Humiliation of The Countess — Zenobia’s Wedding — Faro Conquest of The Fair Irene — Plan for a Masquerade
On my return I found the count with one of the marquis’s servants, who gave me a note, begging me to send the dress, which I did directly.
“The marquis will dine with us,” said the count, “and, no doubt, he will bring the money with him for this treasure.”
“You think it a treasure, then?”
“Yes, fit for a queen to wear.”
“I wish the treasure had the virtue of giving you a crown; one head-dress is as good as another.”
The poor devil understood the allusion, and as I liked him I reproached myself for having humiliated him unintentionally, but I could not resist the temptation to jest. I hastened to smooth his brow by saying that as soon as I got the money for the dress I would take it to the countess.
“I have spoken to her about it,” said he, “and your proposal made her laugh; but I am sure she will make up her mind when she finds herself in possession of the dress.”
It was a Friday. The marquis sent in an excellent fish dinner, and came himself soon after with the dress in a basket. The present was made with all ceremony, and the proud countess was profuse in her expressions of thanks, which the giver received coolly enough, as if accustomed to that kind of thing. However, he ended by the no means flattering remark that if she had any sense she would sell it, as everybody knew she was too poor to wear it. This suggestion by no means met with her approval. She abused him to her heart’s content, and told him he must be a great fool to give her a dress which he considered unsuitable to her.
They were disputing warmly when the Marchioness Menafoglio was announced. As soon as she came in her eyes were attracted by the dress, which was stretched over a chair, and finding it superb she exclaimed,
“I would gladly buy that dress.”
“I did not buy it to sell again,” said the countess, sharply.
“Excuse me,” replied the marchioness, “I thought it was for sale, and I am sorry it is not.”
The marquis, who was no lover of dissimulation, began to laugh, and the countess, fearing he would cover her with ridicule, hastened to change the conversation. But when the marchioness was gone the countess gave reins to her passion, and scolded the marquis bitterly for having laughed. However, he only replied by remarks which, though exquisitely polite, had a sting in them; and at last the lady said she was tired, and was going to lie down.
When she had left the room the marquis gave me the fifteen thousand francs, telling me that they would bring me good luck at Canano’s.
“You are a great favourite of Canano’s,” he added, “and he wants you to come and dine with him. He can’t ask you to supper, as he is obliged to spend his nights in the assembly-rooms.”
“Tell him I will come any day he likes except the day after to- morrow, when I have to go to a wedding at the ‘Apple Garden.’”
“I congratulate you,” said the count and the marquis together, “it will no doubt be very pleasant.”
“I expect to enjoy myself heartily there.”
“Could not we come, too?”
“Do you really want to?”
“Then I will get you an invitation from the fair bride herself on the condition that the countess comes as well. I must warn you that the company will consist of honest people of the lower classes, and I cannot have them humiliated in any way.”
“I will persuade the countess,” said Triulzi.
“To make your task an easier one, I may as well tell you that the wedding is that of the fair Zenobia.”
“Bravo! I am sure the countess will come to that.”
The count went out, and shortly reappeared with Zenobia. The marquis congratulated her, and encouraged her to ask the countess to the wedding. She seemed doubtful, so the marquis took her by the hand and let her into the proud Spaniard’s room. In half an hour they returned informing us that my lady had deigned to accept the invitation.
When the marquis had gone, the count told me that I might go and keep his wife company, if I had nothing better to do, and that he would see to some business.
“I have the thousand sequins in my pocket,” I remarked, “and if I find her reasonable, I will leave them with her.”
“I will go and speak to her first.”
While the count was out of the room, I exchanged the thousand sequins for the fifteen thousand francs in bank notes which Greppi had given me.
I was just shutting up my cash-box when Zenobia came in with my lace cuffs. She asked me if I would like to buy a piece of lace. I replied in the affirmative, and she went out and brought it me.
I liked the lace, and bought it for eighteen sequins, and said —
“This lace is yours, dearest Zenobia, if you will content me this moment.”
“I love you well, but I should be glad if you would wait till after my marriage.”
“No, dearest, now or never. I cannot wait. I shall die if you do not grant my prayer. Look! do you not see what a state I am in?”
“I see it plainly enough, but it can’t be done.”
“Why not? Are you afraid of your husband noticing the loss of your maidenhead?”
“Not I, and if he did I shouldn’t care. I promise you if he dared to reproach me, he should not have me at all.”
“Well said, for my leavings are too good for him. Come quick!”
“But you will shut the door, at least?”
“No, the noise would be heard, and might give rise to suspicion. Nobody will come in.”
With these words I drew her towards me, and finding her as gentle as a lamb and as loving as a dove, the amorous sacrifice was offered with abundant libations on both sides. After the first ecstacy was over, I proceeded to examine her beauties, and with my usual amorous frenzy told her that she should send her tailor out to graze and live with me. Fortunately she did not believe in the constancy of my passion. After a second assault I rested, greatly astonished that the count had not interrupted our pleasures. I thought he must have gone out, and I told Zenobia my opinion, whereon she overwhelmed me with caresses. Feeling at my ease, I set her free from her troublesome clothes, and gave myself up to toying with her in a manner calculated to arouse the exhausted senses; and then for the third time we were clasped to each other’s arms, while I made Zenobia put herself into the many attitudes which I knew from experience as most propitious to the voluptuous triumph.
We were occupied a whole hour in these pleasures, but Zenobia, in the flower of her age and a novice, poured forth many more libations than I.
Just as I lost life for the third time, and Zenobia for the fourteenth, I heard the count’s voice. I told my sweetheart, who had heard it as well, and after we had dressed hastily I gave her the eighteen sequins, and she left the room.
A moment after the count came in laughing, and said —
“I have been watching you all the time by this chink” (which he shewed me), “and I have found it very amusing.”
“I am delighted to hear it, but keep it to youself.”
“Of course, of course.”
“My wife,” said he, “will be very pleased to see you; and I,” he added, “shall be very pleased as well.”
“You are a philosophical husband,” said I, “but I am afraid after the exercises you witnessed the countess will find me rather slow.”
“Not at all, the recollection will make it all the pleasanter for you.”
“Mentally perhaps, but in other respects . . . ”
“Oh! you will manage to get out of it.”
“My carriage is at your service, as I shall not be going out for the rest of the day.”
I softly entered the countess’s room and finding her in bed enquired affectionately after her health.
“I am very well,” said she, smiling agreeably, “my husband has done me good.”
I had seated myself quietly on the bed, and she had shewn no vexation; certainly a good omen.
“Aren’t you going out any more to-day?” said she, “you have got your dressing-gown on.”
“I fell asleep lying on my bed, and when I awoke I decided on keeping you company if you will be as good and gentle as you are pretty.”
“If you behave well to me, you will always find me so.
“And will you love me?”
“That depends on you. So you are going to sacrifice Canano to me this evening.”
“Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. He has won a lot from me already, and I foresee that he will win the fifteen thousand francs I have in my pocket to-morrow. This is the money the Marquis Triulzi gave me for the dress.”
“It would be a pity to lose such a large sum.”
“You are right, and I need not lose them if you will be complaisant, for they are meant for you. Allow me to shut the door.”
“Because I am perishing with cold and desire, and intend warming myself in your bed.”
“I will never allow that.”
“I don’t want to force you. Good-bye, countess, I will go and warm myself by my own fire, and to-morrow I will wage war on Canano’s bank.”
“You are certainly a sad dog. Stay here, I like your conversation.”
Without more ado I locked the door, took off my clothes, and seeing that her back was turned to me, jumped into bed beside her. She had made up her mind, and let me do as I liked, but my combats with Zenobia had exhausted me. With closed eyes she let me place her in all the postures which lubricity could suggest, while her hands were not idle; but all was in vain, my torpor was complete, and nothing would give life to the instrument which was necessary to the operation.
Doubtless the Spaniard felt that my nullity was an insult to her charms; doubtless I must have tortured her by raising desires which I could not appease; for several times I felt my fingers drenched with a flow that shewed she was not passive in the matter; but she pretended all the while to be asleep. I was vexed at her being able to feign insensibility to such an extent, and I attached myself to her head; but her lips, which she abandoned to me, and which I abused disgracefully, produced no more effect than the rest of her body. I felt angry that I could not effect the miracle of resurrection, and I decided on leaving a stage where I had so wretched a part, but I was not generous to her, and put the finishing stroke to her humiliation by saying —
“’Tis not my fault, madam, that your charms have so little power over me. Here, take these fifteen thousand francs by way of consolation.”
With this apostrophe I left her.
My readers, more especially my lady readers, if I ever have any, will no doubt pronounce me a detestable fellow after this. I understand their feelings, but beg them to suspend their judgment. They will see afterwards that my instinct served me wonderfully in the course I had taken.
Early the next day the count came into my room with a very pleased expression.
“My wife is very well,” said he, “and told me to wish you good day.”
I did not expect this, and I no doubt looked somewhat astonished.
“I am glad,” he said, “that you gave her francs instead of the sequins you got from Triulzi, and I hope, as Triulzi said, you will have luck with it at the bank.”
“I am not going to the opera,” said I, “but to the masked ball, and I don’t want anyone to recognize me.”
I begged him to go and buy me a new domino, and not to come near me in the evening, so that none but he should know who I was. As soon as he had gone out I began to write letters. I had heavy arrears to make up in that direction.
The count brought me my domino at noon, and after hiding it we went to dine with the countess. Her affability, politeness, and gentleness astounded me. She looked so sweetly pretty that I repented having outraged her so scandalously. Her insensibility of the evening before seemed inconceivable, and I began to suspect that the signs I had noticed to the contrary were only due to the animal faculties which are specially active in sleep.
“Was she really asleep,” said I to myself, “when I was outraging her so shamefully?”
I hoped it had been so. When her husband left us alone, I said, humbly and tenderly, that I knew I was a monster, and that she must detest me.
“You a monster?” said she. “On the contrary I owe much to you, and there is nothing I can think of for which I have cause to reproach you.”
I took her hand, tenderly, and would have carried it to my lips, but she drew it away gently and gave me a kiss. My repentance brought a deep blush to my face.
When I got back to my room I sealed my letters and went to the ball. I was absolutely unrecognizable. Nobody had ever seen my watches or my snuff-boxes before, and I had even changed my purses for fear of anybody recognizing me by them.
Thus armed against the glances of the curious, I sat down at Canano’s table and commenced to play in quite a different fashion. I had a hundred Spanish pieces in my pocket worth seven hundred Venetian sequins. I had got this Spanish money from Greppi, and I took care not to use what Triulzi had given me for fear he should know me.
I emptied my purse on the table, and in less than an hour it was all gone. I rose from the table and everybody thought I was going to beat a retreat, but I took out another purse and put a hundred sequins on one card, going second, with paroli, seven, and the va. The stroke was successful and Canano gave me back my hundred Spanish pieces, on which I sat down again by the banker, and recommenced regular play. Canano was looking at me hard. My snuff-box was the one which the Elector of Cologne had given me, with the prince’s portrait on the lid. I took a pinch of snuff and he gave me to understand that he would like one too, and the box was subjected to a general examination. A lady whom I did not know said the portrait represented the Elector of Cologne in his robes as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. The box was returned to me and I saw that it had made me respected, so small a thing imposes on people. I then put fifty sequins on one card, going paroli and paix de paroli, and at daybreak I had broken the bank. Canano said politely that if I liked to be spared the trouble of carrying all that gold he would have it weighed and give me a cheque. A pair of scales was brought, and it was found that I had thirty-four pounds weight in gold, amounting to two thousand eight hundred and fifty-six sequins. Canano wrote me a cheque, and I slowly returned to the ball-room.
Barbaro had recognized me with the keenness of a Venetian. He accosted me and congratulated me on my luck, but I gave him no answer, and seeing that I wished to remain incognito he left me.
A lady in a Greek dress richly adorned with diamonds came up to me, and said in a falsetto voice that she would like to dance with me.
I made a sign of assent, and as she took off her glove I saw a finely-shaped hand as white as alabaster, one of the fingers bearing an exquisite diamond ring. It was evidently no ordinary person, and though I puzzled my head I could not guess who she could be.
She danced admirably, in the style of a woman of fashion, and I too exerted myself to the utmost. By the time the dance was over I was covered with perspiration.
“You look hot,” said my partner, in her falsetto voice, “come and rest in my box.”
My heart leaped with joy, and I followed her with great delight; but as I saw Greppi in the box to which she took me, I had no doubt that it must be Therese, which did not please me quite so well. In short, the lady took off her mask; it was Therese, and I complimented her on her disguise.
“But how did you recognize me, dearest?”
“By your snuff-box. I knew it, otherwise I should never have found you out.”
“Then you think that nobody has recognized me?”
“Nobody, unless in the same way as I did.”
“None of the people here have seen my snuff-box.”
I took the opportunity of handing over to Greppi Canano’s cheque, and he gave me a receipt for it. Therese asked us to supper for the ensuing evening, and said —
“There will be four of us in all.”
Greppi seemed curious to know who the fourth person could be, but I right guessed it would be my dear son Cesarino.
As I went down once more to the ball-room two pretty female dominos attacked me right and left, telling me that Messer-Grande was waiting for me outside. They then asked me for some snuff, and I gave them a box ornamented with an indecent picture. I had the impudence to touch the spring and shew it them, and after inspecting it they exclaimed —
“Fie, fie! your punishment is never to know who we are.”
I was sorry to have displeased the two fair masquers, who seemed worth knowing, so I followed them, and meeting Barbaro, who knew everybody, I pointed them out to him, and heard to my delight that they were the two Marchionesses Q—— and F——. I promised Barbaro to go and see them. He said that everybody in the ball- room knew me, and that our bank was doing very well, though, of course, that was a trifle to me.
Towards the end of the ball, when it was already full daylight, a masquer, dressed as a Venetian gondolier, was accosted by a lady masquer, also in Venetian costume. She challenged the gondolier to prove himself a Venetian by dancing the ‘forlana’ with her. The gondolier accepted, and the music struck up, but the boatman, who was apparently a Milanese, was hooted, while the lady danced exquisitely. I was very fond of the dance, and I asked the unknown Venetian lady to dance it again with me. She agreed, and a ring was formed round us, and we were so applauded that we had to dance it over again. This would have sufficed if a very pretty shepherdess without a mask had not begged me to dance it with her. I could not refuse her, and she danced exquisitely; going round and round the circle three times, and seeming to hover in the air. I was quite out of breath. When it was finished, she came up to me and whispered my name in my ear. I was astonished, and feeling the charm of the situation demanded her name.
“You shall know,” said she, in Venetian, “if you will come to the ‘Three Kings.’”
“Are you alone?”
“No, my father and mother, who are old friends of yours, are with me”
“I will call on Monday.”
What a number of adventures to have in one night! I went home wearily, and went to bed, but I was only allowed to sleep for two hours. I was roused and begged to dress myself. The countess, the marquis, and the count, all ready for Zenobia’s wedding, teased me till I was ready, telling me it was not polite to keep a bride waiting. Then they all congratulated me on my breaking the bank and the run of luck against me. I told the marquis that it was his money that had brought me luck, but he replied by saying that he knew what had become of his money.
This indiscretion either on the count’s part or the countess’s surprised me greatly; it seemed to me contrary to all the principles in intrigue.
“Canano knew you,” said the marquis, “by the way you opened your snuff-box, and he hopes to see us to dinner before long. He says he hopes you will win a hundred pounds weight of gold; he has a fancy for you.”
“Canano,” said I, “has keen eyes, and plays faro admirably. I have not the slightest wish to win his money from him.”
We then started for the “Apple Garden,” where we found a score of honest folks and the bride and bridegroom, who overwhelmed us with compliments. We soon put the company at their ease. At first our presence overawed them, but a little familiarity soon restored the general hilarity. We sat down to dinner, and among the guests were some very pretty girls, but my head was too full of Zenobia to care about them. The dinner lasted three hours. It was an abundant repast, and the foreign wines were so exquisite that it was easy to see that the sum I had furnished had been exceeded. Good fellowship prevailed, and after the first bumper had passed round everybody proposed somebody else’s health, and as each tried to say something different to his neighbour the most fearful nonsense prevailed. Then everybody thought himself bound to sing, and they were not at all first-rate vocalists by any means. We laughed heartily and also caused laughter, for our speeches and songs were as bad as those of our humble friends.
When we rose from the table kissing became general, and the countess could not resist laughing when she found herself obliged to hold out her cheeks for the salute of the tailor, who thought her laughter a special mark of favour.
Strains of sweet music were heard, and the ball was duly opened by the newly-married couple. Zenobia danced, if not exactly well, at least gracefully; but the tailor, who had never put his legs to any other use besides crossing them, cut such a ridiculous figure that the countess had much ado to restrain her laughter. But in spite of that I led out Zenobia for the next minuet, and the proud countess was obliged to dance with the wretched tailor.
When the minuets stopped the square dances began, and refreshments were liberally handed round. Confetti, a kind of sweetmeat, even better than that made at Verdun, were very plentiful.
When we were just going I congratulated the husband and offered to bring Zenobia home in my carriage, which he was pleased to style a very honourable offer. I gave my hand to Zenobia, and helped her into the carriage, and having told the coachman to go slowly I put her on my knee, extinguisher fashion, and kept her there all the time. Zenobia was the first to get down, and noticing that my breeches of grey velvet were spoiled, I told her that I would be with her in a few minutes. In two minutes I put on a pair of black satin breeches, and I rejoined the lady before her husband came in. She asked what I had been doing, and on my telling her that our exploits in the carriage had left very evident marks on my trousers, she gave me a kiss, and thanked me for my forethought.
Before long the husband and his sister arrived. He thanked me, calling me his gossip, and then noticing the change in my dress he asked me how I had contrived to make the alteration so quickly.
“I went to my room, leaving your wife at your house, for which I beg your pardon.”
“Didn’t you see that the gentleman had spilt a cup of coffee over his handsome breeches?” said Zenobia.
“My dear wife,” said the crafty tailor, “I don’t see everything, nor is it necessary that I should do so, but you should have accompanied the gentleman to his room.”
Then turning to me with a laugh, he asked me how I had enjoyed the wedding.
“Immensely, and my friends have done the same; but you must let me pay you, dear gossip, for what you spent over and above the twenty-four sequins. You can tell me how much it is.”
“Very little, a mere trifle; Zenobia shall bring you the bill.”
I went home feeling vexed with myself for not having foreseen that the rogue would notice my change of dress, and guess the reason. However, I consoled myself with the thought that the tailor was no fool, and that it was plain that he was content to play the part we had assigned to him. So after wishing good night to the count, the countess and the marquis, who all thanked me for the happy day they had spent, I went to bed.
As soon as I was awake, I thought of the shepherdess who had danced the ‘forlana’ so well at the ball, and I resolved to pay her a visit. I was not more interested in her beauty than to find out who her father and mother, “old friends of mine,” could be. I dressed and walked to the “Three Kings,” and on walking into the room which the shepherdess had indicated to me, what was my astonishment to find myself face to face with the Countess Rinaldi, whom Zavoisky had introduced me to at the ‘locanda’ of Castelletto sixteen years ago. The reader will remember how M. de Bragadin paid her husband the money he won from me at play.
Madame Rinaldi had aged somewhat, but I knew her directly. However, as I had never had more than a passing fancy for her, we did not go back to days which did neither of us any honour.
“I am delighted to see you again,” said I; “are you still living with your husband?”
“You will see him in half an hour, and he will be glad to present his respects to you.”
“I should not at all care for it myself, madam; there are old quarrels between us which I do not want to renew, so, madam, farewell.”
“No, no, don’t go yet, sit down.”
“Irene, don’t let the gentleman go.”
At these words Irene ran and barred the way — not like a fierce mastiff, but like an angel, entreating me to stay with that mingled look of innocence, fear, and hope, of which girls know the effect so well. I felt I could not go.
“Let me through, fair Irene,” said I, “we may see each other somewhere else.”
“Pray do not go before you have seen my father:”
The words were spoken so tenderly that our lips met. Irene was victorious. How can one resist a pretty girl who implores with a kiss? I took a chair, and Irene, proud of her victory, sat on my knee and covered me with kisses.
I took it into my head to task the countess where and when Irene was born.
“At Mantua,” said she, “three months after I left Venice.”
“And when did you leave Venice?”
“Six months after I met you.”
“That is a curious coincidence, and if we had been tenderly acquainted you might say that Irene was my daughter, and I should believe you, and think that my affection for her was purely paternal.”
“Your memory is not very good, sir, I wonder at that.”
“I may tell you, that I never forget certain things, But I guess your meaning. You want me to subdue my liking for Irene. I am willing to do so, but she will be the loser.”
This conversation had silenced Irene, but she soon took courage, and said she was like me.
“No, no,” I answered, “if you were like me you would not be so pretty.”
“I don’t think so; I think you are very handsome.”
“You flatter me.”
“Stay to dinner with us.”
“No, if I stayed I might fall in love with you, and that would be a pity, as your mother says I am your father.”
“I was joking,” said the countess, “you may love Irene with a good conscience.”
“We will see what can be done.”
When Irene had left the room, I said to the mother —
“I like your daughter, but I won’t be long sighing for her, and you mustn’t take me for a dupe.”
“Speak to my husband about it. We are very poor, and we want to go to Cremona.”
“I suppose Irene has a lover?”
“But she has had one, of course?”
“Never anything serious.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s true, nevertheless. Irene is intact.”
Just then Irene came in with her father, who had aged to such an extent that I should never have known him in the street. He came up to me and embraced me, begging me to forget the past. “It is only you,” he added, “who can furnish me with funds to go to Cremona.
“I have several debts here, and am in some danger of imprisonment. Nobody of any consequence comes to see me. My dear daughter is the only thing of value which I still possess. I have just been trying to sell this pinchbeck watch, and though I asked only six sequins, which is half what it is worth, they would not give me more than two. When a man gets unfortunate, everything is against him.”
I took the watch, and gave the father six sequins for it, and then handed it to Irene. She said with a smile that she could not thank me, as I only gave her back her own, but she thanked me for the present I had made her father.
“Here,” said she seriously to the old man, “you can sell it again now.”
This made me laugh. I gave the count ten sequins in addition, embraced Irene, and said I must be gone, but that I would see them again in three or four days.
Irene escorted me to the bottom of the stairs, and as she allowed me to assure myself that she still possessed the rose of virginity, I gave her another ten sequins, and told her that the first time she went alone to the ball with me I would give her a hundred sequins. She said she would consult her father.
Feeling sure that the poor devil would hand over Irene to me, and having no apartment in which I could enjoy her in freedom, I stopped to read a bill in a pastrycook’s window. It announced a room to let. I went in, and the pastrycook told me that the house belonged to him, and his pretty wife, who was suckling a baby, begged me to come upstairs and see the room. The street was a lonely one, and had a pleasing air of mystery about it. I climbed to the third floor, but the rooms there were wretched garrets of no use to me.
“The first floor,” said the woman, “consists of a suite of four nice rooms, but we only let them together.”
“Let us go and see them. Good! they will do. What is the rent?”
“You must settle that with my husband.”
“And can’t I settle anything with you, my dear?”
So saying I gave her a kiss which she took very kindly, but she smelt of nursing, which I detested, so I did not go any farther despite her radiant beauty.
I made my bargain with the landlord, and paid a month’s rent in advance for which he gave me a receipt. It was agreed that I should come and go as I pleased, and that he should provide me with food. I gave him a name so common as to tell him nothing whatever about me, but he seemed to care very little about that.
As I had agreed with Barbaro to visit the fair marchionesses, I dressed carefully, and after a slight repast with the countess, who was pleasant but did not quite please me, I met my fellow- countryman and we called on the two cousins.
“I have come,” said I, “to beg your pardons for having revealed to you the secret of the snuff-box.”
They blushed, and scolded Barbaro, thinking that he had betrayed them. On examining them I found them far superior to Irene, my present flame, but their manner, the respect they seemed to require, frightened me. I was not at all disposed to dance attendance on them. Irene, on the contrary, was an easy prey. I had only to do her parents a service, and she was in my power; while the two cousins had their full share of aristocratic pride, which debases the nobility to the level of the vilest of the people, and only imposes upon fools, who after all are in the majority everywhere. Further I was no longer at that brilliant age which fears nothing, and I was afraid that my appearance would hardly overcome them. It is true that Barbaro had made me hope that presents would be of some use, but after what the Marquis Triulzi had said, I feared that Barbaro had only spoken on supposition.
When the company was sufficiently numerous, the card-tables were brought in. I sat down by Mdlle. Q— — and disposed myself to play for small stakes. I was introduced by the aunt, the mistress of the house, to a young gentleman in Austrian uniform who sat beside me.
My dear countryman played like a true sharper, much to my displeasure. My fair neighbour, at the end of the game, which lasted four hours, found herself the gainer of a few sequins, but the officer, who had played on his word of honour, after losing all the money in his pockets, owed ten louis. The bank was the winner of fifty sequins, including the officer’s debt. As the young man lived at some distance he honoured me by coming in my carriage.
On the way, Barbaro told us he would introduce us to a girl who had just come from Venice. The officer caught fire at this, and begged that we should go and see her directly, and we accordingly went. The girl was well enough looking, but neither I nor the officer cared much about her. While they were making some coffee for us, and Barbaro was entertaining the young lady, I took a pack of cards, and had not much difficulty in inducing the officer to risk twenty sequins against the twenty I put on the table. While we were playing I spoke to him of the passion with which the young marchioness inspired me.
“She’s my sister,” said he.
I knew as much, but pretended to be astonished, and I went on playing. Taking the opportunity I told him that I knew of no one who could let the marchioness know of my affection better than he. I made him laugh, and as he thought I was jesting he only gave vague answers; but seeing that while I talked of my passion I forgot my card, he soon won the twenty sequins from me, and immediately paid them to Barbaro. In the excess of his joy he embraced me as if I had given him the money; and when we parted he promised to give me some good news of his sister at our next meeting.
I had to go to supper with Therese, Greppi, and my son, but having some spare time before me I went to the opera-house. The third act was going on, and I accordingly visited the cardroom, and there lost two hundred sequins at a single deal. I left the room almost as if I was flying from an enemy. Canano shook me by the hand, and told me he expected me and the marquis to dinner every day, and I promised we would come at the earliest opportunity.
I went to Therese’s, and found Greppi there before me. Therese and Don Cesarino, whom I covered with kisses, came in a quarter of an hour afterwards. The banker stared at him in speechless wonder. He could not make out whether he was my son or my brother. Seeing his amazement, Therese told him Cesarino was her brother. This stupefied the worthy man still more. At last he asked me if I had known Therese’s mother pretty well, and on my answering in the affirmative he seemed more at ease.
The meal was excellent, but all my attention went to my son. He had all the advantages of a good disposition and an excellent education. He had grown a great deal since I had seen him at Florence, and his mental powers had developed proportionately. His presence made the party grave, but sweet. The innocence of youth throws around it an ineffable charm; it demands respect and restraint. An hour after midnight we left Therese, and I went to bed, well pleased with my day’s work, for the loss of two hundred sequins did not trouble me much.
When I got up I received a note from Irene, begging me to call on her. Her father had given her permission to go to the next ball with me, and she had a domino, but she wanted to speak to me. I wrote and told her I would see her in the course of the day. I had written to tell the Marquis Triulzi that I was going to dine with Canano, and he replied that he would be there.
We found this skilled gamester in a fine house, richly furnished, and shewing traces on every side of the wealth and taste of its owner. Canano introduced me to two handsome women, one of whom was his mistress, and to five or six marquises; for at Milan no noble who is not a marquis is thought anything of, just as in the same way they are all counts at Vicenza. The dinner was magnificent and the conversation highly intellectual. In a mirthful moment Canano said he had known me for seventeen years, his acquaintance dating from the time I had juggled a professional gamester, calling himself Count Celi, out of a pretty ballet-girl whom I had taken to Mantua. I confessed the deed and amused the company by the story of what had happened at Mantua with Oreilan, and how I had found Count Celi at Cesena metamorphosed into Count Alfani. Somebody mentioned the ball which was to be held the next day, and when I said I was not going they laughed.
“I bet I know you,” said Canano, “if you come to the bank.”
“I am not going to play any more,” said I.
“All the better for me,” answered Canano; “for though your punting is unlucky, you don’t leave off till you have won my money. But that’s only my joke; try again, and I protest I would see you win half my fortune gladly.”
Count Canano had a ring on his finger with a stone not unlike one of mine; it had cost him two thousand sequins, while mine was worth three thousand. He proposed that we should stake them against each other after having them unmounted and valued.
“When?” said I.
“Before going to the opera.”
“Very good; but on two turns of the cards, and a deal to each.”
“No, I never punt.”
“Then we must equalise the game.”
“How do you mean?”
“By leaving doubles and the last two cards out of account.”
“Then you would have the advantage.”
“If you can prove that I will pay you a hundred sequins. Indeed, I would bet anything you like that the game would still be to the advantage of the banker.”
“Can you prove it?”
“Yes; and I will name the Marquis Triulzi as judge.”
I was asked to prove my point without any question of a bet.
“The advantages of the banker,” said I, “are two. The first and the smaller is that all he has got to attend to is not to deal wrongly, which is a very small matter to an habitual player; and all the time the punter has to rack his brains on the chances of one card or another coming out. The other advantage is one of time. The banker draws his card at least a second before the punter, and this again gives him a purchase”
No one replied; but after some thought the Marquis Triulzi said that to make the chances perfectly equal the players would have to be equal, which was almost out of the question.
“All that is too sublime for me,” said Canano; “I don’t understand it.” But, after all, there was not much to understand.
After dinner I went to the “Three Kings” to find out what Irene had to say to me, and to enjoy her presence. When she saw me she ran up to me, threw her arms round my neck, and kissed me, but with too much eagerness for me to lay much value on the salute. However, I have always known that if one wants to enjoy pleasure one must not philosophise about it, or one runs a risk of losing half the enjoyment. If Irene had struck me in dancing the ‘forlana’, why should not I have pleased her in spite of my superiority in age? It was not impossible, and that should be enough for me, as I did not intend to make her my wife.
The father and mother received me as their preserver, and they may have been sincere. The count begged me to come out of the room for a moment with him, and when we were on the other side of the door, said —
“Forgive an old and unfortunate man, forgive a father, if I ask you whether it is true that you promised Irene a hundred sequins if I would let her go to the ball with you.”
“It is quite true, but of course you know what the consequences will be.”
At these words the poor old rascal took hold of me in a way which would have frightened me if I had not possessed twice his strength, but it was only to embrace me.
We went back to the room, he in tears and I laughing. He ran and told his wife, who had not been able to believe in such luck any more than her husband, and Irene added a comic element to the scene by saying —
“You must not think me a liar, or that my parents suspected that I was imposing on them; they only thought you said fifty instead of a hundred, as if I were not worth such a sum”
“You are worth a thousand, my dear Irene; your courage in barring the way pleased me extremely. But you must come to the ball in a domino.”
“Oh! you will be pleased with my dress.”
“Are those the shoes and buckles you are going to wear? Have you no other stockings? Where are your gloves?”
“Good heavens! I have nothing.”
“Quick! Send for the tradesmen. We will choose what we want, and I will pay.”
Rinaldi went out to summon a jeweller, a shoemaker, a stocking- maker, and a perfumer. I spent thirty sequins in what I considered necessary, but then I noticed that there was no English point on her mask, and burst out again. The father brought in a milliner, who adorned the mask with an ell of lace for which I paid twelve sequins. Irene was in great delight, but her father and mother would have preferred to have the money in their pockets, and at bottom they were right.
When Irene put on her fine clothes I thought her delicious, and I saw what an essential thing dress is to a woman.
“Be ready,” said I, “before the time for the opera to-morrow, for before going to the ball we will sup together in a room which belongs to me, where we shall be quite at our ease. You know what to expect,” I added, embracing her. She answered me with an ardent kiss.
As I took leave of her father, he asked me where I was going after leaving Milan.
“To Marseilles, then to Paris, and then to London, at which place I intend stopping a year.”
“Your flight from The Leads was wonderfully lucky.”
“Yes, but I risked my life.”
“You have certainly deserved all your good fortune.”
“Do you think so? I have only used my fortune — in subservience to my pleasures.”
“I wonder you do not have a regular mistress:”
“The reason is, that I like to be my own master. A mistress at my coat-tails would be more troublesome than a wife; she would be an obstacle to the numerous pleasant adventures I encounter at every town. For example, if I had a mistress I should not be able to take the charming Irene to the ball to-morrow.”
“You speak like a wise man.”
“Yes, though my wisdom is by no means of the austere kind.”
In the evening I went to the opera, and should no doubt have gone to the card-table if I had not seen Cesarino in the pit. I spent two delightful hours with him. He opened his heart to me, and begged me to plead for him with his sister to get her consent to his going to sea, for which he had a great longing. He said that he might make a large fortune by a judicious course of trading. After a temperate supper with my dear boy, I went to bed. The next morning the fine young officer, the Marchioness of Q——‘s brother, came and asked me to give him a breakfast. He said he had communicated my proposal to his sister, and that she had replied that I must be making a fool of him, as it was not likely that a man who lived as I did would be thinking of marrying.
“I did not tell you that I aspired to the honour of marrying her.”
“No, and I did not say anything about marriage; but that’s what the girls are always aiming at.”
“I must go and disabuse her of the notion.”
“That’s a good idea; principals are always the best in these affairs. Come at two o’clock, I shall be dining there, and as I have got to speak to her cousin you will be at liberty to say what you like.”
This arrangement suited me exactly. I noticed that my future brother-in-law admired a little gold case on my night-table, so I begged him to accept it as a souvenir of our friendship. He embraced me, and put it in his pocket, saying he would keep it till his dying day.
“You mean till the day when it advances your suit with a lady,” said I.
I was sure of having a good supper with Irene, so I resolved to take no dinner. As the count had gone to St. Angelo, fifteen miles from Milan, the day before, I felt obliged to wait on the countess in her room, to beg her to excuse my presence at dinner. She was very polite, and told me by no means to trouble myself. I suspected that she was trying to impose on me, but I wanted her to think she was doing so successfully. In my character of dupe I told her that in Lent I would make amends for the dissipation which prevented me paying my court to her. “Happily,” I added, “Lent is not far off.”
“I hope it will be so,” said the deceitful woman with an enchanting smile, of which only a woman with poison in her heart is capable. With these words she took a pinch of snuff, and offered me her box.
“But what is this, my dear countess, it isn’t snuff?”
“No,” she replied, “it makes the nose bleed, and is an excellent thing for the head-ache.”
I was sorry that I had taken it, but said with a laugh, that I had not got a head-ache, and did not like my nose to bleed.
“It won’t bleed much,” said she, with a smile, “and it is really beneficial.”
As she spoke, we both began to sneeze, and I should have felt very angry if I had not seen her smile.
Knowing something about these sneezing powders, I did not think we should bleed, but I was mistaken. Directly after, I felt a drop of blood, and she took a silver basin from her night-table.
“Come here,” said she, “I am beginning to bleed too.”
There we were, bleeding into the same basin, facing each other in the most ridiculous position. After about thirty drops had fallen from each of us, the bleeding ceased. She was laughing all the time, and I thought the best thing I could do was to imitate her example. We washed ourselves in fair water in another basin.
“This admixture of our blood,” said she, still smiling, “will create a sweet sympathy between us, which will only end with the death of one or the other”
I could make no sense of this, but the reader will soon see that the wretched woman did not mean our friendship to last very long. I asked her to give me some of the powder, but she refused; and on my enquiring the name of it, she replied that she did not know, as a lady friend had given it to her.
I was a good deal puzzled by the effects of this powder, never having heard of the like before, and as soon as I left the countess I went to an apothecary to enquire about it, but Mr. Drench was no wiser than I. He certainly said that euphorbia sometimes produced bleeding of the nose, but it was not a case of sometimes but always. This small adventure made me think seriously. The lady was Spanish, and she must hate me; and these two facts gave an importance to our blood-letting which it would not otherwise possess.
I went to see the two charming cousins, and I found the young officer with Mdlle. F—— in the room by the garden. The lady was writing, and on the pretext of not disturbing her I went after Mdlle. Q— — who was in the garden. I greeted her politely, and said I had come to apologize for a stupid blunder which must have given her a very poor opinion of me.
“I guess what you mean, but please to understand that my brother gave me your message in perfect innocence. Let him believe what he likes. Do you think I really believed you capable of taking such a step, when we barely knew each other?”
“I am glad to hear you say so.”
“I thought the best thing would be to give a matrimonial turn to your gallantry. Otherwise my brother, who is quite a young man, might have interpreted it in an unfavourable sense.”
“That was cleverly done, and of course I have nothing more to say. Nevertheless, I am ‘grateful to your brother for having given you to understand that your charms have produced a vivid impression on me. I would do anything to convince you of my affection.”
“That is all very well, but it would have been wiser to conceal your feelings from my brother, and, allow me to add, from myself as well. You might have loved me without telling me, and then, though I should have perceived the state of your affections, I could have pretended not to do so. Then I should have been at my ease, but as circumstances now stand I shall have to be careful. Do you see?”
“Really, marchioness, you astonish me. I was never so clearly convinced that I have done a foolish thing. And what is still more surprising, is that I was aware of all you have told me. But you have made me lose my head. I hope you will not punish me too severely?”
“Pray inform me how it lies in my power to punish you.”
“By not loving me.”
“Ah! loving and not loving; that is out of one’s power. Of a sudden we know that we are in love, and our fate is sealed.”
I interpreted these last words to my own advantage, and turned the conversation. I asked her if she was going to the ball.
“Perhaps you are going incognito?”
“We should like to, but it is an impossibility; there is always someone who knows us.”
“If you would take me into your service, I would wager anything that you would not be recognized.”
“You would not care to trouble yourself about us.”
“I like you to be a little sceptical, but put me to the proof. If you could manage to slip out unobserved, I would engage to disguise you in such a manner that no one would know you.”
“We could leave the house with my brother and a young lady with whom he is in love. I am sure he would keep our counsel.”
“I shall be delighted, but it must be for the ball on Sunday. I will talk it over with your brother. Kindly warn him not to let Barbaro know anything about it. You will be able to put on your disguise in a place I know of. However, we can settle about that again. I shall carry the matter through, you may be sure, with great secrecy. Permit me to kiss your hand.”
She gave it me, and after imprinting a gentle kiss I held it to my heart, and had the happiness of feeling a soft pressure. I had no particular disguise in my head, but feeling sure of hitting on something I put off the consideration of it till the next day; the present belonged to Irene. I put on my domino, and went to the “Three Kings,” where I found Irene waiting for me at the door. She had run down as soon as she had seen my carriage, and I was flattered by this mark of her eagerness. We went to my rooms, and I ordered the confectioner to get me a choice supper by midnight. We had six hours before us, but the reader will excuse my describing the manner in which they were spent. The opening was made with the usual fracture, which Irene bore with a smile, for she was naturally voluptuous. We got up at midnight, pleasantly surprised to find ourselves famishing with hunger, and a delicious supper waiting for us.
Irene told me that her father had taught her to deal in such a manner that she could not lose. I was curious to see how it was done, and on my giving her a pack of cards she proceeded to distract my attention by talking to me, and in a few minutes the thing was done. I gave her the hundred sequins I had promised her, and told her to go on with her play.
“If you only play on a single card,” said she, “you are sure to lose.”
“Never mind; go ahead.”
She did so, and I was forced to confess that if I had not been warned I should never have detected the trick. I saw what a treasure she must be to the old rascal Rinaldi. With her air of innocence and gaiety, she would have imposed on the most experienced sharpers. She said in a mortified manner that she never had any opportunity of turning her talents to account, as their associates were always a beggarly lot. She added tenderly that if I would take her with me she would leave her parents there and win treasures for me.
“When I am not playing against sharpers,” she said, “I can also punt very well.”
“Then you can come to Canano’s bank and risk the hundred sequins I have given you. Put twenty sequins on a card, and if you win go paroli, seven, and the va, and leave the game when they turn up. If you can’t make the three cards come out second, you will lose, but I will reimburse you.”
At this she embraced me, and asked if I would take half the profits.
“No,” said I, “you shall have it all.”
I thought she would have gone mad with joy.
We went off in sedan-chairs, and the ball not having commenced we went to the assembly-rooms. Canano had not yet done anything, and he opened a pack of cards and pretended not to recognize me, but he smiled to see the pretty masker, my companion, sit down and play instead of me. Irene made him a profound bow as he made room for her by his side, and putting the hundred sequins before her she began by winning a hundred and twenty-five, as instead of going seven and the va, she only went the paix de paroli. I was pleased to see her thus careful, and I let her go on. In the following deal she lost on three cards in succession, and then won another paix de paroli. She then bowed to the banker, pocketed her winnings, and left the table, but just as we were going out I heard somebody sobbing, and on my turning to her she said,
“I am sure it is my father weeping for joy.”
She had three hundred and sixty sequins which she took to him after amusing herself for a few hours. I only danced one minuet with her, for my amorous exploits and the heavy supper I had taken had tired me, and I longed for rest. I let Irene dance with whom she liked, and going into a corner fell asleep. I woke up with a start and saw Irene standing before me. I had been asleep for three hours. I took her back to the “Three Kings,” and left her in the charge of her father and mother. The poor man was quite alarmed to see so much gold on the table, and told me to wish him a pleasant journey, as he was starting in a few hours. I could make no opposition and I did not wish to do so, but Irene was furious.
“I won’t go,” she cried; “I want to stay with my lover. You are the ruin of my life. Whenever anybody takes a liking to me, you snatch me away. I belong to this gentleman, and I won’t leave him.”
However, she saw that I did not back her up, and began to weep, then kissed me again and again, and just as she was going to sit down, worn out with fatigue and despair, I went off, wishing them a pleasant journey, and telling Irene we should meet again. The reader will learn in due time when and how I saw them again. After all the fatigue I had gone through I was glad to go to bed.
It was eight o’clock when the young lieutenant awoke me.
“My sister has told me about the masquerade,” said he, “but I have a great secret to confide in you.”
“Say on, and count on my keeping your secret.”
“One of the finest noblemen of the town, my friend and my cousin’s lover, who has to be very careful of his actions on account of his exalted position, would like to be of the party if you have no objection. My sister and my cousin would like him to come very much.”
“Of course he shall. I have been making my calculations for a party of five, and now it will be a party of six, that is all.”
“You really are a splendid fellow.”
“On Sunday evening you must be at a certain place, of which I will tell you. First of all we will have supper, then put on our disguises, and then go to the ball. To-morrow at five o’clock we shall meet at your sister’s. All I want to know is what is the height of your mistress and of the young nobleman.”
“My sweetheart is two inches shorter than my sister, and a little thinner; my friend is just about the same make as you are, and if you were dressed alike you would be mistaken for each other.”
“That will do. Let me think it over, and leave me alone now; there’s a Capuchin waiting for me, and I am curious to learn his business.”
A Capuchin had called on me and I had told Clairmont to give him an alms, but he had said he wanted to speak to me in private. I was puzzled, for what could a Capuchin have to say to me?
He came in, and I was at once impressed by his grave and reverend appearance. I made him a profound bow and offered him a seat, but he remained standing, and said,
“Sir, listen attentively to what I am about to tell you, and beware of despising my advice, for it might cost you your life. You would repent when it was too late. After hearing me, follow my advice immediately; but ask no questions, for I can answer none. You may guess, perhaps, that what silences me is a reason incumbent on all Christians — the sacred seal of the confessional. You may be sure that my word is above suspicion; I have no interests of my own to serve. I am acting in obedience to an inspiration; I think it must be your guardian angel speaking with my voice. God will not abandon you to the malice of your enemies. Tell me if I have touched your heart, and if you feel disposed to follow the counsels I am going to give you.”
“I have listened to you, father, with attention and respect. Speak freely and advise me; what you have said has not only moved me, but has almost frightened me. I promise to do as you tell me if it is nothing against honour or the light of reason.”
“Very good. A feeling of charity will prevent your doing anything to compromise me, whatever may be the end of the affair. You will not speak of me to anyone, or say either that you know me or do not know me?”
“I swear to you I will not on my faith as a Christian. But speak, I entreat you. Your long preface has made me burn with impatience.”
“This day, before noon, go by yourself to —— Square, No. — — on the second floor, and ring at the bell on your left. Tell the person who opens the door that you want to speak to Madame. You will be taken to her room without any difficulty; I am sure your name will not be asked, but if they do ask you, give an imaginary name. When you are face to face with the woman, beg her to hear you, and ask her for her secret, and to inspire confidence put a sequin or two in her hand. She is poor, and I am sure that your generosity will make her your friend. She will shut her door, and tell you to say on.
“You must then look grave, and tell her that you are not going to leave her house before she gives you the little bottle that a servant brought her yesterday with a note. If she resists, remain firm, but make no noise; do not let her leave the room or call anybody. Finally, tell her that you will give her double the money she may lose by giving you the bottle and all that depends on it. Remember these words: and all that depends on it. She will do whatever you want. It will not cost you much, but even if it did, your life is worth more than all the gold of Peru. I can say no more, but before I go, promise me that you will follow my advice.”
“Yes, reverend father, I will follow the inspiration of the angel who led you here.”
“May God give you His blessing.”
When the good priest went out I did not feel at all disposed to laugh. Reason, certainly, bade me despise the warning, but my inherent superstition was too strong for reason. Besides, I liked the Capuchin. He looked like a good man, and I felt bound by the promise I had given him. He had persuaded me, and my reason told me that a man should never go against his persuasion; in fine, I had made up my mind. I took the piece of paper on which I had written the words I had to use, I put a pair of pistols in my pocket, and I told Clairmont to wait for me in the square. This latter, I thought, was a precaution that could do no harm.
Everything happened as the good Capuchin had said. The awful old creature took courage at the sight of the two sequins, and bolted her door. She began by laughing and saying that she knew I was amorous, and that it was my fault if I were not happy, but that she would do my business for me. I saw by these words that I had to do with a pretended sorceress. The famous Mother Bontemps had spoken in the same way to me at Paris. But when I told her that I was not going to leave the room till I had got the mysterious bottle, and all that depended on it, her face became fearful; she trembled, and would have escaped from the room; but I stood before her with an open knife, and would not suffer her to pass. But on my telling her that I would give her double the sum she was to be paid for her witchcraft, and that thus she would be the gainer and not a loser in complying with my demands, she became calm once more.
“I shall lose six sequins,” said she, “but you will gladly pay double when I shew you what I have got; I know who you are.”
“Who am I?”
“Giacomo Casanova, the Venetian.”
It was then I drew the ten sequins from my purse. The old woman was softened at the sight of the money, and said,
“I would not have killed you outright, certainly, but I would have made you amorous and wretched.”
“Explain what you mean.”
I went after her into a closet, and was greatly amazed at sing numerous articles about which my common sense could tell me nothing. There were phials of all shapes and sizes, stones of different colours, metals, minerals, big nails and small nails, pincers, crucibles, misshapen images, and the like.
“Here is the bottle,” said the old woman.
“What does it contain?”
“Your blood and the countess’s, as you will see in this letter.”
I understood everything then, and now I wonder I did not burst out laughing. But as a matter of fact my hair stood on end, as I reflected on the awful wickedness of which the Spaniard was capable. A cold sweat burst out all over my body.
“What would you have done with this blood?”
“I should have plastered you with it.”
“What do you mean by ‘plastered’? I don’t understand you.”
“I will shew you.”
As I trembled with fear the old woman opened a casket, a cubit long, containing a waxen statue of a man lying on his back. My name was written on it, and though it was badly moulded, my features were recognizable. The image bore my cross of the Order of the Golden Spur, and the generative organs were made of an enormous size. At this I burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, and had to sit down in an arm-chair till it was over.
As soon as I had got back my breath the sorceress said,
“You laugh, do you? Woe to you if I had bathed you in the bath of blood mingled according to my art, and more woe still if, after I had bathed yon, I had thrown your image on a burning coal:”
“Is this all?”
“All the apparatus is to become mine for twelve sequins; here they are. And now, quick! light me a fire that I may melt this monster, and as for the blood I think I will throw it out of the window.”
This was no sooner said than done.
The old woman had been afraid that I should take the bottle and the image home with me, and use them to her ruin; and she was delighted to see me melt the image. She told me that I was an angel of goodness, and begged me not to tell anyone of what had passed between us. I swore I would keep my own counsel, even with the countess.
I was astonished when she calmly offered to make the countess madly in love with me for another twelve sequins, but I politely refused and advised her to abandon her fearful trade if she did not want to be burnt alive.
I found Clairmont at his post, and I sent him home. In spite of all I had gone through, I was not sorry to have acquired the information, and to have followed the advice of the good Capuchin who really believed me to be in deadly peril. He had doubtless heard of it in the confessional from the woman who had carried the blood to the witch. Auricular confession often works miracles of this kind.
I was determined never to let the countess suspect that I had discovered her criminal project, and I resolved to behave towards her so as to appease her anger, and to make her forget the cruel insult to which I had subjected her. It was lucky for me that she believed in sorcery; otherwise she would have had me assassinated.
As soon as I got in, I chose the better of the two cloaks I had, and presented her with it. She accepted the gift with exquisite grace, and asked me why I gave it her.
“I dreamt,” said I, “that you were so angry with me that you were going to have me assassinated.”
She blushed, and answered that she had not gone mad. I left her absorbed in a sombre reverie. Nevertheless, whether she forgot and forgave, or whether she could hit upon no other way of taking vengeance, she was perfectly agreeable to me during the rest of my stay in Milan.
The count came back from his estate, and said that we must really go and see the place at the beginning of Lent. I promised I would come, but the countess said she could not be of the party. I pretended to be mortified, but in reality her determination was an extremely pleasant one to me.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07