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Slight Misfortunes Compel Me to Leave Venice—My Adventures
in Milan and Mantua
On Low Sunday Charles paid us a visit with his lovely wife, who seemed
totally indifferent to what Christine used to be. Her hair dressed with
powder did not please me as well as the raven black of her beautiful
locks, and her fashionable town attire did not, in my eyes, suit her as
well as her rich country dress. But the countenances of husband and wife
bore the stamp of happiness. Charles reproached me in a friendly manner
because I had not called once upon them, and, in order to atone for my
apparent negligence, I went to see them the next day with M. Dandolo.
Charles told me that his wife was idolized by his aunt and his sister who
had become her bosom friend; that she was kind, affectionate, unassuming,
and of a disposition which enforced affection. I was no less pleased with
this favourable state of things than with the facility with which
Christine was learning the Venetian dialect.
When M. Dandolo and I called at their house, Charles was not at home;
Christine was alone with his two relatives. The most friendly welcome was
proffered to us, and in the course of conversation the aunt praised the
progress made by Christine in her writing very highly, and asked her to
let me see her copy-book. I followed her to the next room, where she told
me that she was very happy; that every day she discovered new virtues in
her husband. He had told her, without the slightest appearance of
suspicion of displeasure, that he knew that we had spent two days together
in Treviso, and that he had laughed at the well-meaning fool who had given
him that piece of information in the hope of raising a cloud in the heaven
of their felicity.
Charles was truly endowed with all the virtues, with all the noble
qualities of an honest and distinguished man. Twenty-six years afterwards
I happened to require the assistance of his purse, and found him my true
friend. I never was a frequent visitor at his house, and he appreciated my
delicacy. He died a few months before my last departure from Venice,
leaving his widow in easy circumstances, and three well-educated sons, all
with good positions, who may, for what I know, be still living with their
In June I went to the fair at Padua, and made the acquaintance of a young
man of my own age, who was then studying mathematics under the celebrated
Professor Succi. His name was Tognolo, but thinking it did not sound well,
he changed it for that of Fabris. He became, in after years, Comte de
Fabris, lieutenant-general under Joseph II., and died Governor of
Transylvania. This man, who owed his high fortune to his talents, would,
perhaps, have lived and died unknown if he had kept his name of Tognolo, a
truly vulgar one. He was from Uderzo, a large village of the Venetian
Friuli. He had a brother in the Church, a man of parts, and a great
gamester, who, having a deep knowledge of the world, had taken the name of
Fabris, and the younger brother had to assume it likewise. Soon afterwards
he bought an estate with the title of count, became a Venetian nobleman,
and his origin as a country bumpkin was forgotten. If he had kept his name
of Tognolo it would have injured him, for he could not have pronounced it
without reminding his hearers of what is called, by the most contemptible
of prejudices, low extraction, and the privileged class, through an absurd
error, does not admit the possibility of a peasant having talent or
genius. No doubt a time will come when society, more enlightened, and
therefore more reasonable, will acknowledge that noble feelings, honour,
and heroism can be found in every condition of life as easily as in a
class, the blood of which is not always exempt from the taint of a
The new count, while he allowed others to forget his origin, was too wise
to forget it himself, and in legal documents he always signed his family
name as well as the one he had adopted. His brother had offered him two
ways to win fortune in the world, leaving him perfectly free in his
choice. Both required an expenditure of one thousand sequins, but the abbe
had put the amount aside for that purpose. My friend had to choose between
the sword of Mars and the bird of Minerva. The abbe knew that he could
purchase for his brother a company in the army of his Imperial and
Apostolic Majesty, or obtain for him a professorship at the University of
Padua; for money can do everything. But my friend, who was gifted with
noble feelings and good sense, knew that in either profession talents and
knowledge were essentials, and before making a choice he was applying
himself with great success to the study of mathematics. He ultimately
decided upon the military profession, thus imitating Achilles, who
preferred the sword to the distaff, and he paid for it with his life like
the son of Peleus; though not so young, and not through a wound inflicted
by an arrow, but from the plague, which he caught in the unhappy country
in which the indolence of Europe allows the Turks to perpetuate that
The distinguished appearance, the noble sentiments, the great knowledge,
and the talents of Fabris would have been turned into ridicule in a man
called Tognolo, for such is the force of prejudices, particularly of those
which have no ground to rest upon, that an ill-sounding name is degrading
in this our stupid society. My opinion is that men who have an
ill-sounding name, or one which presents an indecent or ridiculous idea,
are right in changing it if they intend to win honour, fame, and fortune
either in arts or sciences. No one can reasonably deny them that right,
provided the name they assume belongs to nobody. The alphabet is general
property, and everyone has the right to use it for the creation of a word
forming an appellative sound. But he must truly create it. Voltaire, in
spite of his genius, would not perhaps have reached posterity under his
name of Arouet, especially amongst the French, who always give way so
easily to their keen sense of ridicule and equivocation. How could they
have imagined that a writer 'a rouet' could be a man of genius? And
D'Alembert, would he have attained his high fame, his universal
reputation, if he had been satisfied with his name of M. Le Rond, or Mr.
Allround? What would have become of Metastasio under his true name of
Trapasso? What impression would Melanchthon have made with his name of
Schwarzerd? Would he then have dared to raise the voice of a moralist
philosopher, of a reformer of the Eucharist, and so many other holy
things? Would not M. de Beauharnais have caused some persons to laugh and
others to blush if he had kept his name of Beauvit, even if the first
founder of his family had been indebted for his fortune to the fine
quality expressed by that name?
Would the Bourbeux have made as good a figure on the throne as the
Bourbons? I think that King Poniatowski ought to have abdicated the name
of Augustus, which he had taken at the time of his accession to the
throne, when he abdicated royalty. The Coleoni of Bergamo, however, would
find it rather difficult to change their name, because they would be
compelled at the same time to change their coat of arms (the two
generative glands), and thus to annihilate the glory of their ancestor,
the hero Bartholomeo.
Towards the end of autumn my friend Fabris introduced me to a family in
the midst of which the mind and the heart could find delicious food. That
family resided in the country on the road to Zero. Card-playing,
lovemaking, and practical jokes were the order of the day. Some of those
jokes were rather severe ones, but the order of the day was never to get
angry and to laugh at everything, for one was to take every jest
pleasantly or be thought a bore. Bedsteads would at night tumble down
under their occupants, ghosts were personated, diuretic pills or
sugar-plums were given to young ladies, as well as comfits who produced
certain winds rising from the netherlands, and impossible to keep under
control. These jokes would sometimes go rather too far, but such was the
spirit animating all the members of that circle; they would laugh. I was
not less inured than the others to the war of offence and defence, but at
last there was such a bitter joke played upon me that it suggested to me
another, the fatal consequences of which put a stop to the mania by which
we were all possessed.
We were in the habit of walking to a farm which was about half a league
distant by the road, but the distance could be reduced by half by going
over a deep and miry ditch across which a narrow plank was thrown, and I
always insisted upon going that way, in spite of the fright of the ladies
who always trembled on the narrow bridge, although I never failed to cross
the first, and to offer my hand to help them over. One fine day, I crossed
first so as to give them courage, but suddenly, when I reached the middle
of the plank, it gave way under me, and there I was in the ditch, up to
the chin in stinking mud, and, in spite of my inward rage, obliged,
according to the general understanding, to join in the merry laughter of
all my companions. But the merriment did not last long, for the joke was
too bad, and everyone declared it to be so. Some peasants were called to
the rescue, and with much difficulty they dragged me out in the most awful
state. An entirely new dress, embroidered with spangles, my silk
stockings, my lace, everything, was of course spoiled, but not minding it,
I laughed more heartily that anybody else, although I had already made an
inward vow to have the most cruel revenge. In order to know the author of
that bitter joke I had only to appear calm and indifferent about it. It
was evident that the plank had been purposely sawn. I was taken back to
the house, a shirt, a coat, a complete costume, were lent me, for I had
come that time only for twenty-four hours, and had not brought anything
with me. I went to the city the next morning, and towards the evening I
returned to the gay company. Fabris, who had been as angry as myself,
observed to me that the perpetrator of the joke evidently felt his guilt,
because he took good care not to discover himself. But I unveiled the
mystery by promising one sequin to a peasant woman if she could find out
who had sawn the plank. She contrived to discover the young man who had
done the work. I called on him, and the offer of a sequin, together with
my threats, compelled him to confess that he had been paid for his work by
Signor Demetrio, a Greek, dealer in spices, a good and amiable man of
between forty-five and fifty years, on whom I never played any trick,
except in the case of a pretty, young servant girl whom he was courting,
and whom I had juggled from him.
Satisfied with my discovery, I was racking my brain to invent a good
practical joke, but to obtain complete revenge it was necessary that my
trick should prove worse than the one he had played upon me. Unfortunately
my imagination was at bay. I could not find anything. A funeral put an end
to my difficulties.
Armed with my hunting-knife, I went alone to the cemetery a little after
midnight, and opening the grave of the dead man who had been buried that
very day, I cut off one of the arms near the shoulder, not without some
trouble, and after I had re-buried the corpse, I returned to my room with
the arm of the defunct. The next day, when supper was over, I left the
table and retired to my chamber as if I intended to go to bed, but taking
the arm with me I hid myself under Demetrio's bed. A short time after, the
Greek comes in, undresses himself, put his light out, and lies down. I
give him time to fall nearly asleep; then, placing myself at the foot of
the bed, I pull away the clothes little by little until he is half naked.
He laughs and calls out,
"Whoever you may be, go away and let me sleep quietly, for I do not
believe in ghosts;" he covers himself again and composes himself to sleep.
I wait five or six minutes, and pull again at the bedclothes; but when he
tries to draw up the sheet, saying that he does not care for ghosts, I
oppose some resistance. He sits up so as to catch the hand which is
pulling at the clothes, and I take care that he should get hold of the
dead hand. Confident that he has caught the man or the woman who was
playing the trick, he pulls it towards him, laughing all the time; I keep
tight hold of the arm for a few instants, and then let it go suddenly; the
Greek falls back on his pillow without uttering a single word.
The trick was played, I leave the room without any noise, and, reaching my
chamber, go to bed.
I was fast asleep, when towards morning I was awoke by persons going
about, and not understanding why they should be up so early, I got up. The
first person I met—the mistress of the house—told me that I
had played an abominable joke.
"I? What have I done?"
"M. Demetrio is dying."
"Have I killed him?"
She went away without answering me. I dressed myself, rather frightened, I
confess, but determined upon pleading complete ignorance of everything,
and I proceeded to Demetrio's room; and I was confronted with
horror-stricken countenances and bitter reproaches. I found all the guests
around him. I protested my innocence, but everyone smiled. The archpriest
and the beadle, who had just arrived, would not bury the arm which was
lying there, and they told me that I had been guilty of a great crime.
"I am astonished, reverend sir," I said to the priest, "at the hasty
judgment which is thus passed upon me, when there is no proof to condemn
"You have done it," exclaimed all the guests, "you alone are capable of
such an abomination; it is just like you. No one but you would have dared
to do such a thing!"
"I am compelled," said the archpriest, "to draw up an official report."
"As you please, I have not the slightest objection," I answered, "I have
nothing to fear."
And I left the room.
I continued to take it coolly, and at the dinner-table I was informed that
M. Demetrio had been bled, that he had recovered the use of his eyes, but
not of his tongue or of his limbs. The next day he could speak, and I
heard, after I had taken leave of the family, that he was stupid and
spasmodic. The poor man remained in that painful state for the rest of his
life. I felt deeply grieved, but I had not intended to injure him so
badly. I thought that the trick he had played upon me might have cost my
life, and I could not help deriving consolation from that idea.
On the same day, the archpriest made up his mind to have the arm buried,
and to send a formal denunciation against me to the episcopal
chancellorship of Treviso.
Annoyed at the reproaches which I received on all sides, I returned to
Venice. A fortnight afterwards I was summoned to appear before the
'magistrato alla blasfemia'. I begged M. Barbaro to enquire the cause of
the aforesaid summons, for it was a formidable court. I was surprised at
the proceedings being taken against me, as if there had been a certainty
of my having desecrated a grave, whilst there could be nothing but
suspicion. But I was mistaken, the summons was not relating to that
affair. M. Barbaro informed me in the evening that a woman had brought a
complaint against me for having violated her daughter. She stated in her
complaint that, having decoyed her child to the Zuecca, I had abused her
by violence, and she adduced as a proof that her daughter was confined to
her bed, owing to the bad treatment she had received from me in my
endeavours to ravish her. It was one of those complaints which are often
made, in order to give trouble and to cause expense, even against innocent
persons. I was innocent of violation, but it was quite true that I had
given the girl a sound thrashing. I prepared my defence, and begged M.
Barbaro to deliver it to the magistrate's secretary.
I hereby declare that, on such a day, having met the woman with her
daughter, I accosted them and offered to give them some refreshments at a
coffee-house near by; that the daughter refused to accept my caresses, and
that the mother said to me,—
"My daughter is yet a virgin, and she is quite right not to lose her
maidenhood without making a good profit by it."
"If so," I answered, "I will give you ten sequins for her virginity."
"You may judge for yourself," said the mother.
Having assured myself of the fact by the assistance of the sense of
feeling, and having ascertained that it might be true, I told the mother
to bring the girl in the afternoon to the Zuecca, and that I would give
her the ten sequins. My offer was joyfully accepted, the mother brought
her daughter to me, she received the money, and leaving us together in the
Garden of the Cross, she went away. When I tried to avail myself of the
right for which I had paid, the girl, most likely trained to the business
by her mother, contrived to prevent me. At first the game amused me, but
at last, being tired of it, I told her to have done. She answered quietly
that it was not her fault if I was not able to do what I wanted. Vexed and
annoyed, I placed her in such a position that she found herself at bay,
but, making a violent effort, she managed to change her position and
debarred me from making any further attempts.
"Why," I said to her, "did you move?"
"Because I would not have it in that position."
"You would not?"
Without more ado, I got hold of a broomstick, and gave her a good lesson,
in order to get something for the ten sequins which I had been foolish
enough to pay in advance. But I have broken none of her limbs, and I took
care to apply my blows only on her posteriors, on which spot I have no
doubt that all the marks may be seen. In the evening I made her dress
herself again, and sent her back in a boat which chanced to pass, and she
was landed in safety. The mother received ten sequins, the daughter has
kept her hateful maidenhood, and, if I am guilty of anything, it is only
of having given a thrashing to an infamous girl, the pupil of a still more
My declaration had no effect. The magistrate was acquainted with the girl,
and the mother laughed at having duped me so easily. I was summoned, but
did not appear before the court, and a writ was on the point of being
issued against my body, when the complaint of the profanation of a grave
was filed against me before the same magistrate. It would have been less
serious for me if the second affair had been carried before the Council of
Ten, because one court might have saved me from the other.
The second crime, which, after all, was only a joke, was high felony in
the eyes of the clergy, and a great deal was made of it. I was summoned to
appear within twenty-four hours, and it was evident that I would be
arrested immediately afterwards. M. de Bragadin, who always gave good
advice, told me that the best way to avoid the threatening storm was to
run away. The advice was certainly wise, and I lost no time in getting
I have never left Venice with so much regret as I did then, for I had some
pleasant intrigues on hand, and I was very lucky at cards. My three
friends assured me that, within one year at the furthest, the cases
against me would be forgotten, and in Venice, when public opinion has
forgotten anything, it can be easily arranged.
I left Venice in the evening and the next day I slept at Verona. Two days
afterwards I reached Mantua. I was alone, with plenty of clothes and
jewels, without letters of introduction, but with a well-filled purse,
enjoying excellent health and my twenty-three years.
In Mantua I ordered an excellent dinner, the very first thing one ought to
do at a large hotel, and after dinner I went out for a walk. In the
evening, after I had seen the coffee-houses and the places of resort, I
went to the theatre, and I was delighted to see Marina appear on the stage
as a comic dancer, amid the greatest applause, which she deserved, for she
danced beautifully. She was tall, handsome, very well made and very
graceful. I immediately resolved on renewing my acquaintance with her, if
she happened to be free, and after the opera I engaged a boy to take me to
her house. She had just sat down to supper with someone, but the moment
she saw me she threw her napkin down and flew to my arms. I returned her
kisses, judging by her warmth that her guest was a man of no consequence.
The servant, without waiting for orders, had already laid a plate for me,
and Marina invited me to sit down near her. I felt vexed, because the
aforesaid individual had not risen to salute me, and before I accepted
Marina's invitation I asked her who the gentleman was, begging her to
"This gentleman," she said, "is Count Celi, of Rome; he is my lover."
"I congratulate you," I said to her, and turning towards the so-called
count, "Sir," I added, "do not be angry at our mutual affection, Marina is
"She is a prostitute."
"True," said Marina, "and you can believe the count, for he is my
At those words, the brute threw his knife at her face, but she avoided it
by running away. The scoundrel followed her, but I drew my sword, and
"Stop, or you are a dead man."
I immediately asked Marina to order her servant to light me out, but she
hastily put a cloak on, and taking my arm she entreated me to take her
"With pleasure," I said.
The count then invited me to meet him alone, on the following day, at the
Casino of Pomi, to hear what he had to say.
"Very well, sir, at four in the afternoon," I answered.
I took Marina to my inn, where I lodged her in the room adjoining mine,
and we sat down to supper.
Marina, seeing that I was thoughtful, said,
"Are you sorry to have saved me from the rage of that brute?"
"No, I am glad to have done so, but tell me truly who and what he is."
"He is a gambler by profession, and gives himself out as Count Celi. I
made his acquaintance here. He courted me, invited me to supper, played
after supper, and, having won a large sum from an Englishman whom he had
decoyed to his supper by telling him that I would be present, he gave me
fifty guineas, saying that he had given me an interest in his bank. As
soon as I had become his mistress, he insisted upon my being compliant
with all the men he wanted to make his dupes, and at last he took up his
quarters at my lodgings. The welcome I gave you very likely vexed him, and
you know the rest. Here I am, and here I will remain until my departure
for Mantua where I have an engagement as first dancer. My servant will
bring me all I need for to-night, and I will give him orders to move all
my luggage to-morrow. I will not see that scoundrel any more. I will be
only yours, if you are free as in Corfu, and if you love me still."
"Yes, my dear Marina, I do love you, but if you wish to be my mistress,
you must be only mine."
"Oh! of course. I have three hundred sequins, and I will give them to you
to-morrow if you will take me as your mistress."
"I do not want any money; all I want is yourself. Well, it is all
arranged; to-morrow evening we shall feel more comfortable."
"Perhaps you are thinking of a duel for to-morrow? But do not imagine such
a thing, dearest. I know that man; he is an arrant coward."
"I must keep my engagement with him."
"I know that, but he will not keep his, and I am very glad of it."
Changing the conversation and speaking of our old acquaintances, she
informed me that she had quarreled with her brother Petronio, that her
sister was primadonna in Genoa, and that Bellino Therese was still in
Naples, where she continued to ruin dukes. She concluded by saying;
"I am the most unhappy of the family."
"How so? You are beautiful, and you have become an excellent dancer. Do
not be so prodigal of your favours, and you cannot fail to meet with a man
who will take care of your fortune."
"To be sparing of my favours is very difficult; when I love, I am no
longer mine, but when I do not love, I cannot be amiable. Well, dearest, I
could be very happy with you."
"Dear Marina, I am not wealthy, and my honour would not allow me...."
"Hold your tongue; I understand you."
"Why have you not a lady's maid with you instead of a male servant?"
"You are right. A maid would look more respectable, but my servant is so
clever and so faithful!"
"I can guess all his qualities, but he is not a fit servant for you."