The Abby de la Ville — The Abby Galiani — The Neapolitan Dialect — I Set Out for Dunkirk on a Secret Mission I Succeed — I Return to Paris by Amiens — My Adventure by the Way — M. de la Bretonniere — My Report Gives Satisfaction — I Am Paid Five Hundred Louis — Reflections.
A new career was opening before me. Fortune was still my friend, and I had all the necessary qualities to second the efforts of the blind goddess on my behalf save one — perseverance. My immoderate life of pleasure annulled the effect of all my other qualities.
M. de Bernis received me in his usual manner, that is more like a friend than a minister. He asked me if I had any inclination for a secret mission.
“Have I the necessary talents?”
“I think so.”
“I have an inclination for all honest means of earning a livelihood, and as for my talents I will take your excellency’s opinion for granted.”
This last observation made him smile, as I had intended.
After a few words spoken at random on the memories of bygone years which time had not entirely defaced, the minister told me to go to the Abbe de la Ville and use his name.
This abbe, the chief permanent official of the foreign office, was a man of cold temperament, a profound diplomatist, and the soul of the department, and high in favour with his excellency the minister. He had served the state well as an agent at The Hague, and his grateful king rewarded him by giving him a bishopric on the day of his death. It was a little late, but kings have not always sufficient leisure to remember things. His heir was a wealthy man named Gamier, who had formerly been chief cook at M. d’Argenson’s, and had become rich by profiting by the friendship the Abbe de la Ville had always had for him. These two friends, who were nearly of the same age, had deposited their wills in the hands of the same attorney, and each had made the other his residuary legatee.
After the abbe had delivered a brief discourse on the nature of secret missions and the discretion necessary to those charged with them, he told me that he would let me know when anything suitable for me presented itself.
I made the acquaintance of the Abbe Galiani, the secretary of the Neapolitan Embassy. He was a brother to the Marquis de Galiani, of whom I shall speak when we come to my Italian travels. The Abbe Galiani was a man of wit. He had a knack of making the most serious subjects appear comic; and being a good talker, speaking French with the ineradicable Neapolitan accent, he was a favourite in every circle he cared to enter. The Abbe de la Ville told him that Voltaire had complained that his Henriade had been translated into Neapolitan verse in such sort that it excited laughter.
“Voltaire is wrong,” said Galiani, “for the Neapolitan dialect is of such a nature that it is impossible to write verses in it that are not laughable. And why should he be vexed; he who makes people laugh is sure of being beloved. The Neapolitan dialect is truly a singular one; we have it in translations of the Bible and of the Iliad, and both are comic.”
“I can imagine that the Bible would be, but I should not have thought that would have been the case with the Iliad.”
“It is, nevertheless.”
I did not return to Paris till the day before the departure of Mdlle. de la Meure, now Madame P——. I felt in duty bound to go and see her, to give her my congratulations, and to wish her a pleasant journey. I found her in good spirits and quite at her ease, and, far from being vexed at this, I was pleased, a certain sign that I was cured. We talked without the slightest constraint, and I thought her husband a perfect gentleman. He invited us to visit him at Dunkirk, and I promised to go without intending to do so, but the fates willed otherwise.
Tiretta was now left alone with his darling, who grew more infatuated with her Strephon every day, so well did he prove his love for her.
With a mind at ease, I now set myself to sentimentalize with Mdlle. Baletti, who gave me every day some new mark of the progress I was making.
The friendship and respect I bore her family made the idea of seduction out of the question, but as I grew more and more in love with her, and had no thoughts of marriage, I should have been puzzled to say at what end I was aiming, so I let myself glide along the stream without thinking where I was going.
In the beginning of May the Abbe de Bernis told me to come and call on him at Versailles, but first to see the Abbe de la Ville. The first question the abbe asked me was whether I thought myself capable of paying a visit to eight or ten men-of-war in the roads at Dunkirk, of making the acquaintance of the officers, and of completing a minute and circumstantial report on the victualling, the number of seamen, the guns, ammunition, discipline, etc., etc.
“I will make the attempt,” I said, “and will hand you in my report on my return, and it will be for you to say if I have succeeded or not.”
“As this is a secret mission, I cannot give you a letter of commendation; I can only give you some money and wish you a pleasant journey.”
“I do not wish to be paid in advance — on my return you can give me what you think fit. I shall want three or four days before setting out, as I must procure some letters of introduction.”
“Very good. Try to come back before the end of the month. I have no further instructions to give you.”
On the same day I had some conversation at the Palais Bourbon with my patron, who could not admire sufficiently my delicacy in refusing payment in advance; and taking advantage of my having done so he made me accept a packet of a hundred Louis. This was the last occasion on which I made use of his purse; I did not borrow from him at Rome fourteen years afterwards.
“As you are on a secret mission, my dear Casanova, I cannot give you a passport. I am sorry for it, but if I did so your object would be suspected. However, you will easily be able to get one from the first gentleman of the chamber, on some pretext or other. Silvia will be more useful to you in that way than anybody else. You quite understand how discreet your behaviour must be. Above all, do not get into any trouble; for I suppose you know that, if anything happened to you, it would be of no use to talk of your mission. We should be obliged to know nothing about you, for ambassadors are the only avowed spies. Remember that you must be even more careful and reserved than they, and yet, if you wish to succeed, all this must be concealed, and you must have an air of freedom from constraint that you may inspire confidence. If, on your return, you like to shew me your report before handing it in, I will tell you what may require to be left out or added.”
Full of this affair, the importance of which I exaggerated in proportion to my inexperience, I told Silvia that I wanted to accompany some English friends as far as Calais, and that she would oblige me by getting me a passport from the Duc de Gesvres. Always ready to oblige me, she sat down directly and wrote the duke a letter, telling me to deliver it myself since my personal description was necessary. These passports carry legal weight in the Isle de France only, but they procure one respect in all the northern parts of the kingdom.
Fortified with Silvia’s letter, and accompanied by her husband, I went to the duke who was at his estate at St. Toro, and he had scarcely read the letter through before he gave me the passport. Satisfied on this point I went to Villette, and asked Madame if she had anything I could take to her niece. “You can take her the box of china statuettes,” said she, “if M. Corneman has not sent them already.” I called on the banker who gave me the box, and in return for a hundred Louis a letter of credit on a Dunkirk house. I begged him to name me in the letter in a special manner, as I was going for the sake of pleasure. He seemed glad to oblige me, and I started the same evening, and three days later I was at the “Hotel de la Conciergerie,” in Dunkirk.
An hour after my arrival I gave the charming Madame P—— an agreeable surprise by handing her the box, and giving her her aunt’s messages. Just as she was praising her husband, and telling me how happy she was, he came in, saying he was delighted to see me and asked me to stay in his house, without enquiring whether my stay in Dunkirk would be a long or short one. I of course thanked him, and after promising to dine now and again at his house I begged him to take me to the banker on whom I had a letter.
The banker read my letter, and gave me the hundred louis, and asked me to wait for him at my inn where he would come for me with the governor, a M. de Barail. This gentleman who, like most Frenchmen, was very polite, after making some ordinary enquiries, asked me to sup with him and his wife who was still at the play. The lady gave me as kind a reception as I had received from her husband. After we had partaken of an excellent supper several persons arrived, and play commenced in which I did not join, as I wished to study the society of the place, and above all certain officers of both services who were present. By means of speaking with an air of authority about naval matters, and by saying that I had served in the navy of the Venetian Republic, in three days I not only knew but was intimate with all the captains of the Dunkirk fleet. I talked at random about naval architecture, on the Venetian system of manoeuvres, and I noticed that the jolly sailors were better pleased at my blunders than at my sensible remarks.
Four days after I had been at Dunkirk, one of the captains asked me to dinner on his ship, and after that all the others did the same; and on every occasion I stayed in the ship for the rest of the day. I was curious about everything — and Jack is so trustful! I went into the hold, I asked questions innumerable, and I found plenty of young officers delighted to shew their own importance, who gossipped without needing any encouragement from me. I took care, however, to learn everything which would be of service to me, and in the evenings I put down on paper all the mental notes I had made during the day. Four or five hours was all I allowed myself for sleep, and in fifteen days I had learnt enough.
Pleasure, gaming, and idleness — my usual companions — had no part in this expedition, and I devoted all my energies to the object of my mission. I dined once with the banker, once with Madame P— — in the town, and once in a pretty country house which her husband had, at about a league’s distance from Dunkirk. She took me there herself, and on finding myself alone with the woman I had loved so well I delighted her by the delicacy of my behaviour, which was marked only by respect and friendship. As I still thought her charming, and as our connection had only ended six weeks ago, I was astonished to see myself so quiet, knowing my disposition too well to attribute my restraint to virtue. What, then, was the reason? An Italian proverb, speaking for nature, gives the true solution of the riddle.
‘La Mona non vuol pensieri’, and my head was full of thought.
My task was done, and bidding good-bye to all my friends, I set out in my post-chaise for Paris, going by another way for the sake of the change. About midnight, on my asking for horses at some stage, the name of which I forget, they told me that the next stage was the fortified town of Aire, which we should not be allowed to pass through at midnight.
“Get me the horses,” said I, “I will make them open the gates.”
I was obeyed, and in due time we reached the gates.
The postillion cracked his whip and the sentry called out, “Who goes there?”
After making me wait for an hour the gate was opened, and I was told that I must go and speak to the governor. I did so, fretting and fuming on my way as if I were some great person, and I was taken to a room where a man in an elegant nightcap was lying beside a very pretty woman.
“Whose messenger are you?”
“Nobody’s, but as I am in a hurry.”
“That will do. We will talk the matter over tomorrow. In the meanwhile you will accept the hospitality of the guard-room.”
“But, sir . . . ”
“But me no buts, if you please; leave the room.”
I was taken to the guard-room where I spent the night seated on the ground. The daylight appeared. I shouted, swore, made all the racket I could, said I wanted to go on, but nobody took any notice of me.
Ten o’clock struck. More impatient than I can say, I raised my voice and spoke to the officer, telling him that the governor might assassinate me if he liked, but had no right to deny me pen and paper, or to deprive me of the power of sending a messenger to Paris.
“Your name, sir?”
“Here is my passport.”
He told me that he would take it to the governor, but I snatched it away from him.
“Would you like to see the governor?”
“Yes, I should.”
We started for the governor’s apartments. The officer was the first to enter, and in two minutes came out again and brought me in. I gave up my passport in proud silence. The governor read it through, examining me all the while to see if I was the person described; he then gave it me back, telling me that I was free to go where I liked.
“Not so fast, sir, I am not in such a hurry now. I shall send a messenger to Paris and wait his return; for by stopping me on my journey you have violated all the rights of the subject.”
“You violated them yourself in calling yourself a messenger.”
“Not at all; I told you that I was not one.”
“Yes, but you told your postillion that you were, and that comes to the same thing.”
“The postillion is a liar, I told him nothing of the kind.”
“Why didn’t you shew your passport?”
“Why didn’t you give me time to do so? In the course of the next few days we shall see who is right.”
“Just as you please.”
I went out with the officer who took me to the posting-place, and a minute afterwards my carriage drew up. The posting-place was also an inn, and I told the landlord to have a special messenger ready to carry out my orders, to give me a good room and a good bed, and to serve me some rich soup immediately; and I warned him that I was accustomed to good fare. I had my portmanteau and all my belongings taken into my room, and having washed and put on my dressing-gown I sat down to write, to whom I did not know, for I was quite wrong in my contention. However, I had begun by playing the great man, and I thought myself bound in honour to sustain the part, without thinking whether I stood to have to back out of it or no. All the same I was vexed at having to wait in Aire till the return of the messenger, whom I was about to send to the-moon! In the meanwhile, not having closed an eye all night, I determined to take a rest. I was sitting in my shirt-sleeves and eating the soup which had been served to me, when the governor came in unaccompanied. I was both surprised and delighted to see him.
“I am sorry for what has happened, sir, and above all that you think you have good reason for complaint, inasmuch as I only did my duty, for how was I to imagine that your postillion had called you a messenger on his own responsibility.”
“That’s all very well, sir, but your sense of duty need not have made you drive me from your room.”
“I was in need of sleep.”
“I am in the same position at the present moment, but a feeling of politeness prevents me from imitating your example.”
“May I ask if you have ever been in the service?”
“I have served by land and sea, and have left off when most people are only beginning.”
“In that case you will be aware that the gates of a fortified town are only opened by night to the king’s messengers or to military superiors.”
“Yes, I know; but since they were opened the thing was done, and you might as well have been polite.”
“Will you not put on your clothes, and walk a short distance with me!”
His invitation pleased me as well as his pride had displeased me. I had been thinking of a duel as a possible solution of the difficulty, but the present course took all trouble out of my hands. I answered quietly and politely that the honour of walking with him would be enough to make me put off all other calls, and I asked him to be seated while I made haste to dress myself.
I drew on my breeches, throwing the splendid pistols in my pockets on to the bed, called up the barber, and in ten minutes was ready. I put on my sword, and we went out.
We walked silently enough along two or three streets, passed through a gate, up a court, till we got to a door where my guide stopped short. He asked me to come in, and I found myself in a fine room full of people. I did not think of going back, but behaved as if I had been in my own house.
“Sir-my wife,” said the governor; and turning to her without pausing, “here is M. de Casanova, who has come to dinner with us.”
“I am delighted to hear it, sir, as otherwise I should have had no chance of forgiving you for waking me up the other night.”
“I paid dearly for my fault, madam, but after the purgatory I had endured I am sure you will allow me to be happy in this paradise.”
She answered with a charming smile, and after asking me to sit beside her she continued whatever conversation was possible in the midst of a game at cards.
I found myself completely outwitted, but the thing was done so pleasantly that all I could do was to put a good face on it — a feat which I found sufficiently easy from the relief I felt at no longer being bound to send a messenger to I did not know whom.
The governor well satisfied with his victory, got all at once into high spirits, and began to talk about military matters, the Court, and on general topics, often addressing me with that friendly ease which good French society knows so well how to reconcile with the rules of politeness; no one could have guessed that there had ever been the slightest difference between us. He had made himself the hero of the piece by the dexterous manner in which he had led up to the situation, but I had a fair claim to the second place, for I had made an experienced officer high in command give me the most flattering kind of satisfaction, which bore witness to the esteem with which I had inspired him.
The dinner was served. The success of my part depended on the manner in which it was played, and my wit has seldom been keener than during this meal. The whole conversation was in a pleasant vein, and I took great care to give the governor’s wife opportunities for shining in it. She was a charming and pretty woman, still quite youthful, for she was at least thirty years younger than the governor. Nothing was said about my six hours’ stay in the guard-room, but at dessert the governor escaped speaking plainly by a joke that was not worth the trouble of making.
“You’re a nice man,” said he, “to think I was going to fight you. Ah! ha! I have caught you, haven’t I?”
“Who told you that I was meditating a duel?”
“Confess that such was the case?”
“I protest; there is a great difference between believing and supposing; the one is positive, the other merely hypothetical. I must confess, however, that your invitation to take a walk roused my curiosity as to what was to come next, and I admire your wit. But you must believe me that I do not regard myself as caught in a trap — far from that, I am so well pleased that I feel grateful to you.”
In the afternoon we all took a walk, and I gave my arm to the charming mistress of the house. In the evening I took my leave, and set out early the next day having made a fair copy of my report.
At five o’clock in the morning I was fast asleep in my carriage, when I was suddenly awakened. We were at the gate of Amiens. The fellow at the door was an exciseman — a race everywhere detested and with good cause, for besides the insolence of their manners nothing makes a man feel more like a slave than the inquisitorial search they are accustomed to make through one’s clothes and most secret possessions. He asked me if I had anything contraband; and being in a bad temper at being deprived of my sleep to answer such a question I replied with an oath that I had nothing of the sort, and that he would have done better to let me sleep.
“As you talk in that style,” said the creature, “we will see what we can see.”
He ordered the postillion to pass on with the carriage. He had my luggage hauled down, and not being able to hinder him I fumed in silence.
I saw my mistake, but there was nothing to be done; and having no contraband goods I had nothing to fear, but my bad temper cost me two weary hours of delay. The joys of vengeance were depicted on the features of the exciseman. At the time of which I am writing these gaugers were the dregs of the people, but would become tractable on being treated with a little politeness. The sum of twenty-four sous given with good grace would make them as supple as a pair of gloves; they would bow to the travellers, wish them a pleasant journey, and give no trouble. I knew all this, but there are times when a man acts mechanically as I had done, unfortunately.
The scoundrels emptied my boxes and unfolded everything even to my shirts, between which they said I might have concealed English lace.
After searching everything they gave me back my keys, but they had not yet done with us; they began to search my carriage. The rascal who was at the head of them began to shout “victory,” he had discovered the remainder of a pound of snuff which I had bought at St. Omer on my way to Dunkirk.
With a voice of triumph the chief exciseman gave orders that my carriage should be seized, and warned me that I would have to pay a fine of twelve hundred francs.
For the nonce my patience was exhausted, and I leave the names I called them to the imagination of the reader; but they were proof against words. I told them to take me to the superintendent’s.
“You can go if you like,” said they, “we are not your servants.”
Surrounded by a curious crowd, whom the noise had drawn together, I began to walk hurriedly towards the town, and entering the first open shop I came to, I begged the shopkeeper to take me to the superintendent’s. As I was telling the circumstances of the case, a man of good appearance, who happened to be in the shop, said that he would be glad to show me the way himself, though he did not think I should find the superintendent in, as he would doubtless be warned of my coming.
“Without your paying either the fine or caution money,” said he, “you will find it a hard matter to get yourself out of the difficulty.”
I entreated him to shew me the way to the superintendent’s, and not to trouble about anything else. He advised me to give the rabble a louis to buy drink, and thus to rid myself of them, on which I gave him the louis, begging him to see to it himself, and the bargain was soon struck. He was a worthy attorney, and knew his men.
We got to the superintendent’s; but, as my guide had warned me, my gentleman was not to be seen. The porter told us that he had gone out alone, that he would not be back before night, and that he did not know where he had gone.
“There’s a whole day lost, then,” said the attorney.
“Let us go and hunt him up; he must have well-known resorts and friends, and we will find them out. I will give you a louis for the day’s work; will that be enough?”
We spent in vain four hours in looking for the superintendent in ten or twelve houses. I spoke to the masters of all of them, exaggerating considerably the injury that had been done to me. I was listened to, condoled with, and comforted with the remark that he would certainly be obliged to return to his house at night, and then he could not help hearing what I had to say. That would not suit me, so I continued the chase.
At one o’clock the attorney took me to an old lady, who was thought a great deal of in the town. She was dining all by herself. After giving great attention to my story, she said that she did not think she could be doing wrong in telling a stranger the whereabouts of an individual who, in virtue of his office, ought never to be inaccessible.
“And so, sir, I may reveal to you what after all is no secret. My daughter told me yesterday evening that she was going to dine at Madame N——‘s, and that the superintendent was to be there. Do you go after him now, and you will find him at table in the best society in Amiens, but,” said she, with a smile, “I advise you not to give your name at the door. The numerous servants will shew you the way without asking for your name. You can then speak to him whether he likes it or not, and though you don’t know him he will hear all you say. I am sorry that I cannot be present at so fine a situation.”
I gratefully took leave of the worthy lady, and I set off in all haste to the house I had been told of, the attorney, who was almost tired out, accompanying me. Without the least difficulty he and I slipped in between the crowds of servants till we got to a hall where there were more than twenty people sitting down to a rich and delicate repast.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you will excuse my troubling your quiet on this festive occasion with a tale of terror.”
At these words, uttered in the voice of Jupiter Tonans, everybody rose. The surprise of the high-born company of knights and ladies at my apparition can easily be imagined.
“Since seven o’clock this morning I have been searching from door to door and from street to street for his honour the superintendent, whom I have at last been fortunate enough to find here, for I know perfectly well that he is present, and that if he have ears he hears me now. I am come to request him to order his scoundrelly myrmidons who have seized my carriage to give it up, so that I may continue my journey. If the laws bid me pay twelve hundred francs for seven ounces of snuff for my own private use, I renounce those laws and declare that I will not pay a farthing. I shall stay here and send a messenger to my ambassador, who will complain that the ‘jus gentium’ has been violated in the Ile-de-France in my person, and I will have reparation. Louis XV. is great enough to refuse to become an accomplice in this strange onslaught. And if that satisfaction which is my lawful right is not granted me, I will make the thing an affair of state, and my Republic will not revenge itself by assaulting Frenchmen for a few pinches of snuff, but will expel them all root and branch. If you want to know whom I am, read this.”
Foaming with rage, I threw my passport on the table.
A man picked it up and read it, and I knew him to be the superintendent. While my papers were being handed round I saw expressed on every face surprise and indignation, but the superintendent replied haughtily that he was at Amiens to administer justice, and that I could not leave the town unless I paid the fine or gave surety.
“If you are here to do justice, you will look upon my passport as a positive command to speed me on my way, and I bid you yourself be my surety if you are a gentleman.”
“Does high birth go bail for breaches of the law in your country?”
“In my country men of high birth do not condescend to take dishonourable employments.”
“No service under the king can be dishonourable.”
“The hangman would say the same thing.”
“Take care what you say.”
“Take care what you do. Know, sir, that I am a free man who has been grievously outraged, and know, too, that I fear no one. Throw me out of the window, if you dare.”
“Sir,” said a lady to me in the voice of the mistress of the house, “in my house there is no throwing out of windows.”
“Madam, an angry man makes use of terms which his better reason disowns. I am wronged by a most cruel act of injustice, and I humbly crave your pardon for having offended you. Please to reflect that for the first time in my life I have been oppressed and insulted, and that in a kingdom where I thought myself safe from all but highway robbers. For them I have my pistols, and for the worthy superintendents I have a passport, but I find the latter useless. For the sake of seven ounces of snuff which I bought at St. Omer three weeks ago, this gentleman robs me and interrupts my journey, though the king’s majesty is my surety that no one shall interfere with me; he calls on me to pay fifty louis, he delivers me to the rage of his impudent menials and to the derision of the mob, from whom I had to rid myself by my money and the aid of this worthy man beside me. I am treated like a scoundrel, and the man who should have been my defender and deliverer slinks away and hides himself, and adds to the insults I have received. His myrmidons have turned my clothes upside down, and pitchforked my linen at the foot of the town gates, to revenge themselves on me for not giving them twenty, four sous. To-morrow the manner in which I have been treated will be known to the diplomatic bodies at Versailles and Paris, and in a few days it will be in all the newspapers. I will pay not a farthing because I owe not a farthing. Now, sir, am I to send a courier to the Duc de Gesvres?”
“What you have got to do is to pay, and if you do not care to pay, you may do whatever you like.”
“Then, ladies and gentlemen, good-bye. As for you, sir, we shall meet again.”
As I was rushing out of the room like a madman, I heard somebody calling out to me in good Italian to wait a minute. I turned round, and saw the voice had proceeded from a man past middle age, who addressed the superintendent thus:—
“Let this gentleman proceed on his journey; I will go bail for him. Do you understand me, superintendent? I will be his surety. You don’t know these Italians. I went through the whole of the last war in Italy, and I understand the national character. Besides, I think the gentleman is in the right.”
“Very good,” said the official, turning to me. “All you have to do is to pay a matter of thirty or forty francs at the customs’ office as the affair is already booked.”
“I thought I told you that I would not pay a single farthing, and I tell it you again. But who are you, sir,” said I, turning to the worthy old man, “who are good enough to become surety for me without knowing me?”
“I am a commissary of musters, sir, and my name is de la Bretonniere. I live in Paris at the ‘Hotel de Saxe,’ Rue Colombien, where I shall be glad to see you after to-morrow. We will go together to M. Britard, who, after hearing your case, will discharge my bail.”
After I had expressed my gratitude, and told him that I would wait upon him without fail, I made my excuses to the mistress of the house and the guests, and left them.
I took my worthy attorney to dinner at the best inn in the place, and I gave him two louis for his trouble. Without his help and that of the commissary I should have been in great difficulty; it would have been a case of the earthen pot and the iron pot over again; for with jacks-in-office reason is of no use, and though I had plenty of money I would never have let the wretches rob me of fifty louis.
My carriage was drawn up at the door of the tavern; and just as I was getting in, one of the excisemen who had searched my luggage came and told me that I should find everything just as I left it:—
“I wonder at that since it has been left in the hands of men of your stamp; shall I find the snuff?”
“The snuff has been confiscated, my lord.”
“I am sorry for you, then; for if it had been there I would have given you a louis.”
“I will go and look for it directly.”
“I have no time to wait for it. Drive on, postillion.”
I got to Paris the next day, and four days after I waited on M. de la Bretonniere, who gave me a hearty welcome, and took me to M. Britard, the fermier-general, who discharged his bail. This M. Britard was a pleasant young man. He blushed when he heard all I had gone through.
I took my report to M. de Bernis, at the “Hotel Bourbon,” and his excellence spent two hours over it, making me take out all unnecessary matter. I spent the time in making a fair copy, and the next day I took it to M. de la Ville, who read it through in silence, and told me that he would let me know the result. A month after I received five hundred louis, and I had the pleasure of hearing that M. de Cremille, the first lord of the admiralty, had pronounced my report to be not only perfectly accurate but very suggestive. Certain reasonable apprehensions prevented me from making myself known to him — an honour which M. de Bernis wished to procure for me.
When I told him my adventures on the way back, he laughed, but said that the highest merit of a secret agent was to keep out of difficulties; for though he might have the tact to extricate himself from them, yet he got talked of, which it should be his chief care to avoid.
This mission cost the admiralty twelve thousand francs, and the minister might easily have procured all the information I gave him without spending a penny. Any intelligent young naval officer would have done it just as well, and would have acquitted himself with zeal and discretion, to gain the good opinion of the ministers. But all the French ministers are the same. They lavished money which came out of other people’s pockets to enrich their creatures, and they were absolute; the downtrodden people counted for nothing, and of this course the indebtedness of the state and the confusion of the finances were the inevitable results. It is quite true that the Revolution was a necessity, but it should have been marked with patriotism and right feeling, not with blood. However, the nobility and clergy were not men of sufficient generosity to make the necessary sacrifices to the king, the state, and to themselves.
Silvia was much amused at my adventures at Aire and Amiens, and her charming daughter shewed much pity for the bad night I had passed in the guard-room. I told her that the hardship would have been much less if I had had a wife beside me. She replied that a wife, if a good one, would have been only too happy to alleviate my troubles by sharing in them, but her mother observed that a woman of parts, after seeing to the safety of my baggage and my coach, would have busied herself in taking the necessary steps for setting me at liberty, and I supported this opinion as best indicating the real duty of a good wife.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52