I Leave Marseilles — Henriette at Aix — Irene at Avignon — Treachery of Possano — Madame d’Urfe Leaves Lyon
The wedding only interested me because of the bride. The plentiful rather than choice repast, the numerous and noisy company, the empty compliments, the silly conversation, the roars of laughter at very poor jokes — all this would have driven me to despair if it had not been for Madame Audibert, whom I did not leave for a moment. Marcoline followed the young bride about like a shadow, and the latter, who was going to Genoa in a week, wanted Marcoline to come in her tram, promising to have her taken to Venice by a person of trust, but my sweetheart would listen to no proposal for separating her from me —
“I won’t go. to Venice,” she said, “till you send me there.”
The splendours of her friend’s marriage did not make her experience the least regret at having refused the young wine merchant. The bride beamed with happiness, and on my congratulating her she confessed her joy to be great, adding that it was increased by the fact that she owed it all to me. She was also very glad to be going to Genoa, where she was sure of finding a true friend in Rosalie, who would sympathize with her, their fortunes having been very similar.
The day after the wedding I began to make preparations for my departure. The first thing I disposed of was the box containing the planetary offerings. I kept the diamonds and precious stones, and took all the gold and silver to Rousse de Cosse, who still held the sum which Greppi had placed to my credit. I took a bill of exchange on Tourton and Bauer, for I should not be wanting any money at Lyons as Madame d’Urfe was there, and consequently the three hundred louis I had about me would be ample. I acted differently where Marcoline was concerned. I added a sufficient sum to her six hundred louis to give her a capital in round numbers of fifteen thousand francs. I got a bill drawn on Lyons for that amount, for I intended at the first opportunity to send her back to Venice, and with that idea had her trunks packed separately with all the linen and dresses which I had given her in abundance.
On the eve of our departure we took leave of the newly-married couple and the whole family at supper, and we parted with tears, promising each other a lifelong friendship.
The next day we set out intending to travel all night and not to stop till we got to Avignon, but about five o’clock the chain of the carriage broke, and we could go no further until a wheelwright had repaired the damage. We settled ourselves down to wait patiently, and Clairmont went to get information at a fine house on our right, which was approached by an alley of trees. As I had only one postillion, I did not allow him to leave his horses for a moment. Before long we saw Clairmont reappear with two servants, one of whom invited me, on behalf of his master, to await the arrival of the wheelwright at his house. It would have been churlish to refuse this invitation which was in the true spirit of French politeness, so leaving Clairmont in charge Marcoline and I began to wend our way towards the hospitable abode.
Three ladies and two gentleman came to meet us, and one of the gentlemen said they congratulated themselves on my small mishap, since it enabled madam to offer me her house and hospitality. I turned towards the lady whom the gentleman had indicated, and thanked her, saying, that I hoped not to trouble her long, but that I was deeply grateful for her kindness. She made me a graceful curtsy, but I could not make out her features, for a stormy wind was blowing, and she and her two friends had drawn their hoods almost entirely over their faces. Marcoline’s beautiful head was uncovered and her hair streaming in the breeze. She only replied by graceful bows and smiles to the compliments which were addressed to her on all sides. The gentleman who had first accosted me asked me, as he gave her his arm, if she were my daughter. Marcoline smiled and I answered that she was my cousin, and that we were both Venetians.
A Frenchman is so bent on flattering a pretty woman that he will always do so, even if it be at the expense of a third party. Nobody could really think that Marcoline was my daughter, for though I was twenty years older than she was, I looked ten years younger than my real age, and so Marcoline smiled suggestively.
We were just going into the house when a large mastiff ran towards us, chasing a pretty spaniel, and the lady, being afraid of getting bitten, began to run, made a false step, and fell to the ground. We ran to help her, but she said she had sprained her ankle, and limped into the house on the arm of one of the gentlemen. Refreshments were brought in, and I saw that Marcoline looked uneasy in the company of a lady who was talking to her. I hastened to excuse her, saying that she did not speak French. As a matter of fact, Marcoline had begun to talk a sort of French, but the most charming language in the world will not bear being spoken badly, and I had begged her not to speak at all till she had learned to express herself properly. It is better to remain silent than to make strangers laugh by odd expressions and absurd equivocations.
The less pretty, or rather the uglier, of the two ladies said that it was astonishing that the education of young ladies was neglected in such a shocking manner at Venice. “Fancy not teaching them French!”
“It is certainly very wrong, but in my country young ladies are neither taught foreign languages nor round games. These important branches of education are attended to afterwards.”
“Then you are a Venetian, too?”
“Really, I should not have thought so.”
I made a bow in return for this compliment, which in reality was only an insult; for if flattering to me it was insulting to the rest of my fellow-countrymen, and Marcoline thought as much for she made a little grimace accompanied by a knowing smile.
“I see that the young lady understands French,” said our flattering friend, “she laughs exactly in the right place.”
“Yes, she understands it, and as for her laughter it was due to the fact that she knows me to be like all other Venetians.”
“Possibly, but it is easy to see that you have lived a long time in France.”
“Yes, madam,” said Marcoline; and these words in her pretty Venetian accent were a pleasure to hear.
The gentleman who had taken the lady to her room said that she found her foot to be rather swollen, and had gone to bed hoping we would all come upstairs.
We found her lying in a splendid bed, placed in an alcove which the thick curtains of red satin made still darker. I could not see whether she was young or old, pretty or ugly. I said that I was very sorry to be the indirect cause of her mishap, and she replied in good Italian that it was a matter of no consequence, and that she did not think she could pay too dear for the privilege of entertaining such pleasant guests.
“Your ladyship must have lived in Venice to speak the language with so much correctness.”
“No, I have never been there, but I have associated a good deal with Venetians.”
A servant came and told me that the wheelwright had arrived, and that he would take four hours to mend my carriage, so I went downstairs. The man lived at a quarter of a league’s distance, and by tying the carriage pole with ropes, I could drive to his place, and wait there for the carriage to be mended. I was about to do so, when the gentleman who did the honours of the house came and asked me, on behalf of the lady, to sup and pass the night at her house, as to go to the wheelwright’s would be out of my way; the man would have to work by night, I should be uncomfortable, and the work would be ill done. I assented to the countess’s proposal, and having agreed with the man to come early the next day and bring his tools with him, I told Clairmont to take my belongings into the room which was assigned to me.
When I returned to the countess’s room I found everyone laughing at Marcoline’s sallies, which the countess translated. I was not astonished at seeing the way in which my fair Venetian caressed the countess, but I was enraged at not being able to see her, for I knew Marcoline would not treat any woman in that manner unless she were pretty.
The table was spread in the bedroom of the countess, whom I hoped to see at supper-time, but I was disappointed; for she declared that she could not take anything, and all supper-time she talked to Marcoline and myself, shewing intelligence, education, and a great knowledge of Italian. She let fall the expression, “my late husband,” so I knew her for a widow, but as I did not dare to ask any questions, my knowledge ended at that point. When Clairmont was undressing me he told me her married name, but as I knew nothing of the family that was no addition to my information.
When we had finished supper, Marcoline took up her old position by the countess’s bed, and they talked so volubly to one another that nobody else could get in a word.
When politeness bade me retire, my pretended cousin said she was going to sleep with the countess. As the latter laughingly assented, I refrained from telling my madcap that she was too forward, and I could see by their mutual embraces that they were agreed in the matter. I satisfied myself with saying that I could not guarantee the sex of the countess’s bed-fellow, but she answered,
“Never mind; if there be a mistake I shall be the gainer.”
This struck me as rather free, but I was not the man to be scandalized. I was amused at the tastes of my fair Venetian, and at the manner in which she contrived to gratify them as she had done at Genoa with my last niece. As a rule the Provencal women are inclined this way, and far from reproaching them I like them all the better for it.
The next day I rose at day-break to hurry on the wheelwright, and when the work was done I asked if the countess were visible. Directly after Marcoline came out with one of the gentlemen, who begged me to excuse the countess, as she could not receive me in her present extremely scanty attire; “but she hopes that whenever you are in these parts you will honour her and her house by your company, whether you are alone or with friends.”
This refusal, gilded as it was, was a bitter pill for me to swallow, but I concealed my disgust, as I could only put it down to Marcoline’s doings; she seemed in high spirits, and I did not like to mortify her. I thanked the gentleman with effusion, and placing a Louis in the hands of all the servants who were present I took my leave.
I kissed Marcoline affectionately, so that she should not notice my ill humour, and asked how she and the countess spent the night.”
“Capitally,” said she. “The countess is charming, and we amused ourselves all night with the tricks of two amorous women.”
“Is she pretty or old?”
“She is only thirty-three, and, I assure you, she is as pretty as my friend Mdlle. Crosin. I can speak with authority for we saw each other in a state of nature.”
“You are a singular creature; you were unfaithful to me for a woman, and left me to pass the night by myself.”
“You must forgive me, and I had to sleep with her as she was the first to declare her love.”
“Really? How was that?”
“When I gave her the first of my kisses she returned it in the Florentine manner, and our tongues met. After supper, I confess, I was the first to begin the suggestive caresses, but she met me half- way. I could only make her happy by spending the night with her. Look, this will shew you how pleased she was.”
With these words Marcoline drew a superb ring, set with brilliants, from her finger. I was astonished.
“Truly,” I said, “this woman is fond of pleasure and deserves to have it.”
I gave my Lesbian (who might have vied with Sappho) a hundred. kisses, and forgave her her infidelity.
“But,” I remarked, “I can’t think why she did not want me to see her; I think she has treated me rather cavalierly.”
“No, I think the reason was that she was ashamed to be seen by my lover after having made me unfaithful to him; I had to confess that we were lovers.”
“Maybe. At all events you have been well paid; that ring is worth two hundred louis:”
“But I may as well tell you that I was well enough paid for the pleasure I gave by the pleasure I received.”
“That’s right; I am delighted to see you happy.”
“If you want to make me really happy, take me to England with you. My uncle will be there, and I could go back to Venice with him.”
“What! you have an uncle in England? Do you really mean it? It sounds like a fairy-tale. You never told me of it before.”
“I have never said anything about it up to now, because I have always imagined that this might prevent your accomplishing your desire.”
“Is your uncle a Venetian? What is he doing in England? Are you sure that he will welcome you?”
“What is his name? And how are we to find him in a town of more than a million inhabitants?”
“He is ready found. His name is Mattio Boisi, and he is valet de chambre to M. Querini, the Venetian ambassador sent to England to congratulate the new king; he is accompanied by the Procurator Morosini. My uncle is my mother’s brother; he is very fond of me, and will forgive my fault, especially when he finds I am rich. When he went to England he said he would be back in Venice in July, and we shall just catch him on the point of departure.”
As far as the embassy went I knew it was all true, from the letters I had received from M. de Bragadin, and as for the rest Marcoline seemed to me to be speaking the truth. I was flattered by her proposal and agreed to take her to England so that I should possess her for five or six weeks longer without committing myself to anything.
We reached Avignon at the close of the day, and found ourselves very hungry. I knew that the “St. Omer” was an excellent inn, and when I got there I ordered a choice meal and horses for five o’clock the next morning. Marcoline, who did not like night travelling, was in high glee, and threw her arms around my neck, saying —
“Are we at Avignon now?”
“Then I conscientiously discharge the trust which the countess placed in me when she embraced me for the last time this morning. She made me swear not to say a word about it till we got to Avignon.”
“All this puzzles me, dearest; explain yourself.”
“She gave me a letter for you,”
“Will you forgive me for not placing it in your hands sooner?”
“Certainly, if you passed your word to the countess; but where is this letter?”
“Wait a minute.”
She drew a large bundle of papers from her pocket, saying —
“This is my certificate of baptism.”
“I see you were born in 1746.”
“This is a certificate of ‘good conduct.’”
“Keep it, it may be useful to you.”
“This is my certificate of virginity.”
“That’s no use. Did you get it from a midwife?”
“No, from the Patriarch of Venice.”
“Did he test the matter for himself?”
“No, he was too old; he trusted in me.”
“Well, well, let me see the letter.”
“I hope I haven’t lost it.”
“I hope not, to God.”
“Here is your brother’s promise of marriage; he wanted to be a Protestant.”
“You may throw that into the fire.”
“What is a Protestant?”
“I will tell you another time. Give me the letter.”
“Praised be God, here it is!”
“That’s lucky; but it has no address.”
My heart beat fast, as I opened it, and found, instead of an address, these words in Italian:
“To the most honest man of my acquaintance.”
Could this be meant for me? I turned down the leaf, and read one word — Henriette! Nothing else; the rest of the paper was blank.
At the sight of that word I was for a moment annihilated.
“Io non mori, e non rimasi vivo.”
Henriette! It was her style, eloquent in its brevity. I recollected her last letter from Pontarlier, which I had received at Geneva, and which contained only one word — Farewell!
Henriette, whom I had loved so well, whom I seemed at that moment to love as well as ever. “Cruel Henriette,” said I to myself, “you saw me and would not let me see you. No doubt you thought your charms would not have their old power, and feared lest I should discover that after all you were but mortal. And yet I love you with all the ardour of my early passion. Why did you not let me learn from your own mouth that you were happy? That is the only question I should have asked you, cruel fair one. I should not have enquired whether you loved me still, for I feel my unworthiness, who have loved other women after loving the most perfect of her sex. Adorable Henriette, I will fly to you to-morrow, since you told me that I should be always welcome.”
I turned these thoughts over in my own mind, and fortified myself in this resolve; but at last I said —
“No, your behaviour proves that you do not wish to see me now, and your wishes shall be respected; but I must see you once before I die.”
Marcoline scarcely dared breathe to see me thus motionless and lost in thought, and I do not know when I should have come to myself if the landlord had not come in saying that he remembered my tastes, and had got me a delicious supper. This brought me to my senses, and I made my fair Venetian happy again by embracing her in a sort of ecstacy.
“Do you know,” she said, “you quite frightened me? You were as pale and still as a dead man, and remained for a quarter of an hour in a kind of swoon, the like of which I have never seen. What is the reason? I knew that the countess was acquainted with you, but I should never have thought that her name by itself could have such an astonishing effect.”
“Well, it is strange; but how did you find out that the countess knew me?”
“She told me as much twenty times over in the night, but she made me promise to say nothing about it till I had given you the letter.”
“What did she say to you about me?”
“She only repeated in different ways what she has written for an address.”
“What a letter it is! Her name, and nothing more.”
“It is very strange.”
“Yes, but the name tells all.”
“She told me that if I wanted to be happy I should always remain with you. I said I knew that well; but that you wanted to send me back to Venice, though you were very fond of me. I can guess now that you were lovers. How long ago was it?”
“Sixteen or seventeen years.”
“She must have been very young, but she cannot have been prettier than she is now.”
“Be quiet, Marcoline.”
“Did your union with her last long?”
“We lived together four months in perfect happiness.”
“I shall not be happy for so long as that.”
“Yes you will, and longer, too; but with another man, and one more suitable to you in age. I am going to England to try to get my daughter from her mother.”
“Your daughter? The countess asked me if you were married, and I said no.”
“You were right; she is my illegitimate daughter. She must be ten now, and when you see her you will confess that she must belong to me.”
Just as we were sitting down to table we heard someone going downstairs to the table d’hote in the room where I had made Madame Stuard’s acquaintance, our door was open, and we could see the people on the stairs; and one of them seeing us gave a cry of joy, and came running in, exclaiming, “My dear papa! “I turned to the light and saw Irene, the same whom I had treated so rudely at Genoa after my discussion with her father about biribi. I embraced her effusively, and the sly little puss, pretending to be surprised to see Marcoline, made her a profound bow, which was returned with much grace. Marcoline listened attentively to our conversation.
“What are you doing here, fair Irene?”
“We have been here for the last fortnight. Good heavens! how lucky I am to find you again. I am quite weak. Will you allow me to sit down, madam?”
“Yes, yes, my dear,” said I, “sit down;” and I gave her a glass of wine which restored her.
A waiter came up, and said they were waiting for her at supper, but she said, “I won’t take any supper;” and Marcoline, always desirous of pleasing me, ordered a third place to be laid. I made her happy by giving an approving nod.
We sat down to table, and ate our meal with great appetite. “When we have done,” I said to Irene, “you must tell us what chance has brought you to Avignon.”
Marcoline, who had not spoken a word hitherto, noticing how hungry Irene was, said pleasantly that it would have been a mistake if she had not taken any supper. Irene was delighted to hear Venetian spoken, and thanked her for her kindness, and in three or four minutes they had kissed and become friends.
It amused me to see the way in which Marcoline always fell in love with pretty women, just as if she had been a man.
In the course of conversation I found that Irene’s father and mother were at the table d’hote below, and from sundry exclamations, such as “you have been brought to Avignon out of God’s goodness,” I learned that they were in distress. In spite of that Irene’s mirthful countenance matched Marcoline’s sallies, and the latter was delighted to hear that Irene had only called me papa because her mother had styled her my daughter at Milan.
We had only got half-way through our supper when Rinaldi and his wife came in. I asked them to sit down, but if it had not been for Irene I should have given the old rascal a very warm reception. He began to chide his daughter for troubling me with her presence when I had such fair company already, but Marcoline hastened to say that Irene could only have given me pleasure, for in my capacity of her uncle I was always glad when she was able to enjoy the society of a sweet young girl.
“I hope,” she added, “that if she doesn’t mind she will sleep with me.”
“Yes, yes,” resounded on all sides, and though I should have preferred to sleep with Marcoline by herself, I laughed and agreed; I have always been able to accommodate myself to circumstances.
Irene shared Marcoline’s desires, for when it was settled that they should sleep together they seemed wild with joy, and I added fuel to the fire by plying them with punch and champagne.
Rinaldi and his wife did not leave us till they were quite drunk. When we had got rid of them, Irene told us how a Frenchman had fallen in love with her at Genoa, and had persuaded her father to go to Nice where high play was going on, but meeting with no luck there she had been obliged to sell what she had to pay the inn-keeper. Her lover had assured her that he would make it up to her at Aix, where there was some money owing to him, and she persuaded her father to go there; but the persons who owed the money having gone to Avignon, there had to be another sale of goods.
“When we got here the luck was no better, and the poor young man, whom my father reproached bitterly, would have killed himself if I had not given him the mantle you gave me that he might pawn it and go on his quest. He got four louis for it, and sent me the ticket with a very tender letter, in which he assured me that he would find some money at Lyons, and that he would then return and take us to Bordeaux, where we are to find treasures. In the meanwhile we are penniless, and as we have nothing more to sell the landlord threatens to turn us out naked.”
“And what does your father mean to do?”
“I don’t know. He says Providence will take care of us.”
“What does your mother say?”
“Oh! she was as quiet as usual.”
“How about yourself?”
“Alas! I have to bear a thousand mortifications every day. They are continually reproaching me with having fallen in love with this Frenchman, and bringing them to this dreadful pass.”
“Were you really in love with him?”
“Then you must be very unhappy.”
“Yes, very; but not on account of my love, for I shall get over that in time, but because of that which will happen to-morrow.”
“Can’t you make any conquests at the table-d’hote?”
“Some of the men say pretty things to me, but as they all know how poor we are they are afraid to come to our room.”
“And yet in spite of all you keep cheerful; you don’t look sad like most of the unhappy. I congratulate you on your good spirits.” Irene’s tale was like the fair Stuard’s story over again, and Marcoline, though she had taken rather too much champagne, was deeply moved at this picture of misery. She kissed the girl, telling her that I would not forsake her, and that in the meanwhile they would spend a pleasant night.
“Come! let us to bed!” said she; and after taking off her clothes she helped Irene to undress. I had no wish to fight, against two, and said that I wanted to rest. The fair Venetian burst out laughing and said —
“Go to bed and leave us alone.”
I did so, and amused myself by watching the two Bacchantes; but Irene, who had evidently never engaged in such a combat before, was not nearly so adroit as Marcoline.
Before long Marcoline brought Irene in her arms to my bedside, and told me to kiss her.
“Leave me alone, dearest,” said I, “the punch has got into your head, and you don’t know what you are doing.”
This stung her; and urging Irene to follow her example, she took up a position in my bed by force; and as there was not enough room for three, Marcoline got on top of Irene, calling her her wife.
I was virtuous enough to remain a wholly passive spectator of the scene, which was always new to me, though I had seen it so often; but at last they flung themselves on me with such violence that I was obliged to give way, and for the most part of the night I performed my share of the work, till they saw that I was completely exhausted. We fell asleep, and I did not wake up till noon, and then I saw my two beauties still asleep, with their limbs interlaced like the branches of a tree. I thought with a sigh of the pleasures of such a sleep, and got out of bed gently for fear of rousing them. I ordered a good dinner to be prepared, and countermanded the horses which had been waiting several hours.
The landlord remembering what I had done for Madame Stuard guessed I was going to do the same for the Rinaldis, and left them in peace.
When I came back I found my two Lesbians awake, and they gave me such an amorous welcome that I felt inclined to complete the work of the night with a lover’s good morning; but I began to feel the need of husbanding my forces, so I did nothing, and bore their sarcasms in silence till one o’clock, when I told them to get up, as we ought to have done at five o’clock, and here was two o’clock and breakfast not done.
“We have enjoyed ourselves,” said Marcoline, “and time that is given to enjoyment is never lost.”
When they were dressed, I had coffee brought in, and I gave Irene sixteen louis, four of which were to redeem her cloak. Her father and mother who had just dined came in to bid us good-day, and Irene proudly gave her father twelve Louis telling him to scold her a little less in future. He laughed, wept, and went out, and then came back and said he found a good way of getting to Antibes at a small cost, but they would have to go directly, as the driver wanted to get to St. Andiol by nightfall.
“I am quite ready.”
“No, dear Irene,” said I, “you shall not go; you shall dine with your friend, and your driver can wait. Make him do so, Count Rinaldi; my niece will pay, will you not, Marcoline?”
“Certainly. I should like to dine here, and still better to put off our departure till the next day.”
Her wishes were my orders. We had a delicious supper at five o’clock, and at eight we went to bed and spent the night in wantonness, but at five in the morning all were ready to start. Irene, who wore her handsome cloak, shed hot tears at parting from Marcoline, who also wept with all her heart. Old Rinaldi, who proved himself no prophet, told me that I should make a great fortune in England, and his daughter sighed to be in Marcoline’s place. We shall hear of Rinaldi later on.
We drove on for fifteen posts without stopping, and passed the night at Valence. The food was bad, but Marcoline forgot her discomfort in talking of Irene.
“Do you know,” said she, “that if it had been in my power I should have taken her from her parents. I believe she is your daughter, though she is not like you.”
“How can she be my daughter when I have never known her mother?”
“She told me that certainly.”
“Didn’t she tell you anything else?”
“Yes, she told me that you lived with her for three days and bought her maidenhead for a thousand sequins.”
“Quite so, but did she tell you that I paid the money to her father?”
“Yes, the little fool doesn’t keep anything for herself. I don’t think I should ever be jealous of your mistresses, if you let me sleep with them. Is not that a mark of a good disposition? Tell me.”
“You have, no doubt, a good disposition, but you could be quite as good without your dominant passion.”
“It is not a passion. I only have desires for those I love.”
“Who gave you this taste?”
“Nature. I began at seven, and in the last ten years I have certainly had four hundred sweethearts.”
“You begin early. But when did you begin to have male sweethearts?”
“Tell me all about it.”
“Father Molini, a monk, was my confessor, and he expressed a desire to know the girl who was then my sweetheart. It was in the carnival time, and he gave us a moral discourse, telling us that he would take us to the play if we would promise to abstain for a week. We promised to do so, and at the end of the week we went to tell him that we had kept our word faithfully. The next day Father Molini called on my sweetheart’s aunt in a mask, and as she knew him, and as he was a monk and a confessor, we were allowed to go with him. Besides, we were mere children; my sweetheart was only a year older than I.
“After the play the father took us to an inn, and gave us some supper; and when the meal was over he spoke to us of our sin, and wanted to see our privates. ‘It’s a great sin between two girls,’ said he, ‘but between a man and a woman it is a venial matter. Do you know how men are made?’ We both knew, but we said no with one consent. ‘Then would you like to know?’ said he. We said we should like to know very much, and he added, ‘If you will promise to keep it a secret, I may be able to satisfy your curiosity.’ We gave our promises, and the good father proceeded to gratify us with a sight of the riches which nature had lavished on him, and in the course of an hour he had turned us into women. I must confess that he understood so well how to work on our curiosity that the request came from us. Three years later, when I was fourteen, I became the mistress of a young jeweller. Then came your brother; but he got nothing from me, because he began by saying that he could not ask me to give him any favours till we were married.”
“You must have been amused at that.”
“Yes, it did make me laugh, because I did not know that a priest could get married; and he excited my curiosity by telling me that they managed it at Geneva. Curiosity and wantonness made me escape with him; you know the rest.”
Thus did Marcoline amuse me during the evening, and then we went to bed and slept quietly till the morning. We started from Valence at five, and in the evening we were set down at the “Hotel du Parc” at Lyons.
As soon as I was settled in the pleasant apartments allotted to me I went to Madame d’Urfe, who was staying in the Place Bellecour, and said, as usual, that she was sure I was coming on that day. She wanted to know if she had performed the ceremonies correctly, and Paralis, of course, informed her that she had, whereat she was much flattered. The young Aranda was with her, and after I had kissed him affectionately I told the marchioness that I would be with her at ten o’clock the next morning, and so I left her.
I kept the appointment and we spent the whole of the day in close conference, asking of the oracle concerning her being brought to bed, how she was to make her will, and how she should contrive to escape poverty in her regenerated shape. The oracle told her that she must go to Paris for her lying-in, and leave all her possessions to her son, who would not be a bastard, as Paralis promised that as soon as I got to London an English gentleman should be sent over to marry her. Finally, the oracle ordered her to prepare to start in three days, and to take Aranda with her. I had to take the latter to London and return him to his mother, for his real position in life was no longer a mystery, the little rascal having confessed all; however, I had found a remedy for his indiscretion as for the treachery of the Corticelli and Possano.
I longed to return him to the keeping of his mother, who constantly wrote me impertinent letters. I also wished to take my daughter, who, according to her mother, had become a prodigy of grace and beauty.
After the oracular business had been settled, I returned to the “Hotel du Parc” to dine with Marcoline. It was very late, and as I could not take my sweetheart to the play I called on M. Bono to enquire whether he had sent my brother to Paris. He told me that he had gone the day before, and that my great enemy, Possano, was still in Lyons, and that I would do well to be on my guard as far as he was concerned.
“I have seen him,” said Bono; “he looks pale and undone, and seems scarcely able to stand. ‘I shall die before long,’ said he, ‘for that scoundrel Casanova has had me poisoned; but I will make him pay dearly for his crime, and in this very town of Lyons, where I know he will come, sooner or later.’
“In fact, in the course of half an hour, he made some terrible accusations against you, speaking as if he were in a fury. He wants all the world to know that you are the greatest villain unhung, that you are ruining Madame d’Urfe with your impious lies; that you are a sorcerer, a forger, an utter of false moneys, a poisoner — in short, the worst of men. He does not intend to publish a libellous pamphlet upon you, but to accuse you before the courts, alleging that he wants reparation for the wrongs you have done his person, his honour, and his life, for he says you are killing him by a slow poison. He adds that for every article he possesses the strongest proof.
“I will say nothing about the vague abuse he adds to these formal accusations, but I have felt it my duty to warn you of his treacherous designs that you may be able to defeat them. It’s no good saying he is a miserable wretch, and that you despise him; you know how strong a thing calumny is.”
“Where does the fellow live?”
“I don’t know in the least.”
“How can I find out?”
“I can’t say, for if he is hiding himself on purpose it would be hard to get at him.”
“Nevertheless, Lyons is not so vast a place.”
“Lyons is a perfect maze, and there is no better hiding-place, especially to a man with money, and Possano has money.”
“But what can he do to me?”
“He can institute proceedings against you in the criminal court, which would cause you immense anxiety and bring down your good name to the dust, even though you be the most innocent, the most just of men.”
“It seems to me, then, that the best thing I can do will be to be first in the field.”
“So I think, but even then you cannot avoid publicity.”
“Tell me frankly if you feel disposed to bear witness to what the rascal has said in a court of justice.”
“I will tell all I know with perfect truth.”
“Be kind enough to tell me of a good advocate.”
“I will give you the address of one of the best; but reflect before you do anything. The affair will make a noise.”
“As I don’t know where he lives, I have really no choice in the matter.”
If I had known where he lived I could have had Possano expelled from Lyons through the influence of Madame d’Urfe, whose relative, M. de la Rochebaron, was the governor; but as it was, I had no other course than the one I took.
Although Possano was a liar and an ungrateful, treacherous hound, yet I could not help being uneasy. I went to my hotel, and proceeded to ask for police protection against a man in hiding in Lyons, who had designs against my life and honour.
The next day M. Bono came to dissuade me from the course I had taken.
“For,” said he, “the police will begin to search for him, and as soon as he hears of it he will take proceedings against you in the criminal courts, and then your positions will be changed. It seems to me that if you have no important business at Lyons you had better hasten your departure.”
“Do you think I would do such a thing for a miserable fellow like Possano? No! I would despise myself if I did. I would die rather than hasten my departure on account of a rascal whom I loaded with kindnesses, despite his unworthiness! I would give a hundred louis to know where he is now.”
“I am delighted to say that I do not know anything about it, for if I did I would tell you, and then God knows what would happen! You won’t go any sooner; well, then, begin proceedings, and I will give my evidence by word of mouth or writing whenever you please.”
I went to the advocate whom M. Bono had recommended to me, and told him my business. When he heard what I wanted he said — —
“I can do nothing for you, sir, as I have undertaken the case of your opponent. You need not be alarmed, however, at having spoken to me, for I assure you that I will make no use whatever of the information. Possano’s plea or accusation will not be drawn up till the day after to-morrow, but I will not tell him to make baste for fear of your anticipating him, as I have only been informed of your intentions by hazard. However, you will find plenty of advocates at Lyons as honest as I am, and more skilled.”
“Could you give me the name of one?”
“That would not be etiquette, but M. Bono, who seems to have kindly spoken of me with some esteem, will be able to serve you.”
“Can you tell me where your client lives?”
“Since his chief aim is to remain hidden, and with good cause, you will see that I could not think of doing such a thing.”
In bidding him farewell I put a louis on the table, and though I did it with the utmost delicacy he ran after me and made me take it back.
“For once in a way,” I said to myself, “here’s an honest advocate.”
As I walked along I thought of putting a spy on Possano and finding out his abode, for I felt a strong desire to have him beaten to death; but where was I to find a spy in a town of which I knew nothing? M. Bono gave me the name of another advocate, and advised me to make haste.
“’Tis in criminal matters” said he, “and in such cases the first comer always has the advantage.”
I asked him to find me a trusty fellow to track out the rascally Possano, but the worthy man would not hear of it. He shewed me that it would be dishonourable to set a spy on the actions of Possano’s advocate. I knew it myself; but what man is there who has not yielded to the voice of vengeance, the most violent and least reasonable of all the passions.
I went to the second advocate, whom I found to be a man venerable not only in years but in wisdom. I told him all the circumstances of the affair, which he agreed to take up, saying he would present my plea in the course of the day.
“That’s just what I want you to do,” said I, “for his own advocate told me that his pleas would be presented the day after to-morrow.”
“That, sir,” said her “would not induce me to act with any greater promptness, as I could not consent to your abusing the confidence of my colleague.”
“But there is nothing dishonourable in making use of information which one has acquired by chance.”
“That may be a tenable position in some cases, but in the present instance the nature of the affair justifies prompt action. ‘Prior in tempore, Potior in jure’. Prudence bids us attack our enemy. Be so kind, if you please, to call here at three o’clock in the afternoon.”
“I will not fail to do so, and in the meanwhile here are six louis.”
“I will keep account of my expenditure on your behalf.”
“I want you not to spare money.”
“Sir, I shall spend only what is absolutely necessary.”
I almost believed that probity had chosen a home for herself amongst the Lyons advocates, and here I may say, to the honour of the French bar, that I have never known a more honest body of men than the advocates of France.
At three o’clock, having seen that the plan was properly drawn up, I went to Madame d’Urfe’s, and for four hours I worked the oracle in a manner that filled her with delight, and in spite of my vexation I could not help laughing at her insane fancies on the subject of her pregnancy. She was certain of it; she felt all the symptoms. Then she said how sorry she felt that she would not be alive to laugh at all the hypotheses of the Paris doctors as to her being delivered of a child, which would be thought very extraordinary in a woman of her age.
When I got back to the inn I found Marcoline very melancholy. She said she had been waiting for me to take her to the play, according to my promise, and that I should not have made her wait in vain.
“You are right, dearest, but an affair of importance has kept me with the marchioness. Don’t be put out.”
I had need of some such advice myself, for the legal affair worried me, and I slept very ill. Early the next morning I saw my counsel, who told me that my plea had been laid before the criminal lieutenant.
“For the present,” said he, “there is nothing more to be done, for as we don’t know where he is we can’t cite him to appear.”
“Could I not set the police on his track?”
“You might, but I don’t advise you to do so. Let us consider what the result would be. The accuser finding himself accused would have to defend himself and prove the accusation he has made against you. But in the present state of things, if he does not put in an appearance we will get judgment against him for contempt of court and also for libel. Even his counsel will leave him in the lurch if he persistently refuses to shew himself.”
This quieted my fears a little, and I spent the rest of the day with Madame d’Urfe, who was going to Paris on the morrow. I promised to be with her as soon as I had dealt with certain matters which concerned the honour of the Fraternity R. C..
Her great maxim was always to respect my secrets, and never to trouble me with her curiosity. Marcoline, who had been pining by herself all day, breathed again when I told her that henceforth I should be all for her.
In the morning M. Bono came to me and begged me to go with him to Possano’s counsel, who wanted to speak to me. The advocate said that his client was a sort of madman who was ready to do anything, as he believed himself to be dying from the effects of a slow poison.
“He says that even if you are first in the field he will have you condemned to death. He says he doesn’t care if he is sent to prison, as he is certain of coming out in triumph as he has the proof of all his accusations. He shews twenty-five louis which you gave him, all of which are clipped, and he exhibits documents dated from Genoa stating that you clipped a number of gold pieces, which were melted by M. Grimaldi in order that the police might not find them in your possession. He has even a letter from your brother, the abbe, deposing against you. He is a madman, a victim to syphilis, who wishes to send you to the other world before himself, if he can. Now my advice to you is to give him some money and get rid of him. He tells me that he is the father of a family, and that if M. Bono would give him a thousand louis he would sacrifice vengeance to necessity. He told me to speak to M. Bono about it; and now, sir what do you say?”
“That which my just indignation inspires me to say regarding a rascal whom I rescued from poverty, and who nevertheless pursues me with atrocious calumnies; he shall not have one single farthing of mine.”
I then told the Genoa story, putting things in their true light, and adding that I could call M. Grimaldi as a witness if necessary.
“I have delayed presenting the plea,” said the counsel, “to see if the scandal could be hushed up in any way, but I warn you that I shall now present it.”
“Do so; I shall be greatly obliged to you.”
I immediately called on my advocate, and told him of the rascal’s proposal; and he said I was quite right to refuse to have any dealings with such a fellow. He added that as I had M. Bono as a witness I ought to make Possano’s advocate present his plea, and I authorized him to take proceedings in my name.
A clerk was immediately sent to the criminal lieutenant, praying him to command the advocate to bring before him, in three days, the plea of one Anami, alias Pogomas, alias Possano, the said plea being against Jacques Casanova, commonly called the Chevalier de Seingalt. This document, to which I affixed my signature, was laid before the criminal lieutenant.
I did not care for the three days’ delay, but my counsel told me it was always given, and that I must make up my mind to submit to all the vexation I should be obliged to undergo, even if we were wholly successful.
As Madame d’Urfe had taken her departure in conformity with the orders of Paralis, I dined with Marcoline at the inn, and tried to raise my spirits by all the means in my power. I took my mistress to the best milliners and dressmakers in the town, and bought her everything she took a fancy to; and then we went to the theatre, where she must have been pleased to see all eyes fixed on her. Madame Pernon, who was in the next box to ours, made me introduce Marcoline to her; and from the way they embraced each other when the play was over I saw they were likely to become intimate, the only obstacle to their friendship being that Madame Pernon did not know a word of Italian, and that Marcoline did not dare to speak a word of French for fear of making herself ridiculous. When we got back to the inn, Marcoline told me that her new friend had given her the Florentine kiss: this is the shibboleth of the sect.
The pretty nick-nacks I had given her had made her happy; her ardour was redoubled, and the night passed joyously.
I spent the next day in going from shop to shop, making fresh purchases for Marcoline, and we supped merrily at Madame Pernon’s.
The day after, M. Bono came to see me at an early hour with a smile of content on his face.
“Let us go and breakfast at a coffee-house,” said he; “we will have some discussion together.”
When we were breakfasting he shewed me a letter written by Possano, in which the rascal said that he was ready to abandon proceedings provided that M. de Seingalt gave him a hundred louis, on receipt of which he promised to leave Lyons immediately.
“I should be a great fool,” said I, “if I gave the knave more money to escape from the hands of justice. Let him go if he likes, I won’t prevent him; but he had better not expect me to give him anything. He will have a writ out against him to-morrow. I should like to see him branded by the hangman. He has slandered me, his benefactor, too grievously; let him prove what he says, or be dishonoured before all men.”
“His abandoning the proceedings,” said M. Bono, “would in my opinion amount to the same thing as his failing to prove his charges, and you would do well to prefer it to a trial which would do your reputation no good, even if you were completely successful. And the hundred louis is nothing in comparison with the costs of such a trial.”
“M. Bono, I value your advice very highly, and still more highly the kindly feelings which prompt you, but you must allow me to follow my own opinion in this case.”
I went to my counsel and told him of the fresh proposal that Possano had made, and of my refusal to listen to it, begging him to take measures for the arrest of the villain who had vowed my death.
The same evening I had Madame Pernon and M. Bono, who was her lover, to sup with me; and as the latter had a good knowledge of Italian Marcoline was able to take part in the merriment of the company.
The next day Bono wrote to tell me that Possano had left Lyons never to return, and that he had signed a full and satisfactory retraction. I was not surprised to hear of his flight, but the other circumstance I could not understand. I therefore hastened to call on Bono, who showed me the document, which was certainly plain enough.
“Will that do?” said he.
“So well that I forgive him, but I wonder he did not insist on the hundred Louis.”
“My dear sir, I gave him the money with pleasure, to prevent a scandalous affair which would have done us all harm in becoming public. If I had told you nothing, you couldn’t have taken any steps in the matter, and I felt myself obliged to repair the mischief I had done in this way. You would have known nothing about it, if you had said that you were not satisfied. I am only too glad to have been enabled to skew my friendship by this trifling service. We will say no more about it.”
“Very good,” said I, embracing him, “we will say no more, but please to receive the assurance of my gratitude.”
I confess I felt much relieved at being freed from this troublesome business.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52