Part 29 out of 70
whenever these countries had a bone to pick, although he was the
first cardinal made by a pope who had had plenty of opportunities for
discovering his character, merely because, on being asked, he had
given it as his opinion that the Prince de Soubise was not a fit
person to command the French armies, this great ecclesiastic was
driven into exile. The moment the Pompadour heard of this opinion of
his, she decreed his banishment--a sentence which was unpopular with
all classes of society; but they consoled themselves with epigrams,
and the new cardinal was soon forgotten. Such is the character of
the French people; it cares neither for its own misfortunes nor for
those of others, if only it can extract laughter from them.
In my time epigrammatists and poetasters who assailed ministers or
even the king's mistresses were sent to the Bastille, but the wits
still persisted in being amusing, and there were some who considered
a jest incomplete that was not followed by a prosecution. A man
whose name I have forgotten--a great lover of notoriety--appropriated
the following verses by the younger Crebellon and went to the
Bastille rather than disown them.
"All the world's upside down!
Jupiter has donned the gown--the King.
Venus mounts the council stair--the Pompadour.
Plutus trifles with the fair--M. de Boulogne.
Mercury in mail is drest--Marechal de Richelieu.
Mighty Mars has turned a priest--the Duc de Clermont, abbe of
Crebillon, who was not the sort of man to conceal his writings, told
the Duc de Choiseul that he had written some verses exactly like
these, but that it was possible the prisoner had been inspired with
precisely the same ideas. This jest was applauded, and the author of
"The Sofa" was let alone.
Cardinal de Bernis passed ten years in exile, 'procul negotiis', but
he was not happy, as he told me himself when I knew him in Rome
fifteen years afterwards. It is said that it is better to be a
minister than a king--an, opinion which seems ridiculous when it is
analyzed. The question is, which is the better, independence or its
contrary. The axiom may possibly be verified in a despotic
government under an absurd, weak, or careless king who serves as a
mere mask for his master the minister; but in all other cases it is
Cardinal de Bernis was never recalled; there is no instance of Louis
XV. having ever recalled a minister whom he had disgraced; but on the
death of Rezzonico he had to go to Rome to be present at the
conclave, and there he remained as French ambassador.
About this time Madame d'Urfe conceived a wish to make the
acquaintance of J. J. Rousseau, and we went to call upon him at
Montmorenci, on the pretext of giving him music to copy--an
occupation in which he was very skilled. He was paid twice the sum
given to any other copyist, but he guaranteed that the work should be
faultlessly done. At that period of his life copying music was the
great writer's sole means of subsistence.
We found him to be a man of a simple and modest demeanour, who talked
well, but who was not otherwise distinguished either intellectually
or physically. We did not think him what would be called a good-
natured man, and as he was far from having the manners of good
society Madame d'Urfe did not hesitate to pronounce him vulgar. We
saw the woman with whom he lived, and of whom we had heard, but she
scarcely looked at us. On our way home we amused ourselves by
talking about Rousseau's eccentric habits.
I will here note down the visit of the Prince of Conti (father of the
gentleman who is now known as the Comte de la March) to Rousseau.
The prince--a good-natured man-went by himself to Montmorenci, on
purpose to spend a day in conversation with the philosopher, who was
even then famous. He found him in the park, accosted him, and said
that he had come to dine with him and to talk without restraint.
"Your highness will fare but badly," said Rousseau: "however, I will
tell them to lay another knife and fork."
The philosopher gave his instructions, and came out and rejoined the
prince, with whom he walked up and down for two or three hours. When
it was dinner-time he took the prince into his dining-room, where the
table was laid for three.
"Who is going to dine with us?" said the prince. "I thought we were
to be alone."
"The third party," said Rousseau, "is my other self--a being who is
neither my wife, nor my mistress, nor my servant-maid, nor my mother,
nor my daughter, but yet personates all these characters at once."
"I daresay, my dear fellow, I daresay; but as I came to dine with you
alone, I will not dine with your--other self, but will leave you with
all the rest of you to keep your company."
So saying the prince bade him farewell and went out. Rousseau did
not try to keep him.
About this time I witnessed the failure of a play called 'Aristides'
Daughter', written by the ingenious Madame de Graffini, who died of
vexation five days after her play was damned. The Abbe de Voisenon
was horrified, as he had advised the lady to produce it, and was
thought to have had some hand in its composition, as well as in that
of the 'Lettres Peruviennes' and 'Cenie'. By a curious coincidence,
just about the same date, Rezzonico's mother died of joy because her
son had become pope. Grief and joy kill many more women than men,
which proves that if women have mere feeling than men they have also
When Madame d'Urfe thought that my adopted son was comfortably
settled in Viar's house, she made me go with her and pay him a visit.
I found him lodged like a prince, well dressed, made much of, and
almost looked up to. I was astonished, for this was more than I had
bargained for. Madame d'Urfe had given him masters of all sorts, and
a pretty little pony for him to learn riding on. He was styled M.
le Comte d'Aranda. A girl of sixteen, Viar's daughter, a fine-
looking young woman, was appointed to look after him, and she was
quite proud to call herself my lord's governess. She assured Madame
d'Urfe that she took special care of him; that as soon as he woke she
brought him his breakfast in bed; that she then dressed him, and did
not leave his side the whole day. Madame d'Urfe approved of
everything, told the girl to take even greater care of the count, and
promised that she should not go unrewarded. As for the young
gentleman, he was evidently quite happy, as he told me himself again
and again, but I suspected a mystery somewhere, and determined that I
would go and see him by myself another time and solve it.
On our journey home I told Madame d'Urfe how grateful I was for all
her goodness to the boy, and that I approved of all the arrangements
that had been made with the exception of the name Aranda, "which,"
said I, "may some day prove a thorn in his side." She answered that
the lad had said enough to convince her that he had a right to bear
that name. "I had," she said, "in my desk a seal with the arms of
the house of Aranda, and happening to take it up I shewed it him as
we shew trinkets to children to amuse them, but as soon as he saw it
he burst out,
"'How came you to have my arms?'
"Your arms!" I answered. "I got this seal from the Comte d'Aranda;
how can you prove that you are a scion of that race?"
"'Do not ask me, madam; my birth is a secret I can reveal to no
The imposition and above all the impudence of the young knave
astounded me. I should not have thought him capable of it, and a
week after I went to see him by myself to get at the bottom of all
I found my young count with Viar, who, judging by the awe the child
shewed of me, must have thought he belonged to me. He was unsparing
in his praises of his pupil, saying that he played the flute
capitally, danced and fenced admirably, rode well, and wrote a good
hand. He shewed me the pens he had cut himself with three, five, and
even nine points, and begged to be examined on heraldry, which, as
the master observed, was so necessary a science for a young nobleman.
The young gentleman then commenced in the jargon of heraldry to
blazon his own pretended arms, and I felt much inclined to burst into
laughter, partly because I did not understand a word he said, and
partly because he seemed to think the matter as important as would a
country squire with his thirty-two quarters. However, I was
delighted to see his dexterity in penmanship, which was undoubtedly
very great, and I expressed my satisfaction to Viar, who soon left us
to ourselves. We proceeded into the garden.
"Will you kindly inform me," I said, "how you can be so foolish as to
call yourself the Comte d'Aranda?"
He replied, with the utmost calmness, "I know it is foolish, but
leave me my title; it is of service to me here and gains me respect."
"It is an imposition I cannot wink at, as it may be fraught with
serious results, and may do harm to both of us. I should not have
thought that at your age you would be capable of such a knavish
trick. I know you did it out of stupidity, but after a certain limit
stupidity becomes criminal; and I cannot see how I am to remedy your
fault without disgracing you in the eyes of Madame d'Urfe."
I kept on scolding him till he burst into tears, saying,
"I had rather the shame of being sent back to my mother than the
shame of confessing to Madame d'Urfe that I had imposed on her; and I
could not bear to stay here if I had to give up my name."
Seeing that I could do nothing with him, unless, indeed, I sent him
to some place far removed from Paris under his proper name, I told
him to take comfort as I would try and do the best I could for both
"And now tell me--and take care to tell the truth--what sort of
feelings does Viar's daughter entertain for you?"
"I think, papa, that this is a case in which the reserve commended by
yourself, as well as by mother, would be appropriate."
"Yes, that sort of answer tells me a good deal, but I think you are
rather too knowing for your age. And you may as well observe that
when you are called upon for a confession, reserve is out of place,
and it's a confession I require from you."
"Well, papa, Viar's daughter is very fond of me, and she shews her
love in all sorts of ways."
"And do you love her?"
"Is she much with you in the morning?"
"She is with me the whole day."
"She is present when you go to bed?"
"Yes, she helps me to undress."
"I do not care to tell you."
I was astonished at the measured way in which he answered me, and as
I had heard enough to guess that the boy and girl were very good
friends indeed, I contented myself with warning him to take care of
his health, and with this I left him.
Some time after, my thoughts were occupied with a business
speculation which all my calculations assured me would be extremely
profitable. The plan was to produce on silks, by means of printing,
the exquisite designs which are produced at Lyons by the tedious
process of weaving, and thus to give customers excellent value at
much lower prices. I had the requisite knowledge of chemistry, and
enough capital to make the thing a success. I obtained the
assistance of a man with the necessary technical skill and knowledge,
intending to make him my manager.
I told my plan to the Prince de Conti, who encouraged me to
persevere, promising me his patronage, and all the privileges I could
wish for. That decided me to begin.
I rented a very large house near the Temple for a thousand crowns per
annum. The house contained a spacious hall, in which I meant to put
my workmen; another hall which was to be the shop; numerous rooms for
my workpeople to live in; and a nice room for myself in case I cared
to live on the premises.
I made the scheme into a company with thirty shares, of which I gave
five to my designer, keeping the remaining twenty-five to distribute
to those who were inclined to join the company. I gave one to a
doctor who, on giving surety, became the storekeeper, and came to
live in the house with his whole family; and I engaged four servants,
a waiting-maid, and a porter. I had to give another share to an
accountant, who furnished me with two clerks, who also took up their
abode in the house. The carpenters, blacksmiths, and painters worked
hard from morning to night, and in less than three weeks the place
was ready. I told the manager to engage twenty girls to paint, who
were to be paid every Saturday. I stocked the warehouse with three
hundred pieces of sarcenet and camlet of different shades and colours
to receive the designs, and I paid for everything in ready money.
I had made an approximate calculation with my manager that I should
have to spend three hundred thousand francs, and that would not break
me. If the worst happened I could fall back on my shares, which
produced a good income, but I hoped I should not be compelled to do
so, as I wanted to have an income of two hundred thousand francs a
All the while I did not conceal from myself that the speculation
might be my ruin, if custom did not come in, but on looking at my
beautiful materials these fears were dispelled, especially as I heard
everybody saying that I sold them much too cheap.
To set up the business I spent in the course of a month about sixty
thousand francs, and my weekly expenses amounted to twelve hundred
As for Madame d'Urfe she laughed every time she saw me, for she was
quite certain that this business was only meant to put the curious
off the scent and to preserve my incognito: so persuaded was she of
The sight of twenty girls, all more or less pretty, the eldest of
whom was not twenty-five, far from making me tremble as it ought,
delighted me. I fancied myself in the midst of a seraglio, and I
amused myself by watching their meek and modest looks as they did
their work under the direction of the foreman. The best paid did not
get more than twenty-four sous a day, and all of them had excellent
reputations, for they had been selected at her own request by the
manager's wife, a devout woman of ripe age, whom I hoped to find
obliging if the fancy seized me to test her choice. Manon Baletti
did not share my satisfaction in them. She trembled to see me the
owner of a harem, well knowing that sooner or later the barque of my
virtue would run on the rocks. She scolded me well about these
girls, though I assured her that none of them slept in the house.
This business increased my own ideas of my importance; partly from
the thought that I was on the high road to fortune, and partly
because I furnished so many people with the means of subsistence.
Alas! I was too fortunate; and my evil genius soon crossed my career.
It was now three months since Mdlle. X. C. V. had gone into the
convent, and the time of her delivery drew near. We wrote to each
other twice a week, and I considered the matter happily settled; M.
de la Popeliniere had married, and when Mdlle. X. C. V. returned to
her mother there would be nothing more to be said But just at this
period, when my happiness seemed assured, the hidden fire leapt forth
and threatened to consume me; how, the reader will see.
One day after leaving Madame d'Urfe's I went to walk in the
Tuileries. I had taken a couple of turns in the chief walk when I
saw that an old woman, accompanied by a man dressed in black, was
looking at me closely and communicating her observations to her
companion. There was nothing very astonishing in this in a public
place, and I continued my walk, and on turning again saw the same
couple still watching me. In my turn I looked at them, and
remembered seeing the man in a gaming-house, where he was known by
the name of Castel-Bajac. On scrutinizing the features of the hag, I
at last succeeded in recollecting who she was; she was the woman to
whom I had taken Mdlle. X. C. V. I felt certain that she had
recognized me, but not troubling myself about the matter I left the
gardens to walk elsewhere. The day after next, just as I was going
to get into my carriage, a man of evil aspect gave me a paper and
asked me to read it. I opened it, but finding it covered with an
illegible scrawl I gave it him back, telling him to read it himself.
He did so, and I found myself summoned to appear before the
commissary of police to answer to the plea which the midwife (whose
name I forget) brought against me.
Although I could guess what the charge would be, and was certain that
the midwife could furnish no proofs of her accusation, I went to an
attorney I knew and told him to appear for me. I instructed him that
I did not know any midwife in Paris whatsoever. The attorney waited
on the commissary, and on the day after brought me a copy of the
The midwife said that I came to her one night, accompanied by a young
lady about five months with child, and that, holding a pistol in one
hand and a packet of fifty Louis in the other, I made her promise to
procure abortion. We both of us (so she said) had masks on, thus.
shewing that we had been at the opera ball. Fear, said she, had
prevented her from flatly refusing to grant my request; but she had
enough presence of mind to say that the necessary drugs were not
ready, that she would have all in order by the next night; whereupon
we left, promising to return. In the belief that we would not fail
to keep the appointment, she went in to M. Castel-Bajac to ask him to
hide in the next room that she might be protected from my fury, and
that he might be a witness of what I said, but she had not seen me
again. She added that she would have given information the day after
the event if she had known who I was, but since M. Castel-Bajac had
told her my name on her recognizing me in the Tuileries, she had
thought it her bounden duty to deliver me to the law that she might
be compensated for the violence I had used to her. And this document
was signed by the said Castel-Bajac as a witness.
"This is an evident case of libel," said my attorney, "at least, if
she can't prove the truth of her allegations. My advice to you is to
take the matter before the criminal lieutenant, who will be able to
give you the satisfaction you require."
I authorized him to do what he thought advisable, and three or four
days after he told me that the lieutenant wished to speak to me in
private, and would expect me the same day at three o'clock in the
As will be expected, I was punctual to the appointment. I found the
magistrate to be a polite and good-hearted gentleman. He was, in
fact, the well-known M. de Sartine, who was the chief of police two
years later. His office of criminal lieutenant was saleable, and M.
de Sartine sold it when he was appointed head of the police.
As soon as I had made my bow, he asked me to sit down by him, and
addressed me as follows:
"I have asked you to call upon me in the interests of both of us, as
in your position our interests are inseparable. If you are innocent
of the charge which has been brought against you, you are quite right
to appeal to me; but before proceedings begin, you should tell me the
whole truth. I am ready to forget my position as judge, and to give
you my help, but you must see yourself that to prove the other side
guilty of slander, you must prove yourself innocent. What I want
from you is an informal and strictly confidential declaration, for
the case against you is a serious one, and of such a kind as to
require all your efforts to wipe off this blot upon your honour.
Your enemies will not respect your delicacy of feeling. They will
press you so hard that you will either be obliged to submit to a
shameful sentence, or to wound your feelings of honour in proving
your innocence. You see I am confiding in you, for in certain cases
honour seems so precious a thing to me that I am ready to defend it
with all the power of the law. Pay me back, then, in the same coin,
trust in me entirely, tell me the whole story without any reserves,
and you may rely upon my good offices. All will be well if you are
innocent, for I shall not be the less a judge because I am your
friend; but if you are guilty I am sorry for you, for I warn you that
I shall be just."
After doing my best to express my gratitude to him, I said that my
position did not oblige me to make any reservations on account of
honour, and that I had, consequently, no informal statement to make
"The midwife," I added, "is absolutely unknown to me. She is most
likely an abandoned woman, who with her worthy companion wants to
cheat me of my money."
"I should be delighted to think so," he answered, "but admitting the
fact, see how chance favours her, and makes it a most difficult thing
for you to prove your innocence.
"The young lady disappeared three months ago. She was known to be
your intimate friend, you called upon her at all hours; you spent a
considerable time with her the day before she disappeared, and no one
knows what has become of her; but everyone's suspicions point at you,
and paid spies are continually dogging your steps. The midwife sent
me a requisition yesterday by her counsel, Vauversin. She says that
the pregnant lady you brought to her house is the same whom Madame X.
C. V. is searching for. She also says that you both wore black
dominoes, and the police have ascertained that you were both at the
ball in black dominoes on the same night as that on which the midwife
says you came to her house; you are also known to have left the ball-
room together. All this, it is true, does not constitute full proof
of your guilt, but it makes one tremble for your innocence."
"What cause have I to tremble?"
"What cause! Why a false witness, easily enough hired for a little
money, might swear with impunity that he saw you come from the opera
together; and a coachman in the same way might swear he had taken you
to the midwife's. In that case I should be compelled to order your
arrest and examination, with a view to ascertain the name of the
person whom you took with you. Do you realize that you are accused
of procuring abortion; that three months have gone by without the
lady's retreat having been discovered; that she is said to be dead.
Do you realize, in short, what a very serious charge murder is?"
"Certainly; but if I die innocent, you will have condemned me
wrongly, and will be more to be pitied than I."
"Yes, yes, but that wouldn't make your case any better. You may be
sure, however, that I will not condemn an innocent man; but I am
afraid that you will be a long time in prison before you succeed in
proving your innocence. To be brief, you see that in twenty-four
hours the case looks very bad, and in the course of a week it might
look very much worse. My interest was aroused in your favour by the
evident absurdity of the accusations, but it is the other
circumstances about the case which make it a serious one for you. I
can partly understand the circumstances, and the feelings of love and
honour which bid you be silent. I have spoken to you, and I hope you
will have no reserves with me. I will spare you all the unpleasant
circumstances which threaten you, believing, as I do, that you are
innocent. Tell me all, and be sure that the lady's honour will not
suffer; but if, on the other hand, you are unfortunately guilty of
the crimes laid to your charge, I advise you to be prudent, and to
take steps which it is not my business to suggest. I warn you that
in three or four days I shall cite you to the bar of the court, and
that you will then find in me only the judge--just, certainly, but
severe and impartial."
I was petrified; for these words shewed me my danger in all its
nakedness. I saw how I should esteem this worthy man's good offices,
and said to him in quite another tone, that innocent as I was, I saw
that my best course was to throw myself on his kindness respecting
Mdlle. X. C. V., who had committed no crime, but would lose her
reputation by this unhappy business.
"I know where she is," I added, "and I may tell you that she would
never have left her mother if she had not endeavoured to force her
into a marriage she abhorred"
"Well, but the man is now married; let her return to her mother's
house, and you will be safe, unless the midwife persists in
maintaining that you incited her to procure abortion."
"There is no abortion in the matter; but other reasons prevent her
returning to her family. I can tell you no more without obtaining
the consent of another party. If I succeed in doing so I shall be
able to throw the desired light on the question. Be kind enough to
give me a second hearing on the day after to-morrow."
"I understand. I shall be delighted to hear what you have to say.
I thank and congratulate you. Farewell!"
I was on the brink of the precipice, but I was determined to leave
the kingdom rather than betray the honour of my poor dear sweetheart.
If it had been possible, I would gladly have put an end to the case
with money; but it was too late. I was sure that Farsetti had the
chief hand in all this trouble, that he was continually on my track,
and that he paid the spies mentioned by M. de Sartine. He it was who
had set Vauversin, the barrister, after me, and I had no doubt that
he would do all in his power to ruin me.
I felt that my only course was to tell the whole story to M. de
Sartine, but to do that I required Madame du Rumain's permission.
My Examination I Give the Clerk Three Hundred Louis--The Midwife and
Cartel-Bajac Imprisoned--Mdlle. X. C. V. Is Brought to Bed of a Son
and Obliges Her Mother to Make Me Amends--The Suit Against Me Is
Quashed--Mdlle. X. C. V. Goes With Her Mother to Brussels and From
Thence to Venice, Where She Becomes a Great Lady--My Work-girls--
Madame Baret--I Am Robbed, Put in Prison, and Set at Liberty Again--
I Go to Holland--Helvetius' "Esprit"--Piccolomini
The day after my interview with M. de Sartine I waited on Madame du
Rumain at an early hour. Considering the urgency of the case I took
the liberty of rousing her from her slumbers, and as soon as she was
ready to receive me I told her all.
"There can be no hesitation in the matter," said this delightful
woman. "We must make a confidant of M. de Sartine, and I will speak
to him myself to-day without fail."
Forthwith she went to her desk and wrote to the criminal lieutenant
asking him to see her at three o'clock in the afternoon. In less
than an hour the servant returned with a note in which he said he
would expect her. We agreed that I should come again in the evening,
when she would tell me the result of her interview.
I went to the house at five o'clock, and had only a few minutes to
"I have concealed nothing," said she; "he knows that she is on the
eve of her confinement, and that you are not the father, which speaks
highly for your generosity. I told him that as soon as the
confinement was over, and the young lady had recovered her health,
she would return to her mother, though she would make no confession,
and that the child should be well looked after. You have now nothing
to fear, and can calm yourself; but as the case must go on you will
be cited before the court the day after to-morrow. I advise you to
see the clerk of the court on some pretext or other, and to make him
accept a sum of money."
I was summoned to appear, and I appeared. I saw M. de Sartine,
'sedentem pro tribunali'. At the end of the sitting he told me that
he was obliged to remand me, and that during my remand I must not
leave Paris or get married, as all my civil rights were in suspense
pending the decision. I promised to follow his commands.
I acknowledged in my examination that I was at the ball in a black
domino on the night named in my accusation, but I denied everything
else. As for Mdlle. X. C. V., I said that neither I nor anyone of
her family had any suspicion that she was with child.
Recollecting that I was an alien, and that this circumstance might
make Vauversin call for my arrest, on the plea that I might fly the
kingdom, I thought the moment opportune for making interest with the
clerk of the court, and I accordingly paid him a visit. After
telling him of my fears, I slipped into his hand a packet of three
hundred louis, for which I did not ask for a receipt, saying that
they were to defray expenses if I were mulcted in costs. He advised
me to require the midwife to give bail for her appearance, and I told
my attorney to do so; but, four days after, the following incident
I was walking in the Temple Gardens, when I was accosted by a
Savoyard, who gave me a note in which I was informed that somebody in
an alley, fifty paces off, wanted to speak to me. "Either a love
affair or a challenge," I said to myself, "let's see." I stopped my
carriage, which was following me, and went to the place.
I cannot say how surprised I was to see the wretched Cartel-Bajac
standing before me. "I have only a word to say," said he, when he
saw me. "We will not be overheard here. The midwife is quite sure
that you are the man who brought a pregnant lady to her, but she is
vexed that you are accused of making away with her. Give her a
hundred louis; she will then declare to the court that she has been
mistaken, and your trouble will be ended. You need not pay the money
till she has made her declaration; we will take your word for it.
Come with me and talk it over with Vauversin. I am sure he will
persuade you to do as I suggest. I know where to find him, follow me
at some distance."
I had listened to him in silence, and I was delighted to see that the
rascals were betraying themselves. "Very good," said I to the
fellow, "you go on, and I will follow." I went after him to the
third floor of a house in the Rue aux Ours, where I found Vauversin
the barrister. No sooner had I arrived than he went to business
without any prefatory remarks.
"The midwife," he said, "will call on you with a witness apparently
with the intention of maintaining to your face that you are her man;
but she won't be able to recognize you. She will then proceed with
the witness to the court, and will declare that she has made a
mistake, and the criminal lieutenant will forthwith put an end to the
proceedings. You will thus be certain of gaining your case against
the lady's mother."
I thought the plan well conceived, and said that they would find me
at the Temple any day up to noon.
"But the midwife wants a hundred louis badly."
"You mean that the worthy woman rates her perjury at that price.
Well, never mind, I will pay the money, and you may trust to my word;
but I can't do so before she has taken oath to her mistake before the
"Very good, but you must first give me twenty-five louis to reimburse
me for my costs and fees."
"Certainly, if you will give me a formal receipt for the money."
He hesitated at first, but after talking it over the money proved too
strong a bait, and he wrote out the receipt and I gave him the
twenty-five louis. He thanked me, and said that though Madame X. C.
V. was his client, he would let me know confidentially how best to
put a stop to the proceedings. I thanked him with as much gratitude
as if I had really intended to make use of his services, and I left
to write and tell M. de Sartine what had taken place.
Three days afterwards I was told that a man and woman wanted to see
me. I went down and asked the woman what she wanted.
"I want to speak to M. Casanova."
"I am he."
"Then I have made a mistake, for which I hope you will forgive me."
Her companion smiled, and they went off.
The same day Madame du Rumain had a letter from the abbess telling
her that her young friend had given birth to a fine boy, who had been
sent away to a place where he would be well looked after. She stated
that the young lady could not leave the convent for the next six
weeks, at the end of which time she could return to her mother with a
certificate which would protect her from all annoyance.
Soon after the midwife was put in solitary confinement, Castel-Bajac
was sent to The Bicetre, and Vauversin's name was struck off the
rolls. The suit instituted against me by Madame X. C. V. went on
till her daughter reappeared, but I knew that I had nothing to fear.
The girl returned to her mother about the end of August armed with a
certificate from the abbess, who said she had been under her
protection for four months, during which time she had never left the
convent or seen any persons from outside. This was perfectly true,
but the abbess added that her only reason for her going back to her
family was that she had nothing more to dread from the attentions of
M. de la Popeliniere, and in this the abbess lied.
Mdlle. X. C. V. profited by the delight of her mother in seeing her
again safe and sound, and made her wait on M. de Sartine with the
abbess's certificate, stop all proceedings against me, and withdraw
all the charges she had made. Her daughter told her that if I liked
I might claim damages for libel, and that if she did not wish to
injure her reputation she would say nothing more about what had
The mother wrote me a letter of the most satisfactory character,
which I had registered in court, thus putting an end to the
prosecution. In my turn I wrote to congratulate her on the recovery
of her daughter, but I never set foot in her house again, to avoid
any disagreeable scenes with Farsetti.
Mdlle. X. C. V. could not stay any longer in Paris, where her tale
was known to everyone, and Farsetti took her to Brussels with her
sister Madelaine. Some time after, her mother followed her, and they
then went on to Venice, and there in three years' time she became a
great lady. Fifteen years afterwards I saw her again, and she was a
widow, happy enough apparently, and enjoying a great reputation on
account of her rank, wit, and social qualities, but our connection
was never renewed.
In four years the reader will hear more of Castel-Bajac. Towards the
end of the same year (1759), before I went to Holland, I spent
several hundred francs to obtain the release of the midwife.
I lived like a prince, and men might have thought me happy, but I was
not. The enormous expenses I incurred, my love of spending money,
and magnificent pleasures, warned me, in spite of myself, that there
were rocks ahead. My business would have kept me going for a long
time, if custom had not been paralyzed by the war; but as it was, I,
like everybody else, experienced the effect of bad times. My
warehouse contained four hundred pieces of stuffs with designs on
them, but as I could not hope to dispose of them before the peace,
and as peace seemed a long way off, I was threatened with ruin.
With this fear I wrote to Esther to get her father to give me the
remainder of my money, to send me a sharp clerk, and to join in my
speculation. M. d'O---- said that if I would set up in Holland he
would become responsible for everything and give me half profits, but
I liked Paris too well to agree to so good an offer. I was sorry for
I spent a good deal of money at my private house, but the chief
expense of my life, which was unknown to others but which was ruining
me, was incurred in connection with the girls who worked in my
establishment. With my complexion and my pronounced liking for
variety, a score of girls, nearly all of them pretty and seductive,
as most Paris girls are, was a reef on which my virtue made shipwreck
every day. Curiosity had a good deal to do with it, and they
profited by my impatience to take possession by selling their favours
dearly. They all followed the example of the first favourite, and
everyone claimed in turn an establishment, furniture, money, and
jewels; and I knew too little of the value of money to care how much
they asked. My fancy never lasted longer than a week, and often
waned in three or four days, and the last comer always appeared the
most worthy of my attentions.
As soon as I had made a new choice I saw no more of my old loves, but
I continued to provide for them, and that with a good deal of money.
Madame d'Urfe, who thought I was rich, gave me no trouble. I made
her happy by using my oracle to second the magical ceremonies of
which she grew fonder every day, although she never attained her aim.
Manon Baletti, however, grieved me sorely by her jealousy and her
well-founded reproaches. She would not understand--and I did not
wonder at it--how I could put off marrying her if I really loved her.
She accused me of deceiving her. Her mother died of consumption in
our arms. Silvia had won my true friendship. I looked upon her as a
most worthy woman, whose kindness of heart and purity of life
deserved the esteem of all. I stayed in the family for three days
after her death, sincerely sympathizing with them in their
A few days afterwards, my friend Tiretta lost his mistress through a
grievous illness. Four days before her death, perceiving that she
was near her end, she willed to consecrate to God that which man
could have no longer, and dismissed her lover with the gift of a
valuable jewel and a purse of two hundred louis. Tiretta marched off
and came and told me the sad news. I got him a lodging near the
Temple, and a month after, approving his idea to try his fortune in
India, I gave him a letter of introduction to M. d'O----, of
Amsterdam; and in the course of a week this gentleman got him a post
as clerk, and shipped him aboard one of the company's ships which was
bound for Batavia. If he had behaved well he might have become a
rich man, but he got involved in some conspiracy and had to fly, and
afterwards experienced many vicissitudes of fortune. I heard from
one of his relations that he was in Bengal in 1788, in good
circumstances, but unable to realize his property and so return to
his native country. I do not know what became of him eventually.
In the beginning of November an official belonging to the Duc
d'Elbeuf's household came to my establishment to buy a wedding dress
for his daughter. I was dazzled with her beauty. She chose a fine
satin, and her pretty face lighted up when she heard her father say
he did not think it was too much; but she looked quite piteous when
she heard the clerk tell her father that he would have to buy the
whole piece, as they could not cut it. I felt that I must give in,
and to avoid making an exception in her favour I beat a hasty retreat
into my private room. I wish I had gone out of the house, as I
should have saved a good deal of money; but what pleasure should I
have also lost! In her despair the charming girl begged the manager
to take her to me, and he dared not refuse to do so. She came in;
two big tears falling down her cheeks and dimming the ardour of her
"Oh, sir!" she began, "you are rich, do you buy the piece and let me
have enough for a dress, which will make me happy."
I looked at her father and saw he wore an apologetic air, as if
deprecating the boldness of his child.
"I like your simplicity," I said to her, "and since it will make you
happy, you shall have the dress."
She ran up to me, threw her arms round my neck and kissed me, while
her worthy father was dying with laughter. Her kisses put the last
stroke to my bewitchment. After he had paid for the dress, her
"I am going to get this little madcap married next Sunday; there will
be a supper and a ball, and we shall be delighted if you will honour
us with your presence. My name is Gilbert. I am comptroller of the
Duc d'Elbeuf's household."
I promised to be at the wedding, and the young lady gave a skip of
joy which made me think her prettier than ever.
On Sunday I repaired to the house, but I could neither eat nor drink.
The fair Mdlle. Gilbert kept me in a kind of enchantment which lasted
while I was in company with her friends, for whom I did not care.
They were all officials in noblemen's houses, with their wives and
daughters, who all aped the manners of their betters in the most
ridiculous way; nobody knew me and I was known to nobody, and I cut a
sorry figure amongst them all, for in a company of this sort the
wittiest man is the greatest fool. Everybody cracked his joke to the
bride, she answered everybody, and people laughed at nothing.
Her husband, a thin and melancholy man, with a rather foolish
expression, was delighted at his wife's keeping everybody amused.
Although I was in love with her, I pitied rather than envied him.
I guessed that he had married for monetary considerations, and I knew
pretty well what kind of a head-dress his handsome, fiery wife would
give her husband, who was plain-featured, and seemed not to be aware
of his wife's beauty. I was seized with the desire of asking her
some questions, and she gave me the opportunity by coming to sit next
to me after a quadrille. She thanked me again for my kindness, and
said that the beautiful dress I had supplied had won her many
"All the same," I said, "I know you are longing to take it off. I
know what love is and how impatient it makes one."
"It's very funny that everyone persists in thinking that I am in
love, though I saw M. Baret for the first time only a week ago.
Before then I was absolutely unconscious of his existence."
"But why are you getting married in such a hurry without waiting till
you know him better?"
"Because my father does everything in a hurry."
"I suppose your husband is a very rich man?"
"No, but he may become rich. We are going to open a shop for silk
stockings at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue des
Prouveres, and I hope that you will deal with us, as we would serve
you with the best."
"I shall certainly do so--nay, I will be your first customer, if I
have to wait at the door."
"You are kind! M. Baret," said she to her husband, who was standing
close by, "this gentleman promises to be our first customer."
"The gentleman is very good," said the husband, "and I am sure he
will be satisfied, as my stockings are genuine silk."
Next Tuesday at day-break I began to dance attendance at the corner
of the Rue des Prouveres, and waited there till the servant came out
to take down the shutters. I went in and the girl asked me my
"I want to buy some stockings," was my answer.
"Master and mistress are still in bed, so you had better come later
"No, I will wait here. Stop a minute," said I, giving her six
francs, "go and get me some coffee; I will drink it in the shop."
"I might go and get you some coffee, but I am not so silly as to
leave you in the shop by yourself."
"You are afraid I might steal something!"
"Well, one does hear of such things being done, and I don't know you
"Very good; but I shall stay here all the same."
Before long Baret came down and scolded the poor girl for not having
told him of my presence. "Go and tell my wife to come," said he, as
he began opening packets of stockings for me to choose from. He kept
stockings, vests, and silk drawers, and I turned one packet over
after another, looking at them all and not fixing on anything till I
saw his wife coming down as fresh as a rose and as bright as a lily.
She smiled at me in the most seductive manner, apologized for the
disorder of her dress, and thanked me for keeping my word.
"I never break my word," I said, "especially when such a charming
lady is concerned!"
Madame Baret was seventeen, of a moderate height, and an exquisite
figure; without being classically beautiful, a Raphael could not wish
to depict a more enticing face. Her eyes were large and brilliant.
Her drooping eyelids, which gave her so modest and yet so voluptuous
an appearance, the ever-smiling mouth, her splendid teeth, the
dazzling whiteness of her complexion, the pleasing air with which she
listened to what was being said, her silvery voice, the sweetness and
sparkling vivacity of her manner, her lack of conceit, or rather her
unconsciousness of the power of her charms-in fine, everything about
this masterpiece of nature made me wonder and admire; while she, by
chance or vile monetary considerations, was in the power of Baret,
who, pale and sickly, thought a good deal more of his stockings than
of the treasure marriage had given him--a treasure of which he was
all unworthy, since he could not see its beauty nor taste its
I chose stockings and vests to the amount of twenty-five louis, and I
paid the price without trying to cheapen them. I saw the face of the
fair shopwoman light up, and I augured well for my success, though I
could not expect to do much while the honeymoon lasted. I told the
servant that I would give her six francs if she would bring the
packet to my house, and so I left them.
Next Sunday Baret came himself with my purchases. I gave him six
francs to hand over to his servant, but he hinted that he was not too
proud to keep them himself. I was disgusted at this petty greed, and
at his meanness in depriving his maid of the six francs after having
made a good profit in what he had sold me; but I wanted to stand well
with him, and I was not sorry to find so simple a way of throwing
dust into his eyes. So while I resolved that the servant should not
be a loser I gave the husband a good reception that I might the
better mould him to my purpose. I had breakfast brought to him,
asking why he had not brought his wife.
"She wanted me to take her," said he, "but I was afraid you might be
"Not at all, I should have been delighted. I think your wife a
"You are very kind to say so; but she's young, she's young."
"I don't think that's any objection; and if she cares for the walk,
bring her with you another time." He said he should be very pleased
to do so.
When I passed by the shop in my carriage I blew kisses to her with my
hand, but I did not stop as I did not want any more stockings.
Indeed, I should have been bored with the crowd of fops with which
the shop was always full. She began to be a topic of conversation in
the town; the Palais Royal was full of her; and I was glad to hear
that she kept to herself as if she had richer prey in view. That
told me that no one possessed her so far, and I hoped that I might be
the prey myself; I was quite willing to be captured.
Some days after, she saw my carriage coming, and beckoned to me as I
passed. I got out, and her husband with many apologies told me that
he wanted me to be the first to see a new fashion in breeches he had
just got in. The breeches were parti-coloured, and no man of fashion
would be seen without them. They were odd-looking things, but became
a well-made young man. As they had to fit exactly, I told him to
measure me for six pairs, offering to pay in advance. "We have them
in all sizes," said he, "go up to my wife's room and try some on."
It was a good opportunity and I accepted, especially when I heard him
tell his wife to go and help me. I went upstairs, she following, and
I began to undress, apologizing for doing so before her.
"I will fancy I am your valet," said she, "and I will help you."
I did not make any difficulties, and after taking off my shoes I gave
her my breeches, taking care, however, to keep on my drawers, lest
her modesty should receive too severe a shock. This done she took a
pair of breeches, drew them on me, took them off, and tried on
others, and all this without any impropriety on either side; for I
had determined to behave with discretion till the opportunity came to
be indiscreet. She decided that four pairs fitted me admirably, and,
not wishing to contradict her, I gave her the sixteen louis she
asked, and told her I should be delighted if she would bring them
herself at any time when she was at leisure. She came downstairs
quite proud of her knowledge of business, and Baret said that next
Sunday he and his wife would have the honour of bringing me my
"I shall be charmed, M. Baret," said I, "especially if you will stay
He answered that having an important engagement for two o'clock he
could only accept on the condition that I would let him go at that
time, and he would return at about five to fetch his wife. I found
the plan vastly to my taste, but I knew how to conceal my joy; and I
quietly said that though I should lose the pleasure of his society,
he was free to go when he liked, especially as I had not to go out
myself before six.
I looked forward to the Sunday, and the tradesman and his wife did
not fail me. As soon as they arrived, I told my servant to say "Not
at home" for the rest of the day, and as I was impatient to know what
would happen in the afternoon I had dinner served at an early hour.
The dishes were exquisite, and the wines delicious. The good man ate
much and drank deeply, indeed to such an extent that in common
politeness I was obliged to remind him that he had an important
appointment at two. His wits being sharpened with champagne, the
happy thought occurred to him to tell his wife to go home by herself,
if he were kept later than five; and I hastened to add that I would
take her home myself in my carriage. He thanked me, and I soothed
his uneasiness about being punctual to his appointment by telling him
that a coach was waiting, and that the fare had been paid. He went
off, and I found myself alone with my jewel, whom I was certain of
possessing till six o'clock.
As soon as I heard the hall door shut on the kind husband, I said to
"You are to be congratulated on having such a kind husband; with a
man like that your happiness is assured."
"It is easy to say happiness, but enjoying it is a different thing.
My husband's health is so delicate that I can only consider myself as
his nurse; and then he contracted heavy debts to set up in business
which oblige us to observe the strictest economy. We came here on
foot to save the twenty-four sons. We could live on the profits of
the business, if there were no debts, but as it is everything goes to
pay the interest, and our sales are not large enough to cover
"But you have plenty of customers, for whenever I pass I see the shop
full of people."
"These customers you see are idlers, crackers of bad jokes, and
profligates, who come and make my head ache with their jests. They
have not a penny to bless themselves with, and we dare not let them
out of our sight for fear of their hands wandering. If we had cared
to give them credit, our shop would have been emptied long ago. I am
rude to them, in the hopes that they may leave me alone, but it's of
no use. Their impudence is astonishing. When my husband is in I
retreat to my room, but he is often away, and then I am obliged to
put up with them. And the scarcity of money prevents us from doing
much business, but we are obliged to pay our workmen all the same.
As far as I can see, we shall be obliged to dismiss them, as we shall
soon have to meet several bills. Next Saturday we have got to pay
six hundred francs, and we have only got two hundred."
"I am surprised at your having all this worry in these early days of
your marriage. I suppose your father knew about your husband's
circumstances; how about your dowry?"
"My dowry of six thousand francs has served, most of it, to stock the
shop and to pay our debts. We have goods which would pay our debts
three times over; but in bad times capital sunk is capital dead."
"I am sorry to hear all this, as if peace is not made your situation
will become worse, for as you go on your needs will become greater."
"Yes, for when my husband is better we may have children."
"What! Do you mean to say his health prevents him from making you a
mother? I can't believe it."
"I don't see how I can be a mother who am still a maid; not that I
care much about the matter."
"I shouldn't have believed it! How can a man not in the agony of
death feel ill beside you? He must be dead."
"Well, he is not exactly dead, but he doesn't shew many signs of
This piece of wit made me laugh, and under cover of my applause I
embraced her without experiencing much resistance. The first kiss
was like an electric spark; it fired my imagination and I increased
my attentions till she became as submissive as a lamb.
"I will help you, dearest, to meet the bill on Saturday;" and so
saying I drew her gently into a closet where a soft divan formed a
suitable altar for the completion of an amorous sacrifice.
I was enchanted to find her submissive to my caresses and my
inquisitiveness, but she surprised me greatly when, as I placed
myself in readiness for the consummation of the act, and was already
in the proper posture between the two columns, she moved in such a
way as to hinder my advance. I thought at first that it was only one
of those devices intended to make the final victory more sweet by
putting difficulties in the way; but, finding that her resistance was
genuine, I exclaimed,
"How was I to expect a refusal like this at a moment when I thought I
saw my ardours reflected in your eyes?"
"Your eyes did not deceive you; but what would my husband say if he
found me otherwise than as God has made me?"
"He can't have left you untouched!"
"He really has done so. You can see for yourself if you like. Can
I, then, give to you what appertains to the genius of the marriage-
"You are right, my angel; this fruit must be kept for a mouth
unworthy to taste it. I pity and adore you. Come to my arms,
abandon yourself to my love, and fear nothing. The fruit shall not
be damaged; I will but taste the outer surface and leave no trace
We passed three hours in trifling together in a manner calculated to
inflame our passions despite the libations which we now and again
poured forth. I was consoled by her swearing to be mine as soon as
Baret had good grounds for thinking that she was his, and, after
taking her on the Boulevards, I left her at her door, with a present
of twenty-five Louis.
I was in love with her as I had never been before, and I passed the
shop three or four times a day, going round and round, to the wrath
of my coachman, who got sick of telling me that I was ruining my
horses. I was happy to see her watch for the moment that I passed,
and waft me a kiss by putting her pretty fingers to her mouth.
We had agreed that she should not make me a sign to leave my coach
till her husband had forced a passage. At last this day, so ardently
desired and so long waited for, arrived. The sign was given, and I
stopped the coach and she came out and, standing on the step, told me
to go and wait for her at the church door of St. Germain l'Auxerrois.
I was curious to know what the results would be, and had not been at
the place appointed more than a quarter of an hour when she came
towards me, her head muffled in a hood. She got into the carriage
and, saying that she wanted to make some purchases, begged me to take
her to the shops.
I had business of my own, and pressing business too, but who can
refuse the Beloved Object anything? I told the coachman to drive to
the Place Dauphine, and I prepared to loosen my purse-strings, as I
had a feeling she was going to treat me as a friend. In point of
fact she left few shops unvisited, going from jewels to pretty
trifles and toys of different kinds, and from these to dresses of the
latest fashion, which they displayed before her, addressing her as
princess, and saying that this would become her admirably. She
looked at me, and said it must be confessed that it was very pretty
and that she would like it if it were not so dear. I was a willing
dupe, and assured her that if she liked it it could not be too dear,
and that I would pay.
While my sweetheart was thus choosing one trifle after another my
ill-luck brought about an incident which placed me in a fearful
situation four years afterwards. The chain of events is endless.
I perceived at my left hand a pretty girl of twelve or thirteen, with
an old and ugly woman who was disparaging a pair of ear-rings which
the girl had in her hands, and on which she had evidently set her
heart: she looked sad at not being able to buy them. I heard her say
to the old woman that they would make her happy, but she snatched
them from the girl's hands and told her to, come away.
"I can let you have a cheaper pair and almost as fine," said the
shopwoman, but the young lady said she did not; care about it, and
was getting ready to go, making a profound reverence to my princess
She, no doubt flattered by this sign of respect went up to her,
called her little queen, told her she was as fair as a May morning,
and asked the old woman her name,
"She is Mdlle. de Boulainvilier, my niece."
"How can you be so hard-hearted," said I to the aunt, "as to refuse
your charming niece a toy which would make her happy? Allow me to
make her a present of them."
So saying I put the ear-rings in the girl's hands, while she blushed
and looked at her aunt as if to ask her permission.
"You may have the ear-rings," said she, "as this gentleman has been
kind enough to give you such a present, and you should give him a
kiss by way of thanks."
"The ear-rings," said the shopwoman, "will be only three louis."
Hereupon the affair took a comic turn; the old woman got into a rage
"How can you be such a cheat? You told me they were only two louis."
"Nay, madam, I asked three."
"That's a lie, and I shall not allow you to rob this gentleman.
Niece, put those ear-rings down; let the shopwoman keep them."
So far all was well enough; but the old aunt spoilt everything by
saying that if I liked to give her niece the three louis she could
get her a pair twice as good at another shop. It was all the same to
me, so I smilingly put the three louis in front of the young lady,
who still had the ear-rings in her hands. The shop-woman, who was on
the look-out, pocketed the money, saying that the bargain was made,
that the three louis belonged to her and the ear-rings to the young
"You are a cheat," cried out the enraged old woman.
"And you are an old b----d," answered the shop-woman, "I know you
well." A crowd began to gather in front of the shop, hearing the
cries of the two harpies. Foreseeing a good deal of unpleasantness,
I took the aunt by the arm and led her gently away. The niece, who
was quite content with the ear-rings, and did not care whether they
cost three louis or two, followed her. We shall hear of them again
in due course.
My dear Baret having made me waste a score of louis, which her poor
husband would have regretted much more than myself, we got into the
carriage again, and I took her to the church door from which we had
started. On the way she told me she was coming to stop a few days
with me at Little Poland, and that it was her husband who would ask
me for the invitation.
"When will he do that?"
"To-morrow, if you go by the shop. Come and buy some stockings; I
shall have a bad headache, and Baret will speak to you."
It may be imagined that I took care to call the next day, and as I
did not see his wife in the shop I asked in a friendly way after her
"She is ill in bed," he replied; "she wants a little country air."
"If you have not fixed for any place, I shall be happy to put you up
at Little Poland."
He replied by a smile of delight.
"I will go and urge her to come myself; in the meanwhile, M. Baret,
will you pack me up a dozen pairs of stockings?"
I went upstairs and found the invalid in bed, and laughing in spite
of her imaginary headache. "The business is done," said I, "you will
soon hear of it." As I had said, the husband came upstairs with my
stockings and told her that I had been good enough to give her a room
in my house. The crafty little creature thanked me, assuring her
husband that the fresh air would soon cure her.
"You shall be well looked after," said I, "but you must excuse me if
I do not keep you company--I have to attend to my business.
M. Baret will be able to come and sleep with you every night, and
start early enough in the morning to be in time for the opening of
After many compliments had been interchanged, Baret decided on having
his sister stay in the house while his wife was away, and as I took
leave I said that, I should give orders for their reception that very
evening, in case I was out when they came.
Next day I stayed out till after midnight, and the cook told me that
the wedded couple had made a good supper and had gone to bed. I
warned her that I should be dining at home every day, and that I
should not see my company.
The following day I was up betimes, and on enquiring if the husband
had risen I learnt that he had got up at day-break and would not be
back till supper-time. The wife was still asleep. I thought with
reason she was not asleep for me, and I went to pay her my first
visit. In point of fact she was awake, and I took a foretaste of
greater joys by a thousand kisses, which she returned with interest.
We jested at the expense of the worthy man who had trusted me with a
jewel of which I was about to make such good use, and we
congratulated each other on the prospect of a week's mutual
"Come, my dear," said I, "get up and put on a few clothes and we will
take breakfast in my room."
She did not make an elaborate toilette; a cotton dressing gown, a
pretty lace cap, a lawn kerchief, that was all, but how the simple
dress was lighted by the roses of her cheeks! We were quick over our
breakfast, we were in a hurry, and when we had done I shut the door
and we gave ourselves over to the enjoyment of our bliss.
Surprised to find her in the same condition in which I had left her,
I told her I had hoped . . . but she, without giving me time to
finish the phrase, said,
"My jewel, Baret thinks, or pretends to think, that he has done his
duty as a husband; but he is no hand at the business, and I am
disposed to put myself in your hands, and then there will be no doubt
of my condition."
"We shall thus, my sweet, be doing him a service, and the service
shall be well done."
As I said these words I was on the threshold of the temple, and I
opened the door in a manner that overthrew all obstacles. A little
scream and then several sighs announced the completion of the
sacrifice, and, to tell the truth, the altar of love was covered with
the blood of the victim. After the necessary ablutions the priest
once more began his pious work, while the victim growing bolder so
provoked his rage that it was not till the fourth mactation that we
rested and put off our joust to another season. We swore a thousand
times to love each other and to remain constant, and we may possibly
have been sincere, as we were in our ecstasy of pleasure.
We only separated to dress; then after taking a turn in the garden we
dined together, sure that in a sumptuous repast, washed down by the
choicest wines, we should find strength to reanimate our desires and
to lull them to sleep in bliss.
At dessert, as I was pouring champagne into her glass, I asked her
how with such a fiery temperament she had managed to preserve her
"Cupid," said I, "might have gathered the fruit that Hymen could not
taste. You are seventeen, and the pear has been ripe for two years
"Very true, but I have never had a lover."
"I have been courted, but to no effect. My heart was ever silent.
Possibly my father thought otherwise when I begged him, a month ago,
to get me married soon."
"Very likely, but as you were not in love, why were you in such a
"I knew that the Duc d'Elbeuf would soon be coming to town, and that
if he found me still single he would oblige me to become the wife of
a man I detest, who would have me at any price."
"Who is this man for whom you have such an aversion?"
"He is one of the duke's pets, a monster who sleeps with his master."
"Really! I did not know the duke had such tastes."
"Oh yes; he is eighty-four, and he thinks himself a woman; he says he
must have a husband."
"That is very funny. And is this aspirant to your hand a handsome
"I think him horrible; but everybody else thinks he is a fine man."
The charming Baret spent a week with me, and each day we renewed the
combat in which we were always conquerors and always conquered. I
have seen few women as pretty and seductive, and none whose skin was
more exquisitely soft and fair. Her breath was aromatic, and this
made her kisses most sweet. Her neck was exquisitely shaped, and the
two globes, tipped with coral, were as hard as marble. The exquisite
curves of her figure would have defied the skill of the ablest
painter. I experienced an ineffable joy in contemplating her, and in
the midst of my happiness I called myself unhappy because I could not
satisfy all the desires which her charms aroused in me. The frieze
which crowned her columns was composed of links of pale gold of the
utmost fineness, and my fingers strove in vain to give them another
direction to that which nature had given them. She could easily have
been taught those lively yet graceful movements which double the
pleasure; nature had done her part in that direction, and I do not
think a more expert mistress in the art of love could be found.
Each of us looked forward to the day of her departure with equal
grief, and our only consolation lay in the hope of meeting again, and
often. Three days after she went away, I went to see her, more in
love than ever, and I gave her two notes of five thousand francs
apiece. Her husband might have his suspicions, but he was too happy
at being enabled to pay his debts and to keep his shop open to say
anything unpleasant. Many husbands besides himself think themselves
lucky to have such productive wives.
In the beginning of November I sold shares for fifty thousand francs
to a man named Gamier, living in the Rue du Mail, giving up to him a
third part of the materials in my warehouse, and accepting a manager
chosen by him and paid by the company. Three days after signing the
deed I received the money; but in the night the doctor, my
warehouseman, emptied the till and absconded. I have always thought
that this robbery could not have been effected without the connivance
of the painter. This loss was a serious blow to me, as my affairs
were getting into an embroiled condition; and, for a finishing touch
to my misfortunes, Gamier had me served with a summons to repay him
the fifty thousand francs. My answer was that I was not liable, that
his manager had been appointed, the agreement and sale of the shares
was valid, and that he being one of the company would have to share
in the loss. As he persisted in his claim, I was advised to go to
law, but Gamier declared the agreement null and void, accusing me in
an indirect manner of having appropriated the money which I had said
was stolen. I would willingly have given him a good thrashing, but
he was an old man, and that course would not have mended matters, so
I kept my temper. The merchant who had given surety for the doctor
was not to be found; he had become bankrupt. Garnier had all my
stock seized, and sequestrated my horses, carriages, and all my
While these troubles were harassing me, I dismissed all my work-
girls, who had always been a great expense, and replaced them with
workmen and some of my servants. The painter still retained his
position, which was an assured one, as he always paid himself out of
My attorney was an honest man--a rare bird amongst lawyers--but my
counsel, who kept telling me that the case would soon be decided, was
a rascal. While the decision was pending, Garnier served me with a
writ to pay the sum claimed. I took it to my counsel, who promised
to appeal the same day, which he did not do, while he appropriated to
his own use the money assigned by me for the costs of an action
which, if there had been justice in France, I should certainly have
gained. Two other summonses were issued against me, and before I
knew what was going on a warrant was issued for my arrest. I was
seized at eight o'clock in the morning, as I was driving along the
Rue St. Denis. The sergeant of police sat beside me, a second got up
beside the coachman, and a third stationed himself at the back of the
coach, and in this state we drove to Fort l'Eveque.
As soon as the police had handed me over to the gaoler, he informed
me that by payment of the fifty thousand francs, or by giving good
bail, I might instantly regain my freedom.
"For the moment," said I, "I can neither command money nor bail."
"Very good, then you will stay in prison."
The gaoler took me to a decent-looking room, and I told him I had
only been served with one writ.
"Very likely," answered he, "it often happens like that; but it is
rather difficult to prove."
"Bring me writing materials, and have a trusty messenger at my
I wrote to my counsel, my attorney, to Madame d'Urfe, and to all my
friends, including my brother, who was just married. The attorney
called immediately, but the barrister contented himself with writing
to the effect that as he had put in an appeal my seizure was illegal,
and that damages might be recovered. He ended by begging me to give
him a free hand, and to have patience for a few days.
Manon Baletti sent her brother with her diamond earrings. Madame du
Rumain dispatched her barrister--a man of rare honesty--to me, and
wrote a friendly note in which she said that if I wanted five hundred
louis I should have them to-morrow. My brother neither wrote nor
came to see me. As to dear Madame d'Urfe she sent to say that she
would expect me at dinner. I thought she had gone mad, as I could
not think she was making fun of me.
At eleven o'clock my room was full of people. Poor Baret had come
weeping, and offering me all his shop held. I was touched by the
worthy man's kindness. At last I was told that a lady in a coach
wanted to see me. I waited, but nobody came. In my impatience I
called the turnkey, who told me that, after questioning the clerk of
the prison, she had gone away again. From the description I was
given I had no difficulty in identifying the lady with Madame d'Urfe.
To find myself deprived of my liberty was a disagreeable shock to me.
I thought of The Leads, and though my present situation was not to be
compared with that, I cursed my fate as I foresaw that my
imprisonment would damage my reputation. I had thirty thousand
francs in hard cash and jewels to more than double that amount, but I
could not decide on making such a sacrifice, in spite of the advice
given by Madame du Rumain's barrister, who would have me got out of
prison at any cost.
"All you have to do," said the barrister, "is to deposit half the sum
demanded which I will give to the clerk of the court, and in a short
time I can promise a decision in your favour and the restoration of
We were discussing the matter, when the gaoler entered, and said,
"Sir, you are a free man again, and a lady is waiting for you at the
door in her carriage"
I called Le Duc, my man, and told him to go and see who the lady was.
He returned with the information that it was Madame d'Urfe. I made
my bow to everybody, and after four very disagreeable hours of
imprisonment, I found myself free again and sitting in a splendid
Madame d'Urfe received me with dignified kindness, and a judge who
was in the carriage apologized for his country, where strangers were
exposed to such insults. I thanked Madame d'Urfe in a few words,
telling her that I was glad to become her debtor, but that it was
Garnier who benefited by her generosity. She replied with a pleasant
smile that she was not so sure of that, and that we would talk it
over at dinner. She wanted me to go and walk in the Tuileries and
the Palais Royal, to convince people that the report of my
imprisonment had been false. I thought the advice excellent, and as
I set out I promised to be with her at two o'clock.
After skewing myself at the two principal walks of Paris, amusing
myself by the astonishment depicted on certain faces well known to
me, I went and returned the ear-rings to my dear Manon, who gave an
astonished but a happy cry when she saw me. I thanked her tenderly
for the proof she had given me of her attachment, and said that I had
been arrested by a plot for which I would make the plotters pay dear.
After promising to spend the evening with them I went to Madame
This good lady, whose foible is well known to my readers, made me
laugh when she said that her genius had told her that I had got
myself arrested to be talked about, for reasons which were known only
"As soon as I was informed of your arrest," said she, "I went to the
Fort l'Eveque, and on learning from the clerk what the affair was
about, I deposited bonds to bail you out. If you are not in a
position to have justice done you, Gamier will have to reckon with me
before he takes the money I have deposited. But your first step
should be to commence a criminal prosecution against your counsel,
who has not only failed to put in your appeal but has robbed and
I left her in the evening, assuring her that in a few days her bail
should be returned to her; and went to the French and Italian plays
in succession, taking care to render myself conspicuous that my
reappearance might be complete. Afterwards I went to sup with Manon
Baletti, who was too happy to have had an opportunity of spewing her
affection for me; and her joy was full when I told her that I was
going to give up business, for she thought that my seraglio was the
only obstacle to my marriage with her.
The next day was passed with Madame du Rumain. I felt that my
obligations to her were great, while she, in the goodness of her
heart, was persuaded that she could make no adequate return to me for
the oracles with which I furnished her, and by following which she
was safely guided through the perplexities of life. I cannot
understand how she, whose wit was keen, and whose judgment on other
subjects was of the soundest kind, could be liable to such folly. I
was sorry when I reflected that I could not undeceive her, and glad
when I reflected that to this deceit of mine the kindness she had
shewn me was chiefly due.
My imprisonment disgusted me with Paris, and made me conceive a
hatred of the law, which I feel now. I found myself entangled in a
double maze of knavery--Garnier was my foe, and so was my own
counsel. Every time I went to plead, to spend my money amongst
lawyers, and to waste the time better given to pleasure, I felt as if
I was going to execution. In this perturbed kind of life, so
contrary to my inclinations, I resolved to set to work in earnest to
make my fortune, so that I might become independent and free to enjoy
life according to my tastes. I decided in the first place that I
would cut myself free of all that bound me to Paris, make a second
journey into Holland to replenish my purse and invest my money in a
yearly income for two lives, and from thenceforth live free from
care. The two lives were those of my wife and myself; my wife would
be Manon Baletti, and when I told her my plans she would have thought
them delightful if I had begun by marrying her.
The first thing I did was to give up Little Poland. I then drew the
twenty-four thousand francs which were my surety for keeping a
lottery office in the Rue St. Denis. Thus I got rid of my ridiculous
office of lottery receiver, and after getting my clerk married I
handed over the office to him; in short, I made his fortune. A
friend of his wife's was his surety; such things often happen.
I did not like to leave Madame d'Urfe involved in a troublesome suit
with Gamier, so I went to Versailles to see the Abbe de la Ville, a
great friend of his, and begged him to induce Gamier to make a
The abbe saw that his friend was in the wrong, and so was all the
more willing to help me; and a few days afterwards he wrote to me to
go and see him, assuring me that I should find him inclined to
arrange matters in a friendly manner.
Gamier was at Ruelle, where he had a house which cost him four
hundred thousand francs--a fine estate for a man who had made his
money as an army contractor during the last war. He was rich, but he
was so unfortunate as to be still fond of women at the age of
seventy, while his impotence debarred him from the proper enjoyment
of their society. I found him in company with three young ladies,
all of whom were pretty, and (as I heard afterwards) of good
families; but they were poor, and their necessities forced them to
submit to a disgusting intercourse with the old profligate. I stayed
to dinner and admired the propriety and modesty of their behaviour in
spite of the humiliation which accompanies poverty. After dinner,
Gamier went to sleep, and left me to entertain these girls whom I
would willingly have rescued from their unfortunate situation if I
had been able. After Gamier woke, we went into his study to talk
over our business.
At first he maintained his claim tenaciously, and seemed unwilling to
yield an inch; but when I told him that I was leaving Paris in a few
days, he saw that as he could not keep me, Madame d'Urfe might take
the suit over and carry it on to infinity, and that he might lose it
at last. That made him think it over, and he asked me to stay in his
house for the night. The next day, after breakfast, he said,--
"I have made up my mind: I will have twenty-five thousand francs, or
keep the matter before the courts till my dying day."
I answered that he would find the sum in the hands of Madame d'Urfe's
solicitor, and that he could receive it as soon as he had given
replevy on the bail at the Fort l'Eveque.
I could not persuade Madame d'Urfe that I had acted wisely in coming
to an arrangement till I had told her that my genius had commanded me
not to leave Paris before my affairs were settled, so that no one
might be able to accuse me of having gone away to avoid creditors
whose claims I could not satisfy.
Three or four days afterwards I went to take leave of M. de Choiseul,
who promised to instruct M. d'Afri to aid me in negotiating a loan at
five per cent. either with the States-General or a private company.
"You can tell everyone," said he, "that peace is certain to be made
in the course of the winter, and I will take care that you shall have
what is due to you on your return to France."
M. de Choiseul deceived me, for he knew very well that peace would
not be made; but I had no definite project, and I repented of having
given M. de Boulogne my confidence, and also of having done anything
for the Government, the reward of which was not immediate and
I sold my horses, my carriages, my furniture; I went bail for my
brother who had contracted debts he was sure of paying, as he had
several pictures on the easel which he had been ordered to paint by
some of his rich and noble patrons. I took leave of Manon, whom I
left in floods of tears, though I swore with the utmost sincerity to
come back soon and marry her.
At last all my preparations were finished, and I left Paris with a
hundred thousand francs in bills of exchange and jewels to the same
amount. I was alone in my post-chaise, Le Duc preceding me on
horseback, which the rascal preferred to being shut up in a carriage.
This Le Duc of mine was a Spaniard, aged eighteen, a sharp fellow,
whom I valued highly, especially because he did my hair better than
anyone else. I never refused him a pleasure which a little money
would buy. Besides him I had a good Swiss servant, who served as my
It was the 1st of December, 1759, and the air was frosty, but I was
fortified against the inclemency of the season. I was able to read
comfortably, and I took Helvetius's "Esprit," which I had never had
time to read before. After perusing it I was equally astonished at
the sensation it created and at the stupidity of the High Court which
condemned it. Of course that exalted body was largely influenced by
the king and the clergy, and between them all no effort was spared to
ruin Helvetius, a good-hearted man with more wit than his book. I
saw nothing novel either in the historical part relating to the
morals of nations (in which Helvetius dismisses us as triflers), or
in the position that morality is dependent on the reason. All that
he says has been said over and over again, and Blaise Pascal went
much farther, but he wrote more skilfully and better in every way
than Helvetius, who, wishing to remain in France, was obliged to
retract. He preferred a quiet life to his honour and his philosophy.
His wife had a nobler soul than he, as she wanted to sell all they
had, and to take refuge in Holland rather than submit to the shame of
a recantation. Perhaps Helvetius would have followed the noble
advice of his wife if he had foreseen that this monstrous recantation
would make his book into a fraud; for he had to confess that he had
written without due reflection, that he was more in jest than
earnest, and that his arguments were mere sophisms. But many men of
keen intellects had not waited for him to recant before exposing this
wretched system of his. And admitting that whatever man does is done
for his own interest, does it follow that gratitude is a folly, and
virtue and vice identical? Are a villain and a man of honour to be
weighed in the same balance? If such a dreadful system were not
absurd, virtue would be mere hypocrisy; and if by any possibility it
were true, it ought to be proscribed by general consent, since it
would lead to general ruin and corruption.
It might have been proved to Helvetius that the propositions that the
first motive is always self-interest, and that we should always
consult our own interest first, are fallacious. It is a strange
thing that so virtuous a man would not admit the existence of virtue.
It is an amusing suggestion that he only published his book out of
modesty, but that would have contradicted his own system. But if it
were so, was it well done to render himself contemptible to escape
the imputation of pride? Modesty is only a virtue when it is
natural; if it is put on, or merely the result of training, it is
detestable. The great d'Alembert was the most truly modest man I
have ever seen.
When I got to Brussels, where I spent two days, I went to the "Hotel
de l'Imperatrice," and chance sent Mdlle. X. C. V. and Farsetti in
my way, but I pretended not to see them. From Brussels I went
straight to the Hague, and got out at the "Prince of Orange." On my
asking the host who sat down at his table, he told me his company
consisted of general officers of the Hanoverian army, same English
ladies, and a Prince Piccolomini and his wife; and this made me make
up my mind to join this illustrious assemblage.
I was unknown to all, and keeping my eyes about me I gave my chief
attention to the observation of the supposed Italian princess, who
was pretty enough, and more especially of her husband whom I seemed
to recognize. In the course of conversation I heard some talk of the
celebrated St. Germain, and it seemed that he was stopping in the
I had returned to my room, and was thinking of going to bed, when
Prince Piccolomini entered, and embraced me as an old friend.
"A look in your face," said he, "tells me that the recognition has
been mutual. I knew you directly in spite of the sixteen years that
have passed since we saw each other at Vicenza. To-morrow you can
tell everybody that we are friends, and that though I am not a prince
I am really a count; here is my passport from the King of Naples,
pray read it."
During this rapid monologue I could not get in a single word, and on
attentively scanning his features I could only recollect that I had
seen him before, but when or where or how I knew not. I opened the
passport and read the name of Ruggero di Rocco, Count Piccolomini.
That was enough; I remembered an individual of that name who was a
fencing-master in Vicenza, and on looking at him again his aspect,
though much changed left no doubt as to the identity of the swordsman
and the count.
"I congratulate you," said I, "on your change of employment, your new
business is doubtless much better than the old."
"I taught fencing," he replied, "to save myself from dying of hunger,
for my father was so hard a man that he would not give me the
wherewithal to live, and I disguised my name so as not to disgrace
it. On my father's death I succeeded to the property, and at Rome I
married the lady you have seen."
"You had good taste, for she's a pretty woman."
"She is generally thought so, and it was a love match on my side."
He ended by asking me to come and see him in his room the next day,
after dinner, telling me that I should find good company and a bank
at faro, which he kept himself. He added, without ceremony, that if
I liked we could go half shares, and that I should find it
profitable. I thanked him, and promised to pay him a visit.
I went abroad at an early hour next morning, and after having spent
some time with the Jew, Boaz, and having given a polite refusal to
his offer of a bed, I went to pay my respects to M. d'Afri, who since
the death of the Princess of Orange, the Regent of the Low Countries,
was generally known as His Most Christian Majesty's ambassador. He
gave me an excellent reception, but he said that if I had returned to
Holland hoping to do business on behalf of the Government I should
waste my time, since the action of the comptroller-general had
lowered the credit of the nation, which was thought to be on the
verge of bankruptcy.
"This M. Silhouette," said he, "has served the king very badly. It
is all very well to say that payments are only suspended for a year,
but it is not believed."
He then asked me if I knew a certain Comte de St. Germain, who had
lately arrived at the Hague.
"He has not called on me," said the ambassador, "though he says he is
commissioned by the king to negotiate a loan of a hundred millions.
When I am asked about him, I am obliged to say that I know nothing
about him, for fear of compromising myself. Such a reply, as you can
understand, is not likely to increase his chance of success, but that
is his fault and not mine. Why has he not brought me a letter from
the Duc de Choiseul or the Marquise de Pompadour? I take him to
be an impostor, but I shall know something more about him in the
course of ten days."
I told him, in my turn, all I knew of this truly eccentric
individual. He was not a little surprised to hear that the king had
given him an apartment at Chambord, but when I told him that the
count professed to be able to make diamonds he laughed and said that
in that case he would no doubt make the hundred millions. Just as I
was leaving, M. d'Afri asked me to dine with him on the following
On returning to the hotel I called on the Comte de St. Germain.
"You have anticipated me," said he, on seeing me enter, "I intended
to have called on you. I suppose, my dear Casanova, that you have
come to try what you can do for our Court, but you will find your
task a difficult one, as the Exchange is highly offended at the late
doings of that fool Silhouette. All the same I hope I shall be able
to get my hundred millions. I have passed my word to my friend,
Louis XV. (I may call him so), and I can't disappoint him; the
business will be done in the next three or four weeks."
"I should think M. d'Afri might assist you."
"I do not require his assistance. Probably I shall not even call
upon him, as he might say he helped me. No, I shall have all the
trouble, and I mean to have all the glory, too."
"I presume you will be going to Court, where the Duke of Brunswick
may be of service to you?"
"Why should I go to Court? As for the Duke of Brunswick, I do not
care to know him. All I have got to do is to go to Amsterdam, where
my credit is sufficiently good for anything. I am fond of the King
of France; there's not a better man in the kingdom."
"Well, come and dine at the high table, the company is of the best
and will please you."
"You know I never eat; moreover, I never sit down at a table where I
may meet persons who are unknown to me."
"Then, my lord, farewell; we shall see each other again at
I went down to the dining-roam, where, while dinner was being served,
I conversed with some officers. They asked me if I knew Prince
Piccolomini, to which I answered that he was not a prince but a
count, and that it was many years since I had seen him.
When the count and his fair wife (who only spoke Italian) came down,
I shewed them some polite attentions, and we then sat down to dinner.
by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
THE ETERNAL QUEST, Volume 3c--HOLLAND AND GERMANY
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
THE ETERNAL QUEST
HOLLAND AND GERMANY
Portrait of the Pretended Countess Piccolomini--Quarrel and Duel--
Esther and Her Father, M. D'O.--Esther Still Taken with the Cabala--
Piccolomini Forges a Bill of Exchange: Results I Am Fleeced, and in
Danger of Being Assassinated--Debauch with the Two Paduan Girls--
I Reveal A Great Secret To Esther--I Bate the Rascally St. Germain;
His Flight--Manon Baletti Proves Faithless to Me; Her Letter
Announcing Her Marriage: My Despair--Esther Spends a Day With Me--My
Portrait and My Letters to Manon Get Into Esther's Hands--I Pass a
Day with Her--We Talk of Marrying Each Other
The so-called Countess Piccolomini was a fine example of the
adventurers. She was young, tall, well-made, had eyes full of fire,
and skin of a dazzling whiteness; not, however, that natural
whiteness which delights those who know the value of a satin skin and
rose petals, but rather that artificial fairness which is commonly to
be seen at Rome on the faces of courtezans, and which disgusts those
who know how it is produced. She had also splendid teeth, glorious
hair as black as jet, and arched eyebrows like ebony. To these
advantages she added attractive manners, and there was something
intelligent about the way she spoke; but through all I saw the
adventuress peeping out, which made me detest her.
As she did not speak anything but Italian the countess had to play
the part of a mute at table, except where an English officer named
Walpole was concerned, who, finding her to his taste, set himself to
amuse her. I felt friendly disposed towards this Englishman, though
my feelings were certainly not the result of sympathy. If I had been
blind or deaf Sir James Walpole would have been totally indifferent
to me, as what I felt for him was the result of my observation.
Although I did not care for the countess, for all that I went up to
her room after dinner with the greater part of the guests. The count
arranged a game of whist, and Walpole played at primero with the
countess, who cheated him in a masterly manner; but though he saw it
he laughed and paid, because it suited his purpose to do so. When he
had lost fifty Louis he called quarter, and the countess asked him to
take her to the theatre. This was what the good-natured Englishman
wanted; and he and the countess went off, leaving the husband playing
I, too, went to the play, and as chance would have it my neighbour in
the pit was Count Tot, brother to the count famous for his stay in
We had some conversation together, and he told me he had been obliged
to leave France on account of a duel which he had had with a man who
had jested with him for not being present at the battle of Minden,
saying that he had absented himself in view of the battle. The count
had proved his courage with the sword on the other's body--a rough
kind of argument which was fashionable then as now. He told me he
had no money, and I immediately put my purse at his service; but, as
the saying goes, a kindness is never thrown away, and five years
later he did the same by me at St. Petersburg. Between the acts he
happened to notice the Countess Piccolomini, and asked me if I knew
her husband. "I know him very slightly," I answered, "but we happen
to be staying at the same hotel."
"He's a regular black sheep," said the count, "and his wife's no
better than he."
It seemed that they had already won a reputation in the town.
After the play I went back to the hotel by myself, and the head-
waiter told me that Piccolomini had set out hot-foot with his
servant, his only luggage being a light portmanteau. He did not know
the reason of this sudden departure, but a minute afterwards the
countess came in, and her maid having whispered something to her she
told me that the count had gone away because he had fought a duel but
that often happened. She asked me to sup with her and Walpole, and
her appetite did not seem to suffer from the absence of her spouse.
Just as we were finishing supper, an Englishman, who had been of the
whist party, came up and told Walpole that the Italian had been
caught cheating and had given the lie to their fellow Englishman, who
had detected him, and that they had gone out together. An hour
afterwards the Englishman returned with two wounds, one on the fore-
arm and one on the shoulder. It was a trifling affair altogether.
Next day, after I had had dinner with the Comte d'Afri, I found a
letter from Piccolomini, with an enclosure addressed to the countess,
waiting for me at the inn. He begged me to give his wife the letter,
which would inform her of his plans, and then to bring her to the
Ville de Lyon at Amsterdam, where he was staying. He wanted to know
how the Englishman whom he had wounded was getting on.
The duty struck me as an amusing one, and I should have laughed with
all my heart if I had felt the least desire to profit by the
confidence he was pleased to place in me. Nevertheless I went up to
the countess, whom I found sitting up in bed playing with Walpole.
She read the letter, told me that she could not start till the day
following, and informed me what time she would go, as if it had been
all settled; but I smiled sardonically, and told her that my business
kept me at the Hague, and that I could not possibly escort her. When
Walpole heard me say this he offered to be my substitute, to which
she agreed. They set out the day following, intending to lie at
Two days after their departure, I was sitting down to dinner with the
usual company, increased by two Frenchmen who had just come. After
the soup one of them said, coolly,
"The famous Casanova is now in Holland."
"Is he?" said the other, "I shall be glad to see him, and ask for an
explanation which he will not like."
I looked at the man, and feeling certain that I had never seen him
before I began to get enraged; but I merely asked the fellow if he
I'll ought too know him," said he, in that self-satisfied tone which
is always so unpleasant.
"Nay, sir, you are mistaken; I am Casanova."
Without losing his self-possession, he replied, insolently,
"You are really very much mistaken if you think you are the only
Casanova in the world."
It was a sharp answer, and put me in the wrong. I bit my lips and
held my tongue, but I was grievously offended, and determined to make
him find the Casanova who was in Holland, and from whom he was going
to extract an unpleasant explanation, in myself. In the meanwhile I
bore as well as I could the poor figure he must be cutting before the
officers at table, who, after hearing the insolence of this young
blockhead, might take me for a coward. He, the insolent fellow, had
no scruple in abusing the triumph his answer had given him, and
talked away in the random fashion. At last he forgot himself so far
as to ask from what country I came.
"I am a Venetian, sir," I replied.
"Ah! then you are a good friend to France, as your republic is under
At these words my ill-temper boiled aver, and, in the tone of voice
one uses to put down a puppy, I replied that the Republic of Venice
was strong enough to do without the protection of France or of any
other power, and that during the thirteen centuries of its existence
it had had many friends and allies but no protectors. "Perhaps," I
ended, "you will reply by begging my pardon for not knowing that
these was only one Venice in the world."
I had no sooner said this than a burst of laughter from the whole
table set me right again. The young blockhead seemed taken aback and
in his turn bit his lips, but his evil genius made him, strike in
again at dessert. As usual the conversation went from one subject to
another, and we began to talk about the Duke of Albermarle. The
Englishmen spoke in his favour, and said that if he had been alive
there would have been no war between England and France; they were
probably right, but even if the duke had lived war might have broken
out, as the two nations in question have never yet succeeded in
understanding that it is for both their interests to live at peace
together. Another Englishman praised Lolotte, his mistress. I said
I had seen that charming woman at the Duchess of Fulvi's, and that no
one deserved better to become the Countess of Eronville. The Count
of Eronville, a lieutenant-general and a man of letters, had just
I had scarcely finished what I had to say when Master Blockhead said,
with a laugh, that he knew Lolotte to be a good sort of girl, as he
had slept with her at Paris. I could restrain myself no longer; my
indignation and rage consumed me. I took up my plate, and made as if
I would throw it at his head, saying at the same time, "You infernal
liar!" He got up, and stood with his back to the fire, but I could
see by his sword-knot that he was a soldier.
Everybody pretended not to hear anything of this, and the
conversation went on for some time on indifferent subjects; and at
last they all rose from their seats and left the room.
My enemy said to his companion that they would see one another again
after the play, and remained by the fire, with his elbow resting on
the chimney-piece. I remained at table till the company had all left
the room, and when we were alone together I got up and looked him
straight in the face, and went out, walking towards Sheveningue, sure
that he would follow me if he were a man of any mettle. When I had
got to some distance from the hotel I looked round, and saw that he
was following me at a distance of fifty paces.
When I got to the wood I stopped at a suitable place, and stood
awaiting my antagonist. He was ten paces off when he drew his sword,
and I had plenty of time to draw mine though he came on fast. The
fight did not last long, for as soon as he was near enough I gave him
a thrust which has never failed me, and sent him back quicker than he
came. He was wounded in the chest above the right breast, but as my
sword was flat and the opening large enough the wound bled easily. I
lowered my sword and ran up to him, but I could do nothing; he said
that we should meet again at Amsterdam, if I was going there, and
that he would have his revenge. I saw him again five or six years
afterwards at Warsaw, and then I did him a kindness. I heard
afterwards that his name was Varnier, but I do not know whether he
was identical with the president of the National Convention under the
I did not return to the hotel till after the play, and I then heard
that the Frenchman, after having the surgeon with him for an hour,
had set out for Rotterdam with his friend. We had a pleasant supper
and talked cheerfully together without a word being said about the
duel, with the exception that an English lady said, I forget in what
connection, that a man of honour should never risk sitting down to
dinner at an hotel unless he felt inclined, if necessary, to fight.
The remark was very true at that time, when one had to draw the sword
for an idle word, and to expose one's self to the consequences of a
duel, or else be pointed at, even by the ladies, with the finger of