A Cleric in Naples, Casanova, v2
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 2 out of 4
and, finding me near him, went to sleep again. Half an hour after, I
tried a second time, but with the same result. I had to give it up
Love is the most cunning of gods; in the midst of obstacles he seems
to be in his own element, but as his very existence depends upon the
enjoyment of those who ardently worship him, the shrewd, all-seeing,
little blind god contrives to bring success out of the most desperate
I had given up all hope for the night, and had nearly gone to sleep,
when suddenly we hear a dreadful noise. Guns are fired in the
street, people, screaming and howling, are running up and down the
stairs; at last there is a loud knocking at our door. The advocate,
frightened out of his slumbers, asks me what it can all mean; I
pretend to be very indifferent, and beg to be allowed to sleep. But
the ladies are trembling with fear, and loudly calling for a light.
I remain very quiet, the advocate jumps out of bed, and runs out of
the room to obtain a candle; I rise at once, I follow him to shut the
door, but I slam it rather too hard, the double spring of the lock
gives way, and the door cannot be reopened without the key.
I approach the ladies in order to calm their anxiety, telling them
that the advocate would soon return with a light, and that we should
then know the cause of the tumult, but I am not losing my time, and
am at work while I am speaking. I meet with very little opposition,
but, leaning rather too heavily upon my fair lady, I break through
the bottom of the bedstead, and we suddenly find ourselves, the two
ladies and myself, all together in a heap on the floor. The advocate
comes back and knocks at the door; the sister gets up, I obey the
prayers of my charming friend, and, feeling my way, reach the door,
and tell the advocate that I cannot open it, and that he must get the
key. The two sisters are behind me. I extend my hand; but I am
abruptly repulsed, and judge that I have addressed myself to the
wrong quarter; I go to the other side, and there I am better
received. But the husband returns, the noise of the key in the lock
announces that the door is going to be opened, and we return to our
The advocate hurries to the bed of the two frightened ladies,
thinking of relieving their anxiety, but, when he sees them buried in
their broken-down bedstead, he bursts into a loud laugh. He tells me
to come and have a look at them, but I am very modest, and decline
the invitation. He then tells us that the alarm has been caused by a
German detachment attacking suddenly the Spanish troops in the city,
and that the Spaniards are running away. In a quarter of an hour the
noise has ceased, and quiet is entirely re-established.
The advocate complimented me upon my coolness, got into bed again,
and was soon asleep. As for me, I was careful not to close my eyes,
and as soon as I saw daylight I got up in order to perform certain
ablutions and to change my shirt; it was an absolute necessity.
I returned for breakfast, and while we were drinking the delicious
coffee which Donna Lucrezia had made, as I thought, better than ever,
I remarked that her sister frowned on me. But how little I cared for
her anger when I saw the cheerful, happy countenance, and the
approving looks of my adored Lucrezia! I felt a delightful sensation
run through the whole of my body.
We reached Rome very early. We had taken breakfast at the Tour, and
the advocate being in a very gay mood I assumed the same tone,
loading him with compliments, and predicting that a son would be born
to him, I compelled his wife to promise it should be so. I did not
forget the sister of my charming Lucrezia, and to make her change her
hostile attitude towards me I addressed to her so many pretty
compliments, and behaved in such a friendly manner, that she was
compelled to forgive the fall of the bed. As I took leave of them, I
promised to give them a call on the following day.
I was in Rome! with a good wardrobe, pretty well supplied with money
and jewellery, not wanting in experience, and with excellent letters
of introduction. I was free, my own master, and just reaching the
age in which a man can have faith in his own fortune, provided he is
not deficient in courage, and is blessed with a face likely to
attract the sympathy of those he mixes with. I was not handsome, but
I had something better than beauty--a striking expression which
almost compelled a kind interest in my favour, and I felt myself
ready for anything. I knew that Rome is the one city in which a man
can begin from the lowest rung, and reach the very top of the social
ladder. This knowledge increased my courage, and I must confess that
a most inveterate feeling of self-esteem which, on account of my
inexperience, I could not distrust, enhanced wonderfully my
confidence in myself.
The man who intends to make his fortune in this ancient capital of
the world must be a chameleon susceptible of reflecting all the
colours of the atmosphere that surrounds him--a Proteus apt to assume
every form, every shape. He must be supple, flexible, insinuating;
close, inscrutable, often base, sometimes sincere, some times
perfidious, always concealing a part of his knowledge, indulging in
one tone of voice, patient, a perfect master of his own countenance.
as cold as ice when any other man would be all fire; and if
unfortunately he is not religious at heart--a very common occurrence
for a soul possessing the above requisites--he must have religion in
his mind, that is to say, on his face, on his lips, in his manners;
he must suffer quietly, if he be an honest man the necessity of
knowing himself an arrant hypocrite. The man whose soul would loathe
such a life should leave Rome and seek his fortune elsewhere. I do
not know whether I am praising or excusing myself, but of all those
qualities I possessed but one--namely, flexibility; for the rest, I
was only an interesting, heedless young fellow, a pretty good blood
horse, but not broken, or rather badly broken; and that is much
I began by delivering the letter I had received from Don Lelio for
Father Georgi. The learned monk enjoyed the esteem of everyone in
Rome, and the Pope himself had a great consideration for him, because
he disliked the Jesuits, and did not put a mask on to tear the mask
from their faces, although they deemed themselves powerful enough to
He read the letter with great attention, and expressed himself
disposed to be my adviser; and that consequently I might make him
responsible for any evil which might befall me, as misfortune is not
to be feared by a man who acts rightly. He asked me what I intended
to do in Rome, and I answered that I wished him to tell me what to
"Perhaps I may; but in that case you must come and see me often, and
never conceal from me anything, you understand, not anything, of what
interests you, or of what happens to you."
"Don Lelio has likewise given me a letter for the Cardinal
"I congratulate you; the cardinal's influence in Rome is greater even
than that of the Pope."
"Must I deliver the letter at once?"
"No; I will see him this evening, and prepare him for your visit.
Call on me to-morrow morning, and I will then tell you where and when
you are to deliver your letter to the cardinal. Have you any money?"
"Enough for all my wants during one year."
"That is well. Have you any acquaintances?"
"Do not make any without first consulting me, and, above all, avoid
coffee-houses and ordinaries, but if you should happen to frequent
such places, listen and never speak. Be careful to form your
judgment upon those who ask any questions from you, and if common
civility obliges you to give an answer, give only an evasive one, if
any other is likely to commit you. Do you speak French?"
"Not one word."
"I am sorry for that; you must learn French. Have you been a
"A poor one, but I have a sufficient smattering to converse with
"That is enough; but be very prudent, for Rome is the city in which
smatterers unmask each other, and are always at war amongst
themselves. I hope you will take your letter to the cardinal,
dressed like a modest abbe, and not in this elegant costume which is
not likely to conjure fortune. Adieu, let me see you to-morrow."
Highly pleased with the welcome I had received at his hands, and with
all he had said to me, I left his house and proceeded towards Campo-
di-Fiore to deliver the letter of my cousin Antonio to Don Gaspar
Vivaldi, who received me in his library, where I met two respectable-
looking priests. He gave me the most friendly welcome, asked for my
address, and invited me to dinner for the next day. He praised
Father Georgi most highly, and, accompanying me as far as the stairs,
he told me that he would give me on the morrow the amount his friend
Don Antonio requested him to hand me.
More money which my generous cousin was bestowing on me! It is easy
enough to give away when one possesses sufficient means to do it, but
it is not every man who knows how to give. I found the proceeding of
Don Antonio more delicate even than generous; I could not refuse his
present; it was my duty to prove my gratitude by accepting it.
Just after I had left M. Vivaldi's house I found myself face to face
with Stephano, and this extraordinary original loaded me with
friendly caresses. I inwardly despised him, yet I could not feel
hatred for him; I looked upon him as the instrument which Providence
had been pleased to employ in order to save me from ruin. After
telling me that he had obtained from the Pope all he wished, he
advised me to avoid meeting the fatal constable who had advanced me
two sequins in Seraval, because he had found out that I had deceived
him, and had sworn revenge against me. I asked Stephano to induce
the man to leave my acknowledgement of the debt in the hands of a
certain merchant whom we both knew, and that I would call there to
discharge the amount. This was done, and it ended the affair.
That evening I dined at the ordinary, which was frequented by Romans
and foreigners; but I carefully followed the advice of Father Georgi.
I heard a great deal of harsh language used against the Pope and
against the Cardinal Minister, who had caused the Papal States to be
inundated by eighty thousand men, Germans as well as Spaniards. But
I was much surprised when I saw that everybody was eating meat,
although it was Saturday. But a stranger during the first few days
after his arrival in Rome is surrounded with many things which at
first cause surprise, and to which he soon gets accustomed. There is
not a Catholic city in the world in which a man is half so free on
religious matters as in Rome. The inhabitants of Rome are like the
men employed at the Government tobacco works, who are allowed to take
gratis as much tobacco as they want for their own use. One can live
in Rome with the most complete freedom, except that the 'ordini
santissimi' are as much to be dreaded as the famous Lettres-de-cachet
before the Revolution came and destroyed them, and shewed the whole
world the general character of the French nation.
The next day, the 1st of October, 1743, I made up my mind to be
shaved. The down on my chin had become a beard, and I judged that it
was time to renounce some of the privileges enjoyed by adolescence.
I dressed myself completely in the Roman fashion, and Father Georgi
was highly pleased when he saw me in that costume, which had been
made by the tailor of my dear cousin, Don Antonio.
Father Georgi invited me to take a cup of chocolate with him, and
informed me that the cardinal had been apprised of my arrival by a
letter from Don Lelio, and that his eminence would receive me at noon
at the Villa Negroni, where he would be taking a walk. I told Father
Georgi that I had been invited to dinner by M. Vivaldi, and he
advised me to cultivate his acquaintance.
I proceeded to the Villa Negroni; the moment he saw me the cardinal
stopped to receive my letter, allowing two persons who accompanied
him to walk forward. He put the letter in his pocket without reading
it, examined me for one or two minutes, and enquired whether I felt
any taste for politics. I answered that, until now, I had not felt
in me any but frivolous tastes, but that I would make bold to answer
for my readiness to execute all the orders which his eminence might
be pleased to lay upon me, if he should judge me worthy of entering
"Come to my office to-morrow morning," said the cardinal, "and ask
for the Abbe Gama, to whom I will give my instructions. You must
apply yourself diligently to the study of the French language; it is
indispensable." He then enquired after Don Leilo's health, and after
kissing his hand I took my leave.
I hastened to the house of M. Gaspar Vivaldi, where I dined amongst a
well-chosen party of guests. M. Vivaldi was not married; literature
was his only passion. He loved Latin poetry even better than
Italian, and Horace, whom I knew by heart, was his favourite poet.
After dinner, we repaired to his study, and he handed me one hundred
Roman crowns, and Don Antonio's present, and assured me that I would
be most welcome whenever I would call to take a cup of chocolate with
After I had taken leave of Don Gaspar, I proceeded towards the
Minerva, for I longed to enjoy the surprise of my dear Lucrezia and
of her sister; I inquired for Donna Cecilia Monti, their mother, and
I saw, to my great astonishment, a young widow who looked like the
sister of her two charming daughters. There was no need for me to
give her my name; I had been announced, and she expected me. Her
daughters soon came in, and their greeting caused me some amusement,
for I did not appear to them to be the same individual. Donna
Lucrezia presented me to her youngest sister, only eleven years of
age, and to her brother, an abbe of fifteen, of charming appearance.
I took care to behave so as to please the mother; I was modest,
respectful, and shewed a deep interest in everything I saw. The good
advocate arrived, and was surprised at the change in my appearance.
He launched out in his usual jokes, and I followed him on that
ground, yet I was careful not to give to my conversation the tone of
levity which used to cause so much mirth in our travelling coach; so
that, to, pay me a compliment, he told nee that, if I had had the
sign of manhood shaved from my face, I had certainly transferred it
to my mind. Donna Lucrezia did not know what to think of the change
in my manners.
Towards evening I saw, coming in rapid succession, five or six
ordinary-looking ladies, and as many abbes, who appeared to me some
of the volumes with which I was to begin my Roman education. They
all listened attentively to the most insignificant word I uttered,
and I was very careful to let them enjoy their conjectures about me.
Donna Cecilia told the advocate that he was but a poor painter, and
that his portraits were not like the originals; he answered that she
could not judge, because the original was shewing under a mask, and I
pretended to be mortified by his answer. Donna Lucrezia said that
she found me exactly the same, and her sister was of opinion that the
air of Rome gave strangers a peculiar appearance. Everybody
applauded, and Angelique turned red with satisfaction. After a visit
of four hours I bowed myself out, and the advocate, following me,
told me that his mother-in-law begged me to consider myself as a
friend of the family, and to be certain of a welcome at any hour I
liked to call. I thanked him gratefully and took my leave, trusting
that I had pleased this amiable society as much as it had pleased me.
The next day I presented myself to the Abbe Gama. He was a
Portuguese, about forty years old, handsome, and with a countenance
full of candour, wit, and good temper. His affability claimed and
obtained confidence. His manners and accent were quite Roman. He
informed me, in the blandest manner, that his eminence had himself
given his instructions about me to his majordomo, that I would have a
lodging in the cardinal's palace, that I would have my meals at the
secretaries' table, and that, until I learned French, I would have
nothing to do but make extracts from letters that he would supply me
with. He then gave me the address of the French teacher to whom he
had already spoken in my behalf. He was a Roman advocate, Dalacqua
by name, residing precisely opposite the palace.
After this short explanation, and an assurance that I could at all
times rely upon his friendship, he had me taken to the major-domo,
who made me sign my name at the bottom of a page in a large book,
already filled with other names, and counted out sixty Roman crowns
which he paid me for three months salary in advance. After this he
accompanied me, followed by a 'staffiere' to my apartment on the
third floor, which I found very comfortably furnished. The servant
handed me the key, saying that he would come every morning to attend
upon me, and the major-domo accompanied me to the gate to make me
known to the gate-keeper. I immediately repaired to my inn, sent my
luggage to the palace, and found myself established in a place in
which a great fortune awaited me, if I had only been able to lead a
wise and prudent life, but unfortunately it was not in my nature.
'Volentem ducit, nolentem trahit.'
I naturally felt it my duty to call upon my mentor, Father Georgi, to
whom I gave all my good news. He said I was on the right road, and
that my fortune was in my hands.
"Recollect," added the good father, "that to lead a blameless life
you must curb your passions, and that whatever misfortune may befall
you it cannot be ascribed by any one to a want of good luck, or
attributed to fate; those words are devoid of sense, and all the
fault will rightly fall on your own head."
"I foresee, reverend father, that my youth and my want of experience
will often make it necessary for me to disturb you. I am afraid of
proving myself too heavy a charge for you, but you will find me
docile and obedient."
"I suppose you will often think me rather too severe; but you are not
likely to confide everything to me."
"Everything, without any exception."
"Allow me to feel somewhat doubtful; you have not told me where you
spent four hours yesterday."
"Because I did not think it was worth mentioning. I made the
acquaintance of those persons during my journey; I believe them to be
worthy and respectable, and the right sort of people for me to visit,
unless you should be of a different opinion."
"God forbid! It is a very respectable house, frequented by honest
people. They are delighted at having made your acquaintance; you are
much liked by everybody, and they hope to retain you as a friend; I
have heard all about it this morning; but you must not go there too
often and as a regular guest."
"Must I cease my visits at once, and without cause?"
"No, it would be a want of politeness on your part. You may go there
once or twice every week, but do not be a constant visitor. You are
sighing, my son?"
"No, I assure you not. I will obey you."
"I hope it may not be only a matter of obedience, and I trust your
heart will not feel it a hardship, but, if necessary, your heart must
be conquered. Recollect that the heart is the greatest enemy of
"Yet they can be made to agree."
"We often imagine so; but distrust the animism of your dear Horace.
You know that there is no middle course with it: 'nisi paret,
"I know it, but in the family of which we were speaking there is no
danger for my heart."
"I am glad of it, because in that case it will be all the easier for
you to abstain from frequent visits. Remember that I shall trust
"And I, reverend father; will listen to and follow your good advice.
I will visit Donna Cecilia only now and then." Feeling most unhappy,
I took his hand to press it against my lips, but he folded me in his
arms as a father might have done, and turned himself round so as not
to let me see that he was weeping.
I dined at the cardinal's palace and sat near the Abbe Gama; the
table was laid for twelve persons, who all wore the costume of
priests, for in Rome everyone is a priest or wishes to be thought a
priest and as there is no law to forbid anyone to dress like an
ecclesiastic that dress is adopted by all those who wish to be
respected (noblemen excepted) even if they are not in the
I felt very miserable, and did not utter a word during the dinner; my
silence was construed into a proof of my sagacity. As we rose from
the table, the Abbe Gama invited me to spend the day with him, but I
declined under pretence of letters to be written, and I truly did so
for seven hours. I wrote to Don Lelio, to Don Antonio, to my young
friend Paul, and to the worthy Bishop of Martorano, who answered that
he heartily wished himself in my place.
Deeply enamoured of Lucrezia and happy in my love, to give her up
appeared to me a shameful action. In order to insure the happiness
of my future life, I was beginning to be the executioner of my
present felicity, and the tormentor of my heart. I revolted against
such a necessity which I judged fictitious, and which I could not
admit unless I stood guilty of vileness before the tribunal of my own
reason. I thought that Father Georgi, if he wished to forbid my
visiting that family, ought not to have said that it was worthy of
respect; my sorrow would not have been so intense. The day and the
whole of the night were spent in painful thoughts.
In the morning the Abbe Gama brought me a great book filled with
ministerial letters from which I was to compile for my amusement.
After a short time devoted to that occupation, I went out to take my
first French lesson, after which I walked towards the Strada-
Condotta. I intended to take a long walk, when I heard myself called
by my name. I saw the Abbe Gama in front of a coffee-house.
I whispered to him that Minerva had forbidden me the coffee-rooms of
Rome. "Minerva," he answered, "desires you to form some idea of such
places. Sit down by me."
I heard a young abbe telling aloud, but without bitterness, a story,
which attacked in a most direct manner the justice of His Holiness.
Everybody was laughing and echoing the story. Another, being asked
why he had left the services of Cardinal B., answered that it was
because his eminence did not think himself called upon to pay him
apart for certain private services, and everybody laughed outright.
Another came to the Abbe Gama, and told him that, if he felt any
inclination to spend the afternoon at the Villa Medicis, he would
find him there with two young Roman girls who were satisfied with a
'quartino', a gold coin worth one-fourth of a sequin. Another abbe
read an incendiary sonnet against the government, and several took a
copy of it. Another read a satire of his own composition, in which
he tore to pieces the honour of a family. In the middle of all that
confusion, I saw a priest with a very attractive countenance come in.
The size of his hips made me take him for a woman dressed in men's
clothes, and I said so to Gama, who told me that he was the
celebrated castrato, Bepino delta Mamana. The abbe called him to us,
and told him with a laugh that I had taken him for a girl. The
impudent fellow looked me full in the face, and said that, if I
liked, he would shew me whether I had been right or wrong.
At the dinner-table everyone spoke to me, and I fancied I had given
proper answers to all, but, when the repast was over, the Abbe Gama
invited me to take coffee in his own apartment. The moment we were
alone, he told me that all the guests I had met were worthy and
honest men, and he asked me whether I believed that I had succeeded
in pleasing the company.
"I flatter myself I have," I answered.
"You are wrong," said the abbe, "you are flattering yourself. You
have so conspicuously avoided the questions put to you that everybody
in the room noticed your extreme reserve. In the future no one will
ask you any questions."
"I should be sorry if it should turn out so, but was I to expose my
"No, but there is a medium in all things."
"Yes, the medium of Horace, but it is often a matter of great
difficulty to hit it exactly."
"A man ought to know how to obtain affection and esteem at the same
"That is the very wish nearest to my heart."
"To-day you have tried for the esteem much more than for the
affection of your fellow-creatures. It may be a noble aspiration,
but you must prepare yourself to fight jealousy and her daughter,
calumny; if those two monsters do not succeed in destroying you, the
victory must be yours. Now, for instance, you thoroughly refuted
Salicetti to-day. Well, he is a physician, and what is more a
Corsican; he must feel badly towards you."
"Could I grant that the longings of women during their pregnancy have
no influence whatever on the skin of the foetus, when I know the
reverse to be the case? Are you not of my opinion?"
"I am for neither party; I have seen many children with some such
marks, but I have no means of knowing with certainty whether those
marks have their origin in some longing experienced by the mother
while she was pregnant."
"But I can swear it is so."
"All the better for you if your conviction is based upon such
evidence, and all the worse for Salicetti if he denies the
possibility of the thing without certain authority. But let him
remain in error; it is better thus than to prove him in the wrong and
to make a bitter enemy of him."
In the evening I called upon Lucrezia. The family knew my success,
and warmly congratulated me. Lucrezia told me that I looked sad, and
I answered that I was assisting at the funeral of my liberty, for I
was no longer my own master. Her husband, always fond of a joke,
told her that I was in love with her, and his mother-in-law advised
him not to show so much intrepidity. I only remained an hour with
those charming persons, and then took leave of them, but the very air
around me was heated by the flame within my breast. When I reached
my room I began to write, and spent the night in composing an ode
which I sent the next day to the advocate. I was certain that he
would shew it to his wife, who loved poetry, and who did not yet know
that I was a poet. I abstained from seeing her again for three or
four days. I was learning French, and making extracts from
His eminence was in the habit of receiving every evening, and his
rooms were thronged with the highest nobility of Rome; I had never
attended these receptions. The Abbe Gama told me that I ought to do
so as well as he did, without any pretension. I followed his advice
and went; nobody spoke to me, but as I was unknown everyone looked at
me and enquired who I was. The Abbe Gama asked me which was the lady
who appeared to me the most amiable, and I shewed one to him; but I
regretted having done so, for the courtier went to her, and of course
informed her of what I had said. Soon afterwards I saw her look at
me through her eye-glass and smile kindly upon me. She was the
Marchioness G----, whose 'cicisbeo' was Cardinal S---- C----.
On the very day I had fixed to spend the evening with Donna Lucrezia
the worthy advocate called upon me. He told me that if I thought I
was going to prove I was not in love with his wife by staying away I
was very much mistaken, and he invited me to accompany all the family
to Testaccio, where they intended to have luncheon on the following
Thursday. He added that his wife knew my ode by heart, and that she
had read it to the intended husband of Angelique, who had a great
wish to make my acquaintance. That gentleman was likewise a poet,
and would be one of the party to Testaccio. I promised the advocate
I would come to his house on the Thursday with a carriage for two.
At that time every Thursday in the month of October was a festival
day in Rome. I went to see Donna Cecilia in the evening, and we
talked about the excursion the whole time. I felt certain that Donna
Lucrezia looked forward to it with as much pleasure as I did myself.
We had no fixed plan, we could not have any, but we trusted to the
god of love, and tacitly placed our confidence in his protection.
I took care that Father Georgi should not hear of that excursion
before I mentioned it to him myself, and I hastened to him in order
to obtain his permission to go. I confess that, to obtain his leave,
I professed the most complete indifference about it, and the
consequence was that the good man insisted upon my going, saying that
it was a family party, and that it was quite right for me to visit
the environs of Rome and to enjoy myself in a respectable way.
I went to Donna Cecilia's in a carriage which I hired from a certain
Roland, a native of Avignon, and if I insist here upon his name it is
because my readers will meet him again in eighteen years, his
acquaintance with me having had very important results. The charming
widow introduced me to Don Francisco, her intended son-in-law, whom
she represented as a great friend of literary men, and very deeply
learned himself. I accepted it as gospel, and behaved accordingly;
yet I thought he looked rather heavy and not sufficiently elated for
a young man on the point of marrying such a pretty girl as Angelique.
But he had plenty of good-nature and plenty of money, and these are
better than learning and gallantry.
As we were ready to get into the carriages, the advocate told me that
he would ride with me in my carriage, and that the three ladies would
go with Don Francisco in the other. I answered at once that he ought
to keep Don Francisco company, and that I claimed the privilege of
taking care of Donna Cecilia, adding that I should feel dishonoured
if things were arranged differently. Thereupon I offered my arm to
the handsome widow, who thought the arrangement according to the
rules of etiquette and good breeding, and an approving look of my
Lucrezia gave me the most agreeable sensation. Yet the proposal of
the advocate struck me somewhat unpleasantly, because it was in
contradiction with his former behaviour, and especially with what he
had said to me in my room a few days before. "Has he become
jealous?" I said to myself; that would have made me almost angry,
but the hope of bringing him round during our stay at Testaccio
cleared away the dark cloud on my mind, and I was very amiable to
Donna Cecilia. What with lunching and walking we contrived to pass
the afternoon very pleasantly; I was very gay, and my love for
Lucrezia was not once mentioned; I was all attention to her mother.
I occasionally addressed myself to Lucrezia, but not once to the
advocate, feeling this the best way to shew him that he had insulted
As we prepared to return, the advocate carried off Donna Cecilia and
went with her to the carriage in which were already seated Angelique
and Don Francisco. Scarcely able to control my delight, I offered my
arm to Donna Lucrezia, paying her some absurd compliment, while the
advocate laughed outright, and seemed to enjoy the trick he imagined
he had played me.
How many things we might have said to each other before giving
ourselves up to the material enjoyment of our love, had not the
instants been so precious! But, aware that we had only half an hour
before us, we were sparing of the minutes. We were absorbed in
voluptuous pleasure when suddenly Lucrezia exclaims,---
"Oh! dear, how unhappy we are!"
She pushes me back, composes herself, the carriage stops, and the
servant opens the door. "What is the matter?" I enquire. "We are at
home." Whenever I recollect the circumstance, it seems to me
fabulous, for it is not possible to annihilate time, and the horses
were regular old screws. But we were lucky all through. The night
was dark, and my beloved angel happened to be on the right side to
get out of the carriage first, so that, although the advocate was at
the door of the brougham as soon as the footman, everything went
right, owing to the slow manner in which Lucrezia alighted. I
remained at Donna Cecilia's until midnight.
When I got home again, I went to bed; but how could I sleep? I felt
burning in me the flame which I had not been able to restore to its
original source in the too short distance from Testaccio to Rome. It
was consuming me. Oh! unhappy are those who believe that the
pleasures of Cythera are worth having, unless they are enjoyed in the
most perfect accord by two hearts overflowing with love!
I only rose in time for my French lesson. My teacher had a pretty
daughter, named Barbara, who was always present during my lessons,
and who sometimes taught me herself with even more exactitude than
her father. A good-looking young man, who likewise took lessons, was
courting her, and I soon perceived that she loved him. This young
man called often upon me, and I liked him, especially on account of
his reserve, for, although I made him confess his love for Barbara,
he always changed the subject, if I mentioned it in our conversation.
I had made up my mind to respect his reserve, and had not alluded to
his affection for several days. But all at once I remarked that he
had ceased his visits both to me and to his teacher, and at the same
time I observed that the young girl was no longer present at my
lessons; I felt some curiosity to know what had happened, although it
was not, after all, any concern of mine.
A few days after, as I was returning from church, I met the young
man, and reproached him for keeping away from us all. He told me
that great sorrow had befallen him, which had fairly turned his
brain, and that he was a prey to the most intense despair. His eyes
were wet with tears. As I was leaving him, he held me back, and I
told him that I would no longer be his friend unless he opened his
heart to me. He took me to one of the cloisters, and he spoke thus:
"I have loved Barbara for the last six months, and for three months
she has given me indisputable proofs of her affection. Five days
ago, we were betrayed by the servant, and the father caught us in a
rather delicate position. He left the room without saying one word,
and I followed him, thinking of throwing myself at his feet; but, as
I appeared before him, he took hold of me by the arm, pushed me
roughly to the door, and forbade me ever to present myself again at
his house. I cannot claim her hand in marriage, because one of my
brothers is married, and my father is not rich; I have no profession,
and my mistress has nothing. Alas, now that I have confessed all to
you, tell me, I entreat you, how she is. I am certain that she is as
miserable as I am myself. I cannot manage to get a letter delivered
to her, for she does not leave the house, even to attend church.
Unhappy wretch! What shall I do?"
I could but pity him, for, as a man of honour, it was impossible for
me to interfere in such a business. I told him that I had not seen
Barbara for five days, and, not knowing what to say, I gave him the
advice which is tendered by all fools under similar circumstances; I
advised him to forget his mistress.
We had then reached the quay of Ripetta, and, observing that he was
casting dark looks towards the Tiber, I feared his despair might lead
him to commit some foolish attempt against his own life, and, in
order to calm his excited feelings, I promised to make some enquiries
from the father about his mistress, and to inform him of all I heard.
He felt quieted by my promise, and entreated me not to forget him.
In spite of the fire which had been raging through my veins ever
since the excursion to Testaccio, I had not seen my Lucrezia for four
days. I dreaded Father Georgi's suave manner, and I was still more
afraid of finding he had made up his mind to give me no more advice.
But, unable to resist my desires, I called upon Lucrezia after my
French lesson, and found her alone, sad and dispirited.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, as soon as I was by her side, "I think you might
find time to come and see me!"
"My beloved one, it is not that I cannot find time, but I am so
jealous of my love that I would rather die than let it be known
publicly. I have been thinking of inviting you all to dine with me
at Frascati. I will send you a phaeton, and I trust that some lucky
accident will smile upon our love."
"Oh! yes, do, dearest! I am sure your invitation will be accepted:"
In a quarter of an hour the rest of the family came in, and I
proffered my invitation for the following Sunday, which happened to
be the Festival of St. Ursula, patroness of Lucrezia's youngest
sister. I begged Donna Cecilia to bring her as well as her son. My
proposal being readily accepted, I gave notice that the phaeton would
be at Donna Cecilia's door at seven o'clock, and that I would come
myself with a carriage for two persons.
The next day I went to M. Dalacqua, and, after my lesson, I saw
Barbara who, passing from one room to another, dropped a paper and
earnestly looked at me. I felt bound to pick it up, because a
servant, who was at hand, might have seen it and taken it. It was a
letter, enclosing another addressed to her lover. The note for me
ran thus: "If you think it to be a sin to deliver the enclosed to
your friend, burn it. Have pity on an unfortunate girl, and be
The enclosed letter which was unsealed, ran as follows: "If you love
me as deeply as 'I love you, you cannot hope to be happy without me;
we cannot correspond in any other way than the one I am bold enough
to adopt. I am ready to do anything to unite our lives until death.
Consider and decide."
The cruel situation of the poor girl moved me almost to tears; yet I
determined to return her letter the next day, and I enclosed it in a
note in which I begged her to excuse me if I could not render her the
service she required at my hands. I put it in my pocket ready for
delivery. The next day I went for my lesson as usual, but, not
seeing Barbara, I had no opportunity of returning her letter, and
postponed its delivery to the following day. Unfortunately, just
after I had returned to my room, the unhappy lover made his
appearance. His eyes were red from weeping, his voice hoarse; he
drew such a vivid picture of his misery, that, dreading some mad
action counselled by despair, I could not withhold from him the
consolation which I knew it was in my power to give. This was my
first error in this fatal business; I was the victim of my own
The poor fellow read the letter over and over; he kissed it with
transports of joy; he wept, hugged me, and thanked me for saving his
life, and finally entreated me to take charge of his answer, as his
beloved mistress must be longing for consolation as much as he had
been himself, assuring me that his letter could not in any way
implicate me, and that I was at liberty to read it.
And truly, although very long, his letter contained nothing but the
assurance of everlasting love, and hopes which could not be realized.
Yet I was wrong to accept the character of Mercury to the two young
lovers. To refuse, I had only to recollect that Father Georgi would
certainly have disapproved of my easy compliance.
The next day I found M. Dalacqua ill in bed; his daughter gave me my
lesson in his room, and I thought that perhaps she had obtained her
pardon. I contrived to give her her lover's letter, which she
dextrously conveyed to her pocket, but her blushes would have easily
betrayed her if her father had been looking that way. After the
lesson I gave M. Dalacqua notice that I would not come on the morrow,
as it was the Festival of St. Ursula, one of the eleven thousand
princesses and martyr-virgins.
In the evening, at the reception of his eminence, which I attended
regularly, although persons of distinction seldom spoke to me, the
cardinal beckoned to me. He was speaking to the beautiful
Marchioness G----, to whom Gama had indiscreetly confided that I
thought her the handsomest woman amongst his eminence's guests.
"Her grace," said the Cardinal, "wishes to know whether you are
making rapid progress in the French language, which she speaks
I answered in Italian that I had learned a great deal, but that I was
not yet bold enough to speak.
"You should be bold," said the marchioness, "but without showing any
pretension. It is the best wav to disarm criticism."
My mind having almost unwittingly lent to the words "You should be
bold" a meaning which had very likely been far from the idea of the
marchioness, I turned very red, and the handsome speaker, observing
it, changed the conversation and dismissed me.
The next morning, at seven o'clock, I was at Donna Cecilia's door.
The phaeton was there as well as the carriage for two persons, which
this time was an elegant vis-a-vis, so light and well-hung that Donna
Cecilia praised it highly when she took her seat.
"I shall have my turn as we return to Rome," said Lucrezia; and I
bowed to her as if in acceptance of her promise.
Lucrezia thus set suspicion at defiance in order to prevent suspicion
arising. My happiness was assured, and I gave way to my natural flow
of spirits. I ordered a splendid dinner, and we all set out towards
the Villa Ludovisi. As we might have missed each other during our
ramblings, we agreed to meet again at the inn at one o'clock. The
discreet widow took the arm of her son-in-law, Angelique remained
with her sister, and Lucrezia was my delightful share; Ursula and her
brother were running about together, and in less than a quarter of an
hour I had Lucrezia entirely to myself.
"Did you remark," she said, "with what candour I secured for us two
hours of delightful 'tete-a-tete', and a 'tete-a-tete' in a 'vis-a-
vis', too! How clever Love is!"
"Yes, darling, Love has made but one of our two souls. I adore you,
and if I have the courage to pass so many days without seeing you it
is in order to be rewarded by the freedom of one single day like
"I did not think it possible. But you have managed it all very well.
You know too much for your age, dearest."
"A month ago, my beloved, I was but an ignorant child, and you are
the first woman who has initiated me into the mysteries of love.
Your departure will kill me, for I could not find another woman like
you in all Italy."
"What! am I your first love? Alas! you will never be cured of it.
Oh! why am I not entirely your own? You are also the first true love
of my heart, and you will be the last. How great will be the
happiness of my successor! I should not be jealous of her, but what
suffering would be mine if I thought that her heart was not like
Lucrezia, seeing my eyes wet with tears, began to give way to her
own, and, seating ourselves on the grass, our lips drank our tears
amidst the sweetest kisses. How sweet is the nectar of the tears
shed by love, when that nectar is relished amidst the raptures of
mutual ardour! I have often tasted them--those delicious tears, and
I can say knowingly that the ancient physicians were right, and that
the modern are wrong.
In a moment of calm, seeing the disorder in which we both were, I
told her that we might be surprised.
"Do not fear, my best beloved," she said, "we are under the
guardianship of our good angels."
We were resting and reviving our strength by gazing into one
another's eyes, when suddenly Lucrezia, casting a glance to the
"Look there! idol of my heart, have I not told you so? Yes, the
angels are watching over us! Ah! how he stares at us! He seems to
try to give us confidence. Look at that little demon; admire him!
He must certainly be your guardian spirit or mine."
I thought she was delirious.
"What are you saying, dearest? I do not understand you. What am I
"Do you not see that beautiful serpent with the blazing skin, which
lifts its head and seems to worship us?"
I looked in the direction she indicated, and saw a serpent with
changeable colours about three feet in length, which did seem to be
looking at us. I was not particularly pleased at the sight, but I
could not show myself less courageous than she was.
"What!" said I, "are you not afraid?"
"I tell you, again, that the sight is delightful to me, and I feel
certain that it is a spirit with nothing but the shape, or rather the
appearance, of a serpent."
"And if the spirit came gliding along the grass and hissed at you?"
"I would hold you tighter against my bosom, and set him at defiance.
In your arms Lucrezia is safe. Look! the spirit is going away.
Quick, quick! He is warning us of the approach of some profane
person, and tells us to seek some other retreat to renew our
pleasures. Let us go."
We rose and slowly advanced towards Donna Cecilia and the advocate,
who were just emerging from a neighbouring alley. Without avoiding
them, and without hurrying, just as if to meet one another was a very
natural occurrence, I enquired of Donna Cecilia whether her daughter
had any fear of serpents.
"In spite of all her strength of mind," she answered, "she is
dreadfully afraid of thunder, and she will scream with terror at the
sight of the smallest snake. There are some here, but she need not
be frightened, for they are not venomous"
I was speechless with astonishment, for I discovered that I had just
witnessed a wonderful love miracle. At that moment the children came
up, and, without ceremony, we again parted company.
"Tell me, wonderful being, bewitching woman, what would you have done
if, instead of your pretty serpent, you had seen your husband and
"Nothing. Do you not know that, in moments of such rapture, lovers
see and feel nothing but love? Do you doubt having possessed me
Lucrezia, in speaking thus, was not composing a poetical ode; she was
not feigning fictitious sentiments; her looks, the sound of her
voice, were truth itself!
"Are you certain," I enquired, "that we are not suspected?"
"My husband does not believe us to be in love with each other, or
else he does not mind such trifling pleasures as youth is generally
wont to indulge in. My mother is a clever woman, and perhaps she
suspects the truth, but she is aware that it is no longer any concern
of hers. As to my sister, she must know everything, for she cannot
have forgotten the broken-down bed; but she is prudent, and besides,
she has taken it into her head to pity me. She has no conception of
the nature of my feelings towards you. If I had not met you, my
beloved, I should probably have gone through life without realizing
such feelings myself; for what I feel for my husband.... well, I have
for him the obedience which my position as a wife imposes upon me."
"And yet he is most happy, and I envy him! He can clasp in his arms
all your lovely person whenever he likes! There is no hateful veil
to hide any of your charms from his gaze."
"Oh! where art thou, my dear serpent? Come to us, come and protect
us against the surprise of the uninitiated, and this very instant I
fulfil all the wishes of him I adore!"
We passed the morning in repeating that we loved each other, and in
exchanging over and over again substantial proofs of our mutual
We had a delicious dinner, during which I was all attention for the
amiable Donna Cecilia. My pretty tortoise-shell box, filled with
excellent snuff, went more than once round the table. As it happened
to be in the hands of Lucrezia who was sitting on my left, her
husband told her that, if I had no objection, she might give me her
ring and keep the snuff-box in exchange. Thinking that the ring was
not of as much value as my box, I immediately accepted, but I found
the ring of greater value. Lucrezia would not, however, listen to
anything on that subject. She put the box in her pocket, and thus
compelled me to keep her ring.
Dessert was nearly over, the conversation was very animated, when
suddenly the intended husband of Angelique claimed our attention for
the reading of a sonnet which he had composed and dedicated to me. I
thanked him, and placing the sonnet in my pocket promised to write
one for him. This was not, however, what he wished; he expected
that, stimulated by emulation, I would call for paper and pen, and
sacrifice to Apollo hours which it was much more to my taste to
employ in worshipping another god whom his cold nature knew only by
name. We drank coffee, I paid the bill, and we went about rambling
through the labyrinthine alleys of the Villa Aldobrandini.
What sweet recollections that villa has left in my memory! It seemed
as if I saw my divine Lucrezia for the first time. Our looks were
full of ardent love, our hearts were beating in concert with the most
tender impatience, and a natural instinct was leading us towards a
solitary asylum which the hand of Love seemed to have prepared on
purpose for the mysteries of its secret worship. There, in the
middle of a long avenue, and under a canopy of thick foliage, we
found a wide sofa made of grass, and sheltered by a deep thicket;
from that place our eyes could range over an immense plain, and view
the avenue to such a distance right and left that we were perfectly
secure against any surprise. We did not require to exchange one word
at the sight of this beautiful temple so favourable to our love; our
hearts spoke the same language.
Without a word being spoken, our ready hands soon managed to get rid
of all obstacles, and to expose in a state of nature all the beauties
which are generally veiled by troublesome wearing apparel. Two whole
hours were devoted to the most delightful, loving ecstasies. At last
we exclaimed together in mutual ecstasy, "O Love, we thank thee!"
We slowly retraced our steps towards the carriages, revelling in our
intense happiness. Lucrezia informed me that Angelique's suitor was
wealthy, that he owned a splendid villa at Tivoli, and that most
likely he would invite us all to dine and pass the night there.
"I pray the god of love," she added, "to grant us a night as
beautiful as this day has been." Then, looking sad, she said, "But
alas! the ecclesiastical lawsuit which has brought my husband to
Rome is progressing so favourably that I am mortally afraid he will
obtain judgment all too soon."
The journey back to the city lasted two hours; we were alone in my
vis-a-vis and we overtaxed nature, exacting more than it can possibly
give. As we were getting near Rome we were compelled to let the
curtain fall before the denouement of the drama which we had
performed to the complete satisfaction of the actors.
I returned home rather fatigued, but the sound sleep which was so
natural at my age restored my full vigour, and in the morning I took
my French lesson at the usual hour.
Benedict XIV--Excursion to Tivoli--Departure of Lucrezia--The
Marchioness G.--Barbara Dalacqua--My Misfortunes--I Leave Rome
M. Dalacqua being very ill, his daughter Barbara gave me my lesson.
When it was over, she seized an opportunity of slipping a letter into
my pocket, and immediately disappeared, so that I had no chance of
refusing. The letter was addressed to me, and expressed feelings of
the warmest gratitude. She only desired me to inform her lover that
her father had spoken to her again, and that most likely he would
engage a new servant as soon as he had recovered from his illness,
and she concluded her letter by assuring me that she never would
implicate me in this business.
Her father was compelled to keep his bed for a fortnight, and Barbara
continued to give me my lesson every day. I felt for her an interest
which, from me towards a young and pretty girl, was, indeed, quite a
new sentiment. It was a feeling of pity, and I was proud of being
able to help and comfort her. Her eyes never rested upon mine, her
hand never met mine, I never saw in her toilet the slightest wish to
please me. She was very pretty, and I knew she had a tender, loving
nature; but nothing interfered with the respect and the regard which
I was bound in honour and in good faith to feel towards her, and I
was proud to remark that she never thought me capable of taking
advantage of her weakness or of her position.
When the father had recovered he dismissed his servant and engaged
another. Barbara entreated me to inform her friend of the
circumstance, and likewise of her hope to gain the new servant to
their interests, at least sufficiently to secure the possibility of
carrying on some correspondence. I promised to do so, and as a mark
of her gratitude she took my hand to carry it to her lips, but
quickly withdrawing it I tried to kiss her; she turned her face away,
blushing deeply. I was much pleased with her modesty.
Barbara having succeeded in gaining the new servant over, I had
nothing more to do with the intrigue, and I was very glad of it, for
I knew my interference might have brought evil on my own head.
Unfortunately, it was already too late.
I seldom visited Don Gaspar; the study of the French language took up
all my mornings, and it was only in the morning that I could see him;
but I called every evening upon Father Georgi, and, although I went
to him only as one of his 'proteges', it gave me some reputation. I
seldom spoke before his guests, yet I never felt weary, for in his
circle his friends would criticise without slandering, discuss
politics without stubbornness, literature without passion, and I
profited by all. After my visit to the sagacious monk, I used to
attend the assembly of the cardinal, my master, as a matter of duty.
Almost every evening, when she happened to see me at her card-table,
the beautiful marchioness would address to me a few gracious words in
French, and I always answered in Italian, not caring to make her
laugh before so many persons. My feelings for her were of a singular
kind. I must leave them to the analysis of the reader. I thought
that woman charming, yet I avoided her; it was not because I was
afraid of falling in love with her; I loved Lucrezia, and I firmly
believed that such an affection was a shield against any other
attachment, but it was because I feared that she might love me or
have a passing fancy for me. Was it self-conceit or modesty, vice or
virtue? Perhaps neither one nor the other.
One evening she desired the Abbe Gama to call me to her; she was
standing near the cardinal, my patron, and the moment I approached
her she caused me a strange feeling of surprise by asking me in
Italian a question which I was far from anticipating:
"How did you like Frascati?"
"Very much, madam; I have never seen such a beautiful place."
"But your company was still more beautiful, and your vis-a-vis was
I only bowed low to the marchioness, and a moment after Cardinal
Acquaviva said to me, kindly,
"You are astonished at your adventure being known?"
"No, my lord; but I am surprised that people should talk of it. I
could not have believed Rome to be so much like a small village."
"The longer you live in Rome," said his eminence, "the more you will
find it so. You have not yet presented yourself to kiss the foot of
our Holy Father?"
"Not yet, my lord."
"Then you must do so."
I bowed in compliance to his wishes.
The Abbe Gama told me to present myself to the Pope on the morrow,
and he added,
"Of course you have already shewn yourself in the Marchioness G.'s
"No, I have never been there."
"You astonish me; but she often speaks to you!"
"I have no objection to go with you."
"I never visit at her palace."
"Yet she speaks to you likewise."
"Yes, but.... You do not know Rome; go alone; believe me, you ought
"Will she receive me?"
"You are joking, I suppose. Of course it is out of the question for
you to be announced. You will call when the doors are wide open to
everybody. You will meet there all those who pay homage to her."
"Will she see me?"
"No doubt of it."
On the following day I proceeded to Monte-Cavallo, and I was at once
led into the room where the Pope was alone. I threw myself on my
knees and kissed the holy cross on his most holy slipper. The Pope
enquiring who I was, I told him, and he answered that he knew me,
congratulating me upon my being in the service of so eminent a
cardinal. He asked me how I had succeeded in gaining the cardinal's
favour; I answered with a faithful recital of my adventures from my
arrival at Martorano. He laughed heartily at all I said respecting
the poor and worthy bishop, and remarked that, instead of trying to
address him in Tuscan, I could speak in the Venetian dialect, as he
was himself speaking to me in the dialect of Bologna. I felt quite
at my ease with him, and I told him so much news and amused him so
well that the Holy Father kindly said that he would be glad to see me
whenever I presented myself at Monte-Cavallo. I begged his
permission to read all forbidden books, and he granted it with his
blessing, saying that I should have the permission in writing, but he
Benedict XIV, was a learned man, very amiable, and fond of a joke.
I saw him for the second time at the Villa Medicis. He called me to
him, and continued his walk, speaking of trifling things. He was
then accompanied by Cardinal Albani and the ambassador from Venice.
A man of modest appearance approached His Holiness, who asked what he
required; the man said a few words in a low voice, and, after
listening to him, the Pope answered, "You are right, place your trust
in God;" and he gave him his blessing. The poor fellow went away
very dejected, and the Holy Father continued his walk.
"This man," I said, "most Holy Father, has not been pleased with the
answer of Your Holiness."
"Because most likely he had already addressed himself to God before
he ventured to apply to you; and when Your Holiness sends him to God
again, he finds himself sent back, as the proverb says, from Herod to
The Pope, as well as his two companions, laughed heartily; but I kept
a serious countenance.
"I cannot," continued the Pope, "do any good without God's
"Very true, Holy Father; but the man is aware that you are God's
prime minister, and it is easy to imagine his trouble now that the
minister sends him again to the master. His only resource is to give
money to the beggars of Rome, who for one 'bajocco' will pray for
him. They boast of their influence before the throne of the
Almighty, but as I have faith only in your credit, I entreat Your
Holiness to deliver me of the heat which inflames my eyes by granting
me permission to eat meat."
"Eat meat, my son."
"Holy Father, give me your blessing."
He blessed me, adding that I was not dispensed from fasting.
That very evening, at the cardinal's assembly, I found that the news
of my dialogue with the Pope was already known. Everybody was
anxious to speak to me. I felt flattered, but I was much more
delighted at the joy which Cardinal Acquaviva tried in vain to
As I wished not to neglect Gama's advice, I presented myself at the
mansion of the beautiful marchioness at the hour at which everyone
had free access to her ladyship. I saw her, I saw the cardinal and a
great many abbes; but I might have supposed myself invisible, for no
one honoured me with a look, and no one spoke to me. I left after
having performed for half an hour the character of a mute. Five or
six days afterwards, the marchioness told me graciously that she had
caught a sight of me in her reception-rooms.
"I was there, it is true, madam; but I had no idea that I had had the
honour to be seen by your ladyship."
"Oh! I see everybody. They tell me that you have wit."
"If it is not a mistake on the part of your informants, your ladyship
gives me very good news."
"Oh! they are excellent judges."
"Then, madam, those persons must have honoured me with their
conversation; otherwise, it is not likely that they would have been
able to express such an opinion."
"No doubt; but let me see you often at my receptions."
Our conversation had been overheard by those who were around; his
excellency the cardinal told me that, when the marchioness addressed
herself particularly to me in French, my duty was to answer her in
the same language, good or bad. The cunning politician Gama took me
apart, and remarked that my repartees were too smart, too cutting,
and that, after a time, I would be sure to displease. I had made
considerable progress in French; I had given up my lessons, and
practice was all I required. I was then in the habit of calling
sometimes upon Lucrezia in the morning, and of visiting in the
evening Father Georgi, who was acquainted with the excursion to
Frascati, and had not expressed any dissatisfaction.
Two days after the sort of command laid upon me by the marchioness, I
presented myself at her reception. As soon as she saw me, she
favoured me with a smile which I acknowledged by a deep reverence;
that was all. In a quarter of an hour afterwards I left the mansion.
The marchioness was beautiful, but she was powerful, and I could not
make up my mind to crawl at the feet of power, and, on that head, I
felt disgusted with the manners of the Romans.
One morning towards the end of November the advocate, accompanied by
Angelique's intended, called on me. The latter gave me a pressing
invitation to spend twenty-four hours at Tivoli with the friends I
had entertained at Frascati. I accepted with great pleasure, for I
had found no opportunity of being alone with Lucrezia since the
Festival of St. Ursula. I promised to be at Donna Cecilia's house at
day-break with the same 'is-a-vis'. It was necessary to start very
early, because Tivoli is sixteen miles from Rome, and has so many
objects of interest that it requires many hours to see them all. As
I had to sleep out that night, I craved permission to do so from the
cardinal himself, who, hearing with whom I was going, told me that I
was quite right not to lose such an opportunity of visiting that
splendid place in such good society.
The first dawn of day found me with my 'vis-a-vis' and four at the
door of Donna Cecilia, who came with me as before. The charming
widow, notwithstanding her strict morality, was delighted at my love
for her daughter. The family rode in a large phaeton hired by Don
Francisco, which gave room for six persons.
At half-past seven in the morning we made a halt at a small place
where had been prepared, by Don Franciso's orders, an excellent
breakfast, which was intended to replace the dinner, and we all made
a hearty meal, as we were not likely to find time for anything but
supper at Tivoli. I wore on my finger the beautiful ring which
Lucrezia had given me. At the back of the ring I had had a piece of
enamel placed, on it was delineated a saduceus, with one serpent
between the letters Alpha and Omega. This ring was the subject of
conversation during breakfast, and Don Francisco, as well as the
advocate, exerted himself in vain to guess the meaning of the
hieroglyphs; much to the amusement of Lucrezia, who understood the
mysterious secret so well. We continued our road, and reached Tivoli
at ten o'clock.
We began by visiting Don Francisco's villa. It was a beautiful
little house, and we spent the following six hours in examining
together the antiquities of Tivoli. Lucrezia having occasion to
whisper a few words to Don Francisco, I seized the opportunity of
telling Angelique that after her marriage I should be happy to spend
a few days of the fine season with her.
"Sir," she answered, "I give you fair notice that the moment I become
mistress in this house you will be the very first person to be
"I feel greatly obliged to you, signora, for your timely notice."
But the most amusing part of the affair was that I construed
Angelique's wanton insult into a declaration of love. I was
astounded. Lucrezia, remarking the state I was in, touched my arm,
enquiring what ailed me. I told her, and she said at once,
"My darling, my happiness cannot last long; the cruel moment of our
separation is drawing near. When I have gone, pray undertake the
task of compelling her to acknowledge her error. Angelique pities
me, be sure to avenge me."
I have forgotten to mention that at Don Francisco's villa I happened
to praise a very pretty room opening upon the orange-house, and the
amiable host, having heard me, came obligingly to me, and said that
it should be my room that night. Lucrezia feigned not to hear, but
it was to her Ariadne's clue, for, as we were to remain altogether
during our visit to the beauties of Tivoli, we had no chance of a
tete-a-tete through the day.
I have said that we devoted six hours to an examination of the
antiquities of Tivoli, but I am bound to confess here that I saw, for
my part, very little of them, and it was only twenty-eight years
later that I made a thorough acquaintance with the beautiful spot.
We returned to the villa towards evening, fatigued and very hungry,
but an hour's rest before supper--a repast which lasted two hours,
the most delicious dishes, the most exquisite wines, and particularly
the excellent wine of Tivoli--restored us so well that everybody
wanted nothing more than a good bed and the freedom to enjoy the bed
according to his own taste.
As everybody objected to sleep alone, Lucrezia said that she would
sleep with Angelique in one of the rooms leading to the orange-house,
and proposed that her husband should share a room with the young
abbe, his brother-in-law, and that Donna Cecilia should take her
youngest daughter with her.
The arrangement met with general approbation, and Don Francisco,
taking a candle, escorted me to my pretty little room adjoining the
one in which the two sisters were to sleep, and, after shewing me how
I could lock myself in, he wished me good night and left me alone.
Angelique had no idea that I was her near neighbour, but Lucrezia and
I, without exchanging a single word on the subject, had perfectly
understood each other.
I watched through the key-hole and saw the two sisters come into
their room, preceded by the polite Don Francisco, who carried a
taper, and, after lighting a night-lamp, bade them good night and
retired. Then my two beauties, their door once locked, sat down on
the sofa and completed their night toilet, which, in that fortunate
climate, is similar to the costume of our first mother. Lucrezia,
knowing that I was waiting to come in, told her sister to lie down on
the side towards the window, and the virgin, having no idea that she
was exposing her most secret beauties to my profane eyes, crossed the
room in a state of complete nakedness. Lucrezia put out the lamp and
lay down near her innocent sister.
Happy moments which I can no longer enjoy, but the sweet remembrance
of which death alone can make me lose! I believe I never undressed
myself as quickly as I did that evening.
I open the door and fall into the arms of my Lucrezia, who says to
her sister, "It is my angel, my love; never mind him, and go to
What a delightful picture I could offer to my readers if it were
possible for me to paint voluptuousnes in its most enchanting
colours! What ecstasies of love from the very onset! What delicious
raptures succeed each other until the sweetest fatigue made us give
way to the soothing influence of Morpheus!
The first rays of the sun, piercing through the crevices of the
shutters, wake us out of our refreshing slumbers, and like two
valorous knights who have ceased fighting only to renew the contest
with increased ardour, we lose no time in giving ourselves up to all
the intensity of the flame which consumes us.
"Oh, my beloved Lucrezia! how supremely happy I am! But, my darling,
mind your sister; she might turn round and see us."
"Fear nothing, my life; my sister is kind, she loves me, she pities
me; do you not love me, my dear Angelique? Oh! turn round, see how
happy your sister is, and know what felicity awaits you when you own
the sway of love."
Angelique, a young maiden of seventeen summers, who must have
suffered the torments of Tantalus during the night, and who only
wishes for a pretext to shew that she has forgiven her sister, turns
round, and covering her sister with kisses, confesses that she has
not closed her eyes through the night.
"Then forgive likewise, darling Angelique, forgive him who loves me,
and whom I adore," says Lucrezia.
Unfathomable power of the god who conquers all human beings!
"Angelique hates me," I say, "I dare not...."
"No, I do not hate you!" answers the charming girl.
"Kiss her, dearest," says Lucrezia, pushing me towards her sister,
and pleased to see her in my arms motionless and languid.
But sentiment, still more than love, forbids me to deprive Lucrezia
of the proof of my gratitude, and I turn to her with all the rapture
of a beginner, feeling that my ardour is increased by Angelique's
ecstasy, as for the first time she witnesses the amorous contest.
Lucrezia, dying of enjoyment, entreats me to stop, but, as I do not
listen to her prayer, she tricks me, and the sweet Angelique makes
her first sacrifice to the mother of love. It is thus, very likely,
that when the gods inhabited this earth, the voluptuous Arcadia, in
love with the soft and pleasing breath of Zephyrus, one day opened
her arms, and was fecundated.
Lucrezia was astonished and delighted, and covered us both with
kisses. Angelique, as happy as her sister, expired deliciously in my
arms for the third time, and she seconded me with so much loving
ardour, that it seemed to me I was tasting happiness for the first
Phoebus had left the nuptial couch, and his rays were already
diffusing light over the universe; and that light, reaching us
through the closed shutters, gave me warning to quit the place; we
exchanged the most loving adieus, I left my two divinities and
retired to my own room. A few minutes afterwards, the cheerful voice
of the advocate was heard in the chamber of the sisters; he was
reproaching them for sleeping too long! Then he knocked at my door,
threatening to bring the ladies to me, and went away, saying that he
would send me the hair-dresser.
After many ablutions and a careful toilet, I thought I could skew my
face, and I presented myself coolly in the drawing-room. The two
sisters were there with the other members of our society, and I was
delighted with their rosy cheeks. Lucrezia was frank and gay, and
beamed with happiness; Angelique, as fresh as the morning dew, was
more radiant than usual, but fidgety, and carefully avoided looking
me in the face. I saw that my useless attempts to catch her eyes
made her smile, and I remarked to her mother, rather mischievously,
that it was a pity Angelique used paint for her face. She was duped
by this stratagem, and compelled me to pass a handkerchief over her
face, and was then obliged to look at me. I offered her my
apologies, and Don Francisco appeared highly pleased that the
complexion of his intended had met with such triumph.
After breakfast we took a walk through the garden, and, finding
myself alone with Lucrezia, I expostulated tenderly with her for
having almost thrown her sister in my arms.
"Do not reproach me," she said, "when I deserve praise. I have
brought light into the darkness of my charming sister's soul; I have
initiated her in the sweetest of mysteries, and now, instead of
pitying me, she must envy me. Far from having hatred for you, she
must love you dearly, and as I am so unhappy as to have to part from
you very soon, my beloved, I leave her to you; she will replace me."
"Ah, Lucrezia! how can I love her?"
"Is she not a charming girl?"
"No doubt of it; but my adoration for you is a shield against any
other love. Besides Don Francisco must, of course, entirely
monopolize her, and I do not wish to cause coolness between them, or
to ruin the peace of their home. I am certain your sister is not
like you, and I would bet that, even now, she upbraids herself for
having given way to the ardour of her temperament:"
"Most likely; but, dearest, I am sorry to say my husband expects to
obtain judgment in the course of this week, and then the short
instants of happiness will for ever be lost to me."
This was sad news indeed, and to cause a diversion at the breakfast-
table I took much notice of the generous Don Francisco, and promised
to compose a nuptial song for his wedding-day, which had been fixed
for the early part of January.
We returned to Rome, and for the three hours that she was with me in
my vis-a-vis, Lucrezia had no reason to think that my ardour was at
all abated. But when we reached the city I was rather fatigued, and
proceeded at once to the palace.
Lucrezia had guessed rightly; her husband obtained his judgment three
or four days afterwards, and called upon me to announce their
departure for the day after the morrow; he expressed his warm
friendship for me, and by his invitation I spent the two last
evenings with Lucrezia, but we were always surrounded by the family.
The day of her departure, wishing to cause her an agreeable surprise,
I left Rome before them and waited for them at the place where I
thought they would put up for the night, but the advocate, having
been detained by several engagements, was detained in Rome, and they
only reached the place next day for dinner. We dined together, we
exchanged a sad, painful farewell, and they continued their journey
while I returned to Rome.
After the departure of this charming woman, I found myself in sort of
solitude very natural to a young man whose heart is not full of hope.
I passed whole days in my room, making extracts from the French
letters written by the cardinal, and his eminence was kind enough to
tell me that my extracts were judiciously made, but that he insisted
upon my not working so hard. The beautiful marchioness was present
when he paid me that compliment.
Since my second visit to her, I had not presented myself at her
house; she was consequently rather cool to me, and, glad of an
opportunity of making me feel her displeasure, she remarked to his
eminence that very likely work was a consolation to me in the great
void caused by the departure of Donna Lucrezia.
"I candidly confess, madam, that I have felt her loss deeply. She
was kind and generous; above all, she was indulgent when I did not
call often upon her. My friendship for her was innocent."
"I have no doubt of it, although your ode was the work of a poet
deeply in love."
"Oh!" said the kindly cardinal, "a poet cannot possibly write without
professing to be in love."
"But," replied the marchioness, "if the poet is really in love, he
has no need of professing a feeling which he possesses."
As she was speaking, the marchioness drew out of her pocket a paper
which she offered to his eminence.
"This is the ode," she said, "it does great honour to the poet, for
it is admitted to be a masterpiece by all the literati in Rome, and
Donna Lucrezia knows it by heart."
The cardinal read it over and returned it, smiling, and remarking
that, as he had no taste for Italian poetry, she must give herself
the pleasure of translating it into French rhyme if she wished him to
"I only write French prose," answered the marchioness, "and a prose
translation destroys half the beauty of poetry. I am satisfied with
writing occasionally a little Italian poetry without any pretension
to poetical fame"
Those words were accompanied by a very significant glance in my
"I should consider myself fortunate, madam, if I could obtain the
happiness of admiring some of your poetry."
"Here is a sonnet of her ladyship's," said Cardinal S. C.
I took it respectfully, and I prepared to read it, but the amiable
marchioness told me to put it in my pocket and return it to the
cardinal the next day, although she did not think the sonnet worth so
much trouble. "If you should happen to go out in the morning," said
Cardinal S. C., "you could bring it back, and dine with me." Cardinal
Aquaviva immediately answered for me: "He will be sure to go out
With a deep reverence, which expressed my thanks, I left the room
quietly and returned to my apartment, very impatient to read the
sonnet. Yet, before satisfying my wish, I could not help making some
reflections on the situation. I began to think myself somebody since
the gigantic stride I had made this evening at the cardinal's
assembly. The Marchioness de G. had shewn in the most open way the
interest she felt in me, and, under cover of her grandeur, had not
hesitated to compromise herself publicly by the most flattering
advances. But who would have thought of disapproving? A young abbe
like me, without any importance whatever, who could scarcely pretend
to her high protection! True, but she was precisely the woman to
grant it to those who, feeling themselves unworthy of it, dared not
shew any pretensions to her patronage. On that head, my modesty must
be evident to everyone, and the marchioness would certainly have
insulted me had she supposed me capable of sufficient vanity to fancy
that she felt the slightest inclination for me. No, such a piece of
self-conceit was not in accordance with my nature. Her cardinal
himself had invited me to dinner. Would he have done so if he had
admitted the possibility of the beautiful marchioness feeling
anything for me? Of course not, and he gave me an invitation to dine
with him only because he had understood, from the very words of the
lady, that I was just the sort of person with whom they could
converse for a few hours without any risk; to be sure, without any
risk whatever. Oh, Master Casanova! do you really think so?
Well, why should I put on a mask before my readers? They may think
me conceited if they please, but the fact of the matter is that I
felt sure of having made a conquest of the marchioness. I
congratulated myself because she had taken the first, most difficult,
and most important step. Had she not done so, I should never have
dared-to lay siege to her even in the most approved fashion; I should
never have even ventured to dream of winning her. It was only this
evening that I thought she might replace Lucrezia. She was
beautiful, young, full of wit and talent; she was fond of literary
pursuits, and very powerful in Rome; what more was necessary? Yet I
thought it would be good policy to appear ignorant of her inclination
for me, and to let her suppose from the very next day that I was in
love with her, but that my love appeared to me hopeless. I knew that
such a plan was infallible, because it saved her dignity. It seemed
to me that Father Georgi himself would be compelled to approve such
an undertaking, and I had remarked with great satisfaction that
Cardinal Acquaviva had expressed his delight at Cardinal S. C.'s
invitation--an honour which he had never yet bestowed on me himself.
This affair might have very important results for me.
I read the marchioness's sonnet, and found it easy, flowing, and well
written. It was composed in praise of the King of Prussia, who had
just conquered Silesia by a masterly stroke. As I was copying it,
the idea struck me to personify Silesia, and to make her, in answer
to the sonnet, bewail that Love (supposed to be the author of the
sonnet of the marchioness) could applaud the man who had conquered
her, when that conqueror was the sworn enemy of Love.
It is impossible for a man accustomed to write poetry to abstain when
a happy subject smiles upon his delighted imagination. If he
attempted to smother the poetical flame running through his veins it
would consume him. I composed my sonnet, keeping the same rhymes as
in the original, and, well pleased with my muse, I went to bed.
The next morning the Abbe Gama came in just as I had finished
recopying my sonnet, and said he would breakfast with me. He
complimented me upon the honour conferred on me by the invitation of
Cardinal S. C.
"But be prudent," he added, "for his eminence has the reputation of
I thanked him for his friendly advice, taking care to assure him that
I had nothing to fear, because I did not feel the slightest
inclination for the handsome marchioness.
Cardinal S. C. received me with great kindness mingled with dignity,
to make me realize the importance of the favour he was bestowing upon
"What do you think," he enquired, "of the sonnet?"
"Monsignor, it is perfectly written, and, what is more, it is a
charming composition. Allow me to return it to you with my thanks."
"She has much talent. I wish to shew you ten stanzas of her
composition, my dear abbe, but you must promise to be very discreet
"Your eminence may rely on me."
He opened his bureau and brought forth the stanzas of which he was
the subject. I read them, found them well written, but devoid of
enthusiasm; they were the work of a poet, and expressed love in the
words of passion, but were not pervaded by that peculiar feeling by
which true love is so easily discovered. The worthy cardinal was
doubtless guilty of a very great indiscretion, but self-love is the
cause of so many injudicious steps! I asked his eminence whether he
had answered the stanzas.
"No," he replied, "I have not; but would you feel disposed to lend me
your poetical pen, always under the seal of secrecy?"
"As to secrecy, monsignor, I promise it faithfully; but I am afraid
the marchioness will remark the difference between your style and
"She has nothing of my composition," said the cardinal; "I do not
think she supposes me a fine poet, and for that reason your stanzas
must be written in such a manner that she will not esteem them above
"I will write them with pleasure, monsignor, and your eminence can
form an opinion; if they do not seem good enough to be worthy of you,
they need not be given to the marchioness."
"That is well said. Will you write them at once?"
"What! now, monsignor? It is not like prose."
"Well, well! try to let me have them to-morrow."
We dined alone, and his eminence complimented me upon my excellent
appetite, which he remarked was as good as his own; but I was
beginning to understand my eccentric host, and, to flatter him, I
answered that he praised me more than I deserved, and that my
appetite was inferior to his. The singular compliment delighted him,
and I saw all the use I could make of his eminence.
Towards the end of the dinner, as we were conversing, the marchioness
made her appearance, and, as a matter of course, without being
announced. Her looks threw me into raptures; I thought her a perfect
beauty. She did not give the cardinal time to meet her, but sat down
near him, while I remained standing, according to etiquette.
Without appearing to notice me, the marchioness ran wittily over
various topics until coffee was brought in. Then, addressing herself
to me, she told me to sit down, just as if she was bestowing charity
"By-the-by, abbe," she said, a minute after, "have you read my
"Yes, madam, and I have had the honour to return it to his eminence.
I have found it so perfect that I am certain it must have cost you a
great deal of time."
"Time?" exclaimed the cardinal; "Oh! you do not know the
"Monsignor," I replied, "nothing can be done well without time, and
that is why I have not dared to chew to your eminence an answer to
the sonnet which I have written in half an hour."
"Let us see it, abbe," said the marchioness; "I want to read it."
"Answer of Silesia to Love." This title brought the most fascinating
blushes on her countenance. "But Love is not mentioned in the
sonnet," exclaimed the cardinal. "Wait," said the marchioness, "we
must respect the idea of the poet:"
She read the sonnet over and over, and thought that the reproaches
addressed by Silesia to Love were very just. She explained my idea
to the cardinal, making him understand why Silesia was offended at
having been conquered by the King of Prussia.
"Ah, I see, I see!" exclaimed the cardinal, full of joy; "Silesia is
a woman.... and the King of Prussia.... Oh! oh! that is really a
fine idea!" And the good cardinal laughed heartily for more than a
quarter of an hour. "I must copy that sonnet," he added, "indeed I
must have it."
"The abbe," said the obliging marchioness, "will save you the
trouble: I will dictate it to him."
I prepared to write, but his eminence suddenly exclaimed, "My dear
marchioness, this is wonderful; he has kept the same rhymes as in
your own sonnet: did you observe it?"
The beautiful marchioness gave me then a look of such expression that
she completed her conquest. I understood that she wanted me to know
the cardinal as well as she knew him; it was a kind of partnership in
which I was quite ready to play my part.
As soon as I had written the sonnet under the charming woman's
dictation, I took my leave, but not before the cardinal had told me
that he expected me to dinner the next day.
I had plenty of work before me, for the ten stanzas I had to compose
were of the most singular character, and I lost no time in shutting
myself up in my room to think of them. I had to keep my balance
between two points of equal difficulty, and I felt that great care
was indispensable. I had to place the marchioness in such a position
that she could pretend to believe the cardinal the author of the
stanzas, and, at the same time, compel her to find out that I had
written them, and that I was aware of her knowing it. It was
necessary to speak so carefully that not one expression should
breathe even the faintest hope on my part, and yet to make my stanzas
blaze with the ardent fire of my love under the thin veil of poetry.
As for the cardinal, I knew well enough that the better the stanzas
were written, the more disposed he would be to sign them. All I
wanted was clearness, so difficult to obtain in poetry, while a
little doubtful darkness would have been accounted sublime by my new
Midas. But, although I wanted to please him, the cardinal was only a
secondary consideration, and the handsome marchioness the principal
As the marchioness in her verses had made a pompous enumeration of
every physical and moral quality of his eminence, it was of course
natural that he should return the compliment, and here my task was
easy. At last having mastered my subject well, I began my work, and
giving full career to my imagination and to my feelings I composed
the ten stanzas, and gave the finishing stroke with these two
beautiful lines from Ariosto:
Le angelicche bellezze nate al cielo
Non si ponno celar sotto alcum velo.
Rather pleased with my production, I presented it the next day to the
cardinal, modestly saying that I doubted whether he would accept the
authorship of so ordinary a composition. He read the stanzas twice
over without taste or expression, and said at last that they were
indeed not much, but exactly what he wanted. He thanked me
particularly for the two lines from Ariosto, saying that they would
assist in throwing the authorship upon himself, as they would prove
to the lady for whom they were intended that he had not been able to
write them without borrowing. And, as to offer me some consolation,
he told me that, in recopying the lines, he would take care to make a
few mistakes in the rhythm to complete the illusion.
We dined earlier than the day before, and I withdrew immediately
after dinner so as to give him leisure to make a copy of the stanzas
before the arrival of the lady.
The next evening I met the marchioness at the entrance of the palace,
and offered her my arm to come out of her carriage. The instant she
alighted, she said to me,
"If ever your stanzas and mine become known in Rome, you may be sure
of my enmity."
"Madam, I do not understand what you mean."
"I expected you to answer me in this manner," replied the
marchioness, "but recollect what I have said."
I left her at the door of the reception-room, and thinking that she
was really angry with me, I went away in despair. "My stanzas," I
said to myself, "are too fiery; they compromise her dignity, and her
pride is offended at my knowing the secret of her intrigue with
Cardinal S. C. Yet, I feel certain that the dread she expresses of
my want of discretion is only feigned, it is but a pretext to turn me
out of her favour. She has not understood my reserve! What would
she have done, if I had painted her in the simple apparel of the
golden age, without any of those veils which modesty imposes upon her
sex!" I was sorry I had not done so. I undressed and went to bed.
My head was scarcely on the pillow when the Abbe Gama knocked at my
door. I pulled the door-string, and coming in, he said,
"My dear sir, the cardinal wishes to see you, and I am sent by the
beautiful marchioness and Cardinal S. C., who desire you to come
"I am very sorry, but I cannot go; tell them the truth; I am ill in
As the abbe did not return, I judged that he had faithfully acquitted
himself of the commission, and I spent a quiet night. I was not yet
dressed in the morning, when I received a note from Cardinal S. C.
inviting me to dinner, saying that he had just been bled, and that he
wanted to speak to me: he concluded by entreating me to come to him
early, even if I did not feel well.
The invitation was pressing; I could not guess what had caused it,
but the tone of the letter did not forebode anything unpleasant. I
went to church, where I was sure that Cardinal Acquaviva would see
me, and he did. After mass, his eminence beckoned to me.
"Are you truly ill?" he enquired.
"No, monsignor, I was only sleepy."
"I am very glad to hear it; but you are wrong, for you are loved.
Cardinal S. C. has been bled this morning."
"I know it, monsignor. The cardinal tells me so in this note, in
which he invites me to dine with him, with your excellency's
"Certainly. But this is amusing! I did not know that he wanted a
"Will there be a third person?"
"I do not know, and I have no curiosity about it."
The cardinal left me, and everybody imagined that his eminence had
spoken to me of state affairs.
I went to my new Maecenas, whom I found in bed.
"I am compelled to observe strict diet," he said to me; "I shall have
to let you dine alone, but you will not lose by it as my cook does
not know it. What I wanted to tell you is that your stanzas are, I
am afraid, too pretty, for the marchioness adores them. If you had
read them to me in the same way that she does, I could never have
made up my mind to offer them." "But she believes them to be written
by your eminence?"
"That is the essential point, monsignor."
"Yes; but what should I do if she took it into her head to compose
some new stanzas for me?"
"You would answer through the same pen, for you can dispose of me
night and day, and rely upon the utmost secrecy."
"I beg of you to accept this small present; it is some negrillo snuff
from Habana, which Cardinal Acquaviva has given me."
The snuff was excellent, but the object which contained it was still
better. It was a splendid gold-enamelled box. I received it with
respect, and with the expression of the deepest gratitude.
If his eminence did not know how to write poetry, at least he knew
how to be generous, and in a delicate manner, and that science is, at
least in my estimation, superior to the other for a great nobleman.
At noon, and much to my surprise, the beautiful marchioness made her
appearance in the most elegant morning toilet.
"If I had known you were in good company," she said to the cardinal,
"I would not have come."
"I am sure, dear marchioness, you will not find our dear abbe in the
"No, for I believe him to be honest and true."
I kept at a respectful distance, ready to go away with my splendid
snuff-box at the first jest she might hurl at me.
The cardinal asked her if she intended to remain to dinner.
"Yes," she answered; "but I shall not enjoy my dinner, for I hate to
"If you would honour him so far, the abbe would keep you company."
She gave me a gracious look, but without uttering one word.
This was the first time I had anything to do with a woman of quality,
and that air of patronage, whatever kindness might accompany it,
always put me out of temper, for I thought it made love out of the
question. However, as we were in the presence of the cardinal, I
fancied that she might be right in treating me in that fashion.
The table was laid out near the cardinal's bed, and the marchioness,
who ate hardly anything, encouraged me in my good appetite.
"I have told you that the abbe is equal to me in that respect," said
"I truly believe," answered the marchioness, "that he does not remain
far behind you; but," added she with flattery, "you are more dainty
in your tastes."
"Would her ladyship be so good as to tell me in what I have appeared
to her to be a mere glutton? For in all things I like only dainty
and exquisite morsels."
"Explain what you mean by saying in all things," said the cardinal.
Taking the liberty of laughing, I composed a few impromptu verses in
which I named all I thought dainty and exquisite. The marchioness
applauded, saying that she admired my courage.
"My courage, madam, is due to you, for I am as timid as a hare when I
am not encouraged; you are the author of my impromptu."
"I admire you. As for myself, were I encouraged by Apollo himself, I
could not compose four lines without paper and ink."
"Only give way boldly to your genius, madam, and you will produce
poetry worthy of heaven."
"That--is my opinion, too," said the cardinal. "I entreat you to
give me permission to skew your ten stanzas to the abbe."
"They are not very good, but I have no objection provided it remains
The cardinal gave me, then, the stanzas composed by the marchioness,
and I read them aloud with all the expression, all the feeling
necessary to such reading.
"How well you have read those stanzas!" said the marchioness; "I can
hardly believe them to be my own composition; I thank you very much.
But have the goodness to give the benefit of your reading to the
stanzas which his eminence has written in answer to mine. They
surpass them much."
"Do not believe it, my dear abbe," said the cardinal, handing them to
me. "Yet try not to let them lose anything through your reading."
There was certainly no need of his eminence enforcing upon me such a
recommendation; it was my own poetry. I could not have read it
otherwise than in my best style, especially when I had before me the
beautiful woman who had inspired them, and when, besides, Bacchus was
in me giving courage to Apollo as much as the beautiful eyes of the
marchioness were fanning into an ardent blaze the fire already
burning through my whole being.
I read the stanzas with so much expression that the cardinal was
enraptured, but I brought a deep carnation tint upon the cheeks of
the lovely marchioness when I came to the description of those
beauties which the imagination of the poet is allowed to guess at,
but which I could not, of course, have gazed upon. She snatched the
paper from my hands with passion, saying that I was adding verses of
my own; it was true, but I did not confess it. I was all aflame, and
the fire was scorching her as well as me.
The cardinal having fallen asleep, she rose and went to take a seat
on the balcony; I followed her. She had a rather high seat; I stood
opposite to her, so that her knee touched the fob-pocket in which was
my watch. What a position! Taking hold gently of one of her hands,
I told her that she had ignited in my soul a devouring flame, that I
adored her, and that, unless some hope was left to me of finding her
sensible to my sufferings, I was determined to fly away from her for
"Yes, beautiful marchioness, pronounce my sentence."
"I fear you are a libertine and an unfaithful lover."
"I am neither one nor the other."
With these words I folded her in my arms, and I pressed upon her
lovely lips, as pure as a rose, an ardent kiss which she received
with the best possible grace. This kiss, the forerunner of the most
delicious pleasures, had imparted to my hands the greatest boldness;
I was on the point of.... but the marchioness, changing her
position, entreated me so sweetly to respect her, that, enjoying new
voluptuousness through my very obedience, I not only abandoned an
easy victory, but I even begged her pardon, which I soon read in the
most loving look.
She spoke of Lucrezia, and was pleased with my discretion. She then
alluded to the cardinal, doing her best to make me believe that there
was nothing between them but a feeling of innocent friendship. Of
course I had my opinion on that subject, but it was my interest to
appear to believe every word she uttered. We recited together lines
from our best poets, and all the time she was still sitting down and
I standing before her, with my looks rapt in the contemplation of the
most lovely charms, to which I remained insensible in appearance, for
I had made up my mind not to press her that evening for greater
favours than those I had already received.
The cardinal, waking from his long and peaceful siesta, got up and
joined us in his night-cap, and good-naturedly enquired whether we
had not felt impatient at his protracted sleep. I remained until
dark and went home highly pleased with my day's work, but determined
to keep my ardent desires in check until the opportunity for complete
victory offered itself.
From that day, the charming marchioness never ceased to give me the
marks of her particular esteem, without the slightest constraint; I
was reckoning upon the carnival, which was close at hand, feeling
certain that the more I should spare her delicacy, the more she would
endeavour to find the opportunity of rewarding my loyalty, and of
crowning with happiness my loving constancy. But fate ordained
otherwise; Dame Fortune turned her back upon me at the very moment
when the Pope and Cardinal Acquaviva were thinking of giving me a
really good position.
The Holy Father had congratulated me upon the beautiful snuff-box
presented to me by Cardinal S. C., but he had been careful never to
name the marchioness. Cardinal Acquaviva expressed openly his
delight at his brother-cardinal having given me a taste of his
negrillo snuff in so splendid an envelope; the Abbe Gama, finding me
so forward on the road to success, did not venture to counsel me any
more, and the virtuous Father Georgi gave me but one piece of advice-
namely, to cling to the lovely marchioness and not to make any other
Such was my position-truly a brilliant one, when, on Christmas Day,
the lover of Barbara Dalacqua entered my room, locked the door, and
threw himself on the sofa, exclaiming that I saw him for the last
"I only come to beg of you some good advice."
"On what subject can I advise you?"
"Take this and read it; it will explain everything."
It was a letter from his mistress; the contents were these:
"I am pregnant of a child, the pledge of our mutual love; I can no
Back to Full Books