In the afternoon I happened to be with him on the tower of the fort, and
pointed out a gondola advancing towards the lower gate; he took his
spy-glass and told me that it was his wife and daughter coming to see him.
We went to meet the ladies, one of whom might once have been worth the
trouble of an elopement; the other, a young person between fourteen and
sixteen, struck me as a beauty of a new style. Her hair was of a beautiful
light auburn, her eyes were blue and very fine, her nose a Roman, and her
pretty mouth, half-open and laughing, exposed a set of teeth as white as
her complexion, although a beautiful rosy tint somewhat veiled the
whiteness of the last. Her figure was so slight that it seemed out of
nature, but her perfectly-formed breast appeared an altar on which the god
of love would have delighted to breathe the sweetest incense. This
splendid chest was, however, not yet well furnished, but in my imagination
I gave her all the embonpoint which might have been desired, and I was so
pleased that I could not take my looks from her. I met her eyes, and her
laughing countenance seemed to say to me: "Only wait for two years, at the
utmost, and all that your imagination is now creating will then exist in
She was elegantly dressed in the prevalent fashion, with large hoops, and
like the daughters of the nobility who have not yet attained the age of
puberty, although the young countess was marriageable. I had never dared
to stare so openly at the bosom of a young lady of quality, but I thought
there was no harm in fixing my eyes on a spot where there was nothing yet
but in expectation.
The count, after having exchanged a few words in German with his wife,
presented me in the most flattering manner, and I was received with great
politeness. The major joined us, deeming it his duty to escort the
countess all over the fortress, and I improved the excellent opportunity
thrown in my way by the inferiority of my position; I offered my arm to
the young lady, and the count left us to go to his room.
I was still an adept in the old Venetian fashion of attending upon ladies,
and the young countess thought me rather awkward, though I believed myself
very fashionable when I placed my hand under her arm, but she drew it back
in high merriment. Her mother turned round to enquire what she was
laughing at, and I was terribly confused when I heard her answer that I
had tickled her.
"This is the way to offer your arm to a lady," she said, and she passed
her hand through my arm, which I rounded in the most clumsy manner,
feeling it a very difficult task to resume a dignified countenance.
Thinking me a novice of the most innocent species, she very likely
determined to make sport of me. She began by remarking that by rounding my
arm as I had done I placed it too far from her waist, and that I was
consequently out of drawing. I told her I did not know how to draw, and
inquired whether it was one of her accomplishments.
"I am learning," she answered, "and when you call upon us I will shew you
Adam and Eve, after the Chevalier Liberi; I have made a copy which has
been found very fine by some professors, although they did not know it was
"Why did you not tell them?"
"Because those two figures are too naked."
"I am not curious to see your Adam, but I will look at your Eve with
pleasure, and keep your secret."
This answer made her laugh again, and again her mother turned round. I put
on the look of a simpleton, for, seeing the advantage I could derive from
her opinion of me, I had formed my plan at the very moment she tried to
teach me how to offer my arm to a lady.
She was so convinced of my simplicity that she ventured to say that she
considered her Adam by far more beautiful than her Eve, because in her
drawing of the man she had omitted nothing, every muscle being visible,
while there was none conspicuous in Eve. "It is," she added, "a figure
with nothing in it."
"Yet it is the one which I shall like best."
"No; believe me, Adam will please you most."
This conversation had greatly excited me. I had on a pair of linen
breeches, the weather being very warm.... I was afraid of the major and
the countess, who were a few yards in front of us, turning round .... I
was on thorns. To make matters worse, the young lady stumbled, one of her
shoes slipped off, and presenting me her pretty foot she asked me to put
the shoe right. I knelt on the ground, and, very likely without thinking,
she lifted up her skirt.... she had very wide hoops and no petticoat....
what I saw was enough to strike me dead on the spot.... When I rose, she
asked if anything was the matter with me.
A moment after, coming out of one of the casemates, her head-dress got
slightly out of order, and she begged that I would remedy the accident,
but, having to bend her head down, the state in which I was could no
longer remain a secret for her. In order to avoid greater confusion to
both of us, she enquired who had made my watch ribbon; I told her it was a
present from my sister, and she desired to examine it, but when I answered
her that it was fastened to the fob-pocket, and found that she disbelieved
me, I added that she could see for herself. She put her hand to it, and a
natural but involuntary excitement caused me to be very indiscreet. She
must have felt vexed, for she saw that she had made a mistake in her
estimate of my character; she became more timid, she would not laugh any
more, and we joined her mother and the major who was shewing her, in a
sentry-box, the body of Marshal de Schulenburg which had been deposited
there until the mausoleum erected for him was completed. As for myself, I
felt deeply ashamed. I thought myself the first man who had alarmed her
innocence, and I felt ready to do anything to atone for the insult.
Such was my delicacy of feeling in those days. I used to credit people
with exalted sentiments, which often existed only in my imagination. I
must confess that time has entirely destroyed that delicacy; yet I do not
believe myself worse than other men, my equals in age and inexperience.
We returned to the count's apartment, and the day passed off rather
gloomily. Towards evening the ladies went away, but the countess gave me a
pressing invitation to call upon them in Venice.
The young lady, whom I thought I had insulted, had made such a deep
impression upon me that the seven following days seemed very long; yet I
was impatient to see her again only that I might entreat her forgiveness,
and convince her of my repentance.
The following day the count was visited by his son; he was plain-featured,
but a thorough gentleman, and modest withal. Twenty-five years afterwards
I met him in Spain, a cadet in the king's body-guard. He had served as a
private twenty years before obtaining this poor promotion. The reader will
hear of him in good time; I will only mention here that when I met him in
Spain, he stood me out that I had never known him; his self-love prompted
this very contemptible lie.
Early on the eighth day the count left the fortress, and I took my
departure the same evening, having made an appointment at a coffee-house
in St. Mark's Square with the major who was to accompany me to M.
Grimani's house. I took leave of his wife, whose memory will always be
dear to me, and she said, "I thank you for your skill in proving your
alibi, but you have also to thank me for having understood you so well. My
husband never heard anything about it until it was all over."
As soon as I reached Venice, I went to pay a visit to Madame Orio, where I
was made welcome. I remained to supper, and my two charming sweethearts
who were praying for the death of the bishop, gave me the most delightful
hospitality for the night.
At noon the next day I met the major according to our appointment, and we
called upon the Abbe Grimani. He received me with the air of a guilty man
begging for mercy, and I was astounded at his stupidity when he entreated
me to forgive Razetta and his companion. He told me that the bishop was
expected very soon, and that he had ordered a room to be ready for me, and
that I could take my meals with him. Then he introduced me to M. Valavero,
a man of talent, who had just left the ministry of war, his term of office
having lasted the usual six months. I paid my duty to him, and we kept up
a kind of desultory conversation until the departure of the major. When he
had left us M. Valavero entreated me to confess that I had been the guilty
party in the attack upon Razetta. I candidly told him that the thrashing
had been my handiwork, and I gave him all the particulars, which amused
him immensely. He remarked that, as I had perpetrated the affair before
midnight, the fools had made a mistake in their accusation; but that,
after all, the mistake had not materially helped me in proving the alibi,
because my sprained ankle, which everybody had supposed a real accident,
would of itself have been sufficient.
But I trust that my kind reader has not forgotten that I had a very heavy
weight upon my conscience, of which I longed to get rid. I had to see the
goddess of my fancy, to obtain my pardon, or die at her feet.
I found the house without difficulty; the count was not at home. The
countess received me very kindly, but her appearance caused me so great a
surprise that I did not know what to say to her. I had fancied that I was
going to visit an angel, that I would find her in a lovely paradise, and I
found myself in a large sitting-room furnished with four rickety chairs
and a dirty old table. There was hardly any light in the room because the
shutters were nearly closed. It might have been a precaution against the
heat, but I judged that it was more probably for the purpose of concealing
the windows, the glass of which was all broken. But this visible darkness
did not prevent me from remarking that the countess was wrapped up in an
old tattered gown, and that her chemise did not shine by its cleanliness.
Seeing that I was ill at ease, she left the room, saying that she would
send her daughter, who, a few minutes afterwards, came in with an easy and
noble appearance, and told me that she had expected me with great
impatience, but that I had surprised her at a time at which she was not in
the habit of receiving any visits.
I did not know what to answer, for she did not seem to me to be the same
person. Her miserable dishabille made her look almost ugly, and I wondered
at the impression she had produced upon me at the fortress. She saw my
surprise, and partly guessed my thoughts, for she put on a look, not of
vexation, but of sorrow which called forth all my pity. If she had been a
philosopher she might have rightly despised me as a man whose sympathy was
enlisted only by her fine dress, her nobility, or her apparent wealth; but
she endeavoured to bring me round by her sincerity. She felt that if she
could call a little sentiment into play, it would certainly plead in her
"I see that you are astonished, reverend sir, and I know the reason of
your surprise. You expected to see great splendour here, and you find only
misery. The government allows my father but a small salary, and there are
nine of us. As we must attend church on Sundays and holidays in a style
proper to our condition, we are often compelled to go without our dinner,
in order to get out of pledge the clothes which urgent need too often
obliges us to part with, and which we pledge anew on the following day. If
we did not attend mass, the curate would strike our names off the list of
those who share the alms of the Confraternity of the Poor, and those alms
alone keep us afloat."
What a sad tale! She had guessed rightly. I was touched, but rather with
shame than true emotion. I was not rich myself, and, as I was no longer in
love, I only heaved a deep sigh, and remained as cold as ice.
Nevertheless, her position was painful, and I answered politely, speaking
with kindness and assuring her of my sympathy. "Were I wealthy," I said,
"I would soon shew you that your tale of woe has not fallen on unfeeling
ears; but I am poor, and, being at the eve of my departure from Venice,
even my friendship would be useless to you." Then, after some desultory
talk, I expressed a hope that her beauty would yet win happiness for her.
She seemed to consider for a few minutes, and said, "That may happen some
day, provided that the man who feels the power of my charms understands
that they can be bestowed only with my heart, and is willing to render me
the justice I deserve; I am only looking for a lawful marriage, without
dreaming of rank or fortune; I no longer believe in the first, and I know
how to live without the second; for I have been accustomed to poverty, and
even to abject need; but you cannot realize that. Come and see my
"You are very good, mademoiselle."
Alas! I was not thinking of her drawings, and I could no longer feel
interested in her Eve, but I followed her.
We came to a chamber in which I saw a table, a chair, a small toilet-glass
and a bed with the straw palliasse turned over, very likely for the
purpose of allowing the looker-on to suppose that there were sheets
underneath, but I was particularly disgusted by a certain smell, the cause
of which was recent; I was thunderstruck, and if I had been still in love,
this antidote would have been sufficiently powerful to cure me instanter.
I wished for nothing but to make my escape, never to return, and I
regretted that I could not throw on the table a handful of ducats, which I
should have considered the price of my ransom.
The poor girl shewed me her drawings; they were fine, and I praised them,
without alluding particularly to Eve, and without venturing a joke upon
Adam. I asked her, for the sake of saying something, why she did not try
to render her talent remunerative by learning pastel drawing.
"I wish I could," she answered, "but the box of chalks alone costs two
"Will you forgive me if I am bold enough to offer you six?"
"Alas! I accept them gratefully, and to be indebted to you for such a
service makes me truly happy."
Unable to keep back her tears, she turned her head round to conceal them
from me, and I took that opportunity of laying the money on the table, and
out of politeness, wishing to spare her every unnecessary humiliation, I
saluted her lips with a kiss which she was at liberty to consider a loving
one, as I wanted her to ascribe my reserve to the respect I felt for her.
I then left her with a promise to call another day to see her father. I
never kept my promise. The reader will see how I met her again after ten
How many thoughts crowded upon my mind as I left that house! What a
lesson! I compared reality with the imagination, and I had to give the
preference to the last, as reality is always dependent on it. I then began
to forsee a truth which has been clearly proved to me in my after life,
namely, that love is only a feeling of curiosity more or less intense,
grafted upon the inclination placed in us by nature that the species may
be preserved. And truly, woman is like a book, which, good or bad, must at
first please us by the frontispiece. If this is not interesting, we do not
feel any wish to read the book, and our wish is in direct proportion to
the interest we feel. The frontispiece of woman runs from top to bottom
like that of a book, and her feet, which are most important to every man
who shares my taste, offer the same interest as the edition of the work.
If it is true that most amateurs bestow little or no attention upon the
feet of a woman, it is likewise a fact that most readers care little or
nothing whether a book is of the first edition or the tenth. At all
events, women are quite right to take the greatest care of their face, of
their dress, of their general appearance; for it is only by that part of
the frontispiece that they can call forth a wish to read them in those men
who have not been endowed by nature with the privilege of blindness. And
just in the same manner that men, who have read a great many books, are
certain to feel at last a desire for perusing new works even if they are
bad, a man who has known many women, and all handsome women, feels at last
a curiosity for ugly specimens when he meets with entirely new ones. It is
all very well for his eye to discover the paint which conceals the
reality, but his passion has become a vice, and suggests some argument in
favour of the lying frontispiece. It is possible, at least he thinks so,
that the work may prove better than the title-page, and the reality more
acceptable than the paint which hides it. He then tries to peruse the
book, but the leaves have not been opened; he meets with some resistance,
the living book must be read according to established rules, and the
book-worm falls a victim to a coquetry, the monster which persecutes all
those who make a business of love. As for thee, intelligent man, who hast
read the few preceding lines, let me tell thee that, if they do not assist
in opening thy eyes, thou art lost; I mean that thou art certain of being
a victim to the fair sex to the very last moment of thy life. If my
candour does not displease thee, accept my congratulations. In the evening
I called upon Madame Orio, as I wanted to inform her charming nieces that,
being an inmate of Grimani's house, I could not sleep out for the first
night. I found there the faithful Rosa, who told me that the affair of the
alibi was in every mouth, and that, as such celebrity was evidently caused
by a very decided belief in the untruth of the alibi itself, I ought to
fear a retaliation of the same sort on the part of Razetta, and to keep on
my guard, particularly at night. I felt all the importance of this advice,
and I took care never to go out in the evening otherwise than in a
gondola, or accompanied by some friends. Madame Manzoni told me that I was
acting wisely, because, although the judges could not do otherwise than
acquit me, everybody knew the real truth of the matter, and Razetta could
not fail to be my deadly foe.
Three or four days afterwards M. Grimani announced the arrival of the
bishop, who had put up at the convent of his order, at Saint-Francois de
Paul. He presented me himself to the prelate as a jewel highly prized by
himself, and as if he had been the only person worthy of descanting upon
I saw a fine monk wearing his pectoral cross. He would have reminded me of
Father Mancia if he had not looked stouter and less reserved. He was about
thirty-four, and had been made a bishop by the grace of God, the Holy See,
and my mother. After pronouncing over me a blessing, which I received
kneeling, and giving me his hand to kiss, he embraced me warmly, calling
me his dear son in the Latin language, in which he continued to address
me. I thought that, being a Calabrian, he might feel ashamed of his
Italian, but he undeceived me by speaking in that language to M. Grimani.
He told me that, as he could not take me with him from Venice, I should
have to proceed to Rome, where Grimani would take care to send me, and
that I would procure his address at Ancona from one of his friends, called
Lazari, a Minim monk, who would likewise supply me with the means of
continuing my journey.
"When we meet in Rome," he added, "we can go together to Martorano by way
of Naples. Call upon me to-morrow morning, and have your breakfast with
me. I intend to leave the day after."
As we were on our way back to his house, M. Grimani treated me to a long
lecture on morals, which nearly caused me to burst into loud laughter.
Amongst other things, he informed me that I ought not to study too hard,
because the air in Calabria was very heavy, and I might become consumptive
from too close application to my books.
The next morning at day-break I went to the bishop. After saying his mass,
we took some chocolate, and for three hours he laid me under examination.
I saw clearly that he was not pleased with me, but I was well enough
pleased with him. He seemed to me a worthy man, and as he was to lead me
along the great highway of the Church, I felt attracted towards him, for,
at the time, although I entertained a good opinion of my personal
appearance, I had no confidence whatever in my talents.
After the departure of the good bishop, M. Grimani gave me a letter left
by him, which I was to deliver to Father Lazari, at the Convent of the
Minims, in Ancona. M. Grimani informed me that he would send me to that
city with the ambassador from Venice, who was on the point of sailing. I
had therefore to keep myself in readiness, and, as I was anxious to be out
of his hands, I approved all his arrangements. As soon as I had notice of
the day on which the suite of the ambassador would embark, I went to pay
my last farewell to all my acquaintances. I left my brother Francois in
the school of M. Joli, a celebrated decorative painter. As the peotta in
which I was to sail would not leave before daybreak, I spent the short
night in the arms of the two sisters, who, this time, entertained no hope
of ever seeing me again. On my side I could not forsee what would happen,
for I was abandoning myself to fate, and I thought it would be useless to
think of the future. The night was therefore spent between joy and
sadness, between pleasures and tears. As I bade them adieu, I returned the
key which had opened so often for me the road to happiness.
This, my first love affair, did not give me any experience of the world,
for our intercourse was always a happy one, and was never disturbed by any
quarrel or stained by any interested motive. We often felt, all three of
us, as if we must raise our souls towards the eternal Providence of God,
to thank Him for having, by His particular protection, kept from us all
the accidents which might have disturbed the sweet peace we were enjoying.
I left in the hands of Madame Manzoni all my papers, and all the forbidden
books I possessed. The good woman, who was twenty years older than I, and
who, believing in an immutable destiny, took pleasure in turning the
leaves of the great book of fate, told me that she was certain of
restoring to me all I left with her, before the end of the following year,
at the latest. Her prediction caused me both surprise and pleasure, and
feeling deep reverence for her, I thought myself bound to assist the
realization of her foresight. After all, if she predicted the future, it
was not through superstition, or in consequence of some vain foreboding
which reason must condemn, but through her knowledge of the world, and of
the nature of the person she was addressing. She used to laugh because she
never made a mistake.
I embarked from St: Mark's landing. M. Grimani had given me ten sequins,
which he thought would keep me during my stay in the lazzaretto of Ancona
for the necessary quarantine, after which it was not to be supposed that I
could want any money. I shared Grimani's certainty on the subject, and
with my natural thoughtlessness I cared nothing about it. Yet I must say
that, unknown to everybody, I had in my purse forty bright sequins, which
powerfully contributed to increase my cheerfulness, and I left Venice full
of joy and without one regret.
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EPISODE 2 — CLERIC IN NAPLES