My Arrival at Bologna — I Am Expelled from Modena — I Visit Parma and Turin — The Pretty Jewess — The Dressmaker
The Corticelli had a good warm mantle, but the fool who carried her off had no cloak, even of the most meagre kind, to keep off the piercing cold, which was increased by a keen wind blowing right in our faces.
In spite of all I would not halt, for I was afraid I might be pursued and obliged to return, which would have greatly vexed me.
When I saw that the postillion was slackening his speed, I increased the amount of the present I was going to make him, and once more we rushed along at a headlong pace. I felt perishing with the cold; while the postillions seeing me so lightly clad, and so prodigal of my money to speed them on their way, imagined that I was a prince carrying off the heiress of some noble family. We heard them talking to this effect while they changed horses, and the Corticelli was so much amused that she did nothing but laugh for the rest of the way. In five hours we covered forty miles; we started from Florence at eight o’clock, and at one in the morning we stopped at a post in the Pope’s territory, where I had nothing to fear. The stage goes under the name of “The Ass Unburdened.”
The odd name of the inn made my mistress laugh afresh. Everybody was asleep, but the noise I made and the distribution of a few pauls procured me the privilege of a fire. I was dying of hunger, and they coolly told me there was nothing to eat. I laughed in the landlord’s face, and told him to bring me his butter, his eggs, his macaroni, a ham, and some Parmesan cheese, for I knew that so much will be found in the inns all over Italy. The repast was soon ready, and I shewed the idiot host that he had materials for an excellent meal. We ate like four, and afterwards they made up an impromptu bed and we went to sleep, telling them to call me as soon as a carriage and four drew up.
Full of ham and macaroni, slightly warmed with the Chianti and Montepulciano, and tired with our journey, we stood more in need of slumber than of love, and so we gave ourselves up to sleep till morning. Then we gave a few moments to pleasure, but it was so slight an affair as not to be worth talking about.
At one o’clock we began to feel hungry again and got up, and the host provided us with an excellent dinner, after receiving instructions from me. I was astonished not to see the carriage draw up, but I waited patiently all day. Night came on and still no coach, and I began to feel anxious; but the Corticelli persisted in laughing at everything. Next morning I sent off an express messenger with instructions for Costa. In the event of any violence having taken place, I was resolved to return to Florence, of which city I could at any time make myself free by the expenditure of two hundred crowns.
The messenger started at noon, and returned at two o’clock with the news that my servants would shortly be with me. My coach was on its way, and behind it a smaller carriage with two horses, in which sat an old woman and a young man.
“That’s the mother,” said Corticelli; “now we shall have some fun. Let’s get something for them to eat, and be ready to hear the history of this marvellous adventure which she will remember to her dying day.”
Costa told me that the auditor had revenged my contempt of his orders by forbidding the post authorities to furnish any horses for my carriage. Hence the delay. But here we heard the allocution of the Signora Laura.
“I got an excellent supper ready,” she began, “according to your orders; it cost me more than ten pauls, as I shall shew you, and I hope you will make it up to me as I’m but a poor woman. All was ready and I joyfully expected you, but in vain; I was in despair. At last when midnight came I sent my son to your lodging to enquire after you, but you may imagine my ‘grief when I heard that nobody knew what had become of you. I passed a sleepless night, weeping all the time, and in the morning I went and complained to the police that you had taken off my daughter, and asked them to send after you and make you give her back to me. But only think, they laughed at me! ‘Why did you let her go out without you? laughing in my face. ‘Your daughter’s in good hands,’ says another, ‘you know perfectly well where she is.’ In fact I was grossly slandered.”
“Slandered?” said the Corticelli.
“Yes, slandered, for it was as much as to say that I had consented to your being carried off, and if I had done that the fools might have known I would not have come to them about it. I went away in a rage to Dr. Vannini’s, where I found your man, who told me that you had gone to Bologna, and that I could follow you if I liked. I consented to this plan, and I hope you wilt pay my travelling expenses. But I can’t help telling you that this is rather beyond a joke.”
I consoled her by telling her I would pay all she had spent, and we set off for Bologna the next day, and reached that town at an early hour. I sent my servants to the inn with my carriage, and I went to lodge with the Corticelli.
I spent a week with the girl, getting my meals from the inn, and enjoying a diversity of pleasures which I shall remember all my days; my young wanton had a large circle of female friends, all pretty and all kind. I lived with them like a sultan, and still I delight to recall this happy time, and I say with a sigh, ‘Tempi passati’!
There are many towns in Italy where one can enjoy all the pleasures obtainable at Bologna; but nowhere so cheaply, so easily, or with so much freedom. The living is excellent, and there are arcades where one can walk in the shade in learned and witty company. It is a great pity that either from the air, the water, or the wine — for men of science have not made up their minds on the subject persons who live at Bologna are subject to a slight itch. The Bolognese, however, far from finding this unpleasant, seem to think it an advantage; it gives them the pleasure of scratching themselves. In springtime the ladies distinguish themselves by the grace with which they use their fingers.
Towards mid-Lent I left the Corticelli, wishing her a pleasant journey, for she was going to fulfil a year’s engagement at Prague as second dancer. I promised to fetch her and her mother to Paris, and my readers will see how I kept my word.
I got to Modena the evening after I left Bologna, and I stopped there, with one of those sudden whims to which I have always been subject. Next morning I went out to see the pictures, and as I was returning to my lodging for dinner a blackguardly-looking fellow came up and ordered me, on the part of the Government, to continue my journey on the day following at latest.
“Very good,” said I, and the fellow went away.
“Who is that man?” I said to the landlord.
“A spy; and the Government dares to send such a fellow to me?”
“The ‘borgello’ must have sent him.”
“Then the ‘borgello’ is the Governor of Modena — the infamous wretch!”
“Hush! hush! all the best families speak to him in the street.”
“Then the best people are very low here, I suppose?”
“Not more than anywhere else. He is the manager of the opera house, and the greatest noblemen dine with him and thus secure his favour.”
“It’s incredible! But why should the high and mighty borgello send me away from Modena?”
“I don’t know, but do you take my advice and go and speak to him; you will find him a fine fellow.”
Instead of going to see this b —— I called on the Abbe Testa Grossa, whom I had known at Venice in 1753. Although he was a man of low extraction he had a keen wit. At this time he was old and resting on his laurels; he had fought his way into favour by the sheer force of merit, and his master, the Duke of Modena, had long chosen him as his representative with other powers.
Abbe Testa Grossa recognized me and gave me the most gracious reception, but when he heard of what had befallen me he seemed much annoyed.
“What can I do?” said I.
“You had better go, as the man may put a much more grievous insult on you.”
“I will do so, but could you oblige me by telling me the reason for such a high-handed action?”
“Come again this evening; I shall probably be able to satisfy you.”
I called on the abbe again in the evening, for I felt anxious to learn in what way I had offended the lord borgello, to whom I thought I was quite unknown. The abbe satisfied me.
“The borgello,” said he, “saw your name on the bill which he receives daily containing a list of the names of those who enter or leave the city. He remembered that you were daring enough to escape from The Leads, and as he does not at all approve of that sort of thing he resolved not to let the Modenese be contaminated by so egregious an example of the defiance of justice, however unjust it may be; and in short he has given you the order to leave the town.”
“I am much obliged, but I really wonder how it is that while you were telling me this you did not blush to be a subject of the Duke of Modena’s. What an unworthy action! How contrary is such a system of government to all the best interests of the state!”
“You are quite right, my dear sir, but I am afraid that as yet men’s eyes are not open to what best serves their interests.”
“That is doubtless due to the fact that so many men are unworthy.”
“I will not contradict you.”
“Farewell, M. Casanova.”
Next morning, just as I was going to get into my carriage, a young man between twenty-five and thirty, tall and strong and broad shouldered, his eyes black and glittering, his eyebrows strongly arched, and his general air being that of a cut-throat, accosted me and begged me to step aside and hear what he had to say.
“If you like to stop at Parma for three days, and if you will promise to give me fifty sequins when I bring you the news that the borgello is dead, I promise to shoot him within the next twenty-four hours.”
“Thanks. Such an animal as that should be allowed to die a natural death. Here’s a crown to drink my health.”
At the present time I feel very thankful that I acted as I did, but I confess that if I had felt sure that it was not a trap I should have promised the money. The fear of committing myself spared me this crime.
The next day I got to Parma, and I put up at the posting-house under the name of the Chevalier de Seingalt, which I still bear. When an honest man adopts a name which belongs to no one, no one has a right to contest his use of it; it becomes a man’s duty to keep the name. I had now borne it for two years, but I often subjoined to it my family name.
When I got to Parma I dismissed Costa, but in a week after I had the misfortune to take him on again. His father, who was a poor violin player, as I had once been, with a large family to provide for, excited my pity.
I made enquiries about M. Antonio, but he had left the place; and M. Dubois Chalelereux, Director of the Mint, had gone to Venice with the permission of the Duke of Parma, to set up the beam, which was never brought into use. Republics are famous for their superstitious attachment to old customs; they are afraid that changes for the better may destroy the stability of the state, and the government of aristocratic Venice still preserves its original Greek character.
My Spaniard was delighted when I dismissed Costa and proportionately sorry when I took him back.
“He’s no profligate,” said Le Duc; “he is sober, and has no liking for bad company. But I think he’s a robber, and a dangerous robber, too. I know it, because he seems so scrupulously careful not to cheat you in small things. Remember what I say, sir; he will do you. He is waiting to gain your confidence, and then he will strike home. Now, I am quite a different sort of fellow, a rogue in a small way; but you know me.”
His insight was, keener than mine, for five or six months later the Italian robbed me of fifty thousand crowns. Twenty-three years afterwards, in 1784, I found him in Venice, valet to Count Hardegg, and I felt inclined to have him hanged. I shewed him by proof positive that I could do so if I liked; but he had resource to tears and supplications, and to the intercession of a worthy man named Bertrand, who lived with the ambassador of the King of Sardinia. I esteemed this individual, and he appealed to me successfully to pardon Costa. I asked the wretch what he had done with the gold and jewels he had stolen from me, and he told me that he had lost the whole of it in furnishing funds for a bank at Biribi, that he had been despoiled by his own associates, and had been poor and miserable ever since.
In the same year in which he robbed me he married Momolo’s daughter, and after making her a mother he abandoned her.
To pursue our story.
At Turin I lodged in a private house with the Abbe Gama, who had been expecting me. In spite of the good abbe’s sermon on economy, I took the whole of the first floor, and a fine suite it was.
We discussed diplomatic topics, and he assured me that I should be accredited in May, and that he would give me instructions as to the part I was to play. I was pleased with his commission, and I told the abbe that I should be ready to go to Augsburg whenever the ambassadors of the belligerent powers met there.
After making the necessary arrangements with my landlady with regard to my meals I went to a coffeehouse to read the papers, and the first person I saw was the Marquis Desarmoises, whom I had known in Savoy. The first thing he said was that all games of chance were forbidden, and that the ladies I had met would no doubt be delighted to see me. As for himself, he said that he lived by playing backgammon, though he was not at all lucky at it, as talent went for more than luck at that game. I can understand how, if fortune is neutral, the best player will win, but I do not see how the contrary can take place.
We went for a walk in the promenade leading to the citadel, where I saw numerous extremely pretty women. In Turin the fair sex is most delightful, but the police regulations are troublesome to a degree. Owing to the town being a small one and thinly peopled, the police spies find out everything. Thus one cannot enjoy any little freedoms without great precautions and the aid of cunning procuresses, who have to be well paid, as they would be cruelly punished if they were found out. No prostitutes and no kept women are allowed, much to the delight of the married women, and with results which the ignorant police might have anticipated. As well be imagined, pederasty has a fine field in this town, where the passions are kept under lock and key.
Amongst the beauties I looked at, one only attracted me. I asked Desarmoises her name, as he knew all of them.
“That’s the famous Leah,” said he; “she is a Jewess, and impregnable. She has resisted the attacks of the best strategists in Turin. Her father’s a famous horse-dealer; you can go and see her easily enough, but there’s nothing to be done there.”
The greater the difficulty the more I felt spurred on to attempt it.
“Take me there,” said I, to Desarmoises.
“As soon as you please.”
I asked him to dine with me, and we were on our way when we met M. Zeroli and two or three other persons whom I had met at Aix. I gave and received plenty of compliments, but not wishing to pay them any visits I excused myself on the pretext of business.
When we had finished dinner Desarmoises took me to the horse- dealer’s. I asked if he had a good saddle horse. He called a lad and gave his orders, and whilst he was speaking the charming daughter appeared on the scene. She was dazzlingly beautiful, and could not be more than twenty-two. Her figure was as lissom as a nymph’s, her hair a raven black, her complexion a meeting of the lily and the rose, her eyes full of fire, her lashes long, and her eye-brows so well arched that they seemed ready to make war on any who would dare the conquest of her charms. All about her betokened an educated mind and knowledge of the world.
I was so absorbed in the contemplation of her charms that I did not notice the horse when it was brought to me. However, I proceeded to scrutinise it, pretending to be an expert, and after feeling the knees and legs, turning back the ears, and looking at the teeth, I tested its behaviour at a walk, a trot, and a gallop, and then told the Jew that I would come and try it myself in top- boots the next day. The horse was a fine dappled bay, and was priced at forty Piedmontese pistoles — about a hundred sequins.
“He is gentleness itself,” said Leah, “and he ambles as fast as any other horse trots.”
“You have ridden it, then?”
“Often, sir, and if I were rich I would never sell him.”
“I won’t buy the horse till I have seen you ride it.”
She blushed at this.
“You must oblige the gentleman,” said her father. She consented to do so, and I promised to come again at nine o’clock the next day.
I was exact to time, as may be imagined, and I found Leah in riding costume. What proportions! What a Venus Callipyge! I was captivated.
Two horses were ready, and she leapt on hers with the ease and grace of a practised rider, and I got up on my horse. We rode together for some distance. The horse went well enough, but what of that; all my eyes were for her.
As we were turning, I said —
“Fair Leah, I will buy the horse, but as a present for you; and if you will not take it I shall leave Turin today. The only condition I attach to the gift is, that you will ride with me whenever I ask you.”
I saw she seemed favourably inclined to my proposal, so I told her that I should stay six weeks at Turin, that I had fallen in love with her on the promenade, and that the purchase of the horse had been a mere pretext for discovering to her my feelings. She replied modestly that she was vastly flattered by the liking I had taken to her, and that I need not have made her such a present to assure myself of her friendship.
“The condition you impose on me is an extremely pleasant one, and I am sure that my father will like me to accept it.”
To this she added —
“All I ask is for you to make me the present before him, repeating that you will only buy it on the condition that I will accept it.”
I found the way smoother than I had expected, and I did what she asked me. Her father, whose name was Moses, thought it a good bargain, congratulated his daughter, took the forty pistoles and gave me a receipt, and begged me to do them the honour of breakfasting with them the next day. This was just what I wanted.
The following morning Moses received me with great respect. Leah, who was in her ordinary clothes, told me that if I liked to ride she would put on her riding habit.
“Another day,” said I; “to-day I should like to converse with you in your own house.”
But the father, who was as greedy as most Jews are, said that if I liked driving he could sell me a pretty phaeton with two excellent horses.
“You must shew them to the gentleman,” said Leah, possibly in concert with her father.
Moses said nothing, but went out to get the horses harnessed.
“I will look at them,” I said to Leah, “but I won’t buy, as I should not know what to do with them.”
“You can take your lady-love out for a drive.”
“That would be you; but perhaps you would be afraid!”
“Not at all, if you drove in the country or the suburbs.”
“Very good, Leah, then I will look at them.”
The father came in, and we went downstairs. I liked the carriage and the horses, and I told Leah so.
“Well,” said Moses, “you can have them now for four hundred sequins, but after Easter the price will be five hundred sequins at least.”
Leah got into the carriage, and I sat beside her, and we went for an hour’s drive into the country. I told Moses I would give him an answer by the next day, and he went about his business, while Leah and I went upstairs again.
“It’s quite worth four hundred sequins,” said I, “and to-morrow I will buy it with pleasure; but on the same condition as that on which I bought the horse, and something more — namely, that you will grant me all the favours that a tender lover can desire.”
“You speak plainly, and I will answer you in the same way. I’m an honest girl, sir, and not for sale.”
“All women, dear Leah, whether they are honest or not, are for sale. When a man has plenty of time he buys the woman his heart desires by unremitting attentions; but when he’s in a hurry he buys her with presents, and even with money.”
“Then he’s a clumsy fellow; he would do better to let sentiment and attention plead his cause and gain the victory.”
“I wish I could give myself that happiness, fair Leah, but I’m in a great hurry.”
As I finished this sentence her father came in, and I left the house telling him that if I could not come the next day I would come the day after, and that we could talk about the phaeton then.
It was plain that Leah thought I was lavish of my money, and would make a capital dupe. She would relish the phaeton, as she had relished the horse, but I knew that I was not quite such a fool as that. It had not cost me much trouble to resolve to chance the loss of a hundred sequins, but beyond that I wanted some value for my money.
I temporarily suspended my visits to see how Leah and her father would settle it amongst themselves. I reckoned on the Jew’s greediness to work well for me. He was very fond of money, and must have been angry that his daughter had not made me buy the phaeton by some means or another, for so long as the phaeton was bought the rest would be perfectly indifferent to him. I felt almost certain that they would come and see me.
The following Saturday I saw the fair Jewess on the promenade. We were near enough for me to accost her without seeming to be anxious to do so, and her look seemed to say, “Come.”
“We see no more of you now,” said she, “but come and breakfast with me to-morrow, or I will send you back the horse.”
I promised to be with her in good time, and, as the reader will imagine, I kept my word.
The breakfast party was almost confined to ourselves, for though her aunt was present she was only there for decency’s sake. After breakfast we resolved to have a ride, and she changed her clothes before me, but also before her aunt. She first put on her leather breeches, then let her skirts fall, took off her corset, and donned a jacket. With seeming indifference I succeeded in catching a glimpse of a magnificent breast; but the sly puss knew how much my indifference was worth.
“Will you arrange my frill?” said she.
This was a warm occupation for me, and I am afraid my hand was indiscreet. Nevertheless, I thought I detected a fixed design under all this seeming complaisance, and I was on my guard.
Her father came up just as we were getting on horseback.
“If you will buy the phaeton and horses,” said he, “I will abate twenty sequins.”
“All that depends on your daughter,” said I.
We set off at a walk, and Leah told me that she had been imprudent enough to confess to her father that she could make me buy the carriage, and that if I did not wish to embroil her with him I would be kind enough to purchase it.
“Strike the bargain,” said she, “and you can give it me when you are sure of my love.”
“My dear Leah, I am your humble servant, but you know on what condition.”
“I promise to drive out with you whenever you please, without getting out of the carriage, but I know you would not care for that. No, your affection was only a temporary caprice.”
“To convince you of the contrary I will buy the phaeton and put it in a coach-house. I will see that the horses are taken-care of, though I shall not use them. But if you do not make me happy in the course of a week I shall re-sell the whole.”
“Come to us to-morrow.”
“I will do so, but I trust have some pledge of your affection this morning.”
“This morning? It’s impossible.”
“Excuse me; I will go upstairs with you, and you can shew me more than one kindness while you are undressing.”
We came back, and I was astonished to hear her telling her father that the phaeton was mine, and all he had to do was to put in the horses. The Jew grinned, and we all went upstairs, and Leah coolly said —
“Count out the money.”
“I have not any money about me, but I will write you a cheque, if you like.”
“Here is paper.”
I wrote a cheque on Zappata for three hundred sequins, payable at sight. The Jew went off to get the money, and Leah remained alone with me.
“You have trusted me,” she said, “and have thus shewn yourself worthy of my love.”
“Then undress, quick!”
“No, my aunt is about the house; and as I cannot shut the door without exciting suspicion, she might come in; but I promise that you shall be content with me tomorrow. Nevertheless, I am going to undress, but you must go in this closet; you may come back when I have got my woman’s clothes on again.”
I agreed to this arrangement, and she shut me in. I examined the door, and discovered a small chink between the boards. I got on a stool, and saw Leah sitting on a sofa opposite to me engaged in undressing herself. She took off her shift and wiped her breasts and her feet with a towel, and just as she had taken off her breeches, and was as naked as my hand, one of her rings happened to slip off her finger, and rolled under the sofa. She got up, looked to right and left, and then stooped to search under the sofa, and to do this she had to kneel with her head down. When she got back to couch, the towel came again into requisition, and she wiped herself all over in such a manner that all her charms were revealed to my eager eyes. I felt sure that she knew I was a witness of all these operations, and she probably guessed what a fire the sight would kindle in my inflammable breast.
At last her toilette was finished, and she let me out. I clasped her in my arms, with the words, “I have seen everything.” She pretended not to believe me, so I chewed her the chink, and was going to obtain my just dues, when the accursed Moses came in. He must have been blind or he would have seen the state his daughter had put me in; however, he thanked me, and gave me a receipt for the money, saying, “Everything in my poor house is at your service.”
I bade them adieu, and I went away in an ill temper. I got into my phaeton, and drove home and told the coachman to find me a stable for the horses and a coach-house for the carriage.
I did not expect to see Leah again, and I felt enraged with her. She had pleased me only too much by her voluptuous attitudes, but she had set up an irritation wholly hostile to Love. She had made Love a robber, and the hungry boy had consented, but afterwards, when he craved more substantial fare, she refused him, and ardour was succeeded by contempt. Leah did not want to confess herself to be what she really was, and my love would not declare itself knavish.
I made the acquaintance of an amiable chevalier, a soldier, a man of letters, and a great lover of horses, who introduced me to several pleasant families. However, I did not cultivate them, as they only offered me the pleasures of sentiment, while I longed for lustier fare for which I was willing to pay heavily. The Chevalier de Breze was not the man for me; he was too respectable for a profligate like myself. He bought the phaeton and horses, and I only lost thirty sequins by the transaction.
A certain M. Baretti, who had known me at Aix, and had been the Marquis de Pries croupier, took me to see the Mazzoli, formerly a dancer, and then mistress to the Chevalier Raiberti, a hardheaded but honest man, who was then secretary for foreign affairs. Although the Mazzoli was by no means pretty, she was extremely complaisant, and had several girls at her house for me to see; but I did not think any of them worthy of occupying Leah’s place. I fancied I no longer loved Leah, but I was wrong.
The Chevalier Cocona, who had the misfortune to be suffering from a venereal disease, gave me up his mistress, a pretty little ‘soubrette’; but in spite of the evidence of my own eyes, and in spite of the assurances she gave me, I could not make up my mind to have her, and my fear made me leave her untouched. Count Trana, a brother of the chevalier’s whom I had known at Aix, introduced me to Madame de Sc — — a lady of high rank and very good-looking, but she tried to involve me in a criminal transaction, and I ceased to call on her. Shortly after, Count Trana’s uncle died and he became rich and got married, but he lived an unhappy life.
I was getting bored, and Desarmoises, who had all his meals with me, did not know what to do. At last he advised me to make the acquaintance of a certain Madame R— — a Frenchwoman, and well known in Turin as a milliner and dressmaker. She had six or eight girls working for her in a room adjoining her shop. Desarmoises thought that if I got in there I might possibly be able to find one to my taste. As my purse was well furnished I thought I should not have much difficulty, so I called on Madame R——. I was agreeably surprised to find Leah there, bargaining for a quantity of articles, all of which she pronounced to be too dear. She told me kindly but reproachfully that she had thought I must be ill.
“I have been very busy,” I said; and felt all my old ardour revive. She asked me to come to a Jewish wedding, where there would be a good many people and several pretty girls. I knew that ceremonies of this kind are very amusing, and I promised to be present. She proceeded with her bargaining, but the price was still too high and she left the shop. Madame R—— was going to put back all the trifles in their places, but I said —
“I will take the lot myself.”
She smiled, and I drew out my purse and paid the money.
“Where do you live, sir?” said she; “and when shall I send you your purchases?”
“You may bring them to-morrow yourself, and do me the honour of breakfasting with me.”
“I can never leave the shop, sir.” In spite of her thirty-five years, Madame R—— was still what would be called a tasty morsel, and she had taken my fancy.
“I want some dark lace,” said I.
“Then kindly follow me, sir.”
I was delighted when I entered the room to see a lot of young work-girls, all charming, hard at work, and scarcely daring to look at me. Madame R—— opened several cupboards, and showed me some magnificent lace. I was distracted by the sight of so many delicious nymphs, and I told her that I wanted the lace for two ‘baoutes’ in the Venetian style. She knew what I meant. The lace cost me upwards of a hundred sequins. Madame R—— told two of her girls to bring me the lace the next day, together with the goods which Leah had thought too dear. They meekly replied —
They rose and kissed the mother’s hand, which I thought a ridiculous ceremony; however, it gave me an opportunity of examining them, and I thought them delicious. We went back to the shop, and sitting down by the counter I enlarged on the beauty of the girls, adding, though not with strict truth, that I vastly preferred their mistress. She thanked me for the compliment and told me plainly that she had a lover, and soon after named him. He was the Comte de St. Giles, an infirm and elderly man, and by no means a model lover. I thought Madame R—— was jesting, but next day I ascertained that she was speaking the truth. Well, everyone to his taste, and I suspect that she was more in love with the count’s purse than his person. I had met him at the “Exchange” coffeehouse.
The next day the two pretty milliners brought me my goods. I offered them chocolate, but they firmly and persistently declined. The fancy took me to send them to Leah with all the things she had chosen, and I bade them return and tell me what sort of a reception they had had. They said they would do so, and waited for me to write her a note.
I could not give them the slightest mark of affection. I dared not shut the door, and the mistress and the ugly young woman of the house kept going and coming all the time; but when they came back I waited for them on the stairs, and giving them a sequin each told each of them that she might command my heart if she would. Leah had accepted my handsome present and sent to say that she was waiting for me.
As I was walking aimlessly about in the afternoon I happened to pass the milliner’s shop, and Madame R—— saw me and made me come in and sit down beside her.
“I am really much obliged to you,” said she, “for your kindness to my girls. They came home enchanted. Tell me frankly whether you are really in love with the pretty Jewess.”
“I am really in love with her, but as she will not make me happy I have signed my own dismissal.”
“You were quite right. All Leah thinks of is duping those who are captivated by her charms.”
“Do not your charming apprentices follow your maxims?”
“No; but they are only complaisant when I give them leave.”
“Then I commend myself to your intercession, for they would not even take a cup of chocolate from me.”
“They were perfectly right not to accept your chocolate: but I see you do not know the ways of Turin. Do you find yourself comfortable in your present lodging?”
“Are you perfectly free to do what you like?”
“I think so.”
“Can you give supper to anyone you like in your own rooms? I am certain you can’t.”
“I have not had the opportunity of trying the experiment so far, but I believe. . . . ”
“Don’t flatter yourself by believing anything; that house is full of the spies of the police.”
“Then you think that I could not give you and two or three of your girls a little supper?”
“I should take very good care not to go to it, that’s all I know. By next morning it would be known to all the town, and especially to the police.”
“Well, supposing I look out for another lodging?”
“It’s the same everywhere. Turin is a perfect nest of spies; but I do know a house where you could live at ease, and where my girls might perhaps be able to bring you your purchases. But we should have to be very careful.”
“Where is the house I will be guided by you in everything.”
“Don’t trust a Piedmontese; that’s the first commandment here.”
She then gave me the address of a small furnished house, which was only inhabited by an old door-keeper and his wife.
“They will let it you by the month,” said she, “and if you pay a month in advance you need not even tell them your name.”
I found the house to be a very pretty one, standing in a lonely street at about two hundred paces from the citadel. One gate, large enough to admit a carriage, led into the country. I found everything to be as Madame R—— had described it. I paid a month in advance without any bargaining, and in a day I had settled in my new lodging. Madame R—— admired my celerity.
I went to the Jewish wedding and enjoyed myself, for there is something at once solemn and ridiculous about the ceremony; but I resisted all Leah’s endeavours to get me once more into her meshes.. I hired a close carriage from her father, which with the horses I placed in the coach-house and stables of my new house. Thus I was absolutely free to go whenever I would by night or by day, for I was at once in the town and in the country. I was obliged to tell the inquisitive Gama where I was living, and I hid nothing from Desarmoises, whose needs made him altogether dependent on me. Nevertheless I gave orders that my door was shut to them as to everyone else, unless I had given special instructions that they were to be admitted. I had no reason to doubt the fidelity of my two servants.
In this blissful abode I enjoyed all Mdlle. R——‘s girls, one after the other. The one I wanted always brought a companion, whom I usually sent back after giving her a slice of the cake. The last of them, whose name was Victorine, as fair as day and as soft as a dove, had the misfortune to be tied, though she knew nothing about it. Mdlle. R— — who was equally ignorant on the subject, had represented her to me as a virgin, and so I thought her for two long hours in which I strove with might and main to break the charm, or rather open the shell. All my efforts were in vain. I was exhausted at last, and I wanted to see in what the obstacle consisted. I put her in the proper position, and armed with a candle I began my scrutiny. I found a fleshy membrane pierced by so small a hole that large pin’s head could scarcely have gone through. Victorine encouraged me to force a passage with my little finger, but in vain I tried to pierce this wall, which nature had made impassable by all ordinary means. I was tempted to see what I could do with a bistoury, and the girl wanted me to try, but I was afraid of the haemorrhage which might have been dangerous, and I wisely refrained.
Poor Victorine, condemned to die a maid, unless some clever surgeon performed the same operation that was undergone by Mdlle. Cheruffini shortly after M. Lepri married her, wept when I said —
“My dear child, your little Hymen defies the most vigorous lover to enter his temple.”
But I consoled her by saying that a good surgeon could easily make a perfect woman of her.
In the morning I told Madame R—— of the case.
She laughed and said —
“It may prove a happy accident for Victorine; it may make her fortune.”
A few years after the Count of Padua had her operated on, and made her fortune. When I came back from Spain I found that she was with child, so that I could not exact the due reward for all the trouble I had taken with her.
Early in the morning on Maunday Thursday they told me that Moses and Leah wanted to see me. I had not expected to see them, but I welcomed them warmly. Throughout Holy Week the Jews dared not shew themselves in the streets of Turin, and I advised them to stay with me till the Saturday. Moses began to try and get me to purchase a ring from him, and I judged from that that I should not have to press them very much.
“I can only buy this ring from Leah’s hands,” said I.
He grinned, thinking doubtless that I intended to make her a present of it, but I was resolved to disappoint him. I gave them a magnificent dinner and supper, and in the evening they were shewn a double-bedded room not far from mine. I might have put them in different rooms, and Leah in a room adjoining mine, which would have facilitated any nocturnal excursions; but after all I had done for her I was resolved to owe nothing to a surprise; she should come of herself.
The next day Moses (who noticed that I had not yet bought the ring) was obliged to go out on business, and asked for the loan of my carriage for the whole day, telling me that he would come for his daughter in the evening. I had the horses harnessed, and when he was gone I bought the ring for six hundred sequins, but on my own terms. I was in my own house, and Leah could not deceive me. As soon as the father was safely out of the way I possessed myself of the daughter. She proved a docile and amorous subject the whole day. I had reduced her to a state of nature, and though her body was as perfect as can well be imagined I used it and abused it in every way imaginable. In the evening her father found her looking rather tired, but he seemed as pleased as I was. Leah was not quite so well satisfied, for till the moment of their departure she was expecting me to give her the ring, but I contented myself with saying that I should like to reserve myself the pleasure of taking it to her.
On Easter Monday a man brought me a note summoning me to appear at the police office.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07