The Complete Memoires of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 30 out of 70
I had nothing more to keep me at the Hague, and I set out next
morning before day-break for Amsterdam. On the way I stopped for
dinner and recognized Sir James Walpole, who told me that he had
started from Amsterdam the evening before, an hour after giving the
countess into her husband's charge. He said that he had got very
tired of her, as he had nothing more to get from a woman who gave
more than one asked, if one's purse-strings were opened wide enough.
I got to Amsterdam about midnight and took up my abode at "The Old
Bible." The neighbourhood of Esther had awakened my love for that
charming girl, and I was so impatient to see her that I could not
I went out about ten o'clock and called on M. d'O, who welcomed me
in the friendliest manner and reproached me for not having alighted
at his house. When he heard that I had given up business he
congratulated me on not having removed it into Holland, as I should
have been ruined. I did not tell him that I had nearly come to that
in France, as I considered such a piece of information would not
assist my designs. He complained bitterly of the bad faith of the
French Government, which had involved him in considerable losses; and
then he asked me to come and see Esther.
I was too impatient to embrace her to stay to be asked twice; I ran
to greet her. As soon as she saw me she gave a cry of surprise and
delight, and threw herself in my arms, where I received her with
fondness equal to her own. I found her grown and improved; she
looked lovely. We had scarcely sat down when she told me that she
had become as skilled in the cabala as myself.
"It makes my life happy," said she, "for it gives me a power over my
father, and assures me that he will never marry me to anyone but the
man of my choice."
"I am delighted that you extract the only good that can proceed from
this idle science, namely, the power to guide persons devoid of
strength of will. But your father must think that I taught you the
"Yes, he does; and he said, one day, that he would forgive me any
sacrifices I might have made to obtain this precious secret from
"He goes a little further than we did, my dearest Esther."
"Yes, and I told him that I had gained it from you without any
sacrifice, and that now I was a true Pythoness without having to
endure the torments of the tripod; and I am sure that the replies you
gave were invented by yourself."
"But if that were so how could I have known where the pocket-book
was, or whether the ship was safe?"
"You saw the portfolio yourself and threw it where it was discovered,
and as for the vessel you spoke at random; but as you are an honest
man, confess that you were afraid of the results. I am never so bold
as that, and when my father asks me questions of that kind, my
replies are more obscure than a sibyl's. I don't wish him to lose
confidence in my oracle, nor do I wish him to be able to reproach me
with a loss that would injure my own interests."
"If your mistake makes you happy I shall leave you in it. You are
really a woman of extraordinary talents--, you are quite unique."
"I don't want your compliments," said she, in a rather vexed manner,
"I want a sincere avowal of the truth."
"I don't think I can go as far as that."
At these words, which I pronounced in a serious way, Esther went into
a reverie, but I was not going to lose the superiority I had over
her, and racked my brains to find some convincing prediction the
oracle might make to her, and while I was doing so dinner was
There were four of us at table, and I concluded that the fourth of
the party must be in love with Esther, as he kept his eyes on her the
whole time. He was her father's favourite clerk, and no doubt her
father would have been glad if she had fallen in love with him, but I
soon saw that she was not likely to do so. Esther was silent all
through dinner, and we did not mention the cabala till the clerk was
"Is it possible," said M. d'O, "for my daughter to obtain the
answers of the oracle without your having taught her?"
"I always thought such a thing impossible till to-day," I answered,
"but Esther has convinced me that I was mistaken. I can teach the
secret to no one without losing it myself, for the oath I swore to
the sage who taught me forbids me to impart it to another under pain
of forfeiture. But as your daughter has taken no such oath, having
acquired it herself, she may be for all I know at perfect liberty to
communicate the secret to anyone."
Esther, who was as keen as a razor, took care to say that the same
oath that I had taken had been imposed on her by the oracle, and that
she could not communicate the cabalistic secret to anyone without the
permission of her genius, under pain of losing it herself.
I read her inmost thoughts, and was rejoiced to see that her mind was
calmed. She had reason to be grateful to me, whether I had lied or
not, for I had given her a power over her father which a father's
kindness could not have assured; but she perceived that what I had
said about her oracular abilities had been dictated merely by
politeness, and she waited till we were alone to make me confess as
Her worthy father, who believed entirely in the infallibility of our
oracles, had the curiosity to put the same question to both of us, to
see if we should agree in the answer. Esther was delighted with the
idea, as she suspected that the one answer would flatly contradict
the other, and M. d'O having written his question on two sheets of
paper gave them to us. Esther went up to her own room for the
operation, and I questioned the oracle on the table at which we had
had dinner, in the presence of the father. Esther was quick, as she
came down before I had extracted from the pyramid the letters which
were to compose my reply, but as I knew what to say as soon as I saw
her father read the answer she gave him I was not long in finishing
what I had to do.
M. d'O---- asked if he should try to get rid of the French securities
he held in spite of the loss he would incur by selling out.
Esther's oracle replied,
"You must sow plentifully before you reap. Pluck not up the vine
before the season of the vintage, for your vine is planted in a
Mine ran as follows:--
"If you sell out you will repent, for there will be a new
comptroller-general, who will pay all claims before another year has
Esther's answer was conceived in the sibylline style, and I admired
the readiness of her wit; but mine went right to the point, and the
worthy man embraced us joyfully, and, taking his hat and stick, said
that since our replies agreed he would run the risk of losing three
million francs and make a profit of five or six hundred thousand in
the course of the year. His daughter began to recant, and would have
warned him against the danger, but he, who was as firm as a
Mussulman, kissed her again, saying,
"The oracle is not wont to lie, and even if it does deceive me this
time it will only be a fourth part of my fortune that I shall lose."
When Esther and I were alone I began to compliment her, much to her
delight, on the cleverness of her answer, the elegance of her style,
and her boldness, for she could not be as well acquainted with French
affairs as I was.
"I am much obliged to you," said she, "for having confirmed my reply,
but confess that you lied to please me."
"I confess, since that will please you, and I will even tell you that
you have nothing more to learn."
"You are a cruel man! But how could you reply that there would be
another comptroller-general in a year's time, and run the risk of
compromising the oracle? I never dare to say things like that; I
love the oracle too well to expose it to shame and confusion."
"That shews that I do not invent the answers; but since the oracle
has pronounced it I am willing to bet that Silhouette will be
"Your obstinacy drives me to despair, for I shall not rest till I
know that I am as much a master of the cabala as you are, and yet you
will not confess that you invent the answers yourself. For charity's
sake do something to convince me of the contrary."
"I will think it over."
I passed the whole day with this delightful girl, whose amiable
disposition and great wealth would have made me a happy man if it
were not for my master-passion, the love of independence, and my
aversion to make up my mind to live for the rest of my days in
In the course of my life I have often observed that the happiest
hours are often the heralds of misfortune. The very next day my evil
genius took me to the Ville de Lyon. This was the inn where
Piccolomini and his wife were staying, and I found them there in the
midst of a horde of cheats and sharpers, like themselves. As soon as
the good people heard my name they rushed forward, some to greet me,
and others to have a closer look at me, as if I were some strange
wild beast. Amongst those present were a Chevalier de Sabi, who wore
the uniform of a Polish major, and protested he had known me at
Dresden; a Baron de Wiedan, claiming Bohemia as his fatherland, who
greeted me by saying that his friend the Comte St. Germain had
arrived at the Etoile d'Orient, and had been enquiring after me; an
attenuated-looking bravo who was introduced to me as the Chevalier de
la Perine, whom I recognized at the first glance as the fellow called
Talvis, who had robbed the Prince-Bishop of Presburg, who had lent me
a hundred Louis the same day, and with whom I had fought a duel at
Paris. Finally, there was an Italian named Neri, who looked like a
blacksmith minus his honesty, and said that he remembered seeing me
one evening at the casino. I recollected having seen him at the
place where I met the wretched Lucie.
In the midst of this band of cut-purses I saw the so-called wife of
the pretended Chevalier de Sabi, a pretty woman from Saxony, who,
speaking Italian indifferently well, was paying her addresses to the
I bit my lips with anger to find myself in such honourable company,
but putting a good face on a bad game I greeted everybody politely,
and then drawing a roll of a hundred Louis from my pocket I presented
them to Master Perine Talvis, telling him I was glad to be able to
return them to him with my best thanks.
My politeness did not meet with much of a reception, for the impudent
scoundrel answered me, as he pocketed the money, that he remembered
having lent it me at Presburg, but he also remembered a more
"And pray what is that?" said I, in a dry and half-disdainful tone.
"You owe me a revenge at the sword's point, as you know right well.
Here is the mark of the gash you gave me seven years ago."
So saying, the wretched little man opened his shirt and shewed the
small round scar. This scene, which belonged more to farce than
comedy, seemed to have struck all tongues with paralysis.
"Anywhere else than in Holland, where important and delicate business
debars me from fighting, I shall be glad to meet you and mark you
again, if you still desire to cross swords with me; but while I am
here I must beg you not to disturb me. All the same, you may as well
know that I never go out without a couple of friends in my pockets,
and that if you attack me I shall blow your brains out in self-
"My revenge must be with crossed swords," said he. "However, I will
let you finish your business."
"You will do wisely."
Piccolomini, who had been casting a hungry eye upon my hundred louis,
proposed immediately afterwards a bank at faro, and began to deal.
Prudence would have restrained me from playing in such company, but
the dictates of prudence were overcome by my desire to get back the
hundred louis which I had given Talvis, so I cut in. I had a run of
bad luck and lost a hundred ducats, but, as usual, my loss only
excited me. I wished to regain what I had lost, so I stayed to
supper, and afterwards, with better luck, won back my money. I was
content to stop at this, and to let the money I had paid to Talvis
go, so I asked Piccolomini to pay me, which he did with a bill of
exchange on an Amsterdam bank drawn by a firm in Middlesburg. At
first I made some difficulty in taking it, on the pretext that it
would be difficult to negotiate, but he promised to let me have the
money next day, and I had to give in.
I made haste to leave this cut-throat place, after refusing to lend
Talvis a hundred Louis, which he wanted to borrow of me on the
strength of the revenge I owed him. He was in a bad humour, both on
this account and because he had lost the hundred Louis I had paid
him, and he allowed himself to use abusive language, which I treated
with contempt. I went to bed, promising myself never to set foot in
such a place again.
The next morning, however, I went out with the intention of calling
on Piccolomini to get the bill of exchange cashed, but on my way I
happened to go into a coffee-house and to meet Rigerboos, Therese's
friend, whose acquaintance the reader has already made. After
greeting each other, and talking about Therese, who was now in London
and doing well, I skewed him my bill, telling him the circumstances
under which I had it. He looked at it closely, and said,
"It's a forgery, and the original from which it was copied was
He saw that I could scarcely believe it, and told me to come with him
to be convinced of the truth of what he said.
He took me to a merchant of his acquaintance, who skewed me the
genuine bill, which he had cashed the day before for an individual
who was unknown to him. In my indignation I begged Rigerboos to come
with me to Piccolomini, telling him that he might cash it without
remark, and that otherwise he would witness what happened.
We arrived at the count's and were politely received, the count
asking me to give him the bill and he would send it to the bank to be
cashed, but Rigerboos broke in by saying that it would be
dishonoured, as it was a mere copy of a bill which had been cashed
the evening before.
Piccolomini pretended to be greatly astonished, and said that,
"though he could not believe it, he would look into the matter."
"You may look into it when you please," said I, "but in the mean time
I should be obliged by your giving me five hundred florins."
"You know me, sir," said he, raising his voice, "I guarantee to pay
you, and that ought to be enough."
"No doubt it would be enough, if I chose; but I want my money."
At this his wife came in and began to take her part in the dispute,
and on the arrival of the count's man, a very cut-threat, Rigerboos
took hold of me by the arm and drew me forcibly away. "Follow me,"
said he, when we were outside, "and let me see to this business
myself." He took me to a fine-looking man, who turned out to be the
lieutenant of police, and after he had heard the case he told me to
give him the bill of exchange and to say where I was going to dine.
I told him I should be at M. d'O 's, and saying that would do he went
off. I thanked Rigerboos, and went to Esther, who reproached me
tenderly for not having been to see her the evening before. That
flattered me, and I thought her a really charming girl.
"I must take care," said I, "not to see you every day, for your eyes
have a sway over me that I shall not be able to resist much longer."
"I shall believe as much of that as I choose, but, by-the-by, have
you thought of any way of convincing me?"
"What do you want to be convinced about?"
"If it be true that there is in your cabala an intelligence distinct
from your own you ought to be able to find some way of proving it to
"That is a happy thought; I will think it over."
At that moment her father came in from the Exchange, and we sat dawn
We were at dessert when a police official brought me five hundred
florins, for which I gave him a receipt.
When he had gone I told my entertainers what had happened the evening
before and in the morning, and the fair Esther reproached me for
preferring such bad company to her. "By way of punishment," said
she, "I hope you will come with me to the theatre this evening,
though they are going to give a Dutch play, of which you will not
understand a word."
"I shall be near you, and that is enough for me:"
In fact, I did not comprehend a word of the actors' gibberish, and
was terribly bored, as Esther preserved a solemn and serious silence
the whole time.
As we were coming from the theatre she told me all about the piece
with charming grace and wonderful memory; she seemed to wish to give
me some pleasure in return for the tedium to which she had condemned
me. When we got home we had supper, and that evening, Heaven be
thanked! I heard nothing more about the cabala. Before we parted,
Esther and her father made me promise to dine with them every day,
and to let them know if anything prevented my coming.
Next morning, about eight o'clock, while I was still dressing, I
suddenly saw Piccolomini standing before me, and as he had not sent
in his name I began to feel suspicious. I rang the bell for my
faithful Spaniard, who came in directly.
"I want to speak to you privately," said he, "tell that fellow to go
"He can stay," I answered, "he does not know a word of Italian." Le
Duc, of course, knew Italian perfectly well.
"Yesterday, about noon," he began, "two men came into my room. They
were accompanied by the innkeeper, who served as interpreter. One of
the men asked me if I felt inclined to cash there and then a forged
bill of exchange, which I had given the night before, and which he
held in his hands. As I gave no reply, he told me that there was no
time for consideration or argument; I must say yes or no there and
then, for such were their instructions from the chief of police. I
had no choice in the matter, so I paid the five hundred florins, but
I did not get back the bill, and the man told me I could not have it
unless I told the police the name of the person from whom I got it,
as, in the interests of commerce, the forger must be prosecuted. My
reply was that I could not possibly tell them what they wanted, as I
had got it of a stranger who had come into my room while I was
holding a small bank of faro, to pass the time.
"I told him that after this person (who I had thought introduced by
someone in the company) had gone, I found to my surprise that nobody
knew him; and I added that if I had been aware of this I would not
only have refused the bill but would not have allowed him to play.
Thereupon the second policeman said that I had better find out who
this person was, or else I should be considered as the forger and
prosecuted accordingly; after this threat they went out.
"In the afternoon my wife called on the chief of police and was
politely received, but after hearing what she had to say he informed
her that she must find out the forger, since M. Casanova's honour
might be endangered by the banker taking proceedings against him, in
which case he would have to prosecute me.
"You see in what a difficult position we are placed, and I think you
ought to try to help us. You have got your money and you are not
without friends. Get their influence exerted in the matter, and we
shall hear no more about it. Your interests as well as mine are
"Except as a witness of the fact," I answered, "I can have nothing to
do with this affair. You agree that I received the bill from you,
since you cashed it; that is enough for me. I should be glad to be
of service to you, but I really don't see what I can do. The best
advice I can give you is to make a sacrifice of the rascally sharper
who gave you the forged bill, and if you can't do that I would
counsel you to disappear, and the sooner the better, or else you may
come to the galleys, or worse."
He got into a rage at this, and turning his back on me went out,
saying I should be sorry for what I had said.
My Spaniard followed him down the stair and came back to tell me that
the signor had gone off threatening vengeance, and that, in his
opinion, I would do well to be on my guard.
"All right," said I, "say no more about it."
All the same I was really very grateful for his advice, and I gave
the matter a good deal of thought.
I dressed myself and went to see Esther, whom I had to convince of
the divinity of my oracle, a different task with one whose own wits
had told her so much concerning my methods. This was the problem she
gave me to solve,
"Your oracle must tell me something which I, and only I, know."
Feeling that it would be impossible to fulfil these conditions, I
told her that the oracle might reveal some secret she might not care
to have disclosed.
"That is impossible," she answered, "as the secret will be known only
"But, if the oracle replies I shall know the answer as well as you,
and it may be something you would not like me to know."
"There is no such thing, and, even if there were, if the oracle is
not your own brain you can always find out anything you want to
"But there is some limit to the powers of the oracle."
"You are making idle excuses; either prove that I am mistaken in my
ideas or acknowledge that my oracle is as good as yours."
This was pushing me hard, and I was on the point of declaring myself
conquered when a bright idea struck me.
In the midst of the dimple which added such a charm to her chin
Esther had a little dark mole, garnished with three or four extremely
fine hairs. These moles, which we call in Italian 'neo, nei', and
which are usually an improvement to the prettiest face, when they
occur on the face, the neck, the arms, or the hands, are duplicated
on the corresponding parts of the body. I concluded, therefore, that
Esther had a mole like that on her chin in a certain place which a
virtuous girl does not shew; and innocent as she was I suspected
that she herself did not know of this second mole's existence. "I
shall astonish her," I said to myself, "and establish my superiority
in a manner which will put the idea of having equal skill to mine out
of her head for good." Then with the solemn and far-away look of a
seer I made my pyramid and extracted these words from it,
"Fair and discreet Esther, no one knows that at the entrance of the
temple of love you have a mole precisely like that which appears on
While I was working at my calculations, Esther was leaning over me
and following every movement. As she really knew as much about the
cabala as I did she did not want it to be explained to her, but
translated the numbers into letters as I wrote them down. As soon as
I had extracted all the combinations of numbers from the pyramid she
said, quietly, that as I did not want to know the answer, she would
be much obliged if I would let her translate the cypher.
"With pleasure," I replied. "And I shall do so all the more
willingly as I shall thereby save your delicacy from sharing with me
a secret which may or may not be agreeable. I promise you not to try
to find it out. It is enough for me to see you convinced."
"I shall be convinced when I have verified the truth of the reply."
"Are you persuaded, dearest Esther, that I have had nothing to do
with framing this answer?"
"I shall he quite sure of it if it has spoken the truth, and if so
the oracle will have conquered, for the matter is so secret a one
that even I do not know of it. You need not know yourself, as it is
only a trifle which would not interest you; but it will be enough to
convince me that the answers of your oracle are dictated by an
intelligence which has nothing in common with yours."
There was so much candour and frankness in what she said that a
feeling of shame replaced the desire of deceiving her, and I shed
some tears, which Esther could only interpret favourably to me.
Nevertheless, they were tears of remorse, and now, as I write after
such a lapse of years, I still regret having deceived one so worthy
of my esteem and love. Even then I reproached myself, but a pitiable
feeling of shame would not let me tell the truth; but I hated myself
for thus leading astray one whose esteem I desired to gain.
In the mean time I was not absolutely sure that I had hit the mark,
for in nature, like everything else, every law has its exceptions,
and I might possibly have dug a pitfall for myself. On the other
hand, if I were right, Esther would no doubt be convinced for the
moment, but her belief would speedily disappear if she chanced to
discover that the correspondence of moles on the human body was a
necessary law of nature. In that case I could only anticipate her
scorn. But however I might tremble I had carried the deception too
far, and could not draw back.
I left Esther to call on Rigerboos, whom I thanked for his offices on
my behalf with the chief of the police. He told me that I had
nothing to fear from Piccolomini in Holland, but all the same he
advised me not to go about without pistols. "I am on the eve of
embarking for Batavia," said he, "in a vessel which I have laden with
the ruins of my fortune. In the state my affairs are in I thought
this the best plan. I have not insured the cargo, so as not diminish
my profits, which will be considerable if I succeed. If the ship is
taken or wrecked I shall take care not to survive its loss; and after
all I shall not lose much."
Poor Riberboos said all this as if he were jesting, but despair had
no doubt a good deal to do with his resolve, since it is only in
great misery that we despise both life and fortune. The charming
Therese Trenti, whom Rigerboos always spoke of as Our Lady, had
contributed to his ruin in no small degree. She was then in London,
where, by her own account, she was doing well. She had exchanged the
name of Trenti for that of Cornelis, or Cornely, which, as I found
out afterwards, was Rigerboo's real name. We spent an hour in
writing to this curious woman, as we desired to take advantage of the
circumstance that a man whom Rigerboos desired to commend to her was
shortly going to England. When we had finished we went sleighing on
the Amstel, which had been frozen over for several days. This
diversion, of which the Dutch are very fond, is, to my thinking, the
dullest imaginable, for an objectless journey is no pleasure to me.
After we were well frozen we went to eat oysters, with Sillery, to
warm ourselves again, and after that we went from one casino to
another, not intending to commit any debauchery, but for want of
something better to do; but it seemed decreed that whenever I
preferred any amusement of this kind to the charms of Esther's
society I should come to grief.
I do not know how it happened, but as we were going into one of these
casinos Rigerboos called me loudly by my name, and at that instant a
woman, such as one usually finds in these places, came forward and
began to gaze at me. Although the room was ill enough lighted I saw
it was the wretched Lucie, whom I had met a year before without her
recognizing me. I turned away, pretending not to know her, for the
sight of her was disagreeable to me, but in a sad voice she called me
by my name, congratulating me on my prosperity and bewailing her own
wretchedness. I saw that I could neither avoid her nor repulse her
without inhumanity, so I called to Rigerboos to come upstairs and the
girl would divert us by recounting the history of her life.
Strictly speaking, Lucie had not become ugly; one could still see
that she had been a beautiful woman; but for all that her appearance
inspired me with terror and disgust. Since the days when I had known
her at Pasean, nineteen years of misery, profligacy, and shame had
made her the most debased, the vilest creature that can be imagined.
She told us her story at great length; the pith of it might be
expressed in six lines.
The footman who had seduced her had taken her to Trieste to lie in,
and the scoundrel lived on the sale of her charms for five or six
months, and then a sea captain, who had taken a fancy to her, took
her to Zante with the footman, who passed for her husband.
At Zante the footman turned soldier, and deserted the army four years
after. She was left alone and continued living on the wages of
prostitution for six years; but the goods she had to offer lowering
in value, and her customers being of the inferior kind, she set out
for England with a young Greek girl, whom an English officer of
marines treated as his wife, and whom he abandoned in the streets of
London when he got tired of her. After living for two or three years
in the vilest haunts in London, Lucie came to Holland, where, not
being able to sell her own person any longer, she became a procuress
--a natural ending to her career. Lucie was only thirty-three, but
she was the wreck of a woman, and women are always as old as they
While she told her history she emptied two bottles of Burgundy I had
ordered, and which neither I nor my friend touched. Finally, she
told us she was now supported by two pretty girls whom she kept, and
who had to give her the half of what they got.
Rigerboos asked her, jokingly, if the girls were at the casino.
"No," said she, "they are not here, and shall never come here, for
they are ladies of high birth, and their uncle, who looks after their
interests, is a Venetian gentleman."
At this I could not keep back my laughter, but Lucie, without losing
countenance, told me that she could only repeat the account they had
given of themselves, that if we wanted to be convinced we had only to
go and see them at a house she rented fifty paces off, and that we
need not be afraid of being disturbed if we went, as their uncle
lived in a different part of the town.
"Oh, indeed!" said I, "he does not live with his highborn nieces,
"No, he only comes to dinner to hear how business has been going, and
to take all the money from them."
"Come along," said Rigerboos, "we will go and see them."
As I was desirous of seeing and addressing the noble Venetian ladies
of so honourable a profession, I told Lucie to take us to the house.
I knew very well that the girls were impostors, and their gentleman-
uncle a blackguard; but the die was cast.
We found them to be young and pretty. Lucie introduced me as a
Venetian, and they were beside themselves with joy to have someone to
whom they could talk. I found out directly that they came from
Padua, not Venice, as they spoke the Paduan dialect, which I knew
very well. I told them so, and they confessed it was the truth. I
asked the name of their uncle, but they said they could not tell me.
"We can get on without knowing," said Rigerboos, catching hold of the
one he liked best. Lucie brought in some ham, oysters, a pie, and a
good many bottles of wine, and then left us.
I was not in the humour for wantonness, but Rigerboos was disposed to
be merry; his sweetheart was at first inclined to be prudish on his
taking liberties with her, but as I began to follow his example the
ladies relaxed their severity; we went first to one and then the
other, and before long they were both in the state of Eve before she
used the fig-leaf.
After passing an hour in these lascivious combats we gave each of the
girls four ducats, paid for the provisions we had consumed, and sent
six Louis to Lucie. We then left them, I going to bed cross with
myself for having engaged in such brutal pleasures.
Next morning I awoke late and in a bad humour, partly from the
debauch of the night before (for profligacy depresses as well as
degrades the mind) and partly from the thought that I had neglected
Esther, who had unquestionably been grieved by my absence. I felt
that I must hasten to reassure her, feeling certain that I should
find some excuses to make, and that they would be well received. I
rang for Le Duc, put on my dressing-gown, and sent him for my coffee.
He had scarcely left the room when the door opened and I saw Perine
and the fellow named Wiedan, whom I had seen at Piccolomini's, and
who styled himself a friend of St. Germain. I was sitting on my bed,
putting on my stockings. My apartments consisted of three fine
rooms, but they were at the back of the house, and all the noise I
could have made would not have been heard. The bell was on the other
side of the room; Le Duc would be gone fully ten minutes, and I was
in imminent danger of being assassinated without the possibility of
The above thoughts flashed through my head with lightning speed, and
all that I could do was to keep calm and say,
"Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" Wiedan took upon himself to
"Count Piccolomini has found himself forced to declare that he
received the forged bill from us, in order that he may escape from
the difficult position in which your denunciation placed him. He has
warned us that he is going to do so, and we must escape forthwith if
we want to avoid prosecution. We have not a penny; we are desperate
"Well, gentlemen, what have I to do with that?"
"Give us four hundred florins immediately; we do not want more, but
we must have that much, and now. If you refuse we will take to
flight with everything of yours that we can lay our hands on; and our
arguments are these."
With this, each man drew a pistol from his pocket and aimed it at my
"You need not have recourse to violence," said I, "it can only be
fatal to you. Stay, here are a hundred ducats more than you asked.
Begone, and I wish you a pleasant journey, but I would not be here
when my servant comes back if I were you."
Wiedan took the roll of money with a trembling hand and put it in his
pocket without examining it; but Perine came up, and praising my
noble generosity, would have put his arms around my neck and kissed
me. I repulsed him, but without rudeness, and they went their ways,
leaving me very glad to have rid myself of them at so cheap a rate.
As soon as I was out of this snare I rang my bell, not to have them
followed but that I might get dressed as quickly as possible. I did
not say a word to Le Duc about what had happened, I was silent even
to my landlord; and, after I had sent my Spaniard to M. d'O to excuse
my dining there that day, I went to the chief of police, but had to
wait two hours before I could see him. As soon as the worthy man had
heard my account of my misfortune he said he would do his best to
catch the two rascals, but he did not conceal from me his fears that
it was already too late.
I took the opportunity of telling him of Piccolomini's visit to me,
his claims and threats. He thanked me for doing so, and promised to
see to it; but he advised me for the future to be on my guard and
ready to defend myself in case I was attacked before he could place
my enemies in a place where they could do me no harm.
I hastened home again, as I felt ill. An acid taste in my mouth
skewed me how all these shocks had upset me; but I knew what to do.
I took a strong glass of lemonade, which made me bring up a good deal
of bile, and I then felt much better.
Towards evening I went to see Esther, and found her looking serious
and rather vexed; but as soon as she saw how pale I was her face
lighted up, and she asked me, in a voice of tenderest interest, if I
had been ill. I told her I had been out of sorts, that I had taken
some medicine, and that I now felt better.
"You will see my appetite at supper," added I, to calm her fears, "I
have had nothing to eat since dinner yesterday."
This was really the truth, as I had only eaten a few oysters with the
She could scarcely contain her joy at my recovery, and bade me kiss
her, with which request I complied gladly, all unworthy though I felt
of so great a favour.
"I am going to tell you an important piece of news," said she, "and
that is that I am sure that you do not invent the answers to your
oracle, or at least that you only do so when you choose. The reply
you procured me was wonderful-nay, divine, for it told me of a secret
unknown to all, even to myself. You may imagine my surprise when I
convinced myself, with no little trouble of the truth of the answer.
"You possess a treasure, your oracle is infallible; but surely it can
never lie, and my oracle tells me that you love me. It makes me glad
to know that, for you are the man of my heart. But I want you to
give me an exemplary proof of your love, and if you do love me you
will not hesitate to do so. Stay, read the reply you got me; I am
sure you do not know what it says; then I will tell you how you can
make me quite happy."
I pretended to read, and kissed the words which declared I loved her.
"I am delighted," said I, "that the oracle has convinced you so
easily, but I must be excused if I say that I believe you knew as
much long ago." She replied, blushing, that if it were possible to
chew me the object in question I should not wonder at her ignorance.
Then, coming to the proof of my love, she told me that she wanted me
to communicate the secret to her. "You love me," said she, "and you
ought to make no difficulty in assuring the bliss of a girl who will
be your wife, and in your power. My father will agree to our
marriage, and when I become your wife I will do whatever you please.
We will even go and live in another country if that would add to your
happiness. But you must teach me how to obtain the answer to any
question without inventing it myself."
I took Esther's hands in mine; she inspired me with the tenderest
feelings, and I kissed her hands with respectful fervour, saying,
"You know, Esther, dear, that my word is passed at Paris. Certainly,
Manon is not to be compared to you; but for all that I gave my
promise to her poor mother, and I must keep it."
A sigh escaped from Esther, and her head fell upon her breast: but
what could I do? I could not teach her any other way of consulting
the oracle than the method she understood as well as I: my
superiority over her only consisting in my greater craft and more
Early one morning, two or three days later, a man was announced as
wanting to see me. He called himself an officer, but his name was
perfectly unknown to me. I sent down to say that I could not see
him, and as soon as my Spaniard went out I locked my door. What had
happened already had made me suspicious, and I did not care to see
any more gentlemen alone. The two scoundrels who had robbed me had
eluded all the snares of the police, and Piccolomini was not to be
found; but I knew a good many of the gang were still in Amsterdam,
and I thought it well to be on my guard.
Some time after, Le Duc came in with a letter written in bad Italian,
saying that it had been given him by an officer who was waiting for
an answer. I opened it, and recognized the name I had heard a short
while ago. The writer said we knew each other, but that he could
only give his true name with his own lips, and that he had important
information to give me.
I told Le Duc to shew him in, and to stay by the door. I saw enter a
well-made man of about forty, dressed in the uniform of an officer of
I do not know what army, and bearing on his countenance all the marks
of an escaped gallows'-bird.
"What can I do for you, sir?" said I, as soon as he entered.
"Sir, we knew each other at Cerigo, sixteen or seventeen years ago,
and I am delighted to have an opportunity of renewing the
I knew that I had spent but a few minutes at Cerigo, on my way to
Constantinople, and concluded that my visitor must be one of the
unfortunate wretches to whom I gave alms.
"Are you the man," I said, "who told me that you were the son of a
Count Peccini, of Padua, although there is no such count in Padua at
"I congratulate you on your excellent memory," said he, coolly, "I am
that very individual."
"Well, what do you want with me now?"
"I can't divulge my business in the presence of your servant."
"My servant does not understand Italian, so you can speak out;
however, if you like, I will send him away."
I ordered Le Duc to stay in the ante-chamber, and when he had left
the room my Paduan count told me that I had been with his nieces, and
had treated them as if they were courtezans, and that he was come to
I was tired of being cheated, and I took hold of my pistols and
pointed them at him, bidding him be gone instantly. Le Duc came in
and the third robber took himself off, muttering that "a time would
I was placed in a disagreeable position; if I wanted to prosecute, I
should have to tell the whole story to the police. I thought of my
honour and determined to be silent, and the only person to whom I
mentioned the matter was Rigerboos, who not being in the same
position as myself took his measures, the result of which was that
Lucie had to send her high-born dames about their business. But the
wretched woman came to me to say that this misfortune had plunged her
into the deepest distress, so I made her a present of a few ducats,
and she went away somewhat consoled. I begged her not to call on me
Everything I did when I was away from Esther seemed to turn out ill,
and I felt that if I wanted to be happy I should do well to keep near
her; but my destiny, or rather my inconstancy, drew me away.
Three days afterwards, the villainous Major Sabi called on me to warn
me to be on my guard, as, according to his account, a Venetian
officer I had insulted and refused to give satisfaction to had vowed
vengeance against me.
"Then," said I, "I shall have him arrested as an escaped galley
slave, in which character I have given him alms, and for wearing
without the right to do so the uniform of an officer, thereby
disgracing the whole army. And pray what outrage can I have
committed against girls who live in a brothel, and whom I have paid
according to their deserts?"
"If what you say is true you are quite right, but this poor devil is
in a desperate situation; he wants to leave the country, and does not
possess a single florin. I advise you to give him an alms once more,
and you will have done with him. Two score florins will not make you
any the poorer, and will rid you of a villainous enemy."
"A most villainous one, I think." At last I agreed to give him the
forty florins, and I handed them to him in a coffee-house where the
major told me I should find him. The reader will see how I met this
blackguard four months later.
Now, when all these troubles have been long over and I can think over
them calmly, reflecting on the annoyances I experienced at Amsterdam,
where I might have been so happy, I am forced to admit that we
ourselves are the authors of almost all our woes and griefs, of which
we so unreasonably complain. If I could live my life over again,
should I be wiser? Perhaps; but then I should not be myself.
M. d'O---- asked me to sup with him at the Burgomasters' Lodge, and
this was a great distinction, for, contrary to the rules of
Freemasonry, no one but the twenty-four members who compose the lodge
is admitted, and these twenty-four masons were the richest men on the
"I have told them that you are coming," said M. d'O----, "and to
welcome you more honourably the lodge will be opened in French." In
short, these gentlemen gave me the most distinguished reception, and
I had the fortune to make myself so agreeable to them that I was
unanimously chosen an honorary member during the time I should stay
at Amsterdam. As we were going away, M. d'O---- told me that I had
supped with a company which represented a capital of three hundred
Next day the worthy Dutchman begged me to oblige him by answering a
question to which his daughter's oracle had replied in a very obscure
manner. Esther encouraged me, and I asked what the question was. It
ran as follows:
"I wish to know whether the individual who desires me and my company
to transact a matter of the greatest importance is really a friend of
the King of France?"
It was not difficult for me to divine that the Comte de St. Germain
was meant. M. d'O was not aware that I knew him, and I had not
forgotten what M. d'Afri had told me.
"Here's a fine opportunity," thought I, "for covering my oracle with
glory, and giving my fair Esther something to think about."
I set to work, and after erecting my pyramid and placing above the
four keys the letters O, S, A, D, the better to impose on Esther, I
extracted the reply, beginning with the fourth key, D. The oracle
ran as follows:
"The friend disavows. The order is signed. They grant. They
refuse. All vanishes. Delay."
I pretended to think the reply a very obscure one, but Esther gave a
cry of astonishment and declared that it gave a lot of information in
an extraordinary style. M. d'O----, in an ecstasy of delight,
"The reply is clear enough for me. The oracle is divine; the word
'delay' is addressed to me. You and my daughter are clever enough in
making the oracle speak, but I am more skilled than you in the
interpretation thereof. I shall prevent the thing going any further.
The project is no less a one than to lend a hundred millions, taking
in pledge the diamonds of the French crown. The king wishes the loan
to be concluded without the interference of his ministers and without
their even knowing anything about it. I entreat you not to mention
the matter to anyone."
He then went out.
"Now," said Esther, when we were by ourselves, "I am quite sure that
that reply came from another intelligence than yours. In the name of
all you hold sacred, tell me the meaning of those four letters, and
why you usually omit them."
"I omit them, dearest Esther, because experience has taught me that
in ordinary cases they are unnecessary; but while I was making the
pyramid the command came to me to set them down, and I thought it
well to obey."
"What do they mean?"
"They are the initial letters of the holy names of the cardinal
intelligences of the four quarters of the world."
"I may not tell you, but whoever deals with the oracle should know
"Ah! do not deceive me; I trust in you, and it would be worse than
murder to abuse so simple a faith as mine."
"I am not deceiving you, dearest Esther."
"But if you were to teach me the cabala, you would impart to me these
"Certainly, but I cannot reveal them except to my successor. If I
violate this command I should lose my knowledge; and this condition
is well calculated to insure secrecy, is it not?"
"It is, indeed. Unhappy that I am, your successor will be, of
"No, Manon is not fitted intellectually for such knowledge as this."
"But you should fix on someone, for you are mortal after all. If you
like, my father would give you the half of his immense fortune
without your marrying me."
"Esther! what is it that you have said? Do you think that to
possess you would be a disagreeable condition in my eyes?"
After a happy day--I think I may call it the happiest of my life--I
left the too charming Esther, and went home towards the evening.
Three or four days after, M. d'O---- came into Esther's room, where
he found us both calculating pyramids. I was teaching her to double,
to triple, and to quadruple the cabalistic combinations. M. d'O----
strode into the room in a great hurry, striking his breast in a sort
of ecstasy. We were surprised and almost frightened to see him so
strangely excited, and rose to meet him, but he running up to us
almost forced us to embrace him, which we did willingly.
"But what is the matter, papa dear?" said Esther, "you surprise me
more than I can say."
"Sit down beside me, my dear children, and listen to your father and
your best friend. I have just received a letter from one of the
secretaries of their high mightinesses informing me that the French
ambassador has demanded, in the name of the king his master, that the
Comte St. Germain should be delivered over, and that the Dutch
authorities have answered that His Most Christian Majesty's requests
shall be carried out as soon as the person of the count can be
secured. In consequence of this the police, knowing that the Comte
St. Germain was staying at the Etoile d'Orient, sent to arrest him at
midnight, but the bird had flown. The landlord declared that the
count had posted off at nightfall, taking the way to Nimeguen. He
has been followed, but there are small hopes of catching him up.
"It is not known how he can have discovered that a warrant existed
against him, or how he continued to evade arrest."
"It is not known;" went an M. d'O----, laughing, "but everyone
guesses that M. Calcoen, the same that wrote to me, let this friend
of the French king's know that he would be wanted at midnight, and
that if he did not get the key of the fields he would be arrested.
He is not so foolish as to despise a piece of advice like that. The
Dutch Government has expressed its sorrow to M. d'Afri that his
excellence did not demand the arrest of St. Germain sooner, and the
ambassador will not be astonished at this reply, as it is like many
others given on similar occasions.
"The wisdom of the oracle has been verified, and I congratulate
myself on having seized its meaning, for we were on the point of
giving him a hundred thousand florins on account, which he said he
must have immediately. He gave us in pledge the finest of the crown
diamonds, and this we still retain. But we will return it to him an
demand, unless it is claimed by the ambassador. I have never seen a
"And now, my children, you see what I owe to the oracle. On the
Exchange the whole company can do nothing but express their gratitude
to me. I am regarded as the most prudent and most farseeing man in
Holland. To you, my dear children, I owe this honour, but I wear my
peacock's feathers without scruple.
"My dear Casanova, you will dine with us, I hope. After dinner I
shall beg you to enquire of your inscrutable intelligence whether we
ought to declare ourselves in possession of the splendid diamond, or
to observe secrecy till it is reclaimed."
After this discourse papa embraced us once more and left us.
"Sweetheart," said Esther, throwing her arms round my neck, "you have
an opportunity for giving me a strong proof of your friendship. It
will cost you nothing, but it will cover me with honour and
"Command me, and it shall be done. You cannot think that I would
refuse you a favour which is to cost me nothing, when I should deem
myself happy to shed my blood for your sake."
"My father wishes you to tell him after dinner whether it will be
better to declare that they have the diamond or to keep silence till
it is claimed. When he asks you a second time, tell him to seek the
answer of me, and offer to consult the oracle also, in case my answer
may be too obscure. Then perform the operation, and I will make my
father love me all the better, when he sees that my knowledge is
equal to yours."
"Dearest one, would I not do for thee a task a thousand times more
difficult than this to prove my love and my devotion? Let us set to
work. Do you write the question, set up the pyramids, and inscribe
with your own hand the all-powerful initials. Good. Now begin to
extract the answer by means of the divine key. Never was a cleverer
When all this had been done, I suggested the additions and
subtractions I wanted made, and she was quite astonished to read the
following reply: "Silence necessary. Without silence, general
derision. Diamond valueless; mere paste."
I thought she would have gone wild with delight. She laughed and
"What an amazing reply!" said she. "The diamond is false, and it is
I who am about to reveal their folly to them. I shall inform my
father of this important secret. It is too much, it overwhelms me; I
can scarcely contain myself for joy! How much I owe you, you
wonderful and delightful man! They will verify the truth of the
oracle immediately, and when it is found that the famous diamond is
but glittering paste the company will adore my father, for it will
feel that but for him it would have been covered with shame, by
avowing itself the dupe of a sharper. Will you leave the pyramid
"Certainly; but it will not teach you anything you do not know." The
father came in again and we had dinner, and after the dessert, when
the worthy d 'O---- learnt from his daughter's oracle that the stone
was false, the scene became a truly comical one. He burst into
exclamations of astonishment, declared the thing impossible,
incredible, and at last begged me to ask the same question, as he was
quite sure that his daughter was mistaken, or rather that the oracle
was deluding her.
I set to work, and was not long in obtaining my answer. When he saw
that it was to the same effect as Esther's, though differently
expressed, he had no longer any doubts as to his daughter's skill,
and hastened to go and test the pretended diamond, and to advise his
associates to say nothing about the matter after they had received
proofs of the worthlessness of the stone. This advice was, as it
happened, useless; for though the persons concerned said nothing,
everybody knew about it, and people said, with their usual malice,
that the dupes had been duped most thoroughly, and that St. Germain
had pocketed the hundred thousand florins; but this was not the case.
Esther was very proud of her success, but instead of being satisfied
with what she had done, she desired more fervently every day to
possess the science in its entirety, as she supposed I possessed it.
It soon became known that St. Germain had gone by Emden and had
embarked for England, where he had arrived in safety. In due time we
shall hear some further details concerning this celebrated impostor;
and in the meanwhile I must relate a catastrophe of another kind,
which was near to have made me die the death of a fool.
It was Christmas Day. I had got up early in the morning in better
spirits than usual. The old women tell you that always presages
misfortune, but I was as far then as I am now from making my
happiness into an omen of grief. But this time chance made the
foolish belief of good effect. I received a letter and a large
packet from Paris; they came from Manon. I opened the letter and I
thought I should have died of grief when I read,--
"Be wise, and receive the news I give you calmly. The packet
contains your portrait and all the letters you have written to me.
Return me my portrait, and if you have kept my letters be kind enough
to burn them. I rely on your honour. Think of me no more. Duty
bids me do all I can to forget you, for at this hour to-morrow I
shall become the wife of M. Blondel of the Royal Academy, architect
to the king. Please do not seem as if you knew me if we chance to
meet on your return to Paris."
This letter struck me dumb with astonishment, and for more than two
hours after I read it I was, as it were, bereft of my senses. I sent
word to M. d'O---- that, not feeling well, I was going to keep my
room all day. When I felt a little better I opened the packet. The
first thing to fall out was my portrait. I looked at it, and such
was the perturbation of my mind, that, though the miniature really
represented me as of a cheerful and animated expression, I thought I
beheld a dreadful and a threatening visage. I went to my desk and
wrote and tore up a score of letters in which I overwhelmed the
faithless one with threats and reproaches.
I could bear no more; the forces of nature were exhausted, and I was
obliged to lie down and take a little broth, and court that sleep
which refused to come. A thousand designs came to my disordered
imagination. I rejected them one by one, only to devise new ones. I
would slay this Blondel, who had carried off a woman who was mine and
mine only; who was all but my wife. Her treachery should be punished
by her losing the object for whom she had deserted me. I accused her
father, I cursed her brother for having left me in ignorance of the
insult which had so traitorously been put upon me.
I spent the day and night in these delirious thoughts, and in the
morning, feeling worse than ever, I sent to M. d'O---- to say that I
could not possibly leave my room. Then I began to read and re-read
the letters I had written to Manon, calling upon her name in a sort
of frenzy; and again set myself to write to her without finishing a
single letter. The emptiness of my stomach and the shock I had
undergone began to stupefy me, and for a few moments I forgot my
anguish only to re-awaken to acuter pains soon after.
About three o'clock, the worthy M. d'O---- came to invite me to go
with him to the Hague, where the chief masons of Holland met on the
day following to keep the Feast of St. John, but when he saw my
condition he did not press me to come.
"What is the matter with you, my dear Casanova?" said he.
"I have had a great grief, but let us say no more about it."
He begged me to come and see Esther, and left me looking almost as
downcast as I was. However, the next morning Esther anticipated my
visit, for at nine o'clock she and her governess came into the room.
The sight of her did me good. She was astonished to see me so undone
and cast down, and asked me what was the grief of which I had spoken
to her father, and which had proved too strong for my philosophy.
"Sit down beside me, Esther dear, and allow me to make a mystery of
what has affected me so grievously. Time, the mighty healer, and
still more your company, will effect a cure which I should in vain
seek by appealing to my reason. Whilst we talk of other things I
shall not feel the misfortune which gnaws at my heart."
"Well, get up, dress yourself, and come and spend the day with me,
and I will do my best to make you forget your sorrow."
"I feel very weak; for the last three days I have only taken a little
broth and chocolate."
At these words her face fell, and she began to weep.
After a moment's silence she went to my desk, took a pen, and wrote a
few lines, which she brought to me. They were,--
"Dear, if a large sum of money, beyond what my father owes you, can
remove or even soothe your grief I can be your doctor, and you ought
to know that your accepting my treatment would make me happy."
I took her hands and kissed them affectionately, saying,--
"No, dear Esther, generous Esther, it is not money I want, for if I
did I would ask you and your father as a friend: what I want, and
what no one can give me, is a resolute mind, and determination to act
for the best."
"Ask advice of your oracle."
I could not help laughing.
"Why do you laugh?" said she, "if I am not mistaken, the oracle must
know a remedy for your woes."
"I laughed, dearest, because I felt inclined to tell you to consult
the oracle this time. As for me I will have nothing to do with it,
lest the cure be worse than the disease."
"But you need not follow your advice unless you like it."
"No, one is free to act as one thinks fit; but not to follow the
advice of the oracle would be a contempt of the intelligence which
Esther could say no more, and stood silent for several minutes, and
then said that if I like she would stay with me for the rest of the
day. The joy which illumined my countenance was manifest, and I said
that if she would stay to dinner I would get up, and no doubt her
presence would give me an appetite. "Ah!" said she, "I will make you
the dish you are so fond of." She ordered the sedan-chairs to be
sent back, and went to my landlady to order an appetising repast, and
to procure the chafing-dish and the spirits of wine she required for
her own cooking.
Esther was an angel, a treasure, who consented to become mine if I
would communicate to her a science which did not exist. I felt that
I was looking forward to spending a happy day; this shewed me that I
could forget Manon, and I was delighted with the idea. I got out of
bed, and when Esther came back and found me on my feet she gave a
skip of pleasure. "Now," said she, "you must oblige me by dressing,
and doing your hair as if you were going to a ball."
"That," I answered, "is a funny idea, but as it pleases you it
I rang for Le Duc, and told him I wanted to have my hair done, and to
be dressed as if I were going to a ball. "Choose the dress that
suits me best."
"No," said Esther, "I will choose it myself."
Le Duc opened my trunk, and leaving her to rummage in it he came to
shave me, and to do my hair. Esther, delighted with her task, called
in the assistance of her governess. She put on my bed a lace shirt,
and the suit she found most to her taste. Then coming close, as if
to see whether Le Duc was dressing my hair properly, she said,
"A little broth would do you good; send for a dish, it will give you
an appetite for dinner."
I thought her advice dictated by the tenderest care, and I determined
to benefit by it. So great was the influence of this charming girl
over me, that, little by little, instead of loving Manon, I hated
her. That gave me courage, and completed my cure. At the present
time I can see that Manon was very wise in accepting Blondel's offer,
and that my love for self and not my love for her was wounded.
I was in my servant's hands, my face turned away towards the fire, so
that I could not see Esther, but only divert myself with the idea
that she was inspecting my belongings, when all at once she presented
herself with a melancholy air, holding Mamon's fatal letter in her
"Am I to blame," said she, timidly, "for having discovered the cause
of your sorrow?"
I felt rather taken aback, but looking kindly at her, I said,
"No, no, my dear Esther; pity your friend, and say no more about it."
"Then I may read all the letters?"
"Yes, dearest, if it will amuse you."
All the letters of the faithless Manon Baletti to me, with mine to
her, were together on my table. I pointed them out to Esther, who
begun to read them quite eagerly.
When I was dressed, as if for some Court holiday, Le Duc went out and
left us by ourselves, for the worthy governess, who was working at
her lace by the window, looked at her lace, and nothing else. Esther
said that nothing had ever amused her so much as those letters.
"Those cursed epistles, which please you so well, will be the death
"Death? Oh, no! I will cure you, I hope."
"I hope so, too; but after dinner you must help me to burn them all
from first to last."
"Burn them! No; make me a present of them. I promise to keep them
carefully all my days."
"They are yours, Esther. I will send them to you to-morrow."
These letters were more than two hundred in number, and the shortest
were four pages in length. She was enchanted to find herself the
possessor of the letters, and she said she would make them into a
parcel and take them away herself.
"Shall you send back the portrait to your faithless mistress?" said
"I don't know what to do with it."
"Send it back to her; she is not worthy of your honouring her by
keeping it. I am sure that your oracle would give you the same
advice. Where is the portrait? Will you shew it me?"
I had the portrait in the interior of a gold snuff-box, but I had
never shewn it to Esther for fear she should think Manon handsomer
than herself, and conclude that I only shewd it her out of vanity;
but as she now asked to see it I opened the box where it was and gave
Any other woman besides Esther would have pronounced Manon downright
ugly, or have endeavored at the least to find some fault with her,
but Esther pronounced her to be very beautiful, and only said it was
a great pity so fair a body contained so vile a soul.
The sight of Manon's portrait made Esther ask to see all the other
portraits which Madame Manzoni had sent me from Venice. There were
naked figures amongst them, but Esther was too pure a spirit to put
on the hateful affectations of the prude, to whom everything natural
is an abomination. O-Murphy pleased her very much, and her history,
which I related, struck her as very curious. The portrait of the
fair nun, M----M----, first in the habit of her order and afterwards
naked, made her laugh, but I would not tell Esther her story, in
spite of the lively desire she displayed to hear it.
At dinner-time a delicate repast was brought to us, and we spent two
delightful hours in the pleasures of a conversation and the table.
I seemed to have passed from death to life, and Esther was delighted
to have been my physician. Before we rose from table I had declared
my intention of sending Manon's portrait to her husband on the day
following, but her good nature found a way of dissuading me from
doing so without much difficulty.
Some time after, while we were talking in front of the fire, she took
a piece of paper, set up the pyramids, and inscribed the four keys O,
S, A, D. She asked if I should send the portrait to the husband, or
whether it would not be more generous to return it to the faithless
Manon. Whilst she was calculating she said over and over again, with
a smile, "I have not made up the answer." I pretend to believe her,
and we laughed like two augurs meeting each other alone. At last the
reply came that I ought to return the portrait, but to the giver,
since to send it to the husband would be an act unworthy of a man of
I praised the wisdom of the oracle, and kissed the Pythoness a score
of times, promising that the cabala should be obeyed implicitly,
adding that she had no need of being taught the science since she
knew it as well as the inventor.
I spoke the truth, but Esther laughed, and, fearing lest I should
really think so, took pains to assure me of the contrary.
It is thus that love takes his pleasure, thus his growth increases,
and thus that he so soon becomes a giant in strength.
"Shall I be impertinent," said Esther, "if I ask you where your
portrait is? Manon says in her letter that she is sending it back;
but I don't see it anywhere."
"In my first paroxysm of rage, I threw it down; I don't know in what
direction. What was thus despised by her cannot be of much value to
"Let us look for it; I should like to see it."
We soon found it on my table, in the midst of a of books; Esther said
it was a speaking likeness.
"I would give it you if such a present were worthy of you."
"Ah! you could not give me anything I would value more."
"Will you deign to accept it, Esther, though it has been possessed by
"It will be all the dearer to me."
At last she had to leave me, after a day which might be called
delightful if happiness consists of calm and mutual joys without the
tumultuous raptures of passion. She went away at ten, after I had
promised to spend the whole of the next day with her.
After an unbroken sleep of nine hours' duration I got up refreshed
and feeling once more in perfect health, and I went to see Esther
immediately. I found she was still abed and asleep, but her
governess went and roused her in spite of my request that her repose
should be respected.
She received me with a sweet smile as she sat up in bed, and shewd me
my voluminous correspondence with Manon on her night-table, saying
that she had been reading it till two o'clock in the morning.
Her appearance was ravishing. A pretty cambric night-cap, tied with
a light-blue ribbon and ornamented with lace, set off the beauties of
her face; and a light shawl of Indian muslin, which she had hastily
thrown on, veiled rather than concealed her snowy breast, which would
have shamed the works of Praxiteles. She allowed me to take a
hundred kisses on her rosy lips--ardent kisses which the sight of
such charms made yet more ardent; but her hands forbade my approach
to those two spheres I so longed to touch.
I sat down by her and told her that her charms of body and mind would
make a man forget all the Manons that ever were.
"Is your Marion fair to see all over?" said she.
"I really can't say, for, not being her husband, I never had an
opportunity of investigating the matter."
"Your discretion is worthy of all praise," she said, with a smile,
"such conduct becomes a man of delicate feeling."
"I was told by her nurse that she was perfect in all respects, and
that no mote or blemish relieved the pure whiteness of her skin."
"You must have a different notion of me?"
"Yes, Esther, as the oracle revealed to me the great secret you
desired to know. Nevertheless, I should find you perfect in all your
Hereupon I was guilty of a stupidity which turned to my confusion. I
"If I became your husband, I could easily refrain from touching you
"I suppose you think," said she, blushing, and evidently a little
vexed, "that if you touched it your desires might be lessened?"
This question probed me to the core and covered me with shame. I
burst into tears, and begged her pardon in so truly repentant a voice
that sympathy made her mingle her tears with mine. The incident only
increased our intimacy, for, as I kissed her tears away, the same
desires consumed us, and if the voice of prudence had not intervened,
doubtless all would have been over. As it was, we had but a
foretaste and an earnest of that bliss which it was in our power to
procure. Three hours seemed to us as many minutes. She begged me to
go into her sitting-room while she dressed, and we then went down and
dined with the wretched secretary, who adored her, whom she did not
love, and who must have borne small love to me, seeing how high I
stood in her graces.
We passed the rest of the day together in that confidential talk
which is usual when the foundations of the most intimate friendship
have been laid between two persons of opposite sex, who believe
themselves created for each other. Our flames burnt as brightly, but
with more restraint, in the dining-room as in the bedroom. In the
very air of the bedroom of a woman one loves there is something so
balmy and voluptuous that the lover, asked to choose between this
garden of delights and Paradise, would not for one moment hesitate in
We parted with hearts full of happiness, saying to each other, "Till
I was truly in love with Esther, for my sentiment for her was
composed of sweeter, calmer, and more lively feelings than mere
sensual love, which is ever stormy and violent. I felt sure I could
persuade her to marry me without my first teaching her what could not
be taught. I was sorry I had not let her think herself as clever as
myself in the cabala, and I feared it would be impossible to
undeceive her without exciting her to anger, which would cast out
love. Nevertheless, Esther was the only woman who would make me
forget Manon, whom I began to think unworthy of all I had proposed
doing for her.
M. d'O---- came back and I went to dine with him. He was pleased to
hear that his daughter had effected a complete cure by spending a day
with me. When we were alone he told me that he had heard at the
Hague that the Comte St. Germain had the art of making diamonds which
only differed from the real ones in weight, and which, according to
him, would make his fortune. M. d'O---- would have been amused if I
had told him all I knew about this charlatan.
Next day I took Esther to the concert, and while we were there she
told me that on the day following she would not leave her room, so
that we could talk about getting married without fear of
interruption. This was the last day of the year 1759.
I Undeceive Esther--I set out for Germany--Adventure Near Cologne--
The Burgomaster's Wife; My Conquest of Her--Ball at Bonn--Welcome
From the Elector of Cologne--Breakfast at Bruhl--First Intimacy--
I sup Without Being Asked at General Kettler's I am Happy--I Leave
Cologne--The Toscani The Jewel My Arrival at Stuttgart
The appointment which Esther had made with me would probably have
serious results; and I felt it due to my honour not to deceive her
any longer, even were it to cost me my happiness; however, I had some
hope that all would turn out well.
I found her in bed, and she told me that she intended to stop there
throughout the day. I approved, for in bed I thought her ravishing.
"We will set to work," said she; and her governess set a little table
by her bed, and she gave me a piece of paper covered with questions
tending to convince me that before I married her I should communicate
to her my supposed science. All these questions were artfully
conceived, all were so worded as to force the oracle to order me to
satisfy her, or to definitely forbid my doing so. I saw the snare,
and all my thoughts were how to avoid it, though I pretended to be
merely considering the questions. I could not make the oracle speak
to please Esther, and I could still less make it pronounce a positive
prohibition, as I feared that she would resent such an answer
bitterly and revenge herself on me. Nevertheless, I had to assume an
indifferent air, and I got myself out of the difficulty by equivocal
answers, till the good-humoured papa came to summon me to dinner.
He allowed his daughter to stay in bed on the condition that she was
to do no more work, as he was afraid that by applying herself so
intently she would increase her headache. She promised, much to my
delight, that he should be obeyed, but on my return from dinner I
found her asleep, and sitting at her bedside I let her sleep on.
When she awoke she said she would like to read a little; and as if by
inspiration, I chanced to take up Coiardeau's 'Heroides', and we
inflamed each other by reading the letters of Heloise and Abelard.
The ardours thus aroused passed into our talk and we began to discuss
the secret which the oracle had revealed.
"But, Esther dear," said I, "did not the oracle reveal a circumstance
of which you knew perfectly well before?"
"No, sweetheart, the secret was perfectly unknown to me and would
have continued unknown."
"Then you have never been curious enough to inspect your own person?"
"However curious I may have been, nature placed that mole in such a
position as to escape any but the most minute search."
"You have never felt it, then?"
"It is too small to be felt."
"I don't believe it."
She allowed my hand to wander indiscreetly, and my happy fingers felt
all the precincts of the temple of love. This was enough to fire the
chastest disposition. I could not find the object of my research,
and, not wishing to stop short at so vain an enjoyment, I was allowed
to convince myself with my eyes that it actually existed. There,
however, her concessions stopped short, and I had to content myself
by kissing again and again all those parts which modesty no longer
denied to my gaze.
Satiated with bliss, though I had not attained to the utmost of
enjoyment, which she wisely denied me, after two hours had been
devoted to those pastimes which lead to nothing, I resolved to tell
her the whole truth and to shew her how I had abused her trust in me,
though I feared that her anger would be roused.
Esther, who had a large share of intelligence (indeed if she had had
less I could not have deceived her so well), listened to me without
interrupting me and without any signs of anger or astonishment. At
last, when I had brought my long and sincere confession to an end,
"I know your love for me is as great as mine for you; and if I am
certain that what you have just said cannot possibly be true, I am
forced to conclude that if you do not communicate to me all the
secrets of your science it is because to do so is not in your power.
Let us love one another till death, and say no more about this
After a moment's silence, she went on,--
"If love has taken away from you the courage of sincerity I forgive
you, but I am sorry for you. You have given me too positive proof of
the reality of your science to be able to shake my belief. You could
never have found out a thing of which I myself was ignorant, and of
which no mortal man could know."
"And if I shew you, Esther dear, that I knew you had this mole, that
I had good reasons for supposing you to be ignorant of it, will your
belief be shaken then?" "You knew it? How could you have seen it?
"I will tell you all."
I then explained to her the theory of the correspondence of moles on
the various parts of the human body, and to convince her I ended by
saying that her governess who had a large mark on her right cheek
ought to have one very like it on her left thigh. At this she burst
into laughter, and said, "I will find out, but after all you have
told me I can only admire you the more for knowing what no one else
"Do you really think, Esther, that I am the sole possessor of this
science? Undeceive yourself. All who have studied anatomy,
physiology, and astrology, know of it."
"Then I beg you to get me, by to-morrow--yes, tomorrow--all the books
which will teach me secrets of that nature. I long to be able to
astonish the ignorant with my cabala, which I see requires a mixture
of knowledge and imposition. I wish to devote myself entirely to
this study. We can love each other to the death, but we can do that
without getting married."
I re-entered my lodging in a peaceful and happy frame of mind; an
enormous weight seemed taken off my spirits. Next morning I
purchased such volumes as I judged would instruct and amuse her at
the same time, and went to present them to her. She was most pleased
with my Conis, as she found in it the character of truth. As she
wished to shine by her answers through the oracle it was necessary
for her to have an extensive knowledge of science, and I put her on
About that time I conceived the idea of making a short tour in
Germany before returning to Paris, and Esther encouraged me to do so,
after I had promised that she should see me again before the end of
the year. This promise was sincerely, given; and though from that
day to this I have not beheld the face of that charming and
remarkable woman, I cannot reproach myself with having deceived her
wilfully, for subsequent events prevented me from keeping my word.
I wrote to M. d'Afri requesting him to procure me a passport through
the empire, where the French and other belligerent powers were then
campaigning. He answered very politely that I had no need of a
passport, but that if I wished to have one he would send it me
forthwith. I was content with this letter and put it among my
papers, and at Cologne it got me a better reception than all the
passports in the world.
I made M. d'O---- the depositary of the various moneys I had in
different banking houses, and the worthy man, who was a true friend
to me, gave me a bill of exchange on a dozen of the chief houses in
When my affairs were all in order I started in my post-chaise, with
the sum of nearly a hundred thousand Dutch florins to my credit, some
valuable jewels, and a well-stocked wardrobe. I sent my Swiss
servant back to Paris, keeping only my faithful Spaniard, who on this
occasion travelled with me, seated behind my chaise.
Thus ends the history of my second visit to Holland, where I did
nothing to augment my fortune. I had some unpleasant experiences
there for which I had my own imprudence to thank, but after the lapse
of so many years I feel that these mishaps were more than compensated
by the charms of Esther's society.
I only stopped one day at Utrecht, and two days after I reached
Cologne at noon, without accident, but not without danger, for at a
distance of half a league from the town five deserters, three on the
right hand and two on the left, levelled their pistols at me, with
the words, "Your money or your life." However, I covered the
postillion with my own pistol, threatening to fire if he did not
drive on, and the robbers discharged their weapons at the carriage,
not having enough spirit to shoot the postillion.
If I had been like the English, who carry a light purse for the
benefit of the highwaymen, I would have thrown it to these poor
wretches; but, as it was, I risked my life rather than be robbed. My
Spaniard was quite astonished not to have been struck by any of the
balls which whistled past his ears.
The French were in winter quarters at Cologne, and I put up at the
"Soleil d'Or." As I was going in, the first person I met was the
Comte de Lastic, Madame d'Urfe's nephew, who greeted me with the
utmost politeness, and offered to take me to M. de Torci, who was in
command. I accepted, and this gentleman was quite satisfied with the
letter M. d'Afri had written me. I told him what had happened to me
as I was coming into Cologne, and he congratulated me on the happy
issue of the affair, but with a soldier's freedom blamed the use I
had made of my courage."
"You played high," said he, "to save your money, but you might have
lost a limb, and nothing would have made up for that."
I answered that to make light of a danger often diminished it. We
laughed at this, and he said that if I was going to make any stay in
Cologne I should probably have the pleasure of seeing the highwaymen
"I intend to go to-morrow," said I, "and if anything could keep me at
Cologne it would certainly not be the prospect of being present at an
execution, as such sights are not at all to my taste."
I had to accept M. de Lastic's invitation to dinner, and he persuaded
me to go with himself and his friend, M. de Flavacour, an officer of
high rank, and an agreeable man, to the theatre. As I felt sure that
I should be introduced to ladies, and wished to make something of a
figure, I spent an hour in dressing.
I found myself in a box opposite to a pretty woman, who looked at me
again and again through her opera-glass. That was enough to rouse my
curiosity, and I begged M. de Lastic to introduce me; which he did
with the best grace imaginable. He first presented me to Count
Kettler, lieutenant-general in the Austrian army, and on the general
staff of the French army--just as the French General Montacet was on
the staff of the Austrian army. I was then presented to the lady
whose beauty had attracted my attention the moment I entered my box.
She greeted me graciously, and asked me questions about Paris and
Brussels, where she had been educated, without appearing to pay any
attention to my replies, but gazing at my lace and jewellery.
While we were talking of indifferent matters, like new acquaintances,
she suddenly but politely asked me if I intended to make a long stay
"I think of crossing the Rhine to-morrow," I answered, "and shall
probably dine at Bonn."
This reply, which was given as indifferently as her question,
appeared to vex her; and I thought her vexation a good omen. General
Kettler then rose, saying,--
"I am sure, sir, that this lady will persuade you to delay your
departure--at least, I hope so, that I may bane the pleasure of
seeing more of your company."
I bowed and he went out with Lastic, leaving me alone with this
ravishing beauty. She was the burgomaster's wife, and the general
was nearly always with her.
"Is the count right," said she, pleasantly, "in attributing such
power to me?"
"I think so, indeed," I answered, "but he may possibly be wrong in
thinking you care to exercise it."
"Very good! We must catch him, then, if only as the punishment of
his indiscretion. Stay."
I was so astonished at this speech that I looked quite foolish and
had to collect my senses. I thought the word indiscretion sublime,
punishment exquisite, and catching admirable; and still more the idea
of catching him by means of me. I thought it would be a mistake to
enquire any further, and putting on an expression of resignation and
gratitude I lowered my lips and kissed her hand with a mixture of
respect and sentiment, which, without exactly imparting my feelings
for her, let her know that they might be softened without much
"Then you will stay, sir! It is really very kind of you, for if you
went off to-morrow people might say that you only came here to shew
your disdain for us. Tomorrow the general gives a ball, and I hope
you will be one of the party."
"Can I hope to dance with you all the evening?"
"I promise to dance with nobody but you, till you get tired of me."
"Then we shall dance together through all the ball."
"Where did you get that pomade which perfumes the air? I smelt it
as soon as you came into the box."
"It came from Florence, and if you do not like it you shall not be
troubled with it any more."
"Oh! but I do like it. I should like some of it myself."
"And I shall be only too happy if you will permit me to send you a
Just then the door of the box opened and the entrance of the general
prevented her from replying. I was just going, when the count said:
"I am sure madame has prevailed on you to stay, and to come to my
ball and supper to-morrow?"
"She has led me to anticipate that you would do me that honour, and
she promises to dance the quadrilles with me. How can one resist
entreaty from such lips?"
"Quite so, and I am obliged to her for having kept you with us. I
hope to see you to-morrow."
I went out of the box in love, and almost happy in anticipation. The
pomade was a present from Esther, and it was the first time I had
used it. The box contained twenty-four pots of beautiful china. The
next day I put twelve into an elegant casket, which I wrapped up in
oil-cloth and sent to her without a note.
I spent the morning by going over Cologne with a guide; I visited all
the marvels of the place, and laughed with all my heart to see the
horse Bayard, of whom Ariosto has sung, ridden by the four sons of
Aimon, or Amone, father of Bradamante the Invincible, and
Ricciardetto the Fortunate.
I dined with M. de Castries, and everybody was surprised that the
general had asked me himself to the ball, as his jealousy was known,
while the lady was supposed only to suffer his attentions through a
feeling of vanity. The dear general was well advanced in years, far
from good-looking, and as his mental qualities by no means
compensated for his lack of physical ones he was by no means an
object to inspire love. In spite of his jealousy, he had to appear
pleased that I sat next the fair at supper, and that I spent the
night in dancing with her or talking to her. It was a happy night
for me, and I re-entered my lodging no longer thinking of leaving
Cologne. In a moment of ecstasy, emboldened by the turn the
conversation had taken, I had dared to tell her that if she would
meet me alone I would stay in Cologne till the end of the carnival.
"And what would you say," she asked, "if I give my promise, and do
not keep it?"
"I should bemoan my lot, without accusing you; I should say to myself
that you had found it impossible to keep your word."
"You are very good; you must stay with us."
The day after the ball I went to pay her my first visit. She made me
welcome, and introduced me to her worthy husband, who, though neither
young nor handsome, was extremely good-hearted. After I had been
there an hour, we heard the general's carriage coming, and she said
"If he asks you whether you are going to the Elector's ball at Bonn,
The general came in, and after the usual compliments had been passed
I did not know by whom the ball was to be given, or when it was to
take place, but scenting pleasure from afar off I hastened to make
enquiries about it, and heard that all the good families in Cologne
were going. It was a masked ball, and consequently open to all. I
decided then that I would go; indeed I concluded that I had had
orders to that effect, and at all events my lady would be there, and
I might hope for a happy meeting with her. But as I wished to keep
up my incognito as much as possible, I resolved to reply to all who
asked me that important business would prevent my being present.
It fell out that the general asked me this very question in the
presence of the lady, and without regard to the orders I had received
from her I replied that my health would forbid my having that
"You are very wise, sir," said the general, "all the pleasures on
earth should be sacrificed when it is a question of one's health."
I think so, too, now, but I thought differently then.
On the day of the ball, towards the evening, I set out in a post-
chaise, disguised so that not a soul in Cologne could have recognized
me, and provided with a box containing two dominoes; and on my
arrival at Bonn I took a room and put on one of the dominoes, locking
up the other in the box; and I then had myself carried to the ball in
I got in easily and unperceived, and recognized all the ladies of
Cologne without their masks, and my mistress sitting at a faro-table
risking a ducat. I was glad to see in the banker, Count Verita of
Verona, whom I had known in Bavaria. He was in the Elector's
service. His small bank did not contain more than five or six
ducats, and the punters, men and women, were not more than twelve. I
took up a position by my mistress, and the banker asked me to cut. I
excused myself with a gesture, and my neighbour cut without being
asked. I put ten ducats on a single card, and lost four times
running; I played at the second deal, and experienced the same fate.
At the third deal nobody would cut, and the general, who was standing
by but not playing, agreed to do so. I fancied his cutting would be
lucky, and I put fifty ducats on one card. I won. I went 'paroli',
and at the second deal I broke the bank. Everybody was curious about
me; I was stared at and followed, but seizing a favourable
opportunity I made my escape.
I went to my room, took out my money, changed my costume, and
returned to the ball. I saw the table occupied by new gamsters, and
another banker who seemed to have a good deal of gold, but not caring
to play any more I had not brought much money with me. I mingled in
all the groups in the ballroom, and on all sides I heard expressions
of curiosity about the mask who broke the first bank.
I did not care to satisfy the general curiosity, but made my way from
one side of the room to the other till I found the object of my
search talking to Count Verita, and as I drew near I found out that
they were talking of me. The count was saying that the Elector had
been asking who had broken the bank, and that General Kettler had
expressed his opinion that it was a Venetian who had been in Cologne
for the last week. My mistress answered that she did not think I was
there, as she had heard me say that the state of my health would keep
me at home.
"I know Casanova," said the count, "and if he be at Bonn the Elector
shall hear of it, and he shan't go off without my seeing him."
I saw that I might easily be discovered after the ball, but I defied
the keenest eyes to penetrate beneath my present disguise. I should
have, no doubt, remained unknown, but when the quadrilles were being
arranged I took my place in one, without reflecting that I should
have to take off my mask.
As soon as my mistress saw me she told me she had been deceived, as
she would have wagered that I was the masker who broke Count Verita's
bank. I told her I had only just come.
At the end of the dance the count spied me out and said, "My dear
fellow-countryman, I am sure you are the man who broke my bank; I
congratulate you." "I should congratulate myself if I were the
"I am sure that it was you."
I left him laughing, and after having taken some refreshments I
continued dancing. Two hours afterwards the count saw me again and
"You changed your domino in such a room, in such a house. The
Elector knows all about it, and as a punishment for this deceit he
has ordered me to tell you that you are not to leave Bonn to-morrow."
"Is he going to arrest me, then?"
"Why not, if you refuse his invitation to dinner tomorrow?"
"Tell his highness that his commands shall be obeyed. Will you
present me to him now?"
"He has left the ball, but wait on me to-morrow at noon." So saying,
he gave me his hand and went away.
I took care to keep the appointment on the day following, but when I
was presented I was in some confusion, as the Elector was surrounded
by five or six courtiers, and never having seen him I looked in vain
for an ecclesiastic. He saw my embarrassment and hastened to put an
end to it, saying, in bad Venetian, "I am wearing the costume of
Grand Master of the Teutonic Order to-day." In spite of his costume
I made the usual genuflexion, and when I would have kissed his hand
he would not allow it, but shook mine in an affectionate manner.
"I was at Venice," said he, "when you were under the Leads, and my
nephew, the Elector of Bavaria, told me that after your fortunate
escape you stayed some time at Munich; if you had come to Cologne I
should have kept you. I hope that after dinner you will be kind
enough to tell us the story of your escape, that you will stay to
supper, and will join in a little masquerade with which we propose to
I promised to tell my tale if he thought it would not weary him,
warning him that it would take two hours. "One could never have too
much of a good thing," he was kind enough to say; and I made him
laugh by my account of the conversation between the Duc de Choiseul
At dinner the prince spoke to me in Venetian, and was pleased to be
most gracious towards me. He was a man of a jovial and easy-going
disposition, and with his look of health one would not have
prophesied so soon an end as came to him. He died the year
As soon as we rose from table he begged me to begin my story, and for
two hours I had the pleasure of keeping this most brilliant company
My readers know the history; its interest lies in the dramatic nature
of the details, but it is impossible to communicate the fire of a
well-told story to an account in writing.
The Elector's little bail was very pleasant. We were all dressed as
peasants, and the costumes were taken from a special wardrobe of the
prince's. It would have been ridiculous to choose any other dresses,
as the Elector wore one of the same kind himself. General Kettler
was the best disguised of us all; he looked the rustic to the life.
My mistress was ravishing. We only danced quadrilles and German
dances. There were only four or five ladies of the highest rank; all
the others, who were more or less pretty, were favourites of the
prince, all his days a great lover of the fair sex. Two of these
ladies danced the Forlana, and the Elector was much amused in making
me dance it also. I have already said that the Forlana is a Venetian
dance, and one of the most energetic kind imaginable. It is danced
by a lady and gentleman opposite to one another, and as the two
ladies relieved one another they were almost the death of me. One
has to be strong to dance twelve turns, and after the thirteenth I
felt I could do no more, and begged for mercy.
Soon after we danced another dance, where each gentleman kisses a
lady. I was not too shy, and each time I continued to kiss my
mistress with considerable ardour, which made the peasant-elector
burst with laughter and the peasant-general burst with rage.
In a lull between the dances, this charming and original woman found
means to tell me in private that all the Cologne ladies would leave
at noon on the next day, and that I would increase my popularity by
inviting them all to breakfast at Bruhl.
"Send each one a note with the name of her cavalier, and trust in
Count Verita to do everything for the best; you need only tell him
that you wish to give an entertainment similar to that given two
years ago by the Prince de Deux-Ponts. Lose no time. You will have
a score of guests; mind you let them know the hour of the repast.
Take care, too, that your invitations are sent round by nine o'clock
in the morning."
All these instructions were uttered with lightning speed, and I,
enchanted with the power my mistress thought she possessed over me,
thought only of obeying, without reflecting whether I owed her
obedience. Bruhl, breakfast, a score of people like the Prince Deux-
Ponts, invitations to the ladies, Count Verita; I knew as much as
she could have told me if she had taken an hour.
I left the room in my peasant's dress, and begged a page to take me
to Count Verita, who began to laugh on seeing my attire. I told my
business with the importance of an ambassador, and this made him in a
still better humour.
"It can all easily be arranged," said he, "I have only to write to
the steward, and I will do so immediately. But how much do you want
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