<SPAN name="link2HCH0014" id="link2HCH0014">
<!-- H2 anchor -->
<div style="height: 4em;">
<br /><br /><br /><br />
An Amusing Meeting in Orsera—Journey to Corfu—My Stay in
Constantinople—Bonneval—My Return to Corfu—Madame F.—The
False Prince—I Run Away from Corfu—My Frolics at Casopo—I
Surrender My self a Prisoner—My Speedy Release and Triumph—
My Success with Madame F.
<SPAN name="linkimage-0007" id="linkimage-0007">
<!-- IMG -->
<div class="fig" style="width:80%;">
<ANTIMG src="images/1c14.jpg" width="100%" alt="1c14.jpg " />
I affirm that a stupid servant is more dangerous than a bad one, and a
much greater plague, for one can be on one's guard against a wicked
person, but never against a fool. You can punish wickedness but not
stupidity, unless you send away the fool, male or female, who is guilty of
it, and if you do so you generally find out that the change has only
thrown you out of the frying-pan into the fire.
This chapter and the two following ones were written; they gave at full
length all the particulars which I must now abridge, for my silly servant
has taken the three chapters for her own purposes. She pleaded as an
excuse that the sheets of paper were old, written upon, covered with
scribbling and erasures, and that she had taken them in preference to
nice, clean paper, thinking that I would care much more for the last than
for the first. I flew into a violent passion, but I was wrong, for the
poor girl had acted with a good intent; her judgment alone had misled her.
It is well known that the first result of anger is to deprive the angry
man of the faculty of reason, for anger and reason do not belong to the
same family. Luckily, passion does not keep me long under its sway:
'Irasci, celerem tamen et placabilem esse'. After I had wasted my time in
hurling at her bitter reproaches, the force of which did not strike her,
and in proving to her that she was a stupid fool, she refuted all my
arguments by the most complete silence. There was nothing to do but to
resign myself, and, although not yet in the best of tempers, I went to
work. What I am going to write will probably not be so good as what I had
composed when I felt in the proper humour, but my readers must be
satisfied with it they will, like the engineer, gain in time what they
lose in strength.
I landed at Orsera while our ship was taking ballast, as a ship cannot
sail well when she is too light, and I was walking about when I remarked a
man who was looking at me very attentively. As I had no dread of any
creditor, I thought that he was interested by my fine appearance; I could
not find fault with such a feeling, and kept walking on, but as I passed
him, he addressed me:
"Might I presume to enquire whether this is your first visit to Orsera,
"No, sir, it is my second visit to this city."
"Were you not here last year?"
"But you were not in uniform then?"
"True again; but your questions begin to sound rather indiscreet."
"Be good enough to forgive me, sir, for my curiosity is the offspring of
gratitude. I am indebted to you for the greatest benefits, and I trust
that Providence has brought you here again only to give me the opportunity
of making greater still my debt of gratitude to you."
"What on earth have I done, and what can I do for you? I am at a loss to
guess your meaning."
"Will you be so kind as to come and breakfast with me? My house is near at
hand; my refosco is delicious, please to taste it, and I will convince you
in a few words that you are truly my benefactor, and that I have a right
to expect that you have returned Orsera to load me with fresh benefits."
I could not suspect the man of insanity; but, as I could not make him out,
I fancied that he wanted to make me purchase some of his refosco, and I
accepted his invitation. We went up to his room, and he left me for a few
moments to order breakfast. I observed several surgical instruments, which
made me suppose that he was a surgeon, and I asked him when he returned.
"Yes, captain; I have been practising surgery in this place for twenty
years, and in a very poor way, for I had nothing to do, except a few cases
of bleeding, of cupping, and occasionally some slight excoriation to dress
or a sprained ankle to put to rights. I did not earn even the poorest
living. But since last year a great change has taken place; I have made a
good deal of money, I have laid it out advantageously, and it is to you,
captain, to you (may God bless you!) that I am indebted for my present
"But how so?"
"In this way, captain. You had a connection with Don Jerome's housekeeper,
and you left her, when you went away, a certain souvenir which she
communicated to a friend of hers, who, in perfect good faith, made a
present of it to his wife. This lady did not wish, I suppose, to be
selfish, and she gave the souvenir to a libertine who, in his turn, was so
generous with it that, in less than a month, I had about fifty clients.
The following months were not less fruitful, and I gave the benefit of my
attendance to everybody, of course, for a consideration. There are a few
patients still under my care, but in a short time there will be no more,
as the souvenir left by you has now lost all its virtue. You can easily
realize now the joy I felt when I saw you; you are a bird of good omen.
May I hope that your visit will last long enough to enable you to renew
the source of my fortune?"
I laughed heartily, but he was grieved to hear that I was in excellent
health. He remarked, however, that I was not likely to be so well off on
my return, because, in the country to which I was going, there was
abundance of damaged goods, but that no one knew better than he did how to
root out the venom left by the use of such bad merchandise. He begged that
I would depend upon him, and not trust myself in the hands of quacks, who
would be sure to palm their remedies upon me. I promised him everything,
and, taking leave of him with many thanks, I returned to the ship. I
related the whole affair to M. Dolfin, who was highly amused. We sailed on
the following day, but on the fourth day, on the other side of Curzola, we
were visited by a storm which very nearly cost me my life. This is how it
The chaplain of the ship was a Sclavonian priest, very ignorant, insolent
and coarse-mannered, and, as I turned him into ridicule whenever the
opportunity offered, he had naturally become my sworn enemy. 'Tant de fiel
entre-t-il dans l'ame d'un devot!' When the storm was at its height, he
posted himself on the quarter-deck, and, with book in hand, proceeded to
exorcise all the spirits of hell whom he thought he could see in the
clouds, and to whom he pointed for the benefit of the sailors who,
believing themselves lost, were crying, howling, and giving way to
despair, instead of attending to the working of the ship, then in great
danger on account of the rocks and of the breakers which surrounded us.
Seeing the peril of our position, and the evil effect of his stupid,
incantations upon the minds of the sailors whom the ignorant priest was
throwing into the apathy of despair, instead of keeping up their courage,
I thought it prudent to interfere. I went up the rigging, calling upon the
sailors to do their duty cheerfully, telling them that there were no
devils, and that the priest who pretended to see them was a fool. But it
was in vain that I spoke in the most forcible manner, in vain that I went
to work myself, and shewed that safety was only to be insured by active
means, I could not prevent the priest declaring that I was an Atheist, and
he managed to rouse against me the anger of the greatest part of the crew.
The wind continued to lash the sea into fury for the two following days,
and the knave contrived to persuade the sailors who listened to him that
the hurricane would not abate as long as I was on board. Imbued with that
conviction, one of the men, thinking he had found a good opportunity of
fulfilling the wishes of the priest, came up to me as I was standing at
the extreme end of the forecastle, and pushed me so roughly that I was
thrown over. I should have been irretrievably lost, but the sharp point of
an anchor, hanging along the side of the ship, catching in my clothes,
prevented me from falling in the sea, and proved truly my sheet-anchor.
Some men came to my assistance, and I was saved. A corporal then pointed
out to me the sailor who had tried to murder me, and taking a stout stick
I treated the scoundrel to a sound thrashing; but the sailors, headed by
the furious priest, rushed towards us when they heard his screams, and I
should have been killed if the soldiers had not taken my part. The
commander and M. Dolfin then came on deck, but they were compelled to
listen to the chaplain, and to promise, in order to pacify the vile
rabble, that they would land me at the first opportunity. But even this
was not enough; the priest demanded that I should give up to him a certain
parchment that I had purchased from a Greek at Malamocco just before
sailing. I had no recollection of it, but it was true. I laughed, and gave
it to M. Dolfin; he handed it to the fanatic chaplain, who, exulting in
his victory, called for a large pan of live coals from the cook's galley,
and made an auto-da-fe of the document. The unlucky parchment, before it
was entirely consumed, kept writhing on the fire for half an hour, and the
priest did not fail to represent those contortions as a miracle, and all
the sailors were sure that it was an infernal manuscript given to me by
the devil. The virtue claimed for that piece of parchment by the man who
had sold it to me was that it insured its lucky possessor the love of all
women, but I trust my readers will do me the justice to believe that I had
no faith whatever in amorous philtres, talismans, or amulets of any kind:
I had purchased it only for a joke.
You can find throughout Italy, in Greece, and generally in every country
the inhabitants of which are yet wrapped up in primitive ignorance, a
tribe of Greeks, of Jews, of astronomers, and of exorcists, who sell their
dupes rags and toys to which they boastingly attach wonderful virtues and
properties; amulets which render invulnerable, scraps of cloth which
defend from witchcraft, small bags filled with drugs to keep away goblins,
and a thousand gewgaws of the same description. These wonderful goods have
no marketable value whatever in France, in England, in Germany, and
throughout the north of Europe generally, but, in revenge, the inhabitants
of those countries indulge in knavish practices of a much worse kind.
The storm abated just as the innocent parchment was writhing on the fire,
and the sailors, believing that the spirits of hell had been exorcised,
thought no more of getting rid of my person, and after a prosperous voyage
of a week we cast anchor at Corfu. As soon as I had found a comfortable
lodging I took my letters to his eminence the proveditore-generale, and to
all the naval commanders to whom I was recommended; and after paying my
respects to my colonel, and making the acquaintance of the officers of my
regiment, I prepared to enjoy myself until the arrival of the Chevalier
Venier, who had promised to take me to Constantinople. He arrived towards
the middle of June, but in the mean time I had been playing basset, and
had lost all my money, and sold or pledged all my jewellery.
Such must be the fate awaiting every man who has a taste for gambling,
unless he should know how to fix fickle fortune by playing with a real
advantage derived from calculation or from adroitness, which defies
chance. I think that a cool and prudent player can manage both without
exposing himself to censure, or deserving to be called a cheat.
During the month that I spent in Corfu, waiting for the arrival of M.
Venier, I did not devote any time to the study, either moral or physical,
of the country, for, excepting the days on which I was on duty, I passed
my life at the coffee-house, intent upon the game, and sinking, as a
matter of course, under the adverse fortune which I braved with obstinacy.
I never won, and I had not the moral strength to stop till all my means
were gone. The only comfort I had, and a sorry one truly, was to hear the
banker himself call me—perhaps sarcastically—a fine player,
every time I lost a large stake. My misery was at its height, when new
life was infused in me by the booming of the guns fired in honour of the
arrival of the bailo. He was on board the Europa, a frigate of seventy-two
guns, and he had taken only eight days to sail from Venice to Corfu. The
moment he cast anchor, the bailo hoisted his flag of captain-general of
the Venetian navy, and the proveditore hauled down his own colours. The
Republic of Venice has not on the sea any authority greater than that of
Bailo to the Porte. The Chevalier Venier had with him a distinguished and
brilliant suite; Count Annibal Gambera, Count Charles Zenobio, both
Venetian noblemen of the first class, and the Marquis d'Anchotti of
Bressan, accompanied him to Constantinople for their own amusement. The
bailo remained a week in Corfu, and all the naval authorities entertained
him and his suite in turn, so that there was a constant succession of
balls and suppers. When I presented myself to his excellency, he informed
me that he had already spoken to the proveditore, who had granted me a
furlough of six months to enable me to accompany him to Constantinople as
his adjutant; and as soon as the official document for my furlough had
been delivered to me, I sent my small stock of worldly goods on board the
Europa, and we weighed anchor early the next day.
We sailed with a favourable wind which remained steady and brought us in
six days to Cerigo, where we stopped to take in some water. Feeling some
curiosity to visit the ancient Cythera, I went on shore with the sailors
on duty, but it would have been better for me if I had remained on board,
for in Cerigo I made a bad acquaintance. I was accompanied by the captain
The moment we set foot on shore, two men, very poorly dressed and of
unprepossessing appearance, came to us and begged for assistance. I asked
them who they were, and one, quicker than the other, answered;
"We are sentenced to live, and perhaps to die, in this island by the
despotism of the Council of Ten. There are forty others as unfortunate as
ourselves, and we are all born subjects of the Republic.
"The crime of which we have been accused, which is not considered a crime
anywhere, is that we were in the habit of living with our mistresses,
without being jealous of our friends, when, finding our ladies handsome,
they obtained their favours with our ready consent. As we were not rich,
we felt no remorse in availing ourselves of the generosity of our friends
in such cases, but it was said that we were carrying on an illicit trade,
and we have been sent to this place, where we receive every day ten sous
in 'moneta lunga'. We are called 'mangia-mayroni', and are worse off than
galley slaves, for we are dying of ennui, and we are often starving
without knowing how to stay our hunger. My name is Don Antonio Pocchini, I
am of a noble Paduan family, and my mother belongs to the illustrious
family of Campo San-Piero."
We gave them some money, and went about the island, returning to the ship
after we had visited the fortress. I shall have to speak of that Pocchini
in a few years.
The wind continued in our favour, and we reached the Dardanelles in eight
or ten days; the Turkish barges met us there to carry us to
Constantinople. The sight offered by that city at the distance of a league
is truly wonderful; and I believe that a more magnificent panorama cannot
be found in any part of the world. It was that splendid view which was the
cause of the fall of the Roman, and of the rise of the Greek empire.
Constantine the Great, arriving at Byzantium by sea, was so much struck
with the wonderful beauty of its position, that he exclaimed, "Here is the
proper seat of the empire of the whole world!" and in order to secure the
fulfilment of his prediction, he left Rome for Byzantium. If he had known
the prophecy of Horace, or rather if he had believed in it, he would not
have been guilty of such folly. The poet had said that the downfall of the
Roman empire would begin only when one of the successors of Augustus
bethought him removing the capital of the empire to where it had
originated. The road is not far distant from Thrace.
We arrived at the Venetian Embassy in Pera towards the middle of July,
and, for a wonder, there was no talk of the plague in Constantinople just
then. We were all provided with very comfortable lodgings, but the
intensity of the heat induced the baili to seek for a little coolness in a
country mansion which had been hired by the Bailo Dona. It was situated at
Bouyoudere. The very first order laid upon me was never to go out unknown
to the bailo, and without being escorted by a janissary, and this order I
obeyed to the letter. In those days the Russians had not tamed the
insolence of the Turkish people. I am told that foreigners can now go
about as much as they please in perfect security.
The day after our arrival, I took a janissary to accompany me to Osman
Pacha, of Caramania, the name assumed by Count de Bonneval ever since he
had adopted the turban. I sent in my letter, and was immediately shewn
into an apartment on the ground floor, furnished in the French fashion,
where I saw a stout elderly gentleman, dressed like a Frenchman, who, as I
entered the room, rose, came to meet me with a smiling countenance, and
asked me how he could serve the 'protege' of a cardinal of the Roman
Catholic Church, which he could no longer call his mother. I gave him all
the particulars of the circumstances which, in a moment of despair, had
induced me to ask the cardinal for letters of introduction for
Constantinople, and I added that, the letters once in my possession, my
superstitious feelings had made me believe that I was bound to deliver
them in person.
"Then, without this letter," he said, "you never would have come to
Constantinople, and you have no need of me?"
"True, but I consider myself fortunate in having thus made the
acquaintance of a man who has attracted the attention of the whole of
Europe, and who still commands that attention."
His excellency made some remark respecting the happiness of young men who,
like me, without care, without any fixed purpose, abandon themselves to
fortune with that confidence which knows no fear, and telling me that the
cardinal's letter made it desirable that he should do something for me, he
promised to introduce me to three or four of his Turkish friends who
deserved to be known. He invited me to dine with him every Thursday, and
undertook to send me a janissary who would protect me from the insults of
the rabble and shew me everything worth seeing.
The cardinal's letter representing me as a literary man, the pacha
observed that I ought to see his library. I followed him through the
garden, and we entered a room furnished with grated cupboards; curtains
could be seen behind the wirework; the books were most likely behind the
Taking a key out of his pocket, he opened one of the cupboards, and,
instead of folios, I saw long rows of bottles of the finest wines. We both
"Here are," said the pacha, "my library and my harem. I am old, women
would only shorten my life but good wine will prolong it, or at least,
make it more agreeable.
"I imagine your excellency has obtained a dispensation from the mufti?"
"You are mistaken, for the Pope of the Turks is very far from enjoying as
great a power as the Christian Pope. He cannot in any case permit what is
forbidden by the Koran; but everyone is at liberty to work out his own
damnation if he likes. The Turkish devotees pity the libertines, but they
do not persecute them; there is no inquisition in Turkey. Those who do not
know the precepts of religion, say the Turks, will suffer enough in the
life to come; there is no need to make them suffer in this life. The only
dispensation I have asked and obtained, has been respecting circumcision,
although it can hardly be called so, because, at my age, it might have
proved dangerous. That ceremony is generally performed, but it is not
During the two hours that we spent together, the pacha enquired after
several of his friends in Venice, and particularly after Marc Antonio
Dieto. I told him that his friends were still faithful to their affection
for him, and did not find fault with his apostasy. He answered that he was
a Mahometan as he had been a Christian, and that he was not better
acquainted with the Koran than he had been with the Gospel. "I am
certain," he added, "that I shall die-calmer and much happier than Prince
Eugene. I have had to say that God is God, and that Mahomet is the
prophet. I have said it, and the Turks care very little whether I believe
it or not. I wear the turban as the soldier wears the uniform. I was
nothing but a military man; I could not have turned my hand to any other
profession, and I made up my mind to become lieutenant-general of the
Grand Turk only when I found myself entirely at a loss how to earn my
living. When I left Venice, the pitcher had gone too often to the well, it
was broken at last, and if the Jews had offered me the command of an army
of fifty thousand men, I would have gone and besieged Jerusalem."
Bonneval was handsome, but too stout. He had received a sabre-cut in the
lower part of the abdomen, which compelled him to wear constantly a
bandage supported by a silver plate. He had been exiled to Asia, but only
for a short time, for, as he told me, the cabals are not so tenacious in
Turkey as they are in Europe, and particularly at the court of Vienna. As
I was taking leave of him, he was kind enough to say that, since his
arrival in Turkey, he had never passed two hours as pleasantly as those he
had just spent with me, and that he would compliment the bailo about me.
The Bailo Dona, who had known him intimately in Venice, desired me to be
the bearer of all his friendly compliments for him, and M. Venier
expressed his deep regret at not being able to make his acquaintance.
The second day after my first visit to him being a Thursday, the pacha did
not forget to send a janissary according to his promise. It was about
eleven in the morning when the janissary called for me, I followed him,
and this time I found Bonneval dressed in the Turkish style. His guests
soon arrived, and we sat down to dinner, eight of us, all well disposed to
be cheerful and happy. The dinner was entirely French, in cooking and
service; his steward and his cook were both worthy French renegades.
He had taken care to introduce me to all his guests and at the same time
to let me know who they were, but he did not give me an opportunity of
speaking before dinner was nearly over. The conversation was entirely kept
up in Italian, and I remarked that the Turks did not utter a single word
in their own language, even to say the most ordinary thing. Each guest had
near him a bottle which might have contained either white wine or
hydromel; all I know is that I drank, as well as M. de Bonneval, next to
whom I was seated, some excellent white Burgundy.
The guests got me on the subject of Venice, and particularly of Rome, and
the conversation very naturally fell upon religion, but not upon dogmatic
questions; the discipline of religion and liturgical questions were alone
One of the guests, who was addressed as effendi, because he had been
secretary for foreign affairs, said that the ambassador from Venice to
Rome was a friend of his, and he spoke of him in the highest manner. I
told him that I shared his admiration for that ambassador, who had given
me a letter of introduction for a Turkish nobleman, whom he had
represented as an intimate friend. He enquired for the name of the person
to whom the letter was addressed, but I could not recollect it, and took
the letter out of my pocket-book. The effendi was delighted when he found
that the letter was for himself. He begged leave to read it at once, and
after he had perused it, he kissed the signature and came to embrace me.
This scene pleased M. de Bonneval and all his friends. The effendi, whose
name was Ismail, entreated the pacha to come to dine with him, and to
bring me; Bonneval accepted, and fixed a day.
Notwithstanding all the politeness of the effendi, I was particularly
interested during our charming dinner in a fine elderly man of about
sixty, whose countenance breathed at the same time the greatest sagacity
and the most perfect kindness. Two years afterwards I found again the same
features on the handsome face of M. de Bragadin, a Venetian senator of
whom I shall have to speak at length when we come to that period of my
life. That elderly gentleman had listened to me with the greatest
attention, but without uttering one word. In society, a man whose face and
general appearance excite your interest, stimulates strongly your
curiosity if he remains silent. When we left the dining-room I enquired
from de Bonneval who he was; he answered that he was wealthy, a
philosopher, a man of acknowledged merit, of great purity of morals, and
strongly attached to his religion. He advised me to cultivate his
acquaintance if he made any advances to me.
I was pleased with his advice, and when, after a walk under the shady
trees of the garden, we returned to a drawing-room furnished in the
Turkish fashion, I purposely took a seat near Yusuf Ali. Such was the name
of the Turk for whom I felt so much sympathy. He offered me his pipe in a
very graceful manner; I refused it politely, and took one brought to me by
one of M. de Bonneval's servants. Whenever I have been amongst smokers I
have smoked or left the room; otherwise I would have fancied that I was
swallowing the smoke of the others, and that idea which is true and
unpleasant, disgusted me. I have never been able to understand how in
Germany the ladies, otherwise so polite and delicate, could inhale the
suffocating fumes of a crowd of smokers.
Yusuf, pleased to have me near him, at once led the conversation to
subjects similar to those which had been discussed at table, and
particularly to the reasons which had induced me to give up the peaceful
profession of the Church and to choose a military life; and in order to
gratify his curiosity without losing his good opinion, I gave him, but
with proper caution, some of the particulars of my life, for I wanted him
to be satisfied that, if I had at first entered the career of the holy
priesthood, it had not been through any vocation of mine. He seemed
pleased with my recital, spoke of natural vocations as a Stoic
philosopher, and I saw that he was a fatalist; but as I was careful not to
attack his system openly, he did not dislike my objections, most likely
because he thought himself strong enough to overthrow them.
I must have inspired the honest Mussulman with very great esteem, for he
thought me worthy of becoming his disciple; it was not likely that he
could entertain the idea of becoming himself the disciple of a young man
of nineteen, lost, as he thought, in a false religion.
After spending an hour in examining me, in listening to my principles, he
said that he believed me fit to know the real truth, because he saw that I
was seeking for it, and that I was not certain of having obtained it so
far. He invited me to come and spend a whole day with him, naming the days
when I would be certain to find him at home, but he advised me to consult
the Pacha Osman before accepting his invitation. I told him that the pacha
had already mentioned him to me and had spoken very highly of his
character; he seemed much pleased. I fixed a day for my visit, and left
I informed M. de Bonneval of all that had occurred; he was delighted, and
promised that his janissary would be every day at the Venetian palace,
ready to execute my orders.
I received the congratulations of the baili upon the excellent
acquaintances I had already made, and M. Venier advised me not to neglect
such friends in a country where weariness of life was more deadly to
foreigners than the plague.
On the day appointed, I went early to Yusuf's palace, but he was out. His
gardener, who had received his instructions, shewed me every attention,
and entertained me very agreeably for two hours in doing the honours of
his master's splendid garden, where I found the most beautiful flowers.
This gardener was a Neapolitan, and had belonged to Yusuf for thirty
years. His manners made me suspect that he was well born and well
educated, but he told me frankly that he had never been taught even to
read, that he was a sailor when he, was taken in slavery, and that he was
so happy in the service of Yusuf that liberty would be a punishment to
him. Of course I did not venture to address him any questions about his
master, for his reserve might have put my curiosity to the blush.
Yusuf had gone out on horseback; he returned, and, after the usual
compliments, we dined alone in a summerhouse, from which we had a fine
view of the sea, and in which the heat was cooled by a delightful breeze,
which blows regularly at the same hour every day from the north-west; and
is called the mistral. We had a good dinner; there was no prepared dish
except the cauroman, a peculiar delicacy of the Turks. I drank water and
hydromel, and I told Yusuf that I preferred the last to wine, of which I
never took much at that time. "Your hydromel," I said, "is very good, and
the Mussulmans who offend against the law by drinking wine do not deserve
any indulgence; I believe they drink wine only because it is forbidden."
"Many of the true believers," he answered, "think that they can take it as
a medicine. The Grand Turk's physician has brought it into vogue as a
medicine, and it has been the cause of his fortune, for he has captivated
the favour of his master who is in reality constantly ill, because he is
always in a state of intoxication." I told Yusuf that in my country
drunkards were scarce, and that drunkenness was a vice to be found only
among the lowest people; he was much astonished. "I cannot understand," he
said, "why wine is allowed by all religions, when its use deprives man of
his reason."—"All religions," I answered, "forbid excess in drinking
wine, and the crime is only in the abuse." I proved him the truth of what
I had said by telling him that opium produced the same results as wine,
but more powerfully, and consequently Mahomet ought to have forbidden the
use of it. He observed that he had never taken either wine or opium in the
course of his life.
After dinner, pipes were brought in and we filled them ourselves. I was
smoking with pleasure, but, at the same time, was expectorating. Yusuf,
who smoked like a Turk, that is to say, without spitting, said,—
"The tobacco you are now smoking is of a very fine quality, and you ought
to swallow its balsam which is mixed with the saliva."
"I suppose you are right; smoking cannot be truly enjoyed without the best
"That is true to a certain extent, but the enjoyment found in smoking good
tobacco is not the principal pleasure, because it only pleases our senses;
true enjoyment is that which works upon the soul, and is completely
independent of the senses."
"I cannot realize pleasures enjoyed by the soul without the
instrumentality of the senses."
"Listen to me. When you fill your pipe do you feel any pleasure?"
"Whence does that pleasure arise, if it is not from your soul? Let us go
further. Do you not feel pleased when you give up your pipe after having
smoked all the tobacco in it—when you see that nothing is left but
"It is true."
"Well, there are two pleasures in which your senses have certainly nothing
to do, but I want you to guess the third, and the most essential."
"The most essential? It is the perfume."
"No; that is a pleasure of the organ of smelling—a sensual
"Then I do not know."
"Listen. The principal pleasure derived from tobacco smoking is the sight
of a smoke itself. You must never see it go out of the bowl of your pipe,—but
only from the corner o your mouth, at regular intervals which must not be
too frequent. It is so truly the greatest pleasure connected with the
pipe, that you cannot find anywhere a blind man who smokes. Try yourself
the experiment of smoking a pipe in your room, at night and without a
light; you will soon lay the pipe down."
"It is all perfectly true; yet you must forgive me if I give the
preference to several pleasures, in which my senses are interested, over
those which afford enjoyment only to my soul."
"Forty years ago I was of the same opinion, and in forty years, if you
succeed in acquiring wisdom, you will think like me. Pleasures which give
activity to our senses, my dear son, disturb the repose of our soul—a
proof that they do not deserve the name of real enjoyments."
"But if I feel them to be real enjoyments, it is enough to prove that they
are truly so."
"Granted; but if you would take the trouble of analyzing them after you
have tasted them, you would not find them unalloyed."
"It may be so, but why should I take a trouble which would only lessen my
"A time will come when you will feel pleasure in that very trouble."
"It strikes me, dear father, that you prefer mature age to youth."
"You may boldly say old age."
"You surprise me. Must I believe that your early life has been unhappy?"
"Far from it. It was always fortunate in good health, and the master of my
own passions; but all I saw in my equals was for me a good school in which
I have acquired the knowledge of man, and learned the real road to
happiness. The happiest of men is not the most voluptuous, but the one who
knows how to choose the highest standards of voluptuousness, which can be
found, I say again, not in the pleasures which excite our senses, but in
those which give greater repose to the soul."
"That is the voluptuousness which you consider unalloyed."
"Yes, and such is the sight of a vast prairie all covered with grass. The
green colour, so strongly recommended by our divine prophet, strikes my
eyes, and at the same moment I feel that my soul is wrapped up in a calm
so delightful that I fancy myself nearer the Creator. I enjoy the same
peace, the same repose, when I am seated on the banks of a river, when I
look upon the water so quiet, yet always moving, which flows constantly,
yet never disappears from my sight, never loses any of its clearness in
spite of its constant motion. It strikes me as the image of my own
existence, and of the calm which I require for my life in order to reach,
like the water I am gazing upon, the goal which I do not see, and which
can only be found at the other end of the journey."
Thus did the Turk reason, and we passed four hours in this sort of
conversation. He had buried two wives, and he had two sons and one
daughter. The eldest son, having received his patrimony, had established
himself in the city of Salonica, where he was a wealthy merchant; the
other was in the seraglio, in the service of the Grand Turk and his
fortune was in the hands of a trustee. His daughter, Zelmi, then fifteen
years of age, was to inherit all his remaining property. He had given her
all the accomplishments which could minister to the happiness of the man
whom heaven had destined for her husband. We shall hear more of that
daughter anon. The mother of the three children was dead, and five years
previous to the time of my visit, Yusuf had taken another wife, a native
of Scio, young and very beautiful, but he told me himself that he was now
too old, and could not hope to have any child by her. Yet he was only
sixty years of age. Before I left, he made me promise to spend at least
one day every week with him.
At supper, I told the baili how pleasantly the day had passed.
"We envy you," they said, "the prospect you have before you of spending
agreeably three or four months in this country, while, in our quality of
ministers, we must pine away with melancholy."
A few days afterwards, M. de Bonneval took me with him to dine at Ismail's
house, where I saw Asiatic luxury on a grand scale, but there were a great
many guests, and the conversation was held almost entirely in the Turkish
language—a circumstance which annoyed me and M. de Bonneval also.
Ismail saw it, and he invited me to breakfast whenever I felt disposed,
assuring me that he would have much pleasure in receiving me. I accepted
the invitation, and I went ten or twelve days afterwards. When we reach
that period my readers must kindly accompany me to the breakfast. For the
present I must return to Yusuf who, during my second visit, displayed a
character which inspired, me with the greatest esteem and the warmest
We had dined alone as before, and, conversation happening to turn upon the
fine arts, I gave my opinion upon one of the precepts in the Koran, by
which the Mahometans are deprived of the innocent enjoyment of paintings
and statues. He told me that Mahomet, a very sagacious legislator, had
been right in removing all images from the sight of the followers of
"Recollect, my son, that the nations to which the prophet brought the
knowledge of the true God were all idolators. Men are weak; if the
disciples of the prophet had continued to see the same objects, they might
have fallen back into their former errors."
"No one ever worshipped an image as an image; the deity of which the image
is a representation is what is worshipped."
"I may grant that, but God cannot be matter, and it is right to remove
from the thoughts of the vulgar the idea of a material divinity. You are
the only men, you Christians, who believe that you see God."
"It is true, we are sure of it, but observe that faith alone gives us that
"I know it; but you are idolators, for you see nothing but a material
representation, and yet you have a complete certainty that you see God,
unless you should tell me that faith disaffirms it."
"God forbid I should tell you such a thing! Faith, on the contrary,
affirms our certainty."
"We thank God that we have no need of such self-delusion, and there is not
one philosopher in the world who could prove to me that you require it."
"That would not be the province of philosophy, dear father, but of
theology—a very superior science."
"You are now speaking the language of our theologians, who differ from
yours only in this; they use their science to make clearer the truths we
ought to know, whilst your theologians try to render those truths more
"Recollect, dear father, that they are mysteries."
"The existence of God is a sufficiently important mystery to prevent men
from daring to add anything to it. God can only be simple; any kind of
combination would destroy His essence; such is the God announced by our
prophet, who must be the same for all men and in all times. Agree with me
that we can add nothing to the simplicity of God. We say that God is one;
that is the image of simplicity. You say that He is one and three at the
same time, and such a definition strikes us as contradictory, absurd, and
"It is a mystery."
"Do you mean God or the definition? I am speaking only of the definition,
which ought not to be a mystery or absurd. Common sense, my son, must
consider as absurd an assertion which substantiallv nonsensical. Prove to
me that three is not a compound, that it cannot be a compound and I will
become a Christian at once."
"My religion tells me to believe without arguing, and I shudder, my dear
Yusuf, when I think that, through some specious reasoning, I might be led
to renounce the creed of my fathers. I first must be convinced that they
lived in error. Tell me whether, respecting my father's memory, I ought to
have such a good opinion of myself as to sit in judgement over him, with
the intention of giving my sentence against him?"
My lively remonstrance moved Yusuf deeply, but after a few instants of
silence he said to me,—
"With such feelings, my son, you are sure to find grace in the eyes of
God, and you are, therefore, one of the elect. If you are in error, God
alone can convince you of it, for no just man on earth can refute the
sentiment you have just given expression to."
We spoke of many other things in a friendly manner, and in the evening we
parted with the often repeated assurance of the warmest affection and of
the most perfect devotion.
But my mind was full of our conversation, and as I went on pondering over
the matter, I thought that Yusuf might be right in his opinion as to the
essence of God, for it seemed evident that the Creator of all beings ought
to be perfectly simple; but I thought at the same time how impossible it
would be for me, because the Christian religion had made a mistake, to
accept the Turkish creed, which might perhaps have just a conception of
God, but which caused me to smile when I recollected that the man who had
given birth to it had been an arrant imposter. I had not the slightest
idea, however, that Yusuf wished to make a convert of me.
The third time I dined with him religion was again the subject of
"Do you believe, dear father, that the religion of Mahomet is the only one
in which salvation can be secured?"
"No, my dear son, I am not certain of it, and no man can have such a
certainty; but I am sure that the Christian religion is not the true one,
because it cannot be universal."
"Because there is neither bread nor wine to be found in three-fourths of
the world. Observe that the precepts of the Koran can be followed
I did not know how to answer, and I would not equivocate.
"If God cannot be matter," I said, "then He must be a spirit?"
"We know what He is not but we do not know what He is: man cannot affirm
that God is a spirit, because he can only realize the idea in an abstract
manner. God immaterial; that is the extent of our knowledge and it can
never be greater."
I was reminded of Plato, who had said exactly the same an most certainly
Yusuf never read Plato.
He added that the existence of God could be useful only to those who did
not entertain a doubt of that existence, and that, as a natural
consequence, Atheists must be the most miserable of men. God has made in
man His own image in order that, amongst all the animals created by Him,
there should be one that can understand and confess the existence of the
Creator. Without man, God would have no witness of His own glory, and man
must therefore understand that his first and highest duty is to glorify
God by practising justice and trusting to His providence.
"Observe, my son, that God never abandons the man who, in the midst of
misfortunes, falls down in prayer before Him, and that He often allows the
wretch who has no faith in prayer to die miserably."
"Yet we meet with Atheists who are fortunate and happy."
"True; but, in spite of their tranquillity, I pity them because they have
no hope beyond this life, and are on a level with animals. Besides, if
they are philosophers, they must linger in dark ignorance, and, if they
never think, they have no consolation, no resource, when adversity reaches
them. God has made man in such a manner that he cannot be happy unless he
entertains no doubt of the existence of his Divine Creator; in all
stations of life man is naturally prone to believe in that existence,
otherwise man would never have admitted one God, Creator of all beings and
of all things."
"I should like to know why Atheism has only existed in the systems of the
learned, and never as a national creed."
"Because the poor feel their wants much more than the rich, There are
amongst us a great many impious men who deride the true believers because
they have faith in the pilgrimage to Mecca. Wretches that they are, they
ought to respect the ancient customs which, exciting the devotion of
fervent souls, feed religious principles, and impart courage under all
misfortunes. Without such consolation, people would give way to all the
excess of despair."
Much pleased with the attention I gave to all he said, Yusuf would thus
yield to the inclination he felt to instruct me, and, on my side, feeling
myself drawn towards him by the charm which amiable goodness exerts upon
all hearts, I would often go and spend the day with him, even without any
previous invitation, and Yusuf's friendship soon became one of my most
One morning, I told my janissary to take me to the palace of Ismail
Effendi, in order to fulfil my promise to breakfast with him. He gave me
the most friendly welcome, and after an excellent breakfast he invited me
to take a walk in his garden. We found there a pretty summer-house which
we entered, and Ismail attempted some liberties which were not at all to
my taste, and which I resented by rising in a very abrupt manner. Seeing
that I was angry, the Turk affected to approve my reserve, and said that
he had only been joking. I left him after a few minutes, with the
intention of not visiting him again, but I was compelled to do so, as I
will explain by-and-by.
When I saw M. de Bonneval I told him what had happened and he said that,
according to Turkish manners, Ismail had intended to give me a great proof
of his friendship, but that I need not be afraid of the offence being
repeated. He added that politeness required that I should visit him again,
and that Ismail was, in spite of his failing, a perfect gentleman, who had
at his disposal the most beautiful female slaves in Turkey.
Five or six weeks after the commencement of our intimacy, Yusuf asked me
one day whether I was married. I answered that I was not; the conversation
turned upon several moral questions, and at last fell upon chastity,
which, in his opinion, could be accounted a virtue only if considered from
one point of view, namely, that of total abstinence, but he added that it
could not be acceptable to God; because it transgressed against the very
first precept He had given to man.
"I would like to know, for instance," he said, "what name can be given to
the chastity of your knights of Malta. They take a vow of chastity, but it
does not mean that they will renounce women altogether, they renounce
marriage only. Their chastity, and therefore chastity in general, is
violated only by marriage; yet I observe that marriage is one of your
sacraments. Therefore, those knights of Malta promise not to give way to
lustful incontinence in the only case in which God might forgive it, but
they reserve the license of being lustful unlawfully as often as they
please, and whenever an opportunity may offer itself; and that immoral,
illicit license is granted to them to such an extent, that they are
allowed to acknowledge legally a child which can be born to them only
through a double crime! The most revolting part of it all is that these
children of crime, who are of course perfectly innocent themselves, are
called natural children, as if children born in wedlock came into the
world in an unnatural manner! In one word, my dear son, the vow of
chastity is so much opposed to Divine precepts and to human nature that it
can be agreeable neither to God nor to society, nor to those who pledge
themselves to keep it, and being in such opposition to every divine and
human law, it must be a crime."
He enquired for the second time whether I was married; I replied in the
negative, and added that I had no idea of ever getting married.
"What!" he exclaimed; "I must then believe that you are not a perfect man,
or that you intend to work out your own damnation; unless you should tell
me that you are a Christian only outwardly."
"I am a man in the very strongest sense of the word, and I am a true
Christian. I must even confess that I adore women, and that I have not the
slightest idea of depriving myself of the most delightful of all
"According to your religion, damnation awaits you."
"I feel certain of the contrary, because, when we confess our sins, our
priests are compelled to give us absolution."
"I know it, but you must agree with me that it is absurd to suppose that
God will forgive a crime which you would, perhaps, not commit, if you did
not think that, after confession, a priest, a man like you, will give you
absolution. God forgives only the repenting sinner."
"No doubt of it, and confession supposes repentance; without it,
absolution has no effect."
"Is onanism a crime amongst you?"
"Yes, even greater than lustful and illegitimate copulation."
"I was aware of it, and it has always caused me great surprise, for the
legislator who enacts a law, the execution of which is impossible, is a
fool. A man in good health, if he cannot have a woman, must necessarily
have recourse to onanism, whenever imperious nature demands it, and the
man who, from fear of polluting his soul, would abstain from it, would
only draw upon himself a mortal disease."
"We believe exactly the reverse; we think that young people destroy their
constitutions, and shorten their lives through self-abuse. In several
communities they are closely watched, and are as much as possible deprived
of every opportunity of indulging in that crime."
"Those who watch them are ignorant fools, and those who pay the watchers
for such a service are even more stupid, because prohibition must excite
the wish to break through such a tyrannical law, to set at nought an
interdiction so contrary to nature."
"Yet it seems to me that self-abuse in excess must be injurious to health,
for it must weaken and enervate."
"Certainly, because excess in everything is prejudicial and pernicious;
but all such excess is the result of our severe prohibition. If girls are
not interfered with in the matter of self-abuse, I do not see why boys
"Because girls are very far from running the same risk; they do not lose a
great deal in the action of self-abuse, and what they lose does not come
from the same source whence flows the germinal liquid in men."
"I do not know, but we have some physicians who say that chlorosis in
girls is the result of that pleasure indulged in to excess."
After many such conversations, in which he seemed to consider me as
endowed with reason and talent, even when I was not of his opinion, Yusuf
Ali surprised me greatly one day by the following proposition:
"I have two sons and a daughter. I no longer think of my sons, because
they have received their share of my fortune. As far as my daughter is
concerned she will, after my death, inherit all my possessions, and I am,
besides, in a position while I am alive to promote the fortune of the man
who may marry her. Five years ago I took a young wife, but she has not
given me any progeny, and I know to a certainty that no offspring will
bless our union. My daughter, whose name is Zelmi, is now fifteen; she is
handsome, her eyes are black and lovely like her mother's, her hair is of
the colour of the raven's wing, her complexion is animated alabaster; she
is tall, well made, and of a sweet disposition; I have given her an
education which would make her worthy of our master, the Sultan. She
speaks Greek and Italian fluently, she sings delightfully, and accompanies
herself on the harp; she can draw and embroider, and is always contented
and cheerful. No living man can boast of having seen her features, and she
loves me so dearly that my will is hers. My daughter is a treasure, and I
offer her to you if you will consent to go for one year to Adrianople to
reside with a relative of mine, who will teach you our religion, our
language, and our manners. You will return at the end of one year, and as
soon as you have become a Mussulman my daughter shall be your wife. You
will find a house ready furnished, slaves of your own, and an income which
will enable you to live in comfort. I have no more to say at present. I do
not wish you to answer me either to-day, or to-morrow, or on any fixed
day. You will give me your decision whenever you feel yourself called upon
by your genius to give it, and you need not give me any answer unless you
accept my offer, for, should you refuse it, it is not necessary that the
subject should be again mentioned. I do not ask you to give full
consideration to my proposal, for now that I have thrown the seed in your
soul it must fructify. Without hurry, without delay, without anxiety, you
can but obey the decrees of God and follow the immutable decision of fate.
Such as I know you, I believe that you only require the possession of
Zelmi to be completely happy, and that you will become one of the pillars
of the Ottoman Empire."
Saying those words, Yusuf pressed me affectionately in his arms, and left
me by myself to avoid any answer I might be inclined to make. I went away
in such wonder at all I had just heard, that I found myself at the
Venetian Embassy without knowing how I had reached it. The baili thought
me very pensive, and asked whether anything was the matter with me, but I
did not feel disposed to gratify their curiosity. I found that Yusuf had
indeed spoken truly: his proposal was of such importance that it was my
duty, not only not to mention it to anyone, but even to abstain from
thinking it over, until my mind had recovered its calm sufficiently to
give me the assurance that no external consideration would weigh in the
balance and influence my decision. I had to silence all my passions;
prejudices, principles already formed, love, and even self-interest were
to remain in a state of complete inaction.
When I awoke the next morning I began to think the matter over, and I soon
discovered that, if I wanted to come to a decision, I ought not to ponder
over it, as the more I considered the less likely I should be to decide.
This was truly a case for the 'sequere Deum' of the Stoics.
I did not visit Yusuf for four days, and when I called on him on the fifth
day, we talked cheerfully without once mentioning his proposal, although
it was very evident that we were both thinking of it. We remained thus for
a fortnight, without ever alluding to the matter which engrossed all our
thoughts, but our silence was not caused by dissimulation, or by any
feeling contrary to our mutual esteem and friendship; and one day Yusuf
suggested that very likely I had communicated his proposal to some wise
friend, in order to obtain good advice. I immediately assured him it was
not so, and that in a matter of so delicate a nature I thought I ought not
to ask anybody's advice.
"I have abandoned myself to God, dear Yusuf, and, full of confidence in
Him, I feel certain that I shall decide for the best, whether I make up my
mind to become your son, or believe that I ought to remain what I am now.
In the mean time, my mind ponders over it day and night, whenever I am
quiet and feel myself composed and collected. When I come to a decision, I
will impart it to you alone, and from that moment you shall have over me
the authority of a father."
At these words the worthy Yusuf, his eyes wet with tears, placed his left
hand over my head, and the first two fingers of the right hand on my
"Continue to act in that way, my dear son, and be certain that you can
never act wrongly."
"But," I said to him, "one thing might happen, Zelmi might not accept me."
"Have no anxiety about that. My daughter loves you; she, as well as my
wife and her nurse, sees you every time that we dine together, and she
listens to you with pleasure."
"Does she know that you are thinking of giving her to me as my wife?"
"She knows that I ardently wish you to become a true believer, so as to
enable me to link her destiny to yours."
"I am glad that your habits do not permit you to let me see her, because
she might dazzle me with her beauty, and then passion would soon have too
much weight in the scale; I could no longer flatter myself that my
decision had been taken in all the unbiased, purity of my soul."
Yusuf was highly delighted at hearing me speak in that manner, and I spoke
in perfect good faith. The mere idea of seeing Zelmi caused me to shudder.
I felt that, if I had fallen in love with her, I would have become a
Mussulman in order to possess her, and that I might soon have repented
such a step, for the religion of Mahomet presented to my eyes and to my
mind nothing but a disagreeable picture, as well for this life as for a
future one. As for wealth, I did not think it deserved the immense
sacrifice demanded from me. I could find equal wealth in Europe, without
stamping my forehead with the shameful brand of apostasy. I cared deeply
for the esteem of the persons of distinction who knew me, and did not want
to render myself unworthy of it. Besides, I felt an immense desire to
obtain fame amongst civilized and polite nations, either in the fine arts
or in literature, or in any other honourable profession, and I could not
reconcile myself to the idea of abandoning to my equals the triumph which
I might win if I lived amongst them. It seemed to me, and I am still of
the same opinion, that the decision of wearing the turban befits only a
Christian despairing of himself and at the end of his wits, and
fortunately I was lost not in that predicament. My greatest objection was
to spend a year in Adrianople to learn a language for which I did not feel
any liking, and which I should therefore have learned but imperfectly. How
could I, at my age, renounce the prerogative, so pleasant to my vanity, of
being reputed a fine talker? and I had secured that reputation wherever I
was known. Then I would often think that Zelmi, the eighth wonder of
creation in the eyes of her father might not appear such in my eyes, and
it would have been enough to make me miserable, for Yusuf was likely to
live twenty years longer, and I felt that gratitude, as well as respect,
would never have permitted me to give that excellent man any cause for
unhappiness by ceasing to shew myself a devoted and faithful husband to
his daughter. Such were my thoughts, and, as Yusuf could not guess them,
it was useless to make a confidant of him.
A few days afterwards, I dined with the Pacha Osman and met my Effendi
Ismail. He was very friendly to me, and I reciprocated his attentions,
though I paid no attention to the reproaches he addressed to me for not
having come to breakfast with him for such a long time. I could not refuse
to dine at his house with Bonneval, and he treated me to a very pleasing
sight; Neapolitan slaves, men and women, performed a pantomime and some
Calabrian dances. M. de Bonneval happened to mention the dance called
forlana, and Ismail expressing a great wish to know it, I told him that I
could give him that pleasure if I had a Venetian woman to dance with and a
fiddler who knew the time. I took a violin, and played the forlana, but,
even if the partner had been found, I could not play and dance at the same
Ismail whispered a few words to one of his eunuchs, who went out of the
room and returned soon with some message that he delivered to him. The
effendi told me that he had found the partner I wanted, and I answered
that the musician could be had easily, if he would send a note to the
Venetian Embassy, which was done at once. The Bailo Dona sent one of his
men who played the violin well enough for dancing purposes. As soon as the
musician was ready, a door was thrown open, and a fine looking woman came
in, her face covered with a black velvet mask, such as we call moretta in
Venice. The appearance of that beautiful masked woman surprised and
delighted every one of the guests, for it was impossible to imagine a more
interesting object, not only on account of the beauty of that part of the
face which the mask left exposed, but also for the elegance of her shape,
the perfection of her figure, and the exquisite taste displayed in her
costume. The nymph took her place, I did the same, and we danced the
forlana six times without stopping.
I was in perspiration and out of breath, for the foylana is the most
violent of our national dances; but my beautiful partner stood near me
without betraying the slightest fatigue, and seemed to challenge me to a
new performance. At the round of the dance, which is the most difficult
step, she seemed to have wings. I was astounded, for I had never seen
anyone, even in Venice, dance the forlana so splendidly. After a few
minutes rest, rather ashamed of my feeling tired, I went up to her, and
said, 'Ancora sei, a poi basta, se non volete vedermi a morire.' She would
have answered me if she had been able, but she wore one of those cruel
masks which forbid speech. But a pressure of her hand which nobody could
see made me guess all I wanted to know. The moment we finished dancing the
eunuch opened the door, and my lovely partner disappeared.
Ismail could not thank me enough, but it was I who owed him my thanks, for
it was the only real pleasure which I enjoyed in Constantinople. I asked
him whether the lady was from Venice, but he only answered by a
"The worthy Ismail," said M. de Bonneval to me, as we were leaving the
house late in the evening, "has been to-day the dupe of his vanity, and I
have no doubt that he is sorry already for what he has done. To bring out
his beautiful slave to dance with you! According to the prejudices of this
country it is injurious to his dignity, for you are sure to have kindled
an amorous flame in the poor girl's breast. I would advise you to be
careful and to keep on your guard, because she will try to get up some
intrigue with you; but be prudent, for intrigues are always dangerous in
I promised to be prudent, but I did not keep my promise; for, three or
four days afterwards, an old slave woman met me in the street, and offered
to sell me for one piaster a tobacco-bag embroidered in gold; and as she
put it in my hand she contrived to make me feel that there was a letter in
I observed that she tried to avoid the eyes of the janissary who was
walking behind me; I gave her one piaster, she left me, and I proceeded
toward Yusuf's house. He was not at home, and I went to his garden to read
the letter with perfect freedom. It was sealed and without any address,
and the slave might have made a mistake; but my curiosity was excited to
the highest pitch; I broke the seal, and found the following note written
in good enough Italian:
"Should you wish to see the person with whom you danced the forlana, take
a walk towards evening in the garden beyond the fountain, and contrive to
become acquainted with the old servant of the gardener by asking her for
some lemonade. You may perchance manage to see your partner in the forlana
without running any risk, even if you should happen to meet Ismail; she is
a native of Venice. Be careful not to mention this invitation to any human
"I am not such a fool, my lovely countrywoman," I exclaimed, as if she had
been present, and put the letter in my pocket. But at that very moment, a
fine-looking elderly woman came out of a thicket, pronounced my name, and
enquired what I wanted and how I had seen her. I answered that I had been
speaking to the wind, not supposing that anyone could hear me, and without
any more preparation, she abruptly told me that she was very glad of the
opportunity of speaking with me, that she was from Rome, that she had
brought up Zelmi, and had taught her to sing and to play the harp. She
then praised highly the beauty and the excellent qualities of her pupil,
saying that, if I saw her, I would certainly fall in love with her, and
expressing how much she regretted that the law should not allow it.
"She sees us at this very moment," she added, "from behind that green
window-blind, and we love you ever since Yusuf has informed us that you
may, perhaps, become Zelmi's husband."
"May I mention our conversation to Yusuf?" I enquired.
Her answering in the negative made me understand that, if I had pressed
her a little, she would have allowed me to see her lovely pupil, and
perhaps it was with that intention that she had contrived to speak to me,
but I felt great reluctance to do anything to displease my worthy host. I
had another reason of even greater importance: I was afraid of entering an
intricate maze in which the sight of a turban hovering over me made me