The Charpillon — Dreadful Consequences of My Acquaintance With Her
The name Charpillon reminded me that I was the bearer of a letter for her, and drawing it from my pocket-book I gave it her, saying that the document ought to cement our acquaintance.
“What!” she exclaimed, “a letter from the dear ambassador Morosini. How delighted I am to have it! And you have actually been all these months in London without giving it me?”
“I confess I am to blame, but, as you see, the note has no address on it. I am grateful for the chance which has enabled me to discharge my commission to-day.”
“Come and dine with us to-morrow.”
“I cannot do so, as I am expecting Lord Pembroke to dinner.”
“Will you be alone?”
“I expect so.”
“I am glad to hear it; you will see my aunt and myself appearing on the scene.”
“Here is my address; and I shall be delighted if you will come and see me.”
She took the address, and I was surprised to see her smile as she read it.
“Then you are the Italian,” she said, “who put up that notice that amused all the town?”
“They say the joke cost you dear.”
“Quite the reverse; it resulted in the greatest happiness.”
“But now that the beloved object has left you, I suppose you are unhappy?”
“I am; but there are sorrows so sweet that they are almost joys.”
“Nobody knows who she was, but I suppose you do?”
“Do you make a mystery of it?”
“Surely, and I would rather die than reveal it.”
“Ask my aunt if I may take some rooms in your house; but I am afraid my mother would not let me.”
“Why do you want to lodge cheaply?”
“I don’t want to lodge cheaply, but I should like to punish the audacious author of that notice.”
“How would you punish me?”
“By making you fall in love with me, and then tormenting you. It would have amused me immensely.”
“Then you think that you can inspire me with love, and at the same time form the dreadful plan of tyrannising over the victim of your charms. Such a project is monstrous, and unhappily for us poor men, you do not look a monster. Nevertheless, I am obliged to you for your frankness, and I shall be on my guard.”
“Then you must take care never to see me, or else all your efforts will be in vain.”
As the Charpillon had laughed merrily through the whole of this dialogue, I took it all as a jest, but I could not help admiring her manner, which seemed made for the subjugation of men. But though I knew it not, the day I made that woman’s acquaintance was a luckless one for me, as my readers will see.
It was towards the end of the month of September, 1763, when I met the Charpillon, and from that day I began to die. If the lines of ascent and declination are equal, now, on the first day of November, 1797, I have about four more years of life to reckon on, which will pass by swiftly, according to the axiom ‘Motus in fine velocior’.
The Charpillon, who was well known in London, and I believe is still alive, was one of those beauties in whom it is difficult to find any positive fault. Her hair was chestnut coloured, and astonishingly long and thick, her blue eyes were at once languorous and brilliant, her skin, faintly tinged with a rosy hue, was of a dazzling whiteness; she was tall for her age, and seemed likely to become as tall as Pauline. Her breast was perhaps a little small, but perfectly shaped, her hands were white and plump, her feet small, and her gait had something noble and gracious. Her features were of that exquisite sensibility which gives so much charm to the fair sex, but nature had given her a beautiful body and a deformed soul. This siren had formed a design to wreck my happiness even before she knew me, and as if to add to her triumph she told me as much.
I left Malingan’s house not like a man who, fond of the fair sex, is glad to have made the acquaintance of a beautiful woman, but in a state of stupefaction that the image of Pauline, which was always before me, was not strong enough to overcome the influence of a creature like the Charpillon, whom in my heart I could not help despising.
I calmed myself by saying that this strong impression was due to novelty, and by hoping that I should soon be disenchanted.
“She will have no charm,” said I, “when I have once possessed her, and that will not be long in coming.” Perhaps the reader will think that I was too presumptuous, but why should I suppose that there would be any difficulty? She had asked me to dinner herself, she had surrendered herself entirely to Morosini, who was not the man to sigh for long at any woman’s feet, and must have paid her, for he was not young enough nor handsome enough to inspire her with a fancy for him. Without counting my physical attractions, I had plenty of money, and I was not afraid of spending it; and so I thought I could count on an easy victory.
Pembroke had become an intimate friend of mine since my proceedings with regard to Schwerin. He admired my conduct in not making any claim on the general for half my loss. He had said we would make a pleasant day of it together, and when he saw that my table was laid for four he asked who the other guests were to be. He was extremely surprised when he heard that they were the Charpillon and her aunt, and that the girl had invited herself when she heard he was to dine with me.
“I once took a violent fancy for the little hussy,” said he. “It was one evening when I was at Vauxhall, and I offered her twenty guineas if she would come and take a little walk with me in a dark alley. She said she would come if I gave her the money in advance, which I was fool enough to do. She went with me, but as soon as we were alone she ran away, and I could not catch her again, though I looked for her all the evening.”
“You ought to have boxed her ears before everybody.”
“I should have got into trouble, and people would have laughed at me besides. I preferred to despise her and the money too. Are you in love with her?”
“No; but I am curious, as you were.”
“Take care! she will do all in her power to entrap you.”
She came in and went up to my lord with the most perfect coolness, and began to chatter away to him without taking any notice of me. She laughed, joked, and reproached him for not having pursued her at Vauxhall. Her stratagem, she said, was only meant to excite him the more.
“Another time,” she added, “I shall not escape you.”
“Perhaps not, my dear, for another time I shall take care not to pay in advance.”
“Oh, fie! you degrade yourself by talking about paying.”
“I suppose I honour you.”
“We never talk of such things.”
Lord Pembroke laughed at her impertinences, while she made a vigorous assault on him, for his coolness and indifference piqued her.
She left us soon after dinner, making me promise to dine with her the day after next.
I passed the next day with the amiable nobleman who initiated me into the mysteries of the English bagnio, an entertainment which I shall not describe, for it is well known to all who care to spend six guineas.
On the day appointed, my evil destiny made me go to the Charpillon’s; the girl introduced me to her mother, whom I at once recollected, although she had aged and altered since I had seen her.
In the year 1759 a Genevan named Bolome had persuaded me to sell her jewels to the extent of six thousand francs, and she had paid me in bills drawn by her and her two sisters on this Bolome, but they were then known as Anspergher. The Genevan became bankrupt before the bills were due, and the three sisters disappeared. As may be imagined, I was surprised to find them in England, and especially to be introduced to them by the Charpillon, who, knowing nothing of the affair of the jewels, had not told them that Seingalt was the same as Casanova, whom they had cheated of six thousand francs.
“I am delighted to see you again,” were the first words I addressed to her.
“I recollect you, sir; that rascal Bolome. . . . ”
“We will discuss that subject another time. I see you are ill.”
“I have been at death’s door, but I am better now. My daughter did not tell me your proper name.”
“Yes, she did. My name is Seingalt as well as Casanova. I was known by the latter name at Paris when I made your daughter’s acquaintance, though I did not know then that she was your daughter.”
Just then the grandmother, whose name was also Anspergher, came in with the two aunts, and a quarter of an hour later three men arrived, one of whom was the Chevalier Goudar, whom I had met at Paris. I did not know the others who were introduced to me under the names of Rostaing and Caumon. They were three friends of the household, whose business it was to bring in dupes.
Such was the infamous company in which I found myself, and though I took its measure directly, yet I did not make my escape, nor did I resolve never to go to the house again. I was fascinated; I thought I would be on my guard and be safe, and as I only wanted the daughter I looked on all else as of little moment.
At table I led the conversation, and thought that my prey would soon be within my grasp. The only thing which annoyed me was that the Charpillon, after apologizing for having made me sit down to such a poor dinner, invited herself and all the company to sup with me on any day I liked to mention. I could make no opposition, so I begged her to name the day herself, and she did so, after a consultation with her worthy friends.
After coffee had been served we played four rubbers of whist, at which I lost, and at midnight I went away ill pleased with myself, but with no purpose of amendment, for this sorceress had got me in her toils.
All the same I had the strength of mind to refrain from seeing her for two days, and on the third, which was the day appointed for the cursed supper, she and her aunt paid me a call at nine o’clock in the morning.
“I have come to breakfast with you, and to discuss a certain question,” said she, in the most engaging manner.
“Will you tell me your business now, or after breakfast?”
“After breakfast; for we must be alone.”
We had our breakfast, and then the aunt went into another room, and the Charpillon, after describing the monetary situation of the family, told me that it would be much relieved if her aunt could obtain a hundred guineas.
“What would she do with the money?”
“She would make the Balm of Life, of which she possesses the secret, and no doubt she would make her fortune, too.”
She then began to dilate on the marvellous properties of the balm, on its probable success in a town like London, and on the benefits which would accrue to myself, for of course I should share in the profits. She added that her mother and aunt would give me a written promise to repay the money in the course of six years.
“I will give you a decided answer after supper.”
I then began to caress her, and to make assaults in the style of an amorous man, but it was all in vain, though I succeeded in stretching her on a large sofa. She made her escape, however, and ran to her aunt, while I followed her, feeling obliged to laugh as she did. She gave me her hand, and said —
“Farewell, till this evening.”
When they were gone, I reflected over what had passed and thought this first scene of no bad augury. I saw that I should get nothing out of her without spending a hundred guineas, and I determined not to attempt to bargain, but I would let her understand that she must make up her mind not to play prude. The game was in my hands, and all I had to do was to take care not to be duped.
In the evening the company arrived, and the girl asked me to hold a bank till supper was ready; but I declined, with a burst of laughter that seemed to puzzle her.
“At least, let us have a game of whist,” said she.
“It seems to me,” I answered, “that you don’t feel very anxious to hear my reply.”
“You have made up your mind, I suppose?”
“I have, follow me.”
She followed me into an adjoining room, and after she had seated herself on a sofa, I told her that the hundred guineas were at her disposal.
“Then please to give the money to my aunt, otherwise these gentlemen might think I got it from you by some improper means.”
“I will do so.”
I tried to get possession of her, but in vain; and I ceased my endeavours when she said —
“You will get nothing from me either by money or violence; but you can hope for all when I find you really nice and quiet.”
I re-entered the drawing-room, and feeling my blood boiling I began to play to quiet myself. She was as gay as ever, but her gaiety tired me. At supper I had her on my right hand, but the hundred impertinences which, under other circumstances, would have amused me, only wearied me, after the two rebuffs I had received from her.
After supper, just as they were going, she took me aside, and told me that if I wanted to hand over the hundred guineas she would tell her aunt to go with me into the next room.
“As documents have to be executed,” I replied, “it will take some time; we will talk of it again.
“Won’t you fix the time?”
I drew out my purse full of gold, and shewed it her, saying —
“The time depends entirely on you.”
When my hateful guests were gone, I began to reflect, and came to the conclusion that this young adventuress had determined to plunder me without giving me anything in return. I determined to have nothing more to do with her, but I could not get her beauty out of my mind.
I felt I wanted some distraction, something that would give me new aims and make me forget her. With this idea I went to see my daughter, taking with me an immense bag of sweets.
As soon as I was in the midst of the little flock, the delight became general, Sophie distributing the sweetmeats to her friends, who received them gratefully.
I spent a happy day, and for a week or two I paid several visits to Harwich. The mistress treated me with the utmost politeness and my daughter with boundless affection, always calling me “dear papa.”
In less than three weeks I congratulated myself on having forgotten the Charpillon, and on having replaced her by innocent amours, though one of my daughter’s schoolmates pleased me rather too much for my peace of mind.
Such was my condition when one morning the favourite aunt of the Charpillon paid me a call, and said that they were all mystified at not having seen me since the supper I had given them, especially herself, as her niece had given her to understand that I would furnish her with the means of making the Balm of Life.
“Certainly; I would have given you the hundred guineas if your niece had treated me as a friend, but she refused me favours a vestal might have granted, and you must be aware that she is by no means a vestal.”
“Don’t mind my laughing. My niece is an innocent, giddy girl; she loves you, but she is afraid you have only a passing whim for her. She is in bed now with a bad cold, and if you will come and see her I am sure you will be satisfied.”
These artful remarks, which had no doubt been prepared in advance, ought to have aroused all my scorn, but instead of that they awakened the most violent desires. I laughed in chorus with the old woman, and asked what would be the best time to call.
“Come now, and give one knock.”
“Very good, then you may expect me shortly.”
I congratulated myself on being on the verge of success, for after the explanation I had had with the aunt, and having, as I thought, a friend in her, I did not doubt that I should succeed.
I put on my great coat, and in less than a quarter of an hour I knocked at their door. The aunt opened to me, and said —
“Come back in a quarter of an hour; she has been ordered a bath, and is just going to take it.”
“This is another imposture. You’re as bad a liar as she is.”
“You are cruel and unjust, and if you will promise to be discreet, I will take you up to the third floor where she is bathing.”
“Very good; take me.” She went upstairs, I following on tiptoe, and pushed me into a room, and shut the door upon me. The Charpillon was in a huge bath, with her head towards the door, and the infernal coquette, pretending to think it was her aunt, did not move, and said —
“Give me the towels, aunt.”
She was in the most seductive posture, and I had the pleasure of gazing on her exquisite proportions, hardly veiled by the water.
When she caught sight of me, or rather pretended to do so, she gave a shriek, huddled her limbs together, and said, with affected anger —
“You needn’t exert your voice, for I am not going to be duped.”
“Not so, give me a little time to collect myself.”
“I tell you, go!”
“Calm yourself, and don’t be afraid of my skewing you any violence; that would suit your game too well.”
“My aunt shall pay dearly for this.”
“She will find me her friend. I won’t touch you, so shew me a little more of your charms.”
“More of my charms?”
“Yes; put yourself as you were when I came in.”
“Certainly not. Leave the room.”
“I have told you I am not going, and that you need not fear for your . . . well, for your virginity, we will say.”
She then shewed me a picture more seductive than the first, and pretending kindliness, said —
“Please, leave me; I will not fail to shew my gratitude.”
Seeing that she got nothing, that I refrained from touching her, and that the fire she had kindled was in a fair way to be put out, she turned her back to me to give me to understand that it was no pleasure to her to look at me. However, my passions were running high, and I had to have recourse to self-abuse to calm my senses, and was glad to find myself relieved, as this proved to me that the desire went no deeper than the senses.
The aunt came in just as I had finished, and I went out without a word, well pleased to find myself despising a character wherein profit and loss usurped the place of feeling.
The aunt came to me as I was going out of the house, and after enquiring if I were satisfied begged me to come into the parlour.
“Yes,” said I, “I am perfectly satisfied to know you and your niece. Here is the reward.”
With these words I drew a bank-note for a hundred pounds from my pocket-book, and was foolish enough to give it her, telling her that she could make her balm, and need not trouble to give me any document as I knew if would be of no value. I had not the strength to go away without giving her anything, and the procuress was sharp enough to know it.
When I got home I reflected on what had happened, and pronounced myself the conqueror with great triumph. I felt well at ease, and felt sure that I should never set foot in that house again. There were seven of them altogether, including servants, and the need of subsisting made them do anything for a living; and when they found themselves obliged to make use of men, they summoned the three rascals I have named, who were equally dependent on them.
Five or six days afterwards, I met the little hussy at Vauxhall in company with Goudar. I avoided her at first, but she came up to me reproaching me for my rudeness. I replied coolly enough, but affecting not to notice my manner, she asked me to come into an arbour with her and take a cup of tea.
“No, thank you,” I replied, “I prefer supper.”
“Then I will take some too, and you will give it me, won’t you, just to shew that you bear no malice?”
I ordered supper for four and we sat down together as if we had been intimate friends.
Her charming conversation combined with her beauty gradually drew me under her charm, and as the drink began to exercise its influence over me, I proposed a turn in one of the dark walks, expressing a hope that I should fare better than Lord Pembroke. She said gently, and with an appearance of sincerity that deceived me, that she wanted to be mine, but by day and on the condition that I would come and see her every day.
“I will do so, but first give me one little proof of your love.”
“Most certainly not.”
I got up to pay the bill, and then I left without a word, refusing to take her home. I went home by myself and went to bed.
The first thought when I awoke was that I was glad she had not taken me at my word; I felt very strongly that it was to my interest to break off all connection between that creature and myself. I felt the strength of her influence over me, and that my only way was to keep away from her, or to renounce all pretension to the possession of her charms.
The latter plan seemed to me impossible, so I determined to adhere to the first; but the wretched woman had resolved to defeat all my plans. The manner in which she succeeded must have been the result of a council of the whole society.
A few days after the Vauxhall supper Goudar called on me, and began by congratulating me on my resolution not to visit the Ansperghers any more, “for,” said he, “the girl would have made you more and more in love with her, and in the end she would have seduced you to beggary.”
“You must think me a great fool. If I had found her kind I should have been grateful, but without squandering all my money; and if she had been cruel, instead of ridiculous, I might have given her what I have already given her every day, without reducing myself to beggary.”
“I congratulate you; it shews that you are well off. But have you made up your mind not to see her again?”
“Then you are not in love with her?”
“I have been in love, but I am so no longer; and in a few days she will have passed completely out of my memory. I had almost forgotten her when I met her with you at Vauxhall.”
“You are not cured. The way to be cured of an amour does not lie in flight, when the two parties live in the same town. Meetings will happen, and all the trouble has to be taken over again.”
“Then do you know a better way?”
“Certainly; you should satiate yourself. It is quite possible that the creature is not in love with you, but you are rich and she has nothing. You might have had her for so much, and you could have left her when you found her to be unworthy of your constancy. You must know what kind of a woman she is.”
“I should have tried this method gladly, but I found her out.”
“You could have got the best of her, though, if you had gone to work in the proper way. You should never have paid in advance. I know everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know she has cost you a hundred guineas, and that you have not won so much as a kiss from her. Why, my dear sir, you might have had her comfortably in your own bed for as much! She boasts that she took you in, though you pride yourself on your craft.”
“It was an act of charity towards her aunt.”
“Yes, to make her Balm of Life; but you know if it had not been for the niece the aunt would never have had the money.”
“Perhaps not, but how come you who are of their party to be talking to me in this fashion?”
“I swear to you I only speak out of friendship for you, and I will tell you how I came to make the acquaintance of the girl, her mother, her grandmother and her two aunts, and then you will no longer consider me as of their party.
“Sixteen months ago I saw M. Morosini walking about Vauxhall by himself. He had just come to England to congratulate the king on his accession to the throne, on behalf of the Republic of Venice. I saw how enchanted he was with the London beauties, and I went up to him and told him that all these beauties were at his service. This made him laugh, and on my repeating that it was not a jest he pointed out one of the girls, and asked if she would be at his service. I did not know her, so I asked him to wait awhile, and I would bring him the information he required. There was no time to be lost, and I could see that the girl was not a vestal virgin, so I went up to her and told her that the Venetian ambassador was amorous of her, and that I would take her to him if she would receive his visits. The aunt said that a nobleman of such an exalted rank could only bring honour to her niece. I took their address, and on my way back to the ambassador I met a friend of mine who is learned in such commodities, and after I had shewed him the address he told me it was the Charpillon.”
“And it was she?”
“It was. My friend told me she was a young Swiss girl who was not yet in the general market, but who would soon be there, as she was not rich, and had a numerous train to support.
“I rejoined the Venetian, and told him that his business was done, and asked him at what time I should introduce him the next day, warning him that as she had a mother and aunts she would not be alone.
“‘I am glad to hear it,’ said he, ‘and also that she is not a common woman.’ He gave me an appointment for the next day, and we parted.
“I told the ladies at what hour I should have the pleasure of introducing the great man to them, and after warning them that they must appear not to know him I went home.
“The following day I called on M. de Morosini, and took him to Denmark Street incognito. We spent an hour in conversation, and then went away without anything being settled. On the way back the ambassador told me that he should like to have the girl on conditions which he would give me in writing at his residence.
“These conditions were that she should live in a furnished house free of rent, without any companion, and without receiving any visitors. His excellency would give her fifty guineas a month, and pay for supper whenever he came and spent the night with her. He told me to get the house if his conditions were received. The mother was to sign the agreement.
“The ambassador was in a hurry, and in three days the agreement was signed; but I obtained a document from the mother promising to let me have the girl for one night as soon as the Venetian had gone; it was known he was only stopping in London for a year.”
Goudar extracted the document in question from his pocket, and gave it to me. I read it and re-read it with as much surprise as pleasure, and he then proceeded with his story.
“When the ambassador had gone, the Charpillon, finding herself at liberty once more, had Lord Baltimore, Lord Grosvenor, and M. de Saa, the Portuguese ambassador, in turn, but no titular lover. I insisted on having my night with her according to agreement, but both mother and daughter laughed at me when I spoke of it. I cannot arrest her, because she is a minor, but I will have the mother imprisoned on the first opportunity, and you will see how the town will laugh. Now you know why I go to their house; and I assure you you are wrong if you think I have any part in their councils. Nevertheless, I know they are discussing how they may catch you, and they will do so if you do not take care.”
“Tell the mother that I have another hundred guineas at her service if she will let me have her daughter for a single night.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Assuredly, but I am not going to pay in advance.”
“That’s the only way not to be duped. I shall be glad to execute your commission.”
I kept the rogue to dinner, thinking he might be useful to me. He knew everything and everybody, and told me a number of amusing ancedotes. Although a good-for-nothing fellow, he had his merits. He had written several works, which, though badly constructed, shewed he was a man of some wit. He was then writing his “Chinese Spy,” and every day he wrote five or six news-letters from the various coffee- houses he frequented. I wrote one or two letters for him, with which he was much pleased. The reader will see how I met him again at Naples some years later.
The next morning, what was my surprise to see the Charpillon, who said with an air that I should have taken for modesty in any other woman —
“I don’t want you to give me any breakfast, I want an explanation, and to introduce Miss Lorenzi to you.”
I bowed to her and to her companion, and then said —
“What explanation do you require?”
At this, Miss Lorenzi, whom I had never seen before, thought proper to leave us, and I told my man that I was not at home to anybody. I ordered breakfast to be served to the companion of the nymph, that she might not find the waiting tedious.
“Sir,” said the Charpillon, “is it a fact that you charged the Chevalier Goudar to tell my mother that you would give a hundred guineas to spend the night with me?”
“No, not to spend a night with you, but after I had passed it. Isn’t the price enough?”
“No jesting, sir, if you please. There is no question of bargaining; all I want to know is whether you think you have a right to insult me, and that I am going to bear it?”
“If you think yourself insulted, I may, perhaps, confess I was wrong; but I confess I did not think I should have to listen to any reproaches from you. Gondar is one of your intimate friends, and this is not the first proposal he has taken to you. I could not address you directly, as I know your arts only too well.”
“I shall not pay any attention to your abuse of my self; I will only remind you of what I said ‘that neither money nor violence were of any use,’ and that your only way was to make me in love with you by gentle means. Shew me where I have broken my word! It is you that have foresworn yourself in coming into my bath-room, and in sending such a brutal message to my mother. No one but a rascal like Goudar would have dared to take such a message.”
“Goudar a rascal, is he? Well, he is your best friend. You know he is in love with you, and that he only got you for the ambassador in the hope of enjoying you himself. The document in his possession proves that you have behaved badly towards him. You are in his debt, discharge it, and then call him a rascal if you have the conscience to do so. You need not trouble to weep, for I knew the source of those tears; it is defiled.”
“You know nothing of it. I love you, and it is hard to have you treat me so.”
“You love me? You have not taken the best way to prove it!”
“As good a way as yours. You have behaved to me as if I were the vilest of prostitutes, and yesterday you seemed to think I was a brute beast, the slave of my mother. You should have written to me in person, and without the intervention of so vile an agent; I should have replied in the same way, and you need not have been afraid that you would be deceived.”
“Supposing I had written, what would your answer have been?”
“I should have put all money matters out of question. I should have promised to content you on the condition that you would come and court me for a fortnight without demanding the slightest favour. We should have lived a pleasant life; we should have gone to the theatre and to the parks. I should have become madly in love with you. Then I should have given myself up to you for love, and nothing but love. I am ashamed to say that hitherto I have only given myself out of mere complaisance. Unhappy woman that I am! but I think nature meant me to love, and I thought when I saw you that my happy star had sent you to England that I might know the bliss of true affection. Instead of this you have only made me unhappy. You are the first man that has seen me weep; you have troubled my peace at home, for my mother shall never have the sum you promised her were it for nothing but a kiss.”
“I am sorry to have injured you, though I did not intend to do so; but I really don’t know what I can do.”
“Come and see us, and keep your money, which I despise. If you love me, come and conquer me like a reasonable and not a brutal lover; and I will help you, for now you cannot doubt that I love you.”
All this seemed so natural to me that I never dreamed it contained a trap. I was caught, and I promised to do what she wished, but only for a fortnight. She confirmed her promise, and her countenance became once more serene and calm. The Charpillon was a born actress.
She got up to go, and on my begging a kiss as a pledge of our reconciliation she replied, with a smile, the charm of which she well knew, that it would not do to begin by breaking the term of our agreement, and she left me more in love than ever, and full of repentance for my conduct.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52