A Cleric in Naples, Casanova, v2
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 3 out of 4
longer have any doubt of it, my beloved, and I forewarn you that I
have made up my mind to quit Rome alone, and to go away to die where
it may please God, if you refuse to take care of me and save me. I
would suffer anything, do anything, rather than let my father
discover the truth."
"If you are a man of honour," I said, "you cannot abandon the poor
girl. Marry her in spite of your father, in spite of her own, and
live together honestly. The eternal Providence of God will watch
over you and help you in your difficulties:"
My advice seemed to bring calm to his mind, and he left me more
At the beginning of January, 1744, he called again, looking very
cheerful. "I have hired," he said, "the top floor of the house next
to Barbara's dwelling; she knows it, and to-night I will gain her
apartment through one of the windows of the garret, and we will make
all our arrangements to enable me to carry her off. I have made up
my mind; I have decided upon taking her to Naples, and I will take
with us the servant who, sleeping in the garret, had to be made a
"God speed you, my friend!"
A week afterwards, towards eleven o'clock at night, he entered my
room accompanied by an abbe.
"What do you want so late?"
"I wish to introduce you to this handsome abbe."
I looked up, and to my consternation I recognized Barbara.
"Has anyone seen you enter the house?" I enquired.
"No; and if we had been seen, what of it? It is only an abbe. We
now pass every night together."
"I congratulate you."
"The servant is our friend; she has consented to follow us, and all
our arrangements are completed."
"I wish you every happiness. Adieu. I beg you to leave me."
Three or four days after that visit, as I was walking with the Abbe
Gama towards the Villa Medicis, he told me deliberately that there
would be an execution during the night in the Piazza di Spagna.
"What kind of execution?"
"The bargello or his lieutenant will come to execute some 'ordine
santissimo', or to visit some suspicious dwelling in order to arrest
and carry off some person who does not expect anything of the sort."
"How do you know it?"
"His eminence has to know it, for the Pope would not venture to
encroach upon his jurisdiction without asking his permission."
"And his eminence has given it?"
"Yes, one of the Holy Father's auditors came for that purpose this
"But the cardinal might have refused?"
"Of course; but such a permission is never denied."
"And if the person to be arrested happened to be under the protection
of the cardinal--what then?"
"His eminence would give timely warning to that person."
We changed the conversation, but the news had disturbed me. I
fancied that the execution threatened Barbara and her lover, for her
father's house was under the Spanish jurisdiction. I tried to see
the young man but I could not succeed in meeting him, and I was
afraid lest a visit at his home or at M. Dalacqua's dwelling might
implicate me. Yet it is certain that this last consideration would
not have stopped me if I had been positively sure that they were
threatened; had I felt satisfied of their danger, I would have braved
About midnight, as I was ready to go to bed, and just as I was
opening my door to take the key from outside, an abbe rushed panting
into my room and threw himself on a chair. It was Barbara; I guessed
what had taken place, and, foreseeing all the evil consequences her
visit might have for me, deeply annoyed and very anxious, I upbraided
her for having taken refuge in my room, and entreated her to go away.
Fool that I was! Knowing that I was only ruining myself without any
chance of saving her, I ought to have compelled her to leave my room,
I ought to have called for the servants if she had refused to
withdraw. But I had not courage enough, or rather I voluntarily
obeyed the decrees of destiny.
When she heard my order to go away, she threw herself on her knees,
and melting into tears, she begged, she entreated my pity!
Where is the heart of steel which is not softened by the tears, by
the prayers of a pretty and unfortunate woman? I gave way, but I
told her that it was ruin for both of us.
"No one," she replied, "has seen me, I am certain, when I entered the
mansion and came up to your room, and I consider my visit here a week
ago as most fortunate; otherwise, I never could have known which was
"Alas! how much better if you had never come! But what has become
of your lover?"
"The 'sbirri' have carried him off, as well as the servant. I will
tell you all about it. My lover had informed me that a carriage
would wait to-night at the foot of the flight of steps before the
Church of Trinita del Monte, and that he would be there himself. I
entered his room through the garret window an hour ago. There I put
on this disguise, and, accompanied by the servant, proceeded to meet
him. The servant walked a few yards before me, and carried a parcel
of my things. At the corner of the street, one of the buckles of my
shoes being unfastened, I stopped an instant, and the servant went
on, thinking that I was following her. She reached the carriage, got
into it, and, as I was getting nearer, the light from a lantern
disclosed to me some thirty sbirri; at the same instant, one of them
got on the driver's box and drove off at full speed, carrying off the
servant, whom they must have mistaken for me, and my lover who was in
the coach awaiting me. What could I do at such a fearful moment? I
could not go back to my father's house, and I followed my first
impulse which brought me here. And here I am! You tell me that my
presence will cause your ruin; if it is so, tell me what to do; I
feel I am dying; but find some expedient and I am ready to do
anything, even to lay my life down, rather than be the cause of your
But she wept more bitterly than ever.
Her position was so sad that I thought it worse even than mine,
although I could almost fancy I saw ruin before me despite my
"Let me," I said, "conduct you to your father; I feel sure of
obtaining your pardon."
But my proposal only enhanced her fears.
"I am lost," she exclaimed; "I know my father. Ah! reverend sir,
turn me out into the street, and abandon me to my miserable fate."
No doubt I ought to have done so, and I would have done it if the
consciousness of what was due to my own interest had been stronger
than my feeling of pity. But her tears! I have often said it, and
those amongst my readers who have experienced it, must be of the same
opinion; there is nothing on earth more irresistible than two
beautiful eyes shedding tears, when the owner of those eyes is
handsome, honest, and unhappy. I found myself physically unable to
send her away.
"My poor girl," I said at last, "when daylight comes, and that will
not be long, for it is past midnight, what do you intend to do?"
"I must leave the palace," she replied, sobbing. "In this disguise
no one can recognize me; I will leave Rome, and I will walk straight
before me until I fall on the ground, dying with grief and fatigue."
With these words she fell on the floor. She was choking; I could see
her face turn blue; I was in the greatest distress.
I took off her neck-band, unlaced her stays under the abbe's dress, I
threw cold water in her face, and I finally succeeded in bringing her
back to consciousness.
The night was extremely cold, and there was no fire in my room. I
advised her to get into my bed, promising to respect her.
"Alas! reverend sir, pity is the only feeling with which I can now
And, to speak the truth I was too deeply moved, and, at the same
time, too full of anxiety, to leave room in me for any desire.
Having induced her to go to bed, and her extreme weakness preventing
her from doing anything for herself, I undressed her and put her to
bed, thus proving once more that compassion will silence the most
imperious requirements of nature, in spite of all the charms which
would, under other circumstances, excite to the highest degree the
senses of a man. I lay down near her in my clothes, and woke her at
day-break. Her strength was somewhat restored, she dressed herself
alone, and I left my room, telling her to keep quiet until my return.
I intended to proceed to her father's house, and to solicit her
pardon, but, having perceived some suspicious-looking men loitering
about the palace, I thought it wise to alter my mind, and went to a
I soon ascertanied that a spy was watching my movements at a
distance; but I did not appear to notice him, and having taken some
chocolate and stored a few biscuits in my pocket, I returned towards
the palace, apparently without any anxiety or hurry, always followed
by the same individual. I judged that the bargello, having failed in
his project, was now reduced to guesswork, and I was strengthened in
that view of the case when the gate-keeper of the palace told me,
without my asking any question, as I came in, that an arrest had been
attempted during the night, and had not succeeded. While he was
speaking, one of the auditors of the Vicar-General called to enquire
when he could see the Abby Gama. I saw that no time was to be lost,
and went up to my room to decide upon what was to be done.
I began by making the poor girl eat a couple of biscuits soaked in
some Canary wine, and I took her afterwards to the top story of the
palace, where, leaving her in a not very decent closet which was not
used by anyone, I told her to wait for me.
My servant came soon after, and I ordered him to lock the door of my
room as soon as he finished cleaning it, and to bring me the key at
the Abbe Gama's apartment, where I was going. I found Gama in
conversation with the auditor sent by the Vicar-General. As soon as
he had dismissed him, he came to me, and ordered his servant to serve
the chocolate. When we were left alone he gave me an account of his
interview with the auditor, who had come to entreat his eminence to
give orders to turn out of his palace a person who was supposed to
have taken refuge in it about midnight. "We must wait," said the
abbe, "until the cardinal is visible, but I am quite certain that, if
anyone has taken refuge here unknown to him, his eminence will compel
that person to leave the palace." We then spoke of the weather and
other trifles until my servant brought my key. Judging that I had at
least an hour to spare, I bethought myself of a plan which alone
could save Barbara from shame and misery.
Feeling certain that I was unobserved, I went up to my poor prisoner
and made her write the following words in French:
"I am an honest girl, monsignor, though I am disguised in the dress
of an abbe. I entreat your eminence to allow me to give my name only
to you and in person. I hope that, prompted by the great goodness of
your soul, your eminence will save me from dishonour." I gave her the
necessary instructions, as to sending the note to the cardinal,
assuring her that he would have her brought to him as soon as he read
"When you are in his presence," I added, "throw yourself on your
knees, tell him everything without any concealment, except as regards
your having passed the night in my room. You must be sure not to
mention that circumstance, for the cardinal must remain in complete
ignorance of my knowing anything whatever of this intrigue. Tell him
that, seeing your lover carried off, you rushed to his palace and ran
upstairs as far as you could go, and that after a most painful night
Heaven inspired you with the idea of writing to him to entreat his
pity. I feel certain that, one way or the other, his eminence will
save you from dishonour, and it certainly is the only chance you have
of being united to the man you love so dearly."
She promised to follow 'my instructions faithfully, and, coming down,
I had my hair dressed and went to church, where the cardinal saw me.
I then went out and returned only for dinner, during which the only
subject of conversation was the adventure of the night. Gama alone
said nothing, and I followed his example, but I understood from all
the talk going on round the table that the cardinal had taken my poor
Barbara under his protection. That was all I wanted, and thinking
that I had nothing more to fear I congratulated myself, in petto,
upon my stratagem, which had, I thought, proved a master-stroke.
After dinner, finding myself alone with Gama, I asked him what was
the meaning of it all, and this is what he told me:
"A father, whose name I do not know yet, had requested the assistance
of the Vicar-General to prevent his son from carrying off a young
girl, with whom he intended to leave the States of the Church; the
pair had arranged to meet at midnight in this very square, and the
Vicar, having previously obtained the consent of our cardinal, as I
told you yesterday, gave orders to the bargello to dispose his men in
such a way as to catch the young people in the very act of running
away, and to arrest them. The orders were executed, but the 'sbirri'
found out, when they returned to the bargello, that they had met with
only a half success, the woman who got out of the carriage with the
young man not belonging to that species likely to be carried off.
Soon afterwards a spy informed the bargello that, at the very moment
the arrest was executed, he had seen a young abbe run away very
rapidly and take refuge in this palace, and the suspicion immediately
arose that it might be the missing young lady in the disguise of an
ecclesiastic. The bargello reported to the Vicar-General the failure
of his men, as well as the account given by the spy, and the Prelate,
sharing the suspicion of the police, sent to his eminence, our
master, requesting him to have the person in question, man or woman,
turned out of the palace, unless such persons should happen to be
known to his excellency, and therefore above suspicion. Cardinal
Acquaviva was made acquainted with these circumstances at nine this
morning through the auditor you met in my room, and he promised to
have the person sent away unless she belonged to his household.
"According to his promise, the cardinal ordered the palace to be
searched, but, in less than a quarter of an hour, the major-domo
received orders to stop, and the only reason for these new
instructions must be this:
"I am told by the major-domo that at nine o'clock exactly a very
handsome, young abbe, whom he immediately judged to be a girl in
disguise, asked him to deliver a note to his eminence, and that the
cardinal, after reading it, had desired the said abbe be brought to
his apartment, which he has not left since. As the order to stop
searching the palace was given immediately after the introduction of
the abbe to the cardinal, it is easy enough to suppose that this
ecclesiastic is no other than the young girl missed by the police,
who took refuge in the palace in which she must have passed the whole
"I suppose," said I, "that his eminence will give her up to-day, if
not to the bargello, at least to the Vicar-General."
"No, not even to the Pope himself," answered Gama. "You have not yet
a right idea of the protection of our cardinal, and that protection
is evidently granted to her, since the young person is not only in
the palace of his eminence, but also in his own apartment and under
his own guardianship."
The whole affair being in itself very interesting, my attention could
not appear extraordinary to Gama, however suspicious he might be
naturally, and I was certain that he would not have told me anything
if he had guessed the share I had taken in the adventure, and the
interest I must have felt in it.
The next day, Gama came to my room with a radiant countenance, and
informed me that the Cardinal-Vicar was aware of the ravisher being
my friend, and supposed that I was likewise the friend of the girl,
as she was the daughter of my French teacher. "Everybody," he added,
"is satisfied that you knew the whole affair, and it is natural to
suspect that the poor girl spent the night in your room. I admire
your prudent reserve during our conversation of yesterday. You kept
so well on your guard that I would have sworn you knew nothing
whatever of the affair."
"And it is the truth," I answered, very seriously; "I have only
learned all the circumstances from you this moment. I know the girl,
but I have not seen her for six weeks, since I gave up my French
lessons; I am much better acquainted with the young man, but he never
confided his project to me. However, people may believe whatever
they please. You say that it is natural for the girl to have passed
the night in my room, but you will not mind my laughing in the face
of those who accept their own suppositions as realities."
"That, my dear friend," said the abbe, "is one of the vices of the
Romans; happy those who can afford to laugh at it; but this slander
may do you harm, even in the mind of our cardinal."
As there was no performance at the Opera that night, I went to the
cardinal's reception; I found no difference towards me either in the
cardinal's manners, or in those of any other person, and the
marchioness was even more gracious than usual.
After dinner, on the following day, Gama informed me that the
cardinal had sent the young girl to a convent in which she would be
well treated at his eminence's expense, and that he was certain that
she would leave it only to become the wife of the young doctor.
"I should be very happy if it should turn out so," I replied; "for
they are both most estimable people."
Two days afterwards, I called upon Father Georgi, and he told me,
with an air of sorrow, that the great news of the day in Rome was the
failure of the attempt to carry off Dalacqua's daughter, and that all
the honour of the intrigue was given to me, which displeased him
much. I told him what I had already told Gama, and he appeared to
believe me, but he added that in Rome people did not want to know
things as they truly were, but only as they wished them to be.
"It is known, that you have been in the habit of going every morning
to Dalacqua's house; it is known that the young man often called on
you; that is quite enough. People do not care, to know the
circumstances which might counteract the slander, but only those,
likely to give it new force for slander is vastly relished in the
Holy City. Your innocence will not prevent the whole adventure being
booked to your account, if, in forty years time you were proposed as
pope in the conclave."
During the following days the fatal adventure began to cause me more
annoyance than I could express, for everyone mentioned it to me, and
I could see clearly that people pretended to believe what I said only
because they did not dare to do otherwise. The marchioness told me
jeeringly that the Signora Dalacqua had contracted peculiar
obligations towards me, but my sorrow was very great when, during the
last days of the carnival, I remarked that Cardinal Acquaviva's
manner had become constrained, although I was the only person who
observed the change.
The noise made by the affair was, however, beginning to subside,
when, in the first days of Lent, the cardinal desired me to come to
his private room, and spoke as follows
"The affair of the girl Dalacqua is now over; it is no longer spoken
of, but the verdict of the public is that you and I have profited by
the clumsiness of the young man who intended to carry her off. In
reality I care little for such a verdict, for, under similar
circumstances, I should always act in a similar manner, and I do not
wish to know that which no one can compel you to confess, and which,
as a man of honour, you must not admit. If you had no previous
knowledge of the intrigue, and had actually turned the girl out of
your room (supposing she did come to you), you would have been guilty
of a wrong and cowardly action, because you would have sealed her
misery for the remainder of her days, and it would not have caused
you to escape the suspicion of being an accomplice, while at the same
time it would have attached to you the odium of dastardly treachery.
Notwithstanding all I have just said, you can easily imagine that, in
spite of my utter contempt for all gossiping fools, I cannot openly
defy them. I therefore feel myself compelled to ask you not only to
quit my service, but even to leave Rome. I undertake to supply you
with an honourable pretext for your departure, so as to insure you
the continuation of the respect which you may have secured through
the marks of esteem I have bestowed upon you. I promise you to
whisper in the ear of any person you may choose, and even to inform
everybody, that you are going on an important mission which I have
entrusted to you. You have only to name the country where you want
to go; I have friends everywhere, and can recommend you to such
purpose that you will be sure to find employment. My letters of
recommendation will be in my own handwriting, and nobody need know
where you are going. Meet me to-morrow at the Villa Negroni, and let
me know where my letters are to be addressed. You must be ready to
start within a week. Believe me, I am sorry to lose you; but the
sacrifice is forced upon me by the most absurd prejudice. Go now,
and do not let me witness your grief."
He spoke the last words because he saw my eyes filling with tears,
and he did not give me time to answer. Before leaving his room, I
had the strength of mind to compose myself, and I put on such an air
of cheerfulness that the Abbe Gama, who took me to his room to drink
some coffee, complimented me upon my happy looks.
"I am sure," he said, "that they are caused by the conversation you
have had with his eminence."
"You are right; but you do not know the sorrow at my heart which I
try not to shew outwardly."
"I am afraid of failing in a difficult mission which the cardinal has
entrusted me with this morning. I am compelled to conceal how little
confidence I feel in myself in order not to lessen the good opinion
his eminence is pleased to entertain of me."
"If my advice can be of any service to you, pray dispose of me; but
you are quite right to chew yourself calm and cheerful. Is it any
business to transact in Rome?"
"No; it is a journey I shall have to undertake in a week or ten
"Towards the west."
"Oh! I am not curious to know."
I went out alone and took a walk in the Villa Borghese, where I spent
two hours wrapped in dark despair. I liked Rome, I was on the high
road to fortune, and suddenly I found myself in the abyss, without
knowing where to go, and with all my hopes scattered to the winds. I
examined my conduct, I judged myself severely, I could not find
myself guilty of any crime save of too much kindness, but I perceived
how right the good Father Georgi had been. My duty was not only to
take no part in the intrigue of the two love, but also to change my
French teacher the moment I beard of it; but this was like calling in
a doctor after death has struck the patient. Besides, young as I
was, having no experience yet of misfortune, and still less of the
wickedness of society, it was very difficult for me to have that
prudence which a man gains only by long intercourse with the world.
"Where shall I go?" This was the question which seemed to me
impossible of solution. I thought of it all through the night, and
through the morning, but I thought in vain; after Rome, I was
indifferent where I went to!
In the evening, not caring for any supper, I had gone to my room; the
Abbe Gama came to me with a request from the cardinal not to accept
any invitation to dinner for the next day, as he wanted to speak to
me. I therefore waited upon his eminence the next day at the Villa
Negroni; he was walking with his secretary, whom he dismissed the
moment he saw me. As soon as we were alone, I gave him all the
particulars of the intrigue of the two lovers, and I expressed in the
most vivid manner the sorrow I felt at leaving his service.
"I have no hope of success," I added, "for I am certain that Fortune
will smile upon me only as long as I am near your eminence."
For nearly an hour I told him all the grief with which my heart was
bursting, weeping bitterly; yet I could not move him from his
decision. Kindly, but firmly he pressed me to tell him to what part
of Europe I wanted to go, and despair as much as vexation made me
"Constantinople!" he exclaimed, moving back a step or two.
"Yes, monsignor, Constantinople," I repeated, wiping away my tears.
The prelate, a man of great wit, but a Spaniard to the very back-
bone, after remaining silent a few minutes, said, with a smile,
"I am glad you have not chosen Ispahan, as I should have felt rather
embarrassed. When do you wish to go?"
"This day week, as your eminence has ordered me."
"Do you intend to sail from Naples or from Venice?"
"I will give you such a passport as will be needed, for you will find
two armies in winter-quarters in the Romagna. It strikes me that you
may tell everybody that I sent you to Constantinople, for nobody will
This diplomatic suggestion nearly made me smile. The cardinal told
me that I should dine with him, and he left me to join his secretary.
When I returned to the palace, thinking of the choice I had made, I
said to myself, "Either I am mad, or I am obeying the impulse of a
mysterious genius which sends me to Constantinople to work out my
fate." I was only astonished that the cardinal had so readily
accepted my choice. "Without any doubt," I thought, "he did not wish
me to believe that he had boasted of more than he could achieve, in
telling me that he had friends everywhere. But to whom can he
recommend me in Constantinople? I have not the slightest idea, but
to Constantinople I must go."
I dined alone with his eminence; he made a great show of peculiar
kindness and I of great satisfaction, for my self-pride, stronger
even than my sorrow, forbade me to let anyone guess that I was in
disgrace. My deepest grief was, however, to leave the marchioness,
with whom I was in love, and from whom I had not obtained any
Two days afterwards, the cardinal gave me a passport for Venice, and
a sealed letter addressed to Osman Bonneval, Pacha of Caramania, in
Constantinople. There was no need of my saying anything to anyone,
but, as the cardinal had not forbidden me to do it, I shewed the
address on the letter to all my acquaintances.
The Chevalier de Lezze, the Venetian Ambassador, gave me a letter for
a wealthy Turk, a very worthy man who had been his friend; Don Gaspar
and Father Georgi asked me to write to them, but the Abbe Gams,
laughed, and said he was quite sure I was not going to
I went to take my farewell of Donna Cecilia, who had just received a
letter from Lucrezia, imparting the news that she would soon be a
mother. I also called upon Angelique and Don Francisco, who had
lately been married and had not invited me to the wedding.
When I called to take Cardinal Acquaviva's final instructions he gave
me a purse containing one hundred ounces, worth seven hundred
sequins. I had three hundred more, so that my fortune amounted to
one thousand sequins; I kept two hundred, and for the rest I took a
letter of exchange upon a Ragusan who was established in Ancona. I
left Rome in the coach with a lady going to Our Lady of Loretto, to
fulfil a vow made during a severe illness of her daughter, who
accompanied her. The young lady was ugly; my journey was a rather
My Short But Rather Too Gay Visit To Ancona--Cecilia, Marina,
Bellino--the Greek Slave of the Lazzaretto--Bellino Discovers Himself
I arrived in Ancona on the 25th of February, 1744, and put up at the
best inn. Pleased with my room, I told mine host to prepare for me a
good meat dinner; but he answered that during Lent all good Catholics
eat nothing but fish.
"The Holy Father has granted me permission to eat meat."
"Let me see your permission."
"He gave it to me by word of mouth."
"Reverend sir, I am not obliged to believe you."
"You are a fool."
"I am master in my own house, and I beg you will go to some other
Such an answer, coupled to a most unexpected notice to quit, threw me
into a violent passion. I was swearing, raving, screaming, when
suddenly a grave-looking individual made his appearance in my room,
and said to me:
"Sir, you are wrong in calling for meat, when in Ancona fish is much
better; you are wrong in expecting the landlord to believe you on
your bare word; and if you have obtained the permission from the
Pope, you have been wrong in soliciting it at your age; you have been
wrong in not asking for such permission in writing; you are wrong in
calling the host a fool, because it is a compliment that no man is
likely to accept in his own house; and, finally, you are wrong in
making such an uproar."
Far from increasing my bad temper, this individual, who had entered
my room only to treat me to a sermon, made me laugh.
"I willingly plead guilty, sir," I answered, "to all the counts which
you allege against me; but it is raining, it is getting late, I am
tired and hungry, and therefore you will easily understand that I do
not feel disposed to change my quarters. Will you give me some
supper, as the landlord refuses to do so?"
"No," he replied, with great composure, "because I am a good Catholic
and fast. But I will undertake to make it all right for you with the
landlord, who will give you a good supper."
Thereupon he went downstairs, and I, comparing my hastiness to his
calm, acknowledged the man worthy of teaching me some lessons. He
soon came up again, informed me that peace was signed, and that I
would be served immediately.
"Will you not take supper with me?"
"No, but I will keep you company."
I accepted his offer, and to learn who he was, I told him my name,
giving myself the title of secretary to Cardinal Acquaviva.
"My name is Sancio Pico," he said; "I am a Castilian, and the
'proveditore' of the army of H. C. M., which is commanded by Count de
Gages under the orders of the generalissimo, the Duke of Modem."
My excellent appetite astonished him, and he enquired whether I had
dined. "No," said I; and I saw his countenance assume an air of
"Are you not afraid such a supper will hurt you?" he said.
"On the contrary, I hope it will do me a great deal of good."
"Then you have deceived the Pope?"
"No, for I did not tell him that I had no appetite, but only that I
liked meat better than fish."
"If you feel disposed to hear some good music," he said a moment
after, "follow me to the next room; the prima donna of Ancona lives
The words prima donna interested me at once, and I followed him. I
saw, sitting before a table, a woman already somewhat advanced in
age, with two young girls and two boys, but I looked in vain for the
actress, whom Don Sancio Pico at last presented to me in the shape of
one of the two boys, who was remarkably handsome and might have been
seventeen. I thought he was a 'castrato' who, as is the custom in
Rome, performed all the parts of a prima donna. The mother presented
to, me her other son, likewise very good-looking, but more manly than
the 'castrato', although younger. His name was Petronio, and,
keeping up the transformations of the family, he was the first female
dancer at the opera. The eldest girl, who was also introduced to me,
was named Cecilia, and studied music; she was twelve years old; the
youngest, called Marina, was only eleven, and like her brother
Petronio was consecrated to the worship of Terpsichore. Both the
girls were very pretty.
The family came from Bologna and lived upon the talent of its
members; cheerfulness and amiability replaced wealth with them.
Bellino, such was the name of the castrato, yielding to the
entreaties of Don Sancio, rose from the table, went to the
harpiscord, and sang with the voice of an angel and with delightful
grace. The Castilian listened with his eyes closed in an ecstasy of
enjoyment, but I, far from closing my eyes, gazed into Bellino's,
which seemed to dart amorous lightnings upon me. I could discover in
him some of the features of Lucrezia and the graceful manner of the
marchioness, and everything betrayed a beautiful woman, for his dress
concealed but imperfectly the most splendid bosom. The consequence
was that, in spite of his having been introduced as a man, I fancied
that the so-called Bellino was a disguised beauty, and, my
imagination taking at once the highest flight, I became thoroughly
We spent two very pleasant hours, and I returned to my room
accompanied by the Castilian. "I intend to leave very early to-
morrow morning," he said, "for Sinigaglia, with the Abbe Vilmarcati,
but I expect to return for supper the day after to-morrow." I wished
him a happy journey, saying that we would most 'likely meet on the
road, as I should probably leave Ancona myself on the same day, after
paying a visit to my banker.
I went to bed thinking of Bellino and of the impression he had made
upon me; I was sorry to go away without having proved to him that I
was not the dupe of his disguise. Accordingly, I was well pleased to
see him enter my room in the morning as soon as I had opened my door.
He came to offer me the services of his young brother Petronio during
my stay in Ancona, instead of my engaging a valet de place. I
willingly agreed to the proposal, and sent Petronio to get coffee for
all the family.
I asked Bellino to sit on my bed with the intention of making love to
him, and of treating him like a girl, but the two young sisters ran
into my room and disturbed my plans. Yet the trio formed before me a
very pleasing sight; they represented natural beauty and artless
cheerfulness of three different kinds; unobtrusive familiarity,
theatrical wit, pleasing playfulness, and pretty Bolognese manners
which I witnessed for the first time; all this would have sufficed to
cheer me if I had been downcast. Cecilia and Marina were two sweet
rosebuds, which, to bloom in all their beauty, required only the
inspiration of love, and they would certainly have had the preference
over Bellino if I had seen in him only the miserable outcast of
mankind, or rather the pitiful victim of sacerdotal cruelty, for, in
spite of their youth, the two amiable girls offered on their dawning
bosom the precious image of womanhood.
Petronio came with the coffee which he poured out, and I sent some to
the mother, who never left her room. Petronio was a true male harlot
by taste and by profession. The species is not scare in Italy, where
the offence is not regarded with the wild and ferocious intolerance
of England and Spain. I had given him one sequin to pay for the
coffee, and told him to keep the change, and, to chew me his
gratitude, he gave me a voluptuous kiss with half-open lips,
supposing in me a taste which I was very far from entertaining. I
disabused him, but he did not seem the least ashamed. I told him to
order dinner for six persons, but he remarked that he would order it
only for four, as he had to keep his dear mother company; she always
took her dinner in bed. Everyone to his taste, I thought, and I let
him do as he pleased.
Two minutes after he had gone, the landlord came to my room and said,
"Reverend sir, the persons you have invited here have each the
appetite of two men at least; I give you notice of it, because I must
charge accordingly." "All right," I replied, "but let us have a good
When I was dressed, I thought I ought to pay my compliments to the
compliant mother. I went to her room, and congratulated her upon her
children. She thanked me for the present I had given to Petronio,
and began to make me the confidant of her distress. "The manager of
the theatre," she said, "is a miser who has given us only fifty Roman
crowns for the whole carnival. We have spent them for our living,
and, to return to Bologna, we shall have to walk and beg our way."
Her confidence moved my pity, so I took a gold quadruple from my
purse and offered it to her; she wept for joy and gratitude.
"I promise you another gold quadruple, madam," I said, "if you will
confide in me entirely. Confess that Bellino is a pretty woman in
"I can assure you it is not so, although he has the appearance of a
"Not only the appearance, madam, but the tone, the manners; I am a
"Nevertheless, he is a boy, for he has had to be examined before he
could sing on the stage here."
"And who examined him?"
"My lord bishop's chaplain."
"Yes, and you may satisfy yourself by enquiring from him."
"The only way to clear my doubts would be to examine him myself."
"You may, if he has no objection, but truly I cannot interfere, as I
do not know what your intentions are."
"They are quite natural."
I returned to my room and sent Petronio for a bottle of Cyprus wine.
He brought the wine and seven sequins, the change for the doubloon I
had given him. I divided them between Bellino, Cecilia and Marina,
and begged the two young girls to leave me alone with their brother.
"Bellino, I am certain that your natural conformation is different
from mine; my dear, you are a girl."
"I am a man, but a castrato; I have been examined."
"Allow me to examine you likewise, and I will give you a doubloon."
"I cannot, for it is evident that you love me, and such love is
condemned by religion."
"You did not raise these objections with the bishop's chaplain."
"He was an elderly priest, and besides, he only just glanced at me."
"I will know the truth," said I, extending my hand boldly.
But he repulsed me and rose from his chair. His obstinacy vexed me,
for I had already spent fifteen or sixteen sequins to satisfy my
I began my dinner with a very bad humour, but the excellent appetite
of my pretty guests brought me round, and I soon thought that, after
all, cheerfulness was better than sulking, and I resolved to make up
for my disappointment with the two charming sisters, who seemed well
disposed to enjoy a frolic.
I began by distributing a few innocent kisses right and left, as I
sat between them near a good fire, eating chestnuts which we wetted
with Cyprus wine. But very soon my greedy hands touched every part
which my lips could not kiss, and Cecilia, as well as Marina,
delighted in the game. Seeing that Bellino was smiling, I kissed him
likewise, and his half-open ruffle attracting my hand, I ventured and
went in without resistance. The chisel of Praxiteles had never
carved a finer bosom!
"Oh! this is enough," I exclaimed; "I can no longer doubt that you
are a beautifully-formed woman!"
"It is," he replied, "the defect of all castrati."
"No, it is the perfection of all handsome women. Bellino, believe me,
I am enough of a good judge to distinguish between the deformed
breast of a castrato, and that of a beautiful woman; and your
alabaster bosom belongs to a young beauty of seventeen summers."
Who does not know that love, inflamed by all that can excite it,
never stops in young people until it is satisfied, and that one
favour granted kindles the wish for a greater one? I had begun well,
I tried to go further and to smother with burning kisses that which
my hand was pressing so ardently, but the false Bellino, as if he had
only just been aware of the illicit pleasure I was enjoying, rose and
ran away. Anger increased in me the ardour of love, and feeling the
necessity of calming myself either by satisfying my ardent desires or
by evaporating them, I begged Cecilia, Bellino's pupil, to sing a few
I then went out to call upon the banker, from whom I took a letter of
exchange at sight upon Bologna, for the amount I had to receive from
him, and on my return, after a light supper with the two young
sisters, I prepared to go to bed, having previously instructed
Petronio to order a carriage for the morning.
I was just locking my door when Cecilia, half undressed, came in to
say that Bellino begged me to take him to Rimini, where he was
engaged to sing in an opera to be performed after Easter.
"Go and tell him, my dear little seraph, that I am ready to do what
he wishes, if he will only grant me in your presence what I desire; I
want to know for a certainty whether he is a man or a woman."
She left me and returned soon, saying that Bellino had gone to bed,
but that if I would postpone my departure for one day only he
promised to satisfy me on the morrow.
"Tell me the truth, Cecilia, and I will give you six sequins."
"I cannot earn them, for I have never seen him naked, and I cannot
swear to his being a girl. But he must be a man, otherwise he would
not have been allowed to perform here."
"Well, I will remain until the day after to-morrow, provided you keep
me company tonight."
"Do you love me very much?"
"Very much indeed, if you shew yourself very kind."
"I will be very kind, for I love you dearly likewise. I will go and
tell my mother."
"Of course you have a lover?"
"I never had one."
She left my room, and in a short time came back full of joy, saying
that her mother believed me an honest man; she of course meant a
generous one. Cecilia locked the door, and throwing herself in my
arms covered me with kisses. She was pretty, charming, but I was not
in love with her, and I was not able to say to her as to Lucrezia:
"You have made me so happy!" But she said it herself, and I did not
feel much flattered, although I pretended to believe her. When I
woke up in the morning I gave her a tender salutation, and presenting
her with three doubloons, which must have particularly delighted the
mother, I sent her away without losing my time in promising
everlasting constancy--a promise as absurd as it is trifling, and
which the most virtuous man ought never to make even to the most
beautiful of women.
After breakfast I sent for mine host and ordered an excellent supper
for five persons, feeling certain that Don Sancio, whom I expected in
the evening, would not refuse to honour me by accepting my
invitation, and with that idea I made up my mind to go without my
dinner. The Bolognese family did not require to imitate my diet to
insure a good appetite for the evening.
I then summoned Bellino to my room, and claimed the performance of
his promise but he laughed, remarked that the day was not passed yet,
and said that he was certain of traveling with me.
"I fairly warn you that you cannot accompany me unless I am fully
"Well, I will satisfy you."
"Shall we go and take a walk together?"
"Willingly; I will dress myself."
While I was waiting for him, Marina came in with a dejected
countenance, enquiring how she had deserved my contempt.
"Cecilia has passed the night with you, Bellino will go with you to-
morrow, I am the most unfortunate of us all."
"Do you want money?"
"No, for I love you."
"But, Marinetta, you are too young."
"I am much stronger than my sister."
"Perhaps you have a lover."
"Very well, we can try this evening."
"Good! Then I will tell mother to prepare clean sheets for to-morrow
morning; otherwise everybody here would know that I slept with you."
I could not help admiring the fruits of a theatrical education, and
was much amused.
Bellino came back, we went out together, and we took our walk towards
the harbour. There were several vessels at anchor, and amongst them
a Venetian ship and a Turkish tartan. We went on board the first
which we visited with interest, but not seeing anyone of my
acquaintance, we rowed towards the Turkish tartan, where the most
romantic surprise awaited me. The first person I met on board was
the beautiful Greek woman I had left in Ancona, seven months before,
when I went away from the lazzaretto. She was seated near the old
captain, of whom I enquired, without appearing to notice his handsome
slave, whether he had any fine goods to sell. He took us to his
cabin, but as I cast a glance towards the charming Greek, she
expressed by her looks all her delight at such an unexpected meeting.
I pretended not to be pleased with the goods shewn by the Turk, and
under the impulse of inspiration I told him that I would willingly
buy something pretty which would take the fancy of his better-half.
He smiled, and the Greek slave-having whispered a few words to him,
he left the cabin. The moment he was out of sight, this new Aspasia
threw herself in my arms, saying, "Now is your time!" I would not be
found wanting in courage, and taking the most convenient position in
such a place, I did to her in one instant that which her old master
had not done in five years. I had not yet reached the goal of my
wishes, when the unfortunate girl, hearing her master, tore herself
from my arms with a deep sigh, and placing herself cunningly in front
of me, gave me time to repair the disorder of my dress, which might
have cost me my life, or at least all I possessed to compromise the
affair. In that curious situation, I was highly amused at the
surprise of Bellino, who stood there trembling like an aspen leaf.
The trifles chosen by the handsome slave cost me only thirty sequins.
'Spolaitis', she said to me in her own language, and the Turk telling
her that she ought to kiss me, she covered her face with her hands,
and ran away. I left the ship more sad than pleased, for I regretted
that, in spite of her courage, she should have enjoyed only an
incomplete pleasure. As soon as we were in our row boat, Bellino,
who had recovered from his fright, told me that I had just made him
acquainted with a phenomenon, the reality of which he could not
admit, and which gave him a very strange idea of my nature; that, as
far as the Greek girl was concerned, he could not make her out,
unless I should assure him that every woman in her country was like
her. "How unhappy they must be!" he added.
"Do you think," I asked, "that coquettes are happier?"
"No, but I think that when a woman yields to love, she should not be
conquered before she has fought with her own desires; she should not
give way to the first impulse of a lustful desire and abandon herself
to the first man who takes her fancy, like an animal--the slave of
sense. You must confess that the Greek woman has given you an
evident proof that you had taken her fancy, but that she has at the
same time given you a proof not less certain of her beastly lust, and
of an effrontery which exposed her to the shame of being repulsed,
for she could not possibly know whether you would feel as well
disposed for her as she felt for you. She is very handsome, and it
all turned out well, but the adventure has thrown me into a whirlpool
of agitation which I cannot yet control."
I might easily have put a stop to Bellino's perplexity, and rectified
the mistake he was labouring under; but such a confession would not
have ministered to my self-love, and I held my peace, for, if Bellino
happened to be a girl, as I suspected, I wanted her to be convinced
that I attached, after all, but very little importance to the great
affair, and that it was not worth while employing cunning expedients
to obtain it.
We returned to the inn, and, towards evening, hearing Don Sancio's
travelling carriage roll into the yard, I hastened to meet him, and
told him that I hoped he would excuse me if I had felt certain that
he would not refuse me the honour of his company to supper with
Bellino. He thanked me politely for the pleasure I was so delicately
offering him, and accepted my invitation.
The most exquisite dishes, the most delicious wines of Spain, and,
more than everything else, the cheerfulness and the charming voices
of Bellino and of Cecilia, gave the Castilian five delightful hours.
He left me at midnight, saying that he could not declare himself
thoroughly pleased unless I promised to sup with him the next evening
with the same guests. It would compel me to postpone my departure
for another day, but I accepted.
As soon as Don Sancio had gone, I called upon Bellino to fulfil his
promise, but he answered that Marinetta was waiting for me, and that,
as I was not going away the next day, he would find an opportunity of
satisfying my doubts; and wishing me a good night, he left the room.
Marinetta, as cheerful as a lark, ran to lock the door and came back
to me, her eyes beaming with ardour. She was more formed than
Cecilia, although one year younger, and seemed anxious to convince me
of her superiority, but, thinking that the fatigue of the preceding
night might have exhausted my strength, she unfolded all the armorous
ideas of her mind, explained at length all she knew of the great
mystery she was going to enact with me, and of all the contrivances
she had had recourse to in order to acquire her imperfect knowledge,
the whole interlarded with the foolish talk natural to her age. I
made out that she was afraid of my not finding her a maiden, and of
my reproaching her about it. Her anxiety pleased me, and I gave her
a new confidence by telling her that nature had refused to many young
girls what is called maidenhood, and that only a fool could be angry
with a girl for such a reason.
My science gave her courage and confidence, and I was compelled to
acknowledge that she was very superior to her sister.
"I am delighted you find me so," she said; "we must not sleep at all
throughout the night."
"Sleep, my darling, will prove our friend, and our strength renewed
by repose will reward you in the morning for what you may suppose
And truly, after a quiet sleep, the morning was for her a succession
of fresh triumphs, and I crowned her happiness by sending her away
with three doubloons, which she took to her mother, and which gave
the good woman an insatiable desire to contract new obligations
I went out to get some money from the banker, as I did not know what
might happen during my journey. I had enjoyed myself, but I had
spent too much: yet there was Bellino who, if a girl, was not to find
me less generous than I had been with the two young sisters. It was
to be decided during the day, and I fancied that I was sure of the
There are some persons who pretend that life is only a succession of
misfortunes, which is as much as to say that life itself is a
misfortune; but if life is a misfortune, death must be exactly the
reverse and therefore death must be happiness, since death is the
very reverse of life. That deduction may appear too finely drawn.
But those who say that life is a succession of misfortunes are
certainly either ill or poor; for, if they enjoyed good health, if
they had cheerfulness in their heart and money in their purse, if
they had for their enjoyment a Cecilia, a Marinetta, and even a more
lovely beauty in perspective, they would soon entertain a very
different opinion of life! I hold them to be a race of pessimists,
recruited amongst beggarly philosophers and knavish, atrabilious
theologians. If pleasure does exist, and if life is necessary to
enjoy pleasure, then life is happiness. There are misfortunes, as I
know by experience; but the very existence of such misfortunes proves
that the sum-total of happiness is greater. Because a few thorns are
to be found in a basket full of roses, is the existence of those
beautiful flowers to be denied? No; it is a slander to deny that
life is happiness. When I am in a dark room, it pleases me greatly
to see through a window an immense horizon before me.
As supper-time was drawing near, I went to Don Sancio, whom I found
in magnificently-furnished apartments. The table was loaded with
silver plate, and his servants were in livery. He was alone, but all
his guests arrived soon after me--Cecilia, Marina, and Bellino, who,
either by caprice or from taste, was dressed as a woman. The two
young sisters, prettily arranged, looked charming, but Bellino, in
his female costume, so completely threw them into the shade, that my
last doubt vanished.
"Are you satisfied," I said to Don Sancio, "that Bellino is a woman?"
"Woman or man, what do I care! I think he is a very pretty
'castrato', and 'I have seen many as good-looking as he is."
"But are you sure he is a 'castrato'?"
"'Valgame Dios'!" answered the grave Castilian, "I have not the
slightest wish to ascertain the truth."
Oh, how widely different our thoughts were! I admired in him the
wisdom of which I was so much in need, and did not venture upon any
more indiscreet questions. During the supper, however, my greedy
eyes could not leave that charming being; my vicious nature caused me
to feel intense voluptuousness in believing him to be of that sex to
which I wanted him to belong.
Don Sancio's supper was excellent, and, as a matter of course,
superior to mine; otherwise the pride of the Castilian would have
felt humbled. As a general rule, men are not satisfied with what is
good; they want the best, or, to speak more to the point, the most.
He gave us white truffles, several sorts of shell-fish, the best fish
of the Adriatic, dry champagne, peralta, sherry and pedroximenes
After that supper worthy of Lucullus, Bellino sang with a voice of
such beauty that it deprived us of the small amount of reason left in
us by the excellent wine. His movements, the expression of his
looks, his gait, his walk, his countenance, his voice, and, above
all, my own instinct, which told me that I could not possibly feel
for a castrato what I felt for Bellino, confirmed me in my hopes; yet
it was necessary that my eyes should ascertain the truth.
After many compliments and a thousand thanks, we took leave of the
grand Spaniard, and went to my room, where the mystery was at last to
be unravelled. I called upon Bellino to keep his word, or I
threatened to leave him alone the next morning at day-break.
I took him by the hand, and we seated ourselves near the fire. I
dismissed Cecilia and Marina, and I said to him,
"Bellino, everything must have an end; you have promised: it will
soon be over. If you are what you represent yourself to be, I will
let you go back to your own room; if you are what I believe you to
be, and if you consent to remain with me to-night, I will give you
one hundred sequins, and we will start together tomorrow morning."
"You must go alone, and forgive me if I cannot fulfil my promise. I
am what I told you, and I can neither reconcile myself to the idea of
exposing my shame before you, nor lay myself open to the terrible
consequences that might follow the solution of your doubts."
"There can be no consequences, since there will be an end to it at
the moment I have assured myself that you are unfortunate enough to
be what you say, and without ever mentioning the circumstances again,
I promise to take you with me to-morrow and to leave you at Rimini."
"No, my mind is made up; I cannot satisfy your curiosity."
Driven to madness by his words, I was very near using violence, but
subduing my angry feelings, I endeavored to succeed by gentle means
and by going straight to the spot where the mystery could be solved.
I was very near it, when his hand opposed a very strong resistance.
I repeated my efforts, but Bellino, rising suddenly, repulsed me, and
I found myself undone. After a few moments of calm, thinking I
should take him by surprise, I extended my hand, but I drew back
terrified, for I fancied that I had recognized in him a man, and a
degraded man, contemptible less on account of his degradation than
for the want of feeling I thought I could read on his countenance.
Disgusted, confused, and almost blushing for myself, I sent him away.
His sisters came to my room, but I dismissed them, sending word to
their brother that he might go with me, without any fear of further
indiscretion on my part. Yet, in spite of the conviction I thought I
had acquired, Bellino, even such as I believe him to be, filled my
thoughts; I could not make it out.
Early the next morning I left Ancona with him, distracted by the
tears of the two charming sisters and loaded with the blessings of
the mother who, with beads in hand, mumbled her 'paternoster', and
repeated her constant theme: 'Dio provedera'.
The trust placed in Providence by most of those persons who earn
their living by some profession forbidden by religion is neither
absurd, nor false, nor deceitful; it is real and even godly, for it
flows from an excellent source. Whatever may be the ways of
Providence, human beings must always acknowledge it in its action,
and those who call upon Providence independently of all external
consideration must, at the bottom, be worthy, although guilty of
transgressing its laws.
Da mihi fallere; da justo sanctoque videri;
Noctem peccatis, et fraudibus objice nubem.'
Such was the way in which, in the days of Horace, robbers addressed
their goddess, and I recollect a Jesuit who told me once that Horace
would not have known his own language, if he had said justo
sanctoque: but there were ignorant men even amongst the Jesuits, and
robbers most likely have but little respect for the rules of grammar.
The next morning I started with Bellino, who, believing me to be
undeceived, could suppose that I would not shew any more curiosity
about him, but we had not been a quarter of an hour together when he
found out his mistake, for I could not let my looks fall upon his
splendid eyes without feeling in me a fire which the sight of a man
could not have ignited. I told him that all his features were those
of a woman, and that I wanted the testimony of my eyes before I could
feel perfectly satisfied, because the protuberance I had felt in a
certain place might be only a freak of nature. "Should it be the
case," I added, "I should have no difficulty in passing over a
deformity which, in reality, is only laughable. Bellino, the
impression you produce upon me, this sort of magnetism, your bosom
worthy of Venus herself, which you have once abandoned to my eager
hand, the sound of your voice, every movement of yours, assure me
that you do not belong to my sex. Let me see for myself, and, if my
conjectures are right, depend upon my faithful love; if, on the
contrary, I find that I have been mistaken, you can rely upon my
friendship. If you refuse me, I shall be compelled to believe that
you are cruelly enjoying my misery, and that you have learned in the
most accursed school that the best way of preventing a young man from
curing himself of an amorous passion is to excite it constantly; but
you must agree with me that, to put such tyranny in practice, it is
necessary to hate the person it is practised upon, and, if that be
so, I ought to call upon my reason to give me the strength necessary
to hate you likewise."
I went on speaking for a long time; Bellino did not answer, but he
seemed deeply moved. At last I told him that, in the fearful state
to which I was reduced by his resistance, I should be compelled to
treat him without any regard for his feelings, and find out the truth
by force. He answered with much warmth and dignity: "Recollect that
you are not my master, that I am in your hands, because I had faith
in your promise, and that, if you use violence, you will be guilty of
murder. Order the postillion to stop, I will get out of the
carriage, and you may rely upon my not complaining of your
Those few words were followed by a torrent of tears, a sight which I
never could resist. I felt myself moved in the inmost recesses of my
soul, and I almost thought that I had been wrong. I say almost,
because, had I been convinced of it, I would have thrown myself at
his feet entreating pardon; but, not feeling myself competent to
stand in judgment in my own cause, I satisfied myself by remaining
dull and silent, and I never uttered one word until we were only half
a mile from Sinigaglia, where I intended to take supper and to remain
for the night. Having fought long enough with my own feelings, I
said to him;
"We might have spent a little time in Rimini like good friends, if
you had felt any friendship for me, for, with a little kind
compliance, you could have easily cured me of my passion."
"It would not cure you," answered Bellino, courageously, but with a
sweetness of tone which surprised me; "no, you would not be cured,
whether you found me to be man or woman, for you are in love with me
independently of my sex, and the certainty you would acquire would
make you furious. In such a state, should you find me inexorable,
you would very likely give way to excesses which would afterwards
cause you deep sorrow."
"You expect to make me admit that you are right, but you are
completely mistaken, for I feel that I should remain perfectly calm,
and that by complying with my wishes you would gain my friendship."
"I tell you again that you would become furious."
"Bellino, that which has made me furious is the sight of your charms,
either too real or too completely deceiving, the power of which you
cannot affect to ignore. You have not been afraid to ignite my
amorous fury, how can you expect me to believe you now, when you
pretend to fear it, and when I am only asking you to let me touch a
thing, which, if it be as you say, will only disgust me?"
"Ah! disgust you; I am quite certain of the contrary. Listen to me.
Were I a girl, I feel I could not resist loving you, but, being a
man, it is my duty not to grant what you desire, for your passion,
now very natural, would then become monstrous. Your ardent nature
would be stronger than your reason, and your reason itself would
easily come to the assistance of your senses and of your nature.
That violent clearing-up of the mystery, were you to obtain it, would
leave you deprived of all control over yourself. Disappointed in not
finding what you had expected, you would satisfy your passion upon
that which you would find, and the result would, of course, be an
abomination. How can you, intelligent as you are, flatter yourself
that, finding me to be a man, you could all at once cease to love me?
Would the charms which you now see in me cease to exist then?
Perhaps their power would, on the contrary, be enhanced, and your
passion, becoming brutal, would lead you to take any means your
imagination suggested to gratify it. You would persuade yourself
that you might change me into a woman, or, what is worse, that you
might change yourself into one. Your passion would invent a thousand
sophisms to justify your love, decorated with the fine appellation of
friendship, and you would not fail to allege hundreds of similarly
disgusting cases in order to excuse your conduct. You would
certainly never find me compliant; and how am I to know that you
would not threaten me with death?"
"Nothing of the sort would happen, Bellino," I answered, rather tired
of the length of his argument, "positively nothing, and I am sure you
are exaggerating your fears. Yet I am bound to tell you that, even
if all you say should happen, it seems to me that to allow what can
strictly be considered only as a temporary fit of insanity, would
prove a less evil than to render incurable a disease of the mind
which reason would soon cut short."
Thus does a poor philosopher reason when he takes it into his head to
argue at those periods during which a passion raging in his soul
makes all its faculties wander. To reason well, we must be under the
sway neither of love nor of anger, for those two passions have one
thing in common which is that, in their excess, they lower us to the
condition of brutes acting only under the influence of their
predominating instinct, and, unfortunately, we are never more
disposed to argue than when we feel ourselves under the influence of
either of those two powerful human passions.
We arrived at Sinigaglia late at night, and I went to the best inn,
and, after choosing a comfortable room, ordered supper. As there was
but one bed in the room, I asked Bellino, in as calm a tone as I
could assume, whether he would have a fire lighted in another
chamber, and my surprise may be imagined when he answered quietly
that he had no objection to sleep in the same bed with me. Such an
answer, however, unexpected, was necessary to dispel the angry
feelings under which I was labouring. I guessed that I was near the
denouement of the romance, but I was very far from congratulating
myself, for I did not know whether the denouement would prove
agreeable or not. I felt, however, a real satisfaction at having
conquered, and was sure of my self-control, in case the senses, my
natural instinct, led me astray. But if I found myself in the right,
I thought I could expect the most precious favours.
We sat down to supper opposite each other, and during the meal, his
words, his countenance, the expression of his beautiful eyes, his
sweet and voluptuous smile, everything seemed to announce that he had
had enough of playing a part which must have proved as painful to him
as to me.
A weight was lifted off my mind, and I managed to shorten the supper
as much as possible. As soon as we had left the table, my amiable
companion called for a night-lamp, undressed himself, and went to
bed. I was not long in following him, and the reader will soon know
the nature of a denouement so long and so ardently desired; in the
mean time I beg to wish him as happy a night as the one which was
then awaiting me.
Bellino's History--I Am Put Under Arrest--I Run Away Against My Will
--My Return To Rimini, and My Arrival In Bologna
Dear reader, I said enough at the end of the last chapter to make you
guess what happened, but no language would be powerful enough to make
you realize all the voluptuousness which that charming being had in
store for me. She came close to me the moment I was in bed. Without
uttering one word our lips met, and I found myself in the ecstasy of
enjoyment before I had had time to seek for it. After so complete a
victory, what would my eyes and my fingers have gained from
investigations which could not give me more certainty than I had
already obtained? I could not take my gaze off that beautiful face,
which was all aflame with the ardour of love.
After a moment of quiet rapture, a spark lighted up in our veins a
fresh conflagration which we drowned in a sea of new delights.
Bellino felt bound to make me forget my sufferings, and to reward me
by an ardour equal to the fire kindled by her charms.
The happiness I gave her increased mine twofold, for it has always
been my weakness to compose the four-fifths of my enjoyment from the
sum-total of the happiness which I gave the charming being from whom
I derived it. But such a feeling must necessarily cause hatred for
old age which can still receive pleasure, but can no longer give
enjoyment to another. And youth runs away from old age, because it
is its most cruel enemy.
An interval of repose became necessary, in consequence of the
activity of our enjoyment. Our senses were not tired out, but they
required the rest which renews their sensitiveness and restores the
buoyancy necessary to active service.
Bellino was the first to break our silence.
"Dearest," she said, "are you satisfied now? Have you found me truly
"Truly loving? Ah! traitress that you are! Do you, then, confess
that I was not mistaken when I guessed that you were a charming
woman? And if you truly loved me, tell me how you could contrive to
defer your happiness and mine so long? But is it quite certain that
I did not make a mistake?"
"I am yours all over; see for yourself."
Oh, what delightful survey! what charming beauties! what an ocean of
enjoyment! But I could not find any trace of the protuberance which
had so much terrified and disgusted me.
"What has become," I said, "of that dreadful monstrosity?"
"Listen to me," she replied, "and I will tell you everything.
"My name is Therese. My father, a poor clerk in the Institute of
Bologna, had let an apartment in his house to the celebrated
Salimberi, a castrato, and a delightful musician. He was young and
handsome, he became attached to me, and I felt flattered by his
affection and by the praise he lavished upon me. I was only twelve
years of age; he proposed to teach me music, and finding that I had a
fine voice, he cultivated it carefully, and in less than a year I
could accompany myself on the harpsichord. His reward was that which
his love for me induced him to ask, and I granted the reward without
feeling any humiliation, for I worshipped him. Of course, men like
yourself are much above men of his species, but Salimberi was an
exception. His beauty, his manners, his talent, and the rare
qualities of his soul, made him superior in my eyes to all the men I
had seen until then. He was modest and reserved, rich and generous,
and I doubt whether he could have found a woman able to resist him;
yet I never heard him boast of having seduced any. The mutilation
practised upon his body had made him a monster, but he was an angel
by his rare qualities and endowments.
"Salimberi was at that time educating a boy of the same age as
myself, who was in Rimini with a music teacher. The father of the
boy, who was poor and had a large family, seeing himself near death,
had thought of having his unfortunate son maimed so that he should
become the support of his brothers with his voice. The name of the
boy was Bellino; the good woman whom you have just seen in Ancona was
his mother, and everybody believes that she is mine.
"I had belonged to Salimberi for about a year, when he announced to
me one day, weeping bitterly, that he was compelled to leave me to go
to Rome, but he promised to see me again. The news threw me into
despair. He had arranged everything for the continuation of my
musical education, but, as he was preparing himself for his
departure, my father died very suddenly, after a short illness, and I
was left an orphan.
"Salimberi had not courage enough to resist my tears and my
entreaties; he made up his mind to take me to Rimini, and to place me
in the same house where his young 'protege' was educated. We reached
Rimini, and put up at an inn; after a short rest, Salimberi left me
to call upon the teacher of music, and to make all necessary
arrangements respecting me with him; but he soon returned, looking
sad and unhappy; Bellino had died the day before.
"As he was thinking of the grief which the loss of the young man
would cause his mother, he was struck with the idea of bringing me
back to Bologna under the name of Bellino, where he could arrange for
my board with the mother of the deceased Bellino, who, being very
poor, would find it to her advantage to keep the secret. 'I will
give her,' he said, 'everything necessary for the completion of your
musical education, and in four years, I will take you to Dresden (he
was in the service of the Elector of Saxony, King of Poland), not as
a girl, but as a castrato. There we will live together without
giving anyone cause for scandal, and you will remain with me and
minister to my happiness until I die. All we have to do is to
represent you as Bellino, and it is very easy, as nobody knows you in
Bologna. Bellino's mother will alone know the secret; her other
children have seen their brother only when he was very young, and can
have no suspicion. But if you love me you must renounce your sex,
lose even the remembrance of it, and leave immediately for Bologna,
dressed as a boy, and under the name of Bellino. You must be very
careful lest anyone should find out that you are a girl; you must
sleep alone, dress yourself in private, and when your bosom is
formed, as it will be in a year or two, it will only be thought a
deformity not uncommon amongst 'castrati'. Besides, before leaving
you, I will give you a small instrument, and teach how to fix it in
such manner that, if you had at any time to submit to an examination,
you would easily be mistaken for a man. If you accept my plan, I
feel certain that we can live together in Dresden without losing the
good graces of the queen, who is very religious. Tell me, now,
whether you will accept my proposal?
"He could not entertain any doubt of my consent, for I adored him.
As soon as he had made a boy of me we left Rimini for Bologna, where
we arrived late in the evening. A little gold made everything right
with Bellino's mother; I gave her the name of mother, and she kissed
me, calling me her dear son. Salimberi left us, and returned a short
time afterwards with the instrument which would complete my
transformation. He taught me, in the presence of my new mother, how
to fix it with some tragacanth gum, and I found myself exactly like
my friend. I would have laughed at it, had not my heart been deeply
grieved at the departure of my beloved Salimberi, for he bade me
farewell as soon as the curious operation was completed. People
laugh at forebodings; I do not believe in them myself, but the
foreboding of evil, which almost broke my heart as he gave me his
farewell kiss, did not deceive me. I felt the cold shivering of
death run through me; I felt I was looking at him for the last time,
and I fainted away. Alas! my fears proved only too prophetic.
Salimberi died a year ago in the Tyrol in the prime of life, with the
calmness of a true philosopher. His death compelled me to earn my
living with the assistance of my musical talent. My mother advised
me to continue to give myself out as a castrato, in the hope of being
able to take me to Rome. I agreed to do so, for I did not feel
sufficient energy to decide upon any other plan. In the meantime she
accepted an offer for the Ancona Theatre, and Petronio took the part
of first female dancer; in this way we played the comedy of 'The
World Turned Upside Down.'
"After Salimberi, you are the only man I have known, and, if you
like, you can restore me to my original state, and make me give up
the name of Bellino, which I hate since the death of my protector,
and which begins to inconvenience me. I have only appeared at two
theatres, and each time I have been compelled to submit to the
scandalous, degrading examination, because everywhere I am thought to
have too much the appearance of a girl, and I am admitted only after
the shameful test has brought conviction. Until now, fortunately, I
have had to deal only with old priests who, in their good faith, have
been satisfied with a very slight examination, and have made a
favourable report to the bishop; but I might fall into the hands of
some young abbe, and the test would then become a more severe one.
Besides, I find myself exposed to the daily persecutions of two sorts
of beings: those who, like you, cannot and will not believe me to be
a man, and those who, for the satisfaction of their disgusting
propensities, are delighted at my being so, or find it advantageous
to suppose me so. The last particularly annoy me! Their tastes are
so infamous, their habits so low, that I fear I shall murder one of
them some day, when I can no longer control the rage in which their
obscene language throws me. Out of pity, my beloved angel, be
generous; and, if you love me, oh! free me from this state of shame
and degradation! Take me with you. I do not ask to become your
wife, that would be too much happiness; I will only be your friend,
your mistress, as I would have been Salimberi's; my heart is pure and
innocent, I feel that I can remain faithful to my lover through my
whole life. Do not abandon me. The love I have for you is sincere;
my affection for Salimberi was innocent; it was born of my
inexperience and of my gratitude, and it is only with you that I have
felt myself truly a woman."
Her emotion, an inexpressible charm which seemed to flow from her
lips and to enforce conviction, made me shed tears of love and
sympathy. I blended my tears with those falling from her beautiful
eyes, and deeply moved, I promised not to abandon her and to make her
the sharer of my fate. Interested in the history, as singular as
extraordinary, that she had just narrated, and having seen nothing in
it that did not bear the stamp of truth, I felt really disposed to
make her happy but I could not believe that I had inspired her with a
very deep passion during my short stay in Ancona, many circumstances
of which might, on the contrary, have had an opposite effect upon her
"If you loved me truly," I said, "how could you let me sleep with
your sisters, out of spite at your resistance?"
"Alas, dearest! think of our great poverty, and how difficult it was
for me to discover myself. I loved you; but was it not natural that
I should suppose your inclination for me only a passing caprice?
When I saw you go so easily from Cecilia to Marinetta, I thought that
you would treat me in the same manner as soon as your desires were
satisfied, I was likewise confirmed in my opinion of your want of
constancy and of the little importance you attached to the delicacy
of the sentiment of love, when I witnessed what you did on board the
Turkish vessel without being hindered by my presence; had you loved
me, I thought my being present would have made you uncomfortable. I
feared to be soon despised, and God knows how much I suffered! You
have insulted me, darling, in many different ways, but my heart
pleaded in your favour, because I knew you were excited, angry, and
thirsting for revenge. Did you not threaten me this very day in your
carriage? I confess you greatly frightened me, but do not fancy that
I gave myself to you out of fear. No, I had made up my mind to be
yours from the moment you sent me word by Cecilia that you would take
me to Rimini, and your control over your own feelings during a part
of our journey confirmed me in my resolution, for I thought I could
trust myself to your honour, to your delicacy."
"Throw up," I said, "the engagement you have in Rimini; let us
proceed on our journey, and, after remaining a couple of days in
Bologna, you will go with me to Venice; dressed as a woman, and with
another name, I would challenge the manager here to find you out."
"I accept. Your will shall always be my law. I am my own mistress,
and I give myself to you without any reserve or restriction; my heart
belongs to you, and I trust to keep yours."
Man has in himself a moral force of action which always makes him
overstep the line on which he is standing. I had obtained
everything, I wanted more. "Shew me," I said, "how you were when I
mistook you for a man." She got out of bed, opened her trunk, took
out the instrument and fixed it with the gum: I was compelled to
admire the ingenuity of the contrivance. My curiosity was satisfied,
and I passed a most delightful night in her arms.
When I woke up in the morning, I admired her lovely face while she
was sleeping: all I knew of her came back to my mind; the words which
had been spoken by her bewitching mouth, her rare talent, her
candour, her feelings so full of delicacy, and her misfortunes, the
heaviest of which must have been the false character she had been
compelled to assume, and which exposed her to humiliation and shame,
everything strengthened my resolution to make her the companion of my
destiny, whatever it might be, or to follow her fate, for our
positions were very nearly the same; and wishing truly to attach
myself seriously to that interesting being, I determined to give to
our union the sanction of religion and of law, and to take her
legally for my wife. Such a step, as I then thought, could but
strengthen our love, increase our mutual esteem, and insure the
approbation of society which could not accept our union unless it was
sanctioned in the usual manner.
The talents of Therese precluded the fear of our being ever in want
of the necessaries of life, and, although I did not know in what way
my own talents might be made available, I had faith in myself. Our
love might have been lessened, she would have enjoyed too great
advantages over me, and my self-dignity would have too deeply
suffered if I had allowed myself to be supported by her earnings
only. It might, after a time, have altered the nature of our
feelings; my wife, no longer thinking herself under any obligation to
me, might have fancied herself the protecting, instead of the
protected party, and I felt that my love would soon have turned into
utter contempt, if it had been my misfortune to find her harbouring
such thoughts. Although I trusted it would not be so, I wanted,
before taking the important step of marriage, to probe her heart, and
I resolved to try an experiment which would at once enable me to
judge the real feelings of her inmost soul. As soon as she was
awake, I spoke to her thus:
"Dearest Therese, all you have told me leaves me no doubt of your
love for me, and the consciousness you feel of being the mistress of
my heart enhances my love for you to such a degree, that I am ready
to do everything to convince you that you were not mistaken in
thinking that you had entirely conquered me. I wish to prove to you
that I am worthy of the noble confidence you have reposed in me by
trusting you with equal sincerity.
"Our hearts must be on a footing of perfect equality. I know you, my
dearest Therese, but you do not know me yet. I can read in your eyes
that you do not mind it, and it proves our great love, but that
feeling places me too much below you, and I do not wish you to have
so great an advantage over me. I feel certain that my confidence is
not necessary to your love; that you only care to be mine, that your
only wish is to possess my heart, and I admire you, my Therese; but I
should feel humiliated if I found myself either too much above or too
much below you. You have entrusted your secrets to me, now listen to
mine; but before I begin, promise me that, when you know everything
that concerns me, you will tell me candidly if any change has taken
place either in your feelings or in your hopes."
"I promise it faithfully; I promise not to conceal anything from you;
but be upright enough not to tell me anything that is not perfectly
true, for I warn you that it would be useless. If you tried any
artifice in order to find me less worthy of you than I am in reality,
you would only succeed in lowering yourself in my estimation. I
should be very sorry to see you guilty of any cunning towards me.
Have no more suspicion of me than I have of you; tell me the whole
"Here it is. You suppose me wealthy, and I am not so; as soon as
what there is now in my purse is spent I shall have nothing left.
You may fancy that I was born a patrician, but my social condition is
really inferior to your own. I have no lucrative talents, no
profession, nothing to give me the assurance that I am able to earn
my living. I have neither relatives nor friends, nor claims upon
anyone, and I have no serious plan or purpose before me. All I
possess is youth, health, courage, some intelligence, honour,
honesty, and some tincture of letters. My greatest treasure consists
in being my own master, perfectly independent, and not afraid of
misfortune. With all that, I am naturally inclined to extravagance.
Lovely Therese, you have my portrait. What is your answer?"
"In the first place, dearest, let me assure you that I believe every
word you have just uttered, as I would believe in the Gospel; in the
second, allow me to tell you that several times in Ancona I have
judged you such as you have just described yourself, but far from
being displeased at such a knowledge of your nature, I was only
afraid of some illusion on my part, for I could hope to win you if
you were what I thought you to be. In one word, dear one, if it is
true that you are poor and a very bad hand at economy, allow me to
tell you that I feel delighted, because, if you love me, you will not
refuse a present from me, or despise me for offering it. The present
consists of myself, such as I am, and with all my faculties. I give
myself to you without any condition, with no restriction; I am yours,
I will take care of you. For the future think only of your love for
me, but love me exclusively. From this moment I am no longer
Bellino. Let us go to Venice, where my talent will keep us both
comfortably; if you wish to go anywhere else, let us go where you
"I must go to Constantinople."
"Then let us proceed to Constantinople. If you are afraid to lose me
through want of constancy, marry me, and your right over me will be
strengthened by law. I should not love you better than I do now, but
I should be happy to be your wife."
"It is my intention to marry you, and I am delighted that we agree in
that respect. The day after to-morrow, in Bologna, you shall be made
my legal-wife before the altar of God; I swear it to you here in the
presence of Love. I want you to be mine, I want to be yours, I want
us to be united by the most holy ties."
"I am the happiest of women! We have nothing to do in Rimini;
suppose we do not get up; we can have our dinner in bed, and go away
to-morrow well rested after our fatigues."
We left Rimini the next day, and stayed for breakfast at Pesaro. As
we were getting into the carriage to leave that place, an officer,
accompanied by two soldiers, presented himself, enquired for our
names, and demanded our passports. Bellino had one and gave it, but
I looked in vain for mine; I could not find it.
The officer, a corporal, orders the postillion to wait and goes to
make his report. Half an hour afterwards, he returns, gives Bellino
his passport, saying that he can continue his journey, but tells me
that his orders are to escort me to the commanding officer, and I
"What have you done with your passport?" enquires that officer.
"I have lost it."
"A passport is not so easily lost."
"Well, I have lost mine."
"You cannot proceed any further."
"I come from Rome, and I am going to Constantinople, bearing a letter
from Cardinal Acquaviva. Here is the letter stamped with his seal."
"All I can do for you is to send you to M. de Gages."
I found the famous general standing, surrounded by his staff. I told
him all I had already explained to the officer, and begged him to let
me continue my journey.
"The only favour I can grant you is to put you under arrest till you
receive another passport from Rome delivered under the same name as
the one you have given here. To lose a passport is a misfortune
which befalls only a thoughtless, giddy man, and the cardinal will
for the future know better than to put his confidence in a giddy
fellow like you."
With these words, he gave orders to take me to the guard-house at St.
Mary's Gate, outside the city, as soon as I should have written to
the cardinal for a new passport. His orders were executed. I was
brought back to the inn, where I wrote my letter, and I sent it by
express to his eminence, entreating him to forward the document,
without loss of time, direct to the war office. Then I embraced
Therese who was weeping, and, telling her to go to Rimini and to wait
there for my return, I made her take one hundred sequins. She wished
to remain in Pesaro, but I would not hear of it; I had my trunk
brought out, I saw Therese go away from the inn, and was taken to the
place appointed by the general.
It is undoubtedly under such circumstances that the most determined
optimist finds himself at a loss; but an easy stoicism can blunt the
too sharp edge of misfortune.
My greatest sorrow was the heart-grief of Therese who, seeing me torn
from her arms at the very moment of our union, was suffocated by the
tears which she tried to repress. She would not have left me if I
had not made her understand that she could not remain in Pesaro, and
if I had not promised to join her within ten days, never to be parted
again. But fate had decided otherwise.
When we reached the gate, the officer confined me immediately in the
guard-house, and I sat down on my trunk. The officer was a taciturn
Spaniard who did not even condescend to honour me with an answer,
when I told him that I had money and would like to have someone to
wait on me. I had to pass the night on a little straw, and without
food, in the midst of the Spanish soldiers. It was the second night
of the sort that my destiny had condemned me to, immediately after
two delightful nights. My good angel doubtless found some pleasure
in bringing such conjunctions before my mind for the benefit of my
instruction. At all events, teachings of that description have an
infallible effect upon natures of a peculiar stamp.
If you should wish to close the lips of a logician calling himself a
philosopher, who dares to argue that in this life grief overbalances
pleasure, ask him whether he would accept a life entirely without
sorrow and happiness. Be certain that he will not answer you, or he
will shuffle, because, if he says no, he proves that he likes life
such as it is, and if he likes it, he must find it agreeable, which
is an utter impossibility, if life is painful; should he, on the
contrary, answer in the affirmative, he would declare himself a fool,
for it would be as much as to say that he can conceive pleasure
arising from indifference, which is absurd nonsense.
Suffering is inherent in human nature; but we never suffer without
entertaining the hope of recovery, or, at least, very seldom without
such hope, and hope itself is a pleasure. If it happens sometimes
that man suffers without any expectation of a cure, he necessarily
finds pleasure in the complete certainty of the end of his life; for
the worst, in all cases, must be either a sleep arising from extreme
dejection, during which we have the consolation of happy dreams or
the loss of all sensitiveness. But when we are happy, our happiness
is never disturbed by the thought that it will be followed by grief.
Therefore pleasure, during its active period, is always complete,
without alloy; grief is always soothed by hope.
I suppose you, dear reader, at the age of twenty, and devoting
yourself to the task of making a man of yourself by furnishing your
mind with all the knowledge necessary to render you a useful being
through the activity of your brain. Someone comes in and tells you,
"I bring you thirty years of existence; it is the immutable decree of
fate; fifteen consecutive years must be happy, and fifteen years
unhappy. You are at liberty to choose the half by which you wish to
Confess it candidly, dear reader, you will not require much more
consideration to decide, and you will certainly begin by the unhappy
series of years, because you will feel that the expectation of
fifteen delightful years cannot fail to brace you up with the courage
necessary to bear the unfortunate years you have to go through, and
we can even surmise, with every probability of being right, that the
certainty of future happiness will soothe to a considerable extent
the misery of the first period.
You have already guessed, I have no doubt, the purpose of this
lengthy argument. The sagacious man, believe me, can never be
utterly miserable, and I most willingly agree with my friend Horace,
who says that, on the contrary, such a man is always happy.
'Nisi quum pituita molesta est.'
But, pray where is the man who is always suffering from a rheum?
The fact is that the fearful night I passed in the guardhouse of St.
Mary resulted for me in a slight loss and in a great gain. The small
loss was to be away from my dear Therese, but, being certain of
seeing her within ten days, the misfortune was not very great: as to
the gain, it was in experience the true school for a man. I gained a
complete system against thoughtlessness, a system of foresight. You
may safely bet a hundred to one that a young man who has once lost
his purse or his passport, will not lose either a second time. Each
of those misfortunes has befallen me once only, and I might have been
very often the victim of them, if experience had not taught me how
much they were to be dreaded. A thoughtless fellow is a man who has
not yet found the word dread in the dictionary of his life.
The officer who relieved my cross-grained Castilian on the following
day seemed of a different nature altogether; his prepossessing
countenance pleased me much. He was a Frenchman, and I must say that
I have always liked the French, and never the Spainards; there is in
the manners of the first something so engaging, so obliging, that you
feel attracted towards them as towards a friend, whilst an air of
unbecoming haughtiness gives to the second a dark, forbidding
countenance which certainly does not prepossess in their favour. Yet
I have often been duped by Frenchmen, and never by Spaniards--a proof
that we ought to mistrust our tastes.
The new officer, approaching me very politely, said to me,--
"To what chance, reverend sir, am I indebted for the honour of having
you in my custody?"
Ah! here was a way of speaking which restored to my lungs all their
elasticity! I gave him all the particulars of my misfortune, and he
found the mishap very amusing. But a man disposed to laugh at my
disappointment could not be disagreeable to me, for it proved that
the turn of his mind had more than one point of resemblance with
mine. He gave me at once a soldier to serve me, and I had very
quickly a bed, a table, and a few chairs. He was kind enough to have
my bed placed in his own room, and I felt very grateful to him for
that delicate attention.
He gave me an invitation to share his dinner, and proposed a game of
piquet afterwards, but from the very beginning he saw that I was no
match for him; he told me so, and he warned me that the officer who
would relieve him the next day was a better player even than he was
himself; I lost three or four ducats. He advised me to abstain from
playing on the following day, and I followed his advice. He told me
also that he would have company to supper, that there would be a game
of faro, but that the banker being a Greek and a crafty player, I
ought not to play. I thought his advice very considerate,
particularly when I saw that all the punters lost, and that the
Greek, very calm in the midst of the insulting treatment of those he
had duped, was pocketing his money, after handing a share to the
officer who had taken an interest in the bank. The name of the
banker was Don Pepe il Cadetto, and by his accent I knew he was a
Neapolitan. I communicated my discovery to the officer, asking him
why he had told me that the man was a Greek. He explained to me the
meaning of the word greek applied to a gambler, and the lesson which
followed his explanation proved very useful to me in after years.
During the five following days, my life was uniform and rather dull,
but on the sixth day the same French officer was on guard, and I was
very glad to see him. He told me, with a hearty laugh, that he was
delighted to find me still in the guard-house, and I accepted the
compliment for what it was worth. In the evening, we had the same
bank at faro, with the same result as the first time, except a
violent blow from the stick of one of the punters upon the back of
the banker, of which the Greek stoically feigned to take no notice.
I saw the same man again nine years afterwards in Vienna, captain in
the service of Maria Theresa; he then called himself d'Afflisso. Ten
years later, I found him a colonel, and some time after worth a
million; but the last time I saw him, some thirteen or fourteen years
ago, he was a galley slave. He was handsome, but (rather a singular
thing) in spite of his beauty, he had a gallows look. I have seen
others with the same stamp--Cagliostro, for instance, and another who
has not yet been sent to the galleys, but who cannot fail to pay them
a visit. Should the reader feel any curiosity about it, I can
whisper the name in his ear.
Towards the ninth or tenth day everyone in the army knew and liked
me, and I was expecting the passport, which could not be delayed much
longer. I was almost free, and I would often walk about even out of
sight of the sentinel. They were quite right not to fear my running
away, and I should have been wrong if I had thought of escaping, but
the most singular adventure of my life happened to me then, and most
It was about six in the morning. I was taking a walk within one
hundred yards of the sentinel, when an officer arrived and alighted
from his horse, threw the bridle on the neck of his steed, and walked
off. Admiring the docility of the horse, standing there like a
faithful servant to whom his master has given orders to wait for him
I got up to him, and without any purpose I get hold of the bridle,
put my foot in the stirrup, and find myself in the saddle. I was on
horseback for the first time in my life. I do not know whether I
touched the horse with my cane or with my heels, but suddenly the
animal starts at full speed. My right foot having slipped out of the
stirrup, I press against the horse with my heels, and, feeling the
pressure, it gallops faster and faster, for I did not know how to
check it. At the last advanced post the sentinels call out to me to
stop; but I cannot obey the order, and the horse carrying me away
faster than ever, I hear the whizzing of a few musket balls, the
natural consequence of my, involuntary disobedience. At last, when I
reach the first advanced picket of the Austrians, the horse is
stopped, and I get off his back thanking God.
An officer of Hussars asks where I am running so fast, and my tongue,
quicker than my thought, answers without any privity on my part, that
I can render no account but to Prince Lobkowitz, commander-in-chief
of the army, whose headquarters were at Rimini. Hearing my answer,
the officer gave orders for two Hussars to get on horseback, a fresh
one is given me, and I am taken at full gallop to Rimini, where the
officer on guard has me escorted at once to the prince.
I find his highness alone, and I tell him candidly what has just
happened to me. My story makes him laugh, although he observes that
it is hardly credible.
"I ought," he says, "to put you under arrest, but I am willing to
save you that unpleasantness." With that he called one of his
officers and ordered him to escort me through the Cesena Gate. "Then
you can go wherever you please," he added, turning round to me; "but
take care not to again enter the lines of my army without a passport,
or you might fare badly."
I asked him to let me have the horse again, but he answered that the
animal did not belong to me. I forgot to ask him to send me back to
the place I had come from, and I regretted it; but after all perhaps
I did for the best.
The officer who accompanied me asked me, as we were passing a coffee-
house, whether I would like to take some chocolate, and we went in.
At that moment I saw Petronio going by, and availing myself of a
moment when the officer was talking to someone, I told him not to
appear to be acquainted with me, but to tell me where he lived. When
we had taken our chocolate the officer paid and we went out. Along
the road we kept up the conversation; he told me his name, I gave him
mine, and I explained how I found myself in Rimini. He asked me
whether I had not remained some time in Ancona; I answered in the
affirmative, and he smiled and said I could get a passport in
Bologna, return to Rimini and to Pesaro without any fear, and recover
my trunk by paying the officer for the horse he had lost. We reached
the gate, he wished me a pleasant journey, and we parted company.
I found myself free, with gold and jewels, but without my trunk.
Therese was in Rimini, and I could not enter that city. I made up my
mind to go to Bologna as quickly as possible in order to get a
passport, and to return to Pesaro, where I should find my passport
from Rome, for I could not make up my mind to lose my trunk, and I
did not want to be separated from Therese until the end of her
engagement with the manager of the Rimini Theatre.
It was raining; I had silk stockings on, and I longed for a carriage.
I took shelter under the portal of a church, and turned my fine
overcoat inside out, so as not to look like an abbe. At that moment
a peasant happened to come along, and I asked him if a carriage could
be had to drive me to Cesena. "I have one, sir," he said, "but I
live half a league from here."
"Go and get it, I will wait for you here."
While I was waiting for the return of the peasant with his vehicle,
some forty mules laden with provisions came along the road towards
Rimini. It was still raining fast, and the mules passing close by
me, I placed my hand mechanically upon the neck of one of them, and
following the slow pace of the animals I re-entered Rimini without
the slightest notice being taken of me, even by the drivers of the
mules. I gave some money to the first street urchin I met, and he
took me to Therese's house.
With my hair fastened under a night-cap, my hat pulled down over my
face, and my fine cane concealed under my coat, I did not look a very
elegant figure. I enquired for Bellino's mother, and the mistress of
the house took me to a room where I found all the family, and Therese
in a woman's dress. I had reckoned upon surmising them, but Petronio
had told them of our meeting, and they were expecting me. I gave a
full account of my adventures, but Therese, frightened at the danger
that threatened me, and in spite of her love, told me that it was
absolutely necessary for me to go to Bologna, as I had been advised
by M. Vais, the officer.
"I know him," she said, "and he is a worthy man, but he comes here
every evening, and you must conceal yourself."
It was only eight o'clock in the morning; we had the whole day before
us, and everyone promised to be discreet. I allayed Therese's
anxiety by telling her that I could easily contrive to leave the city
without being observed.
Therese took me to her own room, where she told me that she had met
the manager of the theatre on her arrival in Rimini, and that he had
taken her at once to the apartments engaged for the family. She had
informed him that she was a woman, and that she had made up her mind
not to appear as a castrato any more; he had expressed himself
delighted at such news, because women could appear on the stage at
Rimini, which was not under the same legate as Ancona. She added
that her engagement would be at an end by the 1st of May, and that
she would meet me wherever it would be agreeable to me to wait for
"As soon as I can get a passport," I said, "there is nothing to
hinder me from remaining near you until the end of your engagement.
But as M. Vais calls upon you, tell me whether you have informed him
of my having spent a few days in Ancona?"
"I did, and I even told him that you had been arrested because you
had lost your passport."
I understood why the officer had smiled as he was talking with me.
After my conversation with Therese, I received the compliments of the
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