Florence to Trieste, Casanova, v29
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 3 out of 3
locksmith was hammering away I asked the priest why he had given a
tallow candle instead of one or two wax tapers.
"I should never dare to give you tapers, sir, without express orders
from the count."
"I should have thought such a thing would go without saying."
"Yes, in other houses, but here nothing goes without saying. I have to
buy the tapers and he pays me, and every time he has one it is noted
"Then you can give me a pound of wax lights if I pay you for them?"
"Of course, but I think I must tell the count, for you know . . . ."
"Yes, I know all about it, but I don't care:"
I gave him the price of a pound of wax lights, and went for a walk, as
he told me dinner was at one. I was somewhat astonished on coming back
to the house at half-past twelve to be told that the count had been half
an hour at table.
I did not know what to make of all these acts of rudeness; however, I
moderated my passion once more, and came in remarking that the abbe had
told me dinner was at one.
"It is usually," replied the count, "but to-day I wanted to pay some
calls and take you with me, so I decided on dining at noon. You will
have plenty of time."
He then gave orders for all the dishes that had been taken away to be
I made no answer, and sat down to table, and feigning good humour ate
what was on the table, refusing to touch those dishes which had been
taken away. He vainly asked me to try the soup, the beef, the entrees;
I told him that I always punished myself thus when I came in late for a
Still dissembling my ill humour, I got into his carriage to accompany
him on his round of visits. He took me to Baron del Mestre, who spent
the whole of the year in the country with his family, keeping up a good
The count spent the whole of the day with the baron, putting off the
other visits to a future time. In the evening we returned to Spessa.
Soon after we arrived the priest returned the money I had given him for
the candles, telling me that the count had forgotten to inform him that
I was to be treated as himself.
I took this acknowledgement for what it was worth.
Supper was served, and I ate with the appetite of four, while the count
hardly ate at all.
The servant who escorted me to my room asked me at what time I should
like breakfast. I told him, and he was punctual; and this time the
coffee was brought in the coffee-pot and the sugar in the sugar basin.
The valet did my hair, and the maid did my room, everything was changed,
and I imagined that I had given the count a little lesson, and that I
should have no more trouble with him. Here, however, I was mistaken, as
the reader will discover.
Three or four days later the priest came to me one morning, to ask when
I would like dinner, as I was to dine in my room.
"Why so?" I asked.
"Because the count left yesterday for Gorice, telling me he did not know
when he should come back. He ordered me to give you your meals in your
"Very good. I will dine at one."
No one could be more in favour of liberty and independence than myself,
but I could not help feeling that my rough host should have told me he
was going to Gorice. He stayed a week, and I should have died of
weariness if it had not been for my daily visits to the Baron del
Mestre. Otherwise there was no company, the priest was an uneducated
man, and there were no pretty country girls. I felt as if I could not
bear another four weeks of such a doleful exile.
When the count came back, I spoke to him plainly.
"I came to Spessa," I said, "to keep you company and to amuse myself;
but I see that I am in the way, so I hope you will take me back to
Gorice and leave me there. You must know that I like society as much as
you do, and I do not feel inclined to die of solitary weariness in your
He assured me that it should not happen again, that he had gone to
Gorice to meet an actress, who had come there purposely to see him, and
that he had also profited by the opportunity to sign a contract of
marriage with a Venetian lady.
These excuses and the apparently polite tone in which they were uttered
induced me to prolong my stay with the extraordinary count.
He drew the whole of his income from vineyards, which produced an
excellent white wine and a revenue of a thousand sequins a year.
However, as the count did his best to spend double that amount, he was
rapidly ruining himself. He had a fixed impression that all the tenants
robbed him, so whenever he found a bunch of grapes in a cottage he
proceeded to beat the occupants unless they could prove that the grapes
did not come from his vineyards. The peasants might kneel down and beg
pardon, but they were thrashed all the same.
I had been an unwilling witness of several of these arbitrary and cruel
actions, when one day I had the pleasure of seeing the count soundly
beaten by two peasants. He had struck the first blow himself, but when
he found that he was getting the worst of it he prudently took to his
He was much offended with me for remaining a mere spectator of the fray;
but I told him very coolly that, being the aggressor, he was in the
wrong, and in the second place I was not going to expose myself to be
beaten to a jelly by two lusty peasants in another man's quarrel.
These arguments did not satisfy him, and in his rage he dared to tell me
that I was a scurvy coward not to know that it was my duty to defend a
friend to the death.
In spite of these offensive remarks I merely replied with a glance of
contempt, which he doubtless understood.
Before long the whole village had heard what had happened, and the joy
was universal, for the count had the singular privilege of being feared
by all and loved by none. The two rebellious peasants had taken to
their heels. But when it became known that his lordship had announced
his resolution to carry pistols with him in all future visits, everybody
was alarmed, and two spokesmen were sent to the count informing him that
all his tenants would quit the estate in a week's time unless he gave
them a promise to leave them in peace in their humble abodes.
The rude eloquence of the two peasants struck me as sublime, but the
count pronounced them to be impertinent and ridiculous.
"We have as good a right to taste the vines which we have watered with
the sweat of our brow," said they, "as your cook has to taste the dishes
before they are served on your table."
The threat of deserting just at the vintage season frightened the count,
and he had to give in, and the embassy went its way in high glee at its
Next Sunday we went to the chapel to hear mass, and when we came in the
priest was at the altar finishing the Credo. The count looked furious,
and after mass he took me with him to the sacristy, and begun to abuse
and beat the poor priest, in spite of the surplice which he was still
wearing. It was really a shocking sight.
The priest spat in his face and cried help, that being the only revenge
in his power.
Several persons ran in, so we left the sacristy. I was scandalised, and
I told the count that the priest would be certain to go to Udine, and
that it might turn out a very awkward business.
"Try to prevent his doing so," I added, "even by violence, but in the
first place endeavour to pacify him."
No doubt the count was afraid, for he called out to his servants and
ordered them to fetch the priest, whether he could come or no. His
order was executed, and the priest was led in, foaming with rage,
cursing the count, calling him excommunicated wretch, whose very breath
was poisonous; swearing that never another mass should be sung in the
chapel that had been polluted with sacrilege, and finally promising that
the archbishop should avenge him.
The count let him say on, and then forced him into a chair, and the
unworthy ecclesiastic not only ate but got drunk. Thus peace was
concluded, and the abbe forgot all his wrongs.
A few days later two Capuchins came to visit him at noon. They did not
go, and as he did not care to dismiss them, dinner was served without
any place being laid for the friars. Thereupon the bolder of the two
informed the count that he had had no dinner. Without replying, the
count had him acommodated with a plateful of rice. The Capuchin refused
it, saying that he was worthy to sit, not only at his table, but at a
monarch's. The count, who happened to be in a good humour, replied that
they called themselves "unworthy brethren," and that they were
consequently not worthy of any of this world's good things.
The Capuchin made but a poor answer, and as I thought the count to be in
the right I procceded to back him up, telling the friar he ought to be
ashamed at having committed the sin of pride, so strictly condemned by
the rules of his order.
The Capuchin answered me with a torrent of abuse, so the count ordered a
pair of scissors to be brought, that the beards of the filthy rogues
might be cut off. At this awful threat the two friars made their
escape, and we laughed heartily over the incident.
If all the count's eccentricities had been of this comparatively
harmless and amusing nature, I should not have minded, but such was far
from being the case.
Instead of chyle his organs must have distilled some virulent poison; he
was always at his worst in his after dinner hours. His appetite was
furious; he ate more like a tiger than a man. One day we happened to be
eating woodcock, and I could not help praising the dish in the style of
the true gourmand. He immediately took up his bird, tore it limb from
limb, and gravely bade me not to praise the dishes I liked as it
irritated him. I felt an inclination to laugh and also an inclination
to throw the bottle at his head, which I should probably have indulged
in had I been twenty years younger. However, I did neither, feeling
that I should either leave him or accommodate myself to his humours.
Three months later Madame Costa, the actress whom he had gone to see at
Gorice, told me that she would never have believed in the possibility of
such a creature existing if she had not known Count Torriano.
"Though he is a vigorous lover," she continued, "it is a matter of great
difficulty with him to obtain the crisis; and the wretched woman in his
arms is in imminent danger of being strangled to death if she cannot
conceal her amorous ecstacy. He cannot bear to see another's pleasure.
I pity his wife most heartily."
I will now relate the incident which put an end to my relations with
this venomous creature.
Amidst the idleness and weariness of Spessa I happened to meet a very
pretty and very agreeable young widow. I made her some small presents,
and finally persuaded her to pass the night in my room. She came at
midnight to avoid observation, and left at day-break by a small door
which opened on to the road.
We had amused ourselves in this pleasant manner for about a week, when
one morning my sweetheart awoke me that I might close the door after her
as usual. I had scarcely done so when I heard cries for help. I
quickly opened it again, and I saw the scoundrelly Torriano holding the
widow with one hand while he beat her furiously with a stick he held in
the other. I rushed upon him, and we fell together, while the poor
woman made her escape.
I had only my dresing-gown on, and here I was at a disadvantage; for
civilized man is a poor creature without his clothes. However, I held
the stick with one hand, while I queezed his throat with the other. On
his side he clung to the stick with his right hand, and pulled my hair
with the left. At last his tongue started out and he had to let go.
I was on my feet again in an instant, and seizing the stick I aimed a
sturdy blow at his head, which, luckily for him, he partially parried.
I did not strike again, so he got up, ran a little way, and began to
pick up stones. However, I did not wait to be pelted, but shut myself
in my room and lay down on the bed, only sorry that I had not choked the
As soon as I had rested I looked to my pistols, dressed myself, and went
out with the intention of looking for some kind of conveyance to take me
back to Gorice. Without knowing it I took a road that led me to the
cottage of the poor widow, whom I found looking calm though sad. She
told me she had received most of the blows on her shoulders, and was not
much hurt. What vexed her was that the affair would become public, as
two peasants had seen the count beating her, and our subsequent combat.
I gave her two sequins, begging her to come and see me at Gorice, and to
tell me where I could find a conveyance.
Her sister offered to shew me the way to a farm, where I could get what
I wanted. On the way she told me that Torriano had been her sister's
enemy before the death of her husband because she rejected all his
I found a good conveyance at the farm, and the man promised to drive me
in to Gorice by dinner-time.
I gave him half-a-crown as an earnest, and went away, telling him to
come for me.
I returned to the count's and had scarcely finished getting ready when
the conveyance drove up.
I was about to put my luggage in it, when a servant came from the count
asking me to give him a moment's conversation.
I wrote a note in French, saying that after what had passed we ought not
to meet again under his roof.
A minute later he came into my room, and shut the door, saying,--
"As you won't speak to me, I have come to speak to you."
"What have you got to say?"
"If you leave my house in this fashion you will dishonour me, and I will
not allow it."
"Excuse me, but I should very much like to see how you are going to
prevent me from leaving your house."
"I will not allow you to go by yourself; we must go together."
"Certainly; I understand you perfectly. Get your sword or your pistols,
and we will start directly. There is room for two in the carriage."
"That won't do. You must dine with me, and then we can go in my
You make a mistake. I should be a fool if I dined with you when our
miserable dispute is all over the village; to-morrow it will have
"If you won't dine with me, I will dine with you, and people may say
what they like. We will go after dinner, so send away that conveyance."
I had to give in to him. The wretched count stayed with me till noon,
endeavouring to persuade me that he had a perfect right to beat a
country-woman in the road, and that I was altogether in the wrong.
I laughed, and said I wondered how he derived his right to beat a free
woman anywhere, and that his pretence that I being her lover had no
right to protect her was a monstrous one.
"She had just left my arms," I continued, "was I not therefore her
natural protector? Only a coward or a monster like yourself would have
remained indifferent, though, indeed, I believe that even you would have
done the same."
A few minutes before we sat down to dinner he said that neither of us
would profit by the adventure, as he meant the duel to be to the death.
"I don't agree with you as far as I am concerned," I replied; "and as to
the duel, you can fight or not fight, as you please; for my part I have
had satisfaction. If we come to a duel I hope to leave you in the land
of the living, though I shall do my best to lay you up for a
considerable time, so that you may have leisure to reflect on your
folly. On the other hand, if fortune favours you, you may act as you
"We will go into the wood by ourselves, and my coachman shall have
orders to drive you wherever you like if you come out of the wood by
"Very good indeed; and which would you prefer--swords or pistols?"
"Swords, I think."
"Then I promise to unload my pistols as soon as we get into the
I was astonished to find the usually brutal count become quite polite at
the prospect of a duel. I felt perfectly confident myself, as I was
sure of flooring him at the first stroke by a peculiar lunge. Then I
could escape through Venetian territory where I was not known.
But I had good reasons for supposing that the duel would end in smoke as
so many other duels when one of the parties is a coward, and a coward I
believed the count to be.
We started after an excellent dinner; the count having no luggage, and
mine being strapped behind the carriage.
I took care to draw the charges of my pistols before the count.
I had heard him tell the coachman to drive towards Gorice, but every
moment I expected to hear him order the man to drive up this or that
turning that we might settle our differences.
I asked no questions, feeling that the initiative lay with him; but we
drove on till we were at the gates of Gorice, and I burst out laughing
when I heard the count order the coachman to drive to the posting inn.
As soon as we got there he said,--
"You were in the right; we must remain friends. Promise me not to tell
anyone of what has happened."
I gave him the promise; we shook hands, and everything was over.
The next day I took up my abode in one of the quietest streets to finish
my second volume on the Polish troubles, but I still managed to enjoy
myself during my stay at Gorice. At last I resolved on returning to
Trieste, where I had more chances of serving and pleasing the State
I stayed at Gorice till the end of the year 1773, and passed an
extremely pleasant six weeks.
My adventure at Spessa had become public property. At first everybody
addressed me on the subject, but as I laughed and treated the whole
thing as a joke it would soon be forgotten. Torriano took care to be
most polite whenever we met; but I had stamped him as a dangerous
character, and whenever he asked me to dinner or supper I had other
During the carnival he married the young lady of whom he had spoken to
me, and as long as he lived her life was misery. Fortunately he died a
madman thirteen or fourteen years after.
Whilst I was at Gorice Count Charles Coronini contributed greatly to my
enjoyment. He died four years later, and a month before his death he
sent me his will in ostosyllabic Italian verses--a specimen of
philosophic mirth which I still preserve. It is full of jest and wit,
though I believe if he had guessed the near approach of death he would
not have been so cheerful, for the prospect of imminent destruction can
only enliven the heart of a maniac.
During my stay at Gorice a certain M. Richard Lorrain came there. He
was a bachelor of forty, who had done good financial service under the
Viennese Government, and had now retired with a comfortable pension. He
was a fine man, and his agreeable manners and excellent education
procured him admission into the best company in the town.
I met him at the house of Count Torres, and soon after he was married to
the young countess.
In October the new Council of Ten and the new Inquisitors took office,
and my protectors wrote to me that if they could not obtain my pardon in
the course of the next twelve months they would be inclined to despair.
The first of the Inquisitors was Sagredo, and intimate friend of the
Procurator Morosini's; the second, Grimani, the friend of my good
Dandolo; and M. Zaguri wrote to me that he would answer for the third,
who, according to law, was one of the six councillors who assist the
Council of Ten.
It may not be generally known that the Council of Ten is really a
council of seventeen, as the Doge has always a right to be present.
I returned to Trieste determined to do my best for the Tribunal, for I
longed to return to Venice after nineteen years' wanderings.
I was then forty-nine, and I expected no more of Fortune's gifts, for
the deity despises those of ripe age. I thought, however, that I might
live comfortably and independently at Venice.
I had talents and experience, I hoped to make use of them, and I thought
the Inquisitors would feel bound to give me some sufficient employment.
I was writing the history of the Polish troubles, the first volume was
printed, the second was in preparation, and I thought of concluding the
work in seven volumes. Afterwards I had a translation of the "Iliad" in
view, and other literary projects would no doubt present themselves.
In fine, I thought myself sure of living in Venice, where many persons
who would be beggars elsewhere continue to live at their ease.
I left Gorice on the last day of December, 1773, and on January 1st I
took up my abode at Trieste.
I could not have received a warmer welcome. Baron Pittoni, the Venetian
consul, all the town councillors, and the members of the club, seemed
delighted to see me again. My carnival was a pleasant one, and in the
beginning of Lent I published the second volume of my work on Poland.
The chief object of interest to me at Trieste was an actress in a
company that was playing there. She was no other than the daughter of
the so-called Count Rinaldi, and my readers may remember her under the
name of Irene. I had loved her at Milan, and neglected her at Genoa on
account of her father's misdeeds, and at Avignon I had rescued her at
Marcoline's request. Eleven years had passed by since I had heard of
I was astonished to see her, and I think more sorry than glad, for she
was still beautiful, and I might fall in love again; and being no longer
in a position to give her assistance, the issue might be unfortunate for
me. However, I called on her the next day, and was greeted with a
shriek of delight. She told me she had seen me at the theatre, and felt
sure I would come and see her.
She introduced me to her husband, who played parts like Scapin, and to
her nine-year-old daughter, who had a talent for dancing.
She gave me an abridged account of her life since we had met. In the
year I had seen her at Avignon she had gone to Turin with her father.
At Turin she fell in love with her present husband, and left her parents
to join her lot to his.
"Since that," she said, "I have heard of my father's death, but I do not
know what has become of my mother."
After some further conversation she told me she was a faithful wife,
though she did not push fidelity so far as to drive a rich lover to
"I have no lovers here," she added, "but I give little suppers to a few
friends. I don't mind the expense, as I win some money at faro."
She was the banker, and she begged me to join the party now and then.
"I will come after the play to-night," I replied, "but you must not
expect any high play of me."
I kept the appointment and supped with a number of silly young
tradesmen, who were all in love with her.
After supper she held a bank, and I was greatly astonished when I saw
her cheating with great dexterity. It made me want to laugh; however, I
lost my florins with a good grace and left. However, I did not mean to
let Irene think she was duping me, and I went to see her next morning at
rehearsal, and complimented her on her dealing. She pretended not to
understand what I meant, and on my explaining myself she had the
impudence to tell me that I was mistaken.
In my anger I turned my back on her saying, "You will be sorry for this
At this she began to laugh, and said, "Well, well, I confess! and if you
tell me how much you lost you shall have it back, and if you like you
shall be a partner in the game."
"No, thank you, Irene, I will not be present at any more of your
suppers. But I warn you to be cautious; games of chance are strictly
"I know that, but all the young men have promised strict secrecy."
"Come and breakfast with me whenever you like."
A few days later she came, bringing her daughter with her. The girl was
pretty, and allowed me to caress her.
One day Baron Pittoni met them at my lodgings, and as he liked young
girls as well as I he begged Irene to make her daughter include him in
her list of favoured lovers.
I advised her not to reject the offer, and the baron fell in love with
her, which was a piece of luck for Irene, as she was accused of playing
unlawful games, and would have been severely treated if the baron had
not given her warning. When the police pounced on her, they found no
gaming and no gamesters, and nothing could be done.
Irene left Trieste at the beginning of Lent with the company to which
she belonged. Three years later I saw her again at Padua. Her daughter
had become a charming girl, and our acquaintance was renewed in the
[Thus abruptly end the Memoirs of Giacome Casanova,
Chevalier de Seingalt, Knight of the Golden Spur,
Prothonotary Apostolic, and Scoundrel Cosmopolitic.]
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