This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798 ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH, Volume 4e–MILAN
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
I Give up Agatha to Lord Percy–I Set out for Milan–The Actress at Pavia–Countess A * * * B * * *–Disappointment–Marquis Triulzi–Zenobia–The Two Marchionesses Q * * *–The Venetian Barbaro
Far from punishing the Corticelli by making her live with Redegonde, the Count d’Aglie seemed to have encouraged her; and I was not sorry for it, since as long as she did not trouble me any more I did not care how many lovers she had. She had become a great friend of Redegonde’s, and did exactly as she pleased, for their duenna was much more easy going than the Pacienza.
Nobody knew of the trick which Lord Percy had played me, and I took care to say nothing about it. However, he did not give up his designs on Agatha, his passion for her was too violent. He hit upon an ingenious method for carrying out his plans. I have already said that Percy was very rich, and spent his money wildly, not caring at what expenditure he gratified his passion. I was the last person to reproach him for his extravagance, and in a country where money is always scarce his guineas opened every door to him.
Four or five days after the ball night, Agatha came to tell me that the manager of the Alexandria Theatre had asked her if she would take the part of second dancer throughout the carnival time.
“He offered me sixty sequins,” she added, “and I told him I would let him know by to-morrow. Do you advise me to accept his offer?”
“If you love me, dearest Agatha, you will prove it by refusing all engagements for a year. You know I will let you want for nothing.
“I will get you the best masters, and in that time you can perfect your dancing, and will be able to ask for a first-class appointment, with a salary of five hundred sequins a year.”
“Mamma thinks that I should accept the offer, as the dancing on the stage will improve my style, and I can study under a good master all the same. I think myself that dancing in public would do me good.”
“There is reason in what you say, but you do not need the sixty sequins. You will dishonour me by accepting such a poor offer, and you will do yourself harm too, as you will not be able to ask for a good salary after taking such a small one.”
“But sixty sequins is not so bad for a carnival engagement.”
“But you don’t want sixty sequins; you can have them without dancing at all. If you love me, I repeat, you will tell the manager that you are going to rest for a year.”
“I will do what you please, but it seems to me the best plan would be to ask an exorbitant sum.”
“You are right; that is a good idea. Tell him you must be first dancer, and that your salary must be five hundred sequins.”
“I will do so, and am only too happy to be able to prove that I love you.”
Agatha had plenty of inborn common sense, which only needed development. With that and the beauty which Heaven had given her her future was assured.
She was eventually happy, and she deserved her happiness.
The next day she told me that the manager did not appear at all astonished at her demands.
“He reflected a few minutes,” said she, “and told me he must think it over, and would see me again. It would be amusing if he took me at my word, would it not?”
“Yes, but we should then have to enquire whether he is a madman or a beggar on the verge of bankruptcy.”
“And if he turns out to be a man of means?”
“In that case you would be obliged to accept.”
“That is easily said and easily done, but have I sufficient talent? Where shall I find an actor to dance with me?”
“I will engage to find you one. As to talent, you have enough and to spare; but you will see that it will come to nothing.”
All the time I felt a presentiment that she would be engaged, and I was right. The manager came to her the next day, and offered her the agreement for her signature. She was quite alarmed, and sent for me. I called at her house, and finding the manager there asked him what security he could give for the fulfilment of his part of the engagement.
He answered by naming M. Martin, a banker of my acquaintance, who would be his surety. I could make no objection to this, and the agreement was made out in duplicate in good form.
On leaving Agatha I went to M. Raiberti and told him the story. He shared my astonishment that M. Martin should become surety for the manager whom he knew, and whose financial position was by no means good; but the next day the problem was solved, for in spite of the secrecy that had been observed we found out that it was Lord Percy who was behind the manager. I might still bar the Englishman’s way by continuing to keep Agatha, in spite of his five hundred sequins, but I was obliged to return to France after Easter to wait on Madame d’Urfe, and afterwards, peace having been concluded, I thought it would be a good opportunity for seeing England. I therefore determined to abandon Agatha, taking care to bind her new lover to provide for her, and I proceeded to make a friend of the nobleman.
I was curious to see how he would win Agatha’s good graces, for she did not love him, and physically he was not attractive.
In less than a week we had become intimate. We supped together every night either at his house or mine, and Agatha and her mother were always of the party. I concluded that his attentions would soon touch Agatha’s heart, and that finding herself so beloved she would end by loving. This was enough to make me determine not to put any obstacles in their way, and I resolved to leave Turin earlier than I had intended. In consequence I spoke as follows to Lord Percy, while we were breakfasting together:
“My lord, you know that I love Agatha, and that she loves me, nevertheless I am your friend, and since you adore her I will do my best to hasten your bliss. I will leave you in possession of this treasure, but you must promise that when you abandon her you will give her two thousand guineas.”
“My dear sir,” said he, “I will give them her now if you like.”
“No, my lord, I do not wish her to know anything about our agreement while you are living happily together.”
“Then I will give you a bond binding myself to pay her the two thousand guineas when we separate.”
“I don’t want that, the word of an Englishman is enough; but since we cannot command the fates, and may die without having time to put our affairs in order, I wish you to take such steps as may seem convenient to you, whereby that sum would go to her after your death.”
“I give you my word on it.”
“That is enough; but I have one other condition to make.”
“It is that you promise to say nothing to Agatha before my departure.”
“I swear I will not.”
“Very good; and on my part I promise to prepare her for the change:”
The same day the Englishman, whose love grew hotter and hotter, made Agatha and her mother rich presents, which under any other circumstances I should not have allowed them to accept.
I lost no time in preparing Agatha and her mother for the impending change. They seemed affected, but I knew they would soon get reconciled to the situation. Far from giving me any cause for complaint, Agatha was more affectionate than ever. She listened attentively to my advice as to her conduct towards her new lover and the world in general, and promised to follow it. It was to this advice that she owed her happiness, for Percy made her fortune. However, she did not leave the theatre for some years, when we shall hear more of her.
I was not the man to take presents from my equals, and Percy no doubt being aware of that succeeded in making me a handsome present in a very singular way. I told him that I thought of paying a visit to England and requested him to give me a letter of introduction to the duchess, his mother, whereon he drew out a portrait of her set with magnificent diamonds, and gave it to me, saying,–
“This is the best letter I can give you. I will write and tell her that you will call and give her the portrait, unless, indeed, she likes to leave it in your hands.”
“I hope my lady will think me worthy of such an honour.”
There are certain ideas, it seems to me, which enter no head but an Englishman’s.
I was invited by Count A—- B—- to Milan, and the countess wrote me a charming letter, begging me to get her two pieces of sarcenet, of which she enclosed the patterns.
After taking leave of all my friends and acquaintances I got a letter of credit on the banker, Greppi, and started for the capital of Lombardy.
My separation from Agatha cost me many tears, but not so many as those shed by her. Her mother wept also, for she loved me, and was grateful for all my kindness to her daughter. She said again and again that she could never have borne any rival but her own daughter, while the latter sobbed out that she wished she had not to part from me.
I did not like Passano, so I sent him to his family at Genoa, giving him the wherewithal to live till I came for him. As to my man, I dismissed him for good reasons and took another, as I was obliged to have somebody; but since I lost my Spaniard I have never felt confidence in any of my servants.
I travelled with a Chevalier de Rossignan, whose acquaintance I had made, and we went by Casal to see the opera-bouffe there.
Rossignan was a fine man, a good soldier, fond of wine and women, and, though he was not learned, he knew the whole of Dante’s Divine Comedy by heart. This was his hobby-horse, and he was always quoting it, making the passage square with his momentary feelings. This made him insufferable in society, but he was an amusing companion for anyone who knew the sublime poet, and could appreciate his numerous and rare beauties. Nevertheless he made me privately give in my assent to the proverb, Beware of the man of one book. Otherwise he was intelligent, statesmanlike, and good-natured. He made himself known at Berlin by his services as ambassador to the King of Sardinia.
There was nothing interesting in the opera at Casal, so I went to Pavia, where, though utterly unknown, I was immediately welcomed by the Marchioness Corti, who received all strangers of any importance. In 1786 I made the acquaintance of her son, an admirable man, who honoured me with his friendship, and died quite young in Flanders with the rank of major-general. I wept bitterly for his loss, but tears, after all, are but an idle tribute to those who cause them to flow. His good qualities had endeared him to all his acquaintances, and if he had lived longer he would undoubtedly have risen to high command in the army.
I only stopped two days at Pavia, but it was decreed that I should get myself talked of, even in that short time.
At the second ballet at the opera an actress dressed in a tippet held out her cap to the bones as if to beg an alms, while she was dancing a pas de deux. I was in the Marchioness of Corti’s box, and when the girl held out her cap to me I was moved by feelings of ostentation and benevolence to draw forth my purse and drop it in. It contained about twenty ducats. The girl took it, thanked me with a smile, and the pit applauded loudly. I asked the Marquis Belcredi, who was near me, if she had a lover.
“She has a penniless French officer, I believe,” he replied; “there he is, in the pit.”
I went back to my inn, and was supping with M. Basili, a Modenese colonel, when the ballet girl, her mother, and her younger sister came to thank me for my providential gift. “We are so poor,” said the girl.
I had almost done supper, and I asked them all to sup with me after the performance the next day. This offer was quite a disinterested one, and it was accepted.
I was delighted to have made a woman happy at so little expense and without any ulterior objects, and I was giving orders to the landlord for the supper, when Clairmont, my man, told me that a French officer wanted to speak to me. I had him in, and asked what I could do for him.
“There are three courses before you, Mr. Venetian,” said he, “and you can take which you like. Either countermand this supper, invite me to come to it, or come and measure swords with me now.”
Clairmont, who was attending to the fire, did not give me time to reply, but seized a burning brand and rushed on the officer, who thought it best to escape. Luckily for him the door of my room was open. He made such a noise in running downstairs that the waiter came out and caught hold of him, thinking he had stolen something; but Clairmont, who was pursuing him with his firebrand, had him released.
This adventure became town talk directly. My servant, proud of his exploit and sure of my approval, came to tell me that I need not be afraid of going out, as the officer was only a braggart. He did not even draw his sword on the waiter who had caught hold of him, though the man only had a knife in his belt.
“At all events,” he added, “I will go out with you.”
I told him that he had done well this time, but that for the future he must not interfere in my affairs.
“Sir,” he replied, “your affairs of this kind are mine too, I shall take care not to go beyond my duty.”
With this speech, which I thought very sensible, though I did not tell him so, he took one of my pistols and saw to the priming, smiling at me significantly.
All good French servants are of the same stamp as Clairmont; they are devoted and intelligent, but they all think themselves cleverer than their masters, which indeed is often the case, and when they are sure of it they become the masters of their masters, tyrannize over them, and give them marks of contempt which the foolish gentlemen endeavour to conceal. But when the master knows how to make himself respected, the Clairmonts are excellent.
The landlord of my inn sent a report of the affair to the police, and the French officer was banished from the town the same day. At dinner Colonel Basili asked to hear the story, and said that no one but a French officer would think of attacking a man in his own room in such a foolish manner. I differed from him.
“The French are brave,” I replied, “but generally they are perfectly polite and have wonderful tact. Wretchedness and love, joined to a false spirit of courage, makes a fool of a man all the world over.”
At supper the ballet-girl thanked me for ridding her of the poor devil, who (as she said) was always threatening to kill her, and wearied her besides. Though she was not beautiful, there was something captivating about this girl. She was graceful, well- mannered, and intelligent, her mouth was well-shaped, and her eyes large and expressive. I think I should have found her a good bargain, but as I wanted to get away from Pavia, and piqued myself on having been good-natured without ulterior motive, I bade her farewell after supper, with many thanks for her kindness in coming. My politeness seemed rather to confuse her, but she went away reiterating her gratitude.
Next day I dined at the celebrated Chartreuse, and in the evening I reached Milan, and got out at Count A—- B—-‘s, who had not expected me till the following day.
The countess, of whom my fancy had made a perfect woman, disappointed me dreadfully. It is always so when passion gives reins to the imagination. The Countess was certainly pretty, though too small, and I might still have loved her, in spite of my disappointment, but at our meeting she greeted me with a gravity that was not to my taste, and which gave me a dislike to her.
After the usual compliments, I gave her the two pieces of sarcenet she had commissioned me to get. She thanked me, telling me that her confessor would reimburse me for my expenditure. The count then took me to my room, and left me there till supper. It was nicely furnished, but I felt ill at ease, and resolved to leave in a day or two if the countess remained immovable. Twenty-four hours was as much as I cared to give her.
We made a party of four at supper; the count talking all the time to draw me out, and to hide his wife’s sulkiness. I answered in the same gay strain, speaking to his wife, however, in the hope of rousing her. It was all lost labour. The little woman only replied by faint smiles which vanished almost as they came, and by monosyllabic answers of the briefest description, without taking her eyes off the dishes which she thought tasteless; and it was to the priest, who was the fourth person present, that she addressed her complaints, almost speaking affably to him.
Although I liked the count very well, I could not help pronouncing his wife decidedly ungracious. I was looking at her to see if I could find any justification for her ill humour on her features, but as soon as she saw me she turned away in a very marked manner, and began to speak about nothing to the priest. This conduct offended me, and I laughed heartily at her contempt, or her designs on me, for as she had not fascinated me at all I was safe from her tyranny.
After supper the sarcenet was brought in; it was to be used for a dress with hoops, made after the extravagant fashion then prevailing.
The count was grieved to see her fall so short of the praises he had lavished on her, and came to my room with me, begging me to forgive her Spanish ways, and saying that she would be very pleasant when she knew me better.
The count was poor, his house was small, his furniture shabby, and his footman’s livery threadbare; instead of plate he had china, and one of the countess’s maids was chief cook. He had no carriages nor horses, not even a saddle horse of any kind. Clairmont gave me all this information, and added that he had to sleep in a little kitchen, and was to share his bed with the man who had waited at table.
I had only one room, and having three heavy trunks found myself very uncomfortable, and I decided on seeking some other lodging more agreeable to my tastes.
The count came early in the morning to ask what I usually took for breakfast.
“My dear count,” I replied, “I have enough fine Turin chocolate to go all round. Does the countess like it?”
“Very much, but she won’t take it unless it is made by her woman.”
“Here are six pounds: make her accept it, and tell her that if I hear anything about payment I shall take it back.”
“I am sure she will accept it, and thank you too. Shall I have your carriage housed?”
“I shall be extremely obliged to you, and I shall be glad if you would get me a hired carriage, and a guide for whom you can answer.”
“It shall be done.”
The count was going out when the priest, who had supped with us the night before, came in to make his bow. He was a man of forty- one of the tribe of domestic chaplains who are so common in Italy –who, in return for keeping the accounts of the house, live with its master and mistress. In the morning this priest said mass in a neighbouring church, for the rest of the day he either occupied himself with the cares of the house, or was the lady’s obedient servant.
As soon as We were alone he begged me to say that he had paid me the three hundred Milanese crowns for the sarcenet, if the countess asked me about it.
“Dear, dear, abbe!” said I, laughing, “this sort of thing is not exactly proper in a man of your sacred profession. How can you advise me to tell a lie? No, sir; if the countess asks me any such impertinent question, I shall tell her the truth.”
“I am sure she will ask you, and if you answer like that I shall suffer for it.”
“Well, sir, if you are in the wrong you deserve to suffer.”
“But as it happens, I should be blamed for nothing.”
“Well, go and tell her it’s a present; and if she won’t have that, tell her I am in no hurry to be paid.”
“I see, sir, that you don’t know the lady or the way in which this house is managed. I will speak to her husband.”
In a quarter of an hour the count told me that he owed me a lot of money, which he hoped to pay back in the course of Lent, and that I must add the sarcenet to the account. I embraced him and said that he would have to keep the account himself, as I never noted down any of the moneys that I was only too happy to lend to my friends.
“If your wife asks me whether I have received the money, be sure I will answer in the affirmative.”
He went out shedding grateful tears, while I felt indebted to him for having given me the opportunity of doing him a service; for I was very fond of him.
In the morning, the countess being invisible, I watched my man spreading out my suits over the chairs, amongst them being some handsome women’s cloaks, and a rich red dress deeply trimmed with fur, which had been originally intended for the luckless Corticelli. I should no doubt have given it to Agatha, if I had continued to live with her, and I should have made a mistake, as such a dress was only fit for a lady of rank.
At one o’clock I received another visit from the count, who told me that the countess was going to introduce me to their best friend. This was the Marquis Triuizi, a man of about, my own age, tall, well made, squinting slightly, and with all the manner of a nobleman. He told me that besides coming to have the honour of my acquaintance, he also came to enjoy the fire, “for,” said he, “there’s only one fireplace in the house and that’s in your room.”
As all the chairs were covered, the marquis drew the countess on to his knee and made her sit there like a baby; but she blushed, and escaped from his grasp. The marquis laughed heartily at her confusion, and she said,–
“Is it possible that a man of your years has not yet learnt to respect a woman?”
“Really, countess,” said he, “I thought it would be very disrespectful to continue sitting while you were standing.”
While Clairmont was taking the clothes off the chairs, the marquis noticed the mantles and the beautiful dress, and asked me if I were expecting a lady.
“No,” said I, “but I hope to find someone at Milan who will be worthy of such presents.” I added, “I know the Prince Triulzi, at Venice; I suppose he is of your family?”
“He says he is, and it may be so; but I am certainly not a member of his family.”
This let me know that I should do well to say no more about the prince.
“You must stay to dinner, marquis,” said Count A—- B—-; “and as you only like dishes prepared by your own cook you had better send for them.”
The marquis agreed, and we made good cheer. The table was covered with fair linen and handsome plate, the wine was good and plentiful, and the servants quick and well dressed. I could now understand the marquis’s position in the house. It was his wit and mirth which kept the conversation going, and the countess came in for a share of his pleasantries, while she scolded him for his familiarity.
I could see, however, that the marquis did not want to humiliate her; on the contrary, he was fond of her, and only wished to bring down her exaggerated pride. When he saw her on the point of bursting into tears of rage and shame, he quieted her down by saying that no one in Milan respected her charms and her high birth more than he.
After dinner the tailor who was to measure the countess for a domino for the ball was announced. On the marquis’s praising the colours and the beauty of the materials, she told him that I had brought her the sarcenet from Turin, and this reminded her to ask me whether I had been paid.
“Your husband settled with me,” said I, “but you have given me a lesson I can never forget.”
“What lesson?” said the marquis.
“I had hoped that the countess would have deigned to receive this poor present at my hands.”
“And she wouldn’t take it? It’s absurd, on my life.”
“There is nothing to laugh at,” said the countess, “but you laugh at everything.”
While the man was measuring her, she complained of feeling cold, as she was in her stays, and her beautiful breast was exposed. Thereupon, the marquis put his hands on it, as if he were quite accustomed to use such familiarities. But the Spaniard, no doubt ashamed because of my presence, got into a rage, and abused him in the most awful manner, while he laughed pleasantly, as if he could calm the storm when he pleased. This was enough to inform me of the position in which they stood to one another, and of the part I ought to take.
We remained together till the evening, when the countess and the marquis went to the opera, and the count came with me to my room, till my carriage was ready to take us there too. The opera had begun when we got in, and the first person I noticed on the stage was my dear Therese Palesi, whom I had left at Florence. It was a pleasant surprise to me, and I foresaw that we should renew our sweet interviews while I remained at Milan I was discreet enough to say nothing to the count about his wife’s charms, or the way their house was managed. I saw that the place was taken, and the odd humours of the lady prevented my falling in love with her. After the second act we went to the assembly rooms, where five or six banks at faro were being held; I staked and lost a hundred ducats as if to pay for my welcome, and then rose from the table.
At supper the countess seemed to unbend a little, she condoled with me on my loss, and I said that I was glad of it as it made her speak so.
Just as I rang my bell the next morning, Clairmont told me that a woman wanted to speak to me.
“Is she young?”
“Both young and pretty, sir.”
“That will do nicely, shew her in.”
I saw a simply dressed girl, who reminded me of Leah. She was tall and beautiful, but had not as high pretensions as the Jewess; as she only wanted to know whether she could do my washing for me. I was quite taken with her. Clairmont had just brought me my chocolate, and I asked her to sit down on the bed; but she answered modestly that she did not want to trouble me, and would come again when I was up.
“Do you live at any distance?”
“I live on the ground floor of this house.”
“All by yourself?”
“No sir, I have my father and mother.”
“And what is your name?”
“Your name is as pretty as you are. Will you give me your hand to kiss?”
“I can’t,” she replied, with a smile, “my hand is another’s.”
“You are engaged, are you?”
“Yes, to a tailor, and we are going to be married before the end of the carnival:”
“Is he rich or handsome?”
“Neither the one nor the other.”
“Then why are you going to marry him?”
“Because I want to have a house of my own:”
“I like you, and will stand your friend. Go and fetch your tailor. I will give him some work to do.”
As soon as she went out I got up and told Clairmont to put my linen on a table. I had scarcely finished dressing when she came back with her tailor. It was a striking contrast, for he was a little shrivelled-up man, whose appearance made one laugh.
“Well, master tailor,” said I, “so you are going to marry this charming girl?”
“Yes, sir, the banns have been published already.”
“You are a lucky fellow indeed to have so much happiness in store. When are you going to marry her?”
“In ten or twelve days.”
“Why not to-morrow?”
“Your worship is in a great hurry.”
“I think I should be, indeed,” said I, laughing, “if I were in your place. I want you to make me a domino for the ball to- morrow.”
“Certainly, sir; but your excellency must find me the stuff, for nobody in Milan would give me credit for it, and I couldn’t afford to lay out so much money in advance.”
“When you are married you will have money and credit too. In the meanwhile here are ten sequins for you.”
He went away in high glee at such a windfall.
I gave Zenobia some lace to do up, and asked her if she was afraid of having a jealous husband.
“He is neither jealous nor amorous,” she replied. “He is only marrying me because I earn more than he does.”
“With your charms I should have thought you might have made a better match.”
“I have waited long enough; I have got tired of maidenhood. Besides, he is sharp if he is not handsome, and perhaps a keen head is better than a handsome face.”
“You are sharp enough yourself, anyhow. But why does he put off the wedding?”
“Because he hasn’t got any money, and wants to have a fine wedding for his relations to come to. I should like it myself.”
“I think you are right; but I can’t see why you should not let an honest man kiss your hand.”
“That was only a piece of slyness to let you know I was to be married. I have no silly prejudices myself.”
“Ah, that’s better! Tell your future husband that if he likes me to be the patron of the wedding I will pay for everything.”
“Yes, really. I will give him twenty-five sequins on the condition that he spends it all on the wedding.”
“Twenty-five sequins! That will make people talk; but what care we? I will give you an answer to-morrow.”
“And a kiss now?”
“With all my heart.”
Zenobia went away in great delight, and I went out to call on my banker and dear Therese.
When the door was opened the pretty maid recognized me, and taking me by the hand led me to her mistress, who was just going to get up. Her emotion at seeing me was so great that she could not utter a word, but only claps me to her breast.
Our natural transports over, Therese told me that she had got tired of her husband, and that for the last six months they had not been living together. She had made him an allowance to get rid of him, and he lived on it at Rome.
“And where is Cesarino?”
“In this town. You can see him whenever you like.”
“Are you happy?”
“Quite. People say that I have a lover, but it is not true; and you can see me at any time with perfect liberty.”
We spent two pleasant hours in telling each other of our experiences since our last meeting, and then, finding her as fresh and fair as in the season of our early loves, I asked her if she had vowed to be faithful to her husband.
“At Florence,” she replied, “I was still in love with him; but now, if I am still pleasing in your eyes, we can renew our connection, and live together till we die.”
“I will soon shew you, dearling, that I love you as well as ever.”
She answered only by giving herself up to my embrace.
After action and contemplation I left her as amorous as she had been eighteen years before, but my passion found too many new objects to remain constant long.
Countess A—- B—- began to be more polite. “I know where you have been,” said she, with a pleased air; “but if you love that person, you will not go and see her again, or else her lover will leave her.”
“Then I would take his place, madam.”
“You are right in amusing yourself with women who know how to earn your presents. I am aware that you never give anything till you have received evident proofs of their affection.”
“That has always been my principle.”
“It’s an excellent way to avoid being duped. The lover of the person you have been with kept a lady in society for some time in great splendour, but all the rest of us despised her.”
“Why so, if you please?”
“Because she lowered herself so terribly. Greppi is absolutely a man of no family whatever.”
Without expressing my surprise at the name of Greppi, I replied that a man need not be well born to be an excellent lover.
“The only thing needful,” said I, “is a fine physique and plenty of money, and those ladies who despised their friend were either ridiculously proud or abominably envious. I have not the slightest doubt that if they could find any more Gieppis they would be willing enough to lower themselves.”
She would doubtless have made a sharp reply, for what I had said had angered her; but the Marquis Triulzi arriving, she went out with him, while her husband and myself went to a place where there was a bank at faro, the banker only having a hundred sequins before him.
I took a card and staked small sums like the rest of the company. After losing twenty ducats I left the place.
As we were going to the opera the poor count told me I had made him lose ten ducats on his word of honour, and that he did not know how he could pay it by the next day. I pitied him, and gave him the money without a word; for misery has always appealed strongly to me. Afterwards I lost two hundred ducats at the same bank to which I had lost money the evening before. The count was in the greatest distress. He did not know that Greppi, whom his proud wife considered so worthless, had a hundred thousand francs of my money, and that I possessed jewellery to an even greater amount.
The countess, who had seen me lose, asked me if I would sell my beautiful dress.
“They say it’s worth a thousand sequins,” said she.
“Yes, that is so; but I would sell everything I possess before parting with any of the articles which I intend for the fair sex.”
“Marquis Triulzi wants it badly to present to someone.”
“I am very sorry, but I cannot sell it to him.”
She went away without a word, but I could see that she was exceedingly vexed at my refusal.
As I was leaving the opera-house I saw Therese getting into her sedan-chair. I went up to her, and told her that I was sure she was going to sup with her lover. She whispered in my ear that she was going to sup by herself, and that I might come if I dared. I gave her an agreeable surprise by accepting the invitation.
“I will expect you, then,” she said.
I asked the count to ride home in my carriage, and taking a chair I reached Therese’s house just as she was going in.
What a happy evening we had! We laughed heartily when we told each other our thoughts.
“I know you were in love with Countess A—- B—- ,” said she, “and I felt sure you would not dare to come to supper with me.”
“And I thought I should confound you by accepting your invitation, as I knew Greppi was your lover.”
“He is my friend,” she replied. “If he loves me in any other way than that of friendship, I pity him, for as yet he has not discovered the secret of seduction.”
“Do you think he ever will?”
“No, I don’t. I am rich.”
“Yes, but he is richer than you.”
“I know that, but I think he loves his money better than he loves me.”
“I understand. You will make him happy if he loves you well enough to ruin himself.”
“That is it, but it will never come to pass. But here we are, together again after a divorce of nearly twenty years. I don’t think you will find any change in me.”
“That is a privilege which nature grants to the fair sex only. You will find me changed, but you will be able to work miracles.”
This was a piece of politeness, for she was hardly capable of working any miracle. However, after an excellent supper, we spent two hours in amorous raptures, and then Morpheus claimed us for his own. When we awoke I did not leave her before giving her a good day equal to the good night which had sent us to sleep.
When I got back I found the fair Zenobia, who said the tailor was ready to marry her next Sunday if my offer was not a joke.
“To convince you of the contrary,” said I, “here are the twenty- five sequins.”
Full of gratitude she let herself fall into my arms, and I covered her mouth and her beautiful bosom with my fiery kisses. Therese had exhausted me, so I did not go any further, but the girl no doubt attributed my self-restraint to the fact that the door was open. I dressed carefully, and made myself look less weary, and to freshen myself up I had a long drive in an open carriage.
When I returned, I found the Marquis of Triulzi teasing the countess as usual. On that day he furnished the dinner, and it was consequently, a very good one.
The conversation turned on the dress in my possession, and the countess told the marquis, like an idiot, that it was destined for the lady who would make me desirous and gratify my desire.
With exquisite politeness the marquis told me that I deserved to enjoy favours at a cheaper rate.
“I suppose you will be giving it to the person with whom you spent the night,” said the countess.
“That’s an impossibility,” I answered, “for I spent the night in play.”
Just then Clairmont came in, and told me an officer wanted to speak to me. I went to the door, and saw a handsome young fellow, who greeted me with an embrace. I recognized him as Barbaro, the son of a Venetian noble, and brother of the fair and famous Madame Gritti Scombro, of whom I spoke ten years ago, whose husband had died in the citadel of Cattaro, where the State Inquisitors had imprisoned him. My young friend had also fallen into disgrace with the despotic Inquisitors. We had been good friends during the year before my imprisonment, but I had heard nothing of him since.
Barbaro told me the chief incidents in a life that had been adventurous enough, and informed me that he was now in the service of the Duke of Modena, the Governor of Milan.
“I saw you losing money at Canano’s bank,” said he, “and remembering our old friendship I want to communicate to you a sure way of winning money. All that is necessary is for me to introduce you to a club of young men who are very fond of play, and cannot possibly win.”
“Where does this club meet?”
“In an extremely respectable house. If you agree I will keep the bank myself, and I am sure of winning. I want you to lend me capital, and I only ask a fourth of the profits.”
“I suppose you can hold the cards well.”
“You are right.”
This was as much as to tell me that he was an adroit sharper, or, in other words, a skilful corrector of fortune’s mistakes. He concluded by saying that I should find something worth looking at in the house he had mentioned.
“My dear sir,” I replied, “I will give you my decision after seeing the club to which you want to introduce me.”
“Will you be at the theatre coffee-house at three o’clock to- morrow?”
“Yes, but I hope to see you at the ball in the evening.”
Zenobia’s betrothed brought me my domino, and the countess had hers already. As the ball did not begin till the opera was over, I went to hear Therese’s singing. In the interval between the acts I lost another two hundred sequins, and then went home to dress for the ball. The countess said that if I would be kind enough to take her to the ball in my carriage and fetch her home in it, she would not send for the Marquis Triulzi’s. I replied that I was at her service.
Under the impression that the fair Spaniard had only given me the preference to enable me to take liberties with her, I told her I should be very glad to give her the dress, and that the only condition was that I should spent a night with her.
“You insult me cruelly,” said she, “you must know my character better than that.”
“I know everything, my dear countess; but, after all, the insult’s nothing; you can easily forgive me if you pluck up a little spirit; trample on a foolish prejudice; get the dress, and make me happy for a whole night long.”
“That it all very well when one is in love, but you must confess that your coarse way of speaking is more likely to make me hate you than love you.”
“I use that style, because I want to come to the point; I have no time to waste. And you, countess, must confess in your turn, that you would be delighted to have me sighing at your feet.”
“It would be all the same to me, I don’t think I could love you.”
“Then we are agreed on one point at all events, for I love you no more than you love me.”
“And yet you would spend a thousand sequins for the pleasure of passing a night with me.”
“Not at all, I don’t want to sleep with you for the sake of the pleasure, but to mortify your infernal pride, which becomes you so ill.”
God knows what the fierce Spaniard would have answered, but at that moment the carriage stopped at the door of the theatre. We parted, and after I had got tired of threading my way amidst the crowd I paid a visit to the gaming-room, hoping to regain the money I had lost. I had more than five hundred sequins about me and a good credit at the bank, but I certainly did my best to lose everything I had. I sat down at Canano’s bank, and noticing that the poor count, who followed me wherever I went, was the only person who knew me, I thought I should have a lucky evening. I only punted on one card, and spent four hours without losing or gaining. Towards the end, wishing to force fortune’s favour, I lost rapidly, and left all my money in the hands of the banker. I went back to the ball-room, where the countess rejoined me, and we returned home.
When we were in the carriage, she said,–
“You lost an immense sum, and I am very glad of it. The marquis will give you a thousand sequins, and the money will bring you luck.”
“And you, too, for I suppose you will have the dress?”
“No, madam, you shall never have it in this way, and you know the other. I despise a thousand sequins.”
“And I despise you and your presents.”
“You may despise me as much as you please, and you may be sure I despise you.”
With these polite expressions we reached the house. When I got to my room I found the count there with a long face, as if he wanted to pity me but dared not do it. However, my good temper gave him the courage to say:–
“Triulzi will give you a thousand sequins; that will fit you up again.”
“For the dress you mean?”
“I wanted to give it to your wife, but she said she would despise it, coming from my hands.”
“You astonish me; she is mad after it. You must have wounded her haughty temper in some way or another. But sell it, and get the thousand sequins.”
“I will let you know to-morrow.”
I slept four or five hours, and then rose and went out in my great coat to call on Greppi, for I had no more money. I took a thousand sequins, begging him not to tell my affairs to anyone. He replied that my affairs were his own, and that I could count on his secrecy. He complimented me on the esteem in which Madame Palesi held me, and said he hoped to meet me at supper at her house one night.
“Such a meeting would give me the greatest pleasure,” I replied.
On leaving him I called on Therese, but as there were some people with her I did not stay long. I was glad to see that she knew nothing about my losses or my affairs. She said that Greppi wanted to sup with me at her house, and that she would let me know when the day was fixed. When I got home I found the count in front of my fire.
“My wife is in a furious rage with you,” said he, “and won’t tell me why.”
“The reason is, my dear count, that I won’t let her accept the dress from any hand but mine. She told me that she should despise it as a gift from me, but she has nothing to be furious about that I know.”
“It’s some mad notion of hers, and I don’t know what to make of it. But pray attend to what I am about to say to you. You despise a thousand sequins–good. I congratulate you. But if you are in a position to despise a sum which would make me happy, offer up a foolish vanity on the shrine of friendship, take the thousand sequins, and lend them to me, and let my wife have the dress, for of course he will give it her.”
This proposal made me roar with laughter, and certainly it was of a nature to excite the hilarity of a sufferer from confirmed melancholia, which I was far from being. However, I stopped laughing when I saw how the poor count blushed from shame. I kissed him affectionately to calm him, but at last I was cruel enough to say,
“I will willingly assist you in this arrangement. I will sell the dress to the marquis as soon as you please, but I won’t lend you the money. I’ll give it to you in the person of your wife at a private interview; but when she receives me she must not only be polite and complaisant, but as gentle as a lamb. Go and see if it can be arranged, my dear count; ’tis absolutely my last word.”
“I will see,” said the poor husband; and with that he went out.
Barbaro kept his appointment with exactitude. I made him get into my carriage, and we alighted at a house at the end of Milan. We went to the first floor, and there I was introduced to a fine- looking old man, an amiable lady of pleasing appearance, and then to two charming cousins. He introduced me as a Venetian gentleman in disgrace with the State Inquisitors, like himself, adding, that as I was a rich bachelor their good or ill favour made no difference to me.
He said I was rich, and I looked like it. My luxury of attire was dazzling: My rings, my snuff-boxes, my chains, my diamonds, my jewelled cross hanging on my breast-all gave me the air of an important personage. The cross belonged to the Order of the Spur the Pope had given me, but as I had carefully taken the spur away it was not known to what order I belonged. Those who might be curious did not dare to ask me, for one can no more enquire of a knight what order he belongs to, than one can say to a lady how old are you? I wore it till 1785, when the Prince Palatine of Russia told me in private that I would do well to get rid of the thing.
“It only serves to dazzle fools,” said he, “and here you have none such to deal with.”
I followed his advice, for he was a man of profound intelligence. Nevertheless, he removed the corner-stone of the kingdom of Poland. He ruined it by the same means by which he had made it greater.
The old man to whom Barbaro presented me was a marquis. He told me that he knew Venice, and as I was not a patrician I could live as pleasantly anywhere else. He told me to consider his house and all he possessed as mine.
The two young marchionesses had enchanted me; they were almost ideal beauties. I longed to enquire about them of some good authority, for I did not put much faith in Barbaro.
In half an hour the visitors commenced to come on foot and in carriages. Among the arrivals were several pretty and well- dressed girls, and numerous smart young men all vying with each other in their eagerness to pay court to the two cousins. There were twenty of us in all. We sat round a large table, and began to play a game called bankruptcy. After amusing myself for a couple of hours in losing sequins, I went out with Barbaro to the opera.
“The two young ladies are two incarnate angels,” I said to my countryman. “I shall pay my duty to them, and shall find out in a few days whether they are for me. As for the gaming speculation, I will lend you two hundred sequins; but I don’t want to lose the money, so you must give me good security.”
“To that I agree willingly, but I am certain of giving it you back with good interest.”
“You shall have a half share and not twenty-five per cent., and I must strongly insist that nobody shall know of my having anything to do with your bank. If I hear any rumours, I shall bet heavily on my own account.”
“You may be sure I shall keep the secret; it is to my own interest to have it believed that I am my own capitalist.”
“Very good. Come to me early to-morrow morning, and bring me good security, and you shall have the money.”
He embraced me in the joy of his heart.
The picture of the two fair ladies was still in my brain, and I was thinking of enquiring of Greppi when I chanced to see Triulzi in the pit of the opera-house. He saw me at the same moment, and came up to me, saying gaily that he was sure I had had a bad dinner, and that I had much better dine with him every day.
“You make me blush, marquis, for not having called on you yet.”
“No, no; there can be nothing of that kind between men of the world, who know the world’s worth.”
“We are agreed there, at all events.”
“By the way, I hear you have decided on selling me that handsome dress of yours. I am really very much obliged to you, and will give you the fifteen thousand livres whenever you like.”
“You can come and take it to-morrow morning.”
He then proceeded to tell me about the various ladies I noticed in the theatre. Seizing the opportunity, I said,–
“When I was in church the other day I saw two exquisite beauties. A man at my side told me they were cousins, the Marchionesses Q—- and I—-, I think he said. Do you know them? I am quite curious to hear about them.”
“I know them. As you say, they are charming. It’s not very difficult to obtain access to them; and I suppose they are good girls, as I have not heard their names in connection with any scandal. However, I know that Mdlle. F has a lover, but it is a great secret; he is the only son of one of the noblest of our families. Unfortunately, they are not rich; but if they are clever, as I am sure they are, they may make good matches. If you like I can get someone to introduce you there.”
“I haven’t made up my mind yet. I may be able to forget them easily only having seen them once. Nevertheless, I am infinitely obliged to you for your kind offer”
After the ballet I went into the assembly-room and I heard “there he is” several times repeated as I came in. The banker made me a bow, and offered me a place next to him. I sat down and he handed me a pack of cards. I punted, and with such inveterate bad luck that in less than an hour I lost seven hundred sequins. I should probably have lost all the money I had in my pocket if Canano had not been obliged to go away. He gave the cards to a man whose looks displeased me, and I rose and went home and got into bed directly, so as not to be obliged to conceal my ill temper.
In the morning Barbaro came to claim the two hundred sequins. He gave me the right to sequestrate his pay by way of surety. I do not think I should have had the heart to exercise my rights if things had gone wrong, but I liked to have some control over him. When I went out I called on Greppi, and took two thousand sequins in gold.
Humiliation of The Countess–Zenobia’s Wedding–Faro Conquest of The Fair Irene–Plan for a Masquerade
On my return I found the count with one of the marquis’s servants, who gave me a note, begging me to send the dress, which I did directly.
“The marquis will dine with us,” said the count, “and, no doubt, he will bring the money with him for this treasure.”
“You think it a treasure, then?”
“Yes, fit for a queen to wear.”
“I wish the treasure had the virtue of giving you a crown; one head-dress is as good as another.”
The poor devil understood the allusion, and as I liked him I reproached myself for having humiliated him unintentionally, but I could not resist the temptation to jest. I hastened to smooth his brow by saying that as soon as I got the money for the dress I would take it to the countess.
“I have spoken to her about it,” said he, “and your proposal made her laugh; but I am sure she will make up her mind when she finds herself in possession of the dress.”
It was a Friday. The marquis sent in an excellent fish dinner, and came himself soon after with the dress in a basket. The present was made with all ceremony, and the proud countess was profuse in her expressions of thanks, which the giver received coolly enough, as if accustomed to that kind of thing. However, he ended by the no means flattering remark that if she had any sense she would sell it, as everybody knew she was too poor to wear it. This suggestion by no means met with her approval. She abused him to her heart’s content, and told him he must be a great fool to give her a dress which he considered unsuitable to her.
They were disputing warmly when the Marchioness Menafoglio was announced. As soon as she came in her eyes were attracted by the dress, which was stretched over a chair, and finding it superb she exclaimed,
“I would gladly buy that dress.”
“I did not buy it to sell again,” said the countess, sharply.
“Excuse me,” replied the marchioness, “I thought it was for sale, and I am sorry it is not.”
The marquis, who was no lover of dissimulation, began to laugh, and the countess, fearing he would cover her with ridicule, hastened to change the conversation. But when the marchioness was gone the countess gave reins to her passion, and scolded the marquis bitterly for having laughed. However, he only replied by remarks which, though exquisitely polite, had a sting in them; and at last the lady said she was tired, and was going to lie down.
When she had left the room the marquis gave me the fifteen thousand francs, telling me that they would bring me good luck at Canano’s.
“You are a great favourite of Canano’s,” he added, “and he wants you to come and dine with him. He can’t ask you to supper, as he is obliged to spend his nights in the assembly-rooms.”
“Tell him I will come any day he likes except the day after to- morrow, when I have to go to a wedding at the ‘Apple Garden.'”
“I congratulate you,” said the count and the marquis together, “it will no doubt be very pleasant.”
“I expect to enjoy myself heartily there.”
“Could not we come, too?”
“Do you really want to?”
“Then I will get you an invitation from the fair bride herself on the condition that the countess comes as well. I must warn you that the company will consist of honest people of the lower classes, and I cannot have them humiliated in any way.”
“I will persuade the countess,” said Triulzi.
“To make your task an easier one, I may as well tell you that the wedding is that of the fair Zenobia.”
“Bravo! I am sure the countess will come to that.”
The count went out, and shortly reappeared with Zenobia. The marquis congratulated her, and encouraged her to ask the countess to the wedding. She seemed doubtful, so the marquis took her by the hand and let her into the proud Spaniard’s room. In half an hour they returned informing us that my lady had deigned to accept the invitation.
When the marquis had gone, the count told me that I might go and keep his wife company, if I had nothing better to do, and that he would see to some business.
“I have the thousand sequins in my pocket,” I remarked, “and if I find her reasonable, I will leave them with her.”
“I will go and speak to her first.”
While the count was out of the room, I exchanged the thousand sequins for the fifteen thousand francs in bank notes which Greppi had given me.
I was just shutting up my cash-box when Zenobia came in with my lace cuffs. She asked me if I would like to buy a piece of lace. I replied in the affirmative, and she went out and brought it me.
I liked the lace, and bought it for eighteen sequins, and said,–
“This lace is yours, dearest Zenobia, if you will content me this moment.”
“I love you well, but I should be glad if you would wait till after my marriage.”
“No, dearest, now or never. I cannot wait. I shall die if you do not grant my prayer. Look! do you not see what a state I am in?”
“I see it plainly enough, but it can’t be done.”
“Why not? Are you afraid of your husband noticing the loss of your maidenhead?”
“Not I, and if he did I shouldn’t care. I promise you if he dared to reproach me, he should not have me at all.”
“Well said, for my leavings are too good for him. Come quick!”
“But you will shut the door, at least?”
“No, the noise would be heard, and might give rise to suspicion. Nobody will come in.”
With these words I drew her towards me, and finding her as gentle as a lamb and as loving as a dove, the amorous sacrifice was offered with abundant libations on both sides. After the first ecstacy was over, I proceeded to examine her beauties, and with my usual amorous frenzy told her that she should send her tailor out to graze and live with me. Fortunately she did not believe in the constancy of my passion. After a second assault I rested, greatly astonished that the count had not interrupted our pleasures. I thought he must have gone out, and I told Zenobia my opinion, whereon she overwhelmed me with caresses. Feeling at my ease, I set her free from her troublesome clothes, and gave myself up to toying with her in a manner calculated to arouse the exhausted senses; and then for the third time we were clasped to each other’s arms, while I made Zenobia put herself into the many attitudes which I knew from experience as most propitious to the voluptuous triumph.
We were occupied a whole hour in these pleasures, but Zenobia, in the flower of her age and a novice, poured forth many more libations than I.
Just as I lost life for the third time, and Zenobia for the fourteenth, I heard the count’s voice. I told my sweetheart, who had heard it as well, and after we had dressed hastily I gave her the eighteen sequins, and she left the room.
A moment after the count came in laughing, and said,–
“I have been watching you all the time by this chink” (which he shewed me), “and I have found it very amusing.”
“I am delighted to hear it, but keep it to youself.”
“Of course, of course.”
“My wife,” said he, “will be very pleased to see you; and I,” he added, “shall be very pleased as well.”
“You are a philosophical husband,” said I, “but I am afraid after the exercises you witnessed the countess will find me rather slow.”
“Not at all, the recollection will make it all the pleasanter for you.”
“Mentally perhaps, but in other respects . . .”
“Oh! you will manage to get out of it.”
“My carriage is at your service, as I shall not be going out for the rest of the day.”
I softly entered the countess’s room and finding her in bed enquired affectionately after her health.
“I am very well,” said she, smiling agreeably, “my husband has done me good.”
I had seated myself quietly on the bed, and she had shewn no vexation; certainly a good omen.
“Aren’t you going out any more to-day?” said she, “you have got your dressing-gown on.”
“I fell asleep lying on my bed, and when I awoke I decided on keeping you company if you will be as good and gentle as you are pretty.”
“If you behave well to me, you will always find me so.
“And will you love me?”
“That depends on you. So you are going to sacrifice Canano to me this evening.”
“Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. He has won a lot from me already, and I foresee that he will win the fifteen thousand francs I have in my pocket to-morrow. This is the money the Marquis Triulzi gave me for the dress.”
“It would be a pity to lose such a large sum.”
“You are right, and I need not lose them if you will be complaisant, for they are meant for you. Allow me to shut the door.”
“Because I am perishing with cold and desire, and intend warming myself in your bed.”
“I will never allow that.”
“I don’t want to force you. Good-bye, countess, I will go and warm myself by my own fire, and to-morrow I will wage war on Canano’s bank.”
“You are certainly a sad dog. Stay here, I like your conversation.”
Without more ado I locked the door, took off my clothes, and seeing that her back was turned to me, jumped into bed beside her. She had made up her mind, and let me do as I liked, but my combats with Zenobia had exhausted me. With closed eyes she let me place her in all the postures which lubricity could suggest, while her hands were not idle; but all was in vain, my torpor was complete, and nothing would give life to the instrument which was necessary to the operation.
Doubtless the Spaniard felt that my nullity was an insult to her charms; doubtless I must have tortured her by raising desires which I could not appease; for several times I felt my fingers drenched with a flow that shewed she was not passive in the matter; but she pretended all the while to be asleep. I was vexed at her being able to feign insensibility to such an extent, and I attached myself to her head; but her lips, which she abandoned to me, and which I abused disgracefully, produced no more effect than the rest of her body. I felt angry that I could not effect the miracle of resurrection, and I decided on leaving a stage where I had so wretched a part, but I was not generous to her, and put the finishing stroke to her humiliation by saying,–
“‘Tis not my fault, madam, that your charms have so little power over me. Here, take these fifteen thousand francs by way of consolation.”
With this apostrophe I left her.
My readers, more especially my lady readers, if I ever have any, will no doubt pronounce me a detestable fellow after this. I understand their feelings, but beg them to suspend their judgment. They will see afterwards that my instinct served me wonderfully in the course I had taken.
Early the next day the count came into my room with a very pleased expression.
“My wife is very well,” said he, “and told me to wish you good day.”
I did not expect this, and I no doubt looked somewhat astonished.
“I am glad,” he said, “that you gave her francs instead of the sequins you got from Triulzi, and I hope, as Triulzi said, you will have luck with it at the bank.”
“I am not going to the opera,” said I, “but to the masked ball, and I don’t want anyone to recognize me.”
I begged him to go and buy me a new domino, and not to come near me in the evening, so that none but he should know who I was. As soon as he had gone out I began to write letters. I had heavy arrears to make up in that direction.
The count brought me my domino at noon, and after hiding it we went to dine with the countess. Her affability, politeness, and gentleness astounded me. She looked so sweetly pretty that I repented having outraged her so scandalously. Her insensibility of the evening before seemed inconceivable, and I began to suspect that the signs I had noticed to the contrary were only due to the animal faculties which are specially active in sleep.
“Was she really asleep,” said I to myself, “when I was outraging her so shamefully?”
I hoped it had been so. When her husband left us alone, I said, humbly and tenderly, that I knew I was a monster, and that she must detest me.
“You a monster?” said she. “On the contrary I owe much to you, and there is nothing I can think of for which I have cause to reproach you.”
I took her hand, tenderly, and would have carried it to my lips, but she drew it away gently and gave me a kiss. My repentance brought a deep blush to my face.
When I got back to my room I sealed my letters and went to the ball. I was absolutely unrecognizable. Nobody had ever seen my watches or my snuff-boxes before, and I had even changed my purses for fear of anybody recognizing me by them.
Thus armed against the glances of the curious, I sat down at Canano’s table and commenced to play in quite a different fashion. I had a hundred Spanish pieces in my pocket worth seven hundred Venetian sequins. I had got this Spanish money from Greppi, and I took care not to use what Triulzi had given me for fear he should know me.
I emptied my purse on the table, and in less than an hour it was all gone. I rose from the table and everybody thought I was going to beat a retreat, but I took out another purse and put a hundred sequins on one card, going second, with paroli, seven, and the va. The stroke was successful and Canano gave me back my hundred Spanish pieces, on which I sat down again by the banker, and recommenced regular play. Canano was looking at me hard. My snuff-box was the one which the Elector of Cologne had given me, with the prince’s portrait on the lid. I took a pinch of snuff and he gave me to understand that he would like one too, and the box was subjected to a general examination. A lady whom I did not know said the portrait represented the Elector of Cologne in his robes as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. The box was returned to me and I saw that it had made me respected, so small a thing imposes on people. I then put fifty sequins on one card, going paroli and paix de paroli, and at daybreak I had broken the bank. Canano said politely that if I liked to be spared the trouble of carrying all that gold he would have it weighed and give me a cheque. A pair of scales was brought, and it was found that I had thirty-four pounds weight in gold, amounting to two thousand eight hundred and fifty-six sequins. Canano wrote me a cheque, and I slowly returned to the ball-room.
Barbaro had recognized me with the keenness of a Venetian. He accosted me and congratulated me on my luck, but I gave him no answer, and seeing that I wished to remain incognito he left me.
A lady in a Greek dress richly adorned with diamonds came up to me, and said in a falsetto voice that she would like to dance with me.
I made a sign of assent, and as she took off her glove I saw a finely-shaped hand as white as alabaster, one of the fingers bearing an exquisite diamond ring. It was evidently no ordinary person, and though I puzzled my head I could not guess who she could be.
She danced admirably, in the style of a woman of fashion, and I too exerted myself to the utmost. By the time the dance was over I was covered with perspiration.
“You look hot,” said my partner, in her falsetto voice, “come and rest in my box.”
My heart leaped with joy, and I followed her with great delight; but as I saw Greppi in the box to which she took me, I had no doubt that it must be Therese, which did not please me quite so well. In short, the lady took off her mask; it was Therese, and I complimented her on her disguise.
“But how did you recognize me, dearest?”
“By your snuff-box. I knew it, otherwise I should never have found you out.”
“Then you think that nobody has recognized me?”
“Nobody, unless in the same way as I did.”
“None of the people here have seen my snuff-box.”
I took the opportunity of handing over to Greppi Canano’s cheque, and he gave me a receipt for it. Therese asked us to supper for the ensuing evening, and said,–
“There will be four of us in all.”
Greppi seemed curious to know who the fourth person could be, but I right guessed it would be my dear son Cesarino.
As I went down once more to the ball-room two pretty female dominos attacked me right and left, telling me that Messer-Grande was waiting for me outside. They then asked me for some snuff, and I gave them a box ornamented with an indecent picture. I had the impudence to touch the spring and shew it them, and after inspecting it they exclaimed,–
“Fie, fie! your punishment is never to know who we are.”
I was sorry to have displeased the two fair masquers, who seemed worth knowing, so I followed them, and meeting Barbaro, who knew everybody, I pointed them out to him, and heard to my delight that they were the two Marchionesses Q—- and F—-. I promised Barbaro to go and see them. He said that everybody in the ball- room knew me, and that our bank was doing very well, though, of course, that was a trifle to me.
Towards the end of the ball, when it was already full daylight, a masquer, dressed as a Venetian gondolier, was accosted by a lady masquer, also in Venetian costume. She challenged the gondolier to prove himself a Venetian by dancing the ‘forlana’ with her. The gondolier accepted, and the music struck up, but the boatman, who was apparently a Milanese, was hooted, while the lady danced exquisitely. I was very fond of the dance, and I asked the unknown Venetian lady to dance it again with me. She agreed, and a ring was formed round us, and we were so applauded that we had to dance it over again. This would have sufficed if a very pretty shepherdess without a mask had not begged me to dance it with her. I could not refuse her, and she danced exquisitely; going round and round the circle three times, and seeming to hover in the air. I was quite out of breath. When it was finished, she came up to me and whispered my name in my ear. I was astonished, and feeling the charm of the situation demanded her name.
“You shall know,” said she, in Venetian, “if you will come to the ‘Three Kings.'”
“Are you alone?”
“No, my father and mother, who are old friends of yours, are with me”
“I will call on Monday.”
What a number of adventures to have in one night! I went home wearily, and went to bed, but I was only allowed to sleep for two hours. I was roused and begged to dress myself. The countess, the marquis, and the count, all ready for Zenobia’s wedding, teased me till I was ready, telling me it was not polite to keep a bride waiting. Then they all congratulated me on my breaking the bank and the run of luck against me. I told the marquis that it was his money that had brought me luck, but he replied by saying that he knew what had become of his money.
This indiscretion either on the count’s part or the countess’s surprised me greatly; it seemed to me contrary to all the principles in intrigue.
“Canano knew you,” said the marquis, “by the way you opened your snuff-box, and he hopes to see us to dinner before long. He says he hopes you will win a hundred pounds weight of gold; he has a fancy for you.”
“Canano,” said I, “has keen eyes, and plays faro admirably. I have not the slightest wish to win his money from him.”
We then started for the “Apple Garden,” where we found a score of honest folks and the bride and bridegroom, who overwhelmed us with compliments. We soon put the company at their ease. At first our presence overawed them, but a little familiarity soon restored the general hilarity. We sat down to dinner, and among the guests were some very pretty girls, but my head was too full of Zenobia to care about them. The dinner lasted three hours. It was an abundant repast, and the foreign wines were so exquisite that it was easy to see that the sum I had furnished had been exceeded. Good fellowship prevailed, and after the first bumper had passed round everybody proposed somebody else’s health, and as each tried to say something different to his neighbour the most fearful nonsense prevailed. Then everybody thought himself bound to sing, and they were not at all first-rate vocalists by any means. We laughed heartily and also caused laughter, for our speeches and songs were as bad as those of our humble friends.
When we rose from the table kissing became general, and the countess could not resist laughing when she found herself obliged to hold out her cheeks for the salute of the tailor, who thought her laughter a special mark of favour.
Strains of sweet music were heard, and the ball was duly opened by the newly-married couple. Zenobia danced, if not exactly well, at least gracefully; but the tailor, who had never put his legs to any other use besides crossing them, cut such a ridiculous figure that the countess had much ado to restrain her laughter. But in spite of that I led out Zenobia for the next minuet, and the proud countess was obliged to dance with the wretched tailor.
When the minuets stopped the square dances began, and refreshments were liberally handed round. Confetti, a kind of sweetmeat, even better than that made at Verdun, were very plentiful.
When we were just going I congratulated the husband and offered to bring Zenobia home in my carriage, which he was pleased to style a very honourable offer. I gave my hand to Zenobia, and helped her into the carriage, and having told the coachman to go slowly I put her on my knee, extinguisher fashion, and kept her there all the time. Zenobia was the first to get down, and noticing that my breeches of grey velvet were spoiled, I told her that I would be with her in a few minutes. In two minutes I put on a pair of black satin breeches, and I rejoined the lady before her husband came in. She asked what I had been doing, and on my telling her that our exploits in the carriage had left very evident marks on my trousers, she gave me a kiss, and thanked me for my forethought.
Before long the husband and his sister arrived. He thanked me, calling me his gossip, and then noticing the change in my dress he asked me how I had contrived to make the alteration so quickly.
“I went to my room, leaving your wife at your house, for which I beg your pardon.”
“Didn’t you see that the gentleman had spilt a cup of coffee over his handsome breeches?” said Zenobia.
“My dear wife,” said the crafty tailor, “I don’t see everything, nor is it necessary that I should do so, but you should have accompanied the gentleman to his room.”
Then turning to me with a laugh, he asked me how I had enjoyed the wedding.
“Immensely, and my friends have done the same; but you must let me pay you, dear gossip, for what you spent over and above the twenty-four sequins. You can tell me how much it is.”
“Very little, a mere trifle; Zenobia shall bring you the bill.”
I went home feeling vexed with myself for not having foreseen that the rogue would notice my change of dress, and guess the reason. However, I consoled myself with the thought that the tailor was no fool, and that it was plain that he was content to play the part we had assigned to him. So after wishing good night to the count, the countess and the marquis, who all thanked me for the happy day they had spent, I went to bed.
As soon as I was awake, I thought of the shepherdess who had danced the ‘forlana’ so well at the ball, and I resolved to pay her a visit. I was not more interested in her beauty than to find out who her father and mother, “old friends of mine,” could be. I dressed and walked to the “Three Kings,” and on walking into the room which the shepherdess had indicated to me, what was my astonishment to find myself face to face with the Countess Rinaldi, whom Zavoisky had introduced me to at the ‘locanda’ of Castelletto sixteen years ago. The reader will remember how M. de Bragadin paid her husband the money he won from me at play.
Madame Rinaldi had aged somewhat, but I knew her directly. However, as I had never had more than a passing fancy for her, we did not go back to days which did neither of us any honour.
“I am delighted to see you again,” said I; “are you still living with your husband?”
“You will see him in half an hour, and he will be glad to present his respects to you.”
“I should not at all care for it myself, madam; there are old quarrels between us which I do not want to renew, so, madam, farewell.”
“No, no, don’t go yet, sit down.”
“Irene, don’t let the gentleman go.”
At these words Irene ran and barred the way–not like a fierce mastiff, but like an angel, entreating me to stay with that mingled look of innocence, fear, and hope, of which girls know the effect so well. I felt I could not go.
“Let me through, fair Irene,” said I, “we may see each other somewhere else.”
“Pray do not go before you have seen my father:”
The words were spoken so tenderly that our lips met. Irene was victorious. How can one resist a pretty girl who implores with a kiss? I took a chair, and Irene, proud of her victory, sat on my knee and covered me with kisses.
I took it into my head to task the countess where and when Irene was born.
“At Mantua,” said she, “three months after I left Venice.”
“And when did you leave Venice?”
“Six months after I met you.”
“That is a curious coincidence, and if we had been tenderly acquainted you might say that Irene was my daughter, and I should believe you, and think that my affection for her was purely paternal.”
“Your memory is not very good, sir, I wonder at that.”
“I may tell you, that I never forget certain things, But I guess your meaning. You want me to subdue my liking for Irene. I am willing to do so, but she will be the loser.”
This conversation had silenced Irene, but she soon took courage, and said she was like me.
“No, no,” I answered, “if you were like me you would not be so pretty.”
“I don’t think so; I think you are very handsome.”
“You flatter me.”
“Stay to dinner with us.”
“No, if I stayed I might fall in love with you, and that would be a pity, as your mother says I am your father.”
“I was joking,” said the countess, “you may love Irene with a good conscience.”
“We will see what can be done.”
When Irene had left the room, I said to the mother,–
“I like your daughter, but I won’t be long sighing for her, and you mustn’t take me for a dupe.”
“Speak to my husband about it. We are very poor, and we want to go to Cremona.”
“I suppose Irene has a lover?”
“But she has had one, of course?”
“Never anything serious.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s true, nevertheless. Irene is intact.”
Just then Irene came in with her father, who had aged to such an extent that I should never have known him in the street. He came up to me and embraced me, begging me to forget the past. “It is only you,” he added, “who can furnish me with funds to go to Cremona.
“I have several debts here, and am in some danger of imprisonment. Nobody of any consequence comes to see me. My dear daughter is the only thing of value which I still possess. I have just been trying to sell this pinchbeck watch, and though I asked only six sequins, which is half what it is worth, they would not give me more than two. When a man gets unfortunate, everything is against him.”
I took the watch, and gave the father six sequins for it, and then handed it to Irene. She said with a smile that she could not thank me, as I only gave her back her own, but she thanked me for the present I had made her father.
“Here,” said she seriously to the old man, “you can sell it again now.”
This made me laugh. I gave the count ten sequins in addition, embraced Irene, and said I must be gone, but that I would see them again in three or four days.
Irene escorted me to the bottom of the stairs, and as she allowed me to assure myself that she still possessed the rose of virginity, I gave her another ten sequins, and told her that the first time she went alone to the ball with me I would give her a hundred sequins. She said she would consult her father.
Feeling sure that the poor devil would hand over Irene to me, and having no apartment in which I could enjoy her in freedom, I stopped to read a bill in a pastrycook’s window. It announced a room to let. I went in, and the pastrycook told me that the house belonged to him, and his pretty wife, who was suckling a baby, begged me to come upstairs and see the room. The street was a lonely one, and had a pleasing air of mystery about it. I climbed to the third floor, but the rooms there were wretched garrets of no use to me.
“The first floor,” said the woman, “consists of a suite of four nice rooms, but we only let them together.”
“Let us go and see them. Good! they will do. What is the rent?”
“You must settle that with my husband.”
“And can’t I settle anything with you, my dear?”
So saying I gave her a kiss which she took very kindly, but she smelt of nursing, which I detested, so I did not go any farther despite her radiant beauty.
I made my bargain with the landlord, and paid a month’s rent in advance for which he gave me a receipt. It was agreed that I should come and go as I pleased, and that he should provide me with food. I gave him a name so common as to tell him nothing whatever about me, but he seemed to care very little about that.
As I had agreed with Barbaro to visit the fair marchionesses, I dressed carefully, and after a slight repast with the countess, who was pleasant but did not quite please me, I met my fellow- countryman and we called on the two cousins.
“I have come,” said I, “to beg your pardons for having revealed to you the secret of the snuff-box.”
They blushed, and scolded Barbaro, thinking that he had betrayed them. On examining them I found them far superior to Irene, my present flame, but their manner, the respect they seemed to require, frightened me. I was not at all disposed to dance attendance on them. Irene, on the contrary, was an easy prey. I had only to do her parents a service, and she was in my power; while the two cousins had their full share of aristocratic pride, which debases the nobility to the level of the vilest of the people, and only imposes upon fools, who after all are in the majority everywhere. Further I was no longer at that brilliant age which fears nothing, and I was afraid that my appearance would hardly overcome them. It is true that Barbaro had made me hope that presents would be of some use, but after what the Marquis Triulzi had said, I feared that Barbaro had only spoken on supposition.
When the company was sufficiently numerous, the card-tables were brought in. I sat down by Mdlle. Q—-, and disposed myself to play for small stakes. I was introduced by the aunt, the mistress of the house, to a young gentleman in Austrian uniform who sat beside me.
My dear countryman played like a true sharper, much to my displeasure. My fair neighbour, at the end of the game, which lasted four hours, found herself the gainer of a few sequins, but the officer, who had played on his word of honour, after losing all the money in his pockets, owed ten louis. The bank was the winner of fifty sequins, including the officer’s debt. As the young man lived at some distance he honoured me by coming in my carriage.
On the way, Barbaro told us he would introduce us to a girl who had just come from Venice. The officer caught fire at this, and begged that we should go and see her directly, and we accordingly went. The girl was well enough looking, but neither I nor the officer cared much about her. While they were making some coffee for us, and Barbaro was entertaining the young lady, I took a pack of cards, and had not much difficulty in inducing the officer to risk twenty sequins against the twenty I put on the table. While we were playing I spoke to him of the passion with which the young marchioness inspired me.
“She’s my sister,” said he.
I knew as much, but pretended to be astonished, and I went on playing. Taking the opportunity I told him that I knew of no one who could let the marchioness know of my affection better than he. I made him laugh, and as he thought I was jesting he only gave vague answers; but seeing that while I talked of my passion I forgot my card, he soon won the twenty sequins from me, and immediately paid them to Barbaro. In the excess of his joy he embraced me as if I had given him the money; and when we parted he promised to give me some good news of his sister at our next meeting.
I had to go to supper with Therese, Greppi, and my son, but having some spare time before me I went to the opera-house. The third act was going on, and I accordingly visited the cardroom, and there lost two hundred sequins at a single deal. I left the room almost as if I was flying from an enemy. Canano shook me by the hand, and told me he expected me and the marquis to dinner every day, and I promised we would come at the earliest opportunity.