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Title: Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 08: Convent Affairs
Author: Casanova, Giacomo, 1725-1798
Language: English
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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.

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MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798

TO PARIS AND PRISON, Volume 2c--Convent Affairs

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



CONVENT AFFAIRS



CHAPTER XVI

Countess Coronini--A Lover's Pique--Reconciliation--The First Meeting--A
Philosophical Parenthesis

My beautiful nun had not spoken to me, and I was glad of it, for I was so
astonished, so completely under the spell of her beauty, that I might
have given her a very poor opinion of my intelligence by the rambling
answers which I should very likely have given to her questions. I knew
her to be certain that she had not to fear the humiliation of a refusal
from me, but I admired her courage in running the risk of it in her
position. I could hardly understand her boldness, and I could not
conceive how she contrived to enjoy so much liberty. A casino at Muran!
the possibility of going to Venice to sup with a young man! It was all
very surprising, and I decided in my own mind that she had an
acknowledged lover whose pleasure it was to make her happy by satisfying
her caprices. It is true that such a thought was rather unpleasant to my
pride, but there was too much piquancy in the adventure, the heroine of
it was too attractive, for me to be stopped by any considerations. I saw
very well that I was taking the high road to become unfaithful to my dear
C---- C----, or rather that I was already so in thought and will, but I
must confess that, in spite of all my love for that charming child, I
felt no qualms of conscience. It seemed to me that an infidelity of that
sort, if she ever heard of it, would not displease her, for that short
excursion on strange ground would only keep me alive and in good
condition for her, because it would save me from the weariness which was
surely killing me.

I had been presented to the celebrated Countess Coronini by a nun, a
relative of M. Dandolo. That countess, who had been very handsome and was
very witty, having made up her mind to renounce the political intrigues
which had been the study of her whole life, had sought a retreat in the
Convent of St. Justine, in the hope of finding in that refuge the calm
which she wanted, and which her disgust of society had rendered necessary
to her. As she had enjoyed a very great reputation, she was still visited
at the convent by all the foreign ambassadors and by the first noblemen
of Venice; inside of the walls of her convent the countess was acquainted
with everything that happened in the city. She always received me very
kindly, and, treating me as a young man, she took pleasure in giving me,
every time I called on her, very agreeable lessons in morals. Being quite
certain to find out from her, with a little manoeuvering, something
concerning M---- M----, I decided on paying her a visit the day after I
had seen the beautiful nun.

The countess gave me her usual welcome, and, after the thousand nothings
which it is the custom to utter in society before anything worth saying
is spoken, I led the conversation up to the convents of Venice. We spoke
of the wit and influence of a nun called Celsi, who, although ugly, had
an immense credit everywhere and in everything. We mentioned afterwards
the young and lovely Sister Michali, who had taken the veil to prove to
her mother that she was superior to her in intelligence and wit. After
speaking of several other nuns who had the reputation of being addicted
to gallantry, I named M---- M----, remarking that most likely she deserved
that reputation likewise, but that she was an enigma. The countess
answered with a smile that she was not an enigma for everybody, although
she was necessarily so for most people.

"What is incomprehensible," she said, "is the caprice that she took
suddenly to become a nun, being handsome, rich, free, well-educated, full
of wit, and, to my knowledge, a Free-thinker. She took the veil without
any reason, physical or moral; it was a mere caprice."

"Do you believe her to be happy, madam?"

"Yes, unless she has repented her decision, or if she does not repent it
some day. But if ever she does, I think she will be wise enough never to
say so to anyone."

Satisfied by the mysterious air of the countess that M---- M---- had a
lover, I made up my mind not to trouble myself about it, and having put
on my mask I went to Muran in the afternoon. When I reached the gate of
the convent I rang the bell, and with an anxious heart I asked for
M---- M---- in the name of Madame de S----. The small parlour being closed,
the attendant pointed out to me the one in which I had to go. I went in,
took off my mask, and sat down waiting for my divinity.

My heart was beating furiously; I was waiting with great impatience; yet
that expectation was not without charm, for I dreaded the beginning of
the interview. An hour passed pretty rapidly, but I began then to find
the time rather long, and thinking that, perhaps, the attendant had not
rightly understood me, I rang the bell, and enquired whether notice of my
visit had being given to Sister M---- M----. A voice answered
affirmatively. I took my seat again, and a few minutes afterwards an old,
toothless nun came in and informed me that Sister M---- M---- was engaged
for the whole day. Without giving me time to utter a single word, the
woman left the parlour. This was one of those terrible moments to which
the man who worships at the shrine of the god of love is exposed! They
are indeed cruel moments; they bring fearful sorrow, they may cause
death.

Feeling myself disgraced, my first sensation was utter contempt for
myself, an inward despair which was akin to rage; the second was
disdainful indignation against the nun, upon whom I passed the severe
judgment which I thought she deserved, and which was the only way I had
to soothe my grief. Such behaviour proclaimed her to be the most impudent
of women, and entirely wanting in good sense; for the two letters she had
written to me were quite enough to ruin her character if I had wished to
revenge myself, and she evidently could not expect anything else from me.
She must have been mad to set at defiance my revengeful feelings, and I
should certainly have thought that she was insane if I had not heard her
converse with the countess.

Time, they say, brings good counsel; it certainly brings calm, and cool
reflection gives lucidity to the mind. At last I persuaded myself that
what had occurred was after all in no way extraordinary, and that I would
certainly have considered it at first a very common occurrence if I had
not been dazzled by the wonderful beauty of the nun, and blinded by my
own vanity. As a very natural result I felt that I was at liberty to
laugh at my mishap, and that nobody could possibly guess whether my mirth
was genuine or only counterfeit. Sophism is so officious!

But, in spite of all my fine arguments, I still cherished the thought of
revenge; no debasing element, however, was to form part of it, and being
determined not to leave the person who had been guilty of such a bad
practical joke the slightest cause of triumph, I had the courage not to
shew any vexation. She had sent word to me that she was engaged; nothing
more natural; the part I had to play was to appear indifferent. "Most
likely she will not be engaged another time," I said to myself, "but I
defy her to catch me in the snare again. I mean to shew her that I only
laugh at her uncivil behaviour." Of course I intended to send back her
letters, but not without the accompaniment of a billet-doux, the
gallantry of which was not likely to please her.

The worse part of the affair for me was to be compelled to go to her
church; because, supposing her not to be aware of my going there for
C---- C----, she might imagine that the only object of my visits was to
give her the opportunity of apologizing for her conduct and of appointing
a new meeting. I wanted her to entertain no doubt of my utter contempt
for her person, and I felt certain that she had proposed the other
meetings in Venice and at the casino of Muran only to deceive me more
easily.

I went to bed with a great thirst for revenge, I fell asleep thinking of
it, and I awoke with the resolution of quenching it. I began to write,
but, as I wished particularly that my letter should not show the pique of
the disappointed lover, I left it on my table with the intention of
reading it again the next day. It proved a useful precaution, for when I
read it over, twenty-four hours afterwards, I found it unworthy of me,
and tore it to pieces. It contained some sentences which savoured too
much of my weakness, my love, and my spite, and which, far from
humiliating her, would only have given her occasion to laugh at me.

On the Wednesday after I had written to C---- C---- that very serious
reasons compelled me to give up my visits to the church of her convent, I
wrote another letter to the nun, but on Thursday it had the same fate as
the first, because upon a second perusal I found the same deficiencies.
It seemed to me that I had lost the faculty of writing. Ten days
afterwards I found out that I was too deeply in love to have the power of
expressing myself in any other way than through the feelings of my heart.

'Sincerium est nisi vas, quodcunque infundis acescit.'

The face of M---- M---- had made too deep an impression on me; nothing
could possibly obliterate it except the all-powerful influence of time.

In my ridiculous position I was sorely tempted to complain to Countess
S----; but I am happy to say I was prudent enough not to cross the
threshold of her door. At last I bethought myself that the giddy nun was
certainly labouring under constant dread, knowing that I had in my
possession her two letters, with which I could ruin her reputation and
cause the greatest injury to the convent, and I sent them back to her
with the following note, after I had kept them ten days:

"I can assure you, madam, that it was owing only to forgetfulness that I
did not return your two letters which you will find enclosed. I have
never thought of belying my own nature by taking a cowardly revenge upon
you, and I forgive you most willingly the two giddy acts of which you
have been guilty, whether they were committed thoughtlessly or because
you wanted to enjoy a joke at my expense. Nevertheless, you will allow me
to advise you not to treat any other man in the same way, for you might
meet with one endowed with less delicacy. I know your name, I know who
you are, but you need not be anxious; it is exactly as if I did not know
it. You may, perhaps, care but little for my discretion, but if it should
be so I should greatly pity you.

"You may be aware that I shall not shew myself again at your church; but
let me assure you that it is not a sacrifice on my part, and that I can
attend mass anywhere else. Yet I must tell you why I shall abstain from
frequenting the church of your convent. It is very natural for me to
suppose that to the two thoughtless acts of which you have been guilty,
you have added another not less serious, namely, that of having boasted
of your exploits with the other nuns, and I do not want to be the butt of
your jokes in cell or parlour. Do not think me too ridiculous if, in
spite of being five or six years older than you, I have not thrown off
all feelings of self-respect, or trodden under, my feet all reserve and
propriety; in one word, if I have kept some prejudices, there are a few
which in my opinion ought never to be forgotten. Do not disdain, madam,
the lesson which I take the liberty to teach you, as I receive in the
kindest spirit the one which you have given me, most likely only for the
sake of fun, but by which I promise you to profit as long as I live."

I thought that, considering all circumstances, my letter was a very
genial one; I made up my parcel, put on my mask, and looked out for a
porter who could have no knowledge of me; I gave him half a sequin, and I
promised him as much more when he could assure me that he had faithfully
delivered my letter at the convent of Muran. I gave him all the necessary
instructions, and cautioned him to go away the very moment he had
delivered the letter at the gate of the convent, even if he were told to
wait. I must say here that my messenger was a man from Forli, and that
the Forlanese were then the most trustworthy men in Venice; for one of
them to be guilty of a breach of trust was an unheard-of thing. Such men
were formerly the Savoyards, in Paris; but everything is getting worse in
this world.

I was beginning to forget the adventure, probably because I thought,
rightly or wrongly, that I had put an insurmountable barrier between the
nun and myself, when, ten days after I had sent my letter, as I was
coming out of the opera, I met my messenger, lantern in hand. I called
him, and without taking off my mask I asked him whether he knew me. He
looked at me, eyed me from head to foot, and finally answered that he did
not.

"Did you faithfully carry the message to Muran?"

"Ah, sir! God be praised! I am very happy to see you again, for I have an
important communication to make to you. I took your letter, delivered it
according to your instructions, and I went away as soon as it was in the
hands of the attendant, although she requested me to wait. When I
returned from Muran I did not see you, but that did not matter. On the
following day, one of my companions, who happened to be at the gate of
the convent when I delivered your letter, came early in the morning to
tell me to go to Muran, because the attendant wanted particularly to
speak to me. I went there, and after waiting for a few minutes I was
shewn into the parlour, where I was kept for more than an hour by a nun
as beautiful as the light of day, who asked me a thousand questions for
the purpose of ascertaining, if not who you are, at least where I should
be likely to find you. You know that I could not give her any
satisfactory information. She then left the parlour, ordering me to wait,
and at the end of two hours she came back with a letter which she
entrusted to my hands, telling me that, if I succeeded in finding you out
and in bringing her an answer, she would give me two sequins. In the mean
time I was to call at the convent every day, shew her the letter, and
receive forty sons every time. Until now I have earned twenty crowns, but
I am afraid the lady will get tired of it, and you can make me earn two
sequins by answering a line."

"Where is the letter?"

"In my room under lock and key, for I am always afraid of losing it."

"Then how can I answer?"

"If you will wait for me here, you shall have the letter in less than a
quarter of an hour."

"I will not wait, because I do not care about the letter. But tell me how
you could flatter the nun with the hope of finding me out? You are a
rogue, for it is not likely that she would have trusted you with the
letter if you had not promised her to find me."

"I am not a rogue, for I have done faithfully what you told me; but it is
true that I gave her a description of your coat, your buckles, and your
figure, and I can assure you that for the last ten days I have examined
all the masks who are about your size, but in vain. Now I recognize your
buckles, but I do not think you have the same coat. Alas, sir! it will
not cost you much to write only one line. Be kind enough to wait for me
in the coffee-house close by."

I could not resist my curiosity any longer, and I made up my mind not to
wait for him but to accompany him as far as his house. I had only to
write, "I have received the letter," and my curiosity was gratified and
the Forlanese earned his two sequins. I could afterwards change my
buckles and my mask, and thus set all enquiries at defiance.

I therefore followed him to his door; he went in and brought me the
letter. I took him to an inn, where I asked for a room with a good fire,
and I told my man to wait. I broke the seal of the parcel--a rather large
one, and the first papers that I saw were the two letters which I had
sent back to her in order to allay her anxiety as to the possible
consequences of her giddiness.

The sight of these letters caused me such a palpitation of the heart that
I was compelled to sit down: it was a most evident sign of my defeat.
Besides these two letters I found a third one signed "S." and addressed
to M---- M----. I read the following lines:

"The mask who accompanied me back to my house would not, I believe, have
uttered a single word, if I had not told him that the charms of your
witty mind were even more bewitching than those of your person; and his
answer was, 'I have seen the one, and I believe in the other.' I added
that I did not understand why you had not spoken to him, and he said,
with a smile, 'I refused to be presented to her, and she punished me for
it by not appearing to know that I was present.' These few words were all
our dialogue. I intended to send you this note this morning, but found it
impossible. Adieu."

After reading this note, which stated the exact truth, and which could be
considered as proof, my heart began to beat less quickly. Delighted at
seeing myself on the point of being convicted of injustice, I took
courage, and I read the following letter:

"Owing to an excusable weakness, feeling curious to know what you would
say about me to the countess after you had seen me, I took an opportunity
of asking her to let me know all you said to her on the following day at
latest, for I foresaw that you would pay me a visit in the afternoon. Her
letter, which I enclose, and which I beg you to read, did not reach me
till half an hour after you had left the convent.

"This was the first fatality.

"Not having received that letter when you called, I had not the courage
to see you. This absurd weakness on my part was the second fatality, but
the weakness you will; I hope; forgive. I gave orders to the lay-sister
to tell you that I was ill for the whole day; a very legitimate excuse;
whether true or false, for it was an officious untruth, the correction of
which, was to be found in the words: for the whole day. You had already
left the convent, and I could not possibly send anyone to run after you,
when the old fool informed me of her having told you that I was engaged.

"This was the third fatality.

"You cannot imagine what I had a mind to do and to say to that foolish
sister; but here one must say or do nothing; one must be patient and
dissemble, thanking God when mistakes are the result of ignorance and not
of wickedness--a very common thing in convents. I foresaw at once, at
least partly; what would happen; and what has actually, happened; for no
reasonable being could, I believe, have foreseen it all. I guessed that,
thinking yourself the victim of a joke, you would be incensed, and I felt
miserable, for I did not see any way of letting you know the truth before
the following Sunday. My heart longed ardently for that day. Could I
possibly imagine that you, would take a resolution not to come again to
our church! I tried to be patient until that Sunday; but when I found
myself disappointed in my hope, my misery became unbearable, and it will
cause my death if you refuse to listen to my justification. Your letter
has made me completely unhappy, and I shall not resist my despair if you
persist in the cruel resolve expressed by your unfeeling letter. You have
considered yourself trifled with; that is all you can say; but will this
letter convince you of your error? And even believing yourself deceived
in the most scandalous manner, you must admit that to write such an awful
letter you must have supposed me an abominable wretch--a monster, such as
a woman of noble birth and of refined education cannot possibly be. I
enclose the two letters you sent back to me, with the idea of allaying my
fears which you cruelly supposed very different to what they are in
reality. I am a better physiognomist than you, and you must be quite
certain that I have not acted thoughtlessly, for I never thought you
capable, I will not say of crime, but even of an indelicate action. You
must have read on my features the signs only of giddy impudence, and that
is not my nature. You may be the cause of my death, you will certainly
make me miserable for the remainder of my life, if you do not justify
yourself; on my side I think the justification is complete.

"I hope that, even if you feel no interest in my life, you will think
that you are bound in honour to come and speak to me. Come yourself to
recall all you have written; it is your duty, and I deserve it. If you do
not realize the fatal effect produced upon me by your letter, I must
indeed pity you, in spite of my misery, for it proves that you have not
the slightest knowledge of the human heart. But I feel certain that you
will come back, provided the man to whom I trust this letter contrives to
find you. Adieu! I expect life or death from you."

I did not require to read that letter twice; I was ashamed and in
despair. M---- M---- was right. I called the Forlanese, enquired from him
whether he had spoken to her in the morning, and whether she looked ill.
He answered that he had found her looking more unhappy every day, and
that her eyes were red from weeping.

"Go down again and wait," I said to him.

I began to write, and I had not concluded my long screed before the dawn
of day; here are, word by word, the contents of the letter which I wrote
to the noblest of women, whom in my unreasonable spite I had judged so
wrongly.

"I plead guilty, madam; I cannot possibly justify myself, and I am
perfectly convinced of your innocence. I should be disconsolate if I did
not hope to obtain pardon, and you will not refuse to forgive me if you
are kind enough to recollect the cause of my guilt. I saw you; I was
dazzled, and I could not realize a happiness which seemed to me a dream;
I thought myself the prey of one of those delightful illusions which
vanish when we wake up. The doubt under which I was labouring could not
be cleared up for twenty-four hours, and how could I express my feverish
impatience as I was longing for that happy moment! It came at last! and
my heart, throbbing with desire and hope, was flying towards you while I
was in the parlour counting the minutes! Yet an hour passed almost
rapidly, and not unnaturally, considering my impatience and the deep
impression I felt at the idea of seeing you. But then, precisely at the
very moment when I believed myself certain that I was going to gaze upon
the beloved features which had been in one interview indelibly engraved
upon my heart, I saw the most disagreeable face appear, and a creature
announced that you were engaged for the whole day, and without giving me
time to utter one word she disappeared! You may imagine my astonishment
and... the rest. The lightning would not have produced upon me a more
rapid, a more terrible effect! If you had sent me a line by that
sister--a line from your hand--I would have gone away, if not pleased, at
least submissive and resigned.

"But that was a fourth fatality which you have forgotten to add to your
delightful and witty justification. Thinking myself scoffed at, my
self-love rebelled, and indignation for the moment silenced love. Shame
overwhelmed me! I thought that everybody could read on my face all the
horror in my heart, and I saw in you, under the outward appearance of an
angel, nothing but a fearful daughter of the Prince of Darkness. My mind
was thoroughly upset, and at the end of eleven days I lost the small
portion of good sense that was left in me--at least I must suppose so, as
it is then that I wrote to you the letter of which you have so good a
right to complain, and which at that time seemed to me a masterpiece of
moderation.

"But I hope it is all over now, and this very day at eleven o'clock you
will see me at your feet--tender, submissive and repentant. You will
forgive me, divine woman, or I will myself avenge you for the insult I
have hurled at you. The only thing which I dare to ask from you as a
great favour is to burn my first letter, and never to mention it again. I
sent it only after I had written four, which I destroyed one after the
other: you may therefore imagine the state of my heart.

"I have given orders to my messenger to go to your convent at once, so
that my letter can be delivered to you as soon as you wake in the
morning. He would never have discovered me, if my good angel had not made
me go up to him at the door of the opera-house. But I shall not require
his services any more; do not answer me, and receive all the devotion of
a heart which adores you."

When my letter was finished, I called my Forlanese, gave him one sequin,
and I made him promise me to go to Muran immediately, and to deliver my
letter only to the nun herself. As soon as he had gone I threw myself on
my bed, but anxiety and burning impatience would not allow me to sleep.

I need not tell the reader who knows the state of excitement under which
I was labouring, that I was punctual in presenting myself at the convent.
I was shewn into the small parlour where I had seen her for the first
time, and she almost immediately made her entrance. As soon as I saw her
near the grating I fell on my knees, but she entreated me to rise at once
as I might be seen. Her face was flushed with excitement, and her looks
seemed to me heavenly. She sat down, and I took a seat opposite to her.
We remained several minutes motionless, gazing at each other without
speaking, but I broke the silence by asking her, in a voice full of love
and anxiety, whether I could hope to obtain my pardon. She gave me her
beautiful hand through the grating, and I covered it with tears and
kisses.

"Our acquaintance," she said, "has begun with a violent storm; let us
hope that we shall now enjoy it long in perfect and lasting calm. This is
the first time that we speak to one another, but what has occurred must
be enough to give us a thorough knowledge of each other. I trust that our
intimacy will be as tender as sincere, and that we shall know how to have
a mutual indulgence for our faults."

"Can such an angel as you have any?"

"Ah, my friend! who is without them?"

"When shall I have the happiness of convincing you of my devotion with
complete freedom and in all the joy of my heart?"

"We will take supper together at my casino whenever you please, provided
you give me notice two days beforehand; or I will go and sup with you in
Venice, if it will not disturb your arrangements."

"It would only increase my happiness. I think it right to tell you that I
am in very easy circumstances, and that, far from fearing expense, I
delight in it: all I possess belongs to the woman I love."

"That confidence, my dear friend, is very agreeable to me, the more so
that I have likewise to tell you that I am very rich, and that I could
not refuse anything to my lover."

"But you must have a lover?"

"Yes; it is through him that I am rich, and he is entirely my master. I
never conceal anything from him. The day after to-morrow, when I am alone
with you, I will tell you more."

"But I hope that your lover...."

"Will not be there? Certainly not. Have you a mistress?"

"I had one, but, alas! she has been taken from me by violent means, and
for the last six months I have led a life of complete celibacy."

"Do you love her still?"

"I cannot think of her without loving her. She has almost as great
charms, as great beauty, as you have; but I foresee that you will make me
forget her."

"If your happiness with her was complete, I pity you. She has been
violently taken from you, and you shun society in order to feed your
sorrow. I have guessed right, have I not? But if I happen to take
possession of her place in your heart, no one, my sweet friend, shall
turn me out of it."

"But what will your lover say?"

"He will be delighted to see me happy with such a lover as you. It is in
his nature."

"What an admirable nature! Such heroism is quite beyond me!"

"What sort of a life do you lead in Venice?"

"I live at the theatres, in society, in the casinos, where I fight
against fortune sometimes with good sometimes with bad success."

"Do you visit the foreign ambassadors?"

"No, because I am too much acquainted with the nobility; but I know them
all."

"How can you know them if you do not see them?"

"I have known them abroad. In Parma the Duke de Montalegre, the Spanish
ambassador; in Vienna I knew Count Rosemberg; in Paris, about two years
ago, the French ambassador."

"It is near twelve o'clock, my dear friend; it is time for us to part.
Come at the same hour the day after tomorrow, and I will give you all the
instructions which you will require to enable you to come and sup with
me."

"Alone?"

"Of course."

"May I venture to ask you for a pledge? The happiness which you promise
me is so immense!"

"What pledge do you want?"

"To see you standing before that small window in the grating with
permission for me to occupy the same place as Madame de S----."

She rose at once, and, with the most gracious smile, touched the spring;
after a most expressive kiss, I took leave of her. She followed me with
her eyes as far as the door, and her loving gaze would have rooted me to
the spot if she had not left the room.

I spent the two days of expectation in a whirl of impatient joy, which
prevented me from eating and sleeping; for it seemed to me that no other
love had ever given me such happiness, or rather that I was going to be
happy for the first time.

Irrespective of birth, beauty, and wit, which was the principal merit of
my new conquest, prejudice was there to enhance a hundredfold my
felicity, for she was a vestal: it was forbidden fruit, and who does not
know that, from Eve down to our days, it was that fruit which has always
appeared the most delicious! I was on the point of encroaching upon the
rights of an all-powerful husband; in my eyes M---- M---- was above all the
queens of the earth.

If my reason had not been the slave of passion, I should have known that
my nun could not be a different creature from all the pretty women whom I
had loved for the thirteen years that I had been labouring in the fields
of love. But where is the man in love who can harbour such a thought? If
it presents itself too often to his mind, he expels it disdainfully!
M---- M---- could not by any means be otherwise than superior to all other
women in the wide world.

Animal nature, which chemists call the animal kingdom, obtains through
instinct the three various means necessary for the perpetuation of its
species.

There are three real wants which nature has implanted in all human
creatures. They must feed themselves, and to prevent that task from being
insipid and tedious they have the agreeable sensation of appetite, which
they feel pleasure in satisfying. They must propagate their respective
species; an absolute necessity which proves the wisdom of the Creator,
since without reproduction all would, be annihilated--by the constant law
of degradation, decay and death. And, whatever St. Augustine may say,
human creatures would not perform the work of generation if they did not
find pleasure in it, and if there was not in that great work an
irresistible attraction for them. In the third place, all creatures have
a determined and invincible propensity to destroy their enemies; and it
is certainly a very wise ordination, for that feeling of
self-preservation makes it a duty for them to do their best for the
destruction of whatever can injure them.

Each species obeys these laws in its own way. The three sensations:
hunger, desire, and hatred--are in animals the satisfaction of habitual
instinct, and cannot be called pleasures, for they can be so only in
proportion to the intelligence of the individual. Man alone is gifted
with the perfect organs which render real pleasure peculiar to him;
because, being, endowed with the sublime faculty of reason, he foresees
enjoyment, looks for it, composes, improves, and increases it by thought
and recollection. I entreat you, dear reader, not to get weary of
following me in my ramblings; for now that I am but the shadow of the
once brilliant Casanova, I love to chatter; and if you were to give me
the slip, you would be neither polite nor obliging.

Man comes down to the level of beasts whenever he gives himself up to the
three natural propensities without calling reason and judgment to his
assistance; but when the mind gives perfect equilibrium to those
propensities, the sensations derived from them become true enjoyment, an
unaccountable feeling which gives us what is called happiness, and which
we experience without being able to describe it.

The voluptuous man who reasons, disdains greediness, rejects with
contempt lust and lewdness, and spurns the brutal revenge which is caused
by a first movement of anger: but he is dainty, and satisfies his
appetite only in a manner in harmony with his nature and his tastes; he
is amorous, but he enjoys himself with the object of his love only when
he is certain that she will share his enjoyment, which can never be the
case unless their love is mutual; if he is offended, he does not care for
revenge until he has calmly considered the best means to enjoy it fully.
If he is sometimes more cruel than necessary, he consoles himself with
the idea that he has acted under the empire of reason; and his revenge is
sometimes so noble that he finds it in forgiveness. Those three
operations are the work of the soul which, to procure enjoyment for
itself, becomes the agent of our passions. We sometimes suffer from
hunger in order to enjoy better the food which will allay it; we delay
the amorous enjoyment for the sake of making it more intense, and we put
off the moment of our revenge in order to mike it more certain. It is
true, however, that one may die from indigestion, that we allow ourselves
to be often deceived in love, and that the creature we want to annihilate
often escapes our revenge; but perfection cannot be attained in anything,
and those are risks which we run most willingly.



CHAPTER XVII

Continuation of the Last Chapter--My First Assignation With M. M.--Letter
From C. C.--My Second Meeting With the Nun At My Splendid Casino In
Venice I Am Happy

There is nothing, there can be nothing, dearer to a thinking being than
life; yet the voluptuous men, those who try to enjoy it in the best
manner, are the men who practise with the greatest perfection the
difficult art of shortening life, of driving it fast. They do not mean to
make it shorter, for they would like to perpetuate it in the midst of
pleasure, but they wish enjoyment to render its course insensible; and
they are right, provided they do not fail in fulfilling their duties. Man
must not, however, imagine that he has no other duties but those which
gratify his senses; he would be greatly mistaken, and he might fall the
victim of his own error. I think that my friend Horace made a mistake
when he said to Florus:

'Nec metuam quid de me judicet heres, Quod non plura datis inveniet.'

The happiest man is the one who knows how to obtain the greatest sum of
happiness without ever failing in the discharge of his duties, and the
most unhappy is the man who has adopted a profession in which he finds
himself constantly under the sad necessity of foreseeing the future.

Perfectly certain that M---- M---- would keep her word, I went to the
convent at ten o'clock in the morning, and she joined me in the parlour
as soon as I was announced.

"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "are you ill?"

"No, but I may well look so, for the expectation of happiness wears me
out. I have lost sleep and appetite, and if my felicity were to be
deferred my life would be the forfeit."

"There shall be no delay, dearest; but how impatient you are! Let us sit
down. Here is the key of my casino. You will find some persons in it,
because we must be served; but nobody will speak to you, and you need not
speak to anyone. You must be masked, and you must not go there till two
hours after sunset; mind, not before. Then go up the stairs opposite the
street-door, and at the top of those stairs you will see, by the light of
a lamp, a green door which you will open to enter the apartment which you
will find lighted. You will find me in the second room, and in case I
should not be there you will wait for me a few minutes; you may rely upon
my being punctual. You can take off your mask in that room, and make
yourself comfortable; you will find some books and a good fire."

The description could not be clearer; I kissed the hand which was giving
me the key of that mysterious temple, and I enquired from the charming
woman whether I should see her in her conventual garb.

"I always leave the convent with it," she said, "but I have at the casino
a complete wardrobe to transform myself into an elegant woman of the
world, and even to disguise myself."

"I hope you will do me the favour to remain in the dress of a nun."

"Why so, I beg?"

"I love to see you in that dress."

"Ah! ah! I understand. You fancy that my head is shaved, and you are
afraid. But comfort yourself, dear friend, my wig is so beautifully made
that it defies detection; it is nature itself."

"Oh, dear! what are you saying? The very name of wig is awful. But no,
you may be certain that I will find you lovely under all circumstances. I
only entreat you not to put on that cruel wig in my presence. Do I offend
you? Forgive me; I am very sorry to have mentioned that subject. Are you
sure that no one can see you leave the convent?"

"You will be sure of it yourself when you have gone round the island and
seen the small door on the shore. I have the key of a room opening on the
shore, and I have every confidence in the sister who serves me."

"And the gondola?"

"My lover himself answers for the fidelity of the gondoliers."

"What a man that lover is! I fancy he must be an old man."

"You are mistaken; if he were old, I should be ashamed. He is not forty,
and he has everything necessary to be loved--beauty, wit, sweet temper,
and noble behaviour."

"And he forgives your amorous caprices?"

"What do you mean by caprices? A year ago he obtained possession of me,
and before him I had never belonged to a man; you are the first who
inspired me with a fancy. When I confessed it to him he was rather
surprised, then he laughed, and read me a short lecture upon the risk I
was running in trusting a man who might prove indiscreet. He wanted me to
know at least who you were before going any further, but it was too late.
I answered for your discretion, and of course I made him laugh by my
being so positively the guarantee of a man whom I did not know."

"When did you confide in him?"

"The day before yesterday, and without concealing anything from him. I
have shewn him my letters and yours; he thinks you are a Frenchman,
although you represent yourself as a Venetian. He is very curious to know
who you are, but you need not be afraid; I promise you faithfully never
to take any steps to find it out myself."

"And I promise you likewise not to try to find out who is this wonderful
man as wonderful as you are yourself. I am very miserable when I think of
the sorrow I have caused you."

"Do not mention that subject any more; when I consider the matter, I see
that only a conceited man would have acted differently."

Before leaving her, she granted me another token of her affection through
the little window, and her gaze followed me as far as the door.

In the evening, at the time named by her, I repaired to the casino, and
obeying all her instructions I reached a sitting-room in which I found my
new conquest dressed in a most elegant costume. The room was lighted up
by girandoles, which were reflected by the looking-glasses, and by four
splendid candlesticks placed on a table covered with books.
M---- M---- struck me as entirely different in her beauty to what she had
seemed in the garb of a nun. She wore no cap, and her hair was fastened
behind in a thick twist; but I passed rapidly over that part of her
person, because I could not bear the idea of a wig, and I could not
compliment her about it. I threw myself at her feet to shew her my deep
gratitude, and I kissed with rapture her beautiful hands, waiting
impatiently for the amorous contest which I was longing for; but
M---- M---- thought fit to oppose some resistance. Oh, how sweet they are!
those denials of a loving mistress, who delays the happy moment only for
the sake of enjoying its delights better! As a lover respectful, tender,
but bold, enterprising, certain of victory, I blended delicately the
gentleness of my proceedings with the ardent fire which was consuming me;
and stealing the most voluptuous kisses from the most beautiful mouth I
felt as if my soul would burst from my body. We spent two hours in the
preliminary contest, at the end of which we congratulated one another, on
her part for having contrived to resist, on mine for having controlled my
impatience.

Wanting a little rest, and understanding each other as if by a natural
instinct, she said to me,

"My friend, I have an appetite which promises to do honour to the supper;
are you able to keep me good company?"

"Yes," I said, knowing well what I could do in that line, "yes, I can;
and afterwards you shall judge whether I am able to sacrifice to Love as
well as to Comus."

She rang the bell, and a woman, middle-aged but well-dressed and
respectable-looking, laid out a table for two persons; she then placed on
another table close by all that was necessary to enable us to do without
attendance, and she brought, one after the other, eight different dishes
in Sevres porcelain placed on silver heaters. It was a delicate and
plentiful supper.

When I tasted the first dish I at once recognized the French style of
cooking, and she did not deny it. We drank nothing but Burgundy and
Champagne. She dressed the salad cleverly and quickly, and in everything
she did I had to admire the graceful ease of her manners. It was evident
that she owed her education to a lover who was a first-rate connoisseur.
I was curious to know him, and as we were drinking some punch I told her
that if she would gratify my curiosity in that respect I was ready to
tell her my name.

"Let time, dearest," she answered, "satisfy our mutual curiosity."

M---- M---- had, amongst the charms and trinkets fastened to the chain of
her watch, a small crystal bottle exactly similar to one that I wore
myself. I called her attention to that fact, and as mine was filled with
cotton soaked in otto of roses I made her smell it.

"I have the same," she observed.

And she made me inhale its fragrance.

"It is a very scarce perfume," I said, "and very expensive."

"Yes; in fact it cannot be bought."

"Very true; the inventor of that essence wears a crown; it is the King of
France; his majesty made a pound of it, which cost him thirty thousand
crowns."

"Mine was a gift presented to my lover, and he gave it to me:"

"Madame de Pompadour sent a small phial of it to M. de Mocenigo, the
Venetian ambassador in Paris, through M. de B----, now French ambassador
here."

"Do you know him?"

"I have had the honour to dine with him on the very day he came to take
leave of the ambassador by whom I had been invited. M. de B---- is a man
whom fortune has smiled upon, but he has captivated it by his merit; he
is not less distinguished by his 'talents than by his birth; he is, I
believe, Count de Lyon. I recollect that he was nicknamed 'Belle Babet,'
on account of his handsome face. There is a small collection of poetry
written by him which does him great honour."

It was near midnight; we had made an excellent supper, and we were near a
good fire. Besides, I was in love with a beautiful woman, and thinking
that time was precious--I became very pressing; but she resisted.

"Cruel darling, have you promised me happiness only to make me suffer the
tortures of Tantalus? If you will not give way to love, at least obey the
laws of nature after such a delicious supper, go to bed."

"Are you sleepy?"

"Of course I am not; but it is late enough to go to bed. Allow me to
undress you; I will remain by your bedside, or even go away if you wish
it."

"If you were to leave me, you would grieve me."

"My grief would be as great as yours, believe me, but if I remain what
shall we do?"

"We can lie down in our clothes on this sofa."

"With our clothes! Well, let it be so; I will let you sleep, if you wish
it; but you must forgive me if I do not sleep myself; for to sleep near
you and without undressing would be impossible."

"Wait a little."

She rose from her seat, turned the sofa crosswise, opened it, took out
pillows, sheets, blankets, and in one minute we had a splendid bed, wide
and convenient. She took a large handkerchief, which she wrapped round my
head, and she gave me another, asking me to render her the same service.
I began my task, dissembling my disgust for the wig, but a precious
discovery caused me the most agreeable surprise; for, instead of the wig,
my hands found the most magnificent hair I had ever seen. I uttered a
scream of delight and admiration which made her laugh, and she told me
that a nun was under no other obligation than to conceal her hair, from
the uninitiated. Thereupon she pushed me adroitly, and made me fall' an
the sofa. I got up again, and, having thrown off my clothes as quick as
lightning I threw myself on her rather than near her. She was very
strong; and folding me in her arms she thought that I ought to forgive
her for all the torture she was condemning me to. I had not obtained any
essential favour; I was burning, but I was trying to master my
impatience, for I did not think that I had yet the right to be exacting.
I contrived to undo five or six bows of ribbons, and satisfied, with her
not opposing any resistance in that quarter my heart throbbed with
pleasure, and I possessed myself of the most beautiful bosom, which I
smothered under my kisses. But her favours went no further; and my
excitement increasing in proportion to the new perfections I discovered
in her, I doubled my efforts; all in vain. At last, compelled to give way
to fatigue, I fell asleep in her arms, holding her tightly, against me. A
noisy chime of bells woke us.

"What is the matter?" I exclaimed.

"Let us get up, dearest; it is time for me to return to the convent."

"Dress yourself, and let me have the pleasure of seeing you in the garb
of a saint, since you are going away a virgin."

"Be satisfied for this time, dearest, and learn from me how to practice
abstinence; we shall be happier another time. When I have gone, if you
have nothing to hurry you, you can rest here."

She rang the bell, and the same woman who had appeared in the evening,
and was most likely the secret minister and the confidante of her amorous
mysteries, came in. After her hair had been dressed, she took off her
gown, locked up her jewellery in her bureau, put on the stays of a nun,
in which she hid the two magnificent globes which had been during that
fatiguing night the principal agents of my happiness, and assumed her
monastic robes. The woman having gone out to call the gondoliers,
M---- M---- kissed me warmly and tenderly, and said to me,

"I expect to see you the day after to-morrow, so as to hear from you
which night I am to meet you in Venice; and then, my beloved lover, you
shall be happy and I too. Farewell."

Pleased without being satisfied, I went to bed and slept soundly until
noon.

I left the casino without seeing anyone, and being well masked I repaired
to the house of Laura, who gave me a letter from my dear C---- C----. Here
is a copy of it:

"I am going to give you, my best beloved, a specimen of my way of
thinking; and I trust that, far from lowering me in your estimation, you
will judge me, in spite of my youth, capable of keeping a secret and
worthy of being your wife. Certain that your heart is mine, I do not
blame you for having made a mystery of certain things, and not being
jealous of what can divert your mind and help you to bear patiently our
cruel separation, I can only delight in whatever procures you some
pleasure. Listen now. Yesterday, as I was going along one of the halls, I
dropped a tooth-pick which I held in my hand, and to get it again, I was
compelled to displace a stool which happened to be in front of a crack in
the partition. I have already become as curious as a nun--a fault very
natural to idle people--I placed my eye against the small opening, and
whom did I see? You in person, my darling, conversing in the most lively
manner with my charming friend, Sister M---- M----. It would be difficult
for you to imagine my surprise and joy. But those two feelings gave way
soon to the fear of being seen and of exciting the curiosity of some
inquisitive nun. I quickly replaced the stool, and I went away. Tell me
all, dearest friend, you will make me happy. How could I cherish you with
all my soul, and not be anxious to know the history of your adventure?
Tell me if she knows you, and how you have made her acquaintance. She is
my best friend, the one of whom I have spoken so often to you in my
letters, without thinking it necessary to tell you her name. She is the
friend who teaches me French, and has lent me books which gave me a great
deal of information on a matter generally little known to women. If it
had not been for her, the cause of the accident which has been so near
costing me my life, would have been discovered. She gave me sheets and
linen immediately; to her I owe my honour; but she has necessarily
learned in that way that I have a lover, as I know that she has one; but
neither of us has shewn any anxiety to know the secrets of the other.
Sister M---- M---- is a rare woman. I feel certain, dearest, that you love
one another; it cannot be otherwise since you are acquainted; but as I am
not jealous of that affection, I deserve that you should tell me all. I
pity you both, however; for all you may do will, I fear, only irritate
your passion. Everyone in the convent thinks that you are ill, and I am
longing to see you. Come, at least, once. Adieu!"

The letter of C---- C---- inspired me with the deepest esteem for her, but
it caused me great anxiety, because, although I felt every confidence in
my dear little wife, the small crack in the wall might expose
M---- M---- and myself to the inquisitive looks of other persons. Besides,
I found myself compelled to deceive that amiable, trusting friend, and to
tell a falsehood, for delicacy and honour forbade me to tell her the
truth. I wrote to her immediately that her friendship for M---- M---- made
it her duty to warn her friend at once that she had seen her in the
parlour with a masked gentleman. I added that, having heard a great deal
of M---- M----'s merit, and wishing to make her acquaintance, I had called
on her under an assumed name; that I entreated her not to tell her friend
who I was, but she might say that she had recognized in me the gentleman
who attended their church. I assured her with barefaced impudence that
there was no love between M---- M---- and me, but without concealing that I
thought her a superior woman.

On St. Catherine's Day, the patroness of my dear C---- C----, I bethought
myself of affording that lovely prisoner the pleasure of seeing me. As I
was leaving the church after mass, and just as I was going to take a
gondola, I observed that a man was following me. It looked suspicious,
and I determined to ascertain whether I was right. The man took a gondola
and followed mine. It might have been purely accidental; but, keeping on
my guard for fear of surprise, I alighted in Venice at the Morosini
Palace; the fellow alighted at the same place; his intentions were
evident. I left the palace, and turning towards the Flanders Gate I
stopped in a narrow street, took my knife in my hand, waited for the spy,
seized him by the collar, and pushing him against the wall with the knife
at his throat I commanded him to tell me what business he had with me.
Trembling all over he would have confessed everything, but unluckily
someone entered the street. The spy escaped and I was no wiser, but I had
no doubt that for the future that fellow at least would keep at a
respectful distance. It shewed me how easy it would be for an obstinate
spy to discover my identity, and I made up my mind never to go to Muran
but with a mask, or at night.

The next day I had to see my beautiful nun in order to ascertain which
day she would sup with me in Venice, and I went early to the convent. She
did not keep me waiting, and her face was radiant with joy. She
complimented me upon my having resumed my attendance at their church; all
the nuns had been delighted to see me again after an absence of three
weeks.

"The abbess," she said, "told me how glad she was to see you, and that
she was certain to find out who you are."

I then related to her the adventure of the spy, and we both thought that
it was most likely the means taken by the sainted woman to gratify her
curiosity about me.

"I have resolved not to attend your church any more."

"That will be a great deprivation to me, but in our common interest I can
but approve your resolution."

She related the affair of the treacherous crack in the partition, and
added,

"It is already repaired, and there is no longer any fear in that quarter.
I heard of it from a young boarder whom I love dearly, and who is much
attached to me. I am not curious to know her name, and she has never
mentioned it to me."

"Now, darling angel, tell me whether my happiness will be postponed."

"Yes, but only for twenty-four hours; the new professed sister has
invited me to supper in her room, and you must understand I cannot invent
any plausible excuse for refusing her invitation."

"You would not, then, tell her in confidence the very legitimate obstacle
which makes me wish that the new sisters never take supper?"

"Certainly not: we never trust anyone so far in a convent. Besides,
dearest, such an invitation cannot be declined unless I wish to gain a
most bitter enemy."

"Could you not say that you are ill?"

"Yes; but then the visits!"

"I understand; if you should refuse, the escape might be suspected."

"The escape! impossible; here no one admits the possibility of breaking
out of the convent."

"Then you are the only one able to perform that miracle?"

"You may be sure of that; but, as is always the case, it is gold which
performs that miracle."

"And many others, perhaps."

"Oh! the time has gone by for them! But tell me, my love, where will you
wait for me to-morrow, two hours after the setting of the sun?"

"Could I not wait for you at your casino?"

"No, because my lover will take me himself to Venice."

"Your lover?"

"Yes, himself."

"It is not possible."

"Yet it is true."

"I can wait for you in St. John and St. Paul's Square behind the pedestal
of the statue of Bartholomew of Bergamo."

"I have never seen either the square or the statue except in engravings;
it is enough, however, and I will not fail. Nothing but very stormy
weather could prevent me from coming to a rendezvous for which my heart
is panting."

"And if the weather were bad?"

"Then, dearest, there would be nothing lost; and you would come here
again in order to appoint another day."

I had no time to lose, for I had no casino. I took a second rower so as
to reach St. Mark's Square more rapidly, and I immediately set to work
looking for what I wanted. When a mortal is so lucky as to be in the good
graces of the god Plutus, and is not crackbrained, he is pretty sure to
succeed in everything: I had not to search very long before I found a
casino suiting my purpose exactly. It was the finest in the neighbourhood
of Venice, but, as a natural consequence, it was likewise the most
expensive. It had belonged to the English ambassador, who had sold it
cheap to his cook before leaving Venice. The owner let it to me until
Easter for one hundred sequins, which I paid in advance on condition that
he would himself cook the dinners and the suppers I might order.

I had five rooms furnished in the most elegant style, and everything
seemed to be calculated for love, pleasure, and good cheer. The service
of the dining-room was made through a sham window in the wall, provided
with a dumb-waiter revolving upon itself, and fitting the window so
exactly that master and servants could not see each other. The
drawing-room was decorated with magnificent looking-glasses, crystal
chandeliers, girandoles in gilt, bronze, and with a splendid pier-glass
placed on a chimney of white marble; the walls were covered with small
squares of real china, representing little Cupids and naked amorous
couples in all sorts of positions, well calculated to excite the
imagination; elegant and very comfortable sofas were placed on every
side. Next to it was an octagonal room, the walls, the ceiling, and the
floor of which were entirely covered with splendid Venetian glass,
arranged in such a manner as to reflect on all sides every position of
the amorous couple enjoying the pleasures of love. Close by was a
beautiful alcove with two secret outlets; on the right, an elegant
dressing-room, on the left, a boudoir which seemed to have been arranged
by the mother of Love, with a bath in Carrara marble. Everywhere the
wainscots were embossed in ormolu or painted with flowers and arabesques.

After I had given my orders for all the chandeliers to be filled with wax
candles, and the finest linen to be provided wherever necessary, I
ordered a most delicate and sumptuous supper for two, without regard to
expense, and especially the most exquisite wines. I then took possession
of the key of the principal entrance, and warned the master that I did
not want to be seen by anyone when I came in or went out.

I observed with pleasure that the clock in the alcove had an alarum, for
I was beginning, in spite of love, to be easily influenced by the power
of sleep.

Everything being arranged according to my wishes, I went, as a careful
and delicate lover, to purchase the finest slippers I could find, and a
cap in Alencon point.

I trust my reader does not think me too particular; let him recollect
that I was to receive the most accomplished of the sultanas of the master
of the universe, and I told that fourth Grace that I had a casino. Was I
to begin by giving her a bad idea of my truthfulness? At the appointed
time, that is two hours after sunset, I repaired to my palace; and it
would be difficult to imagine the surprise of his honour the French cook,
when he saw me arrive alone. Not finding all the chandeliers lighted-up
as I had ordered, I scolded him well, giving him notice that I did not
like to repeat an order.

"I shall not fail; sir, another time, to execute your commands."

"Let the supper be served."

"Your honour ordered it for two."

"Yes, for two; and, this time, be present during my supper, so that I can
tell you which dishes I find good or bad."

The supper came through the revolving: dumb-waiter in very good order,
two dishes at a time. I passed some remarks upon everything; but, to tell
the truth, everything was excellent: game, fish, oysters, truffles, wine,
dessert, and the whole served in very fine Dresden china and silver-gilt
plate.

I told him that he had forgotten hard eggs, anchovies, and prepared
vinegar to dress a salad. He lifted his eyes towards heaven, as if to
plead guilty, to a very heinous crime.

After a supper which lasted two hours, and during which I must certainly
have won the admiration of my host, I asked him to bring me the bill. He
presented it to me shortly afterwards, and I found it reasonable. I then
dismissed him, and lay down in the splendid bed in the alcove; my
excellent supper brought on very soon the most delicious sleep which,
without the Burgundy and the Champagne, might very likely not have
visited me, if I had thought that the following night would see me in the
same place, and in possession of a lovely divinity. It was broad
day-light when I awoke, and after ordering the finest fruit and some ices
for the evening I left the casino. In order to shorten a day which my
impatient desires would have caused me to find very long, I went to the
faro-table, and I saw with pleasure that I was as great a favourite with
fortune as with love. Everything proceeded according to my wishes, and I
delighted in ascribing my happy success to the influence of my nun.

I was at the place of meeting one hour before the time appointed, and
although the night was cold I did not feel it. Precisely as the hour
struck I saw a two-oared gondola reach the shore and a mask come out of
it, speak a few words to the gondolier, and take the direction of the
statue. My heart was beating quickly, but seeing that it was a man I
avoided him, and regretted not having brought my pistols. The mask,
however, turning round the statue, came up to me with outstretched hands;
I then recognized my angel, who was amused at my surprise and took my
arm. Without speaking we went towards St. Mark's Square, and reached my
casino, which was only one hundred yards from the St. Moses Theatre.

I found everything in good order; we went upstairs and I threw off my
mask and my disguise; but M---- M---- took delight in walking about the
rooms and in examining every nook of the charming place in which she was
received. Highly gratified to see me admire the grace of her person, she
wanted me likewise to admire in her attire the taste and generosity of
her lover. She was surprised at the almost magic spell which, although
she remained motionless, shewed her lovely person in a thousand different
manners. Her multiplied portraits, reproduced by the looking-glasses, and
the numerous wax candles disposed to that effect, offered to her sight a
spectacle entirely new to her, and from which she could not withdraw her
eyes. Sitting down on a stool I contemplated her elegant person with
rapture. A coat of rosy velvet, embroidered with gold spangles, a vest to
match, embroidered likewise in the richest fashion, breeches of black
satin, diamond buckles, a solitaire of great value on her little finger,
and on the other hand a ring: such was her toilet. Her black lace mask
was remarkable for its fineness and the beauty of the design. To enable
me to see her better she stood before me. I looked in her pockets, in
which I found a gold snuff-box, a sweetmeat-box adorned with pearls, a
gold case, a splendid opera-glass, handkerchiefs of the finest cambric,
soaked rather than perfumed with the most precious essences. I examined
attentively the richness and the workmanship of her two watches, of her
chains, of her trinkets, brilliant with diamonds. The last article I
found was a pistol; it was an English weapon of fine steel, and of the
most beautiful finish.

"All I see, my divine angel, is not worthy of you; yet I cannot refrain
from expressing my admiration for the wonderful, I might almost say
adorable, being who wants to convince you that you are truly his
mistress."

"That is what he said when I asked him to bring me to Venice, and to
leave me. 'Amuse yourself,' he said, 'and I hope that the man whom you
are going to make happy will convince you that he is worthy of it.'"

"He is indeed an extraordinary man, and I do not think there is another
like him. Such a lover is a unique being; and I feel that I could not be
like him, as deeply as I fear to be unworthy of a happiness which dazzles
me."

"Allow me to leave you, and to take off these clothes alone."

"Do anything you please."

A quarter of an hour afterwards my mistress came back to me. Her hair was
dressed like a man's; the front locks came down her cheeks, and the black
hair, fastened with a knot of blue ribbon, reached the bend of her legs;
her form was that of Antinous; her clothes alone, being cut in the French
style, prevented the illusion from being complete. I was in a state of
ecstatic delight, and I could not realize my happiness.

"No, adorable woman," I exclaimed, "you are not made for a mortal, and I
do not believe that you will ever be mine. At the very moment of
possessing you some miracle will wrest you from my arms. Your divine
spouse, perhaps, jealous of a simple mortal, will annihilate all my hope.
It is possible that in a few minutes I shall no longer exist."

"Are you mad, dearest? I am yours this very instant, if you wish it."

"Ah! if I wish it! Although fasting, come! Love and happiness will be my
food!"

She felt cold, we sat near the fire; and unable to master my impatience I
unfastened a diamond brooch which pinned her ruffle. Dear reader, there
are some sensations so powerful and so sweet that years cannot weaken the
remembrance of them. My mouth had already covered with kisses that
ravishing bosom; but then the troublesome corset had not allowed me to
admire all its perfection. Now I felt it free from all restraint and from
all unnecessary support; I have never seen, never touched, anything more
beautiful, and the two magnificent globes of the Venus de Medicis, even
if they had been animated by the spark of life given by Prometheus, would
have yielded the palm to hose of my divine nun.

I was burning with ardent desires, and I would have satisfied them on the
spot, if my adorable mistress had not calmed my impatience by these
simple words:

"Wait until after supper."

I rang the bell; she shuddered.

"Do not be anxious, dearest."

And I shewed her the secret of the sham window.

"You will be able to tell your lover that no one saw you."

"He will appreciate your delicate attention, and that will prove to him
that you are not a novice in the art of love. But it is evident that I am
not the only one who enjoys with you the delights of this charming
residence."

"You are wrong, believe me: you are the first woman I have seen here. You
are not, adorable creature, my first love, but you shall be the last."

"I shall be happy if you are faithful. My lover is constant, kind, gentle
and amiable; yet my heart has ever been fancy-free with him."

"Then his own heart must be the same; for if his love was of the same
nature as mine you would never have made me happy."

"He loves me as I love you; do you believe in my love for you?"

"Yes, I want to believe in it; but you would not allow me to...."

"Do not say any more; for I feel that I could forgive you in anything,
provided you told me all. The joy I experience at this moment is caused
more by the hope I have of gratifying your desires than by the idea that
I am going to pass a delightful night with you. It will be the first in
my life."

"What! Have you never passed such a night with your lover?"

"Several; but friendship, compliance, and gratitude, perhaps, were then
the only contributors to our pleasures; the most essential--love--was
never present. In spite of that, my lover is like you; his wit is lively,
very much the same as yours, and, as far as his features are concerned,
he is very handsome; yet it is not you. I believe him more wealthy than
you, although this casino almost convinces me that I am mistaken, but
what does love care for riches? Do not imagine that I consider you
endowed with less merit than he, because you confess yourself incapable
of his heroism in allowing me to enjoy another love. Quite the contrary;
I know that you would not love me as you do, if you told me that you
could be as indulgent as he is for one of my caprices."

"Will he be curious to hear the particulars of this night?"

"Most likely he will think that he will please me by asking what has
taken place, and I will tell him everything, except such particulars as
might humiliate him."

After the supper, which she found excellent, she made some punch, and she
was a very good hand at it. But I felt my impatience growing stronger
every moment, and I said,

"Recollect that we have only seven hours before us, and that we should be
very foolish to waste them in this room."

"You reason better than Socrates," she answered, "and your eloquence has
convinced me. Come!"

She led me to the elegant dressing-room, and I offered her the fine
night-cap which I had bought for her, asking her at the same time to
dress her hair like a woman. She took it with great pleasure, and begged
me to go and undress myself in the drawing-room, promising to call me as
soon as she was in bed.

I had not long to wait: when pleasure is waiting for us, we all go
quickly to work. I fell into her arms, intoxicated with love and
happiness, and during seven hours I gave her the most positive proofs of
my ardour and of the feelings I entertained for her. It is true that she
taught me nothing new, materially speaking, but a great deal in sighs, in
ecstasies, in enjoyments which can have their full development only in a
sensitive soul in the sweetest of all moments. I varied our pleasures in
a thousand different ways, and I astonished her by making her feel that
she was susceptible of greater enjoyment than she had any idea of. At
last the fatal alarum was heard: we had to stop our amorous transports;
but before she left my arms she raised her eyes towards heaven as if to
thank her Divine Master for having given her the courage to declare her
passion to me.

We dressed ourselves, and observing that I put the lace night-cap in her
pocket she assured me that she would keep it all her life as a witness of
the happiness which overwhelmed her. After drinking a cup of coffee we
went out, and I left her at St. John and St. Paul's Square, promising to
call on her the day after the morrow; I watched her until I saw her safe
in her gondola, and I then went to bed. Ten hours of profound sleep
restored me to my usual state of vigour.



CHAPTER XVIII

Visit to the Convent and Conversation With M. M.--A Letter from Her, and
My Answer--Another Interview At the Casino of Muran In the Presence of
Her Lover

According to my promise, I went to see M---- M---- two days afterwards, but
as soon as she came to the parlour she told me that her lover had said he
was coming, and that she expected him every minute, and that she would be
glad to see me the next day. I took leave of her, but near the bridge I
saw a man, rather badly masked, coming out of a gondola. I looked at the
gondolier, and I recognized him as being in the service of the French
ambassador. "It is he," I said to myself, and without appearing to
observe him I watched him enter the convent. I had no longer any doubt as
to his identity, and I returned to Venice delighted at having made the
discovery, but I made up my mind not to say anything to my mistress.

I saw her on the following day, and we, had a long conversation together,
which I am now going to relate.

"My friend," she said to me, "came yesterday in order to bid farewell to
me until the Christmas holidays. He is going to Padua, but everything has
been arranged so that we can sup at his casino whenever we wish."

"Why not in Venice?"

"He has begged me not to go there during his absence. He is wise and
prudent; I could not refuse his request."

"You are quite right. When shall we sup together?"

"Next Sunday, if you like."

"If I like is not the right expression, for I always like. On Sunday,
then, I will go to the casino towards nightfall, and wait for you with a
book. Have you told your friend that you were not very uncomfortable in
my small palace?"

"He knows all about it, but, dearest, he is afraid of one thing--he fears
a certain fatal plumpness...."

"On my life, I never thought of that! But, my darling, do you not run the
same risk with him?"

"No, it is impossible."

"I understand you. Then we must be very prudent for the future. I believe
that, nine days before Christmas, the mask is no longer allowed, and then
I shall have to go to your casino by water, otherwise, I might easily be
recognized by the same spy who has already followed me once."

"Yes, that idea proves your prudence, and I can easily, shew you the
place. I hope you will be able to come also during Lent, although we are
told that at that time God wishes us to mortify our senses. Is it not
strange that there is a time during which God wants us to amuse ourselves
almost to frenzy, and another during which, in order to please Him, we
must live in complete abstinence? What is there in common between a
yearly observance and the Deity, and how can the action of the creature
have any influence over the Creator, whom my reason cannot conceive
otherwise than independent? It seems to me that if God had created man
with the power of offending Him, man would be right in doing everything
that is forbidden to him, because the deficiencies of his organization
would be the work of the Creator Himself. How can we imagine God grieved
during Lent?"

"My beloved one, you reason beautifully, but will you tell me where you
have managed, in a convent, to pass the Rubicon?"

"Yes. My friend has given me some good books which I have read with deep
attention, and the light of truth has dispelled the darkness which
blinded my eyes. I can assure you that, when I look in my own heart, I
find myself more fortunate in having met with a person who has brought
light to my mind than miserable at having taken the veil; for the
greatest happiness must certainly consist in living and in dying
peacefully--a happiness which can hardly be obtained by listening to all
the idle talk with which the priests puzzle our brains."

"I am of your opinion, but I admire you, for it ought to be the work of
more than a few months to bring light to a mind prejudiced as yours was."

"There is no doubt that I should have seen light much sooner if I had not
laboured under so many prejudices. There was in my mind a curtain
dividing truth from error, and reason alone could draw it aside, but that
poor reason--I had been taught to fear it, to repulse it, as if its
bright flame would have devoured, instead of enlightening me. The moment
it was proved to me that a reasonable being ought to be guided only by
his own inductions I acknowledged the sway of reason, and the mist which
hid truth from me was dispelled. The evidence of truth shone before my
eyes, nonsensical trifles disappeared, and I have no fear of their
resuming their influence over my mind, for every day it is getting
stronger; and I may say that I only began to love God when my mind was
disabused of priestly superstitions concerning Him."

"I congratulate you; you have been more fortunate than I, for you have
made more progress in one year than I have made in ten."

"Then you did not begin by reading the writings of Lord Bolingbroke? Five
or six months ago, I was reading La Sagesse, by Charron, and somehow or
other my confessor heard of it; when I went to him for confession, he
took upon himself to tell me to give up reading that book. I answered
that my conscience did not reproach me, and that I could not obey him.
'In that case,' replied he, 'I will not give you absolution.' 'That will
not prevent me from taking the communion,' I said. This made him angry,
and, in order to know what he ought to do, he applied to Bishop Diedo.
His eminence came to see me, and told me that I ought to be guided by my
confessor. I answered that we had mutual duties to perform, and that the
mission of a priest in the confessional was to listen to me, to impose a
reasonable penance, and to give me absolution; that he had not even the
right of offering me any advice if I did not ask for it. I added that the
confessor being bound to avoid scandal, if he dared to refuse me the
absolution, which, of course, he could do, I would all the same go to the
altar with the other nuns. The bishop, seeing that he was at his wit's
end, told the priest to abandon me to my conscience. But that was not
satisfactory to me, and my lover obtained a brief from the Pope
authorizing me to go to confession to any priest I like. All the sisters
are jealous of the privilege, but I have availed myself of it only once,
for the sake of establishing a precedent and of strengthening the right
by the fact, for it is not worth the trouble. I always confess to the
same priest, and he has no difficulty in giving me absolution, for I only
tell him what I like."

"And for the rest you absolve yourself?"

"I confess to God, who alone can know my thoughts and judge the degree of
merit or of demerit to be attached to my actions."

Our conversation shewed me that my lovely friend was what is called a
Free-thinker; but I was not astonished at it, because she felt a greater
need of peace for her conscience than of gratification for her senses.

On the Sunday, after dinner, I took a two-oared gondola, and went round
the island of Muran to reconnoitre the shore, and to discover the small
door through which my mistress escaped from the convent. I lost my
trouble and my time, for I did not become acquainted with the shore till
the octave of Christmas, and with the small door six months afterwards. I
shall mention the circumstance in its proper place.

As soon as it was time, I repaired to the temple, and while I was waiting
for the idol I amused myself in examining the books of a small library in
the boudoir. They were not numerous, but they were well chosen and worthy
of the place. I found there everything that has been written against
religion, and all the works of the most voluptuous writers on pleasure;
attractive books, the incendiary style of which compels the reader to
seek the reality of the image they represent. Several folios, richly
bound, contained nothing but erotic engravings. Their principal merit
consisted much more in the beauty of the designs, in the finish of the
work, than in the lubricity of the positions. I found amongst them the
prints of the Portier des Chartreux, published in England; the engravings
of Meursius, of Aloysia Sigea Toletana, and others, all very beautifully
done. A great many small pictures covered the walls of the boudoir, and
they were all masterpieces in the same style as the engravings.

I had spent an hour in examining all these works of art, the sight of
which had excited me in the most irresistible manner, when I saw my
beautiful mistress enter the room, dressed as a nun. Her appearance was
not likely to act as a sedative, and therefore, without losing any time
in compliments, I said to her,

"You arrive most opportunely. All these erotic pictures have fired my
imagination, and it is in your garb of a saint that you must administer
the remedy that my love requires."

"Let me put on another dress, darling, it will not take more than five
minutes."

"Five minutes will complete my happiness, and then you can attend to your
metamorphosis."

"But let me take off these woollen robes, which I dislike."

"No; I want you to receive the homage of my love in the same dress which
you had on when you gave birth to it."

She uttered in the humblest manner a 'fiat voluntas tua', accompanied by
the most voluptuous smile, and sank on the sofa. For one instant we
forgot all the world besides. After that delightful ecstacy I assisted
her to undress, and a simple gown of Indian muslin soon metamorphosed my
lovely nun into a beautiful nymph.

After an excellent supper, we agreed not to meet again till the first day
of the octave. She gave me the key of the gate on the shore, and told me
that a blue ribbon attached to the window over the door would point it
out by day, so as to prevent my making a mistake at night. I made her
very happy by telling her that I would come and reside in her casino
until the return of her friend. During the ten days that I remained
there, I saw her four times, and I convinced her that I lived only for
her.

During my stay in the casino I amused myself in reading, in writing to
C---- C----, but my love for her had become a calm affection. The lines
which interested me most in her letters were those in which she mentioned
her friend. She often blamed me for not having cultivated the
acquaintance of M---- M----, and my answer was that I had not done so for
fear of being known. I always insisted upon the necessity of discretion.

I do not believe in the possibility of equal love being bestowed upon two
persons at the same time, nor do I believe it possible to keep love to a
high degree of intensity if you give it either too much food or none at
all. That which maintained my passion for M---- M ---- in a state of great
vigour was that I could never possess her without running the risk of
losing her.

"It is impossible," I said to her once, "that some time or other one of
the nuns should not want to speak to you when you are absent?"

"No," she answered, "that cannot happen, because there is nothing more
religiously respected in a convent than the right of a nun to deny
herself, even to the abbess. A fire is the only circumstance I have to
fear, because in that case there would be general uproar and confusion,
and it would not appear natural that a nun should remain quietly locked
up in her cell in the midst of such danger; my escape would then be
discovered. I have contrived to gain over the lay-sister and the
gardener, as well as another nun, and that miracle was performed by my
cunning assisted by my lover's gold.

"He answers for the fidelity of the cook and his wife who take care of
the casino. He has likewise every confidence in the two gondoliers,
although one of them is sure to be a spy of the State Inquisitors."

On Christmas Eve she announced the return of her lover, and she told him
that on St. Stephen's Day she would go with him to the opera, and that
they would afterwards spend the night together.

"I shall expect you, my beloved one," she added, "on the last day of the
year, and here is a letter which I beg you not to read till you get
home."

As I had to move in order to make room for her lover, I packed my things
early in the morning, and, bidding farewell to a place in which during
ten days I had enjoyed so many delights, I returned to the Bragadin
Palace, where I read the following letter:

"You have somewhat offended me, my own darling, by telling me, respecting
the mystery which I am bound to keep on the subject of my lover, that,
satisfied to possess my heart, you left me mistress of my mind. That
division of the heart and of the mind appears to me a pure sophism, and
if it does not strike you as such you must admit that you do not love me
wholly, for I cannot exist without mind, and you cannot cherish my heart
if it does not agree with my mind. If your love cannot accept a different
state of things it does not excel in delicacy. However, as some
circumstance might occur in which you might accuse me of not having acted
towards you with all the sincerity that true love inspires, and that it
has a right to demand, I have made up my mind to confide to you a secret
which concerns my friend, although I am aware that he relies entirely
upon my discretion. I shall certainly be guilty of a breach of
confidence, but you will not love me less for it, because, compelled to
choose between you two, and to deceive either one or the other, love has
conquered friendship; do not punish me for it, for it has not been done
blindly, and you will, I trust, consider the reasons which have caused
the scale to weigh down in your favour.

"When I found myself incapable of resisting my wish to know you and to
become intimate with you, I could not gratify that wish without taking my
friend into my confidence, and I had no doubt of his compliance. He
conceived a very favourable opinion of your character from your first
letter, not only because you had chosen the parlour of the convent for
our first interview, but also because you appointed his casino at Muran
instead of your own. But he likewise begged of me to allow him to be
present at our first meeting-place, in a small closet--a true
hiding-place, from which one can see and hear everything without being
suspected by those in the drawing-room. You have not yet seen that
mysterious closet, but I will shew it to you on the last day of the year.
Tell me, dearest, whether I could refuse that singular request to the man
who was shewing me such compliant kindness? I consented, and it was
natural for me not to let you know it. You are therefore aware now that
my friend was a witness of all we did and said during the first night
that we spent together, but do not let that annoy you, for you pleased
him in everything, in your behaviour towards me as well as in the witty
sayings which you uttered to make me laugh. I was in great fear, when the
conversation turned upon him, lest you would say something which might
hurt his self-love, but, very fortunately, he heard only the most
flattering compliments. Such is, dearest love, the sincere confession of
my treason, but as a wise lover you will forgive me because it has not
done you the slightest harm. My friend is extremely curious to ascertain
who you are. But listen to me, that night you were natural and thoroughly
amiable, would you have been the same, if you had known that there was a
witness? It is not likely, and if I had acquainted you with the truth,
you might have refused your consent, and perhaps you would have been
right.

"Now that we know each other, and that you entertain no doubt, I trust,
of my devoted love, I wish to ease my conscience and to venture all.
Learn then, dearest, that on the last day of the year, my friend will be
at the casino, which he will leave only the next morning. You will not
see him, but he will see us. As you are supposed not to know anything
about it, you must feel that you will have to be natural in everything,
otherwise, he might guess that I have betrayed the secret. It is
especially in your conversation that you must be careful. My friend
possesses every virtue except the theological one called faith, and on
that subject you can say anything you like. You will be at liberty to
talk literature, travels, politics, anything you please, and you need not
refrain from anecdotes. In fact you are certain of his approbation.

"Now, dearest, I have only this to say. Do you feel disposed to allow
yourself to be seen by another man while you are abandoning yourself to
the sweet voluptuousness of your senses? That doubt causes all my
anxiety, and I entreat from you an answer, yes or no. Do you understand
how painful the doubt is for me? I expect not to close my eyes throughout
the night, and I shall not rest until I have your decision. In case you
should object to shew your tenderness in the presence of a third person,
I will take whatever determination love may suggest to me. But I hope you
will consent, and even if you were not to perform the character of an
ardent lover in a masterly manner, it would not be of any consequence. I
will let my friend believe that your love has not reached its apogee."

That letter certainly took me by surprise, but all things considered,
thinking that my part was better than the one accepted by the lover, I
laughed heartily at the proposal. I confess, however, that I should not
have laughed if I had not known the nature of the individual who was to
be the witness of my amorous exploits. Understanding all the anxiety of
my friend, and wishing to allay it, I immediately wrote to her the
following lines:

"You wish me, heavenly creature, to answer you yes or no, and I, full of
love for you, want my answer to reach you before noon, so that you may
dine in perfect peace.

"I will spend the last night of the year with you, and I can assure you
that the friend, to whom we will give a spectacle worthy of Paphos and
Amathos, shall see or hear nothing likely to make him suppose that I am
acquainted with his secret. You may be certain that I will play my part
not as a novice but as a master. If it is man's duty to be always the
slave of his reason; if, as long as he has control over himself, he ought
not to act without taking it for his guide, I cannot understand why a man
should be ashamed to shew himself to a friend at the very moment that he
is most favoured by love and nature.

"Yet I confess that you would have been wrong if you had confided the
secret to me the first time, and that most likely I should then have
refused to grant you that mark of my compliance, not because I loved you
less then than I do now, but there are such strange tastes in nature that
I might have imagined that your lover's ruling taste was to enjoy the
sight of an ardent and frantic couple in the midst of amorous connection,
and in that case, conceiving an unfavourable opinion of you, vexation
might have frozen the love you had just sent through my being. Now,
however, the case is very different. I know all I possess in you, and,
from all you have told me of your lover, I am well disposed towards him,
and I believe him to be my friend. If a feeling of modesty does not deter
you from shewing yourself tender, loving, and full of amorous ardour with
me in his presence, how could I be ashamed, when, on the contrary, I
ought to feel proud of myself? I have no reason to blush at having made a
conquest of you, or at shewing myself in those moments during which I
prove the liberality with which nature has bestowed upon me the shape and
the strength which assure such immense enjoyment to me, besides the
certainty that I can make the woman I love share it with me. I am aware
that, owing to a feeling which is called natural, but which is perhaps
only the result of civilization and the effect of the prejudices inherent
in youth, most men object to any witness in those moments, but those who
cannot give any good reasons for their repugnance must have in their
nature something of the cat. At the same time, they might have some
excellent reasons, without their thinking themselves bound to give them,
except to the woman, who is easily deceived. I excuse with all my heart
those who know that they would only excite the pity of the witnesses, but
we both have no fear of that sort. All you have told me of your friend
proves that he will enjoy our pleasures. But do you know what will be the
result of it? The intensity of our ardour will excite his own, and he
will throw himself at my feet, begging and entreating me to give up to
him the only object likely to calm his amorous excitement. What could I
do in that case? Give you up? I could hardly refuse to do so with good
grace, but I would go away, for I could not remain a quiet spectator.

"Farewell, my darling love; all will be well, I have no doubt. Prepare
yourself for the athletic contest, and rely upon the fortunate being who
adores you."

I spent the six following days with my three worthy friends, and at the
'ridotto', which at that time was opened on St. Stephen's Day. As I could
not hold the cards there, the patricians alone having the privilege of
holding the bank, I played morning and evening, and I constantly lost;
for whoever punts must lose. But the loss of the four or five thousand
sequins I possessed, far from cooling my love, seemed only to increase
its ardour.

At the end of the year 1774 the Great Council promulgated a law
forbidding all games of chance, the first effect of which was to close
the 'ridotto'. This law was a real phenomenon, and when the votes were
taken out of the urn the senators looked at each other with stupefaction.
They had made the law unwittingly, for three-fourths of the voters
objected to it, and yet three-fourths of the votes were in favour of it.
People said that it was a miracle of St. Mark's, who had answered the
prayers of Monsignor Flangini, then censor-in-chief, now cardinal, and
one of the three State Inquisitors.

On the day appointed I was punctual at the place of rendezvous, and I had
not to wait for my mistress. She was in the dressing-room, where she had
had time to attend to her toilet, and as soon as she heard me she came to
me dressed with the greatest elegance.

"My friend is not yet at his post," she said to me, "but the moment he is
there I will give you a wink."

"Where is the mysterious closet?"

"There it is. Look at the back of this sofa against the wall. All those
flowers in relief have a hole in the centre which communicates with the
closet behind that wall. There is a bed, a table, and everything
necessary to a person who wants to spend the night in amusing himself by
looking at what is going on in this room. I will skew it to you whenever
you like."

"Was it arranged by your lover's orders?"

"No, for he could not foresee that he would use it."

"I understand that he may find great pleasure in such a sight, but being
unable to possess you at the very moment nature will make you most
necessary to him, what will he do?"

"That is his business. Besides, he is at liberty to go away when he has
had enough of it, or to sleep if he has a mind to, but if you play your
part naturally he will not feel any weariness."

"I will be most natural, but I must be more polite."

"No, no politeness, I beg, for if you are polite, goodbye to nature.
Where have you ever seen, I should like to know, two lovers, excited by
all the fury of love, think of politeness?"

"You are right, darling, but I must be more delicate."

"Very well, delicacy can do no harm, but no more than usual. Your letter
greatly pleased me, you have treated the subject like a man of
experience."

I have already stated that my mistress was dressed most elegantly, but I
ought to have added that it was the elegance of the Graces, and that it
did not in any way prevent ease and simplicity. I only wondered at her
having used some paint for the face, but it rather pleased me because she
had applied it according to the fashion of the ladies of Versailles. The
charm of that style consists in the negligence with which the paint is
applied. The rouge must not appear natural; it is used to please the eyes
which see in it the marks of an intoxication heralding the most amorous
fury. She told me that she had put some on her face to please her
inquisitive friend, who was very fond of it.

"That taste," I said, "proves him to be a Frenchman."

As I was uttering these words, she made a sign to me; the friend was at
his post, and now the play began.

"The more I look at you, beloved angel, the more I think you worthy of my
adoration."

"But are you not certain that you do not worship a cruel divinity?"

"Yes, and therefore I do not offer my sacrifices to appease you, but to
excite you. You shall feel all through the night the ardour of my
devotion."

"You will not find me insensible to your offerings."

"I would begin them at once, but I think that, in order to insure their
efficiency, we ought to have supper first. I have taken nothing to-day
but a cup of chocolate and a salad of whites of eggs dressed with oil
from Lucca and Marseilles vinegar."

"But, dearest, it is folly! you must be ill?"

"Yes, I am just now, but I shall be all right when I have distilled the
whites of eggs, one by one, into your amorous soul."

"I did not think you required any such stimulants."

"Who could want any with you? But I have a rational fear, for if I
happened to prime without being able to fire, I would blow my brains
out."

"My dear browny, it would certainly be a misfortune, but there would be
no occasion to be in despair on that account."

"You think that I would only have to prime again."

"Of course."

While we were bantering in this edifying fashion, the table had been
laid, and we sat down to supper. She ate for two and I for four, our
excellent appetite being excited by the delicate cheer. A sumptuous
dessert was served in splendid silver-gilt plate, similar to the two
candlesticks which held four wax candles each. Seeing that I admired
them, she said:

"They are a present from my friend."

"It is a magnificent present, has he given you the snuffers likewise?"

"No."

"It is a proof that your friend is a great nobleman."

"How so?"

"Because great lords have no idea of snuffing the candle."

"Our candles have wicks which never require that operation."

"Good! Tell me who has taught you French."

"Old La Forest. I have been his pupil for six years. He has also taught
me to write poetry, but you know a great many words which I never heard
from him, such as 'a gogo, frustratoire, rater, dorloter'. Who taught you
these words?"

"The good company in Paris, and women particularly."

We made some punch, and amused ourselves in eating oysters after the
voluptuous fashion of lovers. We sucked them in, one by one, after
placing them on the other's tongue. Voluptuous reader, try it, and tell
me whether it is not the nectar of the gods!

At last, joking was over, and I reminded her that we had to think of more
substantial pleasures. "Wait here," she said, "I am going to change my
dress. I shall be back in one minute." Left alone, and not knowing what
to do, I looked in the drawers of her writing-table. I did not touch the
letters, but finding a box full of certain preservative sheaths against
the fatal and dreaded plumpness, I emptied it, and I placed in it the
following lines instead of the stolen goods:

'Enfants de L'Amitie, ministres de la Peur, Je suis l'Amour, tremblez,
respectez le voleur! Et toi, femme de Dieu, ne crains pas d'etre mere;
Car si to le deviens, Dieu seal sera le pere. S'il est dit cependant que
tu veux le barren, Parle; je suis tout pret, je me ferai chatrer.'

My mistress soon returned, dressed like a nymph. A gown of Indian muslin,
embroidered with gold lilies, spewed to admiration the outline of her
voluptuous form, and her fine lace-cap was worthy of a queen. I threw
myself at her feet, entreating her not to delay my happiness any longer.

"Control your ardour a few moments," she said, "here is the altar, and in
a few minutes the victim will be in your arms."

"You will see," she added, going to her writing-table, "how far the
delicacy and the kind attention of my friend can extend."

She took the box and opened it, but instead of the pretty sheaths that
she expected to see, she found my poetry. After reading it aloud, she
called me a thief, and smothering me with kisses she entreated me to give
her back what I had stolen, but I pretended not to understand. She then
read the lines again, considered for one moment, and under pretence of
getting a better pen, she left the room, saying,

"I am going to pay you in your own coin."

She came back after a few minutes and wrote the following six lines:

'Sans rien oter au plaisir amoureux, L'objet de ton larcin sert a combier
nos voeux. A l'abri du danger, mon ame satisfaite Savoure en surete
parfaite; Et si tu veux jauer avec securite, Rends-moi mon doux ami, ces
dons de l'amitie.

After this I could not resist any longer, and I gave her back those
objects so precious to a nun who wants to sacrifice on the altar of
Venus.

The clock striking twelve, I shewed her the principal actor who was
longing to perform, and she arranged the sofa, saying that the alcove
being too cold we had better sleep on it. But the true reason was that,
to satisfy the curious lover, it was necessary for us to be seen.

Dear reader, a picture must have shades, and there is nothing, no matter
how beautiful in one point of view, that does not require to be sometimes
veiled if you look at it from a different one. In order to paint the
diversified scene which took place between me and my lovely mistress
until the dawn of day, I should have to use all the colours of Aretino's
palette. I was ardent and full of vigour, but I had to deal with a strong
partner, and in the morning, after the last exploit, we were positively
worn out; so much so that my charming nun felt some anxiety on my
account. It is true that she had seen my blood spurt out and cover her
bosom during my last offering; and as she did not suspect the true cause
of that phenomenon, she turned pale with fright. I allayed her anxiety by
a thousand follies which made her laugh heartily. I washed her splendid
bosom with rosewater, so as to purify it from the blood by which it had
been dyed for the first time. She expressed a fear that she had swallowed
a few drops, but I told her that it was of no consequence, even if were
the case. She resumed the costume of a nun, and entreating me to lie down
and to write to her before returning to Venice, so as to let her know how
I was, she left the casino.

I had no difficulty in obeying her, for I was truly in great need of
rest. I slept until evening. As soon as I awoke, I wrote to her that my
health was excellent, and that I felt quite inclined to begin our
delightful contest all over again. I asked her to let me know how she was
herself, and after I had dispatched my letter I returned to Venice.



CHAPTER XIX

I Give My Portrait to M. M.--A Present From Her--I Go to the Opera With
Her--She Plays At the Faro Table and Replenishes My Empty
Purse--Philosophical Conversation With M. M.--A Letter From C. C.--She
Knows All--A Ball At the Convent; My Exploits In the Character of
Pierrot--C. C. Comes to the Casino Instead of M. M.--I Spend the Night
With Her In A Very Silly Way.

My dear M---- M---- had expressed a wish to have my portrait, something
like the one I had given to C---- C----, only larger, to wear it as a
locket. The outside was to represent some saint, and an invisible spring
was to remove the sainted picture and expose my likeness. I called upon
the artist who had painted the other miniature for me, and in three
sittings I had what I wanted. He afterwards made me an Annunciation, in
which the angel Gabriel was transformed into a dark-haired saint, and the
Holy Virgin into a beautiful, light-complexioned woman holding her arms
towards the angel. The celebrated painter Mengs imitated that idea in the
picture of the Annunciation which he painted in Madrid twelve years
afterwards, but I do not know whether he had the same reasons for it as
my painter. That allegory was exactly of the same size as my portrait,
and the jeweller who made the locket arranged it in such a manner that no
one could suppose the sacred image to be there only for the sake of
hiding a profane likeness.

The end of January, 1754, before going to the casino, I called upon Laura
to give her a letter for C---- C----, and she handed me one from her which
amused me. My beautiful nun had initiated that young girl, not only into
the mysteries of Sappho, but also in high metaphysics, and C---- C---- had
consequently become a Freethinker. She wrote to me that, objecting to
give an account of her affairs to her confessor, and yet not wishing to
tell him falsehoods, she had made up her mind to tell him nothing.

"He has remarked," she added, "that perhaps I do not confess anything to
him because I did not examine my conscience sufficiently, and I answered
him that I had nothing to say, but that if he liked I would commit a few
sins for the purpose of having something to tell him in confession."

I thought this reply worthy of a thorough sophist, and laughed heartily.

On the same day I received the following letter from my adorable nun "I
write to you from my bed, dearest browny, because I cannot remain
standing on my feet. I am almost dead. But I am not anxious about it; a
little rest will make me all right, for I eat well and sleep soundly. You
have made me very happy by writing to me that your bleeding has not had
any evil consequences, and I give you fair notice that I shall have the
proof of it on Twelfth Night, at least if you like; that is understood,
and you will let me know. In case you should feel disposed to grant me
that favour, my darling, I wish to go to the opera. At all events,
recollect that I positively forbid the whites of eggs for the future, for
I would rather have a little less enjoyment and more security respecting
your health. In future, when you go to the casino of Muran, please to
enquire whether there is anybody there, and if you receive an affirmative
answer, go away. My friend will do the same. In that manner you will not
run the risk of meeting one another, but you need not observe these
precautions for long, if you wish, for my friend is extremely fond of
you, and has a great desire to make your acquaintance. He has told me
that, if he had not seen it with his own eyes, he never would have
believed that a man could run the race that you ran so splendidly the
other night, but he says that, by making love in that manner, you bid
defiance to death, for he is certain that the blood you lost comes from
the brain. But what will he say when he hears that you only laugh at the
occurrence? I am going to make you very merry: he wants to eat the salad
of whites of eggs, and he wants me to ask you for some of your vinegar,
because there is none in Venice. He said that he spent a delightful
night, in spite of his fear of the evil consequences of our amorous
sport, and he has found my own efforts superior to the usual weakness of
my sex. That may be the case, dearest browny, but I am delighted to have
done such wonders, and to have made such trial of my strength. Without
you, darling of my heart, I should have lived without knowing myself, and
I wonder whether it is possible for nature to create a woman who could
remain insensible in your arms, or rather one who would not receive new
life by your side. It is more than love that I feel for you, it is
idolatry; and my mouth, longing to meet yours, sends forth thousands of
kisses which are wasted in the air. I am panting for your divine
portrait, so as to quench by a sweet illusion the fire which devours my
amorous lips. I trust my likeness will prove equally dear to you, for it
seems to me that nature has created us for one another, and I curse the
fatal instant in which I raised an invincible barrier between us. You
will find enclosed the key of my bureau. Open it, and take a parcel on
which you will see written, 'For my darling.' It is a small present which
my friend wishes me to offer you in exchange for the beautiful night-cap
that you gave me. Adieu."

The small key enclosed in the letter belonged to a bureau in the boudoir.
Anxious to know the nature of the present that she could offer me at the
instance of her friend, I opened the bureau, and found a parcel
containing a letter and a morocco-leather case.

The letter was as follows:

"That which will, I hope, render this present dear to you is the portrait
of a woman who adores you. Our friend had two of them, but the great
friendship he entertains towards you has given him the happy idea of
disposing of one in your favour. This box contains two portraits of me,
which are to be seen in two different ways: if you take off the bottom
part, of the case in its length, you will see me as a nun; and if you
press on the corner, the top will open and expose me to your sight in a
state of nature. It is not possible, dearest, that a woman can ever have
loved you as I do. Our friend excites my passion by the flattering
opinion that he entertains of you. I cannot decide whether I am more
fortunate in my friend or in my lover, for I could not imagine any being
superior to either one or the other."

The case contained a gold snuff-box, and a small quantity of Spanish
snuff which had been left in it proved that it had been used. I followed
the instructions given in the letter, and I first saw my mistress in the
costume of a nun, standing and in half profile. The second secret spring
brought her before my eyes, entirely naked, lying on a mattress of black
satin, in the position of the Madeleine of Coreggio. She was looking at
Love, who had the quiver at his feet, and was gracefully sitting on the
nun's robes. It was such a beautiful present that I did not think myself
worthy of it. I wrote to M---- M---- a letter in which the deepest
gratitude was blended with the most exalted love. The drawers of the
bureau contained all her diamonds and four purses full of sequins. I
admired her noble confidence in me. I locked the bureau, leaving
everything undisturbed, and returned to Venice. If I had been able to
escape out of the capricious clutches of fortune by giving up gambling,
my happiness would have been complete.

My own portrait was set with rare perfection, and as it was arranged to
be worn round the neck I attached it to six yards of Venetian chain,
which made it a very handsome present. The secret was in the ring to
which it was suspended, and it was very difficult to discover it. To make
the spring work and expose my likeness it was necessary to pull the ring
with some force and in a peculiar manner. Otherwise, nothing could be
seen but the Annunciation; and it was then a beautiful ornament for a
nun.

On Twelfth Night, having the locket and chain in my pocket, I went early
in the evening to watch near the fine statue erected to the hero Colleoni
after he had been poisoned, if history does not deceive us. 'Sit divus,
modo non vivus', is a sentence from the enlightened monarch, which will
last as long as there are monarchs on earth.

At six o'clock precisely my mistress alighted from the gondola, well
dressed and well masked, but this time in the garb of a woman. We went to
the Saint Samuel opera, and after the second ballet we repaired to the
'ridotto', where she amused herself by looking at all the ladies of the
nobility who alone had the right to walk about without masks. After
rambling about for half an hour, we entered the hall where the bank was
held. She stopped before the table of M. Mocenigo, who at that time was
the best amongst all the noble gamblers. As nobody was playing, he was
carelessly whispering to a masked lady, whom I recognized as Madame
Marina Pitani, whose adorer he was.

M---- M---- enquired whether I wanted to play, and as I answered in the
negative she said to me,

"I take you for my partner."

And without waiting for my answer she took a purse, and placed a pile of
gold on a card. The banker without disturbing himself shuffled the cards,
turned them up, and my friend won the paroli. The banker paid, took
another pack of cards, and continued his conversation with his lady,
shewing complete indifference for four hundred sequins which my friend
had already placed on the same card. The banker continuing his
conversations, M---- M---- said to me, in excellent French,

"Our stakes are not high enough to interest this gentleman; let us go."

I took up the gold, which I put in my pocket, without answering M. de
Mocenigo, who said to me:

"Your mask is too exacting."

I rejoined my lovely gambler, who was surrounded. We stopped soon
afterwards before the bank of M. Pierre Marcello, a charming young man,
who had near him Madame Venier, sister of the patrician Momolo. My
mistress began to play, and lost five rouleaux of gold one after the
other. Having no more money, she took handfuls of gold from my pocket,
and in four or five deals she broke the bank. She went away, and the
noble banker, bowing, complimented her upon her good fortune. After I had
taken care of all the gold she had won, I gave her my arm, and we left
the 'ridotto', but remarking that a few inquisitive persons were
following us, I took a gondola which landed us according to my
instructions. One can always escape prying eyes in this way in Venice.

After supper I counted our winnings, and I found myself in possession of
one thousand sequins as my share. I rolled the remainder in paper, and my
friend asked me to put it in her bureau. I then took my locket and threw
it over her neck; it gave her the greatest delight, and she tried for a
long time to discover the secret. At last I showed it her, and she
pronounced my portrait an excellent likeness.

Recollecting that we had but three hours to devote to the pleasures of
love, I entreated her to allow me to turn them to good account.

"Yes," she said, "but be prudent, for our friend pretends that you might
die on the spot."

"And why does he not fear the same danger for you, when your ecstasies
are in reality much more frequent than mine?"

"He says that the liquor distilled by us women does not come from the
brain, as is the case with men, and that the generating parts of woman
have no contact with her intellect. The consequence of it, he says, is
that the child is not the offspring of the mother as far as the brain,
the seat of reason, is concerned, but of the father, and it seems to me
very true. In that important act the woman has scarcely the amount of
reason that she is in need of, and she cannot have any left to enable her
to give a dose to the being she is generating."

"Your friend is a very learned man. But do you know that such a way of
arguing opens my eyes singularly? It is evident that, if that system be
true, women ought to be forgiven for all the follies which they commit
on account of love, whilst man is inexcusable, and I should be in
despair if I happened to place you in a position to become a mother."

"I shall know before long, and if it should be the case so much the
better. My mind is made up, and my decision taken."

"And what is that decision?"

"To abandon my destiny entirely to you both. I am quite certain that
neither one nor the other would let me remain at the convent."

"It would be a fatal event which would decide our future destinies. I
would carry you off, and take you to England to marry you."

"My friend thinks that a physician might be bought, who, under the
pretext of some disease of his own invention, would prescribe to me to go
somewhere to drink the waters--a permission which the bishop might grant.
At the watering-place I would get cured, and come back here, but I would
much rather unite our destinies for ever. Tell me, dearest, could you
manage to live anywhere as comfortably as you do here?"

"Alas! my love, no, but with you how could I be unhappy? But we will
resume that subject whenever it may be necessary. Let us go to bed."

"Yes. If I have a son my friend wishes to act towards him as a father."

"Would he believe himself to be the father?"

"You might both of you believe it, but some likeness would soon enlighten
me as to which of you two was the true father."

"Yes. If, for instance, the child composed poetry, then you would suppose
that he was the son of your friend."

"How do you know that my friend can write poetry?"

"Admit that he is the author of the six lines which you wrote in answer
to mine."

"I cannot possibly admit such a falsehood, because, good or bad, they
were of my own making, and so as to leave you no doubt let me convince
you of it at once."

"Oh, never mind! I believe you, and let us go to bed, or Love will call
out the god of Parnassus."

"Let him do it, but take this pencil and write; I am Apollo, you may be
Love:"

'Je ne me battrai pas; je te cede la place. Si Venus est ma soeur,
L'Amour est de ma race. Je sais faire des vers. Un instant de perdu
N'offense pas L'Amour, si je l'ai convaincu.

"It is on my knees that I entreat your pardon, my heavenly friend, but
how could I expect so much talent in a young daughter of Venice, only
twenty-two years of age, and, above all, brought up in a convent?"

"I have a most insatiate desire to prove myself more and more worthy of
you. Did you think I was prudent at the gaming-table?"

"Prudent enough to make the most intrepid banker tremble."

"I do not always play so well, but I had taken you as a partner, and I
felt I could set fortune at defiance. Why would you not play?"

"Because I had lost four thousand sequins last week and I was without
money, but I shall play to-morrow, and fortune will smile upon me. In the
mean time, here is a small book which I have brought from your boudoir:
the postures of Pietro Aretino; I want to try some of them."

"The thought is worthy of you, but some of these positions could not be
executed, and others are insipid."

"True, but I have chosen four very interesting ones."

These delightful labours occupied the remainder of the night until the
alarum warned us that it was time to part. I accompanied my lovely nun as
far as her gondola, and then went to bed; but I could not sleep. I got up
in order to go and pay a few small debts, for one of the greatest
pleasures that a spendthrift can enjoy is, in my opinion, to discharge
certain liabilities. The gold won by my mistress proved lucky for me, for
I did not pass a single day of the carnival without winning.

Three days after Twelfth Night, having paid a visit to the casino of
Muran for the purpose of placing some gold in M---- M---- 's bureau, the
door-keeper handed me a letter from my nun. Laura had, a few minutes
before, delivered me one from C---- C----.

My new mistress, after giving me an account of her health, requested me
to enquire from my jeweller whether he had not by chance made a ring
having on its bezel a St. Catherine which, without a doubt, concealed
another portrait; she wished to know the secret of that ring. "A young
boarder," she added, "a lovely girl, and my friend, is the owner of that
ring. There must be a secret, but she does not know it." I answered that
I would do what she wished. But here is the letter of C---- C----. It was
rather amusing, because it placed me in a regular dilemma; it bore a late
date, but the letter of M---- M---- had been written two days before it.

"Ali! how truly happy I am, my beloved husband! You love Sister
M---- M----, my dear friend. She has a locket as big as a ring, and she
cannot have received it from anyone but you. I am certain that your dear
likeness is to be found under the Annunciation. I recognized the style of
the artist, and it is certainly the same who painted the locket and my
ring. I am satisfied that Sister M---M---has received that present from
you. I am so pleased to know all that I would not run the risk of
grieving her by telling her that I knew her secret, but my dear friend,
either more open or more curious, has not imitated my reserve. She told
me that she had no doubt of my St. Catherine concealing the portrait of
my lover. Unable to say anything better, I told her that the ring was in
reality a gift from my lover, but that I had no idea of his portrait
being concealed inside of it. 'If it is as you say,' observed M---- M----,
'and if you have no objection, I will try to find out the secret, and
afterwards I will let you know mine.' Being quite certain that she would
not discover it, I gave her my ring, saying that, if she could find out
the secret, I should be very much pleased.

"Just as that moment my aunt paid me a visit, and I left my ring in the
hands of M---- M----, who returned it to me after dinner, assuring me
that, although she had not been able to find out the secret, she was
certain there was one. I promise you that she shall never hear anything
about it from me, because if she saw your portrait, she would guess
everything, and then I should have to tell her who you are. I am sorry to
be compelled to conceal anything from her, but I am very glad you love
one another. I pity you both, however, with all my heart, because I know
that you are obliged to make love through a grating in that horrid
parlour. How I wish, dearest, I could give you my place! I would make two
persons happy at the same time! Adieu!"

I answered that she had guessed rightly, that the locket of her friend
was a present from me and contained my likeness, but that she was to keep
the secret, and to be certain that my friendship for M---- M---- interfered
in no way with the feeling which bound me to her for ever. I certainly
was well aware that I was not behaving in a straightforward manner, but I
endeavoured to deceive myself, so true it is that a woman, weak as she
is, has more influence by the feeling she inspires than man can possibly
have with all his strength. At all events, I was foolishly trying to keep
up an intrigue which I knew to be near its denouement through the
intimacy that had sprung up between these two friendly rivals.

Laura having informed me that there was to be on a certain day a ball in
the large parlour of the convent, I made up my mind to attend it in such
a disguise that my two friends could not recognize me. I decided upon the
costume of a Pierrot, because it conceals the form and the gait better
than any other. I was certain that my two friends would be behind the
grating, and that it would afford me the pleasant opportunity of seeing
them together and of comparing them. In Venice, during the carnival, that
innocent pleasure is allowed in convents. The guests dance in the
parlour, and the sisters remain behind the grating, enjoying the sight of
the ball, which is over by sunset. Then all the guests retire, and the
poor nuns are for a long time happy in the recollection of the pleasure
enjoyed by their eyes. The ball was to take place in the afternoon of the
day appointed for my meeting with M---- M----, in the evening at the
casino of Muran, but that could not prevent me from going to the ball;
besides, I wanted to see my dear C---- C----.

I have said before that the dress of a Pierrot is the costume which
disguises the figure and the gait most completely. It has also the
advantage, through a large cap, of concealing the hair, and the white
gauze which covers the face does not allow the colour of the eyes or of
the eyebrows to be seen, but in order to prevent the costume from
hindering the movements of the mask, he must not wear anything
underneath, and in winter a dress made of light calico is not
particularly agreeable. I did not, however, pay any attention to that,
and taking only a plate of soup I went to Muran in a gondola. I had no
cloak, and--in my pockets I had nothing but my handkerchief, my purse,
and the key of the casino.

I went at once to the convent. The parlour was full, but thanks to my
costume of Pierrot, which was seen in Venice but very seldom, everybody
made room for me. I walked on, assuming the gait of a booby, the true
characteristic of my costume, and I stopped near the dancers. After I had
examined the Pantaloons, Punches, Harlequins, and Merry Andrews, I went
near the grating, where I saw all the nuns and boarders, some seated,
some standing, and, without appearing to, notice any of them in
particular, I remarked my two friends together, and very intent upon the
dancers. I then walked round the room, eyeing everybody from head to
foot, and calling the general attention upon myself.

I chose for my partner in the minuet a pretty girl dressed as a
Columbine, and I took her hand in so awkward a manner and with such an
air of stupidity that everybody laughed and made room for us. My partner
danced very well according to her costume, and I kept my character with
such perfection that the laughter was general. After the minuet I danced
twelve forlanas with the greatest vigour. Out of breath, I threw myself
on a sofa, pretending to go to sleep, and the moment I began to snore
everybody respected the slumbers of Pierrot. The quadrille lasted one
hour, and I took no part in it, but immediately after it, a Harlequin
approached me with the impertinence which belongs to his costume, and
flogged me with his wand. It is Harlequin's weapon. In my quality of
Pierrot I had no weapons. I seized him round the waist and carried him
round the parlour, running all the time, while he kept on flogging me. I
then put him down. Adroitly snatching his wand out of his hand, I lifted
his Columbine on my shoulders, and pursued him, striking him with the
wand, to the great delight and mirth of the company. The Columbine was
screaming because she was afraid of my tumbling down and of shewing her
centre of gravity to everybody in the fall. She had good reason to fear,
for suddenly a foolish Merry Andrew came behind me, tripped me up, and
down I tumbled. Everybody hooted Master Punch. I quickly picked myself
up, and rather vexed I began a regular fight with the insolent fellow. He
was of my size, but awkward, and he had nothing but strength. I threw
him, and shaking him vigorously on all sides I contrived to deprive him
of his hump and false stomach. The nuns, who had never seen such a merry
sight, clapped their hands, everybody laughed loudly, and improving my
opportunity I ran through the crowd and disappeared.

I was in a perspiration, and the weather was cold; I threw myself into a
gondola, and in order not to get chilled I landed at the 'ridotto'. I had
two hours to spare before going to the casino of Muran, and I longed to
enjoy the astonishment of my beautiful nun when she saw M. Pierrot
standing before her. I spent those two hours in playing at all the banks,
winning, losing, and performing all sorts of antics with complete
freedom, being satisfied that no one could recognize me; enjoying the
present, bidding defiance to the future, and laughing at all those
reasonable beings who exercise their reason to avoid the misfortunes
which they fear, destroying at the same time the pleasure that they might
enjoy.

But two o'clock struck and gave me warning that Love and Comus were
calling me to bestow new delights upon me. With my pockets full of gold
and silver, I left the ridotto, hurried to Muran, entered the sanctuary,
and saw my divinity leaning against the mantelpiece. She wore her convent
dress. I come near her by stealth, in order to enjoy her surprise. I look
at her, and I remain petrified, astounded.

The person I see is not M---- M----

It is C---- C----, dressed as a nun, who, more astonished even than
myself, does not utter one word or make a movement. I throw myself in an
arm-chair in order to breathe and to recover from my surprise. The sight
of C---- C---- had annihilated me, and my mind was as much stupefied as my
body. I found myself in an inextricable maze.

It is M---- M----, I said to myself, who has played that trick upon me,
but how has she contrived to know that I am the lover of C---- C----? Has
C---- C---- betrayed my secret? But if she has betrayed it, how could
M---- M---- deprive herself of the pleasure of seeing me, and consent to
her place being taken by her friend and rival? That cannot be a mark of
kind compliance, for a woman never carries it to such an extreme. I see
in it only a mark of contempt--a gratuitous insult.

My self-love tried hard to imagine some reason likely to disprove the
possibility of that contempt, but in vain. Absorbed in that dark
discontent, I believed myself wantonly trifled with, deceived, despised,
and I spent half an hour silent and gloomy, staring at C---- C----, who
scarcely dared to breathe, perplexed, confused, and not knowing in whose
presence she was, for she could only know me as the Pierrot whom she had
seen at the ball.

Deeply in love with M---- M----, and having come to the casino only for
her, I did not feel disposed to accept the exchange, although I was very
far from despising C---- C----, whose charms were as great, at least, as
those of M---- M----. I loved her tenderly, I adored her, but at that
moment it was not her whom I wanted, because at first her presence had
struck me as a mystification. It seemed to me that if I celebrated the
return of C---- C---- in an amorous manner, I would fail in what I owed to
myself, and I thought that I was bound in honour not to lend myself to
the imposition. Besides, without exactly realizing that feeling, I was
not sorry to have it in my power to reproach M---- M---- with an
indifference very strange in a woman in love, and I wanted to act in such
a manner that she should not be able to say that she had procured me a
pleasure. I must add that I suspected M---- M---- to be hiding in the
secret closet, perhaps with her friend.

I had to take a decision, for I could not pass the whole night in my
costume of Pierrot, and without speaking. At first I thought of going
away, the more so that both C---- C---- and her friend could not be certain
that I and Pierrot were the same individual, but I soon abandoned the
idea with horror, thinking of the deep sorrow which would fill the loving
soul of C---- C---- if she ever heard I was the Pierrot. I almost fancied
that she knew it already, and I shared the grief which she evidently
would feel in that case. I had seduced her. I had given her the right to
call me her husband. These thoughts broke my heart.

If M---- M---- is in the closet, said I to myself, she will shew herself in
good time. With that idea, I took off the gauze which covered my
features. My lovely C---- C---- gave a deep sigh, and said:

"I breathe again! it could not be anyone but you, my heart felt it. You
seemed surprised when you saw me, dearest; did you not know that I was
waiting for you?"

"I had not the faintest idea of it."

"If you are angry, I regret it deeply, but I am innocent."

"My adored friend, come to my arms, and never suppose that I can be angry
with you. I am delighted to see you; you are always my dear wife: but I
entreat you to clear up a cruel doubt, for you could never have betrayed
my secret."

"I! I would never have been guilty of such a thing, even if death had
stared me in the face."

"Then, how did you come here? How did your friend contrive to discover
everything? No one but you could tell her that I am your husband. Laura
perhaps....'

"No, Laura is faithful, dearest, and I cannot guess how it was."

"But how could you be persuaded to assume that disguise, and to come
here? You can leave the convent, and you have never apprised me of that
important circumstance."

"Can you suppose that I would not have told you all about it, if I had
ever left the convent, even once? I came out of it two hours ago, for the
first time, and I was induced to take that step in the simplest, the most
natural manner."

"Tell me all about it, my love. I feel extremely curious."

"I am glad of it, and I would conceal nothing from you. You know how
dearly M---- M---- and I love each other. No intimacy could be more tender
than ours; you can judge of it by what I told you in my letters. Well,
two days ago, my dear friend begged the abbess and my aunt to allow me to
sleep in her room in the place of the lay-sister, who, having a very bad
cold, had carried her cough to the infirmary. The permission was granted,
and you cannot imagine our pleasure in seeing ourselves at liberty, for
the first time, to sleep in the same bed. To-day, shortly after you had
left the parlour, where you so much amused us, without our discovering
that the delightful Pierrot was our friend, my dear M---- M---- retired to
her room and I followed her. The moment we were alone she told me that
she wanted me to render her a service from which depended our happiness.
I need not tell you how readily I answered that she had only to name it.
Then she opened a drawer, and much to my surprise she dressed me in this
costume. She was laughing; and I did the same without suspecting the end
of the joke. When she saw me entirely metamorphosed into a nun, she told
me that she was going to trust me with a great secret, but that she
entertained no fear of my discretion. 'Let me tell you, clearest friend,'
she said to me, 'that I was on the point of going out of the convent, to
return only tomorrow morning. I have, however, just decided that you
shall go instead. You have nothing to fear and you do not require any
instructions, because I know that you will meet with no difficulty. In an
hour, a lay-sister will come here, I will speak a few words apart to her,
and she will tell you to follow her. You will go out with her through the
small gate and across the garden as far as the room leading out to the
low shore. There you will get into the gondola, and say to the gondolier
these words: 'To the casino.' You will reach it in five minutes; you will
step out and enter a small apartment, where you will find a good fire;
you will be alone, and you will wait.' 'For whom? I enquired. 'For
nobody. You need not know any more: you may only be certain that nothing
unpleasant will happen to you; trust me for that. You will sup at the
casino, and sleep, if you like, without being disturbed. Do not ask any
questions, for I cannot answer them. Such is, my dear husband, the whole
truth. Tell me now what I could do after that speech of my friend, and
after she had received my promise to do whatever she wished. Do not
distrust what I tell you, for my lips cannot utter a falsehood. I
laughed, and not expecting anything else but an agreeable adventure, I
followed the lay-sister and soon found myself here. After a tedious hour
of expectation, Pierrot made his appearance. Be quite certain that the
very moment I saw you my heart knew who it was, but a minute after I felt
as if the lightning had struck me when I saw you step back, for I saw
clearly enough that you did not expect to find me. Your gloomy silence
frightened me, and I would never have dared to be the first in breaking
it; the more so that, in spite of the feelings of my heart, I might have
been mistaken. The dress of Pierrot might conceal some other man, but
certainly no one that I could have seen in this place without horror.
Recollect that for the last eight months I have been deprived of the
happiness of kissing you, and now that you must be certain of my
innocence, allow me to congratulate you upon knowing this casino. You are
happy, and I congratulate you with all my heart. M---- M---- is, after me,
the only woman worthy of your love, the only one with whom I could
consent to share it. I used to pity you, but I do so no longer, and your
happiness makes me happy. Kiss me now."

I should have been very ungrateful, I should, even have been cruel, if I
had not then folded in my arms with the warmth of true love the angel of
goodness and beauty who was before me, thanks to the most wonderful
effort of friendship.

After assuring her that I no longer entertained any doubt of her
innocence, I told her that I thought the behaviour of her friend very
ambiguous. I said that, notwithstanding the pleasure I felt in seeing
her, the trick played upon me by her friend was a very bad one, that it
could not do otherwise than displease me greatly, because it was an
insult to me.

"I am not of your opinion," replied C---- C----.

"My dear M---- M---- has evidently contrived, somehow or other, to discover
that, before you were acquainted with her, you were my lover. She thought
very likely that you still loved me, and she imagined, for I know her
well, that she could not give us a greater proof of her love than by
procuring us, without forewarning us, that which two lovers fond of each
other must wish for so ardently. She wished to make us happy, and I
cannot be angry with her for it."

"You are right to think so, dearest, but my position is very different
from yours. You have not another lover; you could not have another; but I
being free and unable to see you, have not found it possible to resist
the charms of M---- M----. I love her madly; she knows it, and,
intelligent as she is, she must have meant to shew her contempt for me by
doing what she has done. I candidly confess that I feel hurt in the
highest degree. If she loved me as I love her, she never could have sent
you here instead of coming herself."

"I do not think so, my beloved friend. Her soul is as noble as her heart
is generous; and just in the same manner that I am not sorry to know that
you love one another and that you make each other happy, as this
beautiful casino proves to me, she does not regret our love, and she is,
on the contrary, delighted to shew us that she approves of it. Most
likely she meant to prove that she loved you for your own sake, that your
happiness makes her happy, and that she is not jealous of her best friend
being her rival. To convince you that you ought not to be angry with her
for having discovered our secret, she proves, by sending me here in her
place, that she is pleased to see your heart divided between her and me.
You know very well that she loves me, and that I am often either her wife
or her husband, and as you do not object to my being your rival and
making her often as happy as I can, she does not want you either to
suppose that her love is like hatred, for the love of a jealous heart is
very much like it."

"You plead the cause of your friend with the eloquence of an angel, but,
dear little wife, you do not see the affair in its proper light. You have
intelligence and a pure soul, but you have not my experience.
M---- M----'s love for me has been nothing but a passing fancy, and she
knows that I am not such an idiot as to be deceived by all this affair. I
am miserable, and it is her doing."

"Then I should be right if I complained of her also, because she makes me
feel that she is the mistress of my lover, and she shews me that, after
seducing him from me, she gives him back to me without difficulty. Then
she wishes me to understand that she despises also my tender affection
for her, since she places me in a position to shew that affection for
another person."

"Now, dearest, you speak without reason, for the relations between you
two are of an entirely different nature. Your mutual love is nothing but
trifling nonsense, mere illusion of the senses. The pleasures which you
enjoy together are not exclusive. To become jealous of one another it
would be necessary that one of you two should feel a similar affection
for another woman but M---- M---- could no more be angry at your having a
lover than you could be so yourself if she had one; provided, however,
that the lover should not belong to the other."

"But that is precisely our case, and you are mistaken. We are not angry
at your loving us both equally. Have I not written to you that I would
most willingly give you my place near M---- M----? Then you must believe
that I despise you likewise?"

"My darling, that wish of yours to give me up your place, when you did
not know that I was happy with M---- M----, arose from your friendship
rather than from your love, and for the present I must be glad to see
that your friendship is stronger than your love, but I have every reason
to be sorry when M---- M---- feels the same. I love her without any
possibility of marrying her. Do you understand me, dearest? As for you,
knowing that you must be my wife, I am certain of our love, which
practice will animate with new life. It is not the same with M---- M----;
that love cannot spring up again into existence. Is it not humiliating
for me to have inspired her with nothing but a passing fancy? I
understand your adoration for her very well. She has initiated you into
all her mysteries, and you owe her eternal friendship and everlasting
gratitude."

It was midnight, and we went on wasting our time in this desultory
conversation, when the prudent and careful servant brought us an
excellent supper. I could not touch anything, my heart was too full, but
my dear little wife supped with a good appetite. I could not help
laughing when I saw a salad of whites of eggs, and C---- C---- thought it
extraordinary because all the yolks had been removed. In her innocence,
she could not understand the intention of the person who had ordered the
supper. As I looked at her, I was compelled to acknowledge that she had
improved in beauty; in fact C---- C---- was remarkably beautiful, yet I
remained cold by her side. I have always thought that there is no merit
in being faithful to the person we truly love.

Two hours before day-light we resumed our seats near the fire, and
C---- C----, seeing how dull I was, was delicately attentive to me. She
attempted no allurement, all her movements wore the stamp of the most
decent reserve, and her conversation, tender in its expressions and
perfectly easy, never conveyed the shadow of a reproach for my coolness.

Towards the end of our long conversation, she asked me what she should
say to her friend on her return to the convent.

"My dear M---- M---- expects to see me full of joy and gratitude for the
generous present she thought she was making me by giving me this night,
but what shall I tell her?"

"The whole truth. Do not keep from her a single word of our conversation,
as far as your memory will serve you, and tell her especially that she
has made me miserable for a long time."

"No, for I should cause her too great a sorrow; she loves you dearly, and
cherishes the locket which contains your likeness. I mean, on the
contrary, to do all I can to bring peace between you two, and I must
succeed before long, because my friend is not guilty of any wrong, and
you only feel some spite, although with no cause. I will send you my
letter by Laura, unless you promise me to go and fetch it yourself at her
house."

"Your letters will always be dear to me, but, mark my words,
M---- M---- will not enter into any explanation. She will believe you in
everything, except in one."

"I suppose you mean our passing a whole night together as innocently as
if we were brother and sister. If she knows you as well as I do, she will
indeed think it most wonderful."

"In that case, you may tell her the contrary, if you like."

"Nothing of the sort. I hate falsehoods, and I will certainly never utter
one in such a case as this; it would be very wrong. I do not love you
less on that account, my darling, although, during this long night, you
have not condescended to give me the slightest proof of your love."

"Believe me, dearest, I am sick from unhappiness. I love you with my
whole soul, but I am in such a situation that...."

"What! you are weeping, my love! Oh! I entreat you, spare my heart! I am
so sorry to have told you such a thing, but I can assure you I never
meant to make you unhappy. I am sure that in a quarter of an hour
M---- M---- will be crying likewise."

The alarum struck, and, having no longer any hope of seeing
M---- M---- come to justify herself, I kissed C---- C----. I gave her the
key of the casino, requesting her to return it for me to M---- M----, and
my young friend having gone back to the convent, I put on my mask and
left the casino.



CHAPTER XX

I Am in Danger of Perishing in the Lagunes--Illness--Letters from C. C.
and M. M.--The Quarrel is Made Up--Meeting at the Casino of Muran I Learn
the Name of M. M.'s Friend, and Consent to Give Him A Supper at My Casino
in the Company of Our Common Mistress

The weather was fearful. The wind was blowing fiercely, and it was
bitterly cold. When I reached the shore, I looked for a gondola, I called
the gondoliers, but, in contravention to the police regulations, there
was neither gondola nor gondolier. What was I to do? Dressed in light
linen, I was hardly in a fit state to walk along the wharf for an hour in
such weather. I should most likely have gone back to the casino if I had
had the key, but I was paying the penalty of the foolish spite which had
made me give it up. The wind almost carried me off my feet, and there was
no house that I could enter to get a shelter.

I had in my pockets three hundred philippes that I had won in the
evening, and a purse full of gold. I had therefore every reason to fear
the thieves of Muran--a very dangerous class of cutthroats, determined
murderers who enjoyed and abused a certain impunity, because they had
some privileges granted to them by the Government on account of the
services they rendered in the manufactories of looking-glasses and in the
glassworks which are numerous on the island. In order to prevent their
emigration, the Government had granted them the freedom of Venice. I
dreaded meeting a pair of them, who would have stripped me of everything,
at least. I had not, by chance, with me the knife which all honest men
must carry to defend their lives in my dear country. I was truly in an
unpleasant predicament.

I was thus painfully situated when I thought I could see a light through
the crevices of a small house. I knocked modestly against the shutter. A
voice called out:

"Who is knocking?"

And at the same moment the shutter was pushed open.

"What do you want?" asked a man, rather astonished at my costume.

I explained my predicament in a few words, and giving him one sequin I
begged his permission to shelter myself under his roof. Convinced by my
sequin rather than my words, he opened the door, I went in, and promising
him another sequin for his trouble I requested him to get me a gondola to
take me to Venice. He dressed himself hurriedly, thanking God for that
piece of good fortune, and went out assuring me that he would soon get me
a gondola. I remained alone in a miserable room in which all his family,
sleeping together in a large, ill-looking bed, were staring at me in
consequence of my extraordinary costume. In half an hour the good man
returned to announce that the gondoliers were at the wharf, but that they
wanted to be paid in advance. I raised no objection, gave a sequin to the
man for his trouble, and went to the wharf.

The sight of two strong gondoliers made me get into the gondola without
anxiety, and we left the shore without being much disturbed by the wind,
but when we had gone beyond the island, the storm attacked us with such
fury that I thought myself lost, for, although a good swimmer, I was not
sure I had strength enough to resist the violence of the waves and swim
to the shore. I ordered the men to go back to the island, but they
answered that I had not to deal with a couple of cowards, and that I had
no occasion to be afraid. I knew the disposition of our gondoliers, and I
made up my mind to say no more.

But the wind increased in violence, the foaming waves rushed into the
gondola, and my two rowers, in spite of their vigour and of their
courage, could no longer guide it. We were only within one hundred yards
of the mouth of the Jesuits' Canal, when a terrible gust of wind threw
one of the 'barcarols' into the sea; most fortunately he contrived to
hold by the gondola and to get in again, but he had lost his oar, and
while he was securing another the gondola had tacked, and had already
gone a considerable distance abreast. The position called for immediate
decision, and I had no wish to take my supper with Neptune. I threw a
handful of philippes into the gondola, and ordered the gondoliers to
throw overboard the 'felce' which covered the boat. The ringing of money,
as much as the imminent danger, ensured instant obedience, and then, the
wind having less hold upon us, my brave boatmen shewed AEolus that their
efforts could conquer him, for in less than five minutes we shot into the
Beggars' Canal, and I reached the Bragadin Palace. I went to bed at once,
covering myself heavily in order to regain my natural heat, but sleep,
which alone could have restored me to health, would not visit me.

Five or six hours afterwards, M. de Bragadin and his two inseparable
friends paid me a visit, and found me raving with fever. That did not
prevent my respectable protector from laughing at the sight of the
costume of Pierrot lying on the sofa. After congratulating me upon having
escaped with my life out of such a bad predicament, they left me alone.
In the evening I perspired so profusely that my bed had to be changed.
The next day my fever and delirium increased, and two days after, the
fever having abated, I found myself almost crippled and suffering
fearfully with lumbago. I felt that nothing could relieve me but a strict
regimen, and I bore the evil patiently.

Early on the Wednesday morning, Laura, the faithful messenger, called on
me; I was still in my bed: I told her that I could neither read nor
write, and I asked her to come again the next day. She placed on the
table, near my bed, the parcel she had for me, and she left me, knowing
what had occurred to me sufficiently to enable her to inform C---- C---- of
the state in which I was.

Feeling a little better towards the evening, I ordered my servant to lock
me in my room, and I opened C---- C----'s letter. The first thing I found
in the parcel, and which caused me great pleasure, was the key of the
casino which she returned to me. I had already repented having given it
up, and I was beginning to feel that I had been in the wrong. It acted
like a refreshing balm upon me. The second thing, not less dear after the
return of the precious key, was a letter from M---- M----, the seal of
which I was not long in breaking, and I read the following lines:

"The particulars which you have read, or which you are going to read, in
the letter of my friend, will cause you, I hope, to forget the fault
which I have committed so innocently, for I trusted, on the contrary,
that you would be very happy. I saw all and heard all, and you would not
have gone away without the key if I had not, most unfortunately, fallen
asleep an hour before your departure. Take back the key and come to the
casino to-morrow night, since Heaven has saved you from the storm. Your
love may, perhaps, give you the right to complain, but not to ill-treat a
woman who certainly has not given you any mark of contempt."

I afterwards read the letter of my dear C---- C----, and I will give a
copy of it here, because I think it will prove interesting:

"I entreat you, dear husband, not to send back this key, unless you have
become the most cruel of men, unless you find pleasure in tormenting two
women who, love you ardently, and who love you for yourself only. Knowing
your excellent heart, I trust you will go to the casino to-morrow evening
and make it up with M---- M----, who cannot go there to-night. You will
see that you are in the wrong, dearest, and that, far from despising you,
my dear friend loves you only. In the mean time, let me tell you what you
are not acquainted with, and what you must be anxious to know.

"Immediately after you had gone away in that fearful storm which caused
me such anguish, and just as I was preparing to return to the convent, I
was much surprised to see standing before me my dear M---- M----, who from
some hiding-place had heard all you had said. She had several times been
on the point of shewing herself, but she had always been prevented by the
fear of coming out of season, and thus stopping a reconciliation which
she thought was inevitable between two fond lovers. Unfortunately, sleep
had conquered her before your departure, and she only woke when the
alarum struck, too late to detain you, for you had rushed with the haste
of a man who is flying from some terrible danger. As soon as I saw her, I
gave her the key, although I did not know what it meant, and my friend,
heaving a deep sigh, told me that she would explain everything as soon as
we were safe in her room. We left the casino in a dreadful storm,
trembling for your safety, and not thinking of our own danger. As soon as
we were in the convent I resumed my usual costume, and M---- M---- went to
bed. I took a seat near her, and this is what she told me. 'When you left
your ring in my hands to go to your aunt, who had sent for you, I
examined it with so much attention that at last I suspected the small
blue spot to be connected with the secret spring; I took a pin, succeeded
in removing the top part, and I cannot express the joy I felt when I saw
that we both loved the same man, but no more can I give you an idea of my
sorrow when I thought that I was encroaching upon your rights. Delighted,
however, with my discovery, I immediately conceived a plan which would
procure you the pleasure of supping with him. I closed the ring again and
returned it to you, telling you at the same time that I had not been able
to discover anything. I was then truly the happiest of women. Knowing
your heart, knowing that you were aware of the love of your lover for me,
since I had innocently shewed you his portrait, and happy in the idea
that you were not jealous of me, I would have despised myself if I had
entertained any feelings different from your own, the more so that your
rights over him were by far stronger than mine. As for the mysterious
manner in which you always kept from me the name of your husband, I
easily guessed that you were only obeying his orders, and I admired your
noble sentiments and the goodness of your heart. In my opinion your lover
was afraid of losing us both, if we found out that neither the one nor
the other of us possessed his whole heart. I could not express my deep
sorrow when I thought that, after you had seen me in possession of his
portrait, you continued to act in the same manner towards me, although
you could not any longer hope to be the sole object of his love. Then I
had but one idea; to prove to both of you that M---- M---- is worthy of
your affection, of your friendship, of your esteem. I was indeed
thoroughly happy when I thought that the felicity of our trio would be
increased a hundredfold, for is it not an unbearable misery to keep a
secret from the being we adore? I made you take my place, and I thought
that proceeding a masterpiece. You allowed me to dress you as a nun, and
with a compliance which proves your confidence in me you went to my
casino without knowing where you were going. As soon as you had landed,
the gondola came back, and I went to a place well known to our friend
from which, without being seen, I could follow all your movements and
hear everything you said. I was the author of the play; it was natural
that I should witness it, the more so that I felt certain of seeing and
hearing nothing that would not be very agreeable to me. I reached the
casino a quarter of an hour after you, and I cannot tell you my
delightful surprise when I saw that dear Pierrot who had amused us so
much, and whom we had not recognized. But I was fated to feel no other
pleasure than that of his appearance. Fear, surprise, and anxiety
overwhelmed me at once when I saw the effect produced upon him by the
disappointment of his expectation, and I felt unhappy. Our lover took the
thing wrongly, and he went away in despair; he loves me still, but if he
thinks of me it is only to try to forget me. Alas! he will succeed but
too soon! By sending back that key he proves that he will never again go
to the casino. Fatal night! When my only wish was to minister to the
happiness of three persons, how is it that the very reverse of my wish
has occurred? It will kill me, dear friend, unless you contrive to make
him understand reason, for I feel that without him I cannot live. You
must have the means of writing to him, you know him, you know his name.
In the name of all goodness, send back this key to him with a letter to
persuade him to come to the casino to-morrow or on the following day, if
it is only to speak to me; and I hope to convince him of my love and my
innocence. Rest to-day, dearest, but to-morrow write to him, tell him the
whole truth; take pity on your poor friend, and forgive her for loving
your lover. I shall write a few lines myself; you will enclose them in
your letter. It is my fault if he no longer loves you; you ought to hate
me, and yet you are generous enough to love me. I adore you; I have seen
his tears, I have seen how well his soul can love; I know him now. I
could not have believed that men were able to love so much. I have passed
a terrible night. Do not think I am angry, dear friend, because you
confided to him that we love one another like two lovers; it does not
displease me, and with him it was no indiscretion, because his mind is as
free of prejudices as his heart is good.'

"Tears were choking her. I tried to console her, and I most willingly
promised her to write to you. She never closed her eyes throughout that
day, but I slept soundly for four hours.

"When we got up we found the convent full of bad news, which interested
us a great deal more than people imagined. It was reported that, an hour
before daybreak, a fishing-boat had been lost in the lagune, that two
gondolas had been capsized, and that the people in them had perished. You
may imagine our anguish! We dared not ask any questions, but it was just
the hour at which you had left me, and we entertained the darkest
forebodings. We returned to our room, where M---- M---- fainted away. More
courageous than she is, I told her that you were a good swimmer, but I
could not allay her anxiety, and she went to bed with a feverish chill.
Just at that moment, my aunt, who is of a very cheerful disposition, came
in, laughing, to tell us that during the storm the Pierrot who had made
us laugh so much had had a narrow escape of being drowned. 'Ah! the poor
Pierrot!' I exclaimed, 'tell us all about him, dear aunt. I am very glad
he was saved. Who is he? Do you know?' 'Oh! yes,' she answered,
'everything is known, for he was taken home by our gondoliers. One of
them has just told me that Pierrot, having spent the night at the Briati
ball, did not find any gondola to return to Venice, and that our
gondoliers took him for a sequin. One of the men fell into the sea, but
then the brave Pierrot, throwing handfuls of silver upon the 'Zenia'
pitched the 'felce' over board, and the wind having less hold they
reached Venice safely through the Beggars' Canal. This morning the lucky
gondoliers divided thirty philippes which they found in the gondola, and
they have been fortunate enough to pick up their 'felce'. Pierrot will
remember Muran and the ball at Briati. The man says that he is the son of
M. de Bragadin, the procurator's brother. He was taken to the palace of
that nobleman nearly dead from cold, for he was dressed in light calico,
and had no cloak.'

"When my aunt had left us, we looked at one another for several minutes
without uttering a word, but we felt that the good news had brought back
life to us. M---- M---- asked me whether you were really the son of M, de
Bragadin. 'It might be so,' I said to her, 'but his name does not shew my
lover to be the bastard of that nobleman, and still less his legitimate
child, for M. de Bragadin was never married.' 'I should be very sorry,'
said M---- M----, 'if he were his son.' I thought it right, then, to tell
her your true name, and of the application made to my father by M. de
Bragadin for my hand, the consequence of which was that I had been shut
up in the convent. Therefore, my own darling, your little wife has no
longer any secret to keep from M---- M----, and I hope you will not accuse
me of indiscretion, for it is better that our dear friend should know all
the truth than only half of it. We have been greatly amused, as you may
well suppose, by the certainty with which people say that you spent all
the night at the Briati ball. When people do not know everything, they
invent, and what might be is often accepted in the place of what is in
reality; sometimes it proves very fortunate. At all events the news did a
great deal of good to my friend, who is now much better. She has had an
excellent night, and the hope of seeing you at the casino has restored
all her beauty. She has read this letter three or four times, and has
smothered me with kisses. I long to give her the letter which you are
going to write to her. The messenger will wait for it. Perhaps I shall
see you again at the casino, and in a better temper, I hope. Adieu."

It did not require much argument to conquer me. When I had finished the
letter, I was at once the admirer of C---- C---- and the ardent lover of
M---- M----. But, alas! although the fever had left me, I was crippled.
Certain that Laura would come again early the next morning, I could not
refrain from writing to both of them a short letter, it is true, but long
enough to assure them that reason had again taken possession of my poor
brain. I wrote to C---- C---- that she had done right in telling her friend
my name, the more so that, as I did not attend their church any longer, I
had no reason to make a mystery of it. In everything else I freely
acknowledged myself in the wrong, and I promised her that I would atone
by giving M---M---- the strongest possible proofs of my repentance as soon
as I could go again to her casino.

This is the letter that I wrote to my adorable nun:

"I gave C---- C---- the key of your casino, to be returned to you, my own
charming friend, because I believed myself trifled with and despised, of
malice aforethought, by the woman I worship. In my error I thought myself
unworthy of presenting myself before your eyes, and, in spite of love,
horror made me shudder. Such was the effect produced upon me by an act
which would have appeared to me admirable, if my self-love had not
blinded me and upset my reason. But, dearest, to admire it it would have
been necessary for my mind to be as noble as yours, and I have proved how
far it is from being so. I am inferior to you in all things, except in
passionate love, and I will prove it to you at our next meeting, when I
will beg on my knees a generous pardon. Believe me, beloved creature, if
I wish ardently to recover my health, it is only to have it in my power
to prove by my love a thousand times increased, how ashamed I am of my
errors. My painful lumbago has alone prevented me from answering your
short note yesterday, to express to you my regrets, and the love which
has been enhanced in me by your generosity, alas! so badly rewarded. I
can assure you that in the lagunes, with death staring me in the face, I
regretted no one but you, nothing but having outraged you. But in the
fearful danger then threatening me I only saw a punishment from Heaven.
If I had not cruelly sent back to you the key of the casino, I should
most likely have returned there, and should have avoided the sorrow as
well as the physical pains which I am now suffering as an expiation. I
thank you a thousand times for having recalled me to myself, and you may
be certain that for the future I will keep better control over myself;
nothing shall make me doubt your love. But, darling, what do you say of
C---- C----? Is she not an incarnate angel who can be compared to no one
but you? You love us both equally. I am the only one weak and faulty, and
you make me ashamed of myself. Yet I feel that I would give my life for
her as well as for you. I feel curious about one thing, but I cannot
trust it to paper. You will satisfy that curiosity the first time I shall
be able to go to the casino before two days at the earliest. I will let
you know two days beforehand. In the mean time, I entreat you to think a
little of me, and to be certain of my devoted love. Adieu."

The next morning Laura found me sitting up in bed, and in a fair way to
recover my health. I requested her to tell C---- C---- that I felt much
better, and I gave her the letter I had written. She had brought me one
from my dear little wife, in which I found enclosed a note from
M---- M----. Those two letter were full of tender expressions of love,
anxiety for my health, and ardent prayers for my recovery.

Six days afterwards, feeling much stronger, I went to Muran, where the
keeper of the casino handed me a letter from M---- M----. She wrote to me
how impatient she was for my complete recovery, and how desirous she was
to see me in possession of her casino, with all the privileges which she
hoped I would retain for ever.

"Let me know, I entreat you," she added, "when we are likely to meet
again, either at Muran or in Venice, as you please. Be quite certain that
whenever we meet we shall be alone and without a witness."

I answered at once, telling her that we would meet the day after the
morrow at her casino, because I wanted to receive her loving absolution
in the very spot where I had outraged the most generous of women.

I was longing to see her again, for I was ashamed of my cruel injustice
towards her, and panting to atone for my wrongs. Knowing her disposition,
and reflecting calmly upon what had taken place, it was now evident to me
that what she had done, very far from being a mark of contempt, was the
refined effort of a love wholly devoted to me. Since she had found out
that I was the lover of her young friend, could she imagine that my heart
belonged only to herself? In the same way that her love for me did not
prevent her from being compliant with the ambassador, she admitted the
possibility of my being the same with C---- C----. She overlooked the
difference of constitution between the two sexes, and the privileges
enjoyed by women.

Now that age has whitened my hair and deadened the ardour of my senses,
my imagination does not take such a high flight, and I think differently.
I am conscious that my beautiful nun sinned against womanly reserve and
modesty, the two most beautiful appanages of the fair sex, but if that
unique, or at least rare, woman was guilty of an eccentricity which I
then thought a virtue, she was at all events exempt from that fearful
venom called jealousy--an unhappy passion which devours the miserable
being who is labouring under it, and destroys the love that gave it
birth.

Two days afterwards, on the 4th of February, 1754, I had the supreme
felicity of finding myself again alone with my beloved mistress. She wore
the dress of a nun. As we both felt guilty, the moment we saw each other,
by a spontaneous movement, we fell both on our knees, folded in each
other's arms. We had both ill-treated Love; she had treated him like a
child, I had adored him after the fashion of a Jansenist. But where could
we have found the proper language for the excuses we had to address to
each other for the mutual forgiveness we had to entreat and to grant?
Kisses--that mute, yet expressive language, that delicate, voluptuous
contact which sends sentiment coursing rapidly through the veins, which
expresses at the same time the feeling of the heart and the impressions
of the mind--that language was the only one we had recourse to, and
without having uttered one syllable, dear reader, oh, how well we agreed!

Both overwhelmed with emotion, longing to give one another some proofs of
the sincerity of our reconciliation and of the ardent fire which was
consuming us, we rose without unclasping our arms, and falling (a most
amorous group!) on the nearest sofa, we remained there until the heaving
of a deep sigh which we would not have stopped, even if we had known that
it was to be the last!

Thus was completed our happy reconciliation, and the calm infused into
the soul by contentment, burst into a hearty laugh when we noticed that I
had kept on my cloak and my mask. After we had enjoyed our mirth, I
unmasked myself, and I asked her whether it was quite true that no one
had witnessed our reconciliation.

She took up one of the candlesticks, and seizing my hand:

"Come," she said.

She led me to the other end of the room, before a large cupboard which I
had already suspected of containing the secret. She opened it, and when
she had moved a sliding plank I saw a door through which we entered a
pretty closet furnished with everything necessary to a person wishing to
pass a few hours there. Near the sofa was a sliding panel.
M---- M---- removed it, and through twenty holes placed at a distance from
each other I saw every part of the room in which nature and love had
performed for our curious friend a play in six acts, during which I did
not think he had occasion to be dissatisfied with the actors.

"Now," said M---- M----, "I am going to satisfy the curiosity which you
were prudent enough not to trust to paper."

"But you cannot guess...."

"Silence, dearest! Love would not be of divine origin did he not possess
the faculty of divination. He knows all, and here is the proof. Do you
not wish to know whether my friend was with me during the fatal night
which has cost me so many tears?"

"You have guessed rightly."

"Well, then, he was with me, and you must not be angry, for you then
completed your conquest of him. He admired your character, your love,
your sentiments, your honesty. He could not help expressing his
astonishment at the rectitude of my instinct, or his approval of the
passion I felt for you. It was he who consoled me in the morning assuring
me that you would certainly come back to me as soon as you knew my real
feelings, the loyalty of my intentions and my good faith."

"But you must often have fallen asleep, for unless excited by some
powerful interest, it is impossible to pass eight hours in darkness and
in silence."

"We were moved by the deepest interest: besides, we were in darkness only
when we kept these holes open. The plank was on during our supper, and we
were listening in religious silence to your slightest whisper. The
interest which kept my friend awake was perhaps greater than mine. He
told me that he never had had before a better opportunity of studying the
human heart, and that you must have passed the most painful night. He
truly pitied you. We were delighted with C---- C----, for it is indeed
wonderful that a young girl of fifteen should reason as she did to
justify my conduct, without any other weapons but those given her by
nature and truth; she must have the soul of an angel. If you ever marry
her, you will have the most heavenly wife. I shall of course feel
miserable if I lose her, but your happiness will make amends for all. Do
you know, dearest, that I cannot understand how you could fall in love
with me after having known her, any more than I can conceive how she does
not hate me ever since she has discovered that I have robbed her of your
heart. My dear C---- C---- has truly something divine in her disposition.
Do you know why she confided to you her barren loves with me? Because, as
she told me herself, she wished to ease her conscience, thinking that she
was in some measure unfaithful to you."

"Does she think herself bound to be entirely faithful to me, with the
knowledge she has now of my own unfaithfulness?"

"She is particularly delicate and conscientious, and though she believes
herself truly your wife, she does not think that she has any right to
control your actions, but she believes herself bound to give you an
account of all she does."

"Noble girl!"

The prudent wife of the door-keeper having brought the supper, we sat
down to the well-supplied table. M---- M---- remarked that I had become
much thinner.

"The pains of the body do not fatten a man," I said, "and the sufferings
of the mind emaciate him. But we have suffered sufficiently, and we must
be wise enough never to recall anything which can be painful to us."

"You are quite right, my love; the instants that man is compelled to give
up to misfortune or to suffering are as many moments stolen from his
life, but he doubles his existence when he has the talent of multiplying
his pleasures, no matter of what nature they may be."

We amused ourselves in talking over past dangers, Pierrot's disguise, and
the ball at Briati, where she had been told that another Pierrot had made
his appearance.

M---- M---- wondered at the extraordinary effect of a disguise, for, said
she to me:

"The Pierrot in the parlour of the convent seemed to me taller and
thinner than you. If chance had not made you take the convent gondola, if
you had not had the strange idea of assuming the disguise of Pierrot, I
should not have known who you were, for my friends in the convent would
not have been interested in you. I was delighted when I heard that you
were not a patrician, as I feared, because, had you been one, I might in
time have run some great danger."

I knew very well what she had to fear, but pretending complete ignorance:

"I cannot conceive," I said, "what danger you might run on account of my
being a patrician."

"My darling, I cannot speak to you openly, unless you give me your word
to do what I am going to ask you."

"How could I hesitate, my love, in doing anything to please you, provided
my honour is not implicated? Have we not now everything in common? Speak,
idol of my heart, tell me your reasons, and rely upon my love; it is the
guarantee of my ready compliance in everything that can give you
pleasure:"

"Very well. I want you to give a supper in your casino to me and my
friend, who is dying to make your acquaintance."

"And I foresee that after supper you will leave me to go with him."

"You must feel that propriety compels me to do so."

"Your friend already knows, I suppose, who I am?"

"I thought it was right to tell him, because if I had not told him he
could not have entertained the hope of supping with you, and especially
at your house."

"I understand. I guess your friend is one of the foreign ambassadors."

"Precisely."

"But may I hope that he will so far honour me as to throw up his
incognito?"

"That is understood. I shall introduce him to you according to accepted
forms, telling his name and his political position."

"Then it is all for the best, darling. How could you suppose that I would
have any difficulty in procuring you that pleasure, when on the contrary,
nothing could please me more myself? Name the day, and be quite certain
that I shall anxiously look for it."

"I should have been sure of your compliance, if you had not given me
cause to doubt it."

"It is a home-thrust, but I deserve it."

"And I hope it will not make you angry. Now I am happy. Our friend is M.
de Bernis, the French ambassador. He will come masked, and as soon as he
shews his features I shall present him to you. Recollect that you must
treat him as my lover, but you must not appear to know that he is aware
of our intimacy."

"I understand that very well, and you shall have every reason to be
pleased with my urbanity. The idea of that supper is delightful to me,
and I hope that the reality will be as agreeable. You were quite right,
my love, to dread my being a patrician, for in that case the
State-Inquisitors, who very often think of nothing but of making a show
of their zeal, would not have failed to meddle with us, and the mere idea
of the possible consequences makes me shudder. I under The Leads--you
dishonoured--the abbess--the convent! Good God! Yes, if you had told me
what you thought, I would have given you my name, and I could have done
so all the more easily that my reserve was only caused by the fear of
being known, and of C---- C---- being taken to another convent by her
father. But can you appoint a day for the supper? I long to have it all
arranged."

"To-day is the fourth; well, then, in four days."

"That will be the eighth?"

"Exactly so. We will go to your casino after the second ballet. Give me
all necessary particulars to enable us to find the house without
enquiring from anyone."

I sat down and I wrote down the most exact particulars to find the casino
either by land or by water. Delighted with the prospect of such a party
of pleasure, I asked my mistress to go to bed, but I remarked to her
that, being convalescent and having made a hearty supper, I should be
very likely to pay my first homages to Morpheus. Yielding to the
circumstances, she set the alarum for ten o'clock, and we went to bed in
the alcove. As soon as we woke up, Love claimed our attention and he had
no cause of complaint, but towards midnight we fell asleep, our lips
fastened together, and we found ourselves in that position in the morning
when we opened our eyes. Although there was no time to lose, we could not
make up our minds to part without making one more offering to Venus.

I remained in the casino after the departure of my divinity, and slept
until noon. As soon as I had dressed myself, I returned to Venice, and my
first care was to give notice to my cook, so that the supper of the 8th
of February should be worthy of the guests and worthy of me.





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