The Complete Memoires of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 18 out of 70
obtain, against a note of hand payable in six months, a ring of the
value of two hundred sequins, and I am certain to sell it again this
very day for the same amount. That sum, is very necessary to me just
now, but the jeweller, who knows you, will not let me have it without
your security. Will you oblige me in this instance? I know that you
lost a great deal last night; if you want some money I will give you
one hundred sequins, which you will return when the note of hand
How could I refuse him? I knew very well that I would be duped, but
I loved his sister so much:
"I am ready," said I to him, "to sign the note of hand, but you are
wrong in abusing my love for your sister in such a manner."
We went out, and the jeweller having accepted my security the bargain
was completed. The merchant, who knew me only by name, thinking of
paying me a great compliment, told P---- C---- that with my guarantee
all his goods were at his service. I did not feel flattered by the
compliment, but I thought I could see in it the knavery of P----
C----, who was clever enough to find out, out of a hundred, the fool
who without any reason placed confidence in me when I possessed
nothing. It was thus that my angelic C---- C----, who seemed made to
insure my happiness, was the innocent cause of my ruin.
At noon P---- C---- brought his sister; and wishing most likely to
prove its honesty--for a cheat always tries hard to do that--he gave
me back the letter of exchange which I had endorsed for the Cyprus
wine, assuring me likewise that at our next meeting he would hand me
the one hundred sequins which he had promised me.
I took my mistress as usual to Zuecca; I agreed for the garden to be
kept closed, and we dined under a vine-arbour. My dear C---- C----
seemed to me more beautiful since she was mine, and, friendship being
united to love we felt a delightful sensation of happiness which
shone on our features. The hostess, who had found me generous, gave
us some excellent game and some very fine fish; her daughter served
us. She also came to undress my little wife as soon as we had gone
upstairs to give ourselves up to the sweet pleasures natural to a
young married couple.
When we were alone my loved asked me what was the meaning of the one
hundred sequins which her brother had promised to bring me, and I
told her all that had taken place between him and me.
"I entreat you, darling," she said to me, "to refuse all the demands
of my brother in future; he is, unfortunately, in such difficulties
that he would at the end drag you down to the abyss into which he
This time our enjoyment seemed to us more substantial; we relished it
with a more refined delight, and, so to speak, we reasoned over it.
"Oh, my best beloved!" she said to me, "do all in your power to
render me pregnant; for in that case my father could no longer refuse
his consent to my marriage, under the pretext of my being too young."
It was with great difficulty that I made her understand that the
fulfilment of that wish, however much I shared it myself, was not
entirely in our power; but that, under the circumstances, it would
most probably be fulfilled sooner or later.
After working with all our might at the completion of that great
undertaking, we gave several hours to a profound and delightful
repose. As soon as we were awake I called for candles and coffee,
and we set to work again in the hope of obtaining the mutual harmony
of ecstatic enjoyment which was necessary to insure our future
happiness. It was in the midst of our loving sport that the too
early dawn surprised us, and we hurried back to Venice to avoid
We renewed our pleasures on the Friday, but, whatever delight I may
feel now in the remembrance of those happy moments, I will spare my
readers the description of my new enjoyment, because they might not
feel interested in such repetitions. I must therefore only say that,
before parting on that day, we fixed for the following Monday, the
last day of the carnival, our last meeting in the Garden of Zuecca.
Death alone could have hindered me from keeping that appointment, for
it was to be the last opportunity of enjoying our amorous sport.
On the Monday morning I saw P---- C----, who confirmed the
appointment for the same hour, and at the place previously agreed
upon, and I was there in good time. In spite of the impatience of a
lover, the first hour of expectation passes rapidly, but the second
is mortally long. Yet the third and the fourth passed without my
seeing my beloved mistress. I was in a state of fearful anxiety; I
imagined the most terrible disasters. It seemed to me that if C---
C---- had been unable to go out her brother ought to have come to let
me know it.
But some unexpected mishap might have detained him, and I could not
go and fetch her myself at her house, even if I had feared nothing
else than to miss them on the road. At last, as the church bells
were tolling the Angelus, C---- C---- came alone, and masked.
"I was certain," she said, "that you were here, and here I am in
spite of all my mother could say. You must be starving. My brother
has not put in an appearance through the whole of this day. Let us
go quickly to our garden, for I am very hungry too, and love will
console us for all we have suffered today."
She had spoken very rapidly, and without giving me time to utter a
single word; I had nothing more to ask her. We went off, and took a
gondola to our garden. The wind was very high, it blew almost a
hurricane, and the gondola having only one rower the danger was
great. C---- C----, who had no idea of it, was playing with me to
make up for the restraint under which she had been all day; but her
movements exposed the gondolier to danger; if he had fallen into the
water, nothing could have saved us, and we would have found death on
our way to pleasure. I told her to keep quiet, but, being anxious
not to frighten her, I dared not acquaint her with the danger we were
running. The gondolier, however, had not the same reasons for
sparing her feelings, and he called out to us in a stentorian voice
that, if we did not keep quiet, we were all lost. His threat had the
desired effect, and we reached the landing without mishap. I paid
the man generously, and he laughed for joy when he saw the money for
which he was indebted to the bad weather.
We spent six delightful hours in our casino; this time sleep was not
allowed to visit us. The only thought which threw a cloud over our
felicity was that, the carnival being over, we did not know how to
contrive our future meetings. We agreed, however, that on the
following Wednesday morning I should pay a visit to her brother, and
that she would come to his room as usual.
We took leave of our worthy hostess, who, entertaining no hope of
seeing us again, expressed her sorrow and overwhelmed us with
blessings. I escorted my darling, without any accident, as far as
the door of her house, and went home.
I had just risen at noon, when to my great surprise I had a visit
from De la Haye with his pupil Calvi, a handsome young man, but the
very copy of his master in everything. He walked, spoke, laughed
exactly like him; it was the same language as that of the Jesuits
correct but rather harsh French. I thought that excess of imitation
perfectly scandalous, and I could not help telling De la Haye that he
ought to change his pupil's deportment, because such servile mimicry
would only expose him to bitter raillery. As I was giving him my
opinion on that subject, Bavois made his appearance, and when he had
spent an hour in the company of the young man he was entirely of the
same mind. Calvi died two or three years later. De la Haye, who was
bent upon forming pupils, became, two or three months after Calvi's
death, the tutor of the young Chevalier de Morosini, the nephew of
the nobleman to whom Bavois was indebted for his rapid fortune, who
was then the Commissioner of the Republic to settle its boundaries
with the Austrian Government represented by Count Christiani.
I was in love beyond all measure, and I would not postpone an
application on which my happiness depended any longer. After dinner,
and as soon as everybody had retired, I begged M. de Bragadin and his
two friends to grant me an audience of two hours in the room in which
we were always inaccessible. There, without any preamble, I told
them that I was in love with C---- C----, and determined on carrying
her off if they could not contrive to obtain her from her father for
my wife. "The question at issue," I said to M. de Bragadin, "is how
to give me a respectable position, and to guarantee a dowry of ten
thousand ducats which the young lady would bring me." They answered
that, if Paralis gave them the necessary instructions, they were
ready to fulfil them. That was all I wanted. I spent two hours in
forming all the pyramids they wished, and the result was that M. de
Bragadin himself would demand in my name the hand of the young lady;
the oracle explaining the reason of that choice by stating that it
must be the same person who would guarantee the dowry with his own
fortune. The father of my mistress being then at his country-house,
I told my friends that they would have due notice of his return, and
that they were to be all three together when M. de Bragadin demanded
the young lady's hand.
Well pleased with what I had done, I called on P----C---- the next
morning. An old woman, who opened the door for me, told me that he
was not at home, but that his mother would see me. She came
immediately with her daughter, and they both looked very sad, which
at once struck me as a bad sign. C---- C---- told me that her
brother was in prison for debt, and that it would be difficult to get
him out of it because his debts amounted to a very large sum. The
mother, crying bitterly, told me how deeply grieved she was at not
being able to support him in the prison, and she shewed me the letter
he had written to her, in which he requested her to deliver an
enclosure to his sister. I asked C---- C----- whether I could read
it; she handed it to me, and I saw that he begged her to speak to me
in his behalf. As I returned it to her, I told her to write to him
that I was not in a position to do anything for him, but I entreated
the mother to accept twenty-five sequins, which would enable her to
assist him by sending him one or two at a time. She made up her mind
to take them only when her daughter joined her entreaties to mine.
After this painful scene I gave them an account of what I had done in
order to obtain the hand of my young sweetheart. Madame C--- thanked
me, expressed her appreciation of my honourable conduct, but she told
me not to entertain any hope, because her husband, who was very
stubborn in his ideas, had decided that his daughter should marry a
merchant, and not before the age of eighteen. He was expected home
that very day. As I was taking leave of them, my mistress contrived
to slip in my hand a letter in which she told me that I could safely
make use of the key which I had in my possession, to enter the house
at midnight, and that I would find her in her brother's room. This
news made me very happy, for, notwithstanding all the doubts of her
mother, I hoped for success in obtaining her hand.
When I returned home, I told M. de Bragadin of the expected arrival
of the father of my charming C---- C----, and the kind old man wrote
to him immediately in my presence. He requested him to name at what
time he might call on him on important business. I asked M. de
Bragadin not to send his letter until the following day.
The reader can very well guess that C---- C---- had not to wait for
me long after midnight. I gained admittance without any difficulty,
and I found my darling, who received me with open arms.
"You have nothing to fear," she said to me; "my father has arrived in
excellent health, and everyone in the house is fast asleep."
"Except Love," I answered, "which is now inviting us to enjoy
ourselves. Love will protect us, dearest, and to-morrow your father
will receive a letter from my worthy protector."
At those words C---- C---- shuddered. It was a presentiment of the
She said to me,
"My father thinks of me now as if I were nothing but a child; but his
eyes are going to be opened respecting me; he will examine my
conduct, and God knows what will happen! Now, we are happy, even
more than we were during our visits to Zuecca, for we can see each
other every night without restraint. But what will my father do when
he hears that I have a lover?"
"What can he do? If he refuses me your hand, I will carry you off,
and the patriarch would certainly marry us. We shall be one
another's for life"
"It is my most ardent wish, and to realize it I am ready to do
anything; but, dearest, I know my father."
We remained two hours together, thinking less of our pleasures than
of our sorrow; I went away promising to see her again the next night.
The whole of the morning passed off very heavily for me, and at noon
M. de Bragadin informed me that he had sent his letter to the father,
who had answered that he would call himself on the following day to
ascertain M. de Bragadin's wishes. At midnight I saw my beloved
mistress again, and I gave her an account of all that had transpired.
C---- C---- told me that the message of the senator had greatly
puzzled her father, because, as he had never had any intercourse with
that nobleman, he could not imagine what he wanted with him.
Uncertainty, a sort of anxious dread, and a confused hope, rendered
our enjoyment much less lively during the two hours which we spent
together. I had no doubt that M. Ch. C---- the father of my young
friend, would 'go home immediately after his interview with M. de
Bragadin, that he would ask his daughter a great many questions, and
I feared lest C---- C----, in her trouble and confusion, should
betray herself. She felt herself that it might be so, and I could
see how painfully anxious she was. I was extremely uneasy myself,
and I suffered much because, not knowing how her father would look at
the matter, I could not give her any advice. As a matter of course,
it was necessary for her to conceal certain circumstances which would
have prejudiced his mind against us; yet it was urgent to tell him
the truth and to shew herself entirely submissive to his will. I
found myself placed in a strange position, and above all, I regretted
having made the all-important application, precisely because it was
certain to have too decisive a result. I longed to get out of the
state of indecision in which I was, and I was surprised to see my
young mistress less anxious than I was. We parted with heavy hearts,
but with the hope that the next night would again bring us together,
for the contrary did not seem to us possible.
The next day, after dinner, M. Ch. C---- called upon M. de Bragadin,
but I did not shew myself. He remained a couple of hours with my
three friends, and as soon as he had gone I heard that his answer had
been what the mother had told me, but with the addition of a
circumstance most painful to me--namely, that his daughter would pass
the four years which were to elapse, before she could think of
marriage, in a convent. As a palliative to his refusal he had added,
that, if by that time I had a well-established position in the world,
he might consent to our wedding.
That answer struck me as most cruel, and in the despair in which it
threw me I was not astonished when the same night I found the door by
which I used to gain admittance to C---- C---- closed and locked
I returned home more dead than alive, and lost twenty-four hours in
that fearful perplexity in which a man is often thrown when he feels
himself bound to take a decision without knowing what to decide. I
thought of carrying her off, but a thousand difficulties combined to
prevent the execution of that scheme, and her brother was in prison.
I saw how difficult it would be to contrive a correspondence with my
wife, for I considered C---- C---- as such, much more than if our
marriage had received the sanction of the priest's blessing or of the
notary's legal contract.
Tortured by a thousand distressing ideas, I made up my mind at last
to pay a visit to Madame C----. A servant opened the door, and
informed me that madame had gone to the country; she could not tell
me when she was expected to return to Venice. This news was a
terrible thunder-bolt to me; I remained as motionless as a statue;
for now that I had lost that last resource I had no means of
procuring the slightest information.
I tried to look calm in the presence of my three friends, but in
reality I was in a state truly worthy of pity, and the reader will
perhaps realize it if I tell him that in my despair I made up my mind
to call on P---- C---- in his prison, in the hope that he might give
me some information.
My visit proved useless; he knew nothing, and I did not enlighten his
ignorance. He told me a great many lies which I pretended to accept
as gospel, and giving him two sequins I went away, wishing him a
I was racking my brain to contrive some way to know the position of
my mistress--for I felt certain it was a fearful one--and believing
her to be unhappy I reproached myself most bitterly as the cause of
her misery. I had reached such a state of anxiety that I could
neither eat nor sleep.
Two days after the refusal of the father, M. de Bragadin and his two
friends went to Padua for a month. I had not had the heart to go
with them, and I was alone in the house. I needed consolation and I
went to the gaming-table, but I played without attention and lost a
great deal. I had already sold whatever I possessed of any value,
and I owed money everywhere. I could expect no assistance except
from my three kind friends, but shame prevented me from confessing my
position to them. I was in that disposition which leads easily to
self-destruction, and I was thinking of it as I was shaving myself
before a toilet-glass, when the servant brought to my room a woman
who had a letter for me. The woman came up to me, and, handing me
the letter, she said,
"Are you the person to whom it is addressed?"
I recognized at once a seal which I had given to C---- C----; I
thought I would drop down dead. In order to recover my composure, I
told the woman to wait, and tried to shave myself, but my hand
refused to perform its office. I put the razor down, turned my back
on the messenger, and opening the letter I read the following lines,
"Before I can write all I have to say, I must be sure of my
messenger. I am boarding in a convent, and am very well treated, and
I enjoy excellent health in spite of the anxiety of my mind. The
superior has been instructed to forbid me all visitors and
correspondence. I am, however, already certain of being able to
write to you, notwithstanding these very strict orders. I entertain
no doubt of your good faith, my beloved husband, and I feel sure that
you will never doubt a heart which is wholly yours. Trust to me for
the execution of whatever you may wish me to do, for I am yours and
only yours. Answer only a few words until we are quite certain of
"Muran, June 12th."
In less than three weeks my young friend had become a clever
moralist; it is true that Love had been her teacher, and Love alone
can work miracles. As I concluded the reading of her letter, I was
in the state of a criminal pardoned at the foot of the scaffold. I
required several minutes before I recovered the exercise of my will
and my presence of mind.
I turned towards the messenger, and asked her if she could read.
"Ah, sir! if I could not read, it would be a great misfortune for
me. There are seven women appointed for the service of the nuns of
Muran. One of us comes in turn to Venice once a week; I come every
Wednesday, and this day week I shall be able to bring you an answer
to the letter which, if you like, you can write now."
"Then you can take charge of the letters entrusted to you by the
"That is not supposed to be one of our duties but the faithful
delivery of letters being the most important of the commissions
committed to our care, we should not be trusted if we could not read
the address of the letters placed in our hands. The nuns wanted to
be sure that we shall not give to Peter the letter addressed to Paul.
The good mothers are always afraid of our being guilty of such
blunders. Therefore I shall be here again, without fail, this day
week at the same hour, but please to order your servant to wake you
in case you should be asleep, for our time is measured as if it were
gold. Above all, rely entirely upon my discretion as long as you
employ me; for if I did not know how to keep a silent tongue in my
head I should lose my bread, and then what would become of me--
a widow with four children, a boy eight years old, and three pretty
girls, the eldest of whom is only sixteen? You can see them when you
come to Muran. I live near the church, on the garden side, and I am
always at home when I am not engaged in the service of the nuns, who
are always sending me on one commission or another. The young lady--
I do not know her name yet, for she has only been one week with us--
gave me this letter, but so cleverly! Oh! she must be as witty as
she is pretty, for three nuns who were there were completely
bamboozled. She gave it to me with this other letter for myself,
which I likewise leave in your hands. Poor child! she tells me to be
discreet! She need not be afraid. Write to her, I entreat you, sir,
that she can trust me, and answer boldly. I would not tell you to
act in the same manner with all the other messengers of the convent,
although I believe them to be honest--and God forbid I should speak
ill of my fellow-creature--but they are all ignorant, you see; and it
is certain that they babble, at least, with their confessors, if with
nobody else. As for me, thank God! I know very well that I need not
confess anything but my sins, and surely to carry a letter from a
Christian woman to her brother in Christ is not a sin. Besides, my
confessor is a good old monk, quite deaf, I believe, for the worthy
man never answers me; but that is his business, not mine!"
I had not intended to ask her any questions, but if such had been my
intention she would not have given me time to carry it into
execution; and without my asking her anything, she was telling me
everything I cared to know, and she did so in her anxiety for me to
avail myself of her services exclusively.
I immediately sat down to write to my dear recluse, intending at
first to write only a few lines, as she had requested me; but my time
was too short to write so little. My letter was a screed of four
pages, and very likely it said less than her note of one short page.
I told her her letter had saved my life, and asked her whether I
could hope to see her. I informed her that I had given a sequin to
the messenger, that she would find another for herself under the seal
of my letter, and that I would send her all the money she might want.
I entreated her not to fail writing every Wednesday, to be certain
that her letters would never be long enough to give me full
particulars, not only of all she did, of all she was allowed to do,
but also of all her thoughts respecting her release from
imprisonment, and the overcoming of all the obstacles which were in
the way of our mutual happiness; for I was as much hers as she was
mine. I hinted to her the necessity of gaining the love of all the
nuns and boarders, but without taking them into her confidence, and
of shewing no dislike of her convent life. After praising her for
the clever manner in which she had contrived to write to me, in spite
of superior orders, I made her understand how careful she was to be
to avoid being surprised while she was writing, because in such a
case her room would certainly be searched and all her papers seized.
"Burn all my letters, darling," I added, "and recollect that you must
go to confession often, but without implicating our love. Share with
me all your sorrows, which interest me even more than your joys."
I sealed my letter in such a manner that no one could possibly guess
that there was a sequin hidden under the sealing wax, and I rewarded
the woman, promising her that I would give her the same reward every
time that she brought me a letter from my friend. When she saw the
sequin which I had put in her hand the good woman cried for joy, and
she told me that, as the gates of the convent were never closed for
her, she would deliver my letter the moment she found the young lady
Here is the note which C---- C---- had given to the woman, with the
letter addressed to me:
"God Himself, my good woman, prompts me to have confidence in you
rather than in anybody else. Take this letter to Venice, and should
the person to whom it is addressed not be in the city, bring it back
to me. You must deliver it to that person himself, and if you find
him you will most likely have an answer, which you must give me, but
only when you are certain that nobody can see you."
If Love is imprudent, it is only in the hope of enjoyment; but when
it is necessary to bring back happiness destroyed by some untoward
accident, Love foresees all that the keenest perspicacity could
possibly find out. The letter of my charming wife overwhelmed me
with joy, and in one moment I passed from a state of despair to that
of extreme felicity. I felt certain that I should succeed in
carrying her off even if the walls of the convent could boast of
artillery, and after the departure of the messenger my first thought
was to endeavour to spend the seven days, before I could receive the
second letter, pleasantly. Gambling alone could do it, but everybody
had gone to Padua. I got my trunk ready, and immediately sent it to
the burchiello then ready to start, and I left for Frusina. From
that place I posted, and in less than three hours I arrived at the
door of the Bragadin Palace, where I found my dear protector on the
point of sitting down to dinner. He embraced me affectionately, and
seeing me covered with perspiration he said to me,
"I am certain that you are in no hurry."
"No," I answered, "but I am starving."
I brought joy to the brotherly trio, and I enhanced their happiness
when I told my friends that I would remain six days with them. De la
Haye dined with us on that day; as soon as dinner was over he
closeted himself with M. Dandoio, and for two hours they remained
together. I had gone to bed during that time, but M. Dandolo came up
to me and told me that I had arrived just in time to consult the
oracle respecting an important affair entirely private to himself.
He gave me the questions, and requested me to find the answers. He
wanted to know whether he would act rightly if he accepted a project
proposed to him by De la Haye.
The oracle answered negatively.
M. Dandolo, rather surprised, asked a second question: he wished
Paralis to give his reasons for the denial.
I formed the cabalistic pile, and brought out this answer:
"I asked Casanova's opinion, and as I find it opposed to the proposal
made by De la Haye, I do not wish to hear any more about it."
Oh! wonderful power of self-delusion! This worthy man, pleased at
being able to throw the odium of a refusal on me, left me perfectly
satisfied. I had no idea of the nature of the affair to which he had
been alluding, and I felt no curiosity about it; but it annoyed me
that a Jesuit should interfere and try to make my friends do anything
otherwise than through my instrumentality, and I wanted that
intriguer to know that my influence was greater than his own.
After that, I dressed, masked myself, and went to the opera, where I
sat down to a faro-table and lost all my money. Fortune was
determined to shew me that it does not always agree with love. My
heart was heavy, I felt miserable; I went to bed. When I woke in the
morning, I saw De la Haye come into my room with a beaming
countenance, and, assuming an air of devoted friendship, he made a
great show of his feelings towards me. I knew what to think of it
all, and I waited for the 'denouement'.
"My dear friend," he said to me at last, "why did you dissuade
M. Dandolo from doing what I had insinuated to him?"
"What had you insinuated to him?"
"You know well enough."
"If I knew it, I would not ask you"
"M. Dandolo himself told me that you had advised him against it."
"Advised against, that may be, but certainly not dissuaded, for if he
had been persuaded in his own mind he would not have asked my
"As you please; but may I enquire your reasons?"
"Tell me first what your proposal was."
"Has he not told you?"
"Perhaps he has; but if you wish to know my reasons, I must hear the
whole affair from your own lips, because M. Dandolo spoke to me under
a promise of secrecy."
"Of what good is all this reserve?"
"Everyone has his own principles and his own way of thinking: I have
a sufficiently good opinion of you to believe that you would act
exactly as I do, for I have heard you say that in all secret matters
one ought to guard against surprise."
"I am incapable of taking such an advantage of a friend; but as a
general rule your maxim is a right one; I like prudence. I will tell
you the whole affair. You are aware that Madame Tripolo has been
left a widow, and that M. Dandolo is courting her assiduously, after
having done the same for fourteen years during the life of the
husband. The lady, who is still young, beautiful and lovely, and
also is very respectable, wishes to become his wife. It is to me
that she has confided her wishes, and as I saw nothing that was not
praiseworthy, either in a temporal or in a spiritual point of view,
in that union, for after all we are all men, I took the affair in
hand with real pleasure. I fancied even that M. Dandolo felt some
inclination for that marriage when he told me that he would give me
his decision this morning. I am not astonished at his having asked
your advice in such an important affair, for a prudent man is right
in asking the opinion of a wise friend before taking a decisive step;
but I must tell you candidly that I am astonished at your disapproval
of such a marriage. Pray excuse me if, in order to improve by the
information, I ask why your opinion is exactly the reverse of mine."
Delighted at having discovered the whole affair, at having arrived in
time to prevent my friend who was goodness itself contracting an
absurd marriage, I answered the hypocrite that I loved M. Dandolo,
that I knew his temperament, and that I was certain that a marriage
with a woman like Madame Tripolo would shorten his life.
"That being my opinion," I added, "you must admit that as a true
friend I was right in advising him against your proposal. Do you
recollect having told me that you never married for the very same
reason? Do you recollect your strong arguments in favour of celibacy
while we were at Parma? Consider also, I beg, that every man has a
certain small stock of selfishness, and that I may be allowed to have
mine when I think that if M. Dandolo took a wife the influence of
that wife would of course have some weight, and that the more she
gained in influence over him the more I should lose. So you see it
would not be natural for me to advise him to take a step which would
ultimately prove very detrimental to my interests. If you can prove
that my reasons are either trifling or sophistical, speak openly: I
will tell M. Dandolo that my mind has changed; Madame Tripolo will
become his wife when we return to Venice. But let me warn you that
thorough conviction can alone move me."
"I do not believe myself clever enough to convince you. I shall
write to Madame Tripolo that she must apply to you."
"Do not write anything of the sort to that lady, or she will think
that you are laughing at her. Do you suppose her foolish enough to
expect that I will give way to her wishes? She knows that I do not
"How can she possibly know that?"
"She must have remarked that I have never cared to accompany
M. Dandolo to her house. Learn from me once for all, that as long as
I live with my three friends they shall have no wife but me. You may
get married as soon as you please; I promise not to throw any
obstacle in your way; but if you wish to remain on friendly terms
with me give up all idea of leading my three friends astray."
"You are very caustic this morning."
"I lost all my money last night.
"Then I have chosen a bad time. Farewell."
From that day, De la Haye became my secret enemy, and to him I was in
a great measure indebted, two years later, for my imprisonment under
The Leads of Venice; not owing to his slanders, for I do not believe
he was capable of that, Jesuit though he was--and even amongst such
people there is sometimes some honourable feeling--but through the
mystical insinuations which he made in the presence of bigoted
persons. I must give fair notice to my readers that, if they are
fond of such people, they must not read these Memoirs, for they
belong to a tribe which I have good reason to attack unmercifully.
The fine marriage was never again alluded to. M. Dandolo continued
to visit his beautiful widow every day, and I took care to elicit
from Paralis a strong interdiction ever to put my foot in her house.
Don Antonio Croce, a young Milanese whom I had known in Reggio, a
confirmed gambler, and a downright clever hand in securing the
favours of Dame Fortune, called on me a few minutes after De la Haye
had retired. He told me that, having seen me lose all my money the
night before, he had come to offer me the means of retrieving my
losses, if I would take an equal interest with him in a faro bank
that he meant to hold at his house, and in which he would have as
punters seven or eight rich foreigners who were courting his wife.
"If you will put three hundred sequins in my bank," he added, "you
shall be my partner. I have three hundred sequins myself, but that
is not enough because the punters play high. Come and dine at my
house, and you will make their acquaintance. We can play next Friday
as there will be no opera, and you may rely upon our winning plenty
of gold, for a certain Gilenspetz, a Swede, may lose twenty thousand
I was without any resources, or at all events I could expect no
assistance except from M. de Bragadin upon whom I felt ashamed of
encroaching. I was well aware that the proposal made by Croce was
not strictly moral, and that I might have chosen a more honourable
society; but if I had refused, the purse of Madame Croce's admirers
would not have been more mercifully treated; another would have
profited by that stroke of good fortune. I was therefore not rigid
enough to refuse my assistance as adjutant and my share of the pie; I
accepted Croce's invitation.
I Get Rich Again--My Adventure At Dolo--Analysis of a Long Letter
From C. C.--Mischievous Trick Played Upon Me By P. C.--At Vincenza
--A Tragi-comedy At the Inn
Necessity, that imperious law and my only excuse, having made me
almost the partner of a cheat, there was still the difficulty of
finding the three hundred sequins required; but I postponed the task
of finding them until after I should have made the acquaintance of
the dupes of the goddess to whom they addressed their worship. Croce
took me to the Prato delta Valle, where we found madame surrounded
with foreigners. She was pretty; and as a secretary of the imperial
ambassador, Count Rosemberg, had attached himself to her, not one of
the Venetian nobles dared court her. Those who interested me among
the satellites gravitating around that star were the Swede
Gilenspetz, a Hamburger, the Englishman Mendez, who has already been
mentioned, and three or four others to whore Croce called my
We dined all together, and after dinner there was a general call for
a faro bank; but Croce did not accept. His refusal surprised me,
because with three hundred sequins, being a very skilful player, he
had enough to try his fortune. He did not, however, allow my
suspicions to last long, for he took me to his own room and shewed me
fifty pieces of eight, which were equal to three hundred sequins.
When I saw that the professional gambler had not chosen me as his
partner with the intention of making a dupe of me, I told him that I
would certainly procure the amount, and upon that promise he invited
everybody to supper for the following day. We agreed that we would
divide the spoils before parting in the evening, and that no one
should be allowed to play on trust.
I had to procure the amount, but to whom could I apply? I could ask
no one but M. de Bragadin. The excellent man had not that sum in his
possession, for his purse was generally empty; but he found a usurer-
-a species of animal too numerous unfortunately for young men--who,
upon a note of hand endorsed by him, gave me a thousand ducats, at
five per cent. for one month, the said interest being deducted by
anticipation from the capital. It was exactly the amount I required.
I went to the supper; Croce held the bank until daylight, and we
divided sixteen hundred sequins between us. The game continued the
next evening, and Gilenspetz alone lost two thousand sequins; the Jew
Mendez lost about one thousand. Sunday was sanctified by rest, but
on Monday the bank won four thousand sequins. On the Tuesday we all
dined together, and the play was resumed; but we had scarcely begun
when an officer of the podesta made his appearance and informed Croce
that he wanted a little private conversation with him. They left the
room together, and after a short absence Croce came back rather
crestfallen; he announced that by superior orders he was forbidden to
hold a bank at his house. Madame fainted away, the punters hurried
out, and I followed their example, as soon as I had secured one-half
of the gold which was on the table. I was glad enough it was not
worse. As I left, Croce told me that we would meet again in Venice,
for he had been ordered to quit Padua within twenty-four hours. I
expected it would be so, because he was to well known; but his
greatest crime, in the opinion of the podesta, was that he attracted
the players to his own house, whilst the authorities wanted all the
lovers of play to lose their money at the opera, where the bankers
were mostly noblemen from Venice.
I left the city on horseback in the evening and in very bad weather,
but nothing could have kept me back, because early the next morning I
expected a letter from my dear prisoner. I had only travelled six
miles from Padua when my horse fell, and I found my left leg caught
under it. My boots were soft ones, and I feared I had hurt myself.
The postillion was ahead of me, but hearing the noise made by the
fall he came up and disengaged me; I was not hurt, but my horse was
lame. I immediately took the horse of the postillion, to which I was
entitled, but the insolent fellow getting hold of the bit refused to
let me proceed. I tried to make him understand that he was wrong;
but, far from giving way to my arguments, he persisted in stopping
me, and being in a great hurry to continue my journey I fired one of
my pistols in his face, but without touching him. Frightened out of
his wits, the man let go, and I galloped off. When I reached the
Dolo, I went straight to the stables, and I myself saddled a horse
which a postillion, to whom I gave a crown, pointed out to me as
being excellent. No one thought of being astonished at my other
postillion having remained behind, and we started at full speed. It
was then one o'clock in the morning; the storm had broken up the
road, and the night was so dark that I could not see anything within
a yard ahead of me; the day was breaking when we arrived in Fusina.
The boatmen threatened me with a fresh storm; but setting everything
at defiance I took a four-oared boat, and reached my dwelling quite
safe but shivering with cold and wet to the skin. I had scarcely
been in my room for a quarter of an hour when the messenger from
Muran presented herself and gave me a letter, telling me that she
would call for the answer in two hours. That letter was a journal of
seven pages, the faithful translation of which might weary my
readers, but here is the substance of it:
After the interview with M. de Bragadin, the father of C---- C----
had gone home, had his wife and daughter to his room, and enquired
kindly from the last where she had made my acquaintance. She
answered that she had seen me five or six times in her brother's
room, that I had asked her whether she would consent to be my wife,
and that she had told me that she was dependent upon her father and
mother. The father had then said that she was too young to think of
marriage, and besides, I had not yet conquered a position in society.
After that decision he repaired to his son's room, and locked the
small door inside as well as the one communicating with the apartment
of the mother, who was instructed by him to let me believe that she
had gone to the country, in case I should call on her.
Two days afterwards he came to C---- C----, who was beside her sick
mother, and told her that her aunt would take her to a convent, where
she was to remain until a husband had been provided for her by her
parents. She answered that, being perfectly disposed to submit to
his will, she would gladly obey him. Pleased with her ready
obedience he promised to go and see her, and to let his mother visit
her likewise, as soon as her health was better. Immediately after
that conversation the aunt had called for her, and a gondola had
taken them to the convent, where she had been ever since. Her bed
and her clothes had been brought to her; she was well pleased with
her room and with the nun to whom she had been entrusted, and under
whose supervision she was. It was by her that she had been forbidden
to receive either letters or visits, or to write to anybody, under
penalty of excommunication from the Holy Father, of everlasting
damnation, and of other similar trifles; yet the same nun had
supplied her with paper, ink and books, and it was at night that my
young friend transgressed the laws of the convent in order to write
all these particulars to me. She expressed her conviction respecting
the discretion and the faithfulness of the messenger, and she thought
that she would remain devoted, because, being poor, our sequins were
a little fortune for her.
She related to me in the most assuring manner that the handsomest of
all the nuns in the convent loved her to distraction, gave her a
French lesson twice a-day, and had amicably forbidden her to become
acquainted with the other boarders. That nun was only twenty-two
years of age; she was beautiful, rich and generous; all the other
nuns shewed her great respect. "When we are alone," wrote my friend,
"she kisses me so tenderly that you would be jealous if she were not
a woman." As to our project of running away, she did not think it
would be very difficult to carry it into execution, but that it would
be better to wait until she knew the locality better. She told me to
remain faithful and constant, and asked me to send her my portrait
hidden in a ring by a secret spring known only to us. She added that
I might send it to her by her mother, who had recovered her usual
health, and was in the habit of attending early mass at her parish
church every day by herself. She assured me that the excellent woman
would be delighted to see me, and to do anything I might ask her.
"At all events," she concluded, "I hope to find myself in a few
months in a position which will scandalize the convent if they are
obstinately bent upon keeping me here."
I was just finishing my answer when Laura, the messenger, returned
for it. After I had paid the sequin I had promised her, I gave her a
parcel containing sealing-wax, paper, pens, and a tinder-box, which
she promised to deliver to C---- C----. My darling had told her that
I was her cousin, and Laura feigned to believe it.
Not knowing what to do in Venice, and believing that I ought for the
sake of my honour to shew myself in Padua, or else people might
suppose that I had received the same order as Croce, I hurried my
breakfast, and procured a 'bolletta' from the booking-office for
Rome; because I foresaw that the firing of my pistol and the lame
horse might not have improved the temper of the post-masters; but by
shewing them what is called in Italy a 'bolletta', I knew that they
could not refuse to supply me with horses whenever they had any in
their stables. As far as the pistol-shot was concerned I had no
fear, for I had purposely missed the insolent postillion; and even if
I had killed him on the spot it would not have been of much
In Fusina I took a two-wheeled chaise, for I was so tired that I
could not have performed the journey on horseback, and I reached the
Dolo, where I was recognized and horses were refused me.
I made a good deal of noise, and the post-master, coming out,
threatened to have me arrested if I did not pay him for his dead
horse. I answered that if the horse were dead I would account for it
to the postmaster in Padua, but what I wanted was fresh horses
And I shewed him the dread 'bolletta', the sight of which made him
lower his tone; but he told me that, even if he supplied me with
horses, I had treated the postillion so badly that not one of his men
would drive me. "If that is the case," I answered, "you shall
accompany me yourself." The fellow laughed in my face, turned his
back upon me, and went away. I took two witnesses, and I called with
them at the office of a public notary, who drew up a properly-worded
document, by which I gave notice to the post-master that I should
expect an indemnity of ten sequins for each hour of delay until I had
horses supplied to me.
As soon as he had been made acquainted with the contents of this, he
gave orders to bring out two restive horses. I saw at once that his
intention was to have me upset along the road, and perhaps thrown
into the river; but I calmly told the postillion that at the very
moment my chaise was upset I would blow his brains out with a pistol-
shot; this threat frightened the man; he took his horses back to the
stables, and declared to his master that he would not drive me. At
that very moment a courier arrived, who called for six carriage
horses and two saddle ones. I warned the post-master that no one
should leave the place before me, and that if he opposed my will
there would be a sanguinary contest; in order to prove that I was in
earnest I took out my pistols. The fellow began to swear, but,
everyone saying that he was in the wrong, he disappeared.
Five minutes afterwards whom should I see, arriving in a beautiful
berlin drawn by six horses, but Croce with his wife, a lady's maid,
and two lackeys in grand livery. He alighted, we embraced one
another, and I told him, assuming an air of sadness, that he could
not leave before me. I explained how the case stood; he said I was
right, scolded loudly, as if he had been a great lord, and made
everybody tremble. The postmaster had disappeared; his wife came and
ordered the postillions to attend to my wants. During that time
Croce said to me that I was quite right in going back to Padua, where
the public rumour had spread the report of my having left the city in
consequence of an order from the police. He informed me that the
podesta had likewise expelled M. de Gondoin, a colonel in the service
of the Duke of Modena, because he held a faro bank at his house.
I promised him to pay him a visit in Venice in the ensuing week.
Croce, who had dropped from the sky to assist me in a moment of great
distress, had won ten thousand sequins in four evenings: I had
received five thousand for my share; and lost no time in paying my
debts and in redeeming all the articles which I had been compelled to
pledge. That scamp brought me back the smiles of Fortune, and from
that moment I got rid of the ill luck which had seemed to fasten on
I reached Padua in safety, and the postillion, who very likely out of
fear had driven me in good style, was well pleased with my
liberality; it was the best way of making peace with the tribe. My
arrival caused great joy to my three friends, whom my sudden
departure had alarmed, with the exception of M. de Bragadin, in whose
hands I had placed my cash-box the day before. His two friends had
given credence to the general report, stating that the podesta had
ordered me to leave Padua. They forgot that I was a citizen of
Venice, and that the podesta could not pass such a sentence upon me
without exposing himself to legal proceedings. I was tired, but
instead of going to bed I dressed myself in my best attire in order
to go to the opera without a mask. I told my friends that it was
necessary for me to shew myself, so as to give the lie to all that
had been reported about me by slandering tongues. De la Haye said to
"I shall be delighted if all those reports are false; but you have no
one to blame but yourself, for your hurried departure gave sufficient
cause for all sorts of surmises."
"And for slander."
"That may be; but people want to know everything, and they invent
when they cannot guess the truth."
"And evil-minded fools lose no time in repeating those inventions
"But there can be no doubt that you wanted to kill the postillion.
Is that a calumny likewise?"
"The greatest of all. Do you think that a good shot can miss a man
when he is firing in his very face, unless he does it purposely?"
"It seems difficult; but at all events it is certain that the horse
is dead, and you must pay for it."
"No, sir, not even if the horse belonged to you, for the postillion
preceded me. You know a great many things; do you happen to know the
posting regulations? Besides, I was in a great hurry because I had
promised a pretty woman to breakfast with her, and such engagements,
as you are well aware, cannot be broken."
Master de la Haye looked angry at the rather caustic irony with which
I had sprinkled the dialogue; but he was still more vexed when,
taking some gold out of my pocket, I returned to him the sum he had
lent me in Vienna. A man never argues well except when his purse is
well filled; then his spirits are pitched in a high key, unless he
should happen to be stupefied by some passion raging in his soul.
M. de Bragadin thought I was quite right to shew myself at the opera
without a mask.
The moment I made my appearance in the pit everybody seemed quite
astonished, and I was overwhelmed with compliments, sincere or not.
After the first ballet I went to the card-room, and in four deals I
won five hundred sequins. Starving, and almost dead for want of
sleep, I returned to my friends to boast of my victory. My friend
Bavois was there, and he seized the opportunity to borrow from me
fifty sequins, which he never returned; true, I never asked him for
My thoughts being constantly absorbed in my dear C---- C----, I spent
the whole of the next day in having my likeness painted in miniature
by a skilful Piedmontese, who had come for the Fair of Padua, and who
in after times made a great deal of money in Venice. When he had
completed my portrait he painted for me a beautiful St. Catherine of
the same size, and a clever Venetian jeweller made the ring, the
bezel of which shewed only the sainted virgin; but a blue spot,
hardly visible on the white enamel which surrounded it, corresponded
with the secret spring which brought out my portrait, and the change
was obtained by pressing on the blue spot with the point of a pin.
On the following Friday, as we were rising from the dinner-table, a
letter was handed to me. It was with great surprise that I
recognized the writing of P---- C----. He asked me to pay him a
visit at the "Star Hotel," where he would give me some interesting
information. Thinking that he might have something to say concerning
his sister, I went to him at once.
I found him with Madame C----, and after congratulating him upon his
release from prison I asked him for the news he had to communicate.
"I am certain," he said, "that my sister is in a convent, and I shall
be able to tell you the name of it when I return to Venice."
"You will oblige me," I answered, pretending not to know anything.
But his news had only been a pretext to make me come to him, and his
eagerness to communicate it had a very different object in view than
the gratification of my curiosity.
"I have sold," he said to me, "my privileged contract for three years
for a sum of fifteen thousand florins, and the man with whom I have
made the bargain took me out of prison by giving security for me, and
advanced me six thousand florins in four letters of exchange."
He shewed me the letters of exchange, endorsed by a name which I did
not know, but which he said was a very good one, and he continued,
"I intend to buy six thousand florins worth of silk goods from the
looms of Vicenza, and to give in payment to the merchants these
letters of exchange. I am certain of selling those goods rapidly
with a profit of ten per cent. Come with us to Vicenza; I will give
you some of my goods to the amount of two hundred sequins, and thus
you will find yourself covered for the guarantee which you have been
kind enough to give to the jeweller for the ring. We shall complete
the transaction within twenty-four hours."
I did not feel much inclination for the trip, but I allowed myself to
be blinded by the wish to cover the amount which I had guaranteed,
and which I had no doubt I would be called upon to pay some day or
"If I do not go with him," I said to myself "he will sell the goods
at a loss of twenty-five per cent., and I shall get nothing."
I promised to accompany him. He shewed me several letters of
recommendation for the best houses in Vicenza, and our departure was
fixed for early the next morning. I was at the "Star Hotel" by
daybreak. A carriage and four was ready; the hotel-keeper came up
with his bill, and P---- C---- begged me to pay it. The bill
amounted to five sequins; four of which had been advanced in cash by
the landlord to pay the driver who had brought them from Fusina.
I saw that it was a put-up thing, yet I paid with pretty good grace,
for I guessed that the scoundrel had left Venice without a penny. We
reached Vicenza in three hours, and we put up at the "Cappello,"
where P---- C---- ordered a good dinner before leaving me with the
lady to call upon the manufacturers.
When the beauty found herself alone with me, she began by addressing
friendly reproaches to me.
"I have loved you," she said, "for eighteen years; the first time
that I saw you we were in Padua, and we were then only nine years
I certainly had no recollection of it. She was the daughter of the
antiquarian friend of M. Grimani, who had placed me as a boarder with
the accursed Sclavonian woman. I could not help smiling, for I
recollected that her mother had loved me.
Shop-boys soon began to make their appearance, bringing pieces of
goods, and the face of Madame C---- brightened up. In less than two
hours the room was filled with them, and P---- C---- came back with
two merchants, whom he had invited to dinner. Madame allured them by
her pretty manners; we dined, and exquisite wines were drunk in
profusion. In the afternoon fresh goods were brought in; P---- C----
made a list of them with the prices; but he wanted more, and the
merchants promised to send them the next day, although it was Sunday.
Towards the evening several counts arrived, for in Vicenza every
nobleman is a count. P---- C---- had left his letters of
recommendation at their houses. We had a Count Velo, a Count Sesso,
a Count Trento--all very amiable companions. They invited us to
accompany them to the casino, where Madame C---- shone by her charms
and her coquettish manners. After we had spent two hours in that
place, P---- C---- invited all his new friends to supper, and it was
a scene of gaiety and profusion. The whole affair annoyed me
greatly, and therefore I was not amiable; the consequence was that no
one spoke to me. I rose from my seat and went to bed, leaving the
joyous company still round the festive board. In the morning I came
downstairs, had my breakfast, and looked about me. The room was so
full of goods that I did not see how P---- C---- could possibly pay
for all with his six thousand florins. He told me, however, that his
business would be completed on the morrow, and that we were invited
to a ball where all the nobility would be present. The merchants
with whom he had dealt came to dine with us, and the dinner was
remarkable for its extreme profusion.
We went to the ball; but I soon got very weary of it, for every body
was speaking to Madame C---- and to P---- C----, who never uttered a
word with any meaning, but whenever I opened my lips people would
pretend not to hear me. I invited a lady to dance a minuet; she
accepted, but she looked constantly to the right or to the left, and
seemed to consider me as a mere dancing machine. A quadrille was
formed, but the thing was contrived in such a manner as to leave me
out of it, and the very lady who had refused me as a partner danced
with another gentleman. Had I been in good spirits I should
certainly have resented such conduct, but I preferred to leave the
ball-room. I went to bed, unable to understand why the nobility of
Vicenza treated me in such a way. Perhaps they neglected me because
I was not named in the letters of introduction given to P---- C----,
but I thought that they might have known the laws of common
politeness. I bore the evil patiently, however, as we were to leave
the city the next day.
On Monday, the worthy pair being tired, they slept until noon, and
after dinner P---- C---- went out to pay for the goods.
We were to go away early on the Tuesday, and I instinctively longed
for that moment. The counts whom P---- C---- had invited were
delighted with his mistress, and they came to supper; but I avoided
On the Tuesday morning I was duly informed that breakfast was ready,
but as I did not answer the summons quickly enough the servant came
up again, and told me that my wife requested me to make haste.
Scarcely had the word "wife" escaped his lips than I visited the
cheek of the poor fellow with a tremendous smack, and in my rage
kicked him downstairs, the bottom of which he reached in four
springs, to the imminent risk of his neck. Maddened with rage I
entered the breakfast-room, and addressing myself to P---- C----,
I asked him who was the scoundrel who had announced me in the hotel
as the husband of Madame C----. He answered that he did not know;
but at the same moment the landlord came into the room with a big
knife in his hand, and asked me why I had kicked his servant down the
stairs. I quickly drew a pistol, and threatening him with it I
demanded imperatively from him the name of the person who had
represented me as the husband of that woman.
"Captain P---- C----," answered the landlord, "gave the names,
profession, etc., of your party."
At this I seized the impudent villain by the throat, and pinning him
against the wall with a strong hand I would have broken his head with
the butt of my pistol, if the landlord had not prevented me. Madame
had pretended to swoon, for those women can always command tears or
fainting fits, and the cowardly P---- C---- kept on saying,
"It is not true, it is not true!"
The landlord ran out to get the hotel register, and he angrily thrust
it under the nose of the coward, daring him to deny his having
dictated: Captain P---- C----, with M. and Madame Casanova. The
scoundrel answered that his words had certainly not been heard
rightly, and the incensed landlord slapped the book in his face with
such force that he sent him rolling, almost stunned, against the
When I saw that the wretched poltroon was receiving such degrading
treatment without remembering that he had a sword hanging by his
side, I left the room, and asked the landlord to order me a carriage
to take me to Padua.
Beside myself with rage, blushing for very shame, seeing but too late
the fault I had committed by accepting the society of a scoundrel, I
went up to my room, and hurriedly packed up my carpet-bag. I was
just going out when Madame C---- presented herself before me.
"Begone, madam," I said to her, "or, in my rage, I might forget the
respect due to your sex."
She threw herself, crying bitterly, on a chair, entreated me to
forgive her, assuring me that she was innocent, and that she was not
present when the knave had given the names. The landlady, coming in
at that moment, vouched for the truth of her assertion. My anger
began to abate, and as I passed near the window I saw the carriage I
had ordered waiting for me with a pair of good horses. I called for
the landlord in order to pay whatever my share of the expense might
come to, but he told me that as I had ordered nothing myself I had
nothing to pay. Just at that juncture Count Velo came in.
"I daresay, count," I said, "that you believe this woman to be my
"That is a fact known to everybody in the city."
"Damnation! And you have believed such a thing, knowing that I
occupy this room alone, and seeing me leave the ball-room and the
supper-table yesterday alone, leaving her with you all!"
"Some husbands are blessed with such easy dispositions!"
"I do not think I look like one of that species, and you are not a
judge of men of honour, let us go out, and I undertake to prove it to
The count rushed down the stairs and out of the hotel. The miserable
C---- was choking, and I could not help pitying her; for a woman has
in her tears a weapon which through my life I have never known to
resist. I considered that if I left the hotel without paying
anything, people might laugh at my anger and suppose that I had a
share in the swindle; I requested the landlord to bring me the
account, intending to pay half of it. He went for it, but another
scene awaited me. Madame C----, bathed in tears, fell on her knees,
and told me that if I abandoned her she was lost, for she had no
money and nothing to leave as security for her hotel bill.
"What, madam! Have you not letters of exchange to the amount of six
thousand florins, or the goods bought with them?"
"The goods are no longer here; they have all been taken away, because
the letters of exchange, which you saw, and which we considered as
good as cash, only made the merchants laugh; they have sent for
everything. Oh! who could have supposed it?"
"The scoundrel! He knew it well enough, and that is why he was so
anxious to bring me here. Well, it is right that I should pay the
penalty of my own folly."
The bill brought by the landlord amounted to forty sequins, a very
high figure for three days; but a large portion of that sum was cash
advanced by the landlord, I immediately felt that my honour demanded
that I should pay the bill in full; and I paid without any
hesitation, taking care to get a receipt given in the presence of two
witnesses. I then made a present of two sequins to the nephew of the
landlord to console him for the thrashing he had received, and I
refused the same sum to the wretched C----, who had sent the landlady
to beg it for her.
Thus ended that unpleasant adventure, which taught me a lesson, and a
lesson which I ought not to have required. Two or three weeks later,
I heard that Count Trento had given those two miserable beings some
money to enable them to leave the city; as far as I was concerned, I
would not have anything to do with them. A month afterwards P----
C---- was again arrested for debt, the man who had been security for
him having become a bankrupt. He had the audacity to write a long
letter to me, entreating me to go and see him, but I did not answer
him. I was quite as inflexible towards Madame C----, whom I always
refused to see. She was reduced to great poverty.
I returned to Padua, where I stopped only long enough to take my ring
and to dine with M. de Bragadin, who went back to Venice a few days
The messenger from the convent brought me a letter very early in the
morning; I devoured its contents; it was very loving, but gave no
news. In my answer I gave my dear C---- C---- the particulars of the
infamous trick played upon me by her villainous brother, and
mentioned the ring, with the secret of which I acquainted her.
According to the information I had received from C---- C----,
I placed myself, one morning, so as to see her mother enter the
church, into which I followed her. Kneeling close to her, I told her
that I wished to speak with her, and she followed me to the cloister.
I began by speaking a few consoling words; then I told her that I
would remain faithful to her daughter, and I asked her whether she
"I intend," she said, "to go and kiss my dear child next Sunday, and
I shall of course speak of you with her, for I know well enough that
she will be delighted to have news of you; but to my great regret I
am not at liberty to tell you where she is."
"I do not wish you to tell me, my good mother, but allow me to send
her this ring by you. It is the picture of her patroness, and I wish
you to entreat her to wear it always on her finger; tell her to look
at the image during her daily prayers, for without that protection
she can never become my wife. Tell her that, on my side, I address
every day a credo to St. James."
Delighted with the piety of my feelings and with the prospect of
recommending this new devotion to her daughter, the good woman
promised to fulfil my commission. I left her, but not before I had
placed in her hand ten sequins which I begged her to force upon her
daughter's acceptance to supply herself with the trifles she might
require. She accepted, but at the same time she assured me that her
father had taken care to provide her with all necessaries.
The letter which I received from C---- C----, on the following
Wednesday, was the expression of the most tender affection and the
most lively gratitude. She said that the moment she was alone
nothing could be more rapid than the point of the pin which made St.
Catherine cut a somersault, and presented to her eager eyes the
beloved features of the being who was the whole world to her.
"I am constantly kissing you," she added, "even when some of the nuns
are looking at me, for whenever they come near me I have only to let
the top part of the ring fall back and my dear patroness takes care
to conceal everything. All the nuns are highly pleased with my
devotion and with the confidence I have in the protection of my
blessed patroness, whom they think very much like me in the face."
It was nothing but a beautiful face created by the fancy of the
painter, but my dear little wife was so lovely that beauty was sure
to be like her.
She said, likewise, that the nun who taught her French had offered
her fifty sequins for the ring on account of the likeness between her
and the portrait of the saint, but not out of veneration for her
patroness, whom she turned into ridicule as she read her life. She
thanked me for the ten sequins I had sent her, because, her mother
having given them to her in the presence of several of the sisters,
she was thus enabled to spend a little money without raising the
suspicions of those curious and inquisitive nuns. She liked to offer
trifling presents to the other boarders, and the money allowed her to
gratify that innocent taste.
"My mother," added she, "praised your piety very highly; she is
delighted with your feelings of devotion. Never mention again, I
beg, the name of my unworthy brother."
For five or six weeks her letters were full of the blessed St.
Catherine, who caused her to tremble with fear every time she found
herself compelled to trust the ring to the mystic curiosity of the
elderly nuns, who, in order to see the likeness better through their
spectacles, brought it close to their eyes, and rubbed the enamel.
"I am in constant fear," C---- C---- wrote, "of their pressing the
invisible blue spot by chance. What would become of me, if my
patroness, jumping up, discovered to their eyes a face--very divine,
it is true, but which is not at all like that of a saint? Tell me,
what could I do in such a case?"
One month after the second arrest of P---- C----, the jeweller, who
had taken my security for the ring, called on me for payment of the
bill. I made an arrangement with him; and on condition of my giving
him twenty sequins, and leaving him every right over the debtor, he
exonerated me. From his prison the impudent P---- C---- harassed me
with his cowardly entreaties for alms and assistance.
Croce was in Venice, and engrossed a great share of the general
attention. He kept a fine house, an excellent table, and a faro bank
with which he emptied the pockets of his dupes. Foreseeing what
would happen sooner or later, I had abstained from visiting him at
his house, but we were friendly whenever we met. His wife having
been delivered of a boy, Croce asked me to stand as god-father, a
favour which I thought I could grant; but after the ceremony and the
supper which was the consequence of it, I never entered the house of
my former partner, and I acted rightly. I wish I had always been as
prudent in my conduct.
Croce Is Expelled From Venice--Sgombro--His Infamy and Death--
Misfortune Which Befalls My Dear C. C.--I Receive An Anonymous Letter
From a Nun, and Answer It--An Amorous Intrigue
My former partner was, as I have said before, a skilful and
experienced hand at securing the favours of Fortune; he was driving a
good trade in Venice, and as he was amiable, and what is called in
society a gentleman, he might have held that excellent footing for a
long time, if he had been satisfied with gambling; for the State
Inquisitors would have too much to attend to if they wished to compel
fools to spare their fortunes, dupes to be prudent, and cheats not to
dupe the fools; but, whether through the folly of youth or through a
vicious disposition, the cause of his exile was of an extraordinary
and disgusting nature.
A Venetian nobleman, noble by birth, but very ignoble in his
propensities, called Sgombro, and belonging to the Gritti family,
fell deeply in love with him, and Croce, either for fun or from
taste, shewed himself very compliant. Unfortunately the reserve
commanded by common decency was not a guest at their amorous feats,
and the scandal became so notorious that the Government was compelled
to notify to Croce the order to quit the city, and to seek his
fortune in some other place.
Some time afterwards the infamous Sgombro seduced his own two sons,
who were both very young, and, unfortunately for him, he put the
youngest in such a state as to render necessary an application to a
surgeon. The infamous deed became publicly known, and the poor child
confessed that he had not had the courage to refuse obedience to his
father. Such obedience was, as a matter of course, not considered as
forming a part of the duties which a son owes to his father, and the
State Inquisitors sent the disgusting wretch to the citadel of
Cataro, where he died after one year of confinement.
It is well known that the air of Cataro is deadly, and that the
Tribunal sentences to inhale it only such criminals as are not judged
publicly for fear of exciting too deeply the general horror by the
publication of the trial.
It was to Cataro that the Council of Ten sent, fifteen years ago, the
celebrated advocate Cantarini, a Venetian nobleman, who by his
eloquence had made himself master of the great Council, and was on
the point of changing the constitution of the State. He died there
at the end of the year. As for his accomplices, the Tribunal thought
that it was enough to punish the four or five leaders, and to pretend
not to know the others, who through fear of punishment returned
silently to their allegiance.
That Sgombro, of whom I spoke before, had a charming wife who is
still alive, I believe. Her name was Cornelia Gitti; she was as
celebrated by her wit as by her beauty, which she kept in spite of
her years. Having recovered her liberty through the death of her
husband, she knew better than to make herself a second time the
prisoner of the Hymenean god; she loved her independence too much;
but as she loved pleasure too, she accepted the homage of the lovers
who pleased her taste.
One Monday, towards the end of July, my servant woke me at day-break
to tell me that Laura wished to speak to me. I foresaw some
misfortune, and ordered the servant to shew her in immediately.
These are the contents of the letter which she handed to me:
"My dearest, a misfortune has befallen me last evening, and it makes
me very miserable because I must keep it a secret from everyone in
the convent. I am suffering from a very severe loss of blood, and I
do not know what to do, having but very little linen. Laura tells me
I shall require a great deal of it if the flow of blood continues. I
can take no one into my confidence but you, and I entreat you to send
me as much linen as you can. You see that I have been compelled to
make a confidante of Laura, who is the only person allowed to enter
my room at all times. If I should die, my dear husband, everybody in
the convent would, of course, know the cause of my death; but I think
of you, and I shudder. What will you do in your grief? Ah, darling
love! what a pity!"
I dressed myself hurriedly, plying Laura with questions all the time.
She told me plainly that it was a miscarriage, and that it was
necessary to act with great discretion in order to save the
reputation of my young friend; that after all she required nothing
but plenty of linen, and that it would be nothing. Commonplace words
of consolation, which did not allay the fearful anxiety under which I
was labouring. I went out with Laura, called on a Jew from whom I
bought a quantity of sheets and two hundred napkins, and, putting it
all in a large bag, I repaired with her to Muran. On our way there I
wrote in pencil to my sweetheart, telling her to have entire
confidence in Laura, and assuring her that I would not leave Muran
until all danger had passed. Before we landed, Laura told me that,
in order not to be remarked, I had better conceal myself in her
house. At any other time it would have been shutting up the wolf in
the sheep-fold. She left me in a miserable-looking small room on the
ground floor, and concealing about herself as much linen as she could
she hurried to her patient, whom she had not seen since the previous
evening. I was in hopes that she would find her out of danger, and I
longed to see her come back with that good news.
She was absent about one hour, and when she returned her looks were
sad. She told me that my poor friend, having lost a great deal of
blood during the night, was in bed in a very weak state, and that all
we could do was to pray to God for her, because, if the flooding of
the blood did not stop soon, she could not possibly live twenty-four
When I saw the linen which she had concealed under her clothes to
bring it out, I could not disguise my horror, and I thought the sight
would kill me. I fancied myself in a slaughter-house! Laura,
thinking of consoling me, told me that I could rely upon the secret
being well kept.
"Ah! what do I care!" I exclaimed. "Provided she lives, let the
whole world know that she is my wife!"
At any other time, the foolishness of poor Laura would have made me
laugh; but in such a sad moment I had neither the inclination nor the
courage to be merry.
"Our dear patient," added Laura, "smiled as she was reading your
letter, and she said that, with you so near her, she was certain not
Those words did me good, but a man needs so little to console him or
to soothe his grief.
"When the nuns are at their dinner," said Laura, "I will go back to
the convent with as much linen as I can conceal about me, and in the
mean time I am going to wash all this."
"Has she had any visitors?"
"Oh, yes! all the convent; but no one has any suspicion of the
"But in such hot weather as this she can have only a very light
blanket over her, and her visitors must remark the great bulk of the
"There is no fear of that, because she is sitting up in her bed."
"What does she eat?"
"Nothing, for she must not eat."
Soon afterwards Laura went out, and I followed her. I called upon a
physician, where I wasted my time and my money, in order to get from
him a long prescription which was useless, for it would have put all
the convent in possession of the secret, or, to speak more truly, her
secret would have been known to the whole world, for a secret known
to a nun soon escapes out of the convent's walls. Besides, the
physician of the convent himself would most likely have betrayed it
through a spirit of revenge.
I returned sadly to my miserable hole in Laura's house. Half an hour
afterwards she came to me, crying bitterly, and she placed in my
hands this letter, which was scarcely legible:
"I have not strength enough to write to you, my darling; I am getting
weaker and weaker; I am losing all my blood, and I am afraid there is
no remedy. I abandon myself to the will of God, and I thank Him for
having saved me from dishonour. Do not make yourself unhappy. My
only consolation is to know that you are near me. Alas! if I could
see you but for one moment I would die happy."
The sight of a dozen napkins brought by Laura made me shudder, and
the good woman imagined that she afforded me some consolation by
telling me that as much linen could be soaked with a bottle of blood.
My mind was not disposed to taste such consolation; I was in despair,
and I addressed to myself the fiercest reproaches, upbraiding myself
as the cause of the death of that adorable creature. I threw myself
on the bed, and remained there, almost stunned, for more than six
hours, until Laura's return from the convent with twenty napkins
entirely soaked. Night had come on, and she could not go back to her
patient until morning. I passed a fearful night without food,
without sleep, looking upon myself with horror, and refusing all the
kind attentions that Laura's daughters tried to shew me.
It was barely daylight when Laura same to announce to me, in the
saddest tone, that my poor friend did not bleed any more. I thought
she was dead, and I screamed loudly,
"Oh! she is no more!"
"She is still breathing, sir; but I fear she will not outlive this
day, for she is worn out. She can hardly open her eyes, and her
pulse is scarcely to be felt."
A weight was taken off me; I was instinctively certain that my
darling was saved.
"Laura," I said, "this is not bad news; provided the flooding has
ceased entirely, all that is necessary is to give her some light
"A physician has been sent for. He will prescribe whatever is right,
but to tell you the truth I have not much hope."
"Only give me the assurance that she is still alive."
"Yes, she is, I assure you; but you understand very well that she
will not tell the truth to the doctor, and God knows what he will
order. I whispered to her not to take anything, and she understood
"You are the best of women. Yes, if she does not die from weakness
before to-morrow, she is saved; nature and love will have been her
"May God hear you! I shall be back by twelve."
"Why not before?"
"Because her room will be full of people."
Feeling the need of hope, and almost dead for want of food, I ordered
some dinner, and prepared a long letter for my beloved mistress, to
be delivered to her when she was well enough to read it. The
instants given to repentance are very sad, and I was truly a fit
subject for pity. I longed to see Laura again, so as to hear what
the doctor had said. I had very good cause for laughing at all sorts
of oracles, yet through some unaccountable weakness I longed for that
of the doctor; I wanted, before all, to find it a propitious one.
Laura's young daughters waited upon me at dinner; I could not manage
to swallow a mouthful, but it amused me to see the three sisters
devour my dinner at the first invitation I gave them. The eldest
sister, a very fine girl, never raised her large eyes once towards
me. The two younger ones seemed to me disposed to be amiable, but if
I looked at them it was only to feed my despair and the cruel pangs
At last Laura, whom I expected anxiously, came back; she told me that
the dear patient remained in the same state of debility; the doctor
had been greatly puzzled by her extreme weakness because he did not
know to what cause to attribute it. Laura added,
"He has ordered some restoratives and a small quantity of light
broth; if she can sleep, he answers for her life. He has likewise
desired her to have someone to watch her at night, and she
immediately pointed her finger at me, as if she wished me to
undertake that office. Now, I promise you never to leave her either
night or day, except to bring you news."
I thanked her, assuring her that I would reward her generously. I
heard with great pleasure that her mother had paid her a visit, and
that she had no suspicion of the real state of things, for she had
lavished on her the most tender caresses.
Feeling more at ease I gave six sequins to Laura, one to each of her
daughters, and ate something for my supper: I then laid myself down
on one of the wretched beds in the room. As soon as the two younger
sisters saw me in bed, they undressed themselves without ceremony,
and took possession of the second bed which was close by mine. Their
innocent confidence pleased me. The eldest sister, who most likely
had more practical experience, retired to the adjoining room; she had
a lover to whom she was soon to be married. This time, however, I
was not possessed with the evil spirit of concupiscence, and I
allowed innocence to sleep peacefully without attempting anything
Early the next morning Laura was the bearer of good news. She came
in with a cheerful air to announce that the beloved patient had slept
well, and that she was going back soon to give her some soup. I felt
an almost maddening joy in listening to her, and I thought the oracle
of AEsculapius a thousand times more reliable than that of Apollo.
But it was not yet time to exult in our victory, for my poor little
friend had to recover her strength and to make up for all the blood
she had lost; that could be done only by time and careful nursing. I
remained another week at Laura's house, which I left only after my
dear C---- C---- had requested me to do so in a letter of four pages.
Laura, when I left, wept for joy in seeing herself rewarded by the
gift of all the fine linen I had bought for my C---- C----, and her
daughters were weeping likewise, most probably because, during the
ten days I had spent near them, they had not obtained a single kiss
After my return to Venice, I resumed my usual habits; but with a
nature like mine how could I possibly remain satisfied without
positive love? My only pleasure was to receive a letter from my dear
recluse every Wednesday, who advised me to wait patiently rather than
to attempt carrying her off. Laura assured me that she had become
more lovely than ever, and I longed to see her. An opportunity of
gratifying my wishes soon offered itself, and I did not allow it to
escape. There was to be a taking of the veil--a ceremony which
always attracts a large number of persons. On those occasions the
nuns always received a great many visitors, and I thought that the
boarders were likely to be in the parlour on such an occasion. I ran
no risk of being remarked any more than any other person, for I would
mingle with the crowd. I therefore went without saying anything
about it to Laura, and without acquainting my dear little wife of my
intentions. I thought I would fall, so great was my emotion, when I
saw her within four yards from me, and looking at me as if she had
been in an ecstatic state. I thought her taller and more womanly,
and she certainly seemed to me more beautiful than before. I saw no
one but her; she never took her eyes off me, and I was the last to
leave that place which on that day struck me as being the temple of
Three days afterwards I received a letter from her. She painted with
such vivid colours the happiness she had felt in seeing me, that I
made up my mind to give her that pleasure as often as I could.
I answered at once that I would attend mass every Sunday at the
church of her convent. It cost me nothing: I could not see her, but
I knew that she saw me herself, and her happiness made me perfectly
happy. I had nothing to fear, for it was almost impossible that
anyone could recognize me in the church which was attended only by
the people of Muran.
After hearing two or three masses, I used to take a gondola, the
gondolier of which could not feel any curiosity about me. Yet I kept
on my guard, for I knew that the father of C---- C---- wanted her to
forget me, and I had no doubt he would have taken her away, God knew
where if he had had the slightest suspicion of my being acquainted
with the place where he had confined her.
Thus I was reasoning in my fear to lose all opportunity of
corresponding with my dear C---- C----, but I did not yet know the
disposition and the shrewdness of the sainted daughters of the Lord.
I did not suppose that there was anything remarkable in my person, at
least for the inmates of a convent; but I was yet a novice respecting
the curiosity of women, and particularly of unoccupied hearts; I had
soon occasion to be convinced.
I had executed my Sunday manoeuvering only for a month or five weeks,
when my dear C---- C---- wrote me jestingly that I had become a
living enigma for all the convent, boarders and nuns, not even
excepting the old ones. They all expected me anxiously; they warned
each other of my arrival, and watched me taking the holy water. They
remarked that I never cast a glance toward the grating, behind which
were all the inmates of the convent; that I never looked at any of
the women coming in or going out of the church. The old nuns said
that I was certainly labouring under some deep sorrow, of which I had
no hope to be cured except through the protection of the Holy Virgin,
and the young ones asserted that I was either melancholy or
My dear wife, who knew better than the others, and had no occasion to
lose herself in suppositions, was much amused, and she entertained me
by sending me a faithful report of it all. I wrote to her that, if
she had any fear of my being recognized I would cease my Sunday
visits to the church. She answered that I could not impose upon her
a more cruel privation, and she entreated me to continue my visits.
I thought it would be prudent, however, to abstain from calling at
Laura's house, for fear of the chattering nuns contriving to know it,
and discovering in that manner a great deal more than I wished them
to find out. But that existence was literally consuming me by slow
degrees, and could not last long. Besides, I was made to have a
mistress, and to live happily with her. Not knowing what to do with
myself, I would gamble, and I almost invariably won; but, in spite of
that, weariness had got hold of me and I was getting thinner every
With the five thousand sequins which my partner Croce had won for me
in Padua I had followed M. Bragadin's advice. I had hired a casino
where I held a faro bank in partnership with a matador, who secured
me against the frauds of certain noblemen--tyrants, with whom a
private citizen is always sure to be in the wrong in my dear country.
On All Saints' Day, in the year 1753, just as, after hearing mass, I
was going to step into a gondola to return to Venice, I saw a woman,
somewhat in Laura's style who, passing near me, looked at me and
dropped a letter. I picked it up, and the woman, seeing me in
possession of the epistle, quietly went on. The letter had no
address, and the seal represented a running knot. I stepped
hurriedly into the gondola, and as soon as we were in the offing I
broke the seal. I read the following words.
"A nun, who for the last two months and a half has seen you every
Sunday in the church of her convent, wishes to become acquainted with
you. A pamphlet which you have lost, and which chance has thrown
into her hands, makes her believe that you speak French; but, if you
like it better, you can answer in Italian, because what she wants
above all is a clear and precise answer. She does not invite you to
call for her at the parlour of the convent, because, before you place
yourself under the necessity of speaking to her, she wishes you to
see her, and for that purpose she will name a lady whom you can
accompany to the parlour. That lady shall not know you and need not
therefore introduce you, in case you should not wish to be known.
"Should you not approve of that way to become acquainted, the nun
will appoint a certain casino in Muran, in which you will find her
alone, in the evening, any night you may choose. You will then be at
liberty either to sup with her, or to retire after an interview of a
quarter of an hour, if you have any other engagements.
"Would you rather offer her a supper in Venice? Name the night, the
hour, the place of appointment, and you will see her come out of a
gondola. Only be careful to be there alone, masked and with a
"I feel certain that you will answer me, and that you will guess how
impatiently I am waiting for your letter. I entreat you, therefore,
to give it to-morrow to the same woman through whom you will receive
mine! you will find her one hour before noon in the church of St.
Cancian, near the first altar on the right.
"Recollect that, if I did not suppose you endowed with a noble soul
and a high mind, I could never have resolved on taking a step which
might give you an unfavorable opinion of my character"
The tone of that letter, which I have copied word by word, surprised
me even more than the offer it contained. I had business to attend
to, but I gave up all engagements to lock myself in my room in order
to answer it. Such an application betokened an extravagant mind, but
there was in it a certain dignity, a singularity, which attracted me.
I had an idea that the writer might be the same nun who taught French
to C---- C----. She had represented her friend in her letters as
handsome, rich, gallant, and generous. My dear wife had, perhaps,
been guilty of some indiscretion. A thousand fancies whirled through
my brain, but I would entertain only those which were favourable to a
scheme highly pleasing to me. Besides, my young friend had informed
me that the nun who had given her French lessons was not the only one
in the convent who spoke that language. I had no reason to suppose
that, if C---- C---- had made a confidante of her friend, she would
have made a mystery of it to me. But, for all that, the nun who had
written to me might be the beautiful friend of my dear little wife,
and she might also turn out to be a different person; I felt somewhat
puzzled. Here is, however, the letter which I thought I could write
without implicating myself:
"I answer in French, madam, in the hope that my letter will have the
clearness and the precision of which you give me the example in
"The subject is highly interesting and of the highest importance,
considering all the circumstances. As I must answer without knowing
the person to whom I am writing, you must feel, madam, that, unless I
should possess a large dose of vanity, I must fear some
mystification, and my honour requires that I should keep on my guard.
"If it is true that the person who has penned that letter is a
respectable woman, who renders me justice in supposing me endowed
with feeling as noble as her own, she will find, I trust, that I
could not answer in any other way than I am doing now.
"If you have judged me worthy, madam, of the honour which you do me
by offering me your acquaintance, although your good opinion can have
been formed only from my personal appearance, I feel it my duty to
obey you, even if the result be to undeceive you by proving that I
had unwittingly led you into a mistaken appreciation of my person.
"Of the three proposals which you so kindly made in your letter, I
dare not accept any but the first, with the restriction suggested by
your penetrating mind. I will accompany to the parlour of your
convent a lady who shall not know who I am, and, consequently, shall
have no occasion to introduce me.
"Do not judge too severely, madam, the specious reasons which compel
me not to give you my name, and receive my word of honour that I
shall learn yours only to render you homage. If you choose to speak
to me, I will answer with the most profound respect. Permit me to
hope that you will come to the parlour alone. I may mention that I
am a Venetian, and perfectly free.
"The only reason which prevents me from choosing one of the two other
arrangements proposed by you, either of which would have suited me
better because they greatly honour me, is, allow me to repeat it, a
fear of being the victim of a mystification; but these modes of
meeting will not be lost when you know me and when I have seen you.
I entreat you to have faith in my honour, and to measure my patience
by your own. Tomorrow, at the same place and at the same hour, I
shall be anxiously expecting your answer."
I went to the place appointed, and having met the female Mercury I
gave her my letter with a sequin, and I told her that I would come
the next day for the answer. We were both punctual. As soon as she
saw me, she handed me back the sequin which I had given her the day
before, and a letter, requesting me to read it and to let her know
whether she was to wait for an answer. Here is the exact copy of the
"I believe, sir, that I have not been mistaken in anything. Like
you, I detest untruth when it can lead to important consequences, but
I think it a mere trifle when it can do no injury to anyone. Of my
three proposals you have chosen the one which does the greatest
honour to your intelligence, and, respecting the reasons which induce
you to keep your incognito, I have written the enclosed to the
Countess of S----, which I request you to read. Be kind enough to
seal it before delivery of it to her. You may call upon her whenever
convenient to yourself. She will name her own hour, and you will
accompany her here in her gondola. The countess will not ask you any
questions, and you need not give her any explanation. There will be
no presentation; but as you will be made acquainted with my name, you
can afterwards call on me here, masked, whenever you please, and by
using the name of the countess. In that way we shall become
acquainted without the necessity of disturbing you, or of your losing
at night some hours which may be precious to you. I have instructed
my servant to wait for your answer in case you should be known to the
countess and object to her. If you approve of the choice I have made
of her, tell the messenger that there is no answer."
As I was an entire stranger to the countess, I told the woman that I
had no answer to give, and she left me.
Here are the contents of the note addressed by the nun to the
countess, and which I had to deliver to her:
"I beg of you, my dear friend, to pay me a visit when you are at
leisure, and to let the masked gentleman-bearer of this note know the
hour, so that he can accompany you. He will be punctual. Farewell.
You will much oblige your friend."
That letter seemed to me informed by a sublime spirit of intrigue;
there was in it an appearance of dignity which captivated me,
although I felt conscious that I was playing the character of a man
on whom a favour seemed to be bestowed.
In her last letter, my nun, pretending not to be anxious to know who
I was, approved of my choice, and feigned indifference for nocturnal
meetings; but she seemed certain that after seeing her I would visit
her. I knew very well what to think of it all, for the intrigue was
sure to have an amorous issue. Nevertheless, her assurance, or
rather confidence, increased my curiosity, and I felt that she had
every reason to hope, if she were young and handsome. I might very
well have delayed the affair for a few days, and have learned from C-
--- C---- who that nun could be; but, besides the baseness of such a
proceeding, I was afraid of spoiling the game and repenting it
afterwards. I was told to call on the countess at my convenience,
but it was because the dignity of my nun would not allow her to shew
herself too impatient; and she certainly thought that I would myself
hasten the adventure. She seemed to me too deeply learned in
gallantry to admit the possibility of her being an inexperienced
novice, and I was afraid of wasting my time; but I made up my mind to
laugh at my own expense if I happened to meet a superannuated female.
It is very certain that if I had not been actuated by curiosity I
should not have gone one step further, but I wanted to see the
countenance of a nun who had offered to come to Venice to sup with
me. Besides, I was much surprised at the liberty enjoyed by those
sainted virgins, and at the facility with which they could escape out
of their walls.
At three o'clock I presented myself before the countess and delivered
the note, and she expressed a wish to see me the next day at the same
hour. We dropped a beautiful reverence to one another, and parted.
She was a superior woman, already going down the hill, but still very
The next morning, being Sunday, I need not say that I took care to
attend mass at the convent, elegantly dressed, and already
unfaithful--at least in idea--to my dear C---- C----, for I was
thinking of being seen by the nun, young or old, rather than of
shewing myself to my charming wife.
In the afternoon I masked myself again, and at the appointed time I
repaired to the house of the countess who was waiting for me. We
went in a two-oared gondola, and reached the convent without having
spoken of anything but the weather. When we arrived at the
gate, the countess asked for M---- M----. I was surprised by that
name, for the woman to whom it belonged was celebrated. We were
shewn into a small parlour, and a few minutes afterwards a nun came
in, went straight to the grating, touched a spring, and made four
squares of the grating revolve, which left an opening sufficiently
large to enable the two friends to embrace the ingenious window was
afterwards carefully closed. The opening was at least eighteen
inches wide, and a man of my size could easily have got through it.
The countess sat opposite the nun, and I took my seat a little on one
side so as to be able to observe quietly and at my ease one of the
most beautiful women that it was possible to see. I had no doubt
whatever of her being the person mentioned by my dear C---- C---- as
teaching her French. Admiration kept me in a sort of ecstacy, and I
never heard one word of their conversation; the beautiful nun, far
from speaking to me, did not even condescend to honour me with one
look. She was about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and the
shape of her face was most beautiful. Her figure was much above the
ordinary height, her complexion rather pale, her appearance noble,
full of energy, but at the same time reserved and modest; her eyes,
large and full, were of a lovely blue; her countenance was soft and
cheerful; her fine lips seemed to breathe the most heavenly
voluptuousness, and her teeth were two rows of the most brilliant
enamel. Her head-dress did not allow me to see her hair, but if she
had any I knew by the colour of her eyebrows that it was of a
beautiful light brown. Her hand and her arm, which I could see as
far as the elbow, were magnificent; the chisel of Praxiteles never
carved anything more grace fully rounded and plump, I was not sorry
to have refused the two rendezvous which had been offered to me
by the beauty, for I was sure of possessing her in a few days, and it
was a pleasure for me to lay my desires at her feet. I longed to
find myself alone with her near that grating, and I would have
considered it an insult to her if, the very next day, I had not come
to tell her how fully I rendered to her charms the justice they
deserved. She was faithful to her determination not to look at me
once, but after all I was pleased with her reserve. All at once the
two friends lowered their voices, and out of delicacy I withdrew
further. Their private conversation lasted about a quarter of an
hour, during which I pretended to be intently looking at a painting;
then they kissed one another again by the same process as at the
beginning of the interview; the nun closed the opening, turned her
back on us, and disappeared without casting one glance in my
As we were on our way back to Venice, the countess, tired perhaps of
our silence, said to me, with a smile,
"M---- M---- is beautiful and very witty."
"I have seen her beauty, and I believe in her wit."
"She did not address one word to you."
"I had refused to be introduced to her, and she punished me by
pretending not to know that I was present."
The countess made no answer, and we reached her house without
exchanging another word. At her door a very ceremonious curtesy,
with these words, "Adieu, sir!" warned me that I was not to go any
further. I had no wish to do so, and went away dreaming and
wondering at the singularity of the adventure, the end of which I
longed to see.
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
TO PARIS AND PRISON, Volume 2c--Convent Affairs
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
Countess Coronini--A Lover's Pique--Reconciliation--The First
Meeting--A Philosophical Parenthesis
My beautiful nun had not spoken to me, and I was glad of it, for I
was so astonished, so completely under the spell of her beauty, that
I might have given her a very poor opinion of my intelligence by the
rambling answers which I should very likely have given to her
questions. I knew her to be certain that she had not to fear the
humiliation of a refusal from me, but I admired her courage in
running the risk of it in her position. I could hardly understand
her boldness, and I could not conceive how she contrived to enjoy so
much liberty. A casino at Muran! the possibility of going to Venice
to sup with a young man! It was all very surprising, and I decided
in my own mind that she had an acknowledged lover whose pleasure it
was to make her happy by satisfying her caprices. It is true that
such a thought was rather unpleasant to my pride, but there was too
much piquancy in the adventure, the heroine of it was too attractive,
for me to be stopped by any considerations. I saw very well that I
was taking the high road to become unfaithful to my dear C---- C----,
or rather that I was already so in thought and will, but I must
confess that, in spite of all my love for that charming child, I felt
no qualms of conscience. It seemed to me that an infidelity of that
sort, if she ever heard of it, would not displease her, for that
short excursion on strange ground would only keep me alive and in
good condition for her, because it would save me from the weariness
which was surely killing me.
I had been presented to the celebrated Countess Coronini by a nun, a
relative of M. Dandolo. That countess, who had been very handsome
and was very witty, having made up her mind to renounce the political
intrigues which had been the study of her whole life, had sought a
retreat in the Convent of St. Justine, in the hope of finding in that
refuge the calm which she wanted, and which her disgust of society
had rendered necessary to her. As she had enjoyed a very great
reputation, she was still visited at the convent by all the foreign
ambassadors and by the first noblemen of Venice; inside of the walls
of her convent the countess was acquainted with everything that
happened in the city. She always received me very kindly, and,
treating me as a young man, she took pleasure in giving me, every
time I called on her, very agreeable lessons in morals. Being quite
certain to find out from her, with a little manoeuvering, something
concerning M---- M----, I decided on paying her a visit the day after
I had seen the beautiful nun.
The countess gave me her usual welcome, and, after the thousand
nothings which it is the custom to utter in society before anything
worth saying is spoken, I led the conversation up to the convents of
Venice. We spoke of the wit and influence of a nun called Celsi,
who, although ugly, had an immense credit everywhere and in
everything. We mentioned afterwards the young and lovely Sister
Michali, who had taken the veil to prove to her mother that she was
superior to her in intelligence and wit. After speaking of several
other nuns who had the reputation of being addicted to gallantry, I
named M---- M----, remarking that most likely she deserved that
reputation likewise, but that she was an enigma. The countess
answered with a smile that she was not an enigma for everybody,
although she was necessarily so for most people.
"What is incomprehensible," she said, "is the caprice that she took
suddenly to become a nun, being handsome, rich, free, well-educated,
full of wit, and, to my knowledge, a Free-thinker. She took the veil
without any reason, physical or moral; it was a mere caprice."
"Do you believe her to be happy, madam?"
"Yes, unless she has repented her decision, or if she does not repent
it some day. But if ever she does, I think she will be wise enough
never to say so to anyone."
Satisfied by the mysterious air of the countess that M---- M---- had
a lover, I made up my mind not to trouble myself about it, and having
put on my mask I went to Muran in the afternoon. When I reached the
gate of the convent I rang the bell, and with an anxious heart I
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