Milan and Mantua, Casanova, v5
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 2 out of 2
"Double the capital of my bank, and we can be partners."
"Your proposal is an insult."
He gave me fifty sequins, and I promised to keep his secret.
There was a numerous attendance in Narici's rooms, especially of
young men, who after dinner lost all their money. I did not play,
and it was a disappointment for my pretty hostess, who had invited me
only because she had judged me as simple as the others. I remained
an indifferent witness of the play, and it gave me an opportunity of
realizing how wise Mahomet had been in forbidding all games of
In the evening after the opera Count Celi had the faro bank, and I
lose two hundred sequins, but I could only accuse ill luck. Madame
Querini won. The next day before supper I broke the bank, and after
supper, feeling tired and well pleased with what I had won, I
returned to the inn.
The following morning, which was the third day, and therefore the
last but one of my stay in Cesena, I called at the general's. I
heard that his adjutant had thrown the cards in Alfani's face, and
that a meeting had been arranged between them for twelve o'clock.
I went to the adjutant's room and offered to be his second, assuring
him that there would be no blood spilt. He declined my offer with
many thanks, and at dinner-time he told me that I had guessed
rightly, for Count Alfani had left for Rome.
"In that case," I said to the guests, "I will take the bank tonight."
After dinner, being alone with Madame Querini, I told her all about
Alfani, alias Celi, and handed her the fifty sequins of which I was
"I suppose," she said, "that by means of this fable you hope to make
me accept fifty sequins, but I thank you, I am not in want of money."
"I give you my word that I have compelled the thief to refund this
money, together with the fifty sequins of which he had likewise
"That may be, but I do not wish to believe you. I beg to inform you
that I am not simple enough to allow myself to be duped, and, what is
worse, cheated in such a manner."
Philosophy forbids a man to feel repentance for a good deed, but he
must certainly have a right to regret such a deed when it is
malevolently misconstrued, and turned against him as a reproach.
In the evening, after the performance, which was to be the last, I
took the bank according to my promise: I lost a few sequins, but was
caressed by everybody, and that is much more pleasant than winning,
when we are not labouring under the hard necessity of making money.
Count Spada, who had got quite fond of me, wanted me to accompany him
to Brisighetta, but I resisted his entreaties because I had firmly
resolved on going to Naples.
The next morning I was awoke by a terrible noise in the passage,
almost at the door of my room.
Getting out of my bed, I open my door to ascertain the cause of the
uproar. I see a troop of 'sbirri' at the door of a chamber, and in
that chamber, sitting up in bed, a fine-looking man who was making
himself hoarse by screaming in Latin against that rabble, the plague
of Italy, and against the inn-keeper who had been rascally enough to
open the door.
I enquire of the inn-keeper what it all means.
"This gentleman," answers the scoundrel, "who, it appears, can only
speak Latin, is in bed with a girl, and the 'sbirri' of the bishop
have been sent to know whether she is truly his wife; all perfectly
regular. If she is his wife, he has only to convince them by shewing
a certificate of marriage, but if she is not, of course he must go to
prison with her. Yet it need not happen, for I undertake to arrange
everything in a friendly manner for a few sequins. I have only to
exchange a few words with the chief of the 'sbirri', and they will
all go away. If you can speak Latin, you had better go in, and make
him listen to reason."
"Who has broken open the door of his room?"
"Nobody; I have opened it myself with the key, as is my duty."
"Yes, the duty of a highway robber, but not of an honest inn-keeper."
Such infamous dealing aroused my indignation, and I made up my mind
to interfere. I enter the room, although I had still my nightcap on,
and inform the gentleman of the cause of the disturbance. He answers
with a laugh that, in the first place, it was impossible to say
whether the person who was in bed with him was a woman, for that
person had only been seen in the costume of a military officer, and
that, in the second place, he did not think that any human being had
a right to compel him to say whether his bed-fellow was his wife or
his mistress, even supposing that his companion was truly a woman.
"At all events," he added, "I am determined not to give one crown to
arrange the affair, and to remain in bed until my door is shut. The
moment I am dressed, I will treat you to an amusing denouement of the
comedy. I will drive away all those scoundrels at the point of my
I then see in a corner a broad sword, and a Hungarian costume looking
like a military uniform. I ask whether he is an officer.
"I have written my name and profession," he answers, "in the hotel
Astonished at the absurdity of the inn-keeper, I ask him whether it
is so; he confesses it, but adds that the clergy have the right to
"The insult you have offered to that officer, Mr. Landlord, will cost
you very dear."
His only answer is to laugh in my face. Highly enraged at seeing
such a scoundrel laugh at me, I take up the officer's quarrel warmly,
and asked him to entrust his passport to me for a few minutes.
"I have two," he says; "therefore I can let you have one." And
taking the document out of his pocket-book, he hands it to me. The
passport was signed by Cardinal Albani. The officer was a captain in
a Hungarian regiment belonging to the empress and queen. He was from
Rome, on his way to Parma with dispatches from Cardinal Albani
Alexander to M. Dutillot, prime minister of the Infante of Parma.
At the same moment, a man burst into the room, speaking very loudly,
and asked me to tell the officer that the affair must be settled at
once, because he wanted to leave Cesena immediately.
"Who are you?" I asked the man.
He answered that he was the 'vetturino' whom the captain had engaged.
I saw that it was a regular put-up thing, and begged the captain to
let me attend to the business, assuring him that I would settle it to
his honour and advantage.
"Do exactly as you please," he said.
Then turning towards the 'vetturino', I ordered him to bring up the
captain's luggage, saying that he would be paid at once. When he had
done so, I handed him eight sequins out of my own purse, and made him
give me a receipt in the name of the captain, who could only speak
German, Hungarian, and Latin. The vetturino went away, and the
'sbirri' followed him in the greatest consternation, except two who
"Captain," I said to the Hungarian, "keep your bed until I return. I
am going now to the bishop to give him an account of these
proceedings, and make him understand that he owes you some
reparation. Besides, General Spada is here, and...."
"I know him," interrupted the captain, "and if I had been aware of
his being in Cesena, I would have shot the landlord when he opened my
door to those scoundrels."
I hurried over my toilet, and without waiting for my hair to be
dressed I proceeded to the bishop's palace, and making a great deal
of noise I almost compelled the servants to take me to his room. A
lackey who was at the door informed me that his lordship was still in
"Never mind, I cannot wait."
I pushed him aside and entered the room. I related the whole affair
to the bishop, exaggerating the uproar, making much of the injustice
of such proceedings, and railing at a vexatious police daring to
molest travellers and to insult the sacred rights of individuals and
The bishop without answering me referred me to his chancellor, to
whom I repeated all I had said to the bishop, but with words
calculated to irritate rather than to soften, and certainly not
likely to obtain the release of the captain. I even went so far as
to threaten, and I said that if I were in the place of the officer I
would demand a public reparation. The priest laughed at my threats;
it was just what I wanted, and after asking me whether I had taken
leave of my senses, the chancellor told me to apply to the captain of
"I shall go to somebody else," I said, "reverend sir, besides the
captain of the 'sbirri'."
Delighted at having made matters worse, I left him and proceeded
straight to the house of General Spada, but being told that he could
not be seen before eight o'clock, I returned to the inn.
The state of excitement in which I was, the ardour with which I had
made the affair mine, might have led anyone to suppose that my
indignation had been roused only by disgust at seeing an odious
persecution perpetrated upon a stranger by an unrestrained, immoral,
and vexatious police; but why should I deceive the kind reader, to
whom I have promised to tell the truth; I must therefore say that my
indignation was real, but my ardour was excited by another feeling of
a more personal nature. I fancied that the woman concealed under the
bed-clothes was a beauty. I longed to see her face, which shame,
most likely, had prevented her from shewing. She had heard me speak,
and the good opinion that I had of myself did not leave the shadow of
a doubt in my mind that she would prefer me to her captain.
The door of the room being still open, I went in and related to the
captain all I had done, assuring him that in the course of the day he
would be at liberty to continue his journey at the bishop's expense,
for the general would not fail to obtain complete satisfaction for
him. He thanked me warmly, gave back the eight ducats I had paid for
him, and said that he would not leave the city till the next day.
"From what country," I asked him, "is your travelling companion?"
"From France, and he only speaks his native language."
"Then you speak French?"
"Not one word."
"That is amusing! Then you converse in pantomime?"
"I pity you, for it is a difficult language."
"Yes, to express the various shades of thought, but in the material
part of our intercourse we understand each other quite well."
"May I invite myself to breakfast with you?"
"Ask my friend whether he has any objection."
"Amiable companion of the captain," I said in French, "will you
kindly accept me as a third guest at the breakfast-table?"
At these words I saw coming out of the bed-clothes a lovely head,
with dishevelled hair, and a blooming, laughing face which, although
it was crowned with a man's cap, left no doubt that the captain's
friend belonged to that sex without which man would be the most
miserable animal on earth.
Delighted with the graceful creature, I told her that I had been
happy enough to feel interested in her even before I had seen her,
and that now that I had the pleasure of seeing her, I could but renew
with greater zeal all my efforts to serve her.
She answered me with the grace and the animation which are the
exclusive privilege of her native country, and retorted my argument
in the most witty manner; I was already under the charm. My request
was granted; I went out to order breakfast, and to give them an
opportunity of making themselves comfortable in bed, for they were
determined not to get up until the door of their room was closed
The waiter came, and I went in with him. I found my lovely
Frenchwoman wearing a blue frock-coat, with her hair badly arranged
like a man's, but very charming even in that strange costume. I
longed to see her up. She ate her breakfast without once
interrupting the officer speaking to me, but to whom I was not
listening, or listening with very little attention, for I was in a
sort of ecstatic trance.
Immediately after breakfast, I called on the general, and related the
affair to him, enlarging upon it in such a manner as to pique his
martial pride. I told him that, unless he settled the matter
himself, the Hungarian captain was determined to send an express to
the cardinal immediately. But my eloquence was unnecessary, for the
general liked to see priests attend to the business of Heaven, but he
could not bear them to meddle in temporal affairs.
"I shall," he said, "immediately put a stop to this ridiculous
comedy, and treat it in a very serious manner."
"Go at once to the inn," he said to his aide-de-camp, "invite that
officer and his companion to dine with me to-day, and repair
afterwards to the bishop's palace. Give him notice that the officer
who has been so grossly insulted by his 'sbirri' shall not leave the
city before he has received a complete apology, and whatever sum of
money he may claim as damages. Tell him that the notice comes from
me, and that all the expenses incurred by the officer shall be paid
What pleasure it was for me to listen to these words! In my vanity,
I fancied I had almost prompted them to the general. I accompanied
the aide-de-camp, and introduced him to the captain who received him
with the joy of a soldier meeting a comrade. The adjutant gave him
the general's invitation for him and his companion, and asked him to
write down what satisfaction he wanted, as well as the amount of
damages he claimed. At the sight of the general's adjutant, the
'sbirri' had quickly vanished. I handed to the captain pen, paper
and ink, and he wrote his claim in pretty good Latin for a native of
Hungary. The excellent fellow absolutely refused to ask for more
than thirty sequins, in spite of all I said to make him claim one
hundred. He was likewise a great deal too easy as to the
satisfaction he demanded, for all he asked was to see the landlord
and the 'sbirri' beg his pardon on their knees in the presence of the
general's adjutant. He threatened the bishop to send an express to
Rome to Cardinal Alexander, unless his demands were complied with
within two hours, and to remain in Cesena at the rate of ten sequins
a day at the bishop's expense.
The officer left us, and a moment afterwards the landlord came in
respectfully, to inform the captain that he was free, but the captain
having begged me to tell the scoundrel that he owed him a sound
thrashing, he lost no time in gaining the door.
I left my friends alone to get dressed, and to attend to my own
toilet, as I dined with them at the general's. An hour afterwards I
found them ready in their military costumes. The uniform of the
Frenchwoman was of course a fancy one, but very elegant. The moment
I saw her, I gave up all idea of Naples, and decided upon
accompanying the two friends to Parma. The beauty of the lovely
Frenchwoman had already captivated me. The captain was certainly on
the threshold of sixty, and, as a matter of course, I thought such a
union very badly assorted. I imagined that the affair which I was
already concocting in my brain could be arranged amicably.
The adjutant came back with a priest sent by the bishop, who told the
captain that he should have the satisfaction as well as the damages
he had claimed, but that he must be content with fifteen sequins.
"Thirty or nothing," dryly answered the Hungarian.
They were at last given to him, and thus the matter ended. The
victory was due to my exertions, and I had won the friendship of the
captain and his lovely companion.
In order to guess, even at first sight, that the friend of the worthy
captain was not a man, it was enough to look at the hips. She was
too well made as a woman ever to pass for a man, and the women who
disguise themselves in male attire, and boast of being like men, are
very wrong, for by such a boast they confess themselves deficient in
one of the greatest perfections appertaining to woman.
A little before dinner-time we repaired to General Spada's mansion,
and the general presented the two officers to all the ladies. Not
one of them was deceived in the young officer, but, being already
acquainted with the adventure, they were all delighted to dine with
the hero of the comedy, and treated the handsome officer exactly as
if he had truly been a man, but I am bound to confess that the male
guests offered the Frenchwoman homages more worthy of her sex.
Madame Querini alone did not seem pleased, because the lovely
stranger monopolized the general attention, and it was a blow to her
vanity to see herself neglected. She never spoke to her, except to
shew off her French, which she could speak well. The poor captain
scarcely opened his lips, for no one cared to speak Latin, and the
general had not much to say in German.
An elderly priest, who was one of the guests, tried to justify the
conduct of the bishop by assuring us that the inn-keeper and the
'sbirri' had acted only under the orders of the Holy Office.
"That is the reason," he said, "for which no bolts are allowed in the
rooms of the hotels, so that strangers may not shut themselves up in
their chambers. The Holy Inquisition does not allow a man to sleep
with any woman but his wife."
Twenty years later I found all the doors in Spain with a bolt
outside, so that travellers were, as if they had been in prison,
exposed to the outrageous molestation of nocturnal visits from the
police. That disease is so chronic in Spain that it threatens to
overthrow the monarchy some day, and I should not be astonished if
one fine morning the Grand Inquisitor was to have the king shaved,
and to take his place.
I Purchase a Handsome Carriage, and Proceed to Parma With the Old
Captain and the Young Frenchwoman--I Pay a Visit to Javotte, and
Present Her With a Beautiful Pair of Gold Bracelets--My Perplexities
Respecting My Lovely Travelling Companion--A Monologue--Conversation
with the Captain--Tete-a-Tete with Henriette
The conversation was animated, and the young female officer was
entertaining everybody, even Madame Querini, although she hardly took
the trouble of concealing her spleen.
"It seems strange," she remarked, "that you and the captain should
live together without ever speaking to each other."
"Why, madam? We understand one another perfectly, for speech is of
very little consequence in the kind of business we do together."
That answer, given with graceful liveliness, made everybody laugh,
except Madame Querini-Juliette, who, foolishly assuming the air of a
prude, thought that its meaning was too clearly expressed.
"I do not know any kind of business," she said, "that can be
transacted without the assistance of the voice or the pen."
"Excuse me, madam, there are some: playing at cards, for instance, is
a business of that sort."
"Are you always playing?"
"We do nothing else. We play the game of the Pharaoh (faro), and I
hold the bank."
Everybody, understanding the shrewdness of this evasive answer,
laughed again, and Juliette herself could not help joining in the
"But tell me," said Count Spada, "does the bank receive much?"
"As for the deposits, they are of so little importance, that they are
hardly worth mentioning."
No one ventured upon translating that sentence for the benefit of the
worthy captain. The conversation continued in the same amusing
style, and all the guests were delighted with the graceful wit of the
Late in the evening I took leave of the general, and wished him a
"Adieu," he said, "I wish you a pleasant journey to Naples, and hope
you will enjoy yourself there"
"Well, general, I am not going to Naples immediately; I have changed
my mind and intend to proceed to Parma, where I wish to see the
Infante. I also wish to constitute myself the interpreter of these
two officers who know nothing of Italian:"
"Ah, young man! opportunity makes a thief, does it not? Well, if I
were in your place, I would do the same."
I also bade farewell to Madame Querini, who asked me to write to her
from Bologna. I gave her a promise to do so, but without meaning to
I had felt interested in the young Frenchwoman when she was hiding
under the bed-clothes: she had taken my fancy the moment she had
shewn her features, and still more when I had seen her dressed. She
completed her conquest at the dinner-table by the display of a wit
which I greatly admired. It is rare in Italy, and seems to belong
generally to the daughters of France. I did not think it would be
very difficult to win her love, and I resolved on trying. Putting my
self-esteem on one side, I fancied I would suit her much better than
the old Hungarian, a very pleasant man for his age, but who, after
all, carried his sixty years on his face, while my twenty-three were
blooming on my countenance. It seemed to me that the captain himself
would not raise any great objection, for he seemed one of those men
who, treating love as a matter of pure fancy, accept all
circumstances easily, and give way good-naturedly to all the freaks
of fortune. By becoming the travelling companion of this ill-matched
couple, I should probably succeed in my aims. I never dreamed of
experiencing a refusal at their hands, my company would certainly be
agreeable to them, as they could not exchange a single word by
With this idea I asked the captain, as we reached our inn, whether he
intended to proceed to Parma by the public coach or otherwise.
"As I have no carriage of my own," he answered, "we shall have to
take the coach."
"I have a very comfortable carriage, and I offer you the two back
seats if you have no objection to my society."
"That is a piece of good fortune. Be kind enough to propose it to
"Will you, madam, grant me the favour of accompanying you to Parma?"
"I should be delighted, for we could have some conversation, but take
care, sir, your task will not be an easy one, you will often find
yourself obliged to translate for both of us."
"I shall do so with great pleasure; I am only sorry that the journey
is not longer. We can arrange everything at supper-time; allow me to
leave you now as I have some business to settle."
My business was in reference to a carriage, for the one I had boasted
of existed only in my imagination. I went to the most fashionable
coffee-house, and, as good luck would have it, heard that there was a
travelling carriage for sale, which no one would buy because it was
too expensive. Two hundred sequins were asked for it, although it
had but two seats and a bracket-stool for a third person. It was
just what I wanted. I called at the place where it would be seen. I
found a very fine English carriage which could not have cost less
than two hundred guineas. Its noble proprietor was then at supper,
so I sent him my name, requesting him not to dispose of his carriage
until the next morning, and I went back to the hotel well pleased
with my discovery. At supper I arranged with the captain that we
would not leave Cesena till after dinner on the following day, and
the conversation was almost entirely a dialogue between Henriette and
myself; it was my first talk with a French woman. I thought this
young creature more and more charming, yet I could not suppose her to
be anything else but an adventurers, and I was astonished at
discovering in her those noble and delicate feelings which denote a
good education. However, as such an idea would not have suited the
views I had about her, I rejected it whenever it presented itself to
my mind. Whenever I tried to make her talk about the captain she
would change the subject of conversation, or evade my insinuations
with a tact and a shrewdness which astonished and delighted me at the
same time, for everything she said bore the impress of grace and wit.
Yet she did not elude this question:
"At least tell me, madam, whether the captain is your husband or your
"Neither one nor the other," she answered, with a smile.
That was enough for me, and in reality what more did I want to know?
The worthy captain had fallen asleep. When he awoke I wished them
both good night, and retired to my room with a heart full of love and
a mind full of projects. I saw that everything had taken a good
turn, and I felt certain of success, for I was young, I enjoyed
excellent health, I had money and plenty of daring. I liked the
affair all the better because it must come to a conclusion in a few
Early the next morning I called upon Count Dandini, the owner of the
carriage, and as I passed a jeweller's shop I bought a pair of gold
bracelets in Venetian filigree, each five yards long and of rare
fineness. I intended them as a present for Javotte.
The moment Count Dandini saw me he recognized me. He had seen me in
Padua at the house of his father, who was professor of civil law at
the time I was a student there. I bought his carriage on condition
that he would send it to me in good repair at one o'clock in the
Having completed the purchase, I went to my friend, Franzia, and my
present of the bracelets made Javotte perfectly happy. There was.
not one girl in Cesena who could boast of possessing a finer pair,
and with that present my conscience felt at ease, for it paid the
expense I had occasioned during my stay of ten or twelve days at her
father's house four times over. But this was not the most important
present I offered the family. I made the father take an oath to wait
for me, and never to trust in any pretended magician for the
necessary operation to obtain the treasure, even if I did not return
or give any news of myself for ten years.
"Because," I said to him, "in consequence of the agreement in which I
have entered with the spirits watching the treasure, at the first
attempt made by any other person, the casket containing the treasure
will sink to twice its present depth, that is to say as deep as
thirty-five fathoms, and then I shall have myself ten times more
difficulty in raising it to the surface. I cannot state precisely
the time of my return, for it depends upon certain combinations which
are not under my control, but recollect that the treasure cannot be
obtained by anyone but I."
I accompanied my advice with threats of utter ruin to his family if
he should ever break his oath. And in this manner I atoned for all I
had done, for, far from deceiving the worthy man, I became his
benefactor by guarding against the deceit of some cheat who would
have cared for his money more than for his daughter. I never saw him
again, and most likely he is dead, but knowing the deep impression I
left on his mind I am certain that his descendants are even now
waiting for me, for the name of Farusi must have remained immortal in
Javotte accompanied me as far as the gate of the city, where I kissed
her affectionately, which made me feel that the thunder and lightning
had had but a momentary effect upon me; yet I kept control over my
senses, and I congratulate myself on doing so to this day. I told
her, before bidding her adieu, that, her virginity being no longer
necessary for my magic operations, I advised her to get married as
soon as possible, if I did not return within three months. She shed
a few tears, but promised to follow my advice.
I trust that my readers will approve of the noble manner in which I
concluded my magic business. I hardly dare to boast of it, but I
think I deserve some praise for my behaviour. Perhaps, I might have
ruined poor Franzia with a light heart, had I not possessed a well-
filled purse. I do not wish to enquire whether any young man, having
intelligence, loving pleasure, and placed in the same position, would
not have done the same, but I beg my readers to address that question
As for Capitani, to whom I sold the sheath of St. Peter's knife for
rather more than it was worth, I confess that I have not yet repented
on his account, for Capitani thought he had duped me in accepting it
as security for the amount he gave me, and the count, his father,
valued it until his death as more precious than the finest diamond in
the world. Dying with such a firm belief, he died rich, and I shall
die a poor man. Let the reader judge which of the two made the best
bargain. But I must return now to my future travelling companions.
As soon as I had reached the inn, I prepared everything for our
departure for which I was now longing. Henriette could not open her
lips without my discovering some fresh perfection, for her wit
delighted me even more than her beauty. It struck me that the old
captain was pleased with all the attention I shewed her, and it
seemed evident to me that she would not be sorry to exchange her
elderly lover for me. I had all the better right to think so,
inasmuch as I was perfection from a physical point of view, and I
appeared to be wealthy, although I had no servant. I told Henriette
that, for the sake of having none, I spent twice as much as a servant
would have cost me, that, by my being my own servant, I was certain
of being served according to my taste, and I had the satisfaction of
having no spy at my heels and no privileged thief to fear. She
agreed with everything I said, and it increased my love.
The honest Hungarian insisted upon giving me in advance the amount to
be paid for the post-horses at the different stages as far as Parma.
We left Cesena after dinner, but not without a contest of politeness
respecting the seats. The captain wanted me to occupy the back seat-
near Henriette, but the reader will understand how much better the
seat opposite to her suited me; therefore I insisted upon taking the
bracket-seat, and had the double advantage of shewing my politeness,
and of having constantly and without difficulty before my eyes the
lovely woman whom I adored.
My happiness would have been too great if there had been no drawback
to it. But where can we find roses without thorns? When the
charming Frenchwoman uttered some of those witty sayings which
proceed so naturally from the lips of her countrywomen, I could not
help pitying the sorry face of the poor Hungarian, and, wishing to
make him share my mirth, I would undertake to translate in Latin
Henriette's sallies; but far from making him merry, I often saw his
face bear a look of astonishment, as if what I had said seemed to him
rather flat. I had to acknowledge to myself that I could not speak
Latin as well as she spoke French, and this was indeed the case. The
last thing which we learn in all languages is wit, and wit never
shines so well as in jests. I was thirty years of age before I began
to laugh in reading Terence, Plautus and Martial.
Something being the matter with the carriage, we stopped at Forli to
have it repaired. After a very cheerful supper, I retired to my room
to go to bed, thinking of nothing else but the charming woman by whom
I was so completely captivated. Along the road, Henriette had struck
me as so strange that I would not sleep in the second bed in their
room. I was afraid lest she should leave her old comrade to come to
my bed and sleep with me, and I did not know how far the worthy
captain would have put up with such a joke. I wished, of course, to
possess that lovely creature, but I wanted everything to be settled
amicably, for I felt some respect for the brave officer.
Henriette had nothing but the military costume in which she stood,
not any woman's linen, not even one chemise. For a change she took
the captain's shirt. Such a state of things was so new to me that
the situation seemed to me a complete enigma.
In Bologna, excited by an excellent supper and by the amorous passion
which was every hour burning more fiercely in me, I asked her by what
singular adventure she had become the friend of the honest fellow who
looked her father rather than her lover.
"If you wish to know," she answered, with a smile, "ask him to relate
the whole story himself, only you must request him not to omit any of
Of course I applied at once to the captain, and, having first
ascertained by signs that the charming Frenchwoman had no objection,
the good man spoke to me thus:
"A friend of mine, an officer in the army, having occasion to go to
Rome, I solicited a furlough of six months, and accompanied him. I
seized with great delight the opportunity of visiting a city, the
name of which has a powerful influence on the imagination, owing to
the memories of the past attached to it. I did not entertain any
doubt that the Latin language was spoken there in good society, at
least as generally as in Hungary. But I was indeed greatly mistaken,
for nobody can speak it, not even the priests, who only pretend to
write it, and it is true that some of them do so with great purity.
I was therefore rather uncomfortable during my stay in Rome, and with
the exception of my eyes my senses remained perfectly inactive. I
had spent a very tedious month in that city, the ancient queen of the
world, when Cardinal Albani gave my friend dispatches for Naples.
Before leaving Rome, he introduced me to his eminence, and his
recommendation had so much influence that the cardinal promised to
send me very soon with dispatches for the Duke of Parma, Piacenza,
and Guastalla, assuring me that all my travelling expenses would be
defrayed. As I wished to see the harbour called in former times
Centum cellae and now Civita-Vecchia, I gave up the remainder of my
time to that visit, and I proceeded there with a cicerone who spoke
"I was loitering about the harbour when I saw, coming out of a
tartan, an elderly officer and this young woman dressed as she is
now. Her beauty struck me, but I should not have thought any more
about it, if the officer had not put up at my inn, and in an
apartment over which I had a complete view whenever I opened my
window. In the evening I saw the couple taking supper at the same
table, but I remarked that the elderly officer never addressed a word
to the young one. When the supper was over, the disguised girl left
the room, and her companion did not lift his eyes from a letter which
he was reading, as it seemed to me, with the deepest attention. Soon
afterwards the officer closed the windows, the light was put out, and
I suppose my neighbors went to bed. The next morning, being up early
as is my habit, I saw the officer go out, and the girl remained alone
in the room.
"I sent my cicerone, who was also my servant, to tell the girl in the
garb of an officer that I would give her ten sequins for an hour's
conversation. He fulfilled my instructions, and on his return he
informed me that her answer, given in French, had been to the effect
that she would leave for Rome immediately after breakfast, and that,
once in that city, I should easily find some opportunity of speaking
"'I can find out from the vetturino,' said my cicerone, 'where they
put up in Rome, and I promise you to enquire of him.'
"She left Civita-Vecchia with the elderly officer, and I returned
home on the following day.
"Two days afterwards, the cardinal gave me the dispatches, which were
addressed to M. Dutillot, the French minister, with a passport and
the money necessary for the journey. He told me, with great
kindness, that I need not hurry on the road.
"I had almost forgotten the handsome adventuress, when, two days
before my departure, my cicerone gave me the information that he had
found out where she lived, and that she was with the same officer. I
told him to try to see her, and to let her know that my departure was
fixed for the day after the morrow. She sent me word by him that, if
I would inform her of the hour of my departure, she would meet me
outside of the gate, and get into the coach with me to accompany me
on my way. I thought the arrangement very ingenious and during the
day I sent the cicerone to tell her the hour at which I intended to
leave, and where I would wait for her outside of the Porto del
Popolo. She came at the appointed time, and we have remained
together ever since. As soon as she was seated near me, she made me
understand by signs that she wanted to dine with me. You may imagine
what difficulty we had in understanding one another, but we guessed
somehow the meaning expressed by our pantomime, and I accepted the
adventure with delight.
"We dined gaily together, speaking without understanding, but after
the dessert we comprehended each other very well. I fancied that I
had seen the end of it, and you may imagine how surprised I was when,
upon my offering her the ten sequins, she refused most positively to
take any money, making me understand that she would rather go with me
to Parma, because she had some business in that city, and did not
want to return to Rome.
"The proposal was, after all, rather agreeable to me; I consented to
her wishes. I only regretted my inability to make her understand
that, if she was followed by anyone from Rome, and if that person
wanted to take her back, I was not in a position to defend her
against violence. I was also sorry that, with our mutual ignorance
of the language spoken by each of us, we had no opportunity of
conversation, for I should have been greatly pleased to hear her
adventures, which, I think, must be interesting. You can, of course,
guess that I have no idea of who she can be. I only know that she
calls herself Henriette, that she must be a Frenchwoman, that she is
as gentle as a turtledove, that she has evidently received a good
education, and that she enjoys good health. She is witty and
courageous, as we have both seen, I in Rome and you in Cesena at
General Spada's table. If she would tell you her history, and allow
you to translate it for me in Latin she would indeed please me much,
for I am sincerely her friend, and I can assure you that it will
grieve me to part from her in Parma. Please to tell her that I
intend to give her the thirty sequins I received from the Bishop of
Cesena, and that if I were rich I would give her more substantial
proofs of my tender affection. Now, sir, I shall feel obliged to you
if you will explain it all to her in French."
I asked her whether she would feel offended if I gave her an exact
translation. She assured me that, on the contrary, she wished me to
speak openly, and I told her literally what the captain had related
With a noble frankness which a slight shade of-shame rendered more
interesting, Henriette confirmed the truth of her friend's narrative,
but she begged me to tell him that she could not grant his wish
respecting the adventures of her life.
"Be good enough to inform him," she added, "that the same principle
which forbids me to utter a falsehood, does not allow me to tell the
truth. As for the thirty sequins which he intends to give me, I will
not accept even one of them, and he would deeply grieve me by
pressing them upon me. The moment we reach Parma I wish him to allow
me to lodge wherever I may please, to make no enquiries whatever
about me, and, in case he should happen to meet me, to crown his
great kindness to me by not appearing to have ever known me."
As she uttered the last words of this short speech, which she had
delivered very seriously and with a mixture of modesty and
resolution, she kissed her elderly friend in a manner which indicated
esteem and gratitude rather than love. The captain, who did not know
why she was kissing him, was deeply grieved when I translated what
Henriette had said. He begged me to tell her that, if he was to obey
her with an easy conscience, he must know whether she would have
everything she required in Parma.
"You can assure him," she answered, "that he need not entertain any
anxiety about me."
This conversation had made us all very sad; we remained for a long
time thoughtful and silent, until, feeling the situation to be
painful, I rose, wishing them good night, and I saw that Henriette's
face wore a look of great excitement.
As soon as I found myself alone in my room, deeply moved by
conflicting feelings of love, surprise, and uncertainty, I began to
give vent to my feelings in a kind of soliloquy, as I always do when
I am strongly excited by anything; thinking is not, in those cases,
enough for me; I must speak aloud, and I throw so much action, so
much animation into these monologues that I forget I am alone. What
I knew now of Henriette had upset me altogether.
"Who can she be," I said, speaking to the walls; "this girl who seems
to have the most elevated feelings under the veil of the most cynical
libertinism? She says that in Parma she wishes to remain perfectly
unknown, her own mistress, and I cannot, of course, flatter myself
that she will not place me under the same restrictions as the captain
to whom she has already abandoned herself. Goodbye to my
expectations, to my money, and my illusions! But who is she--what is
she? She must have either a lover or a husband in Parma, or she must
belong to a respectable family; or, perhaps, thanks to a boundless
love for debauchery and to her confidence in her own charms, she
intends to set fortune, misery, and degradation at defiance, and to
try to enslave some wealthy nobleman! But that would be the plan of
a mad woman or of a person reduced to utter despair, and it does not
seem to be the case with Henriette. Yet she possesses nothing.
True, but she refused, as if she had been provided with all she
needed, the kind assistance of a man who has the right to offer it,
and from whom, in sooth, she can accept without blushing, since she
has not been ashamed to grant him favours with which love had nothing
to do. Does she think that it is less shameful for a woman to
abandon herself to the desires of a man unknown and unloved than to
receive a present from an esteemed friend, and particularly at the
eve of finding herself in the street, entirely destitute in the
middle of a foreign city, amongst people whose language she cannot
even speak? Perhaps she thinks that such conduct will justify the
'faux pas' of which she has been guilty with the captain, and give
him to understand that she had abandoned herself to him only for the
sake of escaping from the officer with whom she was in Rome. But she
ought to be quite certain that the captain does not entertain any
other idea; he shews himself so reasonable that it is impossible to
suppose that he ever admitted the possibility of having inspired her
with a violent passion, because she had seen him once through a
window in Civita-Vecchia. She might possibly be right, and feel
herself justified in her conduct towards the captain, but it is not
the same with me, for with her intelligence she must be aware that I
would not have travelled with them if she had been indifferent to me,
and she must know that there is but one way in which she can obtain
my pardon. She may be endowed with many virtues, but she has not the
only one which could prevent me from wishing the reward which every
man expects to receive at the hands of the woman he loves. If she
wants to assume prudish manners towards me and to make a dupe of me,
I am bound in honour to shew her how much she is mistaken."
After this monologue, which had made me still more angry, I made up
my mind to have an explanation in the morning before our departure.
"I shall ask her," said I to myself, "to grant me the same favours
which she has so easily granted to her old captain, and if I meet
with a refusal the best revenge will be to shew her a cold and
profound contempt until our arrival in Parma."
I felt sure that she could not refuse me some marks of real or of
pretended affection, unless she wished to make a show of a modesty
which certainly did not belong to her, and, knowing that her modesty
would only be all pretence, I was determined not to be a mere toy in
As for the captain, I felt certain, from what he had told me, that he
would not be angry with me if I risked a declaration, for as a
sensible man he could only assume a neutral position.
Satisfied with my wise reasoning, and with my mind fully made up, I
fell asleep. My thoughts were too completely absorbed by Henriette
for her not to haunt my dreams, but the dream which I had throughout
the night was so much like reality that, on awaking, I looked for her
in my bed, and my imagination was so deeply struck with the delights
of that night that, if my door had not been fastened with a bolt, I
should have believed that she had left me during my sleep to resume
her place near the worthy Hungarian.
When I was awake I found that the happy dream of the night had turned
my love for the lovely creature into a perfect amorous frenzy, and it
could not be other wise. Let the reader imagine a poor devil going
to bed broken down with fatigue and starvation; he succumbs to sleep,
that most imperative of all human wants, but in his dream he finds
himself before a table covered with every delicacy; what will then
happen? Why, a very natural result. His appetite, much more lively
than on the previous day, does not give him a minute's rest he must
satisfy it or die of sheer hunger.
I dressed myself, resolved on making sure of the possession of the
woman who had inflamed all my senses, even before resuming our
"If I do not succeed," I said to myself, "I will not go one step
But, in order not to offend against propriety, and not to deserve the
reproaches of an honest man, I felt that it was my duty to have an
explanation with the captain in the first place.
I fancy that I hear one of those sensible, calm, passionless readers,
who have had the advantage of what is called a youth without storms,
or one of those whom old age has forced to become virtuous, exclaim,
"Can anyone attach so much importance to such nonsense?"
Age has calmed my passions down by rendering them powerless, but my
heart has not grown old, and my memory has kept all the freshness of
youth; and far from considering that sort of thing a mere trifle, my
only sorrow, dear reader, arises from the fact that I have not the
power to practise, to the day of my death, that which has been the
principal affair of my life!
When I was ready I repaired to the chamber occupied by my two
travelling companions, and after paying each of them the usual
morning compliments I told the officer that I was deeply in love with
Henriette, and I asked him whether he would object to my trying to
obtain her as my mistress.
"The reason for which she begs you," I added, "to leave her in Parma
and not to take any further notice of her, must be that she hopes to
meet some lover of hers there. Let me have half an hour's
conversation with her, and I flatter myself I can persuade her to
sacrifice that lover for me. If she refuses me, I remain here; you
will go with her to Parma, where you will leave my carriage at the
post, only sending me a receipt, so that I can claim it whenever I
"As soon as breakfast is over," said the excellent man, "I shall go
and visit the institute, and leave you alone with Henriette. I hope
you may succeed, for I should be delighted to see her under your
protection when I part with her. Should she persist in her first
resolution, I could easily find a 'vetturino' here, and you could
keep your carriage. I thank you for your proposal, and it will
grieve me to leave you."
Highly pleased at having accomplished half of my task, and at seeing
myself near the denouement, I asked the lovely Frenchwoman whether
she would like to see the sights of Bologna.
"I should like it very much," she said, "if I had some other clothes;
but with such a costume as this I do not care to shew myself about
"Then you do not want to go out?"
"Can I keep you company?"
"That would be delightful:"
The captain went out immediately after breakfast. The moment he had
gone I told Henriette that her friend had left us alone purposely, so
as to give me the opportunity of a private interview with her.
"Tell me now whether you intended the order which you gave him
yesterday to forget you, never to enquire after you; and even not to
know you if he happened to meet you, from the time of our arrival in
Parma, for me as well as for him."
"It is not an order that I gave him; I have no right to do so, and I
could not so far forget myself; it is only a prayer I addressed to
him, a service which circumstances have compelled me to claim at his
hands, and as he has no right to refuse me, I never entertained any
doubt of his granting my command. As far as you are concerned, it is
certain that I should have addressed the same prayer to you, if I had
thought that you had any views about me. You have given me some
marks of your friendship, but you must understand that if, under the
circumstances, I am likely to be injured by the kind attentions of
the captain, yours would injure me much more. If you have any
friendship for me, you would have felt all that."
"As you know that I entertain great friendship for you, you cannot
possibly suppose that I would leave you alone, without money, without
resources in the middle of a city where you cannot even make yourself
understood. Do you think that a man who feels for you the most
tender affection can abandon you when he has been fortunate enough to
make your acquaintance, when he is aware of the sad position in which
you are placed? If you think such a thing possible, you must have a
very false idea of friendship, and should such a man grant your
request, he would only prove that he is not your friend."
"I am certain that the captain is my friend; yet you have heard him,
he will obey me, and forget me."
"I do not know what sort of affection that honest man feels for you,
or how far he can rely upon the control he may have over himself, but
I know that if he can grant you what you have asked from him, his
friendship must be of a nature very different from mine, for I am
bound to tell you it is not only impossible for me to afford you
willingly the strange gratification of abandoning you in your
position, but even that, if I go to Parma, you could not possibly
carry out your wishes, because I love you so passionately that you
must promise to be mine, or I must remain here. In that case you
must go to Parma alone with the captain, for I feel that, if I
accompanied you any further, I should soon be the most wretched of
men. I could not bear to see you with another lover, with a husband,
not even in the midst of your family; in fact, I would fain see you
and live with you forever. Let me tell you, lovely Henriette, that
if it is possible for a Frenchman to forget, an Italian cannot do it,
at least if I judge from my own feelings. I have made up my mind,
you must be good enough to decide now, and to tell me whether I am to
accompany you or to remain here. Answer yes or no; if I remain here
it is all over. I shall leave for Naples to-morrow, and I know I
shall be cured in time of the mad passion I feel for you, but if you
tell me that I can accompany you to Parma, you must promise me that
your heart will forever belong to me alone. I must be the only one
to possess you, but I am ready to accept as a condition, if you like,
that you shall not crown my happiness until you have judged me worthy
of it by my attentions and by my loving care. Now, be kind enough to
decide before the return of the too happy captain. He knows all, for
I have told him what I feel."
"And what did he answer?"
"That he would be happy to see you under my protection. But what is
the meaning of that smile playing on your lips?"
"Pray, allow me to laugh, for I have never in my life realized the
idea of a furious declaration of love. Do you understand what it is
to say to a woman in a declaration which ought to be passionate, but
at the same time tender and gentle, the following terrible words:
"'Madam, make your choice, either one or the other, and decide
instanter!' Ha! ha! ha!"
"Yes, I understand perfectly. It is neither gentle, nor gallant, nor
pathetic, but it is passionate. Remember that this is a serious
matter, and that I have never yet found myself so much pressed by
time. Can you, on your side, realize the painful position of a man,
who, being deeply in love, finds himself compelled to take a decision
which may perhaps decide issues of life and death? Be good enough to
remark that, in spite of the passion raging in me, I do not fail in
the respect I owe you; that the resolution I intend to take, if you
should persist in your original decision, is not a threat, but an
effort worthy of a hero, which ought to call for your esteem. I beg
of you to consider that we cannot afford to lose time. The word
choose must not sound harshly in your ears, since it leaves my fate
as well as yours entirely in your hands. To feel certain of my love,
do you want to see me kneeling before you like a simpleton, crying
and entreating you to take pity on me? No, madam, that would
certainly displease you, and it would not help me. I am conscious of
being worthy of your love, I therefore ask for that feeling and not
for pity. Leave me, if I displease you, but let me go away; for if
you are humane enough to wish that I should forget you, allow me to
go far away from you so as to make my sorrow less immense. Should I
follow you to Parma, I would not answer for myself, for I might give
way to my despair. Consider everything well, I beseech you; you
would indeed be guilty of great cruelty, were you to answer now:
'Come to Parma, although I must beg of you not to see me in that
city.' Confess that you cannot, in all fairness, give me such an
answer; am I not right?"
"Certainly, if you truly love me."
"Good God! if I love you? Oh, yes! believe me, my love is immense,
sincere! Now, decide my fate."
"What! always the same song?"
"But are you aware that you look very angry?"
"No, for it is not so. I am only in a state of uncontrollable
excitement, in one of the decisive hours of my life, a prey to the
most fearful anxiety. I ought to curse my whimsical destiny and the
'sbirri' of Cesena (may God curse them, too!), for, without them, I
should never have known you."
"Are you, then, so very sorry to have made my acquaintance?"
"Have I not some reason to be so?"
"No, for I have not given you my decision yet."
"Now I breathe more freely, for I am sure you will tell me to
accompany you to Parma."
"Yes, come to Parma."
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