Part 45 out of 70
forgive her Spanish ways, and saying that she would be very
pleasant when she knew me better.
The count was poor, his house was small, his furniture shabby, and
his footman's livery threadbare; instead of plate he had china,
and one of the countess's maids was chief cook. He had no
carriages nor horses, not even a saddle horse of any kind.
Clairmont gave me all this information, and added that he had to
sleep in a little kitchen, and was to share his bed with the man
who had waited at table.
I had only one room, and having three heavy trunks found myself
very uncomfortable, and I decided on seeking some other lodging
more agreeable to my tastes.
The count came early in the morning to ask what I usually took for
"My dear count," I replied, "I have enough fine Turin chocolate to
go all round. Does the countess like it?"
"Very much, but she won't take it unless it is made by her woman."
"Here are six pounds: make her accept it, and tell her that if I
hear anything about payment I shall take it back."
"I am sure she will accept it, and thank you too. Shall I have
your carriage housed?"
"I shall be extremely obliged to you, and I shall be glad if you
would get me a hired carriage, and a guide for whom you can
"It shall be done."
The count was going out when the priest, who had supped with us
the night before, came in to make his bow. He was a man of forty-
one of the tribe of domestic chaplains who are so common in Italy
--who, in return for keeping the accounts of the house, live with
its master and mistress. In the morning this priest said mass in
a neighbouring church, for the rest of the day he either occupied
himself with the cares of the house, or was the lady's obedient
As soon as We were alone he begged me to say that he had paid me
the three hundred Milanese crowns for the sarcenet, if the
countess asked me about it.
"Dear, dear, abbe!" said I, laughing, "this sort of thing is not
exactly proper in a man of your sacred profession. How can you
advise me to tell a lie? No, sir; if the countess asks me any
such impertinent question, I shall tell her the truth."
"I am sure she will ask you, and if you answer like that I shall
suffer for it."
"Well, sir, if you are in the wrong you deserve to suffer."
"But as it happens, I should be blamed for nothing."
"Well, go and tell her it's a present; and if she won't have that,
tell her I am in no hurry to be paid."
"I see, sir, that you don't know the lady or the way in which this
house is managed. I will speak to her husband."
In a quarter of an hour the count told me that he owed me a lot of
money, which he hoped to pay back in the course of Lent, and that
I must add the sarcenet to the account. I embraced him and said
that he would have to keep the account himself, as I never noted
down any of the moneys that I was only too happy to lend to my
"If your wife asks me whether I have received the money, be sure I
will answer in the affirmative."
He went out shedding grateful tears, while I felt indebted to him
for having given me the opportunity of doing him a service; for I
was very fond of him.
In the morning, the countess being invisible, I watched my man
spreading out my suits over the chairs, amongst them being some
handsome women's cloaks, and a rich red dress deeply trimmed with
fur, which had been originally intended for the luckless
Corticelli. I should no doubt have given it to Agatha, if I had
continued to live with her, and I should have made a mistake, as
such a dress was only fit for a lady of rank.
At one o'clock I received another visit from the count, who told
me that the countess was going to introduce me to their best
friend. This was the Marquis Triuizi, a man of about, my own age,
tall, well made, squinting slightly, and with all the manner of a
nobleman. He told me that besides coming to have the honour of my
acquaintance, he also came to enjoy the fire, "for," said he,
"there's only one fireplace in the house and that's in your room."
As all the chairs were covered, the marquis drew the countess on
to his knee and made her sit there like a baby; but she blushed,
and escaped from his grasp. The marquis laughed heartily at her
confusion, and she said,--
"Is it possible that a man of your years has not yet learnt to
respect a woman?"
"Really, countess," said he, "I thought it would be very
disrespectful to continue sitting while you were standing."
While Clairmont was taking the clothes off the chairs, the marquis
noticed the mantles and the beautiful dress, and asked me if I
were expecting a lady.
"No," said I, "but I hope to find someone at Milan who will be
worthy of such presents." I added, "I know the Prince Triulzi, at
Venice; I suppose he is of your family?"
"He says he is, and it may be so; but I am certainly not a member
of his family."
This let me know that I should do well to say no more about the
"You must stay to dinner, marquis," said Count A---- B----; "and
as you only like dishes prepared by your own cook you had better
send for them."
The marquis agreed, and we made good cheer. The table was covered
with fair linen and handsome plate, the wine was good and
plentiful, and the servants quick and well dressed. I could now
understand the marquis's position in the house. It was his wit
and mirth which kept the conversation going, and the countess came
in for a share of his pleasantries, while she scolded him for his
I could see, however, that the marquis did not want to humiliate
her; on the contrary, he was fond of her, and only wished to bring
down her exaggerated pride. When he saw her on the point of
bursting into tears of rage and shame, he quieted her down by
saying that no one in Milan respected her charms and her high
birth more than he.
After dinner the tailor who was to measure the countess for a
domino for the ball was announced. On the marquis's praising the
colours and the beauty of the materials, she told him that I had
brought her the sarcenet from Turin, and this reminded her to ask
me whether I had been paid.
"Your husband settled with me," said I, "but you have given me a
lesson I can never forget."
"What lesson?" said the marquis.
"I had hoped that the countess would have deigned to receive this
poor present at my hands."
"And she wouldn't take it? It's absurd, on my life."
"There is nothing to laugh at," said the countess, "but you laugh
While the man was measuring her, she complained of feeling cold,
as she was in her stays, and her beautiful breast was exposed.
Thereupon, the marquis put his hands on it, as if he were quite
accustomed to use such familiarities. But the Spaniard, no doubt
ashamed because of my presence, got into a rage, and abused him in
the most awful manner, while he laughed pleasantly, as if he could
calm the storm when he pleased. This was enough to inform me of
the position in which they stood to one another, and of the part I
ought to take.
We remained together till the evening, when the countess and the
marquis went to the opera, and the count came with me to my room,
till my carriage was ready to take us there too. The opera had
begun when we got in, and the first person I noticed on the stage
was my dear Therese Palesi, whom I had left at Florence. It was a
pleasant surprise to me, and I foresaw that we should renew our
sweet interviews while I remained at Milan I was discreet enough
to say nothing to the count about his wife's charms, or the way
their house was managed. I saw that the place was taken, and the
odd humours of the lady prevented my falling in love with her.
After the second act we went to the assembly rooms, where five or
six banks at faro were being held; I staked and lost a hundred
ducats as if to pay for my welcome, and then rose from the table.
At supper the countess seemed to unbend a little, she condoled
with me on my loss, and I said that I was glad of it as it made
her speak so.
Just as I rang my bell the next morning, Clairmont told me that a
woman wanted to speak to me.
"Is she young?"
"Both young and pretty, sir."
"That will do nicely, shew her in."
I saw a simply dressed girl, who reminded me of Leah. She was
tall and beautiful, but had not as high pretensions as the Jewess;
as she only wanted to know whether she could do my washing for me.
I was quite taken with her. Clairmont had just brought me my
chocolate, and I asked her to sit down on the bed; but she
answered modestly that she did not want to trouble me, and would
come again when I was up.
"Do you live at any distance?"
"I live on the ground floor of this house."
"All by yourself?"
"No sir, I have my father and mother."
"And what is your name?"
"Your name is as pretty as you are. Will you give me your hand to
"I can't," she replied, with a smile, "my hand is another's."
"You are engaged, are you?"
"Yes, to a tailor, and we are going to be married before the end
of the carnival:"
"Is he rich or handsome?"
"Neither the one nor the other."
"Then why are you going to marry him?"
"Because I want to have a house of my own:"
"I like you, and will stand your friend. Go and fetch your
tailor. I will give him some work to do."
As soon as she went out I got up and told Clairmont to put my
linen on a table. I had scarcely finished dressing when she came
back with her tailor. It was a striking contrast, for he was a
little shrivelled-up man, whose appearance made one laugh.
"Well, master tailor," said I, "so you are going to marry this
"Yes, sir, the banns have been published already."
"You are a lucky fellow indeed to have so much happiness in store.
When are you going to marry her?"
"In ten or twelve days."
"Why not to-morrow?"
"Your worship is in a great hurry."
"I think I should be, indeed," said I, laughing, "if I were in
your place. I want you to make me a domino for the ball to-
"Certainly, sir; but your excellency must find me the stuff, for
nobody in Milan would give me credit for it, and I couldn't afford
to lay out so much money in advance."
"When you are married you will have money and credit too. In the
meanwhile here are ten sequins for you."
He went away in high glee at such a windfall.
I gave Zenobia some lace to do up, and asked her if she was afraid
of having a jealous husband.
"He is neither jealous nor amorous," she replied. "He is only
marrying me because I earn more than he does."
"With your charms I should have thought you might have made a
"I have waited long enough; I have got tired of maidenhood.
Besides, he is sharp if he is not handsome, and perhaps a keen
head is better than a handsome face."
"You are sharp enough yourself, anyhow. But why does he put off
"Because he hasn't got any money, and wants to have a fine wedding
for his relations to come to. I should like it myself."
"I think you are right; but I can't see why you should not let an
honest man kiss your hand."
"That was only a piece of slyness to let you know I was to be
married. I have no silly prejudices myself."
"Ah, that's better! Tell your future husband that if he likes me
to be the patron of the wedding I will pay for everything."
"Yes, really. I will give him twenty-five sequins on the
condition that he spends it all on the wedding."
"Twenty-five sequins! That will make people talk; but what care
we? I will give you an answer to-morrow."
"And a kiss now?"
"With all my heart."
Zenobia went away in great delight, and I went out to call on my
banker and dear Therese.
When the door was opened the pretty maid recognized me, and taking
me by the hand led me to her mistress, who was just going to get
up. Her emotion at seeing me was so great that she could not
utter a word, but only claps me to her breast.
Our natural transports over, Therese told me that she had got
tired of her husband, and that for the last six months they had
not been living together. She had made him an allowance to get
rid of him, and he lived on it at Rome.
"And where is Cesarino?"
"In this town. You can see him whenever you like."
"Are you happy?"
"Quite. People say that I have a lover, but it is not true; and
you can see me at any time with perfect liberty."
We spent two pleasant hours in telling each other of our
experiences since our last meeting, and then, finding her as fresh
and fair as in the season of our early loves, I asked her if she
had vowed to be faithful to her husband.
"At Florence," she replied, "I was still in love with him; but
now, if I am still pleasing in your eyes, we can renew our
connection, and live together till we die."
"I will soon shew you, dearling, that I love you as well as ever."
She answered only by giving herself up to my embrace.
After action and contemplation I left her as amorous as she had
been eighteen years before, but my passion found too many new
objects to remain constant long.
Countess A---- B---- began to be more polite. "I know where you
have been," said she, with a pleased air; "but if you love that
person, you will not go and see her again, or else her lover will
"Then I would take his place, madam."
"You are right in amusing yourself with women who know how to earn
your presents. I am aware that you never give anything till you
have received evident proofs of their affection."
"That has always been my principle."
"It's an excellent way to avoid being duped. The lover of the
person you have been with kept a lady in society for some time in
great splendour, but all the rest of us despised her."
"Why so, if you please?"
"Because she lowered herself so terribly. Greppi is absolutely a
man of no family whatever."
Without expressing my surprise at the name of Greppi, I replied
that a man need not be well born to be an excellent lover.
"The only thing needful," said I, "is a fine physique and plenty
of money, and those ladies who despised their friend were either
ridiculously proud or abominably envious. I have not the
slightest doubt that if they could find any more Gieppis they
would be willing enough to lower themselves."
She would doubtless have made a sharp reply, for what I had said
had angered her; but the Marquis Triulzi arriving, she went out
with him, while her husband and myself went to a place where there
was a bank at faro, the banker only having a hundred sequins
I took a card and staked small sums like the rest of the company.
After losing twenty ducats I left the place.
As we were going to the opera the poor count told me I had made
him lose ten ducats on his word of honour, and that he did not
know how he could pay it by the next day. I pitied him, and gave
him the money without a word; for misery has always appealed
strongly to me. Afterwards I lost two hundred ducats at the same
bank to which I had lost money the evening before. The count was
in the greatest distress. He did not know that Greppi, whom his
proud wife considered so worthless, had a hundred thousand francs
of my money, and that I possessed jewellery to an even greater
The countess, who had seen me lose, asked me if I would sell my
"They say it's worth a thousand sequins," said she.
"Yes, that is so; but I would sell everything I possess before
parting with any of the articles which I intend for the fair sex."
"Marquis Triulzi wants it badly to present to someone."
"I am very sorry, but I cannot sell it to him."
She went away without a word, but I could see that she was
exceedingly vexed at my refusal.
As I was leaving the opera-house I saw Therese getting into her
sedan-chair. I went up to her, and told her that I was sure she
was going to sup with her lover. She whispered in my ear that she
was going to sup by herself, and that I might come if I dared. I
gave her an agreeable surprise by accepting the invitation.
"I will expect you, then," she said.
I asked the count to ride home in my carriage, and taking a chair
I reached Therese's house just as she was going in.
What a happy evening we had! We laughed heartily when we told
each other our thoughts.
"I know you were in love with Countess A---- B---- ," said she,
"and I felt sure you would not dare to come to supper with me."
"And I thought I should confound you by accepting your invitation,
as I knew Greppi was your lover."
"He is my friend," she replied. "If he loves me in any other way
than that of friendship, I pity him, for as yet he has not
discovered the secret of seduction."
"Do you think he ever will?"
"No, I don't. I am rich."
"Yes, but he is richer than you."
"I know that, but I think he loves his money better than he loves
"I understand. You will make him happy if he loves you well
enough to ruin himself."
"That is it, but it will never come to pass. But here we are,
together again after a divorce of nearly twenty years. I don't
think you will find any change in me."
"That is a privilege which nature grants to the fair sex only.
You will find me changed, but you will be able to work miracles."
This was a piece of politeness, for she was hardly capable of
working any miracle. However, after an excellent supper, we spent
two hours in amorous raptures, and then Morpheus claimed us for
his own. When we awoke I did not leave her before giving her a
good day equal to the good night which had sent us to sleep.
When I got back I found the fair Zenobia, who said the tailor was
ready to marry her next Sunday if my offer was not a joke.
"To convince you of the contrary," said I, "here are the twenty-
Full of gratitude she let herself fall into my arms, and I covered
her mouth and her beautiful bosom with my fiery kisses. Therese
had exhausted me, so I did not go any further, but the girl no
doubt attributed my self-restraint to the fact that the door was
open. I dressed carefully, and made myself look less weary, and
to freshen myself up I had a long drive in an open carriage.
When I returned, I found the Marquis of Triulzi teasing the
countess as usual. On that day he furnished the dinner, and it
was consequently, a very good one.
The conversation turned on the dress in my possession, and the
countess told the marquis, like an idiot, that it was destined for
the lady who would make me desirous and gratify my desire.
With exquisite politeness the marquis told me that I deserved to
enjoy favours at a cheaper rate.
"I suppose you will be giving it to the person with whom you spent
the night," said the countess.
"That's an impossibility," I answered, "for I spent the night in
Just then Clairmont came in, and told me an officer wanted to
speak to me. I went to the door, and saw a handsome young fellow,
who greeted me with an embrace. I recognized him as Barbaro, the
son of a Venetian noble, and brother of the fair and famous Madame
Gritti Scombro, of whom I spoke ten years ago, whose husband had
died in the citadel of Cattaro, where the State Inquisitors had
imprisoned him. My young friend had also fallen into disgrace
with the despotic Inquisitors. We had been good friends during
the year before my imprisonment, but I had heard nothing of him
Barbaro told me the chief incidents in a life that had been
adventurous enough, and informed me that he was now in the service
of the Duke of Modena, the Governor of Milan.
"I saw you losing money at Canano's bank," said he, "and
remembering our old friendship I want to communicate to you a sure
way of winning money. All that is necessary is for me to
introduce you to a club of young men who are very fond of play,
and cannot possibly win."
"Where does this club meet?"
"In an extremely respectable house. If you agree I will keep the
bank myself, and I am sure of winning. I want you to lend me
capital, and I only ask a fourth of the profits."
"I suppose you can hold the cards well."
"You are right."
This was as much as to tell me that he was an adroit sharper, or,
in other words, a skilful corrector of fortune's mistakes. He
concluded by saying that I should find something worth looking at
in the house he had mentioned.
"My dear sir," I replied, "I will give you my decision after
seeing the club to which you want to introduce me."
"Will you be at the theatre coffee-house at three o'clock to-
"Yes, but I hope to see you at the ball in the evening."
Zenobia's betrothed brought me my domino, and the countess had
hers already. As the ball did not begin till the opera was over,
I went to hear Therese's singing. In the interval between the
acts I lost another two hundred sequins, and then went home to
dress for the ball. The countess said that if I would be kind
enough to take her to the ball in my carriage and fetch her home
in it, she would not send for the Marquis Triulzi's. I replied
that I was at her service.
Under the impression that the fair Spaniard had only given me the
preference to enable me to take liberties with her, I told her I
should be very glad to give her the dress, and that the only
condition was that I should spent a night with her.
"You insult me cruelly," said she, "you must know my character
better than that."
"I know everything, my dear countess; but, after all, the insult's
nothing; you can easily forgive me if you pluck up a little
spirit; trample on a foolish prejudice; get the dress, and make me
happy for a whole night long."
"That it all very well when one is in love, but you must confess
that your coarse way of speaking is more likely to make me hate
you than love you."
"I use that style, because I want to come to the point; I have no
time to waste. And you, countess, must confess in your turn, that
you would be delighted to have me sighing at your feet."
"It would be all the same to me, I don't think I could love you."
"Then we are agreed on one point at all events, for I love you no
more than you love me."
"And yet you would spend a thousand sequins for the pleasure of
passing a night with me."
"Not at all, I don't want to sleep with you for the sake of the
pleasure, but to mortify your infernal pride, which becomes you so
God knows what the fierce Spaniard would have answered, but at
that moment the carriage stopped at the door of the theatre. We
parted, and after I had got tired of threading my way amidst the
crowd I paid a visit to the gaming-room, hoping to regain the
money I had lost. I had more than five hundred sequins about me
and a good credit at the bank, but I certainly did my best to lose
everything I had. I sat down at Canano's bank, and noticing that
the poor count, who followed me wherever I went, was the only
person who knew me, I thought I should have a lucky evening. I
only punted on one card, and spent four hours without losing or
gaining. Towards the end, wishing to force fortune's favour, I
lost rapidly, and left all my money in the hands of the banker. I
went back to the ball-room, where the countess rejoined me, and we
When we were in the carriage, she said,--
"You lost an immense sum, and I am very glad of it. The marquis
will give you a thousand sequins, and the money will bring you
"And you, too, for I suppose you will have the dress?"
"No, madam, you shall never have it in this way, and you know the
other. I despise a thousand sequins."
"And I despise you and your presents."
"You may despise me as much as you please, and you may be sure I
With these polite expressions we reached the house. When I got to
my room I found the count there with a long face, as if he wanted
to pity me but dared not do it. However, my good temper gave him
the courage to say:--
"Triulzi will give you a thousand sequins; that will fit you up
"For the dress you mean?"
"I wanted to give it to your wife, but she said she would despise
it, coming from my hands."
"You astonish me; she is mad after it. You must have wounded her
haughty temper in some way or another. But sell it, and get the
"I will let you know to-morrow."
I slept four or five hours, and then rose and went out in my great
coat to call on Greppi, for I had no more money. I took a
thousand sequins, begging him not to tell my affairs to anyone.
He replied that my affairs were his own, and that I could count on
his secrecy. He complimented me on the esteem in which Madame
Palesi held me, and said he hoped to meet me at supper at her
house one night.
"Such a meeting would give me the greatest pleasure," I replied.
On leaving him I called on Therese, but as there were some people
with her I did not stay long. I was glad to see that she knew
nothing about my losses or my affairs. She said that Greppi
wanted to sup with me at her house, and that she would let me know
when the day was fixed. When I got home I found the count in
front of my fire.
"My wife is in a furious rage with you," said he, "and won't tell
"The reason is, my dear count, that I won't let her accept the
dress from any hand but mine. She told me that she should despise
it as a gift from me, but she has nothing to be furious about that
"It's some mad notion of hers, and I don't know what to make of
it. But pray attend to what I am about to say to you. You
despise a thousand sequins--good. I congratulate you. But if you
are in a position to despise a sum which would make me happy,
offer up a foolish vanity on the shrine of friendship, take the
thousand sequins, and lend them to me, and let my wife have the
dress, for of course he will give it her."
This proposal made me roar with laughter, and certainly it was of
a nature to excite the hilarity of a sufferer from confirmed
melancholia, which I was far from being. However, I stopped
laughing when I saw how the poor count blushed from shame. I
kissed him affectionately to calm him, but at last I was cruel
enough to say,
"I will willingly assist you in this arrangement. I will sell the
dress to the marquis as soon as you please, but I won't lend you
the money. I'll give it to you in the person of your wife at a
private interview; but when she receives me she must not only be
polite and complaisant, but as gentle as a lamb. Go and see if it
can be arranged, my dear count; 'tis absolutely my last word."
"I will see," said the poor husband; and with that he went out.
Barbaro kept his appointment with exactitude. I made him get into
my carriage, and we alighted at a house at the end of Milan. We
went to the first floor, and there I was introduced to a fine-
looking old man, an amiable lady of pleasing appearance, and then
to two charming cousins. He introduced me as a Venetian gentleman
in disgrace with the State Inquisitors, like himself, adding, that
as I was a rich bachelor their good or ill favour made no
difference to me.
He said I was rich, and I looked like it. My luxury of attire was
dazzling: My rings, my snuff-boxes, my chains, my diamonds, my
jewelled cross hanging on my breast-all gave me the air of an
important personage. The cross belonged to the Order of the Spur
the Pope had given me, but as I had carefully taken the spur away
it was not known to what order I belonged. Those who might be
curious did not dare to ask me, for one can no more enquire of a
knight what order he belongs to, than one can say to a lady how
old are you? I wore it till 1785, when the Prince Palatine of
Russia told me in private that I would do well to get rid of the
"It only serves to dazzle fools," said he, "and here you have none
such to deal with."
I followed his advice, for he was a man of profound intelligence.
Nevertheless, he removed the corner-stone of the kingdom of
Poland. He ruined it by the same means by which he had made it
The old man to whom Barbaro presented me was a marquis. He told
me that he knew Venice, and as I was not a patrician I could live
as pleasantly anywhere else. He told me to consider his house and
all he possessed as mine.
The two young marchionesses had enchanted me; they were almost
ideal beauties. I longed to enquire about them of some good
authority, for I did not put much faith in Barbaro.
In half an hour the visitors commenced to come on foot and in
carriages. Among the arrivals were several pretty and well-
dressed girls, and numerous smart young men all vying with each
other in their eagerness to pay court to the two cousins. There
were twenty of us in all. We sat round a large table, and began
to play a game called bankruptcy. After amusing myself for a
couple of hours in losing sequins, I went out with Barbaro to the
"The two young ladies are two incarnate angels," I said to my
countryman. "I shall pay my duty to them, and shall find out in a
few days whether they are for me. As for the gaming speculation,
I will lend you two hundred sequins; but I don't want to lose the
money, so you must give me good security."
"To that I agree willingly, but I am certain of giving it you back
with good interest."
"You shall have a half share and not twenty-five per cent., and I
must strongly insist that nobody shall know of my having anything
to do with your bank. If I hear any rumours, I shall bet heavily
on my own account."
"You may be sure I shall keep the secret; it is to my own interest
to have it believed that I am my own capitalist."
"Very good. Come to me early to-morrow morning, and bring me good
security, and you shall have the money."
He embraced me in the joy of his heart.
The picture of the two fair ladies was still in my brain, and I
was thinking of enquiring of Greppi when I chanced to see Triulzi
in the pit of the opera-house. He saw me at the same moment, and
came up to me, saying gaily that he was sure I had had a bad
dinner, and that I had much better dine with him every day.
"You make me blush, marquis, for not having called on you yet."
"No, no; there can be nothing of that kind between men of the
world, who know the world's worth."
"We are agreed there, at all events."
"By the way, I hear you have decided on selling me that handsome
dress of yours. I am really very much obliged to you, and will
give you the fifteen thousand livres whenever you like."
"You can come and take it to-morrow morning."
He then proceeded to tell me about the various ladies I noticed in
the theatre. Seizing the opportunity, I said,--
"When I was in church the other day I saw two exquisite beauties.
A man at my side told me they were cousins, the Marchionesses Q----
and I----, I think he said. Do you know them? I am quite
curious to hear about them."
"I know them. As you say, they are charming. It's not very
difficult to obtain access to them; and I suppose they are good
girls, as I have not heard their names in connection with any
scandal. However, I know that Mdlle. F has a lover, but it is a
great secret; he is the only son of one of the noblest of our
families. Unfortunately, they are not rich; but if they are
clever, as I am sure they are, they may make good matches. If you
like I can get someone to introduce you there."
"I haven't made up my mind yet. I may be able to forget them
easily only having seen them once. Nevertheless, I am infinitely
obliged to you for your kind offer"
After the ballet I went into the assembly-room and I heard "there
he is" several times repeated as I came in. The banker made me a
bow, and offered me a place next to him. I sat down and he handed
me a pack of cards. I punted, and with such inveterate bad luck
that in less than an hour I lost seven hundred sequins. I should
probably have lost all the money I had in my pocket if Canano had
not been obliged to go away. He gave the cards to a man whose
looks displeased me, and I rose and went home and got into bed
directly, so as not to be obliged to conceal my ill temper.
In the morning Barbaro came to claim the two hundred sequins. He
gave me the right to sequestrate his pay by way of surety. I do
not think I should have had the heart to exercise my rights if
things had gone wrong, but I liked to have some control over him.
When I went out I called on Greppi, and took two thousand sequins
Humiliation of The Countess--Zenobia's Wedding--Faro Conquest of
The Fair Irene--Plan for a Masquerade
On my return I found the count with one of the marquis's servants,
who gave me a note, begging me to send the dress, which I did
"The marquis will dine with us," said the count, "and, no doubt,
he will bring the money with him for this treasure."
"You think it a treasure, then?"
"Yes, fit for a queen to wear."
"I wish the treasure had the virtue of giving you a crown; one
head-dress is as good as another."
The poor devil understood the allusion, and as I liked him I
reproached myself for having humiliated him unintentionally, but I
could not resist the temptation to jest. I hastened to smooth his
brow by saying that as soon as I got the money for the dress I
would take it to the countess.
"I have spoken to her about it," said he, "and your proposal made
her laugh; but I am sure she will make up her mind when she finds
herself in possession of the dress."
It was a Friday. The marquis sent in an excellent fish dinner,
and came himself soon after with the dress in a basket. The
present was made with all ceremony, and the proud countess was
profuse in her expressions of thanks, which the giver received
coolly enough, as if accustomed to that kind of thing. However,
he ended by the no means flattering remark that if she had any
sense she would sell it, as everybody knew she was too poor to
wear it. This suggestion by no means met with her approval. She
abused him to her heart's content, and told him he must be a great
fool to give her a dress which he considered unsuitable to her.
They were disputing warmly when the Marchioness Menafoglio was
announced. As soon as she came in her eyes were attracted by the
dress, which was stretched over a chair, and finding it superb she
"I would gladly buy that dress."
"I did not buy it to sell again," said the countess, sharply.
"Excuse me," replied the marchioness, "I thought it was for sale,
and I am sorry it is not."
The marquis, who was no lover of dissimulation, began to laugh,
and the countess, fearing he would cover her with ridicule,
hastened to change the conversation. But when the marchioness was
gone the countess gave reins to her passion, and scolded the
marquis bitterly for having laughed. However, he only replied by
remarks which, though exquisitely polite, had a sting in them; and
at last the lady said she was tired, and was going to lie down.
When she had left the room the marquis gave me the fifteen
thousand francs, telling me that they would bring me good luck at
"You are a great favourite of Canano's," he added, "and he wants
you to come and dine with him. He can't ask you to supper, as he
is obliged to spend his nights in the assembly-rooms."
"Tell him I will come any day he likes except the day after to-
morrow, when I have to go to a wedding at the 'Apple Garden.'"
"I congratulate you," said the count and the marquis together, "it
will no doubt be very pleasant."
"I expect to enjoy myself heartily there."
"Could not we come, too?"
"Do you really want to?"
"Then I will get you an invitation from the fair bride herself on
the condition that the countess comes as well. I must warn you
that the company will consist of honest people of the lower
classes, and I cannot have them humiliated in any way."
"I will persuade the countess," said Triulzi.
"To make your task an easier one, I may as well tell you that the
wedding is that of the fair Zenobia."
"Bravo! I am sure the countess will come to that."
The count went out, and shortly reappeared with Zenobia. The
marquis congratulated her, and encouraged her to ask the countess
to the wedding. She seemed doubtful, so the marquis took her by
the hand and let her into the proud Spaniard's room. In half an
hour they returned informing us that my lady had deigned to accept
When the marquis had gone, the count told me that I might go and
keep his wife company, if I had nothing better to do, and that he
would see to some business.
"I have the thousand sequins in my pocket," I remarked, "and if I
find her reasonable, I will leave them with her."
"I will go and speak to her first."
While the count was out of the room, I exchanged the thousand
sequins for the fifteen thousand francs in bank notes which Greppi
had given me.
I was just shutting up my cash-box when Zenobia came in with my
lace cuffs. She asked me if I would like to buy a piece of lace.
I replied in the affirmative, and she went out and brought it me.
I liked the lace, and bought it for eighteen sequins, and said,--
"This lace is yours, dearest Zenobia, if you will content me this
"I love you well, but I should be glad if you would wait till
after my marriage."
"No, dearest, now or never. I cannot wait. I shall die if you do
not grant my prayer. Look! do you not see what a state I am in?"
"I see it plainly enough, but it can't be done."
"Why not? Are you afraid of your husband noticing the loss of
"Not I, and if he did I shouldn't care. I promise you if he dared
to reproach me, he should not have me at all."
"Well said, for my leavings are too good for him. Come quick!"
"But you will shut the door, at least?"
"No, the noise would be heard, and might give rise to suspicion.
Nobody will come in."
With these words I drew her towards me, and finding her as gentle
as a lamb and as loving as a dove, the amorous sacrifice was
offered with abundant libations on both sides. After the first
ecstacy was over, I proceeded to examine her beauties, and with my
usual amorous frenzy told her that she should send her tailor out
to graze and live with me. Fortunately she did not believe in the
constancy of my passion. After a second assault I rested, greatly
astonished that the count had not interrupted our pleasures. I
thought he must have gone out, and I told Zenobia my opinion,
whereon she overwhelmed me with caresses. Feeling at my ease, I
set her free from her troublesome clothes, and gave myself up to
toying with her in a manner calculated to arouse the exhausted
senses; and then for the third time we were clasped to each
other's arms, while I made Zenobia put herself into the many
attitudes which I knew from experience as most propitious to the
We were occupied a whole hour in these pleasures, but Zenobia, in
the flower of her age and a novice, poured forth many more
libations than I.
Just as I lost life for the third time, and Zenobia for the
fourteenth, I heard the count's voice. I told my sweetheart, who
had heard it as well, and after we had dressed hastily I gave her
the eighteen sequins, and she left the room.
A moment after the count came in laughing, and said,--
"I have been watching you all the time by this chink" (which he
shewed me), "and I have found it very amusing."
"I am delighted to hear it, but keep it to youself."
"Of course, of course."
"My wife," said he, "will be very pleased to see you; and I," he
added, "shall be very pleased as well."
"You are a philosophical husband," said I, "but I am afraid after
the exercises you witnessed the countess will find me rather
"Not at all, the recollection will make it all the pleasanter for
"Mentally perhaps, but in other respects . . ."
"Oh! you will manage to get out of it."
"My carriage is at your service, as I shall not be going out for
the rest of the day."
I softly entered the countess's room and finding her in bed
enquired affectionately after her health.
"I am very well," said she, smiling agreeably, "my husband has
done me good."
I had seated myself quietly on the bed, and she had shewn no
vexation; certainly a good omen.
"Aren't you going out any more to-day?" said she, "you have got
your dressing-gown on."
"I fell asleep lying on my bed, and when I awoke I decided on
keeping you company if you will be as good and gentle as you are
"If you behave well to me, you will always find me so.
"And will you love me?"
"That depends on you. So you are going to sacrifice Canano to me
"Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. He has won a lot from me
already, and I foresee that he will win the fifteen thousand
francs I have in my pocket to-morrow. This is the money the
Marquis Triulzi gave me for the dress."
"It would be a pity to lose such a large sum."
"You are right, and I need not lose them if you will be
complaisant, for they are meant for you. Allow me to shut the
"Because I am perishing with cold and desire, and intend warming
myself in your bed."
"I will never allow that."
"I don't want to force you. Good-bye, countess, I will go and
warm myself by my own fire, and to-morrow I will wage war on
"You are certainly a sad dog. Stay here, I like your
Without more ado I locked the door, took off my clothes, and
seeing that her back was turned to me, jumped into bed beside her.
She had made up her mind, and let me do as I liked, but my combats
with Zenobia had exhausted me. With closed eyes she let me place
her in all the postures which lubricity could suggest, while her
hands were not idle; but all was in vain, my torpor was complete,
and nothing would give life to the instrument which was necessary
to the operation.
Doubtless the Spaniard felt that my nullity was an insult to her
charms; doubtless I must have tortured her by raising desires
which I could not appease; for several times I felt my fingers
drenched with a flow that shewed she was not passive in the
matter; but she pretended all the while to be asleep. I was vexed
at her being able to feign insensibility to such an extent, and I
attached myself to her head; but her lips, which she abandoned to
me, and which I abused disgracefully, produced no more effect than
the rest of her body. I felt angry that I could not effect the
miracle of resurrection, and I decided on leaving a stage where I
had so wretched a part, but I was not generous to her, and put the
finishing stroke to her humiliation by saying,--
"'Tis not my fault, madam, that your charms have so little power
over me. Here, take these fifteen thousand francs by way of
With this apostrophe I left her.
My readers, more especially my lady readers, if I ever have any,
will no doubt pronounce me a detestable fellow after this. I
understand their feelings, but beg them to suspend their judgment.
They will see afterwards that my instinct served me wonderfully in
the course I had taken.
Early the next day the count came into my room with a very pleased
"My wife is very well," said he, "and told me to wish you good
I did not expect this, and I no doubt looked somewhat astonished.
"I am glad," he said, "that you gave her francs instead of the
sequins you got from Triulzi, and I hope, as Triulzi said, you
will have luck with it at the bank."
"I am not going to the opera," said I, "but to the masked ball,
and I don't want anyone to recognize me."
I begged him to go and buy me a new domino, and not to come near
me in the evening, so that none but he should know who I was. As
soon as he had gone out I began to write letters. I had heavy
arrears to make up in that direction.
The count brought me my domino at noon, and after hiding it we
went to dine with the countess. Her affability, politeness, and
gentleness astounded me. She looked so sweetly pretty that I
repented having outraged her so scandalously. Her insensibility
of the evening before seemed inconceivable, and I began to suspect
that the signs I had noticed to the contrary were only due to the
animal faculties which are specially active in sleep.
"Was she really asleep," said I to myself, "when I was outraging
her so shamefully?"
I hoped it had been so. When her husband left us alone, I said,
humbly and tenderly, that I knew I was a monster, and that she
must detest me.
"You a monster?" said she. "On the contrary I owe much to you,
and there is nothing I can think of for which I have cause to
I took her hand, tenderly, and would have carried it to my lips,
but she drew it away gently and gave me a kiss. My repentance
brought a deep blush to my face.
When I got back to my room I sealed my letters and went to the
ball. I was absolutely unrecognizable. Nobody had ever seen my
watches or my snuff-boxes before, and I had even changed my purses
for fear of anybody recognizing me by them.
Thus armed against the glances of the curious, I sat down at
Canano's table and commenced to play in quite a different fashion.
I had a hundred Spanish pieces in my pocket worth seven hundred
Venetian sequins. I had got this Spanish money from Greppi, and I
took care not to use what Triulzi had given me for fear he should
I emptied my purse on the table, and in less than an hour it was
all gone. I rose from the table and everybody thought I was going
to beat a retreat, but I took out another purse and put a hundred
sequins on one card, going second, with paroli, seven, and the va.
The stroke was successful and Canano gave me back my hundred
Spanish pieces, on which I sat down again by the banker, and
recommenced regular play. Canano was looking at me hard. My
snuff-box was the one which the Elector of Cologne had given me,
with the prince's portrait on the lid. I took a pinch of snuff
and he gave me to understand that he would like one too, and the
box was subjected to a general examination. A lady whom I did not
know said the portrait represented the Elector of Cologne in his
robes as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. The box was returned
to me and I saw that it had made me respected, so small a thing
imposes on people. I then put fifty sequins on one card, going
paroli and paix de paroli, and at daybreak I had broken the bank.
Canano said politely that if I liked to be spared the trouble of
carrying all that gold he would have it weighed and give me a
cheque. A pair of scales was brought, and it was found that I had
thirty-four pounds weight in gold, amounting to two thousand eight
hundred and fifty-six sequins. Canano wrote me a cheque, and I
slowly returned to the ball-room.
Barbaro had recognized me with the keenness of a Venetian. He
accosted me and congratulated me on my luck, but I gave him no
answer, and seeing that I wished to remain incognito he left me.
A lady in a Greek dress richly adorned with diamonds came up to
me, and said in a falsetto voice that she would like to dance with
I made a sign of assent, and as she took off her glove I saw a
finely-shaped hand as white as alabaster, one of the fingers
bearing an exquisite diamond ring. It was evidently no ordinary
person, and though I puzzled my head I could not guess who she
She danced admirably, in the style of a woman of fashion, and I
too exerted myself to the utmost. By the time the dance was over
I was covered with perspiration.
"You look hot," said my partner, in her falsetto voice, "come and
rest in my box."
My heart leaped with joy, and I followed her with great delight;
but as I saw Greppi in the box to which she took me, I had no
doubt that it must be Therese, which did not please me quite so
well. In short, the lady took off her mask; it was Therese, and I
complimented her on her disguise.
"But how did you recognize me, dearest?"
"By your snuff-box. I knew it, otherwise I should never have
found you out."
"Then you think that nobody has recognized me?"
"Nobody, unless in the same way as I did."
"None of the people here have seen my snuff-box."
I took the opportunity of handing over to Greppi Canano's cheque,
and he gave me a receipt for it. Therese asked us to supper for
the ensuing evening, and said,--
"There will be four of us in all."
Greppi seemed curious to know who the fourth person could be, but
I right guessed it would be my dear son Cesarino.
As I went down once more to the ball-room two pretty female
dominos attacked me right and left, telling me that Messer-Grande
was waiting for me outside. They then asked me for some snuff,
and I gave them a box ornamented with an indecent picture. I had
the impudence to touch the spring and shew it them, and after
inspecting it they exclaimed,--
"Fie, fie! your punishment is never to know who we are."
I was sorry to have displeased the two fair masquers, who seemed
worth knowing, so I followed them, and meeting Barbaro, who knew
everybody, I pointed them out to him, and heard to my delight that
they were the two Marchionesses Q---- and F----. I promised
Barbaro to go and see them. He said that everybody in the ball-
room knew me, and that our bank was doing very well, though, of
course, that was a trifle to me.
Towards the end of the ball, when it was already full daylight, a
masquer, dressed as a Venetian gondolier, was accosted by a lady
masquer, also in Venetian costume. She challenged the gondolier
to prove himself a Venetian by dancing the 'forlana' with her.
The gondolier accepted, and the music struck up, but the boatman,
who was apparently a Milanese, was hooted, while the lady danced
exquisitely. I was very fond of the dance, and I asked the
unknown Venetian lady to dance it again with me. She agreed, and
a ring was formed round us, and we were so applauded that we had
to dance it over again. This would have sufficed if a very pretty
shepherdess without a mask had not begged me to dance it with her.
I could not refuse her, and she danced exquisitely; going round
and round the circle three times, and seeming to hover in the air.
I was quite out of breath. When it was finished, she came up to
me and whispered my name in my ear. I was astonished, and feeling
the charm of the situation demanded her name.
"You shall know," said she, in Venetian, "if you will come to the
"Are you alone?"
"No, my father and mother, who are old friends of yours, are with
"I will call on Monday."
What a number of adventures to have in one night! I went home
wearily, and went to bed, but I was only allowed to sleep for two
hours. I was roused and begged to dress myself. The countess,
the marquis, and the count, all ready for Zenobia's wedding,
teased me till I was ready, telling me it was not polite to keep a
bride waiting. Then they all congratulated me on my breaking the
bank and the run of luck against me. I told the marquis that it
was his money that had brought me luck, but he replied by saying
that he knew what had become of his money.
This indiscretion either on the count's part or the countess's
surprised me greatly; it seemed to me contrary to all the
principles in intrigue.
"Canano knew you," said the marquis, "by the way you opened your
snuff-box, and he hopes to see us to dinner before long. He says
he hopes you will win a hundred pounds weight of gold; he has a
fancy for you."
"Canano," said I, "has keen eyes, and plays faro admirably. I
have not the slightest wish to win his money from him."
We then started for the "Apple Garden," where we found a score of
honest folks and the bride and bridegroom, who overwhelmed us with
compliments. We soon put the company at their ease. At first our
presence overawed them, but a little familiarity soon restored the
general hilarity. We sat down to dinner, and among the guests
were some very pretty girls, but my head was too full of Zenobia
to care about them. The dinner lasted three hours. It was an
abundant repast, and the foreign wines were so exquisite that it
was easy to see that the sum I had furnished had been exceeded.
Good fellowship prevailed, and after the first bumper had passed
round everybody proposed somebody else's health, and as each tried
to say something different to his neighbour the most fearful
nonsense prevailed. Then everybody thought himself bound to sing,
and they were not at all first-rate vocalists by any means. We
laughed heartily and also caused laughter, for our speeches and
songs were as bad as those of our humble friends.
When we rose from the table kissing became general, and the
countess could not resist laughing when she found herself obliged
to hold out her cheeks for the salute of the tailor, who thought
her laughter a special mark of favour.
Strains of sweet music were heard, and the ball was duly opened by
the newly-married couple. Zenobia danced, if not exactly well, at
least gracefully; but the tailor, who had never put his legs to
any other use besides crossing them, cut such a ridiculous figure
that the countess had much ado to restrain her laughter. But in
spite of that I led out Zenobia for the next minuet, and the proud
countess was obliged to dance with the wretched tailor.
When the minuets stopped the square dances began, and refreshments
were liberally handed round. Confetti, a kind of sweetmeat, even
better than that made at Verdun, were very plentiful.
When we were just going I congratulated the husband and offered to
bring Zenobia home in my carriage, which he was pleased to style a
very honourable offer. I gave my hand to Zenobia, and helped her
into the carriage, and having told the coachman to go slowly I put
her on my knee, extinguisher fashion, and kept her there all the
time. Zenobia was the first to get down, and noticing that my
breeches of grey velvet were spoiled, I told her that I would be
with her in a few minutes. In two minutes I put on a pair of
black satin breeches, and I rejoined the lady before her husband
came in. She asked what I had been doing, and on my telling her
that our exploits in the carriage had left very evident marks on
my trousers, she gave me a kiss, and thanked me for my
Before long the husband and his sister arrived. He thanked me,
calling me his gossip, and then noticing the change in my dress he
asked me how I had contrived to make the alteration so quickly.
"I went to my room, leaving your wife at your house, for which I
beg your pardon."
"Didn't you see that the gentleman had spilt a cup of coffee over
his handsome breeches?" said Zenobia.
"My dear wife," said the crafty tailor, "I don't see everything,
nor is it necessary that I should do so, but you should have
accompanied the gentleman to his room."
Then turning to me with a laugh, he asked me how I had enjoyed the
"Immensely, and my friends have done the same; but you must let me
pay you, dear gossip, for what you spent over and above the
twenty-four sequins. You can tell me how much it is."
"Very little, a mere trifle; Zenobia shall bring you the bill."
I went home feeling vexed with myself for not having foreseen that
the rogue would notice my change of dress, and guess the reason.
However, I consoled myself with the thought that the tailor was no
fool, and that it was plain that he was content to play the part
we had assigned to him. So after wishing good night to the count,
the countess and the marquis, who all thanked me for the happy day
they had spent, I went to bed.
As soon as I was awake, I thought of the shepherdess who had
danced the 'forlana' so well at the ball, and I resolved to pay
her a visit. I was not more interested in her beauty than to find
out who her father and mother, "old friends of mine," could be. I
dressed and walked to the "Three Kings," and on walking into the
room which the shepherdess had indicated to me, what was my
astonishment to find myself face to face with the Countess
Rinaldi, whom Zavoisky had introduced me to at the 'locanda' of
Castelletto sixteen years ago. The reader will remember how M. de
Bragadin paid her husband the money he won from me at play.
Madame Rinaldi had aged somewhat, but I knew her directly.
However, as I had never had more than a passing fancy for her, we
did not go back to days which did neither of us any honour.
"I am delighted to see you again," said I; "are you still living
with your husband?"
"You will see him in half an hour, and he will be glad to present
his respects to you."
"I should not at all care for it myself, madam; there are old
quarrels between us which I do not want to renew, so, madam,
"No, no, don't go yet, sit down."
"Irene, don't let the gentleman go."
At these words Irene ran and barred the way--not like a fierce
mastiff, but like an angel, entreating me to stay with that
mingled look of innocence, fear, and hope, of which girls know the
effect so well. I felt I could not go.
"Let me through, fair Irene," said I, "we may see each other
"Pray do not go before you have seen my father:"
The words were spoken so tenderly that our lips met. Irene was
victorious. How can one resist a pretty girl who implores with a
kiss? I took a chair, and Irene, proud of her victory, sat on my
knee and covered me with kisses.
I took it into my head to task the countess where and when Irene
"At Mantua," said she, "three months after I left Venice."
"And when did you leave Venice?"
"Six months after I met you."
"That is a curious coincidence, and if we had been tenderly
acquainted you might say that Irene was my daughter, and I should
believe you, and think that my affection for her was purely
"Your memory is not very good, sir, I wonder at that."
"I may tell you, that I never forget certain things, But I guess
your meaning. You want me to subdue my liking for Irene. I am
willing to do so, but she will be the loser."
This conversation had silenced Irene, but she soon took courage,
and said she was like me.
"No, no," I answered, "if you were like me you would not be so
"I don't think so; I think you are very handsome."
"You flatter me."
"Stay to dinner with us."
"No, if I stayed I might fall in love with you, and that would be
a pity, as your mother says I am your father."
"I was joking," said the countess, "you may love Irene with a good
"We will see what can be done."
When Irene had left the room, I said to the mother,--
"I like your daughter, but I won't be long sighing for her, and
you mustn't take me for a dupe."
"Speak to my husband about it. We are very poor, and we want to
go to Cremona."
"I suppose Irene has a lover?"
"But she has had one, of course?"
"Never anything serious."
"I can't believe it."
"It's true, nevertheless. Irene is intact."
Just then Irene came in with her father, who had aged to such an
extent that I should never have known him in the street. He came
up to me and embraced me, begging me to forget the past. "It is
only you," he added, "who can furnish me with funds to go to
"I have several debts here, and am in some danger of imprisonment.
Nobody of any consequence comes to see me. My dear daughter is
the only thing of value which I still possess. I have just been
trying to sell this pinchbeck watch, and though I asked only six
sequins, which is half what it is worth, they would not give me
more than two. When a man gets unfortunate, everything is against
I took the watch, and gave the father six sequins for it, and then
handed it to Irene. She said with a smile that she could not
thank me, as I only gave her back her own, but she thanked me for
the present I had made her father.
"Here," said she seriously to the old man, "you can sell it again
This made me laugh. I gave the count ten sequins in addition,
embraced Irene, and said I must be gone, but that I would see them
again in three or four days.
Irene escorted me to the bottom of the stairs, and as she allowed
me to assure myself that she still possessed the rose of
virginity, I gave her another ten sequins, and told her that the
first time she went alone to the ball with me I would give her a
hundred sequins. She said she would consult her father.
Feeling sure that the poor devil would hand over Irene to me, and
having no apartment in which I could enjoy her in freedom, I
stopped to read a bill in a pastrycook's window. It announced a
room to let. I went in, and the pastrycook told me that the house
belonged to him, and his pretty wife, who was suckling a baby,
begged me to come upstairs and see the room. The street was a
lonely one, and had a pleasing air of mystery about it. I climbed
to the third floor, but the rooms there were wretched garrets of
no use to me.
"The first floor," said the woman, "consists of a suite of four
nice rooms, but we only let them together."
"Let us go and see them. Good! they will do. What is the rent?"
"You must settle that with my husband."
"And can't I settle anything with you, my dear?"
So saying I gave her a kiss which she took very kindly, but she
smelt of nursing, which I detested, so I did not go any farther
despite her radiant beauty.
I made my bargain with the landlord, and paid a month's rent in
advance for which he gave me a receipt. It was agreed that I
should come and go as I pleased, and that he should provide me
with food. I gave him a name so common as to tell him nothing
whatever about me, but he seemed to care very little about that.
As I had agreed with Barbaro to visit the fair marchionesses, I
dressed carefully, and after a slight repast with the countess,
who was pleasant but did not quite please me, I met my fellow-
countryman and we called on the two cousins.
"I have come," said I, "to beg your pardons for having revealed to
you the secret of the snuff-box."
They blushed, and scolded Barbaro, thinking that he had betrayed
them. On examining them I found them far superior to Irene, my
present flame, but their manner, the respect they seemed to
require, frightened me. I was not at all disposed to dance
attendance on them. Irene, on the contrary, was an easy prey. I
had only to do her parents a service, and she was in my power;
while the two cousins had their full share of aristocratic pride,
which debases the nobility to the level of the vilest of the
people, and only imposes upon fools, who after all are in the
majority everywhere. Further I was no longer at that brilliant
age which fears nothing, and I was afraid that my appearance would
hardly overcome them. It is true that Barbaro had made me hope
that presents would be of some use, but after what the Marquis
Triulzi had said, I feared that Barbaro had only spoken on
When the company was sufficiently numerous, the card-tables were
brought in. I sat down by Mdlle. Q----, and disposed myself to
play for small stakes. I was introduced by the aunt, the mistress
of the house, to a young gentleman in Austrian uniform who sat
My dear countryman played like a true sharper, much to my
displeasure. My fair neighbour, at the end of the game, which
lasted four hours, found herself the gainer of a few sequins, but
the officer, who had played on his word of honour, after losing
all the money in his pockets, owed ten louis. The bank was the
winner of fifty sequins, including the officer's debt. As the
young man lived at some distance he honoured me by coming in my
On the way, Barbaro told us he would introduce us to a girl who
had just come from Venice. The officer caught fire at this, and
begged that we should go and see her directly, and we accordingly
went. The girl was well enough looking, but neither I nor the
officer cared much about her. While they were making some coffee
for us, and Barbaro was entertaining the young lady, I took a pack
of cards, and had not much difficulty in inducing the officer to
risk twenty sequins against the twenty I put on the table. While
we were playing I spoke to him of the passion with which the young
marchioness inspired me.
"She's my sister," said he.
I knew as much, but pretended to be astonished, and I went on
playing. Taking the opportunity I told him that I knew of no one
who could let the marchioness know of my affection better than he.
I made him laugh, and as he thought I was jesting he only gave
vague answers; but seeing that while I talked of my passion I
forgot my card, he soon won the twenty sequins from me, and
immediately paid them to Barbaro. In the excess of his joy he
embraced me as if I had given him the money; and when we parted he
promised to give me some good news of his sister at our next
I had to go to supper with Therese, Greppi, and my son, but having
some spare time before me I went to the opera-house. The third
act was going on, and I accordingly visited the cardroom, and
there lost two hundred sequins at a single deal. I left the room
almost as if I was flying from an enemy. Canano shook me by the
hand, and told me he expected me and the marquis to dinner every
day, and I promised we would come at the earliest opportunity.
I went to Therese's, and found Greppi there before me. Therese
and Don Cesarino, whom I covered with kisses, came in a quarter of
an hour afterwards. The banker stared at him in speechless
wonder. He could not make out whether he was my son or my
brother. Seeing his amazement, Therese told him Cesarino was her
brother. This stupefied the worthy man still more. At last he
asked me if I had known Therese's mother pretty well, and on my
answering in the affirmative he seemed more at ease.
The meal was excellent, but all my attention went to my son. He
had all the advantages of a good disposition and an excellent
education. He had grown a great deal since I had seen him at
Florence, and his mental powers had developed proportionately.
His presence made the party grave, but sweet. The innocence of
youth throws around it an ineffable charm; it demands respect and
restraint. An hour after midnight we left Therese, and I went to
bed, well pleased with my day's work, for the loss of two hundred
sequins did not trouble me much.
When I got up I received a note from Irene, begging me to call on
her. Her father had given her permission to go to the next ball
with me, and she had a domino, but she wanted to speak to me. I
wrote and told her I would see her in the course of the day. I
had written to tell the Marquis Triulzi that I was going to dine
with Canano, and he replied that he would be there.
We found this skilled gamester in a fine house, richly furnished,
and shewing traces on every side of the wealth and taste of its
owner. Canano introduced me to two handsome women, one of whom
was his mistress, and to five or six marquises; for at Milan no
noble who is not a marquis is thought anything of, just as in the
same way they are all counts at Vicenza. The dinner was
magnificent and the conversation highly intellectual. In a
mirthful moment Canano said he had known me for seventeen years,
his acquaintance dating from the time I had juggled a professional
gamester, calling himself Count Celi, out of a pretty ballet-girl
whom I had taken to Mantua. I confessed the deed and amused the
company by the story of what had happened at Mantua with Oreilan,
and how I had found Count Celi at Cesena metamorphosed into Count
Alfani. Somebody mentioned the ball which was to be held the next
day, and when I said I was not going they laughed.
"I bet I know you," said Canano, "if you come to the bank."
"I am not going to play any more," said I.
"All the better for me," answered Canano; "for though your punting
is unlucky, you don't leave off till you have won my money. But
that's only my joke; try again, and I protest I would see you win
half my fortune gladly."
Count Canano had a ring on his finger with a stone not unlike one
of mine; it had cost him two thousand sequins, while mine was
worth three thousand. He proposed that we should stake them
against each other after having them unmounted and valued.
"When?" said I.
"Before going to the opera."
"Very good; but on two turns of the cards, and a deal to each."
"No, I never punt."
"Then we must equalise the game."
"How do you mean?"
"By leaving doubles and the last two cards out of account."
"Then you would have the advantage."
"If you can prove that I will pay you a hundred sequins. Indeed,
I would bet anything you like that the game would still be to the
advantage of the banker."
"Can you prove it?"
"Yes; and I will name the Marquis Triulzi as judge."
I was asked to prove my point without any question of a bet.
"The advantages of the banker," said I, "are two. The first and
the smaller is that all he has got to attend to is not to deal
wrongly, which is a very small matter to an habitual player; and
all the time the punter has to rack his brains on the chances of
one card or another coming out. The other advantage is one of
time. The banker draws his card at least a second before the
punter, and this again gives him a purchase"
No one replied; but after some thought the Marquis Triulzi said
that to make the chances perfectly equal the players would have to
be equal, which was almost out of the question.
"All that is too sublime for me," said Canano; "I don't understand
it." But, after all, there was not much to understand.
After dinner I went to the "Three Kings" to find out what Irene
had to say to me, and to enjoy her presence. When she saw me she
ran up to me, threw her arms round my neck, and kissed me, but
with too much eagerness for me to lay much value on the salute.
However, I have always known that if one wants to enjoy pleasure
one must not philosophise about it, or one runs a risk of losing
half the enjoyment. If Irene had struck me in dancing the
'forlana', why should not I have pleased her in spite of my
superiority in age? It was not impossible, and that should be
enough for me, as I did not intend to make her my wife.
The father and mother received me as their preserver, and they may
have been sincere. The count begged me to come out of the room
for a moment with him, and when we were on the other side of the
"Forgive an old and unfortunate man, forgive a father, if I ask
you whether it is true that you promised Irene a hundred sequins
if I would let her go to the ball with you."
"It is quite true, but of course you know what the consequences
At these words the poor old rascal took hold of me in a way which
would have frightened me if I had not possessed twice his
strength, but it was only to embrace me.
We went back to the room, he in tears and I laughing. He ran and
told his wife, who had not been able to believe in such luck any
more than her husband, and Irene added a comic element to the
scene by saying,--
"You must not think me a liar, or that my parents suspected that I
was imposing on them; they only thought you said fifty instead of
a hundred, as if I were not worth such a sum"
"You are worth a thousand, my dear Irene; your courage in barring
the way pleased me extremely. But you must come to the ball in a
"Oh! you will be pleased with my dress."
"Are those the shoes and buckles you are going to wear? Have you
no other stockings? Where are your gloves?"
"Good heavens! I have nothing."
"Quick! Send for the tradesmen. We will choose what we want, and
I will pay."
Rinaldi went out to summon a jeweller, a shoemaker, a stocking-
maker, and a perfumer. I spent thirty sequins in what I
considered necessary, but then I noticed that there was no English
point on her mask, and burst out again. The father brought in a
milliner, who adorned the mask with an ell of lace for which I
paid twelve sequins. Irene was in great delight, but her father
and mother would have preferred to have the money in their
pockets, and at bottom they were right.
When Irene put on her fine clothes I thought her delicious, and I
saw what an essential thing dress is to a woman.
"Be ready," said I, "before the time for the opera to-morrow, for
before going to the ball we will sup together in a room which
belongs to me, where we shall be quite at our ease. You know what
to expect," I added, embracing her. She answered me with an
As I took leave of her father, he asked me where I was going after
"To Marseilles, then to Paris, and then to London, at which place
I intend stopping a year."
"Your flight from The Leads was wonderfully lucky."
"Yes, but I risked my life."
"You have certainly deserved all your good fortune."
"Do you think so? I have only used my fortune--in subservience to
"I wonder you do not have a regular mistress:"
"The reason is, that I like to be my own master. A mistress at my
coat-tails would be more troublesome than a wife; she would be an
obstacle to the numerous pleasant adventures I encounter at every
town. For example, if I had a mistress I should not be able to
take the charming Irene to the ball to-morrow."
"You speak like a wise man."
"Yes, though my wisdom is by no means of the austere kind."
In the evening I went to the opera, and should no doubt have gone
to the card-table if I had not seen Cesarino in the pit. I spent
two delightful hours with him. He opened his heart to me, and
begged me to plead for him with his sister to get her consent to
his going to sea, for which he had a great longing. He said that
he might make a large fortune by a judicious course of trading.
After a temperate supper with my dear boy, I went to bed. The
next morning the fine young officer, the Marchioness of Q----'s
brother, came and asked me to give him a breakfast. He said he
had communicated my proposal to his sister, and that she had
replied that I must be making a fool of him, as it was not likely
that a man who lived as I did would be thinking of marrying.
"I did not tell you that I aspired to the honour of marrying her."
"No, and I did not say anything about marriage; but that's what
the girls are always aiming at."
"I must go and disabuse her of the notion."
"That's a good idea; principals are always the best in these
affairs. Come at two o'clock, I shall be dining there, and as I
have got to speak to her cousin you will be at liberty to say what
This arrangement suited me exactly. I noticed that my future
brother-in-law admired a little gold case on my night-table, so I
begged him to accept it as a souvenir of our friendship. He
embraced me, and put it in his pocket, saying he would keep it
till his dying day.
"You mean till the day when it advances your suit with a lady,"
I was sure of having a good supper with Irene, so I resolved to
take no dinner. As the count had gone to St. Angelo, fifteen
miles from Milan, the day before, I felt obliged to wait on the
countess in her room, to beg her to excuse my presence at dinner.
She was very polite, and told me by no means to trouble myself. I
suspected that she was trying to impose on me, but I wanted her to
think she was doing so successfully. In my character of dupe I
told her that in Lent I would make amends for the dissipation
which prevented me paying my court to her. "Happily," I added,
"Lent is not far off."
"I hope it will be so," said the deceitful woman with an
enchanting smile, of which only a woman with poison in her heart
is capable. With these words she took a pinch of snuff, and
offered me her box.
"But what is this, my dear countess, it isn't snuff?"
"No," she replied, "it makes the nose bleed, and is an excellent
thing for the head-ache."
I was sorry that I had taken it, but said with a laugh, that I had
not got a head-ache, and did not like my nose to bleed.
"It won't bleed much," said she, with a smile, "and it is really
As she spoke, we both began to sneeze, and I should have felt very
angry if I had not seen her smile.
Knowing something about these sneezing powders, I did not think we
should bleed, but I was mistaken. Directly after, I felt a drop
of blood, and she took a silver basin from her night-table.
"Come here," said she, "I am beginning to bleed too."
There we were, bleeding into the same basin, facing each other in
the most ridiculous position. After about thirty drops had fallen
from each of us, the bleeding ceased. She was laughing all the
time, and I thought the best thing I could do was to imitate her
example. We washed ourselves in fair water in another basin.
"This admixture of our blood," said she, still smiling, "will
create a sweet sympathy between us, which will only end with the
death of one or the other"
I could make no sense of this, but the reader will soon see that
the wretched woman did not mean our friendship to last very long.
I asked her to give me some of the powder, but she refused; and on
my enquiring the name of it, she replied that she did not know, as
a lady friend had given it to her.
I was a good deal puzzled by the effects of this powder, never
having heard of the like before, and as soon as I left the
countess I went to an apothecary to enquire about it, but Mr.
Drench was no wiser than I. He certainly said that euphorbia
sometimes produced bleeding of the nose, but it was not a case of
sometimes but always. This small adventure made me think
seriously. The lady was Spanish, and she must hate me; and these
two facts gave an importance to our blood-letting which it would
not otherwise possess.
I went to see the two charming cousins, and I found the young
officer with Mdlle. F---- in the room by the garden. The lady was
writing, and on the pretext of not disturbing her I went after
Mdlle. Q----, who was in the garden. I greeted her politely, and
said I had come to apologize for a stupid blunder which must have
given her a very poor opinion of me.
"I guess what you mean, but please to understand that my brother
gave me your message in perfect innocence. Let him believe what
he likes. Do you think I really believed you capable of taking
such a step, when we barely knew each other?"
"I am glad to hear you say so."
"I thought the best thing would be to give a matrimonial turn to
your gallantry. Otherwise my brother, who is quite a young man,
might have interpreted it in an unfavourable sense."
"That was cleverly done, and of course I have nothing more to say.
Nevertheless, I am 'grateful to your brother for having given you
to understand that your charms have produced a vivid impression on
me. I would do anything to convince you of my affection."
"That is all very well, but it would have been wiser to conceal
your feelings from my brother, and, allow me to add, from myself
as well. You might have loved me without telling me, and then,
though I should have perceived the state of your affections, I
could have pretended not to do so. Then I should have been at my
ease, but as circumstances now stand I shall have to be careful.
Do you see?"
"Really, marchioness, you astonish me. I was never so clearly
convinced that I have done a foolish thing. And what is still
more surprising, is that I was aware of all you have told me. But
you have made me lose my head. I hope you will not punish me too
"Pray inform me how it lies in my power to punish you."
"By not loving me."
"Ah! loving and not loving; that is out of one's power. Of a
sudden we know that we are in love, and our fate is sealed."
I interpreted these last words to my own advantage, and turned the
conversation. I asked her if she was going to the ball.
"Perhaps you are going incognito?"
"We should like to, but it is an impossibility; there is always
someone who knows us."
"If you would take me into your service, I would wager anything
that you would not be recognized."
"You would not care to trouble yourself about us."
"I like you to be a little sceptical, but put me to the proof. If
you could manage to slip out unobserved, I would engage to
disguise you in such a manner that no one would know you."
"We could leave the house with my brother and a young lady with
whom he is in love. I am sure he would keep our counsel."
"I shall be delighted, but it must be for the ball on Sunday. I
will talk it over with your brother. Kindly warn him not to let
Barbaro know anything about it. You will be able to put on your
disguise in a place I know of. However, we can settle about that
again. I shall carry the matter through, you may be sure, with
great secrecy. Permit me to kiss your hand."
She gave it me, and after imprinting a gentle kiss I held it to my
heart, and had the happiness of feeling a soft pressure. I had no
particular disguise in my head, but feeling sure of hitting on
something I put off the consideration of it till the next day; the
present belonged to Irene. I put on my domino, and went to the
"Three Kings," where I found Irene waiting for me at the door.
She had run down as soon as she had seen my carriage, and I was
flattered by this mark of her eagerness. We went to my rooms, and
I ordered the confectioner to get me a choice supper by midnight.
We had six hours before us, but the reader will excuse my
describing the manner in which they were spent. The opening was
made with the usual fracture, which Irene bore with a smile, for
she was naturally voluptuous. We got up at midnight, pleasantly
surprised to find ourselves famishing with hunger, and a delicious
supper waiting for us.
Irene told me that her father had taught her to deal in such a
manner that she could not lose. I was curious to see how it was
done, and on my giving her a pack of cards she proceeded to
distract my attention by talking to me, and in a few minutes the
thing was done. I gave her the hundred sequins I had promised
her, and told her to go on with her play.
"If you only play on a single card," said she, "you are sure to
"Never mind; go ahead."
She did so, and I was forced to confess that if I had not been
warned I should never have detected the trick. I saw what a
treasure she must be to the old rascal Rinaldi. With her air of
innocence and gaiety, she would have imposed on the most
experienced sharpers. She said in a mortified manner that she
never had any opportunity of turning her talents to account, as
their associates were always a beggarly lot. She added tenderly
that if I would take her with me she would leave her parents there
and win treasures for me.
"When I am not playing against sharpers," she said, "I can also