The Complete Memoires of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 7 out of 70
Who does not know that love, inflamed by all that can excite it,
never stops in young people until it is satisfied, and that one
favour granted kindles the wish for a greater one? I had begun well,
I tried to go further and to smother with burning kisses that which
my hand was pressing so ardently, but the false Bellino, as if he had
only just been aware of the illicit pleasure I was enjoying, rose and
ran away. Anger increased in me the ardour of love, and feeling the
necessity of calming myself either by satisfying my ardent desires or
by evaporating them, I begged Cecilia, Bellino's pupil, to sing a few
I then went out to call upon the banker, from whom I took a letter of
exchange at sight upon Bologna, for the amount I had to receive from
him, and on my return, after a light supper with the two young
sisters, I prepared to go to bed, having previously instructed
Petronio to order a carriage for the morning.
I was just locking my door when Cecilia, half undressed, came in to
say that Bellino begged me to take him to Rimini, where he was
engaged to sing in an opera to be performed after Easter.
"Go and tell him, my dear little seraph, that I am ready to do what
he wishes, if he will only grant me in your presence what I desire; I
want to know for a certainty whether he is a man or a woman."
She left me and returned soon, saying that Bellino had gone to bed,
but that if I would postpone my departure for one day only he
promised to satisfy me on the morrow.
"Tell me the truth, Cecilia, and I will give you six sequins."
"I cannot earn them, for I have never seen him naked, and I cannot
swear to his being a girl. But he must be a man, otherwise he would
not have been allowed to perform here."
"Well, I will remain until the day after to-morrow, provided you keep
me company tonight."
"Do you love me very much?"
"Very much indeed, if you shew yourself very kind."
"I will be very kind, for I love you dearly likewise. I will go and
tell my mother."
"Of course you have a lover?"
"I never had one."
She left my room, and in a short time came back full of joy, saying
that her mother believed me an honest man; she of course meant a
generous one. Cecilia locked the door, and throwing herself in my
arms covered me with kisses. She was pretty, charming, but I was not
in love with her, and I was not able to say to her as to Lucrezia:
"You have made me so happy!" But she said it herself, and I did not
feel much flattered, although I pretended to believe her. When I
woke up in the morning I gave her a tender salutation, and presenting
her with three doubloons, which must have particularly delighted the
mother, I sent her away without losing my time in promising
everlasting constancy--a promise as absurd as it is trifling, and
which the most virtuous man ought never to make even to the most
beautiful of women.
After breakfast I sent for mine host and ordered an excellent supper
for five persons, feeling certain that Don Sancio, whom I expected in
the evening, would not refuse to honour me by accepting my
invitation, and with that idea I made up my mind to go without my
dinner. The Bolognese family did not require to imitate my diet to
insure a good appetite for the evening.
I then summoned Bellino to my room, and claimed the performance of
his promise but he laughed, remarked that the day was not passed yet,
and said that he was certain of traveling with me.
"I fairly warn you that you cannot accompany me unless I am fully
"Well, I will satisfy you."
"Shall we go and take a walk together?"
"Willingly; I will dress myself."
While I was waiting for him, Marina came in with a dejected
countenance, enquiring how she had deserved my contempt.
"Cecilia has passed the night with you, Bellino will go with you to-
morrow, I am the most unfortunate of us all."
"Do you want money?"
"No, for I love you."
"But, Marinetta, you are too young."
"I am much stronger than my sister."
"Perhaps you have a lover."
"Very well, we can try this evening."
"Good! Then I will tell mother to prepare clean sheets for to-morrow
morning; otherwise everybody here would know that I slept with you."
I could not help admiring the fruits of a theatrical education, and
was much amused.
Bellino came back, we went out together, and we took our walk towards
the harbour. There were several vessels at anchor, and amongst them
a Venetian ship and a Turkish tartan. We went on board the first
which we visited with interest, but not seeing anyone of my
acquaintance, we rowed towards the Turkish tartan, where the most
romantic surprise awaited me. The first person I met on board was
the beautiful Greek woman I had left in Ancona, seven months before,
when I went away from the lazzaretto. She was seated near the old
captain, of whom I enquired, without appearing to notice his handsome
slave, whether he had any fine goods to sell. He took us to his
cabin, but as I cast a glance towards the charming Greek, she
expressed by her looks all her delight at such an unexpected meeting.
I pretended not to be pleased with the goods shewn by the Turk, and
under the impulse of inspiration I told him that I would willingly
buy something pretty which would take the fancy of his better-half.
He smiled, and the Greek slave-having whispered a few words to him,
he left the cabin. The moment he was out of sight, this new Aspasia
threw herself in my arms, saying, "Now is your time!" I would not be
found wanting in courage, and taking the most convenient position in
such a place, I did to her in one instant that which her old master
had not done in five years. I had not yet reached the goal of my
wishes, when the unfortunate girl, hearing her master, tore herself
from my arms with a deep sigh, and placing herself cunningly in front
of me, gave me time to repair the disorder of my dress, which might
have cost me my life, or at least all I possessed to compromise the
affair. In that curious situation, I was highly amused at the
surprise of Bellino, who stood there trembling like an aspen leaf.
The trifles chosen by the handsome slave cost me only thirty sequins.
'Spolaitis', she said to me in her own language, and the Turk telling
her that she ought to kiss me, she covered her face with her hands,
and ran away. I left the ship more sad than pleased, for I regretted
that, in spite of her courage, she should have enjoyed only an
incomplete pleasure. As soon as we were in our row boat, Bellino,
who had recovered from his fright, told me that I had just made him
acquainted with a phenomenon, the reality of which he could not
admit, and which gave him a very strange idea of my nature; that, as
far as the Greek girl was concerned, he could not make her out,
unless I should assure him that every woman in her country was like
her. "How unhappy they must be!" he added.
"Do you think," I asked, "that coquettes are happier?"
"No, but I think that when a woman yields to love, she should not be
conquered before she has fought with her own desires; she should not
give way to the first impulse of a lustful desire and abandon herself
to the first man who takes her fancy, like an animal--the slave of
sense. You must confess that the Greek woman has given you an
evident proof that you had taken her fancy, but that she has at the
same time given you a proof not less certain of her beastly lust, and
of an effrontery which exposed her to the shame of being repulsed,
for she could not possibly know whether you would feel as well
disposed for her as she felt for you. She is very handsome, and it
all turned out well, but the adventure has thrown me into a whirlpool
of agitation which I cannot yet control."
I might easily have put a stop to Bellino's perplexity, and rectified
the mistake he was labouring under; but such a confession would not
have ministered to my self-love, and I held my peace, for, if Bellino
happened to be a girl, as I suspected, I wanted her to be convinced
that I attached, after all, but very little importance to the great
affair, and that it was not worth while employing cunning expedients
to obtain it.
We returned to the inn, and, towards evening, hearing Don Sancio's
travelling carriage roll into the yard, I hastened to meet him, and
told him that I hoped he would excuse me if I had felt certain that
he would not refuse me the honour of his company to supper with
Bellino. He thanked me politely for the pleasure I was so delicately
offering him, and accepted my invitation.
The most exquisite dishes, the most delicious wines of Spain, and,
more than everything else, the cheerfulness and the charming voices
of Bellino and of Cecilia, gave the Castilian five delightful hours.
He left me at midnight, saying that he could not declare himself
thoroughly pleased unless I promised to sup with him the next evening
with the same guests. It would compel me to postpone my departure
for another day, but I accepted.
As soon as Don Sancio had gone, I called upon Bellino to fulfil his
promise, but he answered that Marinetta was waiting for me, and that,
as I was not going away the next day, he would find an opportunity of
satisfying my doubts; and wishing me a good night, he left the room.
Marinetta, as cheerful as a lark, ran to lock the door and came back
to me, her eyes beaming with ardour. She was more formed than
Cecilia, although one year younger, and seemed anxious to convince me
of her superiority, but, thinking that the fatigue of the preceding
night might have exhausted my strength, she unfolded all the armorous
ideas of her mind, explained at length all she knew of the great
mystery she was going to enact with me, and of all the contrivances
she had had recourse to in order to acquire her imperfect knowledge,
the whole interlarded with the foolish talk natural to her age. I
made out that she was afraid of my not finding her a maiden, and of
my reproaching her about it. Her anxiety pleased me, and I gave her
a new confidence by telling her that nature had refused to many young
girls what is called maidenhood, and that only a fool could be angry
with a girl for such a reason.
My science gave her courage and confidence, and I was compelled to
acknowledge that she was very superior to her sister.
"I am delighted you find me so," she said; "we must not sleep at all
throughout the night."
"Sleep, my darling, will prove our friend, and our strength renewed
by repose will reward you in the morning for what you may suppose
And truly, after a quiet sleep, the morning was for her a succession
of fresh triumphs, and I crowned her happiness by sending her away
with three doubloons, which she took to her mother, and which gave
the good woman an insatiable desire to contract new obligations
I went out to get some money from the banker, as I did not know what
might happen during my journey. I had enjoyed myself, but I had
spent too much: yet there was Bellino who, if a girl, was not to find
me less generous than I had been with the two young sisters. It was
to be decided during the day, and I fancied that I was sure of the
There are some persons who pretend that life is only a succession of
misfortunes, which is as much as to say that life itself is a
misfortune; but if life is a misfortune, death must be exactly the
reverse and therefore death must be happiness, since death is the
very reverse of life. That deduction may appear too finely drawn.
But those who say that life is a succession of misfortunes are
certainly either ill or poor; for, if they enjoyed good health, if
they had cheerfulness in their heart and money in their purse, if
they had for their enjoyment a Cecilia, a Marinetta, and even a more
lovely beauty in perspective, they would soon entertain a very
different opinion of life! I hold them to be a race of pessimists,
recruited amongst beggarly philosophers and knavish, atrabilious
theologians. If pleasure does exist, and if life is necessary to
enjoy pleasure, then life is happiness. There are misfortunes, as I
know by experience; but the very existence of such misfortunes proves
that the sum-total of happiness is greater. Because a few thorns are
to be found in a basket full of roses, is the existence of those
beautiful flowers to be denied? No; it is a slander to deny that
life is happiness. When I am in a dark room, it pleases me greatly
to see through a window an immense horizon before me.
As supper-time was drawing near, I went to Don Sancio, whom I found
in magnificently-furnished apartments. The table was loaded with
silver plate, and his servants were in livery. He was alone, but all
his guests arrived soon after me--Cecilia, Marina, and Bellino, who,
either by caprice or from taste, was dressed as a woman. The two
young sisters, prettily arranged, looked charming, but Bellino, in
his female costume, so completely threw them into the shade, that my
last doubt vanished.
"Are you satisfied," I said to Don Sancio, "that Bellino is a woman?"
"Woman or man, what do I care! I think he is a very pretty
'castrato', and 'I have seen many as good-looking as he is."
"But are you sure he is a 'castrato'?"
"'Valgame Dios'!" answered the grave Castilian, "I have not the
slightest wish to ascertain the truth."
Oh, how widely different our thoughts were! I admired in him the
wisdom of which I was so much in need, and did not venture upon any
more indiscreet questions. During the supper, however, my greedy
eyes could not leave that charming being; my vicious nature caused me
to feel intense voluptuousness in believing him to be of that sex to
which I wanted him to belong.
Don Sancio's supper was excellent, and, as a matter of course,
superior to mine; otherwise the pride of the Castilian would have
felt humbled. As a general rule, men are not satisfied with what is
good; they want the best, or, to speak more to the point, the most.
He gave us white truffles, several sorts of shell-fish, the best fish
of the Adriatic, dry champagne, peralta, sherry and pedroximenes
After that supper worthy of Lucullus, Bellino sang with a voice of
such beauty that it deprived us of the small amount of reason left in
us by the excellent wine. His movements, the expression of his
looks, his gait, his walk, his countenance, his voice, and, above
all, my own instinct, which told me that I could not possibly feel
for a castrato what I felt for Bellino, confirmed me in my hopes; yet
it was necessary that my eyes should ascertain the truth.
After many compliments and a thousand thanks, we took leave of the
grand Spaniard, and went to my room, where the mystery was at last to
be unravelled. I called upon Bellino to keep his word, or I
threatened to leave him alone the next morning at day-break.
I took him by the hand, and we seated ourselves near the fire. I
dismissed Cecilia and Marina, and I said to him,
"Bellino, everything must have an end; you have promised: it will
soon be over. If you are what you represent yourself to be, I will
let you go back to your own room; if you are what I believe you to
be, and if you consent to remain with me to-night, I will give you
one hundred sequins, and we will start together tomorrow morning."
"You must go alone, and forgive me if I cannot fulfil my promise. I
am what I told you, and I can neither reconcile myself to the idea of
exposing my shame before you, nor lay myself open to the terrible
consequences that might follow the solution of your doubts."
"There can be no consequences, since there will be an end to it at
the moment I have assured myself that you are unfortunate enough to
be what you say, and without ever mentioning the circumstances again,
I promise to take you with me to-morrow and to leave you at Rimini."
"No, my mind is made up; I cannot satisfy your curiosity."
Driven to madness by his words, I was very near using violence, but
subduing my angry feelings, I endeavored to succeed by gentle means
and by going straight to the spot where the mystery could be solved.
I was very near it, when his hand opposed a very strong resistance.
I repeated my efforts, but Bellino, rising suddenly, repulsed me, and
I found myself undone. After a few moments of calm, thinking I
should take him by surprise, I extended my hand, but I drew back
terrified, for I fancied that I had recognized in him a man, and a
degraded man, contemptible less on account of his degradation than
for the want of feeling I thought I could read on his countenance.
Disgusted, confused, and almost blushing for myself, I sent him away.
His sisters came to my room, but I dismissed them, sending word to
their brother that he might go with me, without any fear of further
indiscretion on my part. Yet, in spite of the conviction I thought I
had acquired, Bellino, even such as I believe him to be, filled my
thoughts; I could not make it out.
Early the next morning I left Ancona with him, distracted by the
tears of the two charming sisters and loaded with the blessings of
the mother who, with beads in hand, mumbled her 'paternoster', and
repeated her constant theme: 'Dio provedera'.
The trust placed in Providence by most of those persons who earn
their living by some profession forbidden by religion is neither
absurd, nor false, nor deceitful; it is real and even godly, for it
flows from an excellent source. Whatever may be the ways of
Providence, human beings must always acknowledge it in its action,
and those who call upon Providence independently of all external
consideration must, at the bottom, be worthy, although guilty of
transgressing its laws.
Da mihi fallere; da justo sanctoque videri;
Noctem peccatis, et fraudibus objice nubem.'
Such was the way in which, in the days of Horace, robbers addressed
their goddess, and I recollect a Jesuit who told me once that Horace
would not have known his own language, if he had said justo
sanctoque: but there were ignorant men even amongst the Jesuits, and
robbers most likely have but little respect for the rules of grammar.
The next morning I started with Bellino, who, believing me to be
undeceived, could suppose that I would not shew any more curiosity
about him, but we had not been a quarter of an hour together when he
found out his mistake, for I could not let my looks fall upon his
splendid eyes without feeling in me a fire which the sight of a man
could not have ignited. I told him that all his features were those
of a woman, and that I wanted the testimony of my eyes before I could
feel perfectly satisfied, because the protuberance I had felt in a
certain place might be only a freak of nature. "Should it be the
case," I added, "I should have no difficulty in passing over a
deformity which, in reality, is only laughable. Bellino, the
impression you produce upon me, this sort of magnetism, your bosom
worthy of Venus herself, which you have once abandoned to my eager
hand, the sound of your voice, every movement of yours, assure me
that you do not belong to my sex. Let me see for myself, and, if my
conjectures are right, depend upon my faithful love; if, on the
contrary, I find that I have been mistaken, you can rely upon my
friendship. If you refuse me, I shall be compelled to believe that
you are cruelly enjoying my misery, and that you have learned in the
most accursed school that the best way of preventing a young man from
curing himself of an amorous passion is to excite it constantly; but
you must agree with me that, to put such tyranny in practice, it is
necessary to hate the person it is practised upon, and, if that be
so, I ought to call upon my reason to give me the strength necessary
to hate you likewise."
I went on speaking for a long time; Bellino did not answer, but he
seemed deeply moved. At last I told him that, in the fearful state
to which I was reduced by his resistance, I should be compelled to
treat him without any regard for his feelings, and find out the truth
by force. He answered with much warmth and dignity: "Recollect that
you are not my master, that I am in your hands, because I had faith
in your promise, and that, if you use violence, you will be guilty of
murder. Order the postillion to stop, I will get out of the
carriage, and you may rely upon my not complaining of your
Those few words were followed by a torrent of tears, a sight which I
never could resist. I felt myself moved in the inmost recesses of my
soul, and I almost thought that I had been wrong. I say almost,
because, had I been convinced of it, I would have thrown myself at
his feet entreating pardon; but, not feeling myself competent to
stand in judgment in my own cause, I satisfied myself by remaining
dull and silent, and I never uttered one word until we were only half
a mile from Sinigaglia, where I intended to take supper and to remain
for the night. Having fought long enough with my own feelings, I
said to him;
"We might have spent a little time in Rimini like good friends, if
you had felt any friendship for me, for, with a little kind
compliance, you could have easily cured me of my passion."
"It would not cure you," answered Bellino, courageously, but with a
sweetness of tone which surprised me; "no, you would not be cured,
whether you found me to be man or woman, for you are in love with me
independently of my sex, and the certainty you would acquire would
make you furious. In such a state, should you find me inexorable,
you would very likely give way to excesses which would afterwards
cause you deep sorrow."
"You expect to make me admit that you are right, but you are
completely mistaken, for I feel that I should remain perfectly calm,
and that by complying with my wishes you would gain my friendship."
"I tell you again that you would become furious."
"Bellino, that which has made me furious is the sight of your charms,
either too real or too completely deceiving, the power of which you
cannot affect to ignore. You have not been afraid to ignite my
amorous fury, how can you expect me to believe you now, when you
pretend to fear it, and when I am only asking you to let me touch a
thing, which, if it be as you say, will only disgust me?"
"Ah! disgust you; I am quite certain of the contrary. Listen to me.
Were I a girl, I feel I could not resist loving you, but, being a
man, it is my duty not to grant what you desire, for your passion,
now very natural, would then become monstrous. Your ardent nature
would be stronger than your reason, and your reason itself would
easily come to the assistance of your senses and of your nature.
That violent clearing-up of the mystery, were you to obtain it, would
leave you deprived of all control over yourself. Disappointed in not
finding what you had expected, you would satisfy your passion upon
that which you would find, and the result would, of course, be an
abomination. How can you, intelligent as you are, flatter yourself
that, finding me to be a man, you could all at once cease to love me?
Would the charms which you now see in me cease to exist then?
Perhaps their power would, on the contrary, be enhanced, and your
passion, becoming brutal, would lead you to take any means your
imagination suggested to gratify it. You would persuade yourself
that you might change me into a woman, or, what is worse, that you
might change yourself into one. Your passion would invent a thousand
sophisms to justify your love, decorated with the fine appellation of
friendship, and you would not fail to allege hundreds of similarly
disgusting cases in order to excuse your conduct. You would
certainly never find me compliant; and how am I to know that you
would not threaten me with death?"
"Nothing of the sort would happen, Bellino," I answered, rather tired
of the length of his argument, "positively nothing, and I am sure you
are exaggerating your fears. Yet I am bound to tell you that, even
if all you say should happen, it seems to me that to allow what can
strictly be considered only as a temporary fit of insanity, would
prove a less evil than to render incurable a disease of the mind
which reason would soon cut short."
Thus does a poor philosopher reason when he takes it into his head to
argue at those periods during which a passion raging in his soul
makes all its faculties wander. To reason well, we must be under the
sway neither of love nor of anger, for those two passions have one
thing in common which is that, in their excess, they lower us to the
condition of brutes acting only under the influence of their
predominating instinct, and, unfortunately, we are never more
disposed to argue than when we feel ourselves under the influence of
either of those two powerful human passions.
We arrived at Sinigaglia late at night, and I went to the best inn,
and, after choosing a comfortable room, ordered supper. As there was
but one bed in the room, I asked Bellino, in as calm a tone as I
could assume, whether he would have a fire lighted in another
chamber, and my surprise may be imagined when he answered quietly
that he had no objection to sleep in the same bed with me. Such an
answer, however, unexpected, was necessary to dispel the angry
feelings under which I was labouring. I guessed that I was near the
denouement of the romance, but I was very far from congratulating
myself, for I did not know whether the denouement would prove
agreeable or not. I felt, however, a real satisfaction at having
conquered, and was sure of my self-control, in case the senses, my
natural instinct, led me astray. But if I found myself in the right,
I thought I could expect the most precious favours.
We sat down to supper opposite each other, and during the meal, his
words, his countenance, the expression of his beautiful eyes, his
sweet and voluptuous smile, everything seemed to announce that he had
had enough of playing a part which must have proved as painful to him
as to me.
A weight was lifted off my mind, and I managed to shorten the supper
as much as possible. As soon as we had left the table, my amiable
companion called for a night-lamp, undressed himself, and went to
bed. I was not long in following him, and the reader will soon know
the nature of a denouement so long and so ardently desired; in the
mean time I beg to wish him as happy a night as the one which was
then awaiting me.
Bellino's History--I Am Put Under Arrest--I Run Away Against My Will
--My Return To Rimini, and My Arrival In Bologna
Dear reader, I said enough at the end of the last chapter to make you
guess what happened, but no language would be powerful enough to make
you realize all the voluptuousness which that charming being had in
store for me. She came close to me the moment I was in bed. Without
uttering one word our lips met, and I found myself in the ecstasy of
enjoyment before I had had time to seek for it. After so complete a
victory, what would my eyes and my fingers have gained from
investigations which could not give me more certainty than I had
already obtained? I could not take my gaze off that beautiful face,
which was all aflame with the ardour of love.
After a moment of quiet rapture, a spark lighted up in our veins a
fresh conflagration which we drowned in a sea of new delights.
Bellino felt bound to make me forget my sufferings, and to reward me
by an ardour equal to the fire kindled by her charms.
The happiness I gave her increased mine twofold, for it has always
been my weakness to compose the four-fifths of my enjoyment from the
sum-total of the happiness which I gave the charming being from whom
I derived it. But such a feeling must necessarily cause hatred for
old age which can still receive pleasure, but can no longer give
enjoyment to another. And youth runs away from old age, because it
is its most cruel enemy.
An interval of repose became necessary, in consequence of the
activity of our enjoyment. Our senses were not tired out, but they
required the rest which renews their sensitiveness and restores the
buoyancy necessary to active service.
Bellino was the first to break our silence.
"Dearest," she said, "are you satisfied now? Have you found me truly
"Truly loving? Ah! traitress that you are! Do you, then, confess
that I was not mistaken when I guessed that you were a charming
woman? And if you truly loved me, tell me how you could contrive to
defer your happiness and mine so long? But is it quite certain that
I did not make a mistake?"
"I am yours all over; see for yourself."
Oh, what delightful survey! what charming beauties! what an ocean of
enjoyment! But I could not find any trace of the protuberance which
had so much terrified and disgusted me.
"What has become," I said, "of that dreadful monstrosity?"
"Listen to me," she replied, "and I will tell you everything.
"My name is Therese. My father, a poor clerk in the Institute of
Bologna, had let an apartment in his house to the celebrated
Salimberi, a castrato, and a delightful musician. He was young and
handsome, he became attached to me, and I felt flattered by his
affection and by the praise he lavished upon me. I was only twelve
years of age; he proposed to teach me music, and finding that I had a
fine voice, he cultivated it carefully, and in less than a year I
could accompany myself on the harpsichord. His reward was that which
his love for me induced him to ask, and I granted the reward without
feeling any humiliation, for I worshipped him. Of course, men like
yourself are much above men of his species, but Salimberi was an
exception. His beauty, his manners, his talent, and the rare
qualities of his soul, made him superior in my eyes to all the men I
had seen until then. He was modest and reserved, rich and generous,
and I doubt whether he could have found a woman able to resist him;
yet I never heard him boast of having seduced any. The mutilation
practised upon his body had made him a monster, but he was an angel
by his rare qualities and endowments.
"Salimberi was at that time educating a boy of the same age as
myself, who was in Rimini with a music teacher. The father of the
boy, who was poor and had a large family, seeing himself near death,
had thought of having his unfortunate son maimed so that he should
become the support of his brothers with his voice. The name of the
boy was Bellino; the good woman whom you have just seen in Ancona was
his mother, and everybody believes that she is mine.
"I had belonged to Salimberi for about a year, when he announced to
me one day, weeping bitterly, that he was compelled to leave me to go
to Rome, but he promised to see me again. The news threw me into
despair. He had arranged everything for the continuation of my
musical education, but, as he was preparing himself for his
departure, my father died very suddenly, after a short illness, and I
was left an orphan.
"Salimberi had not courage enough to resist my tears and my
entreaties; he made up his mind to take me to Rimini, and to place me
in the same house where his young 'protege' was educated. We reached
Rimini, and put up at an inn; after a short rest, Salimberi left me
to call upon the teacher of music, and to make all necessary
arrangements respecting me with him; but he soon returned, looking
sad and unhappy; Bellino had died the day before.
"As he was thinking of the grief which the loss of the young man
would cause his mother, he was struck with the idea of bringing me
back to Bologna under the name of Bellino, where he could arrange for
my board with the mother of the deceased Bellino, who, being very
poor, would find it to her advantage to keep the secret. 'I will
give her,' he said, 'everything necessary for the completion of your
musical education, and in four years, I will take you to Dresden (he
was in the service of the Elector of Saxony, King of Poland), not as
a girl, but as a castrato. There we will live together without
giving anyone cause for scandal, and you will remain with me and
minister to my happiness until I die. All we have to do is to
represent you as Bellino, and it is very easy, as nobody knows you in
Bologna. Bellino's mother will alone know the secret; her other
children have seen their brother only when he was very young, and can
have no suspicion. But if you love me you must renounce your sex,
lose even the remembrance of it, and leave immediately for Bologna,
dressed as a boy, and under the name of Bellino. You must be very
careful lest anyone should find out that you are a girl; you must
sleep alone, dress yourself in private, and when your bosom is
formed, as it will be in a year or two, it will only be thought a
deformity not uncommon amongst 'castrati'. Besides, before leaving
you, I will give you a small instrument, and teach how to fix it in
such manner that, if you had at any time to submit to an examination,
you would easily be mistaken for a man. If you accept my plan, I
feel certain that we can live together in Dresden without losing the
good graces of the queen, who is very religious. Tell me, now,
whether you will accept my proposal?
"He could not entertain any doubt of my consent, for I adored him.
As soon as he had made a boy of me we left Rimini for Bologna, where
we arrived late in the evening. A little gold made everything right
with Bellino's mother; I gave her the name of mother, and she kissed
me, calling me her dear son. Salimberi left us, and returned a short
time afterwards with the instrument which would complete my
transformation. He taught me, in the presence of my new mother, how
to fix it with some tragacanth gum, and I found myself exactly like
my friend. I would have laughed at it, had not my heart been deeply
grieved at the departure of my beloved Salimberi, for he bade me
farewell as soon as the curious operation was completed. People
laugh at forebodings; I do not believe in them myself, but the
foreboding of evil, which almost broke my heart as he gave me his
farewell kiss, did not deceive me. I felt the cold shivering of
death run through me; I felt I was looking at him for the last time,
and I fainted away. Alas! my fears proved only too prophetic.
Salimberi died a year ago in the Tyrol in the prime of life, with the
calmness of a true philosopher. His death compelled me to earn my
living with the assistance of my musical talent. My mother advised
me to continue to give myself out as a castrato, in the hope of being
able to take me to Rome. I agreed to do so, for I did not feel
sufficient energy to decide upon any other plan. In the meantime she
accepted an offer for the Ancona Theatre, and Petronio took the part
of first female dancer; in this way we played the comedy of 'The
World Turned Upside Down.'
"After Salimberi, you are the only man I have known, and, if you
like, you can restore me to my original state, and make me give up
the name of Bellino, which I hate since the death of my protector,
and which begins to inconvenience me. I have only appeared at two
theatres, and each time I have been compelled to submit to the
scandalous, degrading examination, because everywhere I am thought to
have too much the appearance of a girl, and I am admitted only after
the shameful test has brought conviction. Until now, fortunately, I
have had to deal only with old priests who, in their good faith, have
been satisfied with a very slight examination, and have made a
favourable report to the bishop; but I might fall into the hands of
some young abbe, and the test would then become a more severe one.
Besides, I find myself exposed to the daily persecutions of two sorts
of beings: those who, like you, cannot and will not believe me to be
a man, and those who, for the satisfaction of their disgusting
propensities, are delighted at my being so, or find it advantageous
to suppose me so. The last particularly annoy me! Their tastes are
so infamous, their habits so low, that I fear I shall murder one of
them some day, when I can no longer control the rage in which their
obscene language throws me. Out of pity, my beloved angel, be
generous; and, if you love me, oh! free me from this state of shame
and degradation! Take me with you. I do not ask to become your
wife, that would be too much happiness; I will only be your friend,
your mistress, as I would have been Salimberi's; my heart is pure and
innocent, I feel that I can remain faithful to my lover through my
whole life. Do not abandon me. The love I have for you is sincere;
my affection for Salimberi was innocent; it was born of my
inexperience and of my gratitude, and it is only with you that I have
felt myself truly a woman."
Her emotion, an inexpressible charm which seemed to flow from her
lips and to enforce conviction, made me shed tears of love and
sympathy. I blended my tears with those falling from her beautiful
eyes, and deeply moved, I promised not to abandon her and to make her
the sharer of my fate. Interested in the history, as singular as
extraordinary, that she had just narrated, and having seen nothing in
it that did not bear the stamp of truth, I felt really disposed to
make her happy but I could not believe that I had inspired her with a
very deep passion during my short stay in Ancona, many circumstances
of which might, on the contrary, have had an opposite effect upon her
"If you loved me truly," I said, "how could you let me sleep with
your sisters, out of spite at your resistance?"
"Alas, dearest! think of our great poverty, and how difficult it was
for me to discover myself. I loved you; but was it not natural that
I should suppose your inclination for me only a passing caprice?
When I saw you go so easily from Cecilia to Marinetta, I thought that
you would treat me in the same manner as soon as your desires were
satisfied, I was likewise confirmed in my opinion of your want of
constancy and of the little importance you attached to the delicacy
of the sentiment of love, when I witnessed what you did on board the
Turkish vessel without being hindered by my presence; had you loved
me, I thought my being present would have made you uncomfortable. I
feared to be soon despised, and God knows how much I suffered! You
have insulted me, darling, in many different ways, but my heart
pleaded in your favour, because I knew you were excited, angry, and
thirsting for revenge. Did you not threaten me this very day in your
carriage? I confess you greatly frightened me, but do not fancy that
I gave myself to you out of fear. No, I had made up my mind to be
yours from the moment you sent me word by Cecilia that you would take
me to Rimini, and your control over your own feelings during a part
of our journey confirmed me in my resolution, for I thought I could
trust myself to your honour, to your delicacy."
"Throw up," I said, "the engagement you have in Rimini; let us
proceed on our journey, and, after remaining a couple of days in
Bologna, you will go with me to Venice; dressed as a woman, and with
another name, I would challenge the manager here to find you out."
"I accept. Your will shall always be my law. I am my own mistress,
and I give myself to you without any reserve or restriction; my heart
belongs to you, and I trust to keep yours."
Man has in himself a moral force of action which always makes him
overstep the line on which he is standing. I had obtained
everything, I wanted more. "Shew me," I said, "how you were when I
mistook you for a man." She got out of bed, opened her trunk, took
out the instrument and fixed it with the gum: I was compelled to
admire the ingenuity of the contrivance. My curiosity was satisfied,
and I passed a most delightful night in her arms.
When I woke up in the morning, I admired her lovely face while she
was sleeping: all I knew of her came back to my mind; the words which
had been spoken by her bewitching mouth, her rare talent, her
candour, her feelings so full of delicacy, and her misfortunes, the
heaviest of which must have been the false character she had been
compelled to assume, and which exposed her to humiliation and shame,
everything strengthened my resolution to make her the companion of my
destiny, whatever it might be, or to follow her fate, for our
positions were very nearly the same; and wishing truly to attach
myself seriously to that interesting being, I determined to give to
our union the sanction of religion and of law, and to take her
legally for my wife. Such a step, as I then thought, could but
strengthen our love, increase our mutual esteem, and insure the
approbation of society which could not accept our union unless it was
sanctioned in the usual manner.
The talents of Therese precluded the fear of our being ever in want
of the necessaries of life, and, although I did not know in what way
my own talents might be made available, I had faith in myself. Our
love might have been lessened, she would have enjoyed too great
advantages over me, and my self-dignity would have too deeply
suffered if I had allowed myself to be supported by her earnings
only. It might, after a time, have altered the nature of our
feelings; my wife, no longer thinking herself under any obligation to
me, might have fancied herself the protecting, instead of the
protected party, and I felt that my love would soon have turned into
utter contempt, if it had been my misfortune to find her harbouring
such thoughts. Although I trusted it would not be so, I wanted,
before taking the important step of marriage, to probe her heart, and
I resolved to try an experiment which would at once enable me to
judge the real feelings of her inmost soul. As soon as she was
awake, I spoke to her thus:
"Dearest Therese, all you have told me leaves me no doubt of your
love for me, and the consciousness you feel of being the mistress of
my heart enhances my love for you to such a degree, that I am ready
to do everything to convince you that you were not mistaken in
thinking that you had entirely conquered me. I wish to prove to you
that I am worthy of the noble confidence you have reposed in me by
trusting you with equal sincerity.
"Our hearts must be on a footing of perfect equality. I know you, my
dearest Therese, but you do not know me yet. I can read in your eyes
that you do not mind it, and it proves our great love, but that
feeling places me too much below you, and I do not wish you to have
so great an advantage over me. I feel certain that my confidence is
not necessary to your love; that you only care to be mine, that your
only wish is to possess my heart, and I admire you, my Therese; but I
should feel humiliated if I found myself either too much above or too
much below you. You have entrusted your secrets to me, now listen to
mine; but before I begin, promise me that, when you know everything
that concerns me, you will tell me candidly if any change has taken
place either in your feelings or in your hopes."
"I promise it faithfully; I promise not to conceal anything from you;
but be upright enough not to tell me anything that is not perfectly
true, for I warn you that it would be useless. If you tried any
artifice in order to find me less worthy of you than I am in reality,
you would only succeed in lowering yourself in my estimation. I
should be very sorry to see you guilty of any cunning towards me.
Have no more suspicion of me than I have of you; tell me the whole
"Here it is. You suppose me wealthy, and I am not so; as soon as
what there is now in my purse is spent I shall have nothing left.
You may fancy that I was born a patrician, but my social condition is
really inferior to your own. I have no lucrative talents, no
profession, nothing to give me the assurance that I am able to earn
my living. I have neither relatives nor friends, nor claims upon
anyone, and I have no serious plan or purpose before me. All I
possess is youth, health, courage, some intelligence, honour,
honesty, and some tincture of letters. My greatest treasure consists
in being my own master, perfectly independent, and not afraid of
misfortune. With all that, I am naturally inclined to extravagance.
Lovely Therese, you have my portrait. What is your answer?"
"In the first place, dearest, let me assure you that I believe every
word you have just uttered, as I would believe in the Gospel; in the
second, allow me to tell you that several times in Ancona I have
judged you such as you have just described yourself, but far from
being displeased at such a knowledge of your nature, I was only
afraid of some illusion on my part, for I could hope to win you if
you were what I thought you to be. In one word, dear one, if it is
true that you are poor and a very bad hand at economy, allow me to
tell you that I feel delighted, because, if you love me, you will not
refuse a present from me, or despise me for offering it. The present
consists of myself, such as I am, and with all my faculties. I give
myself to you without any condition, with no restriction; I am yours,
I will take care of you. For the future think only of your love for
me, but love me exclusively. From this moment I am no longer
Bellino. Let us go to Venice, where my talent will keep us both
comfortably; if you wish to go anywhere else, let us go where you
"I must go to Constantinople."
"Then let us proceed to Constantinople. If you are afraid to lose me
through want of constancy, marry me, and your right over me will be
strengthened by law. I should not love you better than I do now, but
I should be happy to be your wife."
"It is my intention to marry you, and I am delighted that we agree in
that respect. The day after to-morrow, in Bologna, you shall be made
my legal-wife before the altar of God; I swear it to you here in the
presence of Love. I want you to be mine, I want to be yours, I want
us to be united by the most holy ties."
"I am the happiest of women! We have nothing to do in Rimini;
suppose we do not get up; we can have our dinner in bed, and go away
to-morrow well rested after our fatigues."
We left Rimini the next day, and stayed for breakfast at Pesaro. As
we were getting into the carriage to leave that place, an officer,
accompanied by two soldiers, presented himself, enquired for our
names, and demanded our passports. Bellino had one and gave it, but
I looked in vain for mine; I could not find it.
The officer, a corporal, orders the postillion to wait and goes to
make his report. Half an hour afterwards, he returns, gives Bellino
his passport, saying that he can continue his journey, but tells me
that his orders are to escort me to the commanding officer, and I
"What have you done with your passport?" enquires that officer.
"I have lost it."
"A passport is not so easily lost."
"Well, I have lost mine."
"You cannot proceed any further."
"I come from Rome, and I am going to Constantinople, bearing a letter
from Cardinal Acquaviva. Here is the letter stamped with his seal."
"All I can do for you is to send you to M. de Gages."
I found the famous general standing, surrounded by his staff. I told
him all I had already explained to the officer, and begged him to let
me continue my journey.
"The only favour I can grant you is to put you under arrest till you
receive another passport from Rome delivered under the same name as
the one you have given here. To lose a passport is a misfortune
which befalls only a thoughtless, giddy man, and the cardinal will
for the future know better than to put his confidence in a giddy
fellow like you."
With these words, he gave orders to take me to the guard-house at St.
Mary's Gate, outside the city, as soon as I should have written to
the cardinal for a new passport. His orders were executed. I was
brought back to the inn, where I wrote my letter, and I sent it by
express to his eminence, entreating him to forward the document,
without loss of time, direct to the war office. Then I embraced
Therese who was weeping, and, telling her to go to Rimini and to wait
there for my return, I made her take one hundred sequins. She wished
to remain in Pesaro, but I would not hear of it; I had my trunk
brought out, I saw Therese go away from the inn, and was taken to the
place appointed by the general.
It is undoubtedly under such circumstances that the most determined
optimist finds himself at a loss; but an easy stoicism can blunt the
too sharp edge of misfortune.
My greatest sorrow was the heart-grief of Therese who, seeing me torn
from her arms at the very moment of our union, was suffocated by the
tears which she tried to repress. She would not have left me if I
had not made her understand that she could not remain in Pesaro, and
if I had not promised to join her within ten days, never to be parted
again. But fate had decided otherwise.
When we reached the gate, the officer confined me immediately in the
guard-house, and I sat down on my trunk. The officer was a taciturn
Spaniard who did not even condescend to honour me with an answer,
when I told him that I had money and would like to have someone to
wait on me. I had to pass the night on a little straw, and without
food, in the midst of the Spanish soldiers. It was the second night
of the sort that my destiny had condemned me to, immediately after
two delightful nights. My good angel doubtless found some pleasure
in bringing such conjunctions before my mind for the benefit of my
instruction. At all events, teachings of that description have an
infallible effect upon natures of a peculiar stamp.
If you should wish to close the lips of a logician calling himself a
philosopher, who dares to argue that in this life grief overbalances
pleasure, ask him whether he would accept a life entirely without
sorrow and happiness. Be certain that he will not answer you, or he
will shuffle, because, if he says no, he proves that he likes life
such as it is, and if he likes it, he must find it agreeable, which
is an utter impossibility, if life is painful; should he, on the
contrary, answer in the affirmative, he would declare himself a fool,
for it would be as much as to say that he can conceive pleasure
arising from indifference, which is absurd nonsense.
Suffering is inherent in human nature; but we never suffer without
entertaining the hope of recovery, or, at least, very seldom without
such hope, and hope itself is a pleasure. If it happens sometimes
that man suffers without any expectation of a cure, he necessarily
finds pleasure in the complete certainty of the end of his life; for
the worst, in all cases, must be either a sleep arising from extreme
dejection, during which we have the consolation of happy dreams or
the loss of all sensitiveness. But when we are happy, our happiness
is never disturbed by the thought that it will be followed by grief.
Therefore pleasure, during its active period, is always complete,
without alloy; grief is always soothed by hope.
I suppose you, dear reader, at the age of twenty, and devoting
yourself to the task of making a man of yourself by furnishing your
mind with all the knowledge necessary to render you a useful being
through the activity of your brain. Someone comes in and tells you,
"I bring you thirty years of existence; it is the immutable decree of
fate; fifteen consecutive years must be happy, and fifteen years
unhappy. You are at liberty to choose the half by which you wish to
Confess it candidly, dear reader, you will not require much more
consideration to decide, and you will certainly begin by the unhappy
series of years, because you will feel that the expectation of
fifteen delightful years cannot fail to brace you up with the courage
necessary to bear the unfortunate years you have to go through, and
we can even surmise, with every probability of being right, that the
certainty of future happiness will soothe to a considerable extent
the misery of the first period.
You have already guessed, I have no doubt, the purpose of this
lengthy argument. The sagacious man, believe me, can never be
utterly miserable, and I most willingly agree with my friend Horace,
who says that, on the contrary, such a man is always happy.
'Nisi quum pituita molesta est.'
But, pray where is the man who is always suffering from a rheum?
The fact is that the fearful night I passed in the guardhouse of St.
Mary resulted for me in a slight loss and in a great gain. The small
loss was to be away from my dear Therese, but, being certain of
seeing her within ten days, the misfortune was not very great: as to
the gain, it was in experience the true school for a man. I gained a
complete system against thoughtlessness, a system of foresight. You
may safely bet a hundred to one that a young man who has once lost
his purse or his passport, will not lose either a second time. Each
of those misfortunes has befallen me once only, and I might have been
very often the victim of them, if experience had not taught me how
much they were to be dreaded. A thoughtless fellow is a man who has
not yet found the word dread in the dictionary of his life.
The officer who relieved my cross-grained Castilian on the following
day seemed of a different nature altogether; his prepossessing
countenance pleased me much. He was a Frenchman, and I must say that
I have always liked the French, and never the Spainards; there is in
the manners of the first something so engaging, so obliging, that you
feel attracted towards them as towards a friend, whilst an air of
unbecoming haughtiness gives to the second a dark, forbidding
countenance which certainly does not prepossess in their favour. Yet
I have often been duped by Frenchmen, and never by Spaniards--a proof
that we ought to mistrust our tastes.
The new officer, approaching me very politely, said to me,--
"To what chance, reverend sir, am I indebted for the honour of having
you in my custody?"
Ah! here was a way of speaking which restored to my lungs all their
elasticity! I gave him all the particulars of my misfortune, and he
found the mishap very amusing. But a man disposed to laugh at my
disappointment could not be disagreeable to me, for it proved that
the turn of his mind had more than one point of resemblance with
mine. He gave me at once a soldier to serve me, and I had very
quickly a bed, a table, and a few chairs. He was kind enough to have
my bed placed in his own room, and I felt very grateful to him for
that delicate attention.
He gave me an invitation to share his dinner, and proposed a game of
piquet afterwards, but from the very beginning he saw that I was no
match for him; he told me so, and he warned me that the officer who
would relieve him the next day was a better player even than he was
himself; I lost three or four ducats. He advised me to abstain from
playing on the following day, and I followed his advice. He told me
also that he would have company to supper, that there would be a game
of faro, but that the banker being a Greek and a crafty player, I
ought not to play. I thought his advice very considerate,
particularly when I saw that all the punters lost, and that the
Greek, very calm in the midst of the insulting treatment of those he
had duped, was pocketing his money, after handing a share to the
officer who had taken an interest in the bank. The name of the
banker was Don Pepe il Cadetto, and by his accent I knew he was a
Neapolitan. I communicated my discovery to the officer, asking him
why he had told me that the man was a Greek. He explained to me the
meaning of the word greek applied to a gambler, and the lesson which
followed his explanation proved very useful to me in after years.
During the five following days, my life was uniform and rather dull,
but on the sixth day the same French officer was on guard, and I was
very glad to see him. He told me, with a hearty laugh, that he was
delighted to find me still in the guard-house, and I accepted the
compliment for what it was worth. In the evening, we had the same
bank at faro, with the same result as the first time, except a
violent blow from the stick of one of the punters upon the back of
the banker, of which the Greek stoically feigned to take no notice.
I saw the same man again nine years afterwards in Vienna, captain in
the service of Maria Theresa; he then called himself d'Afflisso. Ten
years later, I found him a colonel, and some time after worth a
million; but the last time I saw him, some thirteen or fourteen years
ago, he was a galley slave. He was handsome, but (rather a singular
thing) in spite of his beauty, he had a gallows look. I have seen
others with the same stamp--Cagliostro, for instance, and another who
has not yet been sent to the galleys, but who cannot fail to pay them
a visit. Should the reader feel any curiosity about it, I can
whisper the name in his ear.
Towards the ninth or tenth day everyone in the army knew and liked
me, and I was expecting the passport, which could not be delayed much
longer. I was almost free, and I would often walk about even out of
sight of the sentinel. They were quite right not to fear my running
away, and I should have been wrong if I had thought of escaping, but
the most singular adventure of my life happened to me then, and most
It was about six in the morning. I was taking a walk within one
hundred yards of the sentinel, when an officer arrived and alighted
from his horse, threw the bridle on the neck of his steed, and walked
off. Admiring the docility of the horse, standing there like a
faithful servant to whom his master has given orders to wait for him
I got up to him, and without any purpose I get hold of the bridle,
put my foot in the stirrup, and find myself in the saddle. I was on
horseback for the first time in my life. I do not know whether I
touched the horse with my cane or with my heels, but suddenly the
animal starts at full speed. My right foot having slipped out of the
stirrup, I press against the horse with my heels, and, feeling the
pressure, it gallops faster and faster, for I did not know how to
check it. At the last advanced post the sentinels call out to me to
stop; but I cannot obey the order, and the horse carrying me away
faster than ever, I hear the whizzing of a few musket balls, the
natural consequence of my, involuntary disobedience. At last, when I
reach the first advanced picket of the Austrians, the horse is
stopped, and I get off his back thanking God.
An officer of Hussars asks where I am running so fast, and my tongue,
quicker than my thought, answers without any privity on my part, that
I can render no account but to Prince Lobkowitz, commander-in-chief
of the army, whose headquarters were at Rimini. Hearing my answer,
the officer gave orders for two Hussars to get on horseback, a fresh
one is given me, and I am taken at full gallop to Rimini, where the
officer on guard has me escorted at once to the prince.
I find his highness alone, and I tell him candidly what has just
happened to me. My story makes him laugh, although he observes that
it is hardly credible.
"I ought," he says, "to put you under arrest, but I am willing to
save you that unpleasantness." With that he called one of his
officers and ordered him to escort me through the Cesena Gate. "Then
you can go wherever you please," he added, turning round to me; "but
take care not to again enter the lines of my army without a passport,
or you might fare badly."
I asked him to let me have the horse again, but he answered that the
animal did not belong to me. I forgot to ask him to send me back to
the place I had come from, and I regretted it; but after all perhaps
I did for the best.
The officer who accompanied me asked me, as we were passing a coffee-
house, whether I would like to take some chocolate, and we went in.
At that moment I saw Petronio going by, and availing myself of a
moment when the officer was talking to someone, I told him not to
appear to be acquainted with me, but to tell me where he lived. When
we had taken our chocolate the officer paid and we went out. Along
the road we kept up the conversation; he told me his name, I gave him
mine, and I explained how I found myself in Rimini. He asked me
whether I had not remained some time in Ancona; I answered in the
affirmative, and he smiled and said I could get a passport in
Bologna, return to Rimini and to Pesaro without any fear, and recover
my trunk by paying the officer for the horse he had lost. We reached
the gate, he wished me a pleasant journey, and we parted company.
I found myself free, with gold and jewels, but without my trunk.
Therese was in Rimini, and I could not enter that city. I made up my
mind to go to Bologna as quickly as possible in order to get a
passport, and to return to Pesaro, where I should find my passport
from Rome, for I could not make up my mind to lose my trunk, and I
did not want to be separated from Therese until the end of her
engagement with the manager of the Rimini Theatre.
It was raining; I had silk stockings on, and I longed for a carriage.
I took shelter under the portal of a church, and turned my fine
overcoat inside out, so as not to look like an abbe. At that moment
a peasant happened to come along, and I asked him if a carriage could
be had to drive me to Cesena. "I have one, sir," he said, "but I
live half a league from here."
"Go and get it, I will wait for you here."
While I was waiting for the return of the peasant with his vehicle,
some forty mules laden with provisions came along the road towards
Rimini. It was still raining fast, and the mules passing close by
me, I placed my hand mechanically upon the neck of one of them, and
following the slow pace of the animals I re-entered Rimini without
the slightest notice being taken of me, even by the drivers of the
mules. I gave some money to the first street urchin I met, and he
took me to Therese's house.
With my hair fastened under a night-cap, my hat pulled down over my
face, and my fine cane concealed under my coat, I did not look a very
elegant figure. I enquired for Bellino's mother, and the mistress of
the house took me to a room where I found all the family, and Therese
in a woman's dress. I had reckoned upon surmising them, but Petronio
had told them of our meeting, and they were expecting me. I gave a
full account of my adventures, but Therese, frightened at the danger
that threatened me, and in spite of her love, told me that it was
absolutely necessary for me to go to Bologna, as I had been advised
by M. Vais, the officer.
"I know him," she said, "and he is a worthy man, but he comes here
every evening, and you must conceal yourself."
It was only eight o'clock in the morning; we had the whole day before
us, and everyone promised to be discreet. I allayed Therese's
anxiety by telling her that I could easily contrive to leave the city
without being observed.
Therese took me to her own room, where she told me that she had met
the manager of the theatre on her arrival in Rimini, and that he had
taken her at once to the apartments engaged for the family. She had
informed him that she was a woman, and that she had made up her mind
not to appear as a castrato any more; he had expressed himself
delighted at such news, because women could appear on the stage at
Rimini, which was not under the same legate as Ancona. She added
that her engagement would be at an end by the 1st of May, and that
she would meet me wherever it would be agreeable to me to wait for
"As soon as I can get a passport," I said, "there is nothing to
hinder me from remaining near you until the end of your engagement.
But as M. Vais calls upon you, tell me whether you have informed him
of my having spent a few days in Ancona?"
"I did, and I even told him that you had been arrested because you
had lost your passport."
I understood why the officer had smiled as he was talking with me.
After my conversation with Therese, I received the compliments of the
mother and of the young sisters who appeared to me less cheerful and
less free than they had been in Ancona. They felt that Bellino,
transformed into Therese, was too formidable a rival. I listened
patiently to all the complaints of the mother who maintained that, in
giving up the character of castrato, Therese had bidden adieu to
fortune, because she might have earned a thousand sequins a year in
"In Rome, my good woman," I said, "the false Bellino would have been
found out, and Therese would have been consigned to a miserable
convent for which she was never made."
Notwithstanding the danger of my position, I spent the whole of the
day alone with my beloved mistress, and it seemed that every moment
gave her fresh beauties and increased my love. At eight o'clock in
the evening, hearing someone coming in, she left me, and I remained
in the dark, but in such a position that I could see everything and
hear every word. The Baron Vais came in, and Therese gave him her
hand with the grace of a pretty woman and the dignity of a princess.
The first thing he told her was the news about me; she appeared to be
pleased, and listened with well-feigned indifference, when he said
that he had advised me to return with a passport. He spent an hour
with her, and I was thoroughly well pleased with her manners and
behaviour, which had been such as to leave me no room for the
slightest feeling of jealousy. Marina lighted him out and Therese
returned to me. We had a joyous supper together, and, as we were
getting ready to go to bed, Petronio came to inform me that ten
muleteers would start for Cesena two hours before day-break, and that
he was sure I could leave the city with them if I would go and meet
them a quarter of an hour before their departure, and treat them to
something to drink. I was of the same opinion, and made up my mind
to make the attempt. I asked Petronio to sit up and to wake me in
good time. It proved an unnecessary precaution, for I was ready
before the time, and left Therese satisfied with my love, without any
doubt of my constancy, but rather anxious as to my success in
attempting to leave Rimini. She had sixty sequins which she wanted
to force back upon me, but I asked her what opinion she would have of
me if I accepted them, and we said no more about it.
I went to the stable, and having treated one of the muleteers to some
drink I told him that I would willingly ride one of his mules as far
"You are welcome to the ride," said the good fellow, "but I would
advise you not to get on the mule till we are outside the city, and
to pass through the gate on foot as if you were one of the drivers."
It was exactly what I wanted. Petronio accompanied me as far as the
gate, where I gave him a substantial proof of my gratitude. I got
out of the city without the slightest difficulty, and left the
muleteers at Sarignan, whence I posted to Bologna.
I found out that I could not obtain a passport, for the simple reason
that the authorities of the city persisted that it was not necessary;
but I knew better, and it was not for me to tell them why. I
resolved to write to the French officer who had treated me so well at
the guardhouse. I begged him to enquire at the war office whether my
passport had arrived from Rome, and, if so, to forward it to me. I
also asked him to find out the owner of the horse who had run away
with me, offering to pay for it. I made up my mind to wait for
Therese in Bologna, and I informed her of my decision, entreating her
to write very often. The reader will soon know the new resolution I
took on the very same day.
by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
VENETIAN YEARS, Volume 1c--MILITARY CAREER
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
I Renounce the Clerical Profession, and Enter the Military Service--
Therese Leaves for Naples, and I Go to Venice--I Am Appointed Ensign
in the Army of My Native Country--I Embark for Corfu, and Land at
Orsera to Take a Walk
I had been careful, on my arrival in Bologna, to take up my quarters
at a small inn, so as not to attract any notice, and as soon as I had
dispatched my letters to Therese and the French officer, I thought of
purchasing some linen, as it was at least doubtful whether I should
ever get my trunk. I deemed it expedient to order some clothes
likewise. I was thus ruminating, when it suddenly struck me that I
was not likely now to succeed in the Church, but feeling great
uncertainty as to the profession I ought to adopt, I took a fancy to
transform myself into an officer, as it was evident that I had not to
account to anyone for my actions. It was a very natural fancy at my
age, for I had just passed through two armies in which I had seen no
respect paid to any garb but to the military uniform, and I did not
see why I should not cause myself to be respected likewise. Besides,
I was thinking of returning to Venice, and felt great delight at the
idea of shewing myself there in the garb of honour, for I had been
rather ill-treated in that of religion.
I enquired for a good tailor: death was brought to me, for the tailor
sent to me was named Morte. I explained to him how I wanted my
uniform made, I chose the cloth, he took my measure, and the next day
I was transformed into a follower of Mars. I procured a long sword,
and with my fine cane in hand, with a well-brushed hat ornamented
with a black cockade, and wearing a long false pigtail, I sallied
forth and walked all over the city.
I bethought myself that the importance of my new calling required a
better and more showy lodging than the one I had secured on my
arrival, and I moved to the best inn. I like even now to recollect
the pleasing impression I felt when I was able to admire myself full
length in a large mirror. I was highly pleased with my own person!
I thought myself made by nature to wear and to honour the military
costume, which I had adopted through the most fortunate impulse.
Certain that nobody knew me, I enjoyed by anticipation all the
conjectures which people would indulge in respecting me, when I made
my first appearance in the most fashionable cafe of the town.
My uniform was white, the vest blue, a gold and silver shoulder-knot,
and a sword-knot of the same material. Very well pleased with my
grand appearance, I went to the coffee-room, and, taking some
chocolate, began to read the newspapers, quite at my ease, and
delighted to see that everybody was puzzled. A bold individual, in
the hope of getting me into conversation, came to me and addressed
me; I answered him with a monosyllable, and I observed that everyone
was at a loss what to make of me. When I had sufficiently enjoyed
public admiration in the coffee-room, I promenaded in the busiest
thoroughfares of the city, and returned to the inn, where I had
dinner by myself.
I had just concluded my repast when my landlord presented himself
with the travellers' book, in which he wanted to register my name.
"Your profession, if you please, sir?"
"In which service?"
"Your native place?"
"Where do you come from?"
"That is no business of yours."
This answer, which I thought was in keeping with my external
appearance, had the desired effect: the landlord bowed himself out,
and I felt highly pleased with myself, for I knew that I should enjoy
perfect freedom in Bologna, and I was certain that mine host had
visited me at the instance of some curious person eager to know who I
The next day I called on M. Orsi, the banker, to cash my bill of
exchange, and took another for six hundred sequins on Venice, and one
hundred sequins in gold after which I again exhibited myself in the
public places. Two days afterwards, whilst I was taking my coffee
after dinner, the banker Orsi was announced. I desired him to be
shewn in, and he made his appearance accompanied my Monsignor
Cornaro, whom I feigned not to know. M. Orsi remarked that he had
called to offer me his services for my letters of exchange, and
introduced the prelate. I rose and expressed my gratification at
making his acquaintance. "But we have met before," he replied, "at
Venice and Rome." Assuming an air of blank surprise, I told him he
must certainly be mistaken. The prelate, thinking he could guess the
reason of my reserve, did not insist, and apologized. I offered him
a cup of coffee, which he accepted, and, on leaving me, he begged the
honour of my company to breakfast the next day.
I made up my mind to persist in my denials, and called upon the
prelate, who gave me a polite welcome. He was then apostolic
prothonotary in Bologna. Breakfast was served, and as we were
sipping our chocolate, he told me that I had most likely some good
reasons to warrant my reserve, but that I was wrong not to trust him,
the more so that the affair in question did me great honour. "I do
not know," said I, "what affair you are alluding to." He then handed
me a newspaper, telling me to read a paragraph which he pointed out.
My astonishment may be imagined when I read the following
correspondence from Pesaro: "M. de Casanova, an officer in the
service of the queen, has deserted after having killed his captain in
a duel; the circumstances of the duel are not known; all that has
been ascertained is that M. de Casanova has taken the road to Rimini,
riding the horse belonging to the captain, who was killed on the
In spite of my surprise, and of the difficulty I had in keeping my
gravity at the reading of the paragraph, in which so much untruth was
blended with so little that was real, I managed to keep a serious
countenance, and I told the prelate that the Casanova spoken of in
the newspaper must be another man.
"That may be, but you are certainly the Casanova I knew a month ago
at Cardinal Acquaviva's, and two years ago at the house of my sister,
Madame Lovedan, in Venice. Besides the Ancona banker speaks of you
as an ecclesiastic in his letter of advice to M. Orsi:"
"Very well, monsignor; your excellency compels me to agree to my
being the same Casanova, but I entreat you not to ask me any more
questions as I am bound in honour to observe the strictest reserve."
"That is enough for me, and I am satisfied. Let us talk of something
I was amused at the false reports which were being circulated about
me, and, I became from that moment a thorough sceptic on the subject
of historical truth. I enjoyed, however, very great pleasure in
thinking that my reserve had fed the belief of my being the Casanova
mentioned in the newspaper. I felt certain that the prelate would
write the whole affair to Venice, where it would do me great honour,
at least until the truth should be known, and in that case my reserve
would be justified, besides, I should then most likely be far away.
I made up my mind to go to Venice as soon as I heard from Therese, as
I thought that I could wait for her there more comfortably than in
Bologna, and in my native place there was nothing to hinder me from
marrying her openly. In the mean time the fable from Pesaro amused
me a good deal, and I expected every day to see it denied in some
newspaper. The real officer Casanova must have laughed at the
accusation brought against him of having run away with the horse, as
much as I laughed at the caprice which had metamorphosed me into an
officer in Bologna, just as if I had done it for the very purpose of
giving to the affair every appearance of truth.
On the fourth day of my stay in Bologna, I received by express a long
letter from Therese. She informed me that, on the day after my
escape from Rimini, Baron Vais had presented to her the Duke de
Castropignano, who, having heard her sing, had offered her one
thousand ounces a year, and all travelling expenses paid, if she
would accept an engagement as prima-donna at the San Carlo Theatre,
at Naples, where she would have to go immediately after her Rimini
engagement. She had requested and obtained a week to come to a
decision. She enclosed two documents, the first was the written
memorandum of the duke's proposals, which she sent in order that I
should peruse it, as she did not wish to sign it without my consent;
the second was a formal engagement, written by herself, to remain all
her life devoted to me and at my service. She added in her letter
that, if I wished to accompany her to Naples, she would meet me
anywhere I might appoint, but that, if I had any objection to return
to that city, she would immediately refuse the brilliant offer, for
her only happiness was to please me in all things.
For the first time in my life I found myself in need of thoughtful
consideration before I could make up my mind. Therese's letter had
entirely upset all my ideas, and, feeling that I could not answer it
a once, I told the messenger to call the next day.
Two motives of equal weight kept the balance wavering; self-love and
love for Therese. I felt that I ought not to require Therese to give
up such prospects of fortune; but I could not take upon myself either
to let her go to Naples without me, or to accompany her there. On
one side, I shuddered at the idea that my love might ruin Therese's
prospects; on the other side, the idea of the blow inflicted on my
self-love, on my pride, if I went to Naples with her, sickened me.
How could I make up my mind to reappear in that city, in the guise of
a cowardly fellow living at the expense of his mistress or his wife?
What would my cousin Antonio, Don Polo and his dear son, Don Lelio
Caraffa, and all the patricians who knew me, have said? The thought
of Lucrezia and of her husband sent a cold shiver through me. I
considered that, in spite of my love for Therese, I should become
very miserable if everyone despised me. Linked to her destiny as a
lover or as a husband, I would be a degraded, humbled, and mean
sycophant. Then came the thought, Is this to be the end of all my
hopes? The die was cast, my head had conquered my heart. I fancied
that I had hit upon an excellent expedient, which at all events made
me gain time, and I resolved to act upon it. I wrote to Therese,
advising her to accept the engagement for Naples, where she might
expect me to join her in the month of July, or after my return from
Constantinople. I cautioned her to engage an honest-looking waiting-
woman, so as to appear respectably in the world, and, to lead such a
life as would permit me to make her my wife, on my return, without
being ashamed of myself. I foresaw that her success would be insured
by her beauty even more than by her talent, and, with my nature, I
knew that I could never assume the character of an easy-going lover
or of a compliant husband.
Had I received Therese's letter one week sooner, it is certain that
she would not have gone to Naples, for my love would then have proved
stronger than my reason; but in matters of love, as well as in all
others, Time is a great teacher.
I told Therese to direct her answer to Bologna, and, three days
after, I received from her a letter loving, and at the same time sad,
in which she informed me that she had signed the engagement. She had
secured the services of a woman whom she could present as her mother;
she would reach Naples towards the middle of May, and she would wait
for me there till she heard from me that I no longer wanted her.
Four days after the receipt of that letter, the last but one that
Therese wrote me, I left Bologna for Venice. Before my departure I
had received an answer form the French officer, advising me that my
passport had reached Pesaro, and that he was ready to forward it to
me with my trunk, if I would pay M. Marcello Birna, the proveditore
of the Spanish army, whose address he enclosed, the sum of fifty
doubloons for the horse which I had run away with, or which had run
away with me. I repaired at once to the house of the proveditore,
well pleased to settle that affair, and I received my trunk and my
passport a few hours before leaving Bologna. But as my paying for
the horse was known all over the town, Monsignor Cornaro was
confirmed in his belief that I had killed my captain in a duel.
To go to Venice, it was necessary to submit to a quarantine, which
had been adhered to only because the two governments had fallen out.
The Venetians wanted the Pope to be the first in giving free passage
through his frontiers, and the Pope insisted that the Venetians
should take the initiative. The result of this trifling pique
between the two governments was great hindrance to commerce, but very
often that which bears only upon the private interest of the people
is lightly treated by the rulers. I did not wish to be quarantined,
and determined on evading it. It was rather a delicate undertaking,
for in Venice the sanitary laws are very strict, but in those days I
delighted in doing, if not everything that was forbidden, at least
everything which offered real difficulties.
I knew that between the state of Mantua and that of Venice the
passage was free, and I knew likewise that there was no restriction
in the communication between Mantua and Modena; if I could therefore
penetrate into the state of Mantua by stating that I was coming from
Modena, my success would be certain, because I could then cross the
Po and go straight to Venice. I got a carrier to drive me to Revero,
a city situated on the river Po, and belonging to the state of
The driver told me that, if he took the crossroads, he could go to
Revero, and say that we came from Mantua, and that the only
difficulty would be in the absence of the sanitary certificate which
is delivered in Mantua, and which was certain to be asked for in
Revero. I suggested that the best way to manage would be for him to
say that he had lost it, and a little money removed every objection
on his part.
When we reached the gates of Revero, I represented myself as a
Spanish officer going to Venice to meet the Duke of Modena (whom I
knew to be there) on business of the greatest importance. The
sanitary certificate was not even demanded, military honours were
duly paid to me, and I was most civilly treated. A certificate was
immediately delivered to me, setting forth that I was travelling from
Revero, and with it I crossed the Po, without any difficulty, at
Ostiglia, from which place I proceeded to Legnago. There I left my
carrier as much pleased with my generosity as with the good luck
which had attended our journey, and, taking post-horses, I reached
Venice in the evening. I remarked that it was the and of April,
1744, the anniversary of my birth, which, ten times during my life,
has been marked by some important event.
The very next morning I went to the exchange in order to procure a
passage to Constantinople, but I could not find any passenger ship
sailing before two or three months, and I engaged a berth in a
Venetian ship called, Our Lady of the Rosary, Commander Zane, which
was to sail for Corfu in the course of the month.
Having thus prepared myself to obey my destiny, which, according to
my superstitious feelings, called me imperiously to Constantinople, I
went to St: Mark's Square in order to see and to be seen, enjoying by
anticipation the surprise of my acquaintances at not finding me any
longer an abbe. I must not forget to state that at Revero I had
decorated my hat with a red cockade.
I thought that my first visit was, by right, due to the Abbe Grimani.
The moment he saw me he raised a perfect shriek of astonishment, for
he thought I was still with Cardinal Acquaviva, on the road to a
political career, and he saw standing before him a son of Mars. He
had just left the dinner-table as I entered, and he had company. I
observed amongst the guests an officer wearing the Spanish uniform,
but I was not put out of countenance. I told the Abbe Grimani that I
was only passing through Venice, and that I had felt it a duty and a
pleasure to pay my respects to him.
"I did not expect to see you in such a costume."
"I have resolved to throw off the garb which could not procure me a
fortune likely to satisfy my ambition."
"Where are you going?"
"To Constantinople; and I hope to find a quick passage to Corfu, as I
have dispatches from Cardinal Acquaviva."
"Where do you come from now?"
"From the Spanish army, which I left ten days ago."
These words were hardly spoken, when I heard the voice of a young
"That is not true."
"The profession to which I belong," I said to him with great
animation, "does not permit me to let anyone give me the lie."
And upon that, bowing all round, I went away, without taking any
notice of those who were calling me back.
I wore an uniform; it seemed to me that I was right in showing that
sensitive and haughty pride which forms one of the characteristics of
military men. I was no longer a priest: I could not bear being given
the lie, especially when it had been given to me in so public a
I called upon Madame Manzoni, whom I was longing to see. She was
very happy to see me, and did not fail to remind me of her
prediction. I told her my history, which amused her much; but she
said that if I went to Constantinople I should most likely never see
After my visit to Madame Manzoni I went to the house of Madame Orio,
where I found worthy M. Rosa, Nanette, and Marton. They were all
greatly surprised, indeed petrified at seeing me. The two lovely
sisters looked more beautiful than ever, but I did not think it
necessary to tell them the history of my nine months absence, for it
would not have edified the aunt or pleased the nieces. I satisfied
myself with telling them as much as I thought fit, and amused them
for three hours. Seeing that the good old lady was carried away by
her enthusiasm, I told her that I should be very happy to pass under
her roof the four or five weeks of my stay in Venice, if she could
give me a room and supper, but on condition that I should not prove a
burden to her or to her charming nieces.
"I should be only too happy," she answered, "to have you so long, but
I have no room to offer you."
"Yes, you have one, my dear," exclaimed M. Rosa, "and I undertake to
put it to rights within two hours."
It was the room adjoining the chamber of the two sisters. Nanette
said immediately that she would come downstairs with her sister, but
Madame Orio answered that it was unnecessary, as they could lock
themselves in their room.
"There would be no need for them to do that, madam," I said, with a
serious and modest air; "and if I am likely to occasion the slightest
disturbance, I can remain at the inn."
"There will be no disturbance whatever; but forgive my nieces, they
are young prudes, and have a very high opinion of themselves:"
Everything being satisfactorily arranged, I forced upon Madame Orio a
payment of fifteen sequins in advance, assuring her that I was rich,
and that I had made a very good bargain, as I should spend a great
deal more if I kept my room at the inn. I added that I would send my
luggage, and take up my quarters in her house on the following day.
During the whole of the conversation, I could see the eyes of my two
dear little wives sparkling with pleasure, and they reconquered all
their influence over my heart in spite of my love for Therese, whose
image was, all the same, brilliant in my soul: this was a passing
infidelity, but not inconstancy.
On the following day I called at the war office, but, to avoid every
chance of unpleasantness, I took care to remove my cockade. I found
in the office Major Pelodoro, who could not control his joy when he
saw me in a military uniform, and hugged me with delight. As soon as
I had explained to him that I wanted to go to Constantinople, and
that, although in uniform, I was free, he advised me earnestly to
seek the favour of going to Turkey with the bailo, who intended to
leave within two months, and even to try to obtain service in the
His advice suited me exactly, and the secretary of war, who had known
me the year before, happening to see me, summoned me to him. He told
me that he had received letters from Bologna which had informed him
of a certain adventure entirely to my honour, adding that he knew
that I would not acknowledge it. He then asked me if I had received
my discharge before leaving the Spanish army.
"I could not receive my discharge, as I was never in the service."
"And how did you manage to come to Venice without performing
"Persons coming from Mantua are not subject to it."
"True; but I advise you to enter the Venetian service like Major
As I was leaving the ducal palace, I met the Abbe Grimani who told me
that the abrupt manner in which I had left his house had displeased
"Even the Spanish officer?"
"No, for he remarked that, if you had truly been with the army, you
could not act differently, and he has himself assured me that you
were there, and to prove what he asserted he made me read an article
in the newspaper, in which it is stated that you killed your captain
in a duel. Of course it is only a fable?"
"How do you know that it is not a fact?"
"Is it true, then?"
"I do not say so, but it may be true, quite as true as my having been
with the Spanish army ten days ago."
"But that is impossible, unless you have broken through the
"I have broken nothing. I have openly crossed the Po at Revero, and
here I am. I am sorry not to be able to present myself at your
excellency's palace, but I cannot do so until I have received the
most complete satisfaction from the person who has given me the lie.
I could put up with an insult when I wore the livery of humility, but
I cannot bear one now that I wear the garb of honour."
"You are wrong to take it in such a high tone. The person who
attacked your veracity is M. Valmarana, the proveditore of the
sanitary department, and he contends that, as nobody can pass through
the cordon, it would be impossible for you to be here. Satisfaction,
indeed! Have you forgotten who you are?"
"No, I know who I am; and I know likewise that, if I was taken for a
coward before leaving Venice, now that I have returned no one shall
insult me without repenting it."
"Come and dine with me."
"No, because the Spanish officer would know it."
"He would even see you, for he dines with me every day."
"Very well, then I will go, and I will let him be the judge of my
quarrel with M. Valmarana."
I dined that day with Major Pelodoro and several other officers, who
agreed in advising me to enter the service of the Republic, and I
resolved to do so. "I am acquainted," said the major, "with a young
lieutenant whose health is not sufficiently strong to allow him to go
to the East, and who would be glad to sell his commission, for which
he wants one hundred sequins. But it would be necessary to obtain
the consent of the secretary of war." "Mention the matter to him," I
replied, "the one hundred sequins are ready." The major undertook
In the evening I went to Madame Orio, and I found myself very
comfortably lodged. After supper, the aunt told her nieces to shew
me, to my room, and, as may well be supposed, we spent a most
delightful night. After that they took the agreeable duty by turns,
and in order to avoid any surprise in case the aunt should take it
into her head to pay them a visit, we skilfully displaced a part of
the partition, which allowed them to come in and out of my room
without opening the door. But the good lady believed us three living
specimens of virtue, and never thought of putting us to the test.
Two or three days afterwards, M. Grimani contrived an interview
between me and M. Valmarana, who told me that, if he had been aware
that the sanitary line could be eluded, he would never have impugned
my veracity, and thanked me for the information I had given him. The
affair was thus agreeably arranged, and until my departure I honoured
M. Grimani's excellent dinner with my presence every day.
Towards the end of the month I entered the service of the Republic in
the capacity of ensign in the Bala regiment, then at Corfu; the young
man who had left the regiment through the magical virtue of my one
hundred sequins was lieutenant, but the secretary of war objected to
my having that rank for reasons to which I had to submit, if I wished
to enter the army; but he promised me that, at the end of the year, I
would be promoted to the grade of lieutenant, and he granted me a
furlough to go to Constantinople. I accepted, for I was determined
to serve in the army.
M. Pierre Vendramin, an illustrious senator, obtained me the favour
of a passage to Constantinople with the Chevalier Venier, who was
proceeding to that city in the quality of bailo, but as he would
arrive in Corfu a month after me, the chevalier very kindly promised
to take me as he called at Corfu.
A few days before my departure, I received a letter from Therese, who
informed me that the Duke de Castropignano escorted her everywhere.
"The duke is old," she wrote, "but even if he were young, you would
have no cause for uneasiness on my account. Should you ever want any
money, draw upon me from any place where you may happen to be, and be
quite certain that your letters of exchange will be paid, even if I
had to sell everything I possess to honour your signature."
There was to be another passenger on board the ship of the line on
which I had engaged my passage, namely, a noble Venetian, who was
going to Zante in the quality of counsellor, with a numerous and
brilliant retinue. The captain of the ship told me that, if I was
obliged to take my meals alone, I was not likely to fare very well,
and he advised me to obtain an introduction to the nobleman, who
would not fail to invite me to share his table. His name was Antonio
Dolfin, and he had been nicknamed Bucentoro, in consequence of his
air of grandeur and the elegance of his toilet. Fortunately I did
not require to beg an introduction, for M. Grimani offered, of his
own accord, to present me to the magnificent councillor, who received
me in the kindest manner, and invited me at once to take my meals at
his table. He expressed a desire that I should make the acquaintance
of his wife, who was to accompany him in the journey. I called upon
her the next day, and I found a lady perfect in manners, but already
of a certain age and completely deaf. I had therefore but little
pleasure to expect from her conversation. She had a very charming
young daughter whom she left in a convent. She became celebrated
afterwards, and she is still alive, I believe, the widow of
Procurator Iron, whose family is extinct.
I have seldom seen a finer-looking man, or a man of more imposing
appearance than M. Dolfin. He was eminently distinguished for his
wit and politeness. He was eloquent, always cheerful when he lost at
cards, the favourite of ladies, whom he endeavoured to please in
everything, always courageous, and of an equal temper, whether in
good or in adverse fortune.
He had ventured on travelling without permission, and had entered a
foreign service, which had brought him into disgrace with the
government, for a noble son of Venice cannot be guilty of a greater
crime. For this offence he had been imprisoned in the Leads--a
favour which destiny kept also in reserve for me.
Highly gifted, generous, but not wealthy, M. Dolfin had been
compelled to solicit from the Grand Council a lucrative governorship,
and had been appointed to Zante; but he started with such a splendid
suite that he was not likely to save much out of his salary. Such a
man as I have just portrayed could not make a fortune in Venice,
because an aristocratic government can not obtain a state of lasting,
steady peace at home unless equality is maintained amongst the
nobility, and equality, either moral or physical, cannot be
appreciated in any other way than by appearances. The result is that
the man who does not want to lay himself open to persecution, and who
happens to be superior or inferior to the others, must endeavour to
conceal it by all possible means. If he is ambitious, he must feign
great contempt for dignities; if he seeks employment, he must not
appear to want any; if his features are handsome, he must be careless
of his physical appearance; he must dress badly, wear nothing in good
taste, ridicule every foreign importation, make his bow without
grace, be careless in his manner; care nothing for the fine arts,
conceal his good breeding, have no foreign cook, wear an uncombed
wig, and look rather dirty. M. Dolfin was not endowed with any of
those eminent qualities, and therefore he had no hope of a great
fortune in his native country.
The day before my departure from Venice I did not go out; I devoted
the whole of the day to friendship. Madame Orio and her lovely
nieces shed many tears, and I joined them in that delightful
employment. During the last night that I spent with both of them,
the sisters repeated over and over, in the midst of the raptures of
love, that they never would see me again. They guessed rightly; but
if they had happened to see me again they would have guessed wrongly.
Observe how wonderful prophets are!
I went on board, on the 5th of May, with a good supply of clothing,
jewels, and ready cash. Our ship carried twenty-four guns and two
hundred Sclavonian soldiers. We sailed from Malamacca to the shores
of Istria during the night, and we came to anchor in the harbour of
Orsera to take ballast. I landed with several others to take a
stroll through the wretched place where I had spent three days nine
months before, a recollection which caused me a pleasant sensation
when I compared my present position to what it was at that time.
What a difference in everything--health, social condition, and money!
I felt quite certain that in the splendid uniform I was now wearing
nobody would recognize the miserable-looking abbe who, but for Friar
Stephano, would have become--God knows what!
An Amusing Meeting in Orsera--Journey to Corfu--My Stay in
Constantinople--Bonneval--My Return to Corfu--Madame F.--The False
Prince--I Run Away from Corfu--My Frolics at Casopo--I Surrender My
self a Prisoner--My Speedy Release and Triumph--My Success with
I affirm that a stupid servant is more dangerous than a bad one, and
a much greater plague, for one can be on one's guard against a wicked
person, but never against a fool. You can punish wickedness but not
stupidity, unless you send away the fool, male or female, who is
guilty of it, and if you do so you generally find out that the change
has only thrown you out of the frying-pan into the fire.
This chapter and the two following ones were written; they gave at
full length all the particulars which I must now abridge, for my
silly servant has taken the three chapters for her own purposes. She
pleaded as an excuse that the sheets of paper were old, written upon,
covered with scribbling and erasures, and that she had taken them in
preference to nice, clean paper, thinking that I would care much more
for the last than for the first. I flew into a violent passion, but
I was wrong, for the poor girl had acted with a good intent; her
judgment alone had misled her. It is well known that the first
result of anger is to deprive the angry man of the faculty of reason,
for anger and reason do not belong to the same family. Luckily,
passion does not keep me long under its sway: 'Irasci, celerem tamen
et placabilem esse'. After I had wasted my time in hurling at her
bitter reproaches, the force of which did not strike her, and in
proving to her that she was a stupid fool, she refuted all my
arguments by the most complete silence. There was nothing to do but
to resign myself, and, although not yet in the best of tempers, I
went to work. What I am going to write will probably not be so good
as what I had composed when I felt in the proper humour, but my
readers must be satisfied with it they will, like the engineer, gain
in time what they lose in strength.
I landed at Orsera while our ship was taking ballast, as a ship
cannot sail well when she is too light, and I was walking about when
I remarked a man who was looking at me very attentively. As I had no
dread of any creditor, I thought that he was interested by my fine
appearance; I could not find fault with such a feeling, and kept
walking on, but as I passed him, he addressed me:
"Might I presume to enquire whether this is your first visit to
"No, sir, it is my second visit to this city."
"Were you not here last year?"
"But you were not in uniform then?"
"True again; but your questions begin to sound rather indiscreet."
"Be good enough to forgive me, sir, for my curiosity is the offspring
of gratitude. I am indebted to you for the greatest benefits, and I
trust that Providence has brought you here again only to give me the
opportunity of making greater still my debt of gratitude to you."
"What on earth have I done, and what can I do for you? I am at a
loss to guess your meaning."
"Will you be so kind as to come and breakfast with me? My house is
near at hand; my refosco is delicious, please to taste it, and I will
convince you in a few words that you are truly my benefactor, and
that I have a right to expect that you have returned Orsera to load
me with fresh benefits."
I could not suspect the man of insanity; but, as I could not make him
out, I fancied that he wanted to make me purchase some of his
refosco, and I accepted his invitation. We went up to his room, and
he left me for a few moments to order breakfast. I observed several
surgical instruments, which made me suppose that he was a surgeon,
and I asked him when he returned.
"Yes, captain; I have been practising surgery in this place for
twenty years, and in a very poor way, for I had nothing to do, except
a few cases of bleeding, of cupping, and occasionally some slight
excoriation to dress or a sprained ankle to put to rights. I did not
earn even the poorest living. But since last year a great change has
taken place; I have made a good deal of money, I have laid it out
advantageously, and it is to you, captain, to you (may God bless
you!) that I am indebted for my present comforts."
"But how so?"
"In this way, captain. You had a connection with Don Jerome's
housekeeper, and you left her, when you went away, a certain souvenir
which she communicated to a friend of hers, who, in perfect good
faith, made a present of it to his wife. This lady did not wish, I
suppose, to be selfish, and she gave the souvenir to a libertine who,
in his turn, was so generous with it that, in less than a month, I
had about fifty clients. The following months were not less
fruitful, and I gave the benefit of my attendance to everybody, of
course, for a consideration. There are a few patients still under my
care, but in a short time there will be no more, as the souvenir left
by you has now lost all its virtue. You can easily realize now the
joy I felt when I saw you; you are a bird of good omen. May I hope
that your visit will last long enough to enable you to renew the
source of my fortune?"
I laughed heartily, but he was grieved to hear that I was in
excellent health. He remarked, however, that I was not likely to be
so well off on my return, because, in the country to which I was
going, there was abundance of damaged goods, but that no one knew
better than he did how to root out the venom left by the use of such
bad merchandise. He begged that I would depend upon him, and not
trust myself in the hands of quacks, who would be sure to palm their
remedies upon me. I promised him everything, and, taking leave of
him with many thanks, I returned to the ship. I related the whole
affair to M. Dolfin, who was highly amused. We sailed on the
following day, but on the fourth day, on the other side of Curzola,
we were visited by a storm which very nearly cost me my life. This
is how it happened:
The chaplain of the ship was a Sclavonian priest, very ignorant,
insolent and coarse-mannered, and, as I turned him into ridicule
whenever the opportunity offered, he had naturally become my sworn
enemy. 'Tant de fiel entre-t-il dans l'ame d'un devot!' When the
storm was at its height, he posted himself on the quarter-deck, and,
with book in hand, proceeded to exorcise all the spirits of hell whom
he thought he could see in the clouds, and to whom he pointed for the
benefit of the sailors who, believing themselves lost, were crying,
howling, and giving way to despair, instead of attending to the
working of the ship, then in great danger on account of the rocks and
of the breakers which surrounded us.
Seeing the peril of our position, and the evil effect of his stupid,
incantations upon the minds of the sailors whom the ignorant priest
was throwing into the apathy of despair, instead of keeping up their
courage, I thought it prudent to interfere. I went up the rigging,
calling upon the sailors to do their duty cheerfully, telling them
that there were no devils, and that the priest who pretended to see
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