Part 4 out of 70
One of them, about fifteen years old, and who at the present time
must, if still alive, be a bishop, attracted my notice by his
features as much as by his talents. He inspired me with a very warm
friendship, and during recess, instead of playing skittles with the
others, we always walked together. We conversed upon poetry, and we
both delighted in the beautiful odes of Horace. We liked Ariosto
better than Tasso, and Petrarch had our whole admiration, while
Tassoni and Muratori, who had been his critics, were the special
objects of our contempt. We were such fast friends, after four days
of acquaintance, that we were actually jealous of each other, and to
such an extent that if either of us walked about with any seminarist,
the other would be angry and sulk like a disappointed lover.
The dormitory was placed under the supervision of a lay friar, and it
was his province to keep us in good order. After supper, accompanied
by this lay friar, who had the title of prefect, we all proceeded to
the dormitory. There, everyone had to go to his own bed, and to
undress quietly after having said his prayers in a low voice. When
all the pupils were in bed, the prefect would go to his own. A large
lantern lighted up the dormitory, which had the shape of a
parallelogram eighty yards by ten. The beds were placed at equal
distances, and to each bed there were a fold-stool, a chair, and room
for the trunk of the Seminarist. At one end was the washing place,
and at the other the bed of the prefect. The bed of my friend was
opposite mine, and the lantern was between us.
The principal duty of the prefect was to take care that no pupil
should go and sleep with one of his comrades, for such a visit was
never supposed an innocent one. It was a cardinal sin, and, bed
being accounted the place for sleep and not for conversation, it was
admitted that a pupil who slept out of his own bed, did so only for
immoral purposes. So long as he stopped in his own bed, he could do
what he liked; so much the worse for him if he gave himself up to bad
practices. It has been remarked in Germany that it is precisely in
those institutions for young men in which the directors have taken
most pains to prevent onanism that this vice is most prevalent.
Those who had framed the regulations in our seminary were stupid
fools, who had not the slightest knowledge of either morals or human
nature. Nature has wants which must be administered to, and Tissot
is right only as far as the abuse of nature is concerned, but this
abuse would very seldom occur if the directors exercised proper
wisdom and prudence, and if they did not make a point of forbidding
it in a special and peculiar manner; young people give way to
dangerous excesses from a sheer delight in disobedience,--
a disposition very natural to humankind, since it began with Adam and
I had been in the seminary for nine or ten days, when one night I
felt someone stealing very quietly in my bed; my hand was at once
clutched, and my name whispered. I could hardly restrain my
laughter. It was my friend, who, having chanced to wake up and
finding that the lantern was out, had taken a sudden fancy to pay me
a visit. I very soon begged him to go away for fear the prefect
should be awake, for in such a case we should have found ourselves in
a very unpleasant dilemma, and most likely would have been accused of
some abominable offence. As I was giving him that good advice we
heard someone moving, and my friend made his escape; but immediately
after he had left me I heard the fall of some person, and at the same
time the hoarse voice of the prefect exclaiming:
"Ah, villain! wait until to-morrow--until to-morrow!"
After which threat he lighted the lantern and retired to his couch.
The next morning, before the ringing of the bell for rising, the
rector, followed by the prefect, entered the dormitory, and said to
"Listen to me, all of you. You are aware of what has taken place
this last night. Two amongst you must be guilty; but I wish to
forgive them, and to save their honour I promise that their names
shall not be made public. I expect every one of you to come to me
for confession before recess."
He left the dormitory, and we dressed ourselves. In the afternoon,
in obedience to his orders, we all went to him and confessed, after
which ceremony we repaired to the garden, where my friend told me
that, having unfortunately met the prefect after he left me, he had
thought that the best way was to knock him down, in order to get time
to reach his own bed without being known.
"And now," I said, "you are certain of being forgiven, for, of
course, you have wisely confessed your error?"
"You are joking," answered my friend; "why, the good rector would not
have known any more than he knows at present, even if my visit to you
had been paid with a criminal intent."
"Then you must have made a false confession: you are at all events
guilty of disobedience?"
"That may be, but the rector is responsible for the guilt, as he used
"My dear friend, you argue in a very forcible way, and the very
reverend rector must by this time be satisfied that the inmates of
our dormitory are more learned than he is himself."
No more would have been said about the adventure if, a few nights
after, I had not in my turn taken a fancy to return the visit paid by
my friend. Towards midnight, having had occasion to get out of bed,
and hearing the loud snoring of the prefect, I quickly put out the
lantern and went to lie beside my friend. He knew me at once, and
gladly received me; but we both listened attentively to the snoring
of our keeper, and when it ceased, understanding our danger, I got up
and reached my own bed without losing a second, but the moment I got
to it I had a double surprise. In the first place I felt somebody
lying in my bed, and in the second I saw the prefect, with a candle
in his hand, coming along slowly and taking a survey of all the beds
right and left. I could understand the prefect suddenly lighting a
candle, but how could I realize what I saw--namely, one of my
comrades sleeping soundly in my bed, with his back turned to me? I
immediately made up my mind to feign sleep. After two or three
shakings given by the prefect, I pretended to wake up, and my bed-
companion woke up in earnest. Astonished at finding himself in my
bed, he offered me an apology:
"I have made a mistake," he said, "as I returned from a certain place
in the dark, I found your bed empty, and mistook it for mine."
"Very likely," I answered; "I had to get up, too."
"Yes," remarked the prefect; "but how does it happen that you went to
bed without making any remark when, on your return, you found your
bed already tenanted? And how is it that, being in the dark, you did
not suppose that you were mistaken yourself?"
"I could not be mistaken, for I felt the pedestal of this crucifix of
mine, and I knew I was right; as to my companion here, I did not feel
"It is all very unlikely," answered our Argus; and he went to the
lantern, the wick of which he found crushed down.
"The wick has been forced into the oil, gentlemen; it has not gone
out of itself; it has been the handiwork of one of you, but it will
be seen to in the morning."
My stupid companion went to his own bed, the prefect lighted the lamp
and retired to his rest, and after this scene, which had broken the
repose of every pupil, I quietly slept until the appearance of the
rector, who, at the dawn of day, came in great fury, escorted by his
satellite, the prefect.
The rector, after examining the localities and submitting to a
lengthy interrogatory first my accomplice, who very naturally was
considered as the most guilty, and then myself, whom nothing could
convict of the offence, ordered us to get up and go to church to
attend mass. As soon as we were dressed, he came back, and
addressing us both, he said, kindly:
"You stand both convicted of a scandalous connivance, and it is
proved by the fact of the lantern having been wilfully extinguished.
I am disposed to believe that the cause of all this disorder is, if
not entirely innocent, at least due only to extreme thoughtlessness;
but the scandal given to all your comrades, the outrage offered to
the discipline and to the established rules of the seminary, call
loudly for punishment. Leave the room."
We obeyed; but hardly were we between the double doors of the
dormitory than we were seized by four servants, who tied our hands
behind us, and led us to the class room, where they compelled us to
kneel down before the great crucifix. The rector told them to
execute his orders, and, as we were in that position, the wretches
administered to each of us seven or eight blows with a stick, or with
a rope, which I received, as well as my companion, without a murmur.
But the moment my hands were free, I asked the rector whether I could
write two lines at the very foot of the cross. He gave orders to
bring ink and paper, and I traced the following words:
"I solemnly swear by this God that I have never spoken to the
seminarist who was found in my bed. As an innocent person I must
protest against this shameful violence. I shall appeal to the
justice of his lordship the patriarch."
My comrade in misery signed this protest with me; after which,
addressing myself to all the pupils, I read it aloud, calling upon
them to speak the truth if any one could say the contrary of what I
had written. They, with one voice, immediately declared that we had
never been seen conversing together, and that no one knew who had put
the lamp out. The rector left the room in the midst of hisses and
curses, but he sent us to prison all the same at the top of the house
and in separate cells. An hour afterwards, I had my bed, my trunk
and all my things, and my meals were brought to me every day. On the
fourth day, the Abbe Tosello came for me with instructions to bring
me to Venice. I asked him whether he had sifted this unpleasant
affair; he told me that he had enquired into it, that he had seen the
other seminarist, and that he believed we were both innocent; but the
rector would not confess himself in the wrong, and he did not see
what could be done.
I threw off my seminarist's habit, and dressed myself in the clothes
I used to wear in Venice, and, while my luggage was carried to a
boat, I accompanied the abbe to M. Grimani's gondola in which he had
come, and we took our departure. On our way, the abbe ordered the
boatman to leave my things at the Palace Grimani, adding that he was
instructed by M. Grimani to tell me that, if I had the audacity to
present myself at his mansion, his servants had received orders to
turn me away.
He landed me near the convent of the Jesuits, without any money, and
with nothing but what I had on my back.
I went to beg a dinner from Madame Manzoni, who laughed heartily at
the realization of her prediction. After dinner I called upon M.
Rosa to see whether the law could protect me against the tyranny of
my enemies, and after he had been made acquainted with the
circumstances of the case, he promised to bring me the same evening,
at Madame Orio's house, an extra-judicial act. I repaired to the
place of appointment to wait for him, and to enjoy the pleasure of my
two charming friends at my sudden reappearance. It was indeed very
great, and the recital of my adventures did not astonish them less
than my unexpected presence. M. Rosa came and made me read the act
which he had prepared; he had not had time to have it engrossed by
the notary, but he undertook to have it ready the next day.
I left Madame Orio to take supper with my brother Francois, who
resided with a painter called Guardi; he was, like me, much oppressed
by the tyranny of Grimani, and I promised to deliver him. Towards
midnight I returned to the two amiable sisters who were expecting me
with their usual loving impatience, but, I am bound to confess it
with all humility, my sorrows were prejudicial to love in spite of
the fortnight of absence and of abstinence. They were themselves
deeply affected to see me so unhappy, and pitied me with all their
hearts. I endeavoured to console them, and assured them that all my
misery would soon come to an end, and that we would make up for lost
In the morning, having no money, and not knowing where to go, I went
to St. Mark's Library, where I remained until noon. I left it with
the intention of dining with Madame Manzoni, but I was suddenly
accosted by a soldier who informed me that someone wanted to speak to
me in a gondola to which he pointed. I answered that the person
might as well come out, but he quietly remarked that he had a friend
at hand to conduct me forcibly to the gondola, if necessary, and
without any more hesitation I went towards it. I had a great dislike
to noise or to anything like a public exhibition. I might have
resisted, for the soldiers were unarmed, and I would not have been
taken up, this sort of arrest not being legal in Venice, but I did
not think of it. The 'sequere deum' was playing its part; I felt no
reluctance. Besides, there are moments in which a courageous man has
no courage, or disdains to shew it.
I enter the gondola, the curtain is drawn aside, and I see my evil
genius, Razetta, with an officer. The two soldiers sit down at the
prow; I recognize M. Grimani's own gondola, it leaves the landing and
takes the direction of the Lido. No one spoke to me, and I remained
silent. After half-an-hour's sailing, the gondola stopped before the
small entrance of the Fortress St. Andre, at the mouth of the
Adriatic, on the very spot where the Bucentaur stands, when, on
Ascension Day, the doge comes to espouse the sea.
The sentinel calls the corporal; we alight, the officer who
accompanied me introduces me to the major, and presents a letter to
him. The major, after reading its contents, gives orders to M. Zen,
his adjutant, to consign me to the guard-house. In another quarter
of an hour my conductors take their departure, and M. Zen brings me
three livres and a half, stating that I would receive the same amount
every week. It was exactly the pay of a private.
I did not give way to any burst of passion, but I felt the most
intense indignation. Late in the evening I expressed a wish to have
some food bought, for I could not starve; then, stretching myself
upon a hard camp bed, I passed the night amongst the soldiers without
closing my eyes, for these Sclavonians were singing, eating garlic,
smoking a bad tobacco which was most noxious, and drinking a wine of
their own country, as black as ink, which nobody else could swallow.
Early next morning Major Pelodoro (the governor of the fortress)
called me up to his room, and told me that, in compelling me to spend
the night in the guard-house, he had only obeyed the orders he had
received from Venice from the secretary of war. "Now, reverend sir,"
he added, "my further orders are only to keep you a prisoner in the
fort, and I am responsible for your remaining here. I give you the
whole of the fortress for your prison. You shall have a good room in
which you will find your bed and all your luggage. Walk anywhere you
please; but recollect that, if you should escape, you would cause my
ruin. I am sorry that my instructions are to give you only ten sous
a day, but if you have any friends in Venice able to send you some
money, write to them, and trust to me for the security of your
letters. Now you may go to bed, if you need rest."
I was taken to my room; it was large and on the first story, with two
windows from which I had a very fine view. I found my bed, and I
ascertained with great satisfaction that my trunk, of which I had the
keys, had not been forced open. The major had kindly supplied my
table with all the implements necessary for writing. A Sclavonian
soldier informed me very politely that he would attend upon me, and
that I would pay him for his services whenever I could, for everyone
knew that I had only ten sous a day. I began by ordering some soup,
and, when I had dispatched it, I went to bed and slept for nine
hours. When I woke, I received an invitation to supper from the
major, and I began to imagine that things, after all, would not be so
I went to the honest governor, whom I found in numerous company. He
presented me to his wife and to every person present. I met there
several officers, the chaplain of the fortress, a certain Paoli Vida,
one of the singers of St. Mark's Church, and his wife, a pretty
woman, sister-in-law of the major, whom the husband chose to confine
in the fort because he was very jealous (jealous men are not
comfortable at Venice), together with several other ladies, not very
young, but whom I thought very agreeable, owing to their kind
Cheerful as I was by nature, those pleasant guests easily managed to
put me in the best of humours. Everyone expressed a wish to know the
reasons which could have induced M. Grimani to send me to the
fortress, so I gave a faithful account of all my adventures since my
grandmother's death. I spoke for three hours without any bitterness,
and even in a pleasant tone, upon things which, said in a different
manner, might have displeased my audience; all expressed their
satisfaction, and shewed so much sympathy that, as we parted for the
night, I received from all an assurance of friendship and the offer
of their services. This is a piece of good fortune which has never
failed me whenever I have been the victim of oppression, until I
reached the age of fifty. Whenever I met with honest persons
expressing a curiosity to know the history of the misfortune under
which I was labouring, and whenever I satisfied their curiosity, I
have inspired them with friendship, and with that sympathy which was
necessary to render them favourable and useful to me.
That success was owing to a very simple artifice; it was only to tell
my story in a quiet and truthful manner, without even avoiding the
facts which told against me. It is simple secret that many men do
not know, because the larger portion of humankind is composed of
cowards; a man who always tells the truth must be possessed of great
moral courage. Experience has taught me that truth is a talisman,
the charm of which never fails in its effect, provided it is not
wasted upon unworthy people, and I believe that a guilty man, who
candidly speaks the truth to his judge, has a better chance of being
acquitted, than the innocent man who hesitates and evades true
statements. Of course the speaker must be young, or at least in the
prime of manhood; for an old man finds the whole of nature combined
The major had his joke respecting the visit paid and returned to the
seminarist's bed, but the chaplain and the ladies scolded him. The
major advised me to write out my story and send it to the secretary
of war, undertaking that he should receive it, and he assured me that
he would become my protector. All the ladies tried to induce me to
follow the major's advice.
My Short Stay in Fort St. Andre--My First Repentance in Love Affairs
I Enjoy the Sweets of Revenge, and Prove a Clever Alibi--Arrest of
Count Bonafede--My Release--Arrival of the Bishop--Farewell to Venice
The fort, in which the Republic usually kept only a garrison of one
hundred half-pay Sclavonians, happened to contain at that time two
thousand Albanian soldiers, who were called Cimariotes.
The secretary of war, who was generally known under the title of
'sage a l'ecriture', had summoned these men from the East in
consequence of some impending promotion, as he wanted the officers to
be on the spot in order to prove their merits before being rewarded.
They all came from the part of Epirus called Albania, which belongs
to the Republic of Venice, and they had distinguished themselves in
the last war against the Turks. It was for me a new and
extraordinary sight to examine some eighteen or twenty officers, all
of an advanced age, yet strong and healthy, shewing the scars which
covered their face and their chest, the last naked and entirely
exposed through military pride. The lieutenant-colonel was
particularly conspicuous by his wounds, for, without exaggeration, he
had lost one-fourth of his head. He had but one eye, but one ear,
and no jaw to speak of. Yet he could eat very well, speak without
difficulty, and was very cheerful. He had with him all his family,
composed of two pretty daughters, who looked all the prettier in
their national costume, and of seven sons, every one of them a
soldier. This lieutenant-colonel stood six feet high, and his figure
was magnificent, but his scars so completely deformed his features
that his face was truly horrid to look at. Yet I found so much
attraction in him that I liked him the moment I saw him, and I would
have been much pleased to converse with him if his breath had not
sent forth such a strong smell of garlic. All the Albanians had
their pockets full of it, and they enjoyed a piece of garlic with as
much relish as we do a sugar-plum. After this none can maintain it
to be a poison, though the only medicinal virtue it possesses is to
excite the appetite, because it acts like a tonic upon a weak
The lieutenant-colonel could not read, but he was not ashamed of his
ignorance, because not one amongst his men, except the priest and the
surgeon, could boast greater learning. Every man, officer or
private, had his purse full of gold; half of them, at least, were
married, and we had in the fortress a colony of five or six hundred
women, with God knows how many children! I felt greatly interested
in them all. Happy idleness! I often regret thee because thou hast
often offered me new sights, and for the same reason I hate old age
which never offers but what I know already, unless I should take up a
gazette, but I cared nothing for them in my young days.
Alone in my room I made an inventory of my trunk, and having put
aside everything of an ecclesiastical character, I sent for a Jew,
and sold the whole parcel unmercifully. Then I wrote to M. Rosa,
enclosing all the tickets of the articles I had pledged, requesting
him to have them sold without any exception, and to forward me the
surplus raised by the sale. Thanks to that double operation, I was
enabled to give my Sclavonian servant the ten sous allowed to me
every day. Another soldier, who had been a hair-dresser, took care
of my hair which I had been compelled to neglect, in consequence of
the rules of the seminary. I spent my time in walking about the fort
and through the barracks, and my two places of resort were the
major's apartment for some intellectual enjoyment, and the rooms of
the Albanian lieutenant-colonel for a sprinkling of love. The
Albanian feeling certain that his colonel would be appointed
brigadier, solicited the command of the regiment, but he had a rival
and he feared his success. I wrote him a petition, short, but so
well composed that the secretary of war, having enquired the name of
the author, gave the Albanian his colonelcy. On his return to the
fort, the brave fellow, overjoyed at his success, hugged me in his
arms, saying that he owed it all to me; he invited me to a family
dinner, in which my very soul was parched by his garlic, and he
presented me with twelve botargoes and two pounds of excellent
The result of my petition made all the other officers think that they
could not succeed without the assistance of my pen, and I willingly
gave it to everybody; this entailed many quarrels upon me, for I
served all interests, but, finding myself the lucky possessor of some
forty sequins, I was no longer in dread of poverty, and laughed at
everything. However, I met with an accident which made me pass six
weeks in a very unpleasant condition.
On the 2nd of April, the fatal anniversary of my first appearance in
this world, as I was getting up in the morning, I received in my room
the visit of a very handsome Greek woman, who told me that her
husband, then ensign in the regiment, had every right to claim the
rank of lieutenant, and that he would certainly be appointed, if it
were not for the opposition of his captain who was against him,
because she had refused him certain favours which she could bestow
only upon her husband. She handed me some certificates, and begged
me to write a petition which she would present herself to the
secretary of war, adding that she could only offer me her heart in
payment. I answered that her heart ought not to go alone; I acted as
I had spoken, and I met with no other resistance than the objection
which a pretty woman is always sure to feign for the sake of
appearance. After that, I told her to come back at noon, and that
the petition would be ready. She was exact to the appointment, and
very kindly rewarded me a second time; and in the evening, under
pretence of some alterations to be made in the petition, she afforded
an excellent opportunity of reaping a third recompense.
But, alas! the path of pleasure is not strewn only with roses! On
the third day, I found out, much to my dismay, that a serpent had
been hid under the flowers. Six weeks of care and of rigid diet re-
established my health.
When I met the handsome Greek again, I was foolish enough to reproach
her for the present she had bestowed upon me, but she baffled me by
laughing, and saying that she had only offered me what she possessed,
and that it was my own fault if I had not been sufficiently careful.
The reader cannot imagine how much this first misfortune grieved me,
and what deep shame I felt. I looked upon myself as a dishonoured
man, and while I am on that subject I may as well relate an incident
which will give some idea of my thoughtlessness.
Madame Vida, the major's sister-in-law, being alone with me one
morning, confided in me in a moment of unreserved confidence what she
had to suffer from the jealous disposition of her husband, and his
cruelty in having allowed her to sleep alone for the last four years,
when she was in the very flower of her age.
"I trust to God," she added, "that my husband will not find out that
you have spent an hour alone with me, for I should never hear the end
Feeling deeply for her grief, and confidence begetting confidence, I
was stupid enough to tell her the sad state to which I had been
reduced by the cruel Greek woman, assuring her that I felt my misery
all the more deeply, because I should have been delighted to console
her, and to give her the opportunity of a revenge for her jealous
husband's coldness. At this speech, in which my simplicity and good
faith could easily be traced, she rose from her chair, and upbraided
me with every insult which an outraged honest woman might hurl at the
head of a bold libertine who has presumed too far. Astounded, but
understanding perfectly well the nature of my crime, I bowed myself
out of her room; but as I was leaving it she told me in the same
angry tone that my visits would not be welcome for the future, as I
was a conceited puppy, unworthy of the society of good and
respectable women. I took care to answer that a respectable woman
would have been rather more reserved than she had been in her
confidences. On reflection I felt pretty sure that, if I had been in
good health, or had said nothing about my mishap, she would have been
but too happy to receive my consolations.
A few days after that incident I had a much greater cause to regret
my acquaintance with the Greek woman. On Ascension Day, as the
ceremony of the Bucentaur was celebrated near the fort, M. Rosa
brought Madame Orio and her two nieces to witness it, and I had the
pleasure of treating them all to a good dinner in my room. I found
myself, during the day, alone with my young friends in one of the
casements, and they both loaded me with the most loving caresses and
kisses. I felt that they expected some substantial proof of my love;
but, to conceal the real state, of things, I pretended to be afraid
of being surprised, and they had to be satisfied with my shallow
I had informed my mother by letter of all I had suffered from
Grimani's treatment; she answered that she had written to him on the
subject, that she had no doubt he would immediately set me at
liberty, and that an arrangement had been entered into by which M.
Grimani would devote the money raised by Razetta from the sale of the
furniture to the settlement of a small patrimony on my youngest
brother. But in this matter Grimani did not act honestly, for the
patrimony was only settled thirteen years afterwards, and even then
only in a fictitious manner. I shall have an opportunity later on of
mentioning this unfortunate brother, who died very poor in Rome
twenty years ago.
Towards the middle of June the Cimariotes were sent back to the East,
and after their departure the garrison of the fort was reduced to its
usual number. I began to feel weary in this comparative solitude,
and I gave way to terrible fits of passion.
The heat was intense, and so disagreeable to me that I wrote to M.
Grimani, asking for two summer suits of clothes, and telling him
where they would be found, if Razetta had not sold them. A week
afterwards I was in the major's apartment when I saw the wretch
Razetta come in, accompanied by a man whom he introduced as Petrillo,
the celebrated favourite of the Empress of Russia, just arrived from
St. Petersburg. He ought to have said infamous instead of
celebrated, and clown instead of favourite.
The major invited them to take a seat, and Razetta, receiving a
parcel from Grimani's gondolier, handed it to me, saying,
"I have brought you your rags; take them."
"Some day I will bring you a 'rigano':"
At these words the scoundrel dared to raise his cane, but the
indignant major compelled him to lower his tone by asking him whether
he had any wish to pass the night in the guard-house. Petrillo, who
had not yet opened his lips, told me then that he was sorry not to
have found me in Venice, as I might have shewn him round certain
places which must be well known to me.
"Very likely we should have met your wife in such places,"
"I am a good judge of faces," he said, "and I can see that you are a
I was trembling with rage, and the major, who shared my utter
disgust, told them that he had business to transact, and they took
their leave. The major assured me that on the following day he would
go to the war office to complain of Razetta, and that he would have
him punished for his insolence.
I remained alone, a prey to feelings of the deepest indignation, and
to a most ardent thirst for revenge.
The fortress was entirely surrounded by water, and my windows were
not overlooked by any of the sentinels. A boat coming under my
windows could therefore easily take me to Venice during the night and
bring me back to the fortress before day-break. All that was
necessary was to find a boatman who, for a certain amount, would risk
the galleys in case of discovery. Amongst several who brought
provisions to the fort, I chose a boatman whose countenance pleased
me, and I offered him one sequin; he promised to let me know his
decision on the following day. He was true to his time, and declared
himself ready to take me. He informed me that, before deciding to
serve me, he had wished to know whether I was kept in the fort for
any great crime, but as the wife of the major had told him that my
imprisonment had been caused by very trifling frolics, I could rely
upon him. We arranged that he should be under my window at the
beginning of the night, and that his boat should be provided with a
mast long enough to enable me to slide along it from the window to
The appointed hour came, and everything being ready I got safely into
the boat, landed at the Sclavonian quay, ordered the boatman to wait
for me, and wrapped up in a mariner's cloak I took my way straight to
the gate of Saint-Sauveur, and engaged the waiter of a coffee-room to
take me to Razetta's house.
Being quite certain that he would not be at home at that time, I rang
the bell, and I heard my sister's voice telling me that if I wanted
to see him I must call in the morning. Satisfied with this, I went
to the foot of the bridge and sat down, waiting there to see which
way he would come, and a few minutes before midnight I saw him
advancing from the square of Saint-Paul. It was all I wanted to
know; I went back to my boat and returned to the fort without any
difficulty. At five o'clock in the morning everyone in the garrison
could see me enjoying my walk on the platform.
Taking all the time necessary to mature my plans, I made the
following arrangements to secure my revenge with perfect safety, and
to prove an alibi in case I should kill my rascally enemy, as it was
my intention to do. The day preceding the night fixed for my
expedition, I walked about with the son of the Adjutant Zen, who was
only twelve years old, but who amused me much by his shrewdness. The
reader will meet him again in the year 1771. As I was walking with
him, I jumped down from one of the bastions, and feigned to sprain my
ankle. Two soldiers carried me to my room, and the surgeon of the
fort, thinking that I was suffering from a luxation, ordered me to
keep to bed, and wrapped up the ankle in towels saturated with
camphorated spirits of wine. Everybody came to see me, and I
requested the soldier who served me to remain and to sleep in my
room. I knew that a glass of brandy was enough to stupefy the man,
and to make him sleep soundly. As soon as I saw him fast asleep, I
begged the surgeon and the chaplain, who had his room over mine, to
leave me, and at half-past ten I lowered myself in the boat.
As soon as I reached Venice, I bought a stout cudgel, and I sat
myself down on a door-step, at the corner of the street near Saint-
Paul's Square. A narrow canal at the end of the street, was, I
thought, the very place to throw my enemy in. That canal has now
At a quarter before twelve I see Razetta, walking along leisurely. I
come out of the street with rapid strides, keeping near the wall to
compel him to make room for me, and I strike a first blow on the
head, and a second on his arm; the third blow sends him tumbling in
the canal, howling and screaming my name. At the same instant a
Forlan, or citizen of Forli, comes out of a house on my left side
with a lantern in his hand. A blow from my cudgel knocks the lantern
out of his grasp, and the man, frightened out of his wits, takes to
his heels. I throw away my stick, I run at full speed through the
square and over the bridge, and while people are hastening towards
the spot where the disturbance had taken place, I jump into the boat,
and, thanks to a strong breeze swelling our sail, I get back to the
fortress. Twelve o'clock was striking as I re-entered my room
through the window. I quickly undress myself, and the moment I am in
my bed I wake up the soldier by my loud screams, telling him to go
for the surgeon, as I am dying of the colic.
The chaplain, roused by my screaming, comes down and finds me in
convulsions. In the hope that some diascordium would relieve me, the
good old man runs to his room and brings it, but while he has gone
for some water I hide the medicine. After half an hour of wry faces,
I say that I feel much better, and thanking all my friends, I beg
them to retire, which everyone does, wishing me a quiet sleep.
The next morning I could not get up in consequence of my sprained
ankle, although I had slept very well; the major was kind enough to
call upon me before going to Venice, and he said that very likely my
colic had been caused by the melon I had eaten for my dinner the day
The major returned at one o'clock in the afternoon. "I have good
news to give you," he said to me, with a joyful laugh. "Razetta was
soundly cudgelled last night and thrown into a canal."
"Has he been killed?"
"No; but I am glad of it for your sake, for his death would make your
position much more serious. You are accused of having done it."
"I am very glad people think me guilty; it is something of a revenge,
but it will be rather difficult to bring it home to me."
"Very difficult! All the same, Razetta swears he recognized you, and
the same declaration is made by the Forlan who says that you struck
his hand to make him drop his lantern. Razetta's nose is broken,
three of his teeth are gone, and his right arm is severely hurt. You
have been accused before the avogador, and M. Grimani has written to
the war office to complain of your release from the fortress without
his knowledge. I arrived at the office just in time. The secretary
was reading Grimani's letter, and I assured his excellency that it
was a false report, for I left you in bed this morning, suffering
from a sprained ankle. I told him likewise that at twelve o'clock
last night you were very near death from a severe attack of colic."
"Was it at midnight that Razetta was so well treated?"
"So says the official report. The war secretary wrote at once to M.
Grimani and informed him that you have not left the fort, and that
you are even now detained in it, and that the plaintiff is at
liberty, if he chooses, to send commissaries to ascertain the fact.
Therefore, my dear abbe, you must prepare yourself for an
"I expect it, and I will answer that I am very sorry to be innocent."
Three days afterwards, a commissary came to the fort with a clerk of
the court, and the proceedings were soon over. Everybody knew that I
had sprained my ankle; the chaplain, the surgeon, my body-servant,
and several others swore that at midnight I was in bed suffering from
colic. My alibi being thoroughly proved, the avogador sentenced
Razetta and the Forlan to pay all expenses without prejudice to my
rights of action.
After this judgment, the major advised me to address to the secretary
of war a petition which he undertook to deliver himself, and to claim
my release from the fort. I gave notice of my proceedings to M.
Grimani, and a week afterwards the major told me that I was free, and
that he would himself take me to the abbe. It was at dinnertime, and
in the middle of some amusing conversation, that he imparted that
piece of information. Not supposing him to be in earnest, and in
order to keep up the joke, I told him very politely that I preferred
his house to Venice, and that, to prove it, I would be happy to
remain a week longer, if he would grant me permission to do so. I
was taken at my word, and everybody seemed very pleased. But when,
two hours later, the news was confirmed, and I could no longer doubt
the truth of my release, I repented the week which I had so foolishly
thrown away as a present to the major; yet I had not the courage to
break my word, for everybody, and particularly his wife, had shown
such unaffected pleasure, it would have been contemptible of me to
change my mind. The good woman knew that I owed her every kindness
which I had enjoyed, and she might have thought me ungrateful.
But I met in the fort with a last adventure, which I must not forget
On the following day, an officer dressed in the national uniform
called upon the major, accompanied by an elderly man of about sixty
years of age, wearing a sword, and, presenting to the major a
dispatch with the seal of the war office, he waited for an answer,
and went away as soon as he had received one from the governor.
After the officer had taken leave, the major, addressing himself to
the elderly gentleman, to whom he gave the title of count, told him
that his orders were to keep him a prisoner, and that he gave him the
whole of the fort for his prison. The count offered him his sword,
but the major nobly refused to take it, and escorted him to the room
he was to occupy. Soon after, a servant in livery brought a bed and
a trunk, and the next morning the same servant, knocking at my door,
told me that his master begged the honour of my company to breakfast.
I accepted the invitation, and he received me with these words:
"Dear sir, there has been so much talk in Venice about the skill with
which you proved your incredible alibi, that I could not help asking
for the honour of your acquaintance."
"But, count, the alibi being a true one, there can be no skill
required to prove it. Allow me to say that those who doubt its truth
are paying me a very poor compliment, for--"
"Never mind; do not let us talk any more of that, and forgive me.
But as we happen to be companions in misfortune, I trust you will not
refuse me your friendship. Now for breakfast."
After our meal, the count, who had heard from me some portion of my
history, thought that my confidence called for a return on his part,
and he began: "I am the Count de Bonafede. In my early days I served
under Prince Eugene, but I gave up the army, and entered on a civil
career in Austria. I had to fly from Austria and take refuge in
Bavaria in consequence of an unfortunate duel. In Munich I made the
acquaintance of a young lady belonging to a noble family; I eloped
with her and brought her to Venice, where we were married. I have
now been twenty years in Venice. I have six children, and everybody
knows me. About a week ago I sent my servant to the postoffice for
my letters, but they were refused him because he had not any money to
pay the postage. I went myself, but the clerk would not deliver me
my letters, although I assured him that I would pay for them the next
time. This made me angry, and I called upon the Baron de Taxis, the
postmaster, and complained of the clerk, but he answered very rudely
that the clerk had simply obeyed his orders, and that my letters
would only be delivered on payment of the postage. I felt very
indignant, but as I was in his house I controlled my anger, went
home, and wrote a note to him asking him to give me satisfaction for
his rudeness, telling him that I would never go out without my sword,
and that I would force him to fight whenever and wherever I should
meet him. I never came across him, but yesterday I was accosted by
the secretary of the inquisitors, who told me that I must forget the
baron's rude conduct, and go under the guidance of an officer whom he
pointed out to me, to imprison myself for a week in this fortress. I
shall thus have the pleasure of spending that time with you."
I told him that I had been free for the last twenty-four hours, but
that to shew my gratitude for his friendly confidence I would feel
honoured if he would allow me to keep him company. As I had already
engaged myself with the major, this was only a polite falsehood.
In the afternoon I happened to be with him on the tower of the fort,
and pointed out a gondola advancing towards the lower gate; he took
his spy-glass and told me that it was his wife and daughter coming to
see him. We went to meet the ladies, one of whom might once have
been worth the trouble of an elopement; the other, a young person
between fourteen and sixteen, struck me as a beauty of a new style.
Her hair was of a beautiful light auburn, her eyes were blue and very
fine, her nose a Roman, and her pretty mouth, half-open and laughing,
exposed a set of teeth as white as her complexion, although a
beautiful rosy tint somewhat veiled the whiteness of the last. Her
figure was so slight that it seemed out of nature, but her perfectly-
formed breast appeared an altar on which the god of love would have
delighted to breathe the sweetest incense. This splendid chest was,
however, not yet well furnished, but in my imagination I gave her all
the embonpoint which might have been desired, and I was so pleased
that I could not take my looks from her. I met her eyes, and her
laughing countenance seemed to say to me: "Only wait for two years,
at the utmost, and all that your imagination is now creating will
then exist in reality."
She was elegantly dressed in the prevalent fashion, with large hoops,
and like the daughters of the nobility who have not yet attained the
age of puberty, although the young countess was marriageable. I had
never dared to stare so openly at the bosom of a young lady of
quality, but I thought there was no harm in fixing my eyes on a spot
where there was nothing yet but in expectation.
The count, after having exchanged a few words in German with his
wife, presented me in the most flattering manner, and I was received
with great politeness. The major joined us, deeming it his duty to
escort the countess all over the fortress, and I improved the
excellent opportunity thrown in my way by the inferiority of my
position; I offered my arm to the young lady, and the count left us
to go to his room.
I was still an adept in the old Venetian fashion of attending upon
ladies, and the young countess thought me rather awkward, though I
believed myself very fashionable when I placed my hand under her arm,
but she drew it back in high merriment. Her mother turned round to
enquire what she was laughing at, and I was terribly confused when I
heard her answer that I had tickled her.
"This is the way to offer your arm to a lady," she said, and she
passed her hand through my arm, which I rounded in the most clumsy
manner, feeling it a very difficult task to resume a dignified
countenance. Thinking me a novice of the most innocent species, she
very likely determined to make sport of me. She began by remarking
that by rounding my arm as I had done I placed it too far from her
waist, and that I was consequently out of drawing. I told her I did
not know how to draw, and inquired whether it was one of her
"I am learning," she answered, "and when you call upon us I will shew
you Adam and Eve, after the Chevalier Liberi; I have made a copy
which has been found very fine by some professors, although they did
not know it was my work."
"Why did you not tell them?"
"Because those two figures are too naked."
"I am not curious to see your Adam, but I will look at your Eve with
pleasure, and keep your secret."
This answer made her laugh again, and again her mother turned round.
I put on the look of a simpleton, for, seeing the advantage I could
derive from her opinion of me, I had formed my plan at the very
moment she tried to teach me how to offer my arm to a lady.
She was so convinced of my simplicity that she ventured to say that
she considered her Adam by far more beautiful than her Eve, because
in her drawing of the man she had omitted nothing, every muscle being
visible, while there was none conspicuous in Eve. "It is," she
added, "a figure with nothing in it."
"Yet it is the one which I shall like best."
"No; believe me, Adam will please you most."
This conversation had greatly excited me. I had on a pair of linen
breeches, the weather being very warm.... I was afraid of the major
and the countess, who were a few yards in front of us, turning round
.... I was on thorns. To make matters worse, the young lady
stumbled, one of her shoes slipped off, and presenting me her pretty
foot she asked me to put the shoe right. I knelt on the ground, and,
very likely without thinking, she lifted up her skirt.... she had
very wide hoops and no petticoat.... what I saw was enough to strike
me dead on the spot.... When I rose, she asked if anything was the
matter with me.
A moment after, coming out of one of the casemates, her head-dress
got slightly out of order, and she begged that I would remedy the
accident, but, having to bend her head down, the state in which I was
could no longer remain a secret for her. In order to avoid greater
confusion to both of us, she enquired who had made my watch ribbon; I
told her it was a present from my sister, and she desired to examine
it, but when I answered her that it was fastened to the fob-pocket,
and found that she disbelieved me, I added that she could see for
herself. She put her hand to it, and a natural but involuntary
excitement caused me to be very indiscreet. She must have felt
vexed, for she saw that she had made a mistake in her estimate of my
character; she became more timid, she would not laugh any more, and
we joined her mother and the major who was shewing her, in a sentry-
box, the body of Marshal de Schulenburg which had been deposited
there until the mausoleum erected for him was completed. As for
myself, I felt deeply ashamed. I thought myself the first man who
had alarmed her innocence, and I felt ready to do anything to atone
for the insult.
Such was my delicacy of feeling in those days. I used to credit
people with exalted sentiments, which often existed only in my
imagination. I must confess that time has entirely destroyed that
delicacy; yet I do not believe myself worse than other men, my equals
in age and inexperience.
We returned to the count's apartment, and the day passed off rather
gloomily. Towards evening the ladies went away, but the countess
gave me a pressing invitation to call upon them in Venice.
The young lady, whom I thought I had insulted, had made such a deep
impression upon me that the seven following days seemed very long;
yet I was impatient to see her again only that I might entreat her
forgiveness, and convince her of my repentance.
The following day the count was visited by his son; he was plain-
featured, but a thorough gentleman, and modest withal. Twenty-five
years afterwards I met him in Spain, a cadet in the king's body-
guard. He had served as a private twenty years before obtaining this
poor promotion. The reader will hear of him in good time; I will
only mention here that when I met him in Spain, he stood me out that
I had never known him; his self-love prompted this very contemptible
Early on the eighth day the count left the fortress, and I took my
departure the same evening, having made an appointment at a coffee-
house in St. Mark's Square with the major who was to accompany me to
M. Grimani's house. I took leave of his wife, whose memory will
always be dear to me, and she said, "I thank you for your skill in
proving your alibi, but you have also to thank me for having
understood you so well. My husband never heard anything about it
until it was all over."
As soon as I reached Venice, I went to pay a visit to Madame Orio,
where I was made welcome. I remained to supper, and my two charming
sweethearts who were praying for the death of the bishop, gave me the
most delightful hospitality for the night.
At noon the next day I met the major according to our appointment,
and we called upon the Abbe Grimani. He received me with the air of
a guilty man begging for mercy, and I was astounded at his stupidity
when he entreated me to forgive Razetta and his companion. He told
me that the bishop was expected very soon, and that he had ordered a
room to be ready for me, and that I could take my meals with him.
Then he introduced me to M. Valavero, a man of talent, who had just
left the ministry of war, his term of office having lasted the usual
six months. I paid my duty to him, and we kept up a kind of
desultory conversation until the departure of the major. When he had
left us M. Valavero entreated me to confess that I had been the
guilty party in the attack upon Razetta. I candidly told him that
the thrashing had been my handiwork, and I gave him all the
particulars, which amused him immensely. He remarked that, as I had
perpetrated the affair before midnight, the fools had made a mistake
in their accusation; but that, after all, the mistake had not
materially helped me in proving the alibi, because my sprained ankle,
which everybody had supposed a real accident, would of itself have
But I trust that my kind reader has not forgotten that I had a very
heavy weight upon my conscience, of which I longed to get rid. I had
to see the goddess of my fancy, to obtain my pardon, or die at her
I found the house without difficulty; the count was not at home. The
countess received me very kindly, but her appearance caused me so
great a surprise that I did not know what to say to her. I had
fancied that I was going to visit an angel, that I would find her in
a lovely paradise, and I found myself in a large sitting-room
furnished with four rickety chairs and a dirty old table. There was
hardly any light in the room because the shutters were nearly closed.
It might have been a precaution against the heat, but I judged that
it was more probably for the purpose of concealing the windows, the
glass of which was all broken. But this visible darkness did not
prevent me from remarking that the countess was wrapped up in an old
tattered gown, and that her chemise did not shine by its cleanliness.
Seeing that I was ill at ease, she left the room, saying that she
would send her daughter, who, a few minutes afterwards, came in with
an easy and noble appearance, and told me that she had expected me
with great impatience, but that I had surprised her at a time at
which she was not in the habit of receiving any visits.
I did not know what to answer, for she did not seem to me to be the
same person. Her miserable dishabille made her look almost ugly, and
I wondered at the impression she had produced upon me at the
fortress. She saw my surprise, and partly guessed my thoughts, for
she put on a look, not of vexation, but of sorrow which called forth
all my pity. If she had been a philosopher she might have rightly
despised me as a man whose sympathy was enlisted only by her fine
dress, her nobility, or her apparent wealth; but she endeavoured to
bring me round by her sincerity. She felt that if she could call a
little sentiment into play, it would certainly plead in her favour.
"I see that you are astonished, reverend sir, and I know the reason
of your surprise. You expected to see great splendour here, and you
find only misery. The government allows my father but a small
salary, and there are nine of us. As we must attend church on
Sundays and holidays in a style proper to our condition, we are often
compelled to go without our dinner, in order to get out of pledge the
clothes which urgent need too often obliges us to part with, and
which we pledge anew on the following day. If we did not attend
mass, the curate would strike our names off the list of those who
share the alms of the Confraternity of the Poor, and those alms alone
keep us afloat."
What a sad tale! She had guessed rightly. I was touched, but rather
with shame than true emotion. I was not rich myself, and, as I was
no longer in love, I only heaved a deep sigh, and remained as cold as
ice. Nevertheless, her position was painful, and I answered
politely, speaking with kindness and assuring her of my sympathy.
"Were I wealthy," I said, "I would soon shew you that your tale of
woe has not fallen on unfeeling ears; but I am poor, and, being at
the eve of my departure from Venice, even my friendship would be
useless to you." Then, after some desultory talk, I expressed a hope
that her beauty would yet win happiness for her. She seemed to
consider for a few minutes, and said, "That may happen some day,
provided that the man who feels the power of my charms understands
that they can be bestowed only with my heart, and is willing to
render me the justice I deserve; I am only looking for a lawful
marriage, without dreaming of rank or fortune; I no longer believe in
the first, and I know how to live without the second; for I have been
accustomed to poverty, and even to abject need; but you cannot
realize that. Come and see my drawings."
"You are very good, mademoiselle."
Alas! I was not thinking of her drawings, and I could no longer feel
interested in her Eve, but I followed her.
We came to a chamber in which I saw a table, a chair, a small toilet-
glass and a bed with the straw palliasse turned over, very likely for
the purpose of allowing the looker-on to suppose that there were
sheets underneath, but I was particularly disgusted by a certain
smell, the cause of which was recent; I was thunderstruck, and if I
had been still in love, this antidote would have been sufficiently
powerful to cure me instanter. I wished for nothing but to make my
escape, never to return, and I regretted that I could not throw on
the table a handful of ducats, which I should have considered the
price of my ransom.
The poor girl shewed me. her drawings; they were fine, and I praised
them, without alluding particularly to Eve, and without venturing a
joke upon Adam. I asked her, for the sake of saying something, why
she did not try to render her talent remunerative by learning pastel
"I wish I could," she answered, "but the box of chalks alone costs
"Will you forgive me if I am bold enough to offer you six?"
"Alas! I accept them gratefully, and to be indebted to you for such
a service makes me truly happy."
Unable to keep back her tears, she turned her head round to conceal
them from me, and I took that opportunity of laying the money on the
table, and out of politeness, wishing to spare her every unnecessary
humiliation, I saluted her lips with a kiss which she was at liberty
to consider a loving one, as I wanted her to ascribe my reserve to
the respect I felt for her. I then left her with a promise to call
another day to see her father. I never kept my promise. The reader
will see how I met her again after ten years.
How many thoughts crowded upon my mind as I left that house! What a
lesson! I compared reality with the imagination, and I had to give
the preference to the last, as reality is always dependent on it. I
then began to forsee a truth which has been clearly proved to me in
my after life, namely, that love is only a feeling of curiosity more
or less intense, grafted upon the inclination placed in us by nature
that the species may be preserved. And truly, woman is like a book,
which, good or bad, must at first please us by the frontispiece. If
this is not interesting, we do not feel any wish to read the book,
and our wish is in direct proportion to the interest we feel. The
frontispiece of woman runs from top to bottom like that of a book,
and her feet, which are most important to every man who shares my
taste, offer the same interest as the edition of the work. If it is
true that most amateurs bestow little or no attention upon the feet
of a woman, it is likewise a fact that most readers care little or
nothing whether a book is of the first edition or the tenth. At all
events, women are quite right to take the greatest care of their
face, of their dress, of their general appearance; for it is only by
that part of the frontispiece that they can call forth a wish to read
them in those men who have not been endowed by nature with the
privilege of blindness. And just in the same manner that men, who
have read a great many books, are certain to feel at last a desire
for perusing new works even if they are bad, a man who has known many
women, and all handsome women, feels at last a curiosity for ugly
specimens when he meets with entirely new ones. It is all very well
for his eye to discover the paint which conceals the reality, but his
passion has become a vice, and suggests some argument in favour of
the lying frontispiece. It is possible, at least he thinks so, that
the work may prove better than the title-page, and the reality more
acceptable than the paint which hides it. He then tries to peruse
the book, but the leaves have not been opened; he meets with some
resistance, the living book must be read according to established
rules, and the book-worm falls a victim to a coquetry, the monster
which persecutes all those who make a business of love. As for thee,
intelligent man, who hast read the few preceding lines, let me tell
thee that, if they do not assist in opening thy eyes, thou art lost;
I mean that thou art certain of being a victim to the fair sex to the
very last moment of thy life. If my candour does not displease thee,
accept my congratulations. In the evening I called upon Madame Orio,
as I wanted to inform her charming nieces that, being an inmate of
Grimani's house, I could not sleep out for the first night. I found
there the faithful Rosa, who told me that the affair of the alibi was
in every mouth, and that, as such celebrity was evidently caused by
a very decided belief in the untruth of the alibi itself, I ought to
fear a retaliation of the same sort on the part of Razetta, and to
keep on my guard, particularly at night. I felt all the importance of
this advice, and I took care never to go out in the evening otherwise
than in a gondola, or accompanied by some friends. Madame Manzoni
told me that I was acting wisely, because, although the judges could
not do otherwise than acquit me, everybody knew the real truth of the
matter, and Razetta could not fail to be my deadly foe.
Three or four days afterwards M. Grimani announced the arrival of
the bishop, who had put up at the convent of his order, at Saint-
Francois de Paul. He presented me himself to the prelate as a jewel
highly prized by himself, and as if he had been the only person
worthy of descanting upon its beauty.
I saw a fine monk wearing his pectoral cross. He would have reminded
me of Father Mancia if he had not looked stouter and less reserved.
He was about thirty-four, and had been made a bishop by the grace of
God, the Holy See, and my mother. After pronouncing over me a
blessing, which I received kneeling, and giving me his hand to kiss,
he embraced me warmly, calling me his dear son in the Latin language,
in which he continued to address me. I thought that, being a
Calabrian, he might feel ashamed of his Italian, but he undeceived me
by speaking in that language to M. Grimani. He told me that, as he
could not take me with him from Venice, I should have to proceed to
Rome, where Grimani would take care to send me, and that I would
procure his address at Ancona from one of his friends, called Lazari,
a Minim monk, who would likewise supply me with the means of
continuing my journey.
"When we meet in Rome," he added, "we can go together to Martorano by
way of Naples. Call upon me to-morrow morning, and have your
breakfast with me. I intend to leave the day after."
As we were on our way back to his house, M. Grimani treated me to a
long lecture on morals, which nearly caused me to burst into loud
laughter. Amongst other things, he informed me that I ought not to
study too hard, because the air in Calabria was very heavy, and I
might become consumptive from too close application to my books.
The next morning at day-break I went to the bishop. After saying his
mass, we took some chocolate, and for three hours he laid me under
examination. I saw clearly that he was not pleased with me, but I
was well enough pleased with him. He seemed to me a worthy man, and
as he was to lead me along the great highway of the Church, I felt
attracted towards him, for, at the time, although I entertained a
good opinion of my personal appearance, I had no confidence whatever
in my talents.
After the departure of the good bishop, M. Grimani gave me a letter
left by him, which I was to deliver to Father Lazari, at the Convent
of the Minims, in Ancona. M. Grimani informed me that he would send
me to that city with the ambassador from Venice, who was on the point
of sailing. I had therefore to keep myself in readiness, and, as I
was anxious to be out of his hands, I approved all his arrangements.
As soon as I had notice of the day on which the suite of the
ambassador would embark, I went to pay my last farewell to all my
acquaintances. I left my brother Francois in the school of M. Joli,
a celebrated decorative painter. As the peotta in which I was to
sail would not leave before daybreak, I spent the short night in the
arms of the two sisters, who, this time, entertained no hope of ever
seeing me again. On my side I could not forsee what would happen,
for I was abandoning myself to fate, and I thought it would be
useless to think of the future. The night was therefore spent
between joy and sadness, between pleasures and tears. As I bade them
adieu, I returned the key which had opened so often for me the road
This, my first love affair, did not give me any experience of the
world, for our intercourse was always a happy one, and was never
disturbed by any quarrel or stained by any interested motive. We
often felt, all three of us, as if we must raise our souls towards
the eternal Providence of God, to thank Him for having, by His
particular protection, kept from us all the accidents which might
have disturbed the sweet peace we were enjoying.
I left in the hands of Madame Manzoni all my papers, and all the
forbidden books I possessed. The good woman, who was twenty years
older than I, and who, believing in an immutable destiny, took
pleasure in turning the leaves of the great book of fate, told me
that she was certain of restoring to me all I left with her, before
the end of the following year, at the latest. Her prediction caused
me both surprise and pleasure, and feeling deep reverence for her, I
thought myself bound to assist the realization of her foresight.
After all, if she predicted the future, it was not through
superstition, or in consequence of some vain foreboding which reason
must condemn, but through her knowledge of the world, and of the
nature of the person she was addressing. She used to laugh because
she never made a mistake.
I embarked from St: Mark's landing. M. Grimani had given me ten
sequins, which he thought would keep me during my stay in the
lazzaretto of Ancona for the necessary quarantine, after which it was
not to be supposed that I could want any money. I shared Grimani's
certainty on the subject, and with my natural thoughtlessness I cared
nothing about it. Yet I must say that, unknown to everybody, I had
in my purse forty bright sequins, which powerfully contributed to
increase my cheerfulness, and I left Venice full of joy and without
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
VENETIAN YEARS, Volume 1b--A CLERIC IN NAPLES
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
A CLERIC IN NAPLES
My Misfortunes in Chiozza--Father Stephano--The Lazzaretto at Ancona
--The Greek Slave--My Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loretto--I Go to Rome
on Foot, and From Rome to Naples to Meet the Bishop--I Cannot Join
Him--Good Luck Offers Me the Means of Reaching Martorano, Which Place
I Very Quickly Leave to Return to Naples
The retinue of the ambassador, which was styled "grand," appeared to
me very small. It was composed of a Milanese steward, named
Carcinelli, of a priest who fulfilled the duties of secretary because
he could not write, of an old woman acting as housekeeper, of a man
cook with his ugly wife, and eight or ten servants.
We reached Chiozza about noon. Immediately after landing, I politely
asked the steward where I should put up, and his answer was:
"Wherever you please, provided you let this man know where it is, so
that he can give you notice when the peotta is ready to sail. My
duty," he added, "is to leave you at the lazzaretto of Ancona free of
expense from the moment we leave this place. Until then enjoy
yourself as well as you can."
The man to whom I was to give my address was the captain of the
peotta. I asked him to recommend me a lodging.
"You can come to my house," he said, "if you have no objection to
share a large bed with the cook, whose wife remains on board."
Unable to devise any better plan, I accepted the offer, and a sailor,
carrying my trunk, accompanied me to the dwelling of the honest
captain. My trunk had to be placed under the bed which filled up the
room. I was amused at this, for I was not in a position to be over-
fastidious, and, after partaking of some dinner at the inn, I went
about the town. Chiozza is a peninsula, a sea-port belonging to
Venice, with a population of ten thousand inhabitants, seamen,
fishermen, merchants, lawyers, and government clerks.
I entered a coffee-room, and I had scarcely taken a seat when a young
doctor-at-law, with whom I had studied in Padua, came up to me, and
introduced me to a druggist whose shop was near by, saying that his
house was the rendezvous of all the literary men of the place. A few
minutes afterwards, a tall Jacobin friar, blind of one eye, called
Corsini, whom I had known in Venice, came in and paid me many
compliments. He told me that I had arrived just in time to go to a
picnic got up by the Macaronic academicians for the next day, after a
sitting of the academy in which every member was to recite something
of his composition. He invited me to join them, and to gratify the
meeting with the delivery of one of my productions. I accepted the
invitation, and, after the reading of ten stanzas which I had written
for the occasion, I was unanimously elected a member. My success at
the picnic was still greater, for I disposed of such a quantity of
macaroni that I was found worthy of the title of prince of the
The young doctor, himself one of the academicians, introduced me to
his family. His parents, who were in easy circumstances, received me
very kindly. One of his sisters was very amiable, but the other, a
professed nun, appeared to me a prodigy of beauty. I might have
enjoyed myself in a very agreeable way in the midst of that charming
family during my stay in Chiozza, but I suppose that it was my
destiny to meet in that place with nothing but sorrows. The young
doctor forewarned me that the monk Corsini was a very worthless
fellow, despised by everybody, and advised me to avoid him. I
thanked him for the information, but my thoughtlessness prevented me
from profiting by it. Of a very easy disposition, and too giddy to
fear any snares, I was foolish enough to believe that the monk would,
on the contrary, be the very man to throw plenty of amusement in my
On the third day the worthless dog took me to a house of ill-fame,
where I might have gone without his introduction, and, in order to
shew my mettle, I obliged a low creature whose ugliness ought to have
been a sufficient antidote against any fleshly desire. On leaving
the place, he brought me for supper to an inn where we met four
scoundrels of his own stamp. After supper one of them began a bank
of faro, and I was invited to join in the game. I gave way to that
feeling of false pride which so often causes the ruin of young men,
and after losing four sequins I expressed a wish to retire, but my
honest friend, the Jacobin contrived to make me risk four more
sequins in partnership with him. He held the bank, and it was
broken. I did not wish to play any more, but Corsini, feigning to
pity me and to feel great sorrow at being the cause of my loss,
induced me to try myself a bank of twenty-five sequins; my bank was
likewise broken. The hope of winning back my money made me keep up
the game, and I lost everything I had.
Deeply grieved, I went away and laid myself down near the cook, who
woke up and said I was a libertine.
"You are right," was all I could answer.
I was worn out with fatigue and sorrow, and I slept soundly. My vile
tormentor, the monk, woke me at noon, and informed me with a
triumphant joy that a very rich young man had been invited by his
friends to supper, that he would be sure to play and to lose, and
that it would be a good opportunity for me to retrieve my losses.
"I have lost all my money. Lend me twenty sequins."
"When I lend money I am sure to lose; you may call it superstition,
but I have tried it too often. Try to find money somewhere else, and
I felt ashamed to confess my position to my friend, and sending for,
a money-lender I emptied my trunk before him. We made an inventory
of my clothes, and the honest broker gave me thirty sequins, with the
understanding that if I did not redeem them within three days all my
things would become his property. I am bound to call him an honest
man, for he advised me to keep three shirts, a few pairs of
stockings, and a few handkerchiefs; I was disposed to let him take
everything, having a presentiment that I would win back all I had
lost; a very common error. A few years later I took my revenge by
writing a diatribe against presentiments. I am of opinion that the
only foreboding in which man can have any sort of faith is the one
which forbodes evil, because it comes from the mind, while a
presentiment of happiness has its origin in the heart, and the heart
is a fool worthy of reckoning foolishly upon fickle fortune.
I did not lose any time in joining the honest company, which was
alarmed at the thought of not seeing me. Supper went off without any
allusion to gambling, but my admirable qualities were highly praised,
and it was decided that a brilliant fortune awaited me in Rome.
After supper there was no talk of play, but giving way to my evil
genius I loudly asked for my revenge. I was told that if I would
take the bank everyone would punt. I took the bank, lost every
sequin I had, and retired, begging the monk to pay what I owed to the
landlord, which he promised to do.
I was in despair, and to crown my misery I found out as I was going
home that I had met the day before with another living specimen of
the Greek woman, less beautiful but as perfidious. I went to bed
stunned by my grief, and I believe that I must have fainted into a
heavy sleep, which lasted eleven hours; my awaking was that of a
miserable being, hating the light of heaven, of which he felt himself
unworthy, and I closed my eyes again, trying to sleep for a little
while longer. I dreaded to rouse myself up entirely, knowing that I
would then have to take some decision; but I never once thought of
returning to Venice, which would have been the very best thing to do,
and I would have destroyed myself rather than confide my sad position
to the young doctor. I was weary of my existence, and I entertained
vaguely some hope of starving where I was, without leaving my bed.
It is certain that I should not have got up if M. Alban, the master
of the peotta, had not roused me by calling upon me and informing me
that the boat was ready to sail.
The man who is delivered from great perplexity, no matter by what
means, feels himself relieved. It seemed to me that Captain Alban
had come to point out the only thing I could possibly do; I dressed
myself in haste, and tying all my worldly possessions in a
handkerchief I went on board. Soon afterwards we left the shore, and
in the morning we cast anchor in Orsara, a seaport of Istria. We all
landed to visit the city, which would more properly be called a
village. It belongs to the Pope, the Republic of Venice having
abandoned it to the Holy See.
A young monk of the order of the Recollects who called himself Friar
Stephano of Belun, and had obtained a free passage from the devout
Captain Alban, joined me as we landed and enquired whether I felt
"Reverend father, I am unhappy."
"You will forget all your sorrow, if you will come and dine with me
at the house of one of our devout friends."
I had not broken my fast for thirty-six hours, and having suffered
much from sea-sickness during the night, my stomach was quite empty.
My erotic inconvenience made me very uncomfortable, my mind felt
deeply the consciousness of my degradation, and I did not possess a
groat! I was in such a miserable state that I had no strength to
accept or to refuse anything. I was thoroughly torpid, and I
followed the monk mechanically.
He presented me to a lady, saying that he was accompanying me to
Rome, where I intend to become a Franciscan. This untruth disgusted
me, and under any other circumstances I would not have let it pass
without protest, but in my actual position it struck me as rather
comical. The good lady gave us a good dinner of fish cooked in oil,
which in Orsara is delicious, and we drank some exquisite refosco.
During our meal, a priest happened to drop in, and, after a short
conversation, he told me that I ought not to pass the night on board
the tartan, and pressed me to accept a bed in his house and a good
dinner for the next day in case the wind should not allow us to sail;
I accepted without hesitation. I offered my most sincere thanks to
the good old lady, and the priest took me all over the town. In the
evening, he brought me to his house where we partook of an excellent
supper prepared by his housekeeper, who sat down to the table with
us, and with whom I was much pleased. The refosco, still better than
that which I had drunk at dinner, scattered all my misery to the
wind, and I conversed gaily with the priest. He offered to read to
me a poem of his own composition, but, feeling that my eyes would not
keep open, I begged he would excuse me and postpone the reading until
the following day.
I went to bed, and in the morning, after ten hours of the most
profound sleep, the housekeeper, who had been watching for my
awakening, brought me some coffee. I thought her a charming woman,
but, alas! I was not in a fit state to prove to her the high
estimation in which I held her beauty.
Entertaining feelings of gratitude for my kind host, and disposed to
listen attentively to his poem, I dismissed all sadness, and I paid
his poetry such compliments that he was delighted, and, finding me
much more talented than he had judged me to be at first, he insisted
upon treating me to a reading of his idylls, and I had to swallow
them, bearing the infliction cheerfully. The day passed off very
agreeably; the housekeeper surrounded me with the kindest attentions
--a proof that she was smitten with me; and, giving way to that
pleasing idea, I felt that, by a very natural system of reciprocity,
she had made my conquest. The good priest thought that the day had
passed like lightning, thanks to all the beauties I had discovered in
his poetry, which, to speak the truth, was below mediocrity, but time
seemed to me to drag along very slowly, because the friendly glances
of the housekeeper made me long for bedtime, in spite of the
miserable condition in which I felt myself morally and physically.
But such was my nature; I abandoned myself to joy and happiness,
when, had I been more reasonable, I ought to have sunk under my grief
But the golden time came at last. I found the pretty housekeeper
full of compliance, but only up to a certain point, and as she
offered some resistance when I shewed myself disposed to pay a full
homage to her charms, I quietly gave up the undertaking, very well
pleased for both of us that it had not been carried any further, and
I sought my couch in peace. But I had not seen the end of the
adventure, for the next morning, when she brought my coffee, her
pretty, enticing manners allured me to bestow a few loving caresses
upon her, and if she did not abandon herself entirely, it was only,
as she said, because she was afraid of some surprise. The day passed
off very pleasantly with the good priest, and at night, the house-
keeper no longer fearing detection, and I having on my side taken
every precaution necessary in the state in which I was, we passed two
most delicious hours. I left Orsara the next morning.
Friar Stephano amused me all day with his talk, which plainly showed
me his ignorance combined with knavery under the veil of simplicity.
He made me look at the alms he had received in Orsara--bread, wine,
cheese, sausages, preserves, and chocolate; every nook and cranny of
his holy garment was full of provisions.
"Have you received money likewise?" I enquired.
"God forbid! In the first place, our glorious order does not permit
me to touch money, and, in the second place, were I to be foolish
enough to receive any when I am begging, people would think
themselves quit of me with one or two sous, whilst they dive me ten
times as much in eatables. Believe me Saint-Francis, was a very
I bethought myself that what this monk called wealth would be poverty
to me. He offered to share with me, and seemed very proud at my
consenting to honour him so far.
The tartan touched at the harbour of Pola, called Veruda, and we
landed. After a walk up hill of nearly a quarter of an hour, we
entered the city, and I devoted a couple of hours to visiting the
Roman antiquities, which are numerous, the town having been the
metropolis of the empire. Yet I saw no other trace of grand
buildings except the ruins of the arena. We returned to Veruda, and
went again to sea. On the following day we sighted Ancona, but the
wind being against us we were compelled to tack about, and we did not
reach the port till the second day. The harbour of Ancona, although
considered one of the great works of Trajan, would be very unsafe if
it were not for a causeway which has cost a great deal of money, and
which makes it some what better. I observed a fact worthy of notice,
namely, that, in the Adriatic, the northern coast has many harbours,
while the opposite coast can only boast of one or two. It is evident
that the sea is retiring by degrees towards the east, and that in
three or four more centuries Venice must be joined to the land. We
landed at the old lazzaretto, where we received the pleasant
information that we would go through a quarantine of twenty-eight
days, because Venice had admitted, after a quarantine of three
months, the crew of two ships from Messina, where the plague had
recently been raging. I requested a room for myself and for Brother
Stephano, who thanked me very heartily. I hired from a Jew a bed, a
table and a few chairs, promising to pay for the hire at the
expiration of our quarantine. The monk would have nothing but straw.
If he had guessed that without him I might have starved, he would
most likely not have felt so much vanity at sharing my room. A
sailor, expecting to find in me a generous customer, came to enquire
where my trunk was, and, hearing from me that I did not know, he, as
well as Captain Alban, went to a great deal of trouble to find it,
and I could hardly keep down my merriment when the captain called,
begging to be excused for having left it behind, and assuring me that
he would take care to forward it to me in less than three weeks.
The friar, who had to remain with me four weeks, expected to live at
my expense, while, on the contrary, he had been sent by Providence to
keep me. He had provisions enough for one week, but it was necessary
to think of the future.
After supper, I drew a most affecting picture of my position, shewing
that I should be in need of everything until my arrival at Rome,
where I was going, I said, to fill the post of secretary of
memorials, and my astonishment may be imagined when I saw the
blockhead delighted at the recital of my misfortunes.
"I undertake to take care of you until we reach Rome; only tell me
whether you can write."
"What a question! Are you joking?"
"Why should I? Look at me; I cannot write anything but my name.
True, I can write it with either hand; and what else do I want to
"You astonish me greatly, for I thought you were a priest."
"I am a monk; I say the mass, and, as a matter of course, I must know
how to read. Saint-Francis, whose unworthy son I am, could not read,
an that is the reason why he never said a mass. But as you can
write, you will to-morrow pen a letter in my name to the persons
whose names I will give you, and I warrant you we shall have enough
sent here to live like fighting cocks all through our quarantine."
The next day he made me write eight letters, because, in the oral
tradition of his order, it is said that, when a monk has knocked at
seven doors and has met with a refusal at every one of them, he must
apply to the eighth with perfect confidence, because there he is
certain of receiving alms. As he had already performed the
pilgrimage to Rome, he knew every person in Ancona devoted to the
cult of Saint-Francis, and was acquainted with the superiors of all
the rich convents. I had to write to every person he named, and to
set down all the lies he dictated to me. He likewise made me sign
the letters for him, saying, that, if he signed himself, his
correspondents would see that the letters had not been written by
him, which would injure him, for, he added, in this age of
corruption, people will esteem only learned men. He compelled me to
fill the letters with Latin passages and quotations, even those
addressed to ladies, and I remonstrated in vain, for, when I raised
any objection, he threatened to leave me without anything to eat. I
made up my mind to do exactly as he wished. He desired me to write
to the superior of the Jesuits that he would not apply to the
Capuchins, because they were no better than atheists, and that that
was the reason of the great dislike of Saint-Francis for them. It
was in vain that I reminded him of the fact that, in the time of
Saint-Francis, there were neither Capuchins nor Recollets. His
answer was that I had proved myself an ignoramus. I firmly believed
that he would be thought a madman, and that we should not receive
anything, but I was mistaken, for such a quantity of provisions came
pouring in that I was amazed. Wine was sent from three or four
different quarters, more than enough for us during all our stay, and
yet I drank nothing but water, so great was my wish to recover my
health. As for eatables, enough was sent in every day for six
persons; we gave all our surplus to our keeper, who had a large
family. But the monk felt no gratitude for the kind souls who
bestowed their charity upon him; all his thanks were reserved for
He undertook to have my men washed by the keeper; I would not have
dared to give it myself, and he said that he had nothing to fear, as
everybody was well aware that the monks of his order never wear any
kind of linen.
I kept myself in bed nearly all day, and thus avoided shewing myself
to visitors. The persons who did not come wrote letters full of
incongruities cleverly worded, which I took good care not to point
out to him. It was with great difficulty that I tried to persuade
him that those letters did not require any answer.
A fortnight of repose and severe diet brought me round towards
complete recovery, and I began to walk in the yard of the lazzaretto
from morning till night; but the arrival of a Turk from Thessalonia
with his family compelled me to suspend my walks, the ground-floor
having been given to him. The only pleasure left me was to spend my
time on the balcony overlooking the yard. I soon saw a Greek slave,
a girl of dazzling beauty, for whom I felt the deepest interest. She
was in the habit of spending the whole day sitting near the door with
a book or some embroidery in her hand. If she happened to raise her
eyes and to meet mine, she modestly bent her head down, and sometimes
she rose and went in slowly, as if she meant to say, "I did not know
that somebody was looking at me." Her figure was tall and slender,
her features proclaimed her to be very young; she had a very fair
complexion, with beautiful black hair and eyes. She wore the Greek
costume, which gave her person a certain air of very exciting
I was perfectly idle, and with the temperament which nature and habit
had given me, was it likely that I could feast my eyes constantly
upon such a charming object without falling desperately in love? I
had heard her conversing in Lingua Franca with her master, a fine old
man, who, like her, felt very weary of the quarantine, and used to
come out but seldom, smoking his pipe, and remaining in the yard only
a short time. I felt a great temptation to address a few words to
the beautiful girl, but I was afraid she might run away and never
come out again; however, unable to control myself any longer, I
determined to write to her; I had no difficulty in conveying the
letter, as I had only to let it fall from my balcony. But she might
have refused to pick it up, and this is the plan I adopted in order
not to risk any unpleasant result.
Availing myself of a moment during which she was alone in the yard, I
dropped from my balcony a small piece of paper folded like a letter,
but I had taken care not to write anything on it, and held the true
letter in my hand. As soon as I saw her stooping down to pick up the
first, I quickly let the second drop at her feet, and she put both
into her pocket. A few minutes afterwards she left the yard. My
letter was somewhat to this effect:
"Beautiful angel from the East, I worship you. I will remain all
night on this balcony in the hope that you will come to me for a
quarter of an hour, and listen to my voice through the hole under my
feet. We can speak softly, and in order to hear me you can climb up
to the top of the bale of goods which lies beneath the same hole."
I begged from my keeper not to lock me in as he did every night, and
he consented on condition that he would watch me, for if I had jumped
down in the yard his life might have been the penalty, and he
promised not to disturb me on the balcony.
At midnight, as I was beginning to give her up, she carne forward. I
then laid myself flat on the floor of the balcony, and I placed my
head against the hole, about six inches square. I saw her jump on
the bale, and her head reached within a foot from the balcony. She
was compelled to steady herself with one hand against the wall for
fear of falling, and in that position we talked of love, of ardent
desires, of obstacles, of impossibilities, and of cunning artifices.
I told her the reason for which I dared not jump down in the yard,
and she observed that, even without that reason, it would bring ruin
upon us, as it would be impossible to come up again, and that,
besides, God alone knew what her master would do if he were to find
us together. Then, promising to visit me in this way every night,
she passed her hand through the hole. Alas! I could not leave off
kissing it, for I thought that I had never in my life touched so
soft, so delicate a hand. But what bliss when she begged for mine!
I quickly thrust my arm through the hole, so that she could fasten
her lips to the bend of the elbow. How many sweet liberties my hand
ventured to take! But we were at last compelled by prudence to
separate, and when I returned to my room I saw with great pleasure
that the keeper was fast asleep.
Although I was delighted at having obtained every favour I could
possibly wish for in the uncomfortable position we had been in, I
racked my brain to contrive the means of securing more complete
enjoyment for the following night, but I found during the afternoon
that the feminine cunning of my beautiful Greek was more fertile than
Being alone in the yard with her master, she said a few words to him
in Turkish, to which he seemed to give his approval, and soon after a
servant, assisted by the keeper, brought under the balcony a large
basket of goods. She overlooked the arrangement, and in order to
secure the basket better, she made the servant place a bale of cotton
across two others. Guessing at her purpose, I fairly leaped for joy,
for she had found the way of raising herself two feet higher; but I
thought that she would then find herself in the most inconvenient
position, and that, forced to bend double, she would not be able to
resist the fatigue. The hole was not wide enough for her head to
pass through, otherwise she might have stood erect and been
comfortable. It was necessary at all events to guard against that
difficulty; the only way was to tear out one of the planks of the
floor of the balcony, but it was not an easy undertaking. Yet I
decided upon attempting it, regardless of consequences; and I went to
my room to provide myself with a large pair of pincers. Luckily the
keeper was absent, and availing myself of the opportunity, I
succeeded in dragging out carefully the four large nails which
fastened the plank. Finding that I could lift it at my will, I
replaced the pincers, and waited for the night with amorous
The darling girl came exactly at midnight, noticing the difficulty
she experienced in climbing up, and in getting a footing upon the
third bale of cotton, I lifted the plank, and, extending my arm as
far as I could, I offered her a steady point of support. She stood
straight, and found herself agreeably surprised, for she could pass
her head and her arms through the hole. We wasted no time in empty
compliments; we only congratulated each other upon having both worked
for the same purpose.
If, the night before, I had found myself master of her person more
than she was of mine, this time the position was entirely reversed.
Her hand roamed freely over every part of my body, but I had to stop
half-way down hers. She cursed the man who had packed the bale for
not having made it half a foot bigger, so as to get nearer to me.
Very likely even that would not have satisfied us, but she would have
Our pleasures were barren, yet we kept up our enjoyment until the
first streak of light. I put back the plank carefully, and I lay
down in my bed in great need of recruiting my strength.
My dear mistress had informed me that the Turkish Bairam began that
very morning, and would last three days during which it would be
impossible for her to see me.
The night after Bairam, she did not fail to make her appearance, and,
saying that she could not be happy without me, she told me that, as
she was a Christian woman, I could buy her, if I waited for her after
leaving the lazzaretto. I was compelled to tell her that I did not
possess the means of doing so, and my confession made her sigh. On
the following night, she informed me that her master would sell her
for two thousand piasters, that she would give me the amount, that
she was yet a virgin, and that I would be pleased with my bargain.
She added that she would give me a casket full of diamonds, one of
which was alone worth two thousand piasters, and that the sale of the
others would place us beyond the reach of poverty for the remainder
of our life. She assured me that her master would not notice the
loss of the casket, and that, if he did, he would never think of
I was in love with this girl; and her proposal made me uncomfortable,
but when I woke in the morning I did not hesitate any longer. She
brought the casket in the evening, but I told her that I never could
make up my mind to be accessory to a robbery; she was very unhappy,
and said that my love was not as deep as her own, but that she could
not help admiring me for being so good a Christian.
This was the last night; probably we should never meet again. The
flame of passion consumed us. She proposed that I should lift her up
to the balcony through the open space. Where is the lover who would
have objected to so attractive a proposal? I rose, and without being
a Milo, I placed my hands under her arms, I drew her up towards me,
and my desires are on the point of being fulfilled. Suddenly I feel
two hands upon my shoulders, and the voice of the keeper exclaims,
"What are you about?" I let my precious burden drop; she regains her
chamber, and I, giving vent to my rage, throw myself flat on the
floor of the balcony, and remain there without a movement, in spite
of the shaking of the keeper whom I was sorely tempted to strangle.
At last I rose from the floor and went to bed without uttering one
word, and not even caring to replace the plank.
In the morning, the governor informed us that we were free. As I
left the lazzaretto, with a breaking heart, I caught a glimpse of the
Greek slave drowned in tears.
I agreed to meet Friar Stephano at the exchange, and I took the Jew
from whom I had hired the furniture, to the convent of the Minims,
where I received from Father Lazari ten sequins and the address of
the bishop, who, after performing quarantine on the frontiers of
Tuscany, had proceeded to Rome, where he would expect me to meet him.
I paid the Jew, and made a poor dinner at an inn. As I was leaving
it to join the monk, I was so unlucky as to meet Captain Alban, who
reproached me bitterly for having led him to believe that my trunk
had been left behind. I contrived to appease his anger by telling
him all my misfortunes, and I signed a paper in which I declared that
I had no claim whatever upon him. I then purchased a pair of shoes
and an overcoat, and met Stephano, whom I informed of my decision to
make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loretto. I said I would await there
for him, and that we would afterwards travel together as far as Rome.
He answered that he did not wish to go through Loretto, and that I
would repent of my contempt for the grace of Saint-Francis. I did
not alter my mind, and I left for Loretto the next day in the
enjoyment of perfect health.
I reached the Holy City, tired almost to death, for it was the first
time in my life that I had walked fifteen miles, drinking nothing but
water, although the weather was very warm, because the dry wine used
in that part of the country parched me too much. I must observe
that, in spite of my poverty, I did not look like a beggar.
As I was entering the city, I saw coming towards me an elderly priest
of very respectable appearance, and, as he was evidently taking
notice of me, as soon as he drew near, I saluted him, and enquired
where I could find a comfortable inn. "I cannot doubt," he said,
"that a person like you, travelling on foot, must come here from
devout motives; come with me." He turned back, I followed him, and
he took me to a fine-looking house. After whispering a few words to
a man who appeared to be a steward, he left me saying, very affably,
"You shall be well attended to."
My first impression was that I had been mistaken for some other
person, but I said nothing.
I was led to a suite of three rooms; the chamber was decorated with
damask hangings, the bedstead had a canopy, and the table was
supplied with all materials necessary for writing. A servant brought
me a light dressing-gown, and another came in with linen and a large
tub full of water, which he placed before me; my shoes and stockings
were taken off, and my feet washed. A very decent-looking woman,
followed by a servant girl, came in a few minutes after, and
curtsying very low, she proceeded to make my bed. At that moment the
Angelus bell was heard; everyone knelt down, and I followed their
example. After the prayer, a small table was neatly laid out, I was
asked what sort of wine I wished to drink, and I was provided with
newspapers and two silver candlesticks. An hour afterwards I had a
delicious fish supper, and, before I retired to bed, a servant came
to enquire whether I would take chocolate in the morning before or
As soon as I was in bed, the servant brought me a night-lamp with a
dial, and I remained alone. Except in France I have never had such a
good bed as I had that night. It would have cured the most chronic
insomnia, but I was not labouring under such a disease, and I slept
for ten hours.
This sort of treatment easily led me to believe that I was not in any
kind of hostelry; but where was I? How was I to suppose that I was
in a hospital?
When I had taken my chocolate, a hair-dresser--quite a fashionable,
dapper fellow--made his appearance, dying to give vent to his
chattering propensities. Guessing that I did not wish to be shaved,
he offered to clip my soft down with the scissors, saying that I
would look younger.
"Why do you suppose that I want to conceal my age?"
"It is very natural, because, if your lordship did not wish to do so,
your lordship would have shaved long ago. Countess Marcolini is
here; does your lordship know her? I must go to her at noon to dress
I did not feel interested in the Countess Marcolini, and, seeing it,
the gossip changed the subject.
"Is this your lordship's first visit to this house? It is the
finest hospital throughout the papal states."
"I quite agree with you, and I shall compliment His Holiness on the
"Oh! His Holiness knows all about it, he resided here before he
became pope. If Monsignor Caraffa had not been well acquainted with
you, he would not have introduced you here."
Such is the use of barbers throughout Europe; but you must not put
any questions to them, for, if you do, they are sure to threat you to
an impudent mixture of truth and falsehood, and instead of you
pumping them, they will worm everything out of you.
Thinking that it was my duty to present my respectful compliments to
Monsignor Caraffa, I desired to be taken to his apartment. He gave
me a pleasant welcome, shewed me his library, and entrusted me to the
care of one of his abbes, a man of parts, who acted as my cicerone
every where. Twenty years afterwards, this same abbe was of great
service to me in Rome, and, if still alive, he is a canon of St. John
On the following day, I took the communion in the Santa-Casa. The
third day was entirely employed in examining the exterior of this
truly wonderful sanctuary, and early the next day I resumed my
journey, having spent nothing except three paoli for the barber.
Halfway to Macerata, I overtook Brother Stephano walking on at a very
slow rate. He was delighted to see me again, and told me that he had
left Ancona two hours after me, but that he never walked more than
three miles a day, being quite satisfied to take two months for a
journey which, even on foot, can easily be accomplished in a week.
"I want," he said, "to reach Rome without fatigue and in good health.
I am in no hurry, and if you feel disposed to travel with me and in
the same quiet way, Saint-Francis will not find it difficult to keep
us both during the journey."
This lazy fellow was a man about thirty, red-haired, very strong and
healthy; a true peasant who had turned himself into a monk only for
the sake of living in idle comfort. I answered that, as I was in a
hurry to reach Rome, I could not be his travelling companion.
"I undertake to walk six miles, instead of three, today," he said,
"if you will carry my cloak, which I find very heavy."
The proposal struck me as a rather funny one; I put on his cloak, and
he took my great-coat, but, after the exchange, we cut such a comical
figure that every peasant we met laughed at us. His cloak would
truly have proved a load for a mule. There were twelve pockets quite
full, without taken into account a pocket behind, which he called 'il
batticulo', and which contained alone twice as much as all the
others. Bread, wine, fresh and salt meat, fowls, eggs, cheese, ham,
sausages--everything was to be found in those pockets, which
contained provisions enough for a fortnight.
I told him how well I had been treated in Loretto, and he assured me
that I might have asked Monsignor Caraffa to give me letters for all
the hospitals on my road to Rome, and that everywhere I would have
met with the same reception. "The hospitals," he added, "are all
under the curse of Saint-Francis, because the mendicant friars are
not admitted in them; but we do not mind their gates being shut
against us, because they are too far apart from each other. We prefer
the homes of the persons attached to our order; these we find
"Why do you not ask hospitality in the convents of your order?"
"I am not so foolish. In the first place, I should not be admitted,
because, being a fugitive, I have not the written obedience which
must be shown at every convent, and I should even run the risk of
being thrown into prison; your monks are a cursed bad lot. In the
second place, I should not be half so comfortable in the convents as
I am with our devout benefactors."
"Why and how are you a fugitive?"
He answered my question by the narrative of his imprisonment and
flight, the whole story being a tissue of absurdities and lies. The
fugitive Recollet friar was a fool, with something of the wit of
harlequin, and he thought that every man listening to him was a
greater fool than himself. Yet with all his folly he was not went in
a certain species of cunning. His religious principles were
singular. As he did not wish to be taken for a bigoted man he was
scandalous, and for the sake of making people laugh he would often
make use of the most disgusting expressions. He had no taste
whatever for women, and no inclination towards the pleasures of the
flesh; but this was only owing to a deficiency in his natural
temperament, and yet he claimed for himself the virtue of continence.
On that score, everything appeared to him food for merriment, and
when he had drunk rather too much, he would ask questions of such an
indecent character that they would bring blushes on everybody's
countenance. Yet the brute would only laugh.
As we were getting within one hundred yards from the house of the
devout friend whom he intended to honour with his visit, he took back
his heavy cloak. On entering the house he gave his blessing to
everybody, and everyone in the family came to kiss his hand. The
mistress of the house requested him to say mass for them, and the
compliant monk asked to be taken to the vestry, but when I whispered
in his ear,---
"Have you forgotten that we have already broken our fast to-day?" he
"Mind your own business."
I dared not make any further remark, but during the mass I was indeed
surprised, for I saw that he did not understand what he was doing. I
could not help being amused at his awkwardness, but I had not yet
seen the best part of the comedy. As soon as he had somehow or other
finished his mass he went to the confessional, and after hearing in
confession every member of the family he took it into his head to
refuse absolution to the daughter of his hostess, a girl of twelve or
thirteen, pretty and quite charming. He gave his refusal publicly,
scolding her and threatening her with the torments of hell. The poor
girl, overwhelmed with shame, left the church crying bitterly, and I,
feeling real sympathy for her, could not help saying aloud to
Stephano that he was a madman. I ran after the girl to offer her my
consolations, but she had disappeared, and could not be induced to
join us at dinner. This piece of extravagance on the part of the
monk exasperated me to such an extent that I felt a very strong
inclination to thrash him. In the presence of all the family I told
him that he was an impostor, and the infamous destroyer of the poor
child's honour; I challenged him to explain his reasons for refusing
to give her absolution, but he closed my lips by answering very
coolly that he could not betray the secrets of the confessional.
I could eat nothing, and was fully determined to leave the scoundrel.
As we left the house I was compelled to accept one paolo as the price
of the mock mass he had said. I had to fulfil the sorry duty of his
The moment we were on the road, I told him that I was going to part
company, because I was afraid of being sent as a felon to the galleys
if I continued my journey with him. We exchanged high words; I
called him an ignorant scoundrel, he styled me beggar. I struck him
a violent slap on the face, which he returned with a blow from his
stick, but I quickly snatched it from him, and, leaving him, I
hastened towards Macerata. A carrier who was going to Tolentino took
me with him for two paoli, and for six more I might have reached
Foligno in a waggon, but unfortunately a wish for economy made me
refuse the offer. I felt well, and I thought I could easily walk as
far as Valcimare, but I arrived there only after five hours of hard
walking, and thoroughly beaten with fatigue. I was strong and
healthy, but a walk of five hours was more than I could bear, because
in my infancy I had never gone a league on foot. Young people cannot
practise too much the art of walking.
The next day, refreshed by a good night's rest, and ready to resume
my journey, I wanted to pay the innkeeper, but, alas! a new
misfortune was in store for me! Let the reader imagine my sad
position! I recollected that I had forgotten my purse, containing
seven sequins, on the table of the inn at Tolentino. What a
thunderbolt! I was in despair, but I gave up the idea of going back,
as it was very doubtful whether I would find my money. Yet it
contained all I possessed, save a few copper coins I had in my
pocket. I paid my small bill, and, deeply grieved at my loss,
continued my journey towards Seraval. I was within three miles of
that place when, in jumping over a ditch, I sprained my ankle, and
was compelled to sit down on one side of the road, and to wait until
someone should come to my assistance.
In the course of an hour a peasant happened to pass with his donkey,
and he agreed to carry me to Seraval for one paolo. As I wanted to
spend as little as possible, the peasant took me to an ill-looking
fellow who, for two paoli paid in advance, consented to give me a
lodging. I asked him to send for a surgeon, but I did not obtain one
until the following morning. I had a wretched supper, after which I
lay down in a filthy bed. I was in hope that sleep would bring me
some relief, but my evil genius was preparing for me a night of
Three men, armed with guns and looking like banditti, came in shortly
after I had gone to bed, speaking a kind of slang which I could not
make out, swearing, raging, and paying no attention to me. They
drank and sang until midnight, after which they threw themselves down
on bundles of straw brought for them, and my host, who was drunk,
came, greatly to my dismay, to lie down near me. Disgusted at the