Absurd Ideas of Madame D’Urfe on My Supernatural Powers — Marriage of My Brother — I Conceive a Plan on His Wedding Day — I Go to Holland on a Financial Mission — The Jew Boaz Gives Me a Lesson — M. d’Afri — Esther — Another Casanova — I Find Therese Imer Again
By the time that the Prince du Turenne had recovered from the small- pox and the Count de la Tour d’Auvergne had left him, the latter, knowing his aunt’s taste for the occult sciences, was not surprised to find me become her confident and most intimate friend.
I was glad so see him and all the relations of the marchioness at dinner, as I was delighted with the courtesy with which they treated me. I am referring more especially to her brothers MM. de Pont-Carre and de Viarme who had lately been chosen head of the trade companies, and his son. I have already spoken of Madame du Chatelet, the marchioness’s daughter, but an unlucky lawsuit separated them, and she no longer formed one of the family circle.
De la Tour d’Auvergne having been obliged to rejoin his regiment which was in garrison in Brittany, the marchioness and I dined together almost every day and people looked upon me as her husband, and despite the improbability of the supposition this was the only way in which they could account for the long hours we spent together. Madame d’Urfe thought that I was rich and looked upon my position at the lottery as a mere device for preserving my incognito.
I was the possessor in her estimation, not only of the philosopher’s stone, but also of the power of speaking with the whole host of elementary spirits; from which premises she drew the very logical deduction that I could turn the world upside down if I liked, and be the blessing or the plague of France; and she thought my object in remaining incognito was to guard myself from arrest and imprisonment; which according to her would be the inevitable result of the minister’s discovering my real character. These wild notions were the fruit of the nocturnal revelations of her genius, that is, of the dreams of her disordered spirit, which seemed to her realities. She did not seem to think that if I was endowed as she supposed no one would have been able to arrest me, in the first place, because I should have had foreknowledge of the attempt, and in the second place because my power would have been too strong for all bolts and bars. All this was clear enough, but strong passion and prejudice cannot reason.
One day, in the course of conversation, she said, with the utmost seriousness, that her genius had advised her that not even I had power to give her speech with the spirits, since she was a woman, and the genii only communicated with men, whose nature is more perfect. Nevertheless, by a process which was well known to me, I might make her soul pass into the body of a male child born of the mystic connection between a mortal and an immortal, or, in other words, between an ordinary man and a woman of a divine nature.
If I had thought it possible to lead back Madame d’Urfe to the right use of her senses I would have made the attempt, but I felt sure that her disease was without remedy, and the only course before me seemed to abet her in her ravings and to profit by them.
If I had spoken out like an honest man and told her that her theories were nonsensical, she would not have believed me; she would have thought me jealous of her knowledge, and I should have lost her favour without any gain to her or to myself. I thus let things take their course, and to speak the truth I was flattered to see myself treated as one of the most profound brothers of the Rosy Cross, as the most powerful of men by so distinguished a lady, who was in high repute for her learning, who entertained and was related to the first families of France, and had an income of eighty thousand francs, a splendid estate, and several magnificent houses in Paris. I was quite sure that she would refuse me nothing, and though I had no definite plan of profiting by her wealth I experienced a certain pleasure at the thought that I could do so if I would.
In spite of her immense fortune and her belief in her ability to make gold, Madame d’Urfe was miserly in her habits, for she never spent more than thirty thousand francs in a year, and she invested her savings in the exchange, and in this way had nearly doubled them. A brother used to buy her in Government securities at their lowest rate and sell at their rise, and in this manner, being able to wait for their rise, and fall, she had amassed a considerable sum.
She had told me more than once that she would give all she possessed to become a man, and that she knew I could do this for her if I would. One day, as she was speaking to me on this subject in a tone of persuasion almost irresistible, I told her that I must confess I had the power to do what she wanted, but that I could not make up my mind to perform the operation upon her as I should have to kill her first. I thought this would effectually check her wish to go any further, but what was my surprise to hear her say,
“I know that, and what is more I know the death I shall have to die; but for all that I am ready.”
“What, then, is that death, madam?”
“It is by the same poison which killed Paracelsus.”
“Do you think that Paracelsus obtained the hypostasis?”
“No, but I know the reason of his not doing so.”
“What is the reason?”
“It is that he was neither man or woman, and a composite nature is incapable of the hypostasis, to obtain which one must be either the one or the other.”
“Very true, but do you know how to make the poison, and that the thing is impossible without the aid of a salamander?”
“That may or may not be! I beseech you to enquire of the oracle whether there be anyone in Paris in possession of this potion.”
It was easy to see that she thought herself in possession of it, so I had no hesitation in extracting her name from the oracular pyramid. I pretended to be astonished at the answer, but she said boastfully,
“You see that all we want is a male child born of an immortal. This, I am advised, will be provided by you; and I do not think you will be found wanting out of a foolish pity for this poor old body of mine.”
At these words I rose and went to the window, where I stayed for more than a quarter of an hour reflecting on her infatuation. When I returned to the table where she was seated she scanned my features attentively, and said, with much emotion, “Can it be done, my dear friend? I see that you have been weeping.”
I did not try to undeceive her, and, taking my sword and hat, I took leave of her sadly. Her carriage, which was always at my disposal, was at the door, and I drove to the Boulevards, where I walked till the evening, wondering all the while at the extraordinary fantasies of the marchioness.
My brother had been made a member of the Academy, on the exhibition of a battle piece which had taken all the critics by storm. The picture was purchased by the Academy for five hundred louis.
He had fallen in love with Caroline, and would have married her but for a piece of infidelity on her part, which so enraged him that in a week after he married an Italian dancer. M. de Sanci, the ecclesiastical commissioner, gave the wedding party. He was fond of the girl, and out of gratitude to my brother for marrying her he got him numerous orders among his friends, which paved the way to the large fortune and high repute which my brother afterwards attained.
M. Corneman, the banker, who was at my brother’s wedding, spoke to me at considerable length on the great dearth of money, and asked me to discuss the matter with the comptroller-general.
He told me that one might dispose of Government securities to an association of brokers at Amsterdam, and take in exchange the securities of any other country whose credit was higher than that of France, and that these securities could easily be realized. I begged him to say no more about it, and promised to see what I could do.
The plan pleased me, and I turned it over all night; and the next day I went to the Palais Bourbon to discuss the question with M. de Bernis. He thought the whole idea an excellent one, and advised me to go to Holland with a letter from M. de Choiseul for M. d’Afri, the ambassador at the Hague. He thought that the first person I should consult with M. de Boulogne, with whom he warned me to appear as if I was sure of my ground.
“As you do not require money in advance,” said he, “you will be able to get as many letters of recommendation as you like.”
The same day I went to the comptroller-general, who approved of my plan, and told me that M. le Duc de Choiseul would be at the Invalides the next day, and that I should speak to him at once, and take a letter he would write for me.
“For my part,” said he, “I will credit our ambassador with twenty millions, and if, contrary to my hopes, you do not succeed, the paper can be sent back to France.”
I answered that there would be no question of the paper being returned, if they would be content with a fair price.
“The margin will be a small one; however, you will hear about that from the ambassador, who will have full instructions.”
I felt so flattered by this mission that I passed the night in thinking it over. The next day I went to the Invalides, and M. de Choiseul, so famous for taking decisive action, had no sooner read M. de Boulogne’s letter and spoken a few words to me on the subject, than he got me to write a letter for M. d’Afri, which he signed, sealed, returned to me, and wished me a prosperous journey.
I immediately got a passport from M. de Berkenrode, and the same day took leave of Madame Baletti and all my friends except Madame d’Urfe, with whom I was to spend the whole of the next day. I gave my clerk at the lottery office full authority to sign all tickets.
About a month before, a girl from Brussels, as excellent as she was pretty, had been married under my auspices to an Italian named Gaetan, by trade a broker. This fellow, in his fit of jealousy, used to ill-treat her shamefully; I had reconciled them several times already, and they regarded me as a kind of go-between. They came to see me on the day on which I was making my preparations for going to Holland. My brother and Tiretta were with me, and as I was still living in furnished apartments I took them all to Laudel’s, where they gave one an excellent dinner. Tiretta, drove his coach-and- four; he was ruining his ex-methodist, who was still desperately in love with him.
In the course of dinner Tiretta, who was always in high spirits and loved a jest, began to flirt with the girl, whom he saw for the first time. She, who neither meant nor suspected any ill, was quite at her ease, and we should have enjoyed the joke, and everything would have gone on pleasantly, if her husband had possessed some modicum of manners and common sense, but he began to get into a perfect fury of jealousy. He ate nothing, changed colour ten times in a minute, and looked daggers at his wife, as much as to say he did not see the joke. To crown all, Tiretta began to crack jests at the poor wretch’s expense, and I, foreseeing unpleasantness, endeavoured, though all in vain, to moderate his high spirits and his sallies. An oyster chanced to fall on Madame Gaetan’s beautiful breast; and Tiretta, who was sitting near her, took it up with his lips as quick as lightning. Gaetan was mad with rage and gave his wife such a furious box on the ear that his hand passed on from her cheek to that of her neighbour. Tiretta now as enraged as Gaetan took him by his middle and threw him down, where, having no arms, he defended himself with kicks and fisticuffs, till the waiter came, and we put him out of the room.
The poor wife in tears, and, like Tiretta, bleeding at the nose, besought me to take her away somewhere, as she feared her husband would kill her if she returned to him. So, leaving Tiretta with my brother, I got into a carriage with her and I took her, according to her request, to her kinsman, an old attorney who lived in the fourth story of a house in the Quai de Gevres. He received us politely, and after having heard the tale, he said,
“I am a poor man, and I can do nothing for this unfortunate girl; while if I had a hundred crowns I could do everything.”
“Don’t let that stand in your way,” said I, and drawing three hundred francs from my pockets I gave him the money.
“Now, sir,” said he, “I will be the ruin of her husband, who shall never know where his wife is.”
She thanked me and I left her there; the reader shall hear what became of her when I return from my journey.
On my informing Madame d’Urfe that I was going to Holland for the good of France, and that I should be coming back at the beginning of February, she begged me to take charge of some shares of hers and to sell them for her. They amounted in value to sixty thousand francs, but she could not dispose of them on the Paris Exchange owing to the tightness in the money market. In addition, she could not obtain the interest due to her, which had mounted up considerably, as she had not had a dividend for three years.
I agreed to sell the shares for her, but it was necessary for me to be constituted depositary and owner of the property by a deed, which was executed the same day before a notary, to whose office we both went.
On returning to her house I wished to give her an I O U for the moneys, but she would not hear of such a thing, and I let her remain satisfied of my honesty.
I called on M. Corneman who gave me a bill of exchange for three hundred florins on M. Boaz, a Jewish banker at the Hague, and I then set out on my journey. I reached Anvers in two days, and finding a yacht ready to start I got on board and arrived at Rotterdam the next day. I got to the Hague on the day following, and after depositing my effects at the “Hotel d’Angleterre” I proceeded to M. d’Afri’s, and found him reading M. de Choiseul’s letter, which informed him of my business. He asked me to dine in his company and in that of the ambassador of the King of Poland, who encouraged me to proceed in my undertaking though he had not much opinion of my chances of success.
Leaving the ambassador I went to see Boaz, whom I found at table in the midst of a numerous and ugly family. He read my letter and told me he had just received a letter from M. Corneman in which I was highly commended to him. By way of a joke he said that as it was Christmas Eve he supposed I should be going to rock the infant Jesus asleep, but I answered that I was come to keep the Feast of the Maccabees with him — a reply which gained me the applause of the whole family and an invitation to stay with them. I accepted the offer without hesitation, and I told my servant to fetch my baggage from the hotel. Before leaving the banker I asked him to shew me some way of making twenty thousand florins in the short time I was going to stay in Holland.
Taking me quite seriously he replied that the thing might easily be done and that he would think it over.
The next morning after breakfast, Boaz said,
“I have solved your problem, sir; come in here and I will tell you about it”
He took me into his private office, and, after counting out three thousand florins in notes and gold, he told me that if I liked I could undoubtedly make the twenty thousand florins I had spoken of.
Much surprised at the ease with which money may be got in Holland, as I had been merely jesting in the remarks I had made, I thanked him for his kindness, and listened to his explanation.
“Look at this note,” said he, “which I received this morning from the Mint. It informs me that an issue of four hundred thousand ducats is about to be made which will be disposed of at the current rate of gold, which is fortunately not high just now. Each ducat will fetch five florins, two stivers and three-fifths. This is the rate of exchange with Frankfort. Buy in four hundred thousand ducats; take them or send them to Frankfort, with bills of exchange on Amsterdam, and your business is done. On every ducat you will make a stiver and one-ninth, which comes to twenty-two thousand, two hundred and twenty-two of our florins. Get hold of the gold to-day, and in a week you will have your clear profit. That’s my idea.”
“But,” said I, “will the clerks of the Mint trust me with such a sum?”
“Certainly not, unless you pay them in current money or in good paper.”
“My dear sir, I have neither money nor credit to that amount.”
“Then you will certainly never make twenty thousand florins in a week. By the way you talked yesterday I took you for a millionaire.”
“I am very sorry you were so mistaken.”
“I shall get one of my sons to transact the business to-day.”
After giving me this rather sharp lesson, M. Boaz went into his office, and I went to dress.
M. d’Afri had paid his call on me at the “Hotel d’Angleterre,” and not finding me there he had written me a letter asking me to come and see him. I did so, and he kept me to dinner, shewing me a letter he had received from M. de Boulogne, in which he was instructed not to let me dispose of the twenty millions at a greater loss than eight per cent., as peace was imminent. We both of us laughed at this calm confidence of the Parisian minister, while we who were in a country where people saw deeper into affairs knew that the truth was quite otherwise.
On M. d’Afri’s hearing that I was staying with a Jew, he advised me to keep my own counsel when with Jews, “because,” said he, “in business, most honest and least knavish mean pretty much the same thing. If you like,” he added, “I will give you a letter of introduction to M. Pels, of Amsterdam.” I accepted his offer with gratitude, and in the hope of being useful to me in the matter of my foreign shares he introduced me to the Swedish ambassador, who sent me to M. d’O——.
Wanting to be present at a great festival of Freemasons on St. John’s Day, I remained at the Hague till the day after the celebration. The Comte de Tot, brother of the baron, who lost all his money at the seraglio, and whom I had met again at the Hague, introduced me. I was not sorry to be in company with all the best society in Holland.
M. d’Afri introduced me to the mother of the stadtholder, who was only twelve, and whom I thought too grave for his years. His mother was a worthy, patient kind of woman, who fell asleep every minute, even while she was speaking. She died shortly after, and it was discovered at the postmortem examination that she had a disease of the brain which caused her extreme propensity to sleep. Beside her I saw Count Philip de Zinzendorf, who was looking for twelve millions for the empress — a task which was not very difficult, as he offered five per cent. interest.
At the play I found myself sitting next to the Turkish minister, and I thought he would die with laughter before my eyes. It happened thus:
They were playing Iphigenia, that masterpiece of Racine’s. The statue of Diana stood in the midst of the stage, and at the end of one act Iphigenia and her train of priestesses, while passing before it, all made a profound bow to the goddess. The candlesnuffer, who perhaps may have been a bad wit, crossed the stage just after wards, and likewise bowed to the goddess. This put pit and boxes in a good humour, and peals of laughter sounded from all parts of the house. All this had to be explained to the Turk, and he fell into such a fit of laughter that I thought he would burst. At last he was carried to his inn still laughing but almost senseless.
To have taken no notice of the Dutchman’s heavy wit would have been, I confess, a mark of stupidity, but no one but a Turk could have laughed like that. It may be said that a great Greek philosopher died of laughter at seeing a toothless old woman trying to eat figs. But there is a great difference between a Turk and a Greek, especially an ancient Greek.
Those who laugh a good deal are more fortunate than those who do not laugh at all, as laughter is good for the digestion; but there is a just mean in everything.
When I had gone two leagues from Amsterdam in my posting-chaise on two wheels, my servant sitting beside me, I met a carriage on four wheels, drawn like mine by two horses, and containing a fine-looking young man and his servant. His coachman called out to mine to make way for him. My coachman answered that if he did he might turn me into the ditch, but the other insisted on it. I spoke to the master, begging him to tell his coachman to make way for me.
“I am posting, sir,” said I; “and, moreover, I am a foreigner.”
“Sir,” answered he, “in Holland we take no notice of posting or not posting; and if you are foreigner, as you say, you must confess that you have fewer rights than I who am in my own country.”
The blood rushed to my face. I flung open the door with one hand and took my sword with the other; and leaping into the snow, which was up to my knees, I drew my sword, and summoned the Dutchman to give way or defend himself. He was cooler than I, and replied, smiling, that he was not going to fight for so foolish a cause, and that I might get into my carriage again, as he would make way for me. I was somewhat interested in his cool but pleasant manner. I got back into my chaise, and the next night reached Amsterdam.
I put up at the excellent inn “L’Etoile d’Orient,” and in the morning I went on ‘Change and found M. Pels. He told me he would think my business over, and finding M, d’O—— directly afterwards he offered to do me my sixty bills and give me twelve per cent. M. Pels told me to wait, as he said he could get me fifteen per cent. He asked me to dinner, and, on my admiring his Cape wine, he told me with a laugh that he had made it himself by mixing Bordeaux and Malaga.
M. d’O—— asked me to dinner on the day following; and on calling I found him with his daughter Esther, a young lady of fourteen, well developed for her age, and exquisite in all respects except her teeth, which were somewhat irregular. M. d’O was a widower, and had this only child; consequently, Esther was heiress to a large fortune. Her excellent father loved her blindly, and she deserved his love. Her skin was snow white, delicately tinted with red; her hair was black as ebony, and she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. She made an impression on me. Her father had given her an excellent education; she spoke French perfectly, played the piano admirably, and was passionately fond of reading.
After dinner M. d’O—— shewed me the uninhabited part of the house, for since the death of his wife, whose memory was dear to him, he lived on the ground floor only. He shewed me a set of rooms where he kept a treasure in the way of old pottery. The walls and windows were covered with plates of marble, each room a different colour, and the floors were of mosaic, with Persian carpets. The dining-hall was cased in alabaster, and the table and the cupboards were of cedar wood. The whole house looked like a block of solid marble, for it was covered with marble without as well as within, and must have cost immense sums. Every Saturday half-a-dozen servant girls, perched on ladders, washed down these splendid walls. These girls wore wide hoops, being obliged to put on breeches, as otherwise they would have interested the passers by in an unseemly manner. After looking at the house we went down again, and M. d’O—— left me alone with Esther in the antechamber, where he worked with his clerks. As it was New Year’s Day there was not business going on.
After playing a sonata, Mdlle. d’O—— asked me if I would go to a concert. I replied that, being in her company, nothing could make me stir. “But would you, mademoiselle, like to go?”
“Yes, I should like to go very well, but I cannot go by myself.”
“If I might presume to offer to escort you . . . but I dare not think you would accept.”
“I should be delighted, and if you were to ask my father I am sure he would not refuse his permission.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Quite sure, for otherwise he would be guilty of impoliteness, and my father would not do such a thing. But I see you don’t know the manners of the country.”
“I confess I do not:”
“Young ladies enjoy great liberty here — liberty which they lose only by marrying. Go and ask, and you will see:”
I went to M. d’O—— and made my request, trembling lest I should meet with a refusal.
“Have you a carriage?”
“Then I need not give orders to get mine ready. Esther!”
“Go and dress, my dear; M. Casanova has been kind enough to offer to take you to the concert.”
“How good of him! Thank you, papa, for letting me go.”
She threw her arms around his neck, ran to dress, and reappeared an hour after, as fair as the joy which was expressed on her every feature. I could have wished she had used a little powder, but Esther was jealous of her ebon tresses, which displayed the whiteness of her skin to admiration. The chief aim of women in making their toilette is to please men, but how poor is the judgment of most men in such matters compared to the unerring instinct of the generality of women!
A beautiful lace kerchief veiled her bosom, whose glories made my heart beat faster.
We went down the stair, I helped her into the carriage, and stopped, thinking she would be accompanied by one of her women; but seeing nobody I got in myself. The door was shut, and we were off. I was overwhelmed with astonishment. A treasure like this in my keeping I could hardly think. I asked myself whether I was to remember that I was a free-lance of love, or whether honour bade me forget it. Esther, in the highest spirits, told me that we were going to hear an Italian singer whose voice was exquisite, and noticing my confusion she asked what was the matter. I did not know what to say, and began to stammer out something, but at last succeeded in saying that she was a treasure of whom I was not worthy to be the keeper.
“I know that in other countries a young girl would not be trusted alone with a gentleman, but here they teach us discretion and how to look after ourselves.”
“Happy the man who is charged with your welfare, and happier still he on whom your choice has fallen!”
“That choice is not for me to make; ’tis my father’s business.”
“But supposing your father’s choice is not pleasing to you, or supposing you love another?”
“We are not allowed to love a man until we know he is to be our husband.”
“Then you are not in love with anyone?”
“No, and I have never felt the desire to love.”
“Then I may kiss your hand?”
“Why should you kiss my hand?”
She drew away her hand and offered me her lovely lips. I took a kiss, which she gave modestly enough, but which went to my heart. My delight was a little alloyed when she said that she would give me another kiss before her father whenever I liked.
We reached the concert-room, where Esther found many of her young friends — all daughters of rich merchants, some pretty, some plain, and all curious to know who I was. The fair Esther, who knew no more than my name, could not satisfy them. All at once seeing a fair young girl a little way off she pointed her out to me and asked me my opinion of her. Naturally enough I replied that I did not care for fair girls.
“All the same, I must introduce you to her, for she may be a relation of yours. Her name is the same; that is her father over there:”
“M. Casanova,” said she, speaking to a gentleman, “I beg to introduce to you M. Casanova, a friend of my father’s.”
“Really? The same name; I wish, sir, you were my friend, as we are, perhaps, related. I belong to the Naples branch.”
“Then we are related, though distantly, as my father came from Parma. Have you your pedigree?”
“I ought to have such a thing, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think much of such matters. Besants d’or and such heraldic moneys are not currency in a mercantile republic.”
“Pedigree-hunting is certainly a somewhat foolish pursuit; but it may nevertheless afford us a few minutes’ amusement without our making any parade of our ancestry.”
“With all my heart.”
“I shall have the honour of calling on you to-morrow, and I will bring my family-tree with me. Will you be vexed if you find the root of your family also?”
“Not at all; I shall be delighted. I will call on you myself to- morrow. May I ask if you are a business man?”
“No, I am a financial agent in the employ of the French ministry. I am staying with M. Pels.”
M. Casanova made a sign to his daughter and introduced me to her. She was Esther’s dearest friend, and I sat down between them, and the concert began.
After a fine symphony, a concerto for the violin, another for the hautbois, the Italian singer whose repute was so great and who was styled Madame Trend made her appearance. What was my surprise when I recognized in her Therese Imer, wife of the dancer Pompeati, whose name the reader may remember. I had made her acquaintance eighteen years ago, when the old senator Malipiero had struck me because we were playing together. I had seen her again at Venice in 1753, and then our pastime had been of a more serious nature. She had gone to Bayreuth, where she had been the margrave’s mistress. I had promised to go and see her, but C—— C—— and my fair nun M—— M—— had left me neither the time nor the wish to do so. Soon after I was put under the Leads, and then I had other things to think about. I was sufficiently self-controlled not to shew my astonishment, and listened to an aria which she was singing, with her exquisite voice, beginning “Eccoti giunta al fin, donna infelice,” words which seemed made for the case.
The applause seemed as if it would never come to an end. Esther told me that it was not known who she was, but that she was said to be a woman with a history, and to be very badly off. “She goes from one town to another, singing at all the public concerts, and all she receives is what those present choose to give her on a plate which she takes round.”
“Does she find that pay?”
“I should suspect not, as everyone has paid already at coming in. She cannot get more than thirty or forty florins. The day after to- morrow she will go to the Hague, then to Rotterdam, then back here again. She had been performing for six months, and she is always well received.”
“Has she a lover?”
“She is said to have lovers in every town, but instead of enriching her they make her poorer. She always wears black, not only because she is a widow, but also on account of a great grief she is reported to have gone through. She will soon be coming round.” I took out my purse; and counted out twelve ducats, which I wrapped in paper; my heart beating all the while in a ridiculous manner, for I had really nothing to be excited about.
When Therese was going along the seats in front of me, I glanced at her for an instant, and I saw that she looked surprised. I turned my head to speak to Esther, and when she was directly in front of me I put my little packet on the plate without looking at her, and she passed on. A little girl, four or five years old, followed her, and when she got to the end of the bench she came back to kiss my hand. I could not help recognizing in her a facsimile of myself, but I concealed my emotion. The child stood still, and gazed at me fixedly, to my no small confusion. “Would you like some sweets, my dear?” said I, giving her my box, which I should have been glad to turn into gold. The little girl took it smilingly, made me a curtsy, and went on.
“Does it strike you, M. Casanova,” said Esther, with a laugh, “that you and that little girl are as like each other as two peas?”
“Yes, indeed,” added Mdlle. Casanova, “there is a striking likeness.”
“These resemblances are often the work of chance.”
“Just so,” said Esther, with a wicked smile, “but you admit a likeness, don’t you?”
“I confess I was struck with it, though of course I cannot judge so well as you.”
After the concert M. d’O—— arrived, and giving back his daughter to his care I betook myself to my lodging. I was just sitting down to a dish of oysters, before going to bed, when Therese made her appearance, holding her child by the hand. Although I had not expected her to visit me that evening, I was nevertheless not much surprised to see her. I, of course, rose to greet her, when all at once she fell fainting on the sofa, though whether the fainting fit was real or assumed I cannot say. Thinking that she might be really ill I played my part properly, and brought her to herself by sprinkling her with cold water and putting my vinaigrette to her nose. As soon as she came to herself she began to gaze at me without saying a word. At last, tired of her silence, I asked her if she would take any supper; and on her replying in the affirmative, I rang the bell and ordered a good supper for three, which kept us at the table till seven o’clock in the morning, talking over our various fortunes and misfortunes. She was already acquainted with most of my recent adventures, but I knew nothing at all about hers, and she entertained me with a recital of them for five or six hours.
Sophie, the little girl, slept in my bed till day, and her mother, keeping the best of her tale to the last, told me that she was my daughter, and shewed me her baptismal certificate. The birth of the child fell in with the period at which I had been intimate with Therese, and her perfect likeness to myself left no room for doubt. I therefore raised no objections, but told the mother that I was persuaded of my paternity, and that, being in a position to give the child a good education, I was ready to be a father to her.
“She is too precious a treasure in my sight; if we were separated I should die.”
“You are wrong; for if I took charge of the little girl I should see that she was well provided for.”
“I have a son of twelve to whom I cannot give a proper education; take charge of him instead of Sophie.”
“Where is he?”
“He is boarding, or rather in pawn, at Rotterdam.”
“What do you mean by in pawn?”
“I mean that he will not be returned to me until I pay the person who has got him all my debts.”
“How much do you owe?”
“Eighty florins. You have already given me sixty-two, give me four ducats more; you can then take my son, and I shall be the happiest of mothers. I will send my son to you at the Hague next week, as I think you will be there.”
“Yes, my dear Therese; and instead of four ducats, here are twenty.”
“We shall see each other again at the Hague.”
She was grateful to excess, but I only felt pity for her and a sort of friendly interest, and kept quite cool, despite the ardour of her embraces. Seeing that her trouble was of no avail, she sighed, shed some tears, and, taking her daughter, she bid me adieu, promising once more to send me her son.
Therese was two years older than I. She was still pretty, and even handsome, but her charms no longer retained their first beauty, and my passion for her, having been a merely physical one, it was no wonder that she had no longer any attraction for me. Her adventures during the six years in which I had lost her would certainly interest my readers, and form a pleasing episode in my book, and I would tell the tale if it were a true one; but not being a romance writer, I am anxious that this work shall contain the truth and nothing but the truth. Convicted by her amorous and jealous margarve of infidelity, she had been sent about her business. She was separated from her husband Pompeati, had followed a new lover to Brussels, and there had caught the fancy of Prince Charles de Lorraine, who had obtained her the direction of all the theatres in the Austrian Low Countries. She had then undertaken this vast responsibility, entailing heavy expenditure, till at last, after selling all her diamonds and lace, she had fled to Holland to avoid arrest. Her husband killed himself at Vienna in a paroxysm caused by internal pain — he had cut open his stomach with a razor, and died tearing at his entrails.
My business left me no time for sleep. M. Casanova came and asked me to dinner, telling me to meet him on the Exchange — a place well worth seeing. Millionaires are as plentiful as blackberries, and anyone who is not worth more than a hundred thousand florins is considered a poor man. I found M. d’O—— there, and was asked by him to dinner the following day at a small house he had on the Amstel. M. Casanova treated me with the greatest courtesy. After reading my pedigree he went for his own, and found it exactly the same; but he merely laughed, and seemed to care little about it, differing in that respect from Don Antonio of Naples, who set such store by my pedigree, and treated me with such politeness on that account. Nevertheless, he bade me make use of him in anything relating to business if I did anything in that way. I thought his daughter pretty, but neither her charms nor her wit made any impression on me. My thoughts were taken up with Esther, and I talked so much about her at dinner that at last my cousin declared that she did not consider her pretty. Oh, you women! beauty is the only unpardonable offence in your eyes. Mdlle. Casanova was Esther’s friend, and yet she could not bear to hear her praised.
On my seeing M. d’O—— again after dinner, he told me that if I cared to take fifteen per cent. on my shares, he would take them from me and save broker’s expenses. I thought the offer a good one, and I accepted it, taking a bill of exchange on Tourton & Baur. At the rate of exchange at Hamburg I found I should have seventy-two thousand francs, although at five per cent. I had only expected sixty-nine thousand. This transaction won me high favour with Madame d’Urfe, who, perhaps, had not expected me to be so honest.
In the evening I went with M. Pels to Zaandam, in a boat placed on a sleigh and impelled by a sail. It was an extraordinary, but at the same time an amusing and agreeable, mode of travelling. The wind was strong, and we did fifteen miles an hour; we seemed to pass through the air as swiftly as an arrow. A safer and more convenient method of travelling cannot be imagined; it would be an ideal way of journeying round the world if there were such a thing as a frozen sea all round. The wind, however, must be behind, as one cannot sail on a side wind, there being no rudder. I was pleased and astonished at the skill of our two sailors in lowering sail exactly at the proper time; for the sleigh ran a good way, from the impetus it had already received, and we stopped just at the bank of the river, whereas if the sail had been lowered a moment later the sleigh might have been broken to pieces. We had some excellent perch for dinner, but the strength of the wind prevented us from walking about. I went there again, but as Zaandam is well known as the haunt of the millionaire merchants who retire and enjoy life there in their own way, I will say no more about it. We returned in a fine sleigh drawn by two horses, belonging to M. Pels, and he kept me to supper. This worthy man, whose face bore witness to his entire honesty, told me that as I was now the friend of M. d’O—— and himself, I should have nothing whatever to do with the Jews, but should address myself to them alone. I was pleased with this proposal, which made a good many of my difficulties disappear, and the reader will see the results of this course.
Next day snow fell in large flakes, and I went early to M. d’O——‘s, where I found Esther in the highest of spirits. She gave me a warm welcome, and began to rally me on having spent the whole night with Madame Trenti.
I might possibly have shewn some slight confusion, but her father said an honest man had nothing to be ashamed of in admiring talent. Then, turning to me, he said,
“Tell me, M. Casanova, who this woman is?”
“She is a Venetian whose husband died recently; I knew her when I was a lad, and it was six years since I had seen her last.”
“You were agreeably surprised, then, to see your daughter?” said Esther.
“Why do you think the child is my daughter? Madame Trenti was married then.”
“The likeness is really too strong. And how about your falling asleep yesterday when you were supping with M. Pels?”
“It was no wonder that I went asleep, as I had not closed an eye the night before.”
“I am envious of anyone who possesses the secret of getting a good sleep, for I have always to wait long hours before sleep comes to me, and when I awake, instead of being refreshed, I feel heavy and languid from fatigue.”
“Try passing the night in listening to one in whom you take an interest, telling the story of her life, and I promise you that you will sleep well the night after.”
“There is no such person for me.”
“No, because you have as yet only seen fourteen summers; but afterwards there will be someone.”
“Maybe, but what I want just now is books, and the help of someone who will guide my reading.”
“That would be an easy matter for anyone who knew your tastes.”
“I like history and travels, but for a book to please me it must be all true, as I lay it down at the slightest suspicion of its veracity.”
“Now I think I may venture to offer my services, and if you will accept them I believe I shall be able to give satisfaction.”
“I accept your offer, and shall keep you to your word.”
“You need not be afraid of my breaking it, and before I leave for the Hague I will prove that I am reliable.”
She then began to rally me on the pleasure I should have at the Hague, where I should see Madame Trenti again. Her freedom, mirth, and extreme beauty set my blood on fire, and M. d’O—— laughed heartily at the war his charming daughter waged on me. At eleven o’clock we got into a well-appointed sleigh and we set out for his small house, where she told me I should find Mdlle. Casanova and her betrothed.
“Nevertheless,” said I, “you will continue to be my only attraction.”
She made no answer, but it was easy to perceive that my avowal had not displeased her.
When we had gone some distance we saw the lovers, who had come out, in spite of the snow, to meet us. We got down, and after taking off our furs we entered the house. I gazed at the young gentleman, who looked at me a moment in return and then whispered in Mdlle. Casanova’s ear. She smiled and whispered something to Esther. Esther stepped up to her father and said a few words to him in a low voice, and everybody began to laugh at once. They all looked at me and I felt certain that I was somehow the point of the joke, but I put on an indifferent air.
“There may be a mistake,” said M. d’O——; “at any rate we should ascertain the truth of the matter.”
“M. Casanova, had you any adventures on your journey from the Hague to Amsterdam?”
At this I looked again at the young gentleman, and I guessed what they were talking about.
“No adventure to speak of,” I answered, “except a meeting with a fine fellow who desired to see my carriage turn upside down into the ditch, and who I think is present now.”
At these words the laughter broke out afresh, and the gentleman and I embraced each other; but after he had given the true account of the adventure his mistress pretended to be angry, and told him that he ought to have fought. Esther observed that he had shewn more true courage in listening to reason, and M. d’O—— said he was strongly of his daughter’s opinion; however, Mdlle. Casanova, after airing her high-flown ideas, began to sulk with her lover.
To restore the general mirth, Esther said, gaily, “Come, come, let us put on our skates, and try the Amstel, for I am afraid that unless we go forthwith the ice will have melted.” I was ashamed to ask her to let me off, though I would gladly have done so! but what will not love do! M. d’O—— left us to our own devices. Mdlle. Casanova’s intended put on my skates, and the ladies put on their short petticoats with black velvet drawers to guard against certain accidents. We reached the river, and as I was a perfect neophyte in this sport the figure I cut may be imagined. However, I resolutely determined to conquer my awkwardness, and twenty times, to the peril of my spine, did I fall down upon the ice. I should have been wiser to have left off, but I was ashamed to do so, and I did not stop till, to my huge delight, we were summoned in to dinner. But I paid dear for my obstinacy, for when I tried to rise from the table I felt as if I had lost the use of my limbs. Esther pitied me, and said she would cure me. There was a good deal of laughter at my expense, and I let them laugh, as I felt certain that the whole thing had been contrived to turn me into derision, and wishing to make Esther love me I thought it best to stimulate a good temper. I passed the afternoon with M. d’O— — letting the young people go by themselves on the Amstel, where they stopped till dusk.
Next morning when I awoke I thought I was a lost man. I suffered a martyrdom of pain. The last of my vertebral bones, called by doctors the os sacrum, felt as if it had been crushed to atoms, although I had used almost the whole of a pot of ointment which Esther had given me for that purpose. In spite of my torments I did not forget my promise, and I had myself taken to a bookseller’s where I bought all the books I thought likely to interest her. She was very grateful, and told me to come and embrace her before I started if I wanted a pretty present.
It was not likely that I was going to refuse such an invitation as that, so I went early in the morning, leaving my post-chaise at the door Her governess took me to her bed, where she was lying as fair and gay as Venus herself.
“I am quite sure,” said she, “that you would not have come at all unless I had asked you to come and embrace me.”
At this my lips were fastened on her mouth, her eyes, and on every spot of her lovely face. But seeing my eyes straying towards her bosom, and guessing that I should make myself master of it, she stopped laughing and put herself on the defensive.
“Go away,” said she, slyly, “go away and enjoy yourself at the Hague with the fair Trenti, who possesses so pretty a token of your love.”
“My dear Esther, I am going to the Hague to talk business with the ambassador, and for no other reason, and in six days at latest you will see me back again, as much your lover as before, and desiring nothing better than to please you.”
“I rely upon your word of honour, but mind you do not deceive me.”
With these words she put up her mouth and gave me so tender and passionate a kiss that I went away feeling certain of my bliss being crowned on my return. That evening, at supper-time, I reached Boaz’s house.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07