The Masquerade — My Amour with the Fair Marchioness — The Deserted Girl; I Become Her Deliverer — My Departure for St. Angelo
As I had engaged myself to provide an absolutely impenetrable disguise, I wanted to invent a costume remarkable at once for its originality and its richness. I tortured my brains so to speak, and my readers shall see if they think my invention was a good one.
I wanted someone on whom I could rely, and above all, a tailor. It may be imagined that my worthy gossip was the tailor I immediately thought of. Zenobia would be as serviceable as her husband; she could do some of the work, and wait on the young ladies whom I was going to dress up.
I talked to my gossip, and told him to take me to the best second- hand clothes dealer in Milan.
When we got to the shop I said to the man —
“I want to look at your very finest costumes, both for ladies and gentlemen.”
“Would you like something that has never been worn?”
“Certainly, if you have got such a thing.”
“I have a very rich assortment of new clothes.”
“Get me, then, in the first place, a handsome velvet suit, all in one piece, which nobody in Milan will be able to recognize.”
Instead of one he shewed me a dozen such suits, all in excellent condition. I chose a blue velvet lined with white satin. The tailor conducted the bargaining, and it was laid on one side; this was for the pretty cousin’s lover. Another suit, in smooth sulphur-coloured velvet throughout, I put aside for the young officer. I also took two handsome pairs of trousers in smooth velvet, and two superb silk vests.
I then chose two dresses, one flame-coloured and the other purple, and a third dress in shot silk. This was for the officer’s mistress. Then came lace shirts, two for men, and three for women, then lace handkerchiefs, and finally scraps of velvet, satin, shot silk, etc., all of different colours.
I paid two hundred gold ducats for the lot, but on the condition that if anybody came to know that I had bought them by any indiscretion of his he should give me the money and take back the materials in whatever condition they might be in. The agreement was written out and signed, and I returned with the tailor, who carried the whole bundle to my rooms over the pastrycook’s.
When it was all spread out on the table I told the tailor that I would blow out his brains if he told anybody about it, and then taking a stiletto I proceeded to cut and slash the coats, vests, and trousers all over, to the astonishment of the tailor, who thought I must be mad to treat such beautiful clothes in this manner.
After this operation, which makes me laugh to this day when I remember it, I took the scraps I had bought and said to the tailor —
“Now, ‘gossip, it is your turn; I want you to sew in these pieces into the holes I have made, and I hope your tailoring genius will aid you to produce some pretty contrasts. You see that you have got your work cut out for you and no time to lose. I will see that your meals are properly served in an adjoining chamber, but you must not leave the house till the work is finished. I will go for your wife, who will help you, and you can sleep together.”
“For God’s sake, sir! you don’t want the ladies’ dresses treated like the coats and trousers?”
“Just the same.”
“What a pity! it will make my wife cry.”
“I will console her.”
On my way to Zenobia’s I bought five pairs of white silk stockings, men’s and women’s gloves, two fine castor hats, two burlesque men’s masks, and three graceful-looking female masks. I also bought two pretty china plates, and I carried them all to Zenobia’s in a sedanchair.
I found that charming woman engaged in her toilet. Her beautiful tresses hung about her neck, and her full breast was concealed by no kerchief. Such charms called for my homage, and to begin with I devoured her with kisses. I spent half an hour with her, and my readers will guess that it was well employed. I then helped her to finish her toilette, and we went off in the sedan-chair.
We found the tailor engaged in picking out the scraps and cutting them to fit the holes I had made. Zenobia looked on in a kind of stupor, and when she saw me begin to slash the dresses she turned pale and made an involuntary motion to stay my hand, for not knowing my intentions she thought I must be beside myself. Her husband had got hardened, and reassured her, and when she heard my explanation she became calm, though the idea struck her as a very odd one.
When it is a question of an affair of the heart, of the passions, or of pleasure, a woman’s fancy moves much faster than a man’s. When Zenobia knew that these dresses were meant for three beautiful women, whom I wished to make a centre of attraction to the whole assembly, she improved on my cuts and slashes, and arranged the rents in such a manner that they would inspire passion without wounding modesty. The dresses were slashed especially at the breast, the shoulders, and the sleeves; so that the lace shift could be seen, and in its turn the shift was cut open here and there, and the sleeves were so arranged that half the arms could be seen. I saw sure that she understood what I wanted, and that she would keep her husband right; and I left them, encouraging them to work their best and quickest. But I looked in three or four times in the day, and was more satisfied every time with my idea and their execution.
The work was not finished till the Saturday afternoon. I gave the tailor six sequins and dismissed him, but I kept Zenobia to attend on the ladies. I took care to place powder, pomade, combs, pins, and everything that a lady needs, on the table, not forgetting ribbons and pack-thread.
The next day I found play going on in a very spirited manner, but the two cousins were not at the tables, so I went after them. They told me they had given up playing as Barbaro always won.
“You have been losing, then?”
“Yes, but my brother has won something,” said the amiable Q——.
“I hope luck will declare itself on your side also.”
“No, we are not lucky.”
When their aunt left the room, they asked me if the lieutenant had told me that a lady friend of theirs was coming to the ball with them.
“I know all,” I answered, “and I hope you will enjoy yourselves, but you will not do so more than I. I want to speak to the gallant lieutenant to-morrow morning.”
“Tell us about our disguises.”
“You will be disguised in such a manner that nobody will recognize you.”
“But how shall we be dressed?”
“But what costume have you given us?”
“That is my secret, ladies. However much I should like to please you, I shall say nothing till the time for you to dress comes round. Don’t ask me anything more, as I have promised myself the enjoyment of your surprise. I am very fond of dramatic situations. You shall know all after supper.”
“Are we to have supper, then?”
“Certainly, if you would like it. I am a great eater myself and I hope you will not let me eat alone.”
“Then we will have some supper to please you. We will take care not to eat much dinner, so as to be able to vie with you in the evening. The only thing I am sorry about,” added Mdlle. Q— — “is that you should be put to such expense.”
“It is a pleasure; and when I leave Milan I shall console myself with the thought that I have supped with the two handsomest ladies in the town.”
“How is fortune treating you?”
“Canano wins two hundred sequins from me every day.”
“But you won two thousand from him in one night.”
“You will break his bank on Sunday. We will bring you luck.”
“Would you like to look on?”
“We should be delighted, but my brother says you don’t want to go with us.”
“Quite so, the reason is that I should be recognized. But I believe the gentleman who will accompany you is of the same figure as myself.”
“Exactly the same,” said the cousin; “except that he is fair.”
“All the better,” said I, “the fair always conquer the dark with ease.”
“Not always,” said the other. “But tell us, at any rate, whether we are to wear men’s dresses.”
“Fie! fie! I should be angry with myself if I had entertained such a thought.”
“That’s curious; why so?”
“I’ll tell you. If the disguise is complete I am disgusted, for the shape of a woman is much more marked than that of a man, and consequently a woman in man’s dress, who looks like a man, cannot have a good figure.”
“But when a woman skews her shape well?”
“Then I am angry with her for skewing too much, for I like to see the face and the general outlines of the form and to guess the rest.”
“But the imagination is often deceptive!”
“Yes, but it is with the face that I always fall in love, and that never deceives me as far as it is concerned. Then if I have the good fortune to see anything more I am always in a lenient mood and disposed to pass over small faults. You are laughing?”
“I am smiling at your impassioned arguments.”
“Would you like to be dressed like a man?”
“I was expecting something of the kind, but after you have said we can make no more objections.”
“I can imagine what you would say; I should certainly not take you for men, but I will say no more.”
They looked at each other, and blushed and smiled as they saw my gaze fixed on two pre-eminences which one would never expect to see in any man. We began to talk of other things, and for two hours I enjoyed their lively and cultured conversation.
When I left them I went off to my apartments, then to the opera, where I lost two hundred sequins, and finally supped with the countess, who had become quite amiable. However, she soon fell back into her old ways when she found that my politeness was merely external, and that I had no intentions whatever of troubling her in her bedroom again.
On the Saturday morning the young officer came to see me, and I told him that there was only one thing that I wanted him to do, but that it must be done exactly according to my instructions. He promised to follow them to the letter, and I proceeded —
“You must get a carriage and four, and as soon as the five of you are in it tell the coachman to drive as fast as his horses can gallop out of Milan, and to bring you back again by another road to the house. There you must get down, send the carriage away, after enjoining silence on the coachman, and come in. After the ball you will undress in the same house, and then go home in sedan-chairs. Thus we shall be able to baffle the inquisitive, who will be pretty numerous, I warn you.”
“My friend the marquis will see to all that,” said he, “and I promise you he will do it well, for he is longing to make your acquaintance.”
“I shall expect you, then, at seven o’clock to-morrow.
“Warn your friend that it is important the coachman should not be known, and do not let anybody bring a servant.”
All these arrangements being made, I determined to disguise myself as Pierrot. There’s no disguise more perfect; for, besides concealing the features and the shape of the body, it does not even let the colour of the skin remain recognizable. My readers may remember what happened to me in this disguise ten years before. I made the tailor get me a new Pierrot costume, which I placed with the others, and with two new purses, in each of which I placed five hundred sequins, I repaired to the pastrycook’s before seven o’clock. I found the table spread, and the supper ready. I shut up Zenobia in the room where the ladies were to make their toilette, and at five minutes past seven the joyous company arrived.
The marquis was delighted to make my acquaintance, and I welcomed him as he deserved. He was a perfect gentleman in every respect, handsome, rich, and young, very much in love with the pretty cousin whom he treated with great respect. The lieutenant’s mistress was a delightful little lady and madly fond of her lover.
As they were all aware that I did not want them to know their costumes till after supper, nothing was said about it, and we sat down to table. The supper was excellent; I had ordered it in accordance with my own tastes; that is to say, everything was of the best, and there was plenty of everything. When we had eaten and drunk well, I said —
“As I am not going to appear with you, I may as well tell you the parts you are to play. You are to be five beggars, two men and three women, all rags and tatters.”
The long faces they pulled at this announcement were a pleasant sight to see.
“You will each carry a plate in your hands to solicit alms, and you must walk together about the ball-room as a band of mendicants. But now follow me and take possession of your ragged robes.”
Although I had much ado to refrain from laughing at the vexation and disappointment which appeared on all their faces, I succeeded in preserving my serious air. They did not seem in any kind of hurry to get their clothes, and I was obliged to tell them that they were keeping me waiting. They rose from the table and I threw the door open, and all were struck with Zenobia’s beauty as she stood up by the table on which the rich though tattered robes were displayed, bowing to the company with much grace.
“Here, ladies,” said I to the cousins, “are your dresses, and here is yours, mademoiselle — a little smaller. Here are your shifts, your handkerchiefs and your stockings, and I think you will find everything you require on this table. Here are masks, the faces of which shew so poorly beside your own, and here are three plates to crave alms. If anybody looks as high as your garters, they will see how wretched you are, and the holes in the stockings will let people know that you have not the wherewithal to buy silk to mend them. This packthread must serve you for buckles, and we must take care that there are holes in your shoes and also in your gloves, and as everything must match, as soon as you have put on your chemises you must tear the lace round the neck.”
While I was going through this explanation I saw surprise and delight efface the disappointment and vexation which had been there a moment before. They saw what a rich disguise I had provided for them, and they could not find it in their hearts to say, “What a pity!”
“Here, gentlemen, are your beggar-clothes. I forgot to lacerate your beaver hats, but that is soon done. Well, what do you think of the costume?”
“Now, ladies, we must leave you; shut the door fast, for it is a case of changing your shifts. Now, gentlemen, leave the room.”
The marquis was enthusiastic.
“What a sensation we shall create!” said he, “nothing could be better.”
In half an hour we were ready. The stockings in holes, the worn- out shoes, the lace in rags, the straggling hair, the sad masks, the notched plates — all made a picture of sumptuous misery hard to be described.
The ladies took more time on account of their hair, which floated on their shoulders in fine disorder. Mdlle. Q——‘s hair was especially fine, it extended almost to her knees.
When they were ready the door was opened, and we saw everything which could excite desire without wounding decency. I admired Zenobia’s adroitness. The rents in dresses and chemises disclosed parts of their shoulders, their breasts, and their arms, and their white legs shone through the holes in the stockings.
I shewed them how to walk, and to sway their heads to and fro, to excite compassion, and yet be graceful, and how to use their handkerchiefs to shew people the tears in them and the fineness of the lace. They were delighted, and longed to be at the ball, but I wanted to be there first to have the pleasure of seeing them come in. I put on my mask, told Zenobia to go to bed, as we would not be back till daybreak, and set out on my way.
I entered the ball-room, and as there were a score of Pierrots nobody noticed me. Five minutes after there was a rush to see some maskers who were coming in, and I stood so as to have a good view. The marquis came in first between the two cousins. Their slow, pitiful step matched the part wonderfully. Mdlle. Q—— with her flame-coloured dress, her splendid hair, and her fine shape, drew all eyes towards her. The astonished and inquisitive crowd kept silence for a quarter of an hour after they had come in, and then I heard on every side, “What a disguise!” “It’s wonderful!” “Who are they?” “Who can they be?” “I don’t know.” “I’ll find out.”
I enjoyed the results of my inventiveness.
The music struck up, and three fine dominos went up to the three beggar-girls to ask them to dance a minuet, but they excused themselves by pointing to their dilapidated shoes. I was delighted; it shewed that they had entered into the spirit of the part.
I followed them about for a quarter of an hour, and the curiosity about them only increased, and then I paid a visit to Canano’s table, where play was running high. A masquer dressed in the Venetian style was punting on a single card, going fifty sequins paroli and paix de paroli, in my fashion. He lost three hundred sequins, and as he was a man of about the same size as myself people said it was Casanova, but Canano would not agree. In order that I might be able to stay at the table, I took up the cards and punted three or four ducats like a beginner. The next deal the Venetian masquer had a run of luck, and going paroli, paix de paroli and the va, won back all the money he had lost.
The next deal was also in his favour, and he collected his winnings and left the table.
I sat down in the chair he had occupied, and a lady said —
“That’s the Chevalier de Seingalt.”
“No,” said another. “I saw him a little while ago in the ball- room disguised as a beggar, with four other masquers whom nobody knows.”
“How do you mean, dressed as a beggar?” said Canano.
“Why, in rags, and the four others, too; but in spite of that the dresses are splendid and the effect is very good. They are asking for alms.”
“They ought to be turned out,” said another.
I was delighted to have attained my object, for the recognition of me was a mere guess. I began putting sequins on one card, and I lost five or six times running. Canano studied me, but I saw he could not make me out. I heard whispers running round the table.
“It isn’t Seingalt; he doesn’t play like that; besides, he is at the ball.”
The luck turned; three deals were in my favour, and brought me back more than I had lost. I continued playing with a heap of gold before me, and on my putting a fistfull of sequins on a card it came out, and I went paroli and pair de paroli. I won again, and seeing that the bank was at a low ebb I stopped playing. Canano paid me, and told his cashier to get a thousand sequins, and as he was shuffling the cards I heard a cry of, “Here come the beggars.”
The beggars came in and stood by the table, and Canano, catching the marquis’s eye, asked him for a pinch of snuff. My delight may be imagined when I saw him modestly presenting a common horn snuffbox to the banker. I had not thought of this detail, which made everybody laugh immensely. Mdlle. Q—— stretched out her plate to ask an alms of Canano, who said —
“I don’t pity you with that fine hair of yours, and if you like to put it on a card I will allow you a thousand sequins for it.”
She gave no answer to this polite speech, and held out her plate to me, and I put a handful of sequins on it, treating the other beggars in the same way.
“Pierrot seems to like beggars,” said Canano, with a smile.
The three mendicants bowed gratefully to me and left the room.
The Marquis Triulzi who sat near Canano, said —
“The beggar in the straw-coloured dress is certainly Casanova.”
“I recognized him directly,” replied the banker, “but who are the others?”
“We shall find out in due time.”
“A dearer costume could not be imagined; all the dresses are quite new.”
The thousand sequins came in, and I carried them all off in two deals.
“Would you like to go on playing?” said Canano.
I shook my head, and indicating with a sign of my hand that I would take a cheque, he weighed my winnings and gave me a cheque for twenty-nine pounds of gold, amounting to two thousand, five hundred sequins. I put away the cheque, and after shaking him by the hand, I got up and rolled away in true Pierrot fashion, and after making the tour of the ball-room I went to a box on the third tier of which I had given the key to the young officer, and there I found my beggars.
We took off our masks and congratulated each other on our success, and told our adventures. We had nothing to fear from inquisitive eyes, for the boxes on each side of us were empty. I had taken them myself, and the keys were in my pocket.
The fair beggars talked of returning me the alms I had given them, but I replied in such a way that they said no more about it.
“I am taken for you, sir,” said the marquis, “and it may cause some annoyance to our fair friends here.”
“I have foreseen that,” I replied, “and I shall unmask before the end of the ball. This will falsify all suppositions, and nobody will succeed in identifying you.”
“Our pockets are full of sweetmeats,” said Mdlle. Q——. “Everybody wanted to fill our plates.”
“Yes,” said the cousin, “everybody admired us; the ladies came down from their boxes to have a closer view of us, and everyone said that no richer disguise could be imagined.”
“You have enjoyed yourselves, then?”
“And I too. I feel quite boastful at having invented a costume which has drawn all eyes upon you, and yet has concealed your identity.”
“You have made us all happy,” said the lieutenant’s little mistress. “I never thought I should have such a pleasant evening.”
“Finis coronat opus,” I replied, “and I hope the end will be even better than the beginning.”
So saying I gave my sweetheart’s hand a gentle pressure, and whether she understood me or not I felt her hand tremble in mine.
“We will go down now,” said she.
“So will I, for I want to dance, and I am sure I shall make you laugh as Pierrot.”
“Do you know how much money you gave each of us?”
“I cannot say precisely, but I believe I gave each an equal share.”
“That is so. I think it is wonderful how you could do it.”
“I have done it a thousand times. When I lose a paroli of ten sequins I put three fingers into my purse, and am certain to bring up thirty sequins. I would bet I gave you each from thirty-eight to forty sequins.”
“Forty exactly. It’s wonderful. We shall remember this masqued ball.”
“I don’t think anybody will imitate us,” said the marquis.
“No,” said the cousin, “and we would not dare to wear the same dresses again.”
We put on our masks, and I was the first to go out. After numerous little jocularities with the harlequins, especially the female ones, I recognized Therese in a domino, and walking up to her as awkwardly as I could I asked her to dance with me.
“You are the Pierrot who broke the bank?” she said.
I answered the question in the affirmative by a nod.
I danced like a madman, always on the point of falling to the ground and never actually doing so.
When the dance was over, I offered her my arm and took her back to her box, where Greppi was sitting by himself. She let me come in, and their surprise was great when I took off my mask. They had thought I was one of the beggars. I gave M. Greppi Canano’s cheque, and as soon as he had handed me an acknowledgment I went down to the ball-room again with my mask off, much to the astonishment of the inquisitive, who had made sure that the marquis was I.
Towards the end of the ball I went away in a sedan-chair, which I stopped near the door of an hotel, and a little further on I took another which brought me to the door of the pastry-cook’s. I found Zenobia in bed. She said she was sure I would come back by myself. I undressed as quickly as I could, and got into bed with this Venus of a woman. She was absolute perfection. I am sure that if Praxiteles had had her for a model, he would not have required several Greek beauties from which to compose his Venus. What a pity that such an exquisite figure should be the property of a sorry tailor.
I stripped her naked, and after due contemplation I made her feel how much I loved her. She was pleased with my admiration, and gave me back as much as she got. I had her entirely to myself for the first time. When we heard the trot of four horses we rose and put on our clothes in a twinkling.
When the charming beggars came in, I told them that I should be able to help in their toilette as they had not to change their chemises, and they did not make many objections.
My gaze was fixed all the while on Mdlle. Q——. I admired her charms, and I was delighted to see that she was not miserly in their display. After Zenobia had done her hair she left her to me, and went to attend on the others. She allowed me to put on her dress, and did not forbid my eyes wandering towards a large rent in her chemise, which let me see almost the whole of one of her beautiful breasts.
“What are you going to do with this chemise?”
“You will laugh at our silliness. We have determined to keep everything as a memorial of the splendid evening we have had. My brother will bring it all to the house. Are you coming to see us this evening?”
“If I were wise I should avoid you.”
“And if I were wise I shouldn’t ask you to come.”
“That is fairly answered! Of course I will come; but before we part may I ask one kiss?”
Her brother and the marquis left the room, and two sedan-chairs I had summoned took off the cousins.
As soon as the marquis was alone with me he asked me very politely to let him share in the expenses.
“I guessed you were going to humiliate me.”
“Such was not my intention, and I do not insist; but then you know I shall be humiliated.”
“Not at all; I reckon on your good sense. It really costs me nothing. Besides, I give you my word to let you pay for all the parties of pleasure we enjoy together during the carnival. We will sup here when you like; you shall invite the company, and I will leave you to pay the bill.”
“That arrangement will suit me admirably. We must be friends. I leave you with this charming attendant. I did not think that such a beauty could exist in Milan unknown to all but you.”
“She is a townswoman, who knows how to keep a secret. Do you not?”
“I would rather die than tell anyone that this gentleman is the Marquis of F——.”
“That’s right; always keep your word, and take this trifle as a souvenir of me.”
It was a pretty ring, which Zenobia received with much grace; it might be worth about fifty sequins.
When the marquis was gone, Zenobia undressed me and did my hair for the night, and as I got into bed I gave her twenty-four sequins, and told her she might go and comfort her husband.
“He won’t be uneasy,” said she, “he is a philosopher.”
“He need be with such a pretty wife. Kiss me again, Zenobia, and then we must part.”
She threw herself upon me, covering me with kisses, and calling me her happiness and her providence. Her fiery kisses produced their natural effect, and after I had given her a fresh proof of the power of her charms, she left me and I went to sleep.
It was two o’clock when I awoke ravenously hungry. I had an excellent dinner, and then I dressed to call on the charming Mdlle. Q— — whom I did not expect to find too hard on me, after what she had said. Everybody was playing cards with the exception of herself. She was standing by a window reading so attentively that she did not hear me come into the room, but when she saw me near her, she blushed, shut up the book, and put it in her pocket.
“I will not betray you,” said I, “or tell anyone that I surprised you reading a prayer-book.”
“No, don’t; for my reputation would be gone if I were thought to be a devotee.”
“Has there been any talk of the masqued ball or of the mysterious masquers?”
“People talk of nothing else, and condole with us for not having been to the ball, but no one can guess who the beggars were. It seems that an unknown carriage and four that sped like the wind took them as far as the first stage, and where they went next God alone knows! It is said that my hair was false, and I have longed to let it down and thus give them the lie. It is also said that you must know who the beggars were, as you loaded them with ducats.”
“One must let people say and believe what they like and not betray ourselves.”
“You are right; and after all we had a delightful evening. If you acquit yourself of all commissions in the same way, you must be a wonderful man.”
“But it is only you who could give me such a commission.”
“I to-day, and another to-morrow.”
“I see you think I am inconstant, but believe me if I find favour in your eyes your face will ever dwell in my memory.”
“I am certain you have told a thousand girls the same story, and after they have admitted you to their favour you have despised them.”
“Pray do not use the word ‘despise,’ or I shall suppose you think me a monster. Beauty seduces me. I aspire to its possession, and it is only when it is given me from other motives than love that I despise it. How should I despise one who loved me? I should first be compelled to despise myself. You are beautiful and I worship you, but you are mistaken if you think that I should be content for you to surrender yourself to me out of mere kindness.”
“Ah! I see it is my heart you want.”
“To make me wretched at the end of a fortnight.”
“To love you till death, and to obey your slightest wishes.”
“My slightest wishes?”
“Yes, for to me they would be inviolable laws.”
“Would you settle in Milan?”
“Certainly, if you made that a condition of my happiness.”
“What amuses me in all this is that you are deceiving me without knowing it, if indeed you really love me.”
“Deceiving you without knowing it! That is something new. If I am not aware of it, I am innocent of deceit.”
“I am willing to admit your innocency, but you are deceiving me none the less, for after you had ceased to love me no power of yours could bring love back again.”
“That, of course, might happen, but I don’t choose to entertain such unpleasant thoughts; I prefer to think of myself as loving you to all eternity. It is certain at all events that no other woman in Milan has attracted me.”
“Not the pretty girl who waited on us, and whose arms you have possibly left an hour or, two ago?”
“What are you saying? She is the wife of the tailor who made your clothes. She left directly after you, and her husband would not have allowed her to come at all if he was not aware that she would be wanted to wait on the ladies whose dresses he had made.”
“She is wonderfully pretty. Is it possible that you are not in love with her?”
“How could one love a woman who is at the disposal of a low, ugly fellow? The only pleasure she gave me was by talking of you this morning.”
“Yes. You will excuse me if I confess to having asked her which of the ladies she waited on looked handsomest without her chemise.”
“That was a libertine’s question. Well, what did she say?”
“That the lady with the beautiful hair was perfect in every respect.”
“I don’t believe a word of it. I have learnt how to change my chemise with decency, and so as not to shew anything I might not shew a man. She only wished to flatter your impertinent curiosity. If I had a maid like that, she should soon go about her business.”
“You are angry with me.”
“It’s no good saying no, your soul flashed forth in your denunciation. I am sorry to have spoken.”
“Oh! it’s of no consequence. I know men ask chambermaids questions of that kind, and they all give answers like your sweetheart, who perhaps wanted to make you curious about herself.”
“But how could she hope to do that by extolling your charms above those of the other ladies? And, how could she know that I preferred you?”
“If she did not know it, I have made a mistake; but for all that, she lied to you.”
“She may have invented the tale, but I do not think she lied. You are smiling again! I am delighted.”
“I like to let you believe what pleases you.”
“Then you will allow me to believe that you do not hate me.”
“Hate you? What an ugly word! If I hated you, should I see you at all? But let’s talk of something else. I want you to do me a favour. Here are two sequins; I want you to put them on an ‘ambe’ in the lottery. You can bring me the ticket when you call again, or still better, you can send it me, but don’t tell anybody.”
“You shall have the ticket without fail, but why should I not bring it?”
“Because, perhaps, you are tired of coming to see me.”
“Do I look like that? If so I am very unfortunate. But what numbers will you have?”
“Three and forty; you gave them me yourself.”
“How did I give them you?”
“You put your hand three times on the board, and took up forty sequins each time. I am superstitious, and you will laugh at me, I daresay, but it seems to me that you must have come to Milan to make me happy.”
“Now you make me happy indeed. You say you are superstitious, but if these numbers don’t win you mustn’t draw the conclusion that I don’t love you; that would be a dreadful fallacy.”
“I am not superstitious as all that, nor so vile a logician.”
“Do you believe I love you?”
“May I tell you so a hundred times?”
“And prove it in every way?”
“I must enquire into your methods before I consent to that, for it is possible that what you would call a very efficacious method might strike me as quite useless.”
“I see you are going to make me sigh after you for a long time.”
“As long as I can.”
“And when you have no strength left?”
“I will surrender. Does that satisfy you?”
“Certainly, but I shall exert all my strength to abate yours.”
“Do so; I shall like it.”
“And will you help me to succeed?”
“Ah, dear marchioness; you need only speak to make a man happy. You have made me really so, and I am leaving you full of ardour.”
On leaving this charming conversationalist I went to the theatre and then to the faro-table, where I saw the masquer who had won three hundred sequins the evening before. This night he was very unlucky. He had lost two thousand sequins, and in the course of the next hour his losses had doubled. Canano threw down his cards and rose, saying, “That will do.” The masquer left the table. He was a Genoese named Spinola.
“The bank is prosperous,” I remarked to Canano.
“Yes,” he replied, “but it is not always so. Pierrot was very lucky the other night.”
“You did not recognize me in the least?”
“No, I was so firmly persuaded that the beggar was you. You know who he is?”
“I haven’t an idea. I never saw him before that day.” In this last particular I did not lie.
“It is said that they are Venetians, and that they went to Bergamo.”
“It may be so, but I know nothing about them. I left the ball before they did.”
In the evening I supped with the countess, her husband, and Triulzi. They were of the same opinion as Canano. Triulzi said that I had let the cat out of the bag by giving the beggars handfuls of sequins.
“That is a mistake,” I answered. “When the luck is in my favour I never refuse anyone who asks me for money, for I have a superstition that I should lose if I did. I had won thirty pounds weight of gold, and I could afford to let fools talk.”
The next day I got the lottery ticket and took it to the marchioness. I felt madly in love with her because I knew she was in love with me. Neither of them were playing, and I spent two hours in their company, talking of love all the while and enjoying their conversation immensely, for they were exceedingly intelligent. I left them with the conviction that if the cousin, and not Mdlle. Q— — had been thrown in my way, I should have fallen in love with her in just the same manner.
Although the carnival is four days longer at Milan than at any other town, it was now drawing to a close. There were three more balls. I played every day, and every day I lost two or three hundred sequins. My prudence caused even more surprise than my bad fortune. I went every day to the fair cousins and made love, but I was still at the same point; I hoped, but could get nothing tangible. The fair marchioness sometimes gave me a kiss, but this was not enough for me. It is true that so far I had not dared to ask her to meet me alone. As it was I felt my love might die for want of food, and three days before the ball I asked her if she, her two friends, the marquis, and the lieutenant, would come and sup with me.
“My brother,” she said, “will call on you to-morrow to see what can be arranged.”
This was a good omen. The next day the lieutenant came. I had just received the drawings at the lottery, and what was my surprise and delight to see the two numbers three and forty. I said nothing to the young marquis, as his sister had forbidden me, but I foresaw that this event would be favourable to my suit.
“The Marquis of F— — ” said the worthy ambassador, “asks you to supper in your own rooms with all the band of beggars. He wishes to give us a surprise, and would be obliged if you would lend him the room to have a set of disguises made, and to ensure secrecy he wants you to let have the same waiting-maid.”
“With pleasure; tell the marquis that all shall be according to his pleasure.”
“Get the girl to come there at three o’clock to-day, and let the pastry-cook know that the marquis has full powers to do what he likes in the place.”
“Everything shall be done as you suggest.”
I guessed at once that the marquis wanted to have a taste of Zenobia; but this seemed to me so natural that, far from being angry, I felt disposed to do all in my power to favour his plans. Live and let live has always been my maxim, and it will be so to my dying day, though now I do but live a life of memories.
As soon as I was dressed I went out, and having told the pastrycook to consider the gentleman who was coming as myself, I called on the tailor, who was delighted at my getting his wife work. He knew by experience that she was none the worse for these little absences.
“I don’t want you,” said I to the tailor, “as it is only women’s dresses that have to be done. My good gossip here will be sufficient.”
“At three o’clock she may go, and I shall not expect to see her again for three days.”
After I had dined I called as usual on the fair marchioness, and found her in a transport of delight. Her lottery ticket had got her five hundred sequins.
“And that makes you happy, does it?” said I.
“It does, not because of the gain in money, though I am by no means rich, but for the beauty of the idea and for the thought that I owe it all to you. These two things speak volumes in your favour.”
“What do they say?”
“That you deserve to be loved.”
“And also that you love me?”
“No, but my heart tells me as much.”
“You make me happy, but does not your heart also tell you that you should prove your love?”
“Dearest, can you doubt it?”
With these words she gave me her hand to kiss for the first time.
“My first idea,” she added, “was to put the whole forty sequins on the ‘ambe’.”
“You hadn’t sufficient courage?”
“It wasn’t that, I felt ashamed to do it. I was afraid that you might have a thought you would not tell me of — namely, that if I gave you the forty sequins to risk on the lottery, you would think I despised your present. This would have been wrong, and if you had encouraged me I should have risked all the money.”
“I am so sorry not to have thought of it. You would have had ten thousand sequins, and I should be a happy man.”
“We will say no more about it.”
“Your brother tells me that we are going to the masqued ball under the direction of the marquis, and I leave you to imagine how glad I feel at the thought of spending a whole night with you. But one thought troubles me.”
“What is that?”
“I am afraid it will not go off so well as before.”
“Don’t be afraid, the marquis is a man of much ingenuity, and loves my cousin’s honour as herself. He is sure to get us disguises in which we shall not be recognized.”
“I hope so. He wants to pay for everything, including the supper.”
“He cannot do better than imitate your example in that respect.”
On the evening of the ball I went at an early hour to the pastry- cook’s, where I found the marquis well pleased with the progress that had been made. The dressing room was shut. I asked him in a suggestive manner if he was satisfied with Zenobia.
“Yes, with her work,” he answered; “I did not ask her to do anything else for me.”
“Oh! of course I believe it, but I am afraid your sweetheart will be rather sceptical.”
“She knows that I cannot love anyone besides herself.”
“Well, well, we will say no more about it.”
When the guests came the marquis said that as the costumes would amuse us we had better put them on before supper.
We followed him into the next room, and he pointed out two thick bundles.
“Here, ladies, are your disguises,” said he; “and here is your maid who will help you while we dress in another room.”
He took the larger of the two bundles, and when we were shut up in our room he undid the string, and gave us our dresses, saying —
“Let us be as quick as we can.”
We burst out laughing to see a set of women’s clothes. Nothing was wanting, chemises, embroidered shoes with high heels, superb garters, and, to relieve us of the trouble of having our hair done, exquisite caps with rich lace coming over the forehead. I was surprised to find that my shoes fitted me perfectly, but I heard afterwards that he employed the same bootmaker as I did. Corsets, petticoats, gowns, kerchief, fans, work-bags, rouge- boxes, masks, gloves-all were there. We only helped each other with our hair, but when it was done we looked intensely stupid, with the exception of the young officer, who really might have been taken for a pretty woman; he had concealed his deficiency in feminine characteristics by false breasts and a bustle
We took off our breeches one after the other.
“Your fine garters,” said I, to the marquis, “make me want to wear some too.”
“Exactly,” said the marquis; “but the worst of it is nobody will take the trouble to find out whether we have garters or not, for two young ladies five feet ten in height will not inspire very ardent desires.”
I had guessed that the girls would be dressed like men, and I was not mistaken. They were ready before us, and when we opened the door we saw them standing with their backs to the fireplace.
They looked three young pages minus their impudence, for though they endeavoured to seem quite at their ease they were rather confused.
We advanced with the modesty of the fair sex, and imitating the air of shy reserve which the part demanded. The girls of course thought themselves obliged to mimic the airs of men, and they did not accost us like young men accustomed to behave respectfully to ladies. They were dressed as running footmen, with tight breeches, well-fitting waistcoats, open throats, garters with a silver fringe, laced waistbands, and pretty caps trimmed with silver lace, and a coat of arms emblazoned in gold. Their lace shirts were ornamented with an immense frill of Alencon point. In this dress, which displayed their beautiful shapes under a veil which was almost transparent, they would have stirred the sense of a paralytic, and we had no symptoms of that disease. However, we loved them too well to frighten them.
After the silly remarks usual on such occasions had been passed, we began to talk naturally while we were waiting for supper. The ladies said that as this was the first time they had dressed as men they were afraid of being recognized.
“Supposing somebody knew us,” cried the cousin, “we should be undone!”
They were right; but our part was to reassure them, though I at any rate would have preferred to stay where we were. We sat down to supper, each next to his sweetheart, and to my surprise the lieutenant’s mistress was the first to begin the fun. Thinking that she could not pretend to be a man without being impudent, she began to toy with the lady-lieutenant, who defended himself like a prudish miss. The two cousins, not to be outdone, began to caress us in a manner that was rather free. Zenobia, who was waiting on us at table could not help laughing when Mdlle. Q—- reproached her for having made my dress too tight in the neck. She stretched out her hand as if to toy with me, whereupon I gave her a slight box on the ear, and imitating the manner of a repentant cavalier she kissed my hand and begged my pardon.
The marquis said he felt cold, and his mistress asked him if he had his breeches on, and put her hand under his dress to see, but she speedily drew it back with a blush. We all burst out laughing, and she joined in, and proceeded with her part of hardy lover.
The supper was admirable; everything was choice and abundant. Warm with love and wine, we rose from the table at which we had been for two hours, but as we got up sadness disfigured the faces of the two pretty cousins. They did not dare to go to the ball in a costume that would put them at the mercy of all the libertines there. The marquis and I felt that they were right.
“We must make up our minds,” said the lieutenant, “shall we go to the ball or go home?”
“Neither,” said the marquis, “we will dance here.”
“Where are the violins” asked his mistress, “you could not get them to-night for their weight in gold.”
“Well,” said I, “we will do without them. We will have some punch, laugh, and be merry, and we shall enjoy ourselves better than at the ball, and when we are tired we can go to sleep. We have three beds here.”
“Two would be enough,” said the cousin.
“True, but we can’t have too much of a good thing.”
Zenobia had gone to sup with the pastrycook’s wife, but she was ready to come up again when she should be summoned.
After two hours spent in amorous trifling, the lieutenant’s mistress, feeling a little dizzy, went into an adjoining room and lay down on the bed. Her lover was soon beside her.
Mdlle. Q— — who was in the same case, told me that she would like to rest, so I took her into a room where she could sleep the night, and advised her to do so.
“I don’t think I need fear its going any farther,” I said, “we will leave the marquis with your cousin then, and I will watch over you while you sleep.”
“No, no, you shall sleep too.” So saying, she went into the dressing-room, and asked me to get her cloak. I brought it to her, and when she came in she said —
“I breathe again. Those dreadful trousers were too tight; they hurt me.” She threw herself on the bed, with nothing on besides her cloak.
“Where did the breeches hurt you?” said I.
“I can’t tell you, but I should think you must find them dreadfully uncomfortable.”
“But, dearest, our anatomy is different, and breeches do not trouble us at all where they hurt you.”
As I spoke I held her to my breast and let myself fall gently beside her on the bed. We remained thus a quarter of an hour without speaking, our lips glued together in one long kiss. I left her a moment by herself, and when I returned she was between the sheets. She said she had undressed to be able to sleep better, and, shutting her eyes, turned away. I knew that the happy hour had come, and taking off my woman’s clothes in a twinkling, I gently glided into the bed beside her, for the last struggles of modesty must be tenderly respected. I clasped her in my arms and a gentle pressure soon aroused her passions, and turning towards me she surrendered to me all her charms.
After the first sacrifice I proposed a wash, for though I could not exactly flatter myself that I had been the first to break open the lock, the victim had left some traces on the bed, which looked as if it were so. The offer was received with delight, and when the operation was over she allowed me to gaze on all her charms, which I covered with kisses. Growing bolder, she made me grant her the same privilege.
“What a difference there is,” said she, “between nature and art!”
“But of course you think that art is the better?”
“No, certainly not.”
“But there may be imperfections in nature, whereas art is perfect.”
“I do not know whether there be any imperfection in what I behold, but I do know that I have never seen anything so beautiful.”
In fact she had the instrument of love before her eyes in all its majesty, and I soon made her feel its power. She did not remain still a moment, and I have known few women so ardent and flexible in their movements.
“If we were wise,” said she, “instead of going to the ball again we would come here and enjoy ourselves.”
I kissed the mouth which told me so plainly that I was to be happy, and I convinced her by my transports that no man could love her as ardently as I did. I had no need to keep her awake, she shewed no inclination for sleep. We were either in action or contemplation, or engaged in amorous discourse, the whole time. I cheated her now and then, but to her own advantage, for a young woman is always more vigorous than a man, and we did not stop till the day began to break. There was no need for concealment, for each had enjoyed his sweetheart in peace and happiness, and it was only modesty which silenced our congratulations. By this silence we did not proclaim our happiness, but neither did we deny it.
When we were ready I thanked the marquis, and asked him to supper for the next ball night without any pretence of our going to the masquerade, if the ladies had no objection. The lieutenant answered for them in the affirmative, and his mistress threw her arms round his neck, reproaching him for having slept all night. The marquis confessed to the same fault, and I repeated the words like an article of faith, while the ladies kissed us, and thanked us for our kindness to them. We parted in the same way as before, except that this time the marquis remained with Zenobia.
I went to bed as soon as I got home, and slept till three o’clock. When I got up I found the house was empty, so I went to dine at the pastry-cook’s, where I found Zenobia and her husband, who had come to enjoy the leavings of our supper. He told me that I had made his fortune, as the marquis had given his wife twenty-four sequins and the woman’s dress he had worn. I gave her mine as well. I told my gossip that I should like some dinner, and the tailor went away in a grateful mood.
As soon as I was alone with Zenobia I asked her if she were satisfied with the marquis.
“He paid me well,” she answered, a slight blush mounting on her cheeks.
“That is enough,” said I, “no one can see you without loving you, or love you without desiring to possess your charms.”
“The marquis did not go so far as that.”
“It may be so, but I am surprised to hear it.”
When I had dined, I hastened to call on the fair marchioness, whom I loved more than ever after the delicious night she had given me. I wanted to see what effect she would have on me, after making me so happy. She looked prettier than ever. She received me in a way becoming in a mistress who is glad to have acquired some rights over her lover.
“I was sure,” said she, “that you would come and see me; “and though her cousin was there she kissed me so often and so ardently that there was no room for doubt as to the manner in which we had spent our night together. I passed five hours with her, which went by all too quickly, for we talked of love, and love is an inexhaustible subject. This five hours’ visit on the day after our bridal shewed me that I was madly in love with my new conquest, while it must have convinced her that I was worthy of her affection.
Countess A—— B—— had sent me a note asking me to sup with her, her husband, and the Marquis Triulzi, and other friends. This engagement prevented my paying a visit to Canano, who had won a thousand sequins of me since my great victory as Pierrot. I knew that he boasted that he was sure of me, but in my own mind I had determined to gain the mastery. At supper the countess waged war on me. I slept out at night. I was rarely visible. She tried hard to steal my secret from me, and to get some information as to my amorous adventures. It was known that I sometimes supped at Therese’s with Greppi, who was laughed at because he had been silly enough to say that he had nothing to dread from my power. The better to conceal my game, I said he was quite right.
The next day Barbaro, who was as honest as most professional sharpers are, brought me the two hundred sequins I had lent him, with a profit of two hundred more. He told me that he had had a slight difference with the lieutenant, and was not going to play any more. I thanked him for having presented me to the fair marchioness, telling him that I was quite in love with her and in hopes of overcoming her scruples. He smiled, and praised my discretion, letting me understand that I did not take him in; but it was enough for me not to confess to anything.
About three o’clock I called on my sweetheart, and spent five hours with her as before. As Barbaro was not playing, the servants had been ordered to say that no one was at home. As I was the declared lover of the marchioness, her cousin treated me as an intimate friend. She begged me to stay at Milan as long as possible, not only to make her cousin happy, but for her sake as well, since without me she could not enjoy the marquis’s society in private, and while her father was alive he would never dare to come openly to the house. She thought she would certainly become his wife as soon as her old father was dead, but she hoped vainly, for soon after the marquis fell into evil ways and was ruined.
Next evening we all assembled at supper, and instead of going to the ball gave ourselves up to pleasure. We spent a delicious night, but it was saddened by the reflection that the carnival was drawing to a close, and with it our mutual pleasures would be over.
On the eve of Shrove Tuesday as there was no ball I sat down to play, and not being able once to hit on three winning cards, I lost all the gold I had about me. I should have left the table as usual if a woman disguised as a man had not given me a card, and urged me by signs to play it. I risked a hundred sequins on it, giving my word for the payment. I lost, and in my endeavours to get back my money I lost a thousand sequins, which I paid the next day.
I was just going out to console myself with the company of my dear marchioness, when I saw the evil-omened masquer approaching, accompanied by a man, also in disguise, who shook me by the hand and begged me to come at ten o’clock to the “Three Kings” at such a number, if the honour of an old friend was dear to me.
“What friend is that?”
“What is your name?”
“I cannot tell you.”
“Then you need not tell me to come, for if you were a true friend of mine you would tell me your name.”
I went out and he followed me, begging me to come with him to the end of the arcades. When we got there he took off his mask, and I recognized Croce, whom my readers may remember.
I knew he was banished from Milan, and understood why he did not care to give his name in public, but I was exceedingly glad I had refused to go to his inn.
“I am surprised to see you here,” said I.
“I dare say your are. I have come here in this carnival season, when one can wear a mask, to compel my relations to give me what they owe me; but they put me off from one day to another, as they are sure I shall be obliged to go when Lent begins.”
“And will you do so?”
“I shall be obliged to, but as you will not come and see me, give me twenty sequins, which will enable me to leave Milan. My cousin owes me ten thousand livres, and will not pay me a tenth even. I will kill him before I go.”
“I haven’t a farthing, and that mask of yours has made me lose a thousand sequins, which I do not know how to pay.
“I know. I am an unlucky man, and bring bad luck to all my friends. It was I who told her to give you a card, in the hope that it would change the run against you.”
“Is she a Milanese girl?”
“No, she comes from Marseilles, and is the daughter of a rich agent. I fell in love with her, seduced her, and carried her off to her unhappiness. I had plenty of money then, but, wretch that I am, I lost it all at Genoa, where I had to sell all my possessions to enable me to come here. I have been a week in Milan. Pray give me the wherewithal to escape.”
I was touched with compassion, and I borrowed twenty sequins from Canano, and gave them to the poor wretch, telling him to write to me.
This alms-giving did me good; it made me forget my losses, and I spent a delightful evening with the marchioness.
The next day we supped together at my rooms, and spent the rest of the night in amorous pleasures. It was the Saturday, the last day of the carnival at Milan, and I spent the whole of the Sunday in bed, for the marchioness had exhausted me, and I knew that a long sleep would restore my strength.
Early on Monday morning Clairmont brought me a letter which had been left by a servant. It had no signature, and ran as follows:
“Have compassion, sir, on the most wretched creature breathing. M. de la Croix has gone away in despair. He has left me here in the inn, where he has paid for nothing. Good God! what will become of me? I conjure you to come and see me, be it only to give me your advice.”
I did not hesitate for a moment, and it was not from any impulses of love or profligacy that I went, but from pure compassion. I put on my great coat, and in the same room in which I had seen Irene I saw a young and pretty girl, about whose face there was something peculiarly noble and attractive. I saw in her innocence and modesty oppressed and persecuted. As soon as I came in she humbly apologized for having dared to trouble me, and she asked me to tell a woman who was in the room to leave it, as she did not speak Italian.
“She has been tiring me for more than an hour. I cannot understand what she says, but I can make out that she wants to do me a service. However, I do not feel inclined to accept her assistance.”
“Who told you to come and see this young lady?” said I, to the woman.
“One of the servants of the inn told me that a young lady from foreign parts had been left alone here, and that she was much to be pitied. My feelings of humanity made me come and see if I could be useful to her; but I see she is in good hands, and I am very glad of it for her sake, poor dear!”
I saw that the woman was a procuress, and I only replied with a smile of contempt.
The poor girl then told me briefly what I had already heard, and added that Croce, who called himself De St. Croix, had gone to the gaming-table as soon as he had got my twenty sequins, and that he had then taken her back to the inn, where he had spent the next day in a state of despair, as he did not dare to shew himself abroad in the daytime. In the evening he put on his mask and went out, not returning till the next morning.
“Soon after he put on his great coat and got ready to go out, telling me that if he did not return he would communicate with me by you, at the same time giving me your address, of which I have made use as you know. He has not come back, and if you have not seen him I am sure he has gone off on foot without a penny in his pocket. The landlord wants to be paid, and by selling all I have I could satisfy his claims; but, good God! what is to become of me, then?”
“Dare you return to your father?”
“Yes, sir, I dare return to him. He will forgive me when on my knees and with tears in my eyes I tell him that I am ready to bury myself in a nunnery.”
“Very good! then I will take you to Marseilles myself, and in the meanwhile I will find you a lodging with some honest people. Till then, shut yourself up in your room, do not admit anyone to see you, and be sure I will have a care for you.”
I summoned the landlord and paid the bill, which was a very small one, and I told him to take care of the lady till my return. The poor girl was dumb with surprise and gratitude. I said good-bye kindly and left her without even taking her hand. It was not altogether a case of the devil turning monk; I always had a respect for distress.
I had already thought of Zenobia in connection with the poor girl’s lodging, and I went to see her on the spot. In her husband’s presence I told her what I wanted, and asked if she could find a corner for my new friend.
“She shall have my place,” cried the worthy tailor, “if she won’t mind sleeping with my wife. I will hire a small room hard bye, and will sleep there as long as the young lady stays.”
“That’s a good idea, gossip, but your wife will lose by the exchange.”
“Not much,” said Zenobia; and the tailor burst out laughing.
“As for her meals,” he added, “she must arrange that herself.”
“That’s a very simple matter,” said I, “Zenobia will get them and I will pay for them.”
I wrote the girl a short note, telling her of the arrangements I had made, and charged Zenobia to take her the letter. The next day I found her in the poor lodging with these worthy folks, looking pleased and ravishingly pretty. I felt that I could behave well for the present, but I sighed at the thought of the journey. I should have to put a strong restraint on myself.
I had nothing more to do at Milan, but the count had made me promise to spend a fortnight at St. Angelo. This was an estate belonging to him, fifteen miles from Milan, and the count spoke most enthusiastically of it. If I had gone away without seeing St. Angelo, he would have been exceedingly mortified. A married brother of his lived there, and the count often said that his brother was longing to know me. When we returned he would no doubt let me depart in peace.
I had made up my mind to shew my gratitude to the worthy man for his hospitality, so on the fourth day of Lent I took leave of Therese, Greppi, and the affectionate marchioness, for two weeks, and we set out on our way.
To my great delight the countess did not care to come. She much preferred staying in Milan with Triulzi, who did not let her lack for anything.
We got to St. Angelo at three o’clock, and found that we were expected to dinner.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07