Part 47 out of 70
the enormity of the offences for which she was suffering so
cruelly, I saw before me a picture of innocence--a humbled Venus.
Her fine eyes were fixed on the ground, but what was my surprise,
when, suddenly looking at me, she exclaimed,--
"O my God! what do I see? Holy Mary, come to my aid! Begone,
dreadful sinner, though thou deservest to be here more than I.
I did not feel inclined to laugh. Her unfortunate position, and
the singular apostrophe she had addressed to me, pierced me to the
heart. The mother-superior hastened to say,--
"Do not be offended, sir, the poor girl has become mad, and unless
she really has recognized you . . . ."
"That is impossible, madam, I have never seen her before."
"Of course not, but you must forgive her, as she has lost the use
of her reason"
"Maybe the Lord has made her thus in mercy."
As a matter of fact, I saw more sense than madness in this
outburst, for it must have been very grievous for the poor girl to
have to encounter my idle curiosity, in the place of her
penitence. I was deeply moved, and in spite of myself a big tear
rolled down my face. The count, who had known her, laughed, but I
begged him to restrain himself.
A moment after, the poor wretch began again. She raved against me
madly, and begged the mother-superior to send me away, as I had
come there to damn her.
The good lady chid her with all a true mother's gentleness, and
told her to leave the room, adding that all who came there only
desired that she should be saved eternally. She was stern enough,
however, to add, that no one had been a greater sinner than she,
and the poor Magdalen went out weeping bitterly.
If it had been my fortune to enter Milan at the head of a
victorious army, the first thing I should have done would be he
setting free of this poor captive, and if the abbess had resisted
she would have felt the weight of my whip.
When Magdalen was gone, the mother-superior told us that the poor
girl had many good qualities, and if God willed that she should
keep some particle of sense she did not doubt her becoming a saint
like her patroness.
"She has begged me," she added, "to take down the pictures of St.
Louis de Gonzaga and St. Antony from the chapel wall because she
says they distract her fearfully. I have thought it my duty to
yield to her request, in spite of our confessor, who says it's all
The confessor was a rude churl. I did not exactly tell the abbess
that, but I said enough for a clever woman as she was to grasp my
We left the sorrowful place in sadness and silence, cursing the
sovereign who had made such ill use of her power.
If, as our holy religion maintains, there is a future life before
us all, Marie Therese certainly deserves damnation, if only the
oppressions she has used towards those poor women whose life is
wretched enough at the best. Poor Mary Magdalen had gone mad and
suffered the torments of the damned because nature had given her
two of her best gifts--beauty, and an excellent heart. You will
say she had abused them, but for a fault which is only a crime
before God, should a fellow-creature and a greater sinner have
condemned her to such a fearful doom? I defy any reasonable man
to answer in the affirmative.
On our way back to the castle Clementine, who was on my arm,
laughed to herself once or twice. I felt curious to know what she
was laughing at, and said,--
"May I ask you, fair countess, why you laugh thus to yourself?"
"Forgive me; I was not amused at the poor girl's recognizing you,
for that must have been a mistake, but I cannot help laughing when
I think of your face at her wordy 'You are more deserving of
imprisonment than I.'"
"Perhaps you think she was right."
"I? Not at all. But how is it that she attacked you and not my
"Probably because she thought I looked a greater sinner than he."
"That, I suppose, must have been the reason. One should never
heed the talk of mad people."
"You are sarcastic, but I take it all in good part. Perhaps I am
as great a sinner as I look; but beauty should be merciful to me,
for it is by beauty that I am led astray."
"I wonder the empress does not shut up men as well as women."
"Perhaps she hopes to see them all at her feet when there are no
more girls left to amuse them."
"That is a jest. You should rather say that she cannot forgive
her own sex the lack of a virtue which she exercises so eminently,
and which is so easily observed."
"I have nothing to allege against the empress's virtue, but with
your leave I beg to entertain very strong doubts as to the
possibility of the general exercise of that virtue which we call
"No doubt everyone thinks by his own standard. A man may be
praised for temperance in whom temperance is no merit. What is
easy to you may be hard to me, and 'vice versa'. Both of us may
This interesting conversation made me compare Clementine to the
fair marchioness at Milan, but there was this difference between
them: Mdlle. Q---- spoke with an air of gravity and importance,
whereas Clementine expounded her system with great simplicity and
an utter indifference of manner. I thought her observations so
acute and her utterance so perfect and artistic, that I felt
ashamed of having misjudged her at dinner. Her silence, and the
blush which mounted to her face when anyone asked her a question,
had made me suspect both confusion and poverty in her ideas, for
timidity is often another word for stupidity; but the conversation
I have just reported made me feel that I had made a great mistake.
The marchioness, being older and having seen more of the world,
was more skilled in argument; but Clementine had twice eluded my
questions with the utmost skill, and I felt obliged to award her
When we got back to the castle we found a lady with her son and
daughter, and another relation of the count's, a young abbe, whom
I found most objectionable.
He was a pitiless talker, and on the pretence of having seen me at
Milan he took the opportunity of flattering me in a disgusting
manner. Besides, he made sheep's eyes at Clementine, and I did
not like the idea of having a fellow like that for a rival. I
said very dryly that I did not remember him at all; but he was not
a man of delicate feeling, and this did not disconcert him in the
least. He sat down beside Clementine, and taking her hand told
her that she must add me to the long catalogue of her victims.
She could do nothing else but laugh at silly talk of this kind; I
knew it, but that laugh of hers displeased me. I would have had
her say--I do not know what, but something biting and sarcastic.
Not at all; the impertinent fellow whispered something in her ear,
and she answered in the same way. This was more than I could
bear. Some question or other was being discussed, and the abbe
asked for my opinion. I do not remember what I answered, but I
know that I gave him a bitter reply in the hope of putting him in
a bad temper and reducing him to silence. But he was a battle
charger, and used to trumpet, fife, and gun; nothing put him out.
He appealed to Clementine, and I had the mortification of hearing
her opinion given, though with a blush, in his favour. The fop
was satisfied, and kissed the young countess's hand with an air of
fatuous happiness. This was too much; and I cursed the abbe and
Clementine, too. I rose from my seat and went to the window.
The window is a great blessing to an impatient man, whom the rules
of politeness in some degree constrain. He can turn his back on
bores, without their being able to charge him witch direct
rudeness; but people know what he means, and that soothes his
I have noted this trifling circumstance only to point out how bad
temper blinds its victims. The poor abbe vexed me because he made
himself agreeable to Clementine, with whom I was already in love
without knowing it. I saw in him a rival, but far from
endeavouring to offend me, he had done his best to please me; and
I should have taken account of his good will. But under such
circumstances I always gave way to ill humour, and now I am too
old to begin curing myself. I don't think I need do so, for if I
am ill tempered the company politely pass me over. My misfortune
obliges me to submit.
Clementine had conquered me in the space of a few hours. True, I
was an inflammable subject, but hitherto no beauty had committed
such ravages upon me in so short a time. I did not doubt of
success, and I confess that there was a certain amount of vanity
in this assurance; but at the same time I was modest, for I knew
that at the slightest slip the enterprise would miscarry. Thus I
regarded the abbe as a wasp to be crushed as speedily as possible.
I was also a victim to that most horrible of passions, jealousy;
it seemed to me that if Clementine was not in love with this man-
monkey, she was extremely indulgent to him; and with this idea I
conceived a horrible plan of revenging my wrongs on her. Love is
the god of nature, but this god is, after all, only a spoilt
child. We know all his follies and frailties, but we still adore
My friend the count, who was surprised, I suppose, to see me
contemplating the prospect for such a long time, came up to me and
asked me if I wanted anything.
"I am thinking some matter over," said I, "and I must go and
write one or two letters in my room till it is time for supper."
"You won't leave us surely?" said he.
"Clementine, help me to keep M. de Seingalt; you must make him
postpone his letter-writing."
"But my dear brother," said the charming girl, "if M. de Seingalt
has business to do, it would be rude of me to try and prevent his
Though what she said was perfectly reasonable, it stung me to the
quick; when one is in an ill humour, everything is fuel for the
fire. But the abbe said pleasantly that I had much better come
and make a bank at faro, and as everything echoed this suggestion
I had to give in.
The cards were brought in, and various coloured counters handed
round, and I sat down putting thirty ducats before me. This was a
very large sum for a company who only played for amusement's sake;
fifteen counters were valued only at a sequin. Countess Ambrose
sat at my right hand, and the abbe at my left. As if they had
laid a plot to vex and annoy me, Clementine had made room for him.
I took a mere accident for a studied impertinence, and told the
poor man that I never dealt unless I had a lady on each side of
me, and never by any chance with a priest beside me.
"Do you think it would bring you ill luck?"
"I don't like birds of ill omen."
At this he got up, and Clementine took his place.
At the end of three hours, supper was announced. Everybody had
won from me except the abbe; the poor devil had lost counters to
the extent of twenty sequins.
As a relation the abbe stayed to supper, but the lady and her
children were asked in vain to do so.
The abbe looked wretched, which made me in a good temper, and
inclined me to be pleasant. I proceeded to flirt with Clementine,
and by making her reply to the numerous questions I asked, I gave
her an opportunity of displaying her wit, and I could see that she
was grateful. I was once more myself, and I took pity of the
abbe, and spoke to him politely, asking him his opinion on some
"I was not listening," said he, "but I hope you will give me my
revenge after supper."
"After supper I shall be going to bed, but you shall have your
revenge, and as much as you like of it, tomorrow, provided that
our charming hostesses like playing. I hope the luck will be in
After supper the poor abbe went sadly away, and the count took me
to my room, telling me that I could sleep securely in spite of the
lack of keys for his sisters-in-law who were lodged close by were
no better off.
I was astonished and delighted at the trust he put in me, and at
the really magnificent hospitality (it must be remembered all
things are relative) with which I had been treated in the castle.
I told Clairmont to be quick about putting my hair in curl-papers,
for I was tired and in need of rest, but he was only half-way
through the operation when I was agreeably surprised by the
apparition of Clementine.
"Sir," said she, "as we haven't got a maid to look after your
linen, I have come to beg you to let me undertake that office."
"You! my dear countess?"
"Yes, I, sir, and I hope you will make no objection. It will be a
pleasure to me, and I hope to you as well. Let me have the shirt
you are going to wear to-morrow, and say no more about it."
"Very good, it shall be as you please."
I helped Clairmont to carry my linen trunk into her room, and
"Every day I want a shirt, a collar, a front, a pair of drawers, a
pair of stocking, and two handkerchiefs; but I don't mind which
you take, and leave the choice to you as the mistress, as I wish
you were in deed and truth. I shall sleep a happier sleep than
Jove himself. Farewell, dear Hebe!"
Her sister Eleanore was already in bed, and begged pardon for her
position. I told Clairmont to go to the count directly, and
inform him that I had changed my mind about the locks. Should I
be afraid for my poor properties when these living treasures were
confined to me so frankly? I should have been afraid of offending
I had an excellent bed, and I slept wonderfully. Clairmont was
doing my hair when my youthful Hebe presented herself with a
basket in her hands. She wished me good day and said she hoped I
would be contented with her handiwork. I gazed at her
delightedly, no trace of false shame appeared on her features.
The blush on her cheeks was a witness of the pleasure she
experienced in being useful--a pleasure which is unknown to those
whose curse is their pride, the characteristic of fools and
upstarts. I kissed her hand and told her that I had never seen
linen so nicely done.
Just then the count came in and thanked Clementine for attending
on me. I approved of that, but he accompanied his thanks with a
kiss which was well received, and this I did not approve of at
all. But you will say they were brother-in-law and sister-in-law?
Just so, but I was jealous all the same. Nature is allwise, and
it was nature that made me jealous. When one loves and has not as
yet gained possession, jealousy is inevitable; the heart must fear
lest that which it longs for so be carried away by another.
The count took a note from his pocket and begged me to read it.
It came from his cousin the abbe, who begged the count to
apologize to me for him if he was unable to pay the twenty sequins
he had lost to me in the proper time, but that he would discharge
his debt in the course of the week.
"Very good! Tell him that he can pay when he likes, but warn him
not to play this evening. I will not take his bets."
"But you would have no objection to his punting with ready money."
"Certainly I should, unless he pays me first, otherwise he would
be punting with my money. Of course it's a mere trifle, and I
hope he won't trouble himself in the least or put himself to any
inconvenience to pay it."
"I am afraid he will be mortified."
"So much the better," said Clementine; "what did he play for, when
he knew that he could not pay his debts if he incurred any? It
will be a lesson to him."
This outburst was balm to my heart. Such is man--a mere selfish
egotist, when passion moves him.
The count made no reply, but left us alone.
"My dear Clementine, tell me frankly whether the rather uncivil
way in which I have treated the abbe has pained you. I am going
to give you twenty sequins, do you send them to him, and to-night
he can pay me honourably, and make a good figure. I promise you
no one shall know about it."
"Thank you, but the honour of the abbe is not dear enough to me
for me to accept your offer. The lesson will do him good.
A little shame will teach him that he must mend his ways."
"You will see he won't come this evening."
"That may be, but do you think I shall care?"
"Well--yes, I did think so."
"Because we joked together, I suppose. He is a hare-brained
fellow, to whom I do not give two thoughts in the year."
"I pity him, as heartily as I congratulate anyone of whom you do
"Maybe there is no such person"
"What! You have not yet met a man worthy of your regard?"
"Many worthy of regard, but none of love."
"Then you have never been in love?"
"Your heart is empty?"
"You make me laugh. Is it happiness, is it unhappiness? Who can
say. If it be happiness, I am glad, and if it be unhappiness, I
do not care, for I do not feel it to be so."
"Nevertheless, it is a misfortune, and you will know it to have
been so on the day in which you love."
"And if I become unhappy through love, shall I not pronounce my
emptiness of heart to have been happiness."
"I confess you would be right, but I am sure love would make you
"I do not know. To be happy one must live in perfect agreement;
that is no easy matter, and I believe it to be harder still when
the bond is lifelong."
"I agree, but God sent us into the world that we might run the
"To a man it may be a necessity and a delight, but a girl is bound
by stricter laws."
"In nature the necessity is the same though the results are
different, and the, laws you speak of are laid down by society."
The count came in at this point and was astonished to see us both
"I wish you would fall in love with one another," said he.
"You wish to see us unhappy, do you?" said she.
"What do you mean by that?" I cried.
"I should be unhappy with an inconstant lover, and you would be
unhappy too, for you would feel bitter remorse for having
destroyed my peace of mind."
After this she discreetly fled.
I remained still as if she had petrified me, but the count who
never wearied himself with too much thinking, exclaimed,
"Clementine is rather too romantic; she will get over it, however;
she is young yet."
We went to bid good day to the countess, whom we found suckling
"Do you know, my dear sister," said the count, "that the chevalier
here is in love with Clementine, and she seems inclined to pay him
back in his own coin?"
The countess smiled and said,--
"I hope a suitable match like that may make us relations."
There is something magical about the word "marriage."
What the countess said pleased me extremely, and I replied with a
bow of the most gracious character.
We went to pay a call on the lady who had come to the castle the
day before. There was a canon regular there, who after a great
many polite speeches in praise of my country, which he knew only
from books, asked me of what order was the cross I carried on my
I replied, with a kind of boastful modesty, that it was a peculiar
mark of the favour of the Holy Father, the Pope, who had freely
made me a knight of the Order of St. John Lateran, and a
This monk had stayed at home far from the world, or else he would
not have asked me such a question. However, far from thinking he
was offending me, he thought he was honouring me by giving me an
opportunity of talking of my own merit.
At London, the greatest possible rudeness is to ask anyone what
his religion is, and it is something the same in Germany; an
Anabaptist is by no means ready to confess his creed. And in fact
the best plan is never to ask any questions whatever, not even if
a man has change for a louis.
Clementine was delightful at dinner. She replied wittily and
gracefully to all the questions which were addressed to her.
True, what she said was lost on the majority of her auditors--for
wit cannot stand before stupidity--but I enjoyed her talk
immensely. As she kept filling up my glass I reproached her, and
this gave rise to the following little dialogue which completed my
"You have no right to complain," said she, "Hebe's duty is to keep
the cup of the chief of the gods always full."
"Very good; but you know Jupiter sent her away."
"Yes, but I know why. I will take care not to stumble in the same
way; and no Ganymede shall take my place for a like cause."
"You are very wise. Jupiter was wrong, and henceforth I will be
Hercules. Will that please you, fair Hebe?"
"No; because he did not marry her till after her death."
"True, again. I will be Iolas then, for . . ."
"Be quiet. Iolas was old."
"True; but so was I yesterday. You have made me young again."
"I am very glad, dear Iolas; but remember what I did when he left
"And what did you do? I do not remember."
"I did not believe a word he said."
"You can believe."
"I took away the gift I had made."
At these words this charming girl's face was suffered with
blushes. If I had touched her with my hand, sure it would have
been on fire; but the rays that darted from her eyes froze my
Philosophers, be not angry if I talk of freezing rays. It is no
miracle, but a very natural phenomenon, which is happening every
day. A great love, which elevates a man's whole nature, is a
strong flame born out of a great cold, such as I then felt for a
moment; it would have killed me if it had lasted longer.
The superior manner in which Clementine had applied the story of
Hebe convinced me not only that she had a profound knowledge of
mythology, but also that she had a keen and far-reaching
intellect. She had given me more than a glimpse of her learning;
she had let me guess that I interested her, and that she thought
These ideas, entering a heart which is already warm, speedily set
all the senses in flames. In a moment all doubt was laid to rest;
Clementine loved me, and I was sure that we should be happy.
Clementine slipped away from the table to calm herself, and thus I
had time to escape from my astonishment.
"Pray where was that young lady educated?" I said to the
"In the country. She was always present when my brother had his
lessons, but the tutor, Sardini, never took any notice of her, and
it was only she who gained anything; my brother only yawned.
Clementine used to make my mother laugh, and puzzle the old tutor
"Sardini wrote and published some poems which are not bad; but
nobody reads them, because they are so full of mythology."
"Quite so. Clementine possesses a manuscript with which he
presented her, containing a number of mythological tales verified.
Try and make her shew you her books and the verses she used to
write; she won't shew them to any of us."
I was in a great state of admiration. When she returned I
complimented her upon her acquirements, and said that as I was a
great lover of literature myself I should be delighted if she
would shew me her verses.
"I should be ashamed. I had to give over my studies two years
ago, when my sister married and we came to live here, where we
only see honest folks who talk about the stable, the harvest, and
the weather. You are the first person I have seen who has talked
to me about literature. If our old Sardini had come with us I
should have gone on learning, but my sister did not care to have
"But my dear Clementine," said the countess, "what do you think my
husband could have done with an old man of eighty whose sole
accomplishments are weighing the wind, writing verses, and talking
"He would have been useful enough," said the husband, "if he could
have managed the estate, but the honest old man will not believe
in the existence of rascals. He is so learned that he is quite
"Good heavens!" cried Clementine. "Sardini stupid? It is
certainly easy to deceive him, but that is because he is so noble.
I love a man who is easily deceived, but they call me silly."
"Not at all, my dear sister," said the countess. "On the
contrary, there is wisdom in all you say, but it is wisdom out of
place in a woman; the mistress of a household does not want to
know anything about literature, poetry, or philosophy, and when it
comes to marrying you I am very much afraid that your taste for
this kind of thing will stand in your way."
"I know it, and I am expecting to die a maid; not that it is much
compliment to the men."
To know all that such a dialogue meant for me, the reader must
imagine himself most passionately in love. I thought myself
unfortunate. I could have given her a hundred thousand crowns,
and I would have married her that moment. She told me that
Sardini was at Milan, very old and ill.
"Have you been to see him?" I asked.
"I have never been to Milan."
"Is it possible? It is not far from here."
"Distance is relative, you know."
This was beautifully expressed. It told me without any false
shame that she could not afford to go, and I was pleased by her
frankness. But in the state of mind I was in I should have been
pleased with anything she chose to do. There are moments in a
man's life when the woman he loves can make anything of him.
I spoke to her in a manner that affected her so that she took me
into a closet next to her room to shew me her books. There were
only thirty in all, but they were chosen, although somewhat
elementary. A woman like Clementine needed something more.
"Do you know, my dear Hebe, that you want more books?"
"I have often suspected it, dear Iolas, without being able to say
exactly what I want."
After spending an hour in glancing over Sardini's works, I begged
her to spew me her own.
"No," said she, "they are too bad."
"I expect so; but the good will outweigh the bad."
"I don't think so."
"Oh, yes! you needn't be afraid. I will forgive the bad grammar,
bad style, absurd images, faulty method, and even the verses that
"That's too much, Iolas; Hebe doesn't need so vast a pardon as all
that. Here, sir, these are my scribblings; sift the faults and
the defaults. Read what you will."
I was delighted that my scheme of wounding her vanity had
succeeded, and I began by reading aloud an anacreontic, adding to
its beauties by the modulation of my voice, and keenly enjoying
her pleasure at finding her work so fair. When I improved a line
by some trifling change she noticed it, for she followed me with
her eyes; but far from being humiliated, she was pleased with my
corrections. The picture was still hers, she thought, though with
my skilled brush I brought out the lights and darkened the
shadows, and she was charmed to see that my pleasure was as great
or greater than hers. The reading continued for two hours. It
was a spiritual and pure, but a most intensely voluptuous,
enjoyment. Happy, and thrice happy, if we had gone no farther;
but love is a traitor who laughs at us when we think to play with
him without falling into his nets. Shall a man touch hot coals
and escape the burning?
The countess interrupted us, and begged us to join the company.
Clementine hastened to put everything back, and thanked me for the
happiness I had given her. The pleasure she felt shewed itself in
her blushes, and when she came into the drawing-room she was asked
if she had been fighting, which made her blush still more.
The faro-table was ready, but before sitting down I told Clairmont
to get me four good horses for the following day. I wanted to go
to Lodi and back by dinnertime.
Everybody played as before, the abbe excepted, and he, to my huge
delight, did not put in an appearance at all, but his place was
supplied by a canon, who punted a ducat at a time and had a pile
of ducats before him. This made me increase my bank, and when the
game was over, I was glad to see that everybody had won except the
canon, but his losses had not spoilt his temper.
Next day I started for Lodi at day-break without telling anybody
where I was going, and bought all the books I judged necessary for
Clementine, who only knew Italian. I bought numerous translation,
which I was surprised to find at Lodi, which hitherto had been
only famous in my mind for its cheese, usually called Parmesan.
This cheese is made at Lodi and not at Parma, and I did not fail
to make an entry to that effect under the article "Parmesan" in my
"Dictionary of Cheeses," a work which I was obliged to abandon as
beyond my powers, as Rousseau was obliged to abandon his
"Dictionary of Botany." This great but eccentric individual was
then known under the pseudonym of Renaud, the Botanist. 'Quisque
histrioniam exercet'. But Rousseau, great man though he was, was
totally deficient in humour.
I conceived the idea of giving a banquet at Lodi the day after
next, and a project of this kind not calling for much deliberation
I went forthwith to the best hotel to make the necessary
arrangements. I ordered a choice dinner for twelve, paid the
earnest money, and made the host promise that everything should be
of the best.
When I got back to St. Angelo, I had a sackfull of books carried
into Clementine's room. She was petrified. There were more than
one hundred volumes, poets, historians, geographers, philosophers,
scientists--nothing was forgotten. I had also selected some good
novels, translated from the Spanish, English, and French, for we
have no good novels in Italian.
This admission does not prove by any means that Italian literature
is surpassed by that of any other country. Italy has little to
envy in other literatures, and has numerous masterpieces, which
are unequalled the whole world over. Where will you find a worthy
companion to the Orlando Furioso? There is none, and this great
work is incapable of transalation. The finest and truest
panegyric of Ariosto was written by Voltaire when he was sixty.
If he had not made this apology for the rash judgement of his
youthful days, he would not have enjoyed, in Italy at all events,
that immortality which is so justly his due. Thirty-six years ago
I told him as much, and he took me at my word. He was afraid, and
he acted wisely.
If I have any readers, I ask their pardon for these digressions.
They must remember that these Memoirs were written in my old age,
and the old are always garrulous. The time will come to them
also, and then they will understand that if the aged repeat
themselves, it is because they live in a world of memories,
without a present and without a future.
I will now return to my narrative, which I have kept steadily in
Clementine gazed from me to the books, and from the books to me.
She wondered and admired, and could scarcely believe this treasure
belonged to her. At last she collected herself, and said in a
tone full of gratitude,--
"You have come to St. Angelo to make me happy."
Such a saying makes a man into a god. He is sure that she who
speaks thus will do all in her power to make a return for the
happiness which she has been given.
There is something supremely lovely in the expression of
gratefulness on the face of the being one loves. If you have not
experienced the feelings I describe, dear reader, I pity you, and
am forced to conclude that you must have been either awkward or
miserly, and therefore unworthy of love.
Clementine ate scarcely anything at dinner, and afterwards retired
to her room where I soon joined her. We amused ourselves by
putting the books in order, and she sent for a carpenter to make a
bookcase with a lock and key.
"It will be my pleasure to read these books," said she, "when you
have left us."
In the evening she was lucky with the cards, and in delightful
spirits. I asked them all to dine with me at Lodi, but as the
dinner was for twelve the Countess Ambrose said she would be able
to find the two guests who were wanted at Lodi, and the canon said
he would take the lady friend with her two children.
The next day was one of happy quiet, and I spent it without
leaving the castle, being engaged in instructing my Hebe on the
nature of the sphere, and in preparing her for the beauties of
Wolf. I presented her with my case of mathematical instruments,
which seemed to her invaluable.
I burned with passion for this charming girl; but would I have
done so in her taste for literature and science had not been
backed up by her personal charms? I suspect not. I like a dish
pleasing to the palate, but if it is not pleasing to the eye as
well, I do not taste it but put down as bad. The surface is
always the first to interest, close examination comes afterwards.
The man who confines himself to superficial charms, is superficial
himself, but with them all love begins, except that which rises in
the realm of fancy, and this nearly always falls before the
When I went to bed, still thinking of Clementine, I began to
reflect seriously, and I was astonished to find that during all
the hours we had spent together she had not caused the slightest
sensual feeling to arise in me. Nevertheless, I could not assign
the reason to fear, nor to shyness which is unknown to me, nor to
false shame, nor to what is called a feeling of duty. It was
certainly not virtue, for I do not carry virtue so far as that.
Then what was it? I did not tire myself by pursuing the question.
I felt quite sure that the Platonic stage must soon come to an
end, and I was sorry, but my sorrow was virtue in extremis. The
fine things we read together interested us so strongly that we did
not think of love, nor of the pleasure we took in each other's
company; but as the saying goes, the devil lost nothing by us.
When intellect enters on the field, the heart has to yield; virtue
triumphs, but the battle must not last for long. Our conquests
made us too sure, but this feeling of security was a Colossus
whose feet were of clay; we knew that we loved but were not sure
that we were beloved. But when this became manifest the Colossus
must fall to the ground.
This dangerous trust made me go to her room to tell her something
about our journey to Lodi, the carriages were already waiting.
She was still asleep, but my step on the floor made her awake with
a start. I did not even think it necessary to apologize. She
told me that Tasso's Aminta had interested her to such an extent
that she had read it till she fell asleep.
"The Pastor Fido will please you still more."
"Is it more beautiful?"
"Then why do you say it will please me more?"
"Because it charms the heart. It appeals to our softest feelings,
and seduces us--and we love seduction."
"It is a seducer, then?"
"No, not a seducer; but seductive, like you."
"That's a good distinction. I will read it this evening. Now I
am going to dress."
She put on her clothes in seeming oblivion that I was a man, but
without shewing any sights that could be called indecent.
Nevertheless it struck me that if she had thought I was in love
with her, she would have been more reserved, for as she put on her
chemise, laced her corset, fastened her garters above her knee,
and drew on her boots, I saw glimpses of beauty which affected me
so strongly that I was obliged to go out before she was ready to
quench the flames she had kindled in my senses.
I took the countess and Clementine in my carriage, and sat on the
bracket seat holding the baby on my knee. My two fair companions
laughed merrily, for I held the child as if to the manner born.
When we had traversed half the distance the baby demanded
nourishment, and the charming mother hastened to uncover a sphere
over which my eyes roved with delight, not at all to her
displeasure. The child left its mother's bosom satisfied, and at
the sight of the liquor which flowed so abundantly I exclaimed,--
"It must not be lost, madam; allow me to sip nectar which will
elevate me to the rank of the gods. Do not be afraid of my
teeth." I had some teeth in those days.
The smiling countess made no opposition, and I proceeded to carry
out my design, while the ladies laughed that magic laugh which not
painter can portray. The divine Homer is the only poet who has
succeeded in delineating it in those lines in which he describes
Andromache with the young Astyanax in her arms, when Hector is
leaving her to return to the battle.
I asked Clementine if she had the courage to grant me a similar
"Certainly," said she, "if I had any milk."
"You have the source of the milk; I will see to the rest."
At this the girl's face suffused with such a violent blush that I
was sorry I had spoken; however, I changed the conversation, and
it soon passed away. Our spirits were so high that when the time
came for us to get down at the inn at Lodi, we could scarcely
believe it possible, so swiftly had the time gone by.
The countess sent a message to a lady friend of hers, begging her
to dine with us, and to bring her sister; while I dispatched
Clairmont to a stationer's, where he bought me a beautiful morocco
case with lock and key, containing paper, pens, sealing-wax, ink-
well, paper knife, seal, and in fact, everything necessary for
writing. It was a present I meant to give Clementine before
dinner. It was delightful to watch her surprise and pleasure, and
to read gratitude so legibly written in her beautiful eyes. There
is not a woman in the world who cannot be overcome by being made
grateful. It is the best and surest way to get on, but it must be
skilfully used. The countess's friend came and brought her
sister, a girl who was dazzlingly beautiful. I was greatly struck
with her, but just then Venus herself could not have dethroned
Clementine from her place in my affections. After the friends had
kissed each other, and expressed their joy at meeting, I was
introduced, and in so complimentary a manner that I felt obliged
to turn it off with a jest.
The dinner was sumptuous and delicious. At dessert two self-
invited guests came in, the lady's husband and the sister's lover,
but they were welcome, for it was a case of the more the merrier.
After the meal, in accordance with the request of the company, I
made a bank at faro, and after three hours' play I was delighted
to find myself a loser to the extent of forty sequins. It was
these little losses at the right time which gave me the reputation
of being the finest gamester in Europe.
The lady's lover was named Vigi, and I asked him if he was
descended from the author of the thirteenth book of the "AEneid."
He said he was, and that in honour of his ancestor he had
translated the poem into Italian verse. I expressed myself
curious as to his version, and he promised to bring it me in two
days' time. I complimented him on belonging to such a noble and
ancient family; Maffeo Vigi flourished at the beginning of the
We started in the evening, and less than two hours we got home.
The moon which shone brightly upon us prevented me making any
attempts on Clementine, who had put up her feet in order that she
might be able to hold her little nephew with more ease. The
pretty mother could not help thanking me warmly for the pleasure I
had given them; I was a universal favourite with them all.
We did not feel inclined to eat any supper, and therefore retired
to our apartments; and I accompanied Clementine, who told me that
she was ashamed at not knowing anything about the "AEneid."
"Vigi will bring his translation of the thirteenth book, and I
shall not know a word about it."
I comforted her by telling her that we would read the fine
translation by Annibale Caro that very night. It was amongst her
books, as also the version by Anguilara, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and
"But I wanted to read the Pastor Fido."
"We are in a hurry; we must read that another time."
"I will follow your advice in all things, my dear Iolas."
"That will make me happy, dearest Hebe."
We spent the night in reading that magnificent translation in
Italian blank verse, but the reading was often interrupted by my
pupil's laughter when we came to some rather ticklish passage.
She was highly amused by the account of the chance which gave
'AEneas an opportunity of proving his love for Dido in a very
inconvenient place, and still more, when Dido, complaining of the
son of Priam's treachery, says,--
"I might still pardon you if, before abandoning me, you had left
me a little AEneas to play about these halls."
Clementine had cause to be amused, for the reproach has something
laughable in it; but how is it that one does not feel inclined to
smile in reading the Latin--'Si quis mihi parvulus aula luderet
AEneas?'. The reason must be sought for in the grave and
dignified nature of the Latin tongue.
We did not finish our reading till day-break.
"What a night!" exclaimed Clementine, with a sigh.
"It has been one of great pleasure to me, has it not to you?"
"I have enjoyed it because you have."
"And if you had been reading by yourself?"
"It would have still been a pleasure, but a much smaller one. I
love your intellect to distraction, Clementine, but tell me, do
you think it possible to love the intellect without loving that
which contains it?"
"No, for without the body the spirit would vanish away."
"I conclude from that that I am deeply in love with you, and that
I cannot pass six or seven hours in your company without longing
to kiss you."
"Certainly, but we resist these desires because we have duties to
perform, which would rise up against us if we left them undone."
"True again, but if your disposition at all resembles mine this
constraint must be very painful to you."
"Perhaps I feel it as much as you do, but it is my belief that it
is only hard to withstand temptation at first. By degrees one
gets accustomed to loving without running any risk and without
effort. Our senses, at first so sharp set, end by becoming
blunted, and when this is the case we may spend hours and days in
safety, untroubled by desire."
"I have my doubts as far as I am concerned, but we shall see.
Good night, fair Hebe."
"Good night, my good Iolas, may you sleep well!"
"My sleep will be haunted by visions of you."
Our Excursion--Parting From Clementine--I Leave Milan With Croce's
Mistress My Arrival At Genoa
The ancients, whose fancy was so fertile in allegory, used to
figure Innocence as playing with a serpent or with a sharp arrow.
These old sages had made a deep study of the human heart; and
whatever discoveries modern science may have made, the old symbols
may still be profitably studied by those who wish to gain a deep
insight into the working of man's mind.
I went to bed, and after having dismissed Clairmont I began to
reflect on my relations with Clementine, who seemed to have been
made to shine in a sphere from which, in spite of her high birth,
her intelligence, and her rare beauty, her want of fortune kept
her apart. I smiled to myself at her doctrines, which were as
much as to say that the best way of curing appetite was to place a
series of appetising dishes before a hungry man, forbidding him to
touch them. Nevertheless I could but approve the words which she
had uttered with such an air of innocence--that if one resists
desires, there is no danger of one being humiliated by giving way
This humiliation would arise from a feeling of duty, and she
honoured me by supposing that I had as high principles as herself.
But at the same time the motive of self-esteem was also present,
and I determined not to do anything which would deprive me of her
As may be imagined, I did not awake till very late the next
morning, and when I rang my bell Clementine came in, looking very
pleased, and holding a copy of the Pastor Fido in her hand. She
wished me good day, and said she had read the first act, and that
she thought it very beautiful, and told me to get up that we might
read the second together before dinner.
"May I rise in your presence?"
"Why not? A man has need of very little care to observe the laws
"Then please give me that shirt."
She proceeded to unfold it, and then put it over my head, smiling
all the time.
"I will do the same for you at the first opportunity," said I.
She blushed and answered, "It's not nearly so far from you to me
as it is from me to you."
"Divine Hebe, that is beyond my understanding. You speak like the
Cumaean sibyls, or as if you were rendering oracles at your temple
"Had Hebe a temple at Corinth? Sardini never said so."
"But Apollodorus says so. It was an asylum as well as a temple.
But come back to the point, and pray do not elude it. What you
said is opposed to all the laws of geometry. The distance from
you to me ought to be precisely the same as from me to you."
"Perhaps, then, I have said a stupid thing."
"Not at all, Hebe, you have an idea which may be right or wrong,
but I want to bring it out. Come, tell me."
"Well, then, the two distances differ from each other with respect
to the ascent and descent, or fall, if you like. Are not all
bodies inclined to obey the laws of gravitation unless they are
held back by a superior force?"
"And is it not the case that no bodies move in an upward direction
unless they are impelled?"
"Then you must confess that since I am shorter than you I should
have to ascend to attain you, and ascension is always an effort;
while if you wish to attain me, you have only to let yourself go,
which is no effort whatever. Thus it is no risk at all for you to
let me put on your shirt, but it would be a great risk for me if I
allowed you to do the same service for me. I might be overwhelmed
by your too rapid descent on me. Are you persuaded?"
"Persuaded is not the word, fair Hebe. I am ravished in an
ecstacy of admiration. Never was paradox so finely maintained. I
might cavil and contest it, but I prefer to keep silence to admire
"Thank you, dear Iolas, but I want no favour. Tell me how you
could disprove my argument?"
"I should attack it on the point of height. You know you would
not let me change your chemise even if I were a dwarf."
"Ah, dear Iolas! we cannot deceive each other. Would that Heaven
had destined me to be married to a man like you!"
"Alas! why am I not worthy of aspiring to such a position?"
I do not know where the conversation would have landed us, but
just then the countess came to tell us that dinner was waiting,
adding that she was glad to see we loved one another.
"Madly," said Clementine, "but we are discreet."
"If you are discreet, you cannot love madly."
"True, countess," said I, "for the madness of love and wisdom
cannot dwell together. I should rather say we are reasonable, for
the mind may be grave while the heart's gay."
We dined merrily together, then we played at cards, and in the
evening we finished reading the Pastor Fido. When we were
discussing the beauties of this delightful work Clementine asked
me if the thirteenth book of the "AEneid" was fine.
"My dear countess, it is quite worthless; and I only praised it to
flatter the descendant of the author. However, the same writer
made a poem on the tricks of countryfolk, which is by no means
devoid of merit. But you are sleepy, and I am preventing you from
"Not at all."
She took off her clothes in a moment with the greatest coolness,
and did not indulge my licentious gaze in the least. She got into
bed, and I sat beside her; whereupon she sat up again, and her
sister turned her back upon us. The Pastor Fido was on her night-
table, and opening the book I proceeded to read the passage where
Mirtillo describes the sweetness of the kiss Amaryllis had given
him, attuning my voice to the sentiment of the lines. Clementine
seemed as much affected as I was, and I fastened my lips on hers.
What happiness! She drew in the balm of my lips with delight, and
appeared to be free from alarm, so I was about to clasp her in my
arms when she pushed me away with the utmost gentleness, begging
me to spare her.
This was modesty at bay. I begged her pardon, and taking her hand
breathed out upon it all the ecstasy of my lips.
"You are trembling," said she, in a voice that did but increase
the amorous tumult of my heart.
"Yes, dearest countess, and I assure you I tremble for fear of
you. Good night, I am going; and my prayer must be that I may
love you less."
"Why so? To love less is to begin to hate. Do as I do, and pray
that your love may grow and likewise the strength to resist it."
I went to bed ill pleased with myself. I did not know whether I
had gone too far or not far enough; but what did it matter? One
thing was certain, I was sorry for what I had done, and that was
always a thought which pained me.
In Clementine I saw a woman worthy of the deepest love and the
greatest respect, and I knew not how I could cease to love her,
nor yet how I could continue loving her without the reward which
every faithful lover hopes to win.
"If she loves me," I said to myself, "she cannot refuse me, but it
is my part to beg and pray, and even to push her to an extremity,
that she may find an excuse for her defeat. A lover's duty is to
oblige the woman he loves to surrender at discretion, and love
always absolves him for so doing."
According to this argument, which I coloured to suit my passions,
Clementine could not refuse me unless she did not love me, and I
determined to put her to the proof. I was strengthened in this
resolve by the wish to free myself from the state of excitement I
was in, and I was sure that if she continued obdurate I should
soon get cured. But at the same time I shuddered at the thought;
the idea, of my no longer loving Clementine seemed to me an
impossibility and a cruelty.
After a troubled night I rose early and went to wish her good
morning. She was still asleep, but her sister Eleanore was
"My sister," said she, "read till three o'clock this morning. Now
that she has so many books, she is getting quite mad over them.
Let us play a trick on her; get into the bed beside her; it will
be amusing to see her surprise when she wakes up."
"But do you think she will take it as a joke?"
"She won't be able to help laughing; besides, you are dressed."
The opportunity was too tempting, and taking off my dressing-gown,
I gently crept into the bed, and Eleanore covered me up to my
neck. She laughed, but my heart was beating rapidly. I could not
give the affair the appearance of a joke, and I hoped Clementine
would be some time before she awoke that I might have time to
I had been in this position for about five minutes, when
Clementine, half asleep and half awake, turned over, and
stretching out her arm, gave me a hasty kiss, thinking I was her
sister. She then fell asleep again in the same position. I
should have stayed still long enough, for her warm breath played
on my face, and gave me a foretaste of ambrosia; but Eleanore
could restrain herself no longer, and, bursting into a peal of
laughter, forced Clementine to open her eyes. Nevertheless, she
did not discover that she held me in her arms till she saw her
sister standing laughing beside the bed.
"This is a fine trick," said she, "you are two charmers indeed!"
This quiet reception gave me back my self-composure, and I was
able to play my part properly.
"You see," said I, "I have had a kiss from my sweet Hebe."
"I thought I was giving it to my sister. 'Tis the kiss that
Amaryllis gave to Mistillo."
"It comes to the same thing. The kiss has produced its effects,
and Iolas is young again."
"Dear Eleanore, you have gone too far, for we love each other, and
I was dreaming of him."
"No, no," said her sister, "Iolas is dressed. Look!"
So saying, the little wanton with a swift movement uncovered me,
but at the same time she uncovered her sister, and Clementine with
a little scream veiled the charms which my eyes had devoured for a
moment. I had seen all, but as one sees lightning. I had seen
the cornice and the frieze of the altar of love.
Eleanore then went out, and I remained gazing at the treasure I
desired but did not dare to seize. At last I broke the silence.
"Dearest Hebe," said I, "you are certainly fairer than the
cupbearer of the gods. I have just seen what must have been seen
when Hebe was falling, and if I had been Jupiter I should have
changed my mind."
"Sardini told me that Jupiter drove Hebe away, and now I ought to
drive Jupiter away out of revenge."
"Yes; but, my angel, I am Iolas, and not Jupiter. I adore you,
and I seek to quench the desires which torture me."
"This is a trick between you and Eleanore."
"My dearest, it was all pure chance. I thought I should find you
dressed, and I went in to wish you good day. You were asleep and
your sister was dressing. I gazed at you, and Eleanore suggested
that I should lie down beside you to enjoy your astonishment when
you awoke. I ought to be grateful to her for a pleasure which has
turned out so pleasantly. But the beauties she discovered to me
surpass all the ideas I had formed on the subject. My charming
Hebe will not refuse to pardon me."
"No, since all is the effect of chance. But it is curious that
when one loves passionately one always feels inquisitive
concerning the person of the beloved object."
"It is a very natural feeling, dearest. Love itself is a kind of
curiosity, if it be lawful to put curiosity in the rank of the
passions; but you have not that feeling about me?"
"No, for fear you might disappoint me, for I love you, and I want
everything to speak in your favour."
"I know you might be disappointed, and consequently I must do
everything in my power to preserve your good opinion."
"Then you are satisfied with me?"
"Surely. I am a good architect, and I think you are grandly
"Stay, Iolas, do not touch me; it is enough that you have seen
"Alas! it is by touching that one rectifies the mistakes of the
eyes; one judges thus of smoothness and solidity. Let me kiss
these two fair sources of life. I prefer them to the hundred
breasts of Cybele, and I am not jealous of Athys."
"You are wrong there; Sardini told me that it was Diana of Ephesus
who had the hundred breasts."
How could I help laughing to hear mythology issuing from
Clementine's mouth at such a moment! Could any lover foresee such
I pressed with my hand her alabaster breast, and yet the desire of
knowledge subdued love in the heart of Clementine. But far from
mistaking her condition I thought it a good omen. I told her that
she was perfectly right, and that I was wrong, and a feeling of
literary vanity prevented her opposing my pressing with my lips a
rosy bud, which stood out in relief against the alabaster sphere.
"You apply your lips in vain, my dear Iolas, the land is barren.
But what are you swallowing?"
"The quintessence of a kiss."
"I think you must have swallowed something of me, since you have
given me a pleasurable sensation I have never before experienced."
"Dear Hebe, you make me happy."
"I am glad to hear it, but I think the kiss on the lips is much
"Certainly, because the pleasure is reciprocal, and consequently
"You teach by precept and example too. Cruel teacher! Enough,
this pleasure is too sweet. Love must be looking at us and
"Why should we not let him enjoy a victory which would make us
"Because such happiness is not built on a sure foundation. No,
no! put your arms down. If we can kill each other with kisses,
let us kiss on; but let us use no other arms."
After our lips had clung to each other cruelly but sweetly, she
paused, and gazing at me with eyes full of passion she begged me
to leave her alone.
The situation in which I found myself is impossible to describe.
I deplored the prejudice which had constrained me, and I wept with
rage. I cooled myself by making a toilette which was extremely
necessary, and returned to her room.
She was writing.
"I am delighted to see you back," said she, "I am full of the
poetic frenzy and propose to tell the story of the victory we have
gained in verse."
"A sad victory, abhorred by love, hateful to nature."
"That will do nicely. Will each write a poem; I to celebrate the
victory and you to deplore it. But you look sad."
"I am in pain; but as the masculine anatomy is unknown to you, I
cannot explain matters."
Clementine did not reply, but I could see that she was affected.
I suffered a dull pain in that part which prejudice had made me
hold a prisoner while love and nature bade me give it perfect
freedom. Sleep was the only thing which would restore the balance
of my constitution.
We went down to dinner, but I could not eat. I could not attend
to the reading of the translation which M. Vigi had brought with
him, and I even forgot to compliment him upon it. I begged the
count to hold the bank for me, and asked the company to allow me
to lie down; nobody could tell what was the matter with me, though
Clementine might have her suspicions.
At supper-time Clementine, accompanied by a servant, brought me a
delicate cold collation, and told me that the bank had won. It
was the first time it had done so, for I had always taken care to
play a losing game. I made a good supper, but remained still
melancholy and silent. When I had finished Clementine bade me
good night, saying that she was going to write her poem.
I, too, was in the vein: I finished my poem, and made a fair copy
of it before I went to bed. In the morning Clementine came to see
me, and gave me her piece, which I read with pleasure; though I
suspect that the delight my praises gave was equal to mine.
Then came the turn of my composition, and before long I noticed
that the picture of my sufferings was making a profound impression
on her. Big tears rolled down her cheeks, and from her eyes shot
forth tender glances. When I had finished, I had the happiness of
hearing her say that if she had known that part of physiology
better, she would not have behaved so.
We took a cup of chocolate together, and I then begged her to lie
down beside me in bed without undressing, and to treat me as I had
treated her the day before, that she might have some experience of
the martyrdom I had sung in my verses. She smiled and agreed, on
the condition that I should do nothing to her.
It was a cruel condition, but it was the beginning of victory, and
I had to submit. I had no reason to repent of my submission, for
I enjoyed the despotism she exercised on me, and the pain she must
be in that I did nothing to her, whilst I would not let her see
the charms which she held in her hands. In vain I excited her to
satisfy herself, to refuse her desires nothing, but she persisted
in maintaining that she did not wish to go any further.
"Your enjoyment cannot be so great as mine," said I. But her
subtle wit never left her without a reply.
"Then," said she, "you have no right to ask me to pity you."
The test, however, was too sharp for her. She left me in a state
of great excitement, giving me a kiss which took all doubts away,
and saying that in love we must be all or nothing.
We spent the day in reading, eating, and walking, and in converse
grave and gay. I could not see, however, that my suit had
progressed, as far as the events of the morning seemed to
indicate. She wanted to reverse the medal of Aristippus, who
said, in speaking of Lois, "I possess her, but she does not
possess me." She wanted to be my mistress, without my being her
master. I ventured to bewail my fate a little, but that did not
seem to advance my cause.
Three or four days after, I asked Clementine in the presence of
her sister to let me lie in bed beside her. This is the test
proposed to a nun, a widow, a girl afraid of consequences, and it
nearly always succeeds. I took a packet of fine English letters
and explained their use to her. She took them examined them
attentively, and after a burst of laughter declared them to be
scandalous, disgusting, horrible in which anathema her sister
joined. In vain I tried to plead their utility in defence, but
Clementine maintained that there was no trusting them, and pushed
her finger into one so strongly that it burst with a loud crack.
I had to give way, and put my specialties in my pocket, and her
final declaration was that such things made her shudder.
I wished them good night, and retired in some confusion. I
pondered over Clementine's strange resistance, which could only
mean that I had not inspired her with sufficient love. I resolved
on overcoming her by an almost infallible method. I would procure
her pleasures that were new to her without sparing expense. I
could think of nothing better than to take the whole family to
Milan, and to give them a sumptuous banquet at my pastry-cook's.
"I will take them there," I said to myself, "without saying a word
about our destination till we are on our way, for if I were to
name Milan the count might feel bound to tell his Spanish
countess, that she might have an opportunity of making the
acquaintance of her sisters-in-law, and this would vex me to the
last degree." The party would be a great treat to the sisters,
who had never been in Milan, and I resolved to make the expedition
as splendid as I possibly could.
When I awoke the next morning I wrote to Zenobia to buy three
dresses of the finest Lyons silk for three young ladies of rank.
I sent the necessary measurements, and instructions as to the
trimming. The Countess Ambrose's dress was to be white satin with
a rich border of Valenciennes lace. I also wrote to M. Greppi,
asking him to pay for Zenobia's purchases. I told her to take the
three dresses to my private lodgings, and lay them upon the bed,
and give the landlord a note I enclosed. This note ordered him to
provide a banquet for eight persons, without sparing expense. On
the day and hour appointed, Zengbia was to be at the pastrycook's
ready to wait on the three ladies. I sent the letter by
Clairmont, who returned before dinner, bearing a note from Zenobia
assuring me that all my wishes should be carried out. After
dessert I broached my plan to the countess, telling her that I
wanted to give a party like the one at Lodi, but on two
conditions: the first, that no one was to know our destination
till we were in the carriages, and the second, that after dinner
we should return to St. Angelo.
Out of politeness the countess looked at her husband before
accepting the invitation, but he cried out, without ceremony, that
he was ready to go if I took the whole family.
"Very good," said I, "we will start at eight o'clock to-morrow,
and nobody need be at any trouble, the carriages are ordered."
I felt obliged to include the canon, because he was a great
courtier of the countess, and also because he lost money to me
every day, and thus it was he, in fact, who was going to pay for
the expedition. That evening he lost three hundred sequins, and
was obliged to ask me to give him three day's grace to pay the
money. I replied by assuring him that all I had was at his
When the company broke up I offered my hand to Hebe, and escorted
her and her sister to their room. We had begun to read
Fontenelle's "Plurality of Worlds," and I had thought we should
finish it that night; but Clementine said that as she had to get
up early, she would want to get to sleep early also.
"You are right, dearest Hebe, do you go to bed, and I will read to
She made no objection, so I took the Ariosto, and began to read
the history of the Spanish princess who fell in love with
Bradamante. I thought that by the time I had finished Clementine
would be ardent, but I was mistaken; both she and her sister
"What is the matter with you, dearest? Has Ricciardetto
"Not at all, he has pleased me, and in the princess's place I
should have done the same; but we shall not sleep all night, and
it is your fault."
"What have I done, pray?"
"Nothing, but you can make us happy, and give us a great proof of
"Speak, then. What is it you want of me? I would do anything to
please you. My life is yours. You shall sleep soundly."
"Well, then, tell us where we are going to-morrow."
"Have I not already said that I would tell you just as we are
"Yes, but that won't do. We want to know now, and if you won't
tell us we shan't sleep, all night, and we shall look frightful
"I should be so sorry, but I don't think that you could look
"You don't think we can keep a secret. It is nothing very
important, is it?"
"No, it is not very important, but all the same it is a secret."
"It would be dreadful if you refused me."
"Dearest Hebe! how can I refuse you anything? I confess freely
that I have been wrong in keeping you waiting so long. Here is my
secret: you are to dine with me to-morrow."
"With you? Where?"
In their immoderate joy they got out of bed, and without caring
for their state of undress, threw their arms round my neck,
covered me with kisses, clasped me to their breasts, and finally
sat down on my knees.
"We have never seen Milan," they cried, "and it has been the dream
of our lives to see that splendid town. How often I have been put
to the blush when I have been forced to confess that I have never
been to Milan."
"It makes me very happy," said Hebe, "but my happiness is troubled
by the idea that we shall see nothing of the town, for we shall
have to return after dinner. It is cruel! Are we to go fifteen
miles to Milan only to dine and come back again? At least we must
see our sister-in-law."
"I have foreseen all your objections, and that was the reason I
made a mystery of it, but it has been arranged. You don't like
it? Speak and tell me your pleasure."
"Of course we like it, dear Iolas. The party will be charming,
and perhaps, if we knew all, the very conditions are all for the
"It may be so, but I may not tell you any more now."
"And we will not press you."
In an ecstasy of joy she began to embrace me again, and Eleanore
said that she would go to sleep so as to be more on the alert for
the morrow. This was the best thing she could have done. I knew
the fortunate hour was at hand, and exciting Clementine by my
fiery kisses, and drawing nearer and nearer, at last I was in full
possession of the temple I had so long desired to attain. Hebe's
pleasure and delight kept her silent; she shared my ecstasies, and
mingled her happy tears with mine.
I spent two hours in this manner, and then went to bed, impatient
to renew the combat on the following day more at my ease and with
At eight o'clock we were all assembled round the breakfast-table,
but in spite of my high spirits I could not make the rest of the
company share them. All were silent and pensive; curiosity shewed
itself on every face. Clementine and her sister pretended to
partake the general feeling, and were silent like the rest while I
looked on and enjoyed their expectancy.
Clairmont, who had fulfilled my instructions to the letter, came
in and told us that the carriages were at the door. I asked my
guests to follow me, and they did so in silence. I put the
countess and Clementine in my carriage, the latter holding the
baby on her lap, her sister and the three gentlemen being seated
in the other carriage. I called out, with a laugh,
"Drive to Milan."
"Milan! Milan!" they exclaimed with one voice. "Capital!
Clairmont galloped in front of us and went off. Clementine
pretended to be astonished, but her sister looked as if she had
known something of our destination before. All care, however, had
disappeared, and the highest spirits prevailed. We stopped at a
village half-way between St. Angelo and Milan to blow the horses,
and everybody got down.
"What will my wife say?" asked the count.
"Nothing, for she will not know anything about it, and if she does
I am the only guilty party. You are to dine with me in a suite of
rooms which I have occupied incognito since I have been at Milan;
for you will understand that I could not have my wants attended to
at your house, where the place is already taken."
"And how about Zenobia?"
"Zenobia was a lucky chance, and is a very nice girl, but she
would not suffice for my daily fare."
"You are a lucky fellow!"
"I try to make myself comfortable."
"My dear husband," said the Countess Ambrose, "you proposed a
visit to Milan two years ago, and the chevalier proposed it a few
hours ago, and now we are on our way."
"Yes, sweetheart, but my idea was that we should spend a month
"If you want to do that," said I, "I will see to everything."
"Thank you, my dear sir; you are really a wonderful man."
"You do me too much honour, count, there is nothing wonderful
about me, except that I execute easily an easy task."
"Yes; but you will confess that a thing may be difficult from the
way in which we regard it, or from the position in which we find
"You are quite right."
When we were again on our way the countess said,--
"You must confess, sir, that you are a very fortunate man."
"I do not deny it, my dear countess, but my happiness is due to
the company I find myself in; if you were to expel me from yours,
I should be miserable"
"You are not the kind of man to be expelled from any society."
"That is a very kindly compliment."
"Say, rather, a very true one."
"I am happy to hear you say so, but it would be both foolish and
presumptuous for me to say so myself."
Thus we made merry on our way, above all at the expense of the
canon, who had been begging the countess to intercede with me to
give him leave to absent himself half an hour.
"I want to call on a lady," said he; "I should lose her favour
forever if she came to know that I had been in Milan without
paying her a visit."
"You must submit to the conditions," replied the amiable countess,
"so don't count on my intercession."
We got to Milan exactly at noon, and stepped out at the pastry-
cook's door. The landlady begged the countess to confide her
child to her care, and shewed her a bosom which proved her
fruitfulness. This offer was made at the foot of the stairs, and
the countess accepted it with charming grace and dignity. It was
a delightful episode, which chance had willed should adorn the
entertainment I had invented. Everybody seemed happy, but I was
the happiest of all. Happiness is purely a creature of the
imagination. If you wish to be happy fancy that you are so,
though I confess that circumstances favourable to this state are
often beyond our control. On the other hand, unfavourable
circumstances are mostly the result of our own mistakes.
The countess took my arm, and we led the way into my room which I
found exquisitely neat and clean. As I had expected, Zenobia was
there, but I was surprised to see Croce's mistress, looking very
pretty; however, I pretended not to know her. She was well
dressed, and her face, free from the sadness it had borne before,
was so seductive in its beauty, that I felt vexed at her
appearance at that particular moment.
"Here are two pretty girls," said the countess. "Who are you,
"We are the chevalier's humble servants," said Zenobia, "and we
are here only to wait on you."
Zenobia had taken it on herself to bring her lodger, who began to
speak Italian, and looked at me in doubt, fearing that I was
displeased at her presence. I had to reassure her by saying I was
very glad she had come with Zenobia. These words were as balm to
her heart; she smiled again, and became more beautiful than ever.
I felt certain that she would not remain unhappy long; it was
impossible to behold her without one's interest being excited in
her favour. A bill signed by the Graces can never be protested;
anyone with eyes and a heart honours it at sight.
My humble servants took the ladies' cloaks and followed them into
the bedroom, where the three dresses were laid out on a table. I
only knew the white satin and lace, for that was the only one I
had designed. The countess, who walked before her sisters, was
the first to notice it, and exclaimed,--
"What a lovely dress! To whom does it belong, M. de Seingalt?
You ought to know."
"Certainly. It belongs to your husband who can do what he likes
with it, and I hope, if he gives it you, you will take it. Take
it, count; it is yours; and if you refuse I will positively kill
"We love you too well to drive you to an act of despair. The idea
is worthy of your nobility of heart. I take your beautiful
present with one hand, and with the other I deliver it to her to
whom it really belongs."
"What, dear husband! is this beautiful dress really mine? Whom
am I to thank? I thank you both, and I must put it on for
The two others were not made of such rich materials, but they were
more showy, and I was delighted to see Clementine's longing gaze
fixed upon the one I had intended for her. Eleanore in her turn
admired the dress that had been made for her. The first was in
shot satin, and ornamented with lovely wreaths of flowers; the
second was sky-blue satin, with a thousand flowers scattered all
over it. Zenobia took upon herself to say that the first was for
"How do you know?"
"It is the longer, and you are taller than your sister."
"That is true. It is really mine, then?" said she, turning to me.
"If I may hope that you will deign to accept it."
"Surely, dear Iolas, and I will put it on directly."
Eleanore maintained that her dress was the prettier, and said she
was dying to put it on.
"Very good, very good!" I exclaimed, in high glee, "we will leave
you to dress, and here are your maids."
I went out with the two brothers and the canon, and I remarked
that they looked quite confused. No doubt they were pondering the
prodigality of gamesters; light come, light go. I did not
interrupt their thoughts, for I loved to astonish people. I
confess it was a feeling of vanity which raised me above my
fellow-men-at least, in my own eyes, but that was enough for me.
I should have despised anyone who told me that I was laughed at,
but I daresay it was only the truth.
I was in the highest spirits, and they soon proved infectious. I
embraced Count Ambrose affectionately, begging his pardon for
having presumed to make the family a few small presents, and I
thanked his brother for having introduced me to them. "You have
all given me such a warm welcome," I added, "that I felt obliged
to give you some small proof of my gratitude."
The fair countesses soon appeared, bedecked with smiles and their
"You must have contrived to take our measures," said they; "but we
cannot imagine how you did it."
"The funniest thing is," said the eldest, "that you have had my
dress made so that it can be let out when necessary without
destroying the shape. But what a beautiful piece of trimming! It
is worth four times as much as the dress itself."
Clementine could not keep away from the looking-glass. She
fancied that in the colours of her dress, rose and green, I had
indicated the characteristics of the youthful Hebe. Eleanore
still maintained that her dress was the prettiest of all.
I was delighted with the pleasure of my fair guests, and we sat
down to table with excellent appetites. The dinner was extremely
choice; but the finest dish of all was a dish of oysters, which
the landlord had dressed a la maitre d'hotel. We enjoyed them
immensely. We finished off three hundred of them, for the ladies
relished them extremely, and the canon seemed to have an
insatiable appetite; and we washed down the dishes with numerous
bottles of champagne. We stayed at table for three hours,
drinking, singing, and jesting, while my humble servants, whose
beauty almost rivalled that of my guests, waited upon us.
Towards the end of the meal the pastry-cook's wife came in with
the countess's baby on her breast. This was a dramatic stroke.
The mother burst into a cry of joy, and the woman seemed quite
proud of having suckled the scion of so illustrious a house for
nearly four hours. It is well known that women, even more than
men, are wholly under the sway of the imagination. Who can say
that this woman, simple and honest like the majority of the lower
classes, did not think that her own offspring would be ennobled by
being suckled at the breast which had nourished a young count?
Such an idea is, no doubt, foolish, but that is the very reason
why it is dear to the hearts of the people.
We spent another hour in taking coffee and punch, and then the
ladies went to change their clothes again. Zenobia took care that
their new ones should be carefully packed in cardboard boxes and
placed under the seat of my carriage.
Croce's abandoned mistress found an opportunity of telling me that
she was very happy with Zenobia. She asked me when we were to go.
"You will be at Marseilles," said I, pressing her hand,
"a fortnight after Easter at latest."
Zenobia had told me that the girl had an excellent heart, behaved
very discreetly, and that she should be very sorry to see her go.
I gave Zenobia twelve sequins for the trouble she had taken.
I was satisfied with everything and paid the worthy pastry-cook's
bill. I noticed we had emptied no less than twenty bottles of
champagne, though it is true that we drank very little of any
other wine, as the ladies preferred it.
I loved and was beloved, my health was good, I had plenty of
money, which I spent freely; in fine, I was happy. I loved to say
so in defiance of those sour moralists who pretend that there is
no true happiness on this earth. It is the expression on this
earth which makes me laugh; as if it were possible to go anywhere
else in search of happiness. 'Mors ultima linea rerum est'. Yes,
death is the end of all, for after death man has no senses; but I
do not say that the soul shares the fate of the body. No one
should dogmatise on uncertainties, and after death everything is
It was seven o'clock when we began our journey home, which we
reached at midnight. The journey was so pleasant that it seemed
to us but short. The champagne, the punch, and the pleasure, had
warmed my two fair companions, and by favour of the darkness I was
able to amuse myself with them, though I loved Clementine too well
to carry matters very far with her sister.
When we alighted we wished each other good night, and everybody
retired to his or her room, myself excepted, for I spent several
happy hours with Clementine, which I can never forget.
"Do you think," said she, "that I shall be happy when you have
left me all alone?"
"Dearest Hebe, both of us will be unhappy for the first few days,
but then philosophy will step in and soften the bitterness of
parting without lessening our love."
"Soften the bitterness! I do not think any philosophy can work
such a miracle. I know that you, dear sophist, will soon console
yourself with other girls. Don't think me jealous; I should abhor
myself if I thought I was capable of so vile a passion, but I should
despise myself if I was capable of seeking consolation in your
"I shall be in despair if you entertain such ideas of me."
"They are natural, however."
"Possibly. What you call 'other girls' can never expel your image
from my breast. The chief of them is the wife of a tailor, and
the other is a respectable young woman, whom I am going to take
back to Marseilles, whence she has been decoyed by her wretched
"From henceforth to death, you and you alone will reign in my
breast; and if, led astray by my senses, I ever press another in
these arms, I shall soon be punished for an act of infidelity in
which my mind will have no share."
"I at all events will never need to repent in that fashion. But I
cannot understand how, with your love for me, and holding me in
your arms, you can even contemplate the possibility of becoming
unfaithful to me."
"I don't contemplate it, dearest, I merely take it as an
"I don't see much difference."
What reply could I make? There was reason in what Clementine
said, though she was deceived, but her mistakes were due to her
love. My love was so ardent as to be blind to possible--nay,
certain, infidelities. The only circumstance which made me more
correct in my estimate of the future than she, was that this was
by no means my first love affair. But if my readers have been in
the same position, as I suppose mast of them have, they will
understand how difficult it is to answer such arguments coming
from a woman one wishes to render happy. The keenest wit has to
remain silent and to take refuge in kisses.
"Would you like to take me away with you?" said she, "I am ready
to follow you, and it would make me happy. If you love me, you
ought to be enchanted for your own sake. Let us make each other
"I could not dishonour your family."
"Do you not think me worthy of becoming your wife?"
"You are worthy of a crown, and it is I who am all unworthy of
possessing such a wife. You must know that I have nothing in the
world except my fortune, and that may leave me to-morrow. By
myself I do not dread the reverses of fortune, but I should be
wretched if, after linking your fate with mine, you were forced to
undergo any privation."
"I think--I know not why--that you can never be unfortunate, and
that you cannot be happy without me. Your love is not so ardent
as mine; you have not so great a faith."
"My angel, if my fate is weaker than yours, that is the result of
cruel experience which makes me tremble for the future.
Affrighted love loses its strength but gains reason."
"Cruel reason! Must we, then, prepare to part?"
"We must indeed, dearest; it is a hard necessity, but my heart
will still be thine. I shall go away your fervent adorer, and if
fortune favours me in England you will see me again next year. I
will buy an estate wherever you like, and it shall be yours on
your wedding day, our children and literature will be our
"What a happy prospect!--a golden vision indeed! I would that I
might fall asleep dreaming thus, and wake not till that blessed
day, or wake only to die if it is not to be. But what shall I do
if you have left me with child?"
"Divine Hebe, you need not fear. I have managed that."
"Managed? I did not think of that, but I see what you mean, and I
am very much obliged to you. Alas perhaps after all it would have
been better if you had not taken any precautions, for surely you
are not born for my misfortune, and you could never have abandoned
the mother and the child."
"You are right, sweetheart, and if before two months have elapsed
you find any signs of pregnancy in spite of my precautions, you
have only to write to me, and whatever my fortunes may be, I will
give you my hand and legitimise our offspring. You would
certainly be marrying beneath your station, but you would not be
the less happy for that, would you?"
"No, no! to bear your name, and to win your hand would be the
crowning of all my hopes. I should never repent of giving myself
wholly to you."
"You make me happy."
"All of us love you, all say that you are happy, and that you
deserve your happiness. What praise is this! You cannot tell how
my heart beats when I hear you lauded when you are away. When
they say I love you, I answer that I adore you, and you know that
I do not lie."
It was with such dialogues that we passed away the interval
between our amorous transports on the last five or six nights of
my stay. Her sister slept, or pretended to sleep. When I left
Clementine I went to bed and did not rise till late, and then I
spent the whole day with her either in private or with the family.
It was a happy time. How could I, as free as the air, a perfect
master of my movements, of my own free will put my happiness away
from me? I cannot understand it now.
My luck had made me win all the worthy canon's money, which in
turn I passed on to the family at the castle. Clementine alone
would not profit by my inattentive play, but the last two days I
insisted on taking her into partnership, and as the canon's bad
luck still continued she profited to the extent of a hundred
louis. The worthy monk lost a thousand sequins, of which seven
hundred remained in the family. This was paying well for the
hospitality I had received, and as it was at the expense of the
monk, though a worthy one, the merit was all the greater.
The last night, which I spent entirely with the countess, was very
sad; we must have died of grief if we had not taken refuge in the
transports of love. Never was night better spent. Tears of grief
and tears of love followed one another in rapid succession, and
nine times did I offer up sacrifice on the altar of the god, who
gave me fresh strength to replace that which was exhausted. The
sanctuary was full of blood and tears, but the desires of the
priest and victim still cried for more. We had at last to make an
effort and part. Eleanore had seized the opportunity of our
sleeping for a few moments, and had softly risen and left us
alone. We felt grateful to her, and agreed that she must either
be very insensitive or have suffered torments in listening to our
voluptuous combats. I left Clementine to her ablutions, of which
she stood in great need, while I went to my room to make my
When we appeared at the breakfast, table we looked as if we had
been on the rack, and Clementine's eyes betrayed her feelings, but
our grief was respected. I could not be gay in my usual manner,
but no one asked me the reason. I promised to write to them, and
come and see them again the following year. I did write to them,
but I left off doing so at London, because the misfortunes I
experienced there made me lose all hope of seeing them again.
I never did see any of them again, but I have never forgotten
Six years later, when I came back from Spain, I heard to my great
delight that she was living happily with Count N----, whom she had
married three years after my departure. She had two sons, the
younger, who must now be twenty-seven, is in the Austrian army.
How delighted I should be to see him! When I heard of
Clementine's happiness, it was, as I have said, on my return from
Spain, and my fortunes were at a low ebb. I went to see what I
could do at Leghorn, and as I went through Lombardy I passed four
miles from the estate where she and her husband resided, but I had
not the courage to go and see her; perhaps I was right. But I
must return to the thread of my story.
I felt grateful to Eleanore for her kindness to us, and I had
resolved to leave her some memorial of me. I took her apart for a
moment, and drawing a fine cameo, representing the god of Silence,
off my finger, I placed it on hers, and then rejoined the company,
without giving her an opportunity to thank me.
The carriage was ready to take me away, and everyone was waiting
to see me off, but my eyes filled with tears. I sought for
Clementine in vain; she had vanished. I pretended to have