Yusuf came home, and far from being angry when he saw me with the woman,
he remarked that I must have found much pleasure in conversing with a
native of Rome, and he congratulated me upon the delight I must have felt
in dancing with one of the beauties from the harem of the voluptuous
"Then it must be a pleasure seldom enjoyed, if it is so much talked of?"
"Very seldom indeed, for there is amongst us an invincible prejudice
against exposing our lovely women to the eyes of other men; but everyone
may do as he pleases in his own house: Ismail is a very worthy and a very
"Is the lady with whom I danced known?"
"I believe not. She wore a mask, and everybody knows that Ismail possesses
half a dozen slaves of surpassing beauty."
I spent a pleasant day with Yusuf, and when I left him, I ordered my
janissary to take me to Ismail's. As I was known by his servants, they
allowed me to go in, and I proceeded to the spot described in the letter.
The eunuch came to me, informed me that his master was out, but that he
would be delighted to hear of my having taken a walk in the garden. I told
him that I would like a glass of lemonade, and he took me to the
summerhouse, where I recognized the old woman who had sold me the
tobacco-pouch. The eunuch told her to give me a glass of some liquid which
I found delicious, and would not allow me to give her any money. We then
walked together towards the fountain, but he told me abruptly that we were
to go back, as he saw three ladies to whom he pointed, adding that, for
the sake of decency, it was necessary to avoid them. I thanked him for his
attentions, left my compliments for Ismail, and went away not dissatisfied
with my first attempt, and with the hope of being more fortunate another
The next morning I received a letter from Ismail inviting me to go fishing
with him on the following day, and stating that he intended to enjoy the
sport by moonlight. I immediately gave way to my suppositions, and I went
so far as to fancy that Ismail might be capable of arranging an interview
between me and the lovely Venetian. I did not mind his being present. I
begged permission of Chevalier Venier to stop out of the palace for one
night, but he granted it with the greatest difficulty, because he was
afraid of some love affair and of the results it might have. I took care
to calm his anxiety as much as I could, but without acquainting him with
all the circumstances of the case, for I thought I was wise in being
I was exact to the appointed time, and Ismail received me with the utmost
cordiality, but I was surprised when I found myself alone with him in the
boat. We had two rowers and a man to steer; we took some fish, fried in
oil, and ate it in the summer-house. The moon shone brightly, and the
night was delightful. Alone with Ismail, and knowing his unnatural tastes,
I did not feel very comfortable for, in spite of what M. de Bonneval had
told me, I was afraid lest the Turk should take a fancy to give me too
great a proof of his friendship, and I did not relish our tete-a-tete. But
my fears were groundless.
"Let us leave this place quietly," said Ismail, "I have just heard a
slight noise which heralds something that will amuse us."
He dismissed his attendants, and took my hand, saying,
"Let us go to a small room, the key of which I luckily have with me, but
let us be careful not to make any noise. That room has a window
overlooking the fountain where I think that two or three of my beauties
have just gone to bathe. We will see them and enjoy a very pleasing sight,
for they do not imagine that anyone is looking at them. They know that the
place is forbidden to everybody except me."
We entered the room, we went to the window, and, the moon shining right
over the basin of the fountain, we saw three nymphs who, now swimming, now
standing or sitting on the marble steps, offered themselves to our eyes in
every possible position, and in all the attitudes of graceful
voluptuousness. Dear reader, I must not paint in too vivid colours the
details of that beautiful picture, but if nature has endowed you with an
ardent imagination and with equally ardent senses, you will easily imagine
the fearful havoc which that unique, wonderful, and enchanting sight must
have made upon my poor body.
A few days after that delightful fishing and bathing party by moonlight, I
called upon Yusuf early in the morning; as it was raining, I could not go
to the garden, and I went into the dining-room, in which I had never seen
anyone. The moment I entered the room, a charming female form rose,
covering her features with a thick veil which fell to the feet. A slave
was sitting near the window, doing some tambour-work, but she did not
move. I apologized, and turned to leave the room, but the lady stopped me,
observing, with a sweet voice, that Yusuf had commanded her to entertain
me before going out. She invited me to be seated, pointing to a rich
cushion placed upon two larger ones, and I obeyed, while, crossing her
legs, she sat down upon another cushion opposite to me. I thought I was
looking upon Zelmi, and fancied that Yusuf had made up his mind to shew me
that he was not less courageous than Ismail. Yet I was surprised, for, by
such a proceeding, he strongly contradicted his maxims, and ran the risk
of impairing the unbiased purity of my consent by throwing love in the
balance. But I had no fear of that, because, to become enamoured, I should
have required to see her face.
"I suppose," said the veiled beauty, "that you do not know who I am?"
"I could not guess, if I tried."
"I have been for the last five years the wife of your friend, and I am a
native of Scio. I was thirteen years of age when I became his wife."
I was greatly astonished to find that my Mussulman philosopher had gone so
far as to allow me to converse with his wife, but I felt more at ease
after I had received that information, and fancied that I might carry the
adventure further, but it would be necessary to see the lady's face, for a
finely-dressed body, the head of which is not seen, excites but feeble
desires. The fire lighted by amorous desires is like a fire of straw; the
moment it burns up it is near its end. I had before me a magnificent
appearance, but I could not see the soul of the image, for a thick gauze
concealed it from my hungry gaze. I could see arms as white as alabaster,
and hands like those of Alcina, 'dove ne nodo appasisce ne vena accede',
and my active imagination fancied that all the rest was in harmony with
those beautiful specimens, for the graceful folds of the muslin, leaving
the outline all its perfection, hid from me only the living satin of the
surface; there was no doubt that everything was lovely, but I wanted to
see, in the expression of her eyes, that all that my imagination created
had life and was endowed with feeling. The Oriental costume is a beautiful
varnish placed upon a porcelain vase to protect from the touch the colours
of the flowers and of the design, without lessening the pleasure of the
eyes. Yusuf's wife was not dressed like a sultana; she wore the costume of
Scio, with a short skirt which concealed neither the perfection of the leg
nor the round form of the thigh, nor the voluptuous plump fall of the
hips, nor the slender, well-made waist encompassed in a splendid band
embroidered in silver and covered with arabesques. Above all those
beauties, I could see the shape of two globes which Apelles would have
taken for the model of those of his lovely Venus, and the rapid, inequal
movement of which proved to me that those ravishing hillocks were
animated. The small valley left between them, and which my eyes greedily
feasted upon, seemed to me a lake of nectar, in which my burning lips
longed to quench their thirst with more ardour than they would have drunk
from the cup of the gods.
Enraptured, unable to control myself, I thrust my arm forward by a
movement almost independent of my will, and my hand, too audacious, was on
the point of lifting the hateful veil, but she prevented me by raising
herself quickly on tiptoe, upbraiding me at the same time for my
perfidious boldness, with a voice as commanding as her attitude.
"Dost thou deserve," she said, "Yusuf's friendship, when thou abusest the
sacred laws of hospitality by insulting his wife?"
"Madam, you must kindly forgive me, for I never had any intention to
insult you. In my country the lowest of men may fix his eyes upon the face
of a queen."
"Yes, but he cannot tear off her veil, if she chooses to wear it. Yusuf
shall avenge me."
The threat, and the tone in which it was pronounced, frightened me. I
threw myself at her feet, and succeeded in calming her anger.
"Take a seat," she said.
And she sat down herself, crossing her legs with so much freedom that I
caught a glimpse of charms which would have caused me to lose all control
over myself if the delightful sight had remained one moment longer exposed
to my eyes. I then saw that I had gone the wrong way to work, and I felt
vexed with myself; but it was too late.
"Art thou excited?" she said.
"How could I be otherwise," I answered, "when thou art scorching me with
an ardent fire?"
I had become more prudent, and I seized her hand without thinking any more
of her face.
"Here is my husband," she said, and Yusuf came into the room. We rose,
Yusuf embraced me, I complimented him, the slave left the room. Yusuf
thanked his wife for having entertained me, and offered her his arm to
take her to her own apartment. She took it, but when she reached the door,
she raised her veil, and kissing her husband she allowed me to see her
lovely face as if it had been done unwittingly. I followed her with my
eyes as long as I could, and Yusuf, coming back to me, said with a laugh
that his wife had offered to dine with us.
"I thought," I said to him, "that I had Zelmi before me."
"That would have been too much against our established rules. What I have
done is not much, but I do not know an honest man who would be bold enough
to bring his daughter into the presence of a stranger."
"I think your wife must be handsome; is she more beautiful than Zelmi?"
"My daughter's beauty is cheerful, sweet, and gentle; that of Sophia is
proud and haughty. She will be happy after my death. The man who will
marry her will find her a virgin."
I gave an account of my adventure to M. de Bonneval, somewhat exaggerating
the danger I had run in trying to raise the veil of the handsome daughter
"She was laughing at you," said the count, "and you ran no danger. She
felt very sorry, believe me, to have to deal with a novice like you. You
have been playing the comedy in the French fashion, when you ought to have
gone straight to the point. What on earth did you want to see her nose
for? She knew very well that she would have gained nothing by allowing you
to see her. You ought to have secured the essential point. If I were young
I would perhaps manage to give her a revenge, and to punish my friend
Yusuf. You have given that lovely woman a poor opinion of Italian valour.
The most reserved of Turkish women has no modesty except on her face, and,
with her veil over it, she knows to a certainty that she will not blush at
anything. I am certain that your beauty keeps her face covered whenever
our friend Yusuf wishes to joke with her."
"She is yet a virgin."
"Rather a difficult thing to admit, my good friend; but I know the
daughters of Scio; they have a talent for counterfeiting virginity."
Yusuf never paid me a similar compliment again, and he was quite right.
A few days after, I happened to be in the shop of an Armenian merchant,
looking at some beautiful goods, when Yusuf entered the shop and praised
my taste; but, although I had admired a great many things, I did not buy,
because I thought they were too dear. I said so to Yusuf, but he remarked
that they were, on the contrary, very cheap, and he purchased them all. We
parted company at the door, and the next morning I received all the
beautiful things he had bought; it was a delicate attention of my friend,
and to prevent my refusal of such a splendid present, he had enclosed a
note stating that, on my arrival in Corfu, he would let me know to whom
the goods were to be delivered. He had thus sent me gold and silver
filigrees from Damascus, portfolios, scarfs, belts, handkerchiefs and
pipes, the whole worth four or five hundred piasters. When I called to
thank him, I compelled him to confess that it was a present offered by his
The day before my departure from Constantinople, the excellent man burst
into tears as I bade him adieu, and my grief was as great as his own. He
told me that, by not accepting the offer of his daughter's hand, I had so
strongly captivated his esteem that his feelings for me could not have
been warmer if I had become his son. When I went on board ship with the
Bailo Jean Dona, I found another case given to me by him, containing two
quintals of the best Mocha coffee, one hundred pounds of tobacco leaves,
two large flagons filled, one with Zabandi tobacco, the other with
camussa, and a magnificent pipe tube of jessamine wood, covered with gold
filigrane, which I sold in Corfu for one hundred sequins. I had not it in
my power to give my generous Turk any mark of my gratitude until I reached
Corfu, but there I did not fail to do so. I sold all his beautiful
presents, which made me the possessor of a small fortune.
Ismail gave me a letter for the Chevalier de Lezze, but I could not
forward it to him because I unfortunately lost it; he presented me with a
barrel of hydromel, which I turned likewise into money. M. de Bonneval
gave me a letter for Cardinal Acquaviva, which I sent to Rome with an
account of my journey, but his eminence did not think fit to acknowledge
the receipt of either. Bonneval made me a present of twelve bottles of
malmsey from Ragusa, and of twelve bottles of genuine scopolo—a
great rarity, with which I made a present in Corfu which proved very
useful to me, as the reader will discover.
The only foreign minister I saw much in Constantinople was the lord
marshal of Scotland, the celebrated Keith, who represented the King of
Prussia, and who, six years later was of great service to me in Paris.
We sailed from Constantinople in the beginning of September in the same
man-of-war which had brought us, and we reached Corfu in fourteen days.
The Bailo Dona did not land. He had with him eight splendid Turkish
horses; I saw two of them still alive in Gorizia in the year 1773.
As soon as I had landed with my luggage, and had engaged a rather mean
lodging, I presented myself to M. Andre Dolfin, the proveditore-generale,
who promised me again that I should soon be promoted to a lieutenancy.
After my visit to him, I called upon M. Camporese, my captain, and was
well received by him. My third visit was to the commander of galleases, M.
D—— R——-, to whom M. Antonio Dolfin, with whom I
had travelled from Venice to Corfu, had kindly recommended me. After a
short conversation, he asked me if I would remain with him with the title
of adjutant. I did not hesitate one instant, but accepted, saying how
deeply honoured I felt by his offer, and assuring him that he would always
find me ready to carry out his orders. He immediately had me taken to my
room, and, the next day, I found myself established in his house. I
obtained from my captain a French soldier to serve me, and I was well
pleased when I found that the man was a hairdresser by trade, and a great
talker by nature, for he could take care of my beautiful head of hair, and
I wanted to practise French conversation. He was a good-for-nothing
fellow, a drunkard and a debauchee, a peasant from Picardy, and he could
hardly read or write, but I did not mind all that; all I wanted from him
was to serve me, and to talk to me, and his French was pretty good. He was
an amusing rogue, knowing by heart a quantity of erotic songs and of
smutty stories which he could tell in the most laughable manner.
When I had sold my stock of goods from Constantinople (except the wines),
I found myself the owner of nearly five hundred sequins. I redeemed all
the articles which I had pledged in the hands of Jews, and turned into
money everything of which I had no need. I was determined not to play any
longer as a dupe, but to secure in gambling all the advantages which a
prudent young man could obtain without sullying his honour.
I must now make my readers acquainted with the sort of life we were at
that time leading in Corfu. As to the city itself, I will not describe it,
because there are already many descriptions better than the one I could
offer in these pages.
We had then in Corfu the 'proveditore-generale' who had sovereign
authority, and lived in a style of great magnificence. That post was then
filled by M. Andre Dolfin, a man sixty years of age, strict, headstrong,
and ignorant. He no longer cared for women, but liked to be courted by
them. He received every evening, and the supper-table was always laid for
We had three field-officers of the marines who did duty on the galleys,
and three field-officers for the troops of the line on board the
men-of-war. Each galeass had a captain called 'sopracomito', and we had
ten of those captains; we had likewise ten commanders, one for each
man-of-war, including three 'capi di mare', or admirals. They all belonged
to the nobility of Venice. Ten young Venetian noblemen, from twenty to
twenty-two years of age, were at Corfu as midshipmen in the navy. We had,
besides, about a dozen civil clerks in the police of the island, or in the
administration of justice, entitled 'grandi offciali di terra'. Those who
were blessed with handsome wives had the pleasure of seeing their houses
very much frequented by admirers who aspired to win the favours of the
ladies, but there was not much heroic love-making, perhaps for the reason
that there were then in Corfu many Aspasias whose favours could be had for
money. Gambling was allowed everywhere, and that all absorbing passion was
very prejudicial to the emotions of the heart.
The lady who was then most eminent for beauty and gallantry was Madame F——.
Her husband, captain of a galley, had come to Corfu with her the year
before, and madam had greatly astonished all the naval officers. Thinking
that she had the privilege of the choice, she had given the preference to
M. D—— R——-, and had dismissed all the suitors who
presented themselves. M. F—— had married her on the very day
she had left the convent; she was only seventeen years of age then, and he
had brought her on board his galley immediately after the marriage
I saw her for the first time at the dinner-table on the very day of my
installation at M. D—— R——-'s, and she made a
great impression upon me. I thought I was gazing at a supernatural being,
so infinitely above all the women I had ever seen, that it seemed
impossible to fall in love with her She appeared to me of a nature
different and so greatly superior to mine that I did not see the
possibility of rising up to her. I even went so far as to persuade myself
that nothing but a Platonic friendship could exist between her and M. D——
R——-, and that M. F—— was quite right now not to
shew any jealousy. Yet, that M. F—— was a perfect fool, and
certainly not worthy of such a woman. The impression made upon me by
Madame F—— was too ridiculous to last long, and the nature of
it soon changed, but in a novel manner, at least as far as I was
My position as adjutant procured me the honour of dining at M. D——
R——-'s table, but nothing more. The other adjutant, like me,
an ensign in the army, but the greatest fool I had ever seen, shared that
honour with me. We were not, however, considered as guests, for nobody
ever spoke to us, and, what is more, no one ever honoured us with a look.
It used to put me in a rage. I knew very well that people acted in that
manner through no real contempt for us, but it went very hard with me. I
could very well understand that my colleague, Sanzonio, should not
complain of such treatment, because he was a blockhead, but I did not feel
disposed to allow myself to be put on a par with him. At the end of eight
or ten days, Madame F——, not having con descended to cast one
glance upon my person, began to appear disagreeable to me. I felt piqued,
vexed, provoked, and the more so because I could not suppose that the lady
acted in that manner wilfully and purposely; I would have been highly
pleased if there had been premeditation on her part. I felt satisfied that
I was a nobody in her estimation, and as I was conscious of being
somebody, I wanted her to know it. At last a circumstance offered itself
in which, thinking that she could address me, she was compelled to look at
M. D—— R—— having observed that a very, very fine
turkey had been placed before me, told me to carve it, and I immediately
went to work. I was not a skilful carver, and Madame F——,
laughing at my want of dexterity, told me that, if I had not been certain
of performing my task with credit to myself, I ought not to have
undertaken it. Full of confusion, and unable to answer her as my anger
prompted, I sat down, with my heart overflowing with spite and hatred
against her. To crown my rage, having one day to address me, she asked me
what was my name. She had seen me every day for a fortnight, ever since I
had been the adjutant of M. D—— R——; therefore she
ought to have known my name. Besides, I had been very lucky at the
gaming-table, and I had become rather famous in Corfu. My anger against
Madame F was at its height.
I had placed my money in the hands of a certain Maroli, a major in the
army and a gamester by profession, who held the faro bank at the
coffee-house. We were partners; I helped him when he dealt, and he
rendered me the same office when I held the cards, which was often the
case, because he was not generally liked. He used to hold the cards in a
way which frightened the punters; my manners were very different, and I
was very lucky. Besides I was easy and smiling when my bank was losing,
and I won without shewing any avidity, and that is a manner which always
pleases the punters.
This Maroli was the man who had won all my money during my first stay in
Corfu, and finding, when I returned, that I was resolved not to be duped
any more, he judged me worthy of sharing the wise maxims without which
gambling must necessarily ruin all those who meddle with it. But as Maroli
had won my confidence only to a very slight extent, I was very careful. We
made up our accounts every night, as soon as playing was over; the cashier
kept the capital of the bank, the winnings were divided, and each took his
share away. Lucky at play, enjoying good health and the friendship of my
comrades, who, whenever the opportunity offered, always found me generous
and ready to serve them, I would have been well pleased with my position
if I had been a little more considered at the table of M. D——
R——-, and treated with less haughtiness by his lady who,
without any reason, seemed disposed to humiliate me. My self-love was
deeply hurt, I hated her, and, with such a disposition of mind, the more I
admired the perfection of her charms, the more I found her deficient in
wit and intelligence. She might have made the conquest of my heart without
bestowing hers upon me, for all I wanted was not to be compelled to hate
her, and I could not understand what pleasure it could be for her to be
detested, while with only a little kindness she could have been adored. I
could not ascribe her manner to a spirit of coquetry, for I had never
given her the slightest proof of the opinion I entertained of her beauty,
and I could not therefore attribute her behaviour to a passion which might
have rendered me disagreeable in her eyes; M. D—— R——
seemed to interest her only in a very slight manner, and as to her
husband, she cared nothing for him. In short, that charming woman made me
very unhappy, and I was angry with myself because I felt that, if it had
not been for the manner in which she treated me, I would not have thought
of her, and my vexation was increased by the feeling of hatred entertained
by my heart against her, a feeling which until then I had never known to
exist in me, and the discovery of which overwhelmed me with confusion.
One day a gentleman handed me, as we were leaving the dinner-table, a roll
of gold that he had lost upon trust; Madame F—— saw it, and
she said to me very abruptly,—
"What do you do with your money?"
"I keep it, madam, as a provision against possible losses."
"But as you do not indulge in any expense it would be better for you not
to play; it is time wasted."
"Time given to pleasure is never time lost, madam; the only time which a
young man wastes is that which is consumed in weariness, because when he
is a prey to ennui he is likely to fall a prey to love, and to be despised
by the object of his affection."
"Very likely; but you amuse yourself with hoarding up your money, and shew
yourself to be a miser, and a miser is not less contemptible than a man in
love. Why do you not buy yourself a pair of gloves?"
You may be sure that at these words the laughter was all on her side, and
my vexation was all the greater because I could not deny that she was
quite right. It was the adjutant's business to give the ladies an arm to
their carriages, and it was not proper to fulfil that duty without gloves.
I felt mortified, and the reproach of avarice hurt me deeply. I would a
thousand times rather that she had laid my error to a want of education;
and yet, so full of contradictions is the human heart, instead of making
amends by adopting an appearance of elegance which the state of my
finances enabled me to keep up, I did not purchase any gloves, and I
resolved to avoid her and to abandon her to the insipid and dull gallantry
of Sanzonio, who sported gloves, but whose teeth were rotten, whose breath
was putrid, who wore a wig, and whose face seemed to be covered with
shrivelled yellow parchment.
I spent my days in a continual state of rage and spite, and the most
absurd part of it all was that I felt unhappy because I could not control
my hatred for that woman whom, in good conscience, I could not find guilty
of anything. She had for me neither love nor dislike, which was quite
natural; but being young and disposed to enjoy myself I had become,
without any wilful malice on her part, an eye-sore to her and the butt of
her bantering jokes, which my sensitiveness exaggerated greatly. For all
that I had an ardent wish to punish her and to make her repent. I thought
of nothing else. At one time I would think of devoting all my intelligence
and all my money to kindling an amorous passion in her heart, and then to
revenge myself by treating her with contempt. But I soon realized the
impracticability of such a plan, for even supposing that I should succeed
in finding my way to her heart, was I the man to resist my own success
with such a woman? I certainly could not flatter myself that I was so
strong-minded. But I was the pet child of fortune, and my position was
M. D—— R—— having sent me with dispatches to M. de
Condulmer, captain of a 'galeazza', I had to wait until midnight to
deliver them, and when I returned I found that M. D—— R——
had retired to his apartment for the night. As soon as he was visible in
the morning I went to him to render an account of my mission. I had been
with him only a few minutes when his valet brought a letter saying that
Madame F——'s adjutant was waiting for an answer. M. D——
R—— read the note, tore it to pieces, and in his excitement
stamped with his foot upon the fragments. He walked up and down the room
for a little time, then wrote an answer and rang for the adjutant, to whom
he delivered it. He then recovered his usual composure, concluded the
perusal of the dispatch sent by M. de Condulmer, and told me to write a
letter. He was looking it over when the valet came in, telling me that
Madame F—— desired to see me. M. D—— R——
told me that he did not require my services any more for the present, and
that I might go. I left the room, but I had not gone ten yards when he
called me back to remind me that my duty was to know nothing; I begged to
assure him that I was well aware of that. I ran to Madame F——-'s
house, very eager to know what she wanted with me. I was introduced
immediately, and I was greatly surprised to find her sitting up in bed,
her countenance flushed and excited, and her eyes red from the tears she
had evidently just been shedding. My heart was beating quickly, yet I did
not know why.
"Pray be seated," she said, "I wish to speak with you."
"Madam," I answered, "I am not worthy of so great a favour, and I have not
yet done anything to deserve it; allow me to remain standing."
She very likely recollected that she had never been so polite before, and
dared not press me any further. She collected her thoughts for an instant
or two, and said to me:
"Last evening my husband lost two hundred sequins upon trust at your faro
bank; he believed that amount to be in my hands, and I must therefore give
it to him immediately, as he is bound in honour to pay his losses to-day.
Unfortunately I have disposed of the money, and I am in great trouble. I
thought you might tell Maroli that I have paid you the amount lost by my
husband. Here is a ring of some value; keep it until the 1st of January,
when I will return the two hundred sequins for which I am ready to give
you my note of hand."
"I accept the note of hand, madam, but I cannot consent to deprive you of
your ring. I must also tell you that M. F—— must go himself to
the bank, or send some one there, to redeem his debt. Within ten minutes
you shall have the amount you require."
I left her without waiting for an answer, and I returned within a few
minutes with the two hundred ducats, which I handed to her, and putting in
my pocket her note of hand which she had just written, I bowed to take my
leave, but she addressed to me these precious words:
"I believe, sir, that if I had known that you were so well disposed to
oblige me, I could not have made up my mind to beg that service from you."
"Well, madam, for the future be quite certain that there is not a man in
the world capable of refusing you such an insignificant service whenever
you will condescend to ask for it in person."
"What you say is very complimentary, but I trust never to find myself
again under the necessity of making such a cruel experiment."
I left Madame F——-, thinking of the shrewdness of her answer.
She had not told me that I was mistaken, as I had expected she would, for
that would have caused her some humiliation: she knew that I was with M. D——
R—— when the adjutant had brought her letter, and she could
not doubt that I was aware of the refusal she had met with. The fact of
her not mentioning it proved to me that she was jealous of her own
dignity; it afforded me great gratification, and I thought her worthy of
adoration. I saw clearly that she could have no love for M. D——
R——-, and that she was not loved by him, and the discovery
made me leap for joy. From that moment I felt I was in love with her, and
I conceived the hope that she might return my ardent affection.
The first thing I did, when I returned to my room, was to cross out with
ink every word of her note of hand, except her name, in such a manner that
it was impossible to guess at the contents, and putting it in an envelope
carefully sealed, I deposited it in the hands of a public notary who
stated, in the receipt he gave me of the envelope, that he would deliver
it only to Madame F——-, whenever she should request its
The same evening M. F—— came to the bank, paid me, played with
cash in hand, and won some fifty ducats. What caused me the greatest
surprise was that M. D—— R—— continued to be very
gracious to Madame F——, and that she remained exactly the same
towards him as she used to be before. He did not even enquire what she
wanted when she had sent for me. But if she did not seem to change her
manner towards my master, it was a very different case with me, for
whenever she was opposite to me at dinner, she often addressed herself to
me, and she thus gave me many opportunities of shewing my education and my
wit in amusing stories or in remarks, in which I took care to blend
instruction with witty jests. At that time F—— had the great
talent of making others laugh while I kept a serious countenance myself. I
had learnt that accomplishment from M. de Malipiero, my first master in
the art of good breeding, who used to say to me,—
"If you wish your audience to cry, you must shed tears yourself, but if
you wish to make them laugh you must contrive to look as serious as a
In everything I did, in every word I uttered, in the presence of Madame F——,
the only aim I had was to please her, but I did not wish her to suppose
so, and I never looked at her unless she spoke to me. I wanted to force
her curiosity, to compel her to suspect nay, to guess my secret, but
without giving her any advantage over me: it was necessary for me to
proceed by slow degrees. In the mean time, and until I should have a
greater happiness, I was glad to see that my money, that magic talisman,
and my good conduct, obtained me a consideration much greater than I could
have hoped to obtain either through my position, or from my age, or in
consequence of any talent I might have shewn in the profession I had
Towards the middle of November, the soldier who acted as my servant was
attacked with inflammation of the chest; I gave notice of it to the
captain of his company, and he was carried to the hospital. On the fourth
day I was told that he would not recover, and that he had received the
last sacraments; in the evening I happened to be at his captain's when the
priest who had attended him came to announce his death, and to deliver a
small parcel which the dying man had entrusted to him to be given up to
his captain only after his death. The parcel contained a brass seal
engraved with ducal arms, a certificate of baptism, and a sheet of paper
covered with writing in French. Captain Camporese, who only spoke Italian,
begged me to translate the paper, the contents of which were as follows:
"My will is that this paper, which I have written and signed with my own
hand, shall be delivered to my captain only after I have breathed my last:
until then, my confessor shall not make any use of it, for I entrust it to
his hands only under the seal of confession. I entreat my captain to have
me buried in a vault from which my body can be exhumed in case the duke,
my father, should request its exhumation. I entreat him likewise to
forward my certificate of baptism, the seal with the armorial bearings of
my family, and a legal certificate of my birth to the French ambassador in
Venice, who will send the whole to the duke, my father, my rights of
primogeniture belonging, after my demise, to the prince, my brother. In
faith of which I have signed and sealed these presents: Francois VI.
Charles Philippe Louis Foucaud, Prince de la Rochefoucault."
The certificate of baptism, delivered at St. Sulpice gave the same names,
and the title of the father was Francois V. The name of the mother was
Gabrielle du Plessis.
As I was concluding my translation I could not help bursting into loud
laughter; but the foolish captain, who thought my mirth out of place,
hurried out to render an account of the affair to the
proveditore-generale, and I went to the coffee-house, not doubting for one
moment that his excellency would laugh at the captain, and that the
post-mortem buffoonery would greatly amuse the whole of Corfu.
I had known in Rome, at Cardinal Acquaviva's, the Abbe de Liancourt,
great-grandson of Charles, whose sister, Gabrielle du Plessis, had been
the wife of Francois V., but that dated from the beginning of the last
century. I had made a copy from the records of the cardinal of the account
of certain circumstances which the Abbe de Liancourt wanted to communicate
to the court of Spain, and in which there were a great many particulars
respecting the house of Du Plessis. I thought at the same time that the
singular imposture of La Valeur (such was the name by which my soldier
generally went) was absurd and without a motive, since it was to be known
only after his death, and could not therefore prove of any advantage to
Half an hour afterwards, as I was opening a fresh pack of cards, the
Adjutant Sanzonio came in, and told the important news in the most serious
manner. He had just come from the office of the proveditore, where Captain
Camporese had run in the utmost hurry to deposit in the hands of his
excellency the seal and the papers of the deceased prince. His excellency
had immediately issued his orders for the burial of the prince in a vault
with all the honours due to his exalted rank. Another half hour passed,
and M. Minolto, adjutant of the proveditore-generale, came to inform me
that his excellency wanted to see me. I passed the cards to Major Maroli,
and went to his excellency's house. I found him at supper with several
ladies, three or four naval commanders, Madame F——, and M. D——
"So, your servant was a prince!" said the old general to me.
"Your excellency, I never would have suspected it, and even now that he is
dead I do not believe it."
"Why? He is dead, but he was not insane. You have seen his armorial
bearings, his certificate of baptism, as well as what he wrote with his
own hand. When a man is so near death, he does not fancy practical jokes."
"If your excellency is satisfied of the truth of the story, my duty is to
"The story cannot be anything but true, and your doubts surprise me."
"I doubt, monsignor, because I happen to have positive information
respecting the families of La Rochefoucault and Du Plessis. Besides, I
have seen too much of the man. He was not a madman, but he certainly was
an extravagant jester. I have never seen him write, and he has told me
himself a score of times that he had never learned."
"The paper he has written proves the contrary. His arms have the ducal
bearings; but perhaps you are not aware that M. de la Rochefoucault is a
duke and peer of the French realm?"
"I beg your eminence's pardon; I know all about it; I know even more, for
I know that Francois VI. married a daughter of the house of Vivonne."
"You know nothing."
When I heard this remark, as foolish as it was rude, I resolved on
remaining silent, and it was with some pleasure that I observed the joy
felt by all the male guests at what they thought an insult and a blow to
my vanity. An officer remarked that the deceased was a fine man, a witty
man, and had shewn wonderful cleverness in keeping up his assumed
character so well that no one ever had the faintest suspicion of what he
really was. A lady said that, if she had known him, she would have been
certain to find him out. Another flatterer, belonging to that mean,
contemptible race always to be found near the great and wealthy of the
earth, assured us that the late prince had always shewn himself cheerful,
amiable, obliging, devoid of haughtiness towards his comrades, and that he
used to sing beautifully. "He was only twenty-five years of age," said
Madame Sagredo, looking me full in the face, "and if he was endowed with
all those qualities, you must have discovered them."
"I can only give you, madam, a true likeness of the man, such as I have
seen him. Always gay, often even to folly, for he could throw a somersault
beautifully; singing songs of a very erotic kind, full of stories and of
popular tales of magic, miracles, and ghosts, and a thousand marvellous
feats which common-sense refused to believe, and which, for that very
reason, provoked the mirth of his hearers. His faults were that he was
drunken, dirty, quarrelsome, dissolute, and somewhat of a cheat. I put up
with all his deficiences, because he dressed my hair to my taste, and his
constant chattering offered me the opportunity of practising the
colloquial French which cannot be acquired from books. He has always
assured me that he was born in Picardy, the son of a common peasant, and
that he had deserted from the French army. He may have deceived me when he
said that he could not write."
Just then Camporese rushed into the room, and announced that La Veleur was
yet breathing. The general, looking at me significantly, said that he
would be delighted if the man could be saved.
"And I likewise, monsignor, but his confessor will certainly kill him
"Why should the father confessor kill him?"
"To escape the galleys to which your excellency would not fail to send him
for having violated the secrecy of the confessional."
Everybody burst out laughing, but the foolish old general knitted his
brows. The guests retired soon afterwards, and Madame F——-,
whom I had preceded to the carriage, M. D—— R——
having offered her his arm, invited me to get in with her, saying that it
was raining. It was the first time that she had bestowed such an honour
"I am of your opinion about that prince," she said, "but you have incurred
the displeasure of the proveditore."
"I am very sorry, madam, but it could not have been avoided, for I cannot
help speaking the truth openly."
"You might have spared him," remarked M. D—— R——-,
"the cutting jest of the confessor killing the false prince."
"You are right, sir, but I thought it would make him laugh as well as it
made madam and your excellency. In conversation people generally do not
object to a witty jest causing merriment and laughter."
"True; only those who have not wit enough to laugh do not like the jest."
"I bet a hundred sequins that the madman will recover, and that, having
the general on his side, he will reap all the advantages of his imposture.
I long to see him treated as a prince, and making love to Madame Sagredo."
Hearing the last words, Madame F——-, who did not like Madame
Sagredo, laughed heartily, and, as we were getting out of the carriage, M.
D—— R—— invited me to accompany them upstairs. He
was in the habit of spending half an hour alone with her at her own house
when they had taken supper together with the general, for her husband
never shewed himself. It was the first time that the happy couple admitted
a third person to their tete-a-tete. I felt very proud of the compliment
thus paid to me, and I thought it might have important results for me. My
satisfaction, which I concealed as well as I could, did not prevent me
from being very gay and from giving a comic turn to every subject brought
forward by the lady or by her lord.
We kept up our pleasant trio for four hours; and returned to the mansion
of M. D—— R—— only at two o'clock in the morning.
It was during that night that Madame F—— and M. D——
R—— really made my acquaintance. Madame F—— told
him that she had never laughed so much, and that she had never imagined
that a conversation, in appearance so simple, could afford so much
pleasure and merriment. On my side, I discovered in her so much wit and
cheerfulness, that I became deeply enamoured, and went to bed fully
satisfied that, in the future, I could not keep up the show of
indifference which I had so far assumed towards her.
When I woke up the next morning, I heard from the new soldier who served
me that La Valeur was better, and had been pronounced out of danger by the
physician. At dinner the conversation fell upon him, but I did not open my
lips. Two days afterwards, the general gave orders to have him removed to
a comfortable apartment, sent him a servant, clothed him, and the
over-credulous proveditore having paid him a visit, all the naval
commanders and officers thought it their duty to imitate him, and to
follow his example: the general curiosity was excited, there was a rush to
see the new prince. M. D—— R—— followed his
leaders, and Madame Sagredo, having set the ladies in motion, they all
called upon him, with the exception of Madame F——, who told me
laughingly that she would not pay him a visit unless I would consent to
introduce her. I begged to be excused. The knave was called your highness,
and the wonderful prince styled Madame Sagredo his princess. M. D——
R—— tried to persuade me to call upon the rogue, but I told
him that I had said too much, and that I was neither courageous nor mean
enough to retract my words. The whole imposture would soon have been
discovered if anyone had possessed a peerage, but it just happened that
there was not a copy in Corfu, and the French consul, a fat blockhead,
like many other consuls, knew nothing of family trees. The madcap La
Valeur began to walk out a week after his metamorphosis into a prince. He
dined and had supper every day with the general, and every evening he was
present at the reception, during which, owing to his intemperance, he
always went fast asleep. Yet, there were two reasons which kept up the
belief of his being a prince: the first was that he did not seem afraid of
the news expected from Venice, where the proveditore had written
immediately after the discovery; the second was that he solicited from the
bishop the punishment of the priest who had betrayed his secret by
violating the seal of confession. The poor priest had already been sent to
prison, and the proveditore had not the courage to defend him. The new
prince had been invited to dinner by all the naval officers, but M. D——
R—— had not made up his mind to imitate them so far, because
Madame F—— had clearly warned him that she would dine at her
own house on the day he was invited. I had likewise respectfully intimated
that, on the same occasion, I would take the liberty of dining somewhere
I met the prince one day as I was coming out of the old fortress leading
to the esplanade. He stopped, and reproached me for not having called upon
him. I laughed, and advised him to think of his safety before the arrival
of the news which would expose all the imposture, in which case the
proveditore was certain to treat him very severely. I offered to help him
in his flight from Corfu, and to get a Neapolitan captain, whose ship was
ready to sail, to conceal him on board; but the fool, instead of accepting
my offer, loaded me with insults.
He was courting Madame Sagredo, who treated him very well, feeling proud
that a French prince should have given her the preference over all the
other ladies. One day that she was dining in great ceremony at M. D——
R——-'s house, she asked me why I had advised the prince to run
"I have it from his own lips," she added, "and he cannot make out your
obstinacy in believing him an impostor."
"I have given him that advice, madam, because my heart is good, and my
"Then we are all of us as many fools, the proveditore included?"
"That deduction would not be right, madam. An opinion contrary to that of
another does not necessarily make a fool of the person who entertains it.
It might possibly turn out, in ten or twelve days, that I have been
entirely mistaken myself, but I should not consider myself a fool in
consequence. In the mean time, a lady of your intelligence must have
discovered whether that man is a peasant or a prince by his education and
manners. For instance, does he dance well?"
"He does not know one step, but he is the first to laugh about it; he says
he never would learn dancing."
"Does he behave well at table?"
"Well, he doesn't stand on ceremony. He does not want his plate to be
changed, he helps himself with his spoon out of the dishes; he does not
know how to check an eructation or a yawn, and if he feels tired he leaves
the table. It is evident that he has been very badly brought up."
"And yet he is very pleasant, I suppose. Is he clean and neat?"
"No, but then he is not yet well provided with linen."
"I am told that he is very sober."
"You are joking. He leaves the table intoxicated twice a day, but he ought
to be pitied, for he cannot drink wine and keep his head clear. Then he
swears like a trooper, and we all laugh, but he never takes offence."
"Is he witty?"
"He has a wonderful memory, for he tells us new stories every day."
"Does he speak of his family?"
"Very often of his mother, whom he loved tenderly. She was a Du Plessis."
"If his mother is still alive she must be a hundred and fifty years old."
"Not at all; she was married in the days of Marie de Medicis."
"But the certificate of baptism names the prince's mother, and his seal—"
"Does he know what armorial bearings he has on that seal?"
"Do you doubt it?"
"Very strongly, or rather I am certain that he knows nothing about it."
We left the table, and the prince was announced. He came in, and Madame
Sagredo lost no time in saying to him, "Prince, here is M. Casanova; he
pretends that you do not know your own armorial bearings." Hearing these
words, he came up to me, sneering, called me a coward, and gave me a smack
on the face which almost stunned me. I left the room very slowly, not
forgetting my hat and my cane, and went downstairs, while M. D——
R—— was loudly ordering the servants to throw the madman out
of the window.
I left the palace and went to the esplanade in order to wait for him. The
moment I saw him, I ran to meet him, and I beat him so violently with my
cane that one blow alone ought to have killed him. He drew back, and found
himself brought to a stand between two walls, where, to avoid being beaten
to death, his only resource was to draw his sword, but the cowardly
scoundrel did not even think of his weapon, and I left him, on the ground,
covered with blood. The crowd formed a line for me to pass, and I went to
the coffee-house, where I drank a glass of lemonade, without sugar to
precipitate the bitter saliva which rage had brought up from my stomach.
In a few minutes, I found myself surrounded by all the young officers of
the garrison, who joined in the general opinion that I ought to have
killed him, and they at last annoyed me, for it was not my fault if I had
not done so, and I would certainly have taken his life if he had drawn his
I had been in the coffee-house for half an hour when the general's
adjutant came to tell me that his excellency ordered me to put myself
under arrest on board the bastarda, a galley on which the prisoners had
their legs in irons like galley slaves. The dose was rather too strong to
be swallowed, and I did not feel disposed to submit to it. "Very good,
adjutant," I replied, "it shall be done." He went away, and I left the
coffee-house a moment after him, but when I reached the end of the street,
instead of going towards the esplanade, I proceeded quickly towards the
sea. I walked along the beach for a quarter of an hour, and finding a boat
empty, but with a pair of oars, I got in her, and unfastening her, I rowed
as hard as I could towards a large caicco, sailing against the wind with
six oars. As soon as I had come up to her, I went on board and asked the
carabouchiri to sail before the wind and to take me to a large wherry
which could be seen at some distance, going towards Vido Rock. I abandoned
the row-boat, and, after paying the master of the caicco generously, I got
into the wherry, made a bargain with the skipper who unfurled three sails,
and in less than two hours we were fifteen miles away from Corfu. The wind
having died away, I made the men row against the current, but towards
midnight they told me that they could not row any longer, they were worn
out with fatigue. They advised me to sleep until day-break, but I refused
to do so, and for a trifle I got them to put me on shore, without asking
where I was, in order not to raise their suspicions. It was enough for me
to know that I was at a distance of twenty miles from Corfu, and in a
place where nobody could imagine me to be.