I Am Ordered to Leave Vienna — The Empress Moderates but Does Not Annul the Order — Zavoiski at Munich — My Stay at Augsburg — Gasconnade at Louisburg — The Cologne Newspaper — My Arrival at Aix-la-Chapelle
The greatest mistake a man that punishes a knave can commit is to leave the said rogue alive, for he is certain to take vengeance. If I had had my sword in the den of thieves, I should no doubt have defended myself, but it would have gone ill with me, three against one, and I should probably have been cut to pieces, while the murderers would have escaped unpunished.
At eight o’clock Campioni came to see me in my bed, and was astonished at my adventure. Without troubling himself to compassionate me, we both began to think how we could get back my purse; but we came to the conclusion that it would be impossible, as I had nothing more than my mere assertion to prove the case. In spite of that, however, I wrote out the whole story, beginning with the girl who recited the Latin verses. I intended to bring the document before the police; however, I had not time to do so.
I was just sitting down to dinner, when an agent of the police came and gave me an order to go and speak to Count Schrotembach, the Statthalter. I told him to instruct my coachman, who was waiting at the door, and that I would follow him shortly.
When I called on the Statthalter, I found him to be a thick-set individual; he was standing up, and surrounded by men who seemed ready to execute his orders. When he saw me, he shewed me a watch, and requested me to note the hour.
“I see it.”
“If you are at Vienna at that time to-morrow I shall have you expelled from the city.”
“Why do you give me such an unjust order?”
“In the first place, I am not here to give you accounts or reasons for my actions. However, I may tell you that you are expelled for playing at games of chance, which are forbidden by the laws under pain of the galleys. Do you recognize that purse and these cards?”
I did not know the cards, but I knew the purse which had been stolen from me. I was in a terrible rage, and I only replied by presenting the magistrate with the truthful narrative of what had happened to me. He read it, and then said with a laugh that I was well known to be a man of parts, that my character was known, that I had been expelled from Warsaw, and that as for the document before him he judged it to be a pack of lies, since in his opinion it was altogether void of probability.
“In fine,” he added, “you will obey my order to leave the town, and you must tell me where you are going.”
“I will tell you that when I have made up my mind to go.”
“What? You dare to tell me that you will not obey?”
“You yourself have said that if I do not go I shall be removed by force.”
“Very good. I have heard you have a strong will, but here it will be of no use to you. I advise you to go quietly, and so avoid harsh measures.”
“I request you to return me that document.”
“I will not do so. Begone!”
This was one of the most terrible moments of my life. I shudder still when I think of it. It was only a cowardly love of life that hindered me from running my sword through the body of the Statthalter, who had treated me as if he were a hangman and not a judge.
As I went away I took it into my head to complain to Prince Kaunitz, though I had not the honour of knowing him. I called at his house, and a man I met told me to stay in the ante-chamber, as the prince would pass through to go to dinner.
It was five o’clock. The prince appeared, followed by his guests, amongst whom was M. Polo Renieri, the Venetian ambassador. The prince asked me what he could do for me, and I told my story in a loud voice before them all.
“I have received my order to go, but I shall not obey. I implore your highness to give me your protection, and to help me to bring my plea to the foot of the throne.”
“Write out your petition,” he replied, “and I will see that the empress gets it. But I advise you to ask her majesty for a respite, for if you say that you won’t obey, she will be predisposed against you.”
“But if the royal grace does not place me in security, I shall be driven away by violence.”
“Then take refuge with the ambassador of your native country.”
“Alas, my lord, my country has forsaken me. An act of legal though unconstitutional violence has deprived me of my rights as a citizen. My name is Casanova, and my country is Venice.”
The prince looked astonished and turned to the Venetian ambassador, who smiled, and whispered to him for ten minutes.
“It’s a pity,” said the prince, kindly, “that you cannot claim the protection of any ambassador.”
At these words a nobleman of colossal stature stepped forward and said I could claim his protection, as my whole family, myself included, had served the prince his master. He spoke the truth, for he was the ambassador of Saxony.
“That is Count Vitzthum,” said the prince. “Write to the empress, and I will forward your petition immediately. If there is any delay in the answer, go to the count; you will be safe with him, until you like to leave Vienna.”
In the meanwhile the prince ordered writing materials to be brought me, and he and his guests passed into the dining-hall.
I give here a copy of the petition, which I composed in less than ten minutes. I made a fair copy for the Venetian ambassador to send home to the Senate:
“MADAM — I am sure that if, as your royal and imperial highness were walking in your garden, an insect appealed plaintively to you not to crush it, you would turn aside, and so avoid doing the poor creature any hurt.
“I, madam, am an insect, and I beg of you that you will order M. Statthalter Schrotembach to delay crushing me with your majesty’s slipper for a week. Possibly, after that time has elapsed, your majesty will not only prevent his crushing me, but will deprive him of that slipper, which was only meant to be the terror of rogues, and not of an humble Venetian, who is an honest man, though he escaped from The Leads.
“In profound submission to your majesty’s will,
“Given at Vienna, January 21st, 1769.”
When I had finished the petition, I made a fair draft of it, and sent it in to the prince, who sent it back to me telling me that he would place it in the empress’s hands immediately, but that he would be much obliged by my making a copy for his own use.
I did so, and gave both copies to the valet de chambre, and went my way. I trembled like a paralytic, and was afraid that my anger might get me into difficulty. By way of calming myself, I wrote out in the style of a manifesto the narrative I had given to the vile Schrotembach, and which that unworthy magistrate had refused to return to me.
At seven o’clock Count Vitzthum came into my room. He greeted me in a friendly manner and begged me to tell him the story of the girl I had gone to see, on the promise of the Latin quatrain referring to her accommodating disposition. I gave him the address and copied out the verses, and he said that was enough to convince an enlightened judge that I had been slandered; but he, nevertheless, was very doubtful whether justice would be done me.
“What! shall I be obliged to leave Vienna to-morrow?”
“No, no, the empress cannot possibly refuse you the week’s delay.”
“Oh! no one could refuse such an appeal as that. Even the prince could not help smiling as he was reading it in his cold way. After reading it he passed it on to me, and then to the Venetian ambassador, who asked him if he meant to give it to the empress as it stood. ‘This petition,’ replied the prince, ‘might be sent to God, if one knew the way;’ and forthwith he ordered one of his secretaries to fold it up and see that it was delivered. We talked of you for the rest of dinner, and I had the pleasure of hearing the Venetian ambassador say that no one could discover any reason for your imprisonment under the Leads. Your duel was also discussed, but on that point we only knew what has appeared in the newspapers. Oblige me by giving me a copy of your petition; that phrase of Schrotembach and the slipper pleased me vastly.”
I copied out the document, and gave it him with a copy of my manifesto. Before he left me the count renewed the invitation to take refuge with him, if I did not hear from the empress before the expiration of the twenty-four hours.
At ten o’clock I had a visit from the Comte de la Perouse, the Marquis de las Casas, and Signor Uccelli, the secretary of the Venetian embassy. The latter came to ask for a copy of my petition for his chief. I promised he should have it, and I also sent a copy of my manifesto. The only thing which rather interfered with the dignity of this latter piece, and gave it a somewhat comic air, were the four Latin verses, which might make people imagine that, after enjoying the girl as Hebe, I had gone in search of her as Ganymede. This was not the case, but the empress understood Latin and was familiar with mythology, and if she had looked on it in the light I have mentioned I should have been undone. I made six copies of the two documents before I went to bed; I was quite tired out, but the exertion had somewhat soothed me. At noon the next day, young Hasse (son of the chapel-master and of the famous Trustina), secretary of legation to Count Vitzthum, came to tell me from the ambassador that nobody would attack me in my own house, nor in my carriage if I went abroad, but that it would be imprudent to go out on foot. He added that his chief would have the pleasure of calling on me at seven o’clock. I begged M. Hasse to let me have all this in writing, and after he had written it out he left me.
Thus the order to leave Vienna had been suspended; it must have been done by the sovereign.
“I have no time to lose,” said I to myself, “I shall have justice done me, my assassins will be condemned, my purse will be returned with the two hundred ducats in it, and not in the condition in which it was shewn to me by the infamous Schrotembach, who will be punished by dismissal, at least.”
Such were my castles in Spain; who has not built such? ‘Quod nimis miseri volunt hoc facile credunt’, says Seneca. The wish is father to the thought.
Before sending my manifesto to the empress, Prince Kaunitz, and to all the ambassadors, I thought it would be well to call on the Countess of Salmor, who spoke to the sovereign early and late. I had had a letter of introduction for her.
She greeted me by saying that I had better give up wearing my arm in a sling, as it looked as ii I were a charlatan; my arm must be well enough after nine months.
I was extremely astonished by this greeting, and replied that if it were not necessary I should not wear a sling, and that I was no charlatan.
“However,” I added, “I have come to see you on a different matter.”
“Yes, I know, but I will have nothing to do with it. You are all as bad as Tomatis.”
I gave a turn round and left the room without taking any further notice of her. I returned home feeling overwhelmed by the situation. I had been robbed and insulted by a band of thorough-paced rascals; I could do nothing, justice was denied me, and now I had been made a mock of by a worthless countess. If I had received such an insult from a man I would have soon made him feel the weight of one arm at all events. I could not bear my arm without a sling for an hour; pain and swelling set in immediately. I was not perfectly cured till twenty months after the duel.
Count Vitzthum came to see me at seven o’clock. He said the empress had told Prince Kaunitz that Schrotembach considered my narrative as pure romance. His theory was that I had held a bank at faro with sharpers’ cards, and had dealt with both hands the arm in the sling being a mere pretence. I had then been taken in the act by one of the gamesters, and my unjust gains had been very properly taken from me. My detector had then handed over my purse, containing forty ducats, to the police, and the money had of course been confiscated. The empress had to choose between believing Schrotembach and dismissing him; and she was not inclined to do the latter, as it would be a difficult matter to find him a successor in his difficult and odious task of keeping Vienna clear of human vermin.
“This is what Prince Kaunitz asked me to tell you. But you need not be afraid of any violence, and you can go when you like.”
“Then I am to be robbed of two hundred ducats with impunity. The empress might at least reimburse me if she does nothing more. Please to ask the prince whether I can ask the sovereign to give me that satisfaction; the least I can demand.”
“I will tell him what you say.”
“If not, I shall leave; for what can I do in a town where I can only drive, and where the Government keeps assassins in its pay?”
“You are right. We are all sure that Pocchini has calumniated you. The girl who recites Latin verses is well known, but none know her address. I must advise you not to publish your tale as long as you are in Vienna, as it places Schrotembach in a very bad light, and you see the empress has to support him in the exercise of his authority.”
“I see the force of your argument, and I shall have to devour my anger. I will leave Vienna as soon as the washerwoman sends home my linen, but I will have the story printed in all its black injustice.”
“The empress is prejudiced against you, I don’t know by whom.”
“I know, though; it is that infernal old hag, Countess Salmor.”
The next day I received a letter from Count Vitzthum, in which he said that Prince Kaunitz advised me to forget the two hundred ducats, that the girl and her so-called mother had left Vienna to all appearance, as someone had gone to the address and had failed to find her.
I saw that I could do nothing, and resolved to depart in peace, and afterwards to publish the whole story and to hang Pocchini with my own hands when next I met him. I did neither the one nor the other.
About that time a young lady of the Salis de Coire family arrived at Vienna without any companion. The imperial hangman Schrotembach, ordered her to leave Vienna in two days. She replied that she would leave exactly when she felt inclined. The magistrate consigned her to imprisonment in a convent, and she was there still when I left. The emperor went to see her, and the empress, his mother, asked him what he thought of her. His answer was, “I thought her much more amusing than Schrotembach.”
Undoubtedly, every man worthy of the name longs to be free, but who is really free in this world? No one. The philosopher, perchance, may be accounted so, but it is at the cost of too precious sacrifices at the phantom shrine of Liberty.
I left the use of my suite of rooms, for which I had paid a month in advance, to Campioni, promising to wait for him at Augsburg, where the Law alone is supreme. I departed alone carrying with me the bitter regret that I had not been able to kill the monster, whose despotism had crushed me. I stopped at Linz on purpose to write to Schrotembach even a more bitter letter than that which I had written to the Duke of Wurtemburg in 1760. I posted it myself, and had it registered so as to be sure of its reaching the scoundrel to whom it had been addressed. It was absolutely necessary for me to write this letter, for rage that has no vent must kill at last. From Linz I had a three days’ journey to Munich, where I called on Count Gaetan Zavoicki, who died at Dresden seven years ago. I had known him at Venice when he was in want, and I had happily been useful to him. On my relating the story of the robbery that had been committed on me, he no doubt imagined I was in want, and gave me twenty-five louis. To tell the truth it was much less than what I had given him at Venice, and if he had looked upon his action as paying back a debt we should not have been quits; but as I had never wished him to think that I had lent, not given him money, I received the present gratefully. He also gave me a letter for Count Maximilian Lamberg, marshal at the court of the Prince-Bishop of Augsburg, whose acquaintance I had the honour of having.
There was no theatre then in Augsburg, but there were masked balls in which all classes mingled freely. There were also small parties where faro was played for small stakes. I was tired of the pleasure, the misfortune, and the griefs I had had in three capitals, and I resolved to spend four months in the free city of Augsburg, where strangers have the same privileges as the canons. My purse was slender, but with the economical life I led I had nothing to fear on that score. I was not far from Venice, where a hundred ducats were always at my service if I wanted them. I played a little and waged war against the sharpers who have become more numerous of late than the dupes, as there are also more doctors than patients. I also thought of getting a mistress, for what is life without love? I had tried in vain to retrace Gertrude; the engraver was dead, and no one knew what had become of his daughter.
Two or three days before the end of the carnival I went to a hirer of carriages, as I had to go to a ball at some distance from the town. While the horses were being put in, I entered the room to warm my hands, for the weather was very cold. A girl came up and asked me if I would drink a glass of wine.
“No,” said I; and on the question being repeated, repeated the monosyllable somewhat rudely. The girl stood still and began to laugh, and I was about to turn angrily away when she said —
“I see you do not remember me?”
I looked at her attentively, and at last I discovered beneath her unusually ugly features the lineaments of Anna Midel, the maid in the engraver’s house.
“You remind me of Anna Midel,” said I.
“Alas, I was Anna Midel once. I am no longer an object fit for love, but that is your fault.”
“Yes; the four hundred florins you gave me made Count Fugger’s coachman marry me, and he not only abandoned me but gave me a disgusting disease, which was like to have been my death. I recovered my health, but I never shall recover my good looks.”
“I am very sorry to hear all this; but tell me what has become of Gertrude?”
“Then you don’t know that you are going to a ball at her house to-night?”
“Yes. After her father’s death she married a well-to-do and respectable man, and I expect you will be pleased with the entertainment”
“Is she pretty still?”
“She is just as she used to be, except that she is six years older and has had children.”
“Is she gallant?”
“I don’t think so.”
Anna had spoken the truth. Gertrude was pleased to see me, and introduced me to her husband as one of her father’s old lodgers, and I had altogether a pleasant welcome; but, on sounding her, I found she entertained those virtuous sentiments which might have been expected under the circumstances.
Campioni arrived at Augsburg at the beginning of Lent. He was in company with Binetti, who was going to Paris. He had completely despoiled his wife, and had left her for ever. Campioni told me that no one at Vienna doubted my story in the slightest degree. Pocchini and the Sclav had disappeared a few days after my departure, and the Statthalter had incurred a great deal of odium by his treatment of me. Campioni spent a month with me, and then went on to London.
I called on Count Lamberg and his countess, who, without being beautiful, was an epitome of feminine charm and amiability. Her name before marriage was Countess Dachsberg. Three months after my arrival, this lady, who was enciente, but did not think her time was due, went with Count Fugger, dean of the chapter, to a party of pleasure at an inn three quarters of a league from Augsburg. I was present; and in the course of the meal she was taken with such violent pains that she feared she would be delivered on the spot. She did not like to tell the noble canon, and thinking that I was more likely to be acquainted with such emergencies she came up to me and told me all. I ordered the coachman to put in his horses instantly, and when the coach was ready I took up the countess and carried her to it. The canon followed us in blank astonishment, and asked me what was the matter. I told him to bid the coachman drive fast and not to spare his horses. He did so, but he asked again what was the matter.
“The countess will be delivered of a child if we do not make haste.”
I thought I should be bound to laugh, in spite of my sympathies for the poor lady’s pains, when I saw the dean turn green and white and purple, and look as if he were going into a fit, as he realized that the countess might be delivered before his eyes in his own carriage. The poor man looked as grievously tormented as St. Laurence on his gridiron. The bishop was at Plombieres; they would write and tell him! It would be in all the papers! “Quick! coachman, quick!”
We got to the castle before it was too late. I carried the lady into her rook, and they ran for a surgeon and a midwife. It was no good, however, for in five minutes the count came out and said the countess had just been happily delivered. The dean looked as if a weight had been taken off his mind; however, he took the precaution of having himself blooded.
I spent an extremely pleasant four months at Augsburg, supping twice or thrice a week at Count Lamberg’s. At these suppers I made the acquaintance of a very remarkable man — Count Thura and Valsamina, then a page in the prince-bishop’s household, now Dean of Ratisbon. He was always at the count’s, as was also Dr. Algardi, of Bologna, the prince’s physician and a delightful man.
I often saw at the same house a certain Baron Sellenthin, a Prussian officer, who was always recruiting for his master at Augsburg. He was a pleasant man, somewhat in the Gascon style, soft-spoken, and an expert gamester. Five or six years ago I had a letter from him dated Dresden, in which he said that though he was old, and had married a rich wife, he repented of having married at all. I should say the same if I had ever chanced to marry.
During my stay at Augsburg several Poles, who had left their country on account of the troubles, came to see me. Amongst others was Rzewuski, the royal Prothonotary, whom I had known at St. Petersburg as the lover of poor Madame Langlade.
“What a diet! What plots! What counterplots! What misfortunes!” said this honest Pole, to me. “Happy are they who have nothing to do with it!”
He was going to Spa, and he assured me that if I followed him I should find Prince Adam’s sister, Tomatis, and Madame Catai, who had become the manager’s wife. I determined to go to Spa, and to take measures so that I might go there with three or four hundred ducats in my purse. To this intent I wrote to Prince Charles of Courland, who was at Venice, to send me a hundred ducats, and in my letter I gave him an infallible receipt for the philosopher’s stone. The letter containing this vast secret was not in cypher, so I advised him to burn it after he had read it, assuring him that I possessed a copy. He did not do so, and it was taken to Paris with his order papers when he was sent to the Bastile.
If it had not been for the Revolution my letter would never have seen the light. When the Bastille was destroyed, my letter was found and printed with other curious compositions, which were afterwards translated into German and English. The ignorant fools that abound in the land where my fate wills that I should write down the chief events of my long and troublous life — these fools, I say, who are naturally my sworn foes (for the ass lies not down with the horse), make this letter an article of accusation against me, and think they can stop my mouth by telling me that the letter has been translated into German, and remains to my eternal shame. The ignorant Bohemians are astonished when I tell them that I regard the letter as redounding to my glory, and that if their ears were not quite so long their blame would be turned into praise.
I do not know whether my letter has been correctly translated, but since it has become public property I shall set it down here in homage to truth, the only god I adore. I have before me an exact copy of the original written in Augsburg in the year 1767, and we are now in the year 1798.
It runs as follows:
“MY LORD — I hope your highness will either burn this letter after reading it, or else preserve it with the greatest care. It will be better, however, to make a copy in cypher, and to burn the original. My attachment to you is not my only motive in writing; I confess my interest is equally concerned. Allow me to say that I do not wish your highness to esteem me alone for any qualities you may have observed in me; I wish you to become my debtor by the inestimable secret I am going to confide to you. This secret relates to the making of gold, the only thing of which your highness stands in need. If you had been miserly by nature you would be rich now; but you are generous, and will be poor all your days if you do not make use of my secret.
“Your highness told me at Riga that you would like me to give you the secret by which I transmuted iron into copper; I never did so, but now I shall teach you how to make a much more marvellous transmutation. I should point out to you, however, that you are not at present in a suitable place for the operation, although all the materials are easily procurable. The operation necessitates my presence for the construction of a furnace, and for the great care necessary, far the least mistake will spoil all. The transmutation of Mars is an easy and merely mechanical process, but that of gold is philosophical in the highest degree. The gold produced will be equal to that used in the Venetian sequins. You must reflect, my lord, that I am giving you information which will permit you to dispense with me, and you must also reflect that I am confiding to you my life and my liberty.
“The step I am taking should insure your life-long protection, and should raise you above that prejudice which is entertained against the general mass of alchemists. My vanity would be wounded if you refuse to distinguish me from the common herd of operators. All I ask you is that you will wait till we meet before undertaking the process. You cannot do it by yourself, and if you employ any other person but myself, you will betray the secret. I must tell you that, using the same materials, and by the addition of mercury and nitre, I made the tree of projection for the Marchioness d’Urfe and the Princess of Anhalt. Zerbst calculated the profit as fifty per cent. My fortune would have been made long ago, if I had found a prince with the control of a mint whom I could trust. Your character enables me to confide in you. However, we will come to the point.
“You must take four ounces of good silver, dissolve in aqua fortis, precipitate secundum artem with copper, then wash in lukewarm water to separate the acids; dry, mix with half an ounce of sal ammoniac, and place in a suitable vessel. Afterwards you must take a pound of alum, a pound of Hungary crystals, four ounces of verdigris, four ounces of cinnabar, and two ounces of sulphur. Pulverise and mix, and place in a retort of such size that the above matters will only half fill it. This retort must be placed over a furnace with four draughts, for the heat must be raised to the fourth degree. At first your fire must be slow so as to extract the gross phlegm of the matter, and when the spirit begins to appear, place the receiver under the retort, and Luna with the ammoniac salts will appear in it. All the joinings must be luted with the Philosophical Luting, and as the spirit comes, so regulate your furnace, but do not let it pass the third degree of heat.
“So soon as the sublimation begins then boldly open your forth vent, but take heed that that which is sublimed pass not into the receiver where is your Luna, and so you must shut, the mouth of the retort closely, and keep it so for twenty-four hours, and then take off your fastenings, and allow the distillation to go on. Then you must increase your fire so that the spirits may pass, over, until the matter in the retort is quite desiccated. After this operation has been performed three times, then you shall see, the gold appear in the retort. Then draw it forth and melt it, adding your corpus perfectum. Melt with it two ounces of gold, then lay it in water, and you shall find four ounces of pure gold.
“Such my lord, is the gold mine for your mint of Mitau, by which, with the assistance of a manager and four men, you can assure yourself a revenue of a thousand ducats a week, and double, and quadruple that sum, if your highness chooses to increase the men and the furnaces. I ask your highness to make me your manager. But remember it must be a State secret, so burn this letter, and if your highness would give me any reward in advance, I only ask you to give me your affection and esteem. I shall be happy if I have reason to believe that my master will also be my friend. My life, which this letter places in your power, is ever at your service, and I know not what I shall do if I ever have cause to repent having disclosed my secret. I have the honour to be, etc.”
In whatever language this letter may have been translated, if its sense run not as above, it is not my letter, and I am ready to give the lie to all the Mirabeaus in the world. I have been called an exile, but wrongfully, for a man who has to leave a country by virtue of a ‘lettre de cachet’ is no exile. He is forced to obey a despotic monarch who looks upon his kingdom as his house, and turns out of doors anyone who meets with his displeasure.
As soon as my purse swelled to a respectable size, I left Augsburg, The date of my departure was June 14th, 1767. I was at Ulm when a courier of the Duke of Wurtemburg’s passed through the town with the news that his highness would arrive from Venice in the course of five or six days. This courier had a letter for me. It had been entrusted to him by Prince Charles of Courland, who had told the courier that he would find me at the “Hotel du Raisin,” in Augsburg. As it happened, I had left the day before, but knowing the way by which I had gone he caught me up at Ulm. He gave me the letter and asked me if I were the same Casanova who had been placed under arrest and had escaped, on account of some gambling dispute with three officers. As I was never an adept in concealing the truth, I replied in the affirmative. A Wurtemburg officer who was standing beside us observed to me in a friendly manner that he was at Stuttgart at the time, and that most people concurred in blaming the three officers for their conduct in the matter.
Without making any reply I read the letter, which referred to our private affairs, but as I was reading it I resolved to tell a little lie — one of those lies which do nobody any harm.
“Well, sir,” I said to the officer, “his highness, your sovereign, has listened to reason at last, and this letter informs me of a reparation which is in every way satisfactory. The duke has created me his private secretary, with a salary of twelve hundred a year. But I have waited for it a long time. God knows what has become of the three officers!”
“They are all at Louisburg, and —— is now a colonel.”
“Well, they will be surprised to hear my news, and they will hear it to-morrow, for I am leaving this place in an hour. If they are at Louisburg, I shall have a triumph; but I am sorry not to be able to accompany you, however we shall see each other the day after tomorrow.”
I had an excellent night, and awoke with the beautiful idea of going to Louisburg, not to fight the three officers but to frighten them, triumph over them, and to enjoy a pleasant vengeance for the injury they had done me. I should at the same time see a good many old friends; there was Madame Toscani, the duke’s mistress; Baletti, and Vestri, who had married a former mistress of the duke’s. I had sounded the depths of the human heart, and knew I had nothing to fear. The duke was on the point of returning, and nobody would dream of impugning the truth of my story. When he actually did arrive he would not find me, for as soon as the courier announced his approach I should go away, telling everybody that I had orders to precede his highness, and everybody would be duped.
I never had so pleasant an idea before. I was quite proud of it, and I should have despised myself if I had failed to carry it into effect. It would be my vengeance on the duke, who could not have forgotten the terrible letter I had written him; for princes do not forget small injuries as they forget great services.
I slept badly the following night, my anxiety was so great, and I reached Louisburg and gave my name at the town gates, without the addition of my pretended office, for my jest must be matured by degrees. I went to stay at the posting-inn, and just as I was asking for the address of Madame Toscani, she and her husband appeared on the scene. They both flung their arms around my neck, and overwhelmed me with compliments on my wounded arm and the victory I had achieved.
“Your appearance here has filled the hearts of all your friends with joy.”
“Well, I certainly am in the duke’s service, but how did you find it out?”
“It’s the common talk. The courier who gave you the letter has spread it all abroad, and the officer who was present and arrived here yesterday morning confirmed it. But you cannot imagine the consternation of your three foes. However, we are afraid that you will have some trouble with them, as they have kept your letter of defiance given from Furstenberg.”
“Why didn’t they meet me, then?”
“Two of them could not go, and the third arrived too late.”
“Very good. If the duke has no objection I shall be happy to meet them one after another, not three all at once. Of course, the duel must be with pistols; a sword duel is out of the question with my arm in a sling.”
“We will speak of that again. My daughter wants to make peace before the duke comes, and you had better consent to arrangements, for there are three of them, and it isn’t likely that you could kill the whole three one after the other.”
“Your daughter must have grown into a beauty.”
“You must stop with us this evening; you will see her, for she is no longer the duke’s mistress. She is going to get married.”
“If your daughter can bring about an arrangement I would gladly fall in with it, provided it is an honourable one for me.”
“How is it that you are wearing the sling after all these months?”
“I am quite cured, and yet my arm swells as soon as I let it swing loose. You shall see it after dinner, for you must dine with me if you want me to sup with you.”
Next came Vestri, whom I did not know, accompained by my beloved Baletti. With them was an officer who was in love with Madame Toscani’s second daughter, and another of their circle, with whom I was also unacquainted. They all came to congratulate me on my honourable position in the duke’s service. Baletti was quite overcome with delight. The reader will recollect that he was my chief assistant in my escape from Stuttgart, and that I was once going to marry his sister. Baletti was a fine fellow, and the duke was very fond of him. He had a little country house, with a spare room, which he begged me to accept, as he said he was only too proud that the duke should know him as my best friend. When his highness came, of course I would have an apartment in the palace. I accepted; and as it was still early, we all went to see the young Toscani. I had loved her in Paris before her beauty had reached its zenith, and she was naturally proud to shew me how beautiful she had become. She shewed me her house and her jewels, told me the story of her amours with the duke, of her breaking with him on account of his perpetual infidelities, and of her marriage with a man she despised, but who was forced on her by her position.
At dinner-time we all went to the inn, where we met the offending colonel; he was the first to take off his hat, we returned the salute, and he passed on his way.
The dinner was a pleasant one, and when it was over I proceeded to take up my quarters with Baletti. In the evening we went to Madame Toscani’s, where I saw two girls of ravishing beauty, Madame Toscani’s daughter and Vestri’s wife, of whom the duke had had two children. Madame Vestri was a handsome woman, but her wit and the charm of her manner enchanted me still more. She had only one fault — she lisped.
There was a certain reserve about the manner of Mdlle. Toscani, so I chiefly addressed myself to Madame Vestri, whose husband was not jealous, for he neither cared for her nor she for him. On the day of my arrival the manager had distributed the parts of a little play which was to be given in honour of the duke’s arrival. It had been written by a local author, in hopes of its obtaining the favour of the Court for him.
After supper the little piece was discussed. Madame Vestri played the principal part, which she was prevailed upon to recite.
“Your elocution is admirable, and your expression full of spirit,” I observed; “but what a pity it is that you do not pronounce the dentals.”
The whole table scouted my opinion.
“It’s a beauty, not a defect,” said they. “It makes her acting soft and delicate; other actresses envy her the privilege of what you call a defect.”
I made no answer, but looked at Madame Vestri.
“Do you think I am taken in by all that?” said she.
“I think you are much too sensible to believe such nonsense.”
“I prefer a man to say honestly, ‘what a pity,’ than to hear all that foolish flattery. But I am sorry to say that there is no remedy for the defect.”
“Pardon me, I have an infallible remedy for your complaint. You shall give me a good hearty blow if I do not make you read the part perfectly by to-morrow, but if I succeed in making you read it as your husband, for example’s sake, might read it you shall permit me to give you a tender embrace.”
“Very good; but what must I do?”
“You must let me weave a spell over your part, that is all. Give it to me. To-morrow morning at nine o’clock I will bring it to you to get my blow or my kiss, if your husband has no objection.”
“None whatever; but we do not believe in spells.”
“You are right, in a general way; but mine will not fail.”
Madame Vestri left me the part, and the conversation turned on other subjects. I was condoled with on my swollen hand, and I told the story of my duel. Everybody seemed to delight in entertaining me and feasting me, and I went back to Baletti’s in love with all the ladies, but especially with Madame Vestri and Mdlle. Toscani.
Baletti had a beautiful little girl of three years old.
“How did you get that angel?” I asked.
“There’s her mother; and, as a proof of my hospitality, she shall sleep with you to-night.”
“I accept your generous offer; but let it be to-morrow night.”
“And why not to-night?”
“Because I shall be engaged all night in weaving my spell.”
“What do you mean? I thought that was a joke.”
“No, I am quite serious.”
“Are you a little crazy?”
“You shall see. Do you go to bed, and leave me a light and writing materials.”
I spent six hours in copying out the part, only altering certain phrases. For all words in which the letter r appeared I substituted another. It was a tiresome task, but I longed to embrace Madame Vestri before her husband. I set about my task in the following manner:
The text ran:
“Les procedes de cet homme m’outragent et me deseparent, je dois penser a me debarrasser.”
For this I substituted:
“Cet homme a des facons qui m’offensent et me desolent, il faut que je m’en defasse;” and so on throughout the piece.
When I had finished I slept for three hours, and then rose and dressed. Baletti saw my spell, and said I had earned the curses of the young author, as Madame Vestri would no doubt make him write all parts for her without using the letter ‘r’; and, indeed, that was just what she did.
I called on the actress and found her getting up. I gave her the part, and as soon as she saw what I had done she burst out into exclamations of delight; and calling her husband shewed him my contrivance, and said she would never play a part with an ‘r’ in it again. I promised to copy them all out, and added that I had spent the whole night in amending the present part. “The whole night! Come and take your reward, for you are cleverer than any sorcerer. We must have the author to dinner, and I shall make him promise to write all my parts without the ‘r’, or the duke will not employ him. Indeed, I don’t wonder the duke has made you his secretary. I never thought it would be possible to do what you have done; but I suppose it was very difficult?”
“Not at all. If I were a pretty woman with the like defect I should take care to avoid all words with an ‘r; in them.”
“Oh, that would be too much trouble.”
“Let us bet again, for a box or a kiss, that you can spend a whole day without using an ‘r’. Let us begin now.”
“All in good time,” said she, “but we won’t have any stake, as I think you are too greedy.”
The author came to dinner, and was duly attacked by Madame Vestri. She began by saying that it was an author’s duty to be polite to actresses, and if any of them spoke with a lisp the least he could do was to write their parts without the fatal letter.
The young author laughed, and said it could not be done without spoiling the style. Thereupon Madame Vestri gave him my version of her part, telling him to read it, and to say on his conscience whether the style had suffered. He had to confess that my alterations were positive improvements, due to the great richness of the French language. And he was right, for there is no language in the world that can compare in copiousness of expression with the French.
This trifling subject kept us merry, but Madame Vestri expressed a devout wish that all authors would do for her what I had done. At Paris, where I heard her playing well and lisping terribly, she did not find the authors so obliging, but she pleased the people. She asked me if I would undertake to recompose Zaire, leaving out the r’s.
“Ah!” said I, “considering that it would have to be in verse, and in Voltairean verse, I would rather not undertake the task.”
With a view to pleasing the actress the young author asked me how I would tell her that she was charming without using an ‘r’.
“I should say that she enchanted me, made me in an ecstasy, that she is unique.”
She wrote me a letter, which I still keep, in which the ‘r’ does not appear. If I could have stayed at Stuttgart, this device of mine might have won me her favours; but after a week of feasting and triumph the courier came one morning at ten o’clock and announced that his highness, the duke, would arrive at four.
As soon as I heard the news I told Baletti with the utmost coolness that I thought it would be only polite to meet my lord, and swell his train on his entry into Louisburg; and as I wished to meet him at a distance of two stages I should have to go at once. He thought my idea an excellent one, and went to order post-horses immediately; but when he saw me packing up all my belongings into my trunk, he guessed the truth and applauded the jest. I embraced him and confessed my hardihood. He was sorry to lose me, but he laughed when he thought of the feelings of the duke and of the three officers when they found out the trick. He promised to write to me at Mannheim, where I had decided on spending a week to see my beloved Algardi, who was in the service of the Elector. I had also letters for M. de Sickirigen and Baron Becker, one of the Elector’s ministers.
When the horses were put in I embraced Baletti, his little girl, and his pretty housekeeper, and ordered the postillion to drive to Mannheim.
When we reached Mannheim I heard that the Court was at Schwetzingen, and I bade the postillion drive on. I found everyone I had expected to see. Algardi had got married, M. de Sickingen was soliciting the position of ambassador to Paris, and Baron Becker introduced me to the Elector. Five or six days after my arrival died Prince Frederic des Deux Ponts, and I will here relate an anecdote I heard the day before he died.
Dr. Algardi had attended on the prince during his last illness. I was supping with Veraci, the poet-laureate, on the eve of the prince’s death, and in the course of supper Algardi came in.
“How is the prince?” said I.
“The poor prince — he cannot possibly live more than twenty-four hours.”
“Does he know it?”
“No, he still hopes. He grieved me to the heart by bidding me tell him the whole truth; he even bade me give my word of honour that I was speaking the truth. Then he asked me if he were positively in danger of death.”
“And you told him the truth?”
“Certainly not. I told him his sickness was undoubtedly a mortal one, but that with the help of nature and art wonders might be worked.”
“Then you deceived him, and told a lie?”
“I did not deceive him; his recovery comes under the category of the possible. I did not want to leave him in despair, for despair would most certainly kill him.”
“Yes, yes; but you will confess that you told him a lie and broke your word of honour.”
“I told no lie, for I know that he may possibly be cured.”
“Then you lied just now?”
“Not at all, for lie will die to-morrow.”
“It seems to me that your reasoning is a little Jesuitical.”
“No, it is not. My duty was to prolong my patient’s life and to spare him a sentence which would most certainly have shortened it, possibly by several hours; besides, it is not an absolute impossibility that he should recover, therefore I did not lie when I told him that he might recover, nor did I lie just now when I gave it as my opinion (the result of my experience) that he would die to-morrow. I would certainly wager a million to one that he will die to-morrow, but I would not wager my life.”
“You are right, and yet for all that you deceived the poor man; for his intention in asking you the question was not to be told a commonplace which he knew as well as you, but to learn your true opinion as to his life or death. But again I agree with you that as his physician you were quite right not to shorten his few remaining hours by telling him the terrible truth.”
After a fortnight I left Schwetzingen, leaving some of my belongings under the care of Veraci the poet, telling him I would call for them some day; but I never came, and after a lapse of thirty-one years Veraci keeps them still. He was one of the strangest poets I have ever met. He affected eccentricity to make himself notorious, and opposed the great Metastasio in everything, writing unwieldy verses which he said gave more scope for the person who set them to music. He had got this extravagant notion from Jumelli.
I traveled to Mayence and thence I sailed to Cologne, where I looked forward to the pleasure of meeting with the burgomaster’s wife who disliked General Kettler, and had treated me so well seven years ago. But that was not the only reason which impelled me to visit that odious town. When I was at Dresden I had read in a number of the Cologne Gazette that “Master Casanova has returned to Warsaw only to be sent about his business again. The king has heard some stories of this famous adventurer, which compel him to forbid him his Court.”
I could not stomach language of this kind, and I resolved to pay Jacquet, the editor, a visit, and now my time had come.
I made a hasty dinner and then called on the burgomaster, whom I found sitting at table with his fair Mimi. They welcomed me warmly, and for two hours I told them the story of my adventures during the last seven years. Mimi had to go out, and I was asked to dine with them the next day.
I thought she looked prettier than ever, and my imagination promised me some delicious moments with her. I spent an anxious and impatient night, and called on my Amphitryon at an early hour to have an opportunity of speaking to his dear companion. I found her alone, and began with an ardent caress which she gently repelled, but her face froze my passion in its course.
“Time is an excellent doctor,” said she, “and it has cured me of a passion which left behind it the sting of remorse.”
“What! The confessional. . . . ”
“Should only serve as a place wherein to confess our sins of the past, and to implore grace to sin no more.”
“May the Lord save me from repentance, the only source of which is a prejudice! I shall leave Cologne to-morrow.”
“I do not tell you to go.”
“If there is no hope, it is no place for me. May I hope?”
She was delightful at table, but I was gloomy and distracted. At seven o’clock next day I set out, and as soon as I had passed the Aix la Chapelle Gate, I told the postillion to stop and wait for me. I then walked to Jacquet’s, armed with a pistol and a cane, though I only meant to beat him.
The servant shewed me into the room where he was working by himself. It was on the ground floor, and the door was open for coolness’ sake.
He heard me coming in and asked what he could do for me.
“You scoundrelly journalist.” I replied, “I am the adventurer Casanova whom you slandered in your miserable sheet four months ago.”
So saying I directed my pistol at his head, with my left hand, and lifted my cane with my right. But the wretched scribbler fell on his knees before me with clasped hands and offered to shew me the signed letter he had received from Warsaw, which contained the statements he had inserted in his paper.
“Where is this letter?”
“You shall have it in a moment.”
I made way for him to search, but I locked and bolted the door to prevent his escaping. The man trembled like a leaf and began to look for the letter amongst his Warsaw correspondence, which was in a disgraceful state of confusion. I shewed him the date of the article in the paper, but the letter could not be found; and at the end of an hour he fell down again on his knees, and told me to do what I would to him. I gave him a kick and told him to get up and follow me. He made no reply, and followed me bareheaded till he saw me get into my chaise and drive off, and I have no doubt he gave thanks to God for his light escape. In the evening, I reached Aix-la-Chapelle, where I found Princess Lubomirska, General Roniker, several other distinguished Poles, Tomatis and his wife, and many Englishmen of my acquaintance.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07