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insensible in your arms, or rather one who would not receive new life
by your side. It is more than love that I feel for you, it is
idolatry; and my mouth, longing to meet yours, sends forth thousands
of kisses which are wasted in the air. I am panting for your divine
portrait, so as to quench by a sweet illusion the fire which devours
my amorous lips. I trust my likeness will prove equally dear to you,
for it seems to me that nature has created us for one another, and I
curse the fatal instant in which I raised an invincible barrier
between us. You will find enclosed the key of my bureau. Open it,
and take a parcel on which you will see written, 'For my darling.' It
is a small present which my friend wishes me to offer you in exchange
for the beautiful night-cap that you gave me. Adieu."
The small key enclosed in the letter belonged to a bureau in the
boudoir. Anxious to know the nature of the present that she could
offer me at the instance of her friend, I opened the bureau, and
found a parcel containing a letter and a morocco-leather case.
The letter was as follows:
"That which will, I hope, render this present dear to you is the
portrait of a woman who adores you. Our friend had two of them, but
the great friendship he entertains towards you has given him the
happy idea of disposing of one in your favour. This box contains two
portraits of me, which are to be seen in two different ways: if you
take off the bottom part, of the case in its length, you will see me
as a nun; and if you press on the corner, the top will open and
expose me to your sight in a state of nature. It is not possible,
dearest, that a woman can ever have loved you as I do. Our friend
excites my passion by the flattering opinion that he entertains of
you. I cannot decide whether I am more fortunate in my friend or in
my lover, for I could not imagine any being superior to either one or
The case contained a gold snuff-box, and a small quantity of Spanish
snuff which had been left in it proved that it had been used. I
followed the instructions given in the letter, and I first saw my
mistress in the costume of a nun, standing and in half profile. The
second secret spring brought her before my eyes, entirely naked,
lying on a mattress of black satin, in the position of the Madeleine
of Coreggio. She was looking at Love, who had the quiver at his
feet, and was gracefully sitting on the nun's robes. It was such a
beautiful present that I did not think myself worthy of it. I wrote
to M---- M---- a letter in which the deepest gratitude was blended
with the most exalted love. The drawers of the bureau contained all
her diamonds and four purses full of sequins. I admired her noble
confidence in me. I locked the bureau, leaving everything
undisturbed, and returned to Venice. If I had been able to escape
out of the capricious clutches of fortune by giving up gambling, my
happiness would have been complete.
My own portrait was set with rare perfection, and as it was arranged
to be worn round the neck I attached it to six yards of Venetian
chain, which made it a very handsome present. The secret was in the
ring to which it was suspended, and it was very difficult to discover
it. To make the spring work and expose my likeness it was necessary
to pull the ring with some force and in a peculiar manner.
Otherwise, nothing could be seen but the Annunciation; and it was
then a beautiful ornament for a nun.
On Twelfth Night, having the locket and chain in my pocket, I went
early in the evening to watch near the fine statue erected to the
hero Colleoni after he had been poisoned, if history does not deceive
us. 'Sit divus, modo non vivus', is a sentence from the enlightened
monarch, which will last as long as there are monarchs on earth.
At six o'clock precisely my mistress alighted from the gondola, well
dressed and well masked, but this time in the garb of a woman. We
went to the Saint Samuel opera, and after the second ballet we
repaired to the 'ridotto', where she amused herself by looking at all
the ladies of the nobility who alone had the right to walk about
without masks. After rambling about for half an hour, we entered the
hall where the bank was held. She stopped before the table of M.
Mocenigo, who at that time was the best amongst all the noble
gamblers. As nobody was playing, he was carelessly whispering to a
masked lady, whom I recognized as Madame Marina Pitani, whose adorer
M---- M---- enquired whether I wanted to play, and as I answered in
the negative she said to me,
"I take you for my partner."
And without waiting for my answer she took a purse, and placed a pile
of gold on a card. The banker without disturbing himself shuffled
the cards, turned them up, and my friend won the paroli. The banker
paid, took another pack of cards, and continued his conversation with
his lady, shewing complete indifference for four hundred sequins
which my friend had already placed on the same card. The banker
continuing his conversations, M---- M---- said to me, in excellent
"Our stakes are not high enough to interest this gentleman; let us
I took up the gold, which I put in my pocket, without answering
M. de Mocenigo, who said to me:
"Your mask is too exacting."
I rejoined my lovely gambler, who was surrounded. We stopped soon
afterwards before the bank of M. Pierre Marcello, a charming young
man, who had near him Madame Venier, sister of the patrician Momolo.
My mistress began to play, and lost five rouleaux of gold one after
the other. Having no more money, she took handfuls of gold from my
pocket, and in four or five deals she broke the bank. She went away,
and the noble banker, bowing, complimented her upon her good fortune.
After I had taken care of all the gold she had won, I gave her my
arm, and we left the 'ridotto', but remarking that a few inquisitive
persons were following us, I took a gondola which landed us according
to my instructions. One can always escape prying eyes in this way in
After supper I counted our winnings, and I found myself in possession
of one thousand sequins as my share. I rolled the remainder in
paper, and my friend asked me to put it in her bureau. I then took
my locket and threw it over her neck; it gave her the greatest
delight, and she tried for a long time to discover the secret. At
last I showed it her, and she pronounced my portrait an excellent
Recollecting that we had but three hours to devote to the pleasures
of love, I entreated her to allow me to turn them to good account.
"Yes," she said, "but be prudent, for our friend pretends that you
might die on the spot."
"And why does he not fear the same danger for you, when your
ecstasies are in reality much more frequent than mine?"
"He says that the liquor distilled by us women does not come from the
brain, as is the case with men, and that the generating parts of
woman have no contact with her intellect. The consequence of it, he
says, is that the child is not the offspring of the mother as far as
the brain, the seat of reason, is concerned, but of the father, and
it seems to me very true. In that important act the woman has
scarcely the amount of reason that she is in need of, and she cannot
have any left to enable her to give a dose to the being she is
generating." "Your friend is a very learned man. But do you know
that such a way of arguing opens my eyes singularly? It is evident
that, if that system be true, women ought to be forgiven for all the
follies which they commit on account of love, whilst man is
inexcusable, and I should be in despair if I happened to place you in
a position to become a mother."
"I shall know before long, and if it should be the case so much the
better. My mind is made up, and my decision taken."
"And what is that decision?"
"To abandon my destiny entirely to you both. I am quite certain that
neither one nor the other would let me remain at the convent."
"It would be a fatal event which would decide our future destinies.
I would carry you off, and take you to England to marry you."
"My friend thinks that a physician might be bought, who, under the
pretext of some disease of his own invention, would prescribe to me
to go somewhere to drink the waters--a permission which the bishop
might grant. At the watering-place I would get cured, and come back
here, but I would much rather unite our destinies for ever. Tell me,
dearest, could you manage to live anywhere as comfortably as you do
"Alas! my love, no, but with you how could I be unhappy? But we will
resume that subject whenever it may be necessary. Let us go to bed."
"Yes. If I have a son my friend wishes to act towards him as a
"Would he believe himself to be the father?"
"You might both of you believe it, but some likeness would soon
enlighten me as to which of you two was the true father."
"Yes. If, for instance, the child composed poetry, then you would
suppose that he was the son of your friend."
"How do you know that my friend can write poetry?"
"Admit that he is the author of the six lines which you wrote in
answer to mine."
"I cannot possibly admit such a falsehood, because, good or bad, they
were of my own making, and so as to leave you no doubt let me
convince you of it at once."
"Oh, never mind! I believe you, and let us go to bed, or Love will
call out the god of Parnassus."
"Let him do it, but take this pencil and write; I am Apollo, you may
'Je ne me battrai pas; je te cede la place.
Si Venus est ma sceur, L'Amour est de ma race.
Je sais faire des vers. Un instant de perdu
N'offense pas L'Amour, si je l'ai convaincu.
"It is on my knees that I entreat your pardon, my heavenly friend,
but how could I expect so much talent in a young daughter of Venice,
only twenty-two years of age, and, above all, brought up in a
"I have a most insatiate desire to prove myself more and more worthy
of you. Did you think I was prudent at the gaming-table?"
"Prudent enough to make the most intrepid banker tremble."
"I do not always play so well, but I had taken you as a partner, and
I felt I could set fortune at defiance. Why would you not play?"
"Because I had lost four thousand sequins last week and I was without
money, but I shall play to-morrow, and fortune will smile upon me.
In the mean time, here is a small book which I have brought from your
boudoir: the postures of Pietro Aretino; I want to try some of
"The thought is worthy of you, but some of these positions could not
be executed, and others are insipid."
"True, but I have chosen four very interesting ones."
These delightful labours occupied the remainder of the night until
the alarum warned us that it was time to part. I accompanied my
lovely nun as far as her gondola, and then went to bed; but I could
not sleep. I got up in order to go and pay a few small debts, for
one of the greatest pleasures that a spendthrift can enjoy is, in my
opinion, to discharge certain liabilities. The gold won by my
mistress proved lucky for me, for I did not pass a single day of the
carnival without winning.
Three days after Twelfth Night, having paid a visit to the casino of
Muran for the purpose of placing some gold in M---- M----'s bureau,
the door-keeper handed me a letter from my nun. Laura had, a few
minutes before, delivered me one from C---- C----.
My new mistress, after giving me an account of her health, requested
me to enquire from my jeweller whether he had not by chance made a
ring having on its bezel a St. Catherine which, without a doubt,
concealed another portrait; she wished to know the secret of that
ring. "A young boarder," she added, "a lovely girl, and my friend,
is the owner of that ring. There must be a secret, but she does not
know it." I answered that I would do what she wished. But here is
the letter of C---- C----. It was rather amusing, because it placed
me in a regular dilemma; it bore a late date, but the letter of M----
M---- had been written two days before it.
"Ali! how truly happy I am, my beloved husband! You love Sister
M---- M----, my dear friend. She has a locket as big as a ring, and
she cannot have received it from anyone but you. I am certain that
your dear likeness is to be found under the Annunciation. I
recognized the style of the artist, and it is certainly the same who
painted the locket and my ring. I am satisfied that Sister M--- M---
has received that present from you. I am so pleased to know all that
I would not run the risk of grieving her by telling her that I knew
her secret, but my dear friend, either more open or more curious, has
not imitated my reserve. She told me that she had no doubt of my St.
Catherine concealing the portrait of my lover. Unable to say
anything better, I told her that the ring was in reality a gift from
my lover, but that I had no idea of his portrait being concealed
inside of it. 'If it is as you say,' observed M---- M----, 'and if
you have no objection, I will try to find out the secret, and
afterwards I will let you know mine.' Being quite certain that she
would not discover it, I gave her my ring, saying that, if she could
find out the secret, I should be very much pleased.
"Just as that moment my aunt paid me a visit, and I left my ring in
the hands of M---- M----, who returned it to me after dinner,
assuring me that, although she had not been able to find out the
secret, she was certain there was one. I promise you that she shall
never hear anything about it from me, because if she saw your
portrait, she would guess everything, and then I should have to tell
her who you are. I am sorry to be compelled to conceal anything from
her, but I am very glad you love one another. I pity you both,
however, with all my heart, because I know that you are obliged to
make love through a grating in that horrid parlour. How I wish,
dearest, I could give you my place! I would make two persons happy
at the same time! Adieu!"
I answered that she had guessed rightly, that the locket of her
friend was a present from me and contained my likeness, but that she
was to keep the secret, and to be certain that my friendship for
M---- M---- interfered in no way with the feeling which bound me to
her for ever. I certainly was well aware that I was not behaving in
a straightforward manner, but I endeavoured to deceive myself, so
true it is that a woman, weak as she is, has more influence by the
feeling she inspires than man can possibly have with all his
strength. At all events, I was foolishly trying to keep up an
intrigue which I knew to be near its denouement through the intimacy
that had sprung up between these two friendly rivals.
Laura having informed me that there was to be on a certain day a ball
in the large parlour of the convent, I made up my mind to attend it
in such a disguise that my two friends could not recognize me. I
decided upon the costume of a Pierrot, because it conceals the form
and the gait better than any other. I was certain that my two
friends would be behind the grating, and that it would afford me the
pleasant opportunity of seeing them together and of comparing them.
In Venice, during the carnival, that innocent pleasure is allowed in
convents. The guests dance in the parlour, and the sisters remain
behind the grating, enjoying the sight of the ball, which is over by
sunset. Then all the guests retire, and the poor nuns are for a long
time happy in the recollection of the pleasure enjoyed by their eyes.
The ball was to take place in the afternoon of the day appointed for
my meeting with M---- M----, in the evening at the casino of Muran,
but that could not prevent me from going to the ball; besides, I
wanted to see my dear C---- C----.
I have said before that the dress of a Pierrot is the costume which
disguises the figure and the gait most completely. It has also the
advantage, through a large cap, of concealing the hair, and the white
gauze which covers the face does not allow the colour of the eyes or
of the eyebrows to be seen, but in order to prevent the costume from
hindering the movements of the mask, he must not wear anything
underneath, and in winter a dress made of light calico is not
particularly agreeable. I did not, however, pay any attention to
that, and taking only a plate of soup I went to Muran in a gondola.
I had no cloak, and--in my pockets I had nothing but my handkerchief,
my purse, and the key of the casino.
I went at once to the convent. The parlour was full, but thanks to
my costume of Pierrot, which was seen in Venice but very seldom,
everybody made room for me. I walked on, assuming the gait of a
booby, the true characteristic of my costume, and I stopped near the
dancers. After I had examined the Pantaloons, Punches, Harlequins,
and Merry Andrews, I went near the grating, where I saw all the nuns
and boarders, some seated, some standing, and, without appearing to,
notice any of them in particular, I remarked my two friends together,
and very intent upon the dancers. I then walked round the room,
eyeing everybody from head to foot, and calling the general attention
I chose for my partner in the minuet a pretty girl dressed as a
Columbine, and I took her hand in so awkward a manner and with such
an air of stupidity that everybody laughed and made room for us. My
partner danced very well according to her costume, and I kept my
character with such perfection that the laughter was general. After
the minuet I danced twelve forlanas with the greatest vigour. Out of
breath, I threw myself on a sofa, pretending to go to sleep, and the
moment I began to snore everybody respected the slumbers of Pierrot.
The quadrille lasted one hour, and I took no part in it, but
immediately after it, a Harlequin approached me with the impertinence
which belongs to his costume, and flogged me with his wand. It is
Harlequin's weapon. In my quality of Pierrot I had no weapons. I
seized him round the waist and carried him round the parlour, running
all the time, while he kept on flogging me. I then put him down.
Adroitly snatching his wand out of his hand, I lifted his Columbine
on my shoulders, and pursued him, striking him with the wand, to the
great delight and mirth of the company. The Columbine was screaming
because she was afraid of my tumbling down and of shewing her centre
of gravity to everybody in the fall. She had good reason to fear,
for suddenly a foolish Merry Andrew came behind me, tripped me up,
and down I tumbled. Everybody hooted Master Punch. I quickly picked
myself up, and rather vexed I began a regular fight with the insolent
fellow. He was of my size, but awkward, and he had nothing but
strength. I threw him, and shaking him vigorously on all sides I
contrived to deprive him of his hump and false stomach. The nuns,
who had never seen such a merry sight, clapped their hands, everybody
laughed loudly, and improving my opportunity I ran through the crowd
I was in a perspiration, and the weather was cold; I threw myself
into a gondola, and in order not to get chilled I landed at the
'ridotto'. I had two hours to spare before going to the casino of
Muran, and I longed to enjoy the astonishment of my beautiful nun
when she saw M. Pierrot standing before her. I spent those two
hours in playing at all the banks, winning, losing, and performing
all sorts of antics with complete freedom, being satisfied that no
one could recognize me; enjoying the present, bidding defiance to the
future, and laughing at all those reasonable beings who exercise
their reason to avoid the misfortunes which they fear, destroying at
the same time the pleasure that they might enjoy.
But two o'clock struck and gave me warning that Love and Comus were
calling me to bestow new delights upon me. With my pockets full of
gold and silver, I left the ridotto, hurried to Muran, entered the
sanctuary, and saw my divinity leaning against the mantelpiece. She
wore her convent dress. I come near her by stealth, in order to
enjoy her surprise. I look at her, and I remain petrified,
The person I see is not M---- M----
It is C---- C----, dressed as a nun, who, more astonished even than
myself, does not utter one word or make a movement. I throw myself
in an arm-chair in order to breathe and to recover from my surprise.
The sight of C---- C---- had annihilated me, and my mind was as much
stupefied as my body. I found myself in an inextricable maze.
It is M---- M----, I said to myself, who has played that trick upon
me, but how has she contrived to know that I am the lover of C----
C----? Has C---- C---- betrayed my secret? But if she has betrayed
it, how could M---- M---- deprive herself of the pleasure of seeing
me, and consent to her place being taken by her friend and rival?
That cannot be a mark of kind compliance, for a woman never carries
it to such an extreme. I see in it only a mark of contempt--a
My self-love tried hard to imagine some reason likely to disprove the
possibility of that contempt, but in vain. Absorbed in that dark
discontent, I believed myself wantonly trifled with, deceived,
despised, and I spent half an hour silent and gloomy, staring at
C---- C----, who scarcely dared to breathe, perplexed, confused, and
not knowing in whose presence she was, for she could only know me as
the Pierrot whom she had seen at the ball.
Deeply in love with M---- M----, and having come to the casino only
for her, I did not feel disposed to accept the exchange, although I
was very far from despising C---- C----, whose charms were as great,
at least, as those of M---- M----. I loved her tenderly, I adored
her, but at that moment it was not her whom I wanted, because at
first her presence had struck me as a mystification. It seemed to me
that if I celebrated the return of C---- C---- in an amorous manner,
I would fail in what I owed to myself, and I thought that I was bound
in honour not to lend myself to the imposition. Besides, without
exactly realizing that feeling, I was not sorry to have it in my
power to reproach M---- M---- with an indifference very strange in a
woman in love, and I wanted to act in such a manner that she should
not be able to say that she had procured me a pleasure. I must add
that I suspected M---- M---- to be hiding in the secret closet,
perhaps with her friend.
I had to take a decision, for I could not pass the whole night in my
costume of Pierrot, and without speaking. At first I thought of
going away, the more so that both C---- C---- and her friend could
not be certain that I and Pierrot were the same individual, but I
soon abandoned the idea with horror, thinking of the deep sorrow
which would fill the loving soul of C---- C---- if she ever heard I
was the Pierrot. I almost fancied that she knew it already, and I
shared the grief which she evidently would feel in that case. I had
seduced her. I had given her the right to call me her husband.
These thoughts broke my heart.
If M---- M---- is in the closet, said I to myself, she will shew
herself in good time. With that idea, I took off the gauze which
covered my features. My lovely C---- C---- gave a deep sigh, and
"I breathe again! it could not be anyone but you, my heart felt it.
You seemed surprised when you saw me, dearest; did you not know that
I was waiting for you?"
"I had not the faintest idea of it."
"If you are angry, I regret it deeply, but I am innocent."
"My adored friend, come to my arms, and never suppose that I can be
angry with you. I am delighted to see you; you are always my dear
wife: but I entreat you to clear up a cruel doubt, for you could
never have betrayed my secret."
"I! I would never have been guilty of such a thing, even if death
had stared me in the face."
"Then, how did you come here? How did your friend contrive to
discover everything? No one but you could tell her that I am your
husband. Laura perhaps....'
"No, Laura is faithful, dearest, and I cannot guess how it was."
"But how could you be persuaded to assume that disguise, and to come
here? You can leave the convent, and you have never apprised me of
that important circumstance."
"Can you suppose that I would not have told you all about it, if I
had ever left the convent, even once? I came out of it two hours
ago, for the first time, and I was induced to take that step in the
simplest, the most natural manner."
"Tell me all about it, my love. I feel extremely curious."
"I am glad of it, and I would conceal nothing from you. You know how
dearly M---- M---- and I love each other. No intimacy could be more
tender than ours; you can judge of it by what I told you in my
letters. Well, two days ago, my dear friend begged the abbess and my
aunt to allow me to sleep in her room in the place of the lay-sister,
who, having a very bad cold, had carried her cough to the infirmary.
The permission was granted, and you cannot imagine our pleasure in
seeing ourselves at liberty, for the first time, to sleep in the same
bed. To-day, shortly after you had left the parlour, where you so
much amused us, without our discovering that the delightful Pierrot
was our friend, my dear M---- M---- retired to her room and I
followed her. The moment we were alone she told me that she wanted
me to render her a service from which depended our happiness. I need
not tell you how readily I answered that she had only to name it.
Then she opened a drawer, and much to my surprise she dressed me in
this costume. She was laughing; and I did the same without
suspecting the end of the joke. When she saw me entirely
metamorphosed into a nun, she told me that she was going to trust me
with a great secret, but that she entertained no fear of my
discretion. 'Let me tell you, clearest friend,' she said to me,
'that I was on the point of going out of the convent, to return only
tomorrow morning. I have, however, just decided that you shall go
instead. You have nothing to fear and you do not require any
instructions, because I know that you will meet with no difficulty.
In an hour, a lay-sister will come here, I will speak a few words
apart to her, and she will tell you to follow her. You will go out
with her through the small gate and across the garden as far as the
room leading out to the low shore. There you will get into the
gondola, and say to the gondolier these words: 'To the casino.' You
will reach it in five minutes; you will step out and enter a small
apartment, where you will find a good fire; you will be alone, and
you will wait.' 'For whom? I enquired. 'For nobody. You need not
know any more: you may only be certain that nothing unpleasant will
happen to you; trust me for that. You will sup at the casino, and
sleep, if you like, without being disturbed. Do not ask any
questions, for I cannot answer them. Such is, my dear husband, the
whole truth. Tell me now what I could do after that speech of my
friend, and after she had received my promise to do whatever she
wished. Do not distrust what I tell you, for my lips cannot utter a
falsehood. I laughed, and not expecting anything else but an
agreeable adventure, I followed the lay-sister and soon found myself
here. After a tedious hour of expectation, Pierrot made his
appearance. Be quite certain that the very moment I saw you my heart
knew who it was, but a minute after I felt as if the lightning had
struck me when I saw you step back, for I saw clearly enough that you
did not expect to find me. Your gloomy silence frightened me, and I
would never have dared to be the first in breaking it; the more so
that, in spite of the feelings of my heart, I might have been
mistaken. The dress of Pierrot might conceal some other man, but
certainly no one that I could have seen in this place without horror.
Recollect that for the last eight months I have been deprived of the
happiness of kissing you, and now that you must be certain of my
innocence, allow me to congratulate you upon knowing this casino.
You are happy, and I congratulate you with all my heart. M----M----
is, after me, the only woman worthy of your love, the only one with
whom I could consent to share it. I used to pity you, but I do so no
longer, and your happiness makes me happy. Kiss me now."
I should have been very ungrateful, I should, even have been cruel,
if I had not then folded in my arms with the warmth of true love the
angel of goodness and beauty who was before me, thanks to the most
wonderful effort of friendship.
After assuring her that I no longer entertained any doubt of her
innocence, I told her that I thought the behaviour of her friend very
ambiguous. I said that, notwithstanding the pleasure I felt in
seeing her, the trick played upon me by her friend was a very bad
one, that it could not do otherwise than displease me greatly,
because it was an insult to me.
"I am not of your opinion," replied C---- C----.
"My dear M---- M---- has evidently contrived, somehow or other, to
discover that, before you were acquainted with her, you were my
lover. She thought very likely that you still loved me, and she
imagined, for I know her well, that she could not give us a greater
proof of her love than by procuring us, without forewarning us, that
which two lovers fond of each other must wish for so ardently. She
wished to make us happy, and I cannot be angry with her for it."
"You are right to think so, dearest, but my position is very
different from yours. You have not another lover; you could not have
another; but I being free and unable to see you, have not found it
possible to resist the charms of M---- M----. I love her madly; she
knows it, and, intelligent as she is, she must have meant to shew her
contempt for me by doing what she has done. I candidly confess that
I feel hurt in the highest degree. If she loved me as I love her,
she never could have sent you here instead of coming herself."
"I do not think so, my beloved friend. Her soul is as noble as her
heart is generous; and just in the same manner that I am not sorry to
know that you love one another and that you make each other happy, as
this beautiful casino proves to me, she does not regret our love, and
she is, on the contrary, delighted to shew us that she approves of
it. Most likely she meant to prove that she loved you for your own
sake, that your happiness makes her happy, and that she is not
jealous of her best friend being her rival. To convince you that you
ought not to be angry with her for having discovered our secret, she
proves, by sending me here in her place, that she is pleased to see
your heart divided between her and me. You know very well that she
loves me, and that I am often either her wife or her husband, and as
you do not object to my being your rival and making her often as
happy as I can, she does not want you either to suppose that her love
is like hatred, for the love of a jealous heart is very much like
"You plead the cause of your friend with the eloquence of an angel,
but, dear little wife, you do not see the affair in its proper light.
You have intelligence and a pure soul, but you have not my
experience. M---- M----'s love for me has been nothing but a passing
fancy, and she knows that I am not such an idiot as to be deceived by
all this affair. I am miserable, and it is her doing."
"Then I should be right if I complained of her also, because she
makes me feel that she is the mistress of my lover, and she shews me
that, after seducing him from me, she gives him back to me without
difficulty. Then she wishes me to understand that she despises also
my tender affection for her, since she places me in a position to
shew that affection for another person."
"Now, dearest, you speak without reason, for the relations between
you two are of an entirely different nature. Your mutual love is
nothing but trifling nonsense, mere illusion of the senses. The
pleasures which you enjoy together are not exclusive. To become
jealous of one another it would be necessary that one of you two
should feel a similar affection for another woman but M---- M----
could no more be angry at your having a lover than you could be so
yourself if she had one; provided, however, that the lover should not
belong to the other"
"But that is precisely our case, and you are mistaken. We are not
angry at your loving us both equally. Have I not written to you that
I would most willingly give you my place near M---- M----? Then you
must believe that I despise you likewise?"
"My darling, that wish of yours to give me up your place, when you
did not know that I was happy with M---- M----, arose from your
friendship rather than from your love, and for the present I must be
glad to see that your friendship is stronger than your love, but I
have every reason to be sorry when M---- M---- feels the same.
I love her without any possibility of marrying her. Do you
understand me, dearest? As for you, knowing that you must be my
wife, I am certain of our love, which practice will animate with new
life. It is not the same with M---- M----; that love cannot spring
up again into existence. Is it not humiliating for me to have
inspired her with nothing but a passing fancy? I understand your
adoration for her very well. She has initiated you into all her
mysteries, and you owe her eternal friendship and everlasting
It was midnight, and we went on wasting our time in this desultory
conversation, when the prudent and careful servant brought us an
excellent supper. I could not touch anything, my heart was too full,
but my dear little wife supped with a good appetite. I could not
help laughing when I saw a salad of whites of eggs, and C---- C----
thought it extraordinary because all the yolks had been removed. In
her innocence, she could not understand the intention of the person
who had ordered the supper. As I looked at her, I was compelled to
acknowledge that she had improved in beauty; in fact C---- C---- was
remarkably beautiful, yet I remained cold by her side. I have always
thought that there is no merit in being faithful to the person we
Two hours before day-light we resumed our seats near the fire, and
C---- C----, seeing how dull I was, was delicately attentive to me.
She attempted no allurement, all her movements wore the stamp of the
most decent reserve, and her conversation, tender in its expressions
and perfectly easy, never conveyed the shadow of a reproach for my
Towards the end of our long conversation, she asked me what she
should say to her friend on her return to the convent.
"My dear M---- M---- expects to see me full of joy and gratitude for
the generous present she thought she was making me by giving me this
night, but what shall I tell her?"
"The whole truth. Do not keep from her a single word of our
conversation, as far as your memory will serve you, and tell her
especially that she has made me miserable for a long time."
"No, for I should cause her too great a sorrow; she loves you dearly,
and cherishes the locket which contains your likeness. I mean, on
the contrary, to do all I can to bring peace between you two, and I
must succeed before long, because my friend is not guilty of any
wrong, and you only feel some spite, although with no cause. I will
send you my letter by Laura, unless you promise me to go and fetch it
yourself at her house."
"Your letters will always be dear to me, but, mark my words, M----
M---- will not enter into any explanation. She will believe you in
everything, except in one."
"I suppose you mean our passing a whole night together as innocently
as if we were brother and sister. If she knows you as well as I do,
she will indeed think it most wonderful."
"In that case, you may tell her the contrary, if you like."
"Nothing of the sort. I hate falsehoods, and I will certainly never
utter one in such a case as this; it would be very wrong. I do not
love you less on that account, my darling, although, during this long
night, you have not condescended to give me the slightest proof of
"Believe me, dearest, I am sick from unhappiness. I love you with my
whole soul, but I am in such a situation that...."
"What! you are weeping, my love! Oh! I entreat you, spare my heart!
I am so sorry to have told you such a thing, but I can assure you I
never meant to make you unhappy. I am sure that in a quarter of an
hour M---- M---- will be crying likewise."
The alarum struck, and, having no longer any hope of seeing M----
M---- come to justify herself, I kissed C---- C----. I gave her the
key of the casino, requesting her to return it for me to M---- M----,
and my young friend having gone back to the convent, I put on my mask
and left the casino.
I Am in Danger of Perishing in the Lagunes--Illness--Letters from
C. C. and M. M.--The Quarrel is Made Up--Meeting at the Casino of
Muran I Learn the Name of M. M.'s Friend, and Consent to Give Him A
Supper at My Casino in the Company of Our Common Mistress
The weather was fearful. The wind was blowing fiercely, and it was
bitterly cold. When I reached the shore, I looked for a gondola, I
called the gondoliers, but, in contravention to the police
regulations, there was neither gondola nor gondolier. What was I to
do? Dressed in light linen, I was hardly in a fit state to walk
along the wharf for an hour in such weather. I should most likely
have gone back to the casino if I had had the key, but I was paying
the penalty of the foolish spite which had made me give it up. The
wind almost carried me off my feet, and there was no house that I
could enter to get a shelter.
I had in my pockets three hundred philippes that I had won in the
evening, and a purse full of gold. I had therefore every reason to
fear the thieves of Muran--a very dangerous class of cutthroats,
determined murderers who enjoyed and abused a certain impunity,
because they had some privileges granted to them by the Government on
account of the services they rendered in the manufactories of
looking-glasses and in the glassworks which are numerous on the
island. In order to prevent their emigration, the Government had
granted them the freedom of Venice. I dreaded meeting a pair of
them, who would have stripped me of everything, at least. I had not,
by chance, with me the knife which all honest men must carry to
defend their lives in my dear country. I was truly in an unpleasant
I was thus painfully situated when I thought I could see a light
through the crevices of a small house. I knocked modestly against
the shutter. A voice called out:
"Who is knocking?"
And at the same moment the shutter was pushed open.
"What do you want?" asked a man, rather astonished at my costume.
I explained my predicament in a few words, and giving him one sequin
I begged his permission to shelter myself under his roof. Convinced
by my sequin rather than my words, he opened the door, I went in, and
promising him another sequin for his trouble I requested him to get
me a gondola to take me to Venice. He dressed himself hurriedly,
thanking God for that piece of good fortune, and went out assuring me
that he would soon get me a gondola. I remained alone in a miserable
room in which all his family, sleeping together in a large, ill-
looking bed, were staring at me in consequence of my extraordinary
costume. In half an hour the good man returned to announce that the
gondoliers were at the wharf, but that they wanted to be paid in
advance. I raised no objection, gave a sequin to the man for his
trouble, and went to the wharf.
The sight of two strong gondoliers made me get into the gondola
without anxiety, and we left the shore without being much disturbed
by the wind, but when we had gone beyond the island, the storm
attacked us with such fury that I thought myself lost, for, although
a good swimmer, I was not sure I had strength enough to resist the
violence of the waves and swim to the shore. I ordered the men to go
back to the island, but they answered that I had not to deal with a
couple of cowards, and that I had no occasion to be afraid. I knew
the disposition of our gondoliers, and I made up my mind to say no
But the wind increased in violence, the foaming waves rushed into the
gondola, and my two rowers, in spite of their vigour and of their
courage, could no longer guide it. We were only within one hundred
yards of the mouth of the Jesuits' Canal, when a terrible gust of
wind threw one of the 'barcarols' into the sea; most fortunately he
contrived to hold by the gondola and to get in again, but he had lost
his oar, and while he was securing another the gondola had tacked,
and had already gone a considerable distance abreast. The position
called for immediate decision, and I had no wish to take my supper
with Neptune. I threw a handful of philippes into the gondola, and
ordered the gondoliers to throw overboard the 'felce' which covered
the boat. The ringing of money, as much as the imminent danger,
ensured instant obedience, and then, the wind having less hold upon
us, my brave boatmen shewed AEolus that their efforts could conquer
him, for in less than five minutes we shot into the Beggars' Canal,
and I reached the Bragadin Palace. I went to bed at once, covering
myself heavily in order to regain my natural heat, but sleep, which
alone could have restored me to health, would not visit me.
Five or six hours afterwards, M. de Bragadin and his two inseparable
friends paid me a visit, and found me raving with fever. That did
not prevent my respectable protector from laughing at the sight of
the costume of Pierrot lying on the sofa. After congratulating me
upon having escaped with my life out of such a bad predicament, they
left me alone. In the evening I perspired so profusely that my bed
had to be changed. The next day my fever and delirium increased, and
two days after, the fever having abated, I found myself almost
crippled and suffering fearfully with lumbago. I felt that nothing
could relieve me but a strict regimen, and I bore the evil patiently.
Early on the Wednesday morning, Laura, the faithful messenger, called
on me; I was still in my bed: I told her that I could neither read
nor write, and I asked her to come again the next day. She placed on
the table, near my bed, the parcel she had for me, and she left me,
knowing what had occurred to me sufficiently to enable her to inform
C---- C---- of the state in which I was.
Feeling a little better towards the evening, I ordered my servant to
lock me in my room, and I opened C---- C----'s letter. The first
thing I found in the parcel, and which caused me great pleasure, was
the key of the casino which she returned to me. I had already
repented having given it up, and I was beginning to feel that I had
been in the wrong. It acted like a refreshing balm upon me. The
second thing, not less dear after the return of the precious key, was
a letter from M---- M----, the seal of which I was not long in
breaking, and I read the following lines:
"The particulars which you have read, or which you are going to read,
in the letter of my friend, will cause you, I hope, to forget the
fault which I have committed so innocently, for I trusted, on the
contrary, that you would be very happy. I saw all and heard all, and
you would not have gone away without the key if I had not, most
unfortunately, fallen asleep an hour before your departure. Take
back the key and come to the casino to-morrow night, since Heaven has
saved you from the storm. Your love may, perhaps, give you the right
to complain, but not to ill-treat a woman who certainly has not given
you any mark of contempt."
I afterwards read the letter of my dear C---- C----, and I will give
a copy of it here, because I think it will prove interesting:
"I entreat you, dear husband, not to send back this key, unless you
have become the most cruel of men, unless you find pleasure in
tormenting two women who, love you ardently, and who love you for
yourself only. Knowing your excellent heart, I trust you will go to
the casino to-morrow evening and make it up with M---- M----, who
cannot go there to-night. You will see that you are in the wrong,
dearest, and that, far from despising you, my dear friend loves you
only. In the mean time, let me tell you what you are not acquainted
with, and what you must be anxious to know.
"Immediately after you had gone away in that fearful storm which
caused me such anguish, and just as I was preparing to return to the
convent, I was much surprised to see standing before me my dear M----
M----, who from some hiding-place had heard all you had said. She
had several times been on the point of shewing herself, but she had
always been prevented by the fear of coming out of season, and thus
stopping a reconciliation which she thought was inevitable between
two fond lovers. Unfortunately, sleep had conquered her before your
departure, and she only woke when the alarum struck, too late to
detain you, for you had rushed with the haste of a man who is flying
from some terrible danger. As soon as I saw her, I gave her the key,
although I did not know what it meant, and my friend, heaving a deep
sigh, told me that she would explain everything as soon as we were
safe in her room. We left the casino in a dreadful storm, trembling
for your safety, and not thinking of our own danger. As soon as we
were in the convent I resumed my usual costume, and M----M---- went
to bed. I took a seat near her, and this is what she told me. 'When
you left your ring in my hands to go to your aunt, who had sent for
you, I examined it with so much attention that at last I suspected
the small blue spot to be connected with the secret spring; I took a
pin, succeeded in removing the top part, and I cannot express the joy
I felt when I saw that we both loved the same man, but no more can I
give you an idea of my sorrow when I thought that I was encroaching
upon your rights. Delighted, however, with my discovery, I
immediately conceived a plan which would procure you the pleasure of
supping with him. I closed the ring again and returned it to you,
telling you at the same time that I had not been able to discover
anything. I was then truly the happiest of women. Knowing your
heart, knowing that you were aware of the love of your lover for me,
since I had innocently shewed you his portrait, and happy in the idea
that you were not jealous of me, I would have despised myself if I
had entertained any feelings different from your own, the more so
that your rights over him were by far stronger than mine. As for the
mysterious manner in which you always kept from me the name of your
husband, I easily guessed that you were only obeying his orders, and
I admired your noble sentiments and the goodness of your heart. In
my opinion your lover was afraid of losing us both, if we found out
that neither the one nor the other of us possessed his whole heart.
I could not express my deep sorrow when I thought that, after you had
seen me in possession of his portrait, you continued to act in the
same manner towards me, although you could not any longer hope to be
the sole object of his love. Then I had but one idea; to prove to
both of you that M---- M---- is worthy of your affection, of your
friendship, of your esteem. I was indeed thoroughly happy when I
thought that the felicity of our trio would be increased a
hundredfold, for is it not an unbearable misery to keep a secret from
the being we adore? I made you take my place, and I thought that
proceeding a masterpiece. You allowed me to dress you as a nun, and
with a compliance which proves your confidence in me you went to my
casino without knowing where you were going. As soon as you had
landed, the gondola came back, and I went to a place well known to
our friend from which, without being seen, I could follow all your
movements and hear everything you said. I was the author of the
play; it was natural that I should witness it, the more so that I
felt certain of seeing and hearing nothing that would not be very
agreeable to me. I reached the casino a quarter of an hour after
you, and I cannot tell you my delightful surprise when I saw that
dear Pierrot who had amused us so much, and whom we had not
recognized. But I was fated to feel no other pleasure than that of
his appearance. Fear, surprise, and anxiety overwhelmed me at once
when I saw the effect produced upon him by the disappointment of his
expectation, and I felt unhappy. Our lover took the thing wrongly,
and he went away in despair; he loves me still, but if he thinks of
me it is only to try to forget me. Alas! he will succeed but too
soon! By sending back that key he proves that he will never again go
to the casino. Fatal night! When my only wish was to minister to
the happiness of three persons, how is it that the very reverse of my
wish has occurred? It will kill me, dear friend, unless you contrive
to make him understand reason, for I feel that without him I cannot
live. You must have the means of writing to him, you know him, you
know his name. In the name of all goodness, send back this key to
him with a letter to persuade him to come to the casino to-morrow or
on the following day, if it is only to speak to me; and I hope to
convince him of my love and my innocence. Rest to-day, dearest, but
to-morrow write to him, tell him the whole truth; take pity on your
poor friend, and forgive her for loving your lover. I shall write a
few lines myself; you will enclose them in your letter. It is my
fault if he no longer loves you; you ought to hate me, and yet you
are generous enough to love me. I adore you; I have seen his tears,
I have seen how well his soul can love; I know him now. I could not
have believed that men were able to love so much. I have passed a
terrible night. Do not think I am angry, dear friend, because you
confided to him that we love one another like two lovers; it does not
displease me, and with him it was no indiscretion, because his mind
is as free of prejudices as his heart is good.'
"Tears were choking her. I tried to console her, and I most
willingly promised her to write to you. She never closed her eyes
throughout that day, but I slept soundly for four hours.
"When we got up we found the convent full of bad news, which
interested us a great deal more than people imagined. It was
reported that, an hour before daybreak, a fishing-boat had been lost
in the lagune, that two gondolas had been capsized, and that the
people in them had perished. You may imagine our anguish! We dared
not ask any questions, but it was just the hour at which you had left
me, and we entertained the darkest forebodings. We returned to our
room, where M---- M---- fainted away. More courageous than she is, I
told her that you were a good swimmer, but I could not allay her
anxiety, and she went to bed with a feverish chill. Just at that
moment, my aunt, who is of a very cheerful disposition, came in,
laughing, to tell us that during the storm the Pierrot who had made
us laugh so much had had a narrow escape of being drowned. 'Ah! the
poor Pierrot!' I exclaimed, 'tell us all about him, dear aunt. I am
very glad he was saved. Who is he? Do you know?' 'Oh! yes,' she
answered, 'everything is known, for he was taken home by our
gondoliers. One of them has just told me that Pierrot, having spent
the night at the Briati ball, did not find any gondola to return to
Venice, and that our gondoliers took him for a sequin. One of the
men fell into the sea, but then the brave Pierrot, throwing handfuls
of silver upon the 'Zenia' pitched the 'felce' over board, and the
wind having less hold they reached Venice safely through the Beggars'
Canal. This morning the lucky gondoliers divided thirty philippes
which they found in the gondola, and they have been fortunate enough
to pick up their 'felce'. Pierrot will remember Muran and the ball
at Briati. The man says that he is the son of M. de Bragadin, the
procurator's brother. He was taken to the palace of that nobleman
nearly dead from cold, for he was dressed in light calico, and had no
"When my aunt had left us, we looked at one another for several
minutes without uttering a word, but we felt that the good news had
brought back life to us. M---- M---- asked me whether you were
really the son of M, de Bragadin. 'It might be so,' I said to her,
'but his name does not shew my lover to be the bastard of that
nobleman, and still less his legitimate child, for M. de Bragadin was
never married.' 'I should be very sorry,' said M---- M----, 'if he
were his son.' I thought it right, then, to tell her your true name,
and of the application made to my father by M. de Bragadin for my
hand, the consequence of which was that I had been shut up in the
convent. Therefore, my own darling, your little wife has no longer
any secret to keep from M---- M----, and I hope you will not accuse
me of indiscretion, for it is better that our dear friend should know
all the truth than only half of it. We have been greatly amused, as
you may well suppose, by the certainty with which people say that you
spent all the night at the Briati ball. When people do not know
everything, they invent, and what might be is often accepted in the
place of what is in reality; sometimes it proves very fortunate. At
all events the news did a great deal of good to my friend, who is now
much better. She has had an excellent night, and the hope of seeing
you at the casino has restored all her beauty. She has read this
letter three or four times, and has smothered me with kisses. I long
to give her the letter which you are going to write to her. The
messenger will wait for it. Perhaps I shall see you again at the
casino, and in a better temper, I hope. Adieu."
It did not require much argument to conquer me. When I had finished
the letter, I was at once the admirer of C---- C---- and the ardent
lover of M---- M----. But, alas! although the fever had left me, I
was crippled. Certain that Laura would come again early the next
morning, I could not refrain from writing to both of them a short
letter, it is true, but long enough to assure them that reason had
again taken possession of my poor brain. I wrote to C---- C---- that
she had done right in telling her friend my name, the more so that,
as I did not attend their church any longer, I had no reason to make
a mystery of it. In everything else I freely acknowledged myself in
the wrong, and I promised her that I would atone by giving M--- M----
the strongest possible proofs of my repentance as soon as I could go
again to her casino.
This is the letter that I wrote to my adorable nun:
"I gave C---- C---- the key of your casino, to be returned to you, my
own charming friend, because I believed myself trifled with and
despised, of malice aforethought, by the woman I worship. In my
error I thought myself unworthy of presenting myself before your
eyes, and, in spite of love, horror made me shudder. Such was the
effect produced upon me by an act which would have appeared to me
admirable, if my self-love had not blinded me and upset my reason.
But, dearest, to admire it it would have been necessary for my mind
to be as noble as yours, and I have proved how far it is from being
so. I am inferior to you in all things, except in passionate love,
and I will prove it to you at our next meeting, when I will beg on my
knees a generous pardon. Believe me, beloved creature, if I wish
ardently to recover my health, it is only to have it in my power to
prove by my love a thousand times increased, how ashamed I am of my
errors. My painful lumbago has alone prevented me from answering
your short note yesterday, to express to you my regrets, and the love
which has been enhanced in me by your generosity, alas! so badly
rewarded. I can assure you that in the lagunes, with death staring
me in the face, I regretted no one but you, nothing but having
outraged you. But in the fearful danger then threatening me I only
saw a punishment from Heaven. If I had not cruelly sent back to you
the key of the casino, I should most likely have returned there, and
should have avoided the sorrow as well as the physical pains which I
am now suffering as an expiation. I thank you a thousand times for
having recalled me to myself, and you may be certain that for the
future I will keep better control over myself; nothing shall make me
doubt your love. But, darling, what do you say of C---- C----? Is
she not an incarnate angel who can be compared to no one but you?
You love us both equally. I am the only one weak and faulty, and you
make me ashamed of myself. Yet I feel that I would give my life for
her as well as for you. I feel curious about one thing, but I cannot
trust it to paper. You will satisfy that curiosity the first time I
shall be able to go to the casino before two days at the earliest.
I will let you know two days beforehand. In the mean time, I entreat
you to think a little of me, and to be certain of my devoted love.
The next morning Laura found me sitting up in bed, and in a fair way
to recover my health. I requested her to tell C---- C---- that I
felt much better, and I gave her the letter I had written. She had
brought me one from my dear little wife, in which I found enclosed a
note from M---- M----. Those two letter were full of tender
expressions of love, anxiety for my health, and ardent prayers for my
Six days afterwards, feeling much stronger, I went to Muran, where
the keeper of the casino handed me a letter from M---- M----. She
wrote to me how impatient she was for my complete recovery, and how
desirous she was to see me in possession of her casino, with all the
privileges which she hoped I would retain for ever.
"Let me know, I entreat you," she added, "when we are likely to meet
again, either at Muran or in Venice, as you please. Be quite certain
that whenever we meet we shall be alone and without a witness."
I answered at once, telling her that we would meet the day after the
morrow at her casino, because I wanted to receive her loving
absolution in the very spot where I had outraged the most generous of
I was longing to see her again, for I was ashamed of my cruel
injustice towards her, and panting to atone for my wrongs. Knowing
her disposition, and reflecting calmly upon what had taken place, it
was now evident to me that what she had done, very far from being a
mark of contempt, was the refined effort of a love wholly devoted to
me. Since she had found out that I was the lover of her young
friend, could she imagine that my heart belonged only to herself? In
the same way that her love for me did not prevent her from being
compliant with the ambassador, she admitted the possibility of my
being the same with C---- C----. She overlooked the difference of
constitution between the two sexes, and the privileges enjoyed by
Now that age has whitened my hair and deadened the ardour of my
senses, my imagination does not take such a high flight, and I think
differently. I am conscious that my beautiful nun sinned against
womanly reserve and modesty, the two most beautiful appanages of the
fair sex, but if that unique, or at least rare, woman was guilty of
an eccentricity which I then thought a virtue, she was at all events
exempt from that fearful venom called jealousy--an unhappy passion
which devours the miserable being who is labouring under it, and
destroys the love that gave it birth.
Two days afterwards, on the 4th of February, 1754, I had the supreme
felicity of finding myself again alone with my beloved mistress. She
wore the dress of a nun. As we both felt guilty, the moment we saw
each other, by a spontaneous movement, we fell both on our knees,
folded in each other's arms. We had both ill-treated Love; she had
treated him like a child, I had adored him after the fashion of a
Jansenist. But where could we have found the proper language for the
excuses we had to address to each other for the mutual forgiveness we
had to entreat and to grant? Kisses--that mute, yet expressive
language, that delicate, voluptuous contact which sends sentiment
coursing rapidly through the veins, which expresses at the same time
the feeling of the heart and the impressions of the mind--that
language was the only one we had recourse to, and without having
uttered one syllable, dear reader, oh, how well we agreed!
Both overwhelmed with emotion, longing to give one another some
proofs of the sincerity of our reconciliation and of the ardent fire
which was consuming us, we rose without unclasping our arms, and
falling (a most amorous group!) on the nearest sofa, we remained
there until the heaving of a deep sigh which we would not have
stopped, even if we had known that it was to be the last!
Thus was completed our happy reconciliation, and the calm infused
into the soul by contentment, burst into a hearty laugh when we
noticed that I had kept on my cloak and my mask. After we had
enjoyed our mirth, I unmasked myself, and I asked her whether it was
quite true that no one had witnessed our reconciliation.
She took up one of the candlesticks, and seizing my hand:
"Come," she said.
She led me to the other end of the room, before a large cupboard
which I had already suspected of containing the secret. She opened
it, and when she had moved a sliding plank I saw a door through which
we entered a pretty closet furnished with everything necessary to a
person wishing to pass a few hours there. Near the sofa was a
sliding panel. M---- M---- removed it, and through twenty holes
placed at a distance from each other I saw every part of the room in
which nature and love had performed for our curious friend a play in
six acts, during which I did not think he had occasion to be
dissatisfied with the actors.
"Now," said M---- M----, "I am going to satisfy the curiosity which
you were prudent enough not to trust to paper."
"But you cannot guess...."
"Silence, dearest! Love would not be of divine origin did he not
possess the faculty of divination. He knows all, and here is the
proof. Do you not wish to know whether my friend was with me during
the fatal night which has cost me so many tears?"
"You have guessed rightly."
"Well, then, he was with me, and you must not be angry, for you then
completed your conquest of him. He admired your character, your
love, your sentiments, your honesty. He could not help expressing
his astonishment at the rectitude of my instinct, or his approval of
the passion I felt for you. It was he who consoled me in the morning
assuring me that you would certainly come back to me as soon as you
knew my real feelings, the loyalty of my intentions and my good
"But you must often have fallen asleep, for unless excited by some
powerful interest, it is impossible to pass eight hours in darkness
and in silence."
"We were moved by the deepest interest: besides, we were in darkness
only when we kept these holes open. The plank was on during our
supper, and we were listening in religious silence to your slightest
whisper. The interest which kept my friend awake was perhaps greater
than mine. He told me that he never had had before a better
opportunity of studying the human heart, and that you must have
passed the most painful night. He truly pitied you. We were
delighted with C---- C----, for it is indeed wonderful that a young
girl of fifteen should reason as she did to justify my conduct,
without any other weapons but those given her by nature and truth;
she must have the soul of an angel. If you ever marry her, you will
have the most heavenly wife. I shall of course feel miserable if I
lose her, but your happiness will make amends for all. Do you know,
dearest, that I cannot understand how you could fall in love with me
after having known her, any more than I can conceive how she does not
hate me ever since she has discovered that I have robbed her of your
heart. My dear C---- C---- has truly something divine in her
disposition. Do you know why she confided to you her barren loves
with me? Because, as she told me herself, she wished to ease her
conscience, thinking that she was in some measure unfaithful to you."
"Does she think herself bound to be entirely faithful to me, with the
knowledge she has now of my own unfaithfulness?"
"She is particularly delicate and conscientious, and though she
believes herself truly your wife, she does not think that she has any
right to control your actions, but she believes herself bound to give
you an account of all she does."
The prudent wife of the door-keeper having brought the supper, we sat
down to the well-supplied table. M---- M---- remarked that I had
become much thinner.
"The pains of the body do not fatten a man," I said, "and the
sufferings of the mind emaciate him. But we have suffered
sufficiently, and we must be wise enough never to recall anything
which can be painful to us."
"You are quite right, my love; the instants that man is compelled to
give up to misfortune or to suffering are as many moments stolen from
his life, but he doubles his existence when he has the talent of
multiplying his pleasures, no matter of what nature they may be."
We amused ourselves in talking over past dangers, Pierrot's disguise,
and the ball at Briati, where she had been told that another Pierrot
had made his appearance.
M---- M---- wondered at the extraordinary effect of a disguise, for,
said she to me:
"The Pierrot in the parlour of the convent seemed to me taller and
thinner than you. If chance had not made you take the convent
gondola, if you had not had the strange idea of assuming the disguise
of Pierrot, I should not have known who you were, for my friends in
the convent would not have been interested in you. I was delighted
when I heard that you were not a patrician, as I feared, because, had
you been one, I might in time have run some great danger."
I knew very well what she had to fear, but pretending complete
"I cannot conceive," I said, "what danger you might run on account of
my being a patrician."
"My darling, I cannot speak to you openly, unless you give me your
word to do what I am going to ask you."
"How could I hesitate, my love, in doing anything to please you,
provided my honour is not implicated? Have we not now everything in
common? Speak, idol of my heart, tell me your reasons, and rely upon
my love; it is the guarantee of my ready compliance in everything
that can give you pleasure:"
"Very well. I want you to give a supper in your casino to me and my
friend, who is dying to make your acquaintance."
"And I foresee that after supper you will leave me to go with him."
"You must feel that propriety compels me to do so."
"Your friend already knows, I suppose, who I am?"
"I thought it was right to tell him, because if I had not told him he
could not have entertained the hope of supping with you, and
especially at your house."
"I understand. I guess your friend is one of the foreign
"But may I hope that he will so far honour me as to throw up his
"That is understood. I shall introduce him to you according to
accepted forms, telling his name and his political position."
"Then it is all for the best, darling. How could you suppose that I
would have any difficulty in procuring you that pleasure, when on the
contrary, nothing could please me more myself? Name the day, and be
quite certain that I shall anxiously look for it."
"I should have been sure of your compliance, if you had not given me
cause to doubt it."
"It is a home-thrust, but I deserve it."
"And I hope it will not make you angry. Now I am happy. Our friend
is M. de Bernis, the French ambassador. He will come masked, and as
soon as he shews his features I shall present him to you. Recollect
that you must treat him as my lover, but you must not appear to know
that he is aware of our intimacy."
"I understand that very well, and you shall have every reason to be
pleased with my urbanity. The idea of that supper is delightful to
me, and I hope that the reality will be as agreeable. You were quite
right, my love, to dread my being a patrician, for in that case the
State-Inquisitors, who very often think of nothing but of making a
show of their zeal, would not have failed to meddle with us, and the
mere idea of the possible consequences makes me shudder. I under The
Leads--you dishonoured--the abbess--the convent! Good God! Yes, if
you had told me what you thought, I would have given you my name, and
I could have done so all the more easily that my reserve was only
caused by the fear of being known, and of C---- C---- being taken to
another convent by her father. But can you appoint a day for the
supper? I long to have it all arranged."
"To-day is the fourth; well, then, in four days."
"That will be the eighth?"
"Exactly so. We will go to your casino after the second ballet.
Give me all necessary particulars to enable us to find the house
without enquiring from anyone."
I sat down and I wrote down the most exact particulars to find the
casino either by land or by water. Delighted with the prospect of
such a party of pleasure, I asked my mistress to go to bed, but I
remarked to her that, being convalescent and having made a hearty
supper, I should be very likely to pay my first homages to Morpheus.
Yielding to the circumstances, she set the alarum for ten o'clock,
and we went to bed in the alcove. As soon as we woke up, Love
claimed our attention and he had no cause of complaint, but towards
midnight we fell asleep, our lips fastened together, and we found
ourselves in that position in the morning when we opened our eyes.
Although there was no time to lose, we could not make up our minds to
part without making one more offering to Venus.
I remained in the casino after the departure of my divinity, and
slept until noon. As soon as I had dressed myself, I returned to
Venice, and my first care was to give notice to my cook, so that the
supper of the 8th of February should be worthy of the guests and
worthy of me.
by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
TO PARIS AND PRISON, Volume 2d--The False Nun
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
THE FALSE NUN
Supper at My Casino With M. M. and M. de Bernis, the French
Ambassador--A Proposal from M. M.; I Accept It--Consequences--
C. C. is Unfaithful to Me, and I Cannot Complain
I felt highly pleased with the supper-party I had arranged with M----
M----, and I ought to have been happy. Yet I was not so; but whence
came the anxiety which was a torment to me? Whence? From my fatal
habit of gambling. That passion was rooted in me; to live and to
play were to me two identical things, and as I could not hold the
bank I would go and punt at the ridotto, where I lost my money
morning and night. That state of things made me miserable. Perhaps
someone will say to me:
"Why did you play, when there was no need of it, when you were in
want of nothing, when you had all the money you could wish to satisfy
That would be a troublesome question if I had not made it a law to
tell the truth. Well, then, dear inquisitive reader, if I played
with almost the certainty of losing, although no one, perhaps, was
more sensible than I was to the losses made in gambling, it is
because I had in me the evil spirit of avarice; it is because I loved
prodigality, and because my heart bled when I found myself compelled
to spend any money that I had not won at the gaming-table. It is an
ugly vice, dear reader, I do not deny it. However, all I can say is
that, during the four days previous to the supper, I lost all the
gold won for me by M---- M----
On the anxiously-expected day I went to my casino, where at the
appointed hour M---- M---- came with her friend, whom she introduced
to me as soon as he had taken off his mask.
"I had an ardent wish, sir," said M. de Bernis to me, "to renew
acquaintance with you, since I heard from madame that we had known
each other in Paris."
With these words he looked at me attentively, as people will do when
they are trying to recollect a person whom they have lost sight of.
I then told him that we had never spoken to one another, and that he
had not seen enough of me to recollect my features now.
"I had the honour," I added, "to dine with your excellency at M. de
Mocenigo's house, but you talked all the time with Marshal Keith, the
Prussian ambassador, and I was not fortunate enough to attract your
attention. As you were on the point of leaving Paris to return to
Venice, you went away almost immediately after dinner, and I have
never had the honour of seeing you since that time."
"Now I recollect you," he answered, "and I remember asking whether
you were not the secretary of the embassy. But from this day we
shall not forget each other again, for the mysteries which unite us
are of a nature likely to establish a lasting intimacy between us."
The amiable couple were not long before they felt thoroughly at ease,
and we sat down to supper, of which, of course, I did the honours.
The ambassador, a fine connoisseur in wines, found mine excellent,
and was delighted to hear that I had them from Count Algarotti, who
was reputed as having the best cellar in Venice.
My supper was delicate and abundant, and my manners towards my
handsome guests were those of a private individual receiving his
sovereign and his mistress. I saw that M---- M---- was charmed with
the respect with which I treated her, and with my conversation, which
evidently interested the ambassador highly. The serious character of
a first meeting did not prevent the utterance of witty jests, for in
that respect M. de Bernis was a true Frenchman. I have travelled
much, I have deeply studied men, individually and in a body, but I
have never met with true sociability except in Frenchmen; they alone
know how to jest, and it is rare, delicate, refined jesting, which
animates conversation and makes society charming.
During our delightful supper wit was never wanting, and the amiable
M---- M---- led the conversation to the romantic combination which
had given her occasion to know me. Naturally, she proceeded to speak
of my passion for C---- C----, and she gave such an interesting
description of that young girl that the ambassador listened with as
much attention as if he had never seen the object of it. But that
was his part, for he was not aware that I had been informed of his
having witnessed from his hiding-place my silly interview with C----
C----. He told M---- M---- that he would have been delighted if she
had brought her young friend to sup with us.
"That would be running too great a risk," answered the cunning nun,
"but if you approve of it," she added, looking at me, "I can make you
sup with her at my casino, for we sleep in the same room."
That offer surprised me much, but it was not the moment to shew it,
so I replied:
"It is impossible, madam, to add anything to the pleasure of your
society, yet I confess I should be pleased if you could contrive to
do us that great favour:"
"Well, I will think of it."
"But," observed the ambassador, "if I am to be one of the party, I
think it would be right to apprize the young lady of it."
"It is not necessary, for I will write to her to agree to whatever
madam may propose to her. I will do so to-morrow."
I begged the ambassador to prepare himself with a good stock of
indulgence for a girl of fifteen who had no experience of the world.
In the course of the evening I related the history of O-Morphi, which
greatly amused him. He entreated me to let him see her portrait. He
informed me that she was still an inmate of the 'Parc-aux-cerfs',
where she continued to be the delight of Louis XV., to whom she had
given a child. My guests left me after midnight, highly pleased, and
I remained alone.
The next morning, faithful to the promise I had made to my beautiful
nun, I wrote to C---- C---- without informing her that there would be
a fourth person at the projected supper, and having given my note to
Laura I repaired to Muran, where I found the following letter from
"I could not sleep soundly, my love, if I did not ease my conscience
of an unpleasant weight. Perhaps you did not approve of the 'partie
carree' with our young friend, and you may not have objected out of
mere politeness. Tell me the truth, dearest, for, should you not
look forward to that meeting with pleasure, I can contrive to undo it
without implicating you in any way; trust me for that. If, however,
you have no objection to the party, it will take place as agreed.
Believe me, I love your soul more than your heart--I mean than your
Her fear was very natural, but out of shamefacedness I did not like
to retract. M---- M---- knew me well, and as a skilful tactician she
attacked my weak side.
Here is my answer:
"I expected your letter, my best beloved, and you cannot doubt it,
because, as you know me thoroughly, you must be aware that I know you
as well. Yes, I know your mind, and I know what idea you must
entertain of mine, because I have exposed to you all my weakness and
irritability by my sophisms. I do penance for it, dearest, when I
think that having raised your suspicions your tenderness for me must
have been weakened. Forget my visions, I beg, and be quite certain
that for the future my soul will be in unison with yours. The supper
must take place, it will be a pleasure for me, but let me confess
that in accepting it I have shewn myself more grateful than polite.
C---- C---- is a novice, and I am not sorry to give her an
opportunity of seeing the world. In what school could she learn
better than yours? Therefore I recommend her to you, and you will
please me much by continuing to shew your care and friendship towards
her, and by increasing, if possible, the sum of your goodness. I
fear that you may entice her to take the veil, and if she did I would
never console myself. Your friend has quite captivated me; he is a
superior man, and truly charming."
Thus did I wittingly deprive myself of the power of drawing back, but
I was able to realize the full force of the situation. I had no
difficulty in guessing that the ambassador was in love with C----
C----, and that he had confessed as much to M---- M----, who, not
being in a position to object to it, was compelled to shew herself
compliant, and to assist him in everything that could render his
passion successful. She could certainly not do anything without my
consent, and she had evidently considered the affair too delicate to
venture upon proposing the party point-blank to me. They had, no
doubt, put their heads together, so that by bringing the conversation
on that subject I should find myself compelled, for the sake of
politeness and perhaps of my inward feelings, to fall into the snare.
The ambassador, whose profession it was to carry on intrigues
skilfully, had succeeded well, and I had taken the bait as he wished.
There was nothing left for me but to put a good face on the matter,
not only so as not to shew myself a very silly being, but also in
order not to prove myself shamefully ungrateful towards a man who had
granted me unheard-of privileges. Nevertheless, the consequence of
it all was likely to be some coolness in my feelings towards both my
mistresses. M---- M---- had become conscious of this after she had
returned to the convent, and wishing to screen herself from all
responsibility she had lost no time in writing to me that she would
cause the projected supper to be abandoned, in case I should
disapprove of it, but she knew very well that I would not accept her
offer. Self-love is a stronger passion even than jealousy; it does
not allow a man who has some pretension to wit to shew himself
jealous, particularly towards a person who is not tainted by that
base passion, and has proved it.
The next day, having gone early to the casino, I found the ambassador
already there, and he welcomed me in the most friendly manner. He
told me that, if he had known me in Paris he would have introduced me
at the court, where I should certainly have made my fortune. Now,
when I think of that, I say to myself, "That might have been the
case, but of what good would it have been to me?" Perhaps I should
have fallen a victim of the Revolution, like so many others. M. de
Bernis himself would have been one of those victims if Fate had not
allowed him to die in Rome in 1794. He died there unhappy, although
wealthy, unless his feelings had undergone a complete change before
his death, and I do not believe it.
I asked him whether he liked Venice, and he answered that he could
not do otherwise than like that city, in which he enjoyed excellent
health, and in which, with plenty of money, life could be enjoyed
better than anywhere else.
"But I do not expect," he added, "to be allowed to keep this embassy
very long. Be kind enough to let that remain between us. I do not
wish to make M---- M----- unhappy."
We were conversing in all confidence when M---- M---- arrived with
her young friend, who showed her surprise at seeing another man with
me, but I encouraged her by the most tender welcome; and she
recovered all her composure when she saw the delight of the stranger
at being answered by her in good French. It gave us both an
opportunity of paying the warmest compliments to the mistress who had
taught her so well.
C---- C---- was truly charming; her looks, bright and modest at the
same time, seemed to say to me, "You must belong to me:" I wished to
see her shine before our friends; and I contrived to conquer a
cowardly feeling of jealousy which, in spite of myself, was beginning
to get hold of me. I took care to make her talk on such subjects as
I knew to be familiar to her. I developed her natural intelligence,
and had the satisfaction of seeing her admired.
Applauded, flattered, animated by the satisfaction she could read in
my eyes, C---- C---- appeared a prodigy to M. de Bernis, and, oh!
what a contradiction of the human heart! I was pleased, yet I
trembled lest he should fall in love with her! What an enigma! I
was intent myself upon a work which would have caused me to murder
any man who dared to undertake it.
During the supper, which was worthy of a king, the ambassador treated
C---- C---- with the most delicate attentions. Wit, cheerfulness,
decent manners, attended our delightful party, and did not expel the
gaiety and the merry jests with which a Frenchman knows how to season
An observing critic who, without being acquainted with us, wished to
guess whether love was present at our happy party, might have
suspected, perhaps, but he certainly could not have affirmed, that it
was there. M---- M---- treated the ambassador as a friend. She
shewed no other feeling towards me than that of deep esteem, and she
behaved to C---- C---- with the tender affection of a sister. M. de
Bernis was kind, polite, and amiable with M---- M-----, but he never
ceased to take the greatest interest in every word uttered by C----
C----, who played her part to perfection, because she had only to
follow her own nature, and, that nature being beautiful, C---- C----
could not fail to be most charming.
We had passed five delightful hours, and the ambassador seemed more
pleased even than any of us. M---- M---- had the air of a person
satisfied with her own work, and I was playing the part of an
approving spectator. C---- C---- looked highly pleased at having
secured the general approbation, and there was, perhaps, a slight
feeling of vanity in her arising from the special attention which the
ambassador had bestowed on her. She looked at me, smiling, and I
could easily understand the language of her soul, by which she wished
to tell me that she felt perfectly well the difference between the
society in which she was then, and that in which her brother had
given us such a disgusting specimen of his depravity.
After midnight it was time to think of our departure, and M. de
Bernis undertook all the complimentary part. Thanking M---- M----
for the most agreeable supper he had ever made in his life, he
contrived to make her offer a repetition of it for two days
afterwards, and he asked me, for the sake of appearance, whether I
should not find as much delight in that second meeting as himself.
Could he have any doubt of my answering affirmatively? I believe
not, for I had placed myself under the necessity of being compliant.
All being agreed, we parted company.
The next day, when I thought of that exemplary supper, I had no
difficulty in guessing what the ultimate result would be. The
ambassador owed his great fortune entirely to the fair sex, because
he possessed to the highest degree the art of coddling love; and as
his nature was eminently voluptuous he found his advantage in it,
because he knew how to call desires into existence, and this procured
him enjoyments worthy of his delicate taste. I saw that he was
deeply in love with C---- C----, and I was far from supposing him the
man to be satisfied with looking at her lovely eyes. He certainly
had some plan arranged, and M---- M----, in spite of all her honesty,
was the prime manager of it. I knew that she would carry it on with
such delicate skill that I should not see any evidence of it.
Although I did not feel disposed to shew more compliance than was
strictly just, I foresaw that in the end I should be the dupe, and my
poor C---- C---- the victim, of a cunningly-contrived trick. I could
not make up my mind either to consent with a good grace, or to throw
obstacles in the way, and, believing my dear little wife incapable of
abandoning herself to anything likely to displease me, I allowed
myself to be taken off my guard, and to rely upon the difficulty of
seducing her. Stupid calculation! Self-love and shamefacedness
prevented me from using my common sense. At all events, that
intrigue kept me in a state of fever because I was afraid of its
consequences, and yet curiosity mastered me to such an extent that I
was longing for the result. I knew very well that a second edition
of the supper did not imply that the same play would be performed a
second time, and I foresaw that the changes would be strongly marked.
But I thought myself bound in honour not to retract. I could not
lead the intrigue, but I believed myself sufficiently skilful to
baffle all their manoeuvrings.
After all those considerations, however, considerations which enabled
me to assume the countenance of false bravery, the inexperience of C-
--- C----, who, in spite of all the knowledge she had lately
acquired, was only a novice, caused me great anxiety. It was easy to
abuse her natural wish to be polite, but that fear gave way very soon
before the confidence I had in M---- M----s delicacy. I thought
that, having seen how I had spent six hours with that young girl,
knowing for a certainty that I intended to marry her, M---- M----
would never be guilty of such base treason. All these thoughts,
worthy only of a weak and bashful jealousy, brought no conclusive
decision. I had to follow the current and watch events.
At the appointed time I repaired to the casino, where I found my two
lovely friends sitting by the fire.
"Good evening, my two divinities, where is our charming Frenchman?"
"He has not arrived yet," answered M---- M----, "but he will
doubtless soon be here."
I took off my mask, and sitting between them, I gave them a thousand
kisses, taking good care not to shew any preference, and although I
knew that they were aware of the unquestionable right I had upon both
of them, I kept within the limits of the utmost decency. I
congratulated them upon the mutual inclination they felt for each
other, and I saw that they were pleased not to have to blush on that
More than one hour was spent in gallant and friendly conversation,
without my giving any satisfaction to my burning desires. M--- M----
attracted me more than C---- C----, but I would not for the world
have offended the charming girl. M---- M---- was beginning to shew
some anxiety about the absence of M. de Bernis, when the door-keeper
brought her a note from him.
"A courier," he wrote, "who arrived two hours ago, prevents my being
happy to-night, for I am compelled to pass it in answering the
dispatches I have received. I trust that you will forgive and pity
me. May I hope that you will kindly grant me on Friday the pleasure
of which I am so unfortunately deprived to-day? Let me know your
answer by to-morrow. I wish ardently, in that case, to find you with
the same guests, to whom I beg you will present my affectionate
"Well," said M---- M----, "it is not his fault. We will sup without
him. Will you come on Friday?"
"Yes, with the greatest pleasure. But what is the matter with you,
dear C---- C----? You look sad."
"Sad, no, unless it should be for the sake of my friend, for I have
never seen a more polite and more obliging gentleman."
"Very well, dear, I am glad he has rendered you so sensible."
"What do you mean? Could anyone be insensible to his merit?"
"Better still, but I agree with you. Only tell me if you love him?"
"Well, even if I loved him, do you think I would go and tell him?
Besides, I am certain that he loves my friend."
So saying, she sat down on M---- M----'s knee, calling her her own
little wife, and my two beauties began to bestow on one another
caresses which made me laugh heartily. Far from troubling their
sport, I excited them, in order to enjoy a spectacle with which I had
long been acquainted.
M---- M---- took up a book full of the most lascivious engravings,
and said, with a significant glance in my direction:
"Do you wish me to have a fire lighted in the alcove?"
I understood her, and replied:
"You would oblige me, for the bed being large we can all three sleep
comfortably in it."
I guessed that she feared my suspecting the ambassador of enjoying
from the mysterious closet the sight of our amorous trio, and she
wished to destroy that suspicion by her proposal.
The table having been laid in front of the alcove, supper was served,
and we all did honour to it. We were all blessed with a devouring
appetite. While M---- M---- was teaching her friend how to mix
punch, I was admiring with delight the progress made in beauty by
"Your bosom," I said to her, "must have become perfect during the
last nine months."
"It is like mine," answered M---- M----, "would you like to see for
Of course I did not refuse. M---- M---- unlaced her friend, who made
no resistance, and performing afterwards the same office upon
herself, in less than two minutes I was admiring four rivals
contending for the golden apple like the three goddesses, and which
would have set at defiance the handsome Paris himself to adjudge the
prize without injustice. Need I say what an ardent fire that
ravishing sight sent coursing through my veins? I placed immediately
an the table the Academie des Dames, and pointed out a certain
position to M---- M----, who, understanding my wishes, said to C----
"Will you, darling, represent that group with me?"
A look of compliance was C---- C----'s only answer; she was not yet
inured to amorous pleasures as much as her lovely teacher. While I
was laughing with delight, the two friends were getting ready, and in
a few minutes we were all three in bed, and in a state of nature. At
first, satisfied with enjoying the sight of the barren contest of my
two bacchanalians, I was amused by their efforts and by the contrast
of colours, for one was dark and the other fair, but soon, excited
myself, and consumed by all the fire of voluptuousness, I threw
myself upon them, and I made them, one after the other, almost faint
away from the excess of love and enjoyment.
Worn out and satiated with pleasure, I invited them to take some
rest. We slept until we were awakened by the alarum, which I had
taken care to set at four o'clock. We were certain of turning to
good account the two hours we had then to spare before parting
company, which we did at the dawn of day, humiliated at having to
confess our exhaustion, but highly pleased with each other, and
longing for a renewal of our delightful pleasures.
The next day, however, when I came to think of that rather too lively
night, during which, as is generally the case, Love had routed
Reason, I felt some remorse. M---- M---- wanted to convince me of
her love, and for that purpose she had combined all the virtues which
I attached to my own affection--namely, honour, delicacy, and truth,
but her temperament, of which her mind was the slave, carried her
towards excess, and she prepared everything in order to give way to
it, while she awaited the opportunity of making me her accomplice.
She was coaxing love to make it compliant, and to succeed in
mastering it, because her heart, enslaved by her senses, never
reproached her. She likewise tried to deceive herself by
endeavouring to forget that I might complain of having been
surprised. She knew that to utter such a complaint I would have to
acknowledge myself weaker or less courageous than she was, and she
relied upon my being ashamed to make such a confession. I had no
doubt whatever that the absence of the ambassador had been arranged
and concerted beforehand. I could see still further, for it seemed
evident to me that the two conspirators had foreseen that I would
guess the artifice, and that, feeling stung to the quick, in spite of
all my regrets, I would not shew myself less generous than they had
been themselves. The ambassador having first procured me a
delightful night, how could I refuse to let him enjoy as pleasant a
one? My friends had argued very well, for, in spite of all the
objections of my mind, I saw that I could not on my side put any
obstacle in their way. C---- C---- was no impediment to them. They
were certain of conquering her the moment she was not hindered by my
presence. It rested entirely with M---- M----, who had perfect
control over her. Poor girl! I saw her on the high road to
debauchery, and it was my own doing! I sighed when I thought how
little I had spared them in our last orgie, and what would become of
me if both of them should happen to be, by my doing, in such a
position as to be compelled to run away from the convent? I could
imagine both of them thrown upon my hands, and the prospect was not
particularly agreeable. It would be an 'embarras de richesse'. In
this miserable contest between reason and prejudice, between nature
and sentiment, I could not make up my mind either to go to the supper
or to remain absent from it. "If I go," said I to myself, "that
night will pass with perfect decency, but I shall prove myself very
ridiculous, jealous, ungrateful, and even wanting in common
politeness: if I remain absent, C---- C---- is lost, at least, in my
estimation, for I feel that my love will no longer exist, and then
good-bye to all idea of a marriage with her." In the perplexity of
mind in which I found myself, I felt a want of something more certain
than mere probabilities to base my decision upon. I put on my mask,
and repaired to the mansion of the French ambassador. I addressed
myself to the gate-keeper, saying that I had a letter for Versailles,
and that I would thank him to deliver it to the courier when he went
back to France with his excellency's dispatches.
"But, sir," answered the man, "we have not had a special courier for
the last two months:"
"What? Did not a special cabinet messenger arrive here last night?"
"Then he must have come in through the garret window or down the
chimney, for, on the word of an honest man, none entered through the
"But the ambassador worked all night?"
"That may be, sir, but not here, for his excellency dined with the
Spanish ambassador, and did not return till very late:"
I had guessed rightly. I could no longer entertain any doubt. It
was all over; I could not draw back without shame. C---- C---- must
resist, if the game was distasteful to her; no violence would of
course be offered to her. The die was cast!
Towards evening I went to the casino of Muran, and wrote a short note
to M---- M----, requesting her to excuse me if some important
business of M. de Bragadin's prevented me from spending the night
with her and with our two friends, to whom I sent my compliments as
well as my apologies. After that I returned to Venice, but in rather
an unpleasant mood; to divert myself I went to the gaming table, and
lost all night.
Two days afterwards, being certain that a letter from M---- M----
awaited me at Muran, I went over, and the door-keeper handed me a
parcel in which I found a note from my nun and a letter from C----
C----, for everything was now in common between them.
Here is C---- C ----'s letter"
"We were very sorry, dearest friend, when we heard that we should not
have the happiness of seeing you. My dear M---- M----'s friend came
shortly afterwards, and when he read your note he likewise expressed
his deep regret. We expected to have a very dull supper, but the
witty sayings of that gentleman enlivened us and you cannot imagine
of what follies we were guilty after partaking of some champagne
punch. Our friend had become as gay as ourselves, and we spent the
night in trios, not very fatiguing, but very pleasant. I can assure
you that that man deserves to be loved, but he must acknowledge
himself inferior to you in everything. Believe me, dearest, I shall
ever love you, and you must for ever remain the master of my heart."
In spite of all my vexation, that letter made me laugh, but the note
of M---- M---- was much more singular. Here are the contents of it:
"I am certain, my own beloved, that you told a story out of pure
politeness, but you had guessed that I expected you to do so. You
have made our friend a splendid present in exchange for the one he
made you when he did not object to his M---- M---- bestowing her
heart upon you. You possess that heart entirely, dearest, and you
would possess it under all circumstances, but how sweet it is to
flavour the pleasures of love with the charms of friendship! I was
sorry not to see you, but I knew that if you had come we would not
have had much enjoyment; for our friend, notwithstanding all his wit,
is not exempt from some natural prejudices. As for C---- C-----, her
mind is now quite as free of them as our own, and I am glad she owes
it to me. You must feel thankful to me for having completed her
education, and for rendering her in every way worthy of you. I wish
you had been hiding in the closet, where I am certain you would have
spent some delightful hours. On Wednesday next I shall be yours, and
all alone with you in your casino in Venice; let me know whether you
will be at the usual hour near the statue of the hero Colleoni. In
case you should be prevented, name any other day."
I had to answer those two letters in the same spirit in which they
had been written, and in spite of all the bitter feelings which were
then raging in my heart, my answers were to be as sweet as honey. I
was in need of great courage, but I said to myself: "George Dandin,
tu las voulu!" I could not refuse to pay the penalty of my own
deeds, and I have never been able to ascertain whether the shame I
felt was what is called shamefacedness. It is a problem which I
leave to others.
In my letter to C---- C---- I had the courage, or the effrontery, to
congratulate her, and to encourage her to imitate M---- M----, the
best model, I said, I could propose to her.
I wrote to my nun that I would be punctual at the appointment near
the statue, and amidst many false compliments, which ought to have
betrayed the true state of my heart, I told her that I admired the
perfect education she had given to C---- C-----, but that I
congratulated myself upon having escaped the torture I should have
suffered in the mysterious observatory, for I felt that I could not
have borne it.
On the Wednesday I was punctual at the rendezvous, and I had not to
wait long for M---- M----, who came disguised in male attire. "No
theatre to-night," she said to me; "let us go to the 'ridotto', to
lose or double our money." She had six hundred sequins. I had about
one hundred. Fortune turned her back upon us, and we lost a11. I
expected that we would then leave that cutthroat place, but M----
M----, having left me for a minute, came back with three hundred
sequins which had been given to her by her friend, whom she knew
where to find. That money given by love or by friendship brought her
luck for a short time, and she soon won back all we had lost, but in
our greediness or imprudence we continued to play, and finally we
lost our last sequin.
When we could play no longer, M---- M---- said to me,
"Now that we need not fear thieves, let us go to our supper."
That woman, religious and a Free-thinker, a libertine and gambler,
was wonderful in all she did. She had just lost five hundred pounds,
and she was as completely at her ease as if she had won a very large
sum. It is true that the money she had just lost had not cost her
As soon as we were alone, she found me sad and low-spirited, although
I tried hard not to appear so, but, as for her, always the same, she
was handsome, brilliant, cheerful, and amorous.
She thought she would bring back my spirits by giving me the fullest
particulars of the night she had passed with C---- C---- and her
friend, but she ought to have guessed that she was going the wrong
way. That is a very common error, it comes from the mind, because
people imagine that what they feel themselves others must feel
I was on thorns, and I tried everything to avoid that subject, and to
lead the conversation into a different channel, for the amorous
particulars, on which she was dwelling with apparent delight, vexed
me greatly, and spite causing coldness, I was afraid of not playing
my part very warmly in the amorous contest which was at hand. When a
lover doubts his own strength, he may almost always be sure that he
will fail in his efforts.
After supper we went to bed in the alcove, where the beauty, the
mental and physical charms, the grace and the ardour of my lovely
nun, cast all my bad temper to the winds, and soon restored me to my
usual good-spirits. The nights being shorter we spent two hours in
the most delightful pleasures, and then parted, satisfied and full of
Before leaving, M---- M---- asked me to go to her casino, to take
some money and to play, taking her for my partner. I did so. I took
all the gold I found, and playing the martingale, and doubling my
stakes continuously, I won every day during the remainder of the
carnival. I was fortunate enough never to lose the sixth card, and,
if I had lost it, I should have been without money to play, for I had
two thousand sequins on that card. I congratulated myself upon
having increased the treasure of my dear mistress, who wrote to me
that, for the sake of civility, we ought to have a supper 'en partie
carree' on Shrove Monday. I consented.
That supper was the last I ever had in my life with C---- C----. She
was in excellent spirits, but I had made up my mind, and as I paid
all my attentions to M---- M----, C---- C---- imitated my example
without difficulty, and she devoted herself wholly to her new lover.
Foreseeing that we would, a little later, be all of us in each
other's way, I begged M---- M---- to arrange everything so that we
could be apart, and she contrived it marvellously well.
After supper, the ambassador proposed a game of faro, which our
beauties did not know; he called for cards, and placed one hundred
Louis on the table before him; he dealt, and took care to make C----
C---- win the whole of that sum. It was the best way to make her
accept it as pin-money. The young girl, dazzled by so much gold, and
not knowing what to do with it, asked her friend to take care of it
for her until such time as she should leave the convent to get
When the game was over, M---- M---- complained of a headache, and
said that she would go to bed in the alcove: she asked me to come and
lull her to sleep. We thus left the new lovers free to be as gay as
they chose. Six hours afterwards, when the alarum warned us that it
was time to part, we found them asleep in each other's embrace. I
had myself passed an amorous and quiet night, pleased with M----
M----, and with out giving one thought to C---- C----.
M. De Bernis Goes Away Leaving Me the Use of His Casino--His Good
Advice: How I Follow It--Peril of M. M. and Myself--Mr. Murray, the
English Ambassador--Sale of the Casino and End of Our Meetings--
Serious Illness of M. M.--Zorzi and Condulmer--Tonnie
Though the infidelities of C---- C----made me look at her with other
eyes than before, and I had now no intention of making her the
companion of my life, I could not help feeling that it had rested
with me to stop her on the brink of the stream, and I therefore
considered it my duty always to be her friend.
If I had been more logical, the resolution I took with respect to her
would doubtless have been of another kind. I should have said to
myself: After seducing her, I myself have set the example of
infidelity; I have bidden her to follow blindly the advice of her
friend, although I knew that the advice and the example of M--- M----
would end in her ruin; I had insulted, in the most grievous manner,
the delicacy of my mistress, and that before her very eyes, and after