Giacomo Casanova.

Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice online

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carnival gaily, and of contriving to find my purse ready for a case of
emergency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles answered that he was clerk at Ragionato.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"For me?"

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

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

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

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

"No."

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Christine? This was her answer:

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

These words excited Charles so much that he embraced me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Certainly not."

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

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

"Will he believe me?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dinner passed off delightfully. We then left for Mestra and Venice.
We escorted the married couple to their house, and returned home to amuse


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Online LibraryGiacomo CasanovaMemoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice → online text (page 8 of 9)