lips, one evening, when I was supping with him and a Swede, the Comte
de Levenhoop, at Metz.
Before I left Madame d'Urfe, I told her that the lad might be he who
should make her to be born again, but that she would spoil all if she
did not wait for him to attain the age of puberty. After what she
had said about his misbehavior, the reader will guess what made me
say this. She sent him to board with Viar, gave him masters on
everything, and disguised him under the name of the Comte d'Aranda,
although he was born at Bayreuth, and though his mother never had
anything to do with a Spaniard of that name. It was three or four
months before I went to see him, as I was afraid of being insulted on
account of the name which the visionary Madame d'Urfe had given him.
One day Tiretta came to see me in a fine coach. He told me that his
elderly mistress wanted to become his wife, but that he would not
hear of it, though she offered to endow him with all her worldly
goods. I told him that if he gave in he might pay his debts, return
to Trevisa, and live pleasantly there; but his destiny would not
allow him to take my advice.
I had resolved on taking a country house, and fixed on one called
"Little Poland," which pleased me better than all the others I had
seen. It was well furnished, and was a hundred paces distant from
the Madeleine Gate. It was situated on slightly elevated ground near
the royal park, behind the Duc de Grammont's garden, and its owner
had given it the name of "Pleasant Warsaw." It had two gardens, one
of which was on a level with the first floor, three reception rooms,
large stables, coach houses, baths, a good cellar, and a splendid
kitchen. The master was called "The Butter King," and always wrote
himself down so; the name had been given to him by Louis XV. on the
monarch's stopping at the house and liking the butter. The "Butter
King" let me his house for a hundred Louis per annum, and he gave me
an excellent cook called "The Pearl," a true blue-ribbon of the order
of cooks, and to her he gave charge of all his furniture and the
plate I should want for a dinner of six persons, engaging to get me
as much plate as I wanted at the hire of a sous an ounce. He also
promised to let me have what wine I wanted, and said all he had was
of the best, and, moreover, cheaper than I could get it at Paris, as
he had no gate-money to pay on it.
Matters having been arranged on these terms, in the course of a week
I got a good coachman, two fine carriages, five horses, a groom, and
two footmen. Madame d'Urfe, who was my first guest, was delighted
with my new abode, and as she imagined that I had done it all for
her, I left her in that flattering opinion. I never could believe in
the morality of snatching from poor mortal man the delusions which
make them happy. I also let her retain the notion that young
d'Aranda, the count of her own making, was a scion of the nobility,
that he was born for a mysterious operation unknown to the rest of
mankind, that I was only his caretaker (here I spoke the truth), and
that he must die and yet not cease to live. All these whimsical
ideas were the products of her brain, which was only occupied with
the impossible, and I thought the best thing I could do was to agree
with everything. If I had tried to undeceive her, she would have
accused me of want of trust in her, for she was convinced that all
her knowledge was revealed to her by her genius, who spoke to her
only by night. After she had dined with me I took her back to her
house, full of happiness.
Camille sent me a lottery ticket, which she had invested in at my
office, and which proved to be a winning one, I think, for a thousand
crowns or thereabouts. She asked me to come and sup with her, and
bring the money with me. I accepted her invitation, and found her
surrounded by all the girls she knew and their lovers. After supper
I was asked to go to the opera with them, but we had scarcely got
there when I lost my party in the crowd. I had no mask on, and I
soon found myself attacked by a black domino, whom I knew to be a
woman, and as she told me a hundred truths about myself in a falsetto
voice, I was interested, and determined on finding out who she was.
At last I succeeded in persuading her to come with me into a box, and
as soon as we were in and I had taken off her mask I was astonished
to find she was Mdlle. X. C. V.
"I have come to the ball," said she, "with one of my sisters, my
elder brother, and M. Farsetti. I left them to go into a box and
change my domino:
"They must feel very uneasy."
"I dare say they do, but I am not going to take pity on them till the
end of the ball."
Finding myself alone with her, and certain of having her in my
company for the rest of the night, I began to talk of our old love-
making; and I took care to say that I was more in love with her than
ever. She listened to me kindly, did not oppose my embraces, and by
the few obstacles she placed in my way I judged that the happy moment
was not far off. Nevertheless I felt that I must practice restraint
that evening, and she let me see that she was obliged to me.
"I heard at Versailles, my dear mademoiselle, that you are going to
marry M. de la Popeliniere."
"So they say. My mother wishes me to do so, and the old financier
fancies he has got me in his talons already; but he makes a mistake,
as I will never consent to such a thing."
"He is old, but he is very rich."
"He is very rich and very generous, for he promises me a dowry of a
million if I become a widow without children; and if I had a son he
would leave me all his property."
"You wouldn't have much difficulty in complying with the second
"I shall never have anything to do with his money, for I should never
make my life miserable by a marriage with a man whom I do not love,
while I do love another."
"Another! Who is the fortunate mortal to whom you have given your
"I do not know if my loved one is fortunate. My lover is a Venetian,
and my mother knows of it; but she says that I should not be happy,
that he is not worthy of me."
"Your mother is a strange woman, always crossing your affections."
"I cannot be angry with her. She may possibly be wrong, but she
certainly loves me. She would rather that I should marry M.
Farsetti, who would be very glad to have me, but I detest him."
"Has he made a declaration in terms?"
"He has, and all the marks of contempt I have given him seem to have
"He clings hard to hope; but the truth is you have fascinated him."
"Possibly, but I do not think him susceptible of any tender or
generous feeling. He is a visionary; surly, jealous, and envious in
his disposition. When he heard me expressing myself about you in the
manner you deserve, he had the impudence to say to my mother before
my face that she ought not to receive you."
"He deserves that I should give him a lesson in manners, but there
are other ways in which he may be punished. I shall be delighted to
serve you in any way I can."
"Alas! if I could only count on your friendship I should be happy."
The sigh with which she uttered these words sent fire through my
veins, and I told her that I was her devoted slave; that I had fifty
thousand crowns which were at her service, and that I would risk my
life to win her favours. She replied that she was truly grateful to
me, and as she threw her arms about my neck our lips met, but I saw
that she was weeping, so I took care that the fire which her kisses
raised should be kept within bounds. She begged me to come and see
her often, promising that as often as she could manage it we should
be alone. I could ask no more, and after I had promised to come and
dine with them on the morrow, we parted.
I passed an hour in walking behind her, enjoying my new position of
intimate friend, and I then returned to my Little Poland. It was a
short distance, for though I lived in the country I could get to any
part of Paris in a quarter of an hour. I had a clever coachman, and
capital horses not used to being spared. I got them from the royal
stables, and as soon as I lost one I got another from the same place,
having to pay two hundred francs. This happened to me several times,
for, to my mind, going fast is one of the greatest pleasures which
Having accepted an invitation to dinner at the X. C. V.'s, I did not
give myself much time for sleep, and I went out on foot with a cloak
on. The snow was falling in large flakes, and when I got to madame's
I was as white as a sheet from head to foot. She gave me a hearty
welcome, laughing, and saying that her daughter had been telling her
how she had puzzled me, and that she was delighted to see me come to
dinner without ceremony. "But," added she, "it's Friday today, and
you will have to fast, though, after all, the fish is very good.
Dinner is not ready yet. You had better go and see my daughter, who
is still a-bed."
As may be imagined, this invitation had not to be repeated, for a
pretty woman looks better in bed than anywhere else. I found Mdlle.
X. C. V. sitting up in bed writing, but she stopped as soon as she
"How is this, sweet lie-a-bed, not up yet?"
"Yes, I am staying in bed partly because I feel lazy, and partly
because I am freer here."
"I was afraid you were not quite well."
"Nor am I. However, we will say no more about that now. I am just
going to take some soup, as those who foolishly establish the
institution of fasting were not polite enough to ask my opinion on
the subject. It does not agree with my health, and I don't like it,
so I am not going to get up even to sit at table, though I shall thus
deprive myself of your society."
I naturally told her that in her absence dinner would have no savour;
and I spoke the truth.
As the presence of her sister did not disturb us, she took out of her
pocket-book an epistle in verse which I had addressed to her when her
mother had forbidden me the house. "This fatal letter," said she,
"which you called 'The Phoenix,' has shaped my life and may prove the
cause of my death."
I had called it the Phoenix because, after bewailing my unhappy lot,
I proceeded to predict how she would afterwards give her heart to a
mortal whose qualities would make him deserve the name of Phoenix. A
hundred lines were taken up in the description of these imaginary
mental and moral characteristics, and certainly the being who should
have them all would be right worthy of worship, for he would be
rather a god than a man.
"Alas!" said Mdlle. X. C. V., "I fell in love with this imaginary
being, and feeling certain that such an one must exist I set myself
to look for him. After six months I thought I had found him. I gave
him my heart, I received his, we loved each other fondly. But for
the last four months we have been separated, and during the whole
time I have only had one letter from him. Yet I must not blame him,
for I know he cannot help it. Such, is my sorry fate: I can neither
hear from him nor write to him:"
This story was a confirmation of a theory of mine namely, that the
most important events in our lives proceed often from the most
trifling causes. My epistle was nothing better than a number of
lines of poetry more or less well written, and the being I had
delineated was certainly not to be found, as he surpassed by far all
human perfections, but a woman's heart travels so quickly and so far!
Mdlle. X. C. V. took the thing literally, and fell in love with a
chimera of goodness, and then was fain to turn this into a real
lover, not thinking of the vast difference between the ideal and the
real. For all that, when she thought that she had found the original
of my fancy portrait, she had no difficulty in endowing him with all
the good qualities I had pictured. Of course Mdlle. X. C. V. would
have fallen in love if I had never written her a letter in verse, but
she would have done so in a different manner, and probably with
As soon as dinner was served we were summoned to do justice to the
choice fish which M. de la Popeliniere had provided. Madame X. C. V.
a narrowminded Greek, was naturally bigoted and superstitious. In
the mind of a silly woman the idea of an alliance between the most
opposite of beings, God and the Devil, seems quite natural. A priest
had told her that, since she had converted her husband, her salvation
was secure, for the Scriptures solemnly promised a soul for a soul to
every one who would lead a heretic or a heathen within the fold of
the church. And as Madame X. C. V. had converted her husband, she
felt no anxiety about the life of the world to come, as she had done
all that was necessary. However, she ate fish on the days appointed;
the reason being that she preferred it to flesh.
Dinner over, I returned to the lady's bedside, and there stayed till
nearly nine o'clock, keeping my passions well under control all the
time. I was foppish enough to think that her feelings were as lively
as mine, and I did not care to shew myself less self-restrained than
she, though I knew then, as I know now, that this was a false line of
argument. It is the same with opportunity as with fortune; one must
seize them when they come to us, or else they go by, often to return
Not seeing Farsetti at the table, I suspected there had been a
quarrel, and I asked my sweetheart about it; but she told me I was
mistaken in supposing they had quarreled with him, and that the
reason of his absence was that he would never leave his house on a
Friday. The deluded man had had his horoscope drawn, and learning by
it that he would be assassinated on a Friday he resolved always to
shut himself up on that day. He was laughed at, but persisted in the
same course till he died four years ago at the age of seventy. He
thought to prove by the success of his precautions that a man's
destiny depends on his discretion, and on the precautions he takes to
avoid the misfortunes of which he has had warning. The line of
argument holds good in all cases except when the misfortunes are
predicted in a horoscope; for either the ills predicted are
avoidable, in which case the horoscope is a useless piece of folly,
or else the horoscope is the interpreter of destiny, in which case
all the precautions in the world are of no avail. The Chevalier
Farsetti was therefore a fool to imagine he had proved anything at
all. He would have proved a good deal for many people if he had gone
out on a Friday, and had chanced to have been assassinated. Picas de
la Mirandola, who believed in astrology, says, "I have no doubt
truly, 'Astra influunt, non cogunt'. "But would it have been a real
proof of the truth of astrology, if Farsetti had been assassinated on
a Friday? In my opinion, certainly not.
The Comte d'Eigreville had introduced me to his sister, the Comtesse
du Remain, who had been wanting to make my acquaintance ever since
she had heard of my oracle. It was not long before I made friends
with her husband and her two daughters, the elder of whom, nicknamed
"Cotenfau," married M. de Polignac later on. Madame du Remain was
handsome rather than pretty, but she won the love of all by her
kindness, her frank courtesy, and her eagerness to be of service to
her friends. She had a magnificent figure, and would have awed the
whole bench of judges if she had pleaded before them.
At her house I got to know Mesdames de Valbelle and de Rancerolles,
the Princess de Chimai, and many others who were then in the best
society of Paris. Although Madame du Remain was not a proficient in
the occult sciences, she had nevertheless consulted my oracle more
frequently than Madame d'Urfe. She was of the utmost service to me
in connection with an unhappy circumstance of which I shall speak
The day after my long conversation with Mdlle. X. C. V., my servant
told me that there was a young man waiting who wanted to give me a
letter with his own hands. I had him in, and on my asking him from
whom the letter came, he replied that I should find all particulars
in the letter, and that he had orders to wait for an answer. The
epistle ran as follows:
"I am writing this at two o'clock in the morning. I am weary and in
need of rest, but a burden on my soul deprives me of sleep. The
secret I am about to tell you will no longer be so grievous when I
have confided in you; I shall feel eased by placing it in your
breast. I am with child, and my situation drives me to despair. I
was obliged to write to you because I felt I could not say it. Give
me a word in reply."
My feelings on reading the above may be guessed. I was petrified
with astonishment and could only write, "I will be with you at eleven
No one should say that he has passed through great misfortunes unless
they have proved too great for his mind to bear. The confidence of
Mdlle. X. C. V. shewed me that she was in need of support. I
congratulated myself on having the preference, and I vowed to do my
best for her did it cost me my life. These were the thoughts of a
lover, but for all that I could not conceal from myself the
imprudence of the step she had taken. In such cases as these there
is always the choice between speaking or writing, and the only
feeling which can give the preference to writing is false shame, at
bottom mere cowardice. If I had not been in love with her, I should
have found it easier to have refused my aid in writing than if she
had spoken to me, but I loved her to distraction.
"Yes," said I to myself, "she can count on me. Her mishap makes her
all the dearer to me."
And below this there was another voice, a voice which whispered to me
that if I succeeded in saving her my reward was sure. I am well
aware that more than one grave moralist will fling stones at me for
this avowal, but my answer is that such men cannot be in love as I
I was punctual to my appointment, and found the fair unfortunate at
the door of the hotel.
"You are going out, are you? Where are you going?"
"I am going to mass at the Church of the Augustinians."
"Is this a saint's day?"
"No; but my mother makes me go every day."
"I will come with you."
"Yes do, give me your arm; we will go into the cloisters and talk
Mdlle. X. C. V. was accompanied by her maid, but she knew better
than to be in the way, so we left her in the cloisters. As soon as
we were alone she said to me,
"Have you read my letter?"
"Yes, of course; here it is, burn it yourself."
"No, keep it, and do so with your own hands."
"I see you trust in me, and I assure you I will not abuse your
"I am sure you will not. I am four months with child; I can doubt it
no longer, and the thought maddens me!"
"Comfort yourself, we will find some way to get over it."
"Yes; I leave all to you. You must procure an abortion."
"Never, dearest! that is a crime!"
"Alas! I know that well; but it is not a greater crime than suicide,
and there lies my choice: either to destroy the wretched witness of
my shame, or to poison myself. For the latter alternative I have
everything ready. You are my only friend, and it is for you to
decide which it shall be. Speak to me! Are you angry that I have
not gone to the Chevalier Farsetti before you?"
She saw my astonishment, and stopped short, and tried to wipe away
the tears which escaped from her eyes. My heart bled for her.
"Laying the question of crime on one side," said I, "abortion is out
of our power. If the means employed are not violent they are
uncertain, and if they are violent they are dangerous to the mother.
I will never risk becoming your executioner; but reckon on me, I will
not forsake you. Your honour is as dear to me as your life. Becalm,
and henceforth think that the peril is mine, not yours. Make up your
mind that I shall find some way of escape, and that there will be no
need to cut short that life, to preserve which I would gladly die.
And allow me to say that when I read your note I felt glad, I could
not help it, that at such an emergency you chose me before all others
to be your helper. You will find that your trust was not given in
vain, for no one loves you as well as I, and no one is so fain to
help you. Later you shall begin to take the remedies I will get for
you, but I warn you to be on your guard, for this is a serious
matter--one of life and death. Possibly you have already told
somebody about it--your maid or one of your sisters?"
"I have not told anybody but you, not even the author of my shame.
I tremble when I think what my mother would do and say if she found
out my situation. I am afraid she will draw her conclusions from my
"So far there is nothing to be observed in that direction, the beauty
of the outline still remains intact."
"But every day increases its size, and for that reason we must be
quick in what we do. You must find a surgeon who does not know my
name and take me to him to be bled."
"I will not run the risk, it might lead to the discovery of the whole
affair. I will bleed you myself; it is a simple operation."
"How grateful I am to you! I feel as if you had already brought me
from death to life. What I should like you to do would be to take me
to a midwife's. We can easily go without attracting any notice at
the first ball at the opera."
"Yes, sweetheart, but that step is not necessary, and it might lead
to our betrayal."
"No, no, in this great town there are midwives in every quarter, and
we should never be known; we might keep our masks on all the time.
Do me this kindness. A midwife's opinion is certainly worth having."
I could not refuse her request, but I made her agree to wait till the
last ball, as the crowd was always greater, and we had a better
chance of going out free from observation. I promised to be there in
a black domino with a white mask in the Venetian fashion, and a rose
painted beside the left eye. As soon as she saw me go out she was to
follow me into a carriage. All this was carried out, but more of it
I returned with her, and dined with them without taking any notice of
Farsetti, who was also at the table, and had seen me come back from
mass with her. We did not speak a word to one another; he did not
like me and I despised him.
I must here relate a grievous mistake of which I was guilty, and
which I have not yet forgiven myself.
I had promised to take Mdlle. X. C. V. to a midwife, but I certainly
ought to have taken her to a respectable woman's, for all we wanted
to know was how a pregnant woman should regulate her diet and manner
of living. But my evil genius took me by the Rue St. Louis, and
there I saw the Montigni entering her house with a pretty girl whom I
did not know, and so out of curiosity I went in after them. After
amusing myself there, with Mdlle. X. C. V. running in my head all the
time, I asked the woman to give me the address of a midwife, as I
wanted to consult one. She told me of a house in the Marais, where
according to her dwelt the pearl of midwives, and began telling me
some stories of her exploits, which all went to prove that the woman
was an infamous character. I took her address, however, and as I
should have to go there by night, I went the next day to see where
the house was.