My Amours with Gallimena — Journey to Soyento — Medini — Goudar — Miss Chudleigh — The Marquis Petina — Gaetano — Madame Cornelis’s Son — An Anecdote of Sara Goudar — The Florentines Mocked by the King — My Journey to Salerno, Return to Naples, and Arrival at Rome
The Prince of Francavilla was a rich Epicurean, whose motto was ‘Fovet et favet’.
He was in favour in Spain, but the king allowed him to live at Naples, as he was afraid of his initiating the Prince of Asturias, his brothers, and perhaps the whole Court, into his peculiar vices.
The next day he kept his promise, and we had the pleasure of seeing the marble basin filled with ten or twelve beautiful girls who swam about in the water.
Miss Chudleigh and the two other ladies pronounced this spectacle tedious; they no doubt preferred that of the previous day.
In spite of this gay company I went to see Callimena twice a day; she still made me sigh in vain.
Agatha was my confidante; she would gladly have helped me to attain my ends, but her dignity would not allow of her giving me any overt assistance. She promised to ask Callimena to accompany us on an excursion to Sorento, hoping that I should succeed in my object during the night we should have to spend there.
Before Agatha had made these arrangements, Hamilton had made similar ones with the Duchess of Kingston, and I succeeded in getting an invitation. I associated chiefly with the two Saxons and a charming Abbe Guliani, with whom I afterwards made a more intimate acquaintance at Rome.
We left Naples at four o’clock in the morning, in a felucca with twelve oars, and at nine we reached Sorrento.
We were fifteen in number, and all were delighted with this earthly paradise.
Hamilton took us to a garden belonging to the Duke of Serra Capriola, who chanced to be there with his beautiful Piedmontese wife, who loved her husband passionately.
The duke had been sent there two months before for having appeared in public in an equipage which was adjudged too magnificent. The minister Tanucci called on the king to punish this infringement of the sumptuary laws, and as the king had not yet learnt to resist his ministers, the duke and his wife were exiled to this earthly paradise. But a paradise which is a prison is no paradise at all; they were both dying of ennui, and our arrival was balm in Gilead to them.
A certain Abbe Bettoni, whose acquaintance I had made nine years before at the late Duke of Matalone’s, had come to see them, and was delighted to meet me again.
The abbe was a native of Brescia, but he had chosen Sorento as his residence. He had three thousand crowns a year, and lived well, enjoying all the gifts of Bacchus, Ceres, Comus, and Venus, the latter being his favourite divinity. He had only to desire to attain, and no man could desire greater pleasure than he enjoyed at Sorento. I was vexed to see Count Medini with him; we were enemies, and gave each other the coldest of greetings.
We were twenty-two at table and enjoyed delicious fare, for in that land everything is good; the very bread is sweeter than elsewhere. We spent the afternoon in inspecting the villages, which are surrounded by avenues finer than the avenues leading to the grandest castles in Europe.
Abbe Bettoni treated us to lemon, coffee, and chocolate ices, and some delicious cream cheese. Naples excells in these delicacies, and the abbe had everything of the best. We were waited on by five or six country girls of ravishing beauty, dressed with exquisite neatness. I asked him whether that were his seraglio, and he replied that it might be so, but that jealousy was unknown, as I should see for myself if I cared to spend a week with him.
I envied this happy man, and yet I pitied him, for he was at least twelve years older than I, and I was by no means young. His pleasures could not last much longer.
In the evening we returned to the duke’s, and sat down to a supper composed of several kinds of fish.
The air of Sorento gives an untiring appetite, and the supper soon disappeared.
After supper my lady proposed a game at faro, and Bettoni, knowing Medini to be a professional gamester, asked him to hold the bank. He begged to be excused, saying he had not enough money, so I consented to take his place.
The cards were brought in, and I emptied my poor purse on the table. It only held four hundred ounces, but that was all I possessed.
The game began; and on Medini asking me if I would allow him a share in the bank, I begged him to excuse me on the score of inconvenience.
I went on dealing till midnight, and by that time I had only forty ounces left. Everybody had won except Sir Rosebury, who had punted in English bank notes, which I had put into my pocket without counting.
When I got to my room I thought I had better look at the bank notes, for the depletion of my purse disquieted me. My delight may be imagined. I found I had got four hundred and fifty pounds — more than double what I had lost.
I went to sleep well pleased with my day’s work, and resolved not to tell anyone of my good luck.
The duchess had arranged for us to start at nine, and Madame de Serra Capriola begged us to take coffee with her before going.
After breakfast Medini and Bettoni came in, and the former asked Hamilton whether he would mind his returning with us. Of course, Hamilton could not refuse, so he came on board, and at two o’clock I was back at my inn. I was astonished to be greeted in my antechamber by a young lady, who asked me sadly whether I remembered her. She was the eldest of the five Hanoverians, the same that had fled with the Marquis dells Petina.
I told her to come in, and ordered dinner to be brought up.
“If you are alone,” she said, “I should be glad to share your repast.”
“Certainly; I will order dinner for two.”
Her story was soon told. She had come to Naples with her husband, whom her mother refused to recognize. The poor wretch had sold all he possessed, and two or three months after he had been arrested on several charges of forgery. His poor mate had supported him in prison for seven years. She had heard that I was at Naples, and wanted me to help her, not as the Marquis della Petina wished, by lending him money, but by employing my influence with the Duchess of Kingston to make that lady take her to England with her in her service.
“Are you married to the marquis?”
“Then how could you keep him for seven years?”
“Alas. . . . You can think of a hundred ways, and they would all be true.”
“Can you procure me an interview with the duchess?”
“I will try, but I warn you that I shall tell her the simple truth.”
“Come again to-morrow.”
At six o’clock I went to ask Hamilton how I could exchange the English notes I had won, and he gave me the money himself.
Before supper I spoke to the duchess about the poor Hanoverian. My lady said she remembered seeing her, and that she would like to have a talk with her before coming to any decision. I brought the poor creature to her the next day, and left them alone. The result of the interview was that the duchess took her into her service in the place of a Roman girl, and the Hanoverian went to England with her. I never heard of her again, but a few days after Petina sent to beg me to come and see him in prison, and I could not refuse. I found him with a young man whom I recognized as his brother, though he was very handsome and the marquis very ugly; but the distinction between beauty and ugliness is often hard to point out.
This visit proved a very tedious one, for I had to listen to a long story which did not interest me in the least.
As I was going out I was met by an official, who said another prisoner wanted to speak to me.
“What’s his name?”
“His name is Gaetano, and he says he is a relation of yours.”
My relation and Gaetano! I thought it might be the abbe.
I went up to the first floor, and found a score of wretched prisoners sitting on the ground roaring an obscene song in chorus.
Such gaiety is the last resource of men condemned to imprisonment on the galleys; it is nature giving her children some relief.
One of the prisoners came up to me and greeted me as “gossip.” He would have embraced me, but I stepped back. He told me his name, and I recognized in him that Gaetano who had married a pretty woman under my auspices as her godfather. The reader may remember that I afterwards helped her to escape from him.
“I am sorry to see you here, but what can I do for you?”
“You can pay me the hundred crowns you owe me, for the goods supplied to you at Paris by me.”
This was a lie, so I turned my back on him, saying I supposed imprisonment had driven him mad.
As I went away I asked an official why he had been imprisoned, and was told it was for forgery, and that he would have been hanged if it had not been for a legal flaw. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life.
I dismissed him from my mind, but in the afternoon I had a visit from an advocate who demanded a hundred crowns on Gaetano’s behalf, supporting his claim by the production of an immense ledger, where my name appeared as debtor on several pages.
“Sir,” said I, “the man is mad; I don’t owe him anything, and the evidence of this book is utterly worthless.
“You make a mistake, sir,” he replied; “this ledger is good evidence, and our laws deal very favorably with imprisoned creditors. I am retained for them, and if you do not settle the matter by to-morrow I shall serve you with a summons.”
I restrained my indignation and asked him politely for his name and address. He wrote it down directly, feeling quite certain that his affair was as good as settled.
I called on Agatha, and her husband was much amused when I told my story.
He made me sign a power of attorney, empowering him to act for me, and he then advised the other advocate that all communications in the case must be made to him alone.
The ‘paglietti’ who abound in Naples only live by cheating, and especially by imposing on strangers.
Sir Rosebury remained at Naples, and I found myself acquainted with all the English visitors. They all lodged at “Crocielles,” for the English are like a flock of sheep; they follow each other about, always go to the came place, and never care to shew any originality. We often arranged little trips in which the two Saxons joined, and I found the time pass very pleasantly. Nevertheless, I should have left Naples after the fair if my love for Callimena had not restrained me. I saw her every day and made her presents, but she only granted me the slightest of favours.
The fair was nearly over, and Agatha was making her preparations for going to Sorento as had been arranged. She begged her husband to invite a lady whom he had loved before marrying her while she invited Pascal Latilla for herself, and Callimena for me.
There were thus three couples, and the three gentlemen were to defray all expenses.
Agatha’s husband took the direction of everything.
A few days before the party I saw, to my surprise, Joseph, son of Madame Cornelis and brother of my dear Sophie.
“How did you come to Naples? Whom are you with?”
“I am by myself. I wanted to see Italy, and my mother gave me this pleasure. I have seen Turin, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Venice, and Rome; and after I have done Italy I shall see Switzerland and Germany, and then return to England by way of Holland.”
“How long is this expedition to take?”
“I suppose you will be able to give a full account of everything when you go back to London?”
“I hope to convince my mother that the money she spent was not wasted.”
“How much do you think it will cost you?”
“The five hundred guineas she gave me, no more.”
“Do you mean to say you are only going to spend five hundred guineas in six months? I can’t believe it.”
“Economy works wonders.”
“I suppose so. How have you done as to letters of introduction in all these countries of which you now know so much?”
“I have had no introductions. I carry an English passport, and let people think that I am English.”
“Aren’t you afraid of getting into bad company?”
“I don’t give myself the chance. I don’t speak to anyone, and when people address me I reply in monosyllables. I always strike a bargain before I eat a meal or take a lodging. I only travel in public conveyances.”
“Very good. Here you will be able to economize; I will pay all your expenses, and give you an excellent cicerone, one who will cost you nothing.”
“I am much obliged, but I promised my mother not to accept anything from anybody.”
“I think you might make an exception in my case.”
“No. I have relations in Venice, and I would not take so much as a single dinner from them. When I promise, I perform.”
Knowing his obstinacy, I did not insist. He was now a young man of twenty-three, of a delicate order of prettiness, and might easily have been taken for a girl in disguise if he had not allowed his whiskers to grow.
Although his grand tour seemed an extravagant project, I could not help admiring his courage and desire to be well informed.
I asked him about his mother and daughter, and he replied to my questions without reserve.
He told me that Madame Cornelis was head over ears in debts, and spent about half the year in prison. She would then get out by giving fresh bills and making various arrangements with her creditors, who knew that if they did not allow her to give her balls, they could not expect to get their money.
My daughter, I heard, was a pretty girl of seventeen, very talented, and patronized by the first ladies in London. She gave concerts, but had to bear a good deal from her mother.
I asked him to whom she was to have been married, when she was taken from the boarding school. He said he had never heard of anything of the kind.
“Are you in any business?”
“No. My mother is always talking of buying a cargo and sending me with it to the Indies, but the day never seems to come, and I am afraid it never will come. To buy a cargo one must have some money, and my mother has none.”
In spite of his promise, I induced him to accept the services of my man, who shewed him all the curiosities of Naples in the course of a week.
I could not make him stay another week. He set out for Rome, and wrote to me from there that he had left six shirts and a great coat behind him. He begged me to send them on, but he forgot to give me his address.
He was a hare-brained fellow, and yet with the help of two or three sound maxims he managed to traverse half Europe without coming to any grief.
I had an unexpected visit from Goudar, who knew the kind of company I kept, and wanted me to ask his wife and himself to dinner to meet the two Saxons and my English friends.
I promised to oblige him on the understanding that there was to be no play at my house, as I did not want to be involved in any unpleasantness. He was perfectly satisfied with this arrangement, as he felt sure his wife would attract them to his house, where, as he said, one could play without being afraid of anything.
As I was going to Sorento the next day, I made an appointment with him for a day after my return.
This trip to Sorento was my last happy day.
The advocate took us to a house where we were lodged with all possible comfort. We had four rooms; the first was occupied by Agatha and her husband, the second by Callimena and the advocate’s old sweetheart, the third by Pascal Latilla, and the fourth by myself.
After supper we went early to bed, and rising with the sun we went our several ways; the advocate with his old sweetheart, Agatha with Pascal, and I with Callimena. At noon we met again to enjoy a delicious dinner, and then the advocate took his siesta, while Pascal went for a walk with Agatha and her husband’s sweetheart, and I wandered with Callimena under the shady alleys where the heat of the sun could not penetrate. Here it was that Callimena consented to gratify my passion. She gave herself for love’s sake alone, and seemed sorry she had made me wait so long.
On the fourth day we returned to Naples in three carriages, as there was a strong wind. Callimena persuaded me to tell her aunt what had passed between us, that we might be able to meet without any restraint for the future.
I approved of her idea, and, not fearing to meet with much severity from the aunt, I took her apart and told her all that had passed, making her reasonable offers.
She was a sensible woman, and heard what I had to say with great good humour. She said that as I seemed inclined to do something for her niece, she would let me know as soon as possible what she wanted most. I remarked that as I should soon be leaving for Rome, I should like to sup with her niece every evening. She thought this a very natural wish on my part, and so we went to Callimena, who was delighted to hear the result of our interview.
I lost no time, but supped and passed that night with her. I made her all my own by the power of my love, and by buying her such things as she most needed, such as linen, dresses, etc. It cost me about a hundred louis, and in spite of the smallness of my means I thought I had made a good bargain. Agatha, whom I told of my good luck, was delighted to have helped me to procure it.
Two or three days after I gave a dinner to my English friends, the two Saxons, Bartoldi their governor, and Goudar and his wife.
We were all ready, and only waiting for M. and Madame Goudar, when I saw the fair Irishwoman come in with Count Medini. This piece of insolence made all the blood in my body rush to my head. However, I restrained myself till Goudar came in, and then I gave him a piece of my mind. It had been agreed that his wife should come with him. The rascally fellow prevaricated, and tried hard to induce me to believe that Medini had not plotted the breaking of the bank, but his eloquence was in vain.
Our dinner was a most agreeable one, and Sara cut a brilliant figure, for she possessed every pleasing quality that can make a woman attractive. In good truth, this tavern girl would have filled a throne with any queen; but Fortune is blind.
When the dinner was over, M. de Buturlin, a distinguished Russian, and a great lover of pretty women, paid me a visit. He had been attracted by the sweet voice of the fair Sara, who was singing a Neapolitan air to the guitar. I shone only with a borrowed light, but I was far from being offended. Buturlin fell in love with Sara on the spot, and a few months after I left he got her for five hundred Louis, which Goudar required to carry out the order he had received, namely, to leave Naples in three days.
This stroke came from the queen, who found out that the king met Madame Goudar secretly at Procida. She found her royal husband laughing heartily at a letter which he would not shew her.
The queen’s curiosity was excited, and at last the king gave in, and her majesty read the following:
“Ti aspettero nel medesimo luogo, ed alla stessa ora, coll’ impazienza medesima che ha una vacca che desidera l’avvicinamento del toro.”
“Chi infamia!” cried the queen, and her majesty gave the cow’s husband to understand that in three days he would have to leave Naples, and look for bulls in other countries.
If these events had not taken place, M. de Buturlin would not have made so good a bargain.
After my dinner, Goudar asked all the company to sup with him the next evening. The repast was a magnificent one, but when Medini sat down at the end of a long table behind a heap of gold and a pack of cards, no punters came forward. Madame Goudar tried in vain to make the gentlemen take a hand. The Englishmen and the Saxons said politely that they should be delighted to play if she or I would take the bank, but they feared the count’s extraordinary fortune.
Thereupon Goudar had the impudence to ask me to deal for a fourth share.
“I will not deal under a half share,” I replied, “though I have no confidence in my luck.”
Goudar spoke to Medini, who got up, took away his share, and left me the place.
I had only two hundred ounces in my purse. I placed them beside Goudar’s two hundred, and in two hours my bank was broken, and I went to console myself with my Callimena.
Finding myself penniless I decided to yield to the pressure of Agatha’s husband, who continued to beg me to take back the jewelry I had given his wife. I told Agatha I would never have consented if fortune had been kinder to me. She told her husband, and the worthy man came out of his closet and embraced me as if I had just made his fortune.
I told him I should like to have the value of the jewels, and the next day I found myself once more in possession of fifteen thousand francs. From that moment I decided to go to Rome, intending to stop there for eight months; but before my departure the advocate said he must give me a dinner at a casino which he had at Portici.
I had plenty of food for thought when I found myself in the house where I had made a small fortune by my trick with the mercury five-and-twenty years ago.
The king was then at Portici with his Court, and our curiosity attracting us we were witnesses of a most singular spectacle.
The king was only nineteen and loved all kinds of frolics. He conceived a desire to be tossed in a blanket! Probably few crowned heads have wished to imitate Sancho Panza in this manner.
His majesty was tossed to his heart’s content; but after his aerial journeys he wished to laugh at those whom he had amused. He began by proposing that the queen should take part in the game; on her replying by shrieks of laughter, his majesty did not insist.
The old courtiers made their escape, greatly to my regret, for I should have liked to see them cutting capers in the air, specially Prince Paul Nicander, who had been the king’s tutor, and had filled him with all his own prejudices.
When the king saw that his old followers had fled, he was reduced to asking the young nobles present to play their part.
I was not afraid for myself, as I was unknown, and not of sufficient rank to merit such an honour.
After three or four young noblemen had been tossed, much to the amusement of the queen and her ladies, the king cast his eyes on two young Florentine nobles who had lately arrived at Naples. They were with their tutor, and all three had been laughing heartily at the disport of the king and his courtiers.
The monarch came up and accosted them very pleasantly, proposing that they should take part in the game.
The wretched Tuscans had been baked in a bad oven; they were undersized, ugly, and humpbacked.
His majesty’s proposal seemed to put them on thorns. Everybody listened for the effects of the king’s eloquence; he was urging them to undress, and saying that it would be unmannerly to refuse; there could be no humiliation in it, he said, as he himself had been the first to submit.
The tutor felt that it would not do to give the king a refusal, and told them that they must give in, and thereupon the two Florentines took off their clothes.
When the company saw their figures and doleful expressions, the laughter became general. The king took one of them by the hand, observing in an encouraging manner that there would be no danger; and as a special honour he held one of the corners of the blanket himself. But, for all that, big tears rolled down the wretched young man’s cheeks.
After three or four visits to the ceiling, and amusing everyone by the display of his long thin legs, he was released, and the younger brother went to the torture smilingly, for which he was rewarded by applause.
The governor, suspecting that his majesty destined him for the same fate, had slipped out; and the king laughed merrily when he heard of his departure.
Such was the extraordinary spectacle we enjoyed — a spectacle in every way unique.
Don Pascal Latilla, who had been lucky enough to avoid his majesty’s notice, told us a number of pleasant anecdotes about the king; all shewed him in the amiable light of a friend of mirth and an enemy to all pomp and stateliness, by which kings are hedged in generally. He assured us that no one could help liking him, because he always preferred to be treated as a friend rather than a monarch.
“He is never more grieved,” said Pascal, “than when his minister Tanucci shews him that he must be severe, and his greatest joy is to grant a favour.”
Ferdinand had not the least tincture of letters, but as he was a man of good sense he honoured lettered men most highly, indeed anyone of merit was sure of his patronage. He revered the minister Marco, he had the greatest respect for the memory of Lelio Caraffa, and of the Dukes of Matalone, and he had provided handsomely for a nephew of the famous man of letters Genovesi, in consideration of his uncle’s merits.
Games of chance were forbidden; and one day he surprised a number of the officers of his guard playing at faro. The young men were terrified at the sight of the king, and would have hidden their cards and money.
“Don’t put yourselves out,” said the kindly monarch, “take care that Tanucci doesn’t catch you, but don’t mind me.”
His father was extremely fond of him up to the time when he was obliged to resist the paternal orders in deference to State reasons.
Ferdinand knew that though he was the King of Spain’s son, he was none the less king of the two Sicilies, and his duties as king had the prerogative over his duties as son.
Some months after the suppression of the Jesuits, he wrote his father a letter, beginning:
“There are four things which astonish me very much. The first is that though the Jesuits were said to be so rich, not a penny was found upon them at the suppression; the second, that though the Scrivani of Naples are supposed to take no fees, yet their wealth is immense; the third, that while all the other young couples have children sooner or later, we have none; and the fourth, that all men die at last, except Tanucci, who, I believe, will live on in ‘saecula saeculorum’.”
The King of Spain shewed this letter to all the ministers and ambassadors, that they might see that his son was a clever man, and he was right; for a man who can write such a letter must be clever.
Two or three days later, the Chevalier de Morosini, the nephew of the procurator, and sole heir of the illustrious house of Morosini, came to Naples accompanied by his tutor Stratico, the professor of mathematics at Padua, and the same that had given me a letter for his brother, the Pisan professor. He stayed at the “Crocielles,” and we were delighted to see one another again.
Morosini, a young man of nineteen, was travelling to complete his education. He had spent three years at Turin academy, and was now under the superintendence of a man who could have introduced him to the whole range of learning, but unhappily the will was wanting in the pupil. The young Venetian loved women to excess, frequented the society of young rakes, and yawned in good company. He was a sworn foe to study, and spent his money in a lavish manner, less from generosity than from a desire to be revenged on his uncle’s economies. He complained of being still kept in tutelage; he had calculated that he could spend eight hundred sequins a month, and thought his allowance of two hundred sequins a month an insult. With this notion, he set himself to sow debts broadcast, and only laughed at his tutor when he mildly reproached him for his extravagance, and pointed out that if he were saving for the present, he would be able to be all the more magnificent on his return to Venice. His uncle had made an excellent match for him; he was to marry a girl who was extremely pretty, and also the heiress of the house of Grimani de Servi.
The only redeeming feature in the young man’s character was that he had a mortal hatred of all kinds of play.
Since my bank had been broken I had been at Goudar’s, but I would not listen to his proposal that I should join them again. Medini had become a sworn foe of mine. As soon as I came, he would go away, but I pretended not to notice him. He was at Goudar’s when I introduced Morosini and his mentor, and thinking the young man good game he became very intimate with him. When he found out that Morosini would not hear of gaming, his hatred of me increased, for he was certain that I had warned the rich Venetian against him.
Morosini was much taken with Sara’s charms, and only thought of how he could possess her. He was still a young man, full of romantic notions, and she would have become odious in his eyes if he could have guessed that she would have to be bought with a heavy price.
He told me several times that if a woman proposed payment for her favours, his disgust would expel his love in a moment. As he said, and rightly, he was as good a man as Madame Goudar was a woman.
This was distinctly a good point in his character; no woman who gave her favours in exchange for presents received could hope to dupe him. Sara’s maxims were diametrically opposed to his; she looked on her love as a bill of exchange.
Stratico was delighted to see him engaged in this intrigue, for the chief point in dealing with him was to keep him occupied. If he had no distractions he took refuge in bad company or furious riding. He would sometimes ride ten or twelve stages at full gallop, utterly ruining the horses. He was only too glad to make his uncle pay for them, as he swore he was an old miser.
After I had made up my mind to leave Naples, I had a visit from Don Pascal Latilla, who brought with him the Abbe Galiani, whom I had known at Paris.
It may be remembered that I had known his brother at St. Agatha’s, where I had stayed with him, and left him Donna Lucrezia Castelli.
I told him that I had intended to visit him, and asked if Lucrezia were still with him.
“She lives at Salerno,” said he, “with her daughter the Marchioness C——.”
I was delighted to hear the news; if it had not been for the abbe’s visit, I should never have heard what had become of these ladies.
I asked him if he knew the Marchioness C——.
“I only know the marquis,” he replied, “he is old and very rich.”
That was enough for me.
A couple of days afterwards Morosini invited Sara, Goudar, two young gamesters, and Medini, to dinner. The latter had not yet given up hopes of cheating the chevalier in one way or another.
Towards the end of dinner it happened that Medini differed in opinion from me, and expressed his views in such a peremptory manner that I remarked that a gentleman would be rather more choice in his expressions.
“Maybe,” he replied, “but I am not going to learn manners from you.”
I constrained myself, and said nothing, but I was getting tired of his insolence; and as he might imagine that my resentment was caused by fear, I determined on disabusing him.
As he was taking his coffee on the balcony overlooking the sea, I came up to him with my cup in my hand, and said that I was tired of the rudeness with which he treated me in company.
“You would find me ruder still,” he replied, “if we could meet without company.”
“I think I could convince you of your mistake if we could have a private meeting.”
“I should very much like to see you do it.”
“When you see me go out, follow me, and don’t say a word to anyone.”
“I will not fail.”
I rejoined the company, and walked slowly towards Pausilippo. I looked back and saw him following me; and as he was a brave fellow, and we both had our swords, I felt sure the thing would soon be settled.
As soon as I found myself in the open country, where we should not be interrupted, I stopped short.
As he drew near I attempted a parley, thinking that we might come to a more amicable settlement; but the fellow rushed on me with his sword in one hand and his hat in the other.
I lunged out at him, and instead of attempting to parry he replied in quart. The result was that our blades were caught in each other’s sleeves; but I had slit his arm, while his point had only pierced the stuff of my coat.
I put myself on guard again to go on, but I could see he was too weak to defend himself, so I said if he liked I would give him quarter.
He made no reply, so I pressed on him, struck him to the ground, and trampled on his body.
He foamed with rage, and told me that it was my turn this time, but that he hoped I would give him his revenge.
“With pleasure, at Rome, and I hope the third lesson will be more effectual than the two I have already given you.”
He was losing a good deal of blood, so I sheathed his sword for him and advised him to go to Goudar’s house, which was close at hand, and have his wound attended to.
I went back to “Crocielles” as if nothing had happened. The chevalier was making love to Sara, and the rest were playing cards.
I left the company an hour afterwards without having said a word about my duel, and for the last time I supped with Callimena. Six years later I saw her at Venice, displaying her beauty and her talents on the boards of St. Benedict’s Theatre.
I spent a delicious night with her, and at eight o’clock the next day I went off in a post-chaise without taking leave of anyone.
I arrived at Salerno at two o’clock in the afternoon, and as soon as I had taken a room I wrote a note to Donna Lucrezia Castelli at the Marquis C——‘s.
I asked her if I could pay her a short visit, and begged her to send a reply while I was taking my dinner.
I was sitting down to table when I had the pleasure of seeing Lucrezia herself come in. She gave a cry of delight and rushed to my arms.
This excellent woman was exactly my own age, but she would have been taken for fifteen years younger.
After I had told her how I had come to hear about her I asked for news of our daughter.
“She is longing to see you, and her husband too; he is a worthy old man, and will be so glad to know you.”
“How does he know of my existence?”
“Leonilda has mentioned your name a thousand times during the five years they have been married. He is aware that you gave her five thousand ducats. We shall sup together.”
“Let us go directly; I cannot rest till I have seen my Leonilda and the good husband God has given her. Have they any children?”
“No, unluckily for her, as after his death the property passes to his relations. But Leonilda will be a rich woman for all that; she will have a hundred thousand ducats of her own.”
“You have never married.”
“You are as pretty as you were twenty-six years ago, and if it had not been for the Abbe Galiani I should have left Naples without seeing you.”
I found Leonilda had developed into a perfect beauty. She was at that time twenty-three years old.
Her husband’s presence was no constraint upon her; she received me with open arms, and put me completely at my ease.
No doubt she was my daughter, but in spite of our relationship and my advancing years I still felt within my breast the symptoms of the tenderest passion for her.
She presented me to her husband, who suffered dreadfully from gout, and could not stir from his arm-chair.
He received me with smiling face and open arms, saying —
“My dear friend, embrace me.”
I embraced him affectionately, and in our greeting I discovered that he was a brother mason. The marquis had expected as much, but I had not; for a nobleman of sixty who could boast that he had been enlightened was a ‘rara avis’ in the domains of his Sicilian majesty thirty years ago.
I sat down beside him and we embraced each other again, while the ladies looked on amazed, wondering to see us so friendly to each other.
Donna Leonilda fancied that we must be old friends, and told her husband how delighted she was. The old man burst out laughing, and Lucrezia suspecting the truth bit her lips and said nothing. The fair marchioness reserved her curiosity for another reason.
The marquis had seen the whole of Europe. He had only thought of marrying on the death of his father, who had attained the age of ninety. Finding himself in the enjoyment of thirty thousand ducats a year he imagined that he might yet have children in spite of his advanced age. He saw Leonilda, and in a few days he made her his wife, giving her a dowry of a hundred thousand ducats. Donna Lucrezia went to live with her daughter. Though the marquis lived magnificently, he found it difficult to spend more than half his income.
He lodged all his relations in his immense palace; there were three families in all, and each lived apart.
Although they were comfortably off they were awaiting with impatience the death of the head of the family, as they would then share his riches. The marquis had only married in the hope of having an heir; and these hopes he could no longer entertain. However, he loved his wife none the less, while she made him happy by her charming disposition.
The marquis was a man of liberal views like his wife, but this was a great secret, as free thought was not appreciated at Salerno. Consequently, any outsider would have taken the household for a truly Christian one, and the marquis took care to adopt in appearance all the prejudices of his fellow-countrymen.
Donna Lucrezia told me all this three hours after as we walked in a beautiful garden, where her husband had sent us after a long conversation on subjects which could not have been of any interest to the ladies. Nevertheless, they did not leave us for a moment, so delighted were they to find that the marquis had met a congenial spirit.
About six o’clock the marquis begged Donna Lucrezia to take me to the garden and amuse me till the evening. His wife he asked to stay, as he had something to say to her.
It was in the middle of August and the heat was great, but the room on the ground floor which we occupied was cooled by a delicious breeze.
I looked out of the window and noticed that the leaves on the trees were still, and that no wind was blowing; and I could not help saying to the marquis that I was astonished to find his room as cool as spring in the heats of summer.
“Your sweetheart will explain it to you,” said he.
We went through several apartments, and at last reached a closet, in one corner of which was a square opening.
From it rushed a cold and even violent wind. From the opening one could go down a stone staircase of at least a hundred steps, and at the bottom was a grotto where was the source of a stream of water as cold as ice. Donna Lucrezia told me it would be a great risk to go down the steps without excessively warm clothing.
I have never cared to run risks of this kind. Lord Baltimore, on the other hand, would have laughed at the danger, and gone, maybe, to his death. I told my old sweetheart that I could imagine the thing very well from the description, and that I had no curiosity to see whether my imagination were correct.
Lucrezia told me I was very prudent, and took me to the garden.
It was a large place, and separated from the garden common to the three other families who inhabited the castle. Every flower that can be imagined was there, fountains threw their glittering sprays, and grottoes afforded a pleasing shade from the sun.
The alleys of this terrestrial paradise were formed of vines, and the bunches of grapes seemed almost as numerous as the leaves.
Lucrezia enjoyed my surprise, and I told her that I was not astonished at being more moved by this than by the vines of Tivoli and Frascati. The immense rather dazzles the eyes than moves the heart.
She told me that her daughter was happy, and that the marquis was an excellent man, and a strong man except for the gout. His great grief was that he had no children. Amongst his dozen of nephews there was not one worthy of succeeding to the title.
“They are all ugly, awkward lads, more like peasants than noblemen; all their education has been given them by a pack of ignorant priests; and so it is not to be wondered that the marquis does not care for them much.”
“But is Leonilda really happy?”
“She is, though her husband cannot be quite so ardent as she would like at her age.”
“He doesn’t seem to me to be a very jealous man.”
“He is entirely free from jealousy, and if Leonilda would take a lover I am sure he would be his best friend. And I feel certain he would be only too glad to find the beautiful soil which he cannot fertile himself fertilized by another.”
“Is it positively certain that he is incapable of begetting a child?”
“No, when he is well he does his best; but there seems no likelihood of his ardour having any happy results. There was some ground to hope in the first six months of the marriage, but since he has had the gout so badly there seems reason to fear lest his amorous ecstasies should have a fatal termination. Sometimes he warts to approach her, but she dare not let him, and this pains her very much.”
I was struck with a lively sense of Lucrezia’s merits, and was just revealing to her the sentiments which she had re-awakened in my breast, when the marchioness appeared in the garden, followed by a page and a young lady.
I affected great reverence as she came up to us; and as if we had given each other the word, she answered me in atone of ceremonious politeness.
“I have come on an affair of the highest importance,” she said, “and if I fail I shall for ever lose the reputation of a diplomatist?”
“Who is the other diplomatist with whom you are afraid of failing?”
“Then your battle is over, for I consent before I know what you ask. I only make a reserve on one point.”
“So much the worse, as that may turn out to be just what I want you to do. Tell me what it is.”
“I was going to Rome, when the Abbe Galiani told me that Donna Lucrezia was here with you.”
“And can a short delay interfere with your happiness? Are you not your own master?”
“Smile on me once more; your desires are orders which must be obeyed. I have always been my own master, but I cease to be so from this moment, since I am your most humble servant.”
“Very good. Then I command you to come and spend a few days with us at an estate we have at a short distance. My husband will have himself transported here. You will allow me to send to the inn for your luggage?”
“Here, sweet marchioness, is the key to my room. Happy the mortal whom you deign to command.”
Leonilda gave the key to the page, a pretty boy, and told him to see that all my belongings were carefully taken to the castle.
Her lady-in-waiting was very fair. I said so to Leonilda in French, not knowing that the young lady understood the language, but she smiled and told her mistress that we were old acquaintances.
“When had I the pleasure of knowing you, mademoiselle?”
“Nine year ago. You have often spoken to me and teased me.”
“Where, may I ask?”
“At the Duchess of Matalone’s.”
“That may be, and I think I do begin to remember, but I really cannot recollect having teased you.”
The marchioness and her mother were highly amused at this conversation, and pressed the girl to say how I had teased her. She confined herself, however, to saying that I had played tricks on her. I thought I remembered having stolen a few kisses, but I left the ladies to think what they liked.
I was a great student of the human heart, and felt that these reproaches of Anastasia’s (such was her name) were really advances, but unskillfully made, for if she had wanted more of me, she should have held her peace and bided her time.
“It strikes me,” said I, “that you were much smaller in those days.”
“Yes, I was only twelve or thirteen. You have changed also.”
“Yes, I have aged.”
We began talking about the late Duke of Matalone, and Anastasia left us.
We sat down in a charming grotto, and began styling each other papa and daughter, and allowing ourselves liberties which threatened to lead to danger.
The marchioness tried to calm my transports by talking of her good husband.
Donna Lucrezia remarked our mutual emotion as I held Leonilda in my arms, and warned us to be careful. She then left us to walk in a different part of the garden.
Her words had the contrary effect to what was intended, for as soon as she left us in so opportune a manner, although we had no intention of committing the double crime, we approached too near to each other, and an almost involuntary movement made, the act complete.
We remained motionless, looking into one another’s eyes, in mute astonishment, as we confessed afterwards, to find neither guilt nor repentance in our breasts.
We rearranged our position, and the marchioness sitting close to me called me her dear husband, while I called her my dear wife.
The new bond between us was confirmed by affectionate kisses. We were absorbed and silent, and Lucrezia was delighted to find us so calm when she returned.
We had no need to warn each other to observe secrecy. Donna Lucrezia was devoid of prejudice, but there was no need to give her a piece of useless information.
We felt certain that she had left us alone, so as not to be a witness of what we were going to do.
After some further conversation we went back to the palace with Anastasia, whom we found in the alley by herself.
The marquis received his wife with joy, congratulating her on the success of her negotiations. He thanked me for my compliance, and assured me I should have a comfortable apartment in his country house.
“I suppose you will not mind having our friend for a neighbor?” he said to Lucrezia.
“No,” said she; “but we will be discreet, for the flower of our lives has withered.”
“I shall believe as much of that as I please.”
The worthy man dearly loved a joke.
The long table was laid for five, and as soon as dinner was served an old priest came in and sat down. He spoke to nobody, and nobody spoke to him.
The pretty page stood behind the marchioness, and we were waited on by ten or twelve servants.
I had only a little soup at dinner, so I ate like an ogre, for I was very hungry, and the marquis’s French cook was a thorough artist.
The marquis exclaimed with delight as I devoured one dish after another. He told me that the only fault in his wife that she was a very poor eater like her mother. At dessert the wine began to take effect, and our conversation, which was conducted in French, became somewhat free. The old priest took no notice, as he only understood Italian, and he finally left us after saying the ‘agimus’.
The marquis told me that this ecclesiastic had been a confessor to the palace for the last twenty years, but had never confessed anybody. He warned me to take care what I said before him if I spoke Italian, but he did not know a word of French.
Mirth was the order of the day, and I kept the company at table till an hour after midnight.
Before we parted for the night the marquis told me that we would start in the afternoon, and that he should arrive an hour before us. He assured his wife that he was quite well, and that he hoped to convince her that I had made him ten years younger. Leonilda embraced him tenderly, begging him to be careful of his health.
“Yes, yes,” said he, “but get ready to receive me.”
I wished them a good night, and a little marquis at nine months from date.
“Draw the bill,” said he to me, “and to-morrow I will accept it.”
“I promise you,” said Lucrezia, “to do my best to ensure your meeting your obligations.”
Donna Lucrezia took me to my room, where she handed me over to the charge of an imposing-looking servant, and wished me a good night.
I slept for eight hours in a most comfortable bed, and when I was dressed Lucrezia took me to breakfast with the marchioness, who was at her toilette.
“Do you think I may draw my bill at nine months?” said I.
“It will very probably be met,” said she.
“Yes, really; and it will be to you that my husband will owe the happiness he has so long desired. He told me so when he left me an hour ago.
“I shall be delighted to add to your mutual happiness.”
She looked so fresh and happy that I longed to kiss her, but I was obliged to restrain myself as she was surrounded by her pretty maids.
The better to throw any spies off the scent I began to make love to Anastasia, and Leonilda pretended to encourage me.
I feigned a passionate desire, and I could see that I should not have much trouble in gaining my suit. I saw I should have to be careful if I did not want to be taken at my word; I could not bear such a surfeit of pleasures.
We went to breakfast with the marquis, who was delighted to see us. He was quite well, except the gout which prevented his walking.
After breakfast we heard mass, and I saw about twenty servants in the chapel. After the service I kept the marquis company till dinner-time. He said I was very good to sacrifice the company of the ladies for his sake.
After dinner we set out for his country house; I in a carriage with the two ladies, and the marquis in a litter borne by two mules.
In an hour and a half we arrived at his fine and well-situated castle.
The first thing the marchioness did was to take me into the garden, where my ardour returned and she once more abandoned herself to me.
We agreed that I should only go to her room to court Anastasia, as it was necessary to avoid the slightest suspicion.
This fancy of mine for his wife’s maid amused the marquis, for his wife kept him well posted in the progress of our intrigue.
Donna Lucrezia approved of the arrangement as she did not want the marquis to think that I had only come to Salerno for her sake. My apartments were next to Leonilda’s, but before I could get into her room I should be obliged to pass through that occupied by Anastasia, who slept with another maid still prettier than herself.
The marquis came an hour later, and he said he would get his people to carry him in an arm-chair round the gardens, so that he might point out their beauties to me. After supper he felt tired and went to bed, leaving me to entertain the ladies.
After a few moments’ conversation, I led the marchioness to her room, and she said I had better go to my own apartment through the maids’ room, telling Aanastasia to shew me the way.
Politeness obliged me to shew myself sensible of such a favour, and I said I hoped she would not be so harsh as to lock her door upon me.
“I shall lock my door,” said she, “because it is my duty to do so. This room is my mistress’s closet, and my companion would probably make some remark if I left the door open contrary to my usual custom.”
“Your reasons are too good for me to overcome, but will you not sit down beside me for a few minutes and help me to recollect how I used to tease you?”
“I don’t want you to recollect anything about it; please let me go.”
“You must please yourself,” said I; and after embracing her and giving her a kiss, I wished her good night.
My servant came in as she went out, and I told him that I would sleep by myself for the future.
The next day the marchioness laughingly repeated the whole of my conversation with Anastasia.
“I applauded her virtuous resistance, but I said she might safely assist at your toilette every evening.”
Leonilda gave the marquis a full account of my talk with Anastasia. The old man thought I was really in love with her, and had her in to supper for my sake, so I was in common decency bound to play the lover. Anastasia was highly pleased at my preferring her to her charming mistress, and at the latter’s complaisance towards our love-making.
The marquis in his turn was equally pleased as he thought the intrigue would make me stay longer at his house.
In the evening Anastasia accompanied me to my room with a candle, and seeing that I had no valet she insisted combing my hair. She felt flattered at my not presuming to go to bed in her presence, and kept me company for an hour; and as I was not really amorous of her, I had no difficulty in playing the part of the timid lover. When she wished me good night she was delighted to find my kisses as affectionate but not so daring as those of the night before.
The marchioness said, the next morning, that if the recital she had heard were true, she was afraid Anastasia’s company tired me, as she very well knew that when I really loved I cast timidity to the winds.
“No, she doesn’t tire me at all; she is pretty and amusing. But how can you imagine that I really love her, when you know very well that the whole affair is only designed to cast dust in everyone’s eyes?”
“Anastasia fully believes that you adore her, and indeed I am not sorry that you should give her a little taste for gallantry.”
“If I can persuade her to leave her door open I can easily visit you, for she will not imagine for a moment that after leaving her I go to your room instead of my own.”
“Take care how you set about it.”
“I will see what I can do this evening.”
The marquis and Lucrezia had not the slightest doubt that Anastasia spent every night with me, and they were delighted at the idea.
The whole of the day I devoted to the worthy marquis, who said my company made him happy. It was no sacrifice on my part, for I liked his principles and his way of thinking.
On the occasion of my third supper with Anastasia I was more tender than ever, and she was very much astonished to find that I had cooled down when I got to my room.
“I am glad to see you so calm,” said she, “you quite frightened me at supper.”
“The reason is that I know you think yourself in danger when you are alone with me.”
“Not at all; you are much more discreet than you were nine years ago.”
“What folly did I commit then?”
“No folly, but you did not respect my childhood.”
“I only gave you a few caresses, for which I am now sorry, as you are frightened of me, and persist in locking your door.”
“I don’t mistrust you, but I have told you my reasons for locking the door. I think that you must mistrust me, as you won’t go to bed while I am in the room.”
“You must think me very presumptuous. I will go to bed, but you must not leave me without giving me a kiss.”
“I promise to do so.”
I went to bed, and Anastasia spent half an hour beside me. I had a good deal of difficulty in controlling myself, but I was afraid of her telling the marchioness everything.
As she left me she gave me such a kind embrace that I could bear it no longer, and guiding her hand I skewed her the power she exercised over me. She then went away, and I shall not say whether my behaviour irritated or pleased her.
The next day I was curious to know how much she had told the marchioness, and on hearing nothing of the principal fact I felt certain she would not lock her door that evening.
When the evening came I defied her to skew the same confidence in me as I had shewn in her. She replied that she would do so with pleasure, if I would blow out my candle and promise not to put my hand on her. I easily gave her the required promise, for I meant to keep myself fresh for Leonilda.
I undressed hastily, followed her with bare feet, and laid myself beside her.
She took my hands and held them, to which I offered no resistance. We were afraid of awakening her bedfellow, and kept perfect silence. Our lips however gave themselves free course, and certain motions, natural under the circumstances, must have made her believe that I was in torments. The half hour I passed beside her seemed extremely long to me, but it must have been delicious to her, as giving her the idea that she could do what she liked with me.
When I left her after we had shared an ecstatic embrace, I returned to my room, leaving the door open. As soon as I had reason to suppose that she was asleep, I returned, and passed through her room to Leonilda’s. She was expecting me, but did not know of my presence till I notified it with a kiss.
After I had given her a strong proof of my love, I told her of my adventure with Anastasia, and then our amorous exploits began again, and I did not leave her till I had spent two most delicious hours. We agreed that they should not be the last, and I returned to my room on tiptoe as I had come.
I did not get up till noon, and the marquis and his wife jested with me at dinner on the subject of my late rising. At supper it was Anastasia’s turn, and she seemed to enjoy the situation. She told me in the evening that she would not lock her door, but that I must not come into her room, as it was dangerous. It would be much better, she said, for us to talk in my room, where there would be no need of putting out the light. She added that I had better go to bed, as then she would feel certain that she was not tiring me in any way.
I could not say no, but I flattered myself that I would keep my strength intact for Leonilda.
I reckoned without my host, as the proverb goes.
When I held Anastasia between my arms in bed, her lips glued to mine, I told her, as in duty bound, that she did not trust in me enough to lie beside me with her clothes off.
Thereupon she asked me if I would be very discreet.
If I had said no, I should have looked a fool. I made up my mind, and told her yes, determined to satisfy the pretty girl’s desires.
In a moment she was in my arms, not at all inclined to keep me to my promise.
Appetite, it is said, comes in eating. Her ardour made me amorous, and I rendered homage to her charms till I fell asleep with fatigue.
Anastasia left me while I was asleep, and when I awoke I found myself in the somewhat ridiculous position of being obliged to make a full confession to the marchioness as to why I had failed in my duties to her.
When I told Leonilda my tale, she began to laugh and agreed that further visits were out of the question. We made up our minds, and for the remainder of my visit our amorous meetings only took place in the summerhouses in the garden.
I had to receive Anastasia every night, and when I left for Rome and did not take her with me she considered me as a traitor.
The worthy marquis gave me a great surprise on the eve of my departure. We were alone together, and he began by saying that the Duke of Matalone had told him the reason which had prevented me marrying Leonilda, and that he had always admired my generosity in making her a present of five thousand ducats, though I was far from rich.
“These five thousand ducats,” he added, “with seven thousand from the duke, composed her dower, and I have added a hundred thousand, so that she is sure of a comfortable living, even if I die without a successor.
“Now, I want you to take back the five thousand ducats you gave her; and she herself is as desirous of your doing so as I am. She did not like to ask you herself; she is too delicate.”
“Well, I should have refused Leonilda if she had asked me, but I accept this mark of your friendship. A refusal would have borne witness to nothing but a foolish pride, as I am a poor man. I should like Leonilda and her mother to be present when you give me the money.”
“Embrace me; we will do our business after dinner.”
Naples has always been a temple of fortune to me, but if I went there now I should starve. Fortune flouts old age.
Leonilda and Lucrezia wept with joy when the good marquis gave me the five thousand ducats in bank notes, and presented his mother-in-law with an equal sum in witness of his gratitude to her for having introduced me to him.
The marquis was discreet enough not to reveal his chief reason. Donna Lucrezia did not know that the Duke of Matalone had told him that Leonilda was my daughter.
An excess of gratitude lessened my high spirits for the rest of the day, and Anastasia did not spend a very lively night with me.
I went off at eight o’clock the next morning. I was sad, and the whole house was in tears.
I promised that I would write to the marquis from Rome, and I reached Naples at eleven o’clock.
I went to see Agatha, who was astonished at my appearance as she had thought I was at Rome. Her husband welcomed me in the most friendly manner, although he was suffering a great deal.
I said I would dine with them and start directly afterwards, and I asked the advocate to get me a bill on Rome for five thousand ducats, in exchange for the bank notes I gave him.
Agatha saw that my mind was made up, and without endeavoring to persuade me to stay went in search of Callimena.
She too had thought I was in Rome, and was in an ecstasy of delight to see me again.
My sudden disappearance and my unexpected return were the mystery of the day, but I did not satisfy anyone’s curiosity.
I left them at three o’clock, and stopped at Montecasino, which I had never seen. I congratulated myself on my idea, for I met there Prince Xaver de Saxe, who was travelling under the name of Comte de Lusace with Madame Spinucci, a lady of Fermo, with whom he had contracted a semi- clandestine marriage. He had been waiting for three days to hear from the Pope, for by St. Benedict’s rule women are not allowed in monasteries; and as Madame Spinucci was extremely curious on the subject, her husband had been obliged to apply for a dispensation to the Holy Father.
I slept at Montecasino after having seen the curiosities of the place, and I went on to Rome, and put up with Roland’s daughter in the Place d’Espagne.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07