South of France, Casanova, v21
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 3 out of 3
"That may be a tenable position in some cases, but in the present
instance the nature of the affair justifies prompt action. 'Prior in
tempore, Potior in jure'. Prudence bids us attack our enemy. Be so
kind, if you please, to call here at three o'clock in the afternoon."
"I will not fail to do so, and in the meanwhile here are six louis."
"I will keep account of my expenditure on your behalf."
"I want you not to spare money."
"Sir, I shall spend only what is absolutely necessary."
I almost believed that probity had chosen a home for herself amongst
the Lyons advocates, and here I may say, to the honour of the French
bar, that I have never known a more honest body of men than the
advocates of France.
At three o'clock, having seen that the plan was properly drawn up, I
went to Madame d'Urfe's, and for four hours I worked the oracle in a
manner that filled her with delight, and in spite of my vexation I
could not help laughing at her insane fancies on the subject of her
pregnancy. She was certain of it; she felt all the symptoms. Then
she said how sorry she felt that she would not be alive to laugh at
all the hypotheses of the Paris doctors as to her being delivered of
a child, which would be thought very extraordinary in a woman of her
When I got back to the inn I found Marcoline very melancholy. She
said she had been waiting for me to take her to the play, according
to my promise, and that I should not have made her wait in vain.
"You are right, dearest, but an affair of importance has kept me with
the marchioness. Don't be put out."
I had need of some such advice myself, for the legal affair worried
me, and I slept very ill. Early the next morning I saw my counsel,
who told me that my plea had been laid before the criminal
"For the present," said he, "there is nothing more to be done, for as
we don't know where he is we can't cite him to appear."
"Could I not set the police on his track?"
"You might, but I don't advise you to do so. Let us consider what
the result would be. The accuser finding himself accused would have
to defend himself and prove the accusation he has made against you.
But in the present state of things, if he does not put in an
appearance we will get judgment against him for contempt of court and
also for libel. Even his counsel will leave him in the lurch if he
persistently refuses to shew himself."
This quieted my fears a little, and I spent the rest of the day with
Madame d'Urfe, who was going to Paris on the morrow. I promised to
be with her as soon as I had dealt with certain matters which
concerned the honour of the Fraternity R. C..
Her great maxim was always to respect my secrets, and never to
trouble me with her curiosity. Marcoline, who had been pining by
herself all day, breathed again when I told her that henceforth I
should be all for her.
In the morning M. Bono came to me and begged me to go with him to
Possano's counsel, who wanted to speak to me. The advocate said that
his client was a sort of madman who was ready to do anything, as he
believed himself to be dying from the effects of a slow poison.
"He says that even if you are first in the field he will have you
condemned to death. He says he doesn't care if he is sent to prison,
as he is certain of coming out in triumph as he has the proof of all
his accusations. He shews twenty-five louis which you gave him, all
of which are clipped, and he exhibits documents dated from Genoa
stating that you clipped a number of gold pieces, which were melted
by M. Grimaldi in order that the police might not find them in your
possession. He has even a letter from your brother, the abbe,
deposing against you. He is a madman, a victim to syphilis, who
wishes to send you to the other world before himself, if he can. Now
my advice to you is to give him some money and get rid of him. He
tells me that he is the father of a family, and that if M. Bono would
give him a thousand louis he would sacrifice vengeance to necessity.
He told me to speak to M. Bono about it; and now, sir what do you
"That which my just indignation inspires me to say regarding a rascal
whom I rescued from poverty, and who nevertheless pursues me with
atrocious calumnies; he shall not have one single farthing of mine."
I then told the Genoa story, putting things in their true light, and
adding that I could call M. Grimaldi as a witness if necessary.
"I have delayed presenting the plea," said the counsel, "to see if
the scandal could be hushed up in any way, but I warn you that I
shall now present it."
"Do so; I shall be greatly obliged to you."
I immediately called on my advocate, and told him of the rascal's
proposal; and he said I was quite right to refuse to have any
dealings with such a fellow. He added that as I had M. Bono as a
witness I ought to make Possano's advocate present his plea, and I
authorized him to take proceedings in my name.
A clerk was immediately sent to the criminal lieutenant, praying him
to command the advocate to bring before him, in three days, the plea
of one Anami, alias Pogomas, alias Possano, the said plea being
against Jacques Casanova, commonly called the Chevalier de Seingalt.
This document, to which I affixed my signature, was laid before the
I did not care for the three days' delay, but my counsel told me it
was always given, and that I must make up my mind to submit to all
the vexation I should be obliged to undergo, even if we were wholly
As Madame d'Urfe had taken her departure in conformity with the
orders of Paralis, I dined with Marcoline at the inn, and tried to
raise my spirits by all the means in my power. I took my mistress to
the best milliners and dressmakers in the town, and bought her
everything she took a fancy to; and then we went to the theatre,
where she must have been pleased to see all eyes fixed on her.
Madame Pernon, who was in the next box to ours, made me introduce
Marcoline to her; and from the way they embraced each other when the
play was over I saw they were likely to become intimate, the only
obstacle to their friendship being that Madame Pernon did not know a
word of Italian, and that Marcoline did not dare to speak a word of
French for fear of making herself ridiculous. When we got back to
the inn, Marcoline told me that her new friend had given her the
Florentine kiss: this is the shibboleth of the sect.
The pretty nick-nacks I had given her had made her happy; her ardour
was redoubled, and the night passed joyously.
I spent the next day in going from shop to shop, making fresh
purchases for Marcoline, and we supped merrily at Madame Pernon's.
The day after, M. Bono came to see me at an early hour with a smile
of content on his face.
"Let us go and breakfast at a coffee-house," said he; "we will have
some discussion together."
When we were breakfasting he shewed me a letter written by Possano,
in which the rascal said that he was ready to abandon proceedings
provided that M. de Seingalt gave him a hundred louis, on receipt of
which he promised to leave Lyons immediately.
"I should be a great fool," said I, "if I gave the knave more money
to escape from the hands of justice. Let him go if he likes, I won't
prevent him; but he had better not expect me to give him anything.
He will have a writ out against him to-morrow. I should like to see
him branded by the hangman. He has slandered me, his benefactor, too
grievously; let him prove what he says, or be dishonoured before all
"His abandoning the proceedings," said M. Bono, "would in my opinion
amount to the same thing as his failing to prove his charges, and you
would do well to prefer it to a trial which would do your reputation
no good, even if you were completely successful. And the hundred
louis is nothing in comparison with the costs of such a trial."
"M. Bono, I value your advice very highly, and still more highly the
kindly feelings which prompt you, but you must allow me to follow my
own opinion in this case."
I went to my counsel and told him of the fresh proposal that Possano
had made, and of my refusal to listen to it, begging him to take
measures for the arrest of the villain who had vowed my death.
The same evening I had Madame Pernon and M. Bono, who was her lover,
to sup with me; and as the latter had a good knowledge of Italian
Marcoline was able to take part in the merriment of the company.
The next day Bono wrote to tell me that Possano had left Lyons never
to return, and that he had signed a full and satisfactory retraction.
I was not surprised to hear of his flight, but the other circumstance
I could not understand. I therefore hastened to call on Bono, who
showed me the document, which was certainly plain enough.
"Will that do?" said he.
"So well that I forgive him, but I wonder he did not insist on the
"My dear sir, I gave him the money with pleasure, to prevent a
scandalous affair which would have done us all harm in becoming
public. If I had told you nothing, you couldn't have taken any steps
in the matter, and I felt myself obliged to repair the mischief I had
done in this way. You would have known nothing about it, if you had
said that you were not satisfied. I am only too glad to have been
enabled to skew my friendship by this trifling service. We will say
no more about it."
"Very good," said I, embracing him, "we will say no more, but please
to receive the assurance of my gratitude."
I confess I felt much relieved at being freed from this troublesome
Back to Full Books