Part 2 out of 2
this city he always puts up at Boncousin; will you ascertain whether
he is there?"
She never pronounced Steffani's name without disgust and hatred, and
she said she would bury herself in a convent, far away from her
native place, where no one could be acquainted with her shameful
I intended to make some enquiries the next day, but it was not
necessary for me to do so, for in the evening, at supper-time, M.
Barbaro said to us,
"A nobleman, a subject of the Pope, has been recommended to me, and
wishes me to assist him with my influence in a rather delicate and
intricate matter. One of our citizens has, it appears, carried off
his daughter, and has been hiding somewhere with her for the last
fortnight, but nobody knows where. The affair ought to be brought
before the Council of Ten, but the mother of the ravisher claims to
be a relative of mine, and I do not intend to interfere."
I pretended to take no interest in M. Barbaro's words, and early the
next morning I went to the young countess to tell her the interesting
news. She was still asleep; but, being in a hurry, I sent the widow
to say that I wanted to see her only for two minutes in order to
communicate something of great importance. She received me, covering
herself up to the chin with the bed-clothes.
As soon as I had informed her of all I knew, she entreated me to
enlist M. Barbaro as a mediator between herself and her father,
assuring me that she would rather die than become the wife of the
monster who had dishonoured her. I undertook to do it, and she gave
me the promise of marriage used by the deceiver to seduce her, so
that it could be shewn to her father.
In order to obtain M. Barbaro's mediation in favour of the young
countess, it would have been necessary to tell him that she was under
my protection, and I felt it would injure my protegee. I took no
determination at first, and most likely one of the reasons for my
hesitation was that I saw myself on the point of losing her, which
was particularly repugnant to my feelings.
After dinner Count A--- S---- was announced as wishing to see M.
Barbaro. He came in with his son, the living portrait of his sister.
M. Barbaro took them to his study to talk the matter over, and within
an hour they had taken leave. As soon as they had gone, the
excellent M. Barbaro asked me, as I had expected, to consult my
heavenly spirit, and to ascertain whether he would be right in
interfering in favour of Count A---S---. He wrote the question
himself, and I gave the following answer with the utmost coolness:
"You ought to interfere, but only to advise the father to forgive his
daughter and to give up all idea of compelling her to marry her
ravisher, for Steffani has been sentenced to death by the will of
The answer seemed wonderful to the three friends, and I was myself
surprised at my boldness, but I had a foreboding that Steffani was to
meet his death at the hands of somebody; love might have given birth
to that presentiment. M. de Bragadin, who believed my oracle
infallible, observed that it had never given such a clear answer, and
that Steffani was certainly dead. He said to M. de Barbaro,
"You had better invite the count and his son to dinner hereto-morrow.
You must act slowly and prudently; it would be necessary to know
where the daughter is before you endeavour to make the father forgive
M. Barbaro very nearly made me drop my serious countenance by telling
me that if I would try my oracle I could let them know at once where
the girl was. I answered that I would certainly ask my spirit on the
morrow, thus gaining time in order to ascertain before hand the
disposition of the father and of his son. But I could not help
laughing, for I had placed myself under the necessity of sending
Steffani to the next world, if the reputation of my oracle was to be
I spent the evening with the young countess, who entertained no doubt
either of her father's indulgence or of the entire confidence she
could repose in me.
What delight the charming girl experienced when she heard that I
would dine the next day with her father and brother, and that I would
tell her every word that would be said about her! But what happiness
it was for me to see her convinced that she was right in loving me,
and that, without me, she would certainly have been lost in a town
where the policy of the government tolerates debauchery as a solitary
species of individual freedom. We congratulated each other upon our
fortuitous meeting and upon the conformity in our tastes, which we
thought truly wonderful. We were greatly pleased that her easy
acceptance of my invitation, or my promptness in persuading her to
follow and to trust me, could not be ascribed to the mutual
attraction of our features, for I was masked, and her hood was then
as good as a mask. We entertained no doubt that everything had been
arranged by Heaven to get us acquainted, and to fire us both, even
unknown to ourselves, with love for each other.
"Confess," I said to her, in a moment of enthusiasm, and as I was
covering her hand with kisses, "confess that if you found me to be in
love with you you would fear me."
"Alas! my only fear is to lose you."
That confession, the truth of which was made evident by her voice and
by her looks, proved the electric spark which ignited the latent
fire. Folding her rapidly in my arms, pressing my mouth on her lips,
reading in her beautiful eyes neither a proud indignation nor the
cold compliance which might have been the result of a fear of losing
me, I gave way entirely to the sweet inclination of love, and
swimming already in a sea of delights I felt my enjoyment increased a
hundredfold when I saw, on the countenance of the beloved creature
who shared it, the expression of happiness, of love, of modesty, and
of sensibility, which enhances the charm of the greatest triumph.
She had scarcely recovered her composure when she cast her eyes down
and sighed deeply. Thinking that I knew the cause of it, I threw
myself on my knees before her, and speaking to her words of the
warmest affection I begged, I entreated her, to forgive me.
"What offence have I to forgive you for, dear friend? You have not
rightly interpreted my thoughts. Your love caused me to think of my
happiness, and in that moment a cruel recollection drew that sigh
from me. Pray rise from your knees."
Midnight had struck already; I told her that her good fame made it
necessary for me to go away; I put my mask on and left the house. I
was so surprised, so amazed at having obtained a felicity of which I
did not think myself worthy, that my departure must have appeared
rather abrupt to her. I could not sleep. I passed one of those
disturbed nights during which the imagination of an amorous young man
is unceasingly running after the shadows of reality. I had tasted,
but not savoured, that happy reality, and all my being was longing
for her who alone could make my enjoyment complete. In that
nocturnal drama love and imagination were the two principal actors;
hope, in the background, performed only a dumb part. People may say
what they please on that subject but hope is in fact nothing but a
deceitful flatterer accepted by reason only because it is often in
need of palliatives. Happy are those men who, to enjoy life to the
fullest extent, require neither hope nor foresight.
In the morning, recollecting the sentence of death which I had passed
on Steffani, I felt somewhat embarrassed about it. I wished I could
have recalled it, as well for the honour of my oracle, which was
seriously implicated by it, as for the sake of Steffani himself, whom
I did not hate half so much since I was indebted to him for the
treasure in my possession.
The count and his son came to dinner. The father was simple,
artless, and unceremonious. It was easy to read on his countenance
the grief he felt at the unpleasant adventure of his daughter, and
his anxiety to settle the affair honourably, but no anger could be
traced on his features or in his manners. The son, as handsome as
the god of love, had wit and great nobility of manner. His easy,
unaffected carriage pleased me, and wishing to win his friendship I
shewed him every attention.
After the dessert, M. Barbaro contrived to persuade the count that we
were four persons with but one head and one heart, and the worthy
nobleman spoke to us without any reserve. He praised his daughter
very highly. He assured us that Steffani had never entered his
house, and therefore he could not conceive by what spell, speaking to
his daughter only at night and from the street under the window, he
had succeeded in seducing her to such an extent as to make her leave
her home alone, on foot, two days after he had left himself in his
"Then," observed M. Barbaro, "it is impossible to be certain that he
actually seduced her, or to prove that she went off with him."
"Very true, sir, but although it cannot be proved, there is no doubt
of it, and now that no one knows where Steffani is, he can be nowhere
but with her. I only want him to marry her."
"It strikes me that it would be better not to insist upon a
compulsory marriage which would seal your daughter's misery, for
Steffani is, in every respect, one of the most worthless young men we
have amongst our government clerks."
"Were I in your place," said M. de Bragadin, "I would let my
daughter's repentance disarm my anger, and I would forgive her."
"Where is she? I am ready to fold her in my arms, but how can I
believe in her repentance when it is evident that she is still with
"Is it quite certain that in leaving C---- she proceeded to this
"I have it from the master of the barge himself, and she landed
within twenty yards of the Roman gate. An individual wearing a mask
was waiting for her, joined her at once, and they both disappeared
without leaving any trace of their whereabouts."
"Very likely it was Steffani waiting there for her."
"No, for he is short, and the man with the mask was tall. Besides, I
have heard that Steffani had left Venice two days before the arrival
of my daughter. The man must have been some friend of Steffani, and
he has taken her to him."
"But, my dear count, all this is mere supposition."
"There are four persons who have seen the man with the mask, and
pretend to know him, only they do not agree. Here is a list of four
names, and I will accuse these four persons before the Council of
Ten, if Steffani should deny having my daughter in his possession."
The list, which he handed to M. Barbaro, gave not only the names of
the four accused persons, but likewise those of their accusers. The
last name, which M. Barbaro read, was mine. When I heard it, I
shrugged my shoulders in a manner which caused the three friends to
M. de Bragadin, seeing the surprise of the count at such uncalled-
for mirth, said to him,
"This is Casanova my son, and I give you my word of honour that, if
your daughter is in his hands, she is perfectly safe, although he may
not look exactly the sort of man to whom young girls should be
The surprise, the amazement, and the perplexity of the count and his
son were an amusing picture. The loving father begged me to excuse
him, with tears in his eyes, telling me to place myself in his
position. My only answer was to embrace him most affectionately.
The man who had recognized me was a noted pimp whom I had thrashed
some time before for having deceived me. If I had not been there
just in time to take care of the young countess, she would not have
escaped him, and he would have ruined her for ever by taking her to
some house of ill-fame.
The result of the meeting was that the count agreed to postpone his
application to the Council of Ten until Steffani's place of refuge
should be discovered.
"I have not seen Steffani for six months, sir," I said to the count,
"but I promise you to kill him in a duel as soon as he returns."
"You shall not do it," answered the young count, very coolly, "unless
he kills me first."
"Gentlemen," exclaimed M. de Bragadin, "I can assure you that you
will neither of you fight a duel with him, for Steffani is dead."
"Dead!" said the count.
"We must not," observed the prudent Barbaro, "take that word in its
literal sense, but the wretched man is dead to all honour and self-
After that truly dramatic scene, during which I could guess that the
denouement of the play was near at hand, I went to my charming
countess, taking care to change my gondola three times--a necessary
precaution to baffle spies.
I gave my anxious mistress an exact account of all the conversation.
She was very impatient for my coming, and wept tears of joy when I
repeated her father's words of forgiveness; but when I told her that
nobody knew of Steffani having entered her chamber, she fell on her
knees and thanked God. I then repeated her brother's words,
imitating his coolness: "You shall not kill him, unless he kills me
first." She kissed me tenderly, calling me her guardian angel, her
saviour, and weeping in my arms. I promised to bring her brother on
the following day, or the day after that at the latest. We had our
supper, but we did not talk of Steffani, or of revenge, and after
that pleasant meal we devoted two hours to the worship of the god of
I left her at midnight, promising to return early in the morning--my
reason for not remaining all night with her was that the landlady
might, if necessary, swear without scruple that I had never spent a
night with the young girl. It proved a very lucky inspiration of
mine, for, when I arrived home, I found the three friends waiting
impatiently for me in order to impart to me wonderful news which M.
de Bragadin had heard at the sitting of the senate.
"Steffani," said M. de Bragadin to me, "is dead, as our angel
Paralis revealed it to us; he is dead to the world, for he has become
a Capuchin friar. The senate, as a matter of course, has been
informed of it. We alone are aware that it is a punishment which God
has visited upon him. Let us worship the Author of all things, and
the heavenly hierarchy which renders us worthy of knowing what
remains a mystery to all men. Now we must achieve our undertaking,
and console the poor father. We must enquire from Paralis where the
girl is. She cannot now be with Steffani. Of course, God has not
condemned her to become a Capuchin nun."
"I need not consult my angel, dearest father, for it is by his
express orders that I have been compelled until now to make a mystery
of the refuge found by the young countess."
I related the whole story, except what they had no business to know,
for, in the opinion of the worthy men, who had paid heavy tribute to
Love, all intrigues were fearful crimes. M. Dandolo and M. Barbaro
expressed their surprise when they heard that the young girl had been
under my protection for a fortnight, but M. de Bragadin said that he
was not astonished, that it was according to cabalistic science, and
that he knew it.
"We must only," he added, "keep up the mystery of his daughter's
place of refuge for the count, until we know for a certainty that he
will forgive her, and that he will take her with him to C----, or to
any other place where he may wish to live hereafter."
"He cannot refuse to forgive her," I said, "when he finds that the
amiable girl would never have left C---- if her seducer had not given
her this promise of marriage in his own handwriting. She walked as
far as the barge, and she landed at the very moment I was passing the
Roman gate. An inspiration from above told me to accost her and to
invite her to follow me. She obeyed, as if she was fulfilling the
decree of Heaven, I took her to a refuge impossible to discover, and
placed her under the care of a God-fearing woman."
My three friends listened to me so attentively that they looked like
three statues. I advised them to invite the count to dinner for the
day after next, because I needed some time to consult 'Paralis de
modo tenendi'. I then told M. Barbaro to let the count know in what
sense he was to understand Steffani's death. He undertook to do it,
and we retired to rest.
I slept only four or five hours, and, dressing myself quickly,
hurried to my beloved mistress. I told the widow not to serve the
coffee until we called for it, because we wanted to remain quiet and
undisturbed for some hours, having several important letters to
I found the lovely countess in bed, but awake, and her eyes beaming
with happiness and contentment. For a fortnight I had only seen her
sad, melancholy, and thoughtful. Her pleased countenance, which I
naturally ascribed to my influence, filled me with joy. We commenced
as all happy lovers always do, and we were both unsparing of the
mutual proofs of our love, tenderness, and gratitude.
After our delightful amorous sport, I told her the news, but love had
so completely taken possession of her pure and sensitive soul, that
what had been important was now only an accessory. But the news of
her seducer having turned a Capuchin friar filled her with amazement,
and, passing very sensible remarks on the extraordinary event, she
pitied Steffani. When we can feel pity, we love no longer, but a
feeling of pity succeeding love is the characteristic only of a great
and generous mind. She was much pleased with me for having informed
my three friends of her being under my protection, and she left to my
care all the necessary arrangements for obtaining a reconciliation
with her father.
Now and then we recollected that the time of our separation was near
at hand, our grief was bitter, but we contrived to forget it in the
ecstacy of our amorous enjoyment.
"Ah! why can we not belong for ever to each other?" the charming girl
would exclaim. "It is not my acquaintance with Steffani, it is your
loss which will seal my eternal misery."
But it was necessary to bring our delightful interview to a close,
for the hours were flying with fearful rapidity. I left her happy,
her eyes wet with tears of intense felicity.
At the dinner-table M. Barbaro told me that he had paid a visit to
his relative, Steffani's mother, and that she had not appeared sorry
at the decision taken by her son, although he was her only child.
"He had the choice," she said, "between killing himself and turning
friar, and he took the wiser course."
The woman spoke like a good Christian, and she professed to be one;
but she spoke like an unfeeling mother, and she was truly one, for
she was wealthy, and if she had not been cruelly avaricious her son
would not have been reduced to the fearful alternative of committing
suicide or of becoming a Capuchin friar.
The last and most serious motive which caused the despair of
Steffani, who is still alive, remained a mystery for everybody. My
Memoirs will raise the veil when no one will care anything about it.
The count and his son were, of course, greatly surprised, and the
event made them still more desirous of discovering the young lady.
In order to obtain a clue to her place of refuge, the count had
resolved on summoning before the Council of Ten all the parties,
accused and accusing, whose names he had on his list, with the
exception of myself. His determination made it necessary for us to
inform him that his daughter was in my hands, and M. de Bragadin
undertook to let him know the truth.
We were all invited to supper by the count, and we went to his
hostelry, with the exception of M. de Bragadin, who had declined the
invitation. I was thus prevented from seeing my divinity that
evening, but early the next morning I made up for lost time, and as
it had been decided that her father would on that very day be
informed of her being under my care, we remained together until noon.
We had no hope of contriving another meeting, for I had promised to
bring her brother in the afternoon.
The count and his son dined with us, and after dinner M. de Bragadin
"I have joyful news for you, count; your beloved daughter has been
What an agreeable surprise for the father and son! M. de Bragadin
handed them the promise of marriage written by Steffani, and said,
"This, gentlemen, evidently brought your lovely young lady to the
verge of madness when she found that he had gone from C---- without
her. She left your house alone on foot, and as she landed in Venice
Providence threw her in the way of this young man, who induced her to
follow him, and has placed her under the care of an honest woman,
whom she has not left since, whom she will leave only to fall in your
arms as soon as she is certain of your forgiveness for the folly she
"Oh! let her have no doubt of my forgiving her," exclaimed the
father, in the ecstacy of joy, and turning to me, "Dear sir, I beg of
you not to delay the fortunate moment on which the whole happiness of
my life depends."
I embraced him warmly, saying that his daughter would be restored to
him on the following day, and that I would let his son see her that
very afternoon, so as to give him an opportunity of preparing her by
degrees for that happy reconciliation. M. Barbaro desired to
accompany us, and the young man, approving all my arrangements,
embraced me, swearing everlasting friendship and gratitude.
We went out all three together, and a gondola carried us in a few
minutes to the place where I was guarding a treasure more precious
than the golden apples of the Hesperides. But, alas! I was on the
point of losing that treasure, the remembrance of which causes me,
even now, a delicious trembling.
I preceded my two companions in order to prepare my lovely young
friend for the visit, and when I told her that, according to my
arrangements, her father would not see her till on the following day:
"Ah!" she exclaimed with the accent of true happiness, "then we can
spend a few more hours together! Go, dearest, go and bring my
I returned with my companions, but how can I paint that truly
dramatic situation? Oh! how inferior art must ever be to nature!
The fraternal love, the delight beaming upon those two beautiful
faces, with a slight shade of confusion on that of the sister, the
pure joy shining in the midst of their tender caresses, the most
eloquent exclamations followed by a still more eloquent silence,
their loving looks which seem like flashes of lightning in the midst
of a dew of tears, a thought of politeness which brings blushes on
her countenance, when she recollects that she has forgotten her duty
towards a nobleman whom she sees for the first time, and finally
there was my part, not a speaking one, but yet the most important of
all. The whole formed a living picture to which the most skilful
painter could not have rendered full justice.
We sat down at last, the young countess between her brother and M.
Barbaro, on the sofa, I, opposite to her, on a low foot-stool.
"To whom, dear sister, are we indebted for the happiness of having
found you again?"
"To my guardian angel," she answered, giving me her hand, "to this
generous man who was waiting for me, as if Heaven had sent him with
the special mission of watching over your sister; it is he who has
saved me, who has prevented me from falling into the gulf which
yawned under my feet, who has rescued me from the shame threatening
me, of which I had then no conception; it is to him I am indebted for
all, to him who, as you see, kisses my hand now for the first time."
And she pressed her handkerchief to her beautiful eyes to dry her
tears, but ours were flowing at the same time.
Such is true virtue, which never loses its nobleness, even when
modesty compels it to utter some innocent falsehood. But the
charming girl had no idea of being guilty of an untruth. It was a
pure, virtuous soul which was then speaking through her lips, and she
allowed it to speak. Her virtue seemed to whisper to her that, in
spite of her errors, it had never deserted her. A young girl who
gives way to a real feeling of love cannot be guilty of a crime, or
be exposed to remorse.
Towards the end of our friendly visit, she said that she longed to
throw herself at her father's feet, but that she wished to see him
only in the evening, so as not to give any opportunity to the gossips
of the place, and it was agreed that the meeting, which was to be the
last scene of the drama, should take place the next day towards the
We returned to the count's hostelry for supper, and the excellent
man, fully persuaded that he was indebted to me for his honour as
well as for his daughter's, looked at me with admiration, and spoke
to me with gratitude. Yet he was not sorry to have ascertained
himself, and before I had said so, that I had been the first man who
had spoken to her after landing. Before parting in the evening, M.
Barbaro invited them to dinner for the next day.
I went to my charming mistress very early the following morning, and,
although there was some danger in protracting our interview, we did
not give it a thought, or, if we did, it only caused us to make good
use of the short time that we could still devote to love.
After having enjoyed, until our strength was almost expiring, the
most delightful, the most intense voluptuousness in which mutual
ardour can enfold two young, vigorous, and passionate lovers, the
young countess dressed herself, and, kissing her slippers, said she
would never part with them as long as she lived. I asked her to give
me a lock of her hair, which she did at once. I meant to have it
made into a chain like the one woven with the hair of Madame F----,
which I still wore round my neck.
Towards dusk, the count and his son, M. Dandolo, M. Barbaro, and
myself, proceeded together to the abode of the young countess. The
moment she saw her father, she threw herself on her knees before him,
but the count, bursting into tears, took her in his arms, covered her
with kisses, and breathed over her words of forgiveness, of love and
blessing. What a scene for a man of sensibility! An hour later we
escorted the family to the inn, and, after wishing them a pleasant
journey, I went back with my two friends to M. de Bragadin, to whom I
gave a faithful account of what had taken place.
We thought that they had left Venice, but the next morning they
called at the place in a peotta with six rowers. The count said that
they could not leave the city without seeing us once more; without
thanking us again, and me particularly, for all we had done for them.
M. de Bragadin, who had not seen the young countess before, was
struck by her extraordinary likeness to her brother.
They partook of some refreshments, and embarked in their peotta,
which was to carry them, in twenty-four hours, to Ponte di Lago
Oscuro, on the River Po, near the frontiers of the papal states. It
was only with my eyes that I could express to the lovely girl all the
feelings which filled my heart, but she understood the language, and
I had no difficulty in interpreting the meaning of her looks.
Never did an introduction occur in better season than that of the
count to M. Barbaro. It saved the honour of a respectable family;
and it saved me from the unpleasant consequences of an interrogatory
in the presence of the Council of Ten, during which I should have
been convicted of having taken the young girl with me, and compelled
to say what I had done with her.
A few days afterwards we all proceeded to Padua to remain in that
city until the end of autumn. I was grieved not to find Doctor Gozzi
in Padua; he had been appointed to a benefice in the country, and he
was living there with Bettina; she had not been able to remain with
the scoundrel who had married her only for the sake of her small
dowry, and had treated her very ill.
I did not like the quiet life of Padua, and to avoid dying from ennui
I fell in love with a celebrated Venetian courtesan. Her name was
Ancilla; sometime after, the well-known dancer, Campioni, married her
and took her to London, where she caused the death of a very worthy
Englishman. I shall have to mention her again in four years; now I
have only to speak of a certain circumstance which brought my love
adventure with her to a close after three or four weeks.
Count Medini, a young, thoughtless fellow like myself, and with
inclinations of much the same cast, had introduced me to Ancilla.
The count was a confirmed gambler and a thorough enemy of fortune.
There was a good deal of gambling going on at Ancilla's, whose
favourite lover he was, and the fellow had presented me to his
mistress only to give her the opportunity of making a dupe of me at
And, to tell the truth, I was a dupe at first; not thinking of any
foul play, I accepted ill luck without complaining; but one day I
caught them cheating. I took a pistol out of my pocket, and, aiming
at Medini's breast, I threatened to kill him on the spot unless he
refunded at once all the gold they had won from me. Ancilla fainted
away, and the count, after refunding the money, challenged me to
follow him out and measure swords. I placed my pistols on the table,
and we went out. Reaching a convenient spot, we fought by the bright
light of the moon, and I was fortunate enough to give him a gash
across the shoulder. He could not move his arm, and he had to cry
After that meeting, I went to bed and slept quietly, but in the
morning I related the whole affair to my father, and he advised me to
leave Padua immediately, which I did.
Count Medini remained my enemy through all his life. I shall have
occasion to speak of him again when I reach Naples.
The remainder of the year 1746 passed off quietly, without any events
of importance. Fortune was now favourable to me and now adverse.
Towards the end of January, 1747, I received a letter from the young
countess A---- S----, who had married the Marquis of ---- . She
entreated me not to appear to know her, if by chance I visited the
town in which she resided, for she had the happiness of having linked
her destiny to that of a man who had won her heart after he had
obtained her hand.
I had already heard from her brother that, after their return to
C----, her mother had taken her to the city from which her letter was
written, and there, in the house of a relative with whom she was
residing, she had made the acquaintance of the man who had taken upon
himself the charge of her future welfare and happiness. I saw her
one year afterwards, and if it had not been for her letter, I should
certainly have solicited an introduction to her husband. Yet, peace
of mind has greater charms even than love; but, when love is in the
way, we do not think so.
For a fortnight I was the lover of a young Venetian girl, very
handsome, whom her father, a certain Ramon, exposed to public
admiration as a dancer at the theatre. I might have remained longer
her captive, if marriage had not forcibly broken my chains. Her
protectress, Madame Cecilia Valmarano, found her a very proper
husband in the person of a French dancer, called Binet, who had
assumed the name of Binetti, and thus his young wife had not to
become a French woman; she soon won great fame in more ways than one.
She was strangely privileged; time with its heavy hand seemed to have
no power over her. She always appeared young, even in the eyes of
the best judges of faded, bygone female beauty. Men, as a general
rule, do not ask for anything more, and they are right in not racking
their brain for the sake of being convinced that they are the dupes
of external appearance. The last lover that the wonderful Binetti
killed by excess of amorous enjoyment was a certain Mosciuski, a
Pole, whom fate brought to Venice seven or eight years ago; she had
then reached her sixty-third year!
My life in Venice would have been pleasant and happy, if I could have
abstained from punting at basset. The ridotti were only open to
noblemen who had to appear without masks, in their patrician robes,
and wearing the immense wig which had become indispensable since the
beginning of the century. I would play, and I was wrong, for I had
neither prudence enough to leave off when fortune was adverse, nor
sufficient control over myself to stop when I had won. I was then
gambling through a feeling of avarice. I was extravagant by taste,
and I always regretted the money I had spent, unless it had been won
at the gaming-table, for it was only in that case that the money had,
in my opinion, cost me nothing.
At the end of January, finding myself under the necessity of
procuring two hundred sequins, Madame Manzoni contrived to obtain for
me from another woman the loan of a diamond ring worth five hundred.
I made up my mind to go to Treviso, fifteen miles distant from
Venice, to pawn the ring at the Mont-de-piete, which there lends
money upon valuables at the rate of five per cent. That useful
establishment does not exist in Venice, where the Jews have always
managed to keep the monopoly in their hands.
I got up early one morning, and walked to the end of the canale
regio, intending to engage a gondola to take me as far as Mestra,
where I could take post horses, reach Treviso in less than two hours,
pledge my diamond ring, and return to Venice the same evening.
As I passed along St. Job's Quay, I saw in a two-oared gondola a
country girl beautifully dressed. I stopped to look at her; the
gondoliers, supposing that I wanted an opportunity of reaching Mestra
at a cheap rate, rowed back to the shore.
Observing the lovely face of the young girl, I do not hesitate, but
jump into the gondola, and pay double fare, on condition that no more
passengers are taken. An elderly priest was seated near the young
girl, he rises to let me take his place, but I politely insist upon
his keeping it.
I Fall in Love with Christine, and Find a Husband Worthy of Her--
"Those gondoliers," said the elderly priest, ad dressing me in order
to begin the conversation, "are very fortunate. They took us up at
the Rialto for thirty soldi, on condition that they would be allowed
to embark other passengers, and here is one already; they will
certainly find more."
"When I am in a gondola, reverend sir, there is no room left for any
So saying, I give forty more soldi to the gondoliers, who, highly
pleased with my generosity, thank me and call me excellency. The
good priest, accepting that title as truly belonging to me, entreats
my pardon for not having addressed me as such.
"I am not a Venetian nobleman, reverend sir, and I have no right to
the title of Excellenza."
"Ah!" says the young lady, "I am very glad of it."
"Why so, signora?"
"Because when I find myself near a nobleman I am afraid. But I
suppose that you are an illustrissimo."
"Not even that, signora; I am only an advocate's clerk."
"So much the better, for I like to be in the company of persons who
do not think themselves above me. My father was a farmer, brother of
my uncle here, rector of P----, where I was born and bred. As I am
an only daughter I inherited my father's property after his death,
and I shall likewise be heiress to my mother, who has been ill a long
time and cannot live much longer, which causes me a great deal of
sorrow; but it is the doctor who says it. Now, to return to my
subject, I do not suppose that there is much difference between an
advocate's clerk and the daughter of a rich farmer. I only say so
for the sake of saying something, for I know very well that, in
travelling, one must accept all sorts of companions: is it not so,
"Yes, my dear Christine, and as a proof you see that this gentleman
has accepted our company without knowing who or what we are."
"But do you think I would have come if I had not been attracted by
the beauty of your lovely niece?"
At these words the good people burst out laughing. As I did not
think that there was anything very comic in what I had said, I judged
that my travelling companions were rather simple, and I was not sorry
to find them so.
"Why do you laugh so heartily, beautiful 'demigella'? Is it to shew
me your fine teeth? I confess that I have never seen such a splendid
set in Venice."
"Oh! it is not for that, sir, although everyone in Venice has paid me
the same compliment. I can assure you that in P---- all the 'girls
have teeth as fine as mine. Is it not a fact, uncle?"
"Yes, my dear niece."
"I was laughing, sir, at a thing which I will never tell you."
"Oh! tell me, I entreat you."
"Oh! certainly not, never."
"I will tell you myself," says the curate.
"You will not," she exclaims, knitting her beautiful eyebrows. "If
you do I will go away."
"I defy you to do it, my dear. Do you know what she said, sir, when
she saw you on the wharf? 'Here is a very handsome young man who is
looking at me, and would not be sorry to be with us.' And when she
saw that the gondoliers were putting back for you to embark she was
While the uncle was speaking to me, the indignant niece was slapping
him on the shoulder.
"Why are you angry, lovely Christine, at my hearing that you liked my
appearance, when I am so glad to let you know how truly charming I
"You are glad for a moment. Oh! I know the Venetians thoroughly now.
They have all told me that they were charmed with me, and not one of
those I would have liked ever made a declaration to me."
"What sort of declaration did you want?"
"There's only one sort for me, sir; the declaration leading to a good
marriage in church, in the sight of all men. Yet we remained a
fortnight in Venice; did we not, uncle?"
"This girl," said the uncle, "is a good match, for she possesses
three thousand crowns. She has always said that she would marry only
a Venetian, and I have accompanied her to Venice to give her an
opportunity of being known. A worthy woman gave us hospitality for a
fortnight, and has presented my niece in several houses where she
made the acquaintance of marriageable young men, but those who
pleased her would not hear of marriage, and those who would have been
glad to marry her did not take her fancy."
"But do you imagine, reverend sir, that marriages can be made like
omelets? A fortnight in Venice, that is nothing; you ought to live
there at least six months. Now, for instance, I think your niece
sweetly pretty, and I should consider myself fortunate if the wife
whom God intends for me were like her, but, even if she offered me
now a dowry of fifty thousand crowns on condition that our wedding
takes place immediately, I would refuse her. A prudent young man
wants to know the character of a girl before he marries her, for it
is neither money nor beauty which can ensure happiness in married
"What do you mean by character?" asked Christine; "is it a beautiful
"No, my dear. I mean the qualities of the mind and the heart. I
shall most likely get married sometime, and I have been looking for a
wife for the last three years, but I am still looking in vain. I
have known several young girls almost as lovely as you are, and all
with a good marriage portion, but after an acquaintance of two or
three months I found out that they could not make me happy."
"In what were they deficient?"
"Well, I will tell you, because you are not acquainted with them, and
there can be no indiscretion on my part. One whom I certainly would
have married, for I loved her dearly, was extremely vain. She would
have ruined me in fashionable clothes and by her love for luxuries.
Fancy! she was in the habit of paying one sequin every month to the
hair-dresser, and as much at least for pomatum and perfumes."
"She was a giddy, foolish girl. Now, I spend only ten soldi in one
year on wax which I mix with goat's grease, and there I have an
"Another, whom I would have married two years ago, laboured under a
disease which would have made me unhappy; as soon as I knew of it, I
ceased my visits."
"What disease was it?"
"A disease which would have prevented her from being a mother, and,
if I get married, I wish to have children."
"All that is in God's hands, but I know that my health is excellent.
Is it not, uncle?"
"Another was too devout, and that does not suit me. She was so over-
scrupulous that she was in the habit of going to her confessor twice
a week, and every time her confession lasted at least one hour. I
want my wife to be a good Christian, but not bigoted."
"She must have been a great sinner, or else she was very foolish. I
confess only once a month, and get through everything in two minutes.
Is it not true, uncle? and if you were to ask me any questions,
uncle, I should not know what more to say."
"One young lady thought herself more learned than I, although she
would, every minute, utter some absurdity. Another was always low-
spirited, and my wife must be cheerful."
"Hark to that, uncle! You and my mother are always chiding me for my
"Another, whom I did not court long, was always afraid of being alone
with me, and if I gave her a kiss she would run and tell her mother."
"How silly she must have been! I have never yet listened to a lover,
for we have only rude peasants in P----, but I know very well that
there are some things which I would not tell my mother."
"One had a rank breath; another painted her face, and, indeed, almost
every young girl is guilty of that fault. I am afraid marriage is
out of the question for me, because I want, for instance, my wife to
have black eyes, and in our days almost every woman colours them by
art; but I cannot be deceived, for I am a good judge."
"Are mine black?"
"You are laughing?"
"I laugh because your eyes certainly appear to be black, but they are
not so in reality. Never mind, you are very charming in spite of
"Now, that is amusing. You pretend to be a good judge, yet you say
that my eyes are dyed black. My eyes, sir, whether beautiful or
ugly, are now the same as God made them. Is it not so, uncle?"
"I never had any doubt of it, my dear niece."
"And you do not believe me, sir?"
"No, they are too beautiful for me to believe them natural."
"Oh, dear me! I cannot bear it."
"Excuse me, my lovely damigella, I am afraid I have been too
After that quarrel we remained silent. The good curate smiled now
and then, but his niece found it very hard to keep down her sorrow.
At intervals I stole a look at her face, and could see that she was
very near crying. I felt sorry, for she was a charming girl. In her
hair, dressed in the fashion of wealthy countrywomen, she had more
than one hundred sequins' worth of gold pins and arrows which
fastened the plaits of her long locks as dark as ebony. Heavy gold
ear-rings, and a long chain, which was wound twenty times round her
snowy neck, made a fine contrast to her complexion, on which the
lilies and the roses were admirably blended. It was the first time
that I had seen a country beauty in such splendid apparel. Six years
before, Lucie at Pasean had captivated me, but in a different manner.
Christine did not utter a single word, she was in despair, for her
eyes were truly of the greatest beauty, and I was cruel enough to
attack them. She evidently hated me, and her anger alone kept back
her tears. Yet I would not undeceive her, for I wanted her to bring
matters to a climax.
When the gondola had entered the long canal of Marghera, I asked the
clergyman whether he had a carriage to go to Treviso, through which
place he had to pass to reach P----.
"I intended to walk," said the worthy man, "for my parish is poor and
I am the same, but I will try to obtain a place for Christine in some
carriage travelling that way."
"You would confer a real kindness on me if you would both accept a
seat in my chaise; it holds four persons, and there is plenty of
"It is a good fortune which we were far from expecting"
"Not at all, uncle; I will not go with this gentleman."
"Why not, my dear niece?"
"Because I will not."
"Such is the way," I remarked, without looking at her, "that
sincerity is generally rewarded."
"Sincerity, sir! nothing of the sort," she exclaimed, angrily, "it is
sheer wickedness. There can be no true black eyes now for you in the
world, but, as you like them, I am very glad of it."
"You are mistaken, lovely Christine, for I have the means of
ascertaining the truth."
"Only to wash the eyes with a little lukewarm rose-water; or if the
lady cries, the artificial colour is certain to be washed off."
At those words, the scene changed as if by the wand of a conjuror.
The face of the charming girl, which had expressed nothing but
indignation, spite and disdain, took an air of contentment and of
placidity delightful to witness. She smiled at her uncle who was
much pleased with the change in her countenance, for the offer of the
carriage had gone to his heart.
"Now you had better cry a little, my dear niece, and 'il signore'
will render full justice to your eyes."
Christine cried in reality, but it was immoderate laughter that made
her tears flow.
That species of natural originality pleased me greatly, and as we
were going up the steps at the landing-place, I offered her my full
apologies; she accepted the carriage. I ordered breakfast, and told
a 'vetturino' to get a very handsome chaise ready while we had our
meal, but the curate said that he must first of all go and say his
"Very well, reverend sir, we will hear it, and you must say it for my
I put a silver ducat in his hand.
"It is what I am in the habit of giving," I observed.
My generosity surprised him so much that he wanted to kiss my hand.
We proceeded towards the church, and I offered my arm to the niece
who, not knowing whether she ought to accept it or not, said to me,
"Do you suppose that I cannot walk alone?"
"I have no such idea, but if I do not give you my arm, people will
think me wanting in politeness."
"Well, I will take it. But now that I have your arm, what will
"Perhaps that we love each other and that we make a very nice
"And if anyone should inform your mistress that we are in love with
each other, or even that you have given your arm to a young girl?"
"I have no mistress, and I shall have none in future, because I could
not find a girl as pretty as you in all Venice."
"I am very sorry for you, for we cannot go again to Venice; and even
if we could, how could we remain there six months? You said that six
months were necessary to know a girl well."
"I would willingly defray all your expenses."
"Indeed? Then say so to my uncle, and he will think it over, for I
could not go alone."
"In six months you would know me likewise."
"Oh! I know-you very well already."
"Could you accept a man like me?"
"And will you love me?"
"Yes, very much, when you are my husband."
I looked at the young girl with astonishment. She seemed to me a
princess in the disguise of a peasant girl. Her dress, made of 'gros
de Tours' and all embroidered in gold, was very handsome, and cost
certainly twice as much as the finest dress of a Venetian lady. Her
bracelets, matching the neckchain, completed her rich toilet. She
had the figure of a nymph, and the new fashion of wearing a mantle
not having yet reached her village, I could see the most magnificent
bosom, although her dress was fastened up to the neck. The end of
the richly-embroidered skirt did not go lower than the ankles, which
allowed me to admire the neatest little foot and the lower part of an
exquisitely moulded leg. Her firm and easy walk, the natural freedom
of all her movements, a charming look which seemed to say, "I am very
glad that you think me pretty," everything, in short, caused the
ardent fire of amorous desires to circulate through my veins. I
could not conceive how such a lovely girl could have spent a
fortnight in Venice without finding a man to marry or to deceive her.
I was particularly delighted with her simple, artless way of talking,
which in the city might have been taken for silliness.
Absorbed in my thoughts, and having resolved in my own mind on
rendering brilliant homage to her charms, I waited impatiently for
the end of the mass.
After breakfast I had great difficulty in convincing the curate that
my seat in the carriage was the last one, but I found it easier to
persuade him on our arrival in Treviso to remain for dinner and for
supper at a small, unfrequented inn, as I took all the expense upon
myself. He accepted very willingly when I added that immediately
after supper a carriage would be in readiness to convey him to P----,
where he would arrive in an hour after a peasant journey by
moonlight. He had nothing to hurry him on, except his wish to say
mass in his own church the next morning.
I ordered a fire and a good dinner, and the idea struck me that the
curate himself might pledge the ring for me, and thus give me the
opportunity of a short interview with his niece. I proposed it to
him, saying that I could not very well go myself, as I did not wish
to be known. He undertook the commission at once, expressing his
pleasure at doing something to oblige me.
He left us, and I remained alone with Christine. I spent an hour
with her without trying to give her even a kiss, although I was dying
to do so, but I prepared her heart to burn with the same desires
which were already burning in me by those words which so easily
inflame the imagination of a young 'girl.
The curate came back and returned me the ring, saying that it could
not be pledged until the day after the morrow, in consequence of the
Festival of the Holy Virgin. He had spoken to the cashier, who had
stated that if I liked the bank would lend double the sum I had
"My dear sir," I said, "you would greatly oblige me if you would come
back here from P---- to pledge the ring yourself. Now that it has
been offered once by you, it might look very strange if it were
brought by another person. Of course I will pay all your expenses."
"I promise you to come back."
I hoped he would bring his niece with him.
I was seated opposite to Christine during the dinner, and discovered
fresh charms in her every minute, but, fearing I might lose her
confidence if I tried to obtain some slight favour, I made up my mind
not to go to work too quickly, and to contrive that the curate should
take her again to Venice. I thought that there only I could manage
to bring love into play and to give it the food it requires.
"Reverend sir," I said, "let me advise you to take your niece again
to Venice. I undertake to defray all expenses, and to find an honest
woman with whom your Christine will be as safe as with her own
mother. I want to know her well in order to make her my wife, and if
she comes to Venice our marriage is certain."
"Sir, I will bring my niece myself to Venice as soon as you inform me
that you have found a worthy woman with whom I can leave her in
While we were talking I kept looking at Christine, and I could see
her smile with contentment.
"My dear Christine," I said, "within a week I shall have arranged the
affair. In the meantime, I will write to you. I hope that you have
no objection to correspond with me."
"My uncle will write for me, for I have never been taught writing."
"What, my dear child! you wish to become the wife of a Venetian, and
you cannot write."
"Is it then necessary to know how to write in order to become a wife?
I can read well."
"That is not enough, and although a girl can be a wife and a mother
without knowing how to trace one letter, it is generally admitted
that a young girl ought to be able to write. I wonder you never
"There is no wonder in that, for not one girl in our village can do
it. Ask my uncle."
"It is perfectly true, but there is not one who thinks of getting
married in Venice, and as you wish for a Venetian husband you must
"Certainly," I said, "and before you come to Venice, for everybody
would laugh at you, if you could not write. I see that it makes you
sad, my dear, but it cannot be helped."
"I am sad, because I cannot learn writing in a week."
"I undertake," said her uncle, "to teach you in a fortnight, if you
will only practice diligently. You will then know enough to be able
to improve by your own exertions."
"It is a great undertaking, but I accept it; I promise you to work
night and day, and to begin to-morrow."
After dinner, I advised the priest not to leave that evening, to rest
during the night, and I observed that, by going away before day-
break, he would reach P---- in good time, and feel all the better for
it. I made the same proposal to him in the evening, and when he saw
that his niece was sleepy, he was easily persuaded to remain. I
called for the innkeeper, ordered a carriage for the clergyman, and
desired that a fire might be lit for me in the next room where I
would sleep, but the good priest said that it was unnecessary,
because there were two large beds in our room, that one would be for
me and the other for him and his niece.
"We need not undress," he added, "as we mean to leave very early, but
you can take off your clothes, sir, because you are not going with
us, and you will like to remain in bed to-morrow morning."
"Oh!" remarked Christine, "I must undress myself, otherwise I could
not sleep, but I only want a few minutes to get ready in the
I said nothing, but I was amazed. Christine then, lovely and
charming enough to wreck the chastity of a Xenocrates, would sleep
naked with her uncle! True, he was old, devout, and without any of
the ideas which might render such a position dangerous, yet the
priest was a man, he had evidently felt like all men, and he ought to
have known the danger he was exposing himself to. My carnal-
mindedness could not realize such a state of innocence. But it was
truly innocent, so much so that he did it openly, and did not suppose
that anyone could see anything wrong in it. I saw it all plainly,
but I was not accustomed to such things, and felt lost in wonderment.
As I advanced in age and in experience, I have seen the same custom
established in many countries amongst honest people whose good morals
were in no way debased by it, but it was amongst good people, and I
do not pretend to belong to that worthy class.
We had had no meat for dinner, and my delicate palate was not over-
satisfied. I went down to the kitchen myself, and I told the
landlady that I wanted the best that could be procured in Treviso for
supper, particularly in wines.
"If you do not mind the expense, sir, trust to me, and I undertake to
please you. I will give you some Gatta wine."
"All right, but let us have supper early."
When I returned to our room, I found Christine caressing the cheeks
of her old uncle, who was laughing; the good man was seventy-five
"Do you know what is the matter?" he said to me; "my niece is
caressing me because she wants me to leave her here until my return.
She tells me that you were like brother and sister during the hour
you have spent alone together this morning, and I believe it, but she
does not consider that she would be a great trouble to you."
"Not at all, quite the reverse, she will afford me great pleasure,
for I think her very charming. As to our mutual behaviour, I believe
you can trust us both to do our duty."
"I have no doubt of it. Well, I will leave her under your care until
the day after to-morrow. I will come back early in the morning so as
to attend to your business."
This extraordinary and unexpected arrangement caused the blood to
rush to my head with such violence that my nose bled profusely for a
quarter of an hour. It did not frighten me, because I was used to
such accidents, but the good priest was in a great fright, thinking
that it was a serious haemorrhage.
When I had allayed his anxiety, he left us on some business of his
own, saying that he would return at night-fall. I remained alone
with the charming, artless Christine, and lost no time in thanking
her for the confidence she placed in me.
"I can assure you," she said, "that I wish you to have a thorough
knowledge of me; you will see that I have none of the faults which
have displeased you so much in the young ladies you have known in
Venice, and I promise to learn writing immediately."
"You are charming and true; but you must be discreet in P----, and
confide to no one that we have entered into an agreement with each
other. You must act according to your uncle's instructions, for it
is to him that I intend to write to make all arrangements."
"You may rely upon my discretion. I will not say anything even to my
mother, until you give me permission to do so."
I passed the afternoon, in denying myself even the slightest
liberties with my lovely companion, but falling every minute deeper
in love with her. I told her a few love stories which I veiled
sufficiently not to shock her modesty. She felt interested, and I
could see that, although she did not always understand, she pretended
to do so, in order not to appear ignorant.
When her uncle returned, I had arranged everything in my mind to make
her my wife, and I resolved on placing her, during her stay in
Venice, in the house of the same honest widow with whom I had found a
lodging for my beautiful Countess A---- S----.
We had a delicious supper. I had to teach Christine how to eat
oysters and truffles, which she then saw for the first time. Gatta
wine is like champagne, it causes merriment without intoxicating, but
it cannot be kept for more than one year. We went to bed before
midnight, and it was broad daylight when I awoke. The curate had
left the room so quietly that I had not heard him.
I looked towards the other bed, Christine was asleep. I wished her
good morning, she opened her eyes, and leaning on her elbow, she
"My uncle has gone. I did not hear him."
"Dearest Christine, you are as lovely as one of God's angels. I have
a great longing to give you a kiss."
"If you long for a kiss, my dear friend, come and give me one."
I jump out of my bed, decency makes her hide her face. It was cold,
and I was in love. I find myself in her arms by one of those
spontaneous movements which sentiment alone can cause, and we belong
to each other without having thought of it, she happy and rather
confused, I delighted, yet unable to realize the truth of a victory
won without any contest.
An hour passed in the midst of happiness, during which we forgot the
whole world. Calm followed the stormy gusts of passionate love, and
we gazed at each other without speaking.
Christine was the first to break the silence
"What have we done?" she said, softly and lovingly.
"We have become husband and wife."
"What will my uncle say to-morrow?"
"He need not know anything about it until he gives us the nuptial
benediction in his own church."
"And when will he do so?"
"As soon as we have completed all the arrangements. necessary for a
"How long will that be?"
"About a month."
"We cannot be married during Lent."
"I will obtain permission."
"You are not deceiving me?"
"No, for I adore you."
"Then, you no longer want to know me better?"
"No; I know you thoroughly now, and I feel certain that you will make
"And will you make me happy, too?"
"I hope so."
"Let us get up and go to church. Who could have believed that, to
get a husband, it was necessary not to go to Venice, but to come back
from that city!"
We got up, and, after partaking of some breakfast, we went to hear
mass. The morning passed off quickly, but towards dinner-time I
thought that Christine looked different to what she did the day
before, and I asked her the reason of that change.
"It must be," she said, "the same reason which causes you to be
"An air of thoughtfulness, my dear, is proper to love when it finds
itself in consultation with honour. This affair has become serious,
and love is now compelled to think and consider. We want to be
married in the church, and we cannot do it before Lent, now that we
are in the last days of carnival; yet we cannot wait until Easter, it
would be too long. We must therefore obtain a dispensation in order
to be married. Have I not reason to be thoughtful?"
Her only answer was to come and kiss me tenderly. I had spoken the
truth, yet I had not told her all my reasons for being so pensive. I
found myself drawn into an engagement which was not disagreeable to
me, but I wished it had not been so very pressing. I could not
conceal from myself that repentance was beginning to creep into my
amorous and well-disposed mind, and I was grieved at it. I felt
certain, however, that the charming girl would never have any cause
to reproach me for her misery.
We had the whole evening before us, and as she had told me that she
had never gone to a theatre, I resolved on affording her that
pleasure. I sent for a Jew from whom I procured everything necessary
to disguise her, and we went to the theatre. A man in love enjoys no
pleasure but that which he gives to the woman he loves. After the
performance was over, I took her to the Casino, and her astonishment
made me laugh when she saw for the first time a faro bank. I had not
money enough to play myself, but I had more than enough to amuse her
and to let her play a reasonable game. I gave her ten sequins, and
explained what she had to do. She did not even know the cards, yet
in less than an hour she had won one hundred sequins. I made her
leave off playing, and we returned to the inn. When we were in our
room, I told her to see how much money she had, and when I assured
her that all that gold belonged to her, she thought it was a dream.
"Oh! what will my uncle say?" she exclaimed.
We had a light supper, and spent a delightful night, taking good care
to part by day-break, so as not to be caught in the same bed by the
worthy ecclesiastic. He arrived early and found us sleeping soundly
in our respective beds. He woke me, and I gave him the ring which he
went to pledge immediately. When he returned two hours later, he saw
us dressed and talking quietly near the fire. As soon as he came in,
Christine rushed to embrace him, and she shewed him all the gold she
had in her possession. What a pleasant surprise for the good old
priest! He did not know how to express his wonder! He thanked God
for what he called a miracle, and he concluded by saying that we were
made to insure each other's happiness.
The time to part had come. I promised to pay them a visit in the
first days of Lent, but on condition that on my arrival in P---- I
would not find anyone informed of my name or of my concerns. The
curate gave me the certificate of birth of his niece and the account
of her possessions. As soon as they had gone I took my departure for
Venice, full of love for the charming girl, and determined on keeping
my engagement with her. I knew how easy it would be for me to
convince my three friends that my marriage had been irrevocably
written in the great book of fate.
My return caused the greatest joy to the three excellent men,
because, not being accustomed to see me three days absent, M.
Dandolo and M. Barbaro were afraid of some accident having befallen
me; but M. de Bragadin's faith was stronger, and he allayed their
fears, saying to them that, with Paralis watching over me, I could
not be in any danger.
The very next day I resolved on insuring Christine's happiness
without making her my wife. I had thought of marrying her when I
loved her better than myself, but after obtaining possession the
balance was so much on my side that my self-love proved stronger than
my love for Christine. I could not make up my mind to renounce the
advantages, the hopes which I thought were attached to my happy
independence. Yet I was the slave of sentiment. To abandon the
artless, innocent girl seemed to me an awful crime of which I could
not be guilty, and the mere idea of it made me shudder. I was aware
that she was, perhaps, bearing in her womb a living token of our
mutual love, and I shivered at the bare possibility that her
confidence in me might be repaid by shame and everlasting misery.
I bethought myself of finding her a husband in every way better than
myself; a husband so good that she would not only forgive me for the
insult I should thus be guilty of towards her, but also thank me at
the end, and like me all the better for my deceit.
To find such a husband could not be very difficult, for Christine was
not only blessed with wonderful beauty, and with a well-established
reputation for virtue, but she was also the possessor of a fortune
amounting to four thousand Venetian ducats.
Shut up in a room with the three worshippers of my oracle, I
consulted Paralis upon the affair which I had so much at heart. The
"Serenus must attend to it."
Serenus was the cabalistic name of M. de Bragadin, and the excellent
man immediately expressed himself ready to execute all the orders of
Paralis. It was my duty to inform him of those orders.
"You must," I said to him, "obtain from the Holy Father a
dispensation for a worthy and virtuous girl, so as to give her the
privilege of marrying during Lent in the church of her village; she
is a young country girl. Here is her certificate of birth. The
husband is not yet known; but it does not matter, Paralis undertakes
to find one."
"Trust to me," said my father, "I will write at once to our
ambassador in Rome, and I will contrive to have my letter sent by
special express. You need not be anxious, leave it all to me, I will
make it a business of state, and I must obey Paralis all the more
readily that I foresee that the intended husband is one of us four.
Indeed, we must prepare ourselves to obey."
I had some trouble in keeping my laughter down, for it was in my
power to metamorphose Christine into a grand Venetian lady, the wife
of a senator; but that was not my intention. I again consulted the
oracle in order to ascertain who would be the husband of the young
girl, and the answer was that M. Dandolo was entrusted with the care
of finding one, young, handsome, virtuous, and able to serve the
Republic, either at home or abroad. M. Dandolo was to consult me
before concluding any arrangements. I gave him courage for his task
by informing him that the girl had a dowry of four thousand ducats,
but I added that his choice was to be made within a fortnight. M.
de Bragadin, delighted at not being entrusted with the commission,
Those arrangements made me feel at peace with myself. I was certain
that the husband I wanted would be found, and I only thought of
finishing the carnival gaily, and of contriving to find my purse
ready for a case of emergency.
Fortune soon rendered me possessor of a thousand sequins. I paid my
debts, and the licence for the marriage having arrived from Rome ten
days after M. de Bragadin had applied for it, I gave him one hundred
ducats, that being the sum it had cost. The dispensation gave
Christine the right of being married in any church in Christendom,
she would only have to obtain the seal of the episcopal court of the
diocese in which the marriage was to take place, and no publication
of banns was required. We wanted, therefore, but one thing--a
trifling one, namely, the husband. M. Dandolo had already proposed
three or four to me, but I had refused them for excellent reasons.
At last he offered one who suited me exactly.
I had to take the diamond ring out of pledge, and not wishing to do
it myself, I wrote to the priest making an appointment in Treviso. I
was not, of course, surprised when I found that he was accompanied by
his lovely niece, who, thinking that I had come to complete all
arrangements for our marriage, embraced me without ceremony, and I
did the same. If the uncle had not been present, I am afraid that
those kisses would have caused all my heroism to vanish. I gave the
curate the dispensation, and the handsome features of Christine shone
with joy. She certainly could not imagine that I had been working so
actively for others, and, as I was not yet certain of anything, I did
not undeceive her then. I promised to be in P---- within eight or
ten days, when we would complete all necessary arrangements. After
dinner, I gave the curate the ticket for the ring and the money to
take it out of pledge, and we retired to rest. This time, very
fortunately, there was but one bed in the room, and I had to take
another chamber for myself.
The next morning, I went into Christine's room, and found her in bed.
Her uncle had gone out for my diamond ring, and alone with that
lovely girl, I found that I had, when necessary, complete control
over my passions. Thinking that she was not to be my wife, and that
she would belong to another, I considered it my duty to silence my
desires. I kissed her, but nothing more.
I spent one hour with her, fighting like Saint Anthony against the
carnal desires of my nature. I could see the charming girl full of
love and of wonder at my reserve, and I admired her virtue in the
natural modesty which prevented her from making the first advances.
She got out of bed and dressed herself without shewing any
disappointment. She would, of course, have felt mortified if she bad
had the slightest idea that I despised her, or that I did not value
Her uncle returned, gave me the ring, and we had dinner, after which
he treated me to a wonderful exhibition. Christine had learned how
to write, and, to give me a proof of her talent, she wrote very
fluently and very prettily in my presence.
We parted, after my promising to come back again within ten days, and
I returned to Venice.
On the second Sunday in Lent, M. Dandolo told me with an air of
triumph that the fortunate husband had been found, and that there was
no doubt of my approval of the new candidate. He named Charles ----
whom I knew by sight--very handsome young man, of irreproachable
conduct, and about twenty-two years of age. He was clerk to M.
Ragionato and god-son of Count Algarotti, a sister of whom had
married M. Dandolo's brother.
"Charles," said M. Dandolo to me, "has lost his father and his
mother, and I feel satisfied that his godfather will guarantee the
dowry brought by his wife. I have spoken to him, and I believe him
disposed to marry an honest girl whose dowry would enable him to
purchase M. Ragionato's office."
"It seems to promise very well, but I cannot decide until I have seen
"I have invited him to dine with us to-morrow."
The young man came, and I found him worthy of all M. Dandolo's
praise. We became friends at once; he had some taste for poetry, I
read some of my productions to him, and having paid him a visit the
following day, he shewed me several pieces of his own composition
which were well written. He introduced me to his aunt, in whose
house he lived with his sister, and I was much pleased with their
friendly welcome. Being alone with him in his room, I asked him what
he thought of love.
"I do not care for love," he answered: "but I should like to get
married in order to have a house of my own."
When I returned to the palace, I told M. Dandolo that he might open
the affair with Count Algarotti, and the count mentioned it to
Charles, who said that he could not give any answer, either one way
or the other, until he should have seen the young girl, talked with
her, and enquired about her reputation. As for Count Algarotti, he
was ready to be answerable for his god-son, that is to guarantee four
thousand ducats to the wife, provided her dowry was worth that
amount. Those were only the preliminaries; the rest belonged to my
Dandolo having informed Charles that the matter was entirely in my
hands, he called on me and enquired when I would be kind enough to
introduce him to the young person. I named the day, adding that it
was necessary to devote a whole day to the visit, as she resided at a
distance of twenty miles from Venice, that we would dine with her and
return the same evening. He promised to be ready for me by day-
break. I immediately sent an express to the curate to inform him of
the day on which I would call with a friend of mine whom I wished to
introduce to his niece.
On the appointed day, Charles was punctual. I took care to let him
know along the road that I had made the acquaintance of the young
girl and of her uncle as travelling companions from Venice to Mestra
about one month before, and that I would have offered myself as a
husband, if I had been in a position to guarantee the dowry of four
thousand ducats. I did not think it necessary to go any further in
We arrived at the good priest's house two hours before mid-day, and
soon after our arrival, Christine came in with an air of great ease,
expressing all her pleasure at seeing me. She only bowed to Charles,
enquiring from me whether he was likewise a clerk.
Charles answered that he was clerk at Ragionato.
She pretended to understand, in order not to appear ignorant.
"I want you to look at my writing," she said to me, "and afterwards
we will go and see my mother."
Delighted at the praise bestowed upon her writing by Charles, when he
heard that she had learned only one month, she invited us to follow
her. Charles asked her why she had waited until the age of nineteen
to study writing.
"Well, sir, what does it matter to you? Besides, I must tell you
that I am seventeen, and not nineteen years of age."
Charles entreated her to excuse him, smiling at the quickness of her
She was dressed like a simple country girl, yet very neatly, and she
wore her handsome gold chains round her neck and on her arms. I told
her to take my arm and that of Charles, which she did, casting
towards me a look of loving obedience. We went to her mother's
house; the good woman was compelled to keep her bed owing to
sciatica. As we entered the room, a respectable-looking man, who was
seated near the patient, rose at the sight of Charles, and embraced
him affectionately. I heard that he was the family physician, and
the circumstance pleased me much.
After we had paid our compliments to the good woman, the doctor
enquired after Charles's aunt and sister; and alluding to the sister
who was suffering from a secret disease, Charles desired to say a few
words to him in private; they left the room together. Being alone
with the mother and Christine, I praised Charles, his excellent
conduct, his high character, his business abilities, and extolled the
happiness of the woman who would be his wife. They both confirmed my
praises by saying that everything I said of him could be read on his
features. I had no time to lose, so I told Christine to be on her
guard during dinner, as Charles might possibly be the husband whom
God had intended for her.
"Yes, for you. Charles is one of a thousand; you would be much
happier with him than you could be with me; the doctor knows him, and
you could ascertain from him everything which I cannot find time to
tell you now about my friend."
The reader can imagine all I suffered in making this declaration, and
my surprise when I saw the young girl calm and perfectly composed!
Her composure dried the tears already gathering in my eyes. After a
short silence, she asked me whether I was certain that such a
handsome young man would have her. That question gave me an insight
into Christine's heart and feelings, and quieted all my sorrow, for I
saw that I had not known her well. I answered that, beautiful as she
was, there was no doubt of her being loved by everybody.
"It will be at dinner, my dear Christine, that my friend will examine
and study you; do not fail to shew all the charms and qualities with
which God has endowed you, but do not let him suspect our intimacy."
"It is all very strange. Is my uncle informed of this wonderful
"If your friend should feel pleased with me, when would he marry me?"
"Within ten days. I will take care of everything, and you will see
me again in the course of the week:"
Charles came back with the doctor, and Christine, leaving her
mother's bedside, took a chair opposite to us. She answered very
sensibly all the questions addressed to her by Charles, often
exciting his mirth by her artlessness, but not shewing any silliness.
Oh! charming simplicity! offspring of wit and of ignorance! thy charm
is delightful, and thou alone hast the privilege of saying anything
without ever giving offence! But how unpleasant thou art when thou
art not natural! and thou art the masterpiece of art when thou art
imitated with perfection!
We dined rather late, and I took care not to speak to Christine, not
even to look at her, so as not to engross her attention, which she
devoted entirely to Charles, and I was delighted to see with what
ease and interest she kept up the conversation. After dinner, and as
we were taking leave, I heard the following words uttered by Charles,
which went to my very heart:
"You are made, lovely Christine, to minister to the happiness of a
And Christine? This was her answer:
"I should esteem myself fortunate, sir, if you should judge me worthy
of ministering to yours."
These words excited Charles so much that he embraced me!
Christine was simple, but her artlessness did not come from her mind,
only from her heart. The simplicity of mind is nothing but
silliness, that of the heart is only ignorance and innocence; it is a
quality which subsists even when the cause has ceased to be. This
young girl, almost a child of nature, was simple in her manners, but
graceful in a thousand trifling ways which cannot be described. She
was sincere, because she did not know that to conceal some of our
impressions is one of the precepts of propriety, and as her
intentions were pure, she was a stranger to that false shame and mock
modesty which cause pretended innocence to blush at a word, or at a
movement said or made very often without any wicked purpose.
During our journey back to Venice Crarles spoke of nothing but of his
happiness. He had decidedly fallen in love.
"I will call to-morrow morning upon Count Algarotti," he said to me,
"and you may write to the priest to come with all the necessary
documents to make the contract of marriage which I long to sign."
His delight and his surprise were intense when I told him that my
wedding present to Christine was a dispensation from the Pope for her
to be married in Lent.
"Then," he exclaimed, "we must go full speed ahead!"
In the conference which was held the next day between my young
substitute, his god-father, and M. Dandolo, it was decided that the
parson should be invited to come with his niece. I undertook to
carry the message, and leaving Venice two hours before morning I
reached P---- early. The priest said he would be ready to start
immediately after mass. I then called on Christine, and I treated
her to a fatherly and sentimental sermon, every word of which was
intended to point out to her the true road to happiness in the new
condition which she was on the point of adopting. I told her how she
ought to behave towards her husband, towards his aunt and his sister,
in order to captivate their esteem and their love. The last part of
my discourse was pathetic and rather disparaging to myself, for, as I
enforced upon her the necessity of being faithful to her husband, I
was necessarily led to entreat her pardon for having seduced her.
"When you promised to marry me, after we had both been weak enough to
give way to our love, did you intend to deceive me?"
"Then you have not deceived me. On the contrary, I owe you some
gratitude for having thought that, if our union should prove unhappy,
it was better to find another husband for me, and I thank God that
you have succeeded so well. Tell me, now, what I can answer to your
friend in case he should ask me, during the first night, why I am so
different to what a virgin ought to be?"
"It is not likely that Charles, who is full of reserve and propriety,
would ask you such a thing, but if he should, tell him positively
that you never had a lover, and that you do not suppose yourself to
be different to any other girl."
"Will he believe me?"
"He would deserve your contempt, and entail punishment on himself if
he did not. But dismiss all anxiety; that will not occur. A
sensible man, my dear Christine, when he has been rightly brought up,
never ventures upon such a question, because he is not only certain
to displease, but also sure that he will never know the truth, for if
the truth is likely to injure a woman in the opinion of her husband,
she would be very foolish, indeed, to confess it."
"I understand your meaning perfectly, my dear friend; let us, then,
embrace each other for the last time."
"No, for we are alone and I am very weak. I adore thee as much as
"Do not cry, dear friend, for, truly speaking, I have no wish for
That simple and candid answer changed my disposition suddenly, and,
instead of crying, I began to laugh. Christine dressed herself
splendidly, and after breakfast we left P----. We reached Venice in
four hours. I lodged them at a good inn, and going to the palace, I
told M. Dandolo that our people had arrived, that it would be his
province to bring them and Charles together on the following day, and
to attend to the matter altogether, because the honour of the future
husband and wife, the respect due to their parents and to propriety,
forbade any further interference on my part.
He understood my reasons, and acted accordingly. He brought Charles
to me, I presented both of them to the curate and his niece, and then
left them to complete their business.
I heard afterwards from M. Dandolo that they all called upon Count
Algarotti, and at the office of a notary, where the contract of
marriage was signed, and that, after fixing a day for the wedding,
Charles had escorted his intended back to P----.
On his return, Charles paid me a visit. He told me that Christine
had won by her beauty and pleasing manners the affection of his aunt,
of his sister, and of his god-father, and that they had taken upon
themselves all the expense of the wedding.
"We intend to be married," he added, "on such a day at P----, and I
trust that you will crown your work of kindness by being present at
I tried to excuse myself, but he insisted with such a feeling of
gratitude, and with so much earnestness, that I was compelled to
accept. I listened with real pleasure to the account he gave me of
the impression produced upon all his family and upon Count Algarotti
by the beauty, the artlessness, the rich toilet, and especially by
the simple talk of the lovely country girl.
"I am deeply in love with her," Charles said to me, "and I feel that
it is to you that I shall be indebted for the happiness I am sure to
enjoy with my charming wife. She will soon get rid of her country
way of talking in Venice, because here envy and slander will but too
easily shew her the absurdity of it."
His enthusiasm and happiness delighted me, and I congratulated myself
upon my own work. Yet I felt inwardly some jealousy, and I could not
help envying a lot which I might have kept for myself.
M. Daridolo and M. Barbaro having been also invited by Charles, I
went with them to P----. We found the dinner-table laid out in the
rector's house by the servants of Count Algarotti, who was acting as
Charles's father, and having taken upon himself all the expense of
the wedding, had sent his cook and his major-domo to P----.
When I saw Christine, the tears filled my eyes, and I had to leave
the room. She was dressed as a country girl, but looked as lovely as
a nymph. Her husband, her uncle, and Count Algarotti had vainly
tried to make her adopt the Venetian costume, but she had very wisely
"As soon as I am your wife," she had said to Charles, "I will dress
as you please, but here I will not appear before my young companions
in any other costume than the one in which they have always seen me.
I shall thus avoid being laughed at, and accused of pride, by the
girls among whom I have been brought up."
There was in these words something so noble, so just, and so
generous, that Charles thought his sweetheart a supernatural being.
He told me that he had enquired, from the woman with whom Christine
had spent a fortnight, about the offers of marriage she had refused
at that time, and that he had been much surprised, for two of those
offers were excellent ones.
"Christine," he added, "was evidently destined by Heaven for my
happiness, and to you I am indebted for the precious possession of
His gratitude pleased me, and I must render myself the justice of
saying that I entertained no thought of abusing it. I felt happy in
the happiness I had thus given.
We repaired to the church towards eleven o'clock, and were very much
astonished at the difficulty we experienced in getting in. A large
number of the nobility of Treviso, curious to ascertain whether it
was true that the marriage ceremony of a country girl would be
publicly performed during Lent when, by waiting only one month, a
dispensation would have been useless, had come to P----. Everyone
wondered at the permission having been obtained from the Pope,
everyone imagined that there was some extraordinary reason for it,
and was in despair because it was impossible to guess that reason.
In spite of all feelings of envy, every face beamed with pleasure and
satisfaction when the young couple made their appearance, and no one
could deny that they deserved that extraordinary distinction, that
exception to all established rules.
A certain Countess of Tos...., from Treviso, Christine's god-mother,
went up to her after the ceremony, and embraced her most tenderly,
complaining that the happy event had not been communicated to her in
Treviso. Christine, in her artless way, answered with as much
modesty as sweetness, that the countess ought to forgive her if she
had failed in her duty towards her, on account of the marriage having
been decided on so hastily. She presented her husband, and begged
Count Algarotti to atone for her error towards her god-mother by
inviting her to join the wedding repast, an invitation which the
countess accepted with great pleasure. That behaviour, which is
usually the result of a good education and a long experience of
society, was in the lovely peasant-girl due only to a candid and
well-balanced mind which shone all the more because it was all nature
and not art.
As they returned from the church, Charles and Christine knelt down
before the young wife's mother, who gave them her blessing with tears
Dinner was served, and, of course, Christine and her happy spouse
took the seats of honour. Mine was the last, and I was very glad of
it, but although everything was delicious, I ate very little, and
scarcely opened my lips.
Christine was constantly busy, saying pretty things to every one of
her guests, and looking at her husband to make sure that he was
pleased with her.
Once or twice she addressed his aunt and sister in such a gracious
manner that they could not help leaving their places and kissing her
tenderly, congratulating Charles upon his good fortune. I was seated
not very far from Count Algarotti, and I heard him say several times
to Christine's god-mother that he had never felt so delighted in his
When four o'clock struck, Charles whispered a few words to his lovely
wife, she bowed to her god-mother, and everybody rose from the table.
After the usual compliments--and in this case they bore the stamp of
sincerity--the bride distributed among all the girls of the village,
who were in the adjoining room, packets full of sugar-plums which had
been prepared before hand, and she took leave of them, kissing them
all without any pride. Count Algarotti invited all the guests to
sleep at a house he had in Treviso, and to partake there of the
dinner usually given the day after the wedding. The uncle alone
excused himself, and the mother could not come, owing to her disease
which prevented her from moving. The good woman died three months
after Christine's marriage.
Christine therefore left her village to follow her husband, and for
the remainder of their lives they lived together in mutual happiness.
Count Algarotti, Christine's god-mother and my two noble friends,
went away together. The bride and bridegroom had, of course, a
carriage to themselves, and I kept the aunt and the sister of Charles
company in another. I could not help envying the happy man somewhat,
although in my inmost heart I felt pleased with his happiness.
The sister was not without merit. She was a young widow of twenty-
five, and still deserved the homage of men, but I gave the preference
to the aunt, who told me that her new niece was a treasure, a jewel
which was worthy of everybody's admiration, but that she would not
let her go into society until she could speak the Venetian dialect
"Her cheerful spirits," she added, "her artless simplicity, her
natural wit, are like her beauty, they must be dressed in the
Venetian fashion. We are highly pleased with my nephew's choice, and
he has incurred everlasting obligations towards you. I hope that for
the future you will consider our house as your own."
The invitation was polite, perhaps it was sincere, yet I did not
avail myself of it, and they were glad of it. At the end of one year
Christine presented her husband with a living token of their mutual
love, and that circumstance increased their conjugal felicity.
We all found comfortable quarters in the count's house in Treviso,
where, after partaking of some refreshments, the guests retired to
The next morning I was with Count Algarotti and my two friends when
Charles came in, handsome, bright, and radiant. While he was
answering with much wit some jokes of the count, I kept looking at
him with some anxiety, but he came up to me and embraced me warmly.
I confess that a kiss never made me happier.
People wonder at the devout scoundrels who call upon their saint when
they think themselves in need of heavenly assistance, or who thank
him when they imagine that they have obtained some favour from him,
but people are wrong, for it is a good and right feeling, which
preaches against Atheism.
At the invitation of Charles, his aunt and his sister had gone to pay
a morning visit to the young wife, and they returned with her.
Happiness never shone on a more lovely face!
M. Algarotti, going towards her, enquired from her affectionately
whether she had had a good night. Her only answer was to rush to her
husband's arms. It was the most artless, and at the same time the
most eloquent, answer she could possible give. Then turning her
beautiful eyes towards me, and offering me her hand, she said,
"M. Casanova, I am happy, and I love to be indebted to you for my
The tears which were flowing from my eyes, as I kissed her hand, told
her better than words how truly happy I was myself.
The dinner passed off delightfully. We then left for Mestra and
Venice. We escorted the married couple to their house, and returned
home to amuse M. Bragadin with the relation of our expedition. This
worthy and particularly learned man said a thousand things about the
marriage, some of great profundity and others of great absurdity.
I laughed inwardly. I was the only one who had the key to the
mystery, and could realize the secret of the comedy.