Part 60 out of 70
"Can you tell me why the owner objects to the stone being taken out and
put in at my expense?"
"No, I can't; but he does object."
"Then he may take his ring somewhere else."
They went away, leaving me well pleased at my refusal, for it was plain
that the stone was either false or had a false bottom.
I spent the rest of the day in writing letters and making a good supper,
In the morning I was awoke by someone knocking at my door, and on my
getting up to open it, what was my astonishment to find Mercy!
I let her in, and went back to bed, and asked her what she wanted with me
so early in the morning. She sat down on the bed, and began to overwhelm
me with apologies. I replied by asking her why, if it was her principle
to fly at her lovers like a tiger, she had slept almost in the same room
"In sleeping in the closet," said she, "I obeyed my aunt's orders, and in
striking you (for which I am very sorry) I was but defending my honour;
and I cannot admit that every man who sees me is at liberty to lose his
reason. I think you will allow that your duty is to respect, and mine to
defend, my honour."
"If that is your line of argument, I acknowledge that you are right; but
you had nothing to complain of, for I bore your blow in silence, and by
my leaving the house you might know that it was my intention to respect
you for the future. Did you come to hear me say this? If so, you are
satisfied. But you will not be offended if I laugh at your excuses, for
after what you have said I cannot help thinking them very laughable."
"What have I said?"
"That you only did your duty in flattening my nose. If so, do you think
it is necessary to apologize for the performance of duty?"
"I ought to have defended myself more gently. But forget everything and
forgive me; I will defend myself no more in any way. I am yours and I
love you, and I am ready to prove my love."
She could not have spoken more plainly, and as she spoke the last words
she fell on me with her face close to mine, which she bedewed with her
tears. I was ashamed of such an easy conquest, and I gently withdrew
from her embrace, telling her to return after the bruise on my face had
disappeared. She left me deeply mortified.
The Italian, who had taken half the suite of rooms, had arrived in the
course of the night. I asked his name, and was given a card bearing the
name of The Marquis Don Antonio della Croce.
Was it the Croce I knew?
It was very possible.
I asked what kind of an establishment he had, and was informed that the
marchioness had a lady's maid, and the marquis a secretary and two
servants. I longed to see the nobleman in question.
I had not long to wait, for as soon as he heard that I was his neighbour,
he came to see me, and we spent two hours in telling each other our
adventures since we had parted in Milan. He had heard that I had made
the fortune of the girl he had abandoned, and in the six years that had
elapsed he had been travelling all over Europe, engaged in a constant
strife with fortune. At Paris and Brussels he had made a good deal of
money, and in the latter town he had fallen in love with a young lady of
rank, whom her father had shut up in a convent. He had taken her away,
and she it was whom he called the Marchioness della Croce, now six months
He made her pass for his wife, because, as he said, he meant to marry her
"I have fifty thousand francs in gold," said he, "and as much again in
jewellery and various possessions. It is my intention to give suppers
here and hold a bank, but if I play without correcting the freaks of
fortune I am sure to lose." He intended going to Warsaw, thinking I
would give him introductions to all my friends there; but he made a
mistake, and I did not even introduce him to my Polish friends at Spa. I
told him he could easily make their acquaintance by himself, and that I
would neither make nor mar with him.
I accepted his invitation to dinner for the same day. His secretary, as
he called him, was merely his confederate. He was a clever Veronese
named Conti, and his wife was an essential accomplice in Croce's designs.
At noon my friend the hatter came again with the ring, followed by the
owner, who looked like a bravo. They were accompanied by the jeweller
and another individual. The owner asked me once more to lend him two
hundred louis on the ring.
My proper course would have been to beg to be excused, then I should have
had no more trouble in the matter; but it was not to be. I wanted to
make him see that the objection he made to having the stone taken out was
an insuperable obstacle to my lending him the money.
"When the stone is removed," said I, "we shall see what it really is.
Listen to my proposal: if it weighs twenty-six grains, I will give you,
not two but three hundred louis, but in its present condition I shall
give nothing at all."
"You have no business to doubt my word; you insult me by doing so."
"Not at all, I have no intentions of the kind. I simply propose a wager
to you. If the stone be found to weigh twenty-six grains, I shall lose
two hundred Louis, if it weighs much less you will lose the ring."
"That's a scandalous proposal; it's as much as to tell me that I am a
I did not like the tone with which these words were spoken, and I went up
to the chest of drawers where I kept my pistols, and bade him go and
leave me in peace.
Just then General Roniker came in, and the owner of the ring told him of
the dispute between us. The general looked at the ring, and said to
"If anyone were to give me the ring I should not have the stone taken
out, because one should not look a gift horse in the mouth; but if it
came to a question of buying or lending I would not give a crown for it,
were the owner an emperor, before the stone was taken out; and I am very
much surprised at your refusing to let this be done."
Without a word the knave made for the door, and the ring remained in the
hands of my late host.
"Why didn't you give him his ring?" said I.
"Because I have advanced him fifty Louis on it; but if he does not redeem
it to-morrow I will have the stone taken out before a judge, and
afterwards I shall sell it by auction."
"I don't like the man's manners, and I hope you will never bring anyone
to my rooms again."
The affair came to the following conclusion: The impostor did not redeem
the ring, and the Liege tradesman had the setting removed. The diamond
was found to be placed on a bed of rock crystal, which formed two-thirds
of the whole bulk. However, the diamond was worth fifty Louis, and an
Englishman bought it. A week afterwards the knave met me as I was
walking by myself, and begged me to follow him to place where we should
be free from observation, as his sword had somewhat to say to mine.
Curiously enough I happened to be wearing my sword at the time.
"I will not follow you," I replied; "the matter can be settled here?"
"We are observed."
"All the better. Make haste and draw your sword first."
"The advantage is with you."
"I know it, and so it ought to be. If you do not draw I will proclaim
you to be the coward I am sure you are."
At this he drew his sword rapidly and came on, but I was ready to receive
him. He began to fence to try my mettle, but I lunged right at his
chest, and gave him three inches of cold steel. I should have killed him
on the spot if he had not lowered his sword, saying he would take his
revenge at another time. With this he went off, holding his hand to the
A score of people were close by, but no one troubled himself about the
wounded man, as he was known to have been the aggressor. The duel had no
further consequences for me. When I left Spa the man was still in the
surgeon's hands. He was something worse than an adventurer, and all the
French at Spa disowned him.
But to return to Croce and his dinner.
The marchioness, his wife so-called, was a young lady of sixteen or
seventeen, fair-complexioned and tall, with all the manners of the
Belgian nobility. The history of her escape is well known to her
brothers and sisters, and as her family are still in existence my readers
will be obliged to me for concealing her name.
Her husband had told her about me, and she received me in the most
gracious manner possible. She shewed no signs of sadness or of
repentance for the steps she had taken. She was with child for some
months, and seemed to be near her term, owing to the slimness of her
figure. Nevertheless she had the aspect of perfect health. Her
countenance expressed candour and frankness of disposition in a
remarkable degree. Her eyes were large and blue, her complexion a
roseate hue, her small sweet mouth, her perfect teeth made her a beauty
worthy of the brush of Albano.
I thought myself skilled in physiognomy, and concluded that she was not
only perfectly happy, but also the cause of happiness. But here let me
say how vain a thing it is for anyone to pronounce a man or woman to be
happy or unhappy from a merely cursory inspection.
The young marchioness had beautiful ear-rings, and two rings, which gave
me a pretext for admiring the beauty of her hands.
Conti's wife did not cut any figure at all, and I was all eyes for the
marchioness, whose name was Charlotte. I was profoundly impressed by her
that I was quite abstracted during dinner.
I sought in vain to discover by what merits Croce had been able to seduce
two such superior women. He was not a fine-looking man, he was not well
educated, his manners were doubtful, and his way of speaking by no means
seductive; in fine, I saw nothing captivating about him, and yet I could
be a witness to his having made two girls leave their homes to follow
him. I lost myself in conjecture; but I had no premonition of what was
to happen in the course of a few weeks.
When dinner was over I took Croce apart, and talked seriously to him. I
impressed on him the necessity of circumspect conduct, as in my opinion
he would be for ever infamous if the beautiful woman whom he had seduced
was to become wretched by his fault.
"For the future I mean to trust to my skill in play, and thus I am sure
of a comfortable living."
"Does she know, that your revenue is fed solely by the purses of dupes?"
"She knows that I am a gamester; and as she adores me, her will is as
mine. I am thinking of marrying her at Warsaw before she is confined.
If you are in any want of money, look upon my purse as your own."
I thanked him, and once more pressed on him the duty of exercising
As a matter of fact, I had no need of money. I had played with
moderation, and my profits amounted to nearly four hundred louis. When
the luck turned against me I was wise enough to turn my back on the
board. Although the bruise that Mercy had given me was still apparent, I
escorted the marchioness to the tables, and there she drew all eyes upon
her. She was fond of piquet, and we played together for small stakes for
some time. In the end she lost twenty crowns to me, and I was forced to
take the money for fear of offending her.
When we went back we met Croce and Conti, who had both won--Conti a score
of louis at Faro, and Croce more than a hundred guineas at 'passe dix',
which he had been playing at a club of Englishmen. I was more lively at
supper than dinner, and excited Charlotte to laughter by my wit.
Henceforth the Poles and the Tomatis only saw me at intervals. I was in
love with the fair marchioness, and everybody said it was very natural.
When a week had elapsed, Croce, finding that the pigeons would not come
to be plucked, despite the suppers he gave, went to the public room, and
lost continually. He was as used to loss as to gain, and his spirits
were unaltered; he was still gay, still ate well and drank better, and
caressed his victim, who had no suspicions of what was going on.
I loved her, but did not dare to reveal my passion, fearing lest it
should be unrequited; and I was afraid to tell her of Croce's losses lest
she should put down my action to some ulterior motive; in fine, I was
afraid to lose the trust she had already begun to place in me.
At the end of three weeks Conti, who had played with prudence and
success, left Croce and set out for Verona with his wife and servant. A
few days later Charlotte dismissed her maid, sending her back to Liege,
her native town.
Towards the middle of September all the Polish party left the Spa for
Paris, where I promised to rejoin them. I only stayed for Charlotte's
sake; I foresaw a catastrophe, and I would not abandon her. Every day
Croce lost heavily, and at last he was obliged to sell his jewellery.
Then came Charlotte's turn; she had to give up her watches, ear-rings,
her rings, and all the jewels she had. He lost everything, but this
wonderful girl was as affectionate as ever. To make a finish he
despoiled her of her lace and her best gowns, and then selling his own
wardrobe he went to his last fight with fortune, provided with two
hundred Louis. He played like a madman, without common-sense or
prudence, and lost all.
His pockets were empty, and seeing me he beckoned to me, and I followed
him out of the Spa.
"My friend," he began, "I have two alternatives, I can kill myself this
instant or I can fly without returning to the house. I shall embrace the
latter and go to Warsaw on foot, and I leave my wife in your hands, for I
know you adore her. It must be your task to give her the dreadful news
of the pass to which I have come. Have a care of her, she is too good by
far for a poor wretch like me. Take her to Paris and I will write to you
there at your brother's address. I know you have money, but I would die
rather than accept a single louis from you. I have still two or three
pieces left, and I assure you that I am richer at the present moment than
I was two months ago. Farewell; once more I commend Charlotte to your
care; I would that she had never known me."
With these words he shed tears, and embracing me went his way. I was
stupefied at what lay before me.
I had to inform a pregnant woman that the man she dearly loved had
deserted her. The only thought that supported me in that moment was that
it would be done for love of her, and I felt thankful that I had
sufficient means to secure her from privation.
I went to the house and told her that we might dine at once, as the
marquis would be engaged till the evening. She sighed, wished him luck,
and we proceeded to dine. I disguised my emotions so well that she
conceived no suspicion. After the meal was over, I asked her to walk
with me in the garden of the Capuchin Monastery, which was close at hand.
To prepare her for the fatal news I asked her if she would approve of her
lover exposing himself to assassination for the sake of bidding adieu to
her rather than making his escape.
"I should blame him for doing so," she replied. "He ought to escape by
all means, if only to save his life for my sake. Has my husband done so?
Speak openly to me. My spirit is strong enough to resist even so fatal a
blow, for I know I have a friend in you. Speak."
"Well, I will tell you all. But first of all remember this; you must
look upon me as a tender father who will never let you want, so long as
life remains to him."
"In that case I cannot be called unfortunate, for I have a true friend.
I told all that Croce had told me, not omitting his last words: "I
commend Charlotte to your care; I would that she had never known me."
For a few minutes she remained motionless, as one turned into stone. By
her attitude, by her laboured and unequal breath, I could divine somewhat
of the battle between love, and anger, and sorrow, and pity, that was
raging in the noble breast. I was cut to the heart. At last she wiped
away the big tears that began to trickle down her cheeks, and turning to
me sighed and said,--
"Dear friend, since I can count on you, I am far indeed from utter
"I swear to you, Charlotte, that I will never leave you till I place you
again in your husband's hands, provided I do not die before."
"That is enough. I swear eternal gratitude, and to be as submissive to
you as a good daughter ought to be."
The religion and philosophy with which her heart and mind were fortified,
though she made no parade of either, began to calm her spirit, and she
proceeded to make some reflections on Croce's unhappy lot, but all in
pity not in anger, excusing his inveterate passion for play. She had
often heard from Croce's lips the story of the Marseilles girl whom he
had left penniless in an inn at Milan, commending her to my care. She
thought it something wonderful that I should again be intervening as the
tutelary genius; but her situation was much the worse, for she was with
"There's another difference," I added, "for I made the fortune of the
first by finding her an honest husband, whereas I should never have the
courage to adopt the same method with the second."
"While Croce lives I am no man's wife but his, nevertheless I am glad to
find myself free."
When we were back in the house, I advised her to send away the servant
and to pay his journey to Besanion, where she had taken him. Thus all
unpleasantness would be avoided. I made her sell all that remained of
her poor lover's wardrobe, as also his carriage, for mine was a better
one. She shewed me all she had left, which only amounted to some sets of
linen and three or four dresses.
We remained at Spa without going out of doors. She could see that my
love was a tenderer passion than the love of a father, and she told me
so, and that she was obliged to me for the respect with which I treated
her. We sat together for hours, she folded in my arms, whilst I gently
kissed her beautiful eyes, and asked no more. I was happy in her
gratitude and in my powers of self-restraint. When temptation was too
strong I left the beautiful girl till I was myself again, and such
conquests made me proud. In the affection between us there was somewhat
of the purity of a man's first love.
I wanted a small travelling cap, and the servant of the house went to my
former lodging to order one. Mercy brought several for me to choose
from. She blushed when she saw me, but I said nothing to her. When she
had gone I told Charlotte the whole story, and she laughed with all her
heart when I reminded her of the bruise on my face when we first met, and
informed her that Mercy had given it me. She praised my firmness in
rejecting her repentance, and agreed with me in thinking that the whole
plan had been concerted between her and her aunt.
We left Spa without any servant, and when we reached Liege we took the
way of the Ardennes, as she was afraid of being recognized if we passed
through Brussels. At Luxemburg we engaged a servant, who attended on us
till we reached Paris. All the way Charlotte was tender and
affectionate, but her condition prescribed limits to her love, and I
could only look forward to the time after her delivery. We got down at
Paris at the "Hotel Montmorenci," in the street of the same name.
Paris struck me quite as a new place. Madame d'Urfe was dead, my friends
had changed their houses and their fortunes; the poor had become rich and
the rich poor, new streets and buildings were rising on all sides; I
hardly knew my way about the town. Everything was dearer; poverty was
rampant, and luxury at it highest pitch. Perhaps Paris is the only city
where so great a change could take place in the course of five or six
The first call I made was on Madame du Rumain, who was delighted to see
me. I repaid her the money she had so kindly lent me in the time of my
distress. She was well in health, but harassed by so many anxieties and
private troubles that she said Providence must have sent me to her to
relieve her of all her griefs by my cabala. I told her that I would wait
on her at any hour or hours; and this, indeed, was the least I could do
for the woman who had been so kind to me.
My brother had gone to live in the Faubourg St. Antoine. Both he and his
wife (who remained constant to him, despite his physical disability) were
overjoyed to see me, and entreated me to come and stop with them. I told
them I should be glad to do so, as soon as the lady who had travelled
with me had got over her confinement. I did not think proper to tell
them her story, and they had the delicacy to refrain from questioning me
on the subject. The same day I called on Princess Lubomirska and
Tomatis, begging them not to take it amiss if my visits were few and far
between, as the lady they had seen at Spa was approaching her
confinement, and demanded all my care.
After the discharge of these duties I remained constantly by Charlotte's
side. On October 8th I thought it would be well to take her to Madame
Lamarre, a midwife, who lived in the Faubourg St. Denis, and Charlotte
was of the same opinion. We went together, she saw the room, the bed,
and heard how she would be tended and looked after, for all of which I
would pay. At nightfall we drove to the place, with a trunk containing
all her effects.
As we were leaving the Rue Montmorenci our carriage was obliged to stop
to allow the funeral of some rich man to go by. Charlotte covered her
face with her handkerchief, and whispered in my ear,
"Dearest, I know it is a foolish superstition, but to a woman in my
condition such a meeting is of evil omen."
"What, Charlotte! I thought you were too wise to have such silly fears.
A woman in child-bed is not a sick woman, and no woman ever died of
giving birth to a child except some other disease intervened."
"Yes, my dear philosopher, it is like a duel; there are two men in
perfect health, when all of a sudden there comes a sword-thrust, and one
of them is dead."
"That's a witty idea. But bid all gloomy thoughts go by, and after your
child is born, and we have placed it in good hands, you shall come with
me to Madrid, and there I hope to see you happy and contented."
All the way I did my best to cheer her, for I knew only too well the
fatal effects of melancholy on a pregnant woman, especially in such a
delicate girl as Charlotte.
When I saw her completely settled I returned to the hotel, and the next
day I took up my quarters with my brother. However, as long as my
Charlotte lived, I only slept at his house, for from nine in the morning
till after midnight I was with my dear.
On October 13th Charlotte was attacked with a fever which never left her.
On the 17th she was happily delivered of a boy, which was immediately
taken to the church and baptized at the express wishes of the mother.
Charlotte wrote down what its name was to be--Jacques (after me), Charles
(after her), son of Antonio della Croce and of Charlotte de (she gave her
real name). When it was brought from the church she told Madame Lamarre
to carry it to the Foundling Hospital, with the certificate of baptism in
its linen. I vainly endeavoured to persuade her to leave the care of the
child to me. She said that if it lived the father could easily reclaim
it. On the same day, October 18th, the, midwife gave me the following
certificate, which I still possess:
It was worded as follows:
"We, J. B. Dorival, Councillor to the King, Commissary of the Chatelet,
formerly Superintendent of Police in the City of Paris, do certify that
there has been taken to the Hospital for Children a male infant,
appearing to be one day old, brought from the Faubourg St. Denis by the
midwife Lamarre, and bearing a certificate of baptism to the effect that
its name is Jacques Charles, son of Antonio della Croce and of Charlotte
de ---- . Wherefore, we have delivered the above certificate at our
office in the City of Paris, this 18th day of October, in the year of our
Lord, 1767, at seven o'clock in the afternoon.
If any of my readers have any curiosity to know the real name of the
mother, I have given them the means of satisfying it.
After this I did not leave the bed of the invalid for a single instant.
In spite of all the doctor's care the fever increased, and at five
o'clock in the morning of October 26th, she succumbed to it. An hour
before she sighed her last, she bade me the last farewell in the presence
of the venerable ecclesiastic who had confessed her at midnight. The
tears which gather fast as I write these words are probably the last
honours I shall pay to this poor victim of a man who is still alive, and
whose destiny seemed to be to make women unhappy.
I sat weeping by the bed of her I loved so dearly, and in vain Madame
Lamarre tried to induce me to come and sit with her. I loved the poor
corpse better than all the world outside.
At noon my brother and his wife came to see me; they had not seen me for
a week, and were getting anxious. They saw the body lovely in death;
they understood my tears, and mingled theirs with mine. At last I asked
them to leave me, and I remained all night by Charlotte's bed, resolved
not to leave it till her body had been consigned to the grave.
The day before this morning of unhappy memory my brother had given me
several letters, but I had not opened any of them. On my return from the
funeral I proceeded to do so, and the first one was from M. Dandolo,
announcing the death of M. de Bragadin; but I could not weep. For
twenty-two years M. de Bragadin had been as a father to me, living
poorly, and even going into debt that I might have enough. He could not
leave me anything, as his property was entailed, while his furniture and
his library would become the prey of his creditors. His two friends, who
were my friends also, were poor, and could give me nothing but their
love. The dreadful news was accompanied by a bill of exchange for a
thousand crowns, which he had sent me twenty-four hours before his death,
foreseeing that it would be the last gift he would ever make me.
I was overwhelmed, and thought that Fortune had done her worst to me.
I spent three days in my brother's house without going out. On the
fourth I began to pay an assiduous court to Princess Lubomirska, who had
written the king, her brother, a letter that must have mortified him, as
she proved beyond a doubt that the tales he had listened to against me
were mere calumny. But your kings do not allow so small a thing to vex
or mortify them. Besides, Stanislas Augustus had just received a
dreadful insult from Russia. Repnin's violence in kidnapping the three
senators who had spoken their minds at the Diet was a blow which must
have pierced the hapless king to the heart.
The princess had left Warsaw more from hatred than love; though such was
not the general opinion. As I had decided to visit the Court of Madrid
before going to Portugal, the princess gave me a letter of introduction
to the powerful Count of Aranda; and the Marquis Caraccioli, who was
still at Paris, gave me three letters, one for Prince de la Catolica, the
Neapolitan ambassador at Madrid, one for the Duke of Lossada, the king's
favourite and lord high steward, and a third for the Marquis Mora
On November 4th I went to a concert with a ticket that the princess had
given me. When the concert was half-way through I heard my name
pronounced, accompanied by scornful laughter. I turned round and saw the
gentleman who was speaking contemptuously of me. It was a tall young man
sitting between two men advanced in years. I stared him in the face, but
he turned his head away and continued his impertinencies, saying, amongst
other things, that I had robbed him of a million francs at least by my
swindling his late aunt, the Marchioness d'Urfe.
"You are an impudent liar," I said to him, "and if we were out of this
room I would give you a kick to teach you to speak respectfully."
With these words I made my way out of the hall, and on turning my head
round I saw that the two elderly men were keeping the young blockhead
back. I got into my carriage and waited some time, and as he did not
come I drove to the theatre and chanced to find myself in the same box as
Madame Valville. She informed me that she had left the boards, and was
kept by the Marquis the Brunel.
"I congratulate you, and wish you good luck."
"I hope you will come to supper at my house."
"I should be only too happy, but unfortunately I have an engagement; but
I will come and see you if you will give me your address."
So saying, I slipped into her hand a rouleau, it being the fifty louis I
"What is this?"
"The money you lent me so kindly at Konigsberg."
"This is neither the time nor the place to return it. I will only take
it at my own house, so please do not insist."
I put the money back into my pocket, she gave me her address, and I left
her. I felt too sad to visit her alone.
Two days later, as I was at table with my brother, my sister-in-law, and
some young Russians whom he was teaching to paint, I was told that a
Chevalier of St. Louis wanted to speak to me in the antechamber. I went
out, and he handed me a paper without making any preface. I opened the
document, and found it was signed "Louis." The great king ordered me to
leave Paris in twenty-four hours and his realm of France within three
weeks, and the reason assigned was: "It is our good pleasure."
My Departure From Paris--My Journey to Madrid--The Count of Aranda
--The Prince de la Catolica--The Duke of Lossada--Mengs--A Ball--Madame
"Well, chevalier," I said, "I have read the little note, and I will try
and oblige his majesty as soon as possible. However, if I have not time
to get away in twenty-four hours, his majesty must work his dread will on
"My dear sir, the twenty-four hours are a mere formality. Subscribe the
order and give me a receipt for the lettre de cachet, and you can go at
your convenience. All I ask of you is that you give me your word of
honour not to go to the theatres or public places of amusement on foot."
"I give you my word with pleasure."
I took the chevalier to my room and gave him the necessary
acknowledgment, and with the observation that he would be glad to see my
brother, whom he knew already, I led him into the dining-room, and
explained with a cheerful face the purport of his visit.
My brother laughed and said,--
"But, M. Buhot, this news is like March in Lent, it was quite
unnecessary; my brother was going in the course of a week."
"All the better. If the minister had been aware of that he would not
have troubled himself about it."
"Is the reason known?"
"I have heard something about a proposal to kick a gentleman, who though
young, is too exalted a person to be spoken to in such a manner."
"Why, chevalier," said I, "the phrase is a mere formality like the
twenty-four hours for if the impudent young rascal had come out he would
have met me, and his sword should have been sufficient to ward off any
I then told the whole story, and Buhot agreed that I was in the right
throughout; adding that the police were also in the right to prevent any
encounter between us. He advised me to go next morning and tell the tale
to M. de Sartine, who knew me, and would be glad to have the account from
my own lips. I said nothing, as I knew the famous superintendent of
police to be a dreadful sermoniser.
The lettre de cachet was dated November 6th, and I did not leave Paris
till the 20th.
I informed all my friends of the great honour his majesty had done me,
and I would not hear of Madame du Rumain appealing to the king on my
behalf, though she said she felt certain she could get the order revoked.
The Duc de Choiseul gave me a posting passport dated November 19th, which
I still preserve.
I left Paris without any servant, still grieving, though quietly, over
Charlotte's fate. I had a hundred Louis in cash, and a bill of exchange
on Bordeaux for eight thousand francs. I enjoyed perfect health, and
almost felt as if I had been rejuvenated. I had need of the utmost
prudence and discretion for the future. The deaths of M. de Bragadin
and Madame d'Urfe had left me alone in the world, and I was slowly but
steadily approaching what is called a certain age, when women begin to
look on a man with coldness.
I only called on Madame Valville on the eve of my departure: and found
her in a richly-furnished house, and her casket well filled with
diamonds. When I proposed to return her the fifty louis, she asked me if
I had got a thousand; and on learning that I had only five hundred she
refused the money absolutely and offered me her purse, which I in my turn
refused. I have not seen the excellent creature since then, but before I
left I gave her some excellent advice as to the necessity of saving her
gains for the time of her old age, when her charms would be no more. I
hope she has profited by my counsel. I bade farewell to my brother and
my sister-in-law at six o'clock in the evening, and got into my chaise in
the moonlight, intending to travel all night so as to dine next day at
Orleans, where I wanted to see an old friend. In half an hour I was at
Bourg-la-Reine, and there I began to fall asleep. At seven in the
morning I reached Orleans.
Fair and beloved France, that went so well in those days, despite lettres
de cachet, despite corvees, despite the people's misery and the king's
"good pleasure," dear France, where art thou now? Thy sovereign is the
people now, the most brutal and tyrannical sovereign in the world. You
have no longer to bear the "good pleasure" of the sovereign, but you have
to endure the whims of the mob and the fancies of the Republic--the ruin
of all good Government. A republic presupposes self-denial and a
virtuous people; it cannot endure long in our selfish and luxurious days.
I went to see Bodin, a dancer, who had married Madame Joffroy, one of my
thousand mistresses whom I had loved twenty-two years ago, and had seen
later at Turin, Paris, and Vienna. These meetings with old friends and
sweethearts were always a weak or rather a strong point with me. For a
moment I seemed to be young again, and I fed once more on the delights of
long ago. Repentance was no part of my composition.
Bodin and his wife (who was rather ugly than old-looking, and had become
pious to suit her husband's tastes, thus giving to God the devil's
leavings), Bodin, I say, lived on a small estate he had purchased, and
attributed all the agricultural misfortunes he met with in the course of
the year to the wrath of an avenging Deity.
I had a fasting dinner with them, for it was Friday, and they strictly
observed all the rules of the Church. I told them of my adventures of
the past years, and when I had finished they proceeded to make
reflections on the faults and failings of men who have not God for a
guide. They told me what I knew already: that I had an immortal soul,
that there was a God that judgeth righteously, and that it was high time
for me to take example by them, and to renounce all the pomps and
vanities of the world.
"And turn Capuchin, I suppose?"
"You might do much worse."
"Very good; but I shall wait till my beard grows the necessary length in
a single night."
In spite of their silliness, I was not sorry to have spent six hours with
these good creatures who seemed sincerely repentant and happy in their
way, and after an affectionate embrace I took leave of them and travelled
all night. I stopped at Chanteloup to see the monument of the taste and
magnificence of the Duc de Choiseul, and spent twenty-four hours there.
A gentlemanly and polished individual, who did not know me, and for whom
I had no introduction, lodged me in a fine suite of rooms, gave me
supper, and would only sit down to table with me after I had used all my
powers of persuasion. The next day he treated me in the same way, gave
me an excellent dinner, shewed me everything, and behaved as if I were
some prince, though he did not even ask my name. His attentions even
extended to seeing that none of his servants were at hand when I got into
my carriage and drove off. This was to prevent my giving money to any of
The castle on which the Duc de Choiseul had spent such immense sums had
in reality cost him nothing. It was all owing, but he did not trouble
himself about that in the slightest degree, as he was a sworn foe to the
principle of meum and tuum. He never paid his creditors, and never
disturbed his debtors. He was a generous man; a lover of art and
artists, to whom he liked to be of service, and what they did for him he
looked upon as a grateful offering. He was intellectual, but a hater of
all detail and minute research, being of a naturally indolent and
procrastinating disposition. His favourite saying was,
"There's time enough for that."
When I got to Poitiers, I wanted to push on to Vivonne; it was seven
o'clock in the evening, and two girls endeavoured to dissuade me from
"It's very cold," said they, "and the road is none of the best. You are
no courier, sup here, we will give you a good bed, and you shall start
again in the morning."
"I have made up my mind to go on, but if you will keep me company at
supper I will stay."
"That would cost you too dearly."
"Never too dear. Quick I make up your minds."
"Well, we will sup with you."
"Then lay the table for three; I must go on in an hour."
"In an hour! You mean three, sir; papa will take two hours to get you a
"Then I will not go on, but you must keep me company all night."
"We will do so, if papa does not object. We will have your chaise put
into the coach-house."
These two minxes gave me an excellent supper, and were a match for me in
drinking as well as eating. The wine was delicious, and we stayed at
table till midnight, laughing and joking together, though without
overstepping the bounds of propriety.
About midnight, the father came in jovially, and asked me how I had
enjoyed my supper.
"Very much," I answered, "but I have enjoyed still more the company of
your charming daughters."
"I am delighted to hear it. Whenever you come this way they shall keep
you company, but now it is past midnight, and time for them to go to
I nodded my head, for Charlotte's death was still too fresh in my memory
to admit of my indulging in any voluptuous pleasures. I wished the girls
a pleasant sleep, and I do not think I should even have kissed them if
the father had not urged me to do this honour to their charms. However,
my vanity made me put some fire into the embrace, and I have no doubt
they thought me a prey to vain desires.
When I was alone I reflected that if I did not forget Charlotte I was a
lost man. I slept till nine o'clock, and I told the servant that came to
light my fire to get coffee for three, and to have my horses put in.
The two pretty girls came to breakfast with me, and I thanked them for
having made me stay the night. I asked for the bill, and the eldest said
it was in round figures a Louis apiece. I shewed no sign of anger at
this outrageous fleecing, but gave them three Louis with the best grace
imaginable and went on my way. When I reached Angouleme, where I
expected to find Noel, the King of Prussia's cook, I only found his
father, whose talents in the matter of pates was something prodigious.
His eloquence was as fervent as his ovens. He said he would send his
pates all over Europe to any address I liked to give him.
"What! To Venice, London, Warsaw, St. Petersburg?"
"To Constantinople, if you like. You need only give me your address, and
you need not pay me till you get the pates."
I sent his pates to my friends in Venice, Warsaw, and Turin, and
everybody thanked me for the delicious dish.
Noel had made quite a fortune. He assured me he had sent large
consignments to America, and with the exception of some losses by
shipwreck all the pates had arrived in excellent condition. They were
chiefly made of turkeys, partridges, and hare, seasoned with truffles,
but he also made pates de foie gras of larks and of thrushes, according
to the season.
In two days I arrived at Bordeaux, a beautiful town coming only second to
Paris, with respect to Lyons be it said. I spent a week there, eating
and drinking of the best, for the living there is the choicest in the
I transferred my bill of exchange for eight thousand francs to a Madrid
house, and crossed the Landes, passing by Mont de Marsan, Bayonne, and
St. Jean de Luz, where I sold my post-chaise. From St. Jean de Luz I
went to Pampeluna by way of the Pyrenees, which I crossed on mule-back,
my baggage being carried by another mule. The mountains struck me as
higher than the Alps. In this I may possibly be wrong, but I am certain
that the Pyrenees are the most picturesque, fertile, and agreeable of the
At Pampeluna a man named Andrea Capello took charge of me and my luggage,
and we set out for Madrid. For the first twenty leagues the travelling
was easy enough, and the roads as good as any in France. These roads did
honour to the memory of M. de Gages, who had administered Navarre after
the Italian war, and had, as I was assured, made the road at his own
expense. Twenty years earlier I had been arrested by this famous
general; but he had established a claim on posterity greater than any of
his victories. These laurels were dyed in blood, but the maker of a good
road is a solid benefactor of all posterity.
In time this road came to an end, and thenceforth it would be incorrect
to say that the roads were bad, for, to tell the truth, there were no
roads at all. There were steep ascents and violent descents, but no
traces of carriage wheels, and so it is throughout the whole of Old
Castile. There are no good inns, only miserable dens scarce good enough
for the muleteers, who make their beds beside their animals. Signor or
rather Senor Andrea tried to choose the least wretched inns for me, and
after having provided for the mules he would go round the entire village
to get something for me to eat. The landlord would not stir; he shewed
me a room where I could sleep if I liked, containing a fire-place, in
which I could light a fire if I thought fit, but as to procuring firewood
or provisions, he left that all to me. Wretched Spain!
The sum asked for a night's accommodation was less than a farmer would
ask in France or Germany for leave to sleep in his barn; but there was
always an extra charge of a 'pizetta por el ruido'. The pizetta is worth
four reals; about twenty-one French sous.
The landlord smoked his paper cigarette nonchalantly enough, blowing
clouds of smoke into the air with immense dignity. To him poverty was as
good as riches; his wants were small, and his means sufficed for them.
In no country in Europe do the lower orders live so contentedly on a very
little as in Spain. Two ounces of white bread, a handful of roast
chestnuts or acorns (called bellotas in Spanish) suffice to keep a
Spaniard for a day. It is his glory to say when a stranger is departing
from his abode,--
"I have not given myself any trouble in waiting on him."
This proceeds in part from idleness and in part from Castilian pride. A
Castilian should not lower himself, they say, by attending on a Gavacho,
by which name the Spaniards know the French, and, indeed, all foreigners.
It is not so offensive as the Turkish appellation of dog, or the damned
foreigner of the English. Of course, persons who have travelled or have
had a liberal education do not speak in this way, and a respectable
foreigner will find reasonable Spaniards as he will find reasonable Turks
On the second night of my journey I slept at Agreda, a small and ugly
town, or rather village. There Sister Marie d'Agreda became so crazy as
to write a life of the Virgin, which she affirmed to have been dictated
to her by the Mother of the Lord. The State Inquisitors had given me
this work to read when I was under the Leads, and it had nearly driven me
We did ten Spanish leagues a day, and long and weary leagues they seemed
to me. One morning I thought I saw a dozen Capuchins walking slowly in
front of us, but when we caught them up I found they were women of all
"Are they mad?" I said to Senior Andrea.
"Not at all. They wear the Capuchin habit out of devotion, and you would
not find a chemise on one of them."
There was nothing surprising in their not having chemises, for the
chemise is a scarce article in Spain, but the idea of pleasing God by
wearing a Capuchin's habit struck me as extremely odd. I will here
relate an amusing adventure which befell me on my way.
At the gate of a town not far from Madrid I was asked for my passport. I
handed it over, and got down to amuse myself. I found the chief of the
customs' house engaged in an argument with a foreign priest who was on
his way to Madrid, and had no passport for the capital. He skewed one he
had had for Bilbao, but the official was not satisfied. The priest was a
Sicilian, and I asked him why he had exposed himself to being placed in
this disagreeable predicament. He said he thought it was unnecessary to
have a passport in Spain when one had once journeyed in the country.
"I want to go to Madrid," said he to me, "and hope to obtain a chaplaincy
in the house of a grandee. I have a letter for him."
"Shew it; they will let you pass then."
"You are right."
The poor priest drew out the letter and skewed it to the official, who
opened it, looked at the signature, and absolutely shrieked when he saw
the name Squillace.
"What, senor abbe! you are going to Madrid with a letter from Squillace,
and you dare to skew it?"
The clerks, constables, and hangers-on, hearing that the hated Squillace,
who would have been stoned to death if it had not been for the king's
protection, was the poor abbe's only patron, began to beat him violently,
much to the poor Sicilian's astonishment.
I interposed, however, and after some trouble I succeeded in rescuing the
priest, who was then allowed to pass, as I believe, as a set-off against
the blows he had received.
Squillace was sent to Venice as Spanish ambassador, and in Venice he died
at an advanced age. He was a man designed to be an object of intense
hatred to the people; he was simply ruthless in his taxation.
The door of my room had a lock on the outside but none on the inside.
For the first and second night I let it pass, but on the third I told
Senor Andrea that I must have it altered.
"Senor Don Jacob, you must bear with it in Spain, for the Holy
Inquisition must always be at liberty to inspect the rooms of
"But what in the devil's name does your cursed Inquisition want....?"
"For the love of God, Senor Jacob, speak not thus! if you were overheard
we should both be undone."
"Well, what can the Holy Inquisition want to know?"
"Everything. It wants to know whether you eat meat on fast days, whether
persons of opposite sexes sleep together, if so, whether they are
married, and if not married it will cause both parties to be imprisoned;
in fine, Senor Don Jaimo, the Holy inquisition is continually watching
over our souls in this country."
When we met a priest bearing the viaticum to some sick man, Senor Andrea
would tell me imperatively to get out of my carriage, and then there was
no choice but to kneel in the mud or dust as the case might be. The
chief subject of dispute at that time was the fashion of wearing
breeches. Those who wore 'braguettes' were imprisoned, and all tailors
making breeches with 'braguettes' were severely punished. Nevertheless,
people persisted in wearing them, and the priests and monks preached in
vain against the indecency of such a habit. A revolution seemed
imminent, but the matter was happily settled without effusion of blood.
An edict was published and affixed to the doors of all the churches, in
which it was declared that breeches with braguettes were only to be worn
by the public hangmen. Then the fashion passed away; for no one cared to
pass for the public executioner.
By little and little I got an insight into the manners of the Spanish
nation as I passed through Guadalaxara and Alcala, and at length arrived
Guadalaxara, or Guadalajara, is pronounced by the Spaniards with a strong
aspirate, the x and j having the same force. The vowel d, the queen of
letters, reigns supreme in Spain; it is a relic of the old Moorish
language. Everyone knows that the Arabic abounds in d's, and perhaps the
philologists are right in calling it the most ancient of languages, since
the a is the most natural and easy to pronounce of all the letters. It
seems to me very mistaken to call such words as Achald, Ayanda, Almanda,
Acard, Agracaramba, Alcantara, etc., barbarous, for the sonorous ring
with which they are pronounced renders the Castilian the richest of all
modern languages. Spanish is undoubtedly one of the finest, most
energetic, and most majestic languages in the world. When it is
pronounced 'ore rotundo' it is susceptible of the most poetic harmony.
It would be superior to the Italian, if it were not for the three
guttural letters, in spite of what the Spaniards say to the contrary. It
is no good remonstrating with them.
'Quisquis amat ranam, ranam purat esse Dianam'.
As I was entering the Gate of Alcala, my luggage was searched, and the
clerks paid the greatest attention to my books, and they were very
disappointed only to find the "Iliad" in Greek, and a Latin Horace. They
were taken away, but three days after, they were returned to me at my
lodging in the Rue de la Croix where I had gone in spite of Senor Andrea,
who had wanted to take me elsewhere. A worthy man whom I had met in
Bordeaux had given me the address. One of the ceremonies I had to
undergo at the Gate of Alcala displeased me in the highest degree. A
clerk asked me for a pinch of snuff, so I took out my snuff-box and gave
it him, but instead of taking a pinch he snatched it out of my hands and
"Senor, this snuff will not pass in Spain" (it was French rappee); and
after turning it out on the ground he gave me back the box.
The authorities are most rigorous on the matter of this innocent powder,
and in consequence an immense contraband trade is carried on. The spies
employed by the Spanish snuff-makers are always on the look-out after
foreign snuff, and if they detect anyone carrying it they make him pay
dearly for the luxury. The ambassadors of foreign powers are the only
persons exempted from the prohibitions. The king who stuffs into his
enormous nose one enormous pinch as he rises in the morning wills that
all his subjects buy their snuff of the Spanish manufacturers. When
Spanish snuff is pure it is very good, but at the time I was in Spain the
genuine article could hardly be bought for its weight in gold. By reason
of the natural inclination towards forbidden fruit, the Spaniards are
extremely fond of foreign snuff, and care little for their own; thus
snuff is smuggled to an enormous extent.
My lodging was comfortable enough, but I felt the want of a fire as the
cold was more trying than that of Paris, in spite of the southern
latitude. The cause of this cold is that Madrid is the highest town in
Europe. From whatever part of the coast one starts, one has to mount to
reach the capital. The town is also surrounded by mountains and hills,
so that the slightest touch of wind from the north makes the cold
intense. The air of Madrid is not healthy for strangers, especially for
those of a full habit of body; the Spaniards it suits well enough, for
they are dry and thin, and wear a cloak even in the dog days.
The men of Spain dwell mentally in a limited horizon, bounded by
prejudice on every side; but the women, though ignorant, are usually
intelligent; while both sexes are the prey of desires, as lively as their
native air, as burning as the sun that shines on them. Every Spaniard
hates a foreigner, simply because he is a foreigner, but the women avenge
us by loving us, though with great precautions, for your Spaniard is
intensely jealous. They watch most jealously over the honour of their
wives and daughters. As a rule the men are ugly, though there are
numerous exceptions; while the women are pretty, and beauties are not
uncommon. The southern blood in their veins inclines them to love, and
they are always ready to enter into an intrigue and to deceive the spies
by whom they are surrounded. The lover who runs the greatest dangers is
always the favourite. In the public walks, the churches, the theatres,
the Spanish women are always speaking the language of the eyes. If the
person to whom it is addressed knows how to seize the instant, he may be
sure of success, but if not, the opportunity will never be offered him
I required some kind of heat in my room, and could not bear a charcoal
brazier, so I incited an ingenious tin-smith to make me a stove with a
pipe going out of the window. However, he was so proud of his success
that he made me pay dearly.
Before the stove was ready I was told where I might go and warm myself an
hour before noon, and stay till dinner-time. It is called La Pueyta del
Sol, "The Gate of the Sun." It is not a gate, but it takes its name from
the manner in which the source of all heat lavishes his treasures there,
and warms all who come and bask in his rays. I found a numerous company
promenading there, walking and talking, but it was not much to my taste.
I wanted a servant who could speak French, and I had the greatest
difficulty in getting one, and had to pay dearly, for in Madrid the kind
of man I wanted was called a page. I could not compel him to mount
behind my carriage, nor to carry a package, nor to light me by night with
a torch or lantern.
My page was a man of thirty, and terribly ugly; but this was a
recommendation, as his ugliness secured him from the jealous suspicions
of husbands. A woman of rank will not drive out without one of these
pages seated in the forepart of her carriage. They are said to be more
difficult to seduce than the strictest of duennas.
I was obliged to take one of these rascally tribe into my service, and I
wish he had broken his leg on his way to my house.
I delivered all my introductions, beginning with the letter from Princess
Lubomirska to the Count of Aranda. The count had covered himself with
glory by driving the Jesuits out of Spain. He was more powerful than the
king himself, and never went out without a number of the royal guardsmen
about him, whom he made to sit down at his table. Of course all the
Spaniards hated him, but he did not seem to care much for that. A
profound politician, and absolutely resolute and firm, he privately
indulged in every luxury that he forbade to others, and did not care
whether people talked of it or not.
He was a rather ugly man, with a disagreeable squint. His reception of
me was far from cordial.
"What do you want in Spain?" he began.
"To add fresh treasures to my store of experience, by observing the
manners and the customs of the country, and if possible to serve the
Government with such feeble, talents as I may possess."
"Well, you have no need of my protection. If you do not infringe the
laws, no one will disturb you. As to your obtaining employment, you had
better go to the representative of your country; he will introduce you at
Court, and make you known."
"My lord, the Venetian ambassador will do nothing for me; I am in
disgrace with the Government. He will not even receive me at the
"Then I would advise you to give up all hopes of employment, for the king
would begin by asking your ambassador about you, and his answer would be
fatal. You will do well to be satisfied with amusing yourself."
After this I called on the Neapolitan ambassador, who talked in much the
same way. Even the Marquis of Moras, one of the most pleasant men in
Spain, did not hold out any hopes. The Duke of Lossada, the high steward
and favourite of his Catholic majesty, was sorry to be disabled from
doing me any service, in spite of his good will, and advised me, in some
way or other, to get the Venetian ambassador to give me a good word, in
spite of my disgrace. I determined to follow his advice, and wrote to M.
Dandolo, begging him to get the ambassador to favour me at the Spanish
Court in spite of my quarrel with the Venetian Government. I worded my
letter in such a way that it might be read by the Inquisitors themselves,
and calculated on its producing a good impression.
After I had written this letter I went to the lodging of the Venetian
ambassador, and presented myself to the secretary, Gaspar Soderini, a
worthy and intelligent man. Nevertheless, he dared to tell me that he
was astonished at my hardihood in presenting myself at the embassy.
"I have presented myself, sir, that my enemies may never reproach me for
not having done so; I am not aware that I have ever done anything which
makes me too infamous to call on my ambassador. I should have credited
myself with much greater hardihood if I had left without fulfilling this
duty; but I shall be sorry if the ambassador views my proceedings in the
same light as yourself, and puts down to temerity what was meant for a
mark of respect. I shall be none the less astonished if his excellency
refuses to receive me on account of a private quarrel between myself and
the State Inquisitors, of which he knows no more than I do, and I know
nothing. You will excuse my saying that he is not the ambassador of the
State Inquisitors, but of the Republic of which I am a subject; for I
defy him and I defy the Inquisitors to tell me what crime I have
committed that I am to be deprived of my rights as a Venetian citizen. I
think that, while it is my duty to reverence my prince in the person of
my ambassador, it is his duty to afford me his protection."
This speech had made Soderini blush, and he replied,--
"Why don't you write a letter to the ambassador, with the arguments you
have just used to me?"
"I could not write to him before I know whether he will receive me or
not. But now, as I have reason to suppose that his opinions are much the
same as your own, I will certainly write to him."
"I do not know whether his excellency thinks as I do or not, and, in
spite of what I said to you, it is just possible that you do not know my
own opinions on the question; but write to him, and he may possibly give
you an audience."
"I shall follow your advice, for which I am much obliged."
When I got home I wrote to his excellency all I had said to the
secretary, and the next day I had a visit from Count Manucci. The count
proved to be a fine-looking young man of an agreeable presence. He said
that he lived in the embassy, that his excellency had read my letter, and
though he grieved not to receive me publicly he should be delighted to
see me in private, for he both knew and esteemed me.
Young Manucci told me that he was a Venetian, and that he knew me by
name, as he often heard his father and mother lamenting my fortune.
Before long it dawned upon me that this Count Manucci was the son of that
Jean Baptiste Manucci who had served as the spy of the State Inquisitors
and had so adroitly managed to get possession of my books of magic, which
were in all probability the chief corpus delicti.
I did not say anything to him, but I was certain that my guess was
correct. His mother was the daughter of a valet de chambre, and his
father was a poor mechanic. I asked the young man if he were called
count at the embassy, and he said he bore the title in virtue of a
warrant from the elector-palatine. My question skewed him that I knew
his origin, and he began to speak openly to me; and knowing that I was
acquainted with the peculiar tastes of M. de Mocenigo, the ambassador, he
informed me laughingly that he was his pathic.
"I will do my best for you," he added; and I was glad to hear him say so,
for an Alexis should be able to obtain almost anything from his Corydon.
We embraced, and he told me as we parted that he would expect me at the
embassy in the afternoon, to take coffee in his room; the ambassador, he
said, would certainly come in as soon as he heard of my presence.
I went to the embassy, and had a very kind reception from the ambassador,
who said he was deeply grieved not to be able to receive me publicly. He
admitted that he might present me at Court without compromising himself,
but he was afraid of making enemies.
"I hope soon to receive a letter from a friend of mine, which will
authorise your excellency producing me."
"I shall be delighted, in that case, to present you to all the Spanish
This Mocenigo was the same that acquired such a reputation at Paris by
his leanings to pederasty, a vice or taste which the French hold in
horror. Later on, Mocenigo was condemned by the Council of Ten to ten
years' imprisonment for having started on an embassy to Vienna without
formal permission. Maria Theresa had intimated to the Venetian
Government that she would not receive such a character, as his habits
would be the scandal of her capital. The Venetian Government had some
trouble with Mocenigo, and as he attempted to set out for Vienna they
exiled him and chose another ambassador, whose morals were as bad, save
that the new ambassador indulged himself with Hebe and not Ganymede,
which threw a veil of decency over his proceedings.
In spite of his reputation for pederasty, Mocenigo was much liked at
Madrid. On one occasion I was at a ball, and a Spaniard noticing me with
Manucci, came up to me, and told me with an air of mystery that that
young man was the ambassador's wife. He did not know that the ambassador
was Manucci's wife; in fact, he did not understand the arrangement at
all. "Where ignorance is bliss!" etc. However, in spite of the
revolting nature of this vice, it has been a favourite one with several
great men. It was well-known to the Ancients, and those who indulged in
it were called Hermaphrodites, which symbolises not a man of two sexes
but a man with the passions of the two sexes.
I had called two or three times on the painter Mengs, who had been
painter in ordinary to his Catholic majesty for six years, and had an
excellent salary. He gave me some good dinners. His wife and family
were at Rome, while he basked in the royal favours at Madrid, enjoying
the unusual privilege of being able to speak to the king whenever he
would. At Mengs's house I trade the acquaintance of the architect
Sabatini, an extremely able man whom the king had summoned from Naples to
cleanse Madrid, which was formerly the dirtiest and most stinking town in
Europe, or, for the matter of that, in the world. Sabatini had become a
rich man by constructing drains, sewers, and closets for a city of
fourteen thousand houses. He had married by proxy the daughter of
Vanvitelli, who was also an architect at Naples, but he had never seen
her. She came to Madrid about the same time as myself. She was a beauty
of eighteen, and no sooner did she see her husband than she declared she
would never be his wife. Sabatini was neither a young man nor a handsome
one, but he was kind-hearted and distinguished; and when he told his
young wife that she would have to choose between him and a nunnery, she
determined to make the best of what she thought a bad bargain. However,
she had no reason to repent of her choice; her husband was rich,
affectionate, and easygoing, and gave her everything she wanted. I
sighed and burned for her in silence, not daring to declare my love, for
while the wound of the death of Charlotte was still bleeding I also began
to find that women were beginning to give me the cold shoulder.
By way of amusing myself I began to go to the theatre, and the masked
balls to which the Count of Aranda had established. They were held in a
room built for the purpose, and named 'Los Scannos del Peral'. A Spanish
play is full of absurdities, but I rather relished the representations.
The 'Autos Sacramentales' were still represented; they were afterwards
prohibited. I could not help remarking the strange way in which the
boxes are constructed by order of the wretched police. Instead of being
boarded in front they are perfectly open, being kept up by small pillars.
A devotee once said to me at the theatre that this was a very wise
regulation, and he was surprised that it was not carried into force in
"Because lovers, who feel sure that no one in the pit can see them, may
I only answered with a shrug of the shoulders.
In a large box opposite to the stage sat 'los padres' of the Holy
Inquisition to watch over the morals of actors and audience. I was
gazing on them when of a sudden the sentinel at the door of the pit
called out "Dios!" and at this cry all the actors and all the audience,
men and women, fell down on their knees, and remained kneeling till the
sound of a bell in the street ceased to be heard. This bell betokened
that a priest was passing by carrying the viaticum to some sick man. I
felt very much inclined to laugh, but I had seen enough of Spanish
manners to refrain. All the religion of the Spaniard is in outward show
and ceremony. A profligate woman before yielding to the desires of her
lover covers the picture of Christ, or the Virgin, with a veil. If the
lover laughed at this absurdity he would run a risk of being denounced as
an Atheist, and most probably by the wretched woman who had sold him her
In Madrid, and possibly all over Spain, a gentleman who takes a lady to a
private room in an inn must expect to have a servant in the room the
whole of the time, that he may be able to swear that the couple took no
indecent liberties with each other. In spite of all, profligacy is
rampant at Madrid, and also the most dreadful hypocrisy, which is more
offensive to true piety than open sin. Men and women seemed to have come
to an agreement to set the whole system of surveillance utterly at
nought. However, commerce with women is not without its dangers; whether
it be endemic or a result of dirty habits, one has often good reason to
repent the favours one has obtained.
The masked ball quite captivated me. The first time I went to see what
it was like and it only cost me a doubloon (about eleven francs), but
ever after it cost me four doubloons, for the following reason:
An elderly gentleman, who sat next me at supper, guessed I was a
foreigner by my difficulty in making myself understood by the waiter, and
asked me where, I had left my lady friend.
"I have not got one; I came by myself to enjoy this delightful and
"Yes, but you ought to come with a companion; then you could dance. At
present you cannot do so, as every lady has her partner, who will not
allow her to dance with anyone else."
"Then I must be content not to dance, for, being a stranger, I do not
know any lady whom I can ask to come with me."
"As a stranger you would have much less difficulty in securing a partner
than a citizen of Madrid. Under the new fashion, introduced by the Count
of Aranda, the masked ball has become the rage of all the women in the
capital. You see there are about two hundred of them on the floor to-
night; well, I think there are at least four thousand girls in Madrid who
are sighing for someone to take them to the ball, for, as you may know,
no woman is allowed to come by herself. You would only have to go to any
respectable people, give your name and address, and ask to have the
pleasure of taking their daughter to the ball. You would have to send
her a domino, mask, and gloves; and you would take her and bring her back
in your carriage."
"And if the father and mother refused?"
"Then you would make your bow and go, leaving them to repent of their
folly, for the girl would sigh, and weep, and moan, bewail parental
tyranny, call Heaven to witness the innocency of going to a ball, and
finally go into convulsions."
This oration, which was uttered in the most persuasive style, made me
quite gay, for I scented an intrigue from afar. I thanked the masked
(who spoke Italian very well) and promised to follow his advice and to
let him know the results.
"I shall be delighted to hear of your success, and you will find me in
the box, where I shall be glad if you will follow me now, to be
introduced to the lady who is my constant companion."
I was astonished at so much politeness, and told him my name and followed
him. He took me into a box where there were two ladies and an elderly
man. They were talking about the ball, so I put in a remark or two on
the same topic, which seemed to meet with approval. One of the two
ladies, who retained some traces of her former beauty, asked me, in
excellent French, what circles I moved in.
"I have only been a short time in Madrid, and not having been presented
at Court I really know no one."
"Really! I quite pity you. Come and see me, you will be welcome. My
name is Pichona, and anybody will tell you where I live."
"I shall be delighted to pay my respects to you, madam."
What I liked best about the spectacle was a wonderful and fantastic dance
which was struck up at midnight. It was the famous fandango, of which I
had often heard, but of which I had absolutely no idea.
I had seen it danced on the stage in France and Italy, but the actors
were careful not to use those voluptuous gestures which make it the most
seductive in the world. It cannot be described. Each couple only dances
three steps, but the gestures and the attitudes are the most lascivious
imaginable. Everything is represented, from the sigh of desire to the
final ecstasy; it is a very history of love. I could not conceive a
woman refusing her partner anything after this dance, for it seemed made
to stir up the senses. I was so excited at this Bacchanalian spectacle
that I burst out into cries of delight. The masker who had taken me to
his box told me that I should see the fandango danced by the Gitanas with
"But," I remarked, "does not the Inquisition object to this dance?"
Madame Pichona told me that it was absolutely forbidden, and would not be
danced unless the Count of Aranda had given permission.
I heard afterwards that, on the count forbidding the fandango, the ball-
room was deserted with bitter complaints, and on the prohibition being
withdrawn everyone was loud in his praise.
The next day I told my infamous page to get me a Spaniard who would teach
me the fandango. He brought me an actor, who also gave me Spanish
lessons, for he pronounced the language admirably. In the course of
three days the young actor taught me all the steps so well that, by the
confession of the Spaniards themselves, I danced it to perfection.
For the next ball I determined to carry the masker's advice into effect,
but I did not want to take a courtesan or a married woman with me, and I
could not reasonably expect that any young lady of family would accompany
It was St. Anthony's Day, and passing the Church of the Soledad I went
in, with the double motive of hearing mass and of procuring a partner for
the next day's ball.
I noticed a fine-looking girl coming out of the confessional, with
contrite face and lowered eyes, and I noted where she went. She knelt
down in the middle of the church, and I was so attracted by her
appearance that I registered a mental vow to the effect that she should
be my first partner. She did not look like a person of condition, nor,
so far as I could see, was she rich, and nothing about her indicated the
courtesan, though women of that class go to confession in Madrid like
everybody else. When mass was ended, the priest distributed the
Eucharist, and I saw her rise and approach humbly to the holy table, and
there receive the communion. She then returned to the church to finish
her devotions, and I was patient enough to wait till they were over.
At last she left, in company with another girl, and I followed her at a
distance. At the end of a street her companion left her to go into her
house, and she, retracing her steps, turned into another street and
entered a small house, one story high. I noted the house and the street
(Calle des Desinjano) and then walked up and down for half an hour, that
I might not be suspected of following her. At last I took courage and
walked in, and, on my ringing a bell, I heard a voice,
"Who is there?"
"Honest folk," I answered, according to the custom of the country; and
the door was opened. I found myself in the presence of a man, a woman,
the young devotee I had followed, and another girl, somewhat ugly.
My Spanish was bad, but still it was good enough to express my meaning,
and, hat in hand, I informed the father that, being a stranger, and
having no partner to take to the ball, I had come to ask him to give me
his daughter for my partner, supposing he had a daughter. I assured him
that I was a man of honour, and that the girl should be returned to him
after the ball in the same condition as when she started.
"Senor," said he, "there is my daughter, but I don't know you, and I
don't know whether she wants to go."
"I should like to go, if my parents will allow me."
"Then you know this gentleman?"
"I have never seen him, and I suppose he has never seen me."
"You speak the truth, senora."
The father asked me my name and address, and promised I should have a
decisive answer by dinner-time, if I dined at home. I begged him to
excuse the liberty I had taken, and to let me know his answer without
fail, so that I might have time to get another partner if it were
unfavourable to me.
Just as I was beginning to dine my man appeared. I asked him to sit
down, and he informed me that his daughter would accept my offer, but
that her mother would accompany her and sleep in the carriage. I said
that she might do so if she liked, but I should be sorry for her on
account of the cold. "She shall have a good cloak," said he; and he
proceeded to inform me that he was a cordwainer.
"Then I hope you will take my measure for a pair of shoes."
"I daren't do that; I'm an hidalgo, and if I were to take anyone's
measure I should have to touch his foot, and that would be a degradation.
I am a cobbler, and that is not inconsistent with my nobility."
"Then, will you mend me these boots?"
"I will make them like new; but I see they want a lot of work; it will
cost you a pezzo duro, about five francs."
I told him that I thought his terms very reasonable, and he went out with
a profound bow, refusing absolutely to dine with me.
Here was a cobbler who despised bootmakers because they had to touch the
foot, and they, no doubt, despised him because he touched old leather.
Unhappy pride how many forms it assumes, and who is without his own
peculiar form of it?
The next day I sent to the gentleman-cobbler's a tradesman with dominos,
masks, and gloves; but I took care not to go myself nor to send my page,
for whom I had an aversion which almost amounted to a presentiment. I
hired a carriage to seat four, and at nightfall I drove to the house of
my pious partner, who was quite ready for me. The happy flush on her
face was a sufficient index to me of the feelings of her heart. We got
into the carriage with the mother, who was wrapped up in a vast cloak,
and at the door of the dancing-room we descended, leaving the mother in
the carriage. As soon as we were alone my fair partner told me that her
name was Donna Ignazia.
My Amours With Donna Ignazia--My Imprisonment At Buen Retiro--My Triumph
--I Am Commended to the Venetian Ambassador by One of the State
We entered the ball-room and walked round several times. Donna Ignazia
was in such a state of ecstasy that I felt her trembling, and augured
well for my amorous projects. Though liberty, nay, license, seemed to
reign supreme, there was a guard of soldiers ready to arrest the first
person who created any disturbance. We danced several minuets and square
dances, and at ten o'clock we went into the supper-room, our conversation
being very limited all the while, she not speaking for fear of
encouraging me too much, and I on account of my poor knowledge of the
Spanish language. I left her alone for a moment after supper, and went
to the box, where I expected to find Madame Pichona, but it was occupied
by maskers, who were unknown to me, so I rejoined my partner, and we went
on dancing the minuets and quadrilles till the fandango was announced. I
took my place with my partner, who danced it admirably, and seemed
astonished to find herself so well supported by a foreigner. This dance
had excited both of us, so, after taking her to the buffet and giving her
the best wines and liqueurs procurable, I asked her if she were content
with me. I added that I was so deeply in love with her that unless she
found some means of making me happy I should undoubtedly die of love. I
assured her that I was ready to face all hazards.
"By making you happy," she replied, "I shall make myself happy, too. I
will write to you to-morrow, and you will find the letter sewn into the
hood of my domino."
"You will find me ready to do anything, fair Ignazia, if you will give me
At last the ball was over, and we went out and got into the carriage.
The mother woke up, and the coachman drove off, and I, taking the girl's
hands, would have kissed them. However, she seemed to suspect that I had
other intentions, and held my hands clasped so tightly that I believe I
should have found it a hard task to pull them away. In this position
Donna Ignazia proceeded to tell her mother all about the ball, and the
delight it had given her. She did not let go my hands till we got to the
corner of their street, when the mother called out to the coachman to
stop, not wishing to give her neighbours occasion for slander by stopping
in front of their own house.
The next day I sent for the domino, and in it I found a letter from Donna
Ignazia, in which she told me that a Don Francisco de Ramos would call on
me, that he was her lover, and that he would inform me how to render her
and myself happy.
Don Francisco wasted no time, for the next morning at eight o'clock my
page sent in his name. He told me that Donna Ignazia, with whom he spoke
every night, she being at her window and he in the street, had informed
him that she and I had been at the ball together. She had also told him
that she felt sure I had conceived a fatherly affection for her, and she
had consequently prevailed upon him to call on me, being certain that I
would treat him as my own son. She had encouraged him to ask me to lend
him a hundred doubloons which would enable them to get married before the
end of the carnival.
"I am employed at the Mint," he added, "but my present salary is a very
small one. I hope I shall get an increase before long, and then I shall
be in a position to make Ignazia happy. All my relations live at Toledo,
and I have no friends at Madrid, so when we set up our only friends will
be the father and mother of my wife and yourself, for I am sure you love
her like a daughter."
"You have probed my heart to its core," I replied, "but just now I am
awaiting remittances, and have very little money about me. You may count
on my discretion, and I shall be delighted to see you whenever you care
to call on me."
The gallant made me a bow, and took his departure in no good humour. Don
Francisco was a young man of twenty-two, ugly and ill-made. I resolved
to nip the intrigue in the bud, for my inclination for Donna Ignazia was
of the lightest description; and I went to call on Madame Pichona, who
had given me such a polite invitation to come and see her. I had made
enquiries about her, and had found out that she was an actress and had
been made rich by the Duke of Medina-Celi. The duke had paid her a visit
in very cold weather, and finding her without a fire, as she was too poor
to buy coals, had sent her the next day a silver stove, which he had
filled with a hundred thousand pezzos duros in gold, amounting to three
hundred thousand francs in French money. Since then Madame Pichona lived
at her ease and received good company.
She gave me a warm reception when I called on her, but her looks were
sad. I began by saying that as I had not found her in her box on the
last ball night I had ventured to come to enquire after her health.
"I did not go," said she, "for on that day died my only friend the Duke
of Medina-Celi. He was ill for three days."
"I sympathise with you. Was the duke an old man?"
"Hardly sixty. You have seen him; he did not look his age."
"Where have I seen him?"
"Did he not bring you to my box?"
"You don't say so! He did not tell me his name and I never saw him
I was grieved to hear of his death; it was in all probability a
misfortune for me as well as Madame Pichona. All the duke's estate
passed to a son of miserly disposition, who in his turn had a son who was
beginning to evince the utmost extravagance.
I was told that the family of Medina-Celi enjoys thirty titles of
One day a young man called on me to offer me, as a foreigner, his
services in a country which he knew thoroughly.
"I am Count Marazzini de Plaisance," he began, "I am not rich and I have
come to Madrid to try and make my fortune. I hope to enter the bodyguard
of his Catholic majesty. I have been indulging in the amusements of the
town ever since I came. I saw you at the ball with an unknown beauty. I
don't ask you to tell me her name, but if you are fond of novelty I can
introduce you to all the handsomest girls in Madrid."
If my experience had taught me such wholesome lessons as I might have
expected, I should have shown the impudent rascal the door. Alas!
I began to be weary of my experience and the fruits of it; I began to
feel the horrors of a great void; I had need of some slight passion to
wile away the dreary hours. I therefore made this Mercury welcome, and
told him I should be obliged by his presenting me to some beauties,
neither too easy nor too difficult to access.
"Come with me to the ball," he rejoined, "and I will shew you some women
worthy of your attention."
The ball was to take place the same evening, and I agreed; he asked me to
give him some dinner, and I agreed to that also. After dinner he told me
he had no money, and I was foolish enough to give him a doubloon. The
fellow, who was ugly, blind of one eye, and full of impudence, shewed me
a score of pretty women, whose histories he told me, and seeing me to be
interested in one of them he promised to bring her to a procuress. He
kept his word, but he cost me dear; for the girl only served for an
Towards the end of the carnival the noble Don Diego, the father of Donna
Ignazia, brought me my boots, and the thanks of his wife and himself for
the pleasure I had given her at the ball.
"She is as good as she is beautiful," said I, "she deserves to prosper,
and if I have not called on her it is only that I am anxious to do
nothing which could injure her reputation."
"Her reputation, Senor Caballero, is above all reproach, and I shall be
delighted to see you whenever you honour me with a call."
"The carnival draws near to its end," I replied, "and if Donna Ignazia
would like to go to another ball I shall be happy to take her again."
"You must come and ask her yourself."
"I will not fail to do so."
I was anxious to see how the pious girl, who had tried to make me pay a
hundred doubloons for the chance of having her after her marriage, would
greet me, so I called the same day. I found her with her mother, rosary
in hand, while her noble father was botching old boots. I laughed
inwardly at being obliged to give the title of don to a cobbler who would
not make boots because he was an hidalgo. Hidalgo, meaning noble, is
derived from 'higo de albo', son of somebody, and the people, whom the
nobles call 'higos de nade', sons of nobody, often revenge themselves by
calling the nobles hideputas, that is to say, sons of harlots.
Donna Ignazia rose politely from the floor, where she was sitting cross-
legged, after the Moorish fashion. I have seen exalted ladies in this
position at Madrid, and it is very common in the antechambers of the
Court and the palace of the Princess of the Asturias. The Spanish women
sit in church in the same way, and the rapidity with which they can
change this posture to a kneeling or a standing one is something amazing.
Donna Ignazia thanked me for honouring her with a visit, adding that she
would never have gone to the ball if it had not been for me, and that she
never hoped to go to it again, as I had doubtless found someone else more
worthy of my attentions.
"I have not found anyone worthy to be preferred before you," I replied,
"and if you would like to go to the ball again I should be most happy to
The father and mother were delighted with the pleasure I was about to
give to their beloved daughter. As the ball was to take place the same
evening, I gave the mother a doubloon to get a mask and domino. She went
on her errand, and, as Don Diego also went out on some business, I found
myself alone with the girl. I took the opportunity of telling her that
if she willed I would be hers, as I adored her, but that I could not sigh
"What can you ask, and what can I offer, since I must keep myself pure
for my husband?"
"You should abandon yourself to me without reserve, and you may be sure
that I should respect your innocence."
I then proceeded to deliver a gentle attack, which she repulsed, with a
serious face. I stopped directly, telling her that she would find me
polite and respectful, but not in the least affectionate, for the rest of
Her face had blushed a vivid scarlet, and she replied that her sense of
duty obliged her to repulse me in spite of herself.
I liked this metaphysical line of argument. I saw that I had only to
destroy the idea of duty in her and all the rest would follow. What I
had to do was to enter into an argument, and to bear away the prize
directly I saw her at a loss for an answer.
"If your duty," I began, "forces you to repulse me in spite of yourself,
your duty is a burden on you. If it is a burden on you, it is your
enemy, and if it is your enemy why do you suffer it thus lightly to gain
the victory? If you were your own friend, you would at once expel this
insolent enemy from your coasts."
"That may not be."
"Yes, it may. Only shut your eyes."
I immediately laid hands on a tender place; she repulsed me, but more
gently and not so seriously as before.
"You may, of course, seduce me," she said, "but if you really love me you
will spare me the shame."
"Dearest Ignazia, there is no shame in a girl giving herself up to the
man she loves. Love justifies all things. If you do not love me I ask
nothing of you."
"But how shall I convince you that I am actuated by love and not by
"Leave me to do what I like, and my self-esteem will help me to believe
"But as I cannot be certain that you will believe me, my duty plainly
points to a refusal."
"Very good, but you will make me sad and cold."
"Then I shall be sad, too."
At these encouraging words I embraced her, and obtained some solid
favours with one hardy hand. She made no opposition, and I was well
pleased with what I had got; and for a first attempt I could not well
At this juncture the mother came in with the dominos and gloves. I
refused to accept the change, and went away to return in my carriage, as
Thus the first step had been taken, and Donna Ignazia felt it would be
ridiculous not to join in with my conversation at the ball which all
tended to procuring the pleasure of spending our nights together. She
found me affectionate all the evening, and at supper I did my best to get
her everything she liked. I made her see that the part she had at last
taken was worthy of praise, and not blame. I filled her pockets with
sweets, and put into my own pockets two bottles of ratafia, which I
handed over to the mother, who was asleep in the carriage. Donna Ignazia
gratefully refused the quadruple I wished to give her, saying that if it
were in my power to make such presents, I might give the money to her
lover whenever he called on me.
"Certainly," I answered, "but what shall I say to prevent his taking
"Tell him that it is on account of what he asked you. He is poor, and I
am sure he is in despair at not seeing me in the window to-night. I
shall tell him I only went to the ball with you to please my father."
Donna Ignazia, a mixture of voluptuousness and piety, like most Spanish
women, danced the fandango with so much fire that no words could have
expressed so well the Joys that were in store for me. What a dance it
is! Her bosom was heaving and her blood all aflame, and yet I was told
that for the greater part of the company the dance was wholly innocent,
and devoid of any intention. I pretended to believe it, but I certainly
did not. Ignazia begged me to come to mass at the Church of the Soledad
the next day at eight o'clock. I had not yet told her that it was there
I had seen her first. She also asked me to come and see her in the
evening, and said she would send me a letter if we were not left alone
I slept till noon, and was awoke by Marazzini, who came to ask me to give
him some dinner. He told me he had seen me with my fair companion the
night before, and that he had vainly endeavoured to find out who she was.
I bore with this singularly misplaced curiosity, but when it came to his
saying that he would have followed us if he had had any money, I spoke to
him in a manner that made him turn pale. He begged pardon, and promised
to bridle his curiosity for the future. He proposed a party of pleasure
with the famous courtezan Spiletta, whose favours were dear, but I
declined, for my mind was taken up with the fair Ignazia, whom I
considered a worthy successor to Charlotte.
I went to the church, and she saw me when she came in, followed by the
same companion as before.
She knelt down at two or three paces from me, but did not once look in my
direction. Her friend, on the other hand, inspected me closely; she
seemed about the same age as Ignazia, but she was ugly. I also noticed
Don Francisco, and as I was going out of the church my rival followed me,
and congratulated me somewhat bitterly on my good fortune in having taken
his mistress a second time to the ball. He confessed that he had been on
our track the whole evening, and that he should have gone away well
enough pleased if it had not been for the way in which we dance the
fandango. I felt this was an occasion for a little gentle management,
and I answered good-humouredly that the love he thought he noticed was
wholly imaginary, and that he was wrong to entertain any suspicions as to
so virtuous a girl as Donna Ignazia. At the same time I placed an ounce
in his hand, begging him to take it on account. He did so with an
astonished stare, and, calling me his father and guardian angel, swore an
In the evening I called on Don Diego, where I was regaled with the
excellent ratafia I had given the mother, and the whole family began to
speak of the obligations Spain owed to the Count of Aranda.
"No exercise is more healthful than dancing," said Antonia, the mother,
"and before his time balls were strictly forbidden. In spite of that he
is hated for having expelled 'los padres de la compagnia de Jesus', and
for his sumptuary regulations. But the poor bless his name, for all the
money produced by the balls goes to them."
"And thus," said the father, "to go to the ball is to do a pious work."
"I have two cousins," said Ignazia, "who are perfect angels of goodness.
I told them that you had taken me to the ball; but they are so poor that
they have no hope of going. If you like you can make them quite happy by
taking them on the last day of the carnival. The ball closes at
midnight, so as not to profane Ash Wednesday."
"I shall be happy to oblige you, all the more as your lady mother will
not be obliged to wait for us in the carriage."
"You are very kind; but I shall have to introduce you to my aunt; she is
so particular. When she knows you, I am sure she will consent, for you
have all the air of discretion. Go and see her to-day; she lives in the
next street, and over her door you will see a notice that lace is washed
within. Tell her that my mother gave you the address. To-morrow
morning, after mass, I will see to everything else, and you must come
here at noon to agree as to our meeting on the last day of the carnival."
I did all this, and the next day I heard that it was settled.
"I will have the dominos ready at my house," I said, "and you must come
in at the back door. We will dine in my room, mask, and go to the ball.
The eldest of your cousins must be disguised as a man."
"I won't tell her anything about that, for fear she might think it a sin,
but once in your house you will have no difficulty in managing her."
The younger of the two cousins was ugly, but looked like a woman, where
as the elder looked like an ugly dressed man in woman's clothes. She
made an amusing contrast with Donna Ignazia, who looked most seductive
when she laid aside her air of piety.
I took care that everything requisite for our disguises should be at hand
in a neighbouring closet, unbeknown to my rascally page. I gave him a
piece of money in the morning, and told him to spend the last day of the
carnival according to his own taste, as I should not require his services
till noon the day after.
I ordered a good dinner, and a waiter to serve it, at the tavern, and got
rid of Marazzini by giving him a doubloon. I took great pains over the
entertainment I was to give the two cousins and the fair Ignazia, whom I
hoped that day to make my mistress. It was all quite a novelty for me; I
had to do with three devotees, two hideous and the third ravishingly
beautiful, who had already had a foretaste of the joys in store for her.
They came at noon, and for an hour I discoursed to them in a moral and
unctuous manner. I had taken care to provide myself with some excellent
wine, which did not fail to take effect on the three girls, who were not
accustomed to a dinner that lasted two hours. They were not exactly
inebriated, but their spirits were worked up to a pitch they had never
I told the elder cousin, who might be twenty-five years old, that I was
going to disguise her as a man; consternation appeared on her features,
but I had expected as much, and Donna Ignazia told her she was only too
lucky, and her sister observed that she did not think it could be a sin.
"If it were a sin," said I, "do you suppose that I should have suggested
it to your virtuous sister."
Donna Ignazia, who knew the Legendarium by heart, corroborated my
assertion by saying that the blessed St. Marina had passed her whole life
in man's clothes; and this settled the matter.
I then burst into a very high-flown eulogium of her intellectual
capacity, so as to enlist her vanity in the good cause.
"Come with me," said I, "and do you ladies wait here; I want to enjoy
your surprise when you see her in man's clothes."
The ugly cousin made a supreme effort and followed me, and when she had
duly inspected her disguise I told her to take off her boots and to put
on white stockings and shoes, of which I had provided several pairs. I
sat down before her, and told her that if she suspected me of any
dishonourable intentions she would commit a mortal sin, as I was old
enough to be her father. She replied that she was a good Christian, but
not a fool. I fastened her garters for her, saying that I should never
have supposed she had so well-shapen and so white a leg, which compliment
made her smile in a satisfied manner.
Although I had a fine view of her thighs, I observed no traces of a blush
on her face. I then gave her a pair, of my breeches, which fitted her
admirably, though I was five inches taller than she, but this difference
was compensated by the posterior proportions, with which, like most
women, she was bountifully endowed. I turned away to let her put them on
in freedom, and, having given her a linen shirt, she told me she had
finished before she had buttoned it at the neck. There may possibly have
been a little coquetry in this, as I buttoned the shirt for her, and was
thus gratified with a sight of her splendid breast. I need not say
whether she was pleased or not at my refraining from complimenting her
upon her fine proportions. When her toilette was finished I surveyed her
from head to foot, and pronounced her to be a perfect man, with the
exception of one blemish.
"I am sorry for that."
"Will you allow me to arrange your shirt so as to obviate it?"
"I shall be much obliged, as I have never dressed in man's clothes
I then sat down in front of her, and, after unbuttoning the fly, arranged
the shirt in a proper manner. In doing so I allowed myself some small
liberties, but I toyed with such a serious air that she seemed to take it
all as a matter of course.
When I had put on her domino and mask I led her forth, and her sister and
Donna Ignazia congratulated her on her disguise, saying that anybody
would take her for a man.
"Now it's your turn," I said to the younger one.
"Go with him," said the elder, "Don Jaime is as honest a man as you will
find in Spain."
There was really not much to be done to the younger sister, her disguise
being simply a mask and domino, but as I wanted to keep Ignazia a long
time I made her put on white stockings, change her kerchief, and a dozen
other trifles. When she was ready I brought her forth, and Donna Ignazia
noticing that she had changed her stockings and kerchief, asked her
whether I were as expert at dressing a lady as at turning a lady into a
"I don't know," she replied, "I did everything for myself."
Next came the turn of Don Diego's daughter, and as soon as I had her in
the closet I did my pleasure on her, she submitting with an air that
seemed to say, "I only give in because I can't resist." Wishing to save
her honour I withdrew in time, but in the second combat I held her for
half an hour to my arms. However, she was naturally of a passionate
disposition, and nature had endowed her with a temperament able to resist
the most vigorous attacks. When decency made us leave the closet, she
remarked to her cousins,
"I thought I should never have done; I had to alter the whole fit of the
I admired her presence of mind.
At nightfall we went to the ball, at which the fandango might be danced
ad libitum by a special privilege, but the crowd was so great that
dancing was out of the question. At ten we had supper, and then walked
up and down, till all at once the two orchestras became silent. We heard
the church clocks striking midnight the carnival was over, and Lent had
This rapid transition from wantonness to devotion, from paganism to
Christianity, has something startling and unnatural about it. At fifty-
nine minutes past eleven the senses are all aglow; midnight sounds, and
in a minute they are supposed to be brought low, and the heart to be full
of humble repentance; it is an absurdity, an impossibility.
I took the three girls to my house to take off their dominos, and we then
escorted the two cousins home. When we had left them for a few minutes
Donna Ignazia told me that she would like a little coffee. I understood
her, and took her to my house, feeling sure of two hours of mutual
I took her to my room, and was just going out to order the coffee when I
met Don Francisco, who asked me plainly to let him come up, as he had
seen Donna Ignazia go in with me. I had sufficient strength of mind to
conceal my rage and disappointment, and told him to come in, adding that
his mistress would be delighted at this unexpected visit. I went
upstairs, and he followed me, and I shewed him into the room,
congratulating the lady on the pleasant surprise.
I expected that she would play her part as well as I had played mine, but
I was wrong. In her rage she told him that she would never have asked me
to give her a cup of coffee if she had foreseen this piece of
importunity, adding that if he had been a gentleman he would have known
better than to intrude himself at such an hour.
In spite of my own anger I felt that I must take the poor devil's part;
he looked like a dog with a tin kettle tied to his tail. I tried to calm
Donna Ignazia, telling her that Don Francisco had seen us by a mere
accident, and that it was I who had asked him to come upstairs, in the
hope of pleasing her.
Donna Ignazia feigned to be persuaded and asked her lover to sit down,
but she did not speak another word to him, confining her remarks to me,
saying how much she had enjoyed the ball, and how kind I had been to take
After he had taken a cup of coffee, Don Francisco bade us a good night.
I told him I hoped he would come and see me before Lent was over, but
Donna Ignazia only vouchsafed him a slight nod. When he had gone she
said, sadly enough, that she was sorry he had deprived us both of our
pleasure, and that she was sure Don Francisco was still hanging about the
place, and that she dared not expose herself to his vengeance. "So take
me home, but if you love me come and see me again. The trick the stupid
fellow has played me shall cost him dear. Are you sure I don't love
"Quite certain, for you love me too well to love anybody else."
Donna Ignazia gave me a hasty proof of her affection, and I escorted her
home, assuring her that she would be the sole object of my thoughts as
long as I stayed at Madrid.
The next day I dined with Mengs, and the day after that I was accosted in
the street by an ill-looking fellow, who bade me follow him to a
cloister, as he had something of importance to communicate to me.
As soon as he saw that we were unobserved, he told me that the Alcalde