Return to Paris, Casanova, v12
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 3 out of 3
As soon as I had made a new choice I saw no more of my old loves, but
I continued to provide for them, and that with a good deal of money.
Madame d'Urfe, who thought I was rich, gave me no trouble. I made
her happy by using my oracle to second the magical ceremonies of
which she grew fonder every day, although she never attained her aim.
Manon Baletti, however, grieved me sorely by her jealousy and her
well-founded reproaches. She would not understand--and I did not
wonder at it--how I could put off marrying her if I really loved her.
She accused me of deceiving her. Her mother died of consumption in
our arms. Silvia had won my true friendship. I looked upon her as a
most worthy woman, whose kindness of heart and purity of life
deserved the esteem of all. I stayed in the family for three days
after her death, sincerely sympathizing with them in their
A few days afterwards, my friend Tiretta lost his mistress through a
grievous illness. Four days before her death, perceiving that she
was near her end, she willed to consecrate to God that which man
could have no longer, and dismissed her lover with the gift of a
valuable jewel and a purse of two hundred louis. Tiretta marched off
and came and told me the sad news. I got him a lodging near the
Temple, and a month after, approving his idea to try his fortune in
India, I gave him a letter of introduction to M. d'O----, of
Amsterdam; and in the course of a week this gentleman got him a post
as clerk, and shipped him aboard one of the company's ships which was
bound for Batavia. If he had behaved well he might have become a
rich man, but he got involved in some conspiracy and had to fly, and
afterwards experienced many vicissitudes of fortune. I heard from
one of his relations that he was in Bengal in 1788, in good
circumstances, but unable to realize his property and so return to
his native country. I do not know what became of him eventually.
In the beginning of November an official belonging to the Duc
d'Elbeuf's household came to my establishment to buy a wedding dress
for his daughter. I was dazzled with her beauty. She chose a fine
satin, and her pretty face lighted up when she heard her father say
he did not think it was too much; but she looked quite piteous when
she heard the clerk tell her father that he would have to buy the
whole piece, as they could not cut it. I felt that I must give in,
and to avoid making an exception in her favour I beat a hasty retreat
into my private room. I wish I had gone out of the house, as I
should have saved a good deal of money; but what pleasure should I
have also lost! In her despair the charming girl begged the manager
to take her to me, and he dared not refuse to do so. She came in;
two big tears falling down her cheeks and dimming the ardour of her
"Oh, sir!" she began, "you are rich, do you buy the piece and let me
have enough for a dress, which will make me happy."
I looked at her father and saw he wore an apologetic air, as if
deprecating the boldness of his child.
"I like your simplicity," I said to her, "and since it will make you
happy, you shall have the dress."
She ran up to me, threw her arms round my neck and kissed me, while
her worthy father was dying with laughter. Her kisses put the last
stroke to my bewitchment. After he had paid for the dress, her
"I am going to get this little madcap married next Sunday; there will
be a supper and a ball, and we shall be delighted if you will honour
us with your presence. My name is Gilbert. I am comptroller of the
Duc d'Elbeuf's household."
I promised to be at the wedding, and the young lady gave a skip of
joy which made me think her prettier than ever.
On Sunday I repaired to the house, but I could neither eat nor drink.
The fair Mdlle. Gilbert kept me in a kind of enchantment which lasted
while I was in company with her friends, for whom I did not care.
They were all officials in noblemen's houses, with their wives and
daughters, who all aped the manners of their betters in the most
ridiculous way; nobody knew me and I was known to nobody, and I cut a
sorry figure amongst them all, for in a company of this sort the
wittiest man is the greatest fool. Everybody cracked his joke to the
bride, she answered everybody, and people laughed at nothing.
Her husband, a thin and melancholy man, with a rather foolish
expression, was delighted at his wife's keeping everybody amused.
Although I was in love with her, I pitied rather than envied him.
I guessed that he had married for monetary considerations, and I knew
pretty well what kind of a head-dress his handsome, fiery wife would
give her husband, who was plain-featured, and seemed not to be aware
of his wife's beauty. I was seized with the desire of asking her
some questions, and she gave me the opportunity by coming to sit next
to me after a quadrille. She thanked me again for my kindness, and
said that the beautiful dress I had supplied had won her many
"All the same," I said, "I know you are longing to take it off. I
know what love is and how impatient it makes one."
"It's very funny that everyone persists in thinking that I am in
love, though I saw M. Baret for the first time only a week ago.
Before then I was absolutely unconscious of his existence."
"But why are you getting married in such a hurry without waiting till
you know him better?"
"Because my father does everything in a hurry."
"I suppose your husband is a very rich man?"
"No, but he may become rich. We are going to open a shop for silk
stockings at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue des
Prouveres, and I hope that you will deal with us, as we would serve
you with the best."
"I shall certainly do so--nay, I will be your first customer, if I
have to wait at the door."
"You are kind! M. Baret," said she to her husband, who was standing
close by, "this gentleman promises to be our first customer."
"The gentleman is very good," said the husband, "and I am sure he
will be satisfied, as my stockings are genuine silk."
Next Tuesday at day-break I began to dance attendance at the corner
of the Rue des Prouveres, and waited there till the servant came out
to take down the shutters. I went in and the girl asked me my
"I want to buy some stockings," was my answer.
"Master and mistress are still in bed, so you had better come later
"No, I will wait here. Stop a minute," said I, giving her six
francs, "go and get me some coffee; I will drink it in the shop."
"I might go and get you some coffee, but I am not so silly as to
leave you in the shop by yourself."
"You are afraid I might steal something!"
"Well, one does hear of such things being done, and I don't know you
"Very good; but I shall stay here all the same."
Before long Baret came down and scolded the poor girl for not having
told him of my presence. "Go and tell my wife to come," said he, as
he began opening packets of stockings for me to choose from. He kept
stockings, vests, and silk drawers, and I turned one packet over
after another, looking at them all and not fixing on anything till I
saw his wife coming down as fresh as a rose and as bright as a lily.
She smiled at me in the most seductive manner, apologized for the
disorder of her dress, and thanked me for keeping my word.
"I never break my word," I said, "especially when such a charming
lady is concerned!"
Madame Baret was seventeen, of a moderate height, and an exquisite
figure; without being classically beautiful, a Raphael could not wish
to depict a more enticing face. Her eyes were large and brilliant.
Her drooping eyelids, which gave her so modest and yet so voluptuous
an appearance, the ever-smiling mouth, her splendid teeth, the
dazzling whiteness of her complexion, the pleasing air with which she
listened to what was being said, her silvery voice, the sweetness and
sparkling vivacity of her manner, her lack of conceit, or rather her
unconsciousness of the power of her charms-in fine, everything about
this masterpiece of nature made me wonder and admire; while she, by
chance or vile monetary considerations, was in the power of Baret,
who, pale and sickly, thought a good deal more of his stockings than
of the treasure marriage had given him--a treasure of which he was
all unworthy, since he could not see its beauty nor taste its
I chose stockings and vests to the amount of twenty-five louis, and I
paid the price without trying to cheapen them. I saw the face of the
fair shopwoman light up, and I augured well for my success, though I
could not expect to do much while the honeymoon lasted. I told the
servant that I would give her six francs if she would bring the
packet to my house, and so I left them.
Next Sunday Baret came himself with my purchases. I gave him six
francs to hand over to his servant, but he hinted that he was not too
proud to keep them himself. I was disgusted at this petty greed, and
at his meanness in depriving his maid of the six francs after having
made a good profit in what he had sold me; but I wanted to stand well
with him, and I was not sorry to find so simple a way of throwing
dust into his eyes. So while I resolved that the servant should not
be a loser I gave the husband a good reception that I might the
better mould him to my purpose. I had breakfast brought to him,
asking why he had not brought his wife.
"She wanted me to take her," said he, "but I was afraid you might be
"Not at all, I should have been delighted. I think your wife a
"You are very kind to say so; but she's young, she's young."
"I don't think that's any objection; and if she cares for the walk,
bring her with you another time." He said he should be very pleased
to do so.
When I passed by the shop in my carriage I blew kisses to her with my
hand, but I did not stop as I did not want any more stockings.
Indeed, I should have been bored with the crowd of fops with which
the shop was always full. She began to be a topic of conversation in
the town; the Palais Royal was full of her; and I was glad to hear
that she kept to herself as if she had richer prey in view. That
told me that no one possessed her so far, and I hoped that I might be
the prey myself; I was quite willing to be captured.
Some days after, she saw my carriage coming, and beckoned to me as I
passed. I got out, and her husband with many apologies told me that
he wanted me to be the first to see a new fashion in breeches he had
just got in. The breeches were parti-coloured, and no man of fashion
would be seen without them. They were odd-looking things, but became
a well-made young man. As they had to fit exactly, I told him to
measure me for six pairs, offering to pay in advance. "We have them
in all sizes," said he, "go up to my wife's room and try some on."
It was a good opportunity and I accepted, especially when I heard him
tell his wife to go and help me. I went upstairs, she following, and
I began to undress, apologizing for doing so before her.
"I will fancy I am your valet," said she, "and I will help you."
I did not make any difficulties, and after taking off my shoes I gave
her my breeches, taking care, however, to keep on my drawers, lest
her modesty should receive too severe a shock. This done she took a
pair of breeches, drew them on me, took them off, and tried on
others, and all this without any impropriety on either side; for I
had determined to behave with discretion till the opportunity came to
be indiscreet. She decided that four pairs fitted me admirably, and,
not wishing to contradict her, I gave her the sixteen louis she
asked, and told her I should be delighted if she would bring them
herself at any time when she was at leisure. She came downstairs
quite proud of her knowledge of business, and Baret said that next
Sunday he and his wife would have the honour of bringing me my
"I shall be charmed, M. Baret," said I, "especially if you will stay
He answered that having an important engagement for two o'clock he
could only accept on the condition that I would let him go at that
time, and he would return at about five to fetch his wife. I found
the plan vastly to my taste, but I knew how to conceal my joy; and I
quietly said that though I should lose the pleasure of his society,
he was free to go when he liked, especially as I had not to go out
myself before six.
I looked forward to the Sunday, and the tradesman and his wife did
not fail me. As soon as they arrived, I told my servant to say "Not
at home" for the rest of the day, and as I was impatient to know what
would happen in the afternoon I had dinner served at an early hour.
The dishes were exquisite, and the wines delicious. The good man ate
much and drank deeply, indeed to such an extent that in common
politeness I was obliged to remind him that he had an important
appointment at two. His wits being sharpened with champagne, the
happy thought occurred to him to tell his wife to go home by herself,
if he were kept later than five; and I hastened to add that I would
take her home myself in my carriage. He thanked me, and I soothed
his uneasiness about being punctual to his appointment by telling him
that a coach was waiting, and that the fare had been paid. He went
off, and I found myself alone with my jewel, whom I was certain of
possessing till six o'clock.
As soon as I heard the hall door shut on the kind husband, I said to
"You are to be congratulated on having such a kind husband; with a
man like that your happiness is assured."
"It is easy to say happiness, but enjoying it is a different thing.
My husband's health is so delicate that I can only consider myself as
his nurse; and then he contracted heavy debts to set up in business
which oblige us to observe the strictest economy. We came here on
foot to save the twenty-four sons. We could live on the profits of
the business, if there were no debts, but as it is everything goes to
pay the interest, and our sales are not large enough to cover
"But you have plenty of customers, for whenever I pass I see the shop
full of people."
"These customers you see are idlers, crackers of bad jokes, and
profligates, who come and make my head ache with their jests. They
have not a penny to bless themselves with, and we dare not let them
out of our sight for fear of their hands wandering. If we had cared
to give them credit, our shop would have been emptied long ago. I am
rude to them, in the hopes that they may leave me alone, but it's of
no use. Their impudence is astonishing. When my husband is in I
retreat to my room, but he is often away, and then I am obliged to
put up with them. And the scarcity of money prevents us from doing
much business, but we are obliged to pay our workmen all the same.
As far as I can see, we shall be obliged to dismiss them, as we shall
soon have to meet several bills. Next Saturday we have got to pay
six hundred francs, and we have only got two hundred."
"I am surprised at your having all this worry in these early days of
your marriage. I suppose your father knew about your husband's
circumstances; how about your dowry?"
"My dowry of six thousand francs has served, most of it, to stock the
shop and to pay our debts. We have goods which would pay our debts
three times over; but in bad times capital sunk is capital dead."
"I am sorry to hear all this, as if peace is not made your situation
will become worse, for as you go on your needs will become greater."
"Yes, for when my husband is better we may have children."
"What! Do you mean to say his health prevents him from making you a
mother? I can't believe it."
"I don't see how I can be a mother who am still a maid; not that I
care much about the matter."
"I shouldn't have believed it! How can a man not in the agony of
death feel ill beside you? He must be dead."
"Well, he is not exactly dead, but he doesn't shew many signs of
This piece of wit made me laugh, and under cover of my applause I
embraced her without experiencing much resistance. The first kiss
was like an electric spark; it fired my imagination and I increased
my attentions till she became as submissive as a lamb.
"I will help you, dearest, to meet the bill on Saturday;" and so
saying I drew her gently into a closet where a soft divan formed a
suitable altar for the completion of an amorous sacrifice.
I was enchanted to find her submissive to my caresses and my
inquisitiveness, but she surprised me greatly when, as I placed
myself in readiness for the consummation of the act, and was already
in the proper posture between the two columns, she moved in such a
way as to hinder my advance. I thought at first that it was only one
of those devices intended to make the final victory more sweet by
putting difficulties in the way; but, finding that her resistance was
genuine, I exclaimed,
"How was I to expect a refusal like this at a moment when I thought I
saw my ardours reflected in your eyes?"
"Your eyes did not deceive you; but what would my husband say if he
found me otherwise than as God has made me?"
"He can't have left you untouched!"
"He really has done so. You can see for yourself if you like. Can
I, then, give to you what appertains to the genius of the marriage-
"You are right, my angel; this fruit must be kept for a mouth
unworthy to taste it. I pity and adore you. Come to my arms,
abandon yourself to my love, and fear nothing. The fruit shall not
be damaged; I will but taste the outer surface and leave no trace
We passed three hours in trifling together in a manner calculated to
inflame our passions despite the libations which we now and again
poured forth. I was consoled by her swearing to be mine as soon as
Baret had good grounds for thinking that she was his, and, after
taking her on the Boulevards, I left her at her door, with a present
of twenty-five Louis.
I was in love with her as I had never been before, and I passed the
shop three or four times a day, going round and round, to the wrath
of my coachman, who got sick of telling me that I was ruining my
horses. I was happy to see her watch for the moment that I passed,
and waft me a kiss by putting her pretty fingers to her mouth.
We had agreed that she should not make me a sign to leave my coach
till her husband had forced a passage. At last this day, so ardently
desired and so long waited for, arrived. The sign was given, and I
stopped the coach and she came out and, standing on the step, told me
to go and wait for her at the church door of St. Germain l'Auxerrois.
I was curious to know what the results would be, and had not been at
the place appointed more than a quarter of an hour when she came
towards me, her head muffled in a hood. She got into the carriage
and, saying that she wanted to make some purchases, begged me to take
her to the shops.
I had business of my own, and pressing business too, but who can
refuse the Beloved Object anything? I told the coachman to drive to
the Place Dauphine, and I prepared to loosen my purse-strings, as I
had a feeling she was going to treat me as a friend. In point of
fact she left few shops unvisited, going from jewels to pretty
trifles and toys of different kinds, and from these to dresses of the
latest fashion, which they displayed before her, addressing her as
princess, and saying that this would become her admirably. She
looked at me, and said it must be confessed that it was very pretty
and that she would like it if it were not so dear. I was a willing
dupe, and assured her that if she liked it it could not be too dear,
and that I would pay.
While my sweetheart was thus choosing one trifle after another my
ill-luck brought about an incident which placed me in a fearful
situation four years afterwards. The chain of events is endless.
I perceived at my left hand a pretty girl of twelve or thirteen, with
an old and ugly woman who was disparaging a pair of ear-rings which
the girl had in her hands, and on which she had evidently set her
heart: she looked sad at not being able to buy them. I heard her say
to the old woman that they would make her happy, but she snatched
them from the girl's hands and told her to, come away.
"I can let you have a cheaper pair and almost as fine," said the
shopwoman, but the young lady said she did not; care about it, and
was getting ready to go, making a profound reverence to my princess
She, no doubt flattered by this sign of respect went up to her,
called her little queen, told her she was as fair as a May morning,
and asked the old woman her name,
"She is Mdlle. de Boulainvilier, my niece."
"How can you be so hard-hearted," said I to the aunt, "as to refuse
your charming niece a toy which would make her happy? Allow me to
make her a present of them."
So saying I put the ear-rings in the girl's hands, while she blushed
and looked at her aunt as if to ask her permission.
"You may have the ear-rings," said she, "as this gentleman has been
kind enough to give you such a present, and you should give him a
kiss by way of thanks."
"The ear-rings," said the shopwoman, "will be only three louis."
Hereupon the affair took a comic turn; the old woman got into a rage
"How can you be such a cheat? You told me they were only two louis."
"Nay, madam, I asked three."
"That's a lie, and I shall not allow you to rob this gentleman.
Niece, put those ear-rings down; let the shopwoman keep them."
So far all was well enough; but the old aunt spoilt everything by
saying that if I liked to give her niece the three louis she could
get her a pair twice as good at another shop. It was all the same to
me, so I smilingly put the three louis in front of the young lady,
who still had the ear-rings in her hands. The shop-woman, who was on
the look-out, pocketed the money, saying that the bargain was made,
that the three louis belonged to her and the ear-rings to the young
"You are a cheat," cried out the enraged old woman.
"And you are an old b----d," answered the shop-woman, "I know you
well." A crowd began to gather in front of the shop, hearing the
cries of the two harpies. Foreseeing a good deal of unpleasantness,
I took the aunt by the arm and led her gently away. The niece, who
was quite content with the ear-rings, and did not care whether they
cost three louis or two, followed her. We shall hear of them again
in due course.
My dear Baret having made me waste a score of louis, which her poor
husband would have regretted much more than myself, we got into the
carriage again, and I took her to the church door from which we had
started. On the way she told me she was coming to stop a few days
with me at Little Poland, and that it was her husband who would ask
me for the invitation.
"When will he do that?"
"To-morrow, if you go by the shop. Come and buy some stockings; I
shall have a bad headache, and Baret will speak to you."
It may be imagined that I took care to call the next day, and as I
did not see his wife in the shop I asked in a friendly way after her
"She is ill in bed," he replied; "she wants a little country air."
"If you have not fixed for any place, I shall be happy to put you up
at Little Poland."
He replied by a smile of delight.
"I will go and urge her to come myself; in the meanwhile, M. Baret,
will you pack me up a dozen pairs of stockings?"
I went upstairs and found the invalid in bed, and laughing in spite
of her imaginary headache. "The business is done," said I, "you will
soon hear of it." As I had said, the husband came upstairs with my
stockings and told her that I had been good enough to give her a room
in my house. The crafty little creature thanked me, assuring her
husband that the fresh air would soon cure her.
"You shall be well looked after," said I, "but you must excuse me if
I do not keep you company--I have to attend to my business.
M. Baret will be able to come and sleep with you every night, and
start early enough in the morning to be in time for the opening of
After many compliments had been interchanged, Baret decided on having
his sister stay in the house while his wife was away, and as I took
leave I said that, I should give orders for their reception that very
evening, in case I was out when they came.
Next day I stayed out till after midnight, and the cook told me that
the wedded couple had made a good supper and had gone to bed. I
warned her that I should be dining at home every day, and that I
should not see my company.
The following day I was up betimes, and on enquiring if the husband
had risen I learnt that he had got up at day-break and would not be
back till supper-time. The wife was still asleep. I thought with
reason she was not asleep for me, and I went to pay her my first
visit. In point of fact she was awake, and I took a foretaste of
greater joys by a thousand kisses, which she returned with interest.
We jested at the expense of the worthy man who had trusted me with a
jewel of which I was about to make such good use, and we
congratulated each other on the prospect of a week's mutual
"Come, my dear," said I, "get up and put on a few clothes and we will
take breakfast in my room."
She did not make an elaborate toilette; a cotton dressing gown, a
pretty lace cap, a lawn kerchief, that was all, but how the simple
dress was lighted by the roses of her cheeks! We were quick over our
breakfast, we were in a hurry, and when we had done I shut the door
and we gave ourselves over to the enjoyment of our bliss.
Surprised to find her in the same condition in which I had left her,
I told her I had hoped . . . but she, without giving me time to
finish the phrase, said,
"My jewel, Baret thinks, or pretends to think, that he has done his
duty as a husband; but he is no hand at the business, and I am
disposed to put myself in your hands, and then there will be no doubt
of my condition."
"We shall thus, my sweet, be doing him a service, and the service
shall be well done."
As I said these words I was on the threshold of the temple, and I
opened the door in a manner that overthrew all obstacles. A little
scream and then several sighs announced the completion of the
sacrifice, and, to tell the truth, the altar of love was covered with
the blood of the victim. After the necessary ablutions the priest
once more began his pious work, while the victim growing bolder so
provoked his rage that it was not till the fourth mactation that we
rested and put off our joust to another season. We swore a thousand
times to love each other and to remain constant, and we may possibly
have been sincere, as we were in our ecstasy of pleasure.
We only separated to dress; then after taking a turn in the garden we
dined together, sure that in a sumptuous repast, washed down by the
choicest wines, we should find strength to reanimate our desires and
to lull them to sleep in bliss.
At dessert, as I was pouring champagne into her glass, I asked her
how with such a fiery temperament she had managed to preserve her
"Cupid," said I, "might have gathered the fruit that Hymen could not
taste. You are seventeen, and the pear has been ripe for two years
"Very true, but I have never had a lover."
"I have been courted, but to no effect. My heart was ever silent.
Possibly my father thought otherwise when I begged him, a month ago,
to get me married soon."
"Very likely, but as you were not in love, why were you in such a
"I knew that the Duc d'Elbeuf would soon be coming to town, and that
if he found me still single he would oblige me to become the wife of
a man I detest, who would have me at any price."
"Who is this man for whom you have such an aversion?"
"He is one of the duke's pets, a monster who sleeps with his master."
"Really! I did not know the duke had such tastes."
"Oh yes; he is eighty-four, and he thinks himself a woman; he says he
must have a husband."
"That is very funny. And is this aspirant to your hand a handsome
"I think him horrible; but everybody else thinks he is a fine man."
The charming Baret spent a week with me, and each day we renewed the
combat in which we were always conquerors and always conquered. I
have seen few women as pretty and seductive, and none whose skin was
more exquisitely soft and fair. Her breath was aromatic, and this
made her kisses most sweet. Her neck was exquisitely shaped, and the
two globes, tipped with coral, were as hard as marble. The exquisite
curves of her figure would have defied the skill of the ablest
painter. I experienced an ineffable joy in contemplating her, and in
the midst of my happiness I called myself unhappy because I could not
satisfy all the desires which her charms aroused in me. The frieze
which crowned her columns was composed of links of pale gold of the
utmost fineness, and my fingers strove in vain to give them another
direction to that which nature had given them. She could easily have
been taught those lively yet graceful movements which double the
pleasure; nature had done her part in that direction, and I do not
think a more expert mistress in the art of love could be found.
Each of us looked forward to the day of her departure with equal
grief, and our only consolation lay in the hope of meeting again, and
often. Three days after she went away, I went to see her, more in
love than ever, and I gave her two notes of five thousand francs
apiece. Her husband might have his suspicions, but he was too happy
at being enabled to pay his debts and to keep his shop open to say
anything unpleasant. Many husbands besides himself think themselves
lucky to have such productive wives.
In the beginning of November I sold shares for fifty thousand francs
to a man named Gamier, living in the Rue du Mail, giving up to him a
third part of the materials in my warehouse, and accepting a manager
chosen by him and paid by the company. Three days after signing the
deed I received the money; but in the night the doctor, my
warehouseman, emptied the till and absconded. I have always thought
that this robbery could not have been effected without the connivance
of the painter. This loss was a serious blow to me, as my affairs
were getting into an embroiled condition; and, for a finishing touch
to my misfortunes, Gamier had me served with a summons to repay him
the fifty thousand francs. My answer was that I was not liable, that
his manager had been appointed, the agreement and sale of the shares
was valid, and that he being one of the company would have to share
in the loss. As he persisted in his claim, I was advised to go to
law, but Gamier declared the agreement null and void, accusing me in
an indirect manner of having appropriated the money which I had said
was stolen. I would willingly have given him a good thrashing, but
he was an old man, and that course would not have mended matters, so
I kept my temper. The merchant who had given surety for the doctor
was not to be found; he had become bankrupt. Garnier had all my
stock seized, and sequestrated my horses, carriages, and all my
While these troubles were harassing me, I dismissed all my work-
girls, who had always been a great expense, and replaced them with
workmen and some of my servants. The painter still retained his
position, which was an assured one, as he always paid himself out of
My attorney was an honest man--a rare bird amongst lawyers--but my
counsel, who kept telling me that the case would soon be decided, was
a rascal. While the decision was pending, Garnier served me with a
writ to pay the sum claimed. I took it to my counsel, who promised
to appeal the same day, which he did not do, while he appropriated to
his own use the money assigned by me for the costs of an action
which, if there had been justice in France, I should certainly have
gained. Two other summonses were issued against me, and before I
knew what was going on a warrant was issued for my arrest. I was
seized at eight o'clock in the morning, as I was driving along the
Rue St. Denis. The sergeant of police sat beside me, a second got up
beside the coachman, and a third stationed himself at the back of the
coach, and in this state we drove to Fort l'Eveque.
As soon as the police had handed me over to the gaoler, he informed
me that by payment of the fifty thousand francs, or by giving good
bail, I might instantly regain my freedom.
"For the moment," said I, "I can neither command money nor bail."
"Very good, then you will stay in prison."
The gaoler took me to a decent-looking room, and I told him I had
only been served with one writ.
"Very likely," answered he, "it often happens like that; but it is
rather difficult to prove."
"Bring me writing materials, and have a trusty messenger at my
I wrote to my counsel, my attorney, to Madame d'Urfe, and to all my
friends, including my brother, who was just married. The attorney
called immediately, but the barrister contented himself with writing
to the effect that as he had put in an appeal my seizure was illegal,
and that damages might be recovered. He ended by begging me to give
him a free hand, and to have patience for a few days.
Manon Baletti sent her brother with her diamond earrings. Madame du
Rumain dispatched her barrister--a man of rare honesty--to me, and
wrote a friendly note in which she said that if I wanted five hundred
louis I should have them to-morrow. My brother neither wrote nor
came to see me. As to dear Madame d'Urfe she sent to say that she
would expect me at dinner. I thought she had gone mad, as I could
not think she was making fun of me.
At eleven o'clock my room was full of people. Poor Baret had come
weeping, and offering me all his shop held. I was touched by the
worthy man's kindness. At last I was told that a lady in a coach
wanted to see me. I waited, but nobody came. In my impatience I
called the turnkey, who told me that, after questioning the clerk of
the prison, she had gone away again. From the description I was
given I had no difficulty in identifying the lady with Madame d'Urfe.
To find myself deprived of my liberty was a disagreeable shock to me.
I thought of The Leads, and though my present situation was not to be
compared with that, I cursed my fate as I foresaw that my
imprisonment would damage my reputation. I had thirty thousand
francs in hard cash and jewels to more than double that amount, but I
could not decide on making such a sacrifice, in spite of the advice
given by Madame du Rumain's barrister, who would have me got out of
prison at any cost.
"All you have to do," said the barrister, "is to deposit half the sum
demanded which I will give to the clerk of the court, and in a short
time I can promise a decision in your favour and the restoration of
We were discussing the matter, when the gaoler entered, and said,
"Sir, you are a free man again, and a lady is waiting for you at the
door in her carriage"
I called Le Duc, my man, and told him to go and see who the lady was.
He returned with the information that it was Madame d'Urfe. I made
my bow to everybody, and after four very disagreeable hours of
imprisonment, I found myself free again and sitting in a splendid
Madame d'Urfe received me with dignified kindness, and a judge who
was in the carriage apologized for his country, where strangers were
exposed to such insults. I thanked Madame d'Urfe in a few words,
telling her that I was glad to become her debtor, but that it was
Garnier who benefited by her generosity. She replied with a pleasant
smile that she was not so sure of that, and that we would talk it
over at dinner. She wanted me to go and walk in the Tuileries and
the Palais Royal, to convince people that the report of my
imprisonment had been false. I thought the advice excellent, and as
I set out I promised to be with her at two o'clock.
After skewing myself at the two principal walks of Paris, amusing
myself by the astonishment depicted on certain faces well known to
me, I went and returned the ear-rings to my dear Manon, who gave an
astonished but a happy cry when she saw me. I thanked her tenderly
for the proof she had given me of her attachment, and said that I had
been arrested by a plot for which I would make the plotters pay dear.
After promising to spend the evening with them I went to Madame
This good lady, whose foible is well known to my readers, made me
laugh when she said that her genius had told her that I had got
myself arrested to be talked about, for reasons which were known only
"As soon as I was informed of your arrest," said she, "I went to the
Fort l'Eveque, and on learning from the clerk what the affair was
about, I deposited bonds to bail you out. If you are not in a
position to have justice done you, Gamier will have to reckon with me
before he takes the money I have deposited. But your first step
should be to commence a criminal prosecution against your counsel,
who has not only failed to put in your appeal but has robbed and
I left her in the evening, assuring her that in a few days her bail
should be returned to her; and went to the French and Italian plays
in succession, taking care to render myself conspicuous that my
reappearance might be complete. Afterwards I went to sup with Manon
Baletti, who was too happy to have had an opportunity of spewing her
affection for me; and her joy was full when I told her that I was
going to give up business, for she thought that my seraglio was the
only obstacle to my marriage with her.
The next day was passed with Madame du Rumain. I felt that my
obligations to her were great, while she, in the goodness of her
heart, was persuaded that she could make no adequate return to me for
the oracles with which I furnished her, and by following which she
was safely guided through the perplexities of life. I cannot
understand how she, whose wit was keen, and whose judgment on other
subjects was of the soundest kind, could be liable to such folly. I
was sorry when I reflected that I could not undeceive her, and glad
when I reflected that to this deceit of mine the kindness she had
shewn me was chiefly due.
My imprisonment disgusted me with Paris, and made me conceive a
hatred of the law, which I feel now. I found myself entangled in a
double maze of knavery--Garnier was my foe, and so was my own
counsel. Every time I went to plead, to spend my money amongst
lawyers, and to waste the time better given to pleasure, I felt as if
I was going to execution. In this perturbed kind of life, so
contrary to my inclinations, I resolved to set to work in earnest to
make my fortune, so that I might become independent and free to enjoy
life according to my tastes. I decided in the first place that I
would cut myself free of all that bound me to Paris, make a second
journey into Holland to replenish my purse and invest my money in a
yearly income for two lives, and from thenceforth live free from
care. The two lives were those of my wife and myself; my wife would
be Manon Baletti, and when I told her my plans she would have thought
them delightful if I had begun by marrying her.
The first thing I did was to give up Little Poland. I then drew the
twenty-four thousand francs which were my surety for keeping a
lottery office in the Rue St. Denis. Thus I got rid of my ridiculous
office of lottery receiver, and after getting my clerk married I
handed over the office to him; in short, I made his fortune. A
friend of his wife's was his surety; such things often happen.
I did not like to leave Madame d'Urfe involved in a troublesome suit
with Gamier, so I went to Versailles to see the Abbe de la Ville, a
great friend of his, and begged him to induce Gamier to make a
The abbe saw that his friend was in the wrong, and so was all the
more willing to help me; and a few days afterwards he wrote to me to
go and see him, assuring me that I should find him inclined to
arrange matters in a friendly manner.
Gamier was at Ruelle, where he had a house which cost him four
hundred thousand francs--a fine estate for a man who had made his
money as an army contractor during the last war. He was rich, but he
was so unfortunate as to be still fond of women at the age of
seventy, while his impotence debarred him from the proper enjoyment
of their society. I found him in company with three young ladies,
all of whom were pretty, and (as I heard afterwards) of good
families; but they were poor, and their necessities forced them to
submit to a disgusting intercourse with the old profligate. I stayed
to dinner and admired the propriety and modesty of their behaviour in
spite of the humiliation which accompanies poverty. After dinner,
Gamier went to sleep, and left me to entertain these girls whom I
would willingly have rescued from their unfortunate situation if I
had been able. After Gamier woke, we went into his study to talk
over our business.
At first he maintained his claim tenaciously, and seemed unwilling to
yield an inch; but when I told him that I was leaving Paris in a few
days, he saw that as he could not keep me, Madame d'Urfe might take
the suit over and carry it on to infinity, and that he might lose it
at last. That made him think it over, and he asked me to stay in his
house for the night. The next day, after breakfast, he said,--
"I have made up my mind: I will have twenty-five thousand francs, or
keep the matter before the courts till my dying day."
I answered that he would find the sum in the hands of Madame d'Urfe's
solicitor, and that he could receive it as soon as he had given
replevy on the bail at the Fort l'Eveque.
I could not persuade Madame d'Urfe that I had acted wisely in coming
to an arrangement till I had told her that my genius had commanded me
not to leave Paris before my affairs were settled, so that no one
might be able to accuse me of having gone away to avoid creditors
whose claims I could not satisfy.
Three or four days afterwards I went to take leave of M. de Choiseul,
who promised to instruct M. d'Afri to aid me in negotiating a loan at
five per cent. either with the States-General or a private company.
"You can tell everyone," said he, "that peace is certain to be made
in the course of the winter, and I will take care that you shall have
what is due to you on your return to France."
M. de Choiseul deceived me, for he knew very well that peace would
not be made; but I had no definite project, and I repented of having
given M. de Boulogne my confidence, and also of having done anything
for the Government, the reward of which was not immediate and
I sold my horses, my carriages, my furniture; I went bail for my
brother who had contracted debts he was sure of paying, as he had
several pictures on the easel which he had been ordered to paint by
some of his rich and noble patrons. I took leave of Manon, whom I
left in floods of tears, though I swore with the utmost sincerity to
come back soon and marry her.
At last all my preparations were finished, and I left Paris with a
hundred thousand francs in bills of exchange and jewels to the same
amount. I was alone in my post-chaise, Le Duc preceding me on
horseback, which the rascal preferred to being shut up in a carriage.
This Le Duc of mine was a Spaniard, aged eighteen, a sharp fellow,
whom I valued highly, especially because he did my hair better than
anyone else. I never refused him a pleasure which a little money
would buy. Besides him I had a good Swiss servant, who served as my
It was the 1st of December, 1759, and the air was frosty, but I was
fortified against the inclemency of the season. I was able to read
comfortably, and I took Helvetius's "Esprit," which I had never had
time to read before. After perusing it I was equally astonished at
the sensation it created and at the stupidity of the High Court which
condemned it. Of course that exalted body was largely influenced by
the king and the clergy, and between them all no effort was spared to
ruin Helvetius, a good-hearted man with more wit than his book. I
saw nothing novel either in the historical part relating to the
morals of nations (in which Helvetius dismisses us as triflers), or
in the position that morality is dependent on the reason. All that
he says has been said over and over again, and Blaise Pascal went
much farther, but he wrote more skilfully and better in every way
than Helvetius, who, wishing to remain in France, was obliged to
retract. He preferred a quiet life to his honour and his philosophy.
His wife had a nobler soul than he, as she wanted to sell all they
had, and to take refuge in Holland rather than submit to the shame of
a recantation. Perhaps Helvetius would have followed the noble
advice of his wife if he had foreseen that this monstrous recantation
would make his book into a fraud; for he had to confess that he had
written without due reflection, that he was more in jest than
earnest, and that his arguments were mere sophisms. But many men of
keen intellects had not waited for him to recant before exposing this
wretched system of his. And admitting that whatever man does is done
for his own interest, does it follow that gratitude is a folly, and
virtue and vice identical? Are a villain and a man of honour to be
weighed in the same balance? If such a dreadful system were not
absurd, virtue would be mere hypocrisy; and if by any possibility it
were true, it ought to be proscribed by general consent, since it
would lead to general ruin and corruption.
It might have been proved to Helvetius that the propositions that the
first motive is always self-interest, and that we should always
consult our own interest first, are fallacious. It is a strange
thing that so virtuous a man would not admit the existence of virtue.
It is an amusing suggestion that he only published his book out of
modesty, but that would have contradicted his own system. But if it
were so, was it well done to render himself contemptible to escape
the imputation of pride? Modesty is only a virtue when it is
natural; if it is put on, or merely the result of training, it is
detestable. The great d'Alembert was the most truly modest man I
have ever seen.
When I got to Brussels, where I spent two days, I went to the "Hotel
de l'Imperatrice," and chance sent Mdlle. X. C. V. and Farsetti in
my way, but I pretended not to see them. From Brussels I went
straight to the Hague, and got out at the "Prince of Orange." On my
asking the host who sat down at his table, he told me his company
consisted of general officers of the Hanoverian army, same English
ladies, and a Prince Piccolomini and his wife; and this made me make
up my mind to join this illustrious assemblage.
I was unknown to all, and keeping my eyes about me I gave my chief
attention to the observation of the supposed Italian princess, who
was pretty enough, and more especially of her husband whom I seemed
to recognize. In the course of conversation I heard some talk of the
celebrated St. Germain, and it seemed that he was stopping in the
I had returned to my room, and was thinking of going to bed, when
Prince Piccolomini entered, and embraced me as an old friend.
"A look in your face," said he, "tells me that the recognition has
been mutual. I knew you directly in spite of the sixteen years that
have passed since we saw each other at Vicenza. To-morrow you can
tell everybody that we are friends, and that though I am not a prince
I am really a count; here is my passport from the King of Naples,
pray read it."
During this rapid monologue I could not get in a single word, and on
attentively scanning his features I could only recollect that I had
seen him before, but when or where or how I knew not. I opened the
passport and read the name of Ruggero di Rocco, Count Piccolomini.
That was enough; I remembered an individual of that name who was a
fencing-master in Vicenza, and on looking at him again his aspect,
though much changed left no doubt as to the identity of the swordsman
and the count.
"I congratulate you," said I, "on your change of employment, your new
business is doubtless much better than the old."
"I taught fencing," he replied, "to save myself from dying of hunger,
for my father was so hard a man that he would not give me the
wherewithal to live, and I disguised my name so as not to disgrace
it. On my father's death I succeeded to the property, and at Rome I
married the lady you have seen."
"You had good taste, for she's a pretty woman."
"She is generally thought so, and it was a love match on my side."
He ended by asking me to come and see him in his room the next day,
after dinner, telling me that I should find good company and a bank
at faro, which he kept himself. He added, without ceremony, that if
I liked we could go half shares, and that I should find it
profitable. I thanked him, and promised to pay him a visit.
I went abroad at an early hour next morning, and after having spent
some time with the Jew, Boaz, and having given a polite refusal to
his offer of a bed, I went to pay my respects to M. d'Afri, who since
the death of the Princess of Orange, the Regent of the Low Countries,
was generally known as His Most Christian Majesty's ambassador. He
gave me an excellent reception, but he said that if I had returned to
Holland hoping to do business on behalf of the Government I should
waste my time, since the action of the comptroller-general had
lowered the credit of the nation, which was thought to be on the
verge of bankruptcy.
"This M. Silhouette," said he, "has served the king very badly. It
is all very well to say that payments are only suspended for a year,
but it is not believed."
He then asked me if I knew a certain Comte de St. Germain, who had
lately arrived at the Hague.
"He has not called on me," said the ambassador, "though he says he is
commissioned by the king to negotiate a loan of a hundred millions.
When I am asked about him, I am obliged to say that I know nothing
about him, for fear of compromising myself. Such a reply, as you can
understand, is not likely to increase his chance of success, but that
is his fault and not mine. Why has he not brought me a letter from
the Duc de Choiseul or the Marquise de Pompadour? I take him to
be an impostor, but I shall know something more about him in the
course of ten days."
I told him, in my turn, all I knew of this truly eccentric
individual. He was not a little surprised to hear that the king had
given him an apartment at Chambord, but when I told him that the
count professed to be able to make diamonds he laughed and said that
in that case he would no doubt make the hundred millions. Just as I
was leaving, M. d'Afri asked me to dine with him on the following
On returning to the hotel I called on the Comte de St. Germain.
"You have anticipated me," said he, on seeing me enter, "I intended
to have called on you. I suppose, my dear Casanova, that you have
come to try what you can do for our Court, but you will find your
task a difficult one, as the Exchange is highly offended at the late
doings of that fool Silhouette. All the same I hope I shall be able
to get my hundred millions. I have passed my word to my friend,
Louis XV. (I may call him so), and I can't disappoint him; the
business will be done in the next three or four weeks."
"I should think M. d'Afri might assist you."
"I do not require his assistance. Probably I shall not even call
upon him, as he might say he helped me. No, I shall have all the
trouble, and I mean to have all the glory, too."
"I presume you will be going to Court, where the Duke of Brunswick
may be of service to you?"
"Why should I go to Court? As for the Duke of Brunswick, I do not
care to know him. All I have got to do is to go to Amsterdam, where
my credit is sufficiently good for anything. I am fond of the King
of France; there's not a better man in the kingdom."
"Well, come and dine at the high table, the company is of the best
and will please you."
"You know I never eat; moreover, I never sit down at a table where I
may meet persons who are unknown to me."
"Then, my lord, farewell; we shall see each other again at
I went down to the dining-roam, where, while dinner was being served,
I conversed with some officers. They asked me if I knew Prince
Piccolomini, to which I answered that he was not a prince but a
count, and that it was many years since I had seen him.
When the count and his fair wife (who only spoke Italian) came down,
I shewed them some polite attentions, and we then sat down to dinner.
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