Giacomo Casanova.

Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice online

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in the evening, and, after introducing me to her husband, Count Rinaldi,
she invited us to remain and have supper.

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

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

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

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

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

"Here is a parcel for you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But I should be dishonoured."

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

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

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

"Yes, but only a slight advantage."

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

"Why an idiot? Fortune is very fickle."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I doubt it, but I will try."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To a respectable house, of course."

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

"I am a bachelor."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you suppose I could refuse you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What is this?" I exclaimed.

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

I was struck by the words she had just uttered, and I felt that those
words, as well as her looks, had found their way to my heart, besides
enlisting my generous sympathy. I took the stiletto, and left her with so


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Online LibraryGiacomo CasanovaMemoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice → online text (page 4 of 9)