This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798 IN LONDON AND MOSCOW, Volume 5d–LONDON TO BERLIN
THE MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA DE SEINGALT
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
FLIGHT FROM LONDON TO BERLIN
Bottarelli–A Letter from Pauline–The Avenging Parrot–Pocchini– Guerra, the Venetian–I Meet Sara Again; My Idea of Marrying Her and Settling in Switzerland–The Hanoverians
Thus ended the first act of the comedy; the second began the next morning. I was just getting up, when I heard a noise at the street door, and on putting my head out of the window I saw Pocchini, the scoundrel who had robbed me at Stuttgart trying to get into my house. I cried out wrathfully that I would have nothing to do with him, and slammed down my window.
A little later Goudar put in an appearance. He had got a copy of the St. James’s Chronicle, containing a brief report of my arrest, and of my being set a liberty under a bail of eighty guineas. My name and the lady’s were disguised, but Rostaing and Bottarelli were set down plainly, and the editor praised their conduct. I felt as if I should like to know Bottarelli, and begged Goudar to take me to him, and Martinelli, happening to call just then, said he would come with us.
We entered a wretched room on the third floor of a wretched house, and there we beheld a picture of the greatest misery. A woman and five children clothed in rags formed the foreground, and in the background was Bottarelli, in an old dressing-gown, writing at a table worthy of Philemon and Baucis. He rose as we came in, and the sight of him moved me to compassion. I said,–
“Do you know me, sir?”
“No, sir, I do not.”
“I am Casanova, against whom you bore false witness; whom you tried to cast into Newgate.”
“I am very sorry, but look around you and say what choice have I? I have no bread to give my children. I will do as much in your favour another time for nothing.”
“Are you not afraid of the gallows?”
“No, for perjury is not punished with death; besides it is very difficult to prove.”
“I have heard you are a poet.”
“Yes. I have lengthened the Didone and abridged the Demetrio.”
“You are a great poet, indeed!”
I felt more contempt than hatred for the rascal, and gave his wife a guinea, for which she presented me with a wretched pamphlet by her husband: “The Secrets of the Freemasons Displayed.” Bottarelli had been a monk in his native city, Pisa, and had fled to England with his wife, who had been a nun.
About this time M. de Saa surprised me by giving me a letter from my fair Portuguese, which confirmed the sad fate of poor Clairmont. Pauline said she was married to Count Al—-. I was astonished to hear M. de Saa observe that he had known all about Pauline from the moment she arrived in London. That is the hobby of all diplomatists; they like people to believe that they are omniscient. However, M. de Saa was a man of worth and talent, and one could excuse this weakness as an incident inseparable from his profession; while most diplomatists only make themselves ridiculous by their assumption of universal knowledge.
M. de Saa had been almost as badly treated by the Charpillon as myself, and we might have condoled with one another, but the subject was not mentioned.
A few days afterwards, as I was walking idly about, I passed a place called the Parrot Market. As I was amusing myself by looking at these curious birds, I saw a fine young one in a cage, and asked what language it spoke. They told me that it was quite young and did not speak at all yet, so I bought it for ten guineas. I thought I would teach the bird a pretty speech, so I had the cage hung by my bed, and repeated dozens of times every day the following sentence: “The Charpillon is a bigger wh–e than her mother.”
The only end I had in view was my private amusement, and in a fortnight the bird had learnt the phrase with the utmost exactness; and every time it uttered the words it accompanied them with a shriek of laughter which I had not taught it, but which made me laugh myself.
One day Gondar heard the bird, and told me that if I sent it to the Exchange I should certainly get fifty guineas for it. I welcomed the idea, and resolved to make the parrot the instrument of my vengeance against the woman who had treated me so badly. I secured myself from fear of the law, which is severe in such cases, by entrusting the bird to my negro, to whom such merchandise was very suitable.
For the first two or three days my parrot did not attract much attention, its observations being in French; but as soon as those who knew the subject of them had heard it, its audience increased and bids were made. Fifty guineas seemed rather too much, and my negro wanted me to lower the price, but I would not agree, having fallen in love with this odd revenge.
In the course of a week Goudar came to inform me of the effect the parrot’s criticism had produced in the Charpillon family. As the vendor was my negro, there could be no doubt as to whom it belonged, and who had been its master of languages. Goudar said that the Charpillon thought my vengeance very ingenious, but that the mother and aunts were furious. They had consulted several counsel, who agreed in saying that a parrot could not be indicted for libel, but that they could make me pay dearly for my jest if they could prove that I had been the bird’s instructor. Goudar warned me to be careful of owning to the fact, as two witnesses would suffice to undo me.
The facility with which false witnesses may be produced in London is something dreadful. I have myself seen the word evidence written in large characters in a window; this is as much as to say that false witnesses may be procured within.
The St. James’s Chronicle contained an article on my parrot, in which the writer remarked that the ladies whom the bird insulted must be very poor and friendless, or they would have bought it at once, and have thus prevented the thing from becoming the talk of the town. He added,–
“The teacher of the parrot has no doubt made the bird an instrument of his vengeance, and has displayed his wit in doing so; he ought to be an Englishman.”
I met my good friend Edgar, and asked him why he had not bought the little slanderer.
“Because it delights all who know anything about the object of the slander,” said he.
At last Jarbe found a purchaser for fifty guineas, and I heard afterwards that Lord Grosvenor had bought it to please the Charpillon, with whom he occasionally diverted himself.
Thus my relations with that girl came to an end. I have seen her since with the greatest indifference, and without any renewal of the old pain.
One day, as I was going into St. James’s Park, I saw two girls drinking milk in a room on the ground floor of a house. They called out to me, but not knowing them I passed on my way. However, a young officer of my acquaintance came after me and said they were Italians, and being curious to see them I retracted my steps.
When I entered the room I was accosted by the scoundrelly Pocchini, dressed in a military uniform, who said he had the honour of introducing me to his daughters.
“Indeed,” said I, “I remember two other daughters of yours robbing me of a snuff-box and two watches at Stuttgart.”
“You lie!” said the impudent rascal.
I gave him no verbal answer, but took up a glass of milk and flung it in his face, and then left the room without more ado.
I was without my sword. The young officer who had brought me into the place followed me and told me I must not go without giving his friend some satisfaction.
“Tell him to come out, and do you escort him to the Green Park, and I shall have the pleasure of giving him a caning in your presence, unless you would like to fight for him; if so, you must let me go home and get my sword. But do you know this man whom you call your friend?”
“No, but he is an officer, and it is I that brought him here.”
“Very good, I will fight to the last drop of my blood; but I warn you your friend is a thief. But go; I will await you.”
In the course of a quarter of an hour they all came out, but the Englishman and Pocchini followed me alone. There were a good many people about, and I went before them till we reached Hyde Park. Pocchini attempted to speak to me, but I replied, lifting my cane,–
“Scoundrel, draw your sword, unless you want me to give you a thrashing!”
“I will never draw upon a defenceless man.”
I gave him a blow with my cane by way of answer, and the coward, instead of drawing his sword, began to cry out that I wished to draw him into a fight. The Englishman burst out laughing and begged me to pardon his interference, and then, taking me by the arm, said,–
“Come along, sir, I see you know the gentleman.”
The coward went off in another direction, grumbling as he went.
On the way I informed the officer of the very good reasons I had for treating Pocchini as a rogue, and he agreed that I had been perfectly right. “Unfortunately,” he added, “I am in love with one of his daughters.”
When we were in the midst of St. James’s Park we saw them, and I could not help laughing when I noticed Goudar with one of them on each side.
“How did you come to know these ladies?” said I.
“Their father the captain,” he answered, “has sold me jewels; he introduced me to them.”
“Where did you leave our father?” asked one.
“In Hyde Park, after giving him a caning.”
“You served him quite right.”
The young Englishman was indignant to hear them approving my ill- treatment of their father, and shook my hand and went away, swearing to me that he would never be seen in their company again.
A whim of Goudar’s, to which I was weak enough to consent, made me dine with these miserable women in a tavern on the borders of London. The rascally Goudar made them drunk, and in this state they told some terrible truths about their pretended father. He did not live with them, but paid them nocturnal visits in which he robbed them of all the money they had earned. He was their pander, and made them rob their visitors instructing them to pass it off as a joke if the theft was discovered. They gave him the stolen articles, but he never said what he did with them. I could not help laughing at this involuntary confession, remembering what Goudar had said about Pocchini selling him jewels.
After this wretched meal I went away leaving the duty of escorting them back to Goudar. He came and saw me the next day, and informed me that the girls had been arrested and taken to prison just as they were entering their house.
“I have just been to Pocchini’s,” said he, “but the landlord tells me he has not been in since yesterday.”
The worthy and conscientious Goudar added that he did not care if he never saw him again, as he owed the fellow ten guineas for a watch, which his daughters had probably stolen, and which was well worth double.
Four days later I saw him again, and he informed me that the rascal had left London with a servant-maid, whom he had engaged at a registry office where any number of servants are always ready to take service with the first comer. The keeper of the office answers for their fidelity.
“The girl he has gone with is a pretty one, from what the man tells me, and they have taken ship from London. I am sorry he went away before I could pay him for the watch; I am dreading every moment to meet the individual from whom it was stolen.”
I never heard what became of the girls, but Pocchini will re-appear on the scene in due course.
I led a tranquil and orderly life, which I should have been pleased to continue for the remainder of my days; but circumstances and my destiny ordered it otherwise, and against these it is not becoming in a Christian philosopher to complain. I went several times to see my daughter at her school, and I also frequented the British Museum, where I met Dr. Mati. One day I found an Anglican minister with him, and I asked the clergyman how many different sects there were in England.
“Sir,” he replied in very tolerable Italian, “no one can give a positive answer to that question, for every week some sect dies and some new one is brought into being. All that is necessary is for a man of good faith, or some rogue desirous of money or notoriety, to stand in some frequented place and begin preaching. He explains some texts of the Bible in his own fashion, and if he pleases the gapers around him they invite him to expound next Sunday, often in a tavern. He keeps the appointment and explains his new doctrines in a spirited manner. Then people begin to talk of him; he disputes with ministers of other sects; he and his followers give themselves a name, and the thing is done. Thus, or almost thus, are all the numerous English sects produced.”
About this time M. Steffano Guerra, a noble Venetian who was travelling with the leave of his Government, lost a case against an English painter who had executed a miniature painting of one of the prettiest ladies in London, Guerra having given a written promise to pay twenty-five guineas. When it was finished Guerra did not like it, and would not take it or pay the price. The Englishman, in accordance with the English custom, began by arresting his debtor; but Guerra was released on bail, and brought the matter before the courts, which condemned him to pay the twenty-five guineas. He appealed, lost again, and was in the end obliged to pay. Guerra contented that he had ordered a portrait, that a picture bearing no likeness to the lady in question was not a portrait, and that he had therefore a right to refuse payment. The painter replied that it was a portrait as it had been painted from life. The judgment was that the painter must live by his trade, and that as Guerra had given him painting to do he must therefore provide him with the wherewithal to live, seeing that the artist swore he had done his best to catch the likeness. Everybody thought this sentence just, and so did I; but I confess it also seemed rather hard, especially to Guerra, who with costs had to pay a hundred guineas for the miniature.
Malingan’s daughter died just as her father received a public box on the ear from a nobleman who liked piquet, but did not like players who corrected the caprices of fortune. I gave the poor wretch the wherewithal to bury his daughter and to leave England. He died soon after at Liege, and his wife told me of the circumstance, saying that he had expired regretting his inability to pay his debts.
M. M—- F—- came to London as the representative of the canton of Berne, and I called, but was not received. I suspected that he had got wind of the liberties I had taken with pretty Sara, and did not want me to have an opportunity for renewing them. He was a somewhat eccentric man, so I did not take offence, and had almost forgotten all about it when chance led me to the Marylebone Theatre one evening. The spectators sat at little tables, and the charge for admittance was only a shilling, but everyone was expected to order something, were it only a pot of ale.
On going into the theatre I chanced to sit down beside a girl whom I did not notice at first, but soon after I came in she turned towards me, and I beheld a ravishing profile which somehow seemed familiar; but I attributed that to the idea of perfect beauty that was graven on my soul. The more I looked at her the surer I felt that I had never seen her before, though a smile of inexpressible slyness had begun to play about her lips. One of her gloves fell, and I hastened to restore it to her, whereupon she thanked me in a few well-chosen French sentences.
“Madam is not English, then?” said I, respectfully.
“No, sir, I am a Swiss, and a friend of yours.”
At this I looked round, and on my right hand sat Madame M—- F—-, then her eldest daughter, then her husband. I got up, and after bowing to the lady, for whom I had a great esteem, I saluted her husband, who only replied by a slight movement of the head. I asked Madame M—- F—- what her husband had against me, and she said that Possano had written to him telling some dreadful stories about me.
There was not time for me to explain and justify myself, so I devoted all my energies to the task of winning the daughter’s good graces. In three years she had grown into a perfect beauty: she knew it, and by her blushes as she spoke to me I knew she was thinking of what had passed between us in the presence of my housekeeper. I was anxious to find out whether she would acknowledge the fact, or deny it altogether. If she had done so I should have despised her. When I had seen her before, the blossom of her beauty was still in the bud, now it had opened out in all its splendour.
“Charming Sara,” I said, “you have so enchanted me that I cannot help asking you a couple of questions, which if you value my peace of mind you will answer. Do you remember what happened at Berne?”
“And do you repent of what you did?”
No man of any delicacy could ask the third question, which may be understood. I felt sure that Sara would make me happy-nay, that she was even longing for the moment, and gave reins to my passions, determined to convince her that I was deserving of her love. The waiter came to enquire if we had any orders, and I begged Madame M—- F—- to allow me to offer her some oysters. After the usual polite refusals she gave in, and I profited by her acceptance to order all the delicacies of the season, including a hare (a great delicacy in London), champagne, choice liqueurs, larks, ortolans, truffles, sweetmeats–everything, in fact, that money could buy, and I was not at all surprised when the bill proved to amount to ten guineas. But I was very much surprised when M. M—- F—-, who had eaten like a Turk and drunk like a Swiss, said calmly that it was too dear.
I begged him politely not to trouble himself about the cost; and by way of proving that I did not share his opinion, I gave the waiter half-a-guinea; the worthy man looked as if he wished that such customers came more often. The Swiss, who had been pale and gloomy enough a short while before; was rubicund and affable. Sara glanced at me and squeezed my hand; I had conquered.
When the play was over, M—- F—- asked me if I would allow him to call on me. I embraced him in reply. His servant came in, and said that he could not find a coach; and I, feeling rather surprised that he had not brought his carriage, offered him the use of mine, telling my man to get me a sedan-chair.
“I accept your kind offer,” said he, “on the condition that you allow me to occupy the chair.”
I consented to this arrangement, and took the mother and the two daughters with me in the carriage.
On the way, Madame M—- F—- was very polite, gently blaming her husband for the rudeness of which I had to complain. I said that I would avenge myself by paying an assiduous court to him in the future; but she pierced me to the heart by saying that they were on the point of departing. “We wanted to go on the day after next,” she said, “and to-morrow we shall have to leave our present rooms to their new occupants. A matter of business which my husband was not able to conclude will oblige us to stay for another week, and to- morrow we shall have the double task of moving and finding new apartments.”
“Then you have not yet got new rooms?”
“No, but my husband says he is certain to find some to-morrow morning.”
“Furnished, I suppose, for as you intend to leave you will be selling, your furniture.”
“Yes, and we shall have to pay the expenses of carriage to the buyer.”
On hearing that M. M—- F—- was sure of finding lodgings, I was precluded from offering to accommodate them in my own house, as the lady might think that I only made the offer because I was sure it would not be accepted.
When we got to the door of their house we alighted, and the mother begged me to come in. She and her husband slept on the second floor, and the two girls on the third. Everything was upside down, and as Madame M—- F—- had something to say to the landlady she asked me to go up with her daughters. It was cold, and the room we entered had no fire in it. The sister went into the room adjoining and I stayed with Sara, and all of a sudden I clasped her to my breast, and feeling that her desires were as ardent as mine I fell with her on to a sofa where we mingled our beings in all the delights of voluptuous ardours. But this happiness was short lived; scarcely was the work achieved when we heard a footstep on the stair. It was the father.
If M—- F—- had had any eyes he must have found us out, for my face bore the marks of agitation, the nature of which it was easy to divine. We exchanged a few brief compliments; I shook his hand and disappeared. I was in such a state of excitement when I got home that I made up my mind to leave England and to follow Sara to Switzerland. In the night I formed my plans, and resolved to offer the family my house during the time they stayed in England, and if necessary to force them to accept my offer.
In the morning I hastened to call on M—- F—-, and found him on his doorstep.
“I am going to try and get a couple of rooms,” said he.
“They are already found,” I replied. “My house is at your service, and you must give me the preference. Let us come upstairs.”
“Everybody is in bed.”
“Never mind,” said I, and we proceeded to go upstairs.
Madame M—- F—- apologized for being in bed. Her husband told her that I wanted to let them some rooms, but I laughed and said I desired they would accept my hospitality as that of a friend. After some polite denials my offer was accepted, and it was agreed that the whole family should take up their quarters with me in the evening.
I went home, and was giving the necessary orders when I was told that two young ladies wished to see me. I went down in person, and I was agreeably surprised to see Sara and her sister. I asked them to come in, and Sara told me that the landlady would not let their belongings out of the house before her father paid a debt of forty guineas, although a city merchant had assured her it should be settled in a week. The long and snort of it was that Sara’s father had sent me a bill and begged me to discount it.
I took the bill and gave her a bank note for fifty pounds in exchange, telling her that she could give me the change another time. She thanked me with great simplicity and went her way, leaving me delighted with the confidence she had placed in me.
The fact of M. M—- F—-‘s wanting forty guineas did not make me divine that he was in some straits, for I looked at everything through rose-coloured glasses, and was only too happy to be of service to him.
I made a slight dinner in order to have a better appetite for supper, and spent the afternoon in writing letters. In the evening M. M—- F—-‘s man came with three great trunks and innumerable card-board boxes, telling me that the family would soon follow; but I awaited them in vain till nine o’clock. I began to get alarmed and went to the house, where I found them all in a state of consternation. Two ill-looking fellows who were in the room enlightened me; and assuming a jovial and unconcerned air, I said,–
“I’ll wager, now, that this is the work of some fierce creditor.”
“You are right,” answered the father, “but I am sure of discharging the debt in five or six days, and that’s why I put off my departure.”
“Then you were arrested after you had sent on your trunks.”
“And what have you done?”
“I have sent for bail.”
“Why did you not send to me?”
“Thank you, I am grateful for your kindness, but you are a foreigner, and sureties have to be householders.”
“But you ought to have told me what had happened, for I have got you an excellent supper, and I am dying of hunger.”
It was possible that this debt might exceed my means, so I did not dare to offer to pay it. I took Sara aside, and on hearing that all his trouble was on account of a debt of a hundred and fifty pounds, I asked the bailiff whether we could go away if the debt was paid.
“Certainly,” said he, shewing me the bill of exchange.
I took out three bank notes of fifty pounds each, and gave them to the man, and taking the bill I said to the poor Swiss,–
“You shall pay me the money before you leave England.”
The whole family wept with joy, and after embracing them all I summoned them to come and sup with me and forget the troubles of life.
We drove off to my house and had a merry supper, though the worthy mother could not quite forget her sadness. After supper I took them to the rooms which had been prepared for them, and with which they were delighted, and so I wished them good night, telling them that they should be well entertained till their departure, and that I hoped to follow them into Switzerland.
When I awoke the next day I was in a happy frame of mind. On examining my desires I found that they had grown too strong to be overcome, but I did not wish to overcome them. I loved Sara, and I felt so certain of possessing her that I put all desires out of my mind; desires are born only of doubt, and doubt torments the soul. Sara was mine; she had given herself to me out of pure passion, without any shadow of self-interest.
I went to the father’s room, and found him engaged in opening his trunks. His wife looked sad, so I asked her if she were not well. She replied that her health was perfect, but that the thought of the sea voyage troubled her sorely. The father begged me to excuse him at breakfast as he had business to attend to. The two young ladies came down, and after we had breakfast I asked the mother why they were unpacking their trunks so short a time before starting. She smiled and said that one trunk would be ample for all their possessions, as they had resolved to sell all superfluities. As I had seen some beautiful dresses, fine linen, and exquisite lace, I could not refrain from saying that it would be a great pity to sell cheaply what would have to be replaced dearly.
“You are right,” she said, “but, nevertheless, there is no pleasure so great as the consciousness of having paid one’s debts.”
“You must not sell anything,” I replied, in a lively manner, “for as I am going to Switzerland with you I can pay your debts, and you shall repay me when you can.”
At these words astonishment was depicted on her face.
“I did not think you were speaking seriously,” said she.
“Perfectly seriously, and here is the object of my vows.”
With these words I seized Sara’s hand and covered it with kisses.
Sara blushed, said nothing, and the mother looked kindly at us; but after a moment’s silence she spoke at some length, and with the utmost candour and wisdom. She gave me circumstantial information as to the position of the family and her husband’s restricted means, saying that under the circumstances he could not have avoided running into debt, but that he had done wrong to bring them all with him to London.
“If he had been by himself,” she said, “he could have lived here comfortably enough with only one servant, but with a family to provide for the two thousand crowns per annum provided by the Government are quite insufficient. My old father has succeeded in persuading the State to discharge my husband’s debts, but to make up the extra expense they will not employ a Charge d’affaires; a banker with the title of agent will collect the interest on their English securities.”
She ended by saying that she thought Sara was fortunate to have pleased me, but that she was not sure whether her husband would consent to the marriage.
The word “marriage” made Sara blush, and I was pleased, though it was evident there would be difficulties in the way.
M—- F—- came back and told his wife that two clothes dealers would come to purchase their superfluous clothes in the afternoon; but after explaining my ideas I had not much trouble in convincing him that it would be better not to sell them, and that he could become my debtor to the amount of two hundred pounds, on which he could pay interest till he was able to return me my capital. The agreement was written out the same day, but I did not mention the marriage question, as his wife had told me she would discuss it with him in private.
On the third day he came down by himself to talk with me.
“My wife,” he began, “has told me of your intentions, and I take it as a great honour, I assure you; but I cannot give you my Sara, as she is promised to M. de W—-, and family reasons prevent me from going back from my word. Besides my old father, a strict Calvinist, would object to the difference in religion. He would never believe that his dear little grandchild would be happy with a Roman Catholic”
As a matter of fact I was not at all displeased at what he said. I was certainly very fond of Sara, but the word “marriage” had a disagreeable sound to me. I answered that circumstances might change in time, and that in the meanwhile I should be quite content if he would allow me to be the friend of the family and to take upon myself all the responsibility of the journey. He promised everything, and assured me that he was delighted at his daughter having won my affection.
After this explanation I gave Sara as warm marks of my love as decency would allow in the presence of her father and mother, and I could see that all the girl thought of was love.
The fifth day I went up to her room, and finding her in bed all the fires of passion flamed up in my breast, for since my first visit to their house I had not been alone with her. I threw myself upon her, covering her with kisses, and she shewed herself affectionate but reserved. In vain I endeavoured to succeed; she opposed a gentle resistance to my efforts, and though she caressed me, she would not let me attain my end.
“Why, divine Sara,” said I, “do you oppose my loving ecstasy?”
“Dearest, I entreat of you not to ask for any more than I am willing to give.”
“Then you no longer love me?”
“Cruel man, I adore you!”
“Then why do you treat me to a refusal, after having once surrendered unreservedly?”
“I have given myself to you, and we have both been happy, and I think that should be enough for us.”
“There must be some reason for this change. If you love me, dearest Sara, this renunciation must be hard for you to bear.”
“I confess it, but nevertheless I feel it is my duty. I have made up my mind to subdue my passion from no weak motive, but from a sense of what I owe to myself. I am under obligations to you, and if I were to repay the debt I have contracted with my body I should be degraded in my own eyes. When we enjoyed each other before only love was between us–there was no question of debit and credit. My heart is now the thrall of what I owe you, and to these debts it will not give what it gave so readily to love.”
“This is a strange philosophy, Sara; believe me it is fallacious, and the enemy of your happiness as well as mine. These sophisms lead you astray and wound me to the heart. Give me some credit for delicacy of feeling, and believe me you owe me nothing.”
“You must confess that if you had not loved me you would have done nothing for my father.”
“Certainly I will confess nothing of the kind; I would readily do as much, and maybe more, out of regard for your worthy mother. It is quite possible, indeed, that in doing this small service for your father I had no thoughts of you at all.”
“It might be so; but I do not believe it was so. Forgive me, dearest, but I cannot make up my mind to pay my debts in the way you wish.”
“It seems to me that if you are grateful to me your love ought to be still more ardent.”
“It cannot be more ardent than it is already.”
“Do you know how grievously you make me suffer?”
“Alas! I suffer too; but do not reproach me; let us love each other still.”
This dialogue is not the hundredth part of what actually passed between us till dinner-time. The mother came in, and finding me seated at the foot of the daughter’s bed, laughed, and asked me why I kept her in bed. I answered with perfect coolness that we had been so interested in our conversation that we had not noticed the flight of time.
I went to dress, and as I thought over the extraordinary change which had taken place in Sara I resolved that it should not last for long. We dined together gaily, and Sara and I behaved in all respects like two lovers. In the evening I took them to the Italian Opera, coming home to an excellent supper.
The next morning I passed in the city, having accounts to settle with my bankers. I got some letters of exchange on Geneva, and said farewell to the worthy Mr. Bosanquet. In the afternoon I got a coach for Madame M—- F—- to pay some farewells calls, and I went to say good-bye to my daughter at school. The dear little girl burst into tears, saying that she would be lost without me, and begging me not to forget her. I was deeply moved. Sophie begged me to go and see her mother before I left England, and I decided on doing so.
At supper we talked over our journey, and M. M—- F—- agreed with me that it would be better to go by Dunkirk than Ostend. He had very little more business to attend to. His debts were paid, and he said he thought he would have a matter of fifty guineas in his pocket at the journey’s end, after paying a third share of all the travelling expenses. I had to agree to this, though I made up my mind at the same time not to let him see any of the accounts. I hoped to win Sara, in one way or another, when we got to Berne.
The next day, after breakfast, I took her hand in presence of her mother, and asked her if she would give me her heart if I could obtain her father’s consent at Berne.
“Your mother,” I added, “has promised me that hers shall not be wanting.”
At this the mother got up, and saying that we had no doubt a good deal to talk over, she and her eldest daughter went out to pay some calls.
As soon as we were alone Sara said that she could not understand how I could have the smallest doubt as to whether her consent would be given.
“I have shewn you how well I love you,” said she, tenderly; “and I am sure I should be very happy as your wife. You may be sure that your wishes will be mine, and that, however far you lead me, Switzerland shall claim no thought of mine.”
I pressed the amorous Sara to my bosom in a transport of delight, which was shared by her; but as she saw me grow more ardent she begged me to be moderate. Clasping me in her arms she adjured me not to ask her for that which she was determined not to grant till she was mine by lawful wedlock.
“You will drive me to despair! Have you reflected that this resistance may cost me my life? Can you love, and yet entertain this fatal prejudice? And yet I am sure you love me, and pleasure too.”
“Yes, dearest one, I do love you, and amorous pleasure with you; but you must respect my delicacy.”
My eyes were wet with tears, and she was so affected that she fell fainting to the ground. I lifted her up and gently laid her on the bed. Her pallor alarmed me. I brought smelling-salts, I rubbed her forehead with Savoy-water, and she soon opened her eyes, and seemed delighted to find me calm again.
The thought of taking advantage of her helplessness would have horrified me. She sat up on the bed, and said,–
“You have just given a true proof of the sincerity of your affection.”
“Did you think, sweetheart, that I was vile enough to abuse your weakness? Could I enjoy a pleasure in which you had no share?”
“I did not think you would do such a thing, but I should not have resisted, though it is possible that I should not have loved you afterwards.”
“Sara, though you do not know, you charm my soul out of my body.”
After this I sat down sadly on the bed, and abandoned myself to the most melancholy reflections, from which Sara did not endeavour to rouse me.
Her mother came in and asked why she was on the bed, but not at all suspiciously. Sara told her the truth.
M. M—- F—- came in soon after, and we dined together, but silently. What I had heard from the girl’s lips had completely overwhelmed me. I saw I had nothing to hope for, and that it was time for me to look to myself. Six weeks before, God had delivered me from my bondage to an infamous woman, and now I was in danger of becoming the slave of an angel. Such were my reflections whilst Sara was fainting, but it was necessary for me to consider the matter at my leisure.
There was a sale of valuable articles in the city, the means taken for disposing of them being a lottery. Sara had read the announcement, and I asked her with her mother and sister to come with me and take part in it. I had not much trouble in obtaining their consent, and we found ourselves in distinguished company, among the persons present being the Countess of Harrington, Lady Stanhope, and Emilie and her daughters. Emilie had a strange case before the courts. She had given information to the police that her husband had been robbed of six thousand pounds, though everyone said that she herself was the thief.
Madame M—- F—- did not take a ticket, but she allowed me to take tickets for her daughters, who were in high glee, since for ten or twelve guineas they got articles worth sixty.
Every day I was more taken with Sara; but feeling sure that I should only obtain slight favours from her, I thought it was time to come to an explanation. So after supper I said that as it was not certain that Sara could become my wife I had determined not to accompany them to Berne. The father told me I was very wise, and that I could still correspond with his daughter, Sara said nothing, but I could see she was much grieved.
I passed a dreadful night; such an experience was altogether new to me. I weighed Sara’s reasons, and they seemed to me to be merely frivolous, which drove me to conclude that my caresses had displeased her.
For the last three days I found myself more than once alone with her; but I was studiously moderate, and she caressed me in a manner that would have made my bliss if I had not already obtained the one great favour. It was at this time I learnt the truth of the maxim that if abstinence is sometimes the spur of love, it has also the contrary effect. Sara had brought my feeling to a pitch of gentle friendship, while an infamous prostitute like the Charpillon, who knew how to renew hope and yet grant nothing, ended by inspiring me with contempt, and finally with hatred.
The family sailed for Ostend, and I accompanied them to the mouth of the Thames. I gave Sara a letter for Madame de W—-. This was the name of the learned Hedvig whom she did not know. They afterwards became sisters-in-law, as Sara married a brother of M. de W—-, and was happy with him.
Even now I am glad to hear tidings of my old friends and their doings, but the interest I take in such matters is not to be compared to my interest in some obscure story of ancient history. For our contemporaries, the companions, of our youthful follies, we have a kind of contempt, somewhat similar to that which we entertain for ourselves. Four years ago I wrote to Madame G—- at Hamburg, and my letter began:
“After a silence of twenty-one years . . .”
She did not deign to reply, and I was by no means displeased. We cared no longer for one another, and it is quite natural that it should be so.
When I tell my reader who Madame G—- is, he will be amused. Two years ago I set out for Hamburg, but my good genius made me turn back to Dux; what had I to do at Hamburg?
After my guests were gone I went to the Italian Opera at Covent Garden, and met Goudar, who asked me if I would come to the Sartori’s concert. He told me I should see a beautiful young English woman there who spoke Italian. As I had just lost Sara I did not much care about making new acquaintances, but still I was curious to see the young marvel. I indulged my curiosity, and I am glad to say that instead of being amused I was wearied, though the young English woman was pretty enough. A young Livonian, who called himself Baron of Stenau, seemed extremely interested in her. After supper she offered us tickets for the next concert, and I took one for myself and one for Gondar, giving her two guineas, but the Livonian baron took fifty tickets, and gave her a bank note for fifty guineas. I saw by this that he wanted to take the place by storm, and I liked his way of doing it. I supposed him to be rich, without caring to enquire into his means. He made advances to me and we became friends, and the reader will see in due time what a fatal acquaintance he was.
One day as I was walking with Goudar in Hyde Park he left me to speak to two ladies who seemed pretty.
He was not long absent, and said, when he rejoined me,–
“A Hanoverian lady, a widow and the mother of five daughters, came to England two months ago with her whole family. She lives close by, and is occupied in soliciting compensation from the Government for any injury that was done her by the passage of the Duke of Cumberland’s army. The mother herself is sick and and never leaves her bed; she sends her two eldest daughters to petition the Government, and they are the two young ladies you have just seen. They have not met with any success. The eldest daughter is twenty- two, and the youngest fourteen; they are all pretty and can speak English, French, and German equally well, and are always glad to see visitors. I had been to visit them myself, but as I gave them nothing I do not care to go there alone a second time. If you like, however, I can introduce you.”
“You irritate my curiosity. Come along, but if the one that pleases me is not complaisant she shall have nothing.”
“They will not even allow one to take them by the hand.”
“They are Charpillons, I suppose.”
“It looks like it. But you won’t see any men there:”
We were shewn into a large room where I noticed three pretty girls and an evil-looking man. I began with the usual compliments, to which the girls replied politely, but with an air of great sadness.
Goudar spoke to the man, and then came to me shrugging his shoulders, and saying,–
“We have come at a sad time. That man is a bailiff who has come to take the mother to prison if she can’t pay her landlord the twenty guineas’ rent she owes him, and they haven’t got a farthing. When the mother has been sent to prison the landlord will no doubt turn the girls out of doors.”
“They can live with their mother for nothing.”
“Not at all. If they have got the money they can have their meals in prison, but no one is allowed to live in a prison except the prisoners.”
I asked one of them where her sisters were.
“They have gone out, to look for money, for the landlord won’t accept any surety, and we have nothing to sell.”
“All this is very sad; what does your mother say?”
“She only weeps, and yet, though she is ill and cannot leave her bed, they are going to take her to prison. By way of consolation the landlord says he will have her carried.”
“It is very hard. But your looks please me, mademoiselle, and if you will be kind I may be able to extricate you from the difficulty.”
“I do not know what you mean by ‘kind.'”
“Your mother will understand; go and ask her.”
“Sir, you do not know us; we are honest girls, and ladies of position besides.”
With these words the young woman turned her back on me, and began to weep again. The two others, who were quite as pretty, stood straight up and said not a word. Goudar whispered to me in Italian that unless we did something for them we should cut but a sorry figure there; and I was cruel enough to go away without saying a word.
As we were leaving the house we met the two eldest sisters, who came home looking very sad. I was struck by their beauty, and extremely surprised to hear myself greeted by one of them, who said,–
“It is M. the Chevalier de Seingalt.”
“Himself, mademoiselle, and sorely grieved at your misfortune.”
“Be kind enough to come in again for a moment.”
“I am sorry to say that I have an important engagement.”
“I will not keep you for longer than a quarter of an hour.”
I could not refuse so small a favour, and she employed the time in telling me how unfortunate they had been in Hanover, how they had come to London to obtain compensation, of their failure, their debts, the cruelty of the landlord, their mother’s illness, the prison that awaited her, the likelihood of their being cast into the street, and the cruelty of all their acquaintances.
“We have nothing to sell, and all our resources consist of two shillings, which we shall have to spend on bread, on which we live.”
“Who are your friends? How can they abandon you at such a time?”
She mentioned several names–among others, Lord Baltimore, Marquis Carracioli, the Neapolitan ambassador, and Lord Pembroke.
“I can’t believe it,” said I, “for I know the two last noblemen to be both rich and generous. There must be some good reason for their conduct, since you are beautiful; and for these gentlemen beauty is a bill to be honoured on sight.”
“Yes, there is a reason. These rich noblemen abandon us with contempt. They refuse to take pity on us because we refuse to yield to their guilty passion.”
“That is to say, they have taken a fancy to you, and as you will not have pity on them they refuse to have pity on you. Is it not so?”
“That is exactly the situation.”
“Then I think they are in the right.”
“In the right?”
“Yes, I am quite of their opinion. We leave you to enjoy your sense of virtue, and we spend our money in procuring those favours which you refuse us. Your misfortune really is your prettiness, if you were ugly you would get twenty guineas fast enough. I would give you the money myself, and the action would be put down to benevolence; whereas, as the case stands, if I were to give you anything it would be thought that I was actuated by the hope of favours to come, and I should be laughed at, and deservedly, as a dupe.”
I felt that this was the proper way to speak to the girl, whose eloquence in pleading her cause was simply wonderful.
She did not reply to my oration, and I asked her how she came to know me.
“I saw you at Richmond with the Charpillon.”
“She cost me two thousand guineas, and I got nothing for my money; but I have profited by the lesson, and in future I shall never pay in advance.”
Just then her mother called her, and, begging me to wait a moment, she went into her room, and returned almost directly with the request that I would come and speak to the invalid.
I found her sitting up in her bed; she looked about forty-five, and still preserved traces of her former beauty; her countenance bore the imprint of sadness, but had no marks of sickness whatsoever. Her brilliant and expressive eyes, her intellectual face, and a suggestion of craft about her, all bade me be on my guard, and a sort of false likeness to the Charpillon’s mother made me still more cautious, and fortified me in my resolution to give no heed to the appeals of pity.
“Madam,” I began, “what can I do for you?”
“Sir,” she replied, “I have heard the whole of your conversations with my daughters, and you must confess that you have not talked to them in a very fatherly manner.”
“Quite so, but the only part which I desire to play with them is that of lover, and a fatherly style would not have been suitable to the part. If I had the happiness of being their father, the case would be altered. What I have said to your daughters is what I feel, and what I think most likely to bring about the end I have in view. I have not the slightest pretence to virtue, but I adore the fair sex, and now you and they know the road to my purse. If they wish to preserve their virtue, why let them; nobody will trouble them, and they, on their side, must not expect anything from men. Good-bye, madam; you may reckon on my never addressing your daughters again.”
“Wait a moment, sir. My husband was the Count of —-, and you see that my daughters are of respectable birth.”
“Have you not pity for our situation?”
“I pity you extremely, and I would relieve you in an instant if your daughters were ugly, but as it is they are pretty, and that alters the case.”
“What an argument!”
“It is a very strong one with me, and I think I am the best judge of arguments which apply to myself. You want twenty guineas; well, you shall have them after one of your five countesses has spent a joyous night with me.”
“What language to a woman of my station! Nobody has ever dared to speak to me in such a way before.”
“Pardon me, but what use is rank without a halfpenny? Allow me to retire.
“To-day we have only bread to eat.”
“Well, certainly that is rather hard on countesses.”
“You are laughing at the title, apparently.”
“Yes, I am; but I don’t want to offend you. If you like, I will stop to dinner, and pay for all, yourself included.”
“You are an eccentric individual. My girls are sad, for I am going to prison. You will find their company wearisome.”
“That is my affair.”
“You had much better give them the money you would spend on the dinner.”
“No, madam. I must have at least the pleasures of sight and sound for my money. I will stay your arrest till to-morrow, and afterwards Providence may possibly intervene on your behalf.”
“The landlord will not wait.”
“Leave me to deal with him.”
I told Goudar to go and see what the man would take to send the bailiff away for twenty-four hours. He returned with the message that he must have a guinea and bail for the twenty guineas, in case the lodgers might take to flight before the next day.
My wine merchant lived close by. I told Gondar to wait for me, and the matter was soon settled and the bailiff sent away, and I told the five girls that they might take their ease for twenty-four hours more.
I informed Gondar of the steps I had taken, and told him to go out and get a good dinner for eight people. He went on his errand, and I summoned the girls to their mother’s bedside, and delighted them all by telling them that for the next twenty-four hours they were to make good cheer. They could not get over their surprise at the suddenness of the change I had worked in the house.
“But this is all I can do for you,” said I to the mother. “Your daughters are charming, and I have obtained a day’s respite for you all without asking for anything in return; I shall dine, sup, and pass the night with them without asking so much as a single kiss, but if your ideas have not changed by to-morrow you will be in exactly the same position as you were a few minutes ago, and I shall not trouble you any more with my attentions.”
“What do you mean my ‘changing my ideas’?”
“I need not tell you, for you know perfectly well what I mean.”
“My daughters shall never become prostitutes.”
“I will proclaim their spotless chastity all over London–but I shall spend my guineas elsewhere.”
“You are a cruel man.”
“I confess I can be very cruel, but it is only when I don’t meet with kindness.”
Goudar came back and we returned to the ladies’ room, as the mother did not like to shew herself to my friend, telling me that I was the only man she had permitted to see her in bed during the whole time she had been in London.
Our English dinner was excellent in its way, but my chief pleasure was to see the voracity with which the girls devoured the meal. One would have thought they were savages devouring raw meat after a long fast. I had got a case of excellent wine and I made each of them drink a bottle, but not being accustomed to such an indulgence they became quite drunk. The mother had devoured the whole of the plentiful helpings I had sent in to her, and she had emptied a bottle of Burgundy, which she carried very well.
In spite of their intoxication, the girls were perfectly safe; I kept my word, and Goudar did not take the slightest liberty. We had a pleasant supper, and after a bowl of punch I left them feeling in love with the whole bevy, and very uncertain whether I should be able to shew as brave a front the next day.
As we were going away Goudar said that I was conducting the affair admirably, but if I made a single slip I should be undone.
I saw the good sense of his advice, and determined to shew that I was as sharp as he.
The next day, feeling anxious to hear the result of the council which the mother had doubtless held with the daughters, I called at their house at ten o’clock. The two eldest sisters were out, endeavouring to beat up some more friends, and the three youngest rushed up to me as if they had been spaniels and I their master, but they would not even allow me to kiss them. I told them they made a mistake, and knocked at the mother’s door. She told me to come in, and thanked me for the happy day I had given them.
“Am I to withdraw my bail, countess?”
“You can do what you like, but I do not think you capable of such an action.”
“You are mistaken. You have doubtless made a deep study of the human heart; but you either know little of the human mind, or else you think you have a larger share than any other person. All your daughters have inspired me with love, but were it a matter of life and death I would not do a single thing for them or you before you have done me the only favour that is in your power. I leave you to your reflections, and more especially to your virtues.”
She begged me to stay, but I did not even listen to her. I passed by the three charmers, and after telling my wine merchant to withdraw his security I went in a furious mood to call on Lord Pembroke. As soon as I mentioned the Hanoverians he burst out laughing, and said these false innocents must be made to fulfil their occupation in a proper manner.
“They came whining to me yesterday,” he proceeded, “and I not only would not give them anything, but I laughed them to scorn. They have got about twelve guineas out of me on false pretences; they are as cunning sluts as the Charpillon.”
I told him what I had done the day before, and what I intended to offer: twenty guineas for the first, and as much for each of the others, but nothing to be paid in advance.
“I had the same idea myself, but I cried off, and I don’t think you’ll succeed, as Lord Baltimore offered them forty apiece; that is two hundred guineas in all, and the bargain has fallen through because they want the money to be paid in advance. They paid him a visit yesterday, but found him pitiless, for he has been taken in several times by them.”
“We shall see what will happen when the mother is under lock and key; I’ll bet we shall have them cheaply.”
I came home for dinner, and Goudar, who had just been at their house, reported that the bailiff would only wait till four o’clock, that the two eldest daughters had come back empty-handed, and that they had been obliged to sell one of their dresses to buy a morsel of bread.
I felt certain that they would have recourse to me again, and I was right. We were at dessert when they put in an appearance. I made them sit down, and the eldest sister exhausted her eloquence to persuade me to give them another three days’ grace.
“You will find me insensible,” said I, “unless you are willing to adopt my plan. If you wish to hear it, kindly follow me into the next room.”
She did so, leaving her sister with Goudar, and making her sit down on a sofa beside me, I shewed her twenty guineas, saying,–
“These are yours; but you know on what terms?”
She rejected my offer with disdain, and thinking she might wish to salve her virtue by being attacked, I set to work; but finding her resistance serious I let her alone, and begged her to leave my house immediately. She called to her sister, and they both went out.
In the evening, as I was going to the play, I called on my wine merchant to hear the news. He told me that the mother had been taken to prison, and that the youngest daughter had gone with her; but he did not know what had become of the four others.
I went home feeling quite sad, and almost reproaching myself for not having taken compassion on then; however, just as I was sitting down to supper they appeared before me like four Magdalens. The eldest, who was the orator of the company, told me that their mother was in prison, and that they would have to pass the night in the street if I did not take pity on them.
“You shall have rooms, beds, and good fires,” said I, “but first let me see you eat.”
Delight appeared on every countenance, and I had numerous dishes brought for them. They ate eagerly but sadly, and only drank water.
“Your melancholy and your abstinence displeases me,” said I, to the eldest girl; “go upstairs and you will find everything necessary for your comfort, but take care to be gone at seven in the morning and not to let me see your faces again.”
They went up to the second floor without a word.
An hour afterwards, just as I was going to bed, the eldest girl came into my room and said she wished to have a private interview with me. I told my negro to withdraw, and asked her to explain herself.
“What will you do for us,” said she, “if I consent to share your couch?”
“I will give you twenty guineas, and I will lodge and board you as long as you give me satisfaction.”
Without saying a word she began to undress, and got into bed. She was submissive and nothing more, and did not give me so much as a kiss. At the end of a quarter of an hour I was disgusted with her and got up, and giving her a bank note for twenty guineas I told her to put on her clothes and go back to her room.
“You must all leave my house to-morrow,” I said, “for I am ill pleased with you. Instead of giving yourself up for love you have prostituted yourself. I blush for you.”
She obeyed mutely, and I went to sleep in an ill humour.
At about seven o’clock in the morning I was awakened by a hand shaking me gently. I opened my eyes, and I was surprised to see the second daughter.
“What do you want?” I said, coldly.
“I want you to take pity on us, and shelter us in your house for a few days longer. I will be very grateful. My sister has told me all, you are displeased with her, but you must forgive her, for her heart is not her own. She is in love with an Italian who is in prison for debt.”
“And I suppose you are in love with someone else?” “No, I am not.”
“Could you love me?”
She lowered her eyes, and pressed my hand gently. I drew her towards me, and embraced her, and as I felt her kisses answer mine, I said,–
“You have conquered.”
“My name is Victoire.”
“I like it, and I will prove the omen a true one.”
Victoire, who was tender and passionate, made me spend two delicious hours, which compensated me for my bad quarter of an hour of the night before.
When our exploits were over, I said,–
“Dearest Victoire, I am wholly throe. Let your mother be brought here as soon as she is free. Here are twenty guineas for you.”
She did not expect anything, and the agreeable surprise made her in an ecstasy; she could not speak, but her heart was full of happiness. I too was happy, and I believed that a great part of my happiness was caused by the knowledge that I had done a good deed. We are queer creatures all of us, whether we are bad or good. From that moment I gave my servants orders to lay the table for eight persons every day, and told them that I was only at home to Goudar. I spent money madly, and felt that I was within a measurable distance of poverty.
At noon the mother came in a sedan-chair, and went to bed directly. I went to see her, and did not evince any surprise when she began to thank me for my noble generosity. She wanted me to suppose that she thought I had given her daughters forty guineas for nothing, and I let her enjoy her hypocrisy.
In the evening I took them to Covent Garden, where the castrato Tenducci surprised me by introducing me to his wife, of whom he had two children. He laughed at people who said that a castrato could not procreate. Nature had made him a monster that he might remain a man; he was born triorchis, and as only two of the seminal glands had been destroyed the remaining one was sufficient to endow him with virility.
When I got back to my small seraglio I supped merrily with the five nymphs, and spent a delicious night with Victoire, who was overjoyed at having made my conquest. She told me that her sister’s lover was a Neapolitan, calling himself Marquis de Petina, and that they were to get married as soon as he was out of prison. It seemed he was expecting remittances, and the mother would be delighted to see her daughter a marchioness.
“How much does the marquis owe?”
“And the Neapolitan ambassador allows him to languish in prison for such a beggarly sum? I can’t believe it.”
“The ambassador won’t have anything to do with him, because he left Naples without the leave of the Government.”
“Tell your sister that if the ambassador assures me that her lover’s name is really the Marquis de Petina, I will get him out of prison immediately.”
I went out to ask my daughter, and another boarder of whom I was very fond, to dinner, and on my way called on the Marquis of Caraccioli, an agreeable man, whose acquaintance I had made at Turin. I found the famous Chevalier d’Eon at his house, and I had no need of a private interview to make my inquiries about Petina.
“The young man is really what he professes to me,” said the ambassador, “but I will neither receive him nor give him any money till I hear from my Government that he has received leave to travel.”
That was enough for me, and I stayed there for an hour listening to d’Eon’s amusing story.
Eon had deserted the embassy on account of ten thousand francs which the department of foreign affairs at Versailles had refused to allow him, though the money was his by right. He had placed himself under the protection of the English laws, and after securing two thousand subscribers at a guinea apiece, he had sent to press a huge volume in quarto containing all the letters he had received from the French Government for the last five or six years.
About the same time a London banker had deposited the sum of twenty thousand guineas at the Bank of England, being ready to wager that sum that Eon was a woman. The bet was taken by a number of persons who had formed themselves into a kind of company for the purpose, and the only way to decide it was that Eon should be examined in the presence of witnesses. The chevalier was offered half the wager, but he laughed them to scorn. He said that such an examination would dishonour him, were he man or woman. Caraccioli said that it could only dishonour him if he were a woman, but I could not agree with this opinion. At the end of a year the bet was declared off; but in the course of three years he received his pardon from the king, and appeared at Court in woman’s dress, wearing the cross of St. Louis.
Louis XV. had always been aware of the chevalier’s sex, but Cardinal Fleuri had taught him that it became kings to be impenetrable, and Louis remained so all his life.
When I got home I gave the eldest Hanoverian twenty guineas, telling her to fetch her marquis out of prison, and bring him to dine with us, as I wanted to know him. I thought she would have died with joy.
The third sister, having taken counsel with Victoire, and doubtless with her mother also, determined to earn twenty guineas for herself, and she had not much trouble in doing so. She it was on whom Lord Pembroke had cast the eye of desire.
These five girls were like five dishes placed before a gourmand, who enjoys them one after the other. To my fancy the last was always the best. The third sister’s name was Augusta.
Next Sunday I had a large number of guests. There were my daughter and her friend, Madame Cornelis, and her son. Sophie was kissed and caressed by the Hanoverians, while I bestowed a hundred kisses on Miss Nancy Steyne, who was only thirteen, but whose young beauty worked sad havoc with my senses. My affection was supposed to be fatherly in its character, but, alas I it was of a much more fleshly kind. This Miss Nancy, who seemed to me almost divine, was the daughter of a rich merchant. I said that I wanted to make her father’s acquaintance, and she replied that her father proposed coming to call on me that very day. I was delighted to hear of the coincidence, and gave order that he should be shewn in as soon as he came.
The poor marquis was the only sad figure in the company. He was young and well-made, but thin and repulsively ugly. He thanked me for my kindness, saying that I had done a wise thing, as he felt sure the time would come when he would repay me a hundredfold.
I had given my daughter six guineas to buy a pelisse, and she took me to my bedroom to shew it me. Her mother followed her to congratulate me on my seraglio.
At dinner gaiety reigned supreme. I sat between my daughter and Miss Nancy Steyne, and felt happy. Mr. Steyne came in as we were at the oysters. He kissed his daughter with that tender affection which is more characteristic, I think, of English parents than those of any other nation.
Mr. Steyne had dined, but he nevertheless ate a hundred scolloped oysters, in the preparation of which my cook was wonderfully expert; he also honoured the champagne with equal attention.
We spent three hours at the table and then proceeded to the third floor, where Sophie accompanied her mother’s singing on the piano, and young Cornelis displayed his flute-playing talents. Mr. Steyne swore that he had never been present at such a pleasant party in his life, adding that pleasure was forbidden fruit in England on Sundays and holidays. This convinced me that Steyne was an intelligent man, though his French was execrable. He left at seven, after giving a beautiful ring to my daughter, whom he escorted back to school with Miss Nancy.
The Marquis Petina foolishly observed to me that he did not know where to find a bed. I understood what he wanted, but I told him he would easily find one with a little money. Taking his sweetheart aside I gave her a guinea for him, begging her to tell him not to visit me again till he was invited.
When all the guests were gone, I led the five sisters to the mother’s room. She was wonderfully well, eating, drinking, and sleeping to admiration, and never doing anything, not even reading or writing. She enjoyed the ‘dolce far niente’ in all the force of the term. However, she told me she was always thinking of her family, and of the laws which it imposed on her.
I could scarcely help laughing, but I only said that if these laws were the same as those which her charming daughters followed, I thought them wiser than Solon’s.
I drew Augusta on to my knee, and said,–
“My lady, allow me to kiss your delightful daughter.”
Instead of giving me a direct answer, the old hypocrite began a long sermon on the lawfulness of the parental kiss. All the time Augusta was lavishing on me secret but delicious endearments.
‘O tempora! O mores!’
The next day I was standing at my window, when the Marquis Caraccioli, who was passing by, greeted me, and asked me if he could come in. I bade him welcome, and summoning the eldest sister told the ambassador that this young lady was going to marry the Marquis Petina as soon as his remittances arrived.
He addressed himself to her, and spoke as follows:
“Mademoiselle, it is true that your lover is really a marquis, but he is very poor and will never have any money; and if he goes back to Naples he will be imprisoned, and if he is released from the State prison his creditors will put him in the Vittoria.”
However this salutary warning had no effect.
After the ambassador had taken his leave I was dressing to take a ride when Augusta told me that, if I liked, Hippolyta her sister would come with me, as she could ride beautifully.
“That’s amusing,” said I, “make her come down.”
Hippolyta came down and begged me to let her ride with me, saying that she would do me credit.
“Certainly;” said I, “but have you a man’s riding suit or a woman’s costume?”
“Then we must put off the excursion till to-morrow.”
I spent the day in seeing that a suit was made for her, and I felt quite amorous when Pegu, the tailor, measured her for the breeches. Everything was done in time and we had a charming ride, for she managed her horse with wonderful skill.
After an excellent supper, to which wine had not been lacking, the happy Hippolyta accompanied Victoire into my room and helped her to undress. When she kissed her sister I asked if she would not give me a kiss too, and after some jesting Augusta changed the joke into earnest by bidding her come to bed beside me, without taking the trouble to ask my leave, so sure did she feel of my consent. The night was well spent, and I had no reason to complain of want of material, but Augusta wisely let the newcomer have the lion’s share of my attentions.
Next day we rode out again in the afternoon, followed by my negro, who was a skilful horseman himself. In Richmond Park Hippolyta’s dexterity astonished me; she drew all eyes on her. In the evening we came home well pleased with our day’s ride, and had a good supper.
As the meal proceeded I noticed that Gabrielle, the youngest of all, looked sad and a little sulky. I asked her the reason, and with a little pout that became her childish face admirably, she replied,–
“Because I can ride on horseback as well as my sister.”
“Very good,” said I, “then you shall ride the day after to-morrow.” This put her into a good temper again.
Speaking of Hippolyta’s skill, I asked her where she had learnt to ride. She simply burst out laughing. I asked her why she laughed, and she said,–
“Why, because I never learnt anywhere; my only masters were courage and some natural skill.”
“And has your sister learnt?”
“No,” said Gabrielle, “but I can ride just as well.”
I could scarcely believe it, for Hippolyta had seemed to float on her horse, and her riding skewed the utmost skill and experience. Hoping that her sister would vie with her, I said that I would take them out together, and the very idea made them both jump with joy.
Gabrielle was only fifteen, and her shape, though not fully developed, was well marked, and promised a perfect beauty by the time she was in her maturity. Full of grace and simplicity, she said she would like to come with me to my room, and I readily accepted her offer, not caring whether the scheme had been concerted between her and her other sisters.
As soon as we were alone, she told me that she had never had a lover, and she allowed me to assure myself of the fact with the same child- like simplicity. Gabrielle was like all the others; I would have chosen her if I had been obliged to make the choice. She made me feel sorry for her sake, to hear that the mother had made up her mind to leave. In the morning I gave her her fee of twenty guineas and a handsome ring as a mark of my peculiar friendship, and we spent the day in getting ready our habits for the ride of the day following.
Gabrielle got on horseback as if she had had two years in the riding school. We went along the streets at a walking pace, but as soon as we were in the open country we broke into a furious gallop, and kept it up till we got to Barnet, where we stopped to breakfast. We had done the journey in twenty-five minutes, although the distance is nearly ten miles. This may seem incredible, but the English horses are wonderfully swift, and we were all of us well mounted. My two nymphs looked ravishing. I adored them, and I adored myself for making them so happy.
Just as we were remounting, who should arrive but Lord Pembroke. He was on his way to St. Alban’s. He stopped his horse, and admired the graceful riding of my two companions; and not recognizing them immediately, he begged leave to pay his court to them. How I laughed to myself! At last he recognized them, and congratulated me on my conquest, asking if I loved Hippolyta. I guessed his meaning, and said I only loved Gabrielle.
“Very good,” said he; “may I come and see you?”
“Certainly,” I replied.
After a friendly hand-shake we set out once more, and were soon back in London.
Gabrielle was done up and went to bed directly; she slept on till the next morning without my disturbing her peaceful sleep, and when she awoke and found herself in my arms, she began to philosophise.
“How easy it is,” said she, “to be happy when one is rich, and how sad it is to see happiness out of one’s reach for lack of a little money. Yesterday I was the happiest of beings, and why should I not be as happy all my days? I would gladly agree that my life should be short provided that it should be a happy one.”
I, too, philosophised, but my reflections were sombre. I saw my resources all but exhausted, and I began to meditate a journey to Lisbon. If my fortune had been inexhaustible, the Hanoverians might have held me in their silken fetters to the end of my days. It seemed to me as if I loved them more like a father than a lover, and the fact that I slept with them only added to the tenderness of the tie. I looked into Gabrielle’s eyes, and there I saw but love. How could such a love exist in her unless she were naturally virtuous, and yet devoid of those prejudices which are instilled into us in our early years.
The next day Pembroke called and asked me to give him a dinner. Augusta delighted him. He made proposals to her which excited her laughter as he did not want to pay till after the event, and she would not admit this condition. However, he gave her a bank note for ten guineas before he left, and she accepted it with much grace. The day after he wrote her a letter, of which I shall speak presently.
A few minutes after the nobleman had gone the mother sent for me to come to her, and after paying an eloquent tribute to my virtues, my generosity, and my unceasing kindness towards her family, she made the following proposal:
“As I feel sure that you have all the love of a father for my daughters, I wish you to become their father in reality! I offer you my hand and heart; become my husband, you will be their father, their lord and mine. What do you say to this?”
I bit my lips hard and had great difficulty in restraining my inclination to laughter. Nevertheless, the amazement, the contempt, and the indignation which this unparalleled piece of impudence aroused in me soon brought me to myself. I perceived that this consummate hypocrite had counted on an abrupt refusal, and had only made this ridiculous offer with the idea of convincing me that she was under the impression that I had left her daughters as I had found them, and that the money I had spent on them was merely a sign of my tender and fatherly affection. Of course she knew perfectly well how the land lay, but she thought to justify herself by taking this step. She was aware that I could only look upon such a proposal as an insult, but she did not care for that.
I resolved to keep on the mask, and replied that her proposition was undoubtedly a very great honour for me, but it was also a very important question, and so I begged her to allow me some time for consideration.
When I got back to my room I found there the mistress of the wretched Marquis Petina, who told me that her happiness depended on a certificate from the Neapolitan ambassador that her lover was really the person he professed to be. With this document he would be able to claim a sum of two hundred guineas, and then they could both go to Naples, and he would marry her there. “He will easily obtain the royal pardon,” said she. “You, and you alone, can help us in the matter, and I commend myself to your kindness.”
I promised to do all I could for her. In fact, I called on the ambassador, who made no difficulty about giving the required certificate. For the moment my chilly conquest was perfectly happy, but though I saw she was very grateful to me I did not ask her to prove her gratitude.
Augusta Becomes Lord Pembroke’s Titular Mistress The King of Corsica’s Son–M. du Claude, or the Jesuit Lavalette–Departure of the Hanoverians I Balance My Accounts–The Baron Stenau–The English Girl, and What She Gave Me–Daturi–My Flight from London–Comte St. Germain–Wesel
Lord Pembroke wrote to Augusta offering her fifty guineas a month for three years, with lodging, board, servants, and carriage at St. Albans, without reckoning what she might expect from his grateful affection if it were returned.
Augusta translated the letter for me, and asked for my advice.
“I can’t give you any counsel,” said I, “in a matter which only concerns your own heart and your own interests.”
She went up to her mother, who would come to no conclusion without first consulting me, because, as she said, I was the wisest and most virtuous of men. I am afraid the reader will differ from her here, but I comfort myself by the thought that I, too, think like the reader. At last it was agreed that Augusta should accept the offer if Lord Pembroke would find a surety in the person of some reputable London merchant, for with her beauty and numerous graces she was sure to, become Lady Pembroke before long. Indeed, the mother said she was perfectly certain of it, as otherwise she could not have given her consent, as her daughters were countesses, and too good to be any man’s mistresses.
The consequence was that Augusta wrote my lord a letter, and in three days it was all settled. The merchant duly signed the contract, at the foot of which I had the honour of inscribing my name as a witness, and then I took the merchant to the mother, and he witnessed her cession of her daughter. She would not see Pembroke, but she kissed her daughter, and held a private colloquy with her.
The day on which Augusta left my house was signalized by an event which I must set down.
The day after I had given the Marquis Petina’s future bride the required certificate, I had taken out Gabrielle and Hippolyta for a ride. When I got home I found waiting for me a person calling himself Sir Frederick, who was said to be the son of Theodore, King of Corsica, who had died in London. This gentleman said he wished to speak to me in private, and when we were alone he said he was aware of my acquaintance with the Marquis Petina, and being on the eve of discounting a bill of two hundred guineas for him he wished to be informed whether it was likely that he could meet the bill when it fell due.
“It is important that I should be informed on that point,” he added, “for the persons who are going to discount the bill want me to put my signature to it.”
“Sir,” I replied, “I certainly am acquainted with the marquis, but I know nothing about his fortune. However, the Neapolitan ambassador assured me that he was the Marquis Petina.”
“If the persons who have the matter in hand should drop it, would you discount the bill? You shall have it cheap.”
“I never meddle with these speculations. Good day, Sir Frederick.”
The next day Goudar came and said that a M. du Claude wanted to speak to me.
“Who is M. du Claude?”
“The famous Jesuit Lavalette, who was concerned in the great bankruptcy case which ruined the Society in France. He fled to England under a false name. I advise you to listen to him, for he must have plenty of money.”
“A Jesuit and a bankrupt; that does not sound very well.”
“Well, I have met him in good houses, and knowing that I was acquainted with you he addressed himself to me. After all, you run no risk in listening to what he has to say.”
“Well, well, you can take me to him; it will be easier to avoid any entanglement than if he came to see me.”
Goudar went to Lavalette to prepare the way, and in the afternoon he took me to see him. I was well enough pleased to see the man, whose rascality had destroyed the infamous work of many years. He welcomed me with great politeness, and as soon as we were alone he shewed me a bill of Petina’s, saying,–
“The young man wants me to discount it, and says you can give me the necessary information.”
I gave the reverend father the same answer as I had given the King of Corsica’s son, and left him angry with this Marquis of Misery who had given me so much needless trouble. I was minded to have done with him, and resolved to let him know through his mistress that I would not be his reference, but I could not find an opportunity that day.
The next day I took my two nymphs for a ride, and asked Pembroke to dinner. In vain we waited for Petina’s mistress; she was nowhere to be found. At nine o’clock I got a letter from her, with a German letter enclosed for her mother. She said that feeling certain that her mother would not give her consent to her marriage, she had eloped with her lover, who had got together enough money to go to Naples, and when they reached that town he would marry her. She begged me to console her mother and make her listen to reason, as she had not gone off with an adventurer but with a man of rank, her equal. My lips curled into a smile of pity and contempt, which made the three sisters curious. I shewed them the letter I had just received, and asked them to come with me to their mother.
“Not to-night,” said Victoire, “this terrible news would keep her awake.”
I took her advice and we supped together, sadly enough.
I thought the poor wretch was ruined for life, and I reproached myself with being the cause of her misfortune; for if I had not released the marquis from prison this could never have happened. The Marquis Caraccioli had been right in saying that I had done a good deed, but a foolish one. I consoled myself in the arms of my dear Gabrielle.
I had a painful scene with the mother the next morning. She cursed her daughter and her seducer, and even blamed me. She wept and stormed alternately.
It is never of any use to try and convince people in distress that they are wrong, for one may only do harm, while if they are left to themselves they soon feel that they have been unjust, and are grateful to the person who let them exhaust their grief without any contradiction.
After this event I spent a happy fortnight in the society of Gabrielle, whom Hippolyta and Victoire looked on as my wife. She made my happiness and I made hers in all sorts of ways, but especially by my fidelity; for I treated her sisters as if they had been my sisters, shewing no recollection of the favours I had obtained from them, and never taking the slightest liberty, for I knew that friendship between women will hardly brook amorous rivalry. I had bought them dresses and linen in abundance, they were well lodged and well fed, I took them to the theatre and to the country, and the consequence was they all adored me, and seemed to think that this manner of living would go on for ever. Nevertheless, I was every day nearer and nearer to moral and physical bankruptcy. I had no more money, and I had sold all my diamonds and precious stones. I still possessed my snuff-boxes, my watches, and numerous trifles, which I loved and had not the heart to sell; and, indeed, I should not have got the fifth part of what I gave for them. For a whole month I had not paid my cook, or my wine merchant, but I liked to feel that they trusted me. All I thought of was Gabrielle’s love, and of this I assured myself by a thousand delicacies and attentions.
This was my condition when one day Victoire came to me with sadness on her face, and said that her mother had made up her mind to return to Hanover, as she had lost all hope of getting anything from the English Court.
“When does she intend to leave?”
“In three or four days.”
“And is she going without telling me, as if she were leaving an inn after paying her bill?”
“On the contrary, she wishes to have a private talk with you.”
I paid her a visit, and she began by reproaching me tenderly for not coming to see her more often. She said that as I had refused her hand she would not run the risk of incurring censure or slander of any kind. “I thank you from my heart,” she added, “for all the kindness you have shewn my girls, and I am going to take the three I have left away, lest I lose them as I have lost the two eldest. If you like, you may come too and stay with us as long as you like in my pretty country house near the capital.”
Of course I had to thank her and reply that my engagements did not allow me to accept her kind offer.
Three days after, Victoire told me, as I was getting up, that they were going on board ship at three o’clock. Hippolyta and Gabrielle made me come for a ride, according to a promise I had given them the night before. The poor things amused themselves, while I grieved bitterly, as was my habit when I had to separate from anyone that I loved.
When we came home I lay down on my bed, not taking any dinner, and seeing nothing of the three sisters till they had made everything ready for the journey. I got up directly before they left, so as not to see the mother in my own room, and I saw her in hers just as she was about to be taken down into my carriage, which was in readiness at the door. The impudent creature expected me to give her some money for the journey, but perceiving that I was not likely to bleed, she observed, with involuntary sincerity, that her purse contained the sum of a hundred and fifty guineas, which I had given to her daughters; and these daughters of hers were present, and sobbed bitterly.
When they were gone I closed my doors to everyone, and spent three days in the melancholy occupation of making up my accounts. In the month I had spent with the Hanoverians I had dissipated the whole of the sum resulting from the sale of the precious stones, and I found that I was in debt to the amount of four hundred guineas. I resolved to go to Lisbon by sea, and sold my diamond cross, six or seven gold snuff-boxes (after removing the portraits), all my watches except one, and two great trunks full of clothes. I then discharged my debts and found I was eighty guineas to the good, this being what remained of the fine fortune I had squandered away like a fool or a philosopher, or, perhaps, a little like both. I left my fine house where I had lived so pleasantly, and took a little room at a guinea a week. I still kept my negro, as I had every reason to believe him to be a faithful servant.
After taking these measures I wrote to M. de Bragadin, begging him to send me two hundred sequins.
Thus having made up my mind to leave London without owing a penny to anyone, and under obligations to no man’s purse, I waited for the bill of exchange from Venice. When it came I resolved to bid farewell to all my friends and to try my fortune in Lisbon, but such was not the fate which the fickle goddess had assigned to me.
A fortnight after the departure of the Hanoverians (it was the end of February in the year 1764), my evil genius made me go to the “Canon Tavern,” where I usually dined in a room by myself. The table was laid and I was just going to sit down, when Baron Stenau came in and begged me to have my dinner brought into the next room, where he and his mistress were dining.
“I thank you,” said I, “for the solitary man grows weary of his company.”
I saw the English woman I had met at Sartori’s, the same to whom the baron had been so generous. She spoke Italian, and was attractive in many ways, so I was well pleased to find myself opposite to her, and we had a pleasant dinner.
After a fortnight’s abstinence it was not surprising that she inspired me with desires, but I concealed them nevertheless, for her lover seemed to respect her. I only allowed myself to tell the baron that I thought him the happiest of men.
Towards the close of the dinner the girl noticed three dice on the mantel and took them up, saying,–
“Let us have a wager of a guinea, and spend it on oysters and champagne.”
We could not refuse, and the baron having lost called the waiter and gave him his orders.
While we were eating the oysters she suggested that we should throw again to see which should pay for the dinner.
We did so and she lost.
I did not like my luck, and wishing to lose a couple of guineas I offered to throw against the baron. He accepted, and to my annoyance I won. He asked for his revenge and lost again.
“I don’t want to win your money,” said I, “and I will give you your revenge up to a hundred guineas.”
He seemed grateful and we went on playing, and in less than half an hour he owed me a hundred guineas.
“Let us go on,” said he.
“My dear baron, the luck’s against you; you might lose a large sum of money. I really think we have had enough.”
Without heeding my politeness, he swore against fortune and against the favour I seemed to be shewing him. Finally he got up, and taking his hat and cane, went out, saying,–
“I will pay you when I come back.”
As soon as he had gone the girl said:
“I am sure you have been regarding me as your partner at play.”
“If you have guessed that, you will also have guessed that I think you charming.”
“Yes, I think I have.”
“Are you angry with me?”
“Not in the least.”
“You shall have the fifty guineas as soon as he has paid me.”
“Very good, but the baron must know nothing about it.”
“Of course not.”
The bargain was scarcely struck before I began to shew her how much I loved her. I had every reason to congratulate myself on her complaisance, and I thought this meeting a welcome gleam of light when all looked dark around me. We had to make haste, however, as the door was only shut with a catch. I had barely time to ascertain her address and the hour at which she could see me, and whether I should have to be careful with her lover. She replied that the baron’s fidelity was not of a character to make him very exacting. I