Return to Rome, Casanova, v28
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 3 out of 3
effort for the sake of my peace of mind."
"Then she will be sure that you do not love her."
"She must think what she pleases. In the meanwhile I feel sure that if
she loved me as I loved her, we should be of one mind."
"We have duties which seem to press lightly on you."
"Then be faithful to your duties, and permit a man of honour to respect
them by visiting you no more."
Armelline then appeared. I thought her changed.
"Why do you look so grave and pale?"
"Because you have grieved me."
"Come then, be gay once more, and allow me to cure myself of a passion,
the essence of which is to induce you to fail in your duty. I shall be
still your friend, and I shall come to see you once a week while I remain
"Once a week! You needn't have begun by coming once a day."
"You are right; it was your kind expression which deceived me, but I hope
you will allow me to become rational again. For this to happen, I must
try not to see you more than I can help. Think over it, and you will see
that I am doing all for the best."
"It's very hard that you can't love me as I love you."
"You mean calmly, and without desires."
"I don't say that; but holding your desires in check, if they are
contrary to the voice of duty."
"I'm too old to learn this method, and it does not seem to me an
attractive one. Kindly tell me whether the restraint of your desires
gives you much pain?"
"I don't repress my desires when I think of you, I cherish them; I wish
you were the Pope, I wish you were my father, that I might caress you in
all innocence; in my dreams I wish you could become a girl, so that we
might always live happily together."
At this true touch of native simplicity, I could not help smiling.
I told them that I should come in the evening to take them to the
Aliberti, and felt in a better humour after my visit, for I could see
that there was no art or coquetry in what Armelline said. I saw that she
loved me, but would not come to a parley with her love, hence her
repugnance to granting me her favours; if she once did so, her eyes would
be opened. All this was pure nature, for experience had not yet taught
her that she ought either to avoid me or to succumb to my affection.
In the evening I called for the two friends to take them to the opera,
and I had not long to wait. I was by myself in the carriage, but they
evinced no surprise. Emilie conveyed to me the compliments of the
superioress, who would be obliged by my calling on her the following day.
At the opera I let them gaze at the spectacle which they saw for the
first time, and answered whatever questions they put to me. As they were
Romans, they ought to have known what a castrato was, nevertheless,
Armelline took the wretched individual who sang the prima donna's part
for a woman, and pointed to his breast, which was really a fine one.
"Would you dare to sleep in the same bed with him?" I asked.
"No; an honest girl ought always to sleep by herself."
Such was the severity of the education they had received. Everything
connected with love was made a mystery of, and treated with a kind of
superstitious awe. Thus Armelline had only let me kiss her hands after a
long contest, and neither she nor Emilie would allow me to see whether
the stockings I had given them fitted well or not. The severe
prohibition that was laid on sleeping with another girl must have made
them think that to shew their nakedness to a companion would be a great
sin, and let a man see their beauties a hideous crime. The very idea of
such a thing must have given them a shudder.
Whenever I had attempted to indulge in conversation which was a little
free, I had found them deaf and dumb.
Although Emilie was a handsome girl in spite of her pallor, I did not
take sufficient interest in her to try to dissipate her melancholy; but
loving Armelline to desperation I was cut to the quick to see her look
grave when I asked her if she had any idea of the difference between the
physical conformation of men and women.
As we were leaving Armelline said she was hungry, as she had scarcely
eaten anything for the last week on account of the grief I had given her.
"If I had foreseen that," I answered, "I would have ordered a good
supper, whereas I have now only potluck to offer you."
"Never mind. How many shall we be?"
"So much the better; we shall be more at liberty."
"Then you don't like the princess?"
"I beg your pardon, but she wants me to kiss her in a way I don't like."
"Nevertheless, you kissed her ardently enough."
"I was afraid she would take me for a simpleton if I did not do so."
"Then do you think you committed a sin in kissing her like that?"
"Certainly not, for it was very unpleasant for me."
"Then why won't you make the same effort on my behalf?"
She said nothing, and when we got to the inn I ordered them to light a
fire and to get a good supper ready.
The waiter asked me if I would like some oysters, and noticing the
curiosity of my guests on the subject I asked him how much they were."
"They are from the arsenal at Venice," he replied, "and we can't sell
them under fifty pains a hundred."
"Very good, I will take a hundred, but you must open them here."
Armelline was horrified to think that I was going to pay five crowns for
her whim, and begged me to revoke the order; but she said nothing when I
told her that no pleasure of hers could be bought too dearly by me.
At this she took my hand and would have carried it to her lips, but I
took it away rather roughly, greatly to her mortification.
I was sitting in front of the fire between them, and I was sorry at
having grieved her.
"I beg pardon, Armelline," I said, "I only took my hand away because it
was not worthy of being carried to your fair lips."
In spite of this excuse she could not help two big tears coursing down
her blushing cheeks. I was greatly pained.
Armelline was a tender dove, not made to be roughly treated. If I did
not want her to hate me I felt that I must either not see her at all or
treat her more gently for the future.
Her tears convinced me that I had wounded her feelings terribly, and I
got up and went out to order some champagne.
When I came back I found that she had been weeping bitterly. I did not
know what to do; I begged her again and again to forgive me, and to be
gay once more, unless she wished to subject me to the severest of all
Emilie backed me up, and on taking her hand and covering it with kisses,
I had the pleasure of seeing her smile once more.
The oysters were opened in our presence, and the astonishment depicted on
the girls' countenances would have amused me if my heart had been more at
ease. But I was desperate with love, and Armelline begged me vainly to
be as I was when we first met.
We sat down, and I taught my guests how to suck up the oysters, which
swam in their own liquid, and were very good.
Armelline swallowed half a dozen, and then observed to her friend that so
delicate a morsel must be a sin.
"Not on account of its delicacy," said Emilie, "but because at every
mouthful we swallow half a Paul."
"Half a Paul!" said Armelline, "and the Holy Father does not forbid such
a luxury? If this is not the sin of gluttony, I don't know what is.
These oysters are delightful; but I shall speak about the matter to my
These simplicities of hers afforded me great mental pleasure, but I
wanted bodily pleasure as well.
We ate fifty oysters, and drank two bottles of sparkling champagne, which
made my two guests eruct and blush and laugh at the same time.
I would fain have laughed too and devoured Armelline with my kisses, but
I could only devour her with by eyes.
I kept the remainder of the oysters for dessert, and ordered the supper
to be served. It was an excellent meal, and the two heroines enjoyed it;
even Emilie became quite lively.
I ordered up lemons and a bottle of rum, and after having the fifty
remaining oysters opened I sent the waiter away. I then made a bowl of
punch, pouring in a bottle of champagne as a finishing touch.
After they had swallowed a few oysters and drank one or two glasses of
punch, which they liked amazingly, I begged Emilie to give me an oyster
with her lips.
"I am sure you are too sensible to find anything wrong in that," I added.
Emilie was astonished at the proposition, and thought it over. Armelline
gazed at her anxiously, as if curious as to how she would answer me.
"Why don't you ask Armelline?" she said at length.
"Do you give him one first," said Armelline, "and if you have the courage
I will try to do the same."
"What courage do you want? It's a child's game; there's no harm in it."
After this reply, I was sure of victory. I placed the shell on the edge
of her lips, and after a good deal of laughing she sucked in the oyster,
which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my
lips on hers.
Armelline clapped her hands, telling Emilie that she would never have
thought her so brave; she then imitated her example, and was delighted
with my delicacy in sucking away the oyster, scarcely touching her lips
with mine. My agreeable surprise may be imagined when I heard her say
that it was my turn to hold the oysters. It is needless to say that I
acquitted myself of the duty with much delight.
After these pleasant interludes we went to drinking punch and swallowing
We all sat in a row with our backs to the fire, and our brains began to
whirl, but never was there such a sweet intoxication. However, the punch
was not finished and we were getting very hot. I took off my coat, and
they were obliged to unlace their dresses, the bodices of which were
lined with fur. Guessing at necessities which they did not dare to
mention, I pointed out a closet where they could make themselves
comfortable, and they went in hand-in-hand. When they came out they were
no longer timid recluses, they were shrieking with laughter, and reeling
from side to side.
I was their screen as we sat in front of the fire, and I gazed freely on
charms which they could no longer conceal. I told them that we must not
think of going till the punch was finished, and they agreed, saying, in
high glee, that it would be a great sin to leave so good a thing behind.
I then presumed so far as to tell them that they had beautiful legs, and
that I should be puzzled to assign the prize between them. This made
them gayer than ever, for they had not noticed that their unlaced bodices
and short petticoats let me see almost everything.
After drinking our punch to the dregs, we remained talking for half an
hour, while I congratulated myself on my self-restraint. Just as we were
going I asked them if they had any grounds of complaint against me.
Armelline replied that if I would adopt her as my daughter she was ready
to follow me to the end of the world. "Then you are not afraid of my
turning you from the path of duty?"
"No, I feel quite safe with you."
"And what do you say, dear Emilie?"
"I shall love you too, when you do for me what the superioress will tell
"I will do anything, but I shan't come to speak to her till the evening,
for it is three o'clock now."
They laughed all the louder, exclaiming,--
"What will the mother say?"
I paid the bill, gave something to the waiter, and took them back to the
convent, where the porteress seemed well enough pleased with the new
rules when she saw two sequins in her palm.
It was too late to see the superioress, so I drove home after rewarding
the coachman and the lackey.
Margarita was ready to scratch my eyes out if I could not prove my
fidelity, but I satisfied her by quenching on her the fires Armelline and
the punch had kindled. I told her I had been kept by a gaming party, and
she asked no more questions.
The next day I amused the princess and the cardinal by a circumstantial
account of what had happened.
"You missed your opportunity," said the princess.
"I don't think so," said the cardinal, "I believe, on the contrary, that
he has made his victory more sure for another time."
In the evening, I went to the convent where the superioress gave me her
warmest welcome. She complimented me on having amused myself with the
two girls till three o'clock in the morning without doing anything wrong.
They had told her how we had eaten the oysters, and she said it was an
amusing idea. I admired her candour, simplicity, or philosophy,
whichever you like to call it.
After these preliminaries, she told me that I could make Emilie happy by
obtaining, through the influence of the princess, a dispensation to marry
without the publication of banns a merchant of Civita Vecchia, who would
have married her long ago only that there was a woman who pretended to
have claims upon him. If banns were published this woman would institute
a suit which might go on forever.
"If you do this," she concluded, "you will have the merit of making
I took down the man's name, and promised to do my best with the princess.
"Are you still determined to cure yourself of your love for Armelline?"
"Yes, but I shall not begin the cure till Lent."
"I congratulate you; the carnival is unusually long this year."
The next day I spoke of the matter to the princess. The first requisite
was a certificate from the Bishop of Civita Vecchia, stating that the man
was free to marry. The cardinal said that the man must come to Rome, and
that the affair could be managed if he could bring forward two good
witnesses who would swear that he was unmarried.
I told the superioress what the cardinal said, and she wrote to the
merchant, and a few days after I saw him talking to the superioress and
Emilie through the grating.
He commended himself to my protection, and said that before he married he
wanted to be sure of having six hundred crowns.
The convent would give him four hundred crowns, so we should have to
obtain a grant of two hundred more.
I succeeded in getting the grant, but I first contrived to have another
supper with Armelline, who asked me every morning when I was going to
take her to the comic opera. I said I was afraid of turning her astray
from the path of duty, but she replied that experience had taught her to
dread me no longer.
The Florentine--Marriage of Emilie--Scholastica--Armelline at the Ball
Before the supper I had loved Armelline to such an extent that I had
determined to see her no more, but after it I felt that I must obtain her
or die. I saw that she had only consented to my small liberties because
she regarded them as mere jokes, of no account, and I resolved to take
advantage of this way of looking at it to go as far as I could. I begin
to play the part of indifferent to the best of my ability, only visiting
her every other day, and looking at her with an expression of polite
interest. I often pretended to forget to kiss her hand, while I kissed
Emilie's and told her that if I felt certain of receiving positive marks
of her affection I should stay at Civita Vecchia for some weeks after she
was married. I would not see Armelline's horror, who could not bear me
to take a fancy to Emilie.
Emilie said that she would be more at liberty when she was married, while
Armelline, vexed at her giving me any hopes, told her sharply that a
married woman had stricter duties to perform than a girl.
I agreed with her in my heart, but as it would not have suited my purpose
to say so openly I insinuated the false doctrine that a married woman's
chief duty is to keep her husband's descent intact, and that everything
else is of trifling importance.
With the idea of driving Emilie to an extremity I told Emilie that if she
wanted me to exert myself to my utmost for her she must give me good
hopes of obtaining her favours not only after but before marriage.
"I will give you no other favours." she replied, "than those which
Armelline may give you. You ought to try to get her married also."
In spite of her grief at these proposals, gentle Armelline replied,----
"You are the only man I have ever seen; and as I have no hopes of getting
married I will give you no pledges at all, though I do not know what you
mean by the word."
Though I saw how pure and angelic she was, I had the cruelty to go away,
leaving her to her distress.
It was hard for me to torment her thus, but I thought it was the only way
to overcome her prejudices.
Calling on the Venetian ambassador's steward I saw some peculiarly fine
oysters, and I got him to let me have a hundred. I then took a box at
the Capronica Theatre, and ordered a good supper at the inn where we had
"I want a room with a bed," I said to the waiter.
"That's not allowed in Rome, signor," he replied, "but on the third floor
we have two rooms with large sofas which might do instead, without the
Holy Office being able to say anything."
I looked at the rooms and took them, and ordered the man to get the best
supper that Rome could offer.
As I was entering the boa with the two girls I saw the Marchioness d'Aout
was my near neighbour. She accosted me, and congratulated herself on her
vicinity to me. She was accompanied by her French abbe, her husband, and
a fine-looking young man, whom I had never seen before. She asked who my
companions were, and I told her they were in the Venetian ambassador's
household. She praised their beauty and began to talk to Armelline, who
answered well enough till the curtain went up. The young man also
complimented her, and after having asked my permission he gave her a
large packet of bonbons, telling her to share them with her neighbour.
I had guessed him to be a Florentine from his accent, and asked him if
the sweets came from the banks of the Arno; he told me they were from
Naples, whence he had just arrived.
At the end of the first act I was surprised to hear him say that he had a
letter of introduction for me from the Marchioness of C----.
"I have just heard your name," he said, "and tomorrow I shall have the
honour of delivering the letter in person, if you will kindly give me
After these polite preliminaries I felt that I must comply with his
I asked after the marquis, his mother-in-law, and Anastasia, saying that
I was delighted to hear from the marchioness from whom I had been
expecting an answer for the last month.
"The charming marchioness has deigned to entrust me with the answer you
"I long to read it."
"Then I may give you the letter now, though I shall still claim the
privilege of calling on you to-morrow. I will bring it to you in your
box, if you will allow me."
"Pray do so."
He might easily have given it to me from the box where he was, but this
would not have suited his plans. He came in, and politeness obliged me
to give him my place next to Armelline. He took out an elaborate pocket-
book, and gave me the letter. I opened it, but finding that it covered
four pages, I said I would read it when I got home, as the box was dark.
"I shall stay in Rome till Easter," he said, "as I want to see all the
sights; though indeed I cannot hope to see anything more beautiful than
the vision now before me."
Armelline, who was gazing fixedly at him, blushed deeply. I felt that
his compliment, though polite, was entirely out of place, and in some
sort an insult to myself. However, I said nothing, but decided mentally
that the Florentine Adonis must be a fop of the first water.
Finding his compliment created a silence, he saw he had made himself
offensive, and after a few disconnected remarks withdrew from the box.
In spite of myself the man annoyed me, and I congratulated Armelline on
the rapidity of her conquest, asking her what she thought of him.
"He is a fine man, but his compliments shews he has no taste. Tell me,
is it the custom for people of fashion to make a young girl blush the
first time they see her?"
"No, dear Armelline, it is neither customary nor polite; and anyone who
wishes to mix in good society would never do such a thing."
I lapsed into silence, as though I wanted to listen to the music; but as
a matter of fact my heart was a prey to cruel jealousy. I thought the
matter over, and came to the conclusion that the Florentine had treated
me rudely. He might have guessed that I was in love with Armelline, and
to make such an open declaration of love to my very face was nothing more
nor less than an insult to me.
After I had kept this unusual silence for a quarter of an hour the simple
Armelline made me worse by saying that I must calm myself, as I might be
sure that the young man's compliment had not given her the slightest
pleasure. She did not see that by saying this she made me feel that the
compliment had had the directly opposite effect.
I said that I had hoped he had pleased her.
To finish the matter up, she said by way of soothing me that the young
man did not mean to vex me, as he doubtless took me for her father.
What could I reply to this observation, as cruel as it was reasonable?
Nothing; I could only take refuge in silence and a fit of childish ill-
At last I could bear it no longer, and begged the two girls to come away
The second act was just over, and if I had been in my right senses I
should never have made them such an unreasonable request; but the
crassness of my proceedings did not strike me till the following day.
In spite of the strangeness of my request they merely exchanged glances
and got ready to go. Not knowing what better excuse to give I told them
I did not want the princess's carriage to be noticed as everyone left the
theatre, and that I would bring them again to the theatre the following
I would not let Armelline put her head inside the Marchioness d'Aout's
box, and so we went out. I found the man who accompanied the carriage
talking to one of his mates at the door of the theatre, and this made me
think that the princess had come to the opera.
We got down at the inn, and I whispered to the man to take his horses
home and to call for us at three o'clock; for the cold was intense, and
both horses and men had to be considered.
We began by sitting down in front of a roaring fire, and for half an hour
we did nothing but eat oysters, which were opened in our presence by a
clever waiter, who took care not to lose a drop of the fluid. As quick
as he opened we ate, and the laughter of the girls, who talked of how we
had eaten them before, caused my anger to gradually disappear.
In Armelline's gentleness I saw the goodness of her heart, and I was
angry with myself for my absurd jealousy of a man who was much more
calculated to please a young girl than I.
Armelline drank champagne, and stole occasional glances in my direction
as if to entreat me to join them in their mirth.
Emilie spoke of her marriage, and without saying anything about my
projected visit to Civita Vecchia I promised that her future husband
should have his plenary dispensation before very long. While I spoke I
kissed Armelline's fair hands, and she looked at me as if thankful for
the return of my affection.
The oysters and champagne had their natural effect, and we had a
delightful supper. We had sturgeon and some delicious truffles, which I
enjoyed not so much for my own sake as for the pleasure with which my
companions devoured them.
A man in love is provided with a kind of instinct which tells him that
the surest way to success is to provide the beloved object with pleasures
that are new to her.
When Armelline saw me become gay and ardent once more she recognized her
handiwork, and was doubtless proud of the power she exercised over me.
She took my hand of her own accord, and continued gazing into my eyes.
Emilie was occupied in the enjoyment of the meal, and did not trouble
herself about our behaviour. Armelline was so tender and loving that I
made sure of victory after we had had some more oysters and a bowl of
When the dessert, the fifty oysters, and all the materials for making the
punch were on the table, the waiter left the room, saying that the ladies
would find every requisite in the neighbouring apartment.
The room was small, and the fire very hot, and I bade the two friends
arrange their dress more comfortably.
Their dresses fitted their figures, and were trimmed with fur and
stiffened with whalebones, so they went into the next room, and came back
in white bodices and short dimity petticoats, laughing at the slightness
of their attire.
I had sufficient strength of mind to conceal my emotion, and even not to
look at their breasts when they complained of having no neckerchiefs or
breast-bands to their chemises. I knew how inexperienced they were, and
felt certain that when they saw the indifference with which I took their
slight attire they themselves would think it was of no consequence.
Armelline and Emilie had both beautiful breasts, and knew it; they were
therefore astonished at my indifference, perhaps thought that I had never
seen a fine breast. As a matter of fact a fine figure is much more
scarce at Rome than a pretty face.
Thus, in spite of their modesty, their vanity impelled them to shew me
that my indifference was ill-placed, but it was my part to put them at
their ease, and to make them fling shame to the winds.
They were enchanted when I told them to try their hands at a bowl of
punch, and they simply danced for joy when I pronounced it better than my
Then came the oyster-game, and I scolded Armelline for having swallowed
the liquid as I was taking the oyster from her lips. I agreed that it
was very hard to avoid doing so, but I offered to shew them how it could
be done by placing the tongue in the way. This gave me an opportunity of
teaching them the game of tongues, which I shall not explain because it
is well known to all true lovers. Armelline played her part with such
evident relish that I could see she enjoyed it as well as I, though she
agreed it was a very innocent amusement.
It so chanced that a fine oyster slipped from its shell as I was placing
it between Emilie's lips. It fell on to her breast, and she would have
recovered it with her fingers; but I claimed the right of regaining it
myself, and she had to unlace her bodice to let me do so. I got hold of
the oyster with my lips, but did so in such a manner as to prevent her
suspecting that I had taken any extraordinary pleasure in the act.
Armelline looked on without laughing; she was evidently surprised at the
little interest I had taken in what was before my eye. Emilie laughed
and relaced her bodice.
The opportunity was too good to be lost, so taking Armelline on my knee I
gave her an oyster and let it slip as Emilie's had slipped, much to the
delight of the elder, who wanted to see how her young companion would go
through the ordeal.
Armelline was really as much delighted herself, though she tried to
conceal her pleasure.
"I want my oyster," said I.
"Take it, then."
There was no need to tell me twice. I unlaced her corset in such a way
as to make it fall still lower, bewailing the necessity of having to
search for it with my hands.
What a martyrdom for an amorous man to have to conceal his bliss at such
I did not let Armelline have any occasion to accuse me of taking too much
licence, for I only touched her alabaster spheres so much as was
When I had got the oyster again I could restrain myself no more, and
affixing my lips to one of the blossoms of her breast I sucked it with a
voluptuous pleasure which is beyond all description.
She was astonished, but evidently moved, and I did not leave her till my
enjoyment was complete.
When she marked my dreamy langourous gaze, she asked me it it had given
me much pleasure to play the part of an infant.
"Yes, dearest," I replied, "but it's only an innocent jest."
"I don't think so; and I hope you will say nothing about it to the
superioress. It may be innocent for you, but it is not for me, as I
experienced sensations which must partake of the nature of sin. We will
pick up no more oysters."
"These are mere trifles," said Emilie, "the stain of which will easily be
wiped out with a little holy water. At all events we can swear that
there has been no kissing between us."
They went into the next room for a moment, I did the same, and we then
sat on the sofa before the fire. As I sat between them I observed that
our legs were perfectly alike, and that I could not imagine why women
stuck so obstinately to their petticoats.
While I talked I touched their legs, saying it was just as if I were to
touch my own.
They did not interrupt this examination which I carried up to the knee,
and I told Emilie that all the reward I would ask for my services was
that I might see her thighs, to compare them with Armelline's.
"She will be bigger than I," said Armelline, "though I am the taller."
"Well, there would be no harm in letting me see."
"I think there would."
"Well, I will feel with my hands."
"No, you would look at the same time."
"I swear I will not."
"Let me bandage your eyes."
"Certainly; but I will: bandage yours too."
"Yes; we will play, at blindman's buff."
Before the bandaging began I took care to make them swallow a good dose
of punch, and, then we proceeded to play. The two girls let me span
their thighs several times, laughing and falling over me whenever my
hands went too high.
I lifted the bandage and saw everything, but they pretended not to
They treated me in the same way, no doubt to see what it was that they
felt when they fell upon me.
This delightful game went on; till exhausted, nature would not allow me
to play it any more. I put myself in a state of decency, and then told
them to take off their bandages.
They did so and sat beside me, thinking, perhaps, that they would be able
to, disavow everything on the score of the bandage.
It seemed to me that Emilie had had a lover, though I took good care not
to tell her so; but Armelline was a pure virgin. She was meeker than her
friend, and her great eyes shone as voluptuously but more modestly.
I would have snatched a kiss from her pretty mouth, but she turned away
her head, though she squeezed my hands tenderly. I was astonished at
this refusal after the liberties I had taken with her.
We had talked about balls, and they were both extremely anxious to see
The public ball was the rage with all the young Romans. For ten long
years the Pope Rezzonico had deprived them of this pleasure.
Although Rezzonico forbade dancing, he allowed gaming of every
description. Ganganelli, his successor, had other views, and forbade
gaming but allowed dancing.
So much for papal infallibility; what one condemns the other approves.
Ganganelli thought it better to let his subjects skip than to give them
the opportunity of ruining themselves, of committing suicide, or of
becoming brigands; but Rezzonico did not see the matter in that light.
I promised the girls I would take them to the ball as soon as I could
discover one where I was not likely to be recognized.
Three o'clock struck, and I took them back to the convent, well enough
pleased with the progress I had made, though I had only increased my
passion. I was surer than ever that Armelline was born to exercise an
irresistible sway over every man who owed fealty to beauty.
I was amongst her liegemen, and am so still, but the incense is all gone
and the censer of no value.
I could not help reflecting on the sort of glamour which made me fall in
love with one who seemed all new to me, while I loved her in exactly the
same manner as I had loved her predecessor. But in reality there was no
real novelty; the piece was the same, though the title might be altered.
But when I had won what I coveted, did I realize that I was going over
old ground? Did I complain? Did I think myself deceived?
Not one whit; and doubtless for this reason, that whilst I enjoyed the
piece I kept my eyes fixed on the title which had so taken my fancy.
If this be so, of what use is title at all? The title of a book, the
name of a dish, the name of a town--of what consequence are all these
when what one wants is to read the book, to eat the dish, and to see the
The comparison is a sophism. Man becomes amorous through the senses,
which, touch excepted, all reside in the head. In love a beautiful face
is a matter of the greatest moment.
A beautiful female body might well excite a man to carnal indulgence,
even though the head were covered, but never to real love. If at the
moment of physical delight the covering were taken away, and a face of
hideous, revolting ugliness disclosed, one would fly in horror, in spite
of the beauties of the woman's body.
But the contrary does not hold good. If a man has fallen in love with a
sweet, enchanting face, and succeeds in lifting the veil of the sanctuary
only to find deformities there, still the face wins the day, atones for
all, and the sacrifice is consummated.
The face is thus paramount, and hence it has come to be agreed that
women's bodies shall be covered and their faces disclosed; while men's
clothes are arranged in such a way that women can easily guess at what
they cannot see.
This arrangement is undoubtedly to the advantage of women; art can
conceal the imperfections of the face, and even make it appear beautiful,
but no cosmetic can dissemble an ugly breast, stomach, or any other part
of the man body.
In spite of this, I confess that the phenomerides of Sparta were in the
right, like all women who, though they possess a fine figure, have a
repulsive face; in spite of the beauty of the piece, the title drives
spectators away. Still an interesting face is an inseparable accident of
Thrice happy are they who, like Armelline, have beauty both in the face
When I got home I was so fortunate as to find Margarita in a deep sleep.
I took care not to awake her, and went to bed with as little noise as
possible. I was in want of rest, for I no longer enjoyed the vigour of
youth, and I slept till twelve.
When I awoke, Margarita told me that a handsome young man had called on
me at ten o'clock, and that she had amused him till eleven, not daring to
"I made him some coffee," said she, "and he was pleased to pronounce it
excellent. He would not tell me his name, but he will come again
tomorrow. He gave me a piece of money, but I hope you will not mind.
I don't know how much it is worth."
I guessed that it was the Florentine. The piece was of two ounces. I
only laughed, for not loving Margarita I was not jealous of her. I told
her she had done quite right to amuse him and to accept the piece, which
was worth forty-eight pauls.
She kissed me affectionately, and thanks to this incident I heard nothing
about my having come home so late.
I felt curious to learn more about this generous Tuscan, so I proceeded
to read Leonilda's letter.
His name, it appeared, was M----. He was a rich merchant established in
London, and had been commended to her husband by a Knight of Malta.
Leonilda said he was generous, good-hearted, and polished, and assured me
that I should like him.
After telling me the family news, Leonilda concluded by saying that she
was in a fair way to become a mother, and that she would be perfectly
happy if she gave birth to a son. She begged me to congratulate the
Whether from a natural instinct or the effects of prejudice, this news
made me shudder. I answered her letter in a few days, enclosing it in a
letter to the marquis, in which I told him that the grace of God was
never too late, and that I had never been so much pleased by any news as
at hearing he was likely to have an heir.
In the following May Leonilda gave birth to a son, whom I saw at Prague,
on the occasion of the coronation of Leopold. He called himself Marquis
C----, like his father, or perhaps we had better say like his mother's
husband, who attained the age of eighty.
Though the young marquis did not know my name, I got introduced to him,
and had the pleasure of meeting him a second time at the theatre. He was
accompanied by a priest, who was called his governor, but such an office
was a superfluity for him, who was wiser at twenty than most men are at
I was delighted to see that the young man was the living image of the old
marquis. I shed tears of joy as I thought how this likeness must have
pleased the old man and his wife, and I admired this chance which seemed
to have abetted nature in her deceit.
I wrote to my dear Leonilda, placing the letter in the hands of her son.
She did not get it till the Carnival of 1792, when the young marquis
returned to Naples; and a short time after I received an answer inviting
me to her son's marriage and begging me to spend the remainder of my days
"Who knows? I may eventually do so."
I called on the Princess Santa Croce at three o'clock, and found her in
bed, with the cardinal reading to her.
The first question she asked was, why I had left the opera at the end of
the second act.
"Princess, I can tell you an interesting history of my six hours of
adventure, but you must give me a free hand, for some of the episodes
must be told strictly after nature."
"Is it anything in the style of Sister M---- M----?" asked the cardinal.
"Yes, my lord, something of the kind."
"Princess, will you be deaf?" said his eminence,
"Of course I will," she replied.
I then told my tale almost as I have written it. The slipping oysters
and the game of blind man's buff made the princess burst with laughing,
in spite of her deafness. She agreed with the cardinal that I had acted
with great discretion, and told me that I should be sure to succeed on
the next attempt.
"In three or four days," said the cardinal, "you will have the
dispensation, and then Emilie can marry whom she likes."
The next morning the Florentine came to see me at nine o'clock, and I
found him to answer to the marchioness's description; but I had a bone to
pick with him, and I was none the better pleased when he began asking me
about the young person in my box at the theatre; he wanted to know
whether she were married or engaged, if she had father, mother, or any
I smiled sardonically, and begged to be excused giving him the required
information, as the young lady was masked when he saw her.
He blushed, and begged my pardon.
I thanked him for doing Margarita the honour of accepting a cup of coffee
from her hands, and begged him to take one with me, saying I would
breakfast with him next morning. He lived with Roland, opposite St.
Charles, where Madame Gabrieli, the famous singer, nicknamed la Coghetta,
As soon as the Florentine was gone, I went to St. Paul's in hot haste,
for I longed to see what reception I should have from the two vestals I
had initiated so well.
When they appeared I noticed a great change. Emilie had become gay,
while Armelline looked sad.
I told the former that she should have her dispensation in three days,
and her warrant for four hundred crowns in a week.
"At the same time," I added, "you shall have your grant of two hundred
At this happy tidings she ran to tell the superioress of her good
As soon as I was alone with Armelline I took her hands and covered them
with kisses, begging her to resume her wonted gaiety.
"What shall I do," said she, "without Emilie? What shall I do when you
are gone? I am unhappy. I love myself no longer."
She shed tears which pierced me to the heart. I swore I would not leave
Rome till I had seen her married with a dowry of a thousand crowns.
"I don't want a thousand crowns, but I hope you will see me married as
you say; if you do not keep your promise it will kill me."
"I would die rather than deceive you; but you on your side must forgive
my love, which, perhaps, made me go too far the other evening."
"I forgive you everything if you will remain my friend."
"I will; and now let me kiss your beautiful lips."
After this first kiss, which I took as a pledge of certain victory, she
wiped away her tears; and soon after Emilie reappeared, accompanied by
the superioress, who treated me with great cordiality.
"I want you to do as much for Armelline's new friend as you have done for
Emilie," said she.
"I will do everything in my power," I replied; "and in return I hope you
will allow me to take these young ladies to the theatre this evening."
"You will find them ready; how could I refuse you anything?"
When I was alone with the two friends I apologised for having disposed of
them without their consent.
"Our consent!" said Emilie: "we should be ungrateful indeed if we refused
you anything after all you have done for us."
"And you, Armelline, will you withstand my love?"
"No; so long as it keeps within due bounds. No more blind man's buff!"
"And it is such a nice game! You really grieve me."
"Well, invent another game," said Emilie.
Emilie was becoming ardent, somewhat to my annoyance, for I was afraid
Armelline would get jealous. I must not be charged with foppishness on
this account. I knew the human heart.
When I left them I went to the Tordinona Theatre and took a box, and then
ordered a good supper at the same inn, not forgetting the oysters, though
I felt sure I should not require their aid.
I then called on a musician, whom I requested to get me three tickets for
a ball, where no one would be likely to know me.
I went home with the idea of dining by myself, but I found a note from
the Marchioness d'Aout, reproaching me in a friendly manner for not
having broken bread with her, and inviting me to dinner. I resolved to
accept the invitation, and when I got to the house I found the young
Florentine already there.
It was at this dinner that I found out many of his good qualities, and I
saw that Donna Leonilda had not said too much in his favour.
Towards the end of the meal the marchioness asked why I had not stayed
till the end of the opera.
"Because the young ladies were getting tired."
"I have found out that they do not belong to the Venetian ambassador's
"You are right, and I hope you will pardon my small fiction."
"It was an impromptu effort to avoid telling me who they are, but they
"Then I congratulate the curious."
"The one I addressed deserves to excite general curiosity; but if I were
in your place I should make her use a little powder."
"I have not the authority to do so, and if I had, I would not trouble her
for the world."
I was pleased with the Florentine, who listened to all this without
saying a word. I got him to talk of England and of his business. He
told me that he was going to Florence to take possession of his
inheritance, and to get a wife to take back with him to London. As I
left, I told him that I could not have the pleasure of calling on him
till the day after next, as I was prevented by important business. He
told me I must come at dinnertime, and I promised to do so.
Full of love and hope, I went for my two friends, who enjoyed the whole
play without any interruption.
When we alighted at the inn I told the coachman to call for me at two,
and we then went up to the third floor, where we sat before the fire
while the oysters were being opened. They did not interest us as they
had done before.
Emilie had an important air; she was about to make a good marriage.
Armelline was meek, smiling, and affectionate, and reminded me of the
promise I had given her. I replied by ardent kisses which reassured her,
while they warned her that I would fain increase the responsibility I had
already contracted towards her. However, she seemed resigned, and I sat
down to table in a happy frame of mind.
As Emilie was on the eve of her wedding, she no doubt put down my neglect
of her to my respect for the sacrament of matrimony.
When supper was over I got on the sofa with Armelline, and spent three
hours which might have been delicious if I had not obstinately
endeavoured to obtain the utmost favour. She would not give in; all my
supplications and entreaties could not move her; she was sweet, but firm.
She lay between my arms, but would not grant what I wanted, though she
gave me no harsh or positive refusal.
It seems a puzzle, but in reality it is quite simple.
She left my arms a virgin, sorry, perhaps, that her sense of duty had not
allowed her to make me completely happy.
At last nature bade me cease, in spite of my love, and I begged her to
forgive me. My instinct told me that this was the only way by which I
might obtain her consent another time.
Half merry and half sad, we awoke Emilie who was in a deep sleep, and
then we started. I went home and got into bed, not troubling myself
about the storm of abuse with which Margarita greeted me.
The Florentine gave me a delicious dinner, overwhelmed me with
protestations of friendship, and offered me his purse if I needed it.
He had seen Armelline, and had been pleased with her. I had answered him
sharply when he questioned me about her, and ever since he had never
mentioned her name.
I felt grateful to him, and as if I must make him some return.
I asked him to dinner, and had Margarita to dine with us. Not caring for
her I should have been glad if he had fallen in love with her; there
would have been no difficulty, I believe, on her part, and certainly not
on mine; but nothing came of it. She admired a trinket which hung from
his watch-chain, and he begged my permission to give it her. I told him
to do so by all means, and that should have been enough; but the affair
went no farther.
In a week all the arrangements for Emilie's marriage had been made. I
gave her her grant, and the same day she was married and went away with
her husband to Civita Vecchia. Menicuccio, whose name I have not
mentioned for some time, was well pleased with my relations with his
sister, foreseeing advantages for himself, and still better pleased with
the turn his own affairs were taking, for three days after Emilie's
wedding he married his mistress, and set up in a satisfactory manner.
When Emilie was gone the superioress gave Armelline a new companion. She
was only a few years older than my sweetheart, and very pretty; but she
did not arouse a strong interest in my breast. When violently in love no
other woman has ever had much power over me.
The superioress told me that her name was Scholastica, and that she was
well worthy of my esteem, being, as she said, as good as Emilie. She
expressed a hope that I would do my best to help Scholastica to marry a
man whom she knew and who was in a good position.
This man was the son of a cousin of Scholastica's. She called him her
nephew, though he was older than she. The dispensation could easily be
got for money, but if it was to be had for nothing I should have to make
interest with the Holy Father. I promised I would do my best in the
The carnival was drawing to a close, and Scholastica had never seen an
opera or a play. Armelline wanted to see a ball, and I had at last
succeeded in finding one where it seemed unlikely that I should be
recognized. However, it would have to be carefully managed, as serious
consequences might ensue; so I asked the two friends if they would wear
men's clothes, to which they agreed very heartily.
I had taken a box at the Aliberti Theatre for the day after the ball, so
I told the two girls to obtain the necessary permission from the
Though Armelline's resistance and the presence of her new friend
discouraged me, I procured everything requisite to transform them into
two handsome lads.
As Armelline got into the carriage she gave me the bad news that
Scholastica knew nothing about our relations, and that we must be careful
what we did before her. I had no time to reply, for Scholastica got in,
and we drove off to the inn. When we were seated in front of a good
fire, I told them that if they liked I would go into the next room in
spite of the cold.
So saying, I shewed them their disguises, and Armelline said it would do
if I turned my back, appealing to Scholastics to confirm her.
"I will do as you like," said she, "but I am very sorry to be in the way.
You are in love with each other, and here am I preventing you from giving
one another marks of your affection. Why don't you treat me with
confidence? I am not a child, and I am your friend."
These remarks shewed that she had plenty of common sense, and I breathed
"You are right, fair Scholastics," I said, "I do love Armelline, but she
does not love me, and refuses to make me happy on one pretence or
With these words I left the room, and after shutting the door behind me
proceeded to make up a fire in the second apartment.
In a quarter of an hour Armelline knocked at the door, and begged me to
open it. She was in her breeches, and said they needed my assistance as
their shoes were so small they could not get them on.
I was in rather a sulky humour, so she threw her arms round my neck and
covered my face with kisses which soon restored me to myself.
While I was explaining the reason of my ill temper, and kissing whatever
I could see, Scholastica burst out laughing.
"I was sure that I was in the way," said she; "and if you do not trust
me, I warn you that I will not go with you to the opera to-morrow."
"Well, then, embrace him," said Armelline.
"With all my heart."
I did not much care for Armelline's generosity, but I embraced
Scholastica as warmly as she deserved. Indeed I would have done so if
she had been less pretty, for such kindly consideration deserved a
reward. I even kissed her more ardently than I need have done, with the
idea of punishing Armelline, but I made a mistake. She was delighted,
and kissed her friend affectionately as if in gratitude.
I made them sit down, and tried to pull on their shoes, but I soon found
that they were much too small, and that we must get some more.
I called the waiter who attended to us, and told him to go and fetch a
bootmaker with an assortment of shoes.
In the meanwhile I would not be contented with merely kissing Armelline.
She neither dared to grant nor to refuse; and as if to relieve herself of
any responsibility, made Scholastica submit to all the caresses I
lavished on her. The latter seconded my efforts with an ardour that
would have pleased me exceedingly if I had been in love with her.
She was exceedingly beautiful, and her features were as perfectly
chiselled as Armelline's, but Armelline was possessed of a delicate and
subtle charm of feature peculiar to herself.
I liked the amusement well enough, but there was a drop of bitterness in
all my enjoyment. I thought it was plain that Armelline did not love me,
and that Scholastica only encouraged me to encourage her friend.
At last I came to the conclusion that I should do well to attach myself
to the one who seemed likely to give me the completest satisfaction.
As soon as I conceived this idea I felt curious to see whether Armelline
would discover any jealousy if I shewed myself really in love with
Scholastica, and if the latter pronounced me to be too daring, for
hitherto my hands had not crossed the Rubicon of their waistbands. I was
just going to work when the shoemaker arrived, and in a few minutes the
girls were well fitted.
They put on their coats, and I saw two handsome young men before me,
while their figures hinted their sex sufficiently to make a third person
jealous of my good fortune.
I gave orders for supper to be ready at midnight, and we went to the
ball. I would have wagered a hundred to one that no one would recognize
me there, as the man who got the tickets had assured me that it was a
gathering of small tradesmen. But who can trust to fate or chance?
We went into the hall, and the first person I saw was the Marchioness
d'Aout, with her husband and her inseparable abbe.
No doubt I turned a thousand colours, but it was no good going back, for
the marchioness had recognized me, so I composed myself and went up to
her. We exchanged the usual compliments of polite society, to which she
added some good-natured though ironical remarks on my two young friends.
Not being accustomed to company, they remained confused and speechless.
But the worst of all was to come. A tall young lady who had just
finished a minuet came up to Armelline, dropped a curtsy, and asked her
In this young lady I recognized the Florentine who had disguised himself
as a girl, and looked a very beautiful one.
Armelline thought she would not appear a dupe, and said she recognized
"You are making a mistake," said he, calmly. "I have a brother who is
very like me, just as you have a sister who is your living portrait. My
brother had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with her at the
Capronica." The Florentine's cleverness made the marchioness laugh, and
I had to join in her mirth, though I felt little inclination to do so.
Armelline begged to be excused dancing, so the marchioness made her sit
between the handsome Florentine and herself. The marquis took possession
of Scholastica, and I had to be attentive to the marchioness without
seeming to be aware of the existence of Armelline, to whom the Florentine
was talking earnestly.
I felt as jealous as a tiger; and having to conceal my rage under an air
of perfect satisfaction, the reader may imagine how well I enjoyed the
However, there was more anxiety in store for me; for presently I noticed
Scholastica leave the marquis, and go apart with a middle-aged man, with
whom she conversed in an intimate manner.
The minuets over, the square dances began, and I thought I was dreaming
when I saw Armelline and the Florentine taking their places.
I came up to congratulate them, and asked Armelline, gently, if she was
sure of the steps.
"This gentleman says I have only to imitate him, and that I cannot
possibly make any mistakes."
I had nothing to say to this, so I went towards Scholastica, feeling very
curious to know who was her companion.
As soon as she saw me she introduced me to him, saying timidly that this
was the nephew of whom she had spoken, the same that wished to marry her.
I was surprised, but I did not let it appear. I told him that the
superioress had spoken of him to me, and that I was thinking over the
ways and means of obtaining a dispensation without any costs.
He was an honest-looking man, and thanked me heartily, commending himself
to my good offices, as he said he was far from rich.
I left them together, and on turning to view the dance I was astonished
to see that Armelline was dancing admirably, and executing all the
figures. The Florentine seemed a finished dancer, and they both looked
I was far from pleased, but I congratulated them both on their
performance. The Florentine had disguised himself so admirably that no
one would have taken him for a man. It was the Marchioness d'Aout who
had been his dresser.
As I was too jealous to leave Armelline to her own devices, I refused to
dance, preferring to watch her.
I was not at all uneasy about Scholastica, who was with her betrothed.
About half-past eleven the Marchioness d'Aout, who was delighted with
Armelline, and possibly had her protege's happiness in view, asked me, in
a tone that amounted to a command, to sup with her in company with my two
"I cannot have the honour," I replied, "and my two companions know the
"That is as much as to say," said the marchioness, "that he will do as
you please," turning to Armelline as she spoke.
I addressed myself to Armelline, and observed smilingly that she knew
perfectly well that she must be home by half-past twelve at latest.
"True," she replied, "but you can do as you please."
I replied somewhat sadly that I did not feel myself at liberty to break
my word, but that she could make me do even that if she chose.
Thereupon the marchioness, her husband, the abbe, and the Florentine,
urged her to use her power to make me break my supposed word, and
Armelline actually began to presume to do so.
I was bursting with rage; but making up my mind to do anything rather
than appear jealous, I said simply that I would gladly consent if her
friend would consent also.
"Very well," said she, with a pleased air that cut me to the quick, "go
and ask her."
That was enough for me. I went to Scholastica and told her the
circumstances in the presence of her lover, begging her to refuse without
Her lover said I was perfectly right, but Scholastica required no
persuasion, telling me that she had quite made up her mind not to sup
She came with me, and I told her to speak to Armelline apart before
saying anything to the others.
I led Scholastica before the marchioness, bewailing my want of success.
Scholastica told Armelline that she wanted to say a few words to her
aside, and after a short conversation they came back looking sorry, and
Armelline told the marchioness that she found it would be impossible for
them to come. The lady did not press us any longer, so we went away.
I told Scholastica's intended to keep what had passed to himself, and
asked him to dine with me on the day after Ash Wednesday.
The night was dark, and we walked to the place where I had ordered the
carriage to be in waiting.
To me it was as if I had come out of hell, and on the way to the inn I
did not speak a word, not even answering the questions which the too-
simple Armelline addressed to me in a voice that would have softened a
heart of stone. Scholastica avenged me by reproaching her for having
obliged me to appear either rude or jealous, or a breaker of my word.
When we got to the inn Armelline changed my jealous rage into pity; her
eyes swam with tears, which Scholastica's home truths had drawn forth.
The supper was ready, so they had no time to change their dress. I was
sad enough, but I could not bear to see Armelline sad also. I resolved
to do my best to drive away her melancholy, even though I suspected that
it arose from love of the Florentine.
The supper was excellent, and Scholastica did honour to it, while
Armelline, contrary to her wont, scarcely touched a thing. Scholastica
was charming. She embraced her friend, and told her to be merry with
her, as I had become the friend of her betrothed, and she was sure I
would do as much for her as I had done for Emilie. She blessed the ball
and the chance which had brought him there. In short, she did her best
to shew Armelline that with my love she had no reason to be sad.
Armelline dared not disclose the true cause of her sadness. The fact
was, that she wanted to get married, and the handsome Florentine was the
man to her liking.
Our supper came to an end, and still Armelline was gloomy. She only
drank one glass of punch, and as she had eaten so little I would not try
and make her drink more for fear lest it should do her harm.
Scholastica, on the other hand, took such a fancy to this agreeable
fluid, which she tasted for the first time, that she drank deeply, and
was amazed to find it mounting to her head instead of descending to her
stomach. In this pleasant state, she felt it was her duty to reconcile
Armelline and myself, and to assure us that we might be as tender as we
liked without minding her presence.
Getting up from table and standing with some difficulty, she carried her
friend to the sofa, and caressed her in such a way that Armelline could
not help laughing, despite her sadness. Then she called me and placed
her in my arms. I caressed her, and Armelline, though she did not
repulse me, did not respond as Scholastica had hoped. I was not
disappointed; I did not think it likely she would grant now what she had
refused to grant when I had held her in my arms for those hours whilst
Emilie was fast asleep.
However, Scholastica began to reproach me with my coldness, though I
deserved no blame at all on this score.
I told them to take off their men's clothes, and to dress themselves as
I helped Scholastica to take off her coat and waistcoat, and then aided
Armelline in a similar manner.
When I brought them their chemises, Armelline told me to go and stand by
the fire, and I did so.
Before long a noise of kissing made me turn round, and I saw Scholastica,
on whom the punch had taken effect, devouring Armelline's breast with
kisses. At last this treatment had the desired result; Armelline became
gay, and gave as good as she got.
At this sight the blood boiled in my veins, and running to them I found
Scholastic was not ill pleased that I should do justice to her beautiful
spheres, while for the nonce I transformed her into a nurse.
Armelline was ashamed to appear less generous than her friend, and
Scholastica was triumphant when she saw the peculiar use to which (for
the first time) I put Armelline's hands.
Armelline called to her friend to help, and she was not backward; but in
spite of her twenty years her astonishment at the catastrophe was great.
After it was over I put on their chemises and took off their breeches
with all the decency imaginable, and after spending a few minutes in the
next room they came and sat down on my knee of their own accord.
Scholastica, instead of being annoyed at my giving the preference to the
hidden charms of Armelline, seemed delighted, watching what I did, and
how Armelline took it, with the closest attention. She no doubt longed
to see me perform the magnum opus, but the gentle Armelline would not
allow me to go so far.
After I had finished with Armelline I recollected I had duties towards
Scholastica, and I proceeded to inspect her charms.
It was difficult to decide which of the two deserved to carry off the
apple. Scholastica, perhaps, was strictly speaking the more beautiful of
the two, but I loved Armelline, and love casts a glamour over the beloved
object. Scholastica appeared to me to be as pure a virgin as Armelline,
and I saw that I might do what I liked with her. But I would not abuse
my liberty, not caring to confess how powerful an ally the punch had
However, I did all in my power to give her pleasure without giving her
the greatest pleasure of all. Scholastica, was glutted with voluptuous
enjoyment, and was certain that I had only eluded her desires from
motives of delicacy.
I took them back to the convent, assuring them that I would take them to
the opera on the following evening.
I went to bed, doubtful whether I had gained a victory or sustained a
defeat; and it was not till I awoke that I was in a position to give a
[There is here a considerable hiatus in the authors manuscript.]
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