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Title: Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice
Author: Casanova, Giacomo, 1725-1798
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice" ***

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MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798

VENETIAN YEARS, Volume 1d--RETURN TO VENICE

THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR MACHEN TO
WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED BY ARTHUR SYMONS.



RETURN TO VENICE



CHAPTER XVI

A Fearful Misfortune Befalls Me--Love Cools Down--Leave Corfu and Return
to Venice--Give Up the Army and Become a Fiddler

The wound was rapidly healing up, and I saw near at hand the moment when
Madame F---- would leave her bed, and resume her usual avocations.

The governor of the galeasses having issued orders for a general review
at Gouyn, M. F----, left for that place in his galley, telling me to join
him there early on the following day with the felucca. I took supper
alone with Madame F----, and I told her how unhappy it made me to remain
one day away from her.

"Let us make up to-night for to-morrow's disappointment," she said, "and
let us spend it together in conversation. Here are the keys; when you
know that my maid has left me, come to me through my husband's room."

I did not fail to follow her instructions to the letter, and we found
ourselves alone with five hours before us. It was the month of June, and
the heat was intense. She had gone to bed; I folded her in my arms, she
pressed me to her bosom, but, condemning herself to the most cruel
torture, she thought I had no right to complain, if I was subjected to
the same privation which she imposed upon herself. My remonstrances, my
prayers, my entreaties were of no avail.

"Love," she said, "must be kept in check with a tight hand, and we can
laugh at him, since, in spite of the tyranny which we force him to obey,
we succeed all the same in gratifying our desires."

After the first ecstacy, our eyes and lips unclosed together, and a
little apart from each other we take delight in seeing the mutual
satisfaction beaming on our features.

Our desires revive; she casts a look upon my state of innocence entirely
exposed to her sight. She seems vexed at my want of excitement, and,
throwing off everything which makes the heat unpleasant and interferes
with our pleasure, she bounds upon me. It is more than amorous fury, it
is desperate lust. I share her frenzy, I hug her with a sort of delirium,
I enjoy a felicity which is on the point of carrying me to the regions of
bliss.... but, at the very moment of completing the offering, she fails
me, moves off, slips away, and comes back to work off my excitement with
a hand which strikes me as cold as ice.

"Ah, thou cruel, beloved woman! Thou art burning with the fire of love,
and thou deprivest thyself of the only remedy which could bring calm to
thy senses! Thy lovely hand is more humane than thou art, but thou has
not enjoyed the felicity that thy hand has given me. My hand must owe
nothing to thine. Come, darling light of my heart, come! Love doubles my
existence in the hope that I will die again, but only in that charming
retreat from which you have ejected me in the very moment of my greatest
enjoyment."

While I was speaking thus, her very soul was breathing forth the most
tender sighs of happiness, and as she pressed me tightly in her arms I
felt that she was weltering in an ocean of bliss.

Silence lasted rather a long time, but that unnatural felicity was
imperfect, and increased my excitement.

"How canst thou complain," she said tenderly, "when it is to that very
imperfection of our enjoyment that we are indebted for its continuance? I
loved thee a few minutes since, now I love thee a thousand times more,
and perhaps I should love thee less if thou hadst carried my enjoyment to
its highest limit."

"Oh! how much art thou mistaken, lovely one! How great is thy error! Thou
art feeding upon sophisms, and thou leavest reality aside; I mean nature
which alone can give real felicity. Desires constantly renewed and never
fully satisfied are more terrible than the torments of hell."

"But are not these desires happiness when they are always accompanied by
hope?"

"No, if that hope is always disappointed. It becomes hell itself, because
there is no hope, and hope must die when it is killed by constant
deception."

"Dearest, if hope does not exist in hell, desires cannot be found there
either; for to imagine desires without hopes would be more than madness."

"Well, answer me. If you desire to be mine entirely, and if you feel the
hope of it, which, according to your way of reasoning, is a natural
consequence, why do you always raise an impediment to your own hope?
Cease, dearest, cease to deceive yourself by absurd sophisms. Let us be
as happy as it is in nature to be, and be quite certain that the reality
of happiness will increase our love, and that love will find a new life
in our very enjoyment."

"What I see proves the contrary; you are alive with excitement now, but
if your desires had been entirely satisfied, you would be dead, benumbed,
motionless. I know it by experience: if you had breathed the full ecstacy
of enjoyment, as you desired, you would have found a weak ardour only at
long intervals."

"Ah! charming creature, your experience is but very small; do not trust
to it. I see that you have never known love. That which you call love's
grave is the sanctuary in which it receives life, the abode which makes
it immortal. Give way to my prayers, my lovely friend, and then you shall
know the difference between Love and Hymen. You shall see that, if Hymen
likes to die in order to get rid of life, Love on the contrary expires
only to spring up again into existence, and hastens to revive, so as to
savour new enjoyment. Let me undeceive you, and believe me when I say
that the full gratification of desires can only increase a hundredfold
the mutual ardour of two beings who adore each other."

"Well, I must believe you; but let us wait. In the meantime let us enjoy
all the trifles, all the sweet preliminaries of love. Devour thy
mistress, dearest, but abandon to me all thy being. If this night is too
short we must console ourselves to-morrow by making arrangements for
another one."

"And if our intercourse should be discovered?"

"Do we make a mystery of it? Everybody can see that we love each other,
and those who think that we do not enjoy the happiness of lovers are
precisely the only persons we have to fear. We must only be careful to
guard against being surprised in the very act of proving our love. Heaven
and nature must protect our affection, for there is no crime when two
hearts are blended in true love. Since I have been conscious of my own
existence, Love has always seemed to me the god of my being, for every
time I saw a man I was delighted; I thought that I was looking upon
one-half of myself, because I felt I was made for him and he for me. I
longed to be married. It was that uncertain longing of the heart which
occupies exclusively a young girl of fifteen. I had no conception of
love, but I fancied that it naturally accompanied marriage. You can
therefore imagine my surprise when my husband, in the very act of making
a woman of me, gave me a great deal of pain without giving me the
slightest idea of pleasure! My imagination in the convent was much better
than the reality I had been condemned to by my husband! The result has
naturally been that we have become very good friends, but a very
indifferent husband and wife, without any desires for each other. He has
every reason to be pleased with me, for I always shew myself docile to
his wishes, but enjoyment not being in those cases seasoned by love, he
must find it without flavour, and he seldom comes to me for it.

"When I found out that you were in love with me, I felt delighted, and
gave you every opportunity of becoming every day more deeply enamoured of
me, thinking myself certain of never loving you myself. As soon as I felt
that love had likewise attacked my heart, I ill-treated you to punish you
for having made my heart sensible. Your patience and constancy have
astonished me, and have caused me to be guilty, for after the first kiss
I gave you I had no longer any control over myself. I was indeed
astounded when I saw the havoc made by one single kiss, and I felt that
my happiness was wrapped up in yours. That discovery flattered and
delighted me, and I have found out, particularly to-night, that I cannot
be happy unless you are so yourself."

"That is, my beloved, the most refined of all sentiments experienced by
love, but it is impossible for you to render me completely happy without
following in everything the laws and the wishes of nature."

The night was spent in tender discussions and in exquisite
voluptuousness, and it was not without some grief that at day-break I
tore myself from her arms to go to Gouyn. She wept for joy when she saw
that I left her without having lost a particle of my vigour, for she did
not imagine such a thing possible.

After that night, so rich in delights, ten or twelve days passed without
giving us any opportunity of quenching even a small particle of the
amorous thirst which devoured us, and it was then that a fearful
misfortune befell me.

One evening after supper, M. D---- R---- having retired, M. F---- used no
ceremony, and, although I was present, told his wife that he intended to
pay her a visit after writing two letters which he had to dispatch early
the next morning. The moment he had left the room we looked at each
other, and with one accord fell into each other's arms. A torrent of
delights rushed through our souls without restraint, without reserve, but
when the first ardour had been appeased, without giving me time to think
or to enjoy the most complete, the most delicious victory, she drew back,
repulsed me, and threw herself, panting, distracted, upon a chair near
her bed. Rooted to the spot, astonished, almost mad, I tremblingly looked
at her, trying to understand what had caused such an extraordinary
action. She turned round towards me and said, her eyes flashing with the
fire of love,

"My darling, we were on the brink of the precipice."

"The precipice! Ah! cruel woman, you have killed me, I feel myself dying,
and perhaps you will never see me again."

I left her in a state of frenzy, and rushed out, towards the esplanade,
to cool myself, for I was choking. Any man who has not experienced the
cruelty of an action like that of Madame F----, and especially in the
situation I found myself in at that moment, mentally and bodily, can
hardly realize what I suffered, and, although I have felt that suffering,
I could not give an idea of it.

I was in that fearful state, when I heard my name called from a window,
and unfortunately I condescended to answer. I went near the window, and I
saw, thanks to the moonlight, the famous Melulla standing on her balcony.

"What are you doing there at this time of night?" I enquired.

"I am enjoying the cool evening breeze. Come up for a little while."

This Melulla, of fatal memory, was a courtezan from Zamte, of rare
beauty, who for the last four months had been the delight and the rage of
all the young men in Corfu. Those who had known her agreed in extolling
her charms: she was the talk of all the city. I had seen her often, but,
although she was very beautiful, I was very far from thinking her as
lovely as Madame F----, putting my affection for the latter on one side.
I recollect seeing in Dresden, in the year 1790, a very handsome woman
who was the image of Melulla.

I went upstairs mechanically, and she took me to a voluptuous boudoir;
she complained of my being the only one who had never paid her a visit,
when I was the man she would have preferred to all others, and I had the
infamy to give way.... I became the most criminal of men.

It was neither desire, nor imagination, nor the merit of the woman which
caused me to yield, for Melulla was in no way worthy of me; no, it was
weakness, indolence, and the state of bodily and mental irritation in
which I then found myself: it was a sort of spite, because the angel whom
I adored had displeased me by a caprice, which, had I not been unworthy
of her, would only have caused me to be still more attached to her.

Melulla, highly pleased with her success, refused the gold I wanted to
give her, and allowed me to go after I had spent two hours with her.

When I recovered my composure, I had but one feeling-hatred for myself
and for the contemptible creature who had allured me to be guilty of so
vile an insult to the loveliest of her sex. I went home the prey to
fearful remorse, and went to bed, but sleep never closed my eyes
throughout that cruel night.

In the morning, worn out with fatigue and sorrow, I got up, and as soon
as I was dressed I went to M. F----, who had sent for me to give me some
orders. After I had returned, and had given him an account of my mission,
I called upon Madame F----, and finding her at her toilet I wished her
good morning, observing that her lovely face was breathing the
cheerfulness and the calm of happiness; but, suddenly, her eyes meeting
mine, I saw her countenance change, and an expression of sadness replace
her looks of satisfaction. She cast her eyes down as if she was deep in
thought, raised them again as if to read my very soul, and breaking our
painful silence, as soon as she had dismissed her maid, she said to me,
with an accent full of tenderness and of solemnity,

"Dear one, let there be no concealment either on my part or on yours. I
felt deeply grieved when I saw you leave me last night, and a little
consideration made me understand all the evil which might accrue to you
in consequence of what I had done. With a nature like yours, such scenes
might cause very dangerous disorders, and I have resolved not to do again
anything by halves. I thought that you went out to breathe the fresh air,
and I hoped it would do you good. I placed myself at my window, where I
remained more than an hour without seeing alight in your room. Sorry for
what I had done, loving you more than ever, I was compelled, when my
husband came to my room, to go to bed with the sad conviction that you
had not come home. This morning, M. F. sent an officer to tell you that
he wanted to see you, and I heard the messenger inform him that you were
not yet up, and that you had come home very late. I felt my heart swell
with sorrow. I am not jealous, dearest, for I know that you cannot love
anyone but me; I only felt afraid of some misfortune. At last, this
morning, when I heard you coming, I was happy, because I was ready to
skew my repentance, but I looked at you, and you seemed a different man.
Now, I am still looking at you, and, in spite of myself, my soul reads
upon your countenance that you are guilty, that you have outraged my
love. Tell me at once, dearest, if I am mistaken; if you have deceived
me, say so openly. Do not be unfaithful to love and to truth. Knowing
that I was the cause of it, I should never forgive my self, but there is
an excuse for you in my heart, in my whole being."

More than once, in the course of my life, I have found myself under the
painful necessity of telling falsehoods to the woman I loved; but in this
case, after so true, so touching an appeal, how could I be otherwise than
sincere? I felt myself sufficiently debased by my crime, and I could not
degrade myself still more by falsehood. I was so far from being disposed
to such a line of conduct that I could not speak, and I burst out crying.

"What, my darling! you are weeping! Your tears make me miserable. You
ought not to have shed any with me but tears of happiness and love.
Quick, my beloved, tell me whether you have made me wretched. Tell me
what fearful revenge you have taken on me, who would rather die than
offend you. If I have caused you any sorrow, it has been in the innocence
of a loving and devoted heart."

"My own darling angel, I never thought of revenge, for my heart, which
can never cease to adore you, could never conceive such a dreadful idea.
It is against my own heart that my cowardly weakness has allured me to
the commission of a crime which, for the remainder of my life, makes me
unworthy of you."

"Have you, then, given yourself to some wretched woman?"

"Yes, I have spent two hours in the vilest debauchery, and my soul was
present only to be the witness of my sadness, of my remorse, of my
unworthiness."

"Sadness and remorse! Oh, my poor friend! I believe it. But it is my
fault; I alone ought to suffer; it is I who must beg you to forgive me."

Her tears made mine flow again.

"Divine soul," I said, "the reproaches you are addressing to yourself
increase twofold the gravity of my crime. You would never have been
guilty of any wrong against me if I had been really worthy of your love."

I felt deeply the truth of my words.

We spent the remainder of the day apparently quiet and composed,
concealing our sadness in the depths of our hearts. She was curious to
know all the circumstances of my miserable adventure, and, accepting it
as an expiation, I related them to her. Full of kindness, she assured me
that we were bound to ascribe that accident to fate, and that the same
thing might have happened to the best of men. She added that I was more
to be pitied than condemned, and that she did not love me less. We both
were certain that we would seize the first favourable opportunity, she of
obtaining her pardon, I of atoning for my crime, by giving each other new
and complete proofs of our mutual ardour. But Heaven in its justice had
ordered differently, and I was cruelly punished for my disgusting
debauchery.

On the third day, as I got up in the morning, an awful pricking announced
the horrid state into which the wretched Melulla had thrown me. I was
thunderstruck! And when I came to think of the misery which I might have
caused if, during the last three days, I had obtained some new favour
from my lovely mistress, I was on the point of going mad. What would have
been her feelings if I had made her unhappy for the remainder of her
life! Would anyone, then, knowing the whole case, have condemned me if I
had destroyed my own life in order to deliver myself from everlasting
remorse? No, for the man who kills himself from sheer despair, thus
performing upon himself the execution of the sentence he would have
deserved at the hands of justice cannot be blamed either by a virtuous
philosopher or by a tolerant Christian. But of one thing I am quite
certain: if such a misfortune had happened, I should have committed
suicide.

Overwhelmed with grief by the discovery I had just made, but thinking
that I should get rid of the inconvenience as I had done three times
before, I prepared myself for a strict diet, which would restore my
health in six weeks without anyone having any suspicion of my illness,
but I soon found out that I had not seen the end of my troubles; Melulla
had communicated to my system all the poisons which corrupt the source of
life. I was acquainted with an elderly doctor of great experience in
those matters; I consulted him, and he promised to set me to rights in
two months; he proved as good as his word. At the beginning of September
I found myself in good health, and it was about that time that I returned
to Venice.

The first thing I resolved on, as soon as I discovered the state I was
in, was to confess everything to Madame F----. I did not wish to wait for
the time when a compulsory confession would have made her blush for her
weakness, and given her cause to think of the fearful consequences which
might have been the result of her passion for me. Her affection was too
dear to me to run the risk of losing it through a want of confidence in
her. Knowing her heart, her candour, and the generosity which had
prompted her to say that I was more to be pitied than blamed, I thought
myself bound to prove by my sincerity that I deserved her esteem.

I told her candidly my position and the state I had been thrown in, when
I thought of the dreadful consequences it might have had for her. I saw
her shudder and tremble, and she turned pale with fear when I added that
I would have avenged her by killing myself.

"Villainous, infamous Melulla!" she exclaimed.

And I repeated those words, but turning them against myself when I
realized all I had sacrificed through the most disgusting weakness.

Everyone in Corfu knew of my visit to the wretched Melulla, and everyone
seemed surprised to see the appearance of health on my countenance; for
many were the victims that she had treated like me.

My illness was not my only sorrow; I had others which, although of a
different nature, were not less serious. It was written in the book of
fate that I should return to Venice a simple ensign as when I left: the
general did not keep his word, and the bastard son of a nobleman was
promoted to the lieutenancy instead of myself. From that moment the
military profession, the one most subject to arbitrary despotism,
inspired me with disgust, and I determined to give it up. But I had
another still more important motive for sorrow in the fickleness of
fortune which had completely turned against me. I remarked that, from the
time of my degradation with Melulla, every kind of misfortune befell me.
The greatest of all--that which I felt most, but which I had the good
sense to try and consider a favour--was that a week before the departure
of the army M. D---- R---- took me again for his adjutant, and M. F---- had
to engage another in my place. On the occasion of that change Madame F
told me, with an appearance of regret, that in Venice we could not, for
many reasons, continue our intimacy. I begged her to spare me the
reasons, as I foresaw that they would only throw humiliation upon me. I
began to discover that the goddess I had worshipped was, after all, a
poor human being like all other women, and to think that I should have
been very foolish to give up my life for her. I probed in one day the
real worth of her heart, for she told me, I cannot recollect in reference
to what, that I excited her pity. I saw clearly that she no longer loved
me; pity is a debasing feeling which cannot find a home in a heart full
of love, for that dreary sentiment is too near a relative of contempt.
Since that time I never found myself alone with Madame F----. I loved her
still; I could easily have made her blush, but I did not do it.

As soon as we reached Venice she became attached to M. F---- R----, whom
she loved until death took him from her. She was unhappy enough to lose
her sight twenty years after. I believe she is still alive.

During the last two months of my stay in Corfu, I learned the most bitter
and important lessons. In after years I often derived useful hints from
the experience I acquired at that time.

Before my adventure with the worthless Melulla, I enjoyed good health, I
was rich, lucky at play, liked by everybody, beloved by the most lovely
woman of Corfu. When I spoke, everybody would listen and admire my wit;
my words were taken for oracles, and everyone coincided with me in
everything. After my fatal meeting with the courtezan I rapidly lost my
health, my money, my credit; cheerfulness, consideration, wit,
everything, even the faculty of eloquence vanished with fortune. I would
talk, but people knew that I was unfortunate, and I no longer interested
or convinced my hearers. The influence I had over Madame F---- faded away
little by little, and, almost without her knowing it, the lovely woman
became completely indifferent to me.

I left Corfu without money, although I had sold or pledged everything I
had of any value. Twice I had reached Corfu rich and happy, twice I left
it poor and miserable. But this time I had contracted debts which I have
never paid, not through want of will but through carelessness.

Rich and in good health, everyone received me with open arms; poor and
looking sick, no one shewed me any consideration. With a full purse and
the tone of a conqueror, I was thought witty, amusing; with an empty
purse and a modest air, all I said appeared dull and insipid. If I had
become rich again, how soon I would have been again accounted the eighth
wonder of the world! Oh, men! oh, fortune! Everyone avoided me as if the
ill luck which crushed me down was infectious.

We left Corfu towards the end of September, with five galleys, two
galeasses, and several smaller vessels, under the command of M. Renier.
We sailed along the shores of the Adriatic, towards the north of the
gulf, where there are a great many harbours, and we put in one of them
every night. I saw Madame F---- every evening; she always came with her
husband to take supper on board our galeass. We had a fortunate voyage,
and cast anchor in the harbour of Venice on the 14th of October, 1745,
and after having performed quarantine on board our ships, we landed on
the 25th of November. Two months afterwards, the galeasses were set aside
altogether. The use of these vessels could be traced very far back in
ancient times; their maintenance was very expensive, and they were
useless. A galeass had the frame of a frigate with the rowing apparatus
of the galley, and when there was no wind, five hundred slaves had to
row.

Before simple good sense managed to prevail and to enforce the
suppression of these useless carcasses, there were long discussions in
the senate, and those who opposed the measure took their principal ground
of opposition in the necessity of respecting and conserving all the
institutions of olden times. That is the disease of persons who can never
identify themselves with the successive improvements born of reason and
experience; worthy persons who ought to be sent to China, or to the
dominions of the Grand Lama, where they would certainly be more at home
than in Europe.

That ground of opposition to all improvements, however absurd it may be,
is a very powerful one in a republic, which must tremble at the mere idea
of novelty either in important or in trifling things. Superstition has
likewise a great part to play in these conservative views.

There is one thing that the Republic of Venice will never alter: I mean
the galleys, because the Venetians truly require such vessels to ply, in
all weathers and in spite of the frequent calms, in a narrow sea, and
because they would not know what to do with the men sentenced to hard
labour.

I have observed a singular thing in Corfu, where there are often as many
as three thousand galley slaves; it is that the men who row on the
galleys, in consequence of a sentence passed upon them for some crime,
are held in a kind of opprobrium, whilst those who are there voluntarily
are, to some extent, respected. I have always thought it ought to be the
reverse, because misfortune, whatever it may be, ought to inspire some
sort of respect; but the vile fellow who condemns himself voluntarily and
as a trade to the position of a slave seems to me contemptible in the
highest degree. The convicts of the Republic, however, enjoy many
privileges, and are, in every way, better treated than the soldiers. It
very often occurs that soldiers desert and give themselves up to a
'sopracomito' to become galley slaves. In those cases, the captain who
loses a soldier has nothing to do but to submit patiently, for he would
claim the man in vain. The reason of it is that the Republic has always
believed galley slaves more necessary than soldiers. The Venetians may
perhaps now (I am writing these lines in the year 1797) begin to realize
their mistake.

A galley slave, for instance, has the privilege of stealing with
impunity. It is considered that stealing is the least crime they can be
guilty of, and that they ought to be forgiven for it.

"Keep on your guard," says the master of the galley slave; "and if you
catch him in the act of stealing, thrash him, but be careful not to
cripple him; otherwise you must pay me the one hundred ducats the man has
cost me."

A court of justice could not have a galley slave taken from a galley,
without paying the master the amount he has disbursed for the man.

As soon as I had landed in Venice, I called upon Madame Orio, but I found
the house empty. A neighbour told me that she had married the Procurator
Rosa, and had removed to his house. I went immediately to M. Rosa and was
well received. Madame Orio informed me that Nanette had become Countess
R., and was living in Guastalla with her husband.

Twenty-four years afterwards, I met her eldest son, then a distinguished
officer in the service of the Infante of Parma.

As for Marton, the grace of Heaven had touched her, and she had become a
nun in the convent at Muran. Two years afterwards, I received from her a
letter full of unction, in which she adjured me, in the name of Our
Saviour and of the Holy Virgin, never to present myself before her eyes.
She added that she was bound by Christian charity to forgive me for the
crime I had committed in seducing her, and she felt certain of the reward
of the elect, and she assured me that she would ever pray earnestly for
my conversion.

I never saw her again, but she saw me in 1754, as I will mention when we
reach that year.

I found Madame Manzoni still the same. She had predicted that I would not
remain in the military profession, and when I told her that I had made up
my mind to give it up, because I could not be reconciled to the injustice
I had experienced, she burst out laughing. She enquired about the
profession I intended to follow after giving up the army, and I answered
that I wished to become an advocate. She laughed again, saying that it
was too late. Yet I was only twenty years old.

When I called upon M. Grimani I had a friendly welcome from him, but,
having enquired after my brother Francois, he told me that he had had him
confined in Fort Saint Andre, the same to which I had been sent before
the arrival of the Bishop of Martorano.

"He works for the major there," he said; "he copies Simonetti's
battle-pieces, and the major pays him for them; in that manner he earns
his living, and is becoming a good painter."

"But he is not a prisoner?"

"Well, very much like it, for he cannot leave the fort. The major, whose
name is Spiridion, is a friend of Razetta, who could not refuse him the
pleasure of taking care of your brother."

I felt it a dreadful curse that the fatal Razetta should be the tormentor
of all my family, but I concealed my anger.

"Is my sister," I enquired, "still with him?"

"No, she has gone to your mother in Dresden."

This was good news.

I took a cordial leave of the Abbe Grimani, and I proceeded to Fort Saint
Andre. I found my brother hard at work, neither pleased nor displeased
with his position, and enjoying good health. After embracing him
affectionately, I enquired what crime he had committed to be thus a
prisoner.

"Ask the major," he said, "for I have not the faintest idea."

The major came in just then, so I gave him the military salute, and asked
by what authority he kept my brother under arrest.

"I am not accountable to you for my actions."

"That remains to be seen."

I then told my brother to take his hat, and to come and dine with me. The
major laughed, and said that he had no objection provided the sentinel
allowed him to pass.

I saw that I should only waste my time in discussion, and I left the fort
fully bent on obtaining justice.

The next day I went to the war office, where I had the pleasure of
meeting my dear Major Pelodoro, who was then commander of the Fortress of
Chiozza. I informed him of the complaint I wanted to prefer before the
secretary of war respecting my brother's arrest, and of the resolution I
had taken to leave the army. He promised me that, as soon as the consent
of the secretary for war could be obtained, he would find a purchaser for
my commission at the same price I had paid for it.

I had not long to wait. The war secretary came to the office, and
everything was settled in half an hour. He promised his consent to the
sale of my commission as soon as he ascertained the abilities of the
purchaser, and Major Spiridion happening to make his appearance in the
office while I was still there, the secretary ordered him rather angrily,
to set my brother at liberty immediately, and cautioned him not to be
guilty again of such reprehensible and arbitrary acts.

I went at once for my brother, and we lived together in furnished
lodgings.

A few days afterwards, having received my discharge and one hundred
sequins, I threw off my uniform, and found myself once more my own
master.

I had to earn my living in one way or another, and I decided for the
profession of gamester. But Dame Fortune was not of the same opinion, for
she refused to smile upon me from the very first step I took in the
career, and in less than a week I did not possess a groat. What was to
become of me? One must live, and I turned fiddler. Doctor Gozzi had
taught me well enough to enable me to scrape on the violin in the
orchestra of a theatre, and having mentioned my wishes to M. Grimani he
procured me an engagement at his own theatre of Saint Samuel, where I
earned a crown a day, and supported myself while I awaited better things.

Fully aware of my real position, I never shewed myself in the fashionable
circles which I used to frequent before my fortune had sunk so low. I
knew that I was considered as a worthless fellow, but I did not care.
People despised me, as a matter of course; but I found comfort in the
consciousness that I was worthy of contempt. I felt humiliated by the
position to which I was reduced after having played so brilliant a part
in society; but as I kept the secret to myself I was not degraded, even
if I felt some shame. I had not exchanged my last word with Dame Fortune,
and was still in hope of reckoning with her some day, because I was
young, and youth is dear to Fortune.



CHAPTER XVII

I Turn Out A Worthless Fellow--My Good Fortune--I Become A Rich Nobleman

With an education which ought to have ensured me an honourable standing
in the world, with some intelligence, wit, good literary and scientific
knowledge, and endowed with those accidental physical qualities which are
such a good passport into society, I found myself, at the age of twenty,
the mean follower of a sublime art, in which, if great talent is rightly
admired, mediocrity is as rightly despised. I was compelled by poverty to
become a member of a musical band, in which I could expect neither esteem
nor consideration, and I was well aware that I should be the
laughing-stock of the persons who had known me as a doctor in divinity,
as an ecclesiastic, and as an officer in the army, and had welcomed me in
the highest society.

I knew all that, for I was not blind to my position; but contempt, the
only thing to which I could not have remained indifferent, never shewed
itself anywhere under a form tangible enough for me to have no doubt of
my being despised, and I set it at defiance, because I was satisfied that
contempt is due only to cowardly, mean actions, and I was conscious that
I had never been guilty of any. As to public esteem, which I had ever
been anxious to secure, my ambition was slumbering, and satisfied with
being my own master I enjoyed my independence without puzzling my head
about the future. I felt that in my first profession, as I was not
blessed with the vocation necessary to it, I should have succeeded only
by dint of hypocrisy, and I should have been despicable in my own
estimation, even if I had seen the purple mantle on my shoulders, for the
greatest dignities cannot silence a man's own conscience. If, on the
other hand, I had continued to seek fortune in a military career, which
is surrounded by a halo of glory, but is otherwise the worst of
professions for the constant self-abnegation, for the complete surrender
of one's will which passive obedience demands, I should have required a
patience to which I could not lay any claim, as every kind of injustice
was revolting to me, and as I could not bear to feel myself dependent.
Besides, I was of opinion that a man's profession, whatever it might be,
ought to supply him with enough money to satisfy all his wants; and the
very poor pay of an officer would never have been sufficient to cover my
expenses, because my education had given me greater wants than those of
officers in general. By scraping my violin I earned enough to keep myself
without requiring anybody's assistance, and I have always thought that
the man who can support himself is happy. I grant that my profession was
not a brilliant one, but I did not mind it, and, calling prejudices all
the feelings which rose in my breast against myself, I was not long in
sharing all the habits of my degraded comrades. When the play was over, I
went with them to the drinking-booth, which we often left intoxicated to
spend the night in houses of ill-fame. When we happened to find those
places already tenanted by other men, we forced them by violence to quit
the premises, and defrauded the miserable victims of prostitution of the
mean salary the law allows them, after compelling them to yield to our
brutality. Our scandalous proceedings often exposed us to the greatest
danger.

We would very often spend the whole night rambling about the city,
inventing and carrying into execution the most impertinent, practical
jokes. One of our favourite pleasures was to unmoor the patricians'
gondolas, and to let them float at random along the canals, enjoying by
anticipation all the curses that gondoliers would not fail to indulge in.
We would rouse up hurriedly, in the middle of the night, an honest
midwife, telling her to hasten to Madame So-and-so, who, not being even
pregnant, was sure to tell her she was a fool when she called at the
house. We did the same with physicians, whom we often sent half dressed
to some nobleman who was enjoying excellent health. The priests fared no
better; we would send them to carry the last sacraments to married men
who were peacefully slumbering near their wives, and not thinking of
extreme unction.

We were in the habit of cutting the wires of the bells in every house,
and if we chanced to find a gate open we would go up the stairs in the
dark, and frighten the sleeping inmates by telling them very loudly that
the house door was not closed, after which we would go down, making as
much noise as we could, and leave the house with the gate wide open.

During a very dark night we formed a plot to overturn the large marble
table of St. Angelo's Square, on which it was said that in the days of
the League of Cambray the commissaries of the Republic were in the habit
of paying the bounty to the recruits who engaged to fight under the
standard of St. Mark--a circumstance which secured for the table a sort
of public veneration.

Whenever we could contrive to get into a church tower we thought it great
fun to frighten all the parish by ringing the alarm bell, as if some fire
had broken out; but that was not all, we always cut the bell ropes, so
that in the morning the churchwardens had no means of summoning the
faithful to early mass. Sometimes we would cross the canal, each of us in
a different gondola, and take to our heels without paying as soon as we
landed on the opposite side, in order to make the gondoliers run after
us.

The city was alive with complaints, and we laughed at the useless search
made by the police to find out those who disturbed the peace of the
inhabitants. We took good care to be careful, for if we had been
discovered we stood a very fair chance of being sent to practice rowing
at the expense of the Council of Ten.

We were seven, and sometimes eight, because, being much attached to my
brother Francois, I gave him a share now and then in our nocturnal
orgies. But at last fear put a stop to our criminal jokes, which in those
days I used to call only the frolics of young men. This is the amusing
adventure which closed our exploits.

In every one of the seventy-two parishes of the city of Venice, there is
a large public-house called 'magazzino'. It remains open all night, and
wine is retailed there at a cheaper price than in all the other drinking
houses. People can likewise eat in the 'magazzino', but they must obtain
what they want from the pork butcher near by, who has the exclusive sale
of eatables, and likewise keeps his shop open throughout the night. The
pork butcher is usually a very poor cook, but as he is cheap, poor people
are willingly satisfied with him, and these resorts are considered very
useful to the lower class. The nobility, the merchants, even workmen in
good circumstances, are never seen in the 'magazzino', for cleanliness is
not exactly worshipped in such places. Yet there are a few private rooms
which contain a table surrounded with benches, in which a respectable
family or a few friends can enjoy themselves in a decent way.

It was during the Carnival of 1745, after midnight; we were, all the
eight of us, rambling about together with our masks on, in quest of some
new sort of mischief to amuse us, and we went into the magazzino of the
parish of the Holy Cross to get something to drink. We found the public
room empty, but in one of the private chambers we discovered three men
quietly conversing with a young and pretty woman, and enjoying their
wine.

Our chief, a noble Venetian belonging to the Balbi family, said to us,
"It would be a good joke to carry off those three blockheads, and to keep
the pretty woman in our possession." He immediately explained his plan,
and under cover of our masks we entered their room, Balbi at the head of
us. Our sudden appearance rather surprised the good people, but you may
fancy their astonishment when they heard Balbi say to them: "Under
penalty of death, and by order of the Council of Ten, I command you to
follow us immediately, without making the slightest noise; as to you, my
good woman, you need not be frightened, you will be escorted to your
house." When he had finished his speech, two of us got hold of the woman
to take her where our chief had arranged beforehand, and the others
seized the three poor fellows, who were trembling all over, and had not
the slightest idea of opposing any resistance.

The waiter of the magazzino came to be paid, and our chief gave him what
was due, enjoining silence under penalty of death. We took our three
prisoners to a large boat. Balbi went to the stern, ordered the boatman
to stand at the bow, and told him that he need not enquire where we were
going, that he would steer himself whichever way he thought fit. Not one
of us knew where Balbi wanted to take the three poor devils.

He sails all along the canal, gets out of it, takes several turnings, and
in a quarter of an hour, we reach Saint George where Balbi lands our
prisoners, who are delighted to find themselves at liberty. After this,
the boatman is ordered to take us to Saint Genevieve, where we land,
after paying for the boat.

We proceed at once to Palombo Square, where my brother and another of our
band were waiting for us with our lovely prisoner, who was crying.

"Do not weep, my beauty," says Balbi to her, "we will not hurt you. We
intend only to take some refreshment at the Rialto, and then we will take
you home in safety."

"Where is my husband?"

"Never fear; you shall see him again to-morrow."

Comforted by that promise, and as gentle as a lamb, she follows us to the
"Two Swords." We ordered a good fire in a private room, and, everything
we wanted to eat and to drink having been brought in, we send the waiter
away, and remain alone. We take off our masks, and the sight of eight
young, healthy faces seems to please the beauty we had so unceremoniously
carried off. We soon manage to reconcile her to her fate by the gallantry
of our proceedings; encouraged by a good supper and by the stimulus of
wine, prepared by our compliments and by a few kisses, she realizes what
is in store for her, and does not seem to have any unconquerable
objection. Our chief, as a matter of right, claims the privilege of
opening the ball; and by dint of sweet words he overcomes the very
natural repugnance she feels at consummating the sacrifice in so numerous
company. She, doubtless, thinks the offering agreeable, for, when I
present myself as the priest appointed to sacrifice a second time to the
god of love, she receives me almost with gratitude, and she cannot
conceal her joy when she finds out that she is destined to make us all
happy. My brother Francois alone exempted himself from paying the
tribute, saying that he was ill, the only excuse which could render his
refusal valid, for we had established as a law that every member of our
society was bound to do whatever was done by the others.

After that fine exploit, we put on our masks, and, the bill being paid,
escorted the happy victim to Saint Job, where she lived, and did not
leave her till we had seen her safe in her house, and the street door
closed.

My readers may imagine whether we felt inclined to laugh when the
charming creature bade us good night, thanking us all with perfect good
faith!

Two days afterwards, our nocturnal orgy began to be talked of. The young
woman's husband was a weaver by trade, and so were his two friends. They
joined together to address a complaint to the Council of Ten. The
complaint was candidly written and contained nothing but the truth, but
the criminal portion of the truth was veiled by a circumstance which must
have brought a smile on the grave countenances of the judges, and highly
amused the public at large: the complaint setting forth that the eight
masked men had not rendered themselves guilty of any act disagreeable to
the wife. It went on to say that the two men who had carried her off had
taken her to such a place, where they had, an hour later, been met by the
other six, and that they had all repaired to the "Two Swords," where they
had spent an hour in drinking. The said lady having been handsomely
entertained by the eight masked men, had been escorted to her house,
where she had been politely requested to excuse the joke perpetrated upon
her husband. The three plaintiffs had not been able to leave the island
of Saint George until day-break, and the husband, on reaching his house,
had found his wife quietly asleep in her bed. She had informed him of all
that had happened; she complained of nothing but of the great fright she
had experienced on account of her husband, and on that count she
entreated justice and the punishment of the guilty parties.

That complaint was comic throughout, for the three rogues shewed
themselves very brave in writing, stating that they would certainly not
have given way so easily if the dread authority of the council had not
been put forth by the leader of the band. The document produced three
different results; in the first place, it amused the town; in the second,
all the idlers of Venice went to Saint Job to hear the account of the
adventure from the lips of the heroine herself, and she got many presents
from her numerous visitors; in the third place, the Council of Ten
offered a reward of five hundred ducats to any person giving such
information as would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the
practical joke, even if the informer belonged to the band, provided he
was not the leader.

The offer of that reward would have made us tremble if our leader,
precisely the one who alone had no interest in turning informer, had not
been a patrician. The rank of Balbi quieted my anxiety at once, because I
knew that, even supposing one of us were vile enough to betray our secret
for the sake of the reward, the tribunal would have done nothing in order
not to implicate a patrician. There was no cowardly traitor amongst us,
although we were all poor; but fear had its effect, and our nocturnal
pranks were not renewed.

Three or four months afterwards the chevalier Nicolas Iron, then one of
the inquisitors, astonished me greatly by telling me the whole story,
giving the names of all the actors. He did not tell me whether any one of
the band had betrayed the secret, and I did not care to know; but I could
clearly see the characteristic spirit of the aristocracy, for which the
'solo mihi' is the supreme law.

Towards the middle of April of the year 1746 M. Girolamo Cornaro, the
eldest son of the family Cornaro de la Reine, married a daughter of the
house of Soranzo de St. Pol, and I had the honour of being present at the
wedding--as a fiddler. I played the violin in one of the numerous bands
engaged for the balls which were given for three consecutive days in the
Soranzo Palace.

On the third day, towards the end of the dancing, an hour before
day-break, feeling tired, I left the orchestra abruptly; and as I was
going down the stairs I observed a senator, wearing his red robes, on the
point of getting into a gondola. In taking his handkerchief out of his
pocket he let a letter drop on the ground. I picked it up, and coming up
to him just as he was going down the steps I handed it to him. He
received it with many thanks, and enquired where I lived. I told him, and
he insisted upon my coming with him in the gondola saying that he would
leave me at my house. I accepted gratefully, and sat down near him. A few
minutes afterwards he asked me to rub his left arm, which, he said, was
so benumbed that he could not feel it. I rubbed it with all my strength,
but he told me in a sort of indistinct whisper that the numbness was
spreading all along the left side, and that he was dying.

I was greatly frightened; I opened the curtain, took the lantern, and
found him almost insensible, and the mouth drawn on one side. I
understood that he was seized with an apoplectic stroke, and called out
to the gondoliers to land me at once, in order to procure a surgeon to
bleed the patient.

I jumped out of the gondola, and found myself on the very spot where
three years before I had taught Razetta such a forcible lesson; I
enquired for a surgeon at the first coffee-house, and ran to the house
that was pointed out to me. I knocked as hard as I could; the door was at
last opened, and I made the surgeon follow me in his dressing-gown as far
as the gondola, which was waiting; he bled the senator while I was
tearing my shirt to make the compress and the bandage.

The operation being performed, I ordered the gondoliers to row as fast as
possible, and we soon reached St. Marina; the servants were roused up,
and taking the sick man out of the gondola we carried him to his bed
almost dead.

Taking everything upon myself, I ordered a servant to hurry out for a
physician, who came in a short time, and ordered the patient to be bled
again, thus approving the first bleeding prescribed by me. Thinking I had
a right to watch the sick man, I settled myself near his bed to give him
every care he required.

An hour later, two noblemen, friends of the senator, came in, one a few
minutes after the other. They were in despair; they had enquired about
the accident from the gondoliers, and having been told that I knew more
than they did, they loaded me with questions which I answered. They did
not know who I was, and did not like to ask me; whilst I thought it
better to preserve a modest silence.

The patient did not move; his breathing alone shewed that he was still
alive; fomentations were constantly applied, and the priest who had been
sent for, and was of very little use under such circumstances, seemed to
be there only to see him die. All visitors were sent away by my advice,
and the two noblemen and myself were the only persons in the sick man's
room. At noon we partook silently of some dinner which was served in the
sick room.

In the evening one of the two friends told me that if I had any business
to attend to I could go, because they would both pass the night on a
mattress near the patient.

"And I, sir," I said, "will remain near his bed in this arm-chair, for if
I went away the patient would die, and he will live as long as I am near
him."

This sententious answer struck them with astonishment, as I expected it
would, and they looked at each other in great surprise.

We had supper, and in the little conversation we had I gathered the
information that the senator, their friend, was M. de Bragadin, the only
brother of the procurator of that name. He was celebrated in Venice not
only for his eloquence and his great talents as a statesman, but also for
the gallantries of his youth. He had been very extravagant with women,
and more than one of them had committed many follies for him. He had
gambled and lost a great deal, and his brother was his most bitter enemy,
because he was infatuated with the idea that he had tried to poison him.
He had accused him of that crime before the Council of Ten, which, after
an investigation of eight months, had brought in a verdict of not guilty:
but that just sentence, although given unanimously by that high tribunal,
had not had the effect of destroying his brother's prejudices against
him.

M. de Bragadin, who was perfectly innocent of such a crime and oppressed
by an unjust brother who deprived him of half of his income, spent his
days like an amiable philosopher, surrounded by his friends, amongst whom
were the two noblemen who were then watching him; one belonged to the
Dandolo family, the other was a Barbaro, and both were excellent men. M.
de Bragadin was handsome, learned, cheerful, and most kindly disposed; he
was then about fifty years old.

The physician who attended him was named Terro; he thought, by some
peculiar train of reasoning, that he could cure him by applying a
mercurial ointment to the chest, to which no one raised any objection.
The rapid effect of the remedy delighted the two friends, but it
frightened me, for in less than twenty-four hours the patient was
labouring under great excitement of the brain. The physician said that he
had expected that effect, but that on the following day the remedy would
act less on the brain, and diffuse its beneficial action through the
whole of the system, which required to be invigorated by a proper
equilibrium in the circulation of the fluids.

At midnight the patient was in a state of high fever, and in a fearful
state of irritation. I examined him closely, and found him hardly able to
breathe. I roused up his two friends; and declared that in my opinion the
patient would soon die unless the fatal ointment was at once removed. And
without waiting for their answer, I bared his chest, took off the
plaster, washed the skin carefully with lukewarm water, and in less than
three minutes he breathed freely and fell into a quiet sleep. Delighted
with such a fortunate result, we lay down again.

The physician came very early in the morning, and was much pleased to see
his patient so much better, but when M. Dandolo informed him of what had
been done, he was angry, said it was enough to kill his patient, and
asked who had been so audacious as to destroy the effect of his
prescription. M. de Bragadin, speaking for the first time, said to him--

"Doctor, the person who has delivered me from your mercury, which was
killing me, is a more skilful physician than you;" and, saying these
words, he pointed to me.

It would be hard to say who was the more astonished: the doctor, when he
saw an unknown young man, whom he must have taken for an impostor,
declared more learned than himself; or I, when I saw myself transformed
into a physician, at a moment's notice. I kept silent, looking very
modest, but hardly able to control my mirth, whilst the doctor was
staring at me with a mixture of astonishment and of spite, evidently
thinking me some bold quack who had tried to supplant him. At last,
turning towards M. de Bragadin, he told him coldly that he would leave
him in my hands; he was taken at his word, he went away, and behold! I
had become the physician of one of the most illustrious members of the
Venetian Senate! I must confess that I was very glad of it, and I told my
patient that a proper diet was all he needed, and that nature, assisted
by the approaching fine season, would do the rest.

The dismissed physician related the affair through the town, and, as M.
de Bragadin was rapidly improving, one of his relations, who came to see
him, told him that everybody was astonished at his having chosen for his
physician a fiddler from the theatre; but the senator put a stop to his
remarks by answering that a fiddler could know more than all the doctors
in Venice, and that he owed his life to me.

The worthy nobleman considered me as his oracle, and his two friends
listened to me with the deepest attention. Their infatuation encouraging
me, I spoke like a learned physician, I dogmatized, I quoted authors whom
I had never read.

M. de Bragadin, who had the weakness to believe in the occult sciences,
told me one day that, for a young man of my age, he thought my learning
too extensive, and that he was certain I was the possessor of some
supernatural endowment. He entreated me to tell him the truth.

What extraordinary things will sometimes occur from mere chance, or from
the force of circumstances! Unwilling to hurt his vanity by telling him
that he was mistaken, I took the wild resolution of informing him, in the
presence of his two friends, that I possessed a certain numeral calculus
which gave answers (also in numbers), to any questions I liked to put.

M. de Bragadin said that it was Solomon's key, vulgarly called cabalistic
science, and he asked me from whom I learnt it.

"From an old hermit," I answered, "who lives on the Carpegna Mountain,
and whose acquaintance I made quite by chance when I was a prisoner in
the Spanish army."

"The hermit," remarked the senator, "has without informing you of it,
linked an invisible spirit to the calculus he has taught you, for simple
numbers can not have the power of reason. You possess a real treasure,
and you may derive great advantages from it."

"I do not know," I said, "in what way I could make my science useful,
because the answers given by the numerical figures are often so obscure
that I have felt discouraged, and I very seldom tried to make any use of
my calculus. Yet, it is very true that, if I had not formed my pyramid, I
never should have had the happiness of knowing your excellency."

"How so?"

"On the second day, during the festivities at the Soranzo Palace, I
enquired of my oracle whether I would meet at the ball anyone whom I
should not care to see. The answer I obtained was this: 'Leave the
ball-room precisely at four o'clock.' I obeyed implicitly, and met your
excellency."

The three friends were astounded. M. Dandolo asked me whether I would
answer a question he would ask, the interpretation of which would belong
only to him, as he was the only person acquainted with the subject of the
question.

I declared myself quite willing, for it was necessary to brazen it out,
after having ventured as far as I had done. He wrote the question, and
gave it to me; I read it, I could not understand either the subject or
the meaning of the words, but it did not matter, I had to give an answer.
If the question was so obscure that I could not make out the sense of it,
it was natural that I should not understand the answer. I therefore
answered, in ordinary figures, four lines of which he alone could be the
interpreter, not caring much, at least in appearance, how they would be
understood. M. Dandolo read them twice over, seemed astonished, said that
it was all very plain to him; it was Divine, it was unique, it was a gift
from Heaven, the numbers being only the vehicle, but the answer emanating
evidently from an immortal spirit.

M. Dandolo was so well pleased that his two friends very naturally wanted
also to make an experiment. They asked questions on all sorts of
subjects, and my answers, perfectly unintelligible to myself, were all
held as Divine by them. I congratulated them on their success, and
congratulated myself in their presence upon being the possessor of a
thing to which I had until then attached no importance whatever, but
which I promised to cultivate carefully, knowing that I could thus be of
some service to their excellencies.

They all asked me how long I would require to teach them the rules of my
sublime calculus. "Not very long," I answered, "and I will teach you as
you wish, although the hermit assured me that I would die suddenly within
three days if I communicated my science to anyone, but I have no faith
whatever in that prediction." M. de Bragadin who believed in it more than
I did, told me in a serious tone that I was bound to have faith in it,
and from that day they never asked me again to teach them. They very
likely thought that, if they could attach me to them, it would answer the
purpose as well as if they possessed the science themselves. Thus I
became the hierophant of those three worthy and talented men, who, in
spite of their literary accomplishments, were not wise, since they were
infatuated with occult and fabulous sciences, and believed in the
existence of phenomena impossible in the moral as well as in the physical
order of things. They believed that through me they possessed the
philosopher's stone, the universal panacea, the intercourse with all the
elementary, heavenly, and infernal spirits; they had no doubt whatever
that, thanks to my sublime science, they could find out the secrets of
every government in Europe.

After they had assured themselves of the reality of my cabalistic science
by questions respecting the past, they decided to turn it to some use by
consulting it upon the present and upon the future. I had no difficulty
in skewing myself a good guesser, because I always gave answers with a
double meaning, one of the meanings being carefully arranged by me, so as
not to be understood until after the event; in that manner, my cabalistic
science, like the oracle of Delphi, could never be found in fault. I saw
how easy it must have been for the ancient heathen priests to impose upon
ignorant, and therefore credulous mankind. I saw how easy it will always
be for impostors to find dupes, and I realized, even better than the
Roman orator, why two augurs could never look at each other without
laughing; it was because they had both an equal interest in giving
importance to the deceit they perpetrated, and from which they derived
such immense profits. But what I could not, and probably never shall,
understand, was the reason for which the Fathers, who were not so simple
or so ignorant as our Evangelists, did not feel able to deny the divinity
of oracles, and, in order to get out of the difficulty, ascribed them to
the devil. They never would have entertained such a strange idea if they
had been acquainted with cabalistic science. My three worthy friends were
like the holy Fathers; they had intelligence and wit, but they were
superstitious, and no philosophers. But, although believing fully in my
oracles, they were too kind-hearted to think them the work of the devil,
and it suited their natural goodness better to believe my answers
inspired by some heavenly spirit. They were not only good Christians and
faithful to the Church, but even real devotees and full of scruples. They
were not married, and, after having renounced all commerce with women,
they had become the enemies of the female sex; perhaps a strong proof of
the weakness of their minds. They imagined that chastity was the
condition 'sine qua non' exacted by the spirits from those who wished to
have intimate communication or intercourse with them: they fancied that
spirits excluded women, and 'vice versa'.

With all these oddities, the three friends were truly intelligent and
even witty, and, at the beginning of my acquaintance with them, I could
not reconcile these antagonistic points. But a prejudiced mind cannot
reason well, and the faculty of reasoning is the most important of all.
I often laughed when I heard them talk on religious matters; they would
ridicule those whose intellectual faculties were so limited that they
could not understand the mysteries of religion. The incarnation of the
Word, they would say, was a trifle for God, and therefore easy to
understand, and the resurrection was so comprehensible that it did not
appear to them wonderful, because, as God cannot die, Jesus Christ
was naturally certain to rise again. As for the Eucharist,
transubstantiation, the real presence, it was all no mystery to them, but
palpable evidence, and yet they were not Jesuits. They were in the habit
of going to confession every week, without feeling the slightest trouble
about their confessors, whose ignorance they kindly regretted. They
thought themselves bound to confess only what was a sin in their own
opinion, and in that, at least, they reasoned with good sense.

With those three extraordinary characters, worthy of esteem and respect
for their moral qualities, their honesty, their reputation, and their
age, as well as for their noble birth, I spent my days in a very pleasant
manner: although, in their thirst for knowledge, they often kept me hard
at work for ten hours running, all four of us being locked up together in
a room, and unapproachable to everybody, even to friends or relatives.

I completed the conquest of their friendship by relating to them the
whole of my life, only with some proper reserve, so as not to lead them
into any capital sins. I confess candidly that I deceived them, as the
Papa Deldimopulo used to deceive the Greeks who applied to him for the
oracles of the Virgin. I certainly did not act towards them with a true
sense of honesty, but if the reader to whom I confess myself is
acquainted with the world and with the spirit of society, I entreat him
to think before judging me, and perhaps I may meet with some indulgence
at his hands.

I might be told that if I had wished to follow the rules of pure morality
I ought either to have declined intimate intercourse with them or to have
undeceived them. I cannot deny these premises, but I will answer that I
was only twenty years of age, I was intelligent, talented, and had just
been a poor fiddler. I should have lost my time in trying to cure them of
their weakness; I should not have succeeded, for they would have laughed
in my face, deplored my ignorance, and the result of it all would have
been my dismissal. Besides, I had no mission, no right, to constitute
myself an apostle, and if I had heroically resolved on leaving them as
soon as I knew them to be foolish visionaries, I should have shewn myself
a misanthrope, the enemy of those worthy men for whom I could procure
innocent pleasures, and my own enemy at the same time; because, as a
young man, I liked to live well, to enjoy all the pleasures natural to
youth and to a good constitution.

By acting in that manner I should have failed in common politeness, I
should perhaps have caused or allowed M. de Bragadin's death, and I
should have exposed those three honest men to becoming the victims of the
first bold cheat who, ministering to their monomania, might have won
their favour, and would have ruined them by inducing them to undertake
the chemical operations of the Great Work. There is also another
consideration, dear reader, and as I love you I will tell you what it is.
An invincible self-love would have prevented me from declaring myself
unworthy of their friendship either by my ignorance or by my pride; and I
should have been guilty of great rudeness if I had ceased to visit them.

I took, at least it seems to me so, the best, the most natural, and the
noblest decision, if we consider the disposition of their mind, when I
decided upon the plan of conduct which insured me the necessaries of life
and of those necessaries who could be a better judge than your very
humble servant?

Through the friendship of those three men, I was certain of obtaining
consideration and influence in my own country. Besides, I found it very
flattering to my vanity to become the subject of the speculative
chattering of empty fools who, having nothing else to do, are always
trying to find out the cause of every moral phenomenon they meet with,
which their narrow intellect cannot understand.

People racked their brain in Venice to find out how my intimacy with
three men of that high character could possibly exist; they were wrapped
up in heavenly aspirations, I was a world's devotee; they were very
strict in their morals, I was thirsty of all pleasures! At the beginning
of summer, M. de Bragadin was once, more able to take his seat in the
senate, and, the day before he went out for the first time, he spoke to
me thus:

"Whoever you may be, I am indebted to you for my life. Your first
protectors wanted to make you a priest, a doctor, an advocate, a soldier,
and ended by making a fiddler of you; those persons did not know you. God
had evidently instructed your guardian angel to bring you to me. I know
you and appreciate you. If you will be my son, you have only to
acknowledge me for your father, and, for the future, until my death, I
will treat you as my own child. Your apartment is ready, you may send
your clothes: you shall have a servant, a gondola at your orders, my own
table, and ten sequins a month. It is the sum I used to receive from my
father when I was your age. You need not think of the future; think only
of enjoying yourself, and take me as your adviser in everything that may
happen to you, in everything you may wish to undertake, and you may be
certain of always finding me your friend."

I threw myself at his feet to assure him of my gratitude, and embraced
him calling him my father. He folded me in his arms, called me his dear
son; I promised to love and to obey him; his two friends, who lived in
the same palace, embraced me affectionately, and we swore eternal
fraternity.

Such is the history of my metamorphosis, and of the lucky stroke which,
taking me from the vile profession of a fiddler, raised me to the rank of
a grandee.



CHAPTER XVIII

I lead a dissolute life--Zawoiski--Rinaldi--L'Abbadie--the young
countess--the Capuchin friar Z. Steffani--Ancilla--La Ramor--I take a
gondola at St. Job to go to Mestra.

Fortune, which had taken pleasure in giving me a specimen of its despotic
caprice, and had insured my happiness through means which sages would
disavow, had not the power to make me adopt a system of moderation and
prudence which alone could establish my future welfare on a firm basis.

My ardent nature, my irresistible love of pleasure, my unconquerable
independence, would not allow me to submit to the reserve which my new
position in life demanded from me. I began to lead a life of complete
freedom, caring for nothing but what ministered to my tastes, and I
thought that, as long as I respected the laws, I could trample all
prejudices under my feet. I fancied that I could live free and
independent in a country ruled entirely by an aristocratic government,
but this was not the case, and would not have been so even if fortune had
raised me to a seat in that same government, for the Republic of Venice,
considering that its primary duty is to preserve its own integrity, finds
itself the slave of its own policy, and is bound to sacrifice everything
to self-preservation, before which the laws themselves cease to be
inviolable.

But let us abandon the discussion of a principle now too trite, for
humankind, at least in Europe, is satisfied that unlimited liberty is
nowhere consistent with a properly-regulated state of society. I have
touched lightly on the matter, only to give to my readers some idea of my
conduct in my own country, where I began to tread a path which was to
lead me to a state prison as inscrutable as it was unconstitutional.

With enough money, endowed by nature with a pleasing and commanding
physical appearance, a confirmed gambler, a true spendthrift, a great
talker, very far from modest, intrepid, always running after pretty
women, supplanting my rivals, and acknowledging no good company but that
which ministered to my enjoyment, I was certain to be disliked; but, ever
ready to expose myself to any danger, and to take the responsibility of
all my actions, I thought I had a right to do anything I pleased, for I
always broke down abruptly every obstacle I found in my way.

Such conduct could not but be disagreeable to the three worthy men whose
oracle I had become, but they did not like to complain. The excellent M.
de Bragadin would only tell me that I was giving him a repetition of the
foolish life he had himself led at my age, but that I must prepare to pay
the penalty of my follies, and to feel the punishment when I should reach
his time of life. Without wanting in the respect I owed him, I would turn
his terrible forebodings into jest, and continue my course of
extravagance. However, I must mention here the first proof he gave me of
his true wisdom.

At the house of Madame Avogadro, a woman full of wit in spite of her
sixty years, I had made the acquaintance of a young Polish nobleman
called Zawoiski. He was expecting money from Poland, but in the mean time
the Venetian ladies did not let him want for any, being all very much in
love with his handsome face and his Polish manners. We soon became good
friends, my purse was his, but, twenty years later, he assisted me to a
far greater extent in Munich. Zawoiski was honest, he had only a small
dose of intelligence, but it was enough for his happiness. He died in
Trieste five or six years ago, the ambassador of the Elector of Treves. I
will speak of him in another part of these Memoirs.

This amiable young man, who was a favourite with everybody and was
thought a free-thinker because he frequented the society of Angelo
Querini and Lunardo Venier, presented me one day, as we were out walking,
to an unknown countess who took my fancy very strongly. We called on her
in the evening, and, after introducing me to her husband, Count Rinaldi,
she invited us to remain and have supper.

The count made a faro bank in the course of the evening, I punted with
his wife as a partner, and won some fifty ducats.

Very much pleased with my new acquaintance, I called alone on the
countess the next morning. The count, apologizing for his wife who was
not up yet, took me to her room. She received me with graceful ease, and,
her husband having left us alone, she had the art to let me hope for
every favour, yet without committing herself; when I took leave of her,
she invited me to supper for the evening. After supper I played, still in
partnership with her, won again, and went away very much in love. I did
not fail to pay her another visit the next morning, but when I presented
myself at the house I was told that she had gone out.

I called again in the evening, and, after she had excused herself for not
having been at home in the morning, the faro bank began, and I lost all
my money, still having the countess for my partner. After supper, and
when the other guests had retired, I remained with Zawoiski, Count
Rinaldi having offered to give us our revenge. As I had no more money, I
played upon trust, and the count threw down the cards after I had lost
five hundred sequins. I went away in great sorrow. I was bound in honour
to pay the next morning, and I did not possess a groat. Love increased my
despair, for I saw myself on the point of losing the esteem of a woman by
whom I was smitten, and the anxiety I felt did not escape M. de Bragadin
when we met in the morning. He kindly encouraged me to confess my
troubles to him. I was conscious that it was my only chance, and candidly
related the whole affair, and I ended by saying that I should not survive
my disgrace. He consoled me by promising that my debt would be cancelled
in the course of the day, if I would swear never to play again upon
trust. I took an oath to that effect, and kissing his hand, I went out
for a walk, relieved from a great load. I had no doubt that my excellent
father would give me five hundred sequins during the day, and I enjoyed
my anticipation the honour I would derive, in the opinion of the lovely
countess, by my exactitude and prompt discharge of my debt. I felt that
it gave new strength to my hopes, and that feeling prevented me from
regretting my heavy loss, but grateful for the great generosity of my
benefactor I was fully determined on keeping my promise.

I dined with the three friends, and the matter was not even alluded to;
but, as we were rising from the table, a servant brought M. de Bragadin a
letter and a parcel.

He read the letter, asked me to follow him into his study, and the moment
we were alone, he said;

"Here is a parcel for you."

I opened it, and found some forty sequins. Seeing my surprise, M. de
Bragadin laughed merrily and handed me the letter, the contents of which
ran thus:

"M. de Casanova may be sure that our playing last night was only a joke:
he owes me nothing. My wife begs to send him half of the gold which he
has lost in cash.
"COUNT RINALDI."

I looked at M. de Bragadin, perfectly amazed, and he burst out laughing.
I guessed the truth, thanked him, and embracing him tenderly I promised
to be wiser for the future. The mist I had before my eyes was dispelled,
I felt that my love was defunct, and I remained rather ashamed, when I
realized that I had been the dupe of the wife as well as of the husband.

"This evening," said my clever physician, "you can have a gay supper with
the charming countess."

"This evening, my dear, respected benefactor, I will have supper with
you. You have given me a masterly lesson."

"The next time you lose money upon trust, you had better not pay it."

"But I should be dishonoured."

"Never mind. The sooner you dishonour yourself, the more you will save,
for you will always be compelled to accept your dishonour whenever you
find yourself utterly unable to pay your losses. It is therefore more
prudent not to wait until then."

"It is much better still to avoid that fatal impossibility by never
playing otherwise than with money in hand."

"No doubt of it, for then you will save both your honour and your purse.
But, as you are fond of games of chance, I advise you never to punt. Make
the bank, and the advantage must be on your side."

"Yes, but only a slight advantage."

"As slight as you please, but it will be on your side, and when the game
is over you will find yourself a winner and not a loser. The punter is
excited, the banker is calm. The last says, 'I bet you do not guess,'
while the first says, 'I bet I can guess.' Which is the fool, and which
is the wise man? The question is easily answered. I adjure you to be
prudent, but if you should punt and win, recollect that you are only an
idiot if at the end you lose."

"Why an idiot? Fortune is very fickle."

"It must necessarily be so; it is a natural consequence. Leave off
playing, believe me, the very moment you see luck turning, even if you
should, at that moment, win but one groat."

I had read Plato, and I was astonished at finding a man who could reason
like Socrates.

The next day, Zawoiski called on me very early to tell me that I had been
expected to supper, and that Count Rinaldi had praised my promptness in
paying my debts of honour. I did not think it necessary to undeceive him,
but I did not go again to Count Rinaldi's, whom I saw sixteen years
afterwards in Milan. As to Zawoiski, I did not tell him the story till I
met him in Carlsbad, old and deaf, forty years later.

Three or four months later, M. de Bragadin taught me another of his
masterly lessons. I had become acquainted, through Zawoiski, with a
Frenchman called L'Abbadie, who was then soliciting from the Venetian
Government the appointment of inspector of the armies of the Republic.
The senate appointed, and I presented him to my protector, who promised
him his vote; but the circumstance I am going to relate prevented him
from fulfilling his promise.

I was in need of one hundred sequins to discharge a few debts, and I
begged M. de Bragadin to give them to me.

"Why, my dear son, do you not ask M. de l'Abbadie to render you that
service?"

"I should not dare to do so, dear father."

"Try him; I am certain that he will be glad to lend you that sum."

"I doubt it, but I will try."

I called upon L'Abbadie on the following day, and after a short exchange
of compliments I told him the service I expected from his friendship. He
excused himself in a very polite manner, drowning his refusal in that sea
of commonplaces which people are sure to repeat when they cannot or will
not oblige a friend. Zawoiski came in as he was still apologizing, and I
left them together. I hurried at once to M. de Bragadin, and told him my
want of success. He merely remarked that the Frenchman was deficient in
intelligence.

It just happened that it was the very day on which the appointment of the
inspectorship was to be brought before the senate. I went out to attend
to my business (I ought to say to my pleasure), and as I did not return
home till after midnight I went to bed without seeing my father. In the
morning I said in his presence that I intended to call upon L'Abbadie to
congratulate him upon his appointment.

"You may spare yourself that trouble; the senate has rejected his
nomination."

"How so? Three days ago L'Abbadie felt sure of his success."

"He was right then, for he would have been appointed if I had not made up
my mind to speak against him. I have proved to the senate that a right
policy forbade the government to trust such an important post to a
foreigner."

"I am much surprised, for your excellency was not of that opinion the day
before yesterday."

"Very true, but then I did not know M. de l'Abbadie. I found out only
yesterday that the man was not sufficiently intelligent to fill the
position he was soliciting. Is he likely to possess a sane judgment when
he refuses to lend you one hundred sequins? That refusal has cost him an
important appointment and an income of three thousand crowns, which would
now be his."

When I was taking my walk on the same day I met Zawoiski with L'Abbadie,
and did not try to avoid them. L'Abbadie was furious, and he had some
reason to be so.

"If you had told me," he said angrily, "that the one hundred sequins were
intended as a gag to stop M. de Bragadin's mouth, I would have contrived
to procure them for you."

"If you had had an inspector's brains you would have easily guessed it."

The Frenchman's resentment proved very useful to me, because he related
the circumstance to everybody. The result was that from that time those
who wanted the patronage of the senator applied to me. Comment is
needless; this sort of thing has long been in existence, and will long
remain so, because very often, to obtain the highest of favours, all that
is necessary is to obtain the good-will of a minister's favourite or even
of his valet. My debts were soon paid.

It was about that time that my brother Jean came to Venice with
Guarienti, a converted Jew, a great judge of paintings, who was
travelling at the expense of His Majesty the King of Poland, and Elector
of Saxony. It was the converted Jew who had purchased for His Majesty the
gallery of the Duke of Modena for one hundred thousand sequins. Guarienti
and my brother left Venice for Rome, where Jean remained in the studio of
the celebrated painter Raphael Mengs, whom we shall meet again hereafter.

Now, as a faithful historian, I must give my readers the story of a
certain adventure in which were involved the honour and happiness of one
of the most charming women in Italy, who would have been unhappy if I had
not been a thoughtless fellow.

In the early part of October, 1746, the theatres being opened, I was
walking about with my mask on when I perceived a woman, whose head was
well enveloped in the hood of her mantle, getting out of the Ferrara
barge which had just arrived. Seeing her alone, and observing her
uncertain walk, I felt myself drawn towards her as if an unseen hand had
guided me.

I come up to her, and offer my services if I can be of any use to her.
She answers timidly that she only wants to make some enquiries.

"We are not here in the right place for conversation," I say to her; "but
if you would be kind enough to come with me to a cafe, you would be able
to speak and to explain your wishes."

She hesitates, I insist, and she gives way. The tavern was close at hand;
we go in, and are alone in a private room. I take off my mask, and out of
politeness she must put down the hood of her mantle. A large muslin
head-dress conceals half of her face, but her eyes, her nose, and her
pretty mouth are enough to let me see on her features beauty, nobleness,
sorrow, and that candour which gives youth such an undefinable charm. I
need not say that, with such a good letter of introduction, the unknown
at once captivated my warmest interest. After wiping away a few tears
which are flowing, in spite of all her efforts, she tells me that she
belongs to a noble family, that she has run away from her father's house,
alone, trusting in God, to meet a Venetian nobleman who had seduced her
and then deceived her, thus sealing her everlasting misery.

"You have then some hope of recalling him to the path of duty? I suppose
he has promised you marriage?"

"He has engaged his faith to me in writing. The only favour I claim from
your kindness is to take me to his house, to leave me there, and to keep
my secret."

"You may trust, madam, to the feelings of a man of honour. I am worthy of
your trust. Have entire confidence in me, for I already take a deep
interest in all your concerns. Tell me his name."

"Alas! sir, I give way to fate."

With these words, she takes out of her bosom a paper which she gives me;
I recognize the handwriting of Zanetto Steffani. It was a promise of
marriage by which he engaged his word of honour to marry within a week,
in Venice, the young countess A---- S----. When I have read the paper, I
return it to her, saying that I knew the writer quite well, that he was
connected with the chancellor's office, known as a great libertine, and
deeply in debt, but that he would be rich after his mother's death.

"For God's sake take me to his house."

"I will do anything you wish; but have entire confidence in me, and be
good enough to hear me. I advise you not to go to his house. He has
already done you great injury, and, even supposing that you should happen
to find him at home, he might be capable of receiving you badly; if he
should not be at home, it is most likely that his mother would not
exactly welcome you, if you should tell her who you are and what is your
errand. Trust to me, and be quite certain that God has sent me on your
way to assist you. I promise you that to-morrow at the latest you shall
know whether Steffani is in Venice, what he intends to do with you, and
what we may compel him to do. Until then my advice is not to let him know
your arrival in Venice."

"Good God! where shall I go to-night?"

"To a respectable house, of course."

"I will go to yours, if you are married."

"I am a bachelor."

I knew an honest widow who resided in a lane, and who had two furnished
rooms. I persuade the young countess to follow me, and we take a gondola.
As we are gliding along, she tells me that, one month before, Steffani
had stopped in her neighbourhood for necessary repairs to his
travelling-carriage, and that, on the same day he had made her
acquaintance at a house where she had gone with her mother for the
purpose of offering their congratulations to a newly-married lady.

"I was unfortunate enough," she continued, "to inspire him with love, and
he postponed his departure. He remained one month in C----, never going
out but in the evening, and spending every night under my windows
conversing with me. He swore a thousand times that he adored me, that his
intentions were honourable. I entreated him to present himself to my
parents to ask me in marriage, but he always excused himself by alleging
some reason, good or bad, assuring me that he could not be happy unless I
shewed him entire confidence. He would beg of me to make up my mind to
run away with him, unknown to everybody, promising that my honour should
not suffer from such a step, because, three days after my departure,
everybody should receive notice of my being his wife, and he assured me
that he would bring me back on a visit to my native place shortly after
our marriage. Alas, sir! what shall I say now? Love blinded me; I fell
into the abyss; I believed him; I agreed to everything. He gave me the
paper which you have read, and the following night I allowed him to come
into my room through the window under which he was in the habit of
conversing with me.

"I consented to be guilty of a crime which I believed would be atoned for
within three days, and he left me, promising that the next night he would
be again under my window, ready to receive me in his arms. Could I
possibly entertain any doubt after the fearful crime I had committed for
him? I prepared a small parcel, and waited for his coming, but in vain.
Oh! what a cruel long night it was! In the morning I heard that the
monster had gone away with his servant one hour after sealing my shame.
You may imagine my despair! I adopted the only plan that despair could
suggest, and that, of course, was not the right one. One hour before
midnight I left my father's roof, alone, thus completing my dishonour,
but resolved on death, if the man who has cruelly robbed me of my most
precious treasure, and whom a natural instinct told me I could find here,
does not restore me the honour which he alone can give me back. I walked
all night and nearly the whole day, without taking any food, until I got
into the barge, which brought me here in twenty-four hours. I travelled
in the boat with five men and two women, but no one saw my face or heard
my voice, I kept constantly sitting down in a corner, holding my head
down, half asleep, and with this prayer-book in my hands. I was left
alone, no one spoke to me, and I thanked God for it. When I landed on the
wharf, you did not give me time to think how I could find out the
dwelling of my perfidious seducer, but you may imagine the impression
produced upon me by the sudden apparition of a masked man who, abruptly,
and as if placed there purposely by Providence, offered me his services;
it seemed to me that you had guessed my distress, and, far from
experiencing any repugnance, I felt that I was acting rightly in trusting
myself in your hands, in spite of all prudence which, perhaps, ought to
have made me turn a deaf ear to your words, and refuse the invitation to
enter alone with you the house to which you took me.

"You know all now, sir; but I entreat you not to judge me too severely; I
have been virtuous all through my life; one month ago I had never
committed a fault which could call a blush upon my face, and the bitter
tears which I shed every day will, I hope, wash out my crime in the eyes
of God. I have been carefully brought up, but love and the want of
experience have thrown me into the abyss. I am in your hands, and I feel
certain that I shall have no cause to repent it."

I needed all she had just told' me to confirm me in the interest which I
had felt in her from the first moment. I told her unsparingly that
Steffani had seduced and abandoned her of malice aforethought, and that
she ought to think of him only to be revenged of his perfidy. My words
made her shudder, and she buried her beautiful face in her hands.

We reached the widow's house. I established her in a pretty, comfortable
room, and ordered some supper for her, desiring the good landlady to skew
her every attention and to let her want for nothing. I then took an
affectionate leave of her, promising to see her early in the morning.

On leaving this interesting but hapless girl, I proceeded to the house of
Steffani. I heard from one of his mother's gondoliers that he had
returned to Venice three days before, but that, twenty-four hours after
his return, he had gone away again without any servant, and nobody knew
his whereabouts, not even his mother. The same evening, happening to be
seated next to an abbe from Bologna at the theatre, I asked him several
questions respecting the family of my unfortunate protegee.

The abbe being intimately acquainted with them, I gathered from him all
the information I required, and, amongst other things, I heard that the
young countess had a brother, then an officer in the papal service.

Very early the next morning I called upon her. She was still asleep. The
widow told me that she had made a pretty good supper, but without
speaking a single word, and that she had locked herself up in her room
immediately afterwards. As soon as she had opened her door, I entered her
room, and, cutting short her apologies for having kept me waiting, I
informed her of all I had heard.

Her features bore the stamp of deep sorrow, but she looked calmer, and
her complexion was no longer pale. She thought it unlikely that Steffani
would have left for any other place but for C----. Admitting the
possibility that she might be right, I immediately offered to go to
C---- myself, and to return without loss of time to fetch her, in case
Steffani should be there. Without giving her time to answer I told her
all the particulars I had learned concerning her honourable family, which
caused her real satisfaction.

"I have no objection," she said, "to your going to C----, and I thank you
for the generosity of your offer, but I beg you will postpone your
journey. I still hope that Steffani will return, and then I can take a
decision."

"I think you are quite right," I said. "Will you allow me to have some
breakfast with you?"

"Do you suppose I could refuse you?"

"I should be very sorry to disturb you in any way. How did you use to
amuse yourself at home?"

"I am very fond of books and music; my harpsichord was my delight."

I left her after breakfast, and in the evening I came back with a basket
full of good books and music, and I sent her an excellent harpsichord. My
kindness confused her, but I surprised her much more when I took out of
my pocket three pairs of slippers. She blushed, and thanked me with great
feeling. She had walked a long distance, her shoes were evidently worn
out, her feet sore, and she appreciated the delicacy of my present. As I
had no improper design with regard to her, I enjoyed her gratitude, and
felt pleased at the idea she evidently entertained of my kind attentions.
I had no other purpose in view but to restore calm to her mind, and to
obliterate the bad opinion which the unworthy Steffani had given her of
men in general. I never thought of inspiring her with love for me, and I
had not the slightest idea that I could fall in love with her. She was
unhappy, and her unhappiness--a sacred thing in my eyes--called all the
more for my most honourable sympathy, because, without knowing me, she
had given me her entire confidence. Situated as she was, I could not
suppose her heart susceptible of harbouring a new affection, and I would
have despised myself if I had tried to seduce her by any means in my
power.

I remained with her only a quarter of an hour, being unwilling that my
presence should trouble her at such a moment, as she seemed to be at a
loss how to thank me and to express all her gratitude.

I was thus engaged in a rather delicate adventure, the end of which I
could not possibly foresee, but my warmth for my protegee did not cool
down, and having no difficulty in procuring the means to keep her I had
no wish to see the last scene of the romance. That singular meeting,
which gave me the useful opportunity of finding myself endowed with
generous dispositions, stronger even than my love for pleasure, flattered
my self-love more than I could express. I was then trying a great
experiment, and conscious that I wanted sadly to study myself, I gave up
all my energies to acquire the great science of the 'xxxxxxxxxxxx'.

On the third day, in the midst of expressions of gratitude which I could
not succeed in stopping she told me that she could not conceive why I
shewed her so much sympathy, because I ought to have formed but a poor
opinion of her in consequence of the readiness with which she had
followed me into the cafe. She smiled when I answered that I could not
understand how I had succeeded in giving her so great a confidence in my
virtue, when I appeared before her with a mask on my face, in a costume
which did not indicate a very virtuous character.

"It was easy for me, madam," I continued, "to guess that you were a
beauty in distress, when I observed your youth, the nobleness of your
countenance, and, more than all, your candour. The stamp of truth was so
well affixed to the first words you uttered that I could not have the
shadow of a doubt left in me as to your being the unhappy victim of the
most natural of all feelings, and as to your having abandoned your home
through a sentiment of honour. Your fault was that of a warm heart
seduced by love, over which reason could have no sway, and your
flight--the action of a soul crying for reparation or for revenge-fully
justifies you. Your cowardly seducer must pay with his life the penalty
due to his crime, and he ought never to receive, by marrying you, an
unjust reward, for he is not worthy of possessing you after degrading
himself by the vilest conduct."

"Everything you say is true. My brother, I hope, will avenge me."

"You are greatly mistaken if you imagine that Steffani will fight your
brother; Steffani is a coward who will never expose himself to an
honourable death."

As I was speaking, she put her hand in her pocket and drew forth, after a
few moments' consideration, a stiletto six inches long, which she placed
on the table.

"What is this?" I exclaimed.

"It is a weapon upon which I reckoned until now to use against myself in
case I should not succeed in obtaining reparation for the crime I have
committed. But you have opened my eyes. Take away, I entreat you, this
stiletto, which henceforth is useless to me. I trust in your friendship,
and I have an inward certainty that I shall be indebted to you for my
honour as well as for my life."

I was struck by the words she had just uttered, and I felt that those
words, as well as her looks, had found their way to my heart, besides
enlisting my generous sympathy. I took the stiletto, and left her with so
much agitation that I had to acknowledge the weakness of my heroism,
which I was very near turning into ridicule; yet I had the wonderful
strength to perform, at least by halves, the character of a Cato until
the seventh day.

I must explain how a certain suspicion of the young lady arose in my
mind. That doubt was heavy on my heart, for, if it had proved true, I
should have been a dupe, and the idea was humiliating. She had told me
that she was a musician; I had immediately sent her a harpsichord, and,
yet, although the instrument had been at her disposal for three days, she
had not opened it once, for the widow had told me so. It seemed to me
that the best way to thank me for my attentive kindness would have been
to give me a specimen of her musical talent. Had she deceived me? If so,
she would lose my esteem. But, unwilling to form a hasty judgment, I kept
on my guard, with a firm determination to make good use of the first
opportunity that might present itself to clear up my doubts.

I called upon her the next day after dinner, which was not my usual time,
having resolved on creating the opportunity myself. I caught her seated
before a toilet-glass, while the widow dressed the most beautiful auburn
hair I had ever seen. I tendered my apologies for my sudden appearance at
an unusual hour; she excused herself for not having completed her toilet,
and the widow went on with her work. It was the first time I had seen the
whole of her face, her neck, and half of her arms, which the graces
themselves had moulded. I remained in silent contemplation. I praised,
quite by chance, the perfume of the pomatum, and the widow took the
opportunity of telling her that she had spent in combs, powder, and
pomatum the three livres she had received from her. I recollected then
that she had told me the first day that she had left C---- with ten
paoli.

I blushed for very shame, for I ought to have thought of that.

As soon as the widow had dressed her hair, she left the room to prepare
some coffee for us. I took up a ring which had been laid by her on the
toilet-table, and I saw that it contained a portrait exactly like her; I
was amused at the singular fancy she had had of having her likeness taken
in a man's costume, with black hair. "You are mistaken," she said, "it is
a portrait of my brother. He is two years older than I, and is an officer
in the papal army."

I begged her permission to put the ring on her finger; she consented, and
when I tried, out of mere gallantry, to kiss her hand, she drew it back,
blushing. I feared she might be offended, and I assured her of my
respect.

"Ah, sir!" she answered, "in the situation in which I am placed, I must
think of defending myself against my own self much more than against
you."

The compliment struck me as so fine, and so complimentary to me, that I
thought it better not to take it up, but she could easily read in my eyes
that she would never find me ungrateful for whatever feelings she might
entertain in my favour. Yet I felt my love taking such proportions that I
did not know how to keep it a mystery any longer.

Soon after that, as she was again thanking me for the books--I had given
her, saying that I had guessed her taste exactly, because she did not
like novels, she added, "I owe you an apology for not having sung to you
yet, knowing that you are fond of music." These words made me breathe
freely; without waiting for any answer, she sat down before the
instrument and played several pieces with a facility, with a precision,
with an expression of which no words could convey any idea. I was in
ecstacy. I entreated her to sing; after some little ceremony, she took
one of the music books I had given her, and she sang at sight in a manner
which fairly ravished me. I begged that she would allow me to kiss her
hand, and she did not say yes, but when I took it and pressed my lips on
it, she did not oppose any resistance; I had the courage to smother my
ardent desires, and the kiss I imprinted on her lovely hand was a mixture
of tenderness, respect, and admiration.

I took leave of her, smitten, full of love, and almost determined on
declaring my passion. Reserve becomes silliness when we know that our
affection is returned by the woman we love, but as yet I was not quite
sure.

The disappearance of Steffani was the talk of Venice, but I did not
inform the charming countess of that circumstance. It was generally
supposed that his mother had refused to pay his debts, and that he had
run away to avoid his creditors. It was very possible. But, whether he
returned or not, I could not make up my mind to lose the precious
treasure I had in my hands. Yet I did not see in what manner, in what
quality, I could enjoy that treasure, and I found myself in a regular
maze. Sometimes I had an idea of consulting my kind father, but I would
soon abandon it with fear, for I had made a trial of his empiric
treatment in the Rinaldi affair, and still more in the case of l'Abbadie.
His remedies frightened me to that extent that I would rather remain ill
than be cured by their means.

One morning I was foolish enough to enquire from the widow whether the
lady had asked her who I was. What an egregious blunder! I saw it when
the good woman, instead of answering me, said,

"Does she not know who you are?"

"Answer me, and do not ask questions," I said, in order to hide my
confusion.

The worthy woman was right; through my stupidity she would now feel
curious; the tittle-tattle of the neighbourhood would of course take up
the affair and discuss it; and all through my thoughtlessness! It was an
unpardonable blunder. One ought never to be more careful than in
addressing questions to half-educated persons. During the fortnight that
she had passed under my protection, the countess had shewn me no
curiosity whatever to know anything about me, but it did not prove that
she was not curious on the subject. If I had been wise, I should have
told her the very first day who I was, but I made up for my mistake that
evening better than anybody else could have done it, and, after having
told her all about myself, I entreated her forgiveness for not having
done so sooner. Thanking me for my confidence, she confessed how curious
she had been to know me better, and she assured me that she would never
have been imprudent enough to ask any questions about me from her
landlady. Women have a more delicate, a surer tact than men, and her last
words were a home-thrust for me.

Our conversation having turned to the extraordinary absence of Steffani,
she said that her father must necessarily believe her to be hiding with
him somewhere. "He must have found out," she added, "that I was in the
habit of conversing with him every night from my window, and he must have
heard of my having embarked for Venice on board the Ferrara barge. I feel
certain that my father is now in Venice, making secretly every effort to
discover me. When he visits this city he always puts up at Boncousin;
will you ascertain whether he is there?"

She never pronounced Steffani's name without disgust and hatred, and she
said she would bury herself in a convent, far away from her native place,
where no one could be acquainted with her shameful history.

I intended to make some enquiries the next day, but it was not necessary
for me to do so, for in the evening, at supper-time, M. Barbaro said to
us,

"A nobleman, a subject of the Pope, has been recommended to me, and
wishes me to assist him with my influence in a rather delicate and
intricate matter. One of our citizens has, it appears, carried off his
daughter, and has been hiding somewhere with her for the last fortnight,
but nobody knows where. The affair ought to be brought before the Council
of Ten, but the mother of the ravisher claims to be a relative of mine,
and I do not intend to interfere."

I pretended to take no interest in M. Barbaro's words, and early the next
morning I went to the young countess to tell her the interesting news.
She was still asleep; but, being in a hurry, I sent the widow to say that
I wanted to see her only for two minutes in order to communicate
something of great importance. She received me, covering herself up to
the chin with the bed-clothes.

As soon as I had informed her of all I knew, she entreated me to enlist
M. Barbaro as a mediator between herself and her father, assuring me that
she would rather die than become the wife of the monster who had
dishonoured her. I undertook to do it, and she gave me the promise of
marriage used by the deceiver to seduce her, so that it could be shewn to
her father.

In order to obtain M. Barbaro's mediation in favour of the young
countess, it would have been necessary to tell him that she was under my
protection, and I felt it would injure my protegee. I took no
determination at first, and most likely one of the reasons for my
hesitation was that I saw myself on the point of losing her, which was
particularly repugnant to my feelings.

After dinner Count A---- S---- was announced as wishing to see M. Barbaro.
He came in with his son, the living portrait of his sister. M. Barbaro
took them to his study to talk the matter over, and within an hour they
had taken leave. As soon as they had gone, the excellent M. Barbaro asked
me, as I had expected, to consult my heavenly spirit, and to ascertain
whether he would be right in interfering in favour of Count A---S---. He
wrote the question himself, and I gave the following answer with the
utmost coolness:

"You ought to interfere, but only to advise the father to forgive his
daughter and to give up all idea of compelling her to marry her ravisher,
for Steffani has been sentenced to death by the will of God."

The answer seemed wonderful to the three friends, and I was myself
surprised at my boldness, but I had a foreboding that Steffani was to
meet his death at the hands of somebody; love might have given birth to
that presentiment. M. de Bragadin, who believed my oracle infallible,
observed that it had never given such a clear answer, and that Steffani
was certainly dead. He said to M. de Barbaro,

"You had better invite the count and his son to dinner hereto-morrow. You
must act slowly and prudently; it would be necessary to know where the
daughter is before you endeavour to make the father forgive her."

M. Barbaro very nearly made me drop my serious countenance by telling me
that if I would try my oracle I could let them know at once where the
girl was. I answered that I would certainly ask my spirit on the morrow,
thus gaining time in order to ascertain before hand the disposition of
the father and of his son. But I could not help laughing, for I had
placed myself under the necessity of sending Steffani to the next world,
if the reputation of my oracle was to be maintained.

I spent the evening with the young countess, who entertained no doubt
either of her father's indulgence or of the entire confidence she could
repose in me.

What delight the charming girl experienced when she heard that I would
dine the next day with her father and brother, and that I would tell her
every word that would be said about her! But what happiness it was for me
to see her convinced that she was right in loving me, and that, without
me, she would certainly have been lost in a town where the policy of the
government tolerates debauchery as a solitary species of individual
freedom. We congratulated each other upon our fortuitous meeting and upon
the conformity in our tastes, which we thought truly wonderful. We were
greatly pleased that her easy acceptance of my invitation, or my
promptness in persuading her to follow and to trust me, could not be
ascribed to the mutual attraction of our features, for I was masked, and
her hood was then as good as a mask. We entertained no doubt that
everything had been arranged by Heaven to get us acquainted, and to fire
us both, even unknown to ourselves, with love for each other.

"Confess," I said to her, in a moment of enthusiasm, and as I was
covering her hand with kisses, "confess that if you found me to be in
love with you you would fear me."

"Alas! my only fear is to lose you."

That confession, the truth of which was made evident by her voice and by
her looks, proved the electric spark which ignited the latent fire.
Folding her rapidly in my arms, pressing my mouth on her lips, reading in
her beautiful eyes neither a proud indignation nor the cold compliance
which might have been the result of a fear of losing me, I gave way
entirely to the sweet inclination of love, and swimming already in a sea
of delights I felt my enjoyment increased a hundredfold when I saw, on
the countenance of the beloved creature who shared it, the expression of
happiness, of love, of modesty, and of sensibility, which enhances the
charm of the greatest triumph.

She had scarcely recovered her composure when she cast her eyes down and
sighed deeply. Thinking that I knew the cause of it, I threw myself on my
knees before her, and speaking to her words of the warmest affection I
begged, I entreated her, to forgive me.

"What offence have I to forgive you for, dear friend? You have not
rightly interpreted my thoughts. Your love caused me to think of my
happiness, and in that moment a cruel recollection drew that sigh from
me. Pray rise from your knees."

Midnight had struck already; I told her that her good fame made it
necessary for me to go away; I put my mask on and left the house. I was
so surprised, so amazed at having obtained a felicity of which I did not
think myself worthy, that my departure must have appeared rather abrupt
to her. I could not sleep. I passed one of those disturbed nights during
which the imagination of an amorous young man is unceasingly running
after the shadows of reality. I had tasted, but not savoured, that happy
reality, and all my being was longing for her who alone could make my
enjoyment complete. In that nocturnal drama love and imagination were the
two principal actors; hope, in the background, performed only a dumb
part. People may say what they please on that subject but hope is in fact
nothing but a deceitful flatterer accepted by reason only because it is
often in need of palliatives. Happy are those men who, to enjoy life to
the fullest extent, require neither hope nor foresight.

In the morning, recollecting the sentence of death which I had passed on
Steffani, I felt somewhat embarrassed about it. I wished I could have
recalled it, as well for the honour of my oracle, which was seriously
implicated by it, as for the sake of Steffani himself, whom I did not
hate half so much since I was indebted to him for the treasure in my
possession.

The count and his son came to dinner. The father was simple, artless, and
unceremonious. It was easy to read on his countenance the grief he felt
at the unpleasant adventure of his daughter, and his anxiety to settle
the affair honourably, but no anger could be traced on his features or in
his manners. The son, as handsome as the god of love, had wit and great
nobility of manner. His easy, unaffected carriage pleased me, and wishing
to win his friendship I shewed him every attention.

After the dessert, M. Barbaro contrived to persuade the count that we
were four persons with but one head and one heart, and the worthy
nobleman spoke to us without any reserve. He praised his daughter very
highly. He assured us that Steffani had never entered his house, and
therefore he could not conceive by what spell, speaking to his daughter
only at night and from the street under the window, he had succeeded in
seducing her to such an extent as to make her leave her home alone, on
foot, two days after he had left himself in his post-chaise.

"Then," observed M. Barbaro, "it is impossible to be certain that he
actually seduced her, or to prove that she went off with him."

"Very true, sir, but although it cannot be proved, there is no doubt of
it, and now that no one knows where Steffani is, he can be nowhere but
with her. I only want him to marry her."

"It strikes me that it would be better not to insist upon a compulsory
marriage which would seal your daughter's misery, for Steffani is, in
every respect, one of the most worthless young men we have amongst our
government clerks."

"Were I in your place," said M. de Bragadin, "I would let my daughter's
repentance disarm my anger, and I would forgive her."

"Where is she? I am ready to fold her in my arms, but how can I believe
in her repentance when it is evident that she is still with him."

"Is it quite certain that in leaving C---- she proceeded to this city?"

"I have it from the master of the barge himself, and she landed within
twenty yards of the Roman gate. An individual wearing a mask was waiting
for her, joined her at once, and they both disappeared without leaving
any trace of their whereabouts."

"Very likely it was Steffani waiting there for her."

"No, for he is short, and the man with the mask was tall. Besides, I have
heard that Steffani had left Venice two days before the arrival of my
daughter. The man must have been some friend of Steffani, and he has
taken her to him."

"But, my dear count, all this is mere supposition."

"There are four persons who have seen the man with the mask, and pretend
to know him, only they do not agree. Here is a list of four names, and I
will accuse these four persons before the Council of Ten, if Steffani
should deny having my daughter in his possession."

The list, which he handed to M. Barbaro, gave not only the names of the
four accused persons, but likewise those of their accusers. The last
name, which M. Barbaro read, was mine. When I heard it, I shrugged my
shoulders in a manner which caused the three friends to laugh heartily.

M. de Bragadin, seeing the surprise of the count at such uncalled-for
mirth, said to him,

"This is Casanova my son, and I give you my word of honour that, if your
daughter is in his hands, she is perfectly safe, although he may not look
exactly the sort of man to whom young girls should be trusted."

The surprise, the amazement, and the perplexity of the count and his son
were an amusing picture. The loving father begged me to excuse him, with
tears in his eyes, telling me to place myself in his position. My only
answer was to embrace him most affectionately.

The man who had recognized me was a noted pimp whom I had thrashed some
time before for having deceived me. If I had not been there just in time
to take care of the young countess, she would not have escaped him, and
he would have ruined her for ever by taking her to some house of
ill-fame.

The result of the meeting was that the count agreed to postpone his
application to the Council of Ten until Steffani's place of refuge should
be discovered.

"I have not seen Steffani for six months, sir," I said to the count, "but
I promise you to kill him in a duel as soon as he returns."

"You shall not do it," answered the young count, very coolly, "unless he
kills me first."

"Gentlemen," exclaimed M. de Bragadin, "I can assure you that you will
neither of you fight a duel with him, for Steffani is dead."

"Dead!" said the count.

"We must not," observed the prudent Barbaro, "take that word in its
literal sense, but the wretched man is dead to all honour and
self-respect."

After that truly dramatic scene, during which I could guess that the
denouement of the play was near at hand, I went to my charming countess,
taking care to change my gondola three times--a necessary precaution to
baffle spies.

I gave my anxious mistress an exact account of all the conversation. She
was very impatient for my coming, and wept tears of joy when I repeated
her father's words of forgiveness; but when I told her that nobody knew
of Steffani having entered her chamber, she fell on her knees and thanked
God. I then repeated her brother's words, imitating his coolness: "You
shall not kill him, unless he kills me first." She kissed me tenderly,
calling me her guardian angel, her saviour, and weeping in my arms. I
promised to bring her brother on the following day, or the day after that
at the latest. We had our supper, but we did not talk of Steffani, or of
revenge, and after that pleasant meal we devoted two hours to the worship
of the god of love.

I left her at midnight, promising to return early in the morning--my
reason for not remaining all night with her was that the landlady might,
if necessary, swear without scruple that I had never spent a night with
the young girl. It proved a very lucky inspiration of mine, for, when I
arrived home, I found the three friends waiting impatiently for me in
order to impart to me wonderful news which M. de Bragadin had heard at
the sitting of the senate.

"Steffani," said M. de Bragadin to me, "is dead, as our angel Paralis
revealed it to us; he is dead to the world, for he has become a Capuchin
friar. The senate, as a matter of course, has been informed of it. We
alone are aware that it is a punishment which God has visited upon him.
Let us worship the Author of all things, and the heavenly hierarchy which
renders us worthy of knowing what remains a mystery to all men. Now we
must achieve our undertaking, and console the poor father. We must
enquire from Paralis where the girl is. She cannot now be with Steffani.
Of course, God has not condemned her to become a Capuchin nun."

"I need not consult my angel, dearest father, for it is by his express
orders that I have been compelled until now to make a mystery of the
refuge found by the young countess."

I related the whole story, except what they had no business to know, for,
in the opinion of the worthy men, who had paid heavy tribute to Love, all
intrigues were fearful crimes. M. Dandolo and M. Barbaro expressed their
surprise when they heard that the young girl had been under my protection
for a fortnight, but M. de Bragadin said that he was not astonished, that
it was according to cabalistic science, and that he knew it.

"We must only," he added, "keep up the mystery of his daughter's place of
refuge for the count, until we know for a certainty that he will forgive
her, and that he will take her with him to C----, or to any other place
where he may wish to live hereafter."

"He cannot refuse to forgive her," I said, "when he finds that the
amiable girl would never have left C---- if her seducer had not given her
this promise of marriage in his own handwriting. She walked as far as the
barge, and she landed at the very moment I was passing the Roman gate. An
inspiration from above told me to accost her and to invite her to follow
me. She obeyed, as if she was fulfilling the decree of Heaven, I took her
to a refuge impossible to discover, and placed her under the care of a
God-fearing woman."

My three friends listened to me so attentively that they looked like
three statues. I advised them to invite the count to dinner for the day
after next, because I needed some time to consult 'Paralis de modo
tenendi'. I then told M. Barbaro to let the count know in what sense he
was to understand Steffani's death. He undertook to do it, and we retired
to rest.

I slept only four or five hours, and, dressing myself quickly, hurried to
my beloved mistress. I told the widow not to serve the coffee until we
called for it, because we wanted to remain quiet and undisturbed for some
hours, having several important letters to write.

I found the lovely countess in bed, but awake, and her eyes beaming with
happiness and contentment. For a fortnight I had only seen her sad,
melancholy, and thoughtful. Her pleased countenance, which I naturally
ascribed to my influence, filled me with joy. We commenced as all happy
lovers always do, and we were both unsparing of the mutual proofs of our
love, tenderness, and gratitude.

After our delightful amorous sport, I told her the news, but love had so
completely taken possession of her pure and sensitive soul, that what had
been important was now only an accessory. But the news of her seducer
having turned a Capuchin friar filled her with amazement, and, passing
very sensible remarks on the extraordinary event, she pitied Steffani.
When we can feel pity, we love no longer, but a feeling of pity
succeeding love is the characteristic only of a great and generous mind.
She was much pleased with me for having informed my three friends of her
being under my protection, and she left to my care all the necessary
arrangements for obtaining a reconciliation with her father.

Now and then we recollected that the time of our separation was near at
hand, our grief was bitter, but we contrived to forget it in the ecstacy
of our amorous enjoyment.

"Ah! why can we not belong for ever to each other?" the charming girl
would exclaim. "It is not my acquaintance with Steffani, it is your loss
which will seal my eternal misery."

But it was necessary to bring our delightful interview to a close, for
the hours were flying with fearful rapidity. I left her happy, her eyes
wet with tears of intense felicity.

At the dinner-table M. Barbaro told me that he had paid a visit to his
relative, Steffani's mother, and that she had not appeared sorry at the
decision taken by her son, although he was her only child.

"He had the choice," she said, "between killing himself and turning
friar, and he took the wiser course."

The woman spoke like a good Christian, and she professed to be one; but
she spoke like an unfeeling mother, and she was truly one, for she was
wealthy, and if she had not been cruelly avaricious her son would not
have been reduced to the fearful alternative of committing suicide or of
becoming a Capuchin friar.

The last and most serious motive which caused the despair of Steffani,
who is still alive, remained a mystery for everybody. My Memoirs will
raise the veil when no one will care anything about it.

The count and his son were, of course, greatly surprised, and the event
made them still more desirous of discovering the young lady. In order to
obtain a clue to her place of refuge, the count had resolved on summoning
before the Council of Ten all the parties, accused and accusing, whose
names he had on his list, with the exception of myself. His determination
made it necessary for us to inform him that his daughter was in my hands,
and M. de Bragadin undertook to let him know the truth.

We were all invited to supper by the count, and we went to his hostelry,
with the exception of M. de Bragadin, who had declined the invitation. I
was thus prevented from seeing my divinity that evening, but early the
next morning I made up for lost time, and as it had been decided that her
father would on that very day be informed of her being under my care, we
remained together until noon. We had no hope of contriving another
meeting, for I had promised to bring her brother in the afternoon.

The count and his son dined with us, and after dinner M. de Bragadin
said,

"I have joyful news for you, count; your beloved daughter has been
found!"

What an agreeable surprise for the father and son! M. de Bragadin handed
them the promise of marriage written by Steffani, and said,

"This, gentlemen, evidently brought your lovely young lady to the verge
of madness when she found that he had gone from C---- without her. She
left your house alone on foot, and as she landed in Venice Providence
threw her in the way of this young man, who induced her to follow him,
and has placed her under the care of an honest woman, whom she has not
left since, whom she will leave only to fall in your arms as soon as she
is certain of your forgiveness for the folly she has committed."

"Oh! let her have no doubt of my forgiving her," exclaimed the father, in
the ecstacy of joy, and turning to me, "Dear sir, I beg of you not to
delay the fortunate moment on which the whole happiness of my life
depends."

I embraced him warmly, saying that his daughter would be restored to him
on the following day, and that I would let his son see her that very
afternoon, so as to give him an opportunity of preparing her by degrees
for that happy reconciliation. M. Barbaro desired to accompany us, and
the young man, approving all my arrangements, embraced me, swearing
everlasting friendship and gratitude.

We went out all three together, and a gondola carried us in a few minutes
to the place where I was guarding a treasure more precious than the
golden apples of the Hesperides. But, alas! I was on the point of losing
that treasure, the remembrance of which causes me, even now, a delicious
trembling.

I preceded my two companions in order to prepare my lovely young friend
for the visit, and when I told her that, according to my arrangements,
her father would not see her till on the following day:

"Ah!" she exclaimed with the accent of true happiness, "then we can spend
a few more hours together! Go, dearest, go and bring my brother."

I returned with my companions, but how can I paint that truly dramatic
situation? Oh! how inferior art must ever be to nature! The fraternal
love, the delight beaming upon those two beautiful faces, with a slight
shade of confusion on that of the sister, the pure joy shining in the
midst of their tender caresses, the most eloquent exclamations followed
by a still more eloquent silence, their loving looks which seem like
flashes of lightning in the midst of a dew of tears, a thought of
politeness which brings blushes on her countenance, when she recollects
that she has forgotten her duty towards a nobleman whom she sees for the
first time, and finally there was my part, not a speaking one, but yet
the most important of all. The whole formed a living picture to which the
most skilful painter could not have rendered full justice.

We sat down at last, the young countess between her brother and M.
Barbaro, on the sofa, I, opposite to her, on a low foot-stool.

"To whom, dear sister, are we indebted for the happiness of having found
you again?"

"To my guardian angel," she answered, giving me her hand, "to this
generous man who was waiting for me, as if Heaven had sent him with the
special mission of watching over your sister; it is he who has saved me,
who has prevented me from falling into the gulf which yawned under my
feet, who has rescued me from the shame threatening me, of which I had
then no conception; it is to him I am indebted for all, to him who, as
you see, kisses my hand now for the first time."

And she pressed her handkerchief to her beautiful eyes to dry her tears,
but ours were flowing at the same time.

Such is true virtue, which never loses its nobleness, even when modesty
compels it to utter some innocent falsehood. But the charming girl had no
idea of being guilty of an untruth. It was a pure, virtuous soul which
was then speaking through her lips, and she allowed it to speak. Her
virtue seemed to whisper to her that, in spite of her errors, it had
never deserted her. A young girl who gives way to a real feeling of love
cannot be guilty of a crime, or be exposed to remorse.

Towards the end of our friendly visit, she said that she longed to throw
herself at her father's feet, but that she wished to see him only in the
evening, so as not to give any opportunity to the gossips of the place,
and it was agreed that the meeting, which was to be the last scene of the
drama, should take place the next day towards the evening.

We returned to the count's hostelry for supper, and the excellent man,
fully persuaded that he was indebted to me for his honour as well as for
his daughter's, looked at me with admiration, and spoke to me with
gratitude. Yet he was not sorry to have ascertained himself, and before I
had said so, that I had been the first man who had spoken to her after
landing. Before parting in the evening, M. Barbaro invited them to dinner
for the next day.

I went to my charming mistress very early the following morning, and,
although there was some danger in protracting our interview, we did not
give it a thought, or, if we did, it only caused us to make good use of
the short time that we could still devote to love.

After having enjoyed, until our strength was almost expiring, the most
delightful, the most intense voluptuousness in which mutual ardour can
enfold two young, vigorous, and passionate lovers, the young countess
dressed herself, and, kissing her slippers, said she would never part
with them as long as she lived. I asked her to give me a lock of her
hair, which she did at once. I meant to have it made into a chain like
the one woven with the hair of Madame F----, which I still wore round my
neck.

Towards dusk, the count and his son, M. Dandolo, M. Barbaro, and myself,
proceeded together to the abode of the young countess. The moment she saw
her father, she threw herself on her knees before him, but the count,
bursting into tears, took her in his arms, covered her with kisses, and
breathed over her words of forgiveness, of love and blessing. What a
scene for a man of sensibility! An hour later we escorted the family to
the inn, and, after wishing them a pleasant journey, I went back with my
two friends to M. de Bragadin, to whom I gave a faithful account of what
had taken place.

We thought that they had left Venice, but the next morning they called at
the place in a peotta with six rowers. The count said that they could not
leave the city without seeing us once more; without thanking us again,
and me particularly, for all we had done for them. M. de Bragadin, who
had not seen the young countess before, was struck by her extraordinary
likeness to her brother.

They partook of some refreshments, and embarked in their peotta, which
was to carry them, in twenty-four hours, to Ponte di Lago Oscuro, on the
River Po, near the frontiers of the papal states. It was only with my
eyes that I could express to the lovely girl all the feelings which
filled my heart, but she understood the language, and I had no difficulty
in interpreting the meaning of her looks.

Never did an introduction occur in better season than that of the count
to M. Barbaro. It saved the honour of a respectable family; and it saved
me from the unpleasant consequences of an interrogatory in the presence
of the Council of Ten, during which I should have been convicted of
having taken the young girl with me, and compelled to say what I had done
with her.

A few days afterwards we all proceeded to Padua to remain in that city
until the end of autumn. I was grieved not to find Doctor Gozzi in Padua;
he had been appointed to a benefice in the country, and he was living
there with Bettina; she had not been able to remain with the scoundrel
who had married her only for the sake of her small dowry, and had treated
her very ill.

I did not like the quiet life of Padua, and to avoid dying from ennui I
fell in love with a celebrated Venetian courtesan. Her name was Ancilla;
sometime after, the well-known dancer, Campioni, married her and took her
to London, where she caused the death of a very worthy Englishman. I
shall have to mention her again in four years; now I have only to speak
of a certain circumstance which brought my love adventure with her to a
close after three or four weeks.

Count Medini, a young, thoughtless fellow like myself, and with
inclinations of much the same cast, had introduced me to Ancilla. The
count was a confirmed gambler and a thorough enemy of fortune. There was
a good deal of gambling going on at Ancilla's, whose favourite lover he
was, and the fellow had presented me to his mistress only to give her the
opportunity of making a dupe of me at the card-table.

And, to tell the truth, I was a dupe at first; not thinking of any foul
play, I accepted ill luck without complaining; but one day I caught them
cheating. I took a pistol out of my pocket, and, aiming at Medini's
breast, I threatened to kill him on the spot unless he refunded at once
all the gold they had won from me. Ancilla fainted away, and the count,
after refunding the money, challenged me to follow him out and measure
swords. I placed my pistols on the table, and we went out. Reaching a
convenient spot, we fought by the bright light of the moon, and I was
fortunate enough to give him a gash across the shoulder. He could not
move his arm, and he had to cry for mercy.

After that meeting, I went to bed and slept quietly, but in the morning I
related the whole affair to my father, and he advised me to leave Padua
immediately, which I did.

Count Medini remained my enemy through all his life. I shall have
occasion to speak of him again when I reach Naples.

The remainder of the year 1746 passed off quietly, without any events of
importance. Fortune was now favourable to me and now adverse.

Towards the end of January, 1747, I received a letter from the young
countess A---- S----, who had married the Marquis of----. She entreated me
not to appear to know her, if by chance I visited the town in which she
resided, for she had the happiness of having linked her destiny to that
of a man who had won her heart after he had obtained her hand.

I had already heard from her brother that, after their return to C----,
her mother had taken her to the city from which her letter was written,
and there, in the house of a relative with whom she was residing, she had
made the acquaintance of the man who had taken upon himself the charge of
her future welfare and happiness. I saw her one year afterwards, and if
it had not been for her letter, I should certainly have solicited an
introduction to her husband. Yet, peace of mind has greater charms even
than love; but, when love is in the way, we do not think so.

For a fortnight I was the lover of a young Venetian girl, very handsome,
whom her father, a certain Ramon, exposed to public admiration as a
dancer at the theatre. I might have remained longer her captive, if
marriage had not forcibly broken my chains. Her protectress, Madame
Cecilia Valmarano, found her a very proper husband in the person of a
French dancer, called Binet, who had assumed the name of Binetti, and
thus his young wife had not to become a French woman; she soon won great
fame in more ways than one. She was strangely privileged; time with its
heavy hand seemed to have no power over her. She always appeared young,
even in the eyes of the best judges of faded, bygone female beauty. Men,
as a general rule, do not ask for anything more, and they are right in
not racking their brain for the sake of being convinced that they are the
dupes of external appearance. The last lover that the wonderful Binetti
killed by excess of amorous enjoyment was a certain Mosciuski, a Pole,
whom fate brought to Venice seven or eight years ago; she had then
reached her sixty-third year!

My life in Venice would have been pleasant and happy, if I could have
abstained from punting at basset. The ridotti were only open to noblemen
who had to appear without masks, in their patrician robes, and wearing
the immense wig which had become indispensable since the beginning of the
century. I would play, and I was wrong, for I had neither prudence enough
to leave off when fortune was adverse, nor sufficient control over myself
to stop when I had won. I was then gambling through a feeling of avarice.
I was extravagant by taste, and I always regretted the money I had spent,
unless it had been won at the gaming-table, for it was only in that case
that the money had, in my opinion, cost me nothing.

At the end of January, finding myself under the necessity of procuring
two hundred sequins, Madame Manzoni contrived to obtain for me from
another woman the loan of a diamond ring worth five hundred. I made up my
mind to go to Treviso, fifteen miles distant from Venice, to pawn the
ring at the Mont-de-piete, which there lends money upon valuables at the
rate of five per cent. That useful establishment does not exist in
Venice, where the Jews have always managed to keep the monopoly in their
hands.

I got up early one morning, and walked to the end of the canale regio,
intending to engage a gondola to take me as far as Mestra, where I could
take post horses, reach Treviso in less than two hours, pledge my diamond
ring, and return to Venice the same evening.

As I passed along St. Job's Quay, I saw in a two-oared gondola a country
girl beautifully dressed. I stopped to look at her; the gondoliers,
supposing that I wanted an opportunity of reaching Mestra at a cheap
rate, rowed back to the shore.

Observing the lovely face of the young girl, I do not hesitate, but jump
into the gondola, and pay double fare, on condition that no more
passengers are taken. An elderly priest was seated near the young girl,
he rises to let me take his place, but I politely insist upon his keeping
it.



CHAPTER XIX

I Fall in Love with Christine, and Find a Husband Worthy of
Her--Christine's Wedding

"Those gondoliers," said the elderly priest, ad dressing me in order to
begin the conversation, "are very fortunate. They took us up at the
Rialto for thirty soldi, on condition that they would be allowed to
embark other passengers, and here is one already; they will certainly
find more."

"When I am in a gondola, reverend sir, there is no room left for any more
passengers."

So saying, I give forty more soldi to the gondoliers, who, highly pleased
with my generosity, thank me and call me excellency. The good priest,
accepting that title as truly belonging to me, entreats my pardon for not
having addressed me as such.

"I am not a Venetian nobleman, reverend sir, and I have no right to the
title of Excellenza."

"Ah!" says the young lady, "I am very glad of it."

"Why so, signora?"

"Because when I find myself near a nobleman I am afraid. But I suppose
that you are an illustrissimo."

"Not even that, signora; I am only an advocate's clerk."

"So much the better, for I like to be in the company of persons who do
not think themselves above me. My father was a farmer, brother of my
uncle here, rector of P----, where I was born and bred. As I am an only
daughter I inherited my father's property after his death, and I shall
likewise be heiress to my mother, who has been ill a long time and cannot
live much longer, which causes me a great deal of sorrow; but it is the
doctor who says it. Now, to return to my subject, I do not suppose that
there is much difference between an advocate's clerk and the daughter of
a rich farmer. I only say so for the sake of saying something, for I know
very well that, in travelling, one must accept all sorts of companions:
is it not so, uncle?"

"Yes, my dear Christine, and as a proof you see that this gentleman has
accepted our company without knowing who or what we are."

"But do you think I would have come if I had not been attracted by the
beauty of your lovely niece?"

At these words the good people burst out laughing. As I did not think
that there was anything very comic in what I had said, I judged that my
travelling companions were rather simple, and I was not sorry to find
them so.

"Why do you laugh so heartily, beautiful 'demigella'? Is it to shew me
your fine teeth? I confess that I have never seen such a splendid set in
Venice."

"Oh! it is not for that, sir, although everyone in Venice has paid me the
same compliment. I can assure you that in P---- all the 'girls have teeth
as fine as mine. Is it not a fact, uncle?"

"Yes, my dear niece."

"I was laughing, sir, at a thing which I will never tell you."

"Oh! tell me, I entreat you."

"Oh! certainly not, never."

"I will tell you myself," says the curate.

"You will not," she exclaims, knitting her beautiful eyebrows. "If you do
I will go away."

"I defy you to do it, my dear. Do you know what she said, sir, when she
saw you on the wharf? 'Here is a very handsome young man who is looking
at me, and would not be sorry to be with us.' And when she saw that the
gondoliers were putting back for you to embark she was delighted."

While the uncle was speaking to me, the indignant niece was slapping him
on the shoulder.

"Why are you angry, lovely Christine, at my hearing that you liked my
appearance, when I am so glad to let you know how truly charming I think
you?"

"You are glad for a moment. Oh! I know the Venetians thoroughly now. They
have all told me that they were charmed with me, and not one of those I
would have liked ever made a declaration to me."

"What sort of declaration did you want?"

"There's only one sort for me, sir; the declaration leading to a good
marriage in church, in the sight of all men. Yet we remained a fortnight
in Venice; did we not, uncle?"

"This girl," said the uncle, "is a good match, for she possesses three
thousand crowns. She has always said that she would marry only a
Venetian, and I have accompanied her to Venice to give her an opportunity
of being known. A worthy woman gave us hospitality for a fortnight, and
has presented my niece in several houses where she made the acquaintance
of marriageable young men, but those who pleased her would not hear of
marriage, and those who would have been glad to marry her did not take
her fancy."

"But do you imagine, reverend sir, that marriages can be made like
omelets? A fortnight in Venice, that is nothing; you ought to live there
at least six months. Now, for instance, I think your niece sweetly
pretty, and I should consider myself fortunate if the wife whom God
intends for me were like her, but, even if she offered me now a dowry of
fifty thousand crowns on condition that our wedding takes place
immediately, I would refuse her. A prudent young man wants to know the
character of a girl before he marries her, for it is neither money nor
beauty which can ensure happiness in married life."

"What do you mean by character?" asked Christine; "is it a beautiful
hand-writing?"

"No, my dear. I mean the qualities of the mind and the heart. I shall
most likely get married sometime, and I have been looking for a wife for
the last three years, but I am still looking in vain. I have known
several young girls almost as lovely as you are, and all with a good
marriage portion, but after an acquaintance of two or three months I
found out that they could not make me happy."

"In what were they deficient?"

"Well, I will tell you, because you are not acquainted with them, and
there can be no indiscretion on my part. One whom I certainly would have
married, for I loved her dearly, was extremely vain. She would have
ruined me in fashionable clothes and by her love for luxuries. Fancy! she
was in the habit of paying one sequin every month to the hair-dresser,
and as much at least for pomatum and perfumes."

"She was a giddy, foolish girl. Now, I spend only ten soldi in one year
on wax which I mix with goat's grease, and there I have an excellent
pomatum."

"Another, whom I would have married two years ago, laboured under a
disease which would have made me unhappy; as soon as I knew of it, I
ceased my visits."

"What disease was it?"

"A disease which would have prevented her from being a mother, and, if I
get married, I wish to have children."

"All that is in God's hands, but I know that my health is excellent. Is
it not, uncle?"

"Another was too devout, and that does not suit me. She was so
over-scrupulous that she was in the habit of going to her confessor twice
a week, and every time her confession lasted at least one hour. I want my
wife to be a good Christian, but not bigoted."

"She must have been a great sinner, or else she was very foolish. I
confess only once a month, and get through everything in two minutes. Is
it not true, uncle? and if you were to ask me any questions, uncle, I
should not know what more to say."

"One young lady thought herself more learned than I, although she would,
every minute, utter some absurdity. Another was always low-spirited, and
my wife must be cheerful."

"Hark to that, uncle! You and my mother are always chiding me for my
cheerfulness."

"Another, whom I did not court long, was always afraid of being alone
with me, and if I gave her a kiss she would run and tell her mother."

"How silly she must have been! I have never yet listened to a lover, for
we have only rude peasants in P----, but I know very well that there are
some things which I would not tell my mother."

"One had a rank breath; another painted her face, and, indeed, almost
every young girl is guilty of that fault. I am afraid marriage is out of
the question for me, because I want, for instance, my wife to have black
eyes, and in our days almost every woman colours them by art; but I
cannot be deceived, for I am a good judge."

"Are mine black?"

"You are laughing?"

"I laugh because your eyes certainly appear to be black, but they are not
so in reality. Never mind, you are very charming in spite of that."

"Now, that is amusing. You pretend to be a good judge, yet you say that
my eyes are dyed black. My eyes, sir, whether beautiful or ugly, are now
the same as God made them. Is it not so, uncle?"

"I never had any doubt of it, my dear niece."

"And you do not believe me, sir?"

"No, they are too beautiful for me to believe them natural."

"Oh, dear me! I cannot bear it."

"Excuse me, my lovely damigella, I am afraid I have been too sincere."

After that quarrel we remained silent. The good curate smiled now and
then, but his niece found it very hard to keep down her sorrow.

At intervals I stole a look at her face, and could see that she was very
near crying. I felt sorry, for she was a charming girl. In her hair,
dressed in the fashion of wealthy countrywomen, she had more than one
hundred sequins' worth of gold pins and arrows which fastened the plaits
of her long locks as dark as ebony. Heavy gold ear-rings, and a long
chain, which was wound twenty times round her snowy neck, made a fine
contrast to her complexion, on which the lilies and the roses were
admirably blended. It was the first time that I had seen a country beauty
in such splendid apparel. Six years before, Lucie at Pasean had
captivated me, but in a different manner.

Christine did not utter a single word, she was in despair, for her eyes
were truly of the greatest beauty, and I was cruel enough to attack them.
She evidently hated me, and her anger alone kept back her tears. Yet I
would not undeceive her, for I wanted her to bring matters to a climax.

When the gondola had entered the long canal of Marghera, I asked the
clergyman whether he had a carriage to go to Treviso, through which place
he had to pass to reach P----.

"I intended to walk," said the worthy man, "for my parish is poor and I
am the same, but I will try to obtain a place for Christine in some
carriage travelling that way."

"You would confer a real kindness on me if you would both accept a seat
in my chaise; it holds four persons, and there is plenty of room."

"It is a good fortune which we were far from expecting"

"Not at all, uncle; I will not go with this gentleman."

"Why not, my dear niece?"

"Because I will not."

"Such is the way," I remarked, without looking at her, "that sincerity is
generally rewarded."

"Sincerity, sir! nothing of the sort," she exclaimed, angrily, "it is
sheer wickedness. There can be no true black eyes now for you in the
world, but, as you like them, I am very glad of it."

"You are mistaken, lovely Christine, for I have the means of ascertaining
the truth."

"What means?"

"Only to wash the eyes with a little lukewarm rose-water; or if the lady
cries, the artificial colour is certain to be washed off."

At those words, the scene changed as if by the wand of a conjuror. The
face of the charming girl, which had expressed nothing but indignation,
spite and disdain, took an air of contentment and of placidity delightful
to witness. She smiled at her uncle who was much pleased with the change
in her countenance, for the offer of the carriage had gone to his heart.

"Now you had better cry a little, my dear niece, and 'il signore' will
render full justice to your eyes."

Christine cried in reality, but it was immoderate laughter that made her
tears flow.

That species of natural originality pleased me greatly, and as we were
going up the steps at the landing-place, I offered her my full apologies;
she accepted the carriage. I ordered breakfast, and told a 'vetturino' to
get a very handsome chaise ready while we had our meal, but the curate
said that he must first of all go and say his mass.

"Very well, reverend sir, we will hear it, and you must say it for my
intention."

I put a silver ducat in his hand.

"It is what I am in the habit of giving," I observed.

My generosity surprised him so much that he wanted to kiss my hand. We
proceeded towards the church, and I offered my arm to the niece who, not
knowing whether she ought to accept it or not, said to me,

"Do you suppose that I cannot walk alone?"

"I have no such idea, but if I do not give you my arm, people will think
me wanting in politeness."

"Well, I will take it. But now that I have your arm, what will people
think?"

"Perhaps that we love each other and that we make a very nice couple."

"And if anyone should inform your mistress that we are in love with each
other, or even that you have given your arm to a young girl?"

"I have no mistress, and I shall have none in future, because I could not
find a girl as pretty as you in all Venice."

"I am very sorry for you, for we cannot go again to Venice; and even if
we could, how could we remain there six months? You said that six months
were necessary to know a girl well."

"I would willingly defray all your expenses."

"Indeed? Then say so to my uncle, and he will think it over, for I could
not go alone."

"In six months you would know me likewise."

"Oh! I know-you very well already."

"Could you accept a man like me?"

"Why not?"

"And will you love me?"

"Yes, very much, when you are my husband."

I looked at the young girl with astonishment. She seemed to me a princess
in the disguise of a peasant girl. Her dress, made of 'gros de Tours' and
all embroidered in gold, was very handsome, and cost certainly twice as
much as the finest dress of a Venetian lady. Her bracelets, matching the
neckchain, completed her rich toilet. She had the figure of a nymph, and
the new fashion of wearing a mantle not having yet reached her village, I
could see the most magnificent bosom, although her dress was fastened up
to the neck. The end of the richly-embroidered skirt did not go lower
than the ankles, which allowed me to admire the neatest little foot and
the lower part of an exquisitely moulded leg. Her firm and easy walk, the
natural freedom of all her movements, a charming look which seemed to
say, "I am very glad that you think me pretty," everything, in short,
caused the ardent fire of amorous desires to circulate through my veins.
I could not conceive how such a lovely girl could have spent a fortnight
in Venice without finding a man to marry or to deceive her. I was
particularly delighted with her simple, artless way of talking, which in
the city might have been taken for silliness.

Absorbed in my thoughts, and having resolved in my own mind on rendering
brilliant homage to her charms, I waited impatiently for the end of the
mass.

After breakfast I had great difficulty in convincing the curate that my
seat in the carriage was the last one, but I found it easier to persuade
him on our arrival in Treviso to remain for dinner and for supper at a
small, unfrequented inn, as I took all the expense upon myself. He
accepted very willingly when I added that immediately after supper a
carriage would be in readiness to convey him to P----, where he would
arrive in an hour after a peasant journey by moonlight. He had nothing to
hurry him on, except his wish to say mass in his own church the next
morning.

I ordered a fire and a good dinner, and the idea struck me that the
curate himself might pledge the ring for me, and thus give me the
opportunity of a short interview with his niece. I proposed it to him,
saying that I could not very well go myself, as I did not wish to be
known. He undertook the commission at once, expressing his pleasure at
doing something to oblige me.

He left us, and I remained alone with Christine. I spent an hour with her
without trying to give her even a kiss, although I was dying to do so,
but I prepared her heart to burn with the same desires which were already
burning in me by those words which so easily inflame the imagination of a
young 'girl.

The curate came back and returned me the ring, saying that it could not
be pledged until the day after the morrow, in consequence of the Festival
of the Holy Virgin. He had spoken to the cashier, who had stated that if
I liked the bank would lend double the sum I had asked.

"My dear sir," I said, "you would greatly oblige me if you would come
back here from P---- to pledge the ring yourself. Now that it has been
offered once by you, it might look very strange if it were brought by
another person. Of course I will pay all your expenses."

"I promise you to come back."

I hoped he would bring his niece with him.

I was seated opposite to Christine during the dinner, and discovered
fresh charms in her every minute, but, fearing I might lose her
confidence if I tried to obtain some slight favour, I made up my mind not
to go to work too quickly, and to contrive that the curate should take
her again to Venice. I thought that there only I could manage to bring
love into play and to give it the food it requires.

"Reverend sir," I said, "let me advise you to take your niece again to
Venice. I undertake to defray all expenses, and to find an honest woman
with whom your Christine will be as safe as with her own mother. I want
to know her well in order to make her my wife, and if she comes to Venice
our marriage is certain."

"Sir, I will bring my niece myself to Venice as soon as you inform me
that you have found a worthy woman with whom I can leave her in safety."

While we were talking I kept looking at Christine, and I could see her
smile with contentment.

"My dear Christine," I said, "within a week I shall have arranged the
affair. In the meantime, I will write to you. I hope that you have no
objection to correspond with me."

"My uncle will write for me, for I have never been taught writing."

"What, my dear child! you wish to become the wife of a Venetian, and you
cannot write."

"Is it then necessary to know how to write in order to become a wife? I
can read well."

"That is not enough, and although a girl can be a wife and a mother
without knowing how to trace one letter, it is generally admitted that a
young girl ought to be able to write. I wonder you never learned."

"There is no wonder in that, for not one girl in our village can do it.
Ask my uncle."

"It is perfectly true, but there is not one who thinks of getting married
in Venice, and as you wish for a Venetian husband you must learn."

"Certainly," I said, "and before you come to Venice, for everybody would
laugh at you, if you could not write. I see that it makes you sad, my
dear, but it cannot be helped."

"I am sad, because I cannot learn writing in a week."

"I undertake," said her uncle, "to teach you in a fortnight, if you will
only practice diligently. You will then know enough to be able to improve
by your own exertions."

"It is a great undertaking, but I accept it; I promise you to work night
and day, and to begin to-morrow."

After dinner, I advised the priest not to leave that evening, to rest
during the night, and I observed that, by going away before day-break, he
would reach P---- in good time, and feel all the better for it. I made the
same proposal to him in the evening, and when he saw that his niece was
sleepy, he was easily persuaded to remain. I called for the innkeeper,
ordered a carriage for the clergyman, and desired that a fire might be
lit for me in the next room where I would sleep, but the good priest said
that it was unnecessary, because there were two large beds in our room,
that one would be for me and the other for him and his niece.

"We need not undress," he added, "as we mean to leave very early, but you
can take off your clothes, sir, because you are not going with us, and
you will like to remain in bed to-morrow morning."

"Oh!" remarked Christine, "I must undress myself, otherwise I could not
sleep, but I only want a few minutes to get ready in the morning."

I said nothing, but I was amazed. Christine then, lovely and charming
enough to wreck the chastity of a Xenocrates, would sleep naked with her
uncle! True, he was old, devout, and without any of the ideas which might
render such a position dangerous, yet the priest was a man, he had
evidently felt like all men, and he ought to have known the danger he was
exposing himself to. My carnal-mindedness could not realize such a state
of innocence. But it was truly innocent, so much so that he did it
openly, and did not suppose that anyone could see anything wrong in it. I
saw it all plainly, but I was not accustomed to such things, and felt
lost in wonderment. As I advanced in age and in experience, I have seen
the same custom established in many countries amongst honest people whose
good morals were in no way debased by it, but it was amongst good people,
and I do not pretend to belong to that worthy class.

We had had no meat for dinner, and my delicate palate was not
over-satisfied. I went down to the kitchen myself, and I told the
landlady that I wanted the best that could be procured in Treviso for
supper, particularly in wines.

"If you do not mind the expense, sir, trust to me, and I undertake to
please you. I will give you some Gatta wine."

"All right, but let us have supper early."

When I returned to our room, I found Christine caressing the cheeks of
her old uncle, who was laughing; the good man was seventy-five years old.

"Do you know what is the matter?" he said to me; "my niece is caressing
me because she wants me to leave her here until my return. She tells me
that you were like brother and sister during the hour you have spent
alone together this morning, and I believe it, but she does not consider
that she would be a great trouble to you."

"Not at all, quite the reverse, she will afford me great pleasure, for I
think her very charming. As to our mutual behaviour, I believe you can
trust us both to do our duty."

"I have no doubt of it. Well, I will leave her under your care until the
day after to-morrow. I will come back early in the morning so as to
attend to your business."

This extraordinary and unexpected arrangement caused the blood to rush to
my head with such violence that my nose bled profusely for a quarter of
an hour. It did not frighten me, because I was used to such accidents,
but the good priest was in a great fright, thinking that it was a serious
haemorrhage.

When I had allayed his anxiety, he left us on some business of his own,
saying that he would return at night-fall. I remained alone with the
charming, artless Christine, and lost no time in thanking her for the
confidence she placed in me.

"I can assure you," she said, "that I wish you to have a thorough
knowledge of me; you will see that I have none of the faults which have
displeased you so much in the young ladies you have known in Venice, and
I promise to learn writing immediately."

"You are charming and true; but you must be discreet in P----, and
confide to no one that we have entered into an agreement with each other.
You must act according to your uncle's instructions, for it is to him
that I intend to write to make all arrangements."

"You may rely upon my discretion. I will not say anything even to my
mother, until you give me permission to do so."

I passed the afternoon, in denying myself even the slightest liberties
with my lovely companion, but falling every minute deeper in love with
her. I told her a few love stories which I veiled sufficiently not to
shock her modesty. She felt interested, and I could see that, although
she did not always understand, she pretended to do so, in order not to
appear ignorant.

When her uncle returned, I had arranged everything in my mind to make her
my wife, and I resolved on placing her, during her stay in Venice, in the
house of the same honest widow with whom I had found a lodging for my
beautiful Countess A---- S----.

We had a delicious supper. I had to teach Christine how to eat oysters
and truffles, which she then saw for the first time. Gatta wine is like
champagne, it causes merriment without intoxicating, but it cannot be
kept for more than one year. We went to bed before midnight, and it was
broad daylight when I awoke. The curate had left the room so quietly that
I had not heard him.

I looked towards the other bed, Christine was asleep. I wished her good
morning, she opened her eyes, and leaning on her elbow, she smiled
sweetly.

"My uncle has gone. I did not hear him."

"Dearest Christine, you are as lovely as one of God's angels. I have a
great longing to give you a kiss."

"If you long for a kiss, my dear friend, come and give me one."

I jump out of my bed, decency makes her hide her face. It was cold, and I
was in love. I find myself in her arms by one of those spontaneous
movements which sentiment alone can cause, and we belong to each other
without having thought of it, she happy and rather confused, I delighted,
yet unable to realize the truth of a victory won without any contest.

An hour passed in the midst of happiness, during which we forgot the
whole world. Calm followed the stormy gusts of passionate love, and we
gazed at each other without speaking.

Christine was the first to break the silence

"What have we done?" she said, softly and lovingly.

"We have become husband and wife."

"What will my uncle say to-morrow?"

"He need not know anything about it until he gives us the nuptial
benediction in his own church."

"And when will he do so?"

"As soon as we have completed all the arrangements necessary for a
public marriage."

"How long will that be?"

"About a month."

"We cannot be married during Lent."

"I will obtain permission."

"You are not deceiving me?"

"No, for I adore you."

"Then, you no longer want to know me better?"

"No; I know you thoroughly now, and I feel certain that you will make me
happy."

"And will you make me happy, too?"

"I hope so."

"Let us get up and go to church. Who could have believed that, to get a
husband, it was necessary not to go to Venice, but to come back from that
city!"

We got up, and, after partaking of some breakfast, we went to hear mass.
The morning passed off quickly, but towards dinner-time I thought that
Christine looked different to what she did the day before, and I asked
her the reason of that change.

"It must be," she said, "the same reason which causes you to be
thoughtful."

"An air of thoughtfulness, my dear, is proper to love when it finds
itself in consultation with honour. This affair has become serious, and
love is now compelled to think and consider. We want to be married in the
church, and we cannot do it before Lent, now that we are in the last days
of carnival; yet we cannot wait until Easter, it would be too long. We
must therefore obtain a dispensation in order to be married. Have I not
reason to be thoughtful?"

Her only answer was to come and kiss me tenderly. I had spoken the truth,
yet I had not told her all my reasons for being so pensive. I found
myself drawn into an engagement which was not disagreeable to me, but I
wished it had not been so very pressing. I could not conceal from myself
that repentance was beginning to creep into my amorous and well-disposed
mind, and I was grieved at it. I felt certain, however, that the charming
girl would never have any cause to reproach me for her misery.

We had the whole evening before us, and as she had told me that she had
never gone to a theatre, I resolved on affording her that pleasure. I
sent for a Jew from whom I procured everything necessary to disguise her,
and we went to the theatre. A man in love enjoys no pleasure but that
which he gives to the woman he loves. After the performance was over, I
took her to the Casino, and her astonishment made me laugh when she saw
for the first time a faro bank. I had not money enough to play myself,
but I had more than enough to amuse her and to let her play a reasonable
game. I gave her ten sequins, and explained what she had to do. She did
not even know the cards, yet in less than an hour she had won one hundred
sequins. I made her leave off playing, and we returned to the inn. When
we were in our room, I told her to see how much money she had, and when I
assured her that all that gold belonged to her, she thought it was a
dream.

"Oh! what will my uncle say?" she exclaimed.

We had a light supper, and spent a delightful night, taking good care to
part by day-break, so as not to be caught in the same bed by the worthy
ecclesiastic. He arrived early and found us sleeping soundly in our
respective beds. He woke me, and I gave him the ring which he went to
pledge immediately. When he returned two hours later, he saw us dressed
and talking quietly near the fire. As soon as he came in, Christine
rushed to embrace him, and she shewed him all the gold she had in her
possession. What a pleasant surprise for the good old priest! He did not
know how to express his wonder! He thanked God for what he called a
miracle, and he concluded by saying that we were made to insure each
other's happiness.

The time to part had come. I promised to pay them a visit in the first
days of Lent, but on condition that on my arrival in P---- I would not
find anyone informed of my name or of my concerns. The curate gave me the
certificate of birth of his niece and the account of her possessions. As
soon as they had gone I took my departure for Venice, full of love for
the charming girl, and determined on keeping my engagement with her. I
knew how easy it would be for me to convince my three friends that my
marriage had been irrevocably written in the great book of fate.

My return caused the greatest joy to the three excellent men, because,
not being accustomed to see me three days absent, M. Dandolo and M.
Barbaro were afraid of some accident having befallen me; but M. de
Bragadin's faith was stronger, and he allayed their fears, saying to them
that, with Paralis watching over me, I could not be in any danger.

The very next day I resolved on insuring Christine's happiness without
making her my wife. I had thought of marrying her when I loved her better
than myself, but after obtaining possession the balance was so much on my
side that my self-love proved stronger than my love for Christine. I
could not make up my mind to renounce the advantages, the hopes which I
thought were attached to my happy independence. Yet I was the slave of
sentiment. To abandon the artless, innocent girl seemed to me an awful
crime of which I could not be guilty, and the mere idea of it made me
shudder. I was aware that she was, perhaps, bearing in her womb a living
token of our mutual love, and I shivered at the bare possibility that her
confidence in me might be repaid by shame and everlasting misery.

I bethought myself of finding her a husband in every way better than
myself; a husband so good that she would not only forgive me for the
insult I should thus be guilty of towards her, but also thank me at the
end, and like me all the better for my deceit.

To find such a husband could not be very difficult, for Christine was not
only blessed with wonderful beauty, and with a well-established
reputation for virtue, but she was also the possessor of a fortune
amounting to four thousand Venetian ducats.

Shut up in a room with the three worshippers of my oracle, I consulted
Paralis upon the affair which I had so much at heart. The answer was:

"Serenus must attend to it."

Serenus was the cabalistic name of M. de Bragadin, and the excellent man
immediately expressed himself ready to execute all the orders of Paralis.
It was my duty to inform him of those orders.

"You must," I said to him, "obtain from the Holy Father a dispensation
for a worthy and virtuous girl, so as to give her the privilege of
marrying during Lent in the church of her village; she is a young country
girl. Here is her certificate of birth. The husband is not yet known; but
it does not matter, Paralis undertakes to find one."

"Trust to me," said my father, "I will write at once to our ambassador in
Rome, and I will contrive to have my letter sent by special express. You
need not be anxious, leave it all to me, I will make it a business of
state, and I must obey Paralis all the more readily that I foresee that
the intended husband is one of us four. Indeed, we must prepare ourselves
to obey."

I had some trouble in keeping my laughter down, for it was in my power to
metamorphose Christine into a grand Venetian lady, the wife of a senator;
but that was not my intention. I again consulted the oracle in order to
ascertain who would be the husband of the young girl, and the answer was
that M. Dandolo was entrusted with the care of finding one, young,
handsome, virtuous, and able to serve the Republic, either at home or
abroad. M. Dandolo was to consult me before concluding any arrangements.
I gave him courage for his task by informing him that the girl had a
dowry of four thousand ducats, but I added that his choice was to be made
within a fortnight. M. de Bragadin, delighted at not being entrusted with
the commission, laughed heartily.

Those arrangements made me feel at peace with myself. I was certain that
the husband I wanted would be found, and I only thought of finishing the
carnival gaily, and of contriving to find my purse ready for a case of
emergency.

Fortune soon rendered me possessor of a thousand sequins. I paid my
debts, and the licence for the marriage having arrived from Rome ten days
after M. de Bragadin had applied for it, I gave him one hundred ducats,
that being the sum it had cost. The dispensation gave Christine the right
of being married in any church in Christendom, she would only have to
obtain the seal of the episcopal court of the diocese in which the
marriage was to take place, and no publication of banns was required. We
wanted, therefore, but one thing--a trifling one, namely, the husband. M.
Dandolo had already proposed three or four to me, but I had refused them
for excellent reasons. At last he offered one who suited me exactly.

I had to take the diamond ring out of pledge, and not wishing to do it
myself, I wrote to the priest making an appointment in Treviso. I was
not, of course, surprised when I found that he was accompanied by his
lovely niece, who, thinking that I had come to complete all arrangements
for our marriage, embraced me without ceremony, and I did the same. If
the uncle had not been present, I am afraid that those kisses would have
caused all my heroism to vanish. I gave the curate the dispensation, and
the handsome features of Christine shone with joy. She certainly could
not imagine that I had been working so actively for others, and, as I was
not yet certain of anything, I did not undeceive her then. I promised to
be in P---- within eight or ten days, when we would complete all necessary
arrangements. After dinner, I gave the curate the ticket for the ring and
the money to take it out of pledge, and we retired to rest. This time,
very fortunately, there was but one bed in the room, and I had to take
another chamber for myself.

The next morning, I went into Christine's room, and found her in bed. Her
uncle had gone out for my diamond ring, and alone with that lovely girl,
I found that I had, when necessary, complete control over my passions.
Thinking that she was not to be my wife, and that she would belong to
another, I considered it my duty to silence my desires. I kissed her, but
nothing more.

I spent one hour with her, fighting like Saint Anthony against the carnal
desires of my nature. I could see the charming girl full of love and of
wonder at my reserve, and I admired her virtue in the natural modesty
which prevented her from making the first advances. She got out of bed
and dressed herself without shewing any disappointment. She would, of
course, have felt mortified if she had had the slightest idea that I
despised her, or that I did not value her charms.

Her uncle returned, gave me the ring, and we had dinner, after which he
treated me to a wonderful exhibition. Christine had learned how to write,
and, to give me a proof of her talent, she wrote very fluently and very
prettily in my presence.

We parted, after my promising to come back again within ten days, and I
returned to Venice.

On the second Sunday in Lent, M. Dandolo told me with an air of triumph
that the fortunate husband had been found, and that there was no doubt of
my approval of the new candidate. He named Charles---- whom I knew by
sight--very handsome young man, of irreproachable conduct, and about
twenty-two years of age. He was clerk to M. Ragionato and god-son of
Count Algarotti, a sister of whom had married M. Dandolo's brother.

"Charles," said M. Dandolo to me, "has lost his father and his mother,
and I feel satisfied that his godfather will guarantee the dowry brought
by his wife. I have spoken to him, and I believe him disposed to marry an
honest girl whose dowry would enable him to purchase M. Ragionato's
office."

"It seems to promise very well, but I cannot decide until I have seen
him."

"I have invited him to dine with us to-morrow."

The young man came, and I found him worthy of all M. Dandolo's praise. We
became friends at once; he had some taste for poetry, I read some of my
productions to him, and having paid him a visit the following day, he
shewed me several pieces of his own composition which were well written.
He introduced me to his aunt, in whose house he lived with his sister,
and I was much pleased with their friendly welcome. Being alone with him
in his room, I asked him what he thought of love.

"I do not care for love," he answered: "but I should like to get married
in order to have a house of my own."

When I returned to the palace, I told M. Dandolo that he might open the
affair with Count Algarotti, and the count mentioned it to Charles, who
said that he could not give any answer, either one way or the other,
until he should have seen the young girl, talked with her, and enquired
about her reputation. As for Count Algarotti, he was ready to be
answerable for his god-son, that is to guarantee four thousand ducats to
the wife, provided her dowry was worth that amount. Those were only the
preliminaries; the rest belonged to my province.

Dandolo having informed Charles that the matter was entirely in my hands,
he called on me and enquired when I would be kind enough to introduce him
to the young person. I named the day, adding that it was necessary to
devote a whole day to the visit, as she resided at a distance of twenty
miles from Venice, that we would dine with her and return the same
evening. He promised to be ready for me by day-break. I immediately sent
an express to the curate to inform him of the day on which I would call
with a friend of mine whom I wished to introduce to his niece.

On the appointed day, Charles was punctual. I took care to let him know
along the road that I had made the acquaintance of the young girl and of
her uncle as travelling companions from Venice to Mestra about one month
before, and that I would have offered myself as a husband, if I had been
in a position to guarantee the dowry of four thousand ducats. I did not
think it necessary to go any further in my confidences.

We arrived at the good priest's house two hours before mid-day, and soon
after our arrival, Christine came in with an air of great ease,
expressing all her pleasure at seeing me. She only bowed to Charles,
enquiring from me whether he was likewise a clerk.

Charles answered that he was clerk at Ragionato.

She pretended to understand, in order not to appear ignorant.

"I want you to look at my writing," she said to me, "and afterwards we
will go and see my mother."

Delighted at the praise bestowed upon her writing by Charles, when he
heard that she had learned only one month, she invited us to follow her.
Charles asked her why she had waited until the age of nineteen to study
writing.

"Well, sir, what does it matter to you? Besides, I must tell you that I
am seventeen, and not nineteen years of age."

Charles entreated her to excuse him, smiling at the quickness of her
answer.

She was dressed like a simple country girl, yet very neatly, and she wore
her handsome gold chains round her neck and on her arms. I told her to
take my arm and that of Charles, which she did, casting towards me a look
of loving obedience. We went to her mother's house; the good woman was
compelled to keep her bed owing to sciatica. As we entered the room, a
respectable-looking man, who was seated near the patient, rose at the
sight of Charles, and embraced him affectionately. I heard that he was
the family physician, and the circumstance pleased me much.

After we had paid our compliments to the good woman, the doctor enquired
after Charles's aunt and sister; and alluding to the sister who was
suffering from a secret disease, Charles desired to say a few words to
him in private; they left the room together. Being alone with the mother
and Christine, I praised Charles, his excellent conduct, his high
character, his business abilities, and extolled the happiness of the
woman who would be his wife. They both confirmed my praises by saying
that everything I said of him could be read on his features. I had no
time to lose, so I told Christine to be on her guard during dinner, as
Charles might possibly be the husband whom God had intended for her.

"For me?"

"Yes, for you. Charles is one of a thousand; you would be much happier
with him than you could be with me; the doctor knows him, and you could
ascertain from him everything which I cannot find time to tell you now
about my friend."

The reader can imagine all I suffered in making this declaration, and my
surprise when I saw the young girl calm and perfectly composed! Her
composure dried the tears already gathering in my eyes. After a short
silence, she asked me whether I was certain that such a handsome young
man would have her. That question gave me an insight into Christine's
heart and feelings, and quieted all my sorrow, for I saw that I had not
known her well. I answered that, beautiful as she was, there was no doubt
of her being loved by everybody.

"It will be at dinner, my dear Christine, that my friend will examine and
study you; do not fail to shew all the charms and qualities with which
God has endowed you, but do not let him suspect our intimacy."

"It is all very strange. Is my uncle informed of this wonderful change?"

"No."

"If your friend should feel pleased with me, when would he marry me?"

"Within ten days. I will take care of everything, and you will see me
again in the course of the week:"

Charles came back with the doctor, and Christine, leaving her mother's
bedside, took a chair opposite to us. She answered very sensibly all the
questions addressed to her by Charles, often exciting his mirth by her
artlessness, but not shewing any silliness.

Oh! charming simplicity! offspring of wit and of ignorance! thy charm is
delightful, and thou alone hast the privilege of saying anything without
ever giving offence! But how unpleasant thou art when thou art not
natural! and thou art the masterpiece of art when thou art imitated with
perfection!

We dined rather late, and I took care not to speak to Christine, not even
to look at her, so as not to engross her attention, which she devoted
entirely to Charles, and I was delighted to see with what ease and
interest she kept up the conversation. After dinner, and as we were
taking leave, I heard the following words uttered by Charles, which went
to my very heart:

"You are made, lovely Christine, to minister to the happiness of a
prince."

And Christine? This was her answer:

"I should esteem myself fortunate, sir, if you should judge me worthy of
ministering to yours."

These words excited Charles so much that he embraced me!

Christine was simple, but her artlessness did not come from her mind,
only from her heart. The simplicity of mind is nothing but silliness,
that of the heart is only ignorance and innocence; it is a quality which
subsists even when the cause has ceased to be. This young girl, almost a
child of nature, was simple in her manners, but graceful in a thousand
trifling ways which cannot be described. She was sincere, because she did
not know that to conceal some of our impressions is one of the precepts
of propriety, and as her intentions were pure, she was a stranger to that
false shame and mock modesty which cause pretended innocence to blush at
a word, or at a movement said or made very often without any wicked
purpose.

During our journey back to Venice Charles spoke of nothing but of his
happiness. He had decidedly fallen in love.

"I will call to-morrow morning upon Count Algarotti," he said to me, "and
you may write to the priest to come with all the necessary documents to
make the contract of marriage which I long to sign."

His delight and his surprise were intense when I told him that my wedding
present to Christine was a dispensation from the Pope for her to be
married in Lent.

"Then," he exclaimed, "we must go full speed ahead!"

In the conference which was held the next day between my young
substitute, his god-father, and M. Dandolo, it was decided that the
parson should be invited to come with his niece. I undertook to carry the
message, and leaving Venice two hours before morning I reached
P---- early. The priest said he would be ready to start immediately after
mass. I then called on Christine, and I treated her to a fatherly and
sentimental sermon, every word of which was intended to point out to her
the true road to happiness in the new condition which she was on the
point of adopting. I told her how she ought to behave towards her
husband, towards his aunt and his sister, in order to captivate their
esteem and their love. The last part of my discourse was pathetic and
rather disparaging to myself, for, as I enforced upon her the necessity
of being faithful to her husband, I was necessarily led to entreat her
pardon for having seduced her. "When you promised to marry me, after we
had both been weak enough to give way to our love, did you intend to
deceive me?"

"Certainly not."

"Then you have not deceived me. On the contrary, I owe you some gratitude
for having thought that, if our union should prove unhappy, it was better
to find another husband for me, and I thank God that you have succeeded
so well. Tell me, now, what I can answer to your friend in case he should
ask me, during the first night, why I am so different to what a virgin
ought to be?"

"It is not likely that Charles, who is full of reserve and propriety,
would ask you such a thing, but if he should, tell him positively that
you never had a lover, and that you do not suppose yourself to be
different to any other girl."

"Will he believe me?"

"He would deserve your contempt, and entail punishment on himself if he
did not. But dismiss all anxiety; that will not occur. A sensible man, my
dear Christine, when he has been rightly brought up, never ventures upon
such a question, because he is not only certain to displease, but also
sure that he will never know the truth, for if the truth is likely to
injure a woman in the opinion of her husband, she would be very foolish,
indeed, to confess it."

"I understand your meaning perfectly, my dear friend; let us, then,
embrace each other for the last time."

"No, for we are alone and I am very weak. I adore thee as much as ever."

"Do not cry, dear friend, for, truly speaking, I have no wish for it."

That simple and candid answer changed my disposition suddenly, and,
instead of crying, I began to laugh. Christine dressed herself
splendidly, and after breakfast we left P----. We reached Venice in four
hours. I lodged them at a good inn, and going to the palace, I told M.
Dandolo that our people had arrived, that it would be his province to
bring them and Charles together on the following day, and to attend to
the matter altogether, because the honour of the future husband and wife,
the respect due to their parents and to propriety, forbade any further
interference on my part.

He understood my reasons, and acted accordingly. He brought Charles to
me, I presented both of them to the curate and his niece, and then left
them to complete their business.

I heard afterwards from M. Dandolo that they all called upon Count
Algarotti, and at the office of a notary, where the contract of marriage
was signed, and that, after fixing a day for the wedding, Charles had
escorted his intended back to P----.

On his return, Charles paid me a visit. He told me that Christine had won
by her beauty and pleasing manners the affection of his aunt, of his
sister, and of his god-father, and that they had taken upon themselves
all the expense of the wedding.

"We intend to be married," he added, "on such a day at P----, and I trust
that you will crown your work of kindness by being present at the
ceremony."

I tried to excuse myself, but he insisted with such a feeling of
gratitude, and with so much earnestness, that I was compelled to accept.
I listened with real pleasure to the account he gave me of the impression
produced upon all his family and upon Count Algarotti by the beauty, the
artlessness, the rich toilet, and especially by the simple talk of the
lovely country girl.

"I am deeply in love with her," Charles said to me, "and I feel that it
is to you that I shall be indebted for the happiness I am sure to enjoy
with my charming wife. She will soon get rid of her country way of
talking in Venice, because here envy and slander will but too easily shew
her the absurdity of it."

His enthusiasm and happiness delighted me, and I congratulated myself
upon my own work. Yet I felt inwardly some jealousy, and I could not help
envying a lot which I might have kept for myself.

M. Daridolo and M. Barbaro having been also invited by Charles, I went
with them to P----. We found the dinner-table laid out in the rector's
house by the servants of Count Algarotti, who was acting as Charles's
father, and having taken upon himself all the expense of the wedding, had
sent his cook and his major-domo to P----.

When I saw Christine, the tears filled my eyes, and I had to leave the
room. She was dressed as a country girl, but looked as lovely as a nymph.
Her husband, her uncle, and Count Algarotti had vainly tried to make her
adopt the Venetian costume, but she had very wisely refused.

"As soon as I am your wife," she had said to Charles, "I will dress as
you please, but here I will not appear before my young companions in any
other costume than the one in which they have always seen me. I shall
thus avoid being laughed at, and accused of pride, by the girls among
whom I have been brought up."

There was in these words something so noble, so just, and so generous,
that Charles thought his sweetheart a supernatural being. He told me that
he had enquired, from the woman with whom Christine had spent a
fortnight, about the offers of marriage she had refused at that time, and
that he had been much surprised, for two of those offers were excellent
ones.

"Christine," he added, "was evidently destined by Heaven for my
happiness, and to you I am indebted for the precious possession of that
treasure."

His gratitude pleased me, and I must render myself the justice of saying
that I entertained no thought of abusing it. I felt happy in the
happiness I had thus given.

We repaired to the church towards eleven o'clock, and were very much
astonished at the difficulty we experienced in getting in. A large number
of the nobility of Treviso, curious to ascertain whether it was true that
the marriage ceremony of a country girl would be publicly performed
during Lent when, by waiting only one month, a dispensation would have
been useless, had come to P----. Everyone wondered at the permission
having been obtained from the Pope, everyone imagined that there was some
extraordinary reason for it, and was in despair because it was impossible
to guess that reason. In spite of all feelings of envy, every face beamed
with pleasure and satisfaction when the young couple made their
appearance, and no one could deny that they deserved that extraordinary
distinction, that exception to all established rules.

A certain Countess of Tos,... from Treviso, Christine's god-mother, went
up to her after the ceremony, and embraced her most tenderly, complaining
that the happy event had not been communicated to her in Treviso.
Christine, in her artless way, answered with as much modesty as
sweetness, that the countess ought to forgive her if she had failed in
her duty towards her, on account of the marriage having been decided on
so hastily. She presented her husband, and begged Count Algarotti to
atone for her error towards her god-mother by inviting her to join the
wedding repast, an invitation which the countess accepted with great
pleasure. That behaviour, which is usually the result of a good education
and a long experience of society, was in the lovely peasant-girl due only
to a candid and well-balanced mind which shone all the more because it
was all nature and not art.

As they returned from the church, Charles and Christine knelt down before
the young wife's mother, who gave them her blessing with tears of joy.

Dinner was served, and, of course, Christine and her happy spouse took
the seats of honour. Mine was the last, and I was very glad of it, but
although everything was delicious, I ate very little, and scarcely opened
my lips.

Christine was constantly busy, saying pretty things to every one of her
guests, and looking at her husband to make sure that he was pleased with
her.

Once or twice she addressed his aunt and sister in such a gracious manner
that they could not help leaving their places and kissing her tenderly,
congratulating Charles upon his good fortune. I was seated not very far
from Count Algarotti, and I heard him say several times to Christine's
god-mother that he had never felt so delighted in his life.

When four o'clock struck, Charles whispered a few words to his lovely
wife, she bowed to her god-mother, and everybody rose from the table.
After the usual compliments--and in this case they bore the stamp of
sincerity--the bride distributed among all the girls of the village, who
were in the adjoining room, packets full of sugar-plums which had been
prepared before hand, and she took leave of them, kissing them all
without any pride. Count Algarotti invited all the guests to sleep at a
house he had in Treviso, and to partake there of the dinner usually given
the day after the wedding. The uncle alone excused himself, and the
mother could not come, owing to her disease which prevented her from
moving. The good woman died three months after Christine's marriage.

Christine therefore left her village to follow her husband, and for the
remainder of their lives they lived together in mutual happiness.

Count Algarotti, Christine's god-mother and my two noble friends, went
away together. The bride and bridegroom had, of course, a carriage to
themselves, and I kept the aunt and the sister of Charles company in
another. I could not help envying the happy man somewhat, although in my
inmost heart I felt pleased with his happiness.

The sister was not without merit. She was a young widow of twenty-five,
and still deserved the homage of men, but I gave the preference to the
aunt, who told me that her new niece was a treasure, a jewel which was
worthy of everybody's admiration, but that she would not let her go into
society until she could speak the Venetian dialect well.

"Her cheerful spirits," she added, "her artless simplicity, her natural
wit, are like her beauty, they must be dressed in the Venetian fashion.
We are highly pleased with my nephew's choice, and he has incurred
everlasting obligations towards you. I hope that for the future you will
consider our house as your own."

The invitation was polite, perhaps it was sincere, yet I did not avail
myself of it, and they were glad of it. At the end of one year Christine
presented her husband with a living token of their mutual love, and that
circumstance increased their conjugal felicity.

We all found comfortable quarters in the count's house in Treviso, where,
after partaking of some refreshments, the guests retired to rest.

The next morning I was with Count Algarotti and my two friends when
Charles came in, handsome, bright, and radiant. While he was answering
with much wit some jokes of the count, I kept looking at him with some
anxiety, but he came up to me and embraced me warmly. I confess that a
kiss never made me happier.

People wonder at the devout scoundrels who call upon their saint when
they think themselves in need of heavenly assistance, or who thank him
when they imagine that they have obtained some favour from him, but
people are wrong, for it is a good and right feeling, which preaches
against Atheism.

At the invitation of Charles, his aunt and his sister had gone to pay a
morning visit to the young wife, and they returned with her. Happiness
never shone on a more lovely face!

M. Algarotti, going towards her, enquired from her affectionately whether
she had had a good night. Her only answer was to rush to her husband's
arms. It was the most artless, and at the same time the most eloquent,
answer she could possible give. Then turning her beautiful eyes towards
me, and offering me her hand, she said,

"M. Casanova, I am happy, and I love to be indebted to you for my
happiness."

The tears which were flowing from my eyes, as I kissed her hand, told her
better than words how truly happy I was myself.

The dinner passed off delightfully. We then left for Mestra and Venice.
We escorted the married couple to their house, and returned home to amuse
M. Bragadin with the relation of our expedition. This worthy and
particularly learned man said a thousand things about the marriage, some
of great profundity and others of great absurdity.

I laughed inwardly. I was the only one who had the key to the mystery,
and could realize the secret of the comedy.





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