The Corticelli — The Jew Manager Beaten — The False Charles Ivanoff and the Trick He Played Me — I Am Ordered to Leave Tuscany — I Arrive at Rome — My Brother Jean
At nine o’clock the next morning, the Abbe Gama was announced. The first thing he did was to shed tears of joy (as he said) at seeing me so well and prosperous after so many years. The reader will guess that the abbe addressed me in the most flattering terms, and perhaps he may know that one may be clever, experienced in the ways of the world, and even distrustful of flattery, but yet one’s self-love, ever on the watch, listens to the flatterer, and thinks him pleasant. This polite and pleasant abbe, who had become extremely crafty from having lived all his days amongst the high dignitaries at the court of the ‘Servus Servorum Dei’ (the best school of strategy), was not altogether an ill-disposed man, but both his disposition and his profession conspired to make him inquisitive; in fine, such as I have depicted him in the first volume of these Memoirs. He wanted to hear my adventures, and did not wait for me to ask him to tell his story. He told me at great length the various incidents in his life for the seventeen years in which we had not seen one another. He had left the service of the King of Spain for that of the King of Portugal, he was secretary of embassy to the Commander Almada, and be had been obliged to leave Rome because the Pope Rezzonico would not allow the King of Portugal to punish certain worthy Jesuit assassins, who had only broken his arm as it happened, but who had none the less meant to take his life. Thus, Gama was staying in Italy corresponding with Almada and the famous Carvalho, waiting for the dispute to be finished before he returned to Rome. In point of fact this was the only substantial incident in the abbe’s story, but he worked in so many episodes of no consequence that it lasted for an hour. No doubt he wished me to shew my gratitude by telling him all my adventures without reserve; but the upshot of it was that we both shewed ourselves true diplomatists, he in lengthening his story, I in shortening mine, while I could not help feeling some enjoyment in bulking the curiosity of my cassocked friend.
“What are you going to do in Rome?” said he, indifferently.
“I am going to beg the Pope to use his influence in my favour with the State Inquisitors at Venice.”
It was not the truth, but one lie is as good as another, and if I had said I was only going for amusement’s sake he would not have believed me. To tell the truth to an unbelieving man is to prostitute, to murder it. He then begged me to enter into a correspondence with him, and as that bound me to nothing I agreed to do so.
“I can give you a mark of my friendship,” said he, “by introducing you to the Marquis de Botta-Adamo, Governor of Tuscany; he is supposed to be a friend of the regent’s.”
I accepted his offer gratefully, and he began to sound me about Therese, but found my lips as tightly closed as the lid of a miser’s coffer. I told him she was a child when I made the acquaintance of her family at Bologna, and that the resemblance between her brother and myself was a mere accident — a freak of nature. He happened to catch sight of a well-written manuscript on the table, and asked me if that superb writing was my secretary’s. Costa, who was present, answered in Spanish that he wrote it. Gama overwhelmed him with compliments, and begged me to send Costa to him to copy some letters. I guessed that he wanted to pump him about me, and said that I needed his services all the day.
“Well, well,” said the abbe, “another time will do.” I gave him no answer. Such is the character of the curious.
I am not referring to that curiosity which depends on the occult sciences, and endeavours to pry into the future — the daughter of ignorance and superstition, its victims are either foolish or ignorant. But the Abbe Gama was neither; he was naturally curious, and his employment made him still more so, for he was paid to find out everything. He was a diplomatist; if he had been a little lower down in the social scale he would have been treated as a spy.
He left me to pay some calls, promising to be back by dinner-time.
Dr. Vannini brought me another servant, of the same height as the first, and engaged that he should obey orders and guess nothing. I thanked the academician and inn-keeper, and ordered him to get me a sumptuous dinner.
The Corticelli was the first to arrive, bringing with her her brother, an effeminate-looking young man, who played the violin moderately well, and her mother, who informed me that she never allowed her daughter to dine out without herself and her son.
“Then you can take her back again this instant,” said I, “or take this ducat to dine somewhere else, as I don’t want your company or your son’s.”
She took the ducat, saying that she was sure she was leaving her daughter in good hands.
“You may be sure of that,” said I, “so be off.”
The daughter made such witty observations on the above dialogue that I could not help laughing, and I began to be in love with her. She was only thirteen, and was so small that she looked ten. She was well-made, lively, witty, and fairer than is usual with Italian women, but to this day I cannot conceive how I fell in love with her.
The young wanton begged me to protect her against the manager of the opera, who was a Jew. In the agreement she had made with him he had engaged to let her dance a ‘pas de deux’ in the second opera, and he had not kept his word. She begged me to compel the Jew to fulfil his engagement, and I promised to do so.
The next guest was Redegonde, who came from Parma. She was a tall, handsome woman, and Costa told me she was the sister of my new footman. After I had talked with her for two or three minutes I found her remarks well worthy of attention.
Then came the Abbe Gama, who congratulated me on being seated between two pretty girls. I made him take my place, and he began to entertain them as if to the manner born; and though the girls were laughing at him, he was not in the least disconcerted. He thought he was amusing them, and on watching his expression I saw that his self-esteem prevented him seeing that he was making a fool of himself; but I did not guess that I might make the same mistake at his age.
Wretched is the old man who will not recognize his old age; wretched unless he learn that the sex whom he seduced so often when he was young will despise him now if he still attempts to gain their favour.
My fair Therese, with her husband and my son, was the last to arrive. I kissed Therese and then my son, and sat down between them, whispering to Therese that such a dear mysterious trinity must not be parted; at which Therese smiled sweetly. The abbe sat down between Redegonde and the Corticelli, and amused us all the time by his agreeable conversation.
I laughed internally when I observed how respectfully my new footman changed his sister’s plate, who appeared vain of honours to which her brother could lay no claim. She was not kind; she whispered to me, so that he could not hear —
“He is a good fellow, but unfortunately he is rather stupid.”
I had put in my pocket a superb gold snuff-box, richly enamelled and adorned with a perfect likeness of myself. I had had it made at Paris, with the intention of giving it to Madame d’Urfe, and I had not done so because the painter had made me too young. I had filled it with some excellent Havana snuff which M. de Chavigny had given me, and of which Therese was very fond; I was waiting for her to ask me for a pinch before I drew it out of my pocket.
The Abbe Gama, who had some exceedingly good snuff in an Origonela box, sent a pinch to Therese, and she sent him her snuff in a tortoise-shell box encrusted with gold in arabesques — an exquisite piece of workmanship. Gama criticised Therese’s snuff, while I said that I found it delicious but that I thought I had some better myself. I took out my snuff-box, and opening it offered her a pinch. She did not notice the portrait, but she agreed that my snuff was vastly superior to hers.
“Well, would you like to make an exchange?” said I. “Certainly, give me some paper.”
“That is not requisite; we will exchange the snuff and the snuff- boxes.”
So saying, I put Therese’s box in my pocket and gave her mine shut. When she saw the portrait, she gave a cry which puzzled everybody, and her first motion was to kiss the portrait.
“Look,” said she to Cesarino, “here is your portrait.”
Cesarino looked at it in astonishment, and the box passed from hand to hand. Everybody said that it was my portrait, taken ten years ago, and that it might pass for a likeness of Cesarino. Therese got quite excited, and swearing that she would never let the box out of her hands again, she went up to her son and kissed him several times. While this was going on I watched the Abbe Gama, and I could see that he was making internal comments of his own on this affecting scene.
The worthy abbe went away towards the evening, telling me that he would expect me to breakfast next morning.
I spent the rest of the day in making love to Redegonde, and Therese, who saw that I was pleased with the girl, advised me to declare myself, and promised that she would ask her to the house as often as I liked. But Therese did not know her.
Next morning Gama told me that he had informed Marshal Botta that I would come and see him, and he would present me at four o’clock. Then the worthy abbe, always the slave of his curiosity, reproached me in a friendly manner for not having told him anything about my fortune.
“I did not think it was worth mentioning, but as you are interested in the subject I may tell you that my means are small, but that I have friends whose purses are always open to me.”
“If you have true friends you are a rich man, but true friends are scarce.”
I left the Abbe Gama, my head full of Redegonde, whom I preferred to the young Corticelli, and I went to pay her a visit; but what a reception! She received me in a room in which were present her mother, her uncle, and three or four dirty, untidy little monkeys: these were her brothers.’
“Haven’t you a better room to receive your friends in?” said I.
“I have no friends, so I don’t want a room.”
“Get it, my dear, and you will find the friends come fast enough. This is all very well for you to welcome your relations in, but not persons like myself who come to do homage to your charms and your talents.”
“Sir,” said the mother, “my daughter has but few talents, and thinks nothing of her charms, which are small.”
“You are extremely modest, and I appreciate your feelings; but everybody does not see your daughter with the same eyes, and she pleased me greatly.”
“That is an honour for her, and we are duly sensible of it, but not so as to be over-proud. My daughter will see you as often as you please, but here, and in no other place.”
“But I am afraid of being in the way here.”
“An honest man is never in the way.”
I felt ashamed, for nothing so confounds a libertine as modesty in the mouth of poverty; and not knowing what to answer I took my leave.
I told Therese of my unfortunate visit, and we both, laughed at it; it was the best thing we could do.
“I shall be glad to see you at the opera,” said she, “and you can get into my dressing-room if you give the door-keeper a small piece of money.”
The Abbe Gama came as he promised, to take me to Marshal Botta, a man of high talents whom the affair of Genoa had already rendered famous. He was in command of the Austrian army when the people, growing angry at the sight of the foreigners, who had only come to put them under the Austrian yoke, rose in revolt and made them leave the town. This patriotic riot saved the Republic. I found him in the midst of a crowd of ladies and gentlemen, whom he left to welcome me. He talked about Venice in a way that shewed he understood the country thoroughly, and I conversed to him on France, and, I believe, satisfied him. In his turn he spoke of the Court of Russia, at which he was staying when Elizabeth Petrovna, who was still reigning at the period in question, so easily mounted the throne of her father, Peter the Great. “It is only in Russia,” said he, “that poison enters into politics.”
At the time when the opera began the marshal left the room, and everybody went away. On my way the abbe assured me, as a matter of course, that I had pleased the governor, and I afterwards went to the theatre, and obtained admission to Therese’s dressing-room for a tester. I found her in the hands of her pretty chamber- maid, and she advised me to go to Redegonde’s dressing-room, as she played a man’s part, and might, perhaps, allow me to assist in her toilette.
I followed her advice, but the mother would not let me come in, as her daughter was just going to dress. I assured her that I would turn my back all the time she was dressing, and on this condition she let me in, and made me sit down at a table on which stood a mirror, which enabled me to see all Redegonde’s most secret parts to advantage; above all, when she lifted her legs to put on her breeches, either most awkwardly or most cleverly, according to her intentions. She did not lose anything by what she shewed, however, for I was so pleased, that to possess her charms I would have signed any conditions she cared to impose upon me.
“Redegonde must know,” I said to myself, “that I could see everything in the glass;” and the idea inflamed me. I did not turn round till the mother gave me leave, and I then admired my charmer as a young man of five feet one, whose shape left nothing to be desired.
Redegonde went out, and I followed her to the wings.
“My dear,” said I, “I am going to talk plainly to you. You have inflamed my passions and I shall die if you do not make me happy.”
“You do not say that you will die if you chance to make me unhappy.”
“I could not say so, because I cannot conceive such a thing as possible. Do not trifle with me, dear Redegonde, you must be aware that I saw all in the mirror, and I cannot think that you are so cruel as to arouse my passions and then leave me to despair.”
“What could you have seen? I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“May be, but know that I have seen all your charms. What shall I do to possess you?”
“To possess me? I don’t understand you, sir; I’m an honest girl.”
“I dare say; but you wouldn’t be any less honest after making me happy. Dear Redegonde, do not let me languish for you, but tell me my fate now this instant.”
“I do not know what to tell you, but you can come and see me whenever you like”
“When shall I find you alone?”
“Alone! I am never alone.”
“Well, well, that’s of no consequence; if only your mother is present, that comes to the same thing. If she is sensible, she will pretend not to see anything, and I will give you a hundred ducats each time.”
“You are either a madman, or you do not know what sort of people we are.”
With these words she went on, and I proceeded to tell Therese what had passed.
“Begin,” said she, “by offering the hundred ducats to the mother, and if she refuses, have no more to do with them, and go elsewhere.”
I returned to the dressing-room, where I found the mother alone, and without any ceremony spoke as follows:—
“Good evening, madam, I am a stranger here; I am only staying a week, and I am in love with your daughter. If you like to be obliging, bring her to sup with me. I will give you a hundred sequins each time, so you see my purse is in your power.”
“Whom do you think you are talking to, sir? I am astonished at your impudence. Ask the townsfolk what sort of character I bear, and whether my daughter is an honest girl or not! and you will not make such proposals again.”
As I went out I met Redegonde, and I told her word for word the conversation I had had with her mother. She burst out laughing.
“Have I done well or ill?” said I.
“Well enough, but if you love me come and see me.”
“See you after what your mother said?”
“Well, why not, who knows of it?”
“Who knows? You don’t know me, Redegonde. I do not care to indulge myself in idle hopes, and I thought I had spoken to you plainly enough.”
Feeling angry, and vowing to have no more to do with this strange girl, I supped with Therese, and spent three delightful hours with her. I had a great deal of writing to do the next day and kept in doors, and in the evening I had a visit from the young Corticelli, her mother and brother. She begged me to keep my promise regarding the manager of the theatre, who would not let her dance the ‘pas de deux’ stipulated for in the agreement.
“Come and breakfast with me to-morrow morning,” said I, “and I will speak to the Israelite in your presence — at least I will do so if he comes.”
“I love you very much,” said the young wanton, “can’t I stop a little longer here.”
“You may stop as long as you like, but as I have got some letters to finish, I must ask you to excuse my entertaining you.”
“Oh! just as you please.”
I told Costa to give her some supper.
I finished my letters and felt inclined for a little amusement, so I made the girl sit by me and proceeded to toy with her, but in such a way that her mother could make no objection. All at once the brother came up and tried to join in the sport, much to my astonishment.
“Get along with you,” said I, “you are not a girl.”
At this the young scoundrel proceeded to shew me his sex, but in such an indecent fashion that his sister, who was sitting on my knee, burst out laughing and took refuge with her mother, who was sitting at the other end of the room in gratitude for the good supper I had given her. I rose from my chair, and after giving the impudent pederast a box on the ear I asked the mother with what intentions she had brought the young rascal to my house. By way of reply the infamous woman said —
“He’s a pretty lad, isn’t he?”
I gave him a ducat for the blow I had given him, and told the mother to begone, as she disgusted me. The pathic took my ducat, kissed my hand, and they all departed.
I went to bed feeling amused at the incident, and wondering at the wickedness of a mother who would prostitute her own son to the basest of vices.
Next morning I sent and asked the Jew to call on me. The Corticelli came with her mother, and the Jew soon after, just as we were going to breakfast.
I proceeded to explain the grievance of the young dancer, and I read the agreement he had made with her, telling him politely that I could easily force him to fulfil it. The Jew put in several excuses, of which the Corticelli demonstrated the futility. At last the son of Judah was forced to give in, and promised to speak to the ballet-master the same day, in order that she might dance the ‘pas’ with the actor she named.
“And that, I hope, will please your excellency,” he added, with a low bow, which is not often a proof of sincerity, especially among Jews.
When my guests had taken leave I went to the Abbe Gama, to dine with Marshal Botta who had asked us to dinner. I made the acquaintance there of Sir Mann, the English ambassador, who was the idol of Florence, very rich, of the most pleasing manners although an Englishman; full of wit, taste, and a great lover of the fine arts. He invited me to come next day and see his house and garden. In this home he had made — furniture, pictures, choice books — all shewed the man of genius. He called on me, asked me to dinner, and had the politeness to include Therese, her husband, and Cesarino in the invitation. After dinner my son sat down at the clavier and delighted the company by his exquisite playing. While we were talking of likenesses, Sir Mann shewed us some miniatures of great beauty.
Before leaving, Therese told me that she had been thinking seriously of me.
“In what respect?” I asked.
“I have told Redegonde that I am going to call for her, that I will keep her to supper, and have her taken home. You must see that this last condition is properly carried out. Come to supper too, and have your carriage in waiting. I leave the rest to you. You will only be a few minutes with her, but that’s something; and the first step leads far.”
“An excellent plan. I will sup with you, and my carriage shall be ready. I will tell you all about it to-morrow.”
I went to the house at nine o’clock, and was welcomed as an unexpected guest. I told Redegonde that I was glad to meet her, and she replied that she had not hoped to have the pleasure of seeing me. Redegonde was the only one who had any appetite; she ate capitally, and laughed merrily at the stories I told her.
After supper Therese asked her if she would like to have a sedan- chair sent for, or if she would prefer to be taken back in my carriage.
“If the gentleman will be so kind,” said she, “I need not send for a chair.”
I thought this reply of such favourable omen that I no longer doubted of my success. After she had wished the others good night, she took my arm, pressing it as she did so; we went down the stairs, and she got into the carriage. I got in after her, and on attempting to sit down I found the place taken.
“Who is that?” I cried.
Redegonde burst out laughing, and informed me it was her mother.
I was done; I could not summon up courage to pass it off as a jest. Such a shock makes a man stupid; for a moment it numbs all the mental faculties, and wounded self-esteem only gives place to anger.
I sat down on the front seat and coldly asked the mother why she had not come up to supper with us. When the carriage stopped at their door, she asked me to come in, but I told her I would rather not. I felt that for a little more I would have boxed her ears, and the man at the house door looked very like a cut-throat.
I felt enraged and excited physically as well as mentally, and though I had never been to see the Corticelli, told the coachman to drive there immediately, as I felt sure of finding her well disposed. Everybody was gone to bed. I knocked at the door till I got an answer, I gave my name, and I was let in, everything being in total darkness. The mother told me she would light a candle, and that if she had expected me she would have waited up in spite of the cold. I felt as if I were in the middle of an iceberg. I heard the girl laughing, and going up to the bed and passing my hand over it I came across some plain tokens of the masculine gender. I had got hold of her brother. In the meanwhile the mother had got a candle, and I saw the girl with the bedclothes up to her chin, for, like her brother, she was as naked as my hand. Although no Puritan, I was shocked.
“Why do you allow this horrible union?” I said to the mother.
“What harm is there? They are brother and sister.”
“That’s just what makes it a criminal matter.”
“Everything is perfectly innocent.”
“Possibly; but it’s not a good plan.”
The pathic escaped from the bed and crept into his mother’s, while the little wanton told me there was really no harm, as they only loved each other as brother and sister, and that if I wanted her to sleep by herself all I had to do was to get her a new bed. This speech, delivered with arch simplicity, in her Bolognese jargon, made me laugh with all my heart, for in the violence of her gesticulations she had disclosed half her charms, and I saw nothing worth looking at. In spite of that, it was doubtless decreed that I should fall in love with her skin, for that was all she had.
If I had been alone I should have brought matters to a crisis on the spot, but I had a distaste to the presence of her mother and her scoundrelly brother. I was afraid lest some unpleasant scenes might follow. I gave her ten ducats to buy a bed, said good night, and left the house. I returned to my lodging, cursing the too scrupulous mothers of the opera girls.
I passed the whole of the next morning with Sir Mann, in his gallery, which contained some exquisite paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and engraved gems. On leaving him, I called on Therese and informed her of my misadventure of the night before. She laughed heartily at my story, and I laughed too, in spite of a feeling of anger due to my wounded self-esteem.
“You must console yourself,” said she; “you will not find much difficulty in filling the place in your affections.”
“Ah! why are you married?”
“Well, it’s done; and there’s no helping it. But listen to me. As you can’t do without someone, take up with the Corticelli; she’s as good as any other woman, and won’t keep you waiting long.”
On my return to my lodging, I found the Abbe Gama, whom I had invited to dinner, and he asked me if I would accept a post to represent Portugal at the approaching European Congress at Augsburg. He told me that if I did the work well, I could get anything I liked at Lisbon.
“I am ready to do my best,” said I; “you have only to write to me, and I will tell you where to direct your letters.” This proposal made me long to become a diplomatist.
In the evening I went to the opera-house and spoke to the ballet- master, the dancer who was to take part in the ‘pas de deux’, and to the Jew, who told me that my protegee should be satisfied in two or three days, and that she should perform her favourite ‘pas’ for the rest of the carnival. I saw the Corticelli, who told me she had got her bed, and asked me to come to supper. I accepted the invitation, and when the opera was over I went to her house.
Her mother, feeling sure that I would pay the bill, had ordered an excellent supper for four, and several flasks of the best Florence wine. Besides that, she gave me a bottle of the wine called Oleatico, which I found excellent. The three Corticellis unaccustomed to good fare and wine, ate like a troop, and began to get intoxicated. The mother and son went to bed without ceremony, and the little wanton invited me to follow their example. I should have liked to do so, but I did not dare. It was very cold and there was no fire in the room, there was only one blanket on the bed, and I might have caught a bad cold, and I was too fond of my good health to expose myself to such a danger. I therefore satisfied myself by taking her on my knee, and after a few preliminaries she abandoned herself to my transports, endeavouring to persuade me that I had got her maidenhead. I pretended to believe her, though I cared very little whether it were so or not.
I left her after I had repeated the dose three or four times, and gave her fifty sequins, telling her to get a good wadded coverlet and a large brazier, as I wanted to sleep with her the next night.
Next morning I received an extremely interesting letter from Grenoble. M. de Valenglard informed me that the fair Mdlle. Roman, feeling convinced that her horoscope would never come true unless she went to Paris, had gone to the capital with her aunt.
Her destiny was a strange one; it depended on the liking I had taken to her and my aversion to marriage, for it lay in my power to have married the handsomest woman in France, and in that case it is not likely that she would have become the mistress of Louis XV. What strange whim could have made me indicate in her horoscope the necessity of her journeying to Paris; for even if there were such a science as astrology I was no astrologer; in fine, her destiny depended on my absurd fancy. And in history, what a number of extraordinary events would never have happened if they had not been predicted!
In the evening I went to the theatre, and found my Corticelli clad in a pretty cloak, while the other girls looked at me contemptuously, for they were enraged at the place being taken; while the proud favourite caressed me with an air of triumph which became her to admiration.
In the evening I found a good supper awaiting me, a large brazier on the hearth, and a warm coverlet on the bed. The mother shewed me all the things her daughter had bought, and complained that she had not got any clothes for her brother. I made her happy by giving her a few louis.
When I went to bed I did not find my mistress in any amorous transports, but in a wanton and merry mood. She made me laugh, and as she let me do as I liked I was satisfied. I gave her a watch when I left her, and promised to sup with her on the following night. She was to have danced the pas de deux, and I went to see her do it, but to my astonishment she only danced with the other girls.
When I went to supper I found her in despair. She wept and said that I must avenge her on the Jew, who had excused himself by putting the fault on somebody else, but that he was a liar. I promised everything to quiet her, and after spending several hours in her company I returned home, determined to give the Jew a bad quarter of an hour. Next morning I sent Costa to ask him to call on me, but the rascal sent back word that he was not coming, and if the Corticelli did not like his theatre she might try another.
I was indignant, but I knew that I must dissemble, so I only laughed. Nevertheless, I had pronounced his doom, for an Italian never forgets to avenge himself on his enemy; he knows it is the pleasure of the gods.
As soon as Costa had left the room, I called Le Duc and told him the story, saying that if I did not take vengeance I should be dishonoured, and that it was only he who could procure the scoundrel a good thrashing for daring to insult me.
“But you know, Le Duc, the affair must be kept secret.”
“I only want twenty-four hours to give you an answer.”
I knew what he meant, and I was satisfied.
Next morning Le Duc told me he had spent the previous day in learning the Jew’s abode and habits, without asking anybody any questions.
“To-day I will not let him go out of my sight. I shall find out at what hour he returns home, and to-morrow you shall know the results.”
“Be discreet,” said I, “and don’t let anybody into your plans.”
Next day, he told me that if the Jew came home at the same time and by the same way as before, he would have a thrashing before he got to bed.
“Whom have you chosen for this expedition?”
“Myself. These affairs ought to be kept secret, and a secret oughtn’t to be known to more than two people. I am sure that everything will turn out well, but when you are satisfied that the ass’s hide has been well tanned, will there be anything to be picked up?”
“That will do nicely. When I have done the trick I shall put on my great coat again and return by the back door. If necessary Costa himself will be able to swear that I did not leave the house, and that therefore I cannot have committed the assault. However, I shall put my pistols in my pocket in case of accidents, and if anybody tries to arrest me I shall know how to defend myself.”
Next morning he came coolly into my room while Costa was putting on my dressing-gown, and when we were alone he said —
“The thing’s done. Instead of the Jew’s running away when he received the first blow he threw himself on to the ground. Then I tanned his skin for him nicely, but on hearing some people coming up I ran off. I don’t know whether I did for him, but I gave him two sturdy blows on the head. I should be sorry if he were killed, as then he could not see about the dance.”
This jest did not arouse my mirth; the matter promised to be too serious.
Therese had asked me to dine with the Abbe Gama and M. Sassi, a worthy man, if one may prostitute the name of man to describe a being whom cruelty has separated from the rest of humanity; he was the first castrato of the opera. Of course the Jew’s mishap was discussed.
“I am sorry for him,” said I, “though he is a rascally fellow.”
“I am not at all sorry for him myself,” said Sassi, “he’s a knave.”
“I daresay that everybody will be putting down his wooden baptism to my account.”
“No,” said the abbe, “people say that M. Casanova did the deed for good reasons of his own.”
“It will be difficult to pitch on the right man,” I answered, “the rascal has pushed so many worthy people to extremities that he must have a great many thrashings owing him.”
The conversation then passed to other topics, and we had a very pleasant dinner.
In a few days the Jew left his bed with a large plaster on his nose, and although I was generally regarded as the author of his misfortune the matter was gradually allowed to drop, as there were only vague suspicions to go upon. But the Corticelli, in an ecstasy of joy, was stupid enough to talk as if she were sure it was I who had avenged her, and she got into a rage when I would not admit the deed; but, as may be guessed, I was not foolish enough to do so, as her imprudence might have been a hanging matter for me.
I was well enough amused at Florence, and had no thoughts of leaving, when one day Vannini gave me a letter which someone had left for me. I opened it in his presence, and found it contained a bill of exchange for two hundred Florentine crowns on Sasso Sassi. Vannini looked at it and told me it was a good one. I went into my room to read the letter, and I was astonished to find it signed “Charles Ivanoff.” He dated it from Pistoia, and told me that in his poverty and misfortune he had appealed to an Englishman who was leaving Florence for Lucca, and had generously given him a bill of exchange for two hundred crowns, which he had written in his presence. It was made payable to bearer.
“I daren’t cash it in Florence,” said he, “as I am afraid of being arrested for my unfortunate affair at Genoa. I entreat you, then, to have pity on me, to get the bill cashed, and to bring me the money here, that I may pay my landlord and go.”
It looked like a very simple matter, but I might get into trouble, for the note might be forged; and even if it were not I should be declaring myself a friend or a correspondent, at all events, of a man who had been posted. In this dilemma I took the part of taking the bill of exchange to him in person. I went to the posting establishment, hired two horses, and drove to Pistoia. The landlord himself took me to the rascal’s room, and left me alone with him.
I did not stay more than three minutes, and all I said was that as Sassi knew me I did not wish him to think that there was any kind of connection between us.
“I advise you,” I said, “to give the bill to your landlord, who will cash it at M. Sassi’s and bring you your change”
“I will follow your advice,” he said, and I therewith returned to Florence.
I thought no more of it, but in two days’ time I received a visit from M. Sassi and the landlord of the inn at Pistoia. The banker shewed me the bill of exchange, and said that the person who had given it me had deceived me, as it was not in the writing of the Englishman whose name it bore, and that even if it were, the Englishman not having any money with Sassi could not draw a bill of exchange.
“The inn-keeper here,” said he, “discounted the bill, the Russian has gone off, and when I told him that it was a forgery he said that he knew Charles Ivanoff had it of you, and that thus he had made no difficulty in cashing it; but now he wants you to return him two hundred crowns.”
“Then he will be disappointed!”
I told all the circumstances of the affair to Sassi; I shewed him the rascal’s letter; I made Dr. Vannini, who had given it me, come up, and he said he was ready to swear that he had seen me take the bill of exchange out of the letter, that he had examined it, and had thought it good.
On this the banker told the inn-keeper that he had no business to ask me to pay him the money; but he persisted in his demand, and dared to say that I was an accomplice of the Russian’s.
In my indignation I ran for my cane, but the banker held me by the arm, and the impertinent fellow made his escape without a thrashing.
“You had a right to be angry,” said M. Sassi, “but you must not take any notice of what the poor fellow says in his blind rage.”
He shook me by the hand and went out.
Next day the chief of police, called the auditor at Florence, sent me a note begging me to call on him. There was no room for hesitation, for as a stranger I felt that I might look on this invitation as an intimation. He received me very politely, but he said I should have to repay the landlord his two hundred crowns, as he would not have discounted the bill if he had not seen me bring it. I replied that as a judge he could not condemn me unless he thought me the Russian’s accomplice, but instead of answering he repeated that I would have to pay.
“Sir,” I replied, “I will not pay.”
He rang the bell and bowed, and I left him, walking towards the banker’s, to whom I imparted the conversation I had had from the auditor. He was extremely astonished, and at my request called on him to try and make him listen to reason. As we parted I told him that I was dining with the Abbe Gama.
When I saw the abbe I told him what had happened, and he uttered a loud exclamation of astonishment.
“I foresee,” he said, “that the auditor will not let go his hold, and if M. Sassi does not succeed with him I advise you to speak to Marshal Botta.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary; the auditor can’t force me to pay.”
“He can do worse.”
“What can he do?”.
“He can make you leave Florence.”
“Well, I shall be astonished if he uses his power in this case, but rather than pay I will leave the town. Let us go to the marshal.”
We called on him at four o’clock, and we found the banker there, who had told him the whole story.
“I am sorry to tell you,” said M. Sassi, “that I could do nothing with the auditor, and if you want to remain in Florence you will have to pay.”
“I will leave as soon as I receive the order,” said I; “and as soon as I reach another state I will print the history of this shameful perversion of justice.”
“It’s an incredible, a monstrous sentence” said the marshal, “and I am sorry I cannot interfere. You are quite right,” he added, “to leave the place rather than pay.”
Early the next morning a police official brought me a letter from the auditor, informing me that as he could not, from the nature of the case, oblige me to pay, he was forced to warn me to leave Florence in three days, and Tuscany in seven. This, he added, he did in virtue of his office; but whenever the Grand Duke, to whom I might appeal, had quashed his judgment I might return.
I took a piece of paper and wrote upon it, “Your judgment is an iniquitous one, but it shall be obeyed to the letter.”
At that moment I gave orders to pack up and have all in readiness for my departure. I spent three days of respite in amusing myself with Therese. I also saw the worthy Sir Mann, and I promised the Corticelli to fetch her in Lent, and spend some time with her in Bologna. The Abbe Gama did not leave my side for three days, and shewed himself my true friend. It was a kind of triumph for me; on every side I heard regrets at my departure, and curses of the auditor. The Marquis Botta seemed to approve my conduct by giving me a dinner, the table being laid for thirty, and the company being composed of the most distinguished people in Florence. This was a delicate attention on his part, of which I was very sensible.
I consecrated the last day to Therese, but I could not find any opportunity to ask her for a last consoling embrace, which she would not have refused me under the circumstances, and which I should still fondly remember. We promised to write often to one another, and we embraced each other in a way to make her husband’s heart ache. Next day I started on my journey, and got to Rome in thirty-six hours.
It was midnight when I passed under the Porta del Popolo, for one may enter the Eternal City at any time. I was then taken to the custom-house, which is always open, and my mails were examined. The only thing they are strict about at Rome is books, as if they feared the light. I had about thirty volumes, all more or less against the Papacy, religion, or the virtues inculcated thereby. I had resolved to surrender them without any dispute, as I felt tired and wanted to go to bed, but the clerk told me politely to count them and leave them in his charge for the night, and he would bring them to my hotel in the morning. I did so, and he kept his word. He was well enough pleased when he touched the two sequins with which I rewarded him.
I put up at the Ville de Paris, in the Piazza di Spagna. It is the best inn in the town. All the world, I found, was drowned in sleep, but when they let me in they asked me to wait on the ground floor while a fire was lighted in my room. All the seats were covered with dresses, petticoats, and chemises, and I heard a small feminine voice begging me to sit on her bed. I approached and saw a laughing mouth, and two black eyes shining like carbuncles.
“What splendid eyes!” said I, “let me kiss them.”
By way of reply she hid her head under the coverlet, and I slid a hasty hand under the sheets; but finding her quite naked, I drew it back and begged pardon. She put out her head again, and I thought I read gratitude for my moderation in her eyes.
“Who are you, my angel?”
“I am Therese, the inn-keeper’s daughter, and this is my sister.” There was another girl beside her, whom I had not seen, as her head was under the bolster.
“How old are you?”
“I hope I shall see you in my room to-morrow morning.”
“Have you any ladies with you?”
“That’s a pity, as we never go to the gentlemen’s rooms.”
“Lower the coverlet a little; I can’t hear what you say.”
“It’s too cold.”
“Dear Therese, your eyes make me feel as if I were in flames.”
She put back her head at this, and I grew daring, and after sundry experiments I was more than ever charmed with her. I caressed her in a somewhat lively manner, and drew back my hand, again apologizing for my daring, and when she let me see her face I thought I saw delight rather than anger in her eyes and on her cheeks, and I felt hopeful with regard to her. I was just going to begin again, for I felt on fire; when a handsome chambermaid came to tell me that my room was ready and my fire lighted.
“Farewell till to-morrow,” said I to Therese, but she only answered by turning on her side to go to sleep.
I went to bed after ordering dinner for one o’clock, and I slept till noon, dreaming of Therese. When I woke up, Costa told me that he had found out where my brother lived, and had left a note at the house. This was my brother Jean, then about thirty, and a pupil of the famous Raphael Mengs. This painter was then deprived of his pension on account of a war which obliged the King of Poland to live at Warsaw, as the Prussians occupied the whole electorate of Saxe. I had not seen my brother for ten years, and I kept our meeting as a holiday. I was sitting down to table when he came, and we embraced each other with transport. We spent an hour in telling, he his small adventures, and I my grand ones, and he told me that I should not stay at the hotel, which was too dear, but come and live at the Chevalier Mengs’s house, which contained an empty room, where I could stay at a much cheaper rate.
“As to your table, there is a restaurant in the house where one can get a capital meal.”
“Your advice is excellent,” said I, “but I have not the courage to follow it, as I am in love with my landlord’s daughter;” and I told him what had happened the night before.
“That’s a mere nothing,” said he, laughing; “you can cultivate her acquaintance without staying in the house.”
I let myself be persuaded, and I promised to come to him the following day; and then we proceeded to take a walk about Rome.
I had many interesting memories of my last visit, and I wanted to renew my acquaintance with those who had interested me at that happy age when such impressions are so durable because they touch the heart rather than the mind; but I had to make up my mind to a good many disappointments, considering the space of time that had elapsed since I had been in Rome.
I went to the Minerva to find Donna Cecilia; she was no more in this world. I found out where her daughter Angelica lived, and I went to see her, but she gave me a poor reception, and said that she really scarcely remembered me.
“I can say the same,” I replied, “for you are not the Angelica I used to know. Good-bye, madam!”
The lapse of time had not improved her personal appearance. I found out also where the printer’s son, who had married Barbaruccia, lived, but — I put off the pleasure of seeing him till another time, and also my visit to the Reverend Father Georgi, who was a man of great repute in Rome. Gaspar Vivaldi had gone into the country.
My brother took me to Madame Cherubini. I found her mansion to be a splendid one, and the lady welcomed me in the Roman manner. I thought her pleasant and her daughters still more so, but I thought the crowd of lovers too large and too miscellaneous. There was too much luxury and ceremony, and the girls, one of whom was as fair as Love himself, were too polite to everybody. An interesting question was put to me, to which I answered in such a manner as to elicit another question, but to no purpose. I saw that the rank of my brother, who had introduced me, prevented my being thought a person of any consequence, and on hearing an abbe say, “He’s Casanova’s brother,” I turned to him and said —
“That’s not correct; you should say Casanova’s my brother.”
“That comes to the same thing.”
“Not at all, my dear abbe.”
I said these words in a tone which commanded attention, and another abbe said —
“The gentleman is quite right; it does not come to the same thing.”
The first abbe made no reply to this. The one who had taken my part, and was my friend from that moment, was the famous Winckelmann, who was unhappily assassinated at Trieste twelve years afterwards.
While I was talking to him, Cardinal Alexander Albani arrived. Winckelmann presented me to his eminence, who was nearly blind. He talked to me a great deal, without saying anything worth listening to. As soon as he heard that I was the Casanova who had escaped from The Leads, he said in a somewhat rude tone that he wondered I had the hardihood to come to Rome, where on the slightest hint from the State Inquisitors at Venice an ‘ordine sanctissimo’ would re-consign me to my prison. I was annoyed by this unseemly remark, and replied in a dignified voice —
“It is not my hardihood in coming to Rome that your eminence should wonder at, but a man of any sense would wonder at the Inquisitors if they had the hardihood to issue an ‘ordine sanctissimo’ against me; for they would be perplexed to allege any crime in me as a pretext for thus infamously depriving me of my liberty.”
This reply silenced his eminence. He was ashamed at having taken me for a fool, and to see that I thought him one. Shortly after I left and never set foot in that house again.
The Abbe Winckelmann went out with my brother and myself, and as he came with me to my hotel he did me the honour of staying to supper. Winckelmann was the second volume of the celebrated Abbe de Voisenon. He called for me next day, and we went to Villa Albani to see the Chevalier Mengs, who was then living there and painting a ceiling.
My landlord Roland (who knew my brother) paid me a visit at supper. Roland came from Avignon and was fond of good living. I told him I was sorry to be leaving him to stay with my brother, because I had fallen in love with his daughter Therese, although I had only spoken to her for a few minutes, and had only seen her head.
“You saw her in bed, I will bet”
“Exactly, and I should very much like to see the rest of her. Would you be so kind as to ask her to step up for a few minutes?”
“With all my heart.”
She came upstairs, seeming only too glad to obey her father’s summons. She had a lithe, graceful figure, her eyes were of surpassing brilliancy, her features exquisite, her mouth charming; but taken altogether I did not like her so well as before. In return, my poor brother became enamoured of her to such an extent that he ended by becoming her slave. He married her next year, and two years afterwards he took her to Dresden. I saw her five years later with a pretty baby; but after ten years of married life she died of consumption.
I found Mengs at the Villa Albani; he was an indefatigable worker, and extremely original in his conceptions. He welcomed me, and said he was glad to be able to lodge me at his house in Rome, and that he hoped to return home himself in a few days, with his whole family.
I was astonished with the Villa Albani. It had been built by Cardinal Alexander, and had been wholly constructed from antique materials to satisfy the cardinal’s love for classic art; not only the statues and the vases, but the columns, the pedestals — in fact, everything was Greek. He was a Greek himself, and had a perfect knowledge of antique work, and had contrived to spend comparatively little money compared with the masterpiece he had produced. If a sovereign monarch had had a villa like the cardinal’s built, it would have cost him fifty million francs, but the cardinal made a much cheaper bargain.
As he could not get any ancient ceilings, he was obliged to have them painted, and Mengs was undoubtedly the greatest and the most laborious painter of his age. It is a great pity that death carried him off in the midst of his career, as otherwise he would have enriched the stores of art with numerous masterpieces. My brother never did anything to justify his title of pupil of this great artist. When I come to my visit to Spain in 1767, I shall have some more to say about Mengs.
As soon as I was settled with my brother I hired a carriage, a coachman, and a footman, whom I put into fancy livery, and I called on Monsignor Cornaro, auditor of the ‘rota’, with the intention of making my way into good society, but fearing lest he as a Venetian might get compromised, he introduced me to Cardinal Passionei, who spoke of me to the sovereign pontiff.
Before I pass on to anything else, I will inform my readers of what took place on the occasion of my second visit to this old cardinal, a great enemy of the Jesuits, a wit, and man of letters.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52