The Complete Memoires of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 16 out of 70
the whole of our conversation. He laughed heartily, but he said I
was right. Her niece arrived a few minutes after; she was a young
girl about fourteen years of age, reserved, modest, and very
intelligent. I had given her five or six lessons in Italian, and as
she was very fond of that language and studied diligently she was
beginning to speak.
Wishing to pay me her compliments in Italian, she said to me,
"'Signore, sono in cantata di vi Vader in bona salute'."
"I thank you, mademoiselle; but to translate 'I am enchanted', you
must say 'ho pacer', and for to see you, you must say 'di vedervi'."
"I thought, sir, that the 'vi' was to be placed before."
"No, mademoiselle, we always put it behind."
Monsieur and Madame Preodot were dying with laughter; the young lady
was confused, and I in despair at having uttered such a gross
absurdity; but it could not be helped. I took a book sulkily, in the
hope of putting a stop to their mirth, but it was of no use: it
lasted a week. That uncouth blunder soon got known throughout Paris,
and gave me a sort of reputation which I lost little by little, but
only when I understood the double meanings of words better.
Crebillon was much amused with my blunder, and he told me that I
ought to have said after instead of behind. Ah! why have not all
languages the same genius! But if the French laughed at my mistakes
in speaking their language, I took my revenge amply by turning some
of their idioms into ridicule.
"Sir," I once said to a gentleman, "how is your wife?"
"You do her great honour, sir."
"Pray tell me, sir, what her honour has to do with her health?"
I meet in the Bois de Boulogne a young man riding a horse which he
cannot master, and at last he is thrown. I stop the horse, run to the
assistance of the young man and help him up.
"Did you hurt yourself, sir?"
"Oh, many thanks, sir, au contraire."
"Why au contraire! The deuce! It has done you good? Then begin
And a thousand similar expressions entirely the reverse of good
sense. But it is the genius of the language.
I was one day paying my first visit to the wife of President de
N----, when her nephew, a brilliant butterfly, came in, and she
introduced me to him, mentioning my name and my country.
"Indeed, sir, you are Italian?" said the young man. "Upon my word,
you present yourself so gracefully that I would have betted you were
"Sir, when I saw you, I was near making the same mistake; I would
have betted you were Italian."
Another time, I was dining at Lady Lambert's in numerous and
brilliant company. Someone remarked on my finger a cornelian ring on
which was engraved very beautifully the head of Louis XV. My ring
went round the table, and everybody thought that the likeness was
A young marquise, who had the reputation of being a great wit, said
to me in the most serious tone,
"It is truly an antique?"
"The stone, madam, undoubtedly."
Everyone laughed except the thoughtless young beauty, who did not
take any notice of it. Towards the end of the dinner, someone spoke
of the rhinoceros, which was then shewn for twenty-four sous at the
St. Germain's Fair.
"Let us go and see it!" was the cry.
We got into the carriages, and reached the fair. We took several
turns before we could find the place. I was the only gentleman; I
was taking care of two ladies in the midst of the crowd, and the
witty marquise was walking in front of us. At the end of the alley
where we had been told that we would find the animal, there was a man
placed to receive the money of the visitors. It is true that the
man, dressed in the African fashion, was very dark and enormously
stout, yet he had a human and very masculine form, and the beautiful
marquise had no business to make a mistake. Nevertheless, the
thoughtless young creature went up straight to him and said,
"Are you the rhinoceros, sir?"
"Go in, madam, go in."
We were dying with laughing; and the marquise, when she had seen the
animal, thought herself bound to apologize to the master; assuring
him that she had never seen a rhinoceros in her life, and therefore
he could not feel offended if she had made a mistake.
One evening I was in the foyer of the Italian Comedy, where between
the acts the highest noblemen were in the habit of coming, in order
to converse and joke with the actresses who used to sit there waiting
for their turn to appear on the stage, and I was seated near Camille,
Coraline's sister, whom I amused by making love to her. A young
councillor, who objected to my occupying Camille's attention, being a
very conceited fellow, attacked me upon some remark I made respecting
an Italian play, and took the liberty of shewing his bad temper by
criticizing my native country. I was answering him in an indirect
way, looking all the time at Camille, who was laughing. Everybody
had congregated around us and was attentive to the discussion, which,
being carried on as an assault of wit, had nothing to make it
But it seemed to take a serious turn when the young fop, turning the
conversation on the police of the city, said that for some time it
had been dangerous to walk alone at night through the streets of
"During the last month," he added, "the Place de Greve has seen the
hanging of seven men, among whom there were five Italians. An
"Nothing extraordinary in that," I answered; "honest men generally
contrive to be hung far away from their native country; and as a
proof of it, sixty Frenchmen have been hung in the course of last
year between Naples, Rome, and Venice. Five times twelve are sixty;
so you see that it is only a fair exchange."
The laughter was all on my side, and the fine councillor went away
rather crestfallen. One of the gentlemen present at the discussion,
finding my answer to his taste, came up to Camille, and asked her in
a whisper who I was. We got acquainted at once.
It was M. de Marigni, whom I was delighted to know for the sake of my
brother whose arrival in Paris I was expecting every day. M. de
Marigni was superintendent of the royal buildings, and the Academy of
Painting was under his jurisdiction. I mentioned my brother to him,
and he graciously promised to protect him. Another young nobleman,
who conversed with me, invited me to visit him. It was the Duke de
I told him that I had seen him, then only a child, eight years before
in Naples, and that I was under great obligations to his uncle, Don
Lelio. The young duke was delighted, and we became intimate friends.
My brother arrived in Paris in the spring of 1751, and he lodged with
me at Madame Quinson's. He began at once to work with success for
private individuals; but his main idea being to compose a picture to
be submitted to the judgment of the Academy, I introduced him to M.
de Marigni, who received him with great distinction, and encouraged
him by assuring him of his protection. He immediately set to work
with great diligence.
M. de Morosini had been recalled, and M. de Mocenigo had succeeded
him as ambassador of the Republic. M. de Bragadin had recommended me
to him, and he tendered a friendly welcome both to me and to my
brother, in whose favour he felt interested as a Venetian, and as a
young artist seeking to build up a position by his talent.
M. de Mocenigo was of a very pleasant nature; he liked gambling
although he was always unlucky at cards; he loved women, and he was
not more fortunate with them because he did not know how to manage
them. Two years after his arrival in Paris he fell in love with
Madame de Colande, and, finding it impossible to win her affections,
he killed himself.
Madame la Dauphine was delivered of a prince, the Duke of Burgundy,
and the rejoicings indulged in at the birth of that child seem to me
incredible now, when I see what the same nation is doing against the
king. The people want to be free; it is a noble ambition, for
mankind are not made to be the slaves of one man; but with a nation
populous, great, witty, and giddy, what will be the end of that
revolution? Time alone can tell us.
The Duke de Matalona procured me the acquaintance of the two princes,
Don Marc Antoine and Don Jean Baptiste Borghese, from Rome, who were
enjoying themselves in Paris, yet living without display. I had
occasion to remark that when those Roman princes were presented at
the court of France they were only styled "marquis:" It was the same
with the Russian princes, to whom the title of prince was refused
when they wanted to be presented; they were called "knees," but they
did not mind it, because that word meant prince. The court of France
has always been foolishly particular on the question of titles, and
is even now sparing of the title of monsieur, although it is common
enough everywhere every man who was not titled was called Sieur. I
have remarked that the king never addressed his bishops otherwise
than as abbes, although they were generally very proud of their
titles. The king likewise affected to know a nobleman only when his
name was inscribed amongst those who served him.
Yet the haughtiness of Louis XV. had been innoculated into him by
education; it was not in his nature. When an ambassador presented
someone to him, the person thus presented withdrew with the certainty
of having been seen by the king, but that was all. Nevertheless,
Louis XV. was very polite, particularly with ladies, even with his
mistresses, when in public. Whoever failed in respect towards them
in the slightest manner was sure of disgrace, and no king ever
possessed to a greater extent the grand royal virtue which is called
dissimulation. He kept a secret faithfully, and he was delighted
when he knew that no one but himself possessed it.
The Chevalier d'Eon is a proof of this, for the king alone knew and
had always known that the chevalier was a woman, and all the long
discussions which the false chevalier had with the office for foreign
affairs was a comedy which the king allowed to go on, only because it
Louis XV. was great in all things, and he would have had no faults if
flattery had not forced them upon him. But how could he possibly
have supposed himself faulty in anything when everyone around him
repeated constantly that he was the best of kings? A king, in the
opinion of which he was imbued respecting his own person, was a being
of a nature by far too superior to ordinary men for him not to have
the right to consider himself akin to a god. Sad destiny of kings!
Vile flatterers are constantly doing everything necessary to reduce
them below the condition of man.
The Princess of Ardore was delivered about that time of a young
prince. Her husband, the Neapolitan ambassador, entreated Louis XV.
to be god-father to the child; the king consented and presented his
god-son with a regiment; but the mother, who did not like the
military career for her son, refused it. The Marshal de Richelieu
told me that he had never known the king laugh so heartily as when he
heard of that singular refusal.
At the Duchess de Fulvie's I made the acquaintance of Mdlle.
Gaussin, who was called Lolotte. She was the mistress of Lord
Albemarle, the English ambassador, a witty and very generous
nobleman. One evening he complained of his mistress praising the
beauty of the stars which were shining brightly over her head, saying
that she ought to know he could not give them to her. If Lord
Albemarle had been ambassador to the court of France at the time of
the rupture between France and England, he would have arranged all
difficulties amicably, and the unfortunate war by which France lost
Canada would not have taken place. There is no doubt that the
harmony between two nations depends very often upon their respective
ambassadors, when there is any danger of a rupture.
As to the noble lord's mistress, there was but one opinion respecting
her. She was fit in every way to become his wife, and the highest
families of France did not think that she needed the title of Lady
Albemarle to be received with distinction; no lady considered it
debasing to sit near her, although she was well known as the mistress
of the English lord. She had passed from her mother's arms to those
of Lord Albemarle at the age of thirteen, and her conduct was always
of the highest respectability. She bore children whom the ambassador
acknowledged legally, and she died Countess d'Erouville. I shall
have to mention her again in my Memoirs.
I had likewise occasion to become acquainted at the Venetian Embassy
with a lady from Venice, the widow of an English baronet named Wynne.
She was then coming from London with her children, where she had been
compelled to go in order to insure them the inheritance of their late
father, which they would have lost if they had not declared
themselves members of the Church of England. She was on her way back
to Venice, much pleased with her journey. She was accompanied by her
eldest daughter--a young girl of twelve years, who, notwithstanding
her youth, carried on her beautiful face all the signs of perfection.
She is now living in Venice, the widow of Count de Rosenberg, who
died in Venice ambassador of the Empress-Queen Maria Theresa. She is
surrounded by the brilliant halo of her excellent conduct and of all
her social virtues. No one can accuse her of any fault, except that
of being poor, but she feels it only because it does not allow her to
be as charitable as she might wish.
The reader will see in the next chapter how I managed to embroil
myself with the French police.
My Broil With Parisian Justice--Mdlle. Vesian
The youngest daughter of my landlady, Mdlle. Quinson, a young girl
between fifteen and sixteen years of age, was in the habit of often
coming to my room without being called. It was not long before I
discovered that she was in love with me, and I should have thought
myself ridiculous if I had been cruel to a young brunette who was
piquant, lively, amiable, and had a most delightful voice.
During the first four or five months nothing but childish trifles
took place between us; but one night, coming home very late and
finding her fast asleep on my bed, I did not see the necessity of
waking her up, and undressing myself I lay down beside her.... She
left me at daybreak.
Mimi had not been gone three hours when a milliner came with a
charming young girl, to invite herself and her friend to breakfast; I
thought the young girl well worth a breakfast, but I was tired and
wanted rest, and I begged them both to withdraw. Soon after they had
left me, Madame Quinson came with her daughter to make my bed. I put
my dressing-gown on, and began to write.
"Ah! the nasty hussies!" exclaims the mother.
"What is the matter, madam?"
"The riddle is clear enough, sir; these sheets are spoiled."
"I am very sorry, my dear madam, but change them, and the evil will
be remedied at once."
She went out of the room, threatening and grumbling,
"Let them come again, and see if I don't take care of them!"
Mimi remained alone with me, and I addressed her some reproaches for
her imprudence. But she laughed, and answered that Love had sent
those women on purpose to protect Innocence! After that, Mimi was no
longer under any restraint, she would come and share my bed whenever
she had a fancy to do so, unless I sent her back to her own room, and
in the morning she always left me in good time. But at the end of
four months my beauty informed me that our secret would soon be
"I am very sorry," I said to her, "but I cannot help it."
"We ought to think of something."
"Well, do so."
"What can I think of? Well, come what will; the best thing I can do
is not to think of it."
Towards the sixth month she had become so large, that her mother, no
longer doubting the truth, got into a violent passion, and by dint of
blows compelled her to name the father. Mimi said I was the guilty
swain, and perhaps it was not an untruth.
With that great discovery Madame Quinson burst into my room in high
dudgeon. She threw herself on a chair, and when she had recovered
her breath she loaded me with insulting words, and ended by telling
me that I must marry her daughter. At this intimation, understanding
her object and wishing to cut the matter short, I told her that I was
already married in Italy.
"Then why did you come here and get my daughter with child?"
"I can assure you that I did not mean to do so. Besides, how do you
know that I am the father of the child?"
"Mimi says so, and she is certain of it."
"I congratulate her; but I warn you, madam, that I am ready to swear
that I have not any certainty about it."
"Then nothing. If she is pregnant, she will be confined."
She went downstairs, uttering curses and threats: the next day I was
summoned before the commissary of the district. I obeyed the
summons, and found Madame Quinson fully equipped for the battle. The
commissary, after the preliminary questions usual in all legal cases,
asked me whether I admitted myself guilty towards the girl Quinson of
the injury of which the mother, there present personally, complained.
"Monsieur le Commissaire, I beg of you to write word by word the
answer which I am going to give you."
"I have caused no injury whatever to Mimi, the plaintiff's daughter,
and I refer you to the girl herself, who has always had as much
friendship for me as I have had for her."
"But she declares that she is pregnant from your doings."
"That may be, but it is not certain."
"She says it is certain, and she swears that she has never known any
"If it is so, she is unfortunate; for in such a question a man cannot
trust any woman but his own wife."
"What did you give her in order to seduce her?"
"Nothing; for very far from having seduced her, she has seduced me,
and we agreed perfectly in one moment; a pretty woman does not find
it very hard to seduce me."
"Was she a virgin?"
"I never felt any curiosity about it either before or after;
therefore, sir, I do not know."
"Her mother claims reparation, and the law is against you."
"I can give no reparation to the mother; and as for the law I will
obey it when it has been explained to me, and when I am convinced
that I have been guilty against it."
"You are already convinced. Do you imagine that a man who gets an
honest girl with child in a house of which he is an inmate does not
transgress the laws of society?"
"I admit that to be the case when the mother is deceived; but when
that same mother sends her daughter to the room of a young man, are
we not right in supposing that she is disposed to accept peacefully
all the accidents which may result from such conduct?"
"She sent her daughter to your room only to wait on you."
"And she has waited on me as I have waited on her if she sends her to
my room this evening, and if it is agreeable to Mimi, I will
certainly serve her as well as I can; but I will have nothing to do
with her against her will or out of my room, the rent of which I have
always paid punctually."
"You may say what you like, but you must pay the fine."
"I will say what I believe to be just, and I will pay nothing; for
there can be no fine where there is no law transgressed. If I am
sentenced to pay I shall appeal even to the last jurisdiction and
until I obtain justice, for believe me, sir, I know that I am not
such an awkward and cowardly fellow as to refuse my caresses to a
pretty woman who pleases me, and comes to provoke them in my own
room, especially when I feel myself certain of the mother's
I signed the interrogatory after I had read it carefully, and went
away. The next day the lieutenant of police sent for me, and after
he had heard me, as well as the mother and the daughter, he acquitted
me and condemned Madame Quinson in costs. But I could not after all
resist the tears of Mimi, and her entreaties for me to defray the
expenses of her confinement. She was delivered of a boy, who was
sent to the Hotel Dieu to be brought up at the nation's expense.
Soon afterwards Mimi ran away from her mother's house, and she
appeared on the stage at St. Laurent's Fair. Being unknown, she had
no difficulty in finding a lover who took her for a maiden. I found
her very pretty on the stage.
"I did not know," I said to her, "that you were a musician."
"I am a musician about as much as all my companions, not one of whom
knows a note of music. The girls at the opera are not much more
clever, and in spite of that, with a good voice and some taste, one
can sing delightfully."
I advised her to invite Patu to supper, and he was charmed with her.
Some time afterwards, however, she came to a bad end, and
The Italian comedians obtained at that time permission to perform
parodies of operas and of tragedies. I made the acquaintance at that
theatre of the celebrated Chantilly, who had been the mistress of the
Marechal de Saxe, and was called Favart because the poet of that name
had married her. She sang in the parody of 'Thetis et Pelee', by M.
de Fontelle, the part of Tonton, amidst deafening applause. Her
grace and talent won the love of a man of the greatest merit, the
Abbe de Voisenon, with whom I was as intimate as with Crebillon. All
the plays performed at the Italian Comedy, under the name of Madame
Favart, were written by the abbe, who became member of the Academie
after my departure from Paris. I cultivated an acquaintance the
value of which I could appreciate, and he honoured me with his
friendship. It was at my suggestions that the Abbe de Voisenon
conceived the idea of composing oratorios in poetry; they were sung
for the first time at the Tuileries, when the theatres were closed in
consequence of some religious festival. That amiable abbe, who had
written several comedies in secret, had very poor health and a very
small body; he was all wit and gracefulness, famous for his shrewd
repartees which, although very cutting, never offended anyone. It
was impossible for him to have any enemies, for his criticism only
grazed the skin and never wounded deeply. One day, as he was
returning from Versailles, I asked him the news of the court.
"The king is yawning," he answered, "because he must come to the
parliament to-morrow to hold a bed of justice."
"Why is it called a bed of justice?"
"I do not know, unless it is because justice is asleep during the
I afterwards met in Prague the living portrait of that eminent writer
in Count Francois Hardig, now plenipotentiary of the emperor at the
court of Saxony.
The Abbe de Voisenon introduced me to Fontenelle, who was then
ninety-three years of age. A fine wit, an amiable and learned man,
celebrated for his quick repartees, Fontenelle could not pay a
compliment without throwing kindness and wit into it. I told him
that I had come from Italy on purpose to see him.
"Confess, sir," he said to me, "that you have kept me waiting a very
This repartee was obliging and critical at the same time, and pointed
out in a delicate and witty manner the untruth of my compliment. He
made me a present of his works, and asked me if I liked the French
plays; I told him that I had seen 'Thetis et Pelee' at the opera.
That play was his own composition, and when I had praised it, he told
me that it was a 'tete pelee'.
"I was at the Theatre Francais last night," I said, "and saw
"It is the masterpiece of Racine; Voltaire, has been wrong in
accusing me of having criticized that tragedy, and in attributing to
me an epigram, the author of which has never been known, and which
ends with two very poor lines:
"Pour avoir fait pis qu'Esther,
Comment diable as-to pu faire"
I have been told that M. de Fontenelle had been the tender friend of
Madame du Tencin, that M. d'Alembert was the offspring of their
intimacy, and that Le Rond had only been his foster-father. I knew
d'Alembert at Madame de Graffigny's. That great philosopher had the
talent of never appearing to be a learned man when he was in the
company of amiable persons who had no pretension to learning or
the sciences, and he always seemed to endow with intelligence those
who conversed with him.
When I went to Paris for the second time, after my escape from The
Leads of Venice, I was delighted at the idea of seeing again the
amiable, venerable Fontenelle, but he died a fortnight after my
arrival, at the beginning of the year 1757.
When I paid my third visit to Paris with the intention of ending my
days in that capital, I reckoned upon the friendship of
M. d'Alembert, but he died, like Fontenelle, a fortnight after my
arrival, towards the end of 1783. Now I feel that I have seen Paris
and France for the last time. The popular effervescence has
disgusted me, and I am too old to hope to see the end of it.
Count de Looz, Polish ambassador at the French court, invited me in
1751 to translate into Italian a French opera susceptible of great
transformations, and of having a grand ballet annexed to the subject
of the opera itself. I chose 'Zoroastre', by M. de Cahusac. I had
to adapt words to the music of the choruses, always a difficult task.
The music remained very beautiful, of course, but my Italian poetry
was very poor. In spite of that the generous sovereign sent me a
splendid gold snuff-box, and I thus contrived at the same time to
please my mother very highly.
It was about that time that Mdlle. Vesian arrived in Paris with her
brother. She was quite young, well educated, beautiful, most
amiable, and a novice; her brother accompanied her. Her father,
formerly an officer in the French army, had died at Parma, his native
city. Left an orphan without any means of support, she followed the
advice given by her friends; she sold the furniture left by her
father, with the intention of going to Versailles to obtain from the
justice and from the generosity of the king a small pension to enable
her to live. As she got out of the diligence, she took a coach, and
desired to be taken to some hotel close by the Italian Theatre; by
the greatest chance she was brought to the Hotel de Bourgogne, where
I was then staying myself.
In the morning I was told that there were two young Italians, brother
and sister, who did not appear very wealthy, in the next room to
mine. Italians, young, poor and newly arrived, my curiosity was
excited. I went to the door of their room, I knocked, and a young
man came to open it in his shirt.
"I beg you to excuse me, sir," he said to me, "if I receive you in
such a state."
"I have to ask your pardon myself. I only come to offer you my
services, as a countryman and as a neighbour."
A mattress on the floor told me where the young man had slept; a bed
standing in a recess and hid by curtains made me guess where the
sister was. I begged of her to excuse me if I had presented myself
without enquiring whether she was up.
She answered without seeing me, that the journey having greatly tried
her she had slept a little later than usual, but that she would get
up immediately if I would excuse her for a short time.
"I am going to my room, mademoiselle, and I will come back when you
send for me; my room is next door to your own."
A quarter of an hour after, instead of being sent for, I saw a young
and beautiful person enter my room; she made a modest bow, saying
that she had come herself to return my visit, and that her brother
would follow her immediately.
I thanked her for her visit, begged her to be seated, and I expressed
all the interest I felt for her. Her gratitude shewed itself more by
the tone of her voice than by her words, and her confidence being
already captivated she told me artlessly, but not without some
dignity, her short history or rather her situation, and she concluded
by these words:
"I must in the course of the day find a less expensive lodging, for I
only possess six francs."
I asked her whether she had any letters of recommendation, and she
drew out of her pocket a parcel of papers containing seven or eight
testimonials of good conduct and honesty, and a passport.
"Is this all you have, my dear countrywoman?"
"Yes. I intend to call with my brother upon the secretary of war, and
I hope he will take pity on me."
"You do not know anybody here?"
"Not one person, sir; you are the first man in France to whom I have
exposed my situation."
"I am a countryman of yours, and you are recommended to me by your
position as well as by your age; I wish to be your adviser, if you
will permit me."
"Ah, sir! how grateful I would be!"
"Do not mention it. Give me your papers, I will see what is to be
done with them. Do not relate your history to anyone, and do not say
one word about your position. You had better remain at this hotel.
Here are two Louis which I will lend you until you are in a position
to return them to me."
She accepted, expressing her heart-felt gratitude.
Mademoiselle Vesian was an interesting brunette of sixteen. She had
a good knowledge of French and Italian, graceful manners, and a
dignity which endowed her with a very noble appearance. She informed
me of her affairs without meanness, yet without that timidity which
seems to arise from a fear of the person who listens being disposed
to take advantage of the distressing position confided to his honour.
She seemed neither humiliated nor bold; she had hope, and she did not
boast of her courage. Her virtue was by no means ostentatious, but
there was in her an air of modesty which would certainly have put a
restraint upon anyone disposed to fail in respect towards her. I
felt the effect of it myself, for in spite of her beautiful eyes, her
fine figure, of the freshness of her complexion, her transparent
skin, her negligee--in one word, all that can tempt a man and which
filled me with burning desires, I did not for one instant lose
control over myself; she had inspired me with a feeling of respect
which helped me to master my senses, and I promised myself not only
to attempt nothing against her virtue, but also not to be the first
man to make her deviate from the right path. I even thought it
better to postpone to another interview a little speech on that
subject, the result of which might be to make me follow a different
"You are now in a city," I said to her, "in which your destiny must
unfold itself, and in which all the fine qualities which nature has
so bountifully bestowed upon you, and which may ultimately cause your
fortune, may likewise cause your ruin; for here, by dear
countrywoman, wealthy men despise all libertine women except those
who have offered them the sacrifice of their virtue. If you are
virtuous, and are determined upon remaining so, prepare yourself to
bear a great deal of misery; if you feel yourself sufficiently above
what is called prejudice, if, in one word, you feel disposed to
consent to everything, in order to secure a comfortable position, be
very careful not to make a mistake. Distrust altogether the sweet
words which every passionate man will address to you for the sake of
obtaining your favours, for, his passion once satisfied, his ardour
will cool down, and you will find yourself deceived. Be wary of your
adorers; they will give you abundance of counterfeit coin, but do not
trust them far. As far as I am concerned, I feel certain that I
shall never injure you, and I hope to be of some use to you. To
reassure you entirely on my account, I will treat you as if you were
my sister, for I am too young to play the part of your father, and I
would not tell you all this if I did not think you a very charming
Her brother joined us as we were talking together. He was a good-
looking young man of eighteen, well made, but without any style about
him; he spoke little, and his expression was devoid of individuality.
We breakfasted together, and having asked him as we were at table for
what profession he felt an inclination, he answered that he was
disposed to do anything to earn an honourable living.
"Have you any peculiar talent?"
"I write pretty well."
"That is something. When you go out, mistrust everybody; do not
enter any cafe, and never speak to anyone in the streets. Eat your
meals in your room with your sister, and tell the landlady to give
you a small closet to sleep in. Write something in French to-day,
let me have it to-morrow morning, and we will see what can be done.
As for you, mademoiselle, my books are at your disposal, I have your
papers; to-morrow I may have some news to tell you; we shall not see
each other again to-day, for I generally come home very late." She
took a few books, made a modest reverence, and told me with a
charming voice that she had every confidence in me.
Feeling disposed to be useful to her, wherever I went during that day
I spoke of nothing but of her and of her affairs; and everywhere men
and women told me that if she was pretty she could not fail, but that
at all events it would be right for her to take all necessary steps.
I received a promise that the brother should be employed in some
office. I thought that the best plan would be to find some
influential lady who would consent to present Mdlle. Vesian to
M. d'Argenson, and I knew that in the mean time I could support her.
I begged Silvia to mention the matter to Madame de Montconseil, who
had very great influence with the secretary of war. She promised to
do so, but she wished to be acquainted with the young girl.
I returned to the hotel towards eleven o'clock, and seeing that there
was a light still burning in the room of Mdlle. Vesian I knocked at
her door. She opened it, and told me that she had sat up in the hope
of seeing me. I gave her an account of what I had done. I found her
disposed to undertake all that was necessary, and most grateful for
my assistance. She spoke of her position with an air of noble
indifference which she assumed in order to restrain her tears; she
succeeded in keeping them back, but the moisture in her eyes proved
all the efforts she was making to prevent them from falling. We had
talked for two hours, and going from one subject to another I learned
that she had never loved, and that she was therefore worthy of a
lover who would reward her in a proper manner for the sacrifice of
her virtue. It would have been absurd to think that marriage was to
be the reward of that sacrifice; the young girl had not yet made what
is called a false step, but she had none of the prudish feelings of
those girls who say that they would not take such a step for all the
gold in the universe, and usually give way before the slightest
attack; all my young friend wanted was to dispose of herself in a
proper and advantageous manner.
I could not help sighing as I listened to her very sensible remarks,
considering the position in which she was placed by an adverse
destiny. Her sincerity was charming to me; I was burning with
desire. Lucie of Pasean came back to my memory; I recollected how
deeply I had repented the injury I had done in neglecting a sweet
flower, which another man, and a less worthy one, had hastened to
pluck; I felt myself near a lamb which would perhaps become the prey
of some greedy wolf; and she, with her noble feelings, her careful
education, and a candour which an impure breath would perhaps destroy
for ever, was surely not destined for a lot of shame. I regretted I
was not rich enough to make her fortune, and to save her honour and
her virtue. I felt that I could neither make her mine in an
illegitimate way nor be her guardian angel, and that by becoming her
protector I should do her more harm than good; in one word, instead
of helping her out of the unfortunate position in which she was, I
should, perhaps, only contribute to her entire ruin. During that
time I had her near me, speaking to her in a sentimental way, and not
uttering one single word of love; but I kissed her hand and her arms
too often without coming to a resolution, without beginning a thing
which would have too rapidly come to an end, and which would have
compelled me to keep her for myself; in that case, there would have
been no longer any hope of a fortune for her, and for me no means of
getting rid of her. I have loved women even to madness, but I have
always loved liberty better; and whenever I have been in danger of
losing it fate has come to my rescue.
I had remained about four hours with Mdlle. Vesian, consumed by the
most intense desires, and I had had strength enough to conquer them.
She could not attribute my reserve to a feeling of modesty, and not
knowing why I did not shew more boldness she must have supposed that
I was either ill or impotent. I left her, after inviting her to
dinner for the next day.
We had a pleasant dinner, and her brother having gone out for a walk
after our meal we looked together out of the window from which we
could see all the carriages going to the Italian Comedy. I asked her
whether she would like to go; she answered me with a smile of
delight, and we started at once.
I placed her in the amphitheatre where I left her, telling her that
we would meet at the hotel at eleven o'clock. I would not remain
with her, in order to avoid the questions which would have been
addressed to me, for the simpler her toilet was the more interesting
After I had left the theatre, I went to sup at Silvia's and returned
to the hotel. I was surprised at the sight of an elegant carriage; I
enquired to whom it belonged, and I was told that it was the carriage
of a young nobleman who had supped with Mdlle. Vesian. She was
The first thing next morning, as I was putting my head out of the
window, I saw a hackney coach stop at the door of the hotel; a young
man, well dressed in a morning costume, came out of it, and a minute
after I heard him enter the room of Mdlle. Vesian. Courage! I had
made up my mind; I affected a feeling of complete indifference in
order to deceive myself.
I dressed myself to go out, and while I was at my toilet Vesian came
in and told me that he did not like to go into his sister's room
because the gentleman who had supped with her had just arrived.
"That's a matter of course," I said.
"He is rich and very handsome. He wishes to take us himself to
Versailles, and promises to procure some employment for me."
"I congratulate you. Who is he?"
"I do not know."
I placed in an envelope the papers she had entrusted to me, and I
handed them to him to return to his sister. I then went out. When I
came home towards three o'clock, the landlady gave me a letter which
had been left for me by Mdlle. Vesian, who had left the hotel.
I went to my room, opened the letter, and read the following lines:
"I return the money you have lent me with my best thanks. The Count
de Narbonne feels interested in me, and wishes to assist me and my
brother. I shall inform you of everything, of the house in which he
wishes me to go and live, where he promises to supply me all I want.
Your friendship is very dear to me, and I entreat you not to forget
me. My brother remains at the hotel, and my room belongs to me for
the month. I have paid everything."
"Here is," said I to myself, "a second Lucie de Pasean, and I am a
second time the dupe of my foolish delicacy, for I feel certain that
the count will not make her happy. But I wash my hands of it all."
I went to the Theatre Francais in the evening, and enquired about
Narbonne. The first person I spoke to told me,
"He is the son of a wealthy man, but a great libertine and up to his
neck in debts."
Nice references, indeed! For a week I went to all the theatres and
public places in the hope of making the acquaintance of the count,
but I could not succeed, and I was beginning to forget the adventure
when one morning, towards eight o'clock Vesian calling on me, told me
that his sister was in her room and wished to speak to me. I
followed him immediately. I found her looking unhappy and with eyes
red from crying. She told her brother to go out for a walk, and when
he had gone she spoke to me thus:
"M. de Narbonne, whom I thought an honest man, because I wanted him
to be such, came to sit by me where you had left me at the theatre;
he told me that my face had interested him, and he asked me who I
was. I told him what I had told you. You had promised to think of
me, but Narbonne told me that he did not want your assistance, as he
could act by himself. I believed him, and I have been the dupe of my
confidence in him; he has deceived me; he is a villain."
The tears were choking her: I went to the window so as to let her cry
without restraint: a few minutes after, I came back and I sat down by
"Tell me all, my dear Vesian, unburden your heart freely, and do not
think yourself guilty towards me; in reality I have been wrong more
than you. Your heart would not now be a prey to sorrow if I had not
been so imprudent as to leave you alone at the theatre."
"Alas, sir! do not say so; ought I to reproach you because you
thought me so virtuous? Well, in a few words, the monster promised
to shew me every care, every attention, on condition of my giving him
an undeniable, proof of my affection and confidence--namely, to take
a lodging without my brother in the house of a woman whom he
represented as respectable. He insisted upon my brother not living
with me, saying that evil-minded persons might suppose him to be my
lover. I allowed myself to be persuaded. Unhappy creature! How
could I give way without consulting you? He told me that the
respectable woman to whom he would take me would accompany me to
Versailles, and that he would send my brother there so that we should
be both presented to the war secretary. After our first supper he
told me that he would come and fetch me in a hackney coach the next
morning. He presented me with two louis and a gold watch, and I
thought I could accept those presents from a young nobleman who
shewed so much interest in me. The woman to whom he introduced me
did not seem to me as respectable as he had represented her to be.
I have passed one week with her without his doing anything to benefit
my position. He would come, go out, return as he pleased, telling me
every day that it would be the morrow, and when the morrow came there
was always some impediment. At last, at seven o'clock this morning,
the woman told me that the count was obliged to go into the country,
that a hackney coach would bring me back to his hotel, and that he
would come and see me on his return. Then, affecting an air of
sadness, she told me that I must give her back the watch because the
count had forgotten to pay the watchmaker for it. I handed it to her
immediately without saying a word, and wrapping the little I
possessed in my handkerchief I came back here, where I arrived half
an hour since."
"Do you hope to see him on his return from the country?"
"To see him again! Oh, Lord! why have I ever seen him?"
She was crying bitterly, and I must confess that no young girl ever
moved me so deeply as she did by the expression of her grief. Pity
replaced in my heart the tenderness I had felt for her a week before.
The infamous proceedings of Narbonne disgusted me to that extent
that, if I had known where to find him alone, I would immediately
have compelled him to give me reparation. Of course, I took good
care not to ask the poor girl to give me a detailed account of her
stay in the house of Narbonne's respectable procurers; I could guess
even more than I wanted to know, and to insist upon that recital
would have humiliated Mdlle. Vesian. I could see all the infamy of
the count in the taking back of the watch which belonged to her as a
gift, and which the unhappy girl had earned but too well. I did all
I could to dry her tears, and she begged me to be a father to her,
assuring me that she would never again do anything to render her
unworthy of my friendship, and that she would always be guided by my
"Well, my dear young friend, what you must do now is not only to
forget the unworthy count and his criminal conduct towards you, but
also the fault of which you have been guilty. What is done cannot be
undone, and the past is beyond remedy; but compose yourself, and
recall the air of cheerfulness which shone on your countenance a week
ago. Then I could read on your face honesty, candour, good faith,
and the noble assurance which arouses sentiment in those who can
appreciate its charm. You must let all those feelings shine again on
your features; for they alone can interest honest people, and you
require the general sympathy more than ever. My friendship is of
little importance to you, but you may rely upon it all the more
because I fancy that you have now a claim upon it which you had not a
week ago: Be quite certain, I beg, that I will not abandon you until
your position is properly settled. I cannot at present tell you
more; but be sure that I will think of you."
"Ah, my friend! if you promise to think of me, I ask for no more.
Oh! unhappy creature that I am; there is not a soul in the world who
thinks of me."
She was: so deeply moved that she fainted away. I came to her
assistance without calling anyone, and when she had recovered her
consciousness and some calm, I told her a hundred stories, true or
purely imaginary, of the knavish tricks played in Paris by men who
think of nothing but of deceiving young girls. I told her a few
amusing instances in order to make her more cheerful, and at last I
told her that she ought to be thankful for what had happened to her
with Narbonne, because that misfortune would give her prudence for
During that long tete-a-tete I had no difficulty in abstaining from
bestowing any caresses upon her; I did not even take her hand, for
what I felt for her was a tender pity; and I was very happy when at
the end of two hours I saw her calm and determined upon bearing
misfortune like a heroine.
She suddenly rose from her seat, and, looking at me with an air of
modest trustfulness, she said to me,
"Are, you particularly engaged in any way to-day?"
"No, my dear:"
"Well, then, be good enough to take me somewhere out of Paris; to
some place where I can breathe the fresh air freely; I shall then
recover that appearance which you think I must have to interest in my
favour those who will see me; and if I can enjoy a quiet sleep
throughout the next night I feel I shall be happy again."
"I am grateful to you for your confidence in me. We will go out as
soon as I am dressed. Your brother will return in the mean time."
"Oh, never mind my brother!"
"His presence is, on the contrary, of great importance. Recollect,
my dear Vesian, you must make Narbonne ashamed of his own conduct.
You must consider that if he should happen to hear that, on the very
day he abandoned you, you went into the country alone with me, he
would triumph, and would certainly say that he has only treated you
as you deserved. But if you go with your brother and me your
countryman, you give no occasion for slander."
"I blush not to have made that remark myself. We will wait for my
He was not long in coming back, and having sent for a coach we were
on the point of going, when Baletti called on me. I introduced him
to the young lady, and invited him to join our party. He accepted,
and we started. As my only purpose was to amuse Mdlle. Vesian, I
told the coachman to drive us to the Gros Caillou, where we made an
excellent impromptu dinner, the cheerfulness of the guests making up
for the deficiencies of the servants.
Vesian, feeling his head rather heavy, went out for a walk after
dinner, and I remained alone with his sister and my friend Baletti.
I observed with pleasure that Baletti thought her an agreeable girl,
and it gave me the idea of asking him to teach her dancing. I
informed him of her position, of the reason which had brought her to
Paris, of the little hope there was of her obtaining a pension from
the king, and of the necessity there was for her to do something to
earn a living. Baletti answered that he would be happy to do
anything, and when he had examined the figure and the general
conformation of the young girl he said to her,
"I will get Lani to take you for the ballet at the opera."
"Then," I said, "you must begin your lessons tomorrow. Mdlle. Vesian
stops at my hotel."
The young girl, full of wonder at my plan, began to laugh heartily,
"But can an opera dancer be extemporized like a minister of state?
I can dance the minuet, and my ear is good enough to enable me to go
through a quadrille; but with the exception of that I cannot dance
"Most of the ballet girls," said Baletti, "know no more than you do."
"And how much must I ask from M. Lani? I do not think I can expect
"Nothing. The ballet girls are not paid."
"Then where is the advantage for me?" she said, with a sigh; "how
shall I live?"
"Do not think of that. Such as you are, you will soon find ten
wealthy noblemen who will dispute amongst themselves for the honour
of making up for the absence of salary. You have only to make a good
choice, and I am certain that it will not be long before we see you
covered with diamonds."
"Now I understand you. You suppose some great lord will keep me?"
"Precisely; and that will be much better than a pension of four
hundred francs, which you would, perhaps, not obtain without making
the same sacrifice."
Very much surprised, she looked at me to ascertain whether I was
serious or only jesting.
Baletti having left us, I told her it was truly the best thing she
could do, unless she preferred the sad position of waiting-maid to
some grand lady.
"I would not be the 'femme de chambre' even of the queen."
"And 'figurante' at the opera?"
"You are smiling?"
"Yes, for it is enough to make me laugh. I the mistress of a rich
nobleman, who will cover me with diamonds! Well, I mean to choose
"Quite right, my dear; only do not make him jealous."
"I promise you to be faithful to him. But shall he find a situation
for my brother? However, until I am at the opera, until I have met
with my elderly lover, who will give me the means to support myself?"
"I, my dear girl, my friend Baletti, and all my friends, without
other interest than the pleasure of serving you, but with the hope
that you will live quietly, and that we shall contribute to your
happiness. Are you satisfied?"
"Quite so; I have promised myself to be guided entirely by your
advice, and I entreat you to remain always my best friend."
We returned to Paris at night, I left Mdlle. Vesian at the hotel, and
accompanied Baletti to his mother's. At supper-time, my friend
begged Silvia to speak to M. Lani in favour of our 'protegee', Silvia
said that it was a much better plan than to solicit a miserable
pension which, perhaps, would not be granted. Then we talked of a
project which was then spoken of, namely to sell all the appointments
of ballet girls and of chorus singers at the opera. There was even
some idea of asking a high price for them, for it was argued that the
higher the price the more the girls would be esteemed. Such a
project, in the midst of the scandalous habits and manners of the
time, had a sort of apparent wisdom; for it would have ennobled in a
way a class of women who with very few exceptions seem to glory in
There were, at that time at the opera, several figurantes, singers
and dancers, ugly rather than plain, without any talent, who, in
spite of it all, lived in great comfort; for it is admitted that at
the opera a girl must needs renounce all modesty or starve. But if a
girl, newly arrived there, is clever enough to remain virtuous only
for one month, her fortune is certainly made, because then the
noblemen enjoying a reputation of wisdom and virtue are the only ones
who seek to get hold of her. Those men are delighted to hear their
names mentioned in connection with the newly-arrived beauty; they
even go so far as to allow her a few frolics, provided she takes
pride in what they give her, and provided her infidelities are not
too public. Besides, it is the fashion never to go to sup with one's
mistress without giving her notice of the intended visit, and
everyone must admit that it is a very wise custom.
I came back to the hotel towards eleven o'clock, and seeing that
Mdlle. Vesian's room was still open I went in. She was in bed.
"Let me get up," she said, "for I want to speak to you."
"Do not disturb yourself; we can talk all the same, and I think you
much prettier as you are."
"I am very glad of it."
"What have you got to tell me?"
"Nothing, except to speak of the profession I am going to adopt.
I am going to practice virtue in order to find a man who loves it
only to destroy it."
"Quite true; but almost everything is like that in this life. Man
always refers everything to himself, and everyone is a tyrant in his
own way. I am pleased to see you becoming a philosopher."
"How can one become a philosopher?"
"Must one think a long while?"
"Then it is never over?"
"Never; but one improves as much as possible, and obtains the sum of
happiness which one is susceptible of enjoying."
"And how can that happiness be felt?"
"By all the pleasure which the philosopher can procure when he is
conscious of having obtained them by his own exertions, and
especially by getting rid of the many prejudices which make of the
majority of men a troop of grown-up children."
"What is pleasure? What is meant by prejudices?"
"Pleasure is the actual enjoyment of our senses; it is a complete
satisfaction given to all our natural and sensual appetites; and,
when our worn-out senses want repose, either to have breathing time,
or to recover strength, pleasure comes from the imagination, which
finds enjoyment in thinking of the happiness afforded by rest. The
philosopher is a person who refuses no pleasures which do not produce
greater sorrows, and who knows how to create new ones."
"And you say that it is done by getting rid of prejudices? Then tell
me what prejudices are, and what must be done to get rid of them."
"Your question, my dear girl, is not an easy one to answer, for moral
philosophy does not know a more important one, or a more difficult
one to decide; it is a lesson which lasts throughout life. I will
tell you in a few words that we call prejudice every so-called duty
for the existence of which we find no reason in nature."
"Then nature must be the philosopher's principal study?"
"Indeed it is; the most learned of philosophers is the one who
commits the fewest errors."
"What philosopher, in your opinion, has committed the smallest
quantity of errors?"
"Yet he was in error sometimes?"
"Yes, in metaphysics."
"Oh! never mind that, for I think he could very well manage without
"You are mistaken; morals are only the metaphysics of physics; nature
is everything, and I give you leave to consider as a madman whoever
tells you that he has made a new discovery in metaphysics. But if I
went on, my dear, I might appear rather obscure to you. Proceed
slowly, think; let your maxims be the consequence of just reasoning,
and keep your happiness in view; in the end you must be happy."
"I prefer the lesson you have just taught me to the one which M.
Baletti will give me to-morrow; for I have an idea that it will weary
me, and now I am much interested."
"How do you know that you are interested?"
"Because I wish you not to leave me."
"Truly, my dear Vesian, never has a philosopher described sympathy
better than you have just done. How happy I feel! How is it that I
wish to prove it by kissing you?"
"No doubt because, to be happy, the soul must agree with the senses."
"Indeed, my divine Vesian? Your intelligence is charming."
"It is your work, dear friend; and I am so grateful to you that I
share your desires."
"What is there to prevent us from satisfying such natural desires?
Let us embrace one another tenderly."
What a lesson in philosophy! It seemed to us such a sweet one, our
happiness was so complete, that at daybreak we were still kissing one
another, and it was only when we parted in the morning that we
discovered that the door of the room had remained open all night.
Baletti gave her a few lessons, and she was received at the opera;
but she did not remain there more than two or three months,
regulating her conduct carefully according to the precepts I had laid
out for her. She never received Narbonne again, and at last accepted
a nobleman who proved himself very different from all others, for the
first thing he did was to make her give up the stage, although it was
not a thing according to the fashion of those days. I do not
recollect his name exactly; it was Count of Tressan or Trean. She
behaved in a respectable way, and remained with him until his death.
No one speaks of her now, although she is living in very easy
circumstances; but she is fifty-six, and in Paris a woman of that age
is no longer considered as being among the living.
After she left the Hotel de Bourgogne, I never spoke to her.
Whenever I met her covered with jewels and diamonds, our souls
saluted each other with joy, but her happiness was too precious for
me to make any attempt against it. Her brother found a situation,
but I lost sight of him.
The Beautiful O-Morphi--The Deceitful Painter--I Practice Cabalism
for the Duchess de Chartres I Leave Paris--My Stay in Dresden and My
Departure from that City
I went to St. Lawrence's Fair with my friend Patu, who, taking it
into his head to sup with a Flemish actress known by the name of
Morphi, invited me to go with him. I felt no inclination for the
girl, but what can we refuse to a friend? I did as he wished. After
we had supped with the actress, Patu fancied a night devoted to a
more agreeable occupation, and as I did not want to leave him I asked
for a sofa on which I could sleep quietly during the night.
Morphi had a sister, a slovenly girl of thirteen, who told me that if
I would give her a crown she would abandon her bed to me. I agreed
to her proposal, and she took me to a small closet where I found a
straw palliasse on four pieces of wood.
"Do you call this a bed, my child?"
"I have no other, sir."
"Then I do not want it, and you shall not have the crown."
"Did you intend undressing yourself?"
"What an idea! There are no sheets."
"Do you sleep with your clothes on?"
"Well, then, go to bed as usual, and you shall have the crown."
"I want to see you undressed."
"But you won't do anything to me?"
"Not the slightest thing."
She undressed, laid herself on her miserable straw bed, and covered
herself with an old curtain. In that state, the impression made by
her dirty tatters disappeared, and I only saw a perfect beauty. But
I wanted to see her entirely. I tried to satisfy my wishes, she
opposed some resistance, but a double crown of six francs made her
obedient, and finding that her only fault was a complete absence of
cleanliness, I began to wash her with my own hands.
You will allow me, dear reader, to suppose that you possess a simple
and natural knowledge, namely, that admiration under such
circumstances is inseparable from another kind of approbation;
luckily, I found the young Morphi disposed to let me do all I
pleased, except the only thing for which I did not care! She told me
candidly that she would not allow me to do that one thing, because in
her sister's estimation it was worth twenty-five louis. I answered
that we would bargain on that capital point another time, but that we
would not touch it for the present. Satisfied with what I said, all
the rest was at my disposal, and I found in her a talent which had
attained great perfection in spite of her precocity.
The young Helene faithfully handed to her sister the six francs I had
given her, and she told her the way in which she had earned them.
Before I left the house she told me that, as she was in want of
money, she felt disposed to make some abatement on the price of
twenty-five louis. I answered with a laugh that I would see her
about it the next day. I related the whole affair to Patu, who
accused me of exaggeration; and wishing to prove to him that I was a
real connoisseur of female beauty I insisted upon his seeing Helene
as I had seen her. He agreed with me that the chisel of Praxiteles
had never carved anything more perfect. As white as a lily, Helene
possessed all the beauties which nature and the art of the painter
can possibly combine. The loveliness of her features was so heavenly
that it carried to the soul an indefinable sentiment of ecstacy, a
delightful calm. She was fair, but her beautiful blue eyes equalled
the finest black eyes in brilliance.
I went to see her the next evening, and, not agreeing about the
price, I made a bargain with her sister to give her twelve francs
every time I paid her a visit, and it was agreed that we would occupy
her room until I should make up my mind to pay six hundred francs.
It was regular usury, but the Morphi came from a Greek race, and was
above prejudices. I had no idea of giving such a large sum, because
I felt no wish to obtain what it would have procured me; what I
obtained was all I cared for.
The elder sister thought I was duped, for in two months I had paid
three hundred francs without having done anything, and she attributed
my reserve to avarice. Avarice, indeed! I took a fancy to possess a
painting of that beautiful body, and a German artist painted it for
me splendidly for six louis. The position in which he painted it was
delightful. She was lying on her stomach, her arms and her bosom
leaning on a pillow, and holding her head sideways as if she were
partly on the back. The clever and tasteful artist had painted her
nether parts with so much skill and truth that no one could have
wished for anything more beautiful; I was delighted with that
portrait; it was a speaking likeness, and I wrote under it,
"O-Morphi," not a Homeric word, but a Greek one after all, and
But who can anticipate the wonderful and secret decrees of destiny!
My friend Patu wished to have a copy of that portrait; one cannot
refuse such a slight service to a friend, and I gave an order for it
to the same painter. But the artist, having been summoned to
Versailles, shewed that delightful painting with several others, and
M. de St. Quentin found it so beautiful that he lost no time in
shewing it the king. His Most Christian Majesty, a great connoisseur
in that line, wished to ascertain with his own eyes if the artist had
made a faithful copy; and in case the original should prove as
beautiful as the copy, the son of St. Louis knew very well what to do
M. de St. Quentin, the king's trusty friend, had the charge of that
important affair; it was his province: He enquired from the painter
whether the original could be brought to Versailles, and the artist,
not supposing there would be any difficulty, promised to attend to
He therefore called on me to communicate the proposal; I thought it
was delightful, and I immediately told the sister, who jumped for
joy. She set to work cleaning, washing and clothing the young
beauty, and two or three days after they went to Versailles with the
painter to see what could be done. M. de St. Quentin's valet,
having received his instructions from his master, took the two
females to a pavilion in the park, and the painter went to the hotel
to await the result of his negotiation. Half an hour afterwards the
king entered the pavilion alone, asked the young O-Morphi if she was
a Greek woman, took the portrait out of his pocket, and after a
careful examination exclaimed,
"I have never seen a better likeness."
His majesty then sat down, took the young girl on his knees, bestowed
a few caresses on her, and having ascertained with his royal hand
that the fruit had not yet been plucked, he gave her a kiss.
O-Morphi was looking attentively at her master, and smiled.
"What are you laughing at?" said the king.
"I laugh because you and a crown of six francs are as like as two
That naivete made the king laugh heartily, and he asked her whether
she would like to remain in Versailles.
"That depends upon my sister," answered the child.
But the sister hastened to tell the king that she could not aspire to
a greater honour. The king locked them up again in the pavilion and
went away, but in less than a quarter of an hour St. Quentin came to
fetch them, placed the young girl in an apartment under the care of a
female attendant, and with the sister he went to meet at the hotel
the German artist to whom he gave fifty Louis for the portrait, and
nothing to Morphi. He only took her address, promising her that she
would soon hear from him; the next day she received one thousand
Louis. The worthy German gave me twenty-five louis for my portrait,
with a promise to make a careful copy of the one I had given to Patu,
and he offered to paint for me gratuitously the likeness of every
girl of whom I might wish to keep a portrait.
I enjoyed heartily the pleasure of the good Fleeting, when she found
herself in possession of the thousand gold pieces which she had
received. Seeing herself rich, and considering me as the author of
her fortune, she did not know how to shew me her gratitude.
The young and lovely O-Morphi--for the king always called her by that
name--pleased the sovereign by her simplicity and her pretty ways
more even than by her rare beauty--the most perfect, the most
regular, I recollect to have ever seen. He placed her in one of the
apartments of his Parc-dux-cerfs--the voluptuous monarch's harem, in
which no one could get admittance except the ladies presented at the
court. At the end of one year she gave birth to a son who went, like
so many others, God knows where! for as long as Queen Mary lived no
one ever knew what became of the natural children of Louis XV.
O-Morphi fell into disgrace at the end of three years, but the king,
as he sent her away, ordered her to receive a sum of four hundred
thousand francs which she brought as a dowry to an officer from
Britanny. In 1783, happening to be in Fontainebleau, I made the
acquaintance of a charming young man of twenty-five, the offspring of
that marriage and the living portrait of his mother, of the history
of whom he had not the slightest knowledge, and I thought it my duty
not to enlighten him. I wrote my name on his tablets, and I begged
him to present my compliments to his mother.
A wicked trick of Madame de Valentinois, sister-in-law of the Prince
of Monaco, was the cause of O-Morphi's disgrace. That lady, who was
well known in Paris, told her one day that, if she wished to make the
king very merry, she had only to ask him how he treated his old wife.
Too simple to guess the snare thus laid out for her, O-Morphi
actually asked that impertinent question; but Louis XV. gave her a
look of fury, and exclaimed,
"Miserable wretch! who taught you to address me that question?"
The poor O-Morphi, almost dead with fright, threw herself on her
knees, and confessed the truth.
The king left her and never would see her again. The Countess de
Valentinois was exiled for two years from the court. Louis XV., who
knew how wrongly he was behaving towards his wife as a husband, would
not deserve any reproach at her hands as a king, and woe to anyone
who forgot the respect due to the queen!
The French are undoubtedly the most witty people in Europe, and
perhaps in the whole world, but Paris is, all the same, the city for
impostors and quacks to make a fortune. When their knavery is found
out people turn it into a joke and laugh, but in the midst of the
merriment another mountebank makes his appearance, who does something
more wonderful than those who preceded him, and he makes his fortune,
whilst the scoffing of the people is in abeyance. It is the
unquestionable effects of the power which fashion has over that
amiable, clever, and lively nation. If anything is astonishing, no
matter how extravagant it may be, the crowd is sure to welcome it
greedily, for anyone would be afraid of being taken for a fool if he
should exclaim, "It is impossible!" Physicians are, perhaps, the
only men in France who know that an infinite gulf yawns between the
will and the deed, whilst in Italy it is an axiom known to everybody;
but I do not mean to say that the Italians are superior to the
A certain painter met with great success for some time by announcing
a thing which was an impossibility--namely, by pretending that he
could take a portrait of a person without seeing the individual, and
only from the description given. But he wanted the description to be
thoroughly accurate. The result of it was that the portrait did
greater honour to the person who gave the description than--to the
painter himself, but at the same time the informer found himself
under the obligation of finding the likeness very good; otherwise the
artist alleged the most legitimate excuse, and said that if the
likeness was not perfect the fault was to be ascribed to the person
who had given an imperfect description.
One evening I was taking supper at Silvia's when one of the guests
spoke of that wonderful new artist, without laughing, and with every
appearance of believing the whole affair.
"That painter," added he, "has already painted more than one hundred
portraits, and they are all perfect likenesses."
Everybody was of the same opinion; it was splendid. I was the only
one who, laughing heartily, took the liberty of saying it was absurd
and impossible. The gentleman who had brought the wonderful news,
feeling angry, proposed a wager of one hundred louis. I laughed all
the more because his offer could not be accepted unless I exposed
myself to being made a dupe.
"But the portraits are all admirable likenesses."
"I do not believe it, or if they are then there must be cheating
But the gentleman, being bent upon convincing Silvia and me--for she
had taken my part proposed to make us dine with the artist; and we
The next day we called upon the painter, where we saw a quantity of
portraits, all of which the artist claimed to be speaking likenesses;
as we did not know the persons whom they represented we could not
deny his claim.
"Sir," said Silvia to the artist, "could you paint the likeness of my
daughter without seeing her?"
"Yes, madam, if you are certain of giving me an exact description of
the expression of her features."
We exchanged a glance, and no more was said about it. The painter
told us that supper was his favourite meal, and that he would be
delighted if we would often give him the pleasure of our company.
Like all quacks, he possessed an immense quantity of letters and
testimonials from Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyons, Rouen, etc., which paid
the highest compliments to the perfection of his portraits, or gave
descriptions for new pictures ordered from him. His portraits, by
the way, had to be paid for in advance.
Two or three days afterwards I met his pretty niece, who obligingly
upbraided me for not having yet availed myself of her uncle's
invitation to supper; the niece was a dainty morsel worthy of a king,
and, her reproaches being very flattering to my vanity I promised I
would come the next day. In less than a week it turned out a serious
engagement. I fell in love with the interesting niece, who, being
full of wit and well disposed to enjoy herself, had no love for me,
and granted me no favour. I hoped, and, feeling that I was caught, I
felt it was the only thing I could do.
One day that I was alone in my room, drinking my coffee and thinking
of her, the door was suddenly opened without anyone being announced,
and a young man came in. I did not recollect him, but, without
giving me time to ask any questions, he said to me,
"Sir, I have had the honour of meeting you at the supper-table of M.
Samson, the painter."
"Ah! yes; I beg you to excuse me, sir, I did not at first recollect
"It is natural, for your eyes are always on Mdlle. Samson."
"Very likely, but you must admit that she is a charming creature."
"I have no difficulty whatever in agreeing with you; to my misery, I
know it but too well."
"You are in love with her?"
"Alas, yes! and I say, again, to my misery."
"To your misery? But why, do not you gain her love?"
"That is the very thing I have been striving for since last year, and
I was beginning to have some hope when your arrival has reduced me to
"I have reduced you to despair?"
"I am very sorry, but I cannot help it."
"You could easily help it; and, if you would allow me, I could
suggest to you the way in which you could greatly oblige me."
"You might never put your foot in the house again."
"That is a rather singular proposal, but I agree that it is truly the
only thing I can do if I have a real wish to oblige you. Do you
think, however, that in that case you would succeed in gaining her
"Then it will be my business to succeed. Do not go there again, and
I will take care of the rest."
"I might render you that very great service; but you must confess
that you must have a singular opinion of me to suppose that I am a
man to do such a thing."
"Yes, sir, I admit that it may appear singular; but I take you for a
man of great sense and sound intellect, and after considering the
subject deeply I have thought that you would put yourself in my
place; that you would not wish to make me miserable, or to expose
your own life for a young girl who can have inspired you with but a
passing fancy, whilst my only wish is to secure the happiness or the
misery of my life, whichever it may prove, by uniting her existence
"But suppose that I should intend, like you, to ask her in marriage?"
"Then we should both be worthy of pity, and one of us would have
ceased to exist before the other obtained her, for as long as I shall
live Mdlle. Samson shall not be the wife of another."
This young man, well-made, pale, grave, as cold as a piece of marble,
madly in love, who, in his reason mixed with utter despair, came to
speak to me in such a manner with the most surprising calm, made me
pause and consider. Undoubtedly I was not afraid, but although in
love with Mdlle. Samson I did not feel my passion sufficiently strong
to cut the throat of a man for the sake of her beautiful eyes, or to
lose my own life to defend my budding affection. Without answering
the young man, I began to pace up and down my room, and for a quarter
of an hour I weighed the following question which I put to myself:
Which decision will appear more manly in the eyes of my rival and
will win my own esteem to the deeper degree, namely-to accept coolly
his offer to cut one another's throats, or to allay his anxiety by
withdrawing from the field with dignity?
Pride whispered, Fight; Reason said, Compel thy rival to acknowledge
thee a wiser man than he is.
"What would you think of me, sir," I said to him, with an air of
decision, "if I consented to give up my visits to Mdlle. Samson?"
"I would think that you had pity on a miserable man, and I say that
in that case you will ever find me ready to shed the last drop of my
blood to prove my deep gratitude."
"Who are you?"
"My name is Garnier, I am the only son of M. Garnier, wine merchant
in the Rue de Seine."
"Well, M. Gamier, I will never again call on Mdlle. Samson. Let us
"Until death. Farewell, sir."
"Adieu, be happy!"
Patu came in five minutes after Garnier had left me: I related the
adventure to him, and he thought I was a hero.
"I would have acted as you have done," he observed, "but I would not
have acted like Garnier."
It was about that time that the Count de Melfort, colonel of the
Orleans regiment, entreated me through Camille, Coraline's sister, to
answer two questions by means of my cabalism. I gave two answers
very vague, yet meaning a great deal; I put them under a sealed
envelope and gave them to Camille, who asked me the next day to
accompany her to a place which she said she could not name to me.
I followed her; she took me to the Palais-Royal, and then, through a
narrow staircase, to the apartments of the Duchess de Chartres.
I waited about a quarter of an hour, at the end of which time the
duchess came in and loaded Camille with caresses for having brought
me. Then addressing herself to me, she told me, with dignity yet
very graciously, the difficulty she experienced in understanding the
answers I had sent and which she was holding in her hand. At first I
expressed some perplexity at the questions having emanated from her
royal highness, and I told her afterwards that I understood cabalism,
but that I could not interpret the meaning of the answers obtained
through it, and that her highness must ask new questions likely to
render the answers easier to be understood. She wrote down all she
could not make out and all she wanted to know.
"Madam, you must be kind enough to divide the questions, for the
cabalistic oracle never answers two questions at the same time."
"Well, then, prepare the questions yourself."
"Your highness will excuse me, but every word must be written with
your own hand. Recollect, madam, that you will address yourself to a
superior intelligence knowing all your secrets"
She began to write, and asked seven or eight questions. She read
them over carefully, and said, with a face beaming with noble
"Sir, I wish to be certain that no one shall ever know what I have
"Your highness may rely on my honour."
I read attentively, and I saw that her wish for secrecy was
reasonable, and that if I put the questions in my pocket I should run
the risk of losing them and implicating myself.
"I only require three hours to complete my task," I said to the
duchess, "and I wish your highness to feel no anxiety. If you have
any other engagement you can leave me here alone, provided I am not
disturbed by anybody. When it is completed, I will put it all in a
sealed envelope; I only want your highness to tell me to whom I must
deliver the parcel."
"Either to me or to Madame de Polignac, if you know her."
"Yes, madam, I have the honour to know her."
The duchess handed me a small tinder-box to enable me to light a wax-
candle, and she went away with Camille. I remained alone locked up
in the room, and at the end of three hours, just as I had completed
my task, Madame de Polignac came for the parcel and I left the
The Duchess de Chartres, daughter of the Prince of Conti, was twenty-
six years of age. She was endowed with that particular sort of wit
which renders a woman adorable. She was lively, above the prejudices
of rank, cheerful, full of jest, a lover of pleasure, which she
preferred to a long life. "Short and sweet," were the words she had
constantly on her lips. She was pretty but she stood badly, and used
to laugh at Marcel, the teacher of graceful deportment, who wanted to
correct her awkward bearing. She kept her head bent forward and her
feet turned inside when dancing; yet she was a charming dancer.
Unfortunately her face was covered with pimples, which injured her
beauty very greatly. Her physicians thought that they were caused by
a disease of the liver, but they came from impurity of the blood,
which at last killed her, and from which she suffered throughout her
The questions she had asked from my oracle related to affairs
connected with her heart, and she wished likewise to know how she
could get rid of the blotches which disfigured her. My answers were
rather obscure in such matters as I was not specially acquainted
with, but they were very clear concerning her disease, and my oracle
became precious and necessary to her highness.
The next day, after dinner, Camille wrote me a note, as I expected,
requesting me to give up all other engagements in order to present
myself at five o'clock at the Palais-Royal, in the same room in which
the duchess had already received me the day before. I was punctual.
An elderly valet de chambre, who was waiting for me, immediately went
to give notice of my arrival, and five minutes after the charming
princess made her appearance. After addressing me in a very
complimentary manner, she drew all my answers from her pocket, and
enquired whether I had any pressing engagements.
"Your highness may be certain that I shall never have any more
important business than to attend to your wishes."
"Very well; I do not intend to go out, and we can work."
She then shewed me all the questions which she had already prepared
on different subjects, and particularly those relating to the cure of
her pimples. One circumstance had contributed to render my oracle
precious to her, because nobody could possibly know it, and I had
guessed it. Had I not done so, I daresay it would have been all the
same. I had laboured myself under the same disease, and I was enough
of a physician to be aware that to attempt the cure of a cutaneous
disease by active remedies might kill the patient.
I had already answered that she could not get rid of the pimples on
her face in less than a week, but that a year of diet would be
necessary to effect a radical cure.
We spent three hours in ascertaining what she was to do, and,
believing implicitly in the power and in the science of the oracle,
she undertook to follow faithfully everything ordered. Within one
week all the ugly pimples had entirely disappeared.
I took care to purge her slightly; I prescribed every day what she
was to eat, and forbade the use of all cosmetics; I only advised her
to wash herself morning and evening with plantain water. The modest
oracle told the princess to make use of the same water for her
ablutions of every part of her body where she desired to obtain the
same result, and she obeyed the prescription religiously.
I went to the opera on purpose on the day when the duchess shewed
herself there with a smooth and rosy shin. After the opera, she took
a walk in the great alley of the Palais-Royal, followed by the ladies
of her suite and flattered by everybody. She saw me, and honoured me
with a smile. I was truly happy. Camille, Madame de Polignac, and
M. de Melfort were the only persons who knew that I was the oracle of
the duchess, and I enjoyed my success. But the next day a few
pimples reappeared on her beautiful complexion, and I received an
order to repair at once to the Palais-Royal.
The valet, who did not know me, shewed me into a delightful boudoir
near a closet in which there was a bath. The duchess came in; she
looked sad, for she had several small pimples on the forehead and the
chin. She held in her hand a question for the oracle, and as it was
only a short one I thought it would give her the pleasure of finding
the answer by herself. The numbers translated by the princess
reproached her with having transgressed the regimen prescribed; she
confessed to having drunk some liquors and eaten some ham; but she
was astounded at having found that answer herself, and she could not
understand how such an answer could result from an agglomeration of
numbers. At that moment, one of her women came in to whisper a few
words to her; she told her to wait outside, and turning towards me,
"Have you any objection to seeing one of your friends who is as
delicate as discreet?"
With these words, she hastily concealed in her pocket all the papers
which did not relate to her disease; then she called out.
A man entered the room, whom I took for a stableboy; it was M. de
"See," said the princess to him, "M. Casanova has taught me the
And she shewed him the answer she had obtained herself. The count
could not believe it.
"Well," said the duchess to me, "we must convince him. What shall I
"Anything your highness chooses."
She considered for one instant, and, drawing from her pocket a small
ivory box, she wrote, "Tell me why this pomatum has no longer any
She formed the pyramid, the columns, and the key, as I had taught
her, and as she was ready to get the answer, I told her how to make
the additions and subtractions which seem to come from the numbers,
but which in reality are only arbitrary; then I told her to interpret
the numbers in letters, and I left the room under some pretext. I
came back when I thought that she had completed her translation, and
I found her wrapped in amazement.
"Ah, sir!" she exclaimed, "what an answer!"
"Perhaps it is not the right one; but that will sometimes happen,
"Not the right one, sir? It is divine! Here it is: That pomatum has
no effect upon the skin of a woman who has been a mother."
"I do not see anything extraordinary in that answer, madam."
"Very likely, sir, but it is because you do not know that the pomatum
in question was given to me five years ago by the Abbe de Brosses; it
cured me at that time, but it was ten months before the birth of the
Duke de Montpensier. I would give anything in the world to be
thoroughly acquainted with that sublime cabalistic science."
"What!" said the count, "is it the pomatum the history of which I
"It is astonishing."
"I wish to ask one more question concerning a woman the name of whom
I would rather not give."
"Say the woman whom I have in my thoughts."
She then asked this question: "What disease is that woman suffering
from?" She made the calculation, and the answer which I made her
bring forth was this: "She wants to deceive her husband." This time
the duchess fairly screamed with astonishment.
It was getting very late, and I was preparing to take leave, when M.
de Melfort, who was speaking to her highness, told me that we might
go together. When we were out, he told me that the cabalistic answer
concerning the pomatum was truly wonderful. This was the history of
"The duchess, pretty as you see her now, had her face so fearfully
covered with pimples that the duke, thoroughly disgusted, had not the
courage to come near her to enjoy his rights as a husband, and the
poor princess was pining with useless longing to become a mother.
The Abbe de Brosses cured her with that pomatum, and her beautiful
face having entirely recovered it original bloom she made her
appearance at the Theatre Francais, in the queen's box. The Duke de
Chartres, not knowing that his wife had gone to the theatre, where
she went but very seldom, was in the king's box. He did not
recognize the duchess, but thinking her very handsome he enquired who
she was, and when he was told he would not believe it; he left the
royal box, went to his wife, complimented her, and announced his
visit for the very same night. The result of that visit was, nine
months afterwards, the birth of the Duke of Montpensier, who is now
five years old and enjoys excellent health. During the whole of her
pregnancy the duchess kept her face smooth and blooming, but
immediately after her delivery the pimples reappeared, and the
pomatum remained without any effect."
As he concluded his explanation, the count offered me a tortoise-
shell box with a very good likeness of her royal highness, and said,
"The duchess begs your acceptance of this portrait, and, in case you
would like to have it set she wishes you to make use of this for that
It was a purse of one hundred Louis. I accepted both, and entreated
the count to offer the expressions of my profound gratitude to her
highness. I never had the portrait mounted, for I was then in want
of money for some other purpose.
After that, the duchess did me the honour of sending for me several
times; but her cure remained altogether out of the question; she
could not make up her mind to follow a regular diet. She would
sometimes keep me at work for five or six hours, now in one corner,
now in another, going in and out herself all the time, and having
either dinner or supper brought to me by the old valet, who never
uttered a word.
Her questions to the oracle alluded only to secret affairs which she
was curious to know, and she often found truths with which I was not
myself acquainted, through the answers. She wished me to teach her
the cabalistic science, but she never pressed her wish upon me. She,
however, commissioned M. de Melfort to tell me that, if I would teach
her, she would get me an appointment with an income of twenty-five
thousand francs. Alas! it was impossible! I was madly in love with
her, but I would not for the world have allowed her to guess my
feelings. My pride was the corrective of my love. I was afraid of
her haughtiness humiliating me, and perhaps I was wrong. All I know
is that I even now repent of having listened to a foolish pride. It
is true that I enjoyed certain privileges which she might have
refused me if she had known my love.
One day she wished my oracle to tell her whether it was possible to
cure a cancer which Madame de la Popeliniere had in the breast; I
took it in my head to answer that the lady alluded to had no cancer,
and was enjoying excellent health.
"How is that?" said the duchess; "everyone in Paris believes her to
be suffering from a cancer, and she has consultation upon
consultation. Yet I have faith in the oracle."
Soon afterwards, seeing the Duke de Richelieu at the court, she told
him she was certain that Madame de la Popeliniere was not ill. The
marshal, who knew the secret, told her that she was mistaken; but she
proposed a wager of a hundred thousand francs. I trembled when the
duchess related the conversation to me.
"Has he accepted your wages?" I enquired, anxiously.
"No; he seemed surprised; you are aware that he ought to know the
Three or four days after that conversation, the duchess told me
triumphantly that M. de Richelieu had confessed to her that the
cancer was only a ruse to excite the pity of her husband, with whom
Madame de la Popeliniere wanted to live again on good terms; she
added that the marshal had expressed his willingness to pay one
thousand Louis to know how she had discovered the truth.
"If you wish to earn that sum," said the duchess to me, "I will tell
him all about it."
But I was afraid of a snare; I knew the temper of the marshal, and
the story of the hole in the wall through which he introduced himself
into that lady's apartment, was the talk of all Paris. M. de la
Popeliniere himself had made the adventure more public by refusing to
live with his wife, to whom he paid an income of twelve thousand
The Duchess de Chartres had written some charming poetry on that
amusing affair; but out of her own coterie no one knew it except the
king, who was fond of the princess, although she was in the habit of
scoffing at him. One day, for instance, she asked him whether it was
true that the king of Prussia was expected in Paris. Louis XV.
having answered that it was an idle rumour,
"I am very sorry," she said, "for I am longing to see a king."
My brother had completed several pictures and having decided on
presenting one to M. de Marigny, we repaired one morning to the
apartment of that nobleman, who lived in the Louvre, where all the
artists were in the habit of paying their court to him. We were
shewn into a hall adjoining his private apartment, and having arrived
early we waited for M. de Marigny. My brother's picture was exposed
there; it was a battle piece in the style of Bourguignon.
The first person who passed through the room stopped before the
picture, examined it attentively, and moved on, evidently thinking
that it was a poor painting; a moment afterwards two more persons
came in, looked at the picture, smiled, and said,
"That's the work of a beginner."
I glanced at my brother, who was seated near me; he was in a fever.
In less than a quarter of an hour the room was full of people, and
the unfortunate picture was the butt of everybody's laughter. My
poor brother felt almost dying, and thanked his stars that no one
knew him personally.
The state of his mind was such that I heartily pitied him; I rose
with the intention of going to some other room, and to console him I
told him that M. de Marigny would soon come, and that his approbation
of the picture would avenge him for the insults of the crowd.
Fortunately, this was not my brother's opinion; we left the room
hurriedly, took a coach, went home, and sent our servant to fetch
back the painting. As soon as it had been brought back my brother
made a battle of it in real earnest, for he cut it up with a sword
into twenty pieces. He made up his mind to settle his affairs in
Paris immediately, and to go somewhere else to study an art which he
loved to idolatry; we resolved on going to Dresden together.
Two or three days before leaving the delightful city of Paris I dined
alone at the house of the gate-keeper of the Tuileries; his name was
Conde. After dinner his wife, a rather pretty woman, presented me
the bill, on which every item was reckoned at double its value. I
pointed it out to her, but she answered very curtly that she could
not abate one sou. I paid, and as the bill was receipted with the
words 'femme Conde', I took the pen and to the word 'Conde' I added
'labre', and I went away leaving the bill on the table.
I was taking a walk in the Tuileries, not thinking any more of my
female extortioner, when a small man, with his hat cocked on one side
of his head and a large nosegay in his button-hole, and sporting a
long sword, swaggered up to me and informed me, without any further
explanation, that he had a fancy to cut my throat.
"But, my small specimen of humanity," I said, "you would require to
jump on a chair to reach my throat. I will cut your ears."
"Sacre bleu, monsieur!"
"No vulgar passion, my dear sir; follow me; you shall soon be
I walked rapidly towards the Porte de l'Etoile, where, seeing that
the place was deserted, I abruptly asked the fellow what he wanted,
and why he had attacked me.
"I am the Chevalier de Talvis," he answered. "You have insulted an
honest woman who is under my protection; unsheath!"
With these words he drew his long sword; I unsheathed mine; after a
minute or two I lunged rapidly, and wounded him in the breast. He
jumped backward, exclaiming that I had wounded him treacherously.
"You lie, you rascally mannikin! acknowledge it, or I thrust my
sword through your miserable body."
"You will not do it, for I am wounded; but I insist upon having my
revenge, and we will leave the decision of this to competent judges."
"Miserable wrangler, wretched fighter, if you are not satisfied, I
Back to Full Books