My Cure — Daturi is Beaten by Some Soldiers — I Leave Wesel for Brunswick — Redegonde — Brunswick — The Hereditary Prince — The Jew — My Stay at Wolfen-Buttel The Library — Berlin Calsabigi and the Berlin Lottery — Mdlle. Belanger
At Supper-time, the doctor, his mother, and one of his sisters came to see me. All of them bore the love of their kind written on their features; they assured me that I should have all possible care at their hands. When the ladies were gone the doctor explained his treatment. He said that he hoped to cure me by the exhibition of sudorifices and mercurial pills, but he warned me I must be very careful in my diet and must not apply myself in any way. I promised to abide by his directions, and he said that he would read me the newspaper himself twice a week to amuse me, and by way of a beginning he informed me that the famous Pompadour was dead.
Thus I was condemned to a state of perfect rest, but it was not the remedies or the abstinence I dreaded most; I feared the effects of ennui; I thought I should die of it. No doubt the doctor saw the danger as well as myself, for he asked me if I would mind his sister coming and working in my room occasionally with a few of her friends. I replied that, despite my shame of shewing myself to young ladies in such a condition, I accepted her offer with delight. The sister was very grateful for what she was pleased to call my kindness, for my room was the only one which looked in the street, and as everyone knows girls are very fond of inspecting the passers-by. Unfortunately this arrangement turned out ill for Daturi. The poor young man had only received the education of a mountebank, and it was tiresome for him to pass all his time in my company. When he saw that I had plenty of friends, he thought I could dispense with his society, and only thought of amusing himself. On the third day towards the evening he was carried home covered with bruises. He had been in the guard-room with the soldiers, and some quarrel having arisen he had got a severe beating. He was in a pitiable state; all over blood and with three teeth missing. He told me the story with tears, and begged me to take vengeance on his foes.
I sent my doctor to General Bekw — — who said that all he could do was to give the poor man a bed in the hospital. Baturi had no bones broken, and in a few days was quite well, so I sent him on to Brunswick with a passport from General Salomon. The loss of his teeth secured him from the conscription; this, at any rate, was a good thing.
The treatment of the young doctor was even more successful than he had anticipated, for in a month I was perfectly well again, though terribly thin. The worthy people of the house must have taken an idea of me not in the least like myself; I was thought to be the most patient of men, and the sister and her young lady friends must have considered me as modesty personified; but these virtues only resulted from my illness and my great depression. If you want to discover the character of a man, view him in health and freedom; a captive and in sickness he is no longer the same man.
I gave a beautiful dress to the sister, and twenty louis to the doctor, and both seemed to me extremely satisfied.
On the eve of my departure I received a letter from Madame du Rumain, who had heard I was in want from my friend Baletti, and sent me a bill of exchange on Amsterdam for six hundred florins. She said I could repay her at my convenience, but she died before I was able to discharge the debt.
Having made up my mind to go to Brunswick, I could not resist the temptation to pass through Hanover, for whenever I thought of Gabrielle I loved her still. I did not wish to stop any length of time, for I was poor and I had to be careful of my health. I only wished to pay her a flying visit on the estate which her mother had at Stocken, as she had told me. I may also say that curiosity was a motive for this visit.
I had decided to start at day-break in my new carriage, but the fates had ordained it otherwise.
The English general wrote me a note asking me to sup with him, telling me that some Italians would be present, and this decided me to stay on, but I had to promise the doctor to observe strict temperance.
My surprise may be imagined when I saw the Redegonde and her abominable mother. The mother did not recognize me at first, but Redegonde knew me directly, and said —
“Good Heavens! how thin you have become!”
I complimented her on her beauty, and indeed she had improved wonderfully.
“I have just recovered from a dangerous illness,” said I, “and I am starting for Brunswick at day-break tomorrow.”
“So are we,” she exclaimed, looking at her mother.
The general, delighted to find that we knew each other, said we could travel together.
“Hardly, I think,” I replied, “unless the lady-mother has changed her principles since I knew her.”
“I am always the same,” she said, dryly enough; but I only replied with a glance of contempt.
The general held a bank at faro at a small table. There were several other ladies and some officers, and the stakes were small. He offered me a place, but I excused myself, saying that I never played while on a journey.
At the end of the deal the general returned to the charge, and said —
“Really, chevalier, this maxim of yours is anti-social; you must play.”
So saying he drew several English bank notes from his pocket-book, telling me they were the same I had given him in London six months ago.
“Take your revenge,” he added; “there are four hundred pounds here.”
“I don’t want to lose as much as that,” I replied, “but I will risk fifty pounds to amuse you.”
With this I took out the bill of exchange that Madame du Rumain had sent me.
The general went on dealing, and at the third deal I found I was fifty guineas to the good, and with that I was satisfied. Directly afterwards supper was announced, and we went into the dining-room.
Redegonde, who had learnt French admirably, kept everybody amused. She had been engaged by the Duke of Brunswick as second singer, and she had come from Brussels. She bemoaned her journey in the uncomfortable post-chaise, and expressed a fear that she would be ill by the time she got to her journey’s end.
“Why, there’s the Chevalier Seingalt all alone in a most comfortable carriage,” said the general.
“How many people will your carriage hold?”
“Then it’s out of the question, for I never let my daughter travel alone with anybody.”
A general burst of laughter, in which Redegonde joined, seemed to confuse the mother in some degree; but like a good daughter Redegonde explained that her mother was always afraid of her being assassinated.
The evening passed away in pleasant conversation, and the younger singer did not need much persuasion to seat herself at the piano, where she sang in a manner that won genuine applause.
When I wanted to go the general begged me to breakfast with him, saying that the post-chaise did not go till twelve, and that this act of politeness was due to my young fellow-countrywoman. Redegonde joined in, reproaching me with my behaviour at Turin and Florence, though she had nothing really to complain of. I gave in, and feeling that I wanted rest I went to bed.
The next morning, at nine o’clock, I took leave of the worthy doctor and his family and walked to the general’s, giving orders that my carriage should be brought round as soon as it was ready.
In half an hour Redegonde and her mother arrived, and I was astonished to see them accompanied by the brother who had been my servant at Florence.
When breakfast was over my carriage stood at the door, and I made my bow to the general and all the company, who were standing in the hall to see me off. Redegonde came down the steps with me, and asked if my carriage was comfortable, and then got into it. I got in after her without the slightest premeditation, and the postillion, seeing the carriage full, gave a crack with his whip and we were off, Redegonde shrieking with laughter. I was on the point of telling him to stop, but seeing her enjoyment of the drive I held my tongue, only waiting for her to say, “I have had enough.” But I waited in vain, and we had gone over half a league before she said a word.
“I have laughed, and laugh still,” she said, “when I think of what my mother will say at this freak of mine. I had no intentions in getting into the carriage, and I am sure you cannot have told the postillion to drive on.”
“You may be quite sure of that.”
“All the same my mother will believe it to be a deeply-laid plan, and that strikes me as amusing.”
“So it is; I am quite satisfied, certainly. Now you are here you had better come on with me to Brunswick; you will be more comfortable than in a villainous stage coach.”
“I should be delighted, but that would be pushing matters too far. No, we will stop at the first stage and wait for the coach.”
“You may do so if you please, but you will excuse my waiting.”
“What! you would leave me all alone?”
“You know, dear Redegonde, that I have always loved you, and I am ready to take you with me to Brunswick; what more can I say?”
“If you love me you will wait with me and restore me to my mother, who must be in despair.”
“In spite of my devotion I am afraid I cannot do so.”
Instead of turning sulky the young madcap began to laugh again; and I determined she should come with me to Brunswick.
When we got to the end of the stage there were no horses ready. I arranged matters with the postillion, and after baiting the horses we set out once more. The roads were fearful, and we did not come to the second posting-stage till nightfall.
We might have slept there, but not wishing to be caught up by the coach and to lose my prize, I ordered fresh horses and we resumed our journey in spite of Redegonde’s tears and supplications. We travelled all night and reached Lippstadt in the early morning, and in spite of the unseasonableness of the hour I ordered something to eat. Redegonde wanted a rest, as indeed did I, but she had to give way when I said caressingly that we could sleep at Minden. Instead of scolding me she began to smile, and I saw she guessed what she had to expect; in fact, when we got to Minden we had supper, and then went to bed together as man and wife, and stayed in bed for five hours. She was quite kind, and only made me entreat her for form’s sake.
We got to Hanover and put up at an excellent inn where we had a choice meal, and where I found the waiter who was at the inn in Zurich when I waited on the ladies at table. Miss Chudleigh had dined there with the Duke of Kingston, and they had gone on to Berlin.
We had a beautiful French bed in which to spend the night, and in the morning we were awakened by the noise of the stage coach. Redegonde not wishing to be surprised in my arms rang the bell and told the waiter by no means to admit the lady who would come out of the coach and ask to be shewn in directly; but her precaution was vain, for, as the waiter went out, the mother and son came in, and we were taken in ‘flagrante delicto’.
I told them to wait outside, and getting up in my shirt I locked the door. The mother began to abuse me and her daughter, and threatened me with criminal proceedings if I did not give her up. Redegonde, however, calmed her by telling her the story, and she believed, or pretended to believe, it was all chance; but she said —
“That’s all very well; but you can’t deny, you little slut, that you have been sleeping with him.”
“Oh, there’s no harm in that, for you know, dear mamma, nobody does anything asleep.”
Without giving her the time to reply she threw her arms round her neck and promised to go on with her in the coach.
After things had been thus settled, I dressed myself, and gave them all a good breakfast, and went on my way to Brunswick, where I arrived a few hours before them.
Redegonde had deprived me of my curiosity to see Gabrielle; besides, in the condition I was in, my vanity would have suffered grievously. As soon as I had settled in a good inn I sent for Daturi, who came immediately, elegantly dressed, and very anxious to introduce to me a certain Signor Nicolini, theatrical manager. This Nicolini understood his craft perfectly, and was high in favour with the prince to whom his daughter Anna was mistress. He gave me a distinguished and a cordial greeting, and was very anxious that I should stay with him, but I was able to escape the constraint of such an arrangement without giving him any offense. I accepted his offer to take my meals at his table, which was furnished by an excellent cook and surrounded by a distinguished company. Here was no gathering of men of title, with the cold and haughty manners of the Court, all were talented, and such company to my mind was delightful.
I was not well, and I was not rich, or else I should have made a longer stay at Brunswick, which had its charms for me. But we will not anticipate, though as old age steals on a man he is never tired of dwelling again and again on the incidents of his past life, in spite of his desire to arrest the sands which run out so quickly.
The third day after my arrival at Brunswick, Redegonde knowing that I was dining at Nicolini’s came there too. Everybody had found out, somehow or other, that we had travelled from Wesel to Hanover together, and they were at liberty to draw whatever conclusions they pleased.
Two days later the crown prince arrived from Potsdam on a visit to his future bride, the daughter of the reigning duke, whom he married the year after.
The Court entertained in the most magnificent manner, and the hereditary prince, now the reigning duke, honoured me with an invitation. I had met his highness at an assembly in Soho Square, the day after he had been made a London citizen.
It was twenty-two years since I had been in love with Daturi’s mother. I was curious to see the ravages which time had worked on her, but I had reason to repent of my visit, for she had grown terribly ugly. She knew it herself, and a blush of shame appeared on those features which had once been fair.
The prince had an army of six thousand foot in good condition. This army was to be reviewed on a plain at a little distance from the town, and I went to see the spectacle, and was rewarded by having rain dripping down my back the whole time. Among the numerous spectators were many persons of fashion, ladies in handsome dresses, and a good sprinkling of foreigners. I saw the Honourable Miss Chudleigh, who honoured me by addressing me, and asked me, amongst other questions, how long I had left London. She was dressed in Indian muslin, and beneath it she only wore a chemise of fine cambric, and by the time the rain had made her clothes cling to her body she looked more than naked, but she did not evince any confusion. Most of the ladies sheltered themselves from the rain under elegant tents which had been erected.
The troops, who took no notice of the weather, executed their manoeuvres, and fired their muskets in a manner which seemed to satisfy good judges.
There was nothing further to attract me at Brunswick, and I thought of spending the summer at Berlin, which I concluded would be more amusing than a small provincial town. Wanting an overcoat I bought the material from a Jew, who offered to discount bills of exchange for me if I had any. I had the bill which Madame du Rumain had sent me, and finding that it would be convenient for me to get it discounted, I gave it to the Israelite, who cashed it, deducting commission at the ordinary rate of two per cent. The letter was payable to the order of the Chevalier de Seingalt, and with that name I endorsed it.
I thought no more of the matter, but early the next day the same Jew called on me, and told me that I must either return him his money, or give sureties for the amount till he had ascertained whether the bill was a forgery or not.
I was offended at this piece of impertinence, and feeling certain that the bill was a good one I told the fellow that he might set his mind at rest and let me alone, as I should not give him any sureties.
“I must either have the money or the surety,” said he, “and if you refuse I will have you arrested; your character is well known.”
This was too much for me, and raising my cane I gave him a blow on the head which he must have felt for many a long day. I then dressed and dined with Nicolini, without thinking or speaking of this disagreeable incident.
The next day as I was taking a walk outside the town walls, I met the prince on horseback, followed by a single groom. I bowed to him as he passed, but he came up to me and said —
“You are leaving Brunswick, chevalier?”
“In two or three days, your highness.”
“I heard this morning that a Jew has brought a complaint against you for beating him because he asked you to give him security for a bill of exchange which he was afraid of.”
“My lord, I cannot answer for the effects of my indignation against a rascal who dared to come and insult me in my own house, but I do know that if I had given him security I should have impugned my own honour. The impertinent scoundrel threatened to have me arrested, but I know that a just Government rules here, and not arbitrary power.”
“You are right; it would be unjust to have you arrested, but he is afraid for his ducats.”
“He need not be afraid, my lord, for the bill is drawn by a person of honour and of high station in society.”
“I am delighted to hear it. The Jew said he would never have discounted the bill if you had not mentioned my name.”
“That’s a lie! Your highness’ name never passed, my lips.”
“He also says that you endorsed the bill with a false name.”
“Then he lies again, for I signed myself Seingalt, and that name is mine.”
“In short, it is a case of a Jew who has been beaten, and is afraid of being duped. I pity such an animal, and I must see what I can do to prevent his keeping you here till he learns the fate of the bill at Amsterdam. As I have not the slightest doubt as to the goodness of the bill, I will take it up myself, and this very morning: thus you will be able to leave when you like. Farewell, chevalier! I wish you a pleasant journey.”
With this compliment the prince left me, without giving me time to answer him. I might have felt inclined to tell him that by taking up the bill he would give the Jew and everyone else to understand that it was a favour done to me, to the great hurt of my honour, and that consequently I should be obliged by his doing nothing of the kind. But though the prince was a man of generosity and magnanimity, he was deficient in that delicate quality which we call tact. This defect, common amongst princes, arises from their education, which places them above the politeness which is considered necessary in ordinary mortals.
He could not have treated me worse than he did, if he had been certain of my dishonesty, and wished me to understand that I was forgiven, and that he would bear all the consequences of my misdemeanour. With this idea in my head, I said to myself; “Perhaps, indeed, this is exactly what the prince does think. Is it the Jew or me that he pities? If the latter, I think I must give him a lesson, though I do not wish to cause him any humiliation.”
Feeling deeply humiliated myself, and pondering on my position, I walked away, directing my attention especially to the duke’s concluding words. I thought his wish for a pleasant journey supremely out of place, under the circumstances, in the mouth of one who enjoyed almost absolute power. It was equivalent to an order to leave the town, and I felt indignant at the thought.
I therefore resolved to vindicate my honour by neither going away nor remaining.
“If I stay,” I said to myself, “the Jew will be adjudged to be in the right; and if I go the duke will think I have profited by his favour, and so to speak, by his present of fifty louis if the bill were protested. I will not let anyone enjoy a satisfaction which is no one due.”
After these considerations, which I thought worthy of a wiser head than mine, I packed up my trunk, ordered horses, and after a good dinner and the payment of my bill I went to Wolfenbuttel with the idea of spending week there. I was sure of finding amusement, for Wolfenbuttel contains the third largest library in Europe, and I had long been anxious to see it.
The learned librarian, whose politeness was all the better for being completely devoid of affection, told me that not only could I have whatever books I wished to see, but that I could take them to my lodging, not even excepting the manuscripts, which are the chief feature in that fine library.
I spent a week in the library, only leaving it to take my meals and go to bed, and I count this week as one of the happiest I have ever spent, for then I forgot myself completely; and in the delight of study, the past, the present, and the future were entirely blotted out. Of some such sort, I think, must be the joys of the redeemed; and now I see that only a few trifling little circumstances and incidents were wanting to make me a perfect sage. And here I must note a circumstance which my readers may scarcely believe, but which, for all that, is quite true-namely, that I have always preferred virtue to vice, and that when I sinned I did so out of mere lightness of heart, for which, no doubt, I shall be blamed by many persons. But, no matter — a man has only to give an account of his actions to two beings, to himself here and to God hereafter.
At Wolfenbuttel I gathered a good many hints on the “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” which will not be found in any commentator, and of which the great Pope knew nothing. Some of these considerations will be found in my translation of the “Iliad,” the rest are still in manuscript, and will probably never see the light. However, I burn nothing, not even these Memoirs, though I often think of doing so, but the time never comes.
At the end of the week I returned to the same inn at Brunswick which I had occupied before, and let my godson Daturi know of my arrival.
I was delighted to hear that no one suspected that I had spent the fortnight within five leagues of Brunswick. Daturi told me that the general belief was that I had returned the Jew his money and got the bill of exchange back. Nevertheless I felt sure that the bill had been honoured at Amsterdam, and that the duke knew that I had been staying at Wolfenbuttel.
Daturi told me that Nicolini was expecting to see me at dinner, and I was not astonished to hear of it, for I had not taken leave of anyone. I accordingly went, and the following incident, which served to justify me in the eyes of all men, took place:
We were at the roast when one of the prince’s servants came in with the Jew I had beaten. The poor man came up humbly to me, and spoke as follows:
“I am ordered to come here, sir, to apologize for suspecting the authenticity of the bill of exchange you gave me. I have been punished by being fined the amount of my commission.”
“I wish that had been your only punishment,” said I.
He made me a profound bow, and went out, saying that I was only too good.
When I ‘got back to the inn, I found a letter from Redegonde in which she reproached me tenderly for not having been once to see her all the time I had been at Brunswick, and begging me to breakfast with her in a little country house.
“I shall not be in my mother’s company,” she added, “but in that of a young lady of your acquaintance, whom, I am sure, you will be glad to see once more.”
I liked Redegonde, and I had only neglected her at Brunswick because my means did not allow my making her a handsome present. I resolved to accept her invitation, my curiosity being rather stimulated by the account of the young lady.
I was exact at the time indicated, and I found Redegonde looking charming in a pretty room on the ground floor, and with her was a young artiste whom I had known as a child shortly before I had been put under the Leads. I pretended to be delighted to see her, but I was really quite taken up with Redegonde, and congratulated her upon her pretty house. She said she had taken it for six months, but did not sleep there. After coffee had been served we were on the point of going out for a stroll, when who should come in but the prince. He smiled pleasantly when he saw us, and apologized to Redegonde for interrupting our little party.
The appearance of the prince enlightened me as to the position of my delightful fellow countrywoman, and I understood why she had been so precise about the time at which I was to come. Redegonde had made the conquest of the worthy prince, who was always disposed to gallantry, but felt it his duty during the first year of his marriage with the King of England’s sister to preserve some kind of incognito in his amours.
We spent an hour in walking up and down and talking of London and Berlin, but nothing was said of the Jew or the bill of exchange. He was delighted with my warm eulogium of his library at Wolfenbuttel, and laughed with all his heart when I said that unless it had been for the intellectual nourishment I enjoyed, the bad fare at the inn would certainly have reduced me to half my present size.
After bidding a graceful farewell to the nymph, the prince left us, and we heard him galloping away on his horse.
When I was alone with Redegonde, far from begging for new favours, I advised her to be faithful to the prince; but though appearances were certainly not deceitful in this case, she would not admit anything. This was in accordance with her part as young mistress, and I did not reproach her for her want of confidence.
I spent the rest of the day at the inn, and started the next morning at day-break.
When I got to Magdeburg, I took a letter of introduction from General Bekw —— to an officer. He shewed me the fortress, and kept me for three days making me taste all the pleasures of the table, women, and gaming. However, I was very moderate, and managed to increase my savings in a small degree, contenting myself with modest wagers.
From Magdeburg I went straight to Berlin, without caring to stop at Potsdam, as the king was not there. The fearful Prussian roads with their sandy soil made me take three days to do eighteen Prussian miles. Prussia is a country of which much could be made with labour and capital, but I do not think it will ever become a really fine country.
I put up at the “Hotel de Paris,” which was both comfortable and economical. Madame Rufin who kept it had entered into the spirit of her business without losing her French politeness, and thus the inn had got a reputation. As soon as I was in my room she came to ask me if I were satisfied, and to make divers arrangements for my comfort. There was a table d’hote, and those who ate in their private rooms paid double.
“This arrangement,” I said, “may suit you, but for the present it will not suit me. I want to dine in my own room, but I don’t want to pay double; I will therefore pay as if I were in the public room, but if you like you need only send me up half the number of dishes.”
“I agree, on the condition that you sup with me; we will not put it in the accounts, and you will only meet friends at my little suppers.”
I thought her proposal so curious a one that I had a great inclination to laugh, but finding it at the same time very advantageous I accepted frankly, and as if we had long been friends.
On the first day I was tired, and did not sup with her till the day following. Madame Rufin had a husband who attended to the cooking, and a son, but neither of them came to these suppers. The first time I went to one of them I met an elderly but agreeable and sensible gentleman. He lodged in a room adjoining mine, and called himself Baron Treidel; his sister had married the Duke of Courland, Jean Ernest Biron, or Birlen. The baron, who was extremely pleasant, became my friend, and remained so for the couple of months I spent in Berlin. I also met a Hamburg merchant, named Greve, and his wife, whom he had just married and had brought to Berlin that she might see the marvels of the Warrior-King’s Court. She was as pleasant as her husband, and I paid her an assiduous court. A lively and high- spirited individual called Noel, who was the sole and beloved cook of his Prussian Majesty, was the fourth person. He only came rarely to the suppers on account of his duties in the king’s kitchen. As I have said, his majesty had only this one cook, and Noel had only one scullion to help him.
M. Noel, the ambassador of the French Republic at the Hague, is, as I am assured, the son of this cook, who was an excellent man. And here I must say, in despite of my hatred for the French Revolutionary Government, that I am not at all ill pleased that a man of talents should be enabled to fill exalted offices, which under the old system of privilege were often occupied by fools.
If it had not been for the culinary skill of Noel the cook, the famous Atheist physician Lametrie would not have died of indigestion, for the pie he succeeded in eating in his extremity was made by Noel.
Lametrie often supped with Madame Rufin and I thought it disobliging of him to die so soon, for I should have liked to know him, as he was a learned man and full of mirth. He expired laughing, though it is said that death from indigestion is the most painful of all. Voltaire told me that he thought Lametrie the most obstinate Atheist in the world, and I could easily believe it after reading his works. The King of Prussia himself pronounced his funeral oration, using the words, “It is not wonderful that he only believed in the existence of matter, for all the spirit in the world was enclosed in his own body. No one but a king would venture on such a sally in a funeral oration. However, Frederick the Great was a Deist and not an Atheist; but that is of little consequence, since he never allowed the belief in a God to influence his actions in the slightest degree. Some say that an Atheist who ponders over the possible existence of a God is better than a Deist who never thinks of the Deity, but I will not venture to decide this point.”
The first visit I paid in Berlin was to Calsabigi, the younger brother of the Calsabigi with whom I had founded the lottery in Paris in 1757. He had left Paris and his wife too, and had set up a lottery in Brussels; but his extravagance was so great that he became a bankrupt in spite of the efforts of Count Cobenzl to keep him going. He fled from Brussels to Berlin, and was introduced to the King of Prussia. He was a plausible speaker, and persuaded the monarch to establish a lottery, to make him the manager, and to give him the title of Counsellor of State. He promised that the lottery should bring in an annual revenue of at least two hundred thousand crowns, and only asked a percentage of ten per cent. for himself.
The lottery had been going for two years, and had had a great success, as hitherto it had had no large losses; but the king, who knew that the luck might turn, was always in a fidget about it. With this idea he told Calsabigi that he must carry it on on his own responsibility and pay him a hundred thousand crowns per annum, that being the cost of his Italian Theatre.
I happened to call on Calsabigi on the very day on which the king intimated to him this decision. After talking over our old relationship and the vicissitudes we had both experienced, he told me what had happened; it seemed an unexpected blow to him. The next drawing, he said, would be at the king’s risk; but the public would have to be informed that in future the lottery would be a private one. He wanted capital to the amount of two million crowns, for he foresaw that otherwise the lottery would collapse, as people would not risk their money without the certainty of being paid in the event of their winning. He said he would guarantee me an income of ten thousand crowns per annum if I succeeded in making the king change his mind, and by way of encouragement he recalled to my mind the effect of my persuasive powers at Paris seven years before.
“’Tis a good omen,” said he, “and without any superstition I believe that the good genius of the lottery has brought me to Berlin just now.”
I laughed at his illusions, but I pitied him. I shewed him the impossibility of convincing an individual whose only argument was, “I am afraid, and I don’t wish to be afraid any longer.” He begged me to stay to dinner and introduced me to his wife. This was a double surprise for me, in the first place because I thought General La Motte, as his first wife was called, to be still living, and in the second place because I recognized in this second wife of his, Mdlle. Belanger. I addressed the usual compliments to her and enquired after her mother. She replied with a profound sigh, and told me not to ask any questions about her family as she had only bad news to tell me.
I had known Madame Belanger at Paris; she was a widow with one daughter, and seemed to be well off. Now I saw this daughter, pretty enough and well married, and yet in this doleful humour, and I felt embarrassed and yet curious.
After Calsabigi had placed me in a position to entertain a high opinion of the skill of his cook, he shewed me his horses and carriages, begging me to take a drive with his wife and come back to supper, which, as he said, was his best meal.
When we were in the carriage together, the necessity of talking about something led me to ask the lady by what happy chain of circumstances she found herself the wife of Calsabigi.
“His real wife is still alive, so I have not the misfortune of occupying that position, but everyone in Berlin thinks I am his lawful wife. Three years ago I was deprived of my mother and the means of livelihood at one stroke, for my mother had an annuity. None of my relations were rich enough to help me, and wishing to live virtuously above all things I subsisted for two years on the sale of my mother’s furniture, boarding with a worthy woman who made her living by embroidery. I learnt her art, and only went out to mass on Sundays. I was a prey to melancholy, and when I had spent all I had I went to M. Brea, a Genoese, on whom I thought I could rely. I begged him to get me a place as a mere waiting-maid, thinking that I was tolerably competent for such a position. He promised to do what he could for me, and five or six days afterwards he made me the following proposal:
“He read me a letter from Calsabigi, of whom I had never heard, in which he charged him to send a virtuous young lady to Berlin. She must be of good birth, good education, and pleasant appearance, as when his aged and infirm wife died he intended to marry her.
“As such a person would most probably be badly off, Calsabigi begged M. Brea to give her fifty Louis to buy clothes and linen and fifty Louis to journey to Berlin with a maid. M. Brea was also authorized to promise that the young lady should hold the position of Calsabigi’s wife, and be presented in that character to all his friends; that she should have a waiting-maid, a carriage, an allowance of clothes, and a certain monthly amount as pin-money to be spent as she chose. He promised, if the arrangement was not found suitable, to set her free at the end of a year, giving her a hundred Louis, and leaving her in possession of whatever money she might have saved, and such clothes and jewels as he might have given her; in fine, if the lady agreed to live with him till he was able to marry her, Calsabigi promised to execute a deed of gift in her favour to the amount of ten thousand crowns which the public would believe to be her dowry, and if he died before being able to marry her she would have a right to claim the aforesaid sum from his estate.
“With such fine promises did Brea persuade me to leave my native country to come and dishonour myself here, for though everybody treats me as if I were his wife, it is probably known that I am only his mistress. I have been here for six months, and I have never had an instant’s happiness.”
“Has he not kept the conditions you have mentioned?” “Conditions! Calsabigi’s state of health will kill him long before his wife, and in that case I shall have nothing, for he is loaded with debt, and his creditors would have the first claim on the estate. Besides, I do not like him; and the reason is that he loves me too much. You can understand that; his devotion worries me.”
“At all events, you can return to Paris in six months’ time, or, in fact, do anything you like when the term stipulated has expired. You will get your hundred louis, and can lay in a pretty stock of linen.”
“If I go to Paris I shall be dishonoured, and if I remain here I shall be dishonoured. In fact, I am very unhappy, and Brea is the cause of my woe. Nevertheless, I can’t blame him, as he could not have been aware that his friend’s property only consisted of debts. And now the king has withdrawn his countenance, the lottery will fail, and Calsabigi will inevitably become a bankrupt.”
She had studiously refrained from exaggeration, and I could not help confessing that she was to be pitied. I advised her to try and sell the deed of gift for ten thousand crowns, as it was not likely he would raise any objection.
“I have thought it over,” said she, “but to do that I have need of a friend; of course, I do not expect to dispose of it save at a great loss.”
I promised to see what I could do for her.
There were four of us at supper. The fourth person was a young man who had helped in the Paris and Brussels Lotteries, and had followed Calsabigi to Berlin. He was evidently in love with Mdlle. Belanger, but I did not think his love was crowned with success.
At dessert Calsabigi begged me to give him my opinion of a scheme he had drafted, the aim of which was to bring in a sum of two million crowns, so that the credit of the lottery might remain secure.
The lady left us to talk business at our ease. She was between twenty-four and twenty-five, and without having much wit she possessed a great knowledge of the usages of society, which is better than wit in a woman; in fine, she had all that a man could well desire. The sentiments I felt for her were confined to those of friendship and esteem after the confidence she had placed in me.
Calsabigi’s project was brief, but clear and well imagined. He invited capitalists not to speculate in the lottery, but to guarantee it for a certain sum. In the case of the lottery’s losing, each guarantor would have to share in paying according to the sum named, and in like manner they would share in the profits.
I promised to give him my opinion in writing by the next day, and I substituted the following plan for his:
1. A capital of a million, would, I judged, be ample.
2. This million should be divided into a hundred shares of ten thousand crowns each.
3. Each share must be taken up before a notary, who would answer for the shareholder’s solvency.
4. All dividends to be paid the third day after the drawing.
5. In case of loss the shareholder to renew his share.
6. A cashier, chosen by a majority of four-fifths of the shareholders, to have the control of all moneys.
7. Winning tickets to be paid the day after the drawing.
8. On the eve of a drawing the shareholders’ cashier to have an account of receipts from the lottery cashier, and the former to lock the safe with three keys, one of which to remain in his hands, one in the hands of the lottery cashier, and one in the hands of the manager of the lottery.
9. Only the simple drawing, the ambe and the terne to be retained; the quarterne and the quine to be abolished.
10. On the three combinations a shilling to be the minimum, and a crown the maximum stake; the offices to be closed twenty-four hours before the drawing.
11. Ten per cent. to go to Calsabigi, the manager; all expenses of farming to be paid by him.
12. Calsabigi to be entitled to the possession of two shares, without a guarantee being required.
I saw by Calsabigi’s face that the plan did not please him, but I told him that he would not get shareholders save on these terms, or on terms even less favourable to himself.
He had degraded the lottery to the level of biribi; his luxury and extravagance caused him to be distrusted; it was known that he was head over ears in debt, and the king could not banish the fear that he would be cheated in spite of the keenness of his comptroller- general.
The last drawing under the king’s sanction made everyone in good spirits, for the lottery lost twenty thousand crowns. The king sent the money immediately by a privy councillor, but it was said, when he heard the result of the drawing, that he burst out laughing, observing —
“I knew it would be so, and I am only too happy to have got quit of it so cheaply.”
I thought it my duty to go and sup with the director to console him, and I found him in a state of great depression. He could not help thinking that his unhappy drawing would make the task of getting shareholders more difficult than ever. Hitherto the lottery had always been a gainer, but its late loss could not have come at a worse time.
Nevertheless, he did not lose heart, and the next morning the public were informed by printed bills that the office would remain closed till a sufficient number of guarantors were found.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07