Part 2 out of 2
keys are taken to the abbess' room. However, as you only want me for
five minutes, I will tell the abbess that I am expecting a letter
from my brother, and that it can be sent to me on this evening only.
You must give me a letter that the nun who will be with me may be
able to say that I have not been guilty of deception."
"You will not come alone, then?"
"I should not dare even to ask for such a privilege."
"Very good, but try to come with some old nun who is short-sighted."
"I will keep the light in the background."
"Pray do not do so, my beloved; on the contrary, place it so that you
may be distinctly seen."
"All this is very strange, but I have promised passive obedience, and
I will come down with two lights. May I hope that you will explain
this riddle to me at your next interview?"
"By to-morrow, at latest, you shall know the whole story."
"My curiosity will prevent me from sleeping."
"Not so, dear heart; sleep peacefully, and be sure of my gratitude."
The reader will think that after this conversation my heart was
perfectly at rest; but how far was I from resting! I returned to
Venice, tortured lest I should be told in the evening at the door of
the cathedral, where we were to meet, that the nun had been obliged
to put off her appointment. If that had happened, I should not have
exactly suspected M---- M----, but the ambassador would have thought
that I had caused the scheme to miscarry. It is certain that in that
case I should not have taken my man to the parlour, but should have
gone there sadly by myself.
I passed the whole day in these torments, thinking it would never
come to an end, and in the evening I put a letter in my pocket, and
went to my post at the hour agreed upon.
Fortunately, Murray kept the appointment exactly.
"Is the nun there?" said I, as soon as he was near me.
"Yes, my dear fellow. We will go, if you like, to the parlour; but
you will find that we shall be told she is ill or engaged. If you
like, the bet shall be off."
"God forbid, my dear fellow! I cling to that hundred ducats. Let us
We presented ourselves at the wicket, and I asked for M---- M----,
and the doorkeeper made me breathe again by saying that I was
expected. I entered the parlour with my English friend, and saw that
it was lighted by four candles. I cannot recall these moments
without being in love with life. I take note not only of my noble
mistress's innocence, but also of the quickness of her wit. Murray
remained serious, without a smile on his face. Full of grace and
beauty, M---- M---- came into the room with a lay-sister, each of
them holding a candlestick. She paid me a compliment in good French;
I gave her the letter, and looking at the address and the seal she
put it in her pocket. After thanking me and saying she would reply
in due course, she turned towards my companion:
"I shall, perhaps, make you lose the first act of the opera," said
"The pleasure of seeing you, madam, is worth all the operas in the
"You are English, I think?"
"The English are now the greatest people in the world, because they
are free and powerful. Gentlemen, I wish you a very good evening."
I had never seen M---- M---- looking so beautiful as then, and I went
out of the parlour ablaze with love, and glad as I had never been
before. I walked with long strides towards my casino, without taking
notice of the ambassador, who did not hurry himself in following me;
I waited for him at my door.
"Well," said I, "are you convinced now that you have been cheated?"
"Be quiet, we have time enough to talk about that. Let us go
"Shall I come?"
"Do. What do you think I could do by myself for four hours with that
creature who is waiting for me? We will amuse ourselves with her."
"Had we not better turn her out?"
"No; her master is coming for her at two o'clock in the morning. She
would go and warn him, and he would escape my vengeance. We will
throw them both out of the window."
"Be moderate, for M---- M----s honour depends on the secrecy we
observe. Let us go upstairs. We shall have some fun. I should like
to see the hussy."
Murray was the first to enter the room. As soon as the girl saw me,
she threw her handkerchief over her face, and told the ambassador
that such behaviour was unworthy of him. He made no answer. She was
not so tall as M---- M----, and she spoke bad French.
Her cloak and mask were on the bed, but she was dressed as a nun. As
I wanted to see her face, I politely asked her to do me the favour of
"I don't know you," said she; "who are you?"
"You are in my house, and don't know who I am?"
"I am in your house because I have been betrayed. I did not think
that I should have to do with a scoundrel."
At this word Murray commanded her to be silent, calling her by the
name of her honourable business; and the slut got up to take her
cloak, saying she would go. Murray pushed her back, and told her
that she would have to wait for her worthy friend, warning her to
make no noise if she wanted to keep out of prison.
"Put me in prison!"
With this she directed her hand towards her dress, but I rushed
forward and seized one hand while Murray mastered the other. We
pushed her back on a chair while we possessed ourselves of the
pistols she carried in her pockets.
Murray tore away the front of her holy habit, and I extracted a
stiletto eight inches long, the false nun weeping bitterly all the
"Will you hold your tongue, and keep quiet till Capsucefalo comes,"
said the ambassador, "or go to prison?"
"If I keep quiet what will become of me?"
"I promise to let you go."
"Very well, then, I will keep quiet."
"Have you got any more weapons?"
Hereupon the slut took off her habit and her petticoat, and if we had
allowed her she would have soon been in a state of nature, no doubt
in the expectation of our passions granting what our reason refused.
I was much astonished to find in her only a false resemblance to
M.M. I remarked as much to the ambassador, who agreed with me, but
made me confess that most men, prepossessed with the idea that they
were going to see M. M., would have fallen into the same trap. In
fact, the longing to possess one's self of a nun who has renounced
all the pleasures of the world, and especially that of cohabitation
with the other sex, is the very apple of Eve, and is more delightful
from the very difficulty of penetrating the convent grating.
Few of my readers will fail to testify that the sweetest pleasures
are those which are hardest to be won, and that the prize, to obtain
which one would risk one's life, would often pass unnoticed if it
were freely offered without difficulty or hazard.
In the following chapter, dear reader, you will see the end of this
farcical adventure. In the mean time, let us take a little breath.
Pleasant Ending of the Adventure of the False Nun--M. M. Finds Out
That I Have d Mistress--She is Avenged on the Wretch Capsucefalo--
I Ruin Myself at Play, and at the Suggestion of M. M. I Sell all Her
Diamonds, One After Another--I Hand Over Tonine to Murray, Who Makes
Provision for Her--Her Sister Barberine Takes Her Place.
How did you make this nice acquaintance?" I asked the ambassador.
"Six months ago," he replied, "while standing at the convent gate
with Mr. Smith, our consul, in whose company I had been to see some
ceremony or other, I remarked to him, as we were talking over some
nuns we had noticed, 'I would gladly give five hundred sequins for a
few hours of Sister M---- M----s company.' Count Capsucefalo heard
what I said, but made no remark. Mr. Smith answered that one could
only see her at the grating as did the ambassador of France, who
often came to visit her. Capsucefalo called on me the next morning,
and said that if I had spoken in good faith he was sure he could get
me a night with the nun in whatever place I liked, if she could count
on my secrecy. 'I have just been speaking to her,' said he, 'and on
my mentioning your name she said she had noticed you with Mr. Smith,
and vowed she would sup with you more for love than money. 'I,' said
the rascal, 'am the only man she trusts, and I take her to the French
ambassador's casino in Venice whenever she wants to go there. You
need not be afraid of being cheated, as you will give the money to
her personally when you have possessed yourself of her.' With this
he took her portrait from his pocket and shewed it me; and here it
is. I bought it of him two days after I believed myself to have
spent a night with the charming nun, and a fortnight after our
conversation. This beauty here came masked in a nun's habit, and I
was fool enough to think I had got a treasure. I am vexed with
myself for not having suspected the cheat--at all events, when I saw
her hair, as I know that nuns' hair should be cut short. But when I
said something about it to the hussy, she told me they were allowed
to keep their hair under their caps, and I was weak enough to believe
I knew that on this particular Murray had not been deceived, but I
did not feel compelled to tell him so then and there.
I held the portrait Murray had given me in my hand, and compared it
with the face before me. In the portrait the breast was bare, and as
I was remarking that painters did those parts as best they could, the
impudent wench seized the opportunity to shew me that the miniature
was faithful to nature. I turned my back upon her with an expression
of contempt which would have mortified her, if these creatures were
ever capable of shame. As we talked things over, I could not help
laughing at the axiom, Things which are equal to the same thing are
equal to one another, for the miniature was like M. M. and like the
courtezan, and yet the two women were not like each other. Murray
agreed with me, and we spent an hour in a philosophical discussion on
the matter. As the false M. M. was named Innocente, we expressed a
wish to know how her name agreed with her profession, and how the
knave had induced her to play the part she had taken; and she told us
the following story:
"I have known Count Capsucefalo for two years, and have found him
useful, for, though he has given me no money, he has made me profit
largely through the people he has introduced to me. About the end of
last autumn he came to me one day, and said that if I could make up
as a nun with some clothes he would get me, and in that character
pass a night with an Englishman, I should be the better by five
hundred sequins. 'You need not be afraid of anything,' said he, 'as
I myself will take you to the casino where the dupe will be awaiting
you, and I will come and take you back to your imaginary convent
towards the end of the night. He shewed me how I must behave, and
told me what to reply if my lover asked any questions about the
discipline of the convent.
"I liked the plot, gentlemen, and I told him I was ready to carry it
out. And be pleased to consider that there are not many women of my
profession who would hesitate over a chance of getting five hundred
sequins. Finding the scheme both agreeable and profitable, I
promised to play my part with the greatest skill. The bargain was
struck, and he gave me full instructions as to my dialogue. He told
me that the Englishman could only talk about my convent and any
lovers I might have had; that on the latter point I was to cut him
short, and to answer with a laugh that I did not know what he was
talking about, and even to tell him that I was a nun in appearance
only, and that in the course of toying I might let him see my hair.
'That,' said Capsucefalo, 'won't prevent him from thinking you a nun
--yes! and the very nun he is amorous of, for he will have made up
his mind that you cannot possibly be anyone else.' Seizing the point
of the jest, I did not take the trouble to find out the name of the
nun I was to represent, nor the convent whence I was to come; the
only thing in my head was the five hundred sequins. So little have I
troubled about aught else that, though I passed a delicious night
with you, and found you rather worthy of being paid for than paying,
I have not ascertained who and what you are, and I don't know at this
moment to whom I am speaking. You know what a night I had; I have
told you it was delicious, and I was happy in the idea that I was
going to have another. You have found everything out. I am sorry,
but I am not afraid of anything, since I can put on any disguise I
like, and can't prevent my lovers taking me for a saint if they like
to do so. You have found weapons in my possession, but everyone is
allowed to bear arms in self-defence. I plead not guilty on all
"Do you know me?" said I.
"No, but I have often seen you passing under my window. I live at
St. Roch, near the bridge."
The way in which the woman told her yarn convinced us that she was an
adept in the science of prostitution, but we thought Capsucefalo, in
spite of the count, worthy of the pillory. The girl was about ten
years older than M. M., she was pretty, but light-complexioned, while
my beautiful nun had fine dark brown hair and was at least three
After twelve o'clock we sat down to supper, and did honour to the
excellent meal which my dear Antoinette had prepared for us. We were
cruel enough to leave the poor wretch without offering her so much as
a glass of wine, but we thought it our duty.
While we were talking, the jolly Englishman made some witty comments
on my eagerness to convince him that he had not enjoyed M. M.'s
"I can't believe," said he, "that you have shewn so much interest
without being in love with the divine nun."
I answered by saying that if I were her lover I was much to be pitied
in being condemned to go to the parlour, and no farther.
"I would gladly give a hundred guineas a month," said he, "to have
the privilege of visiting her at the grating."
So saying he gave me my hundred sequins, complimenting me on my
success, and I slipped them forthwith into my pocket.
At two o'clock in the morning we heard a soft knock on the street
"Here is our friend," I said, "be discreet, and you will see that he
will make a full confession."
He came in and saw Murray and the lady, but did not discover that a
third party was present till he heard the ante-room door being
locked. He turned round and saw me, and as he knew me, merely said,
without losing countenance:
"Ah, you are here; you know, of course, that the secret must be
Murray laughed and calmly asked him to be seated, and he enquired,
with the lady's pistols in his hands, where he was going to take her
"I think you may be mistaken, as it is very possible that when you
leave this place you will both of you be provided with a bed in
"No, I am not afraid of that happening; the thing would make too much
noise, and the laugh would not be on your side. Come," said he to
his mate, "put on your cloak and let us be off."
The ambassador, who like an Englishman kept quite cool the whole
time, poured him out a glass of Chambertin, and the blackguard drank
his health. Murray seeing he had on a fine ring set with brilliants,
praised it, and shewing some curiosity to see it more closely he drew
it off the fellow's finger, examined it, found it without flaw, and
asked how much it was worth. Capsucefalo, a little taken aback, said
it cost him four hundred sequins.
"I will hold it as a pledge for that sum," said the ambassador,
putting the ring into his pocket. The other looked chop-fallen, and
Murray laughing at his retiring manners told the girl to put on her
cloak and to pack off with her worthy acolyte. She did so directly,
and with a low bow they disappeared.
"Farewell, nun procurer!" said the ambassador, but the count made no
As soon as they were gone I thanked Murray warmly for the moderation
he had shewn, as a scandal would have only injured three innocent
"Be sure," said he, "that the guilty parties shall be punished
without anyone's knowing the reason"
I then made Tonine come upstairs, and my English friend offered her a
glass of wine, which she declined with much modesty and politeness.
Murray looked at her with flaming glances, and left after giving me
his heartiest thanks.
Poor little Tonine had been resigned, and obedient for many hours,
and she had good cause to think I had been unfaithful to her;
however, I gave her the most unmistakable proofs of my fidelity. We
stayed in bed for six hours, and rose happy in the morning.
After dinner I hurried off to my noble M---- M----, and told her the
whole story. She listened eagerly, her various feelings flitting
across her face. Fear, anger, wrath, approval of my method of
clearing up my natural suspicions, joy at discovering me still her
lover--all were depicted in succession in her glance, and in the play
of her features, and in the red and white which followed one another
on her cheeks and forehead. She was delighted to hear that the
masker who was with me in the parlour was the English ambassador, but
she became nobly disdainful when I told her that he would gladly give
a hundred guineas a month for the pleasure of visiting her in the
parlour. She was angry with him for fancying that she had been in
his power, and for finding a likeness between her and a portrait,
when, so she said, there was no likeness at all; I had given her the
portrait. She added, with a shrewd smile, that she was sure I had
not let my little maid see the false nun, as she might have been
"You know, do you, that I have a young servant?"
"Yes, and a pretty one, too. She is Laura's daughter, and if you
love her I am very glad, and so is C---- C----. I hope you will let
me have a sight of her. C---- C---- has seen her before."
As I saw that she knew too much for me to be able to deceive her, I
took my cue directly and told her in detail the history of my amours.
She shewed her satisfaction too openly not to be sincere. Before I
left her she said her honour obliged her to get Capsucefalo
assassinated, for the wretch had wronged her beyond pardon. By way
of quieting her I promised that if the ambassador did not rid us of
him within the week I would charge myself with the execution of our
About this time died Bragadin the procurator, brother of my patron,
leaving M. de Bragadin sufficiently well off. However, as the family
threatened to become extinct, he desired a woman who had been his
mistress, and of whom he had had a natural son, to become his wife.
By this marriage the son would have become legitimate, and the family
renewed again. The College of Cardinals would have recognized the
wife for a small fee, and all would have gone admirably.
The woman wrote to me, asking me to call on her; and I was going to,
curious to know what a woman, whom I did not know from Adam, could
want with me, when I received a summons from M. de Bragadin. He
begged me to ask Paralis if he ought to follow De la Haye's advice in
a matter he had promised not to confide to me, but of which the
oracle must be informed. The oracle, naturally opposed to the
Jesuit, told him to consult his own feelings and nothing else. After
this I went to the lady.
She began by telling me the whole story. She introduced her son to
me, and told me that if the marriage could be performed, a deed would
be delivered in my favour by which, at the death of M. de Bragadin,
I should become entitled to an estate worth five thousand crowns per
As I guessed without much trouble that this was the same matter which
De la Haye had proposed to M. de Bragadin, I answered without
hesitation that since De la Haye was before me I could do nothing,
and thereupon made her my bow.
I could not help wondering at this Jesuit's continually intriguing to
marry my old friends without my knowledge. Two years ago, if I had
not set my face against it, he would have married M. Dandolo. I
cared not a whit whether the family of Bragadin became extinct or
not, but I did care for the life of my benefactor, and was quite sure
that marriage would shorten it by many years; he was already sixty-
three, and had recovered from a serious apoplectic stroke.
I went to dine with Lady Murray (English-women who are daughters of
lords keep the title), and after dinner the ambassador told me that
he had told M. Cavalli the whole story of the false nun, and that the
secretary had informed him, the evening before, that everything had
been done to his liking. Count Capsucefalo had been sent to
Cephalonia, his native country, with the order never to return to
Venice, and the courtezan had disappeared.
The fine part, or rather the fearful part, about these sentences is
that no one ever knows the reason why or wherefore, and that the lot
may fall on the innocent as well as the guilty. M. M. was delighted
with the event, and I was more pleased than she, for I should have
been sorry to have been obliged to soil my hands with the blood of
that rascally count.
There are seasons in the life of men which may be called 'fasti' and
'nefasti'; I have proved this often in my long career, and on the
strength of the rubs and struggles I have had to encounter. I am
able, as well as any man, to verify the truth of this axiom. I had
just experienced a run of luck. Fortune had befriended me at play, I
had been happy in the society of men, and from love I had nothing to
ask; but now the reverse of the medal began to appear. Love was
still kind, but Fortune had quite left me, and you will soon see,
reader, that men used me no better than the blind goddess.
Nevertheless, since one's fate has phases as well as the moon, good
follows evil as disasters succeed to happiness.
I still played on the martingale, but with such bad luck that I was
soon left without a sequin. As I shared my property with M. M. I was
obliged to tell her of my losses, and it was at her request that I
sold all her diamonds, losing what I got for them; she had now only
five hundred sequins by her. There was no more talk of her escaping
from the convent, for we had nothing to live on! I still gamed, but
for small stakes, waiting for the slow return of good luck.
One day the English ambassador, after giving me a supper at his
casino with the celebrated Fanny Murray, asked me to let him sup at
my casino at Muran, which I now only kept up for the sake of Tonine.
I granted him the favour, but did not imitate his generosity. He
found my little mistress smiling and polite, but always keeping
within the bounds of decency, from which he would have very willingly
excused her. The next morning he wrote to me as follows:
"I am madly in love with Tonine. If you like to hand her over to me
I will make the following provision for her: I will set her up in a
suitable lodging which I will furnish throughout, and which I will
give to her with all its contents, provided that I may visit her
whenever I please, and that she gives me all the rights of a
fortunate lover. I will give her a maid, a cook, and thirty sequins
a month as provision for two people, without reckoning the wine,
which I will procure myself. Besides this I will give her a life
income of two hundred crowns per annum, over which she will have full
control after living with me for a year. I give you a week to send
I replied immediately that I would let him know in three days whether
his proposal were accepted, for Tonine had a mother of whom she was
fond, and she would possibly not care to do anything without her
consent. I also informed him that in all appearance the girl was
The business was an important one for Tonine. I loved her, but I
knew perfectly well that we could not pass the rest of our lives
together, and I saw no prospect of being able to make her as good a
provision as that offered by the ambassador. Consequently I had no
doubts on the question, and the very same day I went to Muran and
told her all.
"You wish to leave me, then," said she, in tears.
"I love you, dearest, and what I propose ought to convince you of my
"Not so; I cannot serve two masters."
"You will only serve your new lover, sweetheart. I beg of you to
reflect that you will have a fine dowry, on the strength of which you
may marry well; and that however much I love you I cannot possibly
make so good a provision for you."
"Leave me to-day for tears and reflection, and come to supper with me
I did not fail to keep the appointment.
"I think your English friend is a very pretty man," she said, "and
when he speaks in the Venetian dialect it makes me die with laughter.
If my mother agrees, I might, perhaps, force myself to love him.
Supposing we did not agree we could part at the end of a year, and I
should be the richer by an income of two hundred crowns."
"I am charmed with the sense of your arguments; speak about it to
"I daren't, sweetheart; this kind of thing is too delicate to be
discussed between a mother and her daughter speak to her yourself."
"I will, indeed."
Laura, whom I had not seen since she had given me her daughter, asked
for no time to think it over, but full of glee told me that now her
daughter would be able to soothe her declining years, and that she
would leave Muran of which she was tired. She shewed me a hundred
and thirty sequins which Tonine had gained in my service, and which
she had placed in her hands.
Barberine, Tonine's younger sister, came to kiss my hand. I thought
her charming, and I gave her all the silver in my pocket. I then
left, telling Laura that I should expect her at my house. She soon
followed me, and gave her child a mother's blessing, telling her that
she and her family could go and live in Venice for sixty sous a day.
Tonine embraced her, and told her that she should have it.
This important affair having been managed to everybody's
satisfaction, I went to see M---- M----, who came into the parlour
with C---- C----, whom I found looking sad, though prettier than
ever. She was melancholy, but none the less tender. She could not
stay for more than a quarter of an hour for fear of being seen, as
she was forbidden ever to go into the parlour. I told M. M. the
story of Tonine, who was going to live with Murray in Venice; she was
sorry to hear it, "for," said she, "now that you have no longer any
attraction at Muran, I shall see you less than ever." I promised to
come and see her often, but vain promises! The time was near which
parted us for ever.
The same evening I went to tell the good news to my friend Murray.
He was in a transport of joy, and begged me to come and sup with him
at his casino the day after next, and to bring the girl with me, that
the surrender might be made in form. I did not fail him, for once
the matter was decided, I longed to bring it to an end. In my
presence he assigned to her the yearly income for her life of two
hundred Venetian ducats, and by a second deed he gave her all the
contents of the house with which he was going to provide her,
provided always that she lived with him for a year. He allowed her
to receive me as a friend, also to receive her mother and sisters,
and she was free to go and see them when she would. Tonine threw her
arms about his neck, and assured him that she would endeavour to
please him to the utmost of her ability. "I will see him," said she,
pointing to me, "but as his friend he shall have nothing more from
me." Throughout this truly affecting scene she kept back her tears,
but I could not conceal mine. Murray was happy, but I was not long a
witness of his good fortune, the reason of which I will explain a
Three days afterwards Laura came to me, told me that she was living
in Venice, and asked me to take her to her daughter's. I owed this
woman too much to refuse her, and I took her there forthwith. Tonine
gave thanks to God, and also to me, and her mother took up the song,
for they were not quite sure whether they were more indebted to God
or to me. Tonine was eloquent in her praise of Murray, and made no
complaint at my not having come to see her, at which I was glad. As
I was going Laura asked me to take her back in my gondola, and as we
had to pass by the house in which she lived she begged me to come in
for a moment, and I could not hurt her feelings by refusing. I owe
it to my honour to remark here that I was thus polite without
thinking that I should see Barberine again.
This girl, as pretty as her sister, though in another style, began by
awakening my curiosity--a weakness which usually renders the
profligate man inconstant. If all women were to have the same
features, the same disposition, and the same manners, men would not
only never be inconstant, but would never be in love. Under that
state of things one would choose a wife by instinct and keep to her
till death, but our world would then be under a different system to
the present. Novelty is the master of the soul. We know that what
we do not see is very nearly the same as what we have seen, but we
are curious, we like to be quite sure, and to attain our ends we give
ourselves as much trouble as if we were certain of finding some prize
Barberine, who looked upon me as an old friend--for her mother had
accustomed her to kiss my hand whenever I went there, who had
undressed more than once in my presence without troubling about me,
who knew I had made her sister's fortune and the family fortune as
well, and thought herself prettier than Tonine because her skin was
fairer, and because she had fine black eyes, desiring to take her
sister's place, knew that to succeed she must take me by storm. Her
common sense told her that as I hardly ever came to the house, I
should not be likely to become amorous of her unless she won me by
storm; and to this end she shewed the utmost complaisance when she
had the chance, so that I won her without any difficulty. All this
reasoning came from her own head, for I am sure her mother gave her
no instructions. Laura was a mother of a kind common the world over,
but especially in Italy. She was willing to take advantage of the
earnings of her daughters, but she would never have induced them to
take the path of evil. There her virtue stopped short.
After I had inspected her two rooms and her little kitchen, and had
admired the cleanness which shone all around, Barberine asked me if I
would like to see their small garden.
"With pleasure," I replied, "for a garden is a rarity in Venice."
Her mother told her to give me some figs if there were any ripe ones.
The garden consisted of about thirty square feet, and grew only salad
herbs and a fine fig tree. It had not a good crop, and I told her
that I could not see any figs.
"I can see some at the top," said Barberine, "and I will gather them
if you will hold me the ladder."
"Yes, climb away; I will hold it quite firmly."
She stepped up lightly, and stretching out an arm to get at some figs
to one side of her, she put her body off its balance, holding on to
the ladder with the other hand.
"My dear Barberine, what do you think I can see?"
"What you have often seen with my sister."
"That's true! but you are prettier than she is."
The girl made no reply, but, as if she could not reach the fruit, she
put her foot on a high branch, and spewed me the most seductive
picture. I was in an ecstasy, and Barberine, who saw it, did not
hurry herself. At last I helped her to come down, and letting my
hand wander indiscreetly, I asked her if the fruit I held had been
plucked, and she kept me a long time telling me it was quite fresh.
I took her within my arms, and already her captive, I pressed her
amorously to my heart, printing on her lips a fiery kiss, which she
gave me back with as much ardour.
"Will you give me what I have caught, dearest?"
"My mother is going to Muran to-morrow, and she will stay there all
the day; if you come, there is nothing I will refuse you."
When speech like this proceeds from a mouth still innocent, the man
to whom it is addressed ought to be happy, for desires are but pain
and torment, and enjoyment is sweet because it delivers us from them.
This shews that those who prefer a little resistance to an easy
conquest are in the wrong; but a too easy conquest often points to a
depraved nature, and this men do not like, however depraved they
themselves may be.
We returned to the house, and I gave Barberine a tender kiss before
Laura's eyes, telling her that she had a very jewel in her daughter--
a compliment which made her face light up with pleasure. I gave the
dear girl ten sequins, and I went away congratulating myself, but
cursing my luck at not being able to make as good provision for
Barberine as Murray had made for her sister.
Tonine had told me that for manners' sake I should sup once with her.
I went the same evening and found Righelini and Murray there. The
supper was delicious, and I was delighted with the excellent
understanding the two lovers had already come to. I complimented the
ambassador on the loss of one of his tastes, and he told me he should
be very sorry at such a loss, as it would warn him of his declining
"But," said I, "you used to like to perform the mysterious sacrifice
of Love without a veil."
"It was not I but Ancilla who liked it, and as I preferred pleasing
her to pleasing myself, I gave in to her taste without any
"I am delighted with your answer, as I confess it would cost me
something to be the witness of your exploits with Tonine."
Having casually remarked that I had no longer a house in Muran,
Righelini told me that if I liked he could get me a delightful house
at a low rent on the Tondamente Nuovo.
As this quarter facing north, and as agreeable in summer as
disagreeable in winter, was opposite to Muran, where I should have to
go twice a week, I told the doctor I should be glad to look at the
I took leave of the rich and fortunate ambassador at midnight, and
before passing the day with my new prize I went to sleep so as to be
fresh and capable of running a good course.
I went to Barberine at an early hour, and as soon as she saw me she
"My mother will not be back till the evening, and my brother will
take his dinner at the school. Here is a fowl, a ham, some cheese,
and two bottles of Scopolo wine. We will take our mess whenever you
"You astonish me, sweetheart, for how did you manage to get such a
"We owe it to my mother, so to her be the praise."
"You have told her, then, what we are going to do?"
"No, not I, for I know nothing about it; but I told her you were
coming to see me, and at the same time I gave her the ten sequins."
"And what did your mother say?"
"She said she wouldn't be sorry if you were to love me as you loved
"I love you better, though I love her well."
"You love her? Why have you left her, then?"
"I have not left her, for we supped together yesterday evening; but
we no longer live together as lovers, that is all. I have yielded
her up to a rich friend of mine, who has made her fortune."
"That is well, though I don't understand much about these affairs. I
hope you will tell Tonine that I have taken her place, and I should
be very pleased if you would let her know that you are quite sure you
are my first lover."
"And supposing the news vexes her?"
"So much the better. Will you do it for me? it's the first favour I
have asked of you."
"I promise to do so."
After this rapid dialogue we took breakfast, and then, perfectly
agreed, we went to bed, rather as if we were about to sacrifice to
Hymen than to love.
The game was new to Barberine, and her transports, her green notions-
-which she told me openly--her inexperience, or rather her
awkwardness, enchanted me. I seemed for the first time to pluck the
fruit of the tree of knowledge, and never had I tasted fruit so
delicious. My little maid would have been ashamed to let me see how
the first thorn hurt her, and to convince me that she only smelt the
rose, she strove to make me think she experienced more pleasure than
is possible in a first trial, always more or less painful. She was
not yet a big girl, the roses on her swelling breasts were as yet but
buds, and she was a woman only in her heart.
After more than one assault delivered and sustained with spirit, we
got up for dinner, and after we had refreshed ourselves we mounted
once more the altar of love, where we remained till the evening.
Laura found us dressed and well pleased with each other on her
return. I made Barberine another present of twenty sequins, I swore
to love her always, and went on my way. At the time I certainly
meant to keep to my oath, but that which destiny had in store for me
could not be reconciled with these promises which welled forth from
my soul in a moment of excitement.
The next morning Righelini took me to see the lodging he had spoken
to me about. I liked it and took it on the spot, paying the first
quarter in advance. The house belonged to a widow with two
daughters, the elder of whom had just been blooded. Righelini was
her doctor, and had treated her for nine months without success. As
he was going to pay her a visit I went in with him, and found myself
in the presence of a fine waxen statue. Surprise drew from me these
"She is pretty, but the sculptor should give her some colour."
On which the statue smiled in a manner which would have been charming
if her lips had but been red.
"Her pallor," said Righelini, "will not astonish you when I tell you
she has just been blooded for the hundred and fourth time."
I gave a very natural gesture of surprise.
This fine girl had attained the age of eighteen years without
experiencing the monthly relief afforded by nature, the result being
that she felt a deathly faintness three or four times a week, and the
only relief was to open the vein.
"I want to send her to the country," said the doctor, "where pure and
wholesome air, and, above all, more exercise, will do her more good
than all the drugs in the world."
After I had been told that my bed should be made ready by the
evening, I went away with Righelini, who told me that the only cure
for the girl would be a good strong lover.
"But my dear doctor," said I, "can't you make your own prescription?"
"That would be too risky a game, for I might find myself compelled to
marry her, and I hate marriage like the devil."
Though I was no better inclined towards marriage than the doctor, I
was too near the fire not to get burnt, and the reader will see in
the next chapter how I performed the miraculous cure of bringing the
colours of health into the cheeks of this pallid beauty.
The Fair Invalid I Cure Her--A Plot Formed to Ruin Me--What Happened
at the House of the Young Countess Bonafede--The Erberia--Domiciliary
Visit--My Conversation with M. de Bragadin--I Am Arrested by Order of
the State Inquisitors.
After leaving Dr. Righelini I went to sup with M. de Bragadin, and
gave the generous and worthy old man a happy evening. This was
always the case; I made him and his two good friends happy whenever I
took meals with them.
Leaving them at an early hour, I went to my lodging and was greatly
surprised to find my bedroom balcony occupied. A young lady of an
exquisite figure rose as soon as she saw me, and gracefully asked me
pardon for the liberty she had taken.
"I am," she said, "the statue you saw this morning. We do not light
the candles in the evening for fear of attracting the gnats, but when
you want to go to bed we will shut the door and go away. I beg to
introduce you to my younger sister, my mother has gone to bed."
I answered her to the effect that the balcony was always at her
service, and that since it was still early I begged their permission
to put on my dressing-gown and to keep them company. Her
conversation was charming; she made me spend two most delightful
hours, and did not leave me till twelve o'clock. Her younger sister
lighted me a candle, and as they went they wished me a good night.
I lay down full of this pretty girl, and I could not believe that she
was really ill. She spoke to the point, she was cheerful, clever,
and full of spirits. I could not understand how it came to pass that
she had not been already cured in a town like Venice, if her cure was
really only to be effected in the manner described by Dr. Righelini;
for in spite of her pallor she seemed to me quite fair enough to
charm a lover, and I believed her to be spirited enough to determine
to take the most agreeable medicine a doctor can prescribe.
In the morning I rang the bell as I was getting up, and the younger
sister came into my room, and said that as they kept no servant she
had come to do what I wanted. I did not care to have a servant when
I was not at M. de Bragadin's, as I found myself more at liberty to
do what I liked. After she had done me some small services, I asked
her how her sister was.
"Very well," said she, "for her pale complexion is not an illness,
and she only suffers when her breath fails her. She has a very good
appetite, and sleeps as well as I do."
"Whom do I hear playing the violin?"
"It's the dancing master giving my sister a lesson."
I hurried over my dressing that I might see her; and I found her
charming, though her old dancing master allowed her to turn in her
toes. All that this young and beautiful girl wanted was the
Promethean spark, the colour of life; her whiteness was too like
snow, and was distressing to look at.
The dancing master begged me to dance a minuet with his pupil, and I
assented, asking him to play larghissimo. "The signorina would find
it too tiring," said he; but she hastened to answer that she did not
feel weak, and would like to dance thus. She danced very well, but
when we had done she was obliged to throw herself in a chair. "In
future, my dear master," said she, "I will only dance like that, for
I think the rapid motion will do me good."
When the master was gone, I told her that her lessons were too short,
and that her master was letting her get into bad habits. I then set
her feet, her shoulders, and her arms in the proper manner. I taught
her how to give her hand gracefully, to bend her knees in time; in
fine, I gave her a regular lesson for an hour, and seeing that she
was getting rather tired I begged her to sit down, and I went out to
pay a visit to M. M.
I found her very sad, for C---- C----'s father was dead, and they had
taken her out of the convent to marry her to a lawyer. Before
leaving C---- C---- had left a letter for me, in which she said that
if I would promise to marry her at some time suitable to myself, she
would wait for me, and refuse all other offers. I answered her
straightforwardly that I had no property and no prospects, that I
left her free, advising her not to refuse any offer which might be to
In spite of this dismissal C---- C---- did not marry N---- till after
my flight from The Leads, when nobody expected to see me again in
Venice. I did not see her for nineteen years, and then I was grieved
to find her a widow, and poorly off. If I went to Venice now I
should not marry her, for at my age marriage is an absurdity, but I
would share with her my little all, and live with her as with a dear
When I hear women talking about the bad faith and inconstancy of men,
and maintaining that when men make promises of eternal constancy they
are always deceivers, I confess that they are right, and join in
their complaints. Still it cannot be helped, for the promises of
lovers are dictated by the heart, and consequently the lamentations
of women only make me want to laugh. Alas! we love without heeding
reason, and cease to love in the same manner.
About this time I received a letter from the Abbe de Bernis, who
wrote also to M---- M----. He told me that I ought to do my utmost
to make our nun take a reasonable view of things, dwelling on the
risks I should run in carrying her off and bringing her to Paris,
where all his influence would be of no avail to obtain for us that
safety so indispensable to happiness. I saw M---- M----; we shewed
each other our letters, she had some bitter tears, and her grief
pierced me to the heart. I still had a great love for her in spite
of my daily infidelities, and when I thought of those moments in
which I had seen her given over to voluptuousness I could not help
pitying her fate as I thought of the days of despair in store for
her. But soon after this an event happened which gave rise to some
wholesome reflections. One day, when I had come to see her, she
"They have just been burying a nun who died of consumption the day
before yesterday in the odour of sanctity. She was called 'Maria
Concetta.' She knew you, and told C---- C---- your name when you
used to come to mass on feast days. C---- C---- begged her to be
discreet, but the nun told her that you were a dangerous man, whose
presence should be shunned by a young girl. C---- C---- told me all
this after the mask of Pierrot."
"What was this saint's name when she was in the world?"
"I know her."
I then told M---- M---- the whole history of my loves with Nanette
and Marton, ending with the letter she wrote me, in which she said
that she owed me, indirectly, that eternal salvation to which she
hoped to attain.
In eight or ten days my conversation with my hostess' daughter--
conversation which took place on the balcony, and which generally
lasted till midnight--and the lesson I gave her every morning,
produced the inevitable and natural results; firstly, that she no
longer complained of her breath failing, and, secondly, that I fell
in love with her. Nature's cure had not yet relieved her, but she no
longer needed to be let blood. Righelini came to visit her as usual,
and seeing that she was better he prophesied that nature's remedy,
without which only art could keep her alive, would make all right
before the autumn. Her mother looked upon me as an angel sent by God
to cure her daughter, who for her part shewed me that gratitude which
with women is the first step towards love. I had made her dismiss
her old dancing master, and I had taught her to dance with extreme
At the end of these ten or twelve days, just as I was going to give
her her lesson, her breath failed instantaneously, and she fell back
into my arms like a dead woman. I was alarmed, but her mother, who
had become accustomed to see her thus, sent for the surgeon, and her
sister unlaced her. I was enchanted with her exquisite bosom, which
needed no colouring to make it more beautiful. I covered it up,
saying that the surgeon would make a false stroke if he were to see
her thus uncovered; but feeling that I laid my hand upon her with
delight, she gently repulsed me, looking at me with a languishing
gaze which made the deepest impression on me.
The surgeon came and bled her in the arm, and almost instantaneously
she recovered full consciousness. At most only four ounces of blood
were taken from her, and her mother telling me that this was the
utmost extent to which she was blooded, I saw it was no such matter
for wonder as Righelini represented it, for being blooded twice a
week she lost three pounds of blood a month, which she would have
done naturally if the vessels had not been obstructed.
The surgeon had hardly gone out of the door when to my astonishment
she told me that if I would wait for her a moment she would come back
and begin her dancing. This she did, and danced as if there had been
nothing the matter.
Her bosom, on which two of my senses were qualified to give evidence,
was the last stroke, and made me madly in love with her. I returned
to the house in the evening, and found her in her room with the
sister. She told me that she was expecting her god-father, who was
an intimate friend of her father's, and had come every evening to
spend an hour with her for the last eighteen years.
"How old is he?"
"He is over fifty."
"Is he a married man?"
"Yes, his name is Count S----. He is as fond of me as a father would
be, and his affection has continued the same since my childhood.
Even his wife comes to see me sometimes, and to ask me to dinner.
Neat autumn I am going into the country with her, and I hope the
fresh air will do me good. My god-father knows you are staying with
us and is satisfied. He does not know you, but if you like you can
make his acquaintance."
I was glad to hear all this, as I gained a good deal of useful
information without having to ask any awkward questions. The
friendship of this Greek looked very like love. He was the husband
of Countess S----, who had taken me to the convent at Muran two years
I found the count a very polite man. He thanked me in a paternal
manner for my kindness to his daughter, and begged me to do him the
honour of dining with him on the following day, telling me that he
would introduce me to his wife. I accepted his invitation with
pleasure, for I was fond of dramatic situations, and my meeting with
the countess promised to be an exciting one. This invitation bespoke
the courteous gentleman, and I charmed my pretty pupil by singing his
praises after he had gone.
"My god-father," said she, "is in possession of all the necessary
documents for withdrawing from the house of Persico our family
fortune, which amounts to forty thousand crowns. A quarter of this
sum belongs to me, and my mother has promised my sister and myself
to share her dowry between us."
I concluded from this that she would bring her husband fifteen
thousand Venetian ducats.
I guessed that she was appealing to me with her fortune, and wished
to make me in love with her by shewing herself chary of her favours;
for whenever I allowed myself any small liberties, she checked me
with words, of remonstrance to which I could find no answer. I
determined to make her pursue another course.
Next day I took her with me to her god-father's without telling her
that I knew the countess. I fancied the lady would pretend not to
know me, but I was wrong, as she welcomed me in the handsomest manner
as if I were an old friend. This, no doubt, was a surprise for the
count, but he was too much a man of the world to, shew any
astonishment. He asked her when she had made my acquaintance, and
she, like a woman of experience, answered without the slightest
hesitation that we had seen each other two years ago at Mira. The
matter was settled, and we spent a very pleasant day.
Towards evening I took the young lady in my gondola back to the
house, but wishing to shorten the journey I allowed myself to indulge
in a few caresses. I was hurt at being responded to by reproaches,
and for that reason, as soon as she had set foot on her own doorstep,
instead of getting out I went to Tonine's house, and spent nearly the
whole night there with the ambassador, who came a little after me.
Next day, as I did not get up till quite late, there was no dancing
lesson, and when I excused myself she told me not to trouble any more
about it. In the evening I sat on the balcony far into the night,
but she did not come. Vexed at this air of indifference I rose early
in the morning and went out, not returning till nightfall. She was
on the balcony, but as she kept me at a respectful distance I only
talked to her on commonplace subjects. In the morning I was roused
by a tremendous noise. I got up, and hurriedly putting on my
dressing-gown ran into her room to see what was the matter, only to
find her dying. I had no need to feign an interest in her, for I
felt the most tender concern. As it was at the beginning of July it
was extremely hot, and my fair invalid was only covered by a thin
sheet. She could only speak to me with her eyes, but though the lids
were lowered she looked upon me so lovingly! I asked her if she
suffered from palpitations, and laying my hand upon her heart I
pressed a fiery kiss upon her breast. This was the electric spark,
for she gave a sigh which did her good. She had not strength to
repulse the hand which I pressed amorously upon her heart, and
becoming bolder I fastened my burning lips upon her languid mouth.
I warmed her with my breath, and my audacious hand penetrated to the
very sanctuary of bliss. She made an effort to push me back, and
told me with her eyes, since she could not speak, how insulted she
felt. I drew back my hand, and at that moment the surgeon came.
Hardly was the vein opened when she drew a long breath, and by the
time the operation was over she wished to get up. I entreated her to
stay in bed, and her mother added her voice to mine; at last I
persuaded her, telling her that I would not leave her for a second,
and that I would have my dinner by her bedside. She then put on a
corset and asked her sister to draw a sarcenet coverlet over her, as
her limbs could be seen as plainly as through a crape veil.
Having given orders for my dinner, I sat down by her bedside, burning
with love, and taking her hand and covering it with kisses I told her
that I was sure she would get better if she would let herself love.
"Alas!" she said, "whom shall I love, not knowing whether I shall be
loved in return?"
I did not leave this question unanswered, and continuing the amorous
discourse with animation I won a sigh and a lovelorn glance. I put
my hand on her knee, begging her to let me leave it there, and
promising to go no farther, but little by little I attained the
center, and strove to give her some pleasant sensations.
"Let me alone," said she, in a sentimental voice, drawing away, "'tis
perchance the cause of my illness."
"No, sweetheart," I replied, "that cannot be." And my mouth stopped
all her objections upon her lips.
I was enchanted, for I was now in a fair way, and I saw the moment of
bliss in the distance, feeling certain that I could effect a cure if
the doctor was not mistaken. I spared her all indiscreet questions
out of regard for her modesty; but I declared myself her lover,
promising to ask nothing of her but what was necessary to feed the
fire of my love. They sent me up a very good dinner, and she did
justice to it; afterwards saying that she was quite well she got up,
and I went away to dress myself for going out. I came back early in
the evening, and found her on my balcony. There, as I sat close to
her looking into her face, speaking by turns the language of the eyes
and that of sighs, fixing my amorous gaze upon those charms which the
moonlight rendered sweeter, I made her share in the fire which
consumed me; and as I pressed her amorously to my bosom she completed
my bliss with such warmth that I could easily see that she thought
she was receiving a favour and not granting one. I sacrificed the
victim without staining the altar with blood.
Her sister came to tell her that it grew late.
"Do you go to bed," she answered; "the fresh air is doing me good,
and I want to enjoy it a little longer."
As soon as we were alone we went to bed together as if we had been
doing it for a whole year, and we passed a glorious night, I full of
love and the desire of curing her, and she of tender and ardent
voluptuousness. At day-break she embraced me, her eyes dewy with
bliss, and went to lie down in her own bed. I, like her, stood in
need of a rest, and on that day there was no talk of a dancing
lesson. In spite of the fierce pleasure of enjoyment and the
transports of this delightful girl, I did not for a moment lay
prudence aside. We continued to pass such nights as these for three
weeks, and I had the pleasure of seeing her thoroughly cured. I
should doubtless have married her, if an event had not happened to me
towards the end of the month, of which I shall speak lower down.
You will remember, dear reader, about a romance by the Abbe Chiari, a
satirical romance which Mr. Murray had given me, and in which I fared
badly enough at the author's hands I had small reason to be pleased
with him, and I let him know my opinion in such wise that the abbe
who dreaded a caning, kept upon his guard. About the same time I
received an anonymous letter, the writer of which told me that I
should be better occupied in taking care of myself than in thoughts
of chastising the abbe, for I was threatened by an imminent danger.
Anonymous letter-writers should be held in contempt, but one ought to
know how, on occasion, to make the best of advice given in that way.
I did nothing, and made a great mistake.
About the same time a man named Manuzzi, a stone setter for his first
trade, and also a spy, a vile agent of the State Inquisitors--a man
of whom I knew nothing--found a way to make my acquaintance by
offering to let me have diamonds on credit, and by this means he got
the entry of my house. As he was looking at some books scattered
here and there about the room, he stopped short at the manuscripts
which were on magic. Enjoying foolishly enough, his look of
astonishment, I shewed him the books which teach one how to summon
the elementary spirits. My readers will, I hope, do me the favour to
believe that I put no faith in these conjuring books, but I had them
by me and used to amuse myself with them as one does amuse one's self
with the multitudinous follies which proceed from the heads of
visionaries. A few days after, the traitor came to see me and told
me that a collector, whose name he might not tell me, was ready to
give me a thousand sequins for my five books, but that he would like
to examine them first to see if they were genuine. As he promised to
let me have them back in twenty-four hours, and not thinking much
about the matter, I let him have them. He did not fail to bring them
back the next day, telling me that the collector thought them
forgeries. I found out, some years after, that he had taken them to
the State Inquisitors, who thus discovered that I was a notable
Everything that happened throughout this fatal month tended to my
ruin, for Madame Memmo, mother of Andre, Bernard, and Laurent Memmo,
had taken it into her head that I had inclined her sons to atheistic
opinions, and took counsel with the old knight Antony Mocenigo,
M. de Bragadin's uncle, who was angry with me, because, as he said,
I had conspired to seduce his nephew. The matter was a serious one,
and an auto-da-fe was very possible, as it came under the
jurisdiction of the Holy Office--a kind of wild beast, with which it
is not good to quarrel. Nevertheless, as there would be some
difficulty in shutting me up in the ecclesiastical prisons of the
Holy Office, it was determined to carry my case before the State
Inquisitors, who took upon themselves the provisional duty of putting
a watch upon my manner of living.
M. Antony Condulmer, who as a friend of Abbe Chiari's was an enemy of
mine, was then an Inquisitor of State, and he took the opportunity of
looking upon me in the light of a disturber of the peace of the
commonwealth. A secretary of an embassy, whom I knew some years
after, told me that a paid informer, with two other witnesses, also,
doubtless, in the pay of this grand tribunal, had declared that I was
guilty of only believing in the devil, as if this absurd belief, if
it were possible, did not necessarily connote a belief in God! These
three honest fellows testified with an oath that when I lost money at
play, on which occasion all the faithful are wont to blaspheme, I was
never heard to curse the devil. I was further accused of eating meat
all the year round, of only going to hear fine masses, and I was
vehemently suspected of being a Freemason. It was added that I
frequented the society of foreign ministers, and that living as I did
with three noblemen, it was certain that I revealed, for the large
sums which I was seen to lose, as many state secrets as I could worm
out of them.
All these accusations, none of which had any foundation in fact,
served the Tribunal as a pretext to treat me as an enemy of the
commonwealth and as a prime conspirator. For several weeks I was
counselled by persons whom I might have trusted to go abroad whilst
the Tribunal was engaged on my case. This should have been enough,
for the only people who can live in peace at Venice are those whose
existence the Tribunal is ignorant of, but I obstinately despised all
these hints. If I had listened to the indirect advice which was
given me, I should have become anxious, and I was the sworn foe of
all anxiety. I kept saying to myself, "I feel remorse for nothing
and I am therefore guilty of nothing, and the innocent have nothing
to fear." I was a fool, for I argued as if I had been a free man in
a free country. I must also confess that what to a great extent kept
me from thinking of possible misfortune was the actual misfortune
which oppressed me from morning to night. I lost every day, I owed
money everywhere, I had pawned all my jewels, and even my portrait
cases, taking the precaution, however, of removing the portraits,
which with my important papers and my amorous letters I had placed in
the hands of Madame Manzoni. I found myself avoided in society. An
old senator told me, one day, that it was known that the young
Countess Bonafede had become mad in consequence of the love philtres
I had given her. She was still at the asylum, and in her moments of
delirium she did nothing but utter my name with curses. I must let
my readers into the secret of this small history.
This young Countess Bonafede, to whom I had given some sequins a few
days after my return to Venice, thought herself capable of making me
continue my visits, from which she had profited largely. Worried by
her letters I went to see her several times, and always left her a
few sequins, but with the exception of my first visit I was never
polite enough to give her any proofs of my affection. My coldness
had baulked all her endeavours for a year, when she played a criminal
part, of which, though I was never able absolutely to convict her, I
had every reason to believe her guilty.
She wrote me a letter, in which she importuned me to come and see her
at a certain hour on important business.
My curiosity, as well as a desire to be of service to her, took me
there at the appointed time; but as soon as she saw me she flung her
arms round my neck, and told me that the important business was love.
This made me laugh heartily, and I was pleased to find her looking
neater than usual, which, doubtless, made me find her looking
prettier. She reminded me of St. Andre, and succeeded so well in her
efforts that I was on the point of satisfying her desires. I took
off my cloak, and asked her if her father were in. She told me he
had gone out. Being obliged to go out for a minute, in coming back I
mistook the door, and I found myself in the next room, where I was
much astonished to see the count and two villainous-looking fellows
"My dear count," I said, "your daughter has just told me that you
"I myself told her to do so, as I have some business with these
gentlemen, which, however, can wait for another day."
I would have gone, but he stopped me, and having dismissed the two
men he told me that he was delighted to see me, and forthwith began
the tale of his troubles, which were of more than one kind. The
State Inquisitors had stopped his slender pension, and he was on the
eve of seeing himself driven out with his family into the streets to
beg his bread. He said that he had not been able to pay his landlord
anything for three years, but if he could pay only a quarter's rent,
he would obtain a respite, or if he persisted in turning him out, he
could make a night-flitting of it, and take up his abode somewhere
else. As he only wanted twenty ducats, I took out six sequins and
gave them to him. He embraced me, and shed tears of joy; then,
taking his poor cloak, he called his daughter, told her to keep me
company, and went out.
Alone with the countess, I examined the door of communication between
the two rooms and found it slightly open.
"Your father," I said, "would have surprised me, and it is easy to
guess what he would have done with the two sbirri who were with him.
The plot is clear, and I have only escaped from it by the happiest of
She denied, wept, called God to witness, threw herself on her knees;
but I turned my head away, and taking my cloak went away without a
word. She kept on writing to me, but her letters remained
unanswered, and I saw her no more.
It was summer-time, and between the heat, her passions, hunger, and
wretchedness, her head was turned, and she became so mad that she
went out of the house stark naked, and ran up and down St. Peter's
Place, asking those who stopped her to take her to my house. This
sad story went all over the town and caused me a great deal of
annoyance. The poor wretch was sent to an asylum, and did not
recover her reason for five years. When she came out she found
herself reduced to beg her bread in the streets, like all her
brothers, except one, whom I found a cadet in the guards of the King
of Spain twelve years afterwards.
At the time of which I am speaking all this had happened a year ago,
but the story was dug up against me, and dressed out in the attire of
fiction, and thus formed part of those clouds which were to discharge
their thunder upon me to my destruction.
In the July of 1755 the hateful court gave Messer-Grande instructions
to secure me, alive or dead. In this furious style all orders for
arrests proceeding from the Three were issued, for the least of their
commands carried with it the penalty of death.
Three or four days before the Feast of St. James, my patron saint,
M---- M---- made me a present of several ells of silver lace to trim
a sarcenet dress which I was going to wear on the eve of the feast.
I went to see her, dressed in my fine suit, and I told her that I
should come again on the day following to ask her to lend me some
money, as I did not know where to turn to find some. She was still
in possession of the five hundred sequins which she had put aside
when I had sold her diamonds.
As I was sure of getting the money in the morning I passed the night
at play, and I lost the five hundred sequins in advance. At day-
break, being in need of a little quiet, I went to the Erberia, a
space of ground on the quay of the Grand Canal. Here is held the
herb, fruit, and flower market.
People in good society who come to walk in the Erberia at a rather
early hour usually say that they come to see the hundreds of boats
laden with vegetables, fruit and flowers, which hail from the
numerous islands near the town; but everyone knows that they are men
and women who have been spending the night in the excesses of Venus
or Bacchus, or who have lost all hope at the gaming-table, and come
here to breath a purer air and to calm their minds. The fashion of
walking in this place shews how the character of a nation changes.
The Venetians of old time who made as great a mystery of love as of
state affairs, have been replaced by the modern Venetians, whose most
prominent characteristic is to make a mystery of nothing. Those who
come to the Erberia with women wish to excite the envy of their
friends by thus publishing their good fortune. Those who come alone
are on the watch for discoveries, or on the look-out for materials to
make wives or husbands jealous, the women only come to be seen, glad
to let everybody know that they are without any restraint upon their
actions. There was certainly no question of smartness there,
considering the disordered style of dress worn. The women seemed to
have agreed to shew all the signs of disorder imaginable, to give
those who saw them something to talk about. As for the men, on whose
arms they leaned, their careless and lounging airs were intended to
give the idea of a surfeit of pleasure, and to make one think that
the disordered appearance of their companions was a sure triumph they
had enjoyed. In short it was the correct thing to look tired out,
and as if one stood in need of sleep.
This veracious description, reader, will not give you a very high
opinion of the morals of my dear fellow citizens; but what object
should I have at my age for deceiving? Venice is not at the world's
end, but is well enough known to those whose curiosity brings them
into Italy; and everyone can see for himself if my pictures are
After walking up and down for half an hour, I came away, and thinking
the whole house still a-bed I drew my key out to open the door, but
what was my astonishment to find it useless, as the door was open,
and what is more, the lock burst off. I ran upstairs, and found them
all up, and my landlady uttering bitter lamentations.
"Messer-Grande," she told me, "has entered my house forcibly,
accompanied by a band of sbirri. He turned everything upside down,
on the pretext that he was in search of a portmanteau full of salt--a
highly contraband article. He said he knew that a portmanteau had
been landed there the evening before, which was quite true; but it
belonged to Count S----, and only contained linen and clothes.
Messer-Grande, after inspecting it, went out without saying a word."
He had also paid my room a visit. She told me that she must have
some reparation made her, and thinking she was in the right I
promised to speak to M. de Bragadin on the matter the same day.
Needing rest above all things, I lay down, but my nervous excitement,
which I attributed to my heavy losses at play, made me rise after
three or four hours, and I went to see M. de Bragadin, to whom I told
the whole story begging him to press for some signal amends. I made
a lively representation to him of all the grounds on which my
landlady required proportionate amends to be made, since the laws
guaranteed the peace of all law-abiding people.
I saw that the three friends were greatly saddened by what I said,
and the wise old man, quietly but sadly, told me that I should have
my answer after dinner.
De la Haye dined with us, but all through the meal, which was a
melancholy one, he spoke not a word. His silence should have told me
all, if I had not been under the influence of some malevolent genii
who would not allow me to exercise my common sense: as to the sorrow
of my three friends, I put that down to their friendship for me.
My connection with these worthy men had always been the talk of the
town, and as all were agreed that it could not be explained on
natural grounds, it was deemed to be the effect of some sorcery
exercised by me. These three men were thoroughly religious and
virtuous citizens; I was nothing if not irreligious, and Venice did
not contain a greater libertine. Virtue, it was said, may have
compassion on vice, but cannot become its friend.
After dinner M. de Bragadin took me into his closet with his two
friends, from whom he had no secrets. He told me with wonderful
calmness that instead of meditating vengeance on Messer-Grande I
should be thinking of putting myself in a place of safety.
"The portmanteau," said he, "was a mere pretext; it was you they
wanted and thought to find. Since your good genius has made them
miss you, look out for yourself; perhaps by to-morrow it may be too
late. I have been a State Inquisitor for eight months, and I know
the way in which the arrests ordered by the court are carried out.
They would not break open a door to look for a box of salt. Indeed,
it is possible that they knew you were out, and sought to warn you to
escape in this manner. Take my advice, my dear son, and set out
directly for Fusina, and thence as quickly as you can make your way
to Florence, where you can remain till I write to you that you may
return with safety. If you have no money I will give you a hundred
sequins for present expenses. Believe me that prudence bids you go."
Blinded by my folly, I answered him that being guilty of nothing I
had nothing to fear, and that consequently, although I knew his
advice was good, I could not follow it.
"The high court," said he, "may deem you guilty of crimes real or
imaginary; but in any case it will give you no account of the
accusations against you. Ask your oracle if you shall follow my
advice or not." I refused because I knew the folly of such a
proceeding, but by way of excuse I said that I only consulted it when
I was in doubt. Finally, I reasoned that if I fled I should be
shewing fear, and thus confessing my guilt, for an innocent man,
feeling no remorse, cannot reasonably be afraid of anything.
"If secrecy," said I, "is of the essence of the Court, you cannot
possibly judge, after my escape, whether I have done so rightly or
wrongly. The same reasons, which, according to your excellence, bid
me go, would forbid my return. Must I then say good-bye for ever to
my country, and all that is dear to me?" As a last resource he tried
to persuade me to pass the following day and night, at least, at the
palace. I am still ashamed of having refused the worthy old man to
whom I owed so much this favour; for the palace of a noble is sacred
to the police who dare not cross its threshold without a special
order from the Tribunal, which is practically never given; by
yielding to his request I should have avoided a grievous misfortune,
and spared the worthy old man some acute grief.
I was moved to see M. de Bragadin weeping, and perhaps I might have
granted to his tears that which I had obstinately refused to his
arguments and entreaties. "For Heaven's sake!" said I, "spare me the
harrowing sight of your tears." In an instant he summoned all his
strength to his assistance, made some indifferent remarks, and then,
with a smile full of good nature, he embraced me, saying, "Perhaps I
may be fated never to see you again, but 'Fata viam invenient'."
I embraced him affectionately, and went away, but his prediction was
verified, for I never saw him again; he died eleven years afterwards.
I found myself in the street without feeling the slightest fear, but
I was in a good deal of trouble about my debts. I had not the heart
to go to Muran to take away from M. M. her last five hundred sequins,
which sum I owed to the man who won it from me in the night; I
preferred asking him to wait eight days, and I did so. After
performing this unpleasant piece of business I returned home, and,
having consoled my landlady to the utmost of my power, I kissed the
daughter, and lay down to sleep. The date was July 25th, 1755.
Next morning at day-break who should enter my room but the awful
Messer-Grande. To awake, to see him, and to hear him asking if I
were Jacques Casanova, was the work of a moment. At my "yes, I am
Casanova," he told me to rise, to put on my clothes, to give him all
the papers and manuscripts in my possession, and to follow him.
"On whose authority do you order me to do this?"
"By the authority of the Tribunal."