The Complete Memoires of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 27 out of 70
On returning to her house I wished to give her an I O U for the
moneys, but she would not hear of such a thing, and I let her remain
satisfied of my honesty.
I called on M. Corneman who gave me a bill of exchange for three
hundred florins on M. Boaz, a Jewish banker at the Hague, and I then
set out on my journey. I reached Anvers in two days, and finding a
yacht ready to start I got on board and arrived at Rotterdam the next
day. I got to the Hague on the day following, and after depositing
my effects at the "Hotel d'Angleterre" I proceeded to M. d'Afri's,
and found him reading M. de Choiseul's letter, which informed him of
my business. He asked me to dine in his company and in that of the
ambassador of the King of Poland, who encouraged me to proceed in my
undertaking though he had not much opinion of my chances of success.
Leaving the ambassador I went to see Boaz, whom I found at table in
the midst of a numerous and ugly family. He read my letter and told
me he had just received a letter from M. Corneman in which I was
highly commended to him. By way of a joke he said that as it was
Christmas Eve he supposed I should be going to rock the infant Jesus
asleep, but I answered that I was come to keep the Feast of the
Maccabees with him--a reply which gained me the applause of the whole
family and an invitation to stay with them. I accepted the offer
without hesitation, and I told my servant to fetch my baggage from
the hotel. Before leaving the banker I asked him to shew me some way
of making twenty thousand florins in the short time I was going to
stay in Holland.
Taking me quite seriously he replied that the thing might easily be
done and that he would think it over.
The next morning after breakfast, Boaz said,
"I have solved your problem, sir; come in here and I will tell you
He took me into his private office, and, after counting out three
thousand florins in notes and gold, he told me that if I liked I
could undoubtedly make the twenty thousand florins I had spoken of.
Much surprised at the ease with which money may be got in Holland, as
I had been merely jesting in the remarks I had made, I thanked him
for his kindness, and listened to his explanation.
"Look at this note," said he, "which I received this morning from the
Mint. It informs me that an issue of four hundred thousand ducats is
about to be made which will be disposed of at the current rate of
gold, which is fortunately not high just now. Each ducat will fetch
five florins, two stivers and three-fifths. This is the rate of
exchange with Frankfort. Buy in four hundred thousand ducats; take
them or send them to Frankfort, with bills of exchange on Amsterdam,
and your business is done. On every ducat you will make a stiver and
one-ninth, which comes to twenty-two thousand, two hundred and
twenty-two of our florins. Get hold of the gold to-day, and in a
week you will have your clear profit. That's my idea."
"But," said I, "will the clerks of the Mint trust me with such a
"Certainly not, unless you pay them in current money or in good
"My dear sir, I have neither money nor credit to that amount."
"Then you will certainly never make twenty thousand florins in a
week. By the way you talked yesterday I took you for a millionaire."
"I am very sorry you were so mistaken."
"I shall get one of my sons to transact the business to-day."
After giving me this rather sharp lesson, M. Boaz went into his
office, and I went to dress.
M. d'Afri had paid his call on me at the "Hotel d'Angleterre," and
not finding me there he had written me a letter asking me to come and
see him. I did so, and he kept me to dinner, shewing me a letter he
had received from M. de Boulogne, in which he was instructed not to
let me dispose of the twenty millions at a greater loss than eight
per cent., as peace was imminent. We both of us laughed at this calm
confidence of the Parisian minister, while we who were in a country
where people saw deeper into affairs knew that the truth was quite
On M. d'Afri's hearing that I was staying with a Jew, he advised me
to keep my own counsel when with Jews, "because," said he, "in
business, most honest and least knavish mean pretty much the same
thing. If you like," he added, "I will give you a letter of
introduction to M. Pels, of Amsterdam." I accepted his offer with
gratitude, and in the hope of being useful to me in the matter of my
foreign shares he introduced me to the Swedish ambassador, who sent
me to M. d'O----.
Wanting to be present at a great festival of Freemasons on St.
John's Day, I remained at the Hague till the day after the
celebration. The Comte de Tot, brother of the baron, who lost all
his money at the seraglio, and whom I had met again at the Hague,
introduced me. I was not sorry to be in company with all the best
society in Holland.
M. d'Afri introduced me to the mother of the stadtholder, who was
only twelve, and whom I thought too grave for his years. His mother
was a worthy, patient kind of woman, who fell asleep every minute,
even while she was speaking. She died shortly after, and it was
discovered at the postmortem examination that she had a disease of
the brain which caused her extreme propensity to sleep. Beside her I
saw Count Philip de Zinzendorf, who was looking for twelve millions
for the empress--a task which was not very difficult, as he offered
five per cent. interest.
At the play I found myself sitting next to the Turkish minister, and
I thought he would die with laughter before my eyes. It happened
They were playing Iphigenia, that masterpiece of Racine's. The
statue of Diana stood in the midst of the stage, and at the end of
one act Iphigenia and her train of priestesses, while passing before
it, all made a profound bow to the goddess. The candlesnuffer, who
perhaps may have been a bad wit, crossed the stage just after wards,
and likewise bowed to the goddess. This put pit and boxes in a good
humour, and peals of laughter sounded from all parts of the house.
All this had to be explained to the Turk, and he fell into such a fit
of laughter that I thought he would burst. At last he was carried to
his inn still laughing but almost senseless.
To have taken no notice of the Dutchman's heavy wit would have been,
I confess, a mark of stupidity, but no one but a Turk could have
laughed like that. It may be said that a great Greek philosopher
died of laughter at seeing a toothless old woman trying to eat figs.
But there is a great difference between a Turk and a Greek,
especially an ancient Greek.
Those who laugh a good deal are more fortunate than those who do not
laugh at all, as laughter is good for the digestion; but there is a
just mean in everything.
When I had gone two leagues from Amsterdam in my posting-chaise on
two wheels, my servant sitting beside me, I met a carriage on four
wheels, drawn like mine by two horses, and containing a fine-looking
young man and his servant. His coachman called out to mine to make
way for him. My coachman answered that if he did he might turn me
into the ditch, but the other insisted on it. I spoke to the master,
begging him to tell his coachman to make way for me.
"I am posting, sir," said I; "and, moreover, I am a foreigner."
"Sir," answered he, "in Holland we take no notice of posting or not
posting; and if you are foreigner, as you say, you must confess that
you have fewer rights than I who am in my own country."
The blood rushed to my face. I flung open the door with one hand and
took my sword with the other; and leaping into the snow, which was up
to my knees, I drew my sword, and summoned the Dutchman to give way
or defend himself. He was cooler than I, and replied, smiling, that
he was not going to fight for so foolish a cause, and that I might
get into my carriage again, as he would make way for me. I was
somewhat interested in his cool but pleasant manner. I got back into
my chaise, and the next night reached Amsterdam.
I put up at the excellent inn "L'Etoile d'Orient," and in the morning
I went on 'Change and found M. Pels. He told me he would think my
business over, and finding M, d'O---- directly afterwards he offered
to do me my sixty bills and give me twelve per cent. M. Pels told me
to wait, as he said he could get me fifteen per cent. He asked me to
dinner, and, on my admiring his Cape wine, he told me with a laugh
that he had made it himself by mixing Bordeaux and Malaga.
M. d'O---- asked me to dinner on the day following; and on calling I
found him with his daughter Esther, a young lady of fourteen, well
developed for her age, and exquisite in all respects except her
teeth, which were somewhat irregular. M. d'O was a widower, and had
this only child; consequently, Esther was heiress to a large fortune.
Her excellent father loved her blindly, and she deserved his love.
Her skin was snow white, delicately tinted with red; her hair was
black as ebony, and she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
She made an impression on me. Her father had given her an excellent
education; she spoke French perfectly, played the piano admirably,
and was passionately fond of reading.
After dinner M. d'O---- shewed me the uninhabited part of the house,
for since the death of his wife, whose memory was dear to him, he
lived on the ground floor only. He shewed me a set of rooms where he
kept a treasure in the way of old pottery. The walls and windows
were covered with plates of marble, each room a different colour, and
the floors were of mosaic, with Persian carpets. The dining-hall was
cased in alabaster, and the table and the cupboards were of cedar
wood. The whole house looked like a block of solid marble, for it
was covered with marble without as well as within, and must have cost
immense sums. Every Saturday half-a-dozen servant girls, perched on
ladders, washed down these splendid walls. These girls wore wide
hoops, being obliged to put on breeches, as otherwise they would have
interested the passers by in an unseemly manner. After looking at
the house we went down again, and M. d'O---- left me alone with
Esther in the antechamber, where he worked with his clerks. As it
was New Year's Day there was not business going on.
After playing a sonata, Mdlle. d'O---- asked me if I would go to a
concert. I replied that, being in her company, nothing could make me
stir. "But would you, mademoiselle, like to go?"
"Yes, I should like to go very well, but I cannot go by myself."
"If I might presume to offer to escort you . . . but I dare not
think you would accept."
"I should be delighted, and if you were to ask my father I am sure he
would not refuse his permission."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Quite sure, for otherwise he would be guilty of impoliteness, and my
father would not do such a thing. But I see you don't know the
manners of the country."
"I confess I do not:"
"Young ladies enjoy great liberty here--liberty which they lose only
by marrying. Go and ask, and you will see:"
I went to M. d'O---- and made my request, trembling lest I should
meet with a refusal.
"Have you a carriage?"
"Then I need not give orders to get mine ready. Esther!"
"Go and dress, my dear; M. Casanova has been kind enough to offer to
take you to the concert."
"How good of him! Thank you, papa, for letting me go."
She threw her arms around his neck, ran to dress, and reappeared an
hour after, as fair as the joy which was expressed on her every
feature. I could have wished she had used a little powder, but
Esther was jealous of her ebon tresses, which displayed the whiteness
of her skin to admiration. The chief aim of women in making their
toilette is to please men, but how poor is the judgment of most men
in such matters compared to the unerring instinct of the generality
A beautiful lace kerchief veiled her bosom, whose glories made my
heart beat faster.
We went down the stair, I helped her into the carriage, and stopped,
thinking she would be accompanied by one of her women; but seeing
nobody I got in myself. The door was shut, and we were off. I was
overwhelmed with astonishment. A treasure like this in my keeping I
could hardly think. I asked myself whether I was to remember that I
was a free-lance of love, or whether honour bade me forget it.
Esther, in the highest spirits, told me that we were going to hear an
Italian singer whose voice was exquisite, and noticing my confusion
she asked what was the matter. I did not know what to say, and began
to stammer out something, but at last succeeded in saying that she
was a treasure of whom I was not worthy to be the keeper.
"I know that in other countries a young girl would not be trusted
alone with a gentleman, but here they teach us discretion and how to
look after ourselves."
"Happy the man who is charged with your welfare, and happier still he
on whom your choice has fallen!"
"That choice is not for me to make; 'tis my father's business."
"But supposing your father's choice is not pleasing to you, or
supposing you love another?"
"We are not allowed to love a man until we know he is to be our
"Then you are not in love with anyone?"
"No, and I have never felt the desire to love."
"Then I may kiss your hand?"
"Why should you kiss my hand?"
She drew away her hand and offered me her lovely lips. I took a
kiss, which she gave modestly enough, but which went to my heart. My
delight was a little alloyed when she said that she would give me
another kiss before her father whenever I liked.
We reached the concert-room, where Esther found many of her young
friends--all daughters of rich merchants, some pretty, some plain,
and all curious to know who I was. The fair Esther, who knew no more
than my name, could not satisfy them. All at once seeing a fair
young girl a little way off she pointed her out to me and asked me my
opinion of her. Naturally enough I replied that I did not care for
"All the same, I must introduce you to her, for she may be a relation
of yours. Her name is the same; that is her father over there:"
"M. Casanova," said she, speaking to a gentleman, "I beg to introduce
to you M. Casanova, a friend of my father's."
"Really? The same name; I wish, sir, you were my friend, as we are,
perhaps, related. I belong to the Naples branch."
"Then we are related, though distantly, as my father came from Parma.
Have you your pedigree?"
"I ought to have such a thing, but to tell you the truth, I don't
think much of such matters. Besants d'or and such heraldic moneys
are not currency in a mercantile republic."
"Pedigree-hunting is certainly a somewhat foolish pursuit; but it may
nevertheless afford us a few minutes' amusement without our making
any parade of our ancestry."
"With all my heart."
"I shall have the honour of calling on you to-morrow, and I will
bring my family-tree with me. Will you be vexed if you find the root
of your family also?"
"Not at all; I shall be delighted. I will call on you myself to-
morrow. May I ask if you are a business man?"
"No, I am a financial agent in the employ of the French ministry. I
am staying with M. Pels."
M. Casanova made a sign to his daughter and introduced me to her.
She was Esther's dearest friend, and I sat down between them, and the
After a fine symphony, a concerto for the violin, another for the
hautbois, the Italian singer whose repute was so great and who was
styled Madame Trend made her appearance. What was my surprise when I
recognized in her Therese Imer, wife of the dancer Pompeati, whose
name the reader may remember. I had made her acquaintance eighteen
years ago, when the old senator Malipiero had struck me because we
were playing together. I had seen her again at Venice in 1753, and
then our pastime had been of a more serious nature. She had gone to
Bayreuth, where she had been the margrave's mistress. I had promised
to go and see her, but C---- C---- and my fair nun M---- M---- had
left me neither the time nor the wish to do so. Soon after I was put
under the Leads, and then I had other things to think about. I was
sufficiently self-controlled not to shew my astonishment, and
listened to an aria which she was singing, with her exquisite voice,
beginning "Eccoti giunta al fin, donna infelice," words which seemed
made for the case.
The applause seemed as if it would never come to an end. Esther told
me that it was not known who she was, but that she was said to be a
woman with a history, and to be very badly off. "She goes from one
town to another, singing at all the public concerts, and all she
receives is what those present choose to give her on a plate which
she takes round."
"Does she find that pay?"
"I should suspect not, as everyone has paid already at coming in.
She cannot get more than thirty or forty florins. The day after to-
morrow she will go to the Hague, then to Rotterdam, then back here
again. She had been performing for six months, and she is always
"Has she a lover?"
"She is said to have lovers in every town, but instead of enriching
her they make her poorer. She always wears black, not only because
she is a widow, but also on account of a great grief she is reported
to have gone through. She will soon be coming round." I took out my
purse; and counted out twelve ducats, which I wrapped in paper; my
heart beating all the while in a ridiculous manner, for I had really
nothing to be excited about.
When Therese was going along the seats in front of me, I glanced at
her for an instant, and I saw that she looked surprised. I turned my
head to speak to Esther, and when she was directly in front of me I
put my little packet on the plate without looking at her, and she
passed on. A little girl, four or five years old, followed her, and
when she got to the end of the bench she came back to kiss my hand.
I could not help recognizing in her a facsimile of myself, but I
concealed my emotion. The child stood still, and gazed at me
fixedly, to my no small confusion. "Would you like some sweets, my
dear?" said I, giving her my box, which I should have been glad to
turn into gold. The little girl took it smilingly, made me a curtsy,
and went on.
"Does it strike you, M. Casanova," said Esther, with a laugh, "that
you and that little girl are as like each other as two peas?"
"Yes, indeed," added Mdlle. Casanova, "there is a striking likeness."
"These resemblances are often the work of chance."
"Just so," said Esther, with a wicked smile, "but you admit a
likeness, don't you?"
"I confess I was struck with it, though of course I cannot judge so
well as you."
After the concert M. d'O---- arrived, and giving back his daughter to
his care I betook myself to my lodging. I was just sitting down to a
dish of oysters, before going to bed, when Therese made her
appearance, holding her child by the hand. Although I had not
expected her to visit me that evening, I was nevertheless not much
surprised to see her. I, of course, rose to greet her, when all at
once she fell fainting on the sofa, though whether the fainting fit
was real or assumed I cannot say. Thinking that she might be really
ill I played my part properly, and brought her to herself by
sprinkling her with cold water and putting my vinaigrette to her
nose. As soon as she came to herself she began to gaze at me without
saying a word. At last, tired of her silence, I asked her if she
would take any supper; and on her replying in the affirmative, I rang
the bell and ordered a good supper for three, which kept us at the
table till seven o'clock in the morning, talking over our various
fortunes and misfortunes. She was already acquainted with most of my
recent adventures, but I knew nothing at all about hers, and she
entertained me with a recital of them for five or six hours.
Sophie, the little girl, slept in my bed till day, and her mother,
keeping the best of her tale to the last, told me that she was my
daughter, and shewed me her baptismal certificate. The birth of the
child fell in with the period at which I had been intimate with
Therese, and her perfect likeness to myself left no room for doubt.
I therefore raised no objections, but told the mother that I was
persuaded of my paternity, and that, being in a position to give the
child a good education, I was ready to be a father to her.
"She is too precious a treasure in my sight; if we were separated I
"You are wrong; for if I took charge of the little girl I should see
that she was well provided for."
"I have a son of twelve to whom I cannot give a proper education;
take charge of him instead of Sophie."
"Where is he?"
"He is boarding, or rather in pawn, at Rotterdam."
"What do you mean by in pawn?"
"I mean that he will not be returned to me until I pay the person who
has got him all my debts."
"How much do you owe?"
"Eighty florins. You have already given me sixty-two, give me four
ducats more; you can then take my son, and I shall be the happiest of
mothers. I will send my son to you at the Hague next week, as I
think you will be there."
"Yes, my dear Therese; and instead of four ducats, here are twenty."
"We shall see each other again at the Hague."
She was grateful to excess, but I only felt pity for her and a sort
of friendly interest, and kept quite cool, despite the ardour of her
embraces. Seeing that her trouble was of no avail, she sighed, shed
some tears, and, taking her daughter, she bid me adieu, promising
once more to send me her son.
Therese was two years older than I. She was still pretty, and even
handsome, but her charms no longer retained their first beauty, and
my passion for her, having been a merely physical one, it was no
wonder that she had no longer any attraction for me. Her adventures
during the six years in which I had lost her would certainly interest
my readers, and form a pleasing episode in my book, and I would tell
the tale if it were a true one; but not being a romance writer, I am
anxious that this work shall contain the truth and nothing but the
truth. Convicted by her amorous and jealous margarve of infidelity,
she had been sent about her business. She was separated from her
husband Pompeati, had followed a new lover to Brussels, and there had
caught the fancy of Prince Charles de Lorraine, who had obtained her
the direction of all the theatres in the Austrian Low Countries. She
had then undertaken this vast responsibility, entailing heavy
expenditure, till at last, after selling all her diamonds and lace,
she had fled to Holland to avoid arrest. Her husband killed himself
at Vienna in a paroxysm caused by internal pain--he had cut open his
stomach with a razor, and died tearing at his entrails.
My business left me no time for sleep. M. Casanova came and asked me
to dinner, telling me to meet him on the Exchange--a place well worth
seeing. Millionaires are as plentiful as blackberries, and anyone
who is not worth more than a hundred thousand florins is considered
a poor man. I found M. d'O---- there, and was asked by him to dinner
the following day at a small house he had on the Amstel. M. Casanova
treated me with the greatest courtesy. After reading my pedigree he
went for his own, and found it exactly the same; but he merely
laughed, and seemed to care little about it, differing in that
respect from Don Antonio of Naples, who set such store by my
pedigree, and treated me with such politeness on that account.
Nevertheless, he bade me make use of him in anything relating to
business if I did anything in that way. I thought his daughter
pretty, but neither her charms nor her wit made any impression on me.
My thoughts were taken up with Esther, and I talked so much about her
at dinner that at last my cousin declared that she did not consider
her pretty. Oh, you women! beauty is the only unpardonable offence
in your eyes. Mdlle. Casanova was Esther's friend, and yet she could
not bear to hear her praised.
On my seeing M. d'O---- again after dinner, he told me that if I
cared to take fifteen per cent. on my shares, he would take them from
me and save broker's expenses. I thought the offer a good one, and I
accepted it, taking a bill of exchange on Tourton & Baur. At the
rate of exchange at Hamburg I found I should have seventy-two
thousand francs, although at five per cent. I had only expected
sixty-nine thousand. This transaction won me high favour with Madame
d'Urfe, who, perhaps, had not expected me to be so honest.
In the evening I went with M. Pels to Zaandam, in a boat placed on a
sleigh and impelled by a sail. It was an extraordinary, but at the
same time an amusing and agreeable, mode of travelling. The wind was
strong, and we did fifteen miles an hour; we seemed to pass through
the air as swiftly as an arrow. A safer and more convenient method
of travelling cannot be imagined; it would be an ideal way of
journeying round the world if there were such a thing as a frozen sea
all round. The wind, however, must be behind, as one cannot sail on
a side wind, there being no rudder. I was pleased and astonished at
the skill of our two sailors in lowering sail exactly at the proper
time; for the sleigh ran a good way, from the impetus it had already
received, and we stopped just at the bank of the river, whereas if
the sail had been lowered a moment later the sleigh might have been
broken to pieces. We had some excellent perch for dinner, but the
strength of the wind prevented us from walking about. I went there
again, but as Zaandam is well known as the haunt of the millionaire
merchants who retire and enjoy life there in their own way, I will
say no more about it. We returned in a fine sleigh drawn by two
horses, belonging to M. Pels, and he kept me to supper. This worthy
man, whose face bore witness to his entire honesty, told me that as I
was now the friend of M. d'O---- and himself, I should have nothing
whatever to do with the Jews, but should address myself to them
alone. I was pleased with this proposal, which made a good many of
my difficulties disappear, and the reader will see the results of
Next day snow fell in large flakes, and I went early to M. d'O----'s,
where I found Esther in the highest of spirits. She gave me a warm
welcome, and began to rally me on having spent the whole night with
I might possibly have shewn some slight confusion, but her father
said an honest man had nothing to be ashamed of in admiring talent.
Then, turning to me, he said,
"Tell me, M. Casanova, who this woman is?"
"She is a Venetian whose husband died recently; I knew her when I was
a lad, and it was six years since I had seen her last."
"You were agreeably surprised, then, to see your daughter?" said
"Why do you think the child is my daughter? Madame Trenti was
"The likeness is really too strong. And how about your falling
asleep yesterday when you were supping with M. Pels?"
"It was no wonder that I went asleep, as I had not closed an eye the
"I am envious of anyone who possesses the secret of getting a good
sleep, for I have always to wait long hours before sleep comes to me,
and when I awake, instead of being refreshed, I feel heavy and
languid from fatigue."
"Try passing the night in listening to one in whom you take an
interest, telling the story of her life, and I promise you that you
will sleep well the night after."
"There is no such person for me."
"No, because you have as yet only seen fourteen summers; but
afterwards there will be someone."
"Maybe, but what I want just now is books, and the help of someone
who will guide my reading."
"That would be an easy matter for anyone who knew your tastes."
"I like history and travels, but for a book to please me it must be
all true, as I lay it down at the slightest suspicion of its
"Now I think I may venture to offer my services, and if you will
accept them I believe I shall be able to give satisfaction."
"I accept your offer, and shall keep you to your word."
"You need not be afraid of my breaking it, and before I leave for the
Hague I will prove that I am reliable."
She then began to rally me on the pleasure I should have at the
Hague, where I should see Madame Trenti again. Her freedom, mirth,
and extreme beauty set my blood on fire, and M. d'O---- laughed
heartily at the war his charming daughter waged on me. At eleven
o'clock we got into a well-appointed sleigh and we set out for his
small house, where she told me I should find Mdlle. Casanova and her
"Nevertheless," said I, "you will continue to be my only attraction."
She made no answer, but it was easy to perceive that my avowal had
not displeased her.
When we had gone some distance we saw the lovers, who had come out,
in spite of the snow, to meet us. We got down, and after taking off
our furs we entered the house. I gazed at the young gentleman, who
looked at me a moment in return and then whispered in Mdlle.
Casanova's ear. She smiled and whispered something to Esther.
Esther stepped up to her father and said a few words to him in a low
voice, and everybody began to laugh at once. They all looked at me
and I felt certain that I was somehow the point of the joke, but I
put on an indifferent air.
"There may be a mistake," said M. d'O---- ; "at any rate we should
ascertain the truth of the matter."
"M. Casanova, had you any adventures on your journey from the Hague
At this I looked again at the young gentleman, and I guessed what
they were talking about.
"No adventure to speak of," I answered, "except a meeting with a fine
fellow who desired to see my carriage turn upside down into the
ditch, and who I think is present now."
At these words the laughter broke out afresh, and the gentleman and I
embraced each other; but after he had given the true account of the
adventure his mistress pretended to be angry, and told him that he
ought to have fought. Esther observed that he had shewn more true
courage in listening to reason, and M. d'O---- said he was strongly
of his daughter's opinion; however, Mdlle. Casanova, after airing her
high-flown ideas, began to sulk with her lover.
To restore the general mirth, Esther said, gaily, "Come, come, let us
put on our skates, and try the Amstel, for I am afraid that unless we
go forthwith the ice will have melted." I was ashamed to ask her to
let me off, though I would gladly have done so! but what will not
love do! M. d'O---- left us to our own devices. Mdlle. Casanova's
intended put on my skates, and the ladies put on their short
petticoats with black velvet drawers to guard against certain
accidents. We reached the river, and as I was a perfect neophyte in
this sport the figure I cut may be imagined. However, I resolutely
determined to conquer my awkwardness, and twenty times, to the peril
of my spine, did I fall down upon the ice. I should have been wiser
to have left off, but I was ashamed to do so, and I did not stop
till, to my huge delight, we were summoned in to dinner. But I paid
dear for my obstinacy, for when I tried to rise from the table I felt
as if I had lost the use of my limbs. Esther pitied me, and said she
would cure me. There was a good deal of laughter at my expense, and
I let them laugh, as I felt certain that the whole thing had been
contrived to turn me into derision, and wishing to make Esther love
me I thought it best to stimulate a good temper. I passed the
afternoon with M. d'O----, letting the young people go by themselves
on the Amstel, where they stopped till dusk.
Next morning when I awoke I thought I was a lost man. I suffered a
martyrdom of pain. The last of my vertebral bones, called by doctors
the os sacrum, felt as if it had been crushed to atoms, although I
had used almost the whole of a pot of ointment which Esther had given
me for that purpose. In spite of my torments I did not forget my
promise, and I had myself taken to a bookseller's where I bought all
the books I thought likely to interest her. She was very grateful,
and told me to come and embrace her before I started if I wanted a
It was not likely that I was going to refuse such an invitation as
that, so I went early in the morning, leaving my post-chaise at the
door Her governess took me to her bed, where she was lying as fair
and gay as Venus herself.
"I am quite sure," said she, "that you would not have come at all
unless I had asked you to come and embrace me."
At this my lips were fastened on her mouth, her eyes, and on every
spot of her lovely face. But seeing my eyes straying towards her
bosom, and guessing that I should make myself master of it, she
stopped laughing and put herself on the defensive.
"Go away," said she, slyly, "go away and enjoy yourself at the Hague
with the fair Trenti, who possesses so pretty a token of your love."
"My dear Esther, I am going to the Hague to talk business with the
ambassador, and for no other reason, and in six days at latest you
will see me back again, as much your lover as before, and desiring
nothing better than to please you."
"I rely upon your word of honour, but mind you do not deceive me."
With these words she put up her mouth and gave me so tender and
passionate a kiss that I went away feeling certain of my bliss being
crowned on my return. That evening, at supper-time, I reached Boaz's
by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
THE ETERNAL QUEST, Volume 3b--RETURN TO PARIS
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
THE ETERNAL QUEST
RETURN TO PARIS
My Fortune in Holland--My Return to Paris with Young Pompeati
Amongst the letters which were waiting for me was one from the
comptroller-general, which advised me that twenty millions in
Government securities had been placed in the hands of M. d'Afri, who
was not to go beyond a loss of eight per cent.; and another letter
from my good patron, M. de Bernis, telling me to do the best I could,
and to be assured that the ambassador would be instructed to consent
to whatever bargain might be made, provided the rate was not more
disadvantageous than that of the exchange at Paris. Boaz, who was
astonished at the bargain I had made with my shares, wanted to
discount the Government securities for me, and I should very likely
have agreed to his terms if he had not required me to give him three
months, and the promise that the agreement should hold even in the
case of peace being concluded in the meanwhile. It was not long
before I saw that I should do well to get back to Amsterdam, but I
did not care to break my word to Therese, whom I had promised to meet
at the Hague. I received a letter from her while I was at the play,
and the servant who brought it told me he was waiting to conduct me
to her. I sent my own servant home, and set out on my quest.
My guide made me climb to the fourth floor of a somewhat wretched
house, and there I found this strange woman in a small room, attended
by her son and daughter. The table stood in the midst of the room,
and was covered with a black cloth, and the two candles standing upon
it made it look like some sort of sepulchral altar. The Hague was a
Court town. I was richly dressed; my elaborate attire made the
saddest possible contrast with the gloom of my surroundings.
Therese, dressed in black and seated between her children at that
black table, reminded me of Medea. To see these two fair young
creatures vowed to a lot of misery and disgrace was a sad and
touching sight. I took the boy between my arms, and pressing him to
my breast called him my son. His mother told him to look upon me as
his father from henceforth. The lad recognized me; he remembered,
much to my delight, seeing me in the May of 1753, in Venice, at
Madame Manzoni's. He was slight but strong; his limbs were well
proportioned, and his features intellectual. He was thirteen years
His sister sat perfectly still, apparently waiting for her turn to
come. I took her on my knee, and as I embraced her, nature herself
seemed to tell me that she was my daughter. She took my kisses in
silence, but it was easy to see that she thought herself preferred to
her brother, and was charmed with the idea. All her clothing was a
slight frock, and I was able to feel every limb and to kiss her
pretty little body all over, delighted that so sweet a being owed her
existence to me.
"Mamma, dear," said she, "is not this fine gentleman the same we saw
at Amsterdam, and who was taken for my papa because I am like him?
But that cannot be, for my papa is dead."
"So he is, sweetheart; but I may be your dear friend, mayn't I?
Would you like to have me for a friend?"
"Yes, yes!" she cried, and throwing her arms about my neck gave me a
thousand kisses, which I returned with delight.
After we had talked and laughed together we sat down at table, and
the heroine Therese gave me a delicate supper accompanied by
exquisite wines. "I have never given the margrave better fare," said
she, "at those nice little suppers we used to take together."
Wishing to probe the disposition of her son, whom I had engaged to
take away with me, I addressed several remarks to him, and soon
discovered that he was of a false and deceitful nature, always on his
guard, taking care of what he said, and consequently speaking only
from his head and not from his heart. Every word was delivered with
a quiet politeness which, no doubt, was intended to please me.
I told him that this sort of thing was all very well on occasion; but
that there were times when a man's happiness depended on his freedom
from constraint; then and only then was his amiability, if he had
any, displayed. His mother, thinking to praise him, told me that
reserve was his chief characteristic, that she had trained him to
keep his counsel at all times and places, and that she was thus used
to his being reserved with her as with everyone else.
"All I can say is," said I, "your system is an abominable one. You
may have strangled in their infancy all the finer qualities with
which nature has endowed your son, and have fairly set him on the way
to become a monster instead of an angel. I don't see how the most
devoted father can possibly have any affection for a son who keeps
all his emotions under lock and key."
This outburst, which proceeded from the tenderness I would fain have
felt for the boy, seemed to strike his mother dumb.
"Tell me, my dear, if you feel yourself capable of shewing me that
confidence which a father has a right to expect of a good son, and if
you can promise to be perfectly open and unreserved towards me?"
"I promise that I will die rather than tell you a falsehood."
"That's just like him," said the mother. "I have succeeded in
inspiring him with the utmost horror of untruthfulness."
"That's all very well, my dear madam, but you might have pursued a
still better course, and one which would have been still more
conducive to his happiness."
"What is that?"
"I will tell you. It was necessary to make him detest a lie; you
should have rather endeavoured to make him a lover of the truth by
displaying it to him in all its native beauty. This is the only way
to make him lovable, and love is the sole bestower of happiness in
"But isn't it the same thing not to lie and to tell the truth," said
the boy, with a smile which charmed his mother and displeased me.
"Certainly not; there is a great difference--for to avoid lying you
have only to hold your tongue; and do you think that comes to the
same thing as speaking the truth? You must open your mind to me, my
son, and tell me all your thoughts, even if you blush in the recital.
I will teach you how to blush, and soon you will have nothing to fear
in laying open all your thoughts and deeds. When we know each other
a little longer we shall see how we agree together. You must
understand that I cannot look upon you as my son until I see cause to
love you, and I cannot have you call me father till you treat me as
the best friend you have. You may be quite sure that I shall find a
way to discover your thoughts, however cleverly you try to hide them.
If I find you deceitful and suspicious I shall certainly entertain no
regard for you. As soon as I have finished my business at Amsterdam
we will set out for Paris. I am leaving the Hague to-morrow, and on
my return I hope to find you instructed by your mother in a system of
morality more consonant with my views, and more likely to lead to
On glancing at my little daughter, who had been listening to me with
the greatest attention, I saw that her eyes were swimming with tears,
which she could hardly retain.
"Why are you crying?" said the mother; "it is silly to cry." And
with that the child ran to her mother and threw her arms round her
"Would you like to come to Paris, too?" said I to her.
"Oh, yes! But mamma must come too, as she would die without me."
"What would you do if I told you to go?" said the mother.
"I would obey you, mamma, but how could I exist away from you?"
Thereupon my little daughter pretended to cry. I say pretended, as
it was quite evident that the child did not mean what she said, and I
am sure that her mother knew it as well as I.
It was really a melancholy thing to see the effects of a bad
education on this young child, to whom nature had given intelligence
and feeling. I took the mother on one side, and said that if she had
intended to make actors of her children she had succeeded to
admiration; but if she wished them to become useful members of
society her system had failed lamentably, as they were in a fair way
to become monsters of deceit. I continued making her the most
pointed remonstrances until, in spite of her efforts to control
herself, she burst into tears. However, she soon recovered her
composure, and begged me to stay at the Hague a day longer, but I
told her it was out of the question, and left the room. I came in
again a few minutes after, and Sophie came up to me and said, in a
loving little voice,
"If you are really my friend, you will give me some proof of your
"And what proof do you want, my dear?"
"I want you to come and sup with me to-morrow."
"I can't, Sophie dear, for I have just said no to your mother, and
she would be offended if I granted you what I had refused her."
"Oh, no! she wouldn't; it was she who told me to ask you just now."
I naturally began to laugh, but on her mother calling the girl a
little fool, and the brother adding that he had never committed such
an indiscretion, the poor child began to tremble all over, and looked
abashed. I reassured her as best I could, not caring whether what I
said displeased her mother or not, and I endeavoured to instill into
her principles of a very different nature to those in which she had
been reared, while she listened with an eagerness which proved that
her heart was still ready to learn the right way. Little by little
her face cleared, and I saw that I had made an impression, and though
I could not flatter myself that any good I might do her would be
lasting in its effects as long as she remained under the bad
influence of her mother, I promised to come and sup with her next
evening, "but on the condition," I said, "that you give me a plain
meal, and one bottle of chambertin only, for you are not too well
"I know that, but mamma says that you pay for everything."
This reply made me go off into a roar of laughter; and in spite of
her vexation the mother was obliged to follow my example. The poor
woman, hardened by the life she led, took the child's simplicity for
stupidity, but I saw in her a rough diamond which only wanted
Therese told me that the wine did not cost her anything, as the son
of the Rotterdam burgomaster furnished her with it, and that he would
sup with us the next day if I would allow him to be present. I
answered smilingly that I should be delighted to see him, and I went
away after giving my daughter, of whom I felt fond, a tender embrace.
I would have done anything to be entrusted with her, but I saw it
would be no good trying to get possession of her, as the mother was
evidently keeping her as a resource for her old age. This is a
common way for adventuresses to look upon their daughters, and
Therese was an adventuress in the widest acceptation of the term. I
gave her twenty ducats to get clothes for my adopted son and Sophie,
who, with spontaneous gratitude, and her eyes filled with tears, came
and gave me a kiss. Joseph was going to kiss my hand, but I told him
that it was degrading for one man to kiss another's hand, and that
for the future he was to shew his gratitude by embracing me as a son
embraces his father.
Just as I was leaving, Therese took me to the closet where the two
children were sleeping. I knew what she was thinking of; but all
that was over long ago; I could think of no one but Esther.
The next day I found the burgomaster's son at my actress's house. He
was a fine young fellow of twenty or twenty-one, but totally devoid
of manner. He was Therese's lover, but he should have regulated his
behaviour in my presence. Therese, seeing that he was posing as
master of the field, and that his manners disgusted me, began to snub
him, much to his displeasure, and after sneering at the poorness of
the dishes, and praising the wine which he had supplied, he went out
leaving us to finish our dessert by ourselves. I left myself at
eleven, telling Therese that I should see her again before I went
away. The Princesse de Galitzin, a Cantimir by birth, had asked me
to dinner, and this made me lose another day.
Next day I heard from Madame d'Urfe, who enclosed a bill of exchange
on Boaz for twelve thousand francs. She said that she had bought her
shares for sixty thousand, that she did not wish to make anything of
them, and that she hoped I would accept the overplus as my broker's
fee. She worded her offer with too much courtesy for me to refuse
it. The remainder of the letter was devoted to the wildest fancies.
She said that her genius had revealed to her that I should bring back
to Paris a boy born of the Mystical Marriage, and she hoped I would
take pity on her. It was a strange coincidence, and seemed likely to
attach the woman still more closely to her visionary theories. I
laughed when I though how she would be impressed by Therese's son,
who was certainly not born of the Mystical Marriage.
Boaz paid me my twelve thousand francs in ducats, and I made him my
friend, as he thanked me for receiving the moneys in ducats, and he
doubtless made a profit on the transaction, gold being a commodity in
Holland, and all payments being made in silver or paper money.
At that time gold was at a low rate, and nobody would take ducats.
After having an excellent dinner with the Princesse de Galitzin, I
put on my cloak and went to the cafe. I found there the
burgomaster's son, who was just beginning a game of billiards. He
whispered to me that I might back him with advantage, and thinking he
was sure of his stroke I thanked him and followed his advice.
However, after losing three games one after the other, I took his
measure and began to lay against him without his knowledge. After
playing for three hours and losing all the time, he stopped play and
came to condole with me on my heavy loss. It is impossible to
describe his amazed expression when I shewed him a handful of ducats,
and assured him that I had spent a very profitable evening in laying
against him. Everybody in the room began to laugh at him, but he was
the sort of young man who doesn't understand a joke, and he went out
in a rage. Soon after I left the billiard-room myself, and,
according to my promise went to see Therese, as I was leaving for
Amsterdam the next day.
Therese was waiting for her young wine merchant, but on my recounting
his adventures she expected him no longer. I took my little daughter
on my knee and lavished my caresses on her, and so left them, telling
them that we should see each other again in the course of three weeks
or a month at latest.
As I was going home in the moonlight by myself, my sword under my
arm, I was encountered all of a sudden by the poor dupe of a
"I want to know," said he, "if your sword has as sharp a point as
I tried to quiet him by speaking common sense, and I kept my sword
wrapped in my cloak, though his was bared and directed against me.
"You are wrong to take my jests in such bad part," said I; "however,
I apologize to you."
"No apologies; look to yourself."
"Wait till to-morrow, you will be cooler then, but if you still wish
it I will give you satisfaction in the midst of the billiard-room."
"The only satisfaction you can give me is to fight; I want to kill
As evidence of his determination, and to provoke me beyond recall, he
struck me with the flat of his sword, the first and last time in my
life in which I have received such and insult. I drew my sword, but
still hoping to bring him to his senses I kept strictly on the
defensive and endeavoured to make him leave off. This conduct the
Dutchman mistook for fear, and pushed hard on me, lunging in a manner
that made me look to myself. His sword passed through my necktie; a
quarter of an inch farther in would have done my business.
I leapt to one side, and, my danger no longer admitting of my
fighting on the defensive, I lunged out and wounded him in the chest.
I thought this would have been enough for him, so I proposed we
should terminate our engagement.
"I'm not dead yet," said he; "I want to kill you."
This was his watchword; and, as he leapt on me in a paroxysm of rage,
more like a madman than a sensible being, I hit him four times. At
the fourth wound he stepped back, and, saying he had had enough,
begged me to leave him.
I went off as fast as I could, and was very glad to see from the look
of my sword that his wounds were slight. I found Boaz still up, and
on hearing what had taken place he advised me to go to Amsterdam at
once, though I assured him that the wounds were not mortal. I gave
in to his advice, and as my carriage was at the saddler's he lent me
his, and I set out, bidding my servant to come on the next day with
my luggage, and to rejoin me at the "Old Bible," in Amsterdam. I
reached Amsterdam at noon and my man arrived in the evening.
I was curious to hear if my duel had made any noise, but as my
servant had left at an early hour he had heard nothing about it.
Fortunately for me nothing whatever was known about it at Amsterdam
for a week after; otherwise, things might not have gone well with me,
as the reputation of being a duellist is not a recommendation to
financiers with whom one is about to transact business of importance.
The reader will not be surprised when I tell him that my first call
was on M. d'O, or rather on his charming daughter Esther, for she
it was on whom I waited. It will be remembered that the way in which
we parted did a good deal towards augmenting the warmth of my
affection for her. On entering the room I found Esther writing at a
"What are you doing Esther, dear?"
"An arithmetical problem."
"Do you like problems?"
"I am passionately fond of anything which contains difficulties and
offers curious results."
"I will give you something which will please you."
I made her, by way of jest, two magic squares, which delighted her.
In return, she spewed me some trifles with which I was well
acquainted, but which I pretended to think very astonishing. My good
genius then inspired me with the idea of trying divination by the
cabala. I told her to ask a question in writing, and assured her
that by a certain kind of calculation a satisfactory answer would be
obtained. She smiled, and asked why I had returned to Amsterdam so
soon. I shewed her how to make the pyramid with the proper numbers
and the other ceremonies, then I made her extract the answer in
numbers, translating it into French, and greatly was she surprised to
find that the cause which had made me return to Amsterdam so soon
Quite confounded, she said it was very wonderful, even though the
answer might not be true, and she wished to know what masters could
teach this mode of calculation.
"Those who know it cannot teach it to anyone."
"How did you learn it, then?"
"From a precious manuscript I inherited from my father."
"Sell it me."
"I have burnt it; and I am not empowered to communicate the secret to
anyone before I reach the age of fifty."
"I don't know; but I do know that if I communicated it to anyone
before that age I should run the risk of losing it myself. The
elementary spirit who is attached to the oracle would leave it."
"How do you know that?"
"I saw it so stated in the manuscript I have spoken of."
"Then you are able to discover all secrets?"
"Yes, or I should be if the replies were not sometimes too obscure to
"As it does not take much time, will you be kind enough to get me an
answer to another question?"
"With pleasure; you can command me in anything not forbidden by my
She asked what her destiny would be, and the oracle replied that she
had not yet taken the first step towards it. Esther was astonished
and called her governess to see the two answers, but the good woman
saw nothing wonderful in them whatever. Esther impatiently called
her a blockhead, and entreated me to let her ask another question. I
begged her to do so, and she asked,
"Who loves me most in Amsterdam?" The oracle replied that no one
loved her as well as he who had given her being: Poor Esther then
told me that I had made her miserable, and that she would die of
grief if she could not succeed in learning the method of calculation.
I gave no answer, and pretended to feel sad at heart. She began to
write down another question, putting her hand in front so as to
screen the paper. I rose as if to get out of her way, but while she
was arranging the pyramid I cast my eyes on the paper whilst walking
up and down the room, and read her question. After she had gone as
far as I had taught her, she asked me to extract the answer, saying
that I could do so without reading the question. I agreed to do so
on the condition that she would not ask a second time.
As I had seen her question, it was easy for me to answer it. She had
asked the oracle if she might shew the questions she had propounded
to her father, and the answer was that she would be happy as long as
she had no secrets from her father.
When she read these words she gave a cry of surprise, and could find
no words wherewith to express her gratitude to me. I left her for
the Exchange, where I had a long business conversation with M. Pels.
Next morning a handsome and gentlemanly man came with a letter of
introduction from Therese, who told me that he would be useful in
case I wanted any assistance in business. His name was Rigerboos.
She informed me that the burgomaster's son was only slightly wounded,
and that I had nothing to fear as the matter was not generally known,
and that if I had business at the Hague I might return there in
perfect safety. She said that my little Sophie talked of me all day,
and that I should find my son much improved on my return. I asked M.
Rigerboos to give me his address, assuring him that at the proper
time I should rely on his services.
A moment after Rigerboos had gone, I got a short note from Esther,
who begged me, in her father's name, to spend the day with her--at
least, if I had no important engagement. I answered that, excepting
a certain matter of which her father knew, I had no chiefer aim than
to convince her that I desired a place in her heart, and that she
might be quite sure that I would not refuse her invitation.
I went to M. d'O---- at dinner time. I found Esther and her father
puzzling over the method which drew reasonable answers out of a
pyramid of numbers. As soon as her father saw me, he embraced me,
saying how happy he was to possess a daughter capable of attracting
"She will attract any man who has sufficient sense to appreciate
"You appreciate her, then?"
"I worship her."
"Then embrace her."
Esther opened her arms, and with a cry of delight threw them round my
neck, and gave the back all my caresses, kiss for kiss.
"I have got through all my business," said M. d'O----, "and the rest
of my day is at your disposal. I have known from my childhood that
there is such a science as the one you profess, and I was acquainted
with a Jew who by its aid made an immense fortune. He, like you,
said that, under pain of losing the secret, it could only be
communicated to one person, but he put off doing so so long that at
last it was too late, for a high fever carried him off in a few days.
I hope you will not do as the Jew did; but in the meanwhile allow me
to say that if You do not draw a profit from this treasure, you do
not know what it really is."
"You call this knowledge of mine a treasure, and yet you possess one
far more excellent," looking at Esther as I spoke.
"We will discuss that again. Yes, sir, I call your science a
"But the answers of the oracle are often very obscure."
"Obscure! The answers my daughter received are as clear as day."
"Apparently, she is fortunate in the way she frames her questions;
for on this the reply depends."
"After dinner we will try if I am so fortunate--at least, if you will
be so kind as to help me."
"I can refuse you nothing, as I consider father and daughter as one
At table we discussed other subjects, as the chief clerks were
present--notably the manager, a vulgar-looking fellow, who had very
evident aspirations in the direction of my fair Esther. After dinner
we went into M. d'O 's private closet, and thereupon he drew two long
questions out of his pocket. In the first he desired to know how to
obtain a favourable decision from the States-General in an important
matter, the details of which he explained. I replied in terms, the
obscurity of which would have done credit to a professed Pythoness,
and I left Esther to translate the answer into common sense, and find
a meaning in it.
With regard to the second answer I acted in a different manner; I was
impelled to answer clearly, and did so. M. d'O asked what had
become of a vessel belonging to the India Company of which nothing
had been heard. It was known to have started on the return voyage,
and should have arrived two months ago, and this delay gave rise to
the supposition that it had gone down. M. d'O---- wished to know if
it were still above water, or whether it were lost, etc. As no
tidings of it had come to hand, the company were on the look-out for
someone to insure it, and offered ten per cent., but nobody cared to
run so great a risk, especially as a letter had been received from an
English sea captain who said he had seen her sink.
I may confess to my readers, though I did not do so to M. d'O----.
that with inexplicable folly I composed an answer that left no doubt
as to the safety of the vessel, pronouncing it safe and sound, and
that we should hear of it in a few days. No doubt I felt the need of
exalting my oracle, but this method was likely to destroy its credit
for ever. In truth, if I had guessed M. d'O----'s design, I would
have curbed my vanity, for I had no wish to make him lose a large sum
without profiting myself.
The answer made him turn pale, and tremble with joy. He told us that
secrecy in the matter was of the last importance, as he had
determined to insure the vessel and drive a good bargain. At this,
dreading the consequences, I hastened to tell him that for all I knew
there might not be a word of truth in the oracle's reply, and that I
should die of grief if I were the involuntary cause of his losing an
enormous sum of money through relying on an oracle, the hidden sense
of which might be completely opposed to the literal translation.
"Have you ever been deceived by it?"
Seeing my distress, Esther begged her father to take no further steps
in the matter. For some moments nobody spoke.
M. d'O---- looked thoughtful and full of the project which his fancy
had painted in such gay colours. He said a good deal about it,
dwelling on the mystic virtues of numbers, and told his daughter to
read out all the questions she had addressed to the oracle with the
answers she had received. There were six or seven of them, all
briefly worded, some direct and some equivocal. Esther, who had
constructed the pyramids, had shone, with my potent assistance, in
extracting the answers, which I had really invented, and her father,
in the joy of his heart, seeing her so clever, imagined that she
would become an adept in the science by the force of intelligence.
The lovely Esther, who was much taken with the trifle; was quite
ready to be of the same opinion.
After passing several hours in the discussion of the answers, which
my host thought divine, we had supper, and at parting M. d'O---- said
that as Sunday was a day for pleasure and not business he hoped I
would honour them by passing the day at their pretty house on the
Amstel, and they were delighted at my accepting their invitation.
I could not help pondering over the mysteries of the commercial mind,
which narrows itself down to considerations of profit and loss.
M. d'O---- was decidedly an honest man; but although he was rich, he
was by no means devoid of the greed incident to his profession. I
asked myself the question, how a man, who would consider it
dishonourable to steal a ducat, or to pick one up in the street and
keep it, knowing to whom it belonged, could reconcile it with his
conscience to make an enormous profit by insuring a vessel of the
safety of which he was perfectly certain, as he believed the oracle
infallible. Such a transaction was certainly fraudulent, as it is
dishonest to play when one is certain of winning.
As I was going home I passed a tea-garden, and seeing a good many
people going in and coming out I went in curious to know how these
places were managed in Holland. Great heavens! I found myself the
witness of an orgy, the scene a sort of cellar, a perfect cesspool of
vice and debauchery. The discordant noise of the two or three
instruments which formed the orchestra struck gloom to the soul and
added to the horrors of the cavern. The air was dense with the fumes
of bad tobacco, and vapours reeking of beer and garlic issued from
every mouth. The company consisted of sailors, men of the lowest-
class, and a number of vile women. The sailors and the dregs of the
people thought this den a garden of delight, and considered its
pleasures compensation for the toils of the sea and the miseries of
daily labour. There was not a single woman there whose aspect had
anything redeeming about it. I was looking at the repulsive sight in
silence, when a great hulking fellow, whose appearance suggested the
blacksmith, and his voice the blackguard, came up to me and asked me
in bad Italian if I would like to dance. I answered in the negative,
but before leaving me he pointed out a Venetian woman who, he said,
would oblige me if I gave her some drink.
Wishing to discover if she was anyone I knew I looked at her
attentively, and seemed to recollect her features, although I could
not decide who she could be. Feeling rather curious on the subject I
sat down next to her, and asked if she came from Venice, and if she
had left that country some time ago.
"Nearly eighteen years," she replied.
I ordered a bottle of wine, and asked if she would take any; she said
yes, and added, if I liked, she would oblige me.
"I haven't time," I said; and I gave the poor wretch the change I
received from the waiter. She was full of gratitude, and would have
embraced me if I had allowed her.
"Do you like being at Amsterdam better than Venice?" I asked.
"Alas, no! for if I were in my own country I should not be following
this dreadful trade."
"How old were you when you left Venice."
"I was only fourteen and lived happily with my father and mother, who
now may have died of grief."
"Who seduced you?"
"A rascally footman."
"In what part of Venice did you live?"
"I did not live in Venice, but at Friuli, not far off."
Friuli . . . eighteen years ago . . . a footman . . . I felt
moved, and looking at the wretched woman more closely I soon
recognized in her Lucie of Pasean. I cannot describe my sorrow,
which I concealed as best I could, and tried hard to keep up my
indifferent air. A life of debauchery rather than the flight of time
had tarnished her beauty, and ruined the once exquisite outlines of
her form. Lucie, that innocent and pretty maiden, grown ugly, vile,
a common prostitute! It was a dreadful thought. She drank like a
sailor, without looking at me, and without caring who I was. I took
a few ducats from my purse, and slipped them into her hand, and
without waiting for her to find out how much I had given her I left
that horrible den.
I went to bed full of saddening thoughts. Not even under the Leads
did I pass so wretched a day. I thought I must have risen under some
unhappy star! I loathed myself. With regard to Lucie I felt the
sting of remorse, but at the thought of M. d'O---- I hated myself.
I considered that I should cause him a loss of three or four hundred
thousand florins; and the thought was a bitter drop in the cup of my
affection for Esther. I fancied, she, as well as her father, would
become my implacable foe; and love that is not returned is no love at
I spent a dreadful night. Lucie, Esther, her father, their hatred of
me, and my hatred of myself, were the groundwork of my dreams. I saw
Esther and her father, if not ruined, at all events impoverished by
my fault, and Lucie only thirty-two years old, and already deep in
the abyss of vice, with an infinite prospect of misery and shame
before her. The dawn was welcome indeed, for with its appearance a
calm came to my spirit; it is, the darkness which is terrible to a
heart full of remorse.
I got up and dressed myself in my best, and went in a coach to do my
suit to the Princesse de Galitzin, who, was staying at the "Etoile
d'Orient." I found her out; she had gone to the Admiralty. I went
there, and found her accompanied by M. de Reissak and the Count de
Tot, who had just received news of my friend Pesselier, at whose
house I made his acquaintance, and who was dangerously ill when I
I sent away my coach and began to walk towards M. d'O----'s house on
the Amsel. The extreme elegance of my costume was displeasing in the
eyes of the Dutch populace, and they hissed and hooted me, after the
manner of the mob all the world over, Esther saw me coming from the
window, drew the rope, and opened the door. I ran in, shut the door
behind me, and as I was going up the wooden staircase, on the fourth
or fifth step my foot struck against some yielding substance. I
looked down and saw a green pocket-book. I stooped down to pick it
up, but was awkward enough to send it through an opening in the
stairs, which had been doubtless made for the purpose of giving light
to a stair below. I did not stop, but went up the steps and was
received with the usual hospitality, and on their expressing some
wonder as to the unusual brilliance of my attire I explained the
circumstances of the case. Esther smiled and said I looked quite
another person, but I saw that both father and daughter were sad at
heart. Esther's governess came in and said something to her in
Dutch, at which, in evident distress, she ran and embraced her
"I see, my friends, that something has happened to you. If my
presence is a restraint, treat me without ceremony, and bid me go."
"It's not so great an ill-hap after all; I have enough money left to
bear the loss patiently"
"If I may ask the question, what is the nature of your loss?"
"I have lost a green pocket-book containing a good deal of money,
which if I had been wise I would have left behind, as I did not
require it till to-morrow."
"And you don't know where you lost it?"
"It must have been in the street, but I can't imagine how it can have
happened. It contained bills of exchange for large amounts, and of
course they don't matter, as I can stop payment of them, but there
were also notes of the Bank of England for heavy sums, and they are
gone, as they are payable to the bearer. Let us give thanks to God,
my dear child, that it is no worse, and pray to Him to preserve to us
what remains, and above all to keep us in good health. I have had
much heavier losses than this, and I have been enabled not only to
bear the misfortune but to make up the loss. Let us say no more
about the matter."
While he was speaking my heart was full of joy, but I kept up the
sadness befitting the scene. I had not the slightest doubt that the
pocket-book in question was the one I had unluckily sent through the
staircase, but which could not be lost irretrievably. My first point
was how to make capital of my grand discovery in the interests of my
cabalistic science. It was too fine an opportunity to be lost,
especially as I still felt the sting of having been the cause of an
enormous loss to the worthy man. I would give them a grand proof of
the infallibility of my oracle: how many miracles are done in the
same way! The thought put me into a good humour. I began to crack
jokes, and my jests drew peals of laughter from Esther.
We had an excellent dinner and choice wine. After we had taken
coffee I said that if they liked we would have a game of cards, but
Esther said that this would be a waste of time, as she would much
prefer making the oracular pyramids. This was exactly what I wanted.
"With all my heart," I said.
"We will do as you suggest."
"Shall I ask where my father lost his pocket-book?"
"Why not? It's a plain question: write it down."
She made the pyramid, and the reply was that the pocket-book had not
been found by anyone. She leapt up from her seat, danced for joy,
and threw her arms round her father's neck, saying,
"We shall find it, we shall find it, papa!"
"I hope so, too, my dear, that answer is really very consoling."
Wherewith Esther gave her father one kiss after another.
"Yes," said I, "there is certainly ground for hope, but the oracle
will be dumb to all questions."
"I was going to say it will be dumb if you do not give me as many
kisses as you have given your father."
"Oh, then I will soon make it speak!" said she, laughing; and
throwing her arms about my neck she began to kiss me, and I to give
her kisses in return.
Ah! what happy days they seem when I recall them; and still I like
dwelling on these days despite my sad old age, the foe of love. When
I recall these events I grow young again and feel once more the
delights of youth, despite the long years which separate me from that
At last Esther sat down again, and asked, "Where is the pocket-book?"
And the pyramid told her that the pocket-book had fallen through the
opening in the fifth step of the staircase.
M. d'O---- said to his daughter,
"Come, my dear Esther, let us go and test the truth of the oracle."
And full of joy and hope they went to the staircase, I following
them, and M. d'O shewed her the hole through which the pocket-book
must have fallen. He lighted a candle and we went down to the
cellar, and before long he picked up the book, which had fallen into
some water. We went up again in high spirits, and there we talked
for over an hour as seriously as you please on the divine powers of
the oracle, which, according to them, should render its possessor the
happiest of mortals.
He opened the pocket-book and shewed us the four thousand pound
notes. He gave two to his daughter, and made me take the two
remaining; but I took them with one hand and with the other gave them
to Esther begging her to keep them for me; but before she would agree
to do so I had to threaten her with the stoppage of the famous
cabalistic oracle. I told M. d'O that all I asked was his
friendship, and thereon he embraced me, and swore to be my friend to
By making the fair Esther the depositary of my two thousand pounds, I
was sure of winning her affection by an appeal, not to her interest,
but to her truthfulness. This charming girl had about her so
powerful an attraction that I felt as if my life was wound up with
I told M. d'O that my chief object was to negotiate the twenty
millions at a small loss.
"I hope to be of service to you in the matter," he said, "but as I.
shall often want to speak to you, you must come and live in our
house, which you must look upon as your own."
"My presence will be a restraint on you. I shall be a trouble."
Esther joined her entreaties to her father's and I gave in, taking
good care not to let them see how pleased I was. I contented myself
with expressing my gratitude, to which they answered that it was I
who conferred a favour.
M. d'O went into his closet, and as soon as I found myself alone with
Esther I kissed her tenderly, saying that I should not be happy till
I had won her heart.
"Do you love me?"
"Dearly, and I will do all in my power to shew how well I love you,
if you will love me in return."
She gave me her hand, which I covered with kisses, and she went on to
say, "As soon as you come and live with us, you must look out for a
good opportunity for asking my hand of my father. You need not be
afraid he will refuse you, but the first thing for you to do is to
move into our house."
"My dear little wife! I will come to-morrow."
We said many sweet things to one another, talked about the future,
and told each other our inmost thoughts; and I was undoubtedly truly
in love, for not a single improper fancy rose in my mind in the
presence of my dear who loved me so well.
The first thing that M. d'O said on his return was, that there would
be a piece of news on the Exchange the next day.
"What is that, papa dear?"
"I have decided to take the whole risk--amounting to three hundred
thousand florins-of the ship which is thought to have gone down.
They will call me mad, but they themselves will be the madmen; which
is what I should be if, after the proof we have had, I doubted the
oracle any more."
"My dear sir, you make me frightened. I have told you that I have
been often deceived by the oracle."
"That must have been, my dear fellow, when the reply was obscure, and
you did not get at the real sense of it; but in the present case
there is no room, for doubt. I shall make three million florins, or,
if the worst comes to the worse, my loss won't ruin me."
Esther, whom the finding of the pocket-book had made enthusiastic,
told her father to lose no time. As for me, I could not recall what
I had done, but I was again overwhelmed with sadness. M. d'O---- saw
it, and taking my hand said, "If the oracle does lie this time, I
shall be none the less your friend."
"I am glad to hear it," I answered; "but as this is a matter of the
utmost importance, let me consult the oracle a second time before you
risk your three hundred thousand florins." This proposition pleased
the father and daughter highly; they could not express their
gratitude to me for being so careful of their interests.
What followed was truly surprising--enough to make one believe in
fatality. My readers probably will not believe it; but as these
Memoirs will not be published till I have left this world, it would
be of no use for me to disguise the truth in any way, especially as
the writing of them is only the amusement of my leisure hours. Well,
let him who will believe it; this is absolutely what happened. I
wrote down the question myself, erected the pyramid, and carried out
all the magical ceremonies without letting Esther have a hand in it.
I was delighted to be able to check an act of extreme imprudence, and
I was determined to do so. A double meaning, which I knew how to
get, would abate M. d'O----'s courage and annihilate his plans. I
had thought over what I wanted to say, and I thought I had expressed
it properly in the numbers. With that idea, as Esther knew the
alphabet perfectly well, I let her extract the answer, and transfer
it into letters. What was my surprise when I heard her read these
"In a matter of this kind neither fear nor hesitate. Your repentance
would be too hard for you to bear."
That was enough. Father and daughter ran to embrace me, and M. d'O-
said that when the vessel was sighted a tithe of the profits should
be mine. My surprise prevented me giving any answer; I had intended
to write trust and hazard, and I had written fear and hesitate. But
thanks to his prejudice, M. d'O---- only saw in my silence
confirmation of the infallibility of the oracle. In short, I could
do nothing more, and I took my leave leaving everything to the care
of chance, who sometimes is kind to us in spite of ourselves.
The next morning I took up my abode in a splendid suite of rooms in
Esther's house, and the day after I took her to a concert, where she
joked with me on the grief I should endure on account of the absence
of Madame Trend and my daughter. Esther was the only mistress of my
soul. I lived but to adore her, and I should have satisfied my love
had not Esther been a girl of good principles. I could not gain
possession of her, and was full of longing and desire.
Four or five days after my installation in my new quarters, M. d'O---
communicated to me the result of a conference which he had had with
M. Pels and six other bankers on the twenty millions. They offered
ten millions in hard cash and seven millions in paper money, bearing
interest at five or six per cent. with a deduction of one per cent.
brokerage. Furthermore, they would forgive a sum of twelve hundred
thousand florins owed by the French India Company to the Dutch
With such conditions I could not venture to decide on my own
responsibility, although, personally, I thought them reasonable
enough, the impoverished state of the French treasury being taken
into consideration. I sent copies of the proposal to M. de Boulogne
and M. d'Afri, begging from them an immediate reply. At the end of a
week I received an answer in the writing of M. de Courteil, acting
for M. de Boulogne, instructing me to refuse absolutely any such
proposal, and to report myself at Paris if I saw no chance of making
a better bargain. I was again informed that peace was imminent,
though the Dutch were quite of another opinion.
In all probability I should have immediately left for Paris, but for
a circumstance which astonished nobody but myself in the family of
which I had become a member. The confidence of M. d'O---- increased
every day, and as if chance was determined to make me a prophet in
spite of myself, news was received of the ship which was believed to
be lost, and which, on the faith of my oracle, M. d'O had bought for
three hundred thousand florins. The vessel was at Madeira. The joy
of Esther, and still more my own, may be imagined when we saw the
worthy man enter the house triumphantly with confirmation of the good
"I have insured the vessel from Madeira to the mouth of the Texel for
a trifle," said he, "and so," turning to me, "you may count from this
moment on the tenth part of the profit, which I owe entirely to you."
The reader may imagine my delight; but there is one thing he will not
imagine, unless he knows my character better than I do myself, the
confusion into which I was thrown by the following remarks:
"You are now rich enough," said M. d'O----, "to set up for yourself
amongst us, and you are positively certain to make an enormous
fortune in a short time merely by making use of your cabala. I will
be your agent; let us live together, and if you like my daughter as
she likes you, you can call yourself my son as soon as you please."
In Esther's face shone forth joy and happiness, and in mine, though I
adored her, there was to be seen, alas! nothing but surprise. I was
stupid with happiness and the constraint in which I held myself. I
did not analyze my feelings, but, though I knew it not, there can be
no doubt that my insuperable objection to the marriage tie was
working within my soul. A long silence followed; and last,
recovering my powers of speech, I succeeded, with an effort, in
speaking to them of my gratitude, my happiness, my love, and I ended
by saying that, in spite of my affection for Esther, I must, before
settling in Holland, return to Paris, and discharge the confidential
and responsible duty which the Government had placed in my hands. I
would then return to Amsterdam perfectly independent.
This long peroration won their approval. Esther was quite pleased,
and we spent the rest of the day in good spirits. Next day M. d'O---
gave a splendid dinner to several of his friends, who congratulated
him on his good fortune, being persuaded that his courageous action
was to be explained by his having had secret information of the
safety of the vessel, though none of them could see from what source
he, and he only, had obtained it.
A week after this lucky event he gave me an ultimatum on the matter
of the twenty millions, in which he guaranteed that France should not
lose more than nine per cent. in the transaction.
I immediately sent a copy of his proposal to M. d'Afri, begging him
to be as prompt as possible, and another copy to the comptroller-
general, with a letter in which I warned him that the thing would
certainly fall through if he delayed a single day in sending full
powers to M. d'Afri to give me the necessary authority to act.
I wrote to the same effect to M. de Courteil and the Duc de Choiseul,
telling them that I was to receive no brokerage; but that I should
all the same accept a proposal which I thought a profitable one, and
saying that I had no doubt of obtaining my expenses from the French
As it was a time of rejoicing with us, M. d'O---- thought it would be
a good plan to give a ball. All the most distinguished people in
Amsterdam were invited to it. The ball and supper were of the most
splendid description, and Esther, who was a blaze of diamonds, danced
all the quadrilles with me, and charmed every beholder by her grace
I spent all my time with Esther, and every day we grew more and more
in love, and more unhappy, for we were tormented by abstinence, which
irritated while it increased our desires.
Esther was an affectionate mistress, but discreet rather by training
than disposition the favours she accorded me were of the most
insignificant description. She was lavish of nothing but her kisses,
but kisses are rather irritating than soothing. I used to be nearly
wild with love. She told me, like other virtuous women, that if she
agreed to make me happy she was sure I would not marry her, and that
as soon as I made her my wife she would be mine and mine only. She
did not think I was married, for I had given her too many assurances
to the contrary, but she thought I had a strong attachment to someone
in Paris. I confessed that she was right, and said that I was going
there to put an end to it that I might be bound to her alone. Alas!
I lied when I said so, for Esther was inseparable from her father, a
man of forty, and I could not make up my mind to pass the remainder
of my days in Holland.
Ten or twelve days after sending the ultimatum, I received a letter
from M. de Boulogne informing me that M. d'Afri had all necessary
instructions for effecting the exchange of the twenty millions, and
another letter from the ambassador was to the same effect. He warned
me to take care that everything was right, as he should not part with
the securities before receiving 18,200,000 francs in current money.
The sad time of parting at last drew near, amid many regrets and
tears from all of us. Esther gave me the two thousand pounds I had
won so easily, and her father at my request gave me bills of exchange
to the amount of a hundred thousand florins, with a note of two
hundred thousand florins authorizing me to draw upon him till the
whole sum was exhausted. Just as I was going, Esther gave me fifty
shirts and fifty handkerchiefs of the finest quality.
It was not my love for Manon Baletti, but a foolish vanity and a
desire to cut a figure in the luxurious city of Paris, which made me
leave Holland. But such was the disposition that Mother Nature had
given me that fifteen months under The Leads had not been enough to
cure this mental malady of mine. But when I reflect upon after
events of my life I am not astonished that The Leads proved
ineffectual, for the numberless vicissitudes which I have gone
through since have not cured me--my disorder, indeed, being of the
incurable kind. There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves
shape our lives, notwithstanding that saying of the Stoics, 'Volentem
ducit, nolentem trahit'.
After promising Esther to return before the end of the year, I set
out with a clerk of the company who had brought the French
securities, and I reached the Hague, where Boaz received me with a
mingled air of wonder and admiration. He told me that I had worked a
miracle; "but," he added, "to succeed thus you must have persuaded
them that peace was on the point of being concluded."
"By no means," I answered; "so far from my persuading them, they are
of the opposite opinion; but all the same I may tell you that peace
is really imminent."
"If you like to give me that assurance in writing," said he, "I will
make you a present of fifty thousand florins' worth of diamonds."
"Well," I answered, "the French ambassador is of the same opinion as
myself; but I don't think the certainty is sufficiently great as yet
for you to risk your diamonds upon it."
Next day I finished my business with the ambassador, and the clerk
returned to Amsterdam.
I went to supper at Therese's, and found her children very well
dressed. I told her to go on to Rotterdam the next day and wait for
me there with her son, as I had no wish to give scandal at the Hague.
At Rotterdam, Therese told me that she knew I had won half a million
at Amsterdam, and that her fortune would be made if she could leave
Holland for London. She had instructed Sophie to tell me that my
good luck was the effect of the prayers she had addressed to Heaven
on my behalf. I saw where the land lay, and I enjoyed a good laugh
at the mother's craft and the child's piety, and gave her a hundred
ducats, telling her that she should have another hundred when she
wrote to me from London. It was very evident that she thought the
sum a very moderate one, but I would not give her any more. She
waited for the moment when I was getting into my carriage to beg me
to give her another hundred ducats, and I said, in a low tone, that
she should have a thousand if she would give me her daughter. She
thought it over for a minute, and then said that she could not part
"I know very well why," I answered; and drawing a watch from my fob I
gave it to Sophie, embraced her, and went on my way. I arrived at
Paris on February 10th, and took sumptuous apartments near the Rue
I Meet With a Flattering Reception From My Patron--Madame D'Urfe's
Infatuation--Madame X. C. V. And Her Family--Madame du Rumain
During my journey from the Hague to Paris, short as it was, I had
plenty of opportunities for seeing that the mental qualities of my
adopted son were by no means equal to his physical ones.
As I had said, the chief point which his mother had impressed on him
was reserve, which she had instilled into him out of regard for her
own interests. My readers will understand what I mean, but the
child, in following his mother's instructions, had gone beyond the
bounds of moderation; he possessed reserve, it is true, but he was
also full of dissimulation, suspicion, and hypocrisy--a fine trio of
deceit in one who was still a boy. He not only concealed what he
knew, but he pretended to know that which he did not. His idea of
the one quality necessary to success in life was an impenetrable
reserve, and to obtain this he had accustomed himself to silence the
dictates of his heart, and to say no word that had not been carefully
weighed. Giving other people wrong impressions passed with him for
discretion, and his soul being incapable of a generous thought, he
seemed likely to pass through life without knowing what friendship
Knowing that Madame d'Urfe counted on the boy for the accomplishment
of her absurd hypostasis, and that the more mystery I made of his
birth the more extravagant would be her fancies about it, I told the
lad that if I introduced him to a lady who questioned him by himself
about his birth, he was to be perfectly open with her.
On my arrival at Paris my first visit was to my patron, whom I found
in grand company amongst whom I recognized the Venetian ambassador,
who pretended not to know me.
"How long have you been in Paris?" said the minister, taking me by
"I have only just stepped out of my chaise."
"Then go to Versailles. You will find the Duc de Choiseul and the
comptroller-general there. You have been wonderfully successful, go
and get your meed of praise and come and see me afterwards. Tell the
duke that Voltaire's appointment to be a gentleman-in-ordinary to the
king is ready."
I was not going to start for Versailles at midday, but ministers in
Paris are always talking in this style, as if Versailles were at the
end of the street. Instead of going there, I went to see Madame
She received me with the words that her genius had informed her that
I should come to-day, and that she was delighted with the fulfilment
of the prophecy.
"Corneman tells me that you have been doing wonders in Holland; but I
see more in the matter than he does, as I am quite certain that you
have taken over the twenty millions yourself. The funds have risen,
and a hundred millions at least will be in circulation in the course
of the next week. You must not be offended at my shabby present,
for, of course, twelve thousand francs are nothing to you. You must
look upon them as a little token of friendship."
"I am going to tell my servants to close all the doors, for I am too
glad to see you not to want to have you all to myself."
A profound bow was the only reply I made to this flattering speech,
and I saw her tremble with joy when I told her that I had brought a
lad of twelve with me, whom I intended to place in the best school I
could find that he might have a good education.
"I will send him myself to Viar, where my nephews are. What is his
name? Where is he? I know well what this boy is, I long to see
him. Why did you not alight from your journey at my house?"
Her questions and replies followed one another in rapid succession.
I should have found it impossible to get in a word edgeways, even if
I had wanted to, but I was very glad to let her expend her
enthusiasm, and took good care not to interrupt her. On the first
opportunity, I told her that I should have the pleasure of presenting
the young gentleman to her the day after tomorrow, as on the morrow I
had an engagement at Versailles.
"Does the dear lad speak French? While I am arranging for his going
to school you must really let him come and live with me."
"We will discuss that question on the day after tomorrow, madam."
"Oh, how I wish the day after to-morrow was here!"
On leaving Madame d'Urfe I went to my lottery office and found
everything in perfect order. I then went to the Italian play, and
found Silvia and her daughter in their dressing-room.
"My dear friend," said she when she saw me, "I know that you have
achieved a wonderful success in Holland, and I congratulate you."
I gave her an agreeable surprise by saying that I had been working
for her daughter, and Marion herself blushed, and lowered her eyes in
a very suggestive manner. "I will be with you at supper," I added,
"and then we can talk at our ease." On leaving them I went to the
amphitheatre, and what was my surprise to see in one of the first
boxes Madame X---- C---- V----, with all her family. My readers will
be glad to hear their history.
Madame X---- C---- V----, by birth a Greek, was the widow of an
Englishman, by whom she had six children, four of whom were girls.
On his death-bed he became a Catholic out of deference to the tears
of his wife; but as his children could not inherit his forty thousand
pounds invested in England, without conforming to the Church of
England, the family returned to London, where the widow complied with
all the obligations of the law of England. What will people not do
when their interests are at stake! though in a case like this there
is no need to blame a person for yielding, to prejudices which had
the sanction of the law.
It was now the beginning of the year 1758, and five years before,
when I was at Padua, I fell in love with the eldest daughter, but a
few months after, when we were at Venice, Madame X. C. V. thought
good to exclude me from her family circle. The insult which the
mother put upon me was softened by the daughter, who wrote me a
charming letter, which I love to read even now. I may as well
confess that my grief was the easier to bear as my time was taken up
by my fair nun, M---- M----, and my dear C---- C-----. Nevertheless,
Mdlle. X. C. V., though only fifteen, was of a perfect beauty, and
was all the more charming in that to her physical advantages she
joined those of a cultured mind.
Count Algarotti, the King of Prussia's chamberlain, gave her lessons,
and several young nobles were among her suitors, her preference
apparently being given to the heir of the family of Memmo de St.
Marcuola. He died a year afterwards, while he was procurator.
My surprise at seeing this family at such a time and place may be
imagined. Mdlle. X. C. V. saw me directly, and pointed me out to her
mother, who made a sign to me with her fan to come to their box.
She received me in the friendliest manner possible, telling me that
we were not at Venice now, and that she hoped I would often come and
see them at the "Hotel de Bretagne," in the Rue St. Andre des Arts.
I told them that I did not wish to recall any events which might have
happened at Venice, and her daughter having joined her entreaties to
those of her mother, I promised to accept their invitation.
Mdlle. X. C. V. struck me as prettier than ever; and my love, after
sleeping for five years, awoke to fresh strength and vigour. They
told me that they were going to pass six months at Paris before
returning to Venice. In return I informed them that I intended
making Paris my home, that I had just left Holland, that I was going
to Versailles the next day, so that I could not pay my respects to
them till the day after. I also begged them to accept my services,
in a manner which let them know I was a person of some importance.
Mdlle. X. C. V. said that she was aware that the results of my Dutch
mission should render me dear to France, that she had always lived in
hopes of seeing me once more, that my famous flight from The Leads
had delighted them; "for," she added, "we have always been fond of
"I fancy your mother has kept her fondness for me very much to
herself," I whispered to her.
"We won't say anything about that," said she in the same tone. "We
learnt all the circumstances of your wonderful flight from a letter
of sixteen pages you wrote to M. Memmo. We trembled with joy and
shuddered with fear as we read it."
"How did you know I have been in Holland?"
"M. de la Popeliniere told us about it yesterday."
M. de la Popeliniere, the fermier-general, whom I had known seven
years ago at Passi, came into the box just as his name was spoken.
After complimenting me he said that if I could carry through the same
operation for the India Company my fortune would be made.
"My advice to you is," he said, "to get yourself naturalized before
it becomes generally known that you have made half a million of
"Half a million! I only wish I had!"
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