My Duel with Branicki — My Journey to Leopol and Return to Warsaw — I Receive the Order to Leave — My Departure with the Unknown One
On reflection I concluded that Branicki had not done an ungentlemanly thing in getting into Tomatis’s carriage; he had merely behaved with impetuosity, as if he were the Catai’s lover. It also appeared to me that, considering the affront he had received from the jealous Italian, the box on the ear was a very moderate form of vengeance. A blow is bad, of course, but not so bad as death; and Branicki might very well have run his sword through the manager’s body. Certainly, if Branicki had killed him he would have been stigmatised as an assassin, for though Tomatis had a sword the Polish officer’s servants would never have allowed him to draw it, nevertheless I could not help thinking that Tomatis should have tried to take the servant’s life, even at the risk of his own. He wanted no more courage for that than in ordering the king’s favourite to come out of the carriage. He might have foreseen that the Polish noble would be stung to the quick, and would surely attempt to take speedy vengeance.
The next day the encounter was the subject of all conversations. Tomatis remained indoors for a week, calling for vengeance in vain. The king told him he could do nothing for him, as Branicki maintained he had only given insult for insult. I saw Tomatis, who told me in confidence that he could easily take vengeance, but that it would cost him too dear. He had spent forty thousand ducats on the two ballets, and if he had avenged himself he would have lost it nearly all, as he would be obliged to leave the kingdom. The only consolation he had was that his great friends were kinder to him than ever, and the king himself honoured him with peculiar attention. Madame Binetti was triumphant. When I saw her she condoled with me ironically on the mishap that had befallen my friend. She wearied me; but I could not guess that Branicki had only acted at her instigation, and still less that she had a grudge against me. Indeed, if I had known it, I should only have laughed at her, for I had nothing to dread from her bravo’s dagger. I had never seen him nor spoken to him; he could have no opportunity for attacking me. He was never with the king in the morning and never went to the palatin’s to supper, being an unpopular character with the Polish nobility. This Branicki was said to have been originally a Cossack, Branecki by name. He became the king’s favorite and assumed the name of Branicki, pretending to be of the same family as the illustrious marshal of that name who was still alive; but he, far from recognizing the pretender, ordered his shield to be broken up and buried with him as the last of the race. However that may be, Branicki was the tool of the Russian party, the determined enemy of those who withstood Catherine’s design of Russianising the ancient Polish constitution. The king liked him out of habit, and because he had peculiar obligations to him.
The life I lived was really exemplary. I indulged neither in love affairs nor gaming. I worked for the king, hoping to become his secretary. I paid my court to the princess-palatine, who liked my company, and I played tressette with the palatin himself.
On the 4th of March, St. Casimir’s Eve, there was a banquet at Court to which I had the honour to be invited. Casimir was the name of the king’s eldest brother, who held the office of grand chamberlain. After dinner the king asked me if I intended going to the theatre, where a Polish play was to be given for the first time. Everybody was interested in this novelty, but it was a matter of indifference to me as I did not understand the language, and I told the king as much.
“Never mind,” said he, “come in my box.”
This was too flattering an invitation to be refused, so I obeyed the royal command and stood behind the king’s chair. After the second act a ballet was given, and the dancing of Madame Caracci, a Piedmontese, so pleased his majesty that he went to the unusual pains of clapping her.
I only knew the dancer by sight, for I had never spoken to her. She had some talents. Her principal admirer was Count Poninski, who was always reproaching me when I dined with him for visiting the other dancers to the exclusion of Madame Caracci. I thought of his reproach at the time, and determined to pay her a visit after the ballet to congratulate her on her performance and the king’s applause. On my way I passed by Madame Binetti’s dressing-room, and seeing the door open I stayed a moment. Count Branicki came up, and I left with a bow and passed on to Madame Caracci’s dressing-room. She was astonished to see me, and began with kindly reproaches for my neglect; to which I replied with compliments, and then giving her a kiss I promised to come and see her.
Just as I embraced her who should enter but Branicki, whom I had left a moment before with Madame Binetti. He had clearly followed me in the hopes of picking a quarrel. He was accompanied by Bininski, his lieutenant-colonel. As soon as he appeared, politeness made me stand up and turn to go, but he stopped me.
“It seems to me I have come at a bad time; it looks as if you loved this lady.”
“Certainly, my lord; does not your excellency consider her as worthy of love?”
“Quite so; but as it happens I love her too, and I am not the man to bear any rivals.”
“As I know that, I shall love her no more.”
“Then you give her up?”
“With all my heart; for everyone must yield to such a noble as you are.”
“Very good; but I call a man that yields a coward.”
“Isn’t that rather a strong expression?”
As I uttered these words I looked proudly at him and touched the hilt of my sword. Three or four officers were present and witnessed what passed.
I had hardly gone four paces from the dressing-room when I heard myself called “Venetian coward.” In spite of my rage I restrained myself, and turned back saying, coolly and firmly, that perhaps a Venetian coward might kill a brave Pole outside the theatre; and without awaiting a reply I left the building by the chief staircase.
I waited vainly outside the theatre for a quarter of an hour with my sword in my hand, for I was not afraid of losing forty thousand ducats like Tomatis. At last, half perishing with cold, I called my carriage and drove to the palatin’s, where the king was to sup.
The cold and loneliness began to cool my brain, and I congratulated myself on my self-restraint in not drawing my sword in the actress’s dressing-room; and I felt glad that Branicki had not followed me down the stairs, for his friend Bininski had a sabre, and I should probably have been assassinated.
Although the Poles are polite enough, there is still a good deal of the old leaven in them. They are still Dacians and Samaritans at dinner, in war, and in friendship, as they call it, but which is often a burden hardly to be borne. They can never understand that a man may be sufficient company for himself, and that it is not right to descend on him in a troop and ask him to give them dinner.
I made up my mind that Madame Binetti had excited Branicki to follow me, and possibly to treat me as he had treated Tomatis. I had not received a blow certainly, but I had been called a coward. I had no choice but to demand satisfaction, but I also determined to be studiously moderate throughout. In this frame of mind I got down at the palatin’s, resolved to tell the whole story to the king, leaving to his majesty the task of compelling his favourite to give me satisfaction.
As soon as the palatin saw me, he reproached me in a friendly manner for keeping him waiting, and we sat down to tressette. I was his partner, and committed several blunders. When it came to losing a second game he said —
“Where is your head to-night?”
“My lord, it is four leagues away.”
“A respectable man ought to have his head in the game, and not at a distance of four leagues.”
With these words the prince threw down his cards and began to walk up and down the room. I was rather startled, but I got up and stood by the fire, waiting for the king. But after I had waited thus for half an hour a chamberlain came from the palace, and announced that his majesty could not do himself the honour of supping with my lord that night.
This was a blow for me, but I concealed my disappointment. Supper was served, and I sat down as usual at the left hand of the palatin, who was annoyed with me, and chewed it. We were eighteen at table, and for once I had no appetite. About the middle of the supper Prince Gaspard Lubomirski came in, and chanced to sit down opposite me. As soon as he saw me he condoled with me in a loud voice for what had happened.
“I am sorry for you,” said he, “but Branicki was drunk, and you really shouldn’t count what he said as an insult.”
“What has happened?” became at once the general question. I held my tongue, and when they asked Lubomirski he replied that as I kept silence it was his duty to do the same.
Thereupon the palatin, speaking in his friendliest manner, said to me —
“What has taken place between you and Branicki?”
“I will tell you the whole story, my lord, in private after supper.”
The conversation became indifferent, and after the meal was over the palatin took up his stand by the small door by which he was accustomed to leave the room, and there I told him the whole story. He sighed, condoled with me, and added —
“You had good reasons for being absent-minded at cards.”
“May I presume to ask your excellency’s advice?”
“I never give advice in these affairs, in which you must do every- thing or nothing.”
The palatin shook me by the hand, and I went home and slept for six hours. As soon as I awoke I sat up in bed, and my first thought was everything or nothing. I soon rejected the latter alternative, and I saw that I must demand a duel to the death. If Branicki refused to fight I should be compelled to kill him, even if I were to lose my head for it.
Such was my determination; to write to him proposing a duel at four leagues from Warsaw, this being the limit of the starostia, in which duelling was forbidden on pain of death. I Wrote as follows, for I have kept the rough draft of the letter to this day:
“March 5th, 1766. 5 A.M.
“My Lord — Yesterday evening your excellency insulted me with a light heart, without my having given you any cause or reason for doing so. This seems to indicate that you hate me, and would gladly efface me from the land of the living. I both can and will oblige you in this matter. Be kind enough, therefore, to drive me in your carriage to a place where my death will not subject your lordship to the vengeance of the law, in case you obtain the victory, and where I shall enjoy the same advantage if God give me grace to kill your lordship. I should not make this proposal unless I believe your lordship to be of a noble disposition.
“I have the honour to be, etc.”
I sent this letter an hour before day-break to Branicki’s lodging in the palace. My messenger had orders to give the letter into the count’s own hands, to wait for him to rise, and also for an answer.
In half an hour I received the following answer:
“Sir — I accept your proposal, and shall be glad if you will have the kindness to inform me when I shall have the honour of seeing you.
“I remain, sir, etc.”
I answered this immediately, informing him I would call on him the next day, at six o’clock in the morning.
Shortly after, I received a second letter, in which he said that I might choose the arms and place, but that our differences must be settled in the course of the day.
I sent him the measure of my sword, which was thirty-two inches long, telling him he might choose any place beyond the ban. In reply, I had the following:
“Sir — You will greatly oblige me by coming now. I have sent my carriage.
“I have the honour to be, etc.”
I replied that I had business all the day, and that as I had made up my mind not to call upon him, except for the purpose of fighting, I begged him not to be offended if I took the liberty of sending back his carriage.
An hour later Branicki called in person, leaving his suite at the door. He came into the room, requested some gentlemen who were talking with me to leave us alone, locked the door after them, and then sat down on my bed. I did not understand what all this meant so I took up my pistols.
“Don’t be afraid,” said he, “I am not come to assassinate you, but merely to say that I accept your proposal, on condition only that the duel shall take place to-day. If not, never!”
“It is out of the question. I have letters to write, and some business to do for the king.”
“That will do afterwards. In all probability you will not fall, and if you do I am sure the king will forgive you. Besides, a dead man need fear no reproaches.”
“I want to make my will.”
“Come, come, you needn’t be afraid of dying; it will be time enough for you to make your will in fifty years.”
“But why should your excellency not wait till tomorrow?”
“I don’t want to be caught.”
“You have nothing of the kind to fear from me.”
“I daresay, but unless we make haste the king will have us both arrested.”
“How can he, unless you have told him about our quarrel?”
“Ah, you don’t understand! Well, I am quite willing to give you satisfaction, but it must be to-day or never.”
“Very good. This duel is too dear to my heart for me to leave you any pretext for avoiding it. Call for me after dinner, for I shall want all my strength.”
“Certainly. For my part I like a good supper after, better than a good dinner before.”
“Everyone to his taste.”
“True. By the way, why did you send me the length of your sword? I intend to fight with pistols, for I never use swords with unknown persons.”
“What do you mean? I beg of you to refrain from insulting me in my own house. I do not intend to fight with pistols, and you cannot compel me to do so, for I have your letter giving me the choice of weapons.”
“Strictly speaking, no doubt you are in the right; but I am sure you are too polite not to give way, when I assure you that you will lay me under a great obligation by doing so. Very often the first shot is a miss, and if that is the case with both of us, I promise to fight with swords as long as you like. Will you oblige me in the matter?”
“Yes, for I like your way of asking, though, in my opinion, a pistol duel is a barbarous affair. I accept, but on the following conditions: You must bring two pistols, charge them in my presence, and give me the choice. If the first shot is a miss, we will fight with swords till the first blood or to the death, whichever you prefer. Call for me at three o’clock, and choose some place where we shall be secure from the law.”
“Very good. You are a good fellow, allow me to embrace you. Give me your word of honour not to say a word about it to anyone, for if you did we should be arrested immediately.”
“You need not be afraid of my talking; the project is too dear to me.”
“Good. Farewell till three o’clock.”
As soon as the brave braggart had left me, I placed the papers I was doing for the king apart, and went to Campioni, in whom I had great confidence.
“Take this packet to the king,” I said, “if I happen to be killed. You may guess, perhaps, what is going to happen, but do not say a word to anyone, or you will have me for your bitterest enemy, as it would mean loss of honour to me.”
“I understand. You may reckon on my discretion, and I hope the affair may be ended honourably and prosperously for you. But take a piece of friendly advice — don’t spare your opponent, were it the king himself, for it might cost you your life. I know that by experience.”
“I will not forget. Farewell.”
We kissed each other, and I ordered an excellent dinner, for I had no mind to be sent to Pluto fasting. Campioni came in to dinner at one o’clock, and at dessert I had a visit from two young counts, with their tutor, Bertrand, a kindly Swiss. They were witnesses to my cheerfulness and the excellent appetite with which I ate. At half- past two I dismissed my company, and stood at the window to be ready to go down directly Branicki’s carriage appeared. He drove up in a travelling carriage and six; two grooms, leading saddle-horses, went in front, followed by his two aide-de-camps and two hussars. Behind his carriage stood four servants. I hastened to descend, and found my enemy was accompanied by a lieutenant-general and an armed footman. The door was opened, the general gave me his place, and I ordered my servants not to follow me but to await my orders at the house.
“You might want them,” said Branicki; “they had better come along.”
“If I had as many as you, I would certainly agree to your proposition; but as it is I shall do still better without any at all. If need be, your excellency will see that I am tended by your own servants.”
He gave me his hand, and assured me they should wait on me before himself.
I sat down, and we went off.
It would have been absurd if I had asked where we were going, so I held my tongue, for at such moments a man should take heed to his words. Branicki was silent, and I thought the best thing I could do would be to engage him in a trivial conversation.
“Does your excellency intend spending the spring at Warsaw?”
“I had thought of doing so, but you may possibly send me to pass the spring somewhere else.”
“Oh, I hope not!”
“Have you seen any military service?”
“Yes; but may I ask why your excellency asks me the question, for —”
“I had no particular reason; it was only for the sake of saying something.”
We had driven about half an hour when the carriage stopped at the door of a large garden. We got down and, following the postoli, reached a green arbour which, by the way, was not at all green on that 5th of March. In it was a stone table on which the footman placed two pistols, a foot and half long, with a powder flask and scales. He weighed the powder, loaded them equally, and laid them down crosswise on the table.
This done, Branicki said boldly,
“Choose your weapon, sir.”
At this the general called out,
“Is this a duel, sir?”
“You cannot fight here; you are within the ban.”
“It does matter; and I, at all events, refuse to be a witness. I am on guard at the castle, and you have taken me by surprise.”
“Be quiet; I will answer for everything. I owe this gentleman satisfaction, and I mean to give it him here.”
“M. Casanova,” said the general, “you cannot fight here.”
“Then why have I been brought here? I shall defend myself wherever I am attacked.”
“Lay the whole matter before the king, and you shall have my voice in your favour.”
“I am quite willing to do so, general, if his excellency will say that he regrets what passed between us last night.”
Branicki looked fiercely at me, and said wrathfully that he had come to fight and not to parley.
“General,” said I, “you can bear witness that I have done all in my power to avoid this duel.”
The general went away with his head between his hands, and throwing off my cloak I took the first pistol that came to my hand. Branicki took the other, and said that he would guarantee upon his honour that my weapon was a good one.
“I am going to try its goodness on your head,” I answered.
He turned pale at this, threw his sword to one of his servants, and bared his throat, and I was obliged, to my sorrow, to follow his example, for my sword was the only weapon I had, with the exception of the pistol. I bared my chest also, and stepped back five or six paces, and he did the same.
As soon as we had taken up our positions I took off my hat with my left hand, and begged him to fire first.
Instead of doing so immediately he lost two or three seconds in sighting, aiming, and covering his head by raising the weapon before it. I was not in a position to let him kill me at his ease, so I suddenly aimed and fired on him just as he fired on me. That I did so is evident, as all the witnesses were unanimous in saying that they only heard one report. I felt I was wounded in my left hand, and so put it into my pocket, and I ran towards my enemy who had fallen. All of a sudden, as I knelt beside him, three bare swords were flourished over my head, and three noble assassins prepared to cut me down beside their master. Fortunately, Branicki had not lost consciousness or the power of speaking, and he cried out in a voice of thunder —
“Scoundrels! have some respect for a man of honour.”
This seemed to petrify them. I put my right hand under the pistoli’s armpit, while the general helped him on the other side, and thus we took him to the inn, which happened to be near at hand.
Branicki stooped as he walked, and gazed at me curiously, apparently wondering where all the blood on my clothes came from.
When we got to the inn, Branicki laid himself down in an arm-chair. We unbuttoned his clothes and lifted up his shirt, and he could see himself that he was dangerously wounded. My ball had entered his body by the seventh rib on the right hand, and had gone out by the second false rib on the left. The two wounds were ten inches apart, and the case was of an alarming nature, as the intestines must have been pierced. Branicki spoke to me in a weak voice —
“You have killed me, so make haste away, as you are in danger of the gibbet. The duel was fought in the ban, and I am a high court officer, and a Knight of the White Eagle. So lose no time, and if you have not enough money take my purse.”
I picked up the purse which had fallen out, and put it back in his pocket, thanking him, and saying it would be useless to me, for if I were guilty I was content to lose my head. “I hope,” I added, “that your wound will not be mortal, and I am deeply grieved at your obliging me to fight.”
With these words I kissed him on his brow and left the inn, seeing neither horses nor carriage, nor servant. They had all gone off for doctor, surgeon, priest, and the friends and relatives of the wounded man.
I was alone and without any weapon, in the midst of a snow-covered country, my hand was wounded, and I had not the slightest idea which was the way to Warsaw.
I took the road which seemed most likely, and after I had gone some distance I met a peasant with an empty sleigh.
“Warszawa?” I cried, shewing him a ducat.
He understood me, and lifted a coarse mat, with which he covered me when I got into the sleigh, and then set off at a gallop.
All at once Biniski, Branicki’s bosom-friend, came galloping furiously along the road with his bare sword in his hand. He was evidently running after me. Happily he did not glance at the wretched sleigh in which I was, or else he would undoubtedly have murdered me. I got at last to Warsaw, and went to the house of Prince Adam Czartoryski to beg him to shelter me, but there was nobody there. Without delay I determined to seek refuge in the Convent of the Recollets, which was handy.
I rang at the door of the monastery, and the porter seeing me covered with blood hastened to shut the door, guessing the object of my visit. But I did not give him the time to do so, but honouring him with a hearty kick forced my way in. His cries attracted a troop of frightened monks. I demanded sanctuary, and threatened them with vengeance if they refused to grant it. One of their number spoke to me, and I was taken to a little den which looked more like a dungeon than anything else. I offered no resistance, feeling sure that they would change their tune before very long. I asked them to send for my servants, and when they came I sent for a doctor and Campioni. Before the surgeon could come the Palatin of Polduchia was announced. I had never had the honour of speaking to him, but after hearing the history of my duel he was so kind as to give me all the particulars of a duel he had fought in his youthful days. Soon after came the Palatin of Kalisch, Prince Jablenowski. Prince Sanguska, and the Palatin of Wilna, who all joined in a chorus of abuse of the monks who had lodged me so scurvily. The poor religious excused themselves by saying that I had ill-treated their porter, which made my noble friends laugh; but I did not laugh, for my wound was very painful. However I was immediately moved into two of their best guest-rooms.
The ball had pierced my hand by the metacarpus under the index finger, and had broken the first phalanges. Its force had been arrested by a metal button on my waistcoat, and it had only inflicted a slight wound on my stomach close to the navel. However, there it was and it had to be extracted, for it pained me extremely. An empiric named Gendron, the first surgeon my servants had found, made an opening on the opposite side of my hand which doubled the wound. While he was performing this painful operation I told the story of the duel to the company, concealing the anguish I was enduring. What a power vanity exercises on the moral and physical forces! If I had been alone I should probably have fainted.
As soon as the empiric Gendron was gone, the palatin’s surgeon came in and took charge of the case, calling Gendron a low fellow. At the same time Prince Lubomirski, the husband of the palatin’s daughter, arrived, and gave us all a surprise by recounting the strange occurrences which had happened after the duel. Bininski came to where Branicki was lying, and seeing his wound rode off furiously on horseback, swearing to strike me dead wherever he found me. He fancied I would be with Tomatis, and went to his house. He found Tomatis with his mistress, Prince Lubomirski, and Count Moszczinski, but no Casanova was visible. He asked where I was, and on Tomatis replying that he did not know he discharged a pistol at his head. At this dastardly action Count Moszczincki seized him and tried to throw him out of the window, but the madman got loose with three cuts of his sabre, one of which slashed the count on the face and knocked out three of his teeth.
“After this exploit,” Prince Lubomirski continued, “he seized me by the throat and held a pistol to my head, threatening to blow out my brains if I did not take him in safety to the court where his horse was, so that he might get away from the house without any attack being made on him by Tomatis’s servants; and I did so immediately. Moszczinski is in the doctor’s hands, and will be laid up for some time.
“As soon as it was reported that Branicki was killed, his Uhlans began to ride about the town swearing to avenge their colonel, and to slaughter you. It is very fortunate that you took refuge here.
“The chief marshal has had the monastery surrounded by two hundred dragoons, ostensibly to prevent your escape, but in reality to defend you from Branicki’s soldiers.
“The doctors say that the postoli is in great danger if the ball has wounded the intestines, but if not they answer for his recovery. His fate will be known tomorrow. He now lies at the lord chamberlain’s, not daring to have himself carried to his apartments at the palace. The king has been to see him, and the general who was present told his majesty that the only thing that saved your life was your threat to aim at Branicki’s head. This frightened him, and to keep your ball from his head he stood in such an awkward position that he missed your vital parts. Otherwise he would undoubtedly have shot you through the heart, for he can split a bullet into two halves by firing against the blade of a knife. It was also a lucky thing for you that you escaped Bininski, who never thought of looking for you in the wretched sleigh.”
“My lord, the most fortunate thing for me is that I did not kill my man outright. Otherwise I should have been cut to pieces just as I went to his help by three of his servants, who stood over me with drawn swords. However, the postoli ordered them to leave me alone.
“I am sorry for what has happened to your highness and Count Moszczinski; and if Tomatis was not killed by the madman it is only because the pistol was only charged with powder.”
“That’s what I think, for no one heard the bullet; but it was a mere chance.”
Just then an officer of the palatin’s came to me with a note from his master, which ran as follows:
“Read what the king says to me, and sleep well.”
The king’s note was thus conceived:
“Branicki, my dear uncle, is dangerous wounded. My surgeons are doing all they can for him, but I have not forgotten Casanova. You may assure him that he is pardoned, even if Branicki should die.”
I kissed the letter gratefully, and shewed it to my visitors, who lauded this generous man truly worthy of being a king.
After this pleasant news I felt in need of rest, and my lords left me. As soon as they were gone, Campioni, who had come in before and had stood in the background, came up to me and gave me back the packet of papers, and with tears of joy congratulated me on the happy issue of the duel.
Next day I had shoals of visitors, and many of the chiefs of the party opposed to Branicki sent me purses full of gold. The persons who brought the money on behalf of such a lord or lady, said that being a foreigner I might be in need of money, and that was their excuse for the liberty they had taken. I thanked and refused them all, and sent back at least four thousand ducats, and was very proud of having done so. Campioni thought it was absurd, and he was right, for I repented afterwards of what I had done. The only present I accepted was a dinner for four persons, which Prince Adam Czartoryski sent me in every day, though the doctor would not let me enjoy it, he being a great believer in diet.
The wound in my stomach was progressing favourably, but on the fourth day the surgeons said my hand was becoming gangrened, and they agreed that the only remedy was amputation. I saw this announced in the Court Gazette the next morning, but as I had other views on the matter I laughed heartily at the paragraph. The sheet was printed at night, after the king had placed his initials to the copy. In the morning several persons came to condole with me, but I received their sympathy with great irreverence. I merely laughed at Count Clary, who said I would surely submit to the operation; and just as he uttered the words the three surgeons came in together.
“Well, gentlemen,” said I, “you have mustered in great strength; why is this?”
My ordinary surgeon replied that he wished to have the opinion of the other two before proceeding to amputation, and they would require to look at the wound.
The dressing was lifted and gangrene was declared to be undoubtedly present, and execution was ordered that evening. The butchers gave me the news with radiant faces, and assured me I need not be afraid as the operation would certainly prove efficacious.
“Gentlemen,” I replied, “you seem to have a great many solid scientific reasons for cutting off my hand; but one thing you have not got, and that is my consent. My hand is my own, and I am going to keep it.”
“Sir, it is certainly gangrened; by to-morrow the arm will begin to mortify, and then you will have to lose your arm.”
“Very good; if that prove so you shall cut off my arm, but I happen to know something of gangrene, and there is none about me.”
“You cannot know as much about it as we do.”
“Possibly; but as far as I can make out, you know nothing at all.”
“That’s rather a strong expression.”
“I don’t care whether it be strong or weak; you can go now.”
In a couple of hours everyone whom the surgeons had told of my obstinacy came pestering me. Even the prince-palatin wrote to me that the king was extremely surprised at my lack of courage. This stung me to the quick, and I wrote the king a long letter, half in earnest and half in jest, in which I laughed at the ignorance of the surgeons, and at the simplicity of those who took whatever they said for gospel truth. I added that as an arm without a hand would be quite as useless as no arm at all, I meant to wait till it was necessary to cut off the arm.
My letter was read at Court, and people wondered how a man with gangrene could write a long letter of four pages. Lubomirski told me kindly that I was mistaken in laughing at my friends, for the three best surgeons in Warsaw could not be mistaken in such a simple case.
“My lord, they are not deceived themselves, but they want to deceive me.”
“Why should they?”
“To make themselves agreeable to Branicki, who is in a dangerous state, and might possibly get better if he heard that my hand had been taken off.”
“Really that seems an incredible idea to me!”
“What will your highness say on the day when I am proved to be right?”
“I shall say you are deserving of the highest praise, but the day must first come.”
“We shall see this evening, and I give you my word that if any gangrene has attacked the arm, I will have it cut off to-morrow morning.”
Four surgeons came to see me. My arm was pronounced to be highly aedematous, and of a livid colour up to the elbow; but when the lint was taken off the wound I could see for myself that it was progressing admirably. However, I concealed my delight. Prince Augustus Sulkowski and the Abbe Gouvel were present; the latter being attached to the palatin’s court. The judgment of the surgeons was that the arm was gangrened, and must be amputated by the next morning at latest.
I was tired of arguing with these rascals, so I told them to bring their instruments, and that I would submit to the operation. At this they went way in high glee, to tell the news at the Court, to Branicki, to the palatin, and so forth. I merely gave my servants orders to send them away when they came.
I can dwell no more on this matter, though it is interesting enough to me. However, the reader will no doubt be obliged to me by my simply saying that a French surgeon in Prince Sulkowski’s household took charge of the case in defiance of professional etiquette, and cured me perfectly, so I have my hand and my arm to this day.
On Easter Day I went to mass with my arm in a sling. My cure had only lasted three weeks, but I was not able to put the hand to any active employment for eighteen months afterwards. Everyone was obliged to congratulate me on having held out against the amputation, and the general consent declared the surgeons grossly ignorant, while I was satisfied with thinking them very great knaves.
I must here set down an incident which happened three days after the duel.
I was told that a Jesuit father from the bishop of the diocese wanted to speak to me in private, and I had him shewn in, and asked him what he wanted.
“I have come from my lord-bishop,” said he, “to absolve you from the ecclesiastical censure, which you have incurred by duelling.”
“I am always delighted to receive absolution, father, but only after I have confessed my guilt. In the present case I have nothing to confess; I was attacked, and I defended myself. Pray thank my lord for his kindness. If you like to absolve me without confession, I shall be much obliged.”
“If you do not confess, I cannot give you absolution, but you can do this: ask me to absolve you, supposing you have fought a duel.”
“Certainly; I shall be glad if you will absolve me, supposing I have fought a duel.”
The delightful Jesuit gave me absolution in similar terms. He was like his brethren — never at a loss when a loophole of any kind is required.
Three days before I left the monastery, that is on Holy Thursday, the marshal withdrew my guard. After I had been to mass on Easter Day, I went to Court, and as I kissed the king’s hand, he asked me (as had been arranged) why I wore my arm in a sling. I said I had been suffering from a rheum, and he replied, with a meaning smile —
“Take care not to catch another.”
After my visit to the king, I called on Branicki, who had made daily enquiries afer my health, and had sent me back my sword, He was condemned to stay in bed for six weeks longer at least, for the wad of my pistol had got into the wound, and in extracting it the opening had to be enlarged, which retarded his recovery. The king had just appointed him chief huntsman, not so exalted an office as chamberlain, but a more lucrative one. It was said he had got the place because he was such a good shot; but if that were the reason I had a better claim to it, for I had proved the better shot — for one day at all events.
I entered an enormous ante-room in which stood officers, footmen, pages, and lacqueys, all gazing at me with the greatest astonishment. I asked if my lord was to be seen, and begged the door-keeper to send in my name. He did not answer, but sighed, and went into his master’s room. Directly after, he came out and begged me, with a profound bow, to step in.
Branicki, who was dressed in a magnificent gown and supported by pillows and cushions, greeted me by taking off his nightcap. He was as pale as death.
“I have come here, my lord,” I began, “to offer you my service, and to assure you how I regret that I did not pass over a few trifling words of yours.”
“You have no reason to reproach yourself, M. Casanova.”
“Your excellency is very kind. I am also come to say that by fighting with me you have done me an honour which completely swallows up all offence, and I trust that you will give me your protection for the future.”
“I confess I insulted you, but you will allow that I have paid for it. As to my friends, I openly say that they are my enemies unless they treat you with respect. Bininski has been cashiered, and his nobility taken from him; he is well served. As to my protection you have no need of it, the king esteems you highly, like myself, and all men of honour. Sit down; we will be friends. A cup of chocolate for this gentleman. You seem to have got over your wound completely.”
“Quite so, my lord, except as to the use of my fingers, and that will take some time.”
“You were quite right to withstand those rascally surgeons, and you had good reason for your opinion that the fools thought to please me by rendering you one-handed. They judged my heart by their own. I congratulate you on the preservation of your hand, but I have not been able to make out how my ball could have wounded you in the hand after striking your stomach.”
Just then the chocolate was brought, and the chamberlain came in and looked at me with a smile. In five minutes the room was full of lords and ladies who had heard I was with Branicki, and wanted to know how we were getting on. I could see that they did not expect to find us on such good terms, and were agreeably surprised. Branicki asked the question which had been interrupted by the chocolate and the visitors over again.
“Your excellency will allow me to assume the position I was in as I received your fire.”
“Pray do so.”
I rose and placed myself in the position, and he said he understood how it was.
A lady said —
“You should have put your hand behind your body.”
“Excuse me, madam, but I thought it better to put my body behind my hand.”
This sally made Branicki laugh, but his sister said to me —
“You wanted to kill my brother, for you aimed at his head.”
“God forbid, madam! my interest lay in keeping him alive to defend me from his friends.”
“But you said you were going to fire at his head.”
“That’s a mere figure of speech, just as one says, ‘I’ll blow your brains out.’ The skilled duellist, however, always aims at the middle of the body; the head does not offer a large enough surface.”
“Yes,” said Branicki, “your tactics were superior to mine, and I am obliged to you for the lesson you gave me.”
“Your excellency gave me a lesson in heroism of far greater value.”
“You must have had a great deal of practice with the pistol,” continued his sister.
“Not at all, madam, I regard the weapon with detestation. This unlucky shot was my first; but I have always known a straight line, and my hand has always been steady.”
“That’s all one wants,” said Branicki. “I have those advantages myself, and I am only too well pleased that I did not aim so well as usual.”
“Your ball broke my first phalanges. Here it is you see, flattened by my bone. Allow me to return it to you.”
“I am sorry to say I can’t return yours, which I suppose remains on the field of battle.”
“You seem to be getting better, thank God!”
“The wound is healing painfully. If I had imitated you I should no longer be in the land of the living; I am told you made an excellent dinner?”
“Yes, my lord, I was afraid I might never have another chance of dining again.”
“If I had dined, your ball would have pierced my intestines; but being empty it yielded to the bullet, and let it pass by harmlessly.”
I heard afterwards that on the day of the duel Branicki had gone to confession and mass, and had communicated. The priest could not refuse him absolution, if he said that honour obliged him to fight; for this was in accordance with the ancient laws of chivalry. As for me I only addressed these words to God:
“Lord, if my enemy kill me, I shall be damned; deign, therefore, to preserve me from death. Amen.”
After a long and pleasant conversation I took leave of the hero to visit the high constable, Count Bielinski, brother of Countess Salmor. He was a very old man, but the sovereign administrator of justice in Poland. I had never spoken to him, but he had defended me from Branicki’s Uhlans, and had made out my pardon, so I felt bound to go and thank him.
I sent in my name, and the worthy old man greeted me with:
“What can I do for you?”
“I have come to kiss the hand of the kindly man that signed my pardon, and to promise your excellency to be more discreet in future.”
“I advise you to be more discreet indeed. As for your pardon, thank the king; for if he had not requested me especially to grant it you, I should have had you beheaded.”
“In spite of the extenuating circumstances, my lord?”
“What circumstances? Did you or did you not fight a duel.”
“That is not a proper way of putting it; I was obliged to defend myself. You might have charged me with fighting a duel if Branicki had taken me outside the ban, as I requested, but as it was he took me where he willed and made me fight. Under these circumstances I am sure your excellency would have spared my head.”
“I really can’t say. The king requested that you should be pardoned, and that shews he believes you to be deserving of pardon; I congratulate you on his good will. I shall be pleased if you will dine with me tomorrow.”
“My lord, I am delighted to accept your invitation.”
The illustrious old constable was a man of great intelligence. He had been a bosom-friend of the celebrated Poniatowski, the king’s father. We had a good deal of conversation together at dinner the next day.
“What a comfort it would have been to your excellency’s friend,” said I, “if he could have lived to see his son crowned King of Poland.”
“He would never have consented.”
The vehemence with which he pronounced these words gave me a deep insight into his feelings. He was of the Saxon party. The same day, that is on Easter Day, I dined at the palatin’s.
“Political reasons,” said he, “prevented me from visiting you at the monastery; but you must not think I had forgotten you, for you were constantly in my thoughts. I am going to lodge you here, for my wife is very fond of your society; but the rooms will not be ready for another six weeks.”
“I shall take the opportunity, my lord, of paying a visit to the Palatin of Kiowia, who has honoured me with an invitation to come and see him.”
“Who gave you the invitation?”
“Count Bruhl, who is at Dresden; his wife is daughter of the palatin.”
“This journey is an excellent idea, for this duel of yours has made you innumerable enemies, and I only hope you will have to fight no more duels. I give you fair warning; be on your guard, and never go on foot, especially at night.”
I spent a fortnight in going out to dinner and supper every day. I had become the fashion, and wherever I went I had to tell the duel story over again. I was rather tired of it myself, but the wish to please and my own self-love were too strong to be resisted. The king was nearly always present, but feigned not to hear me. However, he once asked me if I had been insulted by a patrician in Venice, whether I should have called him out immediately.
“No, sire, for his patrician pride would have prevented his complying, and I should have had my pains for my trouble.”
“Then what would you have done?”
“Sire, I should have contained myself, though if a noble Venetian were to insult me in a foreign country he would have to give me satisfaction.”
I called on Prince Moszczinski, and Madame Binetti happened to be there; the moment she saw me she made her escape.
“What has she against me?” I asked the count.
“She is afraid of you, because she was the cause of the duel, and now Branicki who was her lover will have nothing more to say to her. She hoped he would serve you as he served Tomatis, and instead of that you almost killed her bravo. She lays the fault on him for having accepted your challenge, but he has resolved to have done with her.”
This Count Moszczinski was both good-hearted and quick-witted, and so, generous that he ruined himself by making presents. His wounds were beginning to heal, but though I was the indirect cause of his mishap, far from bearing malice against me he had become my friend.
The person whom I should have expected to be most grateful to me for the duel was Tomatis, but on the contrary he hated the sight of me and hardly concealed his feelings. I was the living reproach of his cowardice; my wounded hand seemed to shew him that he had loved his money more than his honour. I am sure he would have preferred Branicki to have killed me, for then he would have become an object of general execration, and Tomatis would have been received with less contempt in the great houses he still frequented.
I resolved to pay a visit to the discontented party who had only recognized the new king on compulsion, and some of whom had not recognized him at all; so I set out with my true friend Campioni and one servant.
Prince Charles of Courland had started for Venice, where I had given him letters for my illustrious friends who would make his visit a pleasant one. The English ambassador who had given me an introduction to Prince Adam had just arrived at Warsaw. I dined with him at the prince’s house, and the king signified his wish to be of the party. I heard a good deal of conversation about Madame de Geoffrin, an old sweetheart of the king’s whom he had just summoned to Warsaw. The Polish monarch, of whom I cannot speak in too favourable terms, was yet weak enough to listen to the slanderous reports against me, and refused to make my fortune. I had the pleasure of convincing him that he was mistaken, but I will speak of this later on.
I arrived at Leopol the sixth day after I had left Warsaw, having stopped a couple of days at Prince Zamoiski’s; he had forty thousand ducats a-year, but also the falling sickness.
“I would give all my goods,” said he, “to be cured.”
I pitied his young wife. She was very fond of him, and yet had to deny him, for his disease always came on him in moments of amorous excitement. She had the bitter task of constantly refusing him, and even of running away if he pressed her hard. This great nobleman, who died soon after, lodged me in a splendid room utterly devoid of furniture. This is the Polish custom; one is supposed to bring one’s furniture with one.
At Leopol I put up, at an hotel, but I soon had to move from thence to take up my abode with the famous Kaminska, the deadly foe of Branicki, the king, and all that party. She was very rich, but she has since been ruined by conspiracies. She entertained me sumptuously for a week, but the visit was agreeable to neither side, as she could only speak Polish and German. From Leopol I proceeded to a small town, the name of which I forget (the Polish names are very crabbed) to take an introduction from Prince Lubomirski to Joseph Rzewuski, a little old man who wore a long beard as a sign of mourning for the innovations that were being introduced into his country. He was rich, learned, superstitiously religious, and polite exceedingly. I stayed with him for three days. He was the commander of a stronghold containing a garrison of five hundred men.
On the first day, as I was in his room with some other officers, about eleven o’clock in the morning, another officer came in, whispered to Rzewuski, and then came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Venice and St. Mark.”
“St. Mark,” I answered aloud, “is the patron saint and protector of Venice,” and everybody began to laugh.
It dawned upon me that “Venice and St. Mark” was the watchword, and I began to apologize profusely, and the word was changed.
The old commander spoke to me with great politeness. He never went to Court, but he had resolved on going to the Diet to oppose the Russian party with all his might. The poor man, a Pole of the true old leaven, was one of the four whom Repnin arrested and sent to Siberia.
After taking leave of this brave patriot, I went to Christianpol, where lived the famous palatin Potocki, who had been one of the lovers of the empress Anna Ivanovna. He had founded the town in which he lived and called it after his own name. This nobleman, still a fine man, kept a splendid court. He honoured Count Bruhl by keeping me at his house for a fortnight, and sending me out every day with his doctor, the famous Styrneus, the sworn foe of Van Swieten, a still more famous physician. Although Styrneus was undoubtedly a learned man, I thought him somewhat extravagant and empirical. His system was that of Asclepiades, considered as exploded since the time of the great Boerhaave; nevertheless, he effected wonderful cures.
In the evenings I was always with the palatin and his court. Play was not heavy, and I always won, which was fortunate and indeed necessary for me. After an extremely agreeable visit to the palatin I returned to Leopol, where I amused myself for a week with a pretty girl who afterwards so captivated Count Potocki, starost of Sniatin, that he married her. This is purity of blood with a vengeance in your noble families!
Leaving Leopol I went to Palavia, a splendid palace on the Vistula, eighteen leagues distant from Warsaw. It belonged to the prince palatin, who had built it himself.
Howsoever magnificent an abode may be, a lonely man will weary of it unless he has the solace of books or of some great idea. I had neither, and boredom soon made itself felt.
A pretty peasant girl came into my room, and finding her to my taste I tried to make her understand me without the use of speech, but she resisted and shouted so loudly that the door-keeper came up, and asked me, coolly —
“If you like the girl, why don’t you go the proper way to work?”
“What way is that?”
“Speak to her father, who is at hand, and arrange the matter amicably.”
“I don’t know Polish. Will you carry the thing through?”
“Certainly. I suppose you will give fifty florins?”
“You are laughing at me. I will give a hundred willingly, provided she is a maid and is as submissive as a lamb.”
No doubt the arrangement was made without difficulty, for our hymen took place the same evening, but no sooner was the operation completed than the poor lamb fled away in hot haste, which made me suspect that her father had used rather forcible persuasion with her. I would not have allowed this had I been aware of it.
The next morning several girls were offered to me, but the faces of all of them were covered.
“Where is the girl?” said I. “I want to see her face.”
“Never mind about the face, if the rest is all right.”
“The face is the essential part for me,” I replied, “and the rest I look upon as an accessory.”
He did not understand this. However, they were uncovered, but none of their faces excited my desires.
As a rule, the Polish women are ugly; a beauty is a miracle, and a pretty woman a rare exception. At the end of a week of feasting and weariness, I returned to Warsaw.
In this manner I saw Podolia and Volkynia, which were rebaptized a few years later by the names of Galicia and Lodomeria, for they are now part of the Austrian Empire. It is said, however, that they are more prosperous than they ever were before.
At Warsaw I found Madame Geoffrin the object of universal admiration; and everybody was remarking with what simplicity she was dressed. As for myself, I was received not coldly, but positively rudely. People said to my face —
“We did not expect to see you here again. Why did you come back?”
“To pay my debts.”
This behaviour astonished and disgusted me. The prince-palatin even seemed quite changed towards me. I was still invited to dinner, but no one spoke to me. However, Prince Adam’s sister asked me very kindly to come and sup with her, and I accepted the invitation with delight. I found myself seated opposite the king, who did not speak one word to me the whole time. He had never behaved to me thus before.
The next day I dined with the Countess Oginski, and in the course of dinner the countess asked where the king had supper the night before; nobody seemed to know, and I did not answer. Just as we were rising, General Roniker came in, and the question was repeated.
“At Princess Strasnikowa’s,” said the general, “and M. Casanova was there.”
“Then why did you not answer my question?” said the countess to me.
“Because I am very sorry to have been there. His majesty neither spoke to me nor looked at me. I see I am in disgrace, but for the life of me I know not why.”
On leaving the house I went to call on Prince Augustus Sulkowski, who welcomed me as of old, but told me that I had made a mistake in returning to Warsaw as public opinion was against me.
“What have I done?”
“Nothing; but the Poles are always inconstant and changeable. ‘Sarmatarum virtus veluti extra ipsos’. This inconstancy will cost us dear sooner or later. Your fortune was made, but you missed the turn of the tide, and I advise you to go.”
“I will certainly do so, but it seems to me rather hard.”
When I got home my servant gave me a letter which some unknown person had left at my door. I opened it and found it to be anonymous, but I could see it came from a well-wisher. The writer said that the slanderers had got the ears of the king, and that I was no longer a persona grata at Court, as he had been assured that the Parisians had burnt me in effigy for my absconding with the lottery money, and that I had been a strolling player in Italy and little better than a vagabond.
Such calumnies are easy to utter but hard to refute in a foreign country. At all Courts hatred, born of envy, is ever at work. I might have despised the slanders and left the country, but I had contracted debts and had not sufficient money to pay them and my expenses to Portugal, where I thought I might do something.
I no longer saw any company, with the exception of Campioni, who seemed more distressed than myself. I wrote to Venice and everywhere else, where there was a chance of my getting funds; but one day the general, who had been present at the duel, called on me, and told me (though he seemed ashamed of his task) that the king requested me to leave the ban in the course of a week.
Such a piece of insolence made my blood boil, and I informed the general that he might tell the king that I did not feel inclined to obey such an unjust order, and that if I left I would let all the world know that I had been compelled to do so by brute force.
“I cannot take such a message as that,” said the general, kindly. “I shall simply tell the king that I have executed his orders, and no more; but of course you must follow your own judgment.”
In the excess of my indignation I wrote to the king that I could not obey his orders and keep my honour. I said in my letter —
“My creditors, sire, will forgive me for leaving Poland without paying my debts, when they learn that I have only done so because your majesty gave me no choice.”
I was thinking how I could ensure this letter reaching the king, when who should arrive but Count Moszczinski. I told him what had happened, and asked if he could suggest any means of delivering tire letter. “Give it to me,” said he; “I will place it in the king’s hands.”
As soon as he had gone I went out to take the air, and called on Prince Sulkowski, who was not at all astonished at my news. As if to sweeten the bitter pill I had to swallow, he told me how the Empress of Austria had ordered him to leave Vienna in twenty-four hours, merely because he had complimented the Archduchess Christina on behalf of Prince Louis of Wurtemberg.
The next day Count Moszczinski brought me a present of a thousand ducats from the king, who said that my leaving Warsaw would probably be the means of preserving my life, as in that city I was exposed to danger which I could not expect to escape eventually.
This referred to five or six challenges I had received, and to which I had not even taken the trouble to reply. My enemies might possibly assassinate me, and the king did not care to be constantly anxious on my account. Count Moszczinski added that the order to leave carried no dishonour with it, considering by whom it had been delivered, and the delay it gave me to make my preparations.
The consequence of all this was that I not only gave my word to go, but that I begged the count to thank his majesty for his kindness, and the interest he had been pleased to take in me.
When I gave in, the generous Moszczinski embraced me, begged me to write to him, and accept a present of a travelling carriage as a token of his friendship. He informed me that Madame Binetti’s husband had gone off with his wife’s maid, taking with him her diamonds, jewels, linen, and even her silver plate, leaving her to the tender mercies of the dancer, Pic. Her admirers had clubbed together to make up to her for what her husband had stolen. I also heard that the king’s sister had arrived at Warsaw from Bialistock, and it was hoped that her husband would follow her. This husband was the real Count Branicki, and the Branicki, or rather Branecki, or Bragnecki, who had fought with me, was no relation to him whatever.
The following day I paid my debts, which amounted to about two hundred ducats, and I made preparations for starting for Breslau, the day after, with Count Clary, each of us having his own carriage. Clary was one of those men to whom lying has become a sort of second nature; whenever such an one opens his mouth, you may safely say to him, “You have lied, or you are going to lie.” If they could feel their own degradation, they would be much to be pitied, for by their own fault at last no one will believe them even when by chance they speak the truth. This Count Clary, who was not one of the Clarys of Teplitz, could neither go to his own country nor to Vienna, because he had deserted the army on the eve of a battle. He was lame, but he walked so adroitly that his defect did not appear. If this had been the only truth he concealed, it would have been well, for it was a piece of deception that hurt no one. He died miserably in Venice.
We reached Breslau in perfect safety, and without experiencing any adventures. Campioni, who had accompanied me as far as Wurtemburg, returned, but rejoined me at Vienna in the course of seven months. Count Clary had left Breslau, and I thought I would make the acquaintance of the Abbe Bastiani, a celebrated Venetian, whose fortune had been made by the King of Prussia. He was canon of the cathedral, and received me cordially; in fact, each mutually desired the other’s acquaintance. He was a fine well-made man, fair- complexioned, and at least six feet high. He was also witty, learned, eloquent, and gifted with a persuasive voice; his cook was an artist, his library full of choice volumes, and his cellar a very good one. He was well lodged on the ground floor, and on the first floor he accommodated a lady, of whose children he was very fond, possibly because he was their father. Although a great admirer of the fair sex, his tastes were by no means exclusive, and he did not despise love of the Greek or philosophic kind. I could see that he entertained a passion for a young priest whom I met at his table. This young abbe was Count di Cavalcano and Bastiani seemed to adore him, if fiery glances signified anything; but the innocent young man did not seem to understand, and I suppose Bastiani did not like to lower his dignity by declaring his love. The canon shewed me all the letters he had received from the King of Prussia before he had been made canon. He was the son of a tailor at Venice, and became a friar, but having committed some peccadillo which got him into trouble, he was fortunate enough to be able to make his escape. He fled to The Hague, and there met Tron, the Venetian ambassador, who lent him a hundred ducats with which he made his way to Berlin and favour with the king. Such are the ways by which men arrive at fortune! ‘Sequere deum’!
On the event of my departure from Breslau I went to pay a call on a baroness for whom I had a letter of introduction from her son, who was an officer of the Polish Court. I sent up my name and was asked to wait a few moments, as the baroness was dressing. I sat down beside a pretty girl, who was neatly dressed in a mantle with a hood. I asked her if she were waiting for the baroness like myself.
“Yes, sir,” she replied, “I have come to offer myself as governess for her three daughters.”
“What! Governess at your age?”
“Alas! sir, age has nothing to do with necessity. I have neither father nor mother. My brother is a poor lieutenant who cannot help me; what can I do? I can only get a livelihood by turning my good education to account.”
“What will your salary be?”
“Fifty wretched crowns, enough to buy my dresses.”
“It’s very little.”
“It is as much as people give.”
“Where are you living now?”
“With a poor aunt, where I can scarce earn enough bread to keep me alive by sewing from morning till night.”
“If you liked to become my governess instead of becoming a children’s governess, I would give you fifty crowns, not per year, but per month.”
“Your governess? Governess to your family, you mean, I suppose?”
“I have no family; I am a bachelor, and I spend my time in travelling. I leave at five o’clock to-morrow morning for Dresden, and if you like to come with me there is a place for you in my carriage. I am staying at such an inn. Come there with your trunk, and we will start together.”
“You are joking; besides, I don’t know you.”
“I am not jesting; and we should get to know each other perfectly well in twenty-four hours; that is ample time.”
My serious air convinced the girl that I was not laughing at her; but she was still very much astonished, while I was very much astonished to find I had gone so far when I had only intended to joke. In trying to win over the girl I had won over myself. It seemed to me a rare adventure, and I was delighted to see that she was giving it her serious attention by the side-glances she kept casting in my direction to see if I was laughing at her. I began to think that fate had brought us together that I might become the architect of her fortune. I had no doubt whatever as to her goodness or her feelings for me, for she completely infatuated my judgment. To put the finishing stroke on the affair I drew out two ducats and gave them her as an earnest of her first month’s wages. She took them timidly, but seemed convinced that I was not imposing on her.
By this time the baroness was ready, and she welcomed me very kindly; but I said I could not accept her invitation to dine with her the following day, as I was leaving at day-break. I replied to all the questions that a fond mother makes concerning her son, and then took leave of the worthy lady. As I went out I noticed that the would-be governess had disappeared. The rest of the day I spent with the canon, making good cheer, playing ombre, drinking hard, and talking about girls or literature. The next day my carriage came to the door at the time I had arranged, and I went off without thinking of the girl I had met at the baroness’s. But we had not gone two hundred paces when the postillion stopped, a bundle of linen whirled through the window into the carriage, and the governess got in. I gave her a hearty welcome by embracing her, and made her sit down beside me, and so we drove off.
In the ensuing chapter the reader will become more fully acquainted with my fresh conquest. In the meantime let him imagine me rolling peacefully along the Dresden road.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52