Pittoni — Zaguri — The Procurator Morosini — The Venetian Consul — Gorice — The French Consul — Madame Leo — My Devotion to The State Inquisitors — Strasoldo — Madame Cragnoline — General Burghausen
The landlord asked me my name, we made our agreement, and I found myself very comfortably lodged. Next day I went to the post-office and found several letters which had been awaiting me for the last month. I opened one from M. Dandolo, and found an open enclosure from the patrician Marco Dona, addressed to Baron Pittoni, Chief of Police. On reading it, I found I was very warmly commended to the baron. I hastened to call on him, and gave him the letter, which he took but did not read. He told me that M. Donna had written to him about me, and that he would be delighted to do anything in his power for me.
I then took Mardocheus’s letter to his friend Moses Levi. I had not the slightest idea that the letter had any reference to myself, so I gave it to the first clerk that I saw in the office.
Levi was an honest and an agreeable man, and the next day he called on me and offered me his services in the most cordial manner. He shewed me the letter I had delivered, and I was delighted to find that it referred to myself. The worthy Mardocheus begged him to give me a hundred sequins in case I needed any money, adding that any politeness shewn to me would be as if shewn to himself.
This behaviour on the part of Mardocheus filled me with gratitude, and reconciled me, so to speak, with the whole Jewish nation. I wrote him a letter of thanks, offering to serve him at Venice in any way I could.
I could not help comparing the cordiality of Levi’s welcome with the formal and ceremonious reception of Baron Pittoni. The baron was ten or twelve years younger than I. He was a man of parts, and quite devoid of prejudice. A sworn foe of ‘meum and tuum’, and wholly incapable of economy, he left the whole care of his house to his valet, who robbed him, but the baron knew it and made no objection. He was a determined bachelor, a gallant, and the friend and patron of libertines. His chief defect was his forgetfulness and absence of mind, which made him mismanage important business.
He was reputed, though wrongly, to be a liar. A liar is a person who tells falsehoods intentionally, while if Pittoni told lies it was because he had forgotten the truth. We became good friends in the course of a month, and we have remained friends to this day.
I wrote to my friends at Venice, announcing my arrival at Trieste, and for the next ten days I kept my room, busied in putting together the notes I had made on Polish events since the death of Elizabeth Petrovna. I meant to write a history of the troubles of unhappy Poland up to its dismemberment, which was taking place at the epoch in which I was writing.
I had foreseen all this when the Polish Diet recognized the dying czarina as Empress of all the Russians, and the Elector of Brandenburg as King of Prussia, and I proceeded with my history; but only the first three volumes were published, owing to the printers breaking the agreement.
The four last volumes will be found in manuscript after my death, and anyone who likes may publish them. But I have become indifferent to all this as to many other matters since I have seen Folly crowned king of the earth.
To-day there is no such country as Poland, but it might still be in existence if it had not been for the ambition of the Czartoryski family, whose pride had been humiliated by Count Bruhl, the prime minister. To gain vengeance Prince Augustus Czartoryski ruined his country. He was so blinded by passion that he forgot that all actions have their inevitable results.
Czartoryski had determined not only to exclude the House of Saxony from the succession, but to dethrone the member of that family who was reigning. To do this the help of the Czarina and of the Elector of Brandenburg was necessary, so he made the Polish Diet acknowledge the one as Empress of all the Russians, and the other as King of Prussia. The two sovereigns would not treat with the Polish Commonwealth till this claim had been satisfied; but the Commonwealth should never have granted these titles, for Poland itself possessed most of the Russias, and was the true sovereign of Prussia, the Elector of Brandenburg being only Duke of Prussia in reality.
Prince Czartoryski, blinded by the desire of vengeance, persuaded the Diet that to give the two sovereigns these titles would be merely a form, and that they would never become anything more than honorary. This might be so, but if Poland had possessed far-seeing statesmen they would have guessed that an honorary title would end in the usurpation of the whole country.
The Russian palatin had the pleasure of seeing his nephew Stanislas Poniatowski on the throne.
I myself told him that these titles gave a right, and that the promise not to make any use of them was a mere delusion. I added jokingly — for I was obliged to adopt a humorous tone — that before long Europe would take pity on Poland, which had to bear the heavy weight of all the Russias and the kingdom of Prussia as well, and the Commonwealth would find itself relieved of all these charges.
My prophecy has been fulfilled. The two princes whose titles were allowed have torn Poland limb from limb; it is now absorbed in Russia and Prussia.
The second great mistake made by Poland was in not remembering the apologue of the man and the horse when the question of protection presented itself.
The Republic of Rome became mistress of the world by protecting other nations.
Thus Poland came to ruin through ambition, vengeance, and folly — but folly most of all.
The same reason lay at the root of the French Revolution. Louis XVI. paid the penalty of his folly with his life. If he had been a wise ruler he would still be on the throne, and France would have escaped the fury of the Revolutionists. France is sick; in any other country this sickness might be remedied, but I would not wonder if it proved incurable in France.
Certain emotional persons are moved to pity by the emigrant French nobles, but for my part I think them only worthy of contempt. Instead of parading their pride and their disgrace before the eyes of foreign nations, they should have rallied round their king, and either have saved the throne or died under its ruins. What will become of France? It was hard to say; but it is certain that a body without a head cannot live very long, for reason is situate in the head.
On December 1st Baron Pittoni begged me to call on him as some one had come from Venice on purpose to see me.
I dressed myself hastily, and went to the baron’s, where I saw a fine- looking man of thirty-five or forty, elegantly dressed. He looked at me with the liveliest interest.
“My heart tells me,” I began, “that your excellence’s name is Zaguri?”
“Exactly so, my dear Casanova. As soon as my friend Dandolo told me of your arrival here, I determined to come and congratulate you on your approaching recall, which will take place either this year or the next, as I hope to see two friends of mine made Inquisitors. You may judge of my friendship for you when I tell you that I am an ‘avogador’, and that there is a law forbidding such to leave Venice. We will spend to-day and to-morrow together.”
I replied in a manner to convince him that I was sensible of the honour he had done me; and I heard Baron Pittoni begging me to excuse him for not having come to see me. He said he had forgotten all about it, and a handsome old man begged his excellence to ask me to dine with him, though he had not the pleasure of knowing me.
“What!” said Zaguri. “Casanova has been here for the last ten days, and does not know the Venetian consul?”
I hastened to speak.
“It’s my own fault,” I observed, “I did not like calling on this gentleman, for fear he might think me contraband.”
The consul answered wittily that I was not contraband but in quarantine, pending my return to my native land; and that in the meanwhile his house would always be open to me, as had been the house of the Venetian consul at Ancona.
In this manner he let me know that he knew something about me, and I was not at all sorry for it.
Marco Monti, such was the consul’s name, was a man of parts and much experience; a pleasant companion and a great conversationalist, fond of telling amusing stories with a grave face — in fact, most excellent company.
I was something of a ‘conteur’ myself, and we soon became friendly rivals in telling anecdotes. In spite of his thirty additional years I was a tolerable match for him, and when we were in a room there was no question of gaining to kill the time.
We became fast friends, and I benefited a good deal by his offices during the two years I spent in Trieste, and I have always thought that he had a considerable share in obtaining my recall. That was my great object in those days; I was a victim to nostalgia, or home sickness.
With the Swiss and the Sclavs it is really a fatal disease, which carries them off if they are not sent home immediately. Germans are subject to this weakness also; whilst the French suffer very little, and Italians not much more from the complaint.
No rule, however, lacks its exception, and I was one. I daresay I should have got over my nostalgia if I had treated it with contempt, and then I should not have wasted ten years of my life in the bosom of my cruel stepmother Venice.
I dined with M. Zaguri at the consul’s, and I was invited to dine with the governor, Count Auersperg, the next day.
The visit from a Venetian ‘avogador’ made me a person of great consideration. I was no longer looked upon as an exile, but as one who had successfully escaped from illegal confinement.
The day after I accompanied M. Zaguri to Gorice, where he stayed three days to enjoy the hospitality of the nobility. I was included in all their invitations, and I saw that a stranger could live very pleasantly at Gorice.
I met there a certain Count Cobenzl, who may be alive now — a man of wisdom, generosity, and the vastest learning, and yet without any kind of pretention. He gave a State dinner to M. Zaguri, and I had the pleasure of meeting there three or four most charming ladies. I also met Count Tomes, a Spaniard whose father was in in the Austrian service. He had married at sixty, and had five children all as ugly as himself. His daughter was a charming girl in spite of her plainness; she evidently got her character from the mother’s side. The eldest son, who was ugly and squinted, was a kind of pleasant madman, but he was also a liar, a profligate, a boaster, and totally devoid of discretion. In spite of these defects he was much sought after in society as he told a good tale and made people laugh. If he had been a student, he would have been a distinguished scholar, as his memory was prodigious. He it was who vainly guaranteed the agreement I made with Valerio Valeri for printing my “History of Poland.” I also met at Gorice a Count Coronini, who was known in learned circles as the author of some Latin treatises on diplomacy. Nobody read his books, but everybody agreed that he was a very learned man.
I also met a young man named Morelli, who had written a history of the place and was on the point of publishing the first volume. He gave me his MS. begging me to make any corrections that struck me as desirable. I succeeded in pleasing him, as I gave him back his work without a single note or alteration of any kind, and thus he became my friend.
I became a great friend of Count Francis Charles Coronini, who was a man of talents. He had married a Belgian lady, but not being able to agree they had separated and he passed his time in trifling intrigues, hunting, and reading the papers, literary and political. He laughed at those sages who declared that there was not one really happy person in the world, and he supported his denial by the unanswerable dictum:
“I myself am perfectly happy.”
However, as he died of a tumor in the head at the age of thirty-five, he probably acknowledged his mistake in the agonies of death.
There is no such thing as a perfectly happy or perfectly unhappy man in the world. One has more happiness in his life and another more unhappiness, and the same circumstance may produce widely different effects on individuals of different temperaments.
It is not a fact that virtue ensures happiness for the exercise of some virtues implies suffering, and suffering is incompatible with happiness.
My readers may be aware that I am not inclined to make mental pleasure pre-eminent and all sufficing. It may be a fine thing to have a clear conscience, but I cannot see that it would at all relieve the pangs of hunger.
Baron Pittoni and myself escorted Zaguri to the Venetian border, and we then returned to Trieste together.
In three or four days Pittoni took me everywhere, including the club where none but persons of distinction were admitted. This club was held at the inn where I was staying.
Amongst the ladies, the most noteworthy was the wife of the merchant, David Riguelin, who was a Swabian by birth.
Pittoni was in love with her and continued so till her death. His suit lasted for twelve years, and like Petrarch, he still sighed, still hoped, but never succeeded. Her name was Zanetta, and besides her beauty she had the charm of being an exquisite singer and a polished hostess. Still more noteworthy, however, was the unvarying sweetness and equability of her disposition.
I did not want to know her long before recognizing that she was absolutely impregnable. I told Pittoni so, but all in vain; he still fed on empty hope.
Zanetta had very poor health, though no one would have judged so from her appearance, but it was well known to be the case. She died at an early age.
A few days after M. Zaguri’s departure, I had a note from the consul informing me that the Procurator Morosini was stopping in my inn, and advising me to call on him if I knew him.
I was infinitely obliged for this advice, for M. Morosini was a personage of the greatest importance. He had known me from childhood, and the reader may remember that he had presented me to Marshal Richelieu, at Fontainebleau, in 1750.
I dressed myself as if I had been about to speak to a monarch, and sent in a note to his room.
I had not long to wait; he came out and welcomed me most graciously, telling me how delighted he was to see me again.
When he heard the reason of my being at Trieste, and how I desired to return to my country, he assured me he would do all in his power to obtain me my wish. He thanked me for the care I had taken of his nephew at Florence, and kept me all the day while I told him my principal adventures.
He was glad to hear that M. Zaguri was working for me, and said that they must concert the mater together. He commended me warmly to the consul, who was delighted to be able to inform the Tribunal of the consideration with which M. Morosini treated me.
After the procurator had gone I began to enjoy life at Trieste, but in strict moderation and with due regard for economy, for I had only fifteen sequins a month. I abjured play altogether.
Every day I dined with one of the circle of my friends, who were the Venetian consul, the French consul (an eccentric but worthy man who kept a good cook), Pittoni, who kept an excellent table, thanks to his man who knew what was to his own interests, and several others.
As for the pleasures of love I enjoyed them in moderation, taking care of my purse and of my health.
Towards the end of the carnival I went to a masked ball at the theatre, and in the course of the evening a harlequin came up and presented his columbine to me. They both began to play tricks on me. I was pleased with the columbine, and felt a strong desire to be acquainted with her. After some vain researches the French consul, M. de St. Sauveur, told me that the harlequin was a young lady of rank, and that the columbine was a handsome young man.
“If you like,” he added, “I will introduce you to the harlequin’s family, and I am sure you will appreciate her charms when you see her as a girl.”
As they persisted in their jokes I was able, without wounding decency overmuch, to convince myself that the consul was right on the question of sex; and when the ball was over I said I should be obliged by his introducing me as he had promised. He promised to do so the day after Ash Wednesday.
Thus I made the acquaintance of Madame Leo, who was still pretty and agreeable, though she had lived very freely in her younger days. There was her husband, a son, and six daughters, all handsome, but especially the harlequin with whom I was much taken. Naturally I fell in love with her, but as I was her senior by thirty years, and had begun my addresses in a tone of fatherly affection, a feeling of shame prevented my disclosing to her the real state of my heart. Four years later she told me herself that she had guessed my real feelings, and had been amused by my foolish restraint.
A young girl learns deeper lessons from nature than we men can acquire with all our experience.
At the Easter of 1773 Count Auersperg, the Governor of Trieste, was recalled to Vienna, and Count Wagensberg took his place. His eldest daughter, the Countess Lantieri, who was a great beauty, inspired me with a passion which would have made me unhappy if I had not succeeded in hiding it under a veil of the profoundest respect.
I celebrated the accession of the new governor by some verses which I had printed, and in which, while lauding the father, I paid conspicuous homage to the charms of the daughter.
My tribute pleased them, and I became an intimate friend of the count’s. He placed confidence in me with the idea of my using it to my own advantage, for though he did not say so openly I divined his intention.
The Venetian consul had told me that he had been vainly endeavouring for the last four years to get the Government of Trieste to arrange for the weekly diligence from Trieste to Mestre to pass by Udine, the capital of the Venetian Friuli.
“This alteration,” he had said, “would greatly benefit the commerce of the two states; but the Municipal Council of Trieste opposes it for a plausible but ridiculous reason.”
These councillors, in the depth of their wisdom, said that if the Venetian Republic desired the alteration it would evidently be to their advantage, and consequently to the disadvantage of Trieste.
The consul assured me that if I could in any way obtain the concession it would weigh strongly in my favour with the State Inquisitors, and even in the event of my non-success he would represent my exertions in the most favourable light.
I promised I would think the matter over.
Finding myself high in the governor’s favour, I took the opportunity of addressing myself to him on the subject. He had heard about the matter, and thought the objection of the Town Council absurd and even monstrous; but he professed his inability to do anything himself.
“Councillor Rizzi,” said he, “is the most obstinate of them all, and has led astray the rest with his sophisms. But do you send me in a memorandum shewing that the alteration will have a much better effect on the large commerce of Trieste than on the comparatively trifling trade of Udine. I shall send it into the Council without disclosing the authorship, but backing it with my authority, and challenging the opposition to refute your arguments. Finally, if they do not decide reasonably I shall proclaim before them all my intention to send the memoir to Vienna with my opinion on it.”
I felt confident of success, and wrote out a memoir full of incontrovertible reasons in favour of the proposed change.
My arguments gained the victory; the Council were persuaded, and Count Wagensberg handed me the decree, which I immediately laid before the Venetian consul. Following his advice, I wrote to the secretary of the Tribunal to the effect that I was happy to have given the Government a proof of my zeal, and an earnest of my desire to be useful to my country and to be worthy of being recalled.
Out of regard for me the count delayed the promulgation of the decree for a week, so that the people of Udine heard the news from Venice before it had reached Trieste, and everybody thought that the Venetian Government had achieved its ends by bribery. The secretary of the Tribunal did not answer my letter, but he wrote to the consul ordering him to give me a hundred ducats, and to inform me that this present was to encourage me to serve the Republic. He added that I might hope great things from the mercy of the Inquisitors if I succeeded in negotiating the Armenian difficulty.
The consul gave me the requisite information, and my impression was that my efforts would be in vain; however, I resolved to make the attempt.
Four Armenian monks had left the Convent of St. Lazarus at Venice, having found the abbot’s tyranny unbearable. They had wealthy relations at Constantinople, and laughed the excommunication of their late tyrant to scorn. They sought asylum at Vienna, promising to make themselves useful to the State by establishing an Armenian press to furnish all the Armenian convents with books. They engaged to sink a capital of a million florins if they were allowed to settle in Austria, to found their press, and to buy or build a convent, where they proposed to live in community but without any abbot.
As might be expected the Austrian Government did not hesitate to grant their request; it did more, it gave them special privileges.
The effect of this arrangement would be to deprive Venice of a lucrative trade, and to place it in the emperor’s dominions. Consequently the Viennese Court sent them to Trieste with a strong recommendation to the governor, and they had been there for the past six months.
The Venetian Government, of course, wished to entice them back to Venice. They had vainly induced their late abbot to make handsome offers to them, and they then proceeded by indirect means, endeavoring to stir up obstacles in their way, and to disgust them with Trieste.
The consul told me plainly that he had not touched the matter, thinking success to be out of the question; and he predicted that if I attempted it I should find myself in the dilemma of having to solve the insoluble. I felt the force of the consul’s remark when I reflected that I could not rely on the governor’s assistance, or even speak to him on the subject. I saw that I must not let him suspect my design, for besides his duty to his Government he was a devoted friend to the interests of Trieste, and for this reason a great patron of the monks.
In spite of these obstacles my nostalgia made me make acquaintance with these monks under pretence of inspecting their Armenian types, which they were already casting. In a week or ten days I became quite intimate with them. One day I said that they were bound in honour to return to the obedience of their abbot, if only to annul his sentence of excommunication.
The most obstinate of them told me that the abbot had behaved more like a despot than a father, and had thus absolved them from their obedience. “Besides,” he said, “no rascally priest has any right to cut off good Christians from communion with the Saviour, and we are sure that our patriarch will give us absolution and send us some more monks.”
I could make no objection to these arguments; however, I asked on another occasion on what conditions they would return to Venice.
The most sensible of them said that in the first place the abbot must withdraw the four hundred thousand ducats which he had entrusted to the Marquis Serpos at four per cent.
This sum was the capital from which the income of the Convent of St. Lazarus was derived. The abbot had no right whatever to dispose of it, even with the consent of a majority among the monks. If the marquis became bankrupt the convent would be utterly destitute. The marquis was an Armenian diamond merchant, and a great friend of the abbot’s.
I then asked the monks what were the other conditions, and they replied that these were some matters of discipline which might easily be settled; they would give me a written statement of their grievances as soon as I could assure them that the Marquis Serpos was no longer in possession of their funds.
I embodied my negotiations in writing, and sent the document to the Inquisitors by the consul. In six weeks I received an answer to the effect that the abbot saw his way to arranging the money difficulty, but that he must see a statement of the reforms demanded before doing so. This decided me to have nothing to do with the affair, but a few words from Count Wagensberg made me throw it up without further delay. He gave me to understand that he knew of my attempts to reconcile the four monks with their abbot, and he told me that he had been sorry to hear the report, as my success would do harm to a country where I lived and where I was treated as a friend.
I immediately told him the whole story, assuring him that I would never have begun the negotiation if I had not been certain of failure, for I heard on undoubted authority that Serpos could not possibly restore the four hundred thousand ducats.
This explanation thoroughly dissipated any cloud that might have arisen between us.
The Armenians bought Councillor Rizzi’s house for thirty thousand florins. Here they established themselves, and I visited them from time to time without saying anything more about Venice.
Count Wagensberg gave me another proof of his friendship. Unhappily for me he died during the autumn of the same year, at the age of fifty.
One morning he summoned me, and I found him perusing a document he had just received from Vienna. He told me he was sorry I did not read German, but that he would tell me the contents of the paper.
“Here,” he continued, “you will be able to serve your country without in any way injuring Austria.
“I am going to confide in you a State secret (it being understood of course that my name is never to be mentioned) which ought to be greatly to your advantage, whether you succeed or fail; at all hazards your patriotism, your prompt action, and your cleverness in obtaining such information will be made manifest. Remember you must never divulge your sources of information; only tell your Government that you are perfectly sure of the authenticity of the statement you make.
“You must know,” he continued, “that all the commodities we export to Lombardy pass through Venice where they have to pay duty. Such has long been the custom, and it may still be so if the Venetian Government will consent to reduce the duty of four per cent to two per cent.
“A plan has been brought before the notice of the Austrian Court, and it has been eagerly accepted. I have received certain orders on the matter, which I shall put into execution without giving any warning to the Venetian Government.
“In future all goods for Lombardy will be embarked here and disembarked at Mezzola without troubling the Republic. Mezzola is in the territories of the Duke of Modem; a ship can cross the gulf in the night, and our goods will be placed in storehouses, which will be erected.
“In this way we shall shorten the journey and decrease the freights, and the Modenese Government will be satisfied with a trifling sum, barely equivalent to a fourth of what we pay to Venice.
“In spite of all this, I feel sure that if the Venetian Government wrote to the Austrian Council of Commerce expressing their willingness to take two per cent henceforth, the proposal would be accepted, for we Austrians dislike novelties.
“I shall not lay the matter before the Town Council for four or five days, as there is no hurry for us; but you had better make haste, that you may be the first to inform your Government of the matter.
“If everything goes as I should wish I hope to receive an order from Vienna suspending the decree just as I am about to make it public.”
Next morning the governor was delighted to hear that everything had been finished before midnight. He assured me that the consul should not have official information before Saturday. In the meanwhile the consul’s uneasy state of mind was quite a trouble to me, for I could not do anything to set his mind at ease.
Saturday came and Councillor Rizzi told me the news at the club. He seemed in high spirits over it, and said that the loss of Venice was the gain of Trieste. The consul came in just then, and said that the loss would be a mere trifle for Venice, while the first-shipwreck would cost more to Trieste than ten years’ duty. The consul seemed to enjoy the whole thing, but that was the part he had to play. In all small trading towns like Trieste, people make a great account of trifles.
I went to dine with the consul, who privately confessed his doubts and fears on the matter.
I asked him how the Venetians would parry the blow, and he replied —
“They will have a number of very learned consultations, and then they will do nothing at all, and the Austrians will send their goods wherever they please.”
“But the Government is such a wise one.”
“Or rather has the reputation of wisdom.”
“Then you think it lives on its reputation?”
“Yes; like all your mouldy institutions, they continue to be simply because they have been. Old Governments are like those ancient dykes which are rotten at the base, and only stay in position by their weight and bulk.”
The consul was in the right. He wrote to his chief the same day, and in the course of the next week he heard that their excellencies had received information of the matter some time ago by extraordinary channels.
For the present his duties would be confined to sending in any additional information on the same subject.
“I told you so,” said the consul; “now, what do you think of the wisdom of our sages?”
“I think Bedlam of Charenton were their best lodging.”
In three weeks the consul received orders to give me another grant of a hundred ducats, and to allow me ten sequins a month, to encourage me to deserve well of the State.
From that time I felt sure I should be allowed to return in the course of the year, but I was mistaken, for I had to wait till the year following.
This new present, and the monthly payment of ten sequins put me at my ease, for I had expensive tastes of which I could not cure myself. I felt pleased at the thought that I was now in the pay of the Tribunal which had punished me, and which I had defied. It seemed to me a triumph, and I determined to do all in my power for the Republic.
Here I must relate an amusing incident, which delighted everyone in Trieste.
It was in the beginning of summer. I had been eating sardines by the sea-shore, and when I came home at ten o’clock at night I was astonished to be greeted by a girl whom I recognized as Count Strasoldo’s maid.
The count was a handsome young man, but poor like most of that name; he was fond of expensive pleasures, and was consequently heavily in debt. He had a small appointment which brought him in an income of six hundred florins, and he had not the slightest difficulty in spending a year’s pay in three months. He had agreeable manners and a generous disposition, and I had supped with him in company with Baron Pittoni several times. He had a girl in his service who was exquisitely pretty, but none of the count’s friends attempted her as he was very jealous. Like the rest, I had seen and admired her, I had congratulated the count on the possession of such a treasure in her presence, but I had never addressed a word to her.
Strasoldo had just been summoned to Vienna by Count Auersperg who liked him, and had promised to do what he could for him. He had got an employment in Poland, his furniture had been sold, he had taken leave of everyone, and nobody doubted that he would take his pretty maid with him. I thought so too, for I had been to wish him a pleasant journey that morning, and my astonishment at finding the girl in my room may be imagined.
“What do you want, my dear?” I asked.
“Forgive me, sir, but I don’t want to go with Strasoldo, and I thought you would protect me. Nobody will be able to guess where I am, and Strasoldo will be obliged to go by himself. You will not be so cruel as to drive me away?”
“I promise you I will go away to-morrow, for Strasoldo is going to leave at day-break.”
“My lovely Leuzica (this was her name), no one would refuse you an asylum, I least of all. You are safe here, and nobody shall come in without your leave. I am only too happy that you came to me, but if it is true that the count is your lover you may be sure he will not go so easily. He will stay the whole of to-morrow at least, in the hope of finding you again.”
“No doubt he will look for me everywhere but here. Will you promise not to make me go with him even if be guesses that I am with you?”
“I swear I will not.”
“Then I am satisfied.”
“But you will have to share my bed.”
“If I shall not inconvenience you, I agree with all my heart.”
“You shall see whether you inconvenience me or not. Undress, quick! But where are your things?”
“All that I have is in a small trunk behind the count’s carriage, but I don’t trouble myself about it.”
“The poor count must be raging at this very moment.”
“No, for he will not come home till midnight. He is supping with Madame Bissolotti, who is in love with him.”
In the meantime Leuzica had undressed and got into bed. In a moment I was beside her, and after the severe regimen of the last eight months I spent a delicious night in her arms, for of late my pleasures had been few.
Leuzica was a perfect beauty, and worthy to be a king’s mistress; and if I had been rich I would have set up a household that I might retain her in my service.
We did not awake till seven o’clock. She got up, and on looking out of the window saw Strasoldo’s carriage waiting at the door.
I confronted her by saying that as long as she liked to stay with me no one could force her away.
I was vexed that I had no closet in my room, as I could not hide her from the waiter who would bring us coffee. We accordingly dispensed with breakfast, but I had to find out some way of feeding her. I thought I had plenty of time before me, but I was wrong.
At ten o’clock I saw Strasoldo and his friend Pittoni coming into the inn. They spoke to the landlord, and seemed to be searching the whole place, passing from one room to another.
I laughed, and told Leuzica that they were looking for her, and that our turn would doubtless come before long.
“Remember your promise,” said she.
“You may be sure of that.”
The tone in which this remark was delivered comforted her, and she exclaimed —
“Well; well, let them come; they will get nothing by it.”
I heard footsteps approaching, and went out, closing the door behind me, and begging them to excuse my not asking them in, as there was a contraband commodity in my room.
“Only tell me that it is not my maid,” said Strasoldo, in a pitiable voice. “We are sure she is here, as the sentinel at the gate saw her come in at ten o’clock.”
“You are right, the fair Leuzica is at this moment in my room. I have given her my word of honour that no violence shall be used, and you may be sure I shall keep my word.”
“I shall certainly not attempt any violence, but I am sure she would come of her own free will if I could speak to her.”
“I will ask her if she wishes to see you. Wait a moment.”
Leuzica had been listening to our conversation, and when I opened the door she told me that I could let them in.
As soon as Strasoldo appeared she asked him proudly if she was under any obligations to him, if she had stolen anything from him, and if she was not perfectly free to leave him when she liked.
The poor count replied mildly that on the contrary it was he who owed her a year’s wages and had her box in his possession, but that she should not have left him without giving any reason.
“The only reason is that I don’t want to go to Vienna,” she replied. “I told you so a week ago. If you are an honest man you will leave me my trunk, and as to my wages you can send them to me at my aunt’s at Laibach if you haven’t got any money now.”
I pitied Strasoldo from the bottom of my heart; he prayed and entreated, and finally wept like a child. However, Pittoni roused my choler by saying that I ought to drive the slut out of my room.
“You are not the man to tell me what I ought and what I ought not to do,” I replied, “and after I have received her in my apartments you ought to moderate your expressions.”
Seeing that I stood on my dignity he laughed, and asked me if I had fallen in love with her in so short a time.
Strasoldo here broke in by saying he was sure she had not slept with me.
“That’s where you are mistaken,” said she, “for there’s only one bed, and I did not sleep on the floor.”
They found prayers and reproaches alike useless and left us at noon. Leuzica was profuse in her expressions of gratitude to me.
There was no longer any mystery, so I boldly ordered dinner for two, and promised that she should remain with me till the count had left Trieste.
At three o’clock the Venetian consul came, saying that Count Strasoldo had begged him to use his good offices with me to persuade me to deliver up the fair Leuzica.
“You must speak to the girl herself,” I replied; “she came here and stays here of her own free will.”
When the worthy man had heard the girl’s story he went away, saying that we had the right on our side.
In the evening a porter brought her trunk, and at this she seemed touched but not repentant.
Leuzica supped with me and again shared my couch. The count left Trieste at day-break.
As soon as I was sure that he was gone, I took a carriage and escorted the fair Leuzica two stages on her way to Laibach. We dined together, and I left her in the care of a friend of hers.
Everybody said I had acted properly, and even Pittoni confessed that in my place he would have done the same.
Poor Strasoldo came to a bad end. He got into debt, committed peculation, and had to escape into Turkey and embrace Islam to avoid the penalty of death.
About this time the Venetian general, Palmanova, accompanied by the procurator Erizzo, came to Trieste to visit the governor, Count Wagensberg. In the afternoon the count presented me to the patricians who seemed astonished to see me at Trieste.
The procurator asked me if I amused myself as well as I had done at Paris sixteen years ago, and I told him that sixteen years more, and a hundred thousand francs less, forced me to live in a different fashion. While we were talking, the consul came in to announce that the felucca was ready. Madame de Lantieri as well as her father pressed me to join the party.
I gave a bow, which might mean either no or yes, and asked the consul what the party was. He told me that they were going to see a Venetian man-of-war at anchor in the harbor; his excellence there being the captain I immediately turned to the countess and smilingly professed my regret that I was unable to set foot on Venetian soil.
Everybody exclaimed at me —
“You have nothing to fear. You are with honest people. Your suspicion is quite offensive.”
“That is all very fine, ladies and gentlemen, and I will come with all my heart, if your excellences will assure me that my joining this little party will not be known to the State Inquisitors possibly by to-morrow.”
This was enough. Everybody looked at me in silence, and no objections could be found to my argument.
The captain of the vessel, who did not know me, spoke a few whispered words to the others, and then they left.
The next day the consul told me that the captain had praised my prudence in declining to go on board, as if anyone had chanced to tell him my name and my case whilst I was on his ship, it would have been his duty to detain me.
When I told the governor of this remark he replied gravely that he should not have allowed the ship to leave the harbour.
I saw the procurator Erizzo the same evening, and he congratulated me on my discretion, telling me he would take care to let the Tribunal know how I respected its decisions.
About this time I had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful Venetian, who visited Trieste with several of her admirers. She was of the noble family of Bon, and had married Count Romili de Bergamo, who left her free to do whatever she liked. She drew behind her triumphal chariot an old general, Count Bourghausen, a famous rake who had deserted Mars for the past ten years in order to devote his remaining days to the service of Venus. He was a delightful man, and we became friends. Ten years later he was of service to me, as my readers will find in the next volume, which may perhaps be the last.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:49