Part 21 out of 70
all this how could I ask a weak woman to do what a man, priding
himself on his strength, would shrink from at tempting? I should
have stood self-condemned, and have felt that it was my duty to
remain the same to her, but flattering myself that I was overcoming
mere prejudices, I was in fact that most degraded of slaves, he who
uses his strength to crush the weak.
The day after Shrove Tuesday, going to the casino of Muran, I found
there a letter from M---- M----, who gave me two pieces of bad news:
that C---- C---- had lost her mother, and that the poor girl was in
despair; and that the lay-sister, whose rheum was cured, had returned
to take her place. Thus C---- C---- was deprived of her friend at a
time when she would have given her consolation, of which she stood in
great need. C---- C----, it seemed, had gone to share the rooms of
her aunt, who, being very fond of her, had obtained permission from
the superior. This circumstance would prevent the ambassador taking
any more suppers with her, and I should have been delighted if chance
had put this obstacle in his path a few days sooner.
All these misfortunes seemed of small account com pared with what I
was afraid of, for C---- C---- might have to pay the price for her
pleasures, and I so far regarded myself as the origin of her
unhappiness as to feel bound never to abandon her, and this might
have involved me in terrible complications.
M---- M---- asked me to sup with her and her lover on the following
Monday. I went and found them both sad--he for the loss of his new
mistress, and she because she had no longer a friend to make the
seclusion of the convent pleasant.
About midnight M. de Bemis left us, saying in a melancholy manner
that he feared he should be obliged to pass several months in Vienna
on important diplomatic business. Before parting we agreed to sup
together every Friday.
When we were alone M---- M---- told me that the ambassador would be
obliged to me if in the future I would come to the casino two hours
later. I understood that the good-natured and witty profligate had a
very natural prejudice against indulging his amorous feelings except
when he was certain of being alone.
M. de Bemis came to all our suppers till he left for Vienna, and
always went away at midnight. He no longer made use of his hiding-
place, partly because we now only lay in the recess, and partly
because, having had time to make love before my arrival, his desires
were appeased. M---- M---- always found me amorous. My love,
indeed, was even hotter than it had been, since, only seeing her once
a week and remaining faithful to her, I had always an abundant
harvest to gather in. C---- C----'s letters which she brought to me
softened me to tears, for she said that after the loss of her mother
she could not count upon the friendship of any of her relations. She
called me her sole friend, her only protector, and in speaking of her
grief in not being able to see me any more whilst she remained in the
convent, she begged me to remain faithful to her dear friend.
On Good Friday, when I got to the casino, I found the lovers over-
whelmed with grief. Supper was served, but the ambassador, downcast
and absent, neither ate nor spoke; and M---- M---- was like a statue
that moves at intervals by some mechanism. Good sense and ordinary
politeness prevented me from asking any questions, but on M---- M----
leaving us together, M. de Bemis told me that she was distressed,
and with reason, since he was obliged to set out for Vienna fifteen
days after Easter. "I may tell you confidentially," he added, "that
I believe I shall scarcely be able to return, but she must not be
told, as she would be in despair." M---- M---- came back in a few
minutes, but it was easy to see that she had been weeping.
After some commonplace conversation, M. de Bernis, seeing M----M----
still low-spirited, said,
"Do not grieve thus, sweetheart, go I must, but my return is a matter
of equal certainty when I have finished the important business which
summons me to Vienna. You will still have the casino, but, dearest,
both friendship and prudence make me advise you not to come here in
my absence, for after I have left Venice I cannot depend upon the
faith of the gondoliers in my service, and I suspect our friend here
cannot flatter himself on his ability to get reliable ones. I may
also tell you that I have strong reasons for suspecting that our
intercourse is known to the State Inquisitors, who conceal their
knowledge for political reasons, but I fancy the secret would soon
come to light when I am no longer here, and when the nun who connives
at your departure from the convent knows that it is no longer for me
that you leave it. The only people whom I would trust are the
housekeeper and his wife. I shall order them, before I go, to look
upon our friend here as myself, and you can make your arrangements
with them. I trust all will go well till my return, if you will only
behave discreetly. I will write to you under cover of the
housekeeper, his wife will give you my letters as before, and in the
same way you may reply. I must needs go, dearest one, but my heart
is with you, and I leave you, till my return, in the hands of a
friend, whom I rejoice to have known. He loves you, he has a heart
and knowledge of the world, and he will not let you make any
M---- M---- was so affected by what the ambassador had said that she
entreated us to let her go, as she wished to be alone and to lie
down. As she went we agreed to sup together on the following
As soon as we were alone the ambassador impressed me with the
absolute necessity of concealing from her that he was going to return
no more. "I am going," said he, "to work in concert with the
Austrian cabinet on a treaty which will be the talk of Europe. I
entreat you to write to me unreservedly, and as a friend, and if you
love our common mistress, have a care for her honour, and above all
have the strength of mind to resist all projects which are certain to
involve you in misfortune, and which will be equally fatal to both.
You know what happened to Madame de Riva, a nun in the convent of
St.----. She had to disappear after it became known that she was
with child, and M. de Frulai, my predecessor, went mad, and died
shortly after. J. J. Rousseau told me that he died of poison, but he
is a visionary who sees the black side of everything. For my part, I
believe that he died of grief at not being able to do anything for
the unfortunate woman, who afterwards procured a dispensation from
her vows from the Pope, and having got married is now living at Padua
without any position in society.
"Let the prudent and loyal friend master the lover: go and see M----
M---- sometimes in the parlour of the convent, but not here, or the
boatmen will betray you. The knowledge which we both have that the
girls are in a satisfactory condition is a great alleviation to my
distress, but you must confess that you have been very imprudent.
You have risked a terrible misfortune; consider the position you
would have been in, for I am sure you would not have abandoned her.
She had an idea that the danger might be overcome by means of drugs
but I convinced her that she was mistaken. In God's name, be
discreet in the future, and write to me fully, for I shall always be
interested in her fate, both from duty and sentiment."
We returned together to Venice, where we separated, and I passed the
rest of the night in great distress. In the morning I wrote to the
fair afflicted, and whilst endeavouring to console her to the best of
my ability, I tried to impress on her the necessity for prudence and
the avoidance of such escapades as might eventually ruin us.
Next day I received her reply, every word of which spelt despair.
Nature had given her a disposition which had become so intensified by
indulgence that the cloister was unbearable to her, and I foresaw the
hard fights I should have to undergo.
We saw each other the Thursday after Easter, and I told her that I
should not come to the casino before midnight. She had had four
hours to pass with her lover in tears and regrets, amongst which she
had often cursed her cruel fate and the foolish resolution which made
her take the veil. We supped together, and although the meal was a
rich and delicate one we did it little honour. When we had finished,
the ambassador left, entreating me to remain, which I did, without
thinking at all of the pleasures of a party of two, for Love lighteth
not his torch at the hearts of two lovers who are full of grief and
sorrow. M---- M---- had grown thin, and her condition excited my
pity and shut out all other feelings. I held her a long time in my
arms, covering her with tender and affectionate kisses, but I shewed
no intention of consoling her by amusements in which her spirit could
not have taken part. She said, before we parted, that I had shewn
myself a true lover, and she asked me to consider myself from
henceforth as her only friend and protector.
Next week, when we were together as usual, M. de Bemis called the
housekeeper just before supper, and in his presence executed a deed
in my behalf, which he made him sign. In this document he
transferred to me all rights over the contents of the casino, and
charged him to consider me in all things as his master.
We arranged to sup together two days after, to make our farewells,
but on my arrival I found by herself, standing up, and pale as death,
or rather as white as a statue of Carrara marble.
"He is gone," she said, "and he leaves me to your care. Fatal being,
whom perchance I shall see no more, whom I thought I loved but as a
friend, now you are lost to me I see my mistake. Before I knew him I
was not happy, but neither was I unhappy as I now am."
I passed the whole night beside her, striving by the most delicate
attentions to soften her grief, but with out success. Her character,
as abandoned to sorrow as to pleasure, was displayed to me during
that long and weary night. She told me at what hour I should come to
the convent parlour, the next day, and on my arrival I was delighted
to find her not quite so sad. She shewed me a letter which her lover
had written to her from Trevisa, and she then told me that I must
come and see her twice a week, warning me that she would be
accompanied sometimes by one nun and sometimes by another, for she
foresaw that my visits would become the talk of the convent, when it
became known that I was the individual who used to go to mass at
their church. She therefore told me to give in another name, to
prevent C---- C----'s aunt from becoming suspicious.
"Nevertheless," she added, "this will not prevent my coming alone
when I nave any matter of importance to communicate to you. Promise
me, sweetheart, to sup and sleep at the casino at least once a week,
and write me a note each time by the housekeeper's wife."
I made no difficulty in promising her that much.
We thus passed a fortnight quietly enough, as she was happy again,
and her amorous inclinations had returned in full force. About this
time she gave me a piece of news which delighted me--namely, that
C---- C---- had no longer anything to fear.
Full of amorous wishes and having to be content with the teasing
pleasure of seeing one another through a wretched grating, we racked
our brains to find out some way to be alone together to do what we
liked, without any risk.
"I am assured," she said, "of the good faith of the gardener's
sister. I can go out and come in without fear of being seen, for the
little door leading to the convent is not overlooked by any window--
indeed it is thought to be walled up. Nobody can see me crossing the
garden to the little stream, which is considered unnavigable. All we
want is a one-oared gondola, and I cannot believe that with the help
of money you will be unable to find a boatman on whom we may rely."
I understood from these expressions that she suspected me of becoming
cold towards her, and this suspicion pierced me to the heart.
"Listen," said I, "I will be the boatman myself. I will come to the
quay, pass by the little door, and you shall lead me to your room
where I will pass the whole night with you, and the day, too, if you
think you can hide me."
"That plan," said she, "makes me shudder. I tremble at the danger to
which you might be exposed. No, I should be too unfortunate if I
were to be the cause of your misfortune, but, as you can row, come in
the boat, let me know the time as closely as possible; the trusty
woman will be on the watch, and I will not keep you four minutes
waiting. I will get into the boat, we will go to our beloved casino,
and then we shall be happy without fearing anything."
"I will think it over"
The way I took to satisfy her was as follows: I bought a small boat,
and without telling her I went one night all by myself round the
island to inspect the walls of the convent on the side of the lagune.
With some difficulty I made out a little door, which I judged to be
the only one by which she could pass, but to go from there to the
casino was no small matter, since one was obliged to fetch a wide
course, and with one oar I could not do the passage in less than a
quarter of an hour, and that with much toil. Nevertheless, feeling
sure of success, I told my pretty nun of the plan, and never was news
received with so much pleasure. We set our watches together, and
fixed our meeting for the Friday following.
On the day appointed, an hour before sunset, I betook myself to St.
Francis de la Vigne, where I kept my boat, and having set it in order
and dressed myself as a boatman, I got upon the poop and held a
straight course for the little door, which opened the moment I
arrived. M---- M---- came out wrapped in a cloak, and someone
shutting the door after her she got on board my frail bark, and in a
quarter of an hour we were at the casino. M---- M---- made haste to
go in, but I stayed to belay my boat with a lock and chain against
thieves, who pass the night pleasantly by stealing whatever they can
lay hands on.
Though I had rowed easily enough, I was in a bath of perspiration,
which, however, by no means hindered my charming mistress from
falling on my neck; the pleasure of meeting seemed to challenge her
love, and, proud of what I had done, I enjoyed her transports.
Not dreaming that I should have any occasion for a change of linen, I
had brought none with me, but she soon found a cure for this defect;
for after having undressed me she dried me lovingly, gave me one of
her smocks, and I found myself dressed to admiration.
We had been too long deprived of our amorous pleasures to think of
taking supper before we had offered a plenteous sacrifice to love.
We spent two hours in the sweetest of intoxications, our bliss
seeming more acute than at our first meeting. In spite of the fire
which consumed me, in spite of the ardour of my mistress, I was
sufficiently master of myself to disappoint her at the critical
moment, for the picture which our friend had drawn was always before
my eyes. M---- M----, joyous and wanton, having me for the first
time in the character of boatman, augmented our delights by her
amorous caprices, but it was useless for her to try to add fuel to my
flame, since I loved her better than myself.
The night was short, for she was obliged to return at three in the
morning, and it struck one as we sat down to table. As the climax of
ill luck a storm came on whilst we were at supper. Our hair stood on
end; our only hope was founded in the nature of these squalls, which
seldom last more than an hour. We were in hopes, also, that it would
not leave behind it too strong a wind, as is sometimes the case, for
though I was strong and sturdy I was far from having the skill or
experience of a professional boatman.
In less than half an hour the storm became violent, one flash of
lightning followed another, the thunder roared, and the wind grew to
a gale. Yet after a heavy rain, in less than an hour, the sky
cleared, but there was no moon, it being the day after the Ascension.
Two o'clock stuck. I put my head out at the window, but perceive
that a contrary gale is blowing.
'Ma tiranno del mar Libecchio resta.'
This Libecchio which Ariosto calls--and with good reason--the tyrant
of the sea, is the southwesterly wind, which is commonly called
'Garbin' at Venice. I said nothing, but I was frightened. I told my
sweetheart that we must needs sacrifice an hour of pleasure, since
prudence would have it so.
"Let us set out forthwith, for if the gale gets stronger I shall not
be able to double the island."
She saw my advice was not to be questioned, and taking the key of her
strong box, whence she desired to get some money, she was delighted
to find her store increased fourfold. She thanked me for having told
her nothing about it, assuring me she would have of me nothing but my
heart, and following me she got into my boat and lay down at full
length so as not to hinder its motion, I got upon the poop, as full
of fear as courage, and in five minutes I had the good luck to double
the point. But there it was that the tyrant was waiting for me, and
it was not long before I felt that my strength would not outlast that
of the winds. I rowed with all my strength, but all I could do was
to prevent my boat from going back. For half an hour I was in this
pitiful state, and I felt my strength failing without daring to say a
word. I was out of breath, but could not rest a moment, since the
least relaxation would have let the boat slip a far way back, and
this would have been a distance hard to recover. M---- M---- lay
still and silent, for she perceived I had no breath wherewith to
answer her. I began to give ourselves up as lost.
At that instant I saw in the distance a barque coming swiftly towards
us. What a piece of luck! I waited till she caught us up, for if I
had not done so I should not have been able to make myself heard, but
as soon as I saw her at my left hand, twelve feet off, I shouted,
"Help! I will give two sequins!"
They lowered sail and came towards me, and on their hailing me I
asked for a man to take us to the opposite point of the island. They
asked a sequin in advance, I gave it them, and promised the other to
the man who would get on my poop and help me to make the point. In
less than ten minutes we were opposite to the little stream leading
to the convent, but the secret of it was too dear to be hazarded, so
as soon as we reached the point I paid my preserver and sent him
back. Henceforth the wind was in our favour, and we soon got to the
little door, where M---- M---- landed, saying to me, "Go and sleep in
the casino." I thought her advice wise, and I followed it, and
having the wind behind me I got to the casino without trouble, and
slept till broad day. As soon as I had risen I wrote to my dear
mistress that I was well, and that we should see each other at the
grating. Having taken my boat back to St. Francis, I put on my mask
and went to Liston.
In the morning M---- M---- came to the grating by herself, and we
made all such observations as our adventures of the night would be
likely to suggest, but in place of deciding to follow the advice
which prudence should have given us-namely, not to expose ourselves
to danger for the future, we thought ourselves extremely prudent in
resolving that if we were again threatened by a storm we would set
out as soon as we saw it rising. All the same we had to confess that
if chance had not thrown the barque in our way we should have been
obliged to return to the casino, for M---- M---- could not have got
to the convent, and how could she ever have entered its walls again?
I should have been forced to leave Venice with her, and that for
ever. My life would have been finally and irretrievably linked with
hers, and, without doubt, the various adventures which at the age of
seventy-two years impel me to write these Memoirs, would never have
For the next three months we continued to meet each other once a
week, always amorous, and never disturbed by the slightest accidents.
M---- M---- could not resist giving the ambassador a full account of
our adventures, and I had promised to write to him, and always to
write the whole truth. He replied by congratulating us on our good
fortune, but he prophesied inevitable disaster if we had not the
prudence to stop our intercourse.
Mr. Murray, the English ambassador, a witty and handsome man, and a
great amateur of the fair sex, wine, and good cheer, then kept the
fair Ancilla, who introduced me to him. This fine fellow became my
friend in much the same way as M. de Bernis, the only difference
being that the Frenchman liked to look on while the Englishman
preferred to give the show. I was never unwelcome at their amorous
battles, and the voluptuous Ancilla was delighted to have me for a
witness. I never gave them the pleasure of mingling in the strife.
I loved M---- M----, but I should avow that my fidelity to her was
not entirely dependent on my love. Though Ancilla was handsome she
inspired me with repugnance, for she was always hoarse, and
complained of a sharp pain in the throat, and though her lover kept
well, I was afraid of her, and not without cause, for the disease
which ended the days of Francis I. of France brought her to the grave
in the following autumn. A quarter of an hour before she died, her
brave Briton, yielding to the lascivious requests of this new
Messalina, offered in my presence the last sacrifice, in spite of a
large sore on her face which made her look hideous.
This truly heroic action was known all over the town, and it was
Murray himself who made it known, citing me as his witness.
This famous courtezan, whose beauty was justly celebrated, feeling
herself eaten away by an internal disease, promised to give a hundred
louis to a doctor named Lucchesi, who by dint of mercury undertook to
cure her, but Ancilla specified on the agreement that she was not to
pay the aforesaid sum till Lucchesi had offered with her an amorous
The doctor having done his business as well as he could wished to be
paid without submitting to the conditions of the treaty, but Ancilla
held her ground, and the matter was brought before a magistrate.
In England, where all agreements are binding, Ancilla would have won
her case, but at Venice she lost it.
The judge, in giving sentence, said a condition, criminal per se, not
fulfilled, did not invalidate an agreement--a sentence abounding in
wisdom, especially in this instance.
Two months before this woman had become disgusting, my friend M.
Memmo, afterwards procurator, asked me to take him to her house. In
the height of the conversation, what should come but a gondola, and
we saw Count Rosemberg, the ambassador from Vienna, getting out of
it. M. Memmo was thunderstruck (for a Venetian noble conversing with
a foreign ambassador becomes guilty of treason to the state), and ran
in hot haste from Ancilla's room, I after him, but on the stair he
met the ambassador, who, seeing his distress, burst into a laugh, and
passed on. I got directly into M. Memmo's gondola, and we went
forthwith to M. Cavalli, secretary to the State Inquisitors.
M. Memmo could have taken no better course to avoid the troublesome
consequences which this fatal meeting might have had, and he was very
glad that I was with him to testify to his innocence and to the
harmlessness of the occurrence.
M. Cavalli received M. Memmo with a smile, and told him he did well
to come to confession without wasting any time. M. Memmo, much
astonished at this reception, told him the brief history of the
meeting, and the secretary replied with a grave air that he had no
doubt as to the truth of his story, as the circumstances were in
perfect correspondence with what he knew of the matter.
We came away extremely puzzled at the secretary's reply, and
discussed the subject for some time, but then we came to the
conclusion that M. Cavalli could have had no positive knowledge of
the matter before we came, and that he only spoke as he did from the
instinct of an Inquisitor, who likes it to be understood that nothing
is hid from him for a moment.
After the death of Ancilla, Mr. Murray remained without a titular
mistress, but, fluttering about like a butterfly, he had, one after
another, the prettiest girls in Venice. This good-natured Epicurean
set out for Constantinople two years later, and was for twenty years
the ambassador of the Court of St. James at the Sublime Porte. He
returned to Venice in 1778 with the intention of ending his days
there, far from affairs of state, but he died in the lazaretto eight
days before the completion of his quarantine.
At play fortune continued to favour me; my commerce with M---- M----
could not be discovered now that I was my own waterman ; and the nuns
who were in the secret were too deeply involved not to keep it. I
led them a merry life, but I foresaw that as soon as M. de Bernis
decided to let M---- M---- know that he would not return to Venice,
he would recall his people, and we should then have the casino no
longer. I knew, besides, that when the rough season came on it would
be impossible for me by myself to continue our voyages.
The first Monday in October, when the theatres are opened and masks
may be worn, I went to St. Francis to get my boat, and thence to
Muran for my mistress, afterwards making for the casino. The nights
were now long enough for us to have ample time for enjoyment, so we
began by making an excellent supper, and then devoted ourselves to
the worship of Love and Sleep. Suddenly, in the midst of a moment of
ecstasy, I heard a noise in the direction of the canal, which aroused
my suspicions, and I rushed to the window. What was my astonishment
and anger to see a large boat taking mine in tow! Nevertheless,
without giving way to my passion, I shouted to the robbers that I
would give them ten sequins if they would be kind enough to return me
A shout of laughter was all the reply they made, and not believing
what I said they continued their course. What was I to do? I dared
not cry, "Stop thief!" and not being endued with the power of walking
on the water dry-footed, I could not give chase to the robbers. I
was in the utmost distress, and for the moment M---- M---- shewed
signs of terror, for she did not see how I could remedy this
I dressed myself hastily, giving no more thoughts to love, my only
comfort being that I had still two hours to get the indispensable
boat, should it cost me a hundred sequins. I should have been in no
perplexity if I had been able to take one, but the gondoliers would
infallibly make proclamation over the whole of Muran that they had
taken a nun to such a convent, and all would have been lost.
The only way, then, that was open to me was either to buy a boat or
to steal one. I put my pistols and dagger in my pocket, took some
money, and with an oar on my shoulder set out.
The robbers had filed the chain of my boat with a silent file; this I
could not do, and I could only reckon on having the good luck to find
a boat moored with cords.
Coming to the large bridge I saw boats and to spare, but there were
people on the quay, and I would not risk taking one. Seeing a tavern
open at the end of the quay I ran like a madman, and asked if there
were any boatmen there; the drawer told me there were two, but that
they were drunk. I came up to them, and said, "Who will take me to
Venice for eighty sous?"
"I," and "I"; and they began to quarrel as to who should go. I
quieted them by giving forty sous to the more drunken of the two, and
I went out with the other.
As soon as we were on our way, I said,
"You are too drunk to take me, lend me your boat, and I will give it
you back to-morrow."
"I don't know you."
"I will deposit ten sequins, but your boat is not worth that. Who
will be your surety?"
He took me back to the tavern, and the drawer went bail for him.
Well pleased, I took my man to the boat, and having furnished it with
a second oar and two poles he went away, chuckling at having made a
good bargain, while I was as glad to have had the worst of it. I had
been an hour away, and on entering the casino found my dear M----
M---- in an agony, but as soon as she saw my beaming face all the
laughter came back on hers. I took her to the convent, and then went
to St. Francis, where the keeper of the boathouse looked as if he
thought me a fool, when I told him that I had trucked away my boat
for the one I had with me. I put on my mask, and went forthwith to
my lodging and to bed, for these annoyances had been too much for me.
About this time my destiny made me acquainted with a nobleman called
Mark Antony Zorzi, a man of parts and famous for his skill in writing
verses in the Venetian dialect. Zorzi, who was very fond of the
play, and desired to offer a sacrifice to Thalia, wrote a comedy
which the audience took the liberty of hissing; but having persuaded
himself that his piece only failed through the conspiracies of the
Abbe Chiari, who wrote for the Theatre of St. Angelo, he declared
open war against all the abbe's plays.
I felt no reluctance whatever to visit M. Zorzi, for he possessed an
excellent cook and a charming wife. He knew that I did not care for
Chiari as an author, and M. Zorzi had in his pay people who, without
pity, rhyme, or reason, hissed all the compositions of the
ecclesiastical playwright. My part was to criticise them in hammer
verses--a kind of doggerel then much in fashion, and Zorzi took care
to distribute my lucubrations far and wide. These manoeuvres made me
a powerful enemy in the person of M. Condulmer, who liked me none the
better for having all the appearance of being in high favour with
Madame Zorzi, to whom before my appearance he had paid diligent
court. This M. Condulmer was to be excused for not caring for me,
for, having a large share in the St. Angelo Theatre, the failure of
the abbe's pieces was a loss to him, as the boxes had to be let at a
very low rent, and all men are governed by interested motives.
This M. Condulmer was sixty years old, but with all the greenness of
youth he was still fond of women, gaming, and money, and he was, in
fact, a money-lender, but he knew how to pass for a saint, as he took
care to go to mass every morning at St. Mark's, and never omitted to
shed tears before the crucifix. The following year he was made a
councillor, and in that capacity he was for eight months a State
Inquisitor. Having thus attained this diabolically-eminent, or
eminently-diabolical, position, he had not much difficulty in shewing
his colleagues the necessity of putting me under The Leads as a
disturber of the peace of the Republic. In the beginning of the
winter the astounding news of the treaty between France and Austria
was divulged--a treaty by which the political balance was entirely
readjusted, and which was received with incredulity by the Powers.
The whole of Italy had reason to rejoice, for the treaty guarded that
fair land from becoming the theatre of war on the slightest
difference which might arise between the two Powers. What astonished
the most acute was that this wonderful treaty was conceived and
carried out by a young ambassador who had hitherto been famed only as
a wit. The first foundations had been laid in 1750 by Madame de
Pompadour, Count Canes (who was created a prince), and M. l'Abbe de
Bernis, who was not known till the following year, when the king made
him ambassador to Venice. The House of Bourbon and the House of
Hapsburg had been foes for two hundred and forty years when this
famous treaty was concluded, but it only lasted for forty years, and
it is not likely that any treaty will last longer between two courts
so essentially opposed to one another.
The Abbe de Bernis was created minister for foreign affairs some time
after the ratification of the treaty; three years after he re-
established the parliament, became a cardinal, was disgraced, and
finally sent to Rome, where he died. 'Mors ultimo linea rerum est'.
Affairs fell out as I had foreseen, for nine months after he left
Venice he conveyed to M---- M---- the news of his recall, though he
did it in the most delicate manner. Nevertheless, M---- M---- felt
the blow so severely that she would very possibly have succumbed, had
I not been preparing her for it in every way I could think of M. de
Bernis sent me all instructions.
He directed that all the contents of the casino should be sold and
the proceeds given to M---- M----, with the exception of the books
and prints which the housekeeper was ordered to bring to Paris. It
was a nice breviary for a cardinal, but would to God they had nothing
Whilst M---- M---- abandoned herself to grief I carried out the
orders of M. de Bernis, and by the middle of January we had no longer
a casino. She kept by her two thousand sequins and her pearls,
intending to sell them later on to buy herself an annuity.
We were now only able to see each other at the grating; and soon,
worn with grief, she fell dangerously ill, and on the 2nd of February
I recognized in her features the symptoms of approaching death. She
sent me her jewel-case, with all her diamonds and nearly all her
money, all the scandalous books she possessed, and all her letters,
telling me that if she did not die I was to return her the whole, but
that all belonged to me if, as she thought, she should succumb to the
disease. She also told me that C---- C---- was aware of her state,
and asked me to take pity on her and write to her, as my letters were
her only comfort, and that she hoped to have strength to read them
till her latest breath.
I burst into tears, for I loved her passionately, and I promised her
to come and live in Muran until she recovered her health.
Having placed the property in a gondola, I went to the Bragadin
Palace to deposit it, and then returned to Muran to get Laura to find
me a furnished room where I could live as I liked. "I know of a good
room, with meals provided," she said; "you will be quite comfortable
and will get it cheaply, and if you like to pay in advance, you need
not even say who you are. The old man to whom the house belongs
lives on the ground floor; he will give you all the keys and if you
like you need see no one."
She gave me the address, and I went there on the spot, and having
found everything to my liking I paid a month in advance and the thing
was done. It was a little house at the end of a blind alley abutting
on the canal. I returned to Laura's house to tell her that I wanted
a servant to get my food and to make my bed, and she promised to get
me one by the next day.
Having set all in order for my new lodging, I returned to Venice and
packed my mails as if I were about to make a long journey. After
supper I took leave of M. de Bragadin and of his two friends,
telling them that I was going to be away for several weeks on
Next day, going to my new room, I was surprised to find there Tonine,
Laura's daughter, a pretty girl not more than fifteen years old, who
told me with a blush, but with more spirit than I gave her credit
for, that she would serve me as well as her mother would have done.
I was in too much distress to thank Laura for this pretty present,
and I even determined that her daughter should not stay in my
service. We know how much such resolutions are commonly worth. In
the meanwhile I was kind to the girl: "I am sure," I said, "of your
goodwill, but I must talk to your mother. I must be alone," I added,
"as I have to write all day, and I shall not take anything till the
evening." She then gave me a letter, begging pardon for not having
given it me sooner. "You must never forget to deliver messages,"
I said, "for if you had waited any longer before bringing me this
letter, it might have had the most serious consequences." She
blushed, begged pardon, and went out of the room. The letter was
from C---- C----, who told me that her friend was in bed, and that
the doctor had pronounced her illness to be fever. I passed the rest
of the day in putting my room in order, and in writing to C---- C----
and her suffering friend.
Towards evening Tonine brought in the candles, and told me that my
supper was ready. "Follow me," I said. Seeing that she had only
laid supper for one--a pleasing proof of her modesty, I told her to
get another knife and fork, as I wished her always to take her meals
with me. I can give no account of my motives. I only wished to be
kind to her, and I did everything in good faith. By and by, reader,
we shall see whether this is not one of the devices by which the
devil compasses his ends.
Not having any appetite, I ate little, but I thought everything good
with the exception of the wine; but Tonine promised to get some
better by the next day, and when supper was over she went to sleep in
After sealing my letters, wishing to know whether the outer door was
locked, I went out and saw Tonine in bed, sleeping peacefully, or
pretending to do so. I might have suspected her thoughts, but I had
never been in a similar situation, and I measured the extremity of my
grief by the indifference with which I looked at this girl; she was
pretty, but for all that I felt that neither she nor I ran any risk.
Next day, waking very early, I called her, and she came in neatly
dressed. I gave her my letter to C---- C----, which enclosed the
letter to M---- M----, telling her to take it to her mother and then
to return to make my coffee.
"I shall dine at noon, Tonine," I said, "take care to get what is
necessary in good time."
"Sir, I prepared yesterday's supper myself, and if you like I can
cook all your meals."
"I am satisfied with your abilities, go on, and here is a sequin for
"I still have a hundred and twenty sous remaining from the one you
gave me yesterday, and that will be enough."
"No, they are for yourself, and I shall give you as much every day."
Her delight was so great that I could not prevent her covering my
hand with kisses. I took care to draw it back and not to kiss her in
return, for I felt as if I should be obliged to laugh, and this would
have dishonoured my grief.
The second day passed like the first. Tonine was glad that I said no
more about speaking to her mother, and drew the conclusion that her
services were agreeable to me. Feeling tired and weak, and fearing
that I should not wake early enough to send the letter to the
convent, but not wishing to rouse Tonine if she were asleep, I called
her softly. She rose immediately and came into my room with nothing
on but a slight petticoat. Pretending to see nothing, I gave her my
letter, and told her to take it to her mother in the morning before
she came into my room. She went out, saying that my instructions
should be carried out, but as soon as she was gone I could not resist
saying to myself that she was very pretty; and I felt both sad and
ashamed at the reflection that this girl could very easily console
me. I hugged my grief, and I determined to separate myself from a
being who made me forget it.
"In the morning," I said, "I will tell Laura to get me something less
seducing;" but the night brought counsel, and in the morning I put on
the armour of sophism, telling myself that my weakness was no fault
of the girl's, and that it would therefore be unjust to punish her
for it. We shall see, dear reader, how all this ended.
Continues the Preceding Chapter--M. M. Recovers--I Return to Venice--
Tonine Consoles Me--Decrease of My Love For M. M.--Doctor Righelini--
Curious Conversation With Him--How This Conversation Affected M. M.--
Mr. Murray Undeceived and Avenged
Tontine had what is called tact and common sense, and thinking these
qualities were required in our economy she behaved with great
delicacy, not going to bed before receiving my letters, and never
coming into my room except in a proper dress, and all this pleased
me. For a fortnight M---- M---- was so ill that I expected every
moment to hear the news of her death. On Shrove Tuesday C---- C----
wrote that her friend was not strong enough to read my letter, and
that she was going to receive 'extreme unction'. This news so
shocked me that I could not rise, and passed the whole day in weeping
and writing, Tonine not leaving me till midnight. I could not sleep.
On Ash Wednesday I got a letter, in which C---- C---- told me that
the doctor had no hopes for her friend, and that he only gave her a
fortnight to live. A low fever was wasting her away, her weakness
was extreme, and she could scarcely swallow a little broth. She had
also the misfortune to be harassed by her confessor, who made her
foretaste all the terrors of death. I could only solace my grief by
writing, and Tonine now and again made bold to observe that I was
cherishing my grief, and that it would be the death of me. I knew
myself that I was making my anguish more poignant, and that keeping
to my bed, continued writing, and no food, would finally drive me
mad. I had told my grief to poor Tonine, whose chief duty was to
wipe away my tears. She had compassion on me.
A few days later, after assuring C---- C---- that if our friend died
I should not survive her, I asked her to tell M---- M---- that if she
wanted me to take care of my life she must promise to let me carry
her off on her recovery.
"I have," I said, "four thousand sequins and her diamonds, which are
worth six thousand; we should, therefore, have a sufficient sum to
enable us to live honourably in any part of Europe."
C---- C---- wrote to me on the following day, and said that my
mistress, after hearing my letter read, had fallen into a kind of
convulsion, and, becoming delirious, she talked incessantly in French
for three whole hours in a fashion which would have made all the nuns
take to their heels, if they had understood her. I was in despair,
and was nearly raving as wildly as my poor nun. Her delirium lasted
three days, and as soon as she got back her reason she charged her
young friend to tell me that she was sure to get well if I promised
to keep to my word, and to carry her off as soon as her health would
allow. I hastened to reply that if I lived she might be sure my
promise would be fulfilled.
Thus continuing to deceive each other in all good faith, we got
better, for every letter from C---- C----, telling me how the
convalescence of her friend was progressing, was to me as balm. And
as my mind grew more composed my appetite also grew better, and my
health improving day by day, I soon, though quite unconsciously,
began to take pleasure in the simple ways of Tonine, who now never
left me at night before she saw that I was asleep.
Towards the end of March M---- M---- wrote to me herself, saying that
she believed herself out of danger, and that by taking care she hoped
to be able to leave her room after Easter. I replied that I should
not leave Muran till I had the pleasure of seeing her at the grating,
where, without hurrying ourselves, we could plan the execution of our
It was now seven weeks since M. de Bragadin had seen me, and thinking
that he would be getting anxious I resolved to go and see him that
very day. Telling Tonine that I should not be back till the evening,
I started for Venice without a cloak, for having gone to Muran masked
I had forgotten to take one. I had spent forty-eight days without
going out of my room, chiefly in tears and distress, and without
taking any food. I had just gone through an experience which
flattered my self-esteem. I had been served by a girl who would have
passed for a beauty anywhere in Europe. She was gentle, thoughtful,
and delicate, and without being taxed with foppishness I think I may
say that, if she was not in love with me, she was at all events
inclined to please me to the utmost of her ability; for all that I
had been able to withstand her youthful charms, and I now scarcely
dreaded them. Seeing her every day, I had dispersed my amorous
fancies, and friendship and gratitude seemed to have vanquished all
other feelings, for I was obliged to confess that this charming girl
had lavished on me the most tender and assiduous care.
She had passed whole nights on a chair by my bedside, tending me like
a mother, and never giving me the slightest cause for complaint.
Never had I given her a kiss, never had I allowed myself to undress
in her presence, and never (with one exception) had she come into my
room without being properly dressed. For all that, I knew that I had
fought a battle, and I felt inclined to boast at having won the
victory. There was only one circumstance that vexed me--namely, that
I was nearly certain that neither M. M. nor C. C. would consider such
continence to be within the bounds of possibility, if they heard of
it, and that Laura herself, to whom her daughter would tell the whole
story, would be sceptical, though she might out of kindness pretend
to believe it all.
I got to M. de Bragadin's just as the soup was being served. He
welcomed me heartily, and was delighted at having foreseen that I
should thus surprise them. Besides my two other old friends, there
were De la Haye, Bavois, and Dr. Righelini at table.
"What! you without a cloak!" said M. Dandolo.
"Yes," said I; "for having gone out with my mask on I forgot to
At this they laughed, and, without putting myself out, I sat down.
No one asked where I had been so long, for it was understood that
that question should be left to me to answer or not. Nevertheless,
De la Haye, who was bursting with curiosity, could not refrain from
breaking some jests on me.
"You have got so thin," said he, "that uncharitable people will be
rather hard on you."
"I trust they will not say that I have been passing my time with the
"You are sarcastic. They may say, perhaps, that you have passed your
time in a hot-house under the influence of Mercury."
"Don't be afraid, sir, for to escape this hasty judgment I shall go
back this evening."
"No, no, I am quite sure you will not."
"Believe me, sir," said I, with a bantering tone, "that I deem your
opinion of too much consequence not to be governed by it."
Seeing that I was in earnest, my friends were angry with him; and the
Aristarchus was in some confusion.
Righelini, who was one of Murray's intimate friends, said to me in a
friendly way that he had been longing to tell Murray of my re-
appearance, and of the falsity of all the reports about me.
"We will go to sup with him," said I, "and I will return after
Seeing that M. de Bragadin and his two friends were uneasy about me,
I promised to dine with them on April 25th, St. Mark's Day.
As soon as Mr. Murray saw me, he fell on my neck and embraced me. He
introduced me to his wife, who asked me to supper with great
politeness. After Murray had told me the innumerable stories which
had been made about my disappearance, he asked me if I knew a little
story by the Abbe Chiari, which had come out at the end of the
carnival. As I said that I knew nothing about it, he gave me a copy,
telling me that I should like it. He was right. It was a satire in
which the Zorzi clique was pulled to pieces, and in which I played a
very poor part. I did not read it till some time after, and in the
mean time put it in my pocket. After a very good supper I took a
gondola to return to Muran.
It was midnight and very dark, so that I did not perceive the gondola
to be ill covered and in wretched order. A fine rain was falling
when I got in, and the drops getting larger I was soon wet to the
skin. No great harm was done, as I was close to my quarters. I
groped my way upstairs and knocked at the door of the ante-room,
where Tonine, who had not waited for me, was sleeping.
Awake in a moment she came to open the door in her smock, and without
a light. As I wanted one, I told her to get the flint and steel,
which she did, warning me in a modest voice that she was not dressed.
"That's of no consequence," said I, "provided you are covered." She
said no more, and soon lighted a candle, but she could not help
laughing when she saw me dripping wet.
"I only want you, my dear," said I, "to dry my hair." She quickly
set to work with powder and powder-puff in hand, but her smock was
short and loose at the top, and I repented, rather too late, that I
had not given her time to dress. I felt that all was lost, all the
more as having to use both her hands she could not hold her smock and
conceal two swelling spheres more seductive than the apples of the
Hesperides. How could I help seeing them? I shut my eyes and, said
"For shame!" but I gave in at last, and fixed such a hungry gaze upon
poor Tonine that she blushed. "Come," said I, "take your smock
between your teeth and then I shall see no more." But it was worse
than before, and I had only added fuel to the fire; for, as the veil
was short, I could see the bases and almost the frieze of two marble
columns; and at this sight I gave a voluptuous cry. Not knowing how
to conceal everything from my gaze, Tonine let herself fall on the
sofa, and I, my passions at fever-heat, stood beside her, not knowing
what to do.
"Well," she said, "shall I go and dress myself and then do your
"No, come and sit on my knee, and cover my eyes with your hands."
She came obediently, but the die was cast, and my resistance
overcome. I clasped her between my arms, and without any more
thoughts of playing at blind man's buff I threw her on the bed and
covered her with kisses. And as I swore that I would always love
her, she opened her arms to receive me in a way that shewed how long
she had been waiting for this moment.
I plucked the rose, and then, as ever, I thought it the rarest I had
ever gathered since I had laboured in the harvest of the fruitful
fields of love.
When I awoke in the morning I found myself more deeply in love with
Tonine than I had been with any other woman. She had got up without
waking me, but as soon as she heard me stirring she came, and I
tenderly chid her for not waiting for me to give her good morrow.
Without answering she gave me M---- M---- 's letter. I thanked her,
but putting the letter on one side I took her in my arms, and set her
by my side. "What a wonder!" cried Tonine. "You are not in a hurry
to read that letter! Faithless man, why did you not let me cure you
six weeks ago. How lucky I am; thanks to the rain! I do not blame
you, dear, but love me as you love her who writes to you every day,
and I shall be satisfied."
"Do you know who she is?"
"She lives in a boarding-house, and is as beautiful as an angel; but
she is there, and I am here. You are my master, and I will be your
servant as long as you like."
I was glad to leave her in error, and swore an ever-lasting love; but
during our conversation she had let herself drop down in the bottom
of the bed, and I entreated her to lie down again; but she said that
on the contrary it was time for me to get up for dinner, for she
wanted to give me a dainty meal cooked in the Venetian manner.
"Who is the cook?" said I.
"I am, and I have been using all my skill on it since five, when I
"What time is it now, then?"
The girl astonished me. She was no longer the shy Tonine of last
night; she had that exultant air which happiness bestows, and the
look of pleasure which the delights of love give to a young beauty.
I could not understand how I had escaped from doing homage to her
beauty when I first saw her at her mother's house. But I was then
too deeply in love with C---- C----; I was in too great distress;
and, moreover, Tonine was then unformed. I got up, and making her
bring me a cup of coffee I asked her to keep the dinner back for a
couple of hours.
I found M---- M----'s letter affectionate, but not so interesting as
it would have been the day before. I set myself to answer it, and
was almost thunderstruck to find the task, for the first time, a
painful one. However, my short journey to Venice supplied me with
talk which covered four pages.
I had an exquisite dinner with my charming Tonine. Looking at her as
at the same time my wife, my mistress, and my housekeeper, I was
delighted to find myself made happy at such a cheap rate. We spent
the whole day at the table talking of our love, and giving each other
a thousand little marks of it; for there is no such rich and pleasant
matter for conversation as when they who talk are parties to an
amorous suit. She told with charming simplicity that she knew
perfectly well that she could not make me amorous of her, because I
loved another, and that her only hope was therefore in a surprise,
and that she had foreseen the happy moment when I told her that she
need not dress herself to light a candle.
Tonine was naturally quick-witted, but she did not know either how to
read or to write. She was enchanted to see herself become rich (for
she thought herself so) without a soul at Muran being able to breathe
a word against her honour. I passed three weeks in the company of
this delightful girl--weeks which I still reckon among the happiest
of my life; and what embitters my old age is that, having a heart as
warm as ever, I have no longer the strength necessary to secure a
single day as blissful as those which I owed to this charming girl.
Towards the end of April I saw M. M. at the grating, looking thin and
much changed, but out of danger. I therefore returned to Venice. In
my interview, calling my attachment and tender feelings to my aid, I
succeeded in behaving myself in such wise that she could not possibly
detect the change which a new love had worked in my heart. I shall
be, I trust, easily believed when I say that I was not imprudent
enough to let her suspect that I had given up the idea of escaping
with her, upon which she counted more than ever. I was afraid lest
she should fall ill again, if I took this hope away from her. I kept
my casino, which cost me little, and as I went to see M. M. twice a
week I slept there on those occasions, and made love with my dashing
Having kept my word with my friends by dining with them on St. Mark's
Day, I went with Dr. Righelini to the parlour of the Vierges to see
the taking of the veil.
The Convent of the Vierges is within the jurisdiction of the Doge,
whom the nuns style "Most Serene Father." They all belong to the
first families in Venice.
While I was praising the beauty of Mother M---- E----- to Dr.
Righelini, he whispered to me that he could get her me for a money
payment, if I were curious in the matter. A hundred sequins for her
and ten sequins for the go-between was the price fixed on. He
assured me that Murray had had her, and could have her again. Seeing
my surprise, he added that there was not a nun whom one could not
have by paying for her: that Murray had the courage to disburse five
hundred sequins for a nun of Muran--a rare beauty, who was afterwards
the mistress of the French ambassador.
Though my passion for M---- M---- was on the wane, I felt my heart
gripped as by a hand of ice, and it was with the greatest difficulty
that I made no sign. Notwithstanding, I took the story for an
atrocious calumny, but yet the matter was too near my heart for me to
delay in bringing it to light at the earliest opportunity. I
therefore replied to Righelini in the calmest manner possible, that
one or two nuns might be had for money, but that it could happen very
rarely on account of the difficulties in most convents.
"As for the nun of Muran, justly famous for her beauty, if she be
M---- M----, nun of the convent..., I not only disbelieve that Murray
ever had her, but I am sure she was never the French ambassador's
mistress. If he knew her it could only have been at the grating,
where I really cannot say what happens."
Righelini, who was an honourable and spirited man, answered me coldly
that the English ambassador was a man of his word, and that he had
the story from his own lips.
"If Mr. Murray," he continued, "had not told it me under the seal of
secrecy I would make him tell it you himself. I shall be obliged if
you will take care that he never knows I told you of it."
"You may rely on my discretion."
The same evening, supping at Murray's casino with Righelini, having
the matter at heart, and seeing before me the two men who could clear
up everything to my satisfaction, I began to speak with enthusiasm of
the beauty of M---- E----, whom I had seen at the Vierges.
Here the ambassador struck in, taking the ball on the hop:
"Between friends," said he, "you can get yourself the enjoyment of
those charms, if you are willing to sacrifice a sum of money--not too
much, either, but you must have the key."
"Do you think you have it?"
"No, I am sure; and had less trouble than you might suppose."
"If you are sure; I congratulate you, and doubt no more. I envy your
fortune, for I don't believe a more perfect beauty could be found in
all the convents of Venice."
"There you are wrong. Mother M---- M----, at ---- in Muran, is
"I have heard her talked of and I have seen her once, but I do not
think it possible that she can be procured for money."
"I think so," said he, laughing, "and when I think I mostly have good
"You surprise me; but all the same I don't mind betting you are
"You would lose. As you have only seen her once, I suppose you would
not recognize her portrait?"
"I should, indeed, as her face left a strong impression on my mind."
"Wait a minute."
He got up from the table, went out, and returned a minute after with
a box containing eight or ten miniatures, all in the same style,
namely, with hair in disorder and bare necks.
"These," said I, "are rare charms, with which you have doubtless a
"Yes, and if you recognize any of them be discreet."
"You need not be afraid. Here are three I recognize, and this looks
like M---- M----; but confess that you may have been deceived--at
least, that you did not have her in the convent or here, for there
are women like her."
"Why do you think I have been deceived? I have had her here in her
religious habit, and I have spent a whole night with her; and it was
to her individually that I sent a purse containing five hundred
sequins. I gave fifty to the good procurer."
"You have, I suppose, visited her in the parlour, after having her
"No, never, as she was afraid her titular lover might hear of it.
You know that was the French ambassador."
"But she only saw him in the parlour;"
"She used to go to his house in secular dress whenever he wanted her.
I was told that by the man who brought her here."
"Have you had her several times?"
"Only once and that was enough, but I can have her whenever I like
for a hundred sequins."
"All that may be the truth, but I would wager five hundred sequins
that you have been deceived."
"You shall have your answer in three days."
I was perfectly certain, I repeat, that the whole affair was a piece
of knavery; but it was necessary to have it proved, and I shuddered
when the thought came into my head that after all it might be a true
story. In this case I should have been freed from a good many
obligations, but I was strongly persuaded of her innocence. At all
events, if I were to find her guilty (which was amongst possible
occurrences), I resigned myself to lose five hundred sequins as the
price of this horrible discovery and addition to my experience of
life. I was full of restless anguish--the worst, perhaps, of the
torments of the mind. If the honest Englishman had been the victim
of a mystification, or rather knavery, my regard for M---- M----'s
honour compelled me to find a way to undeceive him without
compromising her; and such was my plan, and thus fortune favoured me.
Three or four days after, Mr. Murray told the doctor that he wished
to see me. We went to him, and he greeted me thus:
"I have won; for a hundred sequins I can have the fair nun!
"Alas!" said I, "there go my five hundred sequins."
"No, not five hundred, my dear fellow, for I should be ashamed to win
so much of you, but the hundred she would cost me. If I win, you
shall pay for my pleasure, and if I lose I shall give her nothing."
"How is the problem to be solved?" "My Mercury tells me that we must
wait for a day when masks are worn. He is endeavouring at present to
find out a way to convince both of us; for otherwise neither you nor
I would feel compelled to pay the wager, and if I really have M. M.
my honour would not allow me to let her suspect that I had betrayed
"No, that would be an unpardonable crime. Hear my plan, which will
satisfy us both; for after it has been carried out each of us will be
sure that he has fairly won or fairly lost.
"As soon as you have possessed yourself of the real or pretended nun,
leave her on some pretext, and meet me in a place to be agreed upon.
We will then go together to the convent, and I will ask for M. M.
"Will seeing her and speaking to her convince you that the woman you
have left at home is a mere impostor?"
"Perfectly, and I shall pay my wager with the greatest willingness."
"I may say the same. If, when I summon M. M. to the parlour, the
lay-sister tells us she is ill or busy, we will go, and the wager
will be yours; you will sup with the fair, and I will go elsewhere."
"So be it; but since all this will be at nighttime, it is possible
that when you ask for her, the sister will tell you that no one can
be seen at such an hour."
"Then I shall lose."
"You are quite sure, then, that if she be in the convent she will
"That's my business. I repeat, if you don't speak to her, I shall
hold myself to have lost a hundred sequins, or a thousand if you
"One can't speak plainer than that, my dear fellow, and I thank you
"The only thing I ask you is to come sharp to time; and not to come
too late for a convent."
"Will an hour after sunset suit you?"
"I shall also make it my business to compel my masked mistress to
stop where she is, even though it be M. M. herself."
"Some won't have long to wait, if you will take her to a casino which
I myself possess at Muran, and where I secretly keep a girl of whom I
am amorous. I will take care that she shall not be there on the
appointed day, and I will give you the key of the casino. I shall
also see that you find a delicate cold supper ready."
"That is admirable, but I must be able to point out the place to my
"True! I will give you a supper to-morrow, the greatest secrecy to
be observed between us. We will go to my casino in a gondola, and
after supper we will go out by the street door; thus you will know
the way by land and water. You will only have to tell the procurer
the name of the canal and of the house, and on the day fixed you
shall have the key. You will only find there an old man who lives on
the ground floor, and he will see neither those who go out nor those
who come in. My sweetheart will see nothing and will not be seen;
and all, trust me, will turn out well."
"I begin to think that I have lost my bet," said the Englishman, who
was delighted with the plan; "but it matters not, I can gaily
encounter either loss or gain." We made our appointment for the next
day, and separated.
On the following morning I went to Muran to warn Tonine that I was
going to sup with her, and to bring two of my friends; and as my
English friend paid as great court to Bacchus as to Cupid, I took
care to send my little housekeeper several bottles of excellent wine.
Charmed with the prospect of doing the honours of the table, Tonine
only asked me if my friends would go away after supper. I said yes,
and this reply made her happy; she only cared for the dessert.
After leaving her I went to the convent and passed an hour with M. M.
in the parlour. I was glad to see that she was getting back her
health and her beauty every day, and having complimented her upon it
I returned to Venice. In the evening my two friends kept their
appointments to the minute, and we went to my little casino at two
hours after sunset.
Our supper was delicious, and my Tonine charmed me with the
gracefulness of her carriage. I was delighted to see Righelini
enchanted, and the ambassador dumb with admiration. When I was in
love I did not encourage my friends to cajole my sweetheart, but I
became full of complaisance when time had cooled the heat of my
We parted about midnight, and having taken Mr. Murray to the spot
where I was to wait for him on the day of trial, I returned to
compliment my charming Tonine as she deserved. She praised my two
friends, and could not express her surprise at seeing our English
friend going away, fresh and nimble on his feet, notwithstanding his
having emptied by himself six bottles of my best wine. Murray looked
like a fine Bacchus after Rubens.
On Whit Sunday Righelini came to tell me that the English ambassador
had made all arrangements with the pretended procurer of M. M. for
Whit Tuesday. I gave him the keys of my abode at Muran, and told him
to assure Murray that I would keep the appointment at the exact time
My impatience brought on palpitation of the heart, which was
extremely painful, and I passed the two nights without closing an
eye; for although I was convinced of M---- M----'s innocence, my
agitation was extreme. But whence all this anxiety? Merely from a
desire to see the ambassador undeceived. M. M. must in his eyes have
seemed a common prostitute, and the moment in which he would be
obliged to confess himself the victim of roguery would re-establish
the honour of the nun.
Mr. Murray was as impatient as myself, with this difference, that
whereas he, looking upon the adventure as a comic one, only laughed,
I who found it too tragic shuddered with indignation.
On Tuesday morning I went to Muran to tell Tonine to get a cold
supper after my instruction, to lay the table for two, to get wax
lights ready, and having sent in several bottles of wine I bade her
keep to the room occupied by the old landlord, and not to come out
till the people who were coming in the evening were gone. She
promised to do so, and asked no questions. After leaving her I went
to the convent parlour, and asked to see M---- M----. Not expecting
to see me, she asked me why I had not gone to the pageant of the
Bucentaur, which, the weather being favourable, would set out on this
day. I do not know what I answered, but I know that she found my
words little to the purpose. I came at last to the important point,
and told her I was going to ask a favour of her, on which my peace of
mind depended, but which she must grant blindly without asking any
"Tell me what I am to do, sweetheart," said she, "and be sure I will
refuse nothing which may be in my power."
"I shall be here this evening an hour after sunset, and ask for you
at this grating; come. I shall be with another man, to whom I beg of
you to say a few words of politeness; you can then leave us. Let us
find some pretext to justify the unseasonable hour."
"I will do what you ask, but you cannot imagine how troublesome it is
in a convent, for at six o'clock the parlours are shut up and the
keys are taken to the abbess' room. However, as you only want me for
five minutes, I will tell the abbess that I am expecting a letter
from my brother, and that it can be sent to me on this evening only.
You must give me a letter that the nun who will be with me may be
able to say that I have not been guilty of deception."
"You will not come alone, then?"
"I should not dare even to ask for such a privilege."
"Very good, but try to come with some old nun who is short-sighted."
"I will keep the light in the background."
"Pray do not do so, my beloved; on the contrary, place it so that you
may be distinctly seen."
"All this is very strange, but I have promised passive obedience, and
I will come down with two lights. May I hope that you will explain
this riddle to me at your next interview?"
"By to-morrow, at latest, you shall know the whole story."
"My curiosity will prevent me from sleeping."
"Not so, dear heart; sleep peacefully, and be sure of my gratitude."
The reader will think that after this conversation my heart was
perfectly at rest; but how far was I from resting! I returned to
Venice, tortured lest I should be told in the evening at the door of
the cathedral, where we were to meet, that the nun had been obliged
to put off her appointment. If that had happened, I should not have
exactly suspected M---- M----, but the ambassador would have thought
that I had caused the scheme to miscarry. It is certain that in that
case I should not have taken my man to the parlour, but should have
gone there sadly by myself.
I passed the whole day in these torments, thinking it would never
come to an end, and in the evening I put a letter in my pocket, and
went to my post at the hour agreed upon.
Fortunately, Murray kept the appointment exactly.
"Is the nun there?" said I, as soon as he was near me.
"Yes, my dear fellow. We will go, if you like, to the parlour; but
you will find that we shall be told she is ill or engaged. If you
like, the bet shall be off."
"God forbid, my dear fellow! I cling to that hundred ducats. Let us
We presented ourselves at the wicket, and I asked for M---- M----,
and the doorkeeper made me breathe again by saying that I was
expected. I entered the parlour with my English friend, and saw that
it was lighted by four candles. I cannot recall these moments
without being in love with life. I take note not only of my noble
mistress's innocence, but also of the quickness of her wit. Murray
remained serious, without a smile on his face. Full of grace and
beauty, M---- M---- came into the room with a lay-sister, each of
them holding a candlestick. She paid me a compliment in good French;
I gave her the letter, and looking at the address and the seal she
put it in her pocket. After thanking me and saying she would reply
in due course, she turned towards my companion:
"I shall, perhaps, make you lose the first act of the opera," said
"The pleasure of seeing you, madam, is worth all the operas in the
"You are English, I think?"
"The English are now the greatest people in the world, because they
are free and powerful. Gentlemen, I wish you a very good evening."
I had never seen M---- M---- looking so beautiful as then, and I went
out of the parlour ablaze with love, and glad as I had never been
before. I walked with long strides towards my casino, without taking
notice of the ambassador, who did not hurry himself in following me;
I waited for him at my door.
"Well," said I, "are you convinced now that you have been cheated?"
"Be quiet, we have time enough to talk about that. Let us go
"Shall I come?"
"Do. What do you think I could do by myself for four hours with that
creature who is waiting for me? We will amuse ourselves with her."
"Had we not better turn her out?"
"No; her master is coming for her at two o'clock in the morning. She
would go and warn him, and he would escape my vengeance. We will
throw them both out of the window."
"Be moderate, for M---- M----s honour depends on the secrecy we
observe. Let us go upstairs. We shall have some fun. I should like
to see the hussy."
Murray was the first to enter the room. As soon as the girl saw me,
she threw her handkerchief over her face, and told the ambassador
that such behaviour was unworthy of him. He made no answer. She was
not so tall as M---- M----, and she spoke bad French.
Her cloak and mask were on the bed, but she was dressed as a nun. As
I wanted to see her face, I politely asked her to do me the favour of
"I don't know you," said she; "who are you?"
"You are in my house, and don't know who I am?"
"I am in your house because I have been betrayed. I did not think
that I should have to do with a scoundrel."
At this word Murray commanded her to be silent, calling her by the
name of her honourable business; and the slut got up to take her
cloak, saying she would go. Murray pushed her back, and told her
that she would have to wait for her worthy friend, warning her to
make no noise if she wanted to keep out of prison.
"Put me in prison!"
With this she directed her hand towards her dress, but I rushed
forward and seized one hand while Murray mastered the other. We
pushed her back on a chair while we possessed ourselves of the
pistols she carried in her pockets.
Murray tore away the front of her holy habit, and I extracted a
stiletto eight inches long, the false nun weeping bitterly all the
"Will you hold your tongue, and keep quiet till Capsucefalo comes,"
said the ambassador, "or go to prison?"
"If I keep quiet what will become of me?"
"I promise to let you go."
"Very well, then, I will keep quiet."
"Have you got any more weapons?"
Hereupon the slut took off her habit and her petticoat, and if we had
allowed her she would have soon been in a state of nature, no doubt
in the expectation of our passions granting what our reason refused.
I was much astonished to find in her only a false resemblance to
M.M. I remarked as much to the ambassador, who agreed with me, but
made me confess that most men, prepossessed with the idea that they
were going to see M. M., would have fallen into the same trap. In
fact, the longing to possess one's self of a nun who has renounced
all the pleasures of the world, and especially that of cohabitation
with the other sex, is the very apple of Eve, and is more delightful
from the very difficulty of penetrating the convent grating.
Few of my readers will fail to testify that the sweetest pleasures
are those which are hardest to be won, and that the prize, to obtain
which one would risk one's life, would often pass unnoticed if it
were freely offered without difficulty or hazard.
In the following chapter, dear reader, you will see the end of this
farcical adventure. In the mean time, let us take a little breath.
Pleasant Ending of the Adventure of the False Nun--M. M. Finds Out
That I Have d Mistress--She is Avenged on the Wretch Capsucefalo--
I Ruin Myself at Play, and at the Suggestion of M. M. I Sell all Her
Diamonds, One After Another--I Hand Over Tonine to Murray, Who Makes
Provision for Her--Her Sister Barberine Takes Her Place.
How did you make this nice acquaintance?" I asked the ambassador.
"Six months ago," he replied, "while standing at the convent gate
with Mr. Smith, our consul, in whose company I had been to see some
ceremony or other, I remarked to him, as we were talking over some
nuns we had noticed, 'I would gladly give five hundred sequins for a
few hours of Sister M---- M----s company.' Count Capsucefalo heard
what I said, but made no remark. Mr. Smith answered that one could
only see her at the grating as did the ambassador of France, who
often came to visit her. Capsucefalo called on me the next morning,
and said that if I had spoken in good faith he was sure he could get
me a night with the nun in whatever place I liked, if she could count
on my secrecy. 'I have just been speaking to her,' said he, 'and on
my mentioning your name she said she had noticed you with Mr. Smith,
and vowed she would sup with you more for love than money. 'I,' said
the rascal, 'am the only man she trusts, and I take her to the French
ambassador's casino in Venice whenever she wants to go there. You
need not be afraid of being cheated, as you will give the money to
her personally when you have possessed yourself of her.' With this
he took her portrait from his pocket and shewed it me; and here it
is. I bought it of him two days after I believed myself to have
spent a night with the charming nun, and a fortnight after our
conversation. This beauty here came masked in a nun's habit, and I
was fool enough to think I had got a treasure. I am vexed with
myself for not having suspected the cheat--at all events, when I saw
her hair, as I know that nuns' hair should be cut short. But when I
said something about it to the hussy, she told me they were allowed
to keep their hair under their caps, and I was weak enough to believe
I knew that on this particular Murray had not been deceived, but I
did not feel compelled to tell him so then and there.
I held the portrait Murray had given me in my hand, and compared it
with the face before me. In the portrait the breast was bare, and as
I was remarking that painters did those parts as best they could, the
impudent wench seized the opportunity to shew me that the miniature
was faithful to nature. I turned my back upon her with an expression
of contempt which would have mortified her, if these creatures were
ever capable of shame. As we talked things over, I could not help
laughing at the axiom, Things which are equal to the same thing are
equal to one another, for the miniature was like M. M. and like the
courtezan, and yet the two women were not like each other. Murray
agreed with me, and we spent an hour in a philosophical discussion on
the matter. As the false M. M. was named Innocente, we expressed a
wish to know how her name agreed with her profession, and how the
knave had induced her to play the part she had taken; and she told us
the following story:
"I have known Count Capsucefalo for two years, and have found him
useful, for, though he has given me no money, he has made me profit
largely through the people he has introduced to me. About the end of
last autumn he came to me one day, and said that if I could make up
as a nun with some clothes he would get me, and in that character
pass a night with an Englishman, I should be the better by five
hundred sequins. 'You need not be afraid of anything,' said he, 'as
I myself will take you to the casino where the dupe will be awaiting
you, and I will come and take you back to your imaginary convent
towards the end of the night. He shewed me how I must behave, and
told me what to reply if my lover asked any questions about the
discipline of the convent.
"I liked the plot, gentlemen, and I told him I was ready to carry it
out. And be pleased to consider that there are not many women of my
profession who would hesitate over a chance of getting five hundred
sequins. Finding the scheme both agreeable and profitable, I
promised to play my part with the greatest skill. The bargain was
struck, and he gave me full instructions as to my dialogue. He told
me that the Englishman could only talk about my convent and any
lovers I might have had; that on the latter point I was to cut him
short, and to answer with a laugh that I did not know what he was
talking about, and even to tell him that I was a nun in appearance
only, and that in the course of toying I might let him see my hair.
'That,' said Capsucefalo, 'won't prevent him from thinking you a nun
--yes! and the very nun he is amorous of, for he will have made up
his mind that you cannot possibly be anyone else.' Seizing the point
of the jest, I did not take the trouble to find out the name of the
nun I was to represent, nor the convent whence I was to come; the
only thing in my head was the five hundred sequins. So little have I
troubled about aught else that, though I passed a delicious night
with you, and found you rather worthy of being paid for than paying,
I have not ascertained who and what you are, and I don't know at this
moment to whom I am speaking. You know what a night I had; I have
told you it was delicious, and I was happy in the idea that I was
going to have another. You have found everything out. I am sorry,
but I am not afraid of anything, since I can put on any disguise I
like, and can't prevent my lovers taking me for a saint if they like
to do so. You have found weapons in my possession, but everyone is
allowed to bear arms in self-defence. I plead not guilty on all
"Do you know me?" said I.
"No, but I have often seen you passing under my window. I live at
St. Roch, near the bridge."
The way in which the woman told her yarn convinced us that she was an
adept in the science of prostitution, but we thought Capsucefalo, in
spite of the count, worthy of the pillory. The girl was about ten
years older than M. M., she was pretty, but light-complexioned, while
my beautiful nun had fine dark brown hair and was at least three
After twelve o'clock we sat down to supper, and did honour to the
excellent meal which my dear Antoinette had prepared for us. We were
cruel enough to leave the poor wretch without offering her so much as
a glass of wine, but we thought it our duty.
While we were talking, the jolly Englishman made some witty comments
on my eagerness to convince him that he had not enjoyed M. M.'s
"I can't believe," said he, "that you have shewn so much interest
without being in love with the divine nun."
I answered by saying that if I were her lover I was much to be pitied
in being condemned to go to the parlour, and no farther.
"I would gladly give a hundred guineas a month," said he, "to have
the privilege of visiting her at the grating."
So saying he gave me my hundred sequins, complimenting me on my
success, and I slipped them forthwith into my pocket.
At two o'clock in the morning we heard a soft knock on the street
"Here is our friend," I said, "be discreet, and you will see that he
will make a full confession."
He came in and saw Murray and the lady, but did not discover that a
third party was present till he heard the ante-room door being
locked. He turned round and saw me, and as he knew me, merely said,
without losing countenance:
"Ah, you are here; you know, of course, that the secret must be
Murray laughed and calmly asked him to be seated, and he enquired,
with the lady's pistols in his hands, where he was going to take her
"I think you may be mistaken, as it is very possible that when you
leave this place you will both of you be provided with a bed in
"No, I am not afraid of that happening; the thing would make too much
noise, and the laugh would not be on your side. Come," said he to
his mate, "put on your cloak and let us be off."
The ambassador, who like an Englishman kept quite cool the whole
time, poured him out a glass of Chambertin, and the blackguard drank
his health. Murray seeing he had on a fine ring set with brilliants,
praised it, and shewing some curiosity to see it more closely he drew
it off the fellow's finger, examined it, found it without flaw, and
asked how much it was worth. Capsucefalo, a little taken aback, said
it cost him four hundred sequins.
"I will hold it as a pledge for that sum," said the ambassador,
putting the ring into his pocket. The other looked chop-fallen, and
Murray laughing at his retiring manners told the girl to put on her
cloak and to pack off with her worthy acolyte. She did so directly,
and with a low bow they disappeared.
"Farewell, nun procurer!" said the ambassador, but the count made no
As soon as they were gone I thanked Murray warmly for the moderation
he had shewn, as a scandal would have only injured three innocent
"Be sure," said he, "that the guilty parties shall be punished
without anyone's knowing the reason"
I then made Tonine come upstairs, and my English friend offered her a
glass of wine, which she declined with much modesty and politeness.
Murray looked at her with flaming glances, and left after giving me
his heartiest thanks.
Poor little Tonine had been resigned, and obedient for many hours,
and she had good cause to think I had been unfaithful to her;
however, I gave her the most unmistakable proofs of my fidelity. We
stayed in bed for six hours, and rose happy in the morning.
After dinner I hurried off to my noble M---- M----, and told her the
whole story. She listened eagerly, her various feelings flitting
across her face. Fear, anger, wrath, approval of my method of
clearing up my natural suspicions, joy at discovering me still her
lover--all were depicted in succession in her glance, and in the play
of her features, and in the red and white which followed one another
on her cheeks and forehead. She was delighted to hear that the
masker who was with me in the parlour was the English ambassador, but
she became nobly disdainful when I told her that he would gladly give
a hundred guineas a month for the pleasure of visiting her in the
parlour. She was angry with him for fancying that she had been in
his power, and for finding a likeness between her and a portrait,
when, so she said, there was no likeness at all; I had given her the
portrait. She added, with a shrewd smile, that she was sure I had
not let my little maid see the false nun, as she might have been
"You know, do you, that I have a young servant?"
"Yes, and a pretty one, too. She is Laura's daughter, and if you
love her I am very glad, and so is C---- C----. I hope you will let
me have a sight of her. C---- C---- has seen her before."
As I saw that she knew too much for me to be able to deceive her, I
took my cue directly and told her in detail the history of my amours.
She shewed her satisfaction too openly not to be sincere. Before I
left her she said her honour obliged her to get Capsucefalo
assassinated, for the wretch had wronged her beyond pardon. By way
of quieting her I promised that if the ambassador did not rid us of
him within the week I would charge myself with the execution of our
About this time died Bragadin the procurator, brother of my patron,
leaving M. de Bragadin sufficiently well off. However, as the family
threatened to become extinct, he desired a woman who had been his
mistress, and of whom he had had a natural son, to become his wife.
By this marriage the son would have become legitimate, and the family
renewed again. The College of Cardinals would have recognized the
wife for a small fee, and all would have gone admirably.
The woman wrote to me, asking me to call on her; and I was going to,
curious to know what a woman, whom I did not know from Adam, could
want with me, when I received a summons from M. de Bragadin. He
begged me to ask Paralis if he ought to follow De la Haye's advice in
a matter he had promised not to confide to me, but of which the
oracle must be informed. The oracle, naturally opposed to the
Jesuit, told him to consult his own feelings and nothing else. After
this I went to the lady.
She began by telling me the whole story. She introduced her son to
me, and told me that if the marriage could be performed, a deed would
be delivered in my favour by which, at the death of M. de Bragadin,
I should become entitled to an estate worth five thousand crowns per
As I guessed without much trouble that this was the same matter which
De la Haye had proposed to M. de Bragadin, I answered without
hesitation that since De la Haye was before me I could do nothing,
and thereupon made her my bow.
I could not help wondering at this Jesuit's continually intriguing to
marry my old friends without my knowledge. Two years ago, if I had
not set my face against it, he would have married M. Dandolo. I
cared not a whit whether the family of Bragadin became extinct or
not, but I did care for the life of my benefactor, and was quite sure
that marriage would shorten it by many years; he was already sixty-
three, and had recovered from a serious apoplectic stroke.
I went to dine with Lady Murray (English-women who are daughters of
lords keep the title), and after dinner the ambassador told me that
he had told M. Cavalli the whole story of the false nun, and that the
secretary had informed him, the evening before, that everything had
been done to his liking. Count Capsucefalo had been sent to
Cephalonia, his native country, with the order never to return to
Venice, and the courtezan had disappeared.
The fine part, or rather the fearful part, about these sentences is
that no one ever knows the reason why or wherefore, and that the lot
may fall on the innocent as well as the guilty. M. M. was delighted
with the event, and I was more pleased than she, for I should have
been sorry to have been obliged to soil my hands with the blood of
that rascally count.
There are seasons in the life of men which may be called 'fasti' and
'nefasti'; I have proved this often in my long career, and on the
strength of the rubs and struggles I have had to encounter. I am
able, as well as any man, to verify the truth of this axiom. I had
just experienced a run of luck. Fortune had befriended me at play, I
had been happy in the society of men, and from love I had nothing to
ask; but now the reverse of the medal began to appear. Love was
still kind, but Fortune had quite left me, and you will soon see,
reader, that men used me no better than the blind goddess.
Nevertheless, since one's fate has phases as well as the moon, good
follows evil as disasters succeed to happiness.
I still played on the martingale, but with such bad luck that I was
soon left without a sequin. As I shared my property with M. M. I was
obliged to tell her of my losses, and it was at her request that I
sold all her diamonds, losing what I got for them; she had now only
five hundred sequins by her. There was no more talk of her escaping
from the convent, for we had nothing to live on! I still gamed, but
for small stakes, waiting for the slow return of good luck.
One day the English ambassador, after giving me a supper at his
casino with the celebrated Fanny Murray, asked me to let him sup at
my casino at Muran, which I now only kept up for the sake of Tonine.
I granted him the favour, but did not imitate his generosity. He
found my little mistress smiling and polite, but always keeping
within the bounds of decency, from which he would have very willingly
excused her. The next morning he wrote to me as follows:
"I am madly in love with Tonine. If you like to hand her over to me
I will make the following provision for her: I will set her up in a
suitable lodging which I will furnish throughout, and which I will
give to her with all its contents, provided that I may visit her
whenever I please, and that she gives me all the rights of a
fortunate lover. I will give her a maid, a cook, and thirty sequins
a month as provision for two people, without reckoning the wine,
which I will procure myself. Besides this I will give her a life
income of two hundred crowns per annum, over which she will have full
control after living with me for a year. I give you a week to send
I replied immediately that I would let him know in three days whether
his proposal were accepted, for Tonine had a mother of whom she was
fond, and she would possibly not care to do anything without her
consent. I also informed him that in all appearance the girl was
The business was an important one for Tonine. I loved her, but I
knew perfectly well that we could not pass the rest of our lives
together, and I saw no prospect of being able to make her as good a
provision as that offered by the ambassador. Consequently I had no
doubts on the question, and the very same day I went to Muran and
told her all.
"You wish to leave me, then," said she, in tears.
"I love you, dearest, and what I propose ought to convince you of my
"Not so; I cannot serve two masters."
"You will only serve your new lover, sweetheart. I beg of you to
reflect that you will have a fine dowry, on the strength of which you
may marry well; and that however much I love you I cannot possibly
make so good a provision for you."
"Leave me to-day for tears and reflection, and come to supper with me
I did not fail to keep the appointment.
"I think your English friend is a very pretty man," she said, "and
when he speaks in the Venetian dialect it makes me die with laughter.
If my mother agrees, I might, perhaps, force myself to love him.
Supposing we did not agree we could part at the end of a year, and I
should be the richer by an income of two hundred crowns."
"I am charmed with the sense of your arguments; speak about it to
"I daren't, sweetheart; this kind of thing is too delicate to be
discussed between a mother and her daughter speak to her yourself."
"I will, indeed."
Laura, whom I had not seen since she had given me her daughter, asked
for no time to think it over, but full of glee told me that now her
daughter would be able to soothe her declining years, and that she
would leave Muran of which she was tired. She shewed me a hundred
and thirty sequins which Tonine had gained in my service, and which
she had placed in her hands.
Barberine, Tonine's younger sister, came to kiss my hand. I thought
her charming, and I gave her all the silver in my pocket. I then
left, telling Laura that I should expect her at my house. She soon
followed me, and gave her child a mother's blessing, telling her that
she and her family could go and live in Venice for sixty sous a day.
Tonine embraced her, and told her that she should have it.
This important affair having been managed to everybody's
satisfaction, I went to see M---- M----, who came into the parlour
with C---- C----, whom I found looking sad, though prettier than
ever. She was melancholy, but none the less tender. She could not
stay for more than a quarter of an hour for fear of being seen, as
she was forbidden ever to go into the parlour. I told M. M. the
story of Tonine, who was going to live with Murray in Venice; she was
sorry to hear it, "for," said she, "now that you have no longer any
attraction at Muran, I shall see you less than ever." I promised to
come and see her often, but vain promises! The time was near which
parted us for ever.
The same evening I went to tell the good news to my friend Murray.
He was in a transport of joy, and begged me to come and sup with him
at his casino the day after next, and to bring the girl with me, that
the surrender might be made in form. I did not fail him, for once
the matter was decided, I longed to bring it to an end. In my
presence he assigned to her the yearly income for her life of two
hundred Venetian ducats, and by a second deed he gave her all the
contents of the house with which he was going to provide her,
provided always that she lived with him for a year. He allowed her
to receive me as a friend, also to receive her mother and sisters,
and she was free to go and see them when she would. Tonine threw her
arms about his neck, and assured him that she would endeavour to
please him to the utmost of her ability. "I will see him," said she,
pointing to me, "but as his friend he shall have nothing more from
me." Throughout this truly affecting scene she kept back her tears,
but I could not conceal mine. Murray was happy, but I was not long a
witness of his good fortune, the reason of which I will explain a
Three days afterwards Laura came to me, told me that she was living
in Venice, and asked me to take her to her daughter's. I owed this
woman too much to refuse her, and I took her there forthwith. Tonine
gave thanks to God, and also to me, and her mother took up the song,
for they were not quite sure whether they were more indebted to God
or to me. Tonine was eloquent in her praise of Murray, and made no
complaint at my not having come to see her, at which I was glad. As
I was going Laura asked me to take her back in my gondola, and as we
had to pass by the house in which she lived she begged me to come in
for a moment, and I could not hurt her feelings by refusing. I owe
it to my honour to remark here that I was thus polite without
thinking that I should see Barberine again.
This girl, as pretty as her sister, though in another style, began by
awakening my curiosity--a weakness which usually renders the
profligate man inconstant. If all women were to have the same
features, the same disposition, and the same manners, men would not
only never be inconstant, but would never be in love. Under that
state of things one would choose a wife by instinct and keep to her
till death, but our world would then be under a different system to
the present. Novelty is the master of the soul. We know that what
we do not see is very nearly the same as what we have seen, but we
are curious, we like to be quite sure, and to attain our ends we give
ourselves as much trouble as if we were certain of finding some prize
Barberine, who looked upon me as an old friend--for her mother had
accustomed her to kiss my hand whenever I went there, who had
undressed more than once in my presence without troubling about me,
who knew I had made her sister's fortune and the family fortune as
well, and thought herself prettier than Tonine because her skin was
fairer, and because she had fine black eyes, desiring to take her
sister's place, knew that to succeed she must take me by storm. Her
common sense told her that as I hardly ever came to the house, I
should not be likely to become amorous of her unless she won me by
storm; and to this end she shewed the utmost complaisance when she
had the chance, so that I won her without any difficulty. All this
reasoning came from her own head, for I am sure her mother gave her
no instructions. Laura was a mother of a kind common the world over,
but especially in Italy. She was willing to take advantage of the
earnings of her daughters, but she would never have induced them to
take the path of evil. There her virtue stopped short.
After I had inspected her two rooms and her little kitchen, and had
admired the cleanness which shone all around, Barberine asked me if I
would like to see their small garden.
"With pleasure," I replied, "for a garden is a rarity in Venice."
Her mother told her to give me some figs if there were any ripe ones.
The garden consisted of about thirty square feet, and grew only salad
herbs and a fine fig tree. It had not a good crop, and I told her
that I could not see any figs.
"I can see some at the top," said Barberine, "and I will gather them
if you will hold me the ladder."
"Yes, climb away; I will hold it quite firmly."
She stepped up lightly, and stretching out an arm to get at some figs
to one side of her, she put her body off its balance, holding on to
the ladder with the other hand.
"My dear Barberine, what do you think I can see?"
"What you have often seen with my sister."
"That's true! but you are prettier than she is."
The girl made no reply, but, as if she could not reach the fruit, she
put her foot on a high branch, and spewed me the most seductive
picture. I was in an ecstasy, and Barberine, who saw it, did not
hurry herself. At last I helped her to come down, and letting my
hand wander indiscreetly, I asked her if the fruit I held had been
plucked, and she kept me a long time telling me it was quite fresh.
I took her within my arms, and already her captive, I pressed her
amorously to my heart, printing on her lips a fiery kiss, which she
gave me back with as much ardour.
"Will you give me what I have caught, dearest?"
"My mother is going to Muran to-morrow, and she will stay there all
the day; if you come, there is nothing I will refuse you."
When speech like this proceeds from a mouth still innocent, the man
to whom it is addressed ought to be happy, for desires are but pain
and torment, and enjoyment is sweet because it delivers us from them.
This shews that those who prefer a little resistance to an easy
conquest are in the wrong; but a too easy conquest often points to a
depraved nature, and this men do not like, however depraved they
themselves may be.
We returned to the house, and I gave Barberine a tender kiss before
Laura's eyes, telling her that she had a very jewel in her daughter--
a compliment which made her face light up with pleasure. I gave the
dear girl ten sequins, and I went away congratulating myself, but
cursing my luck at not being able to make as good provision for
Barberine as Murray had made for her sister.
Tonine had told me that for manners' sake I should sup once with her.
I went the same evening and found Righelini and Murray there. The
supper was delicious, and I was delighted with the excellent
understanding the two lovers had already come to. I complimented the
ambassador on the loss of one of his tastes, and he told me he should
be very sorry at such a loss, as it would warn him of his declining
"But," said I, "you used to like to perform the mysterious sacrifice
of Love without a veil."
"It was not I but Ancilla who liked it, and as I preferred pleasing
her to pleasing myself, I gave in to her taste without any
"I am delighted with your answer, as I confess it would cost me
something to be the witness of your exploits with Tonine."