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Title: Casanova's Alibi and Other Stories (a PGA compilation)
Author: Rafael Sabatini
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0801391.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2008
Date most recently updated: December 2008

This eBook was produced by: John Bickers and Colin Choat

Production Note: This ebook was compiled by PGA from separate stories.
                 It was not published as a book.


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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Casanova's Alibi and Other Stories (a PGA compilation)
Author: Rafael Sabatini



CONTENTS:

(The source of the story appears after the title)

Preface
Casanova's Alibi            ('Premier Magazine' September 1914. Reprinted in
                             'Turbulent Tales' 1946. Reprinted as
                             'The Alibi' in 'The Fortunes of Casanova and
                             Other Stories' 1994)
The Augmentation of Mercury ('Grand Magazine' March 1918)
The Priest of Mars          ('Grand Magazine' April 1918)
The Oracle                  ('Grand Magazine' May 1918)
Under the Leads             ('Grand Magazine' June 1918)
The Night of Escape         ('Premier Magazine' June 1917. Reprinted in
                             'The Historical Night's entertainment',
                             Series I, 1917)
The Rooks and the Hawk      ('Grand Magazine' July 1918)
The Polish Duel             ('Grand Magazine' August 1918)
Casanova in Madrid          ('Premier Magazine' July 1921. Reprinted in
                             'The Fortunes of Casanova and Other Stories' 1994
                             as 'The Alabaster Hand')
Post-Scriptum


* * * * *



PREFACE


Giacomo di Casanova, the greatest of Italian--perhaps of
all--adventurers, was born in Venice in April of 1725, the son of
an actor of the San Samuele Theatre and the lovely daughter of a
Venetian cobbler, who, as a result of her marriage, became herself
an actress of some note. Clever, unscrupulous, and audacious,
well-endowed by nature with a good exterior, a magnetic
personality and a lively wit, he chose to make the world his
oyster. By temperament something of a poet, something of a
philosopher, something of a soldier, and entirely a gamester in
every sense, he was a rogue by accident rather than design. A
doctor of canon law, he knew Horace by heart, was familiar with
natural science, richly stored with unusual knowledge, and as
learned in the tricks of sharpers of all degrees. He accepted all
adventures that came his way, rubbed shoulders with princes, and
lay down with thieves, and was equally at home in palace and
hovel.

R.S.


* * * * *



CASANOVA'S ALIBI


There can be little doubt--although it is not explicitly so stated in
his memoirs--that it was the sight of the mast of a fruit-boat before
the window of his prison that first aroused the notion in his fertile
brain.

But let us begin at the beginning of this story of one of the earliest
exploits of that Giacomo di Casanova who has been so aptly called the
Prince of Adventurers, and whom some have accounted the very Prince of
Scoundrels.

He was at the time in the eighteenth year of his age, but with the
appearance of at least some five-and-twenty, extremely tall and
personable, and already equipped with that air of a man of the great
world which later--and coupled with his amazing impudence and
undoubted talents--was to stand him in such excellent stead in the
exploitation of his fellow-man.

To Casanova this was perhaps the most critical stage of his life. The
career of the priesthood for which he had been intended by his
mother--and for which, surely, there never lived a man less
suitable--had rejected him. The seminary at Padua, in which he had
been qualifying for holy orders, outraged by the wildness of his
almost pagan nature, had just expelled him. He had accepted that
expulsion in the spirit of philosophy for which he is so remarkable,
accounting all things for the best. In this instance no doubt he was
justified. He had doffed his seminarist's cassock, replacing it by a
laced coat bought at second-hand, and the steel-hilted sword of the
ruffler. Thus he had returned, in the summer of that year 1743, to
Venice, the city of his birth, intent upon following his
destiny--/sequere deum/, as he puts it himself.

There he had eked out, by gaming, the slender allowance which his
mother made him out of her earnings on the trestles of a /forain/
theatre at Warsaw; and we perceive already the beginnings of that
extraordinary success of his at faro and kindred games of cards--a
success so constant that, in spite of his emphatic and repeated
assurances, we cannot avoid a suspicion on the score of the methods he
employed.

But that is by the way. His trouble came to him through one Razetta, a
Venetian of some substance and importance, of whom he has many evil
things to say, some of which we are disposed to credit. In what
Razetta first provoked his hostility we are not permitted to perceive.
But we do know that such was his hatred of the man that, although
Razetta must undoubtedly have been accounted an excellent match for
Casanova's sister, our young adventurer would have none of it.

His sister dwelt--as did Casanova himself in the early days of that
sojourn of his in Venice--at the house of the Abbé Grimani, the kindly
old tutor appointed to the pair of them by their absent mother. At
this house Signor Razetta was a constant visitor, and our shrewd
ex-seminarist was not long in perceiving the attraction that drew him
thither and in deciding that the matter must end. He began with his
sister, whom he addressed in that pseudo-philosophic strain peculiar
to him--if his memoirs are a faithful mirror of his utterances--a
habit of speech acquired, we suppose, in the course of his preparation
for a pulpit which he was, fortunately, never destined to disgrace. He
reduced her to tears, he tells us--which is not in the least
surprising. Indeed, we marvel that anyone should ever have listened to
him without weeping. That done, he flung out after her lover, who had
just taken leave of Grimani. He overtook him on the Rialto as dusk was
falling. Accompanied by a servant Signor Razetta was on his way to a
café in the neighbourhood where it was his habit to spend an hour or
two before going home to bed.

Casanova demanded two words in private with him. Razetta--a corpulent
and uncomely gentleman of some thirty years of age, deeming it as well
to use civility towards the brother--and such a brother!--of the lady
to whose favour he aspired, bade his lackey draw off across the bridge
out of earshot.

Casanova used, as was the fashion with him, many words, and but little
tact.

"It afflicts me, Signor Razetta," said he, "that a gentleman of my
condition should be reduced to the necessity of discussing with an
animal of yours, so delicate a matter as his own sister. But the
fault, sir, is not mine. You have been wanting--as, after all,
perhaps, was but to be expected--in that fine feeling which might have
saved us both from the humiliations inseparable from this interview."

"Sir!" roared Razetta, his great face aflame. "You insult me!"

"I congratulate you upon a susceptibility to insult which I should
never have suspected in a man of your deplorable origin and neglected
breeding," said Casanova. "Since it is so, you afford me some hope
that we may yet understand each other without the necessity being
thrust upon me of proceeding to harsher measures."

"Not another word, sir," blazed the other, "I will not listen to you
further!" And he swung on his heel.

But Casanova took him by the shoulder. I have said that he was tall.
It remains to add that he was of a prodigious strength. Razetta's soft
flesh was mangled in that iron grip, his departure arrested.

Casanova turned him about again, and smiled balefully into his
empurpled face.

"It is as I feared," he said. "Indeed until you spoke of insult I had
not conceived that words could be of the least avail with you. Nor
indeed was I prepared to employ with you any argument whatsoever. My
sole intent was to command you never again to show your face at the
Abbé Grimani's while my sister is in residence there, and to assure
you that in the event of your disobedience--a folly to which I implore
you not to commit yourself--I shall be put to the necessity of
thrashing you until there is not a bone left whole in your body."

Razetta shook with blending rage and fear.

"By the Madonna!" he swore. "I go straight to the Signoria to inform
the Saggio of your threats and demand his protection. You shall be
laid by the heels, my fine cockerel. There is law and order in Venice,
and----"

"Alas!" Casanova interrupted, "you precipitate the inevitable."

He raised his cane, and fell to belabouring with it the unfortunate
Razetta. Razetta struggled, struck out in self-defence as best he
could, and yelled to his servant.

Over the kidney stones of the bridge the man came clattering to his
master's aid. Casanova, ever gripping his victim's shoulder, pulled
him back to the foot of the bridge, where there was a gap in the
parapet. Through this he flung him into the canal.

When the servant came up, our ex-seminarist was straightening his
cravat and smoothing his ruffles. He pointed quite unnecessarily to
the water where Razetta was floundering and gurgling in danger of
drowning.

"You'll find your master down there," said he. "No doubt you will wish
to fish him out for the sake of what wages he may owe you. But you
would be doing humanity a nobler service if you left him where he is."
And he went home to supper, conscious that he had borne himself with
infinite credit.

The sequel was, of course, inevitable. Razetta, rescued from drowning,
smarting with pain and choler, went to lay his plaint before the chief
notary--the Saggio della Scrittura--who was responsible for the
preservation of order in the city.

Next morning Casanova awakened to find his chamber invested by
officers of justice. They hauled him into a great black gondola, and
so to the palace of the Signoria and the presence of the magistrate.
There he found Razetta, who poured out his denunciation with a
volubility marred by frequent sneezings, and Razetta's servant, who
affirmed on oath the truth of his master's statement.

"What have you to say?" demanded the scowling Saggio of Casanova.

Casanova's swarthy, masterful face was a study in scorn; his full red
lips curled contemptuously.

"I have to say, excellency, that these villains make a mock of your
credulity and abuse your justice. Let me throw light upon their
motives. That rogue Razetta, there, permits himself the effrontery of
paying his addresses to my sister. I have signified to him my distaste
of this, and my desire that he shall set a term to it. His retort,
excellency, is this false accusation, and he has bribed and suborned
his servant to confirm the lies with which he has insulted you."

That was but the beginning. His volubility was never at fault, and
whatever the Church may have gained when he was expelled the seminary,
there can be little doubt that she lost a famous preacher. His was a
fervour that carried conviction, and he might have carried it now but
for the testimony of Razetta's back and shoulders, which were black
and blue from last night's drubbing.

The end of it was that Casanova was taken back to the black gondola.
This headed towards the Lido, and brought up a half-hour later at the
steps of the fort of Sant' Andrea, fronting the Adriatic on the very
spot where, annually, on the Feast of the Ascension, the bucentaur
comes to a halt when the Doge goes forth to wed the sea. A year's
sojourn in this prison was the heavy penalty imposed upon Casanova in
expiation of his offence against the peace of Venice.

The place was garrisoned by Albanian soldiers, brought from that part
of Epirus which belonged to the most serene republic. Its governor was
a Major Pelodero, by whom Casanova was amiably received and given the
freedom of the entire fortress. The major, it would seem, took a
lenient view of the offence which the young man was sent to expiate,
and he came, no doubt, under the influence of that singular charm and
personal magnetism which was one of this rogue's chief assets. He was
given a fine room on the first floor with two windows, and it was from
these that he first espied the masts of those fruit-sellers' boats,
and so--after a week's residence in the fort--came to conceive the
first notion of enlisting their service to help him effect his escape.

That, of course, was no more than the first, crude, germinal and
somewhat obvious idea that leapt to his mind. Another in his place
might have been content to act upon it. Not so Casanova. He considered
that merely to escape could, after all, profit him but little.
Perforce he must remain an outlaw, a fugitive from justice, unable to
show his face again in Venice without the certainty of being sent to
the galleys. A door was open to him, and he were a fool not to avail
himself of it. Yet he were a greater fool to avail himself of it in
the crude fashion that first suggested itself. He sat down to think,
and at last he discovered a way by which he might bring about his
honourable enlargement, the discomfiture of Razetta, and, perhaps, his
own considerable profit as well.

The result of his consideration was that when, at dawn on the morrow,
the gentle splash of an oar reached him from below, he slipped from
his bed, and gained the window. The single mast of a fruit barge came
level with it at that moment. He thrust his head between the bar and
the sill, and called softly to one of the boatmen.

"Hola, my friend! Have you any peaches?"

"Peaches? Certainly, excellency. At once!" And whilst one of the men
steadied the vessel against the wall of the fort, the other swarmed up
the short, stout mast with a basket on the crook of his arm.

Casanova stretched out to reach it. He emptied out the peaches on to
the floor of his room, put a gold coin in the basket and so returned
it to the man, who broke into protestations of gratitude at such
munificence, and summoned every saint in the calendar to watch over
this princely consumer of peaches.

"That," said Casanova, indicating the shining ducat, "is a fruit
culled from the Tree of Wisdom. So that you are wise you may fill your
basket with the like."

"Show me but where the tree grows, excellency!" was the fruiterer's
prompt reply.

"What would you do for ten ducats?" enquired the prisoner, and in
naming that amount he named almost all the money he had in his
possession.

"Anything short of murder," replied the other, dazzled by the mention
of a sum which to one of his modest estate amounted to a fortune.

Casanova pondered him, smiled and nodded.

"Be here at ten tonight," he said. "Now go."

Protesting that he would not fail, the boatman slithered down his mast
again, and the barge moved on past the fort towards the city, all
gilded now by the sun new-risen from the Adriatic.

Casanova looked at his peaches, and his first notion was to send them
as a present to the governor's wife. But he thought better of it. They
might afford a trace, however slender, to what he had planned should
follow. So, one by one, he dropped them into the sea.

Later that morning, as he was taking the air with Major Pelodero's
aide-de-camp, he happened to leap down from one of the bastions of the
fortress. As his foot touched the ground he cried out, staggered, and
fell in a heap, clapping his hand to his knee. Stefani, the aide, ran
immediately to his assistance.

"It is nothing," said Casanova, and sought to rise unaided, but found
the thing impossible.

He availed himself, then, of the hand solicitously held out to him,
and came to his feet; or rather, to his left foot, for he found it
quite impossible to put his right to the ground. He must have wrenched
his knee, he declared, clenching his teeth in his effort to master the
pain from which Stefani perceived him very obviously to be suffering.
Then leaning heavily upon his cane, and assisted on the other side by
the aide's arm, he hobbled painfully within doors and straight to his
room, where presently he was attended by the surgeon of the fort. His
knee was examined, and although no swelling was visible as yet, its
sensitiveness was apparent from the manner in which the patient winced
under the pressure exerted by the doctor on his knee cap.

"A slight strain of the muscles," the latter concluded. "Not very
serious, although undoubtedly painful. You have had a narrow escape,
sir. As it is, a few days' rest and bandages, according to a fashion
of which I possess the secret and you will be yourself again."

Thereafter the knee was tightly bound in bandages soaked in
camphorated spirits of wine, and Casanova sat for the remainder of the
day with the ailing limb stretched across a chair. Major Pelodero and
some other officers of the garrison, taking pity upon his helpless
plight, spent a portion of the evening at cards with him; and whatever
the condition of his leg, his wits had clearly suffered no damage, for
despite the modesty of the points, he contrived to win a matter of six
ducats from them. When they left him, towards eight o'clock, he begged
that his servant might be sent to him and permitted to spend the night
in his room, lest in his present crippled state he should have need of
assistance.

This servant was a new acquisition of Casanova's. He was a temporary
valet, one of the soldiers of the garrison whose services the prisoner
was permitted to hire for a few coppers daily. The fellow's chief
recommendation to the ex-seminarist lay in the fact that he had been a
hairdresser before enlisting, and Casanova's hair--as he tells us
himself--required rescuing from the effects of the neglect which it
had naturally suffered in the seminary. It is obvious to any reader of
his memoirs that he was at all times extremely vain of his personal
appearance, and it is easy to imagine how highly he valued, and how
assiduously he employed, the services of this fellow.

On the present occasion it would seem that the sometime hairdresser
had another quality which recommended him to his temporary master. He
was a famous drunkard. Casanova, in a more than ordinarily indulgent
mood, now afforded him the means to gratify his inclinations on that
score. He gave him money, and bade him procure three bottles of a
full-bodied Falernian from the canteen. Further, he insisted that the
fellow should drink them, although I confess that "insisted" is hardly
the word in which to describe such mild persuasion as he found it
necessary to employ.

By half-past nine the soldier-valet was snoring most unpleasantly,
reduced to a stupor. By ten o'clock the whole fort was wrapped in
slumber, for strict discipline prevailed, and early hours were kept.
By five minutes past ten came the splash of an oar under Casanova's
window, and but for the darkness, a mast might have been seen to come
to a halt before it.

Casanova slipped from his bed and into his clothes with a nimbleness
that was miraculous, and still more miraculous was the cure that
appeared to have been effected; for as he crossed to the window there
was no slightest sign of lameness in his agile gait. A single bar was
set horizontally across the window, but there was room for a man of
ordinary proportions to pass above or below it; and Casanova, though
tall and strong, was of slender--almost stripling--proportions at this
time of his life. He tied a sheet to the bar, twisted it into a rope,
slipped through, and a moment later he was standing amid the decaying
vegetable matter in the barge. There he found but one man, the
fruiterer with whom he had that morning come to an understanding. He
pressed five ducats into the rogue's hand.

"The other five when the thing is done," said he. "Now push off!"

The boatman plied his single oar, gondolier-wise in the stern, and
stood off from the fort.

"Whither now, excellency?" he enquired.

"Hoist your sail," said Casanova--for the breeze was fresh--"and steer
for Venice."

They had words, of course. The boatman had conceived that here was a
simple matter of assisting a gentleman to escape from prison, and that
Casanova would desire him to make for the open sea beyond the Lido,
and so head for the mainland. This going to Venice was fraught with
danger, and he spoke of the risk he ran of being sent to the galleys
if he were caught with an evaded prisoner.

Casanova took up a stout oak cudgel that he found in the bottom of the
boat. He was ever a violent man, in words and in deeds. On this
occasion his threats were sufficient, especially as they were seconded
by a reminder that ten ducats was a sum worth some risk.

By his directions, then, the boat came to moor at the Schiavoni. He
leapt ashore, bidding the fruiterer await him there. Thence he walked
quickly to San Stefano, rousing a dozing gondolier, and had himself
borne to the Rialto.

It was striking eleven when he stationed himself upon the bridge to
wait. It was a little before the hour at which Razetta usually
returned from that obscure café which he frequented and whither
commonly he was wont to go upon leaving the Abbé Grimani's. Leaning
upon the parapet, Casanova waited patiently, smiling grimly down at
the black, oily waters in pleasurable contemplation of the business
they were to do.

He had not very long to wait. At about a quarter-past eleven he beheld
his victim emerge from one of the narrow side-streets on the right of
the bridge, accompanied, as on another similar occasion, by a lackey,
who now bore a lantern. Casanova quitted his position and moved down
to meet him.

They came face to face at the foot of the bridge, Casanova walking in
the middle of the road and receiving the full glare of the lantern as
he advanced. He halted, and Razetta stared at him, first in
incredulity, and then in terror.

"Do you bar my passage?" Casanova thundered truculently, affecting to
suppose the other to be the aggressor, and a whirling blow of his
cudgel shivered the lantern into a thousand atoms.

"Seize him!" cried Razetta to his lackey. But his lackey was deaf to
the command. His hand was still tingling from the blow that had swept
the lantern from it. "Body of Satan! You have broken prison! You shall
go to the galleys for this!"

"You mistake me, I think," said Casanova.

"Mistake you? Not I! You are that villain Casanova! Seize him, I say!"

"If you will insist upon hindering me I must defend myself as best I
can!" replied Casanova, and he plied his cudgel.

On the occasion of their last meeting he had been armed with a slender
cane capable of comparatively light punishment. But the stout oaken
club he wielded tonight went near to endangering the very life of
Razetta. Its smashing blows fell upon his shoulders, upon his limbs,
and finally upon his head. He screamed, and his servant roared for
help, until the matter ended as it had ended on that other occasion.
Razetta was knocked into the canal.

Casanova flung his cudgel after him, and in a voice of thunder ordered
the servant to be silent.

"Instead of squalling there go and fish him out," he said, "so that I
may have the pleasure of throwing him in yet again some other
evening."

Steps were approaching down the street by which Razetta had come.
Casanova waited for no more. He flung swiftly across the bridge and
down a narrow by-lane. He made a detour that brought him out at a spot
where his gondola was waiting. He jumped in, and was carried back to
San Stefano--the pursuit, meantime, having been arrested by the more
urgent need to rescue the drowning man.

So quickly had he acted that in less than ten minutes of flinging
Razetta into the water he was once more aboard the fruit barge,
speeding towards the Lido and the Fort of Sant' Andrea. Five minutes
before midnight he was climbing back through the window of his prison.
Another three minutes and he was in bed, considering his
soldier-servant still asleep in his chair. To rouse him, Casanova
flung first one boot at his head, and then the other, cursing him
volubly the while, and in his loudest tones.

The fellow awoke with a yell when the heel of the second boot caught
him so shrewdly on the forehead that it drew blood.

"What is it, sir? What is it?" he babbled, still half-bewildered from
sleep and wine.

"What is it, you drunken dog?" roared Casanova, in a mighty passion.
"Do you think you were sent hither to spend the night asleep in a
chair? I suffer. My knee burns. My head throbs. I have a fever! I
cannot sleep! Go, fetch the surgeon. Tell him I am in agony!"

The soldier protested that it was midnight--through the stillness of
the night came the boom of the hour from St Mark's even as he
spoke--and that the surgeon would be abed. But Casanova was so fierce
and bloodthirsty in his reply that the man departed at a run. He was
back in five minutes, accompanied now by the surgeon in nightcap and
bed-gown.

Casanova lay back moaning, his eyes had closed. The haste he had made
had drenched him in a perspiration which admirably answered his
present purposes, whilst his general agitation set up an irregularity
in his pulse sufficient to deceive the incompetent man of medicine of
the fort.

"Do you suffer?" quoth the surgeon sympathetically.

"Like the damned!" groaned Casanova, through clenched teeth. "This bed
is become a bed of pain. I burn, my knee throbs; I cannot sleep. If I
could but sleep!"

The surgeon went to mix a drug. On the way he roused the governor with
the news that Casanova was taken seriously ill. The governor cursed
Casanova and the surgeon jointly and severally for disturbing his rest
and went to sleep again most unsympathetically.

Casanova swallowed the drug when it was brought him. The surgeon sat
with him until he announced that he felt easier, and that, if the
light were extinguished, he thought he might now be able to sleep.

In the morning he was much better. Supported by his servant and
leaning upon his cane, he hobbled to breakfast in Major Pelodero's
dining-room--for the genial governor had made him free of his
table--and he congratulated the surgeon in very graceful and
flattering terms upon his skill, and the efficacy of his drug. His
fever had entirely abated, and his knee was much less painful. The
surgeon recommended care and rest for a few days yet, when he was sure
that all would be well.

But it would seem that there was to be no rest for Casanova just yet.

They were still at breakfast when a soldier came with the announcement
that an officer sent by the Chief Notary of Venice had just arrived at
the fort. The governor went instantly to receive that envoy.

"His excellency the Saggio, sir," said the officer, "has sent me to
receive your explanation of a circumstance by which he is greatly
exercised. He desires to know how it happens that news of the evasion
of your prisoner, Signor Giacomo di Casanova, should have been
communicated to him in the first instance by others than yourself?"

The officer's tone was extremely frosty. Major Pelodero's reply was of
the hottest.

"What the devil may be the meaning, sir, of this impertinence? I
resent your manner, and as for your news, it is as foolish as is,
apparently, its bearer!"

"Sir!" cried the officer, in a very big voice.

"Bah!" The major swung on his heel. "Desire Signor Casanova to attend
us here," he bade the orderly.

The officer's eyes grew round; his mouth itself kept them some sort of
company.

"Do I understand that Signor Casanova is still here? That the report
which has reached his excellency the Saggio is false?"

"You shall see!" was the peppery governor's curt answer.

Casanova came in, hobbling and assisted. Looking from one to the other
of those present, he courteously announced himself their servant. The
major sneered at the officer, and waited for him to speak. The officer
stared from Casanova to the major, and said nothing. It was Casanova,
himself, at last, who broke the silence.

"May I hope, sir, that your presence here, and the governor's request
for my presence signify that the truth of the matters with which I am
charged has at last been brought to light, and that you are come to
announce me my release? Since I am suffering in health, as you may
see, such news were very welcome. Though, considering my crippled
condition, and that I am unable to walk without assistance, I am less
vexed at the moment by my incarceration than I might be at another
time."

"I--I don't understand!" stammered the officer.

"So I had thought," snapped the major testily.

"Perhaps--perhaps I had better explain," said the officer.

"I confess it is not unnecessary," agreed the major.

Forth came the explanation. Razetta and his servant had been before
the Saggio that very morning to lay a second plaint against Casanova,
the details of which the officer now expounded.

"But this is incredible," said Casanova, his face blank.

"Not merely incredible, but impossible," said the governor, still
smarting under the memory of the tone the officer had taken at the
outset of their interview.

"Would it not be best that I should go before the Saggio at once,
sir?" said Casanova.

It was, of course, the only thing to do. The prisoner accompanied the
officer back to Venice, and with them went the governor, the surgeon,
and Casanova's servant.

Casanova's arrival in such company at the palace of the Signory
surprised the Saggio as much as his appearance in the fort had
surprised the Saggio's envoy.

Casanova bowed as gracefully as his crippled condition would permit
him, a twinge of pain crossing his features as he did so. The Saggio
was solicitous, and ordered a chair to be set for him. He sank into it
gently, assisted by the surgeon and the governor, his leg stretched
stiffly in front of him. Then he made one of his famous speeches to
the bewildered magistrate.

Somewhere in his voluminous memoirs he protests that a gentleman
should never have recourse to anything but the truth save only when he
deals with rogues, with whom it would be unavailing. It would seem to
follow that he had a good many dealings with such rogues in his time,
and that he took the liberty of placing the Saggio himself in that
category.

"I understand, excellency," he said, "that it is alleged by Signor
Razetta and his servant that last night, near the bridge of the
Rialto, at about midnight, I fell upon him with a cudgel, belaboured
him, and flung him again into the canal--all, in fact, as precisely as
before."

The Saggio nodded without interrupting, and Casanova proceeded, his
bold black eyes full upon the other's countenance.

"When last before your excellency I had the honour to inform you that
your credibility was being abused, and your high office mocked by
those two villains. It is not for me to blame your excellency for
having been their dupe. They were two, and I was but one; and the
law--of which you are so exalted and worthy an administrator--runs
that the testimony of two persons must outweigh that of one. But there
is another justice more discerning and far-reaching than that human
justice of which your excellency is so noble and shining a dispenser.
That justice, it would appear, has led these villains to overreach
themselves and betray their falsehood. If your excellency's renowned
perspicuity should ever plumb the depths of this infamy, it will, I
have no doubt, be discovered that Signor Razetta, misled by some false
rumour that I had broken prison, has come to you with this fresh lie
that he might thus spur you on to my recapture."

"And yet, sir," the Saggio interrupted, "Messer Razetta's condition
and the testimony of several other witnesses prove beyond all doubt
that he was most cruelly beaten and thrown into the canal."

"Since that is so, I can but suppose that he is in error--an error
quickened by his malice. I do not need to plead my case today. The
facts plead for me more eloquently and irrefutably than would be
possible to any words of mine. Not only--as your excellency sees--have
I not broken prison, but I have been crippled these four-and-twenty
hours, unable to walk without assistance. If more were necessary, this
good fellow here, who tended me all night, can inform your excellency
that precisely at the hour in which I am accused of having committed
this offence on the Rialto I was in bed at Sant' Andrea, in extreme
pain and beset by fever. Further this learned doctor will tell you
that, summoned by my servant, he came to ease my sufferings at that
hour; and the governor here will add that he was informed of my
condition at the time. Never in all the history of justice was an
accused man furnished with so complete an alibi. I leave it to your
excellency's acute penetration to lay bare the truth of this affair."

The Saggio heard the other three in turn, each and all of them
emphatically bearing out Casanova's statement.

"It is enough," he said in the end. "It is but logical to assume that,
whatever the motives that may have actuated him, since Messer Razetta
was mistaken in his assailant last night, he must similarly have been
mistaken before."

"Mistaken!" quoth the rogue Casanova, with a wry smile.

The Saggio made him no reply. He took up a pen, and wrote rapidly.

"You will be restored to liberty at once, sir," he announced, "and
Signor Razetta shall be dealt with. You are free to return home."

But Casanova had not yet quite reached the end of his rascally
purpose.

"I go in such dread of the rancour of that villain Razetta," said he,
"that I will implore your excellency to afford me the State's
protection until I am restored to such vigour as will enable me to
protect myself. I shall be eternally grateful for your permission to
return with the major to Sant' Andrea until my knee is completely
mended--a matter of a week or so, as the doctor here informs me."

His excellency graciously gave his consent to this, and would have
thereupon have dismissed them but that still Casanova had not done.

"I most respectfully submit to your excellency that some amend is due
to me for what I have suffered morally and physically: the indignity,
extremely painful to a man of my sensitive honour; the duress in which
I have been kept; and finally my present crippled condition, arising
directly out of my imprisonment."

The Saggio frowned.

"The State, sir----" he was beginning coldly.

"Ah, sir, your indulgence!" Casanova interrupted him. "It is not from
the State that I suggest any amend should come. It is not the fault of
the State that these things have come to pass. The fault is entirely
Razetta's, and I submit--most respectfully and humbly--that it is from
Razetta should proceed the adequate compensation which I solicit."

The Saggio reflected.

"It is but just," he agreed at last. "At what sum do you estimate your
inconvenience?"

Casanova sighed reflectively.

"It is not in ducats and sequins, excellency," said he, "that a
gentleman of my condition can estimate the damage to his honour and
his body. To do so were to affront the one and the other. Not then to
compensate me, for that is impossible, but to punish Razetta do I
suggest that he should be mulcted in my favour to the extent of--shall
we say?--a hundred ducats."

The magistrate pursed his lips. The sum was heavy.

"I should say," he answered deliberately, "that fifty ducats were a
just fine."

"Your excellency is the best judge," said Casanova, with angelic
submission. "Fifty ducats be it then--to teach him the way of truth
and honesty."

Thus ended the matter, in spite of all that Razetta had to say, which
was a deal, and all of it so offensive and profane that it confirmed
the Saggio in his conviction that he was dealing justly.

With the fifty ducats Casanova set up a faro bank, and prospered so
well that in the end Venice became dangerous for him, and he was
compelled to seek fresh pastures for his splendid talents.



THE AUGMENTATION OF MERCURY


I warn you at the outset not to take him for a vulgar rogue. A rogue
he was undoubtedly, but vulgar never. Himself, for all his frankness,
he would not admit even so much. He discriminates finely. Indeed, as a
splitter of hairs Casanova is unrivalled among all those who have made
philosophy. "The honest ruse," he says somewhere in the course of his
voluminous memoirs, "may be taken to be the sign of a prudent spirit.
It is a virtue, true, which resembles rascality. But he who cannot in
case of need exercise it with dignity is a fool."

Lest even after this warning you should be disposed to pass a harsh
judgement upon the exploit I am about to relate, let me make clear the
desperate position in which he found himself.

He had embarked at Venice for Ancona two days ago with fifty gold
sequins in his pocket. And in a cellar at Chiozza--the first port of
call--he had been so soundly drubbed at faro that he had lost not only
that fifty, but a further thirty sequins yielded by the sale of his
trunk of clothes.

Disconsolate, and very hungry--not having tasted food for
four-and-twenty hours--he sat now upon a bale of cordage in the
vessel's waist, reckoning up his assets.

Besides the semi-clerical but becoming garments in which he stood, he
was possessed of a handsome figure, an iron constitution, an
effrontery that was proof against all things, a doctor's degree in
canon law, some very considerable learning for his eighteen years, a
remarkable histrionic talent inherited from his parents, both of whom
had achieved some renown upon the stage, and a letter of introduction
to the Bishop of Martorano in Calabria, who was to advance him in the
ecclesiastical career to which he was destined.

Casanova's tastes, heaven knows, were far from ecclesiastical. He had
wished to study medicine, having indeed a certain taste for chemistry,
and a perception that of all professions medicine offers the greatest
scope to empiricism. But his mother, now a considerable actress in
Dresden, and those whom she had made responsible for his education,
had insisted that he should study not merely law, but canon law, and
that he should take holy orders. He submitted in obedience to the
/sequere deum/ of the Stoics, which he had taken for his own motto;
and as you behold him now upon the threshold of his career, you shall
judge how justified were the instincts that warned him that he was as
little likely in the end to become a priest as a physician.

He sat there on his bale of cordage, lugubriously looking out across
the sunlit waters to the receding coast of Istria. Despite the genial
warmth of the day--for it was August, of 1743--he was shivering with
cold from lack of nourishment.

A shuffling step approached him. A voice deep and harsh, yet vaguely
solicitous, enquired:

"Are you ill, sir?"

He turned slowly to survey a tall, vigorous young Franciscan with a
coarsely pleasant countenance, whose tonsured head was fringed with
tufts of coarse red hair. Small, dark, inquisitive eyes met Casanova's
bold magnetic glance.

"I am troubled," he answered shortly.

"Troubled?" quoth the friar. "I have medicine here that will dispel
trouble--a capon, sausages, a bottle of good wine, and my own company
if you'll suffer it." And out of one of the amazing sack-like pockets
of his habit he produced the articles he named.

Casanova frowned, considering him. The invitation came so pat upon his
urgent need. Had the shaveling been spying upon him? And if so what
profit did the fellow look to make? This misanthropical suspicion
proceeded from a cynicism newly begotten of his Chiozza adventure.
Still his need was urgent.

Rising, he accepted the invitation, but with condescension rather than
gratitude. Already at that early age he had some of the lordly airs
that were later to distinguish him, a gift of accepting favours with
all the appearance of bestowing them.

Together they sat down to dine, and as they ate and drank, Casanova's
dignity lessening, he listened more and more affably to the garrulous
confidences of the friar. Brother Stefano--as he was called--displayed
with ostentation treasures of bread and wine, cheese, sausages and a
ham which he had received as alms in Orsara, and with which the
unfathomable pockets of his habit were now cumbered.

"Do you receive money as well?" quoth Casanova, genuinely interested.

"God forbid!" cried the friar. "It is against the rules of our
glorious order. Besides," he added slyly, "if I asked for money what
should I receive? A few coppers, of which you behold here ten times
the value. St Francis, believe me, was a shrewd fellow."

To this he added an invitation, which Casanova was but too willing to
accept, that for the two days remaining of the journey he should allow
himself to be provided for by St Francis.

Not until they had landed at Ancona, and found themselves lodged in
the lazaret with the prospect of twenty days of quarantine imposed
upon all who came just then from Venice, did Casanova discover the
motive he had been seeking of the friar's spontaneous generosity. He
was requesting for himself a room with a bed, table, and some chairs,
agreeing to pay the hire on the expiry of the term, when Stefano
sidled up to him.

"Sir," he said, "if of your benevolence you would allow me to share
your room, I should require only a truss of straw for my bed."

Casanova agreed, and perceiving now how they might inter-aid each
other he took the friar fully into his confidence, telling him that he
was going to Rome, where a secretarial position awaited him, but that
until he got there he would be in need of everything. He had expected
acquiescence, but hardly the eager gladness with which Stefano
received the news.

"Count on me," he said. "Provided you will write some letters for me,
I will see you safely as far as Rome at the expense of St Francis."

"But why don't you write your own letters?" wondered Casanova.

"Because I can write only my own name. True, I can write it with
either hand, but what advantage is that?"

Casanova stared at him as at a portent. "You amaze me," said he. "I
thought you were a priest."

"I'm not a priest; I'm a friar. I say Mass. Consequently I can read.
St Francis, whose unworthy child I am, could not read, which is why he
never said Mass. But since you can write, you shall write to the
persons whose names I will give you, and I promise you we shall have
enough to feast upon to the end of the quarantine."

Here Casanova perceived the second chief reason why Stefano had
befriended him--that he might act as his secretary during those twenty
days in which the friar, being unable to leave the lazaret, must have
gone hungry without somebody to discharge this office. Forthwith he
wrote eight letters--eight because, according to the oral tradition of
the order, when a Franciscan shall have knocked at seven doors and
been refused he is to knock at the eighth with confidence of response.
These letters, dictated by the friar, were interlarded with scraps of
Latin, which he ordered Casanova to supply, and packed with foolish
and unnecessary falsehoods. Thus, to the Superior of the Jesuits
Stefano bade him say that he was not writing to the Capuchins because
they were atheists, which was the reason why St Francis could not
endure them.

"But that is nonsense," cried Casanova. "For in the time of St Francis
there were no Capuchins or friars of any kind."

"How do you know that?" quoth Stefano.

"It's a matter of history."

"History!" snorted the friar. "What has history to do with religion?
You're very ignorant for a doctor. Did they teach you no better than
that at Padua? Write as I tell you, and don't argue with me."

Casanova shrugged and wrote, persuaded that such letters would be
ignored as those of a knave and a madman. But he was mistaken. They
were deluged with hams and capons, sausages and eggs, fresh meat and
wine, and thus those three weeks in the lazaret of Ancona were a time
of plenty.

At the end of the quarantine Casanova repaired to a minorite convent,
where the further funds for the journey to Rome were to be supplied to
him. He received there, together with the Bishop of Martorano's
address, the sum of ten sequins. Out of these he paid for the hire of
the room and furniture at the lazaret, bought himself a handsome long
coat and a pair of strong shoes, and set out for Rome in Stefano's
company.

It was an eight days' journey on foot, but not as the friar understood
it. Stefano's notion was to travel three miles a day, at which rate
they would have been two months upon the road. Casanova being now
sufficiently in funds to defray his travelling expenses, said frankly
that this rate of travelling would not suit him, and proposed to leave
the friar. But the friar would not be left.

"Carry my cloak," said he, "and I will walk at least twice the
distance daily. Thus St Francis shall defray us both."

Our young doctor agreed, taking Stefano's cloak, which was a mule's
load, its pockets stuffed as they were with victuals of all
descriptions, sufficient for a fortnight.

Sweating and toiling along the dusty road under this burden, Casanova
developed a natural curiosity.

"When travelling," he asked, "why don't you seek food and shelter in
the convents of your order?"

Stefano looked at him owlishly, and winked.

"Because I am not a fool," said he. "In the first place I shouldn't be
received because, being a fugitive, I have no written obedience card,
such as they always insist upon seeing. I might even risk being sent
to prison, for they are an evil lot of dogs. In the second place, it
is never as comfortable in a convent as in the house of a benefactor."

"Why are you a fugitive?" asked Casanova, and knew that the
unintelligible, incoherent answer he received about imprisonment and
escape was all compounded of falsehood.

He was growing a little weary of this harlequin of a Franciscan, and
it is small wonder that in the end they quarrelled. The thing began on
the following morning. Stefano led the way to a handsome house
standing back from the high-road near Macerata. There was a small
chapel attached to it, arguing piety on the part of the inhabitants,
and acting as a beacon to the friar.

He strode boldly in, pronouncing a sonorous benediction, which brought
the family clustering about him to kiss his unwashed hand. Then the
mistress of the house invited him to say Mass, and hearing him
consent, Casanova clutched his arm in horror.

"Have you forgotten that we have breakfasted?" he whispered.

"That's none of your business," growled the friar. "Be quiet."

The Mass was said, and Casanova's amazement and disgust were increased
to perceive that Stefano was very indifferently acquainted with the
ritual. But there was worse to follow. The friar went to the
confessional, and summoned the family to confession. And there the
evil fellow took it into his head to refuse absolution to the youngest
daughter, a lovely child of thirteen, whose budding beauty was moving
Casanova to tenderness.

From his earliest years he had been inordinately susceptible to the
charms of the other sex, and that susceptibility, no doubt, was one of
the chief factors in his eventual decision to abandon the
ecclesiastical career.

Stefano scolded the child publicly, threatening her with hell-torment,
until bewildered and agonized by shame she ran to shut herself up in
her room.

The event threw a gloom over the repast that followed, spread
expressly to regale this holy man, and it profoundly angered Casanova,
the more because the victim of that loutish caprice was so sweet and
lovely.

"You infamous, ignorant impostor!" he denounced the friar, to the
horror and amazement of all present, his dark eyes blazing, the veins
of his temples swollen. "You impudent lout! How dared you so treat
that child?"

Stefano looked at him, his little eyes very evil. But he exercised
sufficient self-control to render his voice meek and gentle.

"I forgive your heat, my son. I understand your feelings. They are a
snare set for you by the devil. Beware of them."

"Beware of me, rather," roared Casanova, "for I propose to thrash you
into a state of decency. On what grounds did you refuse that child
absolution?"

Stefano cast his eyes to heaven in afflicted protest.

"Ignorant and heedless youth," he answered sadly, "what are you
saying? Are you bidding me betray the secret of the confessional? Are
you?" His voice swelled up on a note of sudden wrath.

Casanova looked round, and everywhere met eyes that disapproved of a
provocation so strange and so distressing. It was enough. He got up,
and went out without another word.

A couple of hours later, as Stefano was slowly trudging along the
road, Casanova surged suddenly out of a hedge before him.

"Ha! Ha!" laughed Stefano, full of the mirth that excess of wine
engenders. "We meet again, as I expected."

"We meet to part," said Casanova, who had been nursing his anger.

"Why to part?" bubbled the friar.

"Because I'll not travel further with a rogue, lest I be condemned
with him to the galleys."

Stefano's round genial face grew sinister. He gripped his staff more
firmly. "You say that to me?" he growled.

"I do. You are an unwashed scoundrel, ripe for gaol."

"And what are you, my pretty gentleman? A needy beggar, who have been
living upon me for a month."

For answer Casanova soundly boxed the friar's ears. The friar swung
his heavy staff, and caught the young doctor a blow across the head
that sent him reeling into the ditch.

When Casanova recovered consciousness it was approaching noon. He rose
from the depths of the dry ditch into which he had rolled, the grasses
of which had concealed him from the eyes of wayfarers, and collected
his wits. His head was aching villainously, and under the lustrous
chestnut hair which he wore clubbed, and in which he took great pride,
he discovered a lump as large as a pigeon's egg--the Franciscan's
parting gift.

He felt that he had not come as well out of the encounter as he
intended. But he took comfort in the thought that he was well rid of
an evil travelling companion, who had served his turn. After all, he
had seven gold sequins in his pocket, enough to carry him with ease
and dignity to his patron, the Bishop, who would place him beyond the
reach of all anxiety.

The distance to Macerata was not far--a mile or so--and there he would
dine well, and sleep between clean sheets, setting out refreshed upon
the morrow. He picked up his hat, and stepped out whistling. Suddenly
he checked in his stride. His whistling stopped. His hands were racing
and fumbling through the pockets of his handsome coat. Conviction
followed swiftly upon apprehension. His purse containing the seven
sequins was gone.

Solemnly, terribly, and most uncanonically did the pale lips of our
young doctor of canon law anathematize the scoundrelly Franciscan who
had picked his pocket. Then he sat down on a mound of stones by the
roadside to contemplate his case. It was desperate indeed. Save for a
few pieces of silver and some copper /paoli/ in his breeches pocket,
which the friar had missed, he was utterly destitute. Regretfully he
thought of the good dinner and the good bed he had promised himself.
And then in rebellion against fate he decided that, come what might,
dinner and bed should not be forgone. To pay for them he would, if
necessary, pawn his handsome coat. An hour later he was striding
across the threshold of Macerata's best inn, mustering those almost
unsuspected histrionic gifts of his to explain away his lack of
luggage.

"I am the Bishop of Martorano's secretary," he announced, "travelling
to Rome. Has my servant arrived?"

"Your servant, excellency?" quoth the landlord eagerly, impressed by
the tall figure and boldly handsome face, the luxuriant well-coiffed
hair, and the handsome coat--a compromise between clericalism and
modishness.

"I sent him ahead of me in the chaise. I needed exercise, and
preferred to walk the last two miles."

The landlord understood. The gentleman's dusty legs and shoes were at
once explained. He shook his head.

"Not here," he was beginning. Then he checked. "Would it be a yellow
chaise?" he asked.

Guessing the drift of the question, Casanova decided that the chaise
must have been a yellow one. It was a common enough colour after all.

"A yellow chaise drove through the town at a great rate a half-hour
ago. The postilion, excellency, was in green."

"In green--that's it. And he drove on, do you say? He drove on?"

The landlord admitted it, and grew terrified before Casanova's
tempestuous anger. Roundly he cursed all valets, and all postilions.
Had he not told them plainly enough that this was the inn he would
honour with his patronage? He could forgive the valet for
misunderstanding him, the valet being not merely a Frenchman, but an
idiot as well. But the postilion was an Italian, of Ancona--that is,
if the inhabitants of Ancona were Italian, a fact which he began
seriously to doubt. Himself he was a Venetian, he announced in
passing, secretary, he repeated, to the Bishop of Martorano.
Explosively, he desired the host to tell him what he was to do.

"Your excellency will pardon the suggestion that you might have fared
worse. This is a comfortable house, and my beds . . ."

"I know, I know," Casanova broke in impatiently. "Give me a room, and
if those sons of dogs come back with the chaise whilst my anger
endures, I'll crack their empty skulls one against the other."

It was a piece of acting that earned him more than he had reckoned.
His loud, angry voice had drawn people from the common room, and
indeed from every part of the inn. Now among the guests there was a
Greek trader, distinguished by his Oriental gabardine, who had pricked
up his ears when our gentleman announced himself a Venetian. The
citizens of the Republic were notoriously wealthy and lavish--which
was precisely why Casanova had mentioned his origin--and the Greek
made wealthy, lavish gentlemen his prey.

It would be an hour or so later, when Casanova, washed and brushed,
showed himself once more below, that our Greek approached him.

"I think, sir," he ventured, "that I heard you say you are a
Venetian."

Casanova flashed him a sidelong glance, and wondered.

"I certainly said so. What you may have heard is your own affair," he
answered dryly.

But a trader with business to do is not easily disconcerted.

"I am myself a subject of the Republic," the Greek announced, "and so
in some sort your excellency's compatriot. I am from Zante. My name is
Panagiottis, and if I can serve you in the inconvenience caused you
by . . ."

Under Casanova's cold stare the trader spread his hands, and left the
offer there. But, persistent of purpose, he remained and chattered
amiably awhile, Casanova compelling him at first to pursue a
monologue. Little by little, however, the young doctor's manner became
less frosty. Panagiottis began by dilating upon the glories of Venice,
passed on to deplore at length the inconvenience of travel, and then
by way of manners and customs adroitly reached his objective, the
comparative merits of Italian and foreign wines. Finding his listener
interested, he touched at last the very bull's eye of the matter.

"After all," he said, "and with all due praise to Tuscan vintages,
there are wines of the Levant that stand almost unrivalled. Now I have
with me some Muscadine--some of which, by the way, I could sell you
cheaply--which is of rare excellence."

"I might buy some, if it is as good as you say," said Casanova
grandly. "I know something of wine."

The Greek rubbed his hands. "So much the better. I have some excellent
Cerigo, some wine of Samos, and some Cephalonian. If you will do me
the honour to dine with me you shall have an opportunity of tasting
them."

"/Fata viam inveniunt/," said Casanova to himself. Here had fate
provided him with a dinner. But it was only when the Greek had used
polite insistence that Casanova yielded, gracefully condescending.

It is inconceivable that he could have had any intention of exploiting
the Greek beyond this matter of dinner. What followed was entirely
unpremeditated. The repast served in the Greek's private room proved
excellent, and the Cerigo was quite the best that Casanova had ever
tasted.

The Greek's conversation was naturally of his trade. He mentioned that
he had acquired a considerable quantity of minerals: vitriol,
cinnabar, antimony, and a hundred quintals of mercury. At the mention
of mercury Casanova bethought him of an amalgam of bismuth and lead,
by which that mineral can be augmented by one quarter. I have said
that he was interested in chemistry. It occurred to him that if the
Greek were not acquainted with this mystery here was a chance of
profit.

"These minerals are for sale?" he enquired.

"Of course; but they would hardly interest you."

"On the contrary, I might buy some mercury." He smiled darkly. "I do a
curious trade in mercury myself," he added.

Panagiottis became inquisitive, but Casanova was not disposed to
gratify him. Address was necessary. The mere offer to sell the secret
would lead to nothing. He must astonish Panagiottis by effecting the
augmentation, laugh at the Greek's amazement when manifested, and so
lure him on to desire the secret for himself.

At the end of dinner Panagiottis invited him to inspect the wares
displayed in an adjoining room. They made up a heterogeneous
collection: flasks of Levantine wines, assorted Eastern fabrics and
metal ware, minerals and dried fruits, and four large flagons
containing each 10lb of mercury. Casanova purchased one of these
flagons--on credit, of course, since he was without the means to pay
for it--and took it to his room.

He went out to find the only druggist in Macerata, and laid out most
of his slender stock of silver and copper on the purchase of two and a
half pounds each of bismuth and lead. Returning to the inn, he
procured himself two empty bottles, proceeded to make his amalgam, and
decanted it into these.

That evening he invited Panagiottis to sup with him in his own room.
Before sitting down he placed on the table the Greek's mercury,
divided into two bottles, and from these he now re-filled the original
flagon, observing with secret delight the merchant's mystification at
sight of 5lb of fine mercury remaining over.

Answering Panagiottis' insistent questions with a laugh, Casanova
called the inn boy, and handing him the quarter flagon of mercury bade
him go and sell it to the druggist. The boy returned with fifteen
carlini, which Casanova pocketed. In itself that sum would more than
suffice to pay Casanova's score at the inn. But he aimed much further.

The Greek begged for the return of his flagon, which was worth sixty
carlini, and Casanova at once restored it to him, with
laughingly-expressed thanks for having allowed him so easily to earn
fifteen carlini.

Then he called for supper, sat down, and talked of other things. But
Panagiottis was visibly preoccupied, and he betrayed alarm when his
host announced that he would be leaving early on the morrow,
travelling post if necessary until he overtook his chaise and servant.

"Why don't you stay tomorrow, and earn a further forty carlini on the
other three flagons?" he asked unsteadily.

Casanova shrugged. "I am in no need of money. I augmented one flagon
merely to amuse and surprise you."

Panagiottis' glance was laden with envy and wonder.

"You must be very wealthy," he said.

"I should be were it not that I am working at the augmentation of
gold, which is a very costly operation."

"But where is the need? The augmentation of mercury should suffice any
man. Tell me, what does the augmentation cost?"

"One and a half per cent."

"And would that which you have increased be susceptible of further
increase?"

"Oh, no. If that were so, it would be an inexhaustible source of
wealth."

And thereupon, to play out his part, Casanova rose, called the
landlord, paid for the supper, and ordered a carriage and a pair of
horses for eight o'clock the next morning. Bidding good-night to the
chagrined and reluctant Panagiottis, and promising to send him an
order for a barrel of Muscadine later, Casanova went to bed, convinced
that the Greek would not close his eyes all night.

He was in the act of dressing next morning when Panagiottis invaded
his chamber, after due apology. Casanova received him cordially, and
invited him to share his morning coffee, which stood steaming on the
table.

Panagiottis came straight to business. "I have come to ask you if you
could be induced to sell me your secret," he announced.

"Why not?" was the genial answer. "When next we meet . . ."

"When next we meet?" cried the Greek in panic. "But when will that
be?"

"Why, when you will. Should you come to Rome . . ."

Again Panagiottis interrupted. He was trembling with excitement.

"But why not now? Why not now?"

"Now?" Casanova stared. "My horses are harnessed. I am expected in
Rome, and already I have delayed upon the journey."

"But surely no great delay can be entailed in what I ask."

He was in dread lest fortune should elude him after being brought
within his reach.

Casanova became grave.

"That depends," said he. "My secret is expensive and, after all, I do
not really know you."

Standing, he sipped his coffee calmly.

The Greek sat down. The truth is that his legs were yielding under
him. Beads of perspiration gleamed on the arch of his heavy, pendulous
nose--the brand of the acquisitive. He drew his gabardine about his
slender shanks, and stroked his thinning black hair with an unsteady
hand.

"But these are not reasons for delay," he protested in distress. "I am
sufficiently well-known here, and my credit is good. Do you need an
earnest of it?"

A gesture of lofty deprecation was Casanova's only answer.

"How much would you want for your secret?" Panagiottis asked
point-blank.

Casanova's answer was as prompt as it was calm.

"Two thousand gold ounces."

At the mention of so vast a sum the Greek gasped like a fish. Casanova
smiled and reached for his hat.

"You see," he said. "Besides, it is striking eight, and my horses are
waiting."

Panagiottis swallowed audibly. "I will p-pay it," he stammered,
"provided that I, myself, augment the 30lb I have here with the
ingredients you shall name, which I myself shall purchase."

"The condition is natural," Casanova agreed. "But a contract would be
necessary."

"You shall have it, sir. It is what I should myself desire."

"But it will need time, and my horses----"

"Put off the journey for an hour or two," the Greek besought him.

Casanova took a turn as if considering.

"Sir, sir, your hesitation wounds me!" burst from his agonized
companion. "Look!" He snatched up a pen and wrote swiftly. "Take this.
The banker de Laura lives a hundred yards from here. Present it and
ask him for information of my credit."

Casanova took the note. It was draft running as follows:


Pay the bearer at sight fifty gold ounces for account of Panagiottis.


He smiled almost wistfully. "Really," he was beginning, "so much is
not necessary to----"

"Take it, please--please. I insist."

"Very well."

Casanova went, came back, and placed the fifty ounces on the table.

"Your banker's account of you is quite satisfactory," said he. "To
oblige you--since you are so set on it--I have bidden the landlord put
back the horses until noon, so that we may conclude the transaction."
And drawing up a chair, he sat down facing the Greek.

Panagiottis expressed his relief by a sigh, and insisted that as a
preliminary Casanova should pocket the fifty ounces. Casanova did so,
under protest, and they proceeded to draw up the contract. It ran as
follows:


  I agree to pay Messer Giacomo di Casanova the sum of two thousand
  gold ounces when he shall have taught me how and by what
  ingredients I may augment mercury by one quarter, without
  deterioration of its quality, equal to that which he sold at
  Macerata in my presence on the 25th of August, 1743.


Having signed it, Panagiottis delivered it to Casanova, together with
a bill of exchange for two thousand ounces on a Roman banker, which,
if necessary, he said, de Laura would discount at once upon a word
from himself. So much being concluded, Casanova proceeded to impart
the secret, naming the ingredients--lead and bismuth, the first which
by its nature amalgamates with mercury, the second which restores its
fluidity, impaired by the amalgamation.

The Greek went off to perform the operation, on the understanding that
they should dine together, when he would report upon the results. He
returned at noon, a pensive, saddened man, which was quite as Casanova
had expected. Nevertheless he hailed his pupil heartily.

"Well?" he cried.

Panagiottis shook his head. "It is not well at all," he said gloomily.
"The augmentation is made, but the mercury is not perfect."

Casanova's tone and manner betrayed impatience. "It is equal to that
which I sold yesterday at Macerata, as the contract stipulates."

"Ah, but the contract also says that there must be no deterioration of
quality. And you must confess that the quality has deteriorated. So
true is this that no further augmentation is possible."

"Did I not tell you so at the beginning?" Casanova reminded him. "I
stand by the condition of equality to that which I sold yesterday. You
will force me to go to law with you, and the case will go against
you." He displayed a nice blend of regret and indignation. "Should you
happen to win, you may congratulate yourself upon having obtained my
secret for nothing--though it will be worthless then to both of us,
since it will be a secret no longer. I did not dream you capable of
resorting to such trickery."

Panagiottis rose, indignant. "Sir, I am incapable of trickery, or of
taking an unfair advantage of any man."

"Have you learnt my secret or have you not?" demanded Casanova. "And
should I have imparted it to you without the contract? Sir, the world
will laugh, and lawyers will make money out of us. I am distressed to
think that I should so easily have been deluded. Meanwhile, here are
your fifty ounces."

And he smacked the money on the table bravely, though inwardly
fainting from terror lest Panagiottis should take it.

But Panagiottis, shamed by the reproachful gesture, indignantly
refused the money, and rose to leave the room. This was a declaration
of war. But Casanova smiled, confident that peace would be easily
concluded.

You are not to suppose that he ever dreamed of obtaining the two
thousand ounces. He had foreseen precisely such a situation as had
since arisen, and he was fully prepared to moderate his pretensions
very considerably. He detained Panagiottis.

"It is necessary, sir, that you should take this money," he insisted.
"It belongs to you."

Between misery and indignation Panagiottis again refused.

"You have placed me in an impossible situation," he protested.

"Did I invite you to buy my secret? Or did you pester me into selling
what you now refuse to pay for?"

"But you must confess that it is not worth two thousand ounces."

"Yet that is the amount in the contract you have signed."

They sat down to argue, the Greek as before insisting upon the
condition that the mercury should present no deterioration of quality,
Casanova urging the condition that it should be equal to the 15lb he
had sold yesterday. Thus was half an hour consumed.

"We appear," said Casanova at length, "to have reached a deadlock
which only the lawyers can resolve, and you should be as reluctant as
I am to appeal to them. I will make sacrifices rather than take that
course. Have you any adjustment to propose?"

Panagiottis considered. "You shall retain the fifty ounces. I will pay
you an additional fifty, and you shall surrender to me the contract
and the bill of exchange."

Casanova was more than satisfied, but his face remained grave, even
sorrowful. Appearances demanded that he should yield reluctantly, and
he did so only at the end of arguments which endured for another hour
and a half. But when he did yield it was gracefully and graciously.
Having pocketed the hundred ounces, he invited Panagiottis to dine
with him, and they sat down together like the best of friends, despite
the Greek's uneasy feeling that he had taken a certain unfair
advantage of a too confiding young cleric. To make amends he presented
Casanova at parting with a case of beautiful razors and an order on
his Naples warehouse for a barrel of the Muscadine the Venetian had
praised. Thereupon they embraced and parted, thoroughly pleased each
with the other.

Two days later, as Casanova, travelling now in state, was approaching
Cesena, his carriage overtook a group that attracted his attention.
Four papal guards were conducting a big, red-haired man in the habit
of a brother of St Francis. The prisoner walked dejectedly, his head
sunk upon his breast, his wrists pinioned behind him.

Looking more closely at that familiar figure, Casanova recognized his
sometime travelling companion, Brother Stefano. He bade the postilions
slacken to a walk.

"What's this?" he asked the leader of the guards.

"A rascally bandit who goes about disguised as a monk to rob honest
folk. We heard of him at Ancona, where he had a companion who has
given us the slip. But we've got this one at least, and he'll go to
the hulks where he belongs."

Casanova's eyes met Stefano's, and he saw recognition and amazement
dawning in them. In the circumstances Casanova thought it best not to
mention his seven sequins.

As he was whirled away in a cloud of dust, he reflected that dishonest
practices must sooner or later bring a man to the galleys,
congratulated himself upon the incident which had separated him from
Stefano, and reclining luxuriously in his chaise considered how--as in
his own case--rectitude of behaviour is properly rewarded sooner or
later.



THE PRIEST OF MARS


It was in Bologna in the spring of the year 1744, that Casanova took
the great resolve to exchange his abbé's dress and his prospect of
Holy Orders for the military coat, and the only priesthood to which
his adventurous spirit could conceivably be a credit--the priesthood
of Mars.

He was in his twentieth year at the time, tall, vigorous, handsome and
magnetic; and to the audacity that was natural to him he gathered
additional assurance from the fact that he was well-equipped with
funds, having left Rome with two hundred sequins in gold and a letter
of credit on Ancona for five hundred more.

He sought a tailor, and issued presently from his hands in a handsome
military coat of heavy white cloth with silver lace and gold and
silver shoulder knot, and a pale blue silk waistcoat descending
half-way to his knees; lacquered canon boots, a rakishly looped hat
displaying a black cockade, a long rapier and a long cane completed
his equipment, and in this guise he paraded the town and ruffled it in
the cafés of Bologna, enjoying the sensation of drawing admiring,
questioning glances such as he had never attracted in his modest
clerical garments.

Thus arrayed, and carrying himself with the proper degree of
insolence, he reappeared in his native Venice a week later, to the
scandal of all those who had seen him depart thence for Rome, and were
conceiving him by now to be well on the way to politico-ecclesiastical
advancement. None was more scandalized than the old patrician abbé
Grimani, who had acted in some sort as his guardian; yet seeing him
well supplied with funds and coming to consider his unruly nature, he
ended by confessing that perhaps this young doctor of canon law had
chosen wisely, and presented him with a strong recommendation to the
Venetian Secretary for War. This recommendation was supported by that
of Casanova's own bold martial bearing and intrepid air. Further
still, Grimani had presented him to a lieutenant in the Venetian
service, who was anxious from motives of ill-health to sell his
commission and prepared to take a hundred sequins for it, and the
Secretary for War being informed of all this and having talked a while
with Casanova, agreed that he should enter the service, acquiring the
lieutenant's commission, but on condition that he served first as an
ensign with however the promise that he should be promoted lieutenant
within the year.

Thus the matter was settled, and Casanova embarked on the /Europa/, a
fast frigate of seventy-two guns, which landed him eight days later at
Corfu, to the garrison of which he was appointed.

He found it an agreeable place with no lack of society, whose head was
the Proveditor-General of the Republic, an officer exercising a
sovereign authority, and keeping splendid state, in which he was
supported by three admirals of Venice, a dozen governors of galleys,
as many chiefs of the army ashore and half that number of civil
officers, all of whom were Venetian nobles, and most of whom had with
them their wives and families.

The office of Proveditor-General was filled by General Dolfino, a
well-preserved patrician of seventy-five, ignorant, vain, obstinate
and choleric, who kept open house, holding a reception every evening,
and at whose table twenty-four covers were always laid for chance
guests.

There was a theatre at Corfu, which was intermittently supplied with a
company of comedians, and no lack of gaming houses, for no restraints
were placed upon gaming, and play was inclined to run high. The faro
tables proved an immediate attraction to Casanova. Although what
little past experience he had of them had been disastrous, yet the
instincts of play were in his blood.

It took him three months to lose some six hundred sequins, yet
whatever his losses he never lost his magnificent calm. Those
inherited histrionic talents of his stood him in good stead, and even
when staking his last sequins, despite the agony of apprehension in
his soul, he preserved a careless smile, and when they were swept away
he rose with an indifferent air and a stifled yawn. He had beggared
himself of all but his jewels, worth some hundred sequins, but he had
not done it quite in vain. The indifference with which he lost had
earned him the reputation of a /beau joueur/ and a man of wealth,
since he allowed none to guess that he had ruined himself. Now the
world loves wealth and it loves good losers; when, in addition, a man
is young, handsome, and witty, he will find all doors opening before
him. Thus it came about that Casanova found himself high in the esteem
of Corfu society.

He was still wondering how to turn this circumstance to advantage when
Major Maroli, a professional gamester at whose faro bank Casanova had
lost most of his money, meeting him one day, reproached him with
coming no more to play.

"I am tired of losing," said Casanova.

"Why not come and win?"

"Because it is always the bank that wins."

"Then why not join the bank?"

Casanova stared. Maroli explained himself. His explanation was a
proposal of partnership. He saw in Casanova, with his reputation for
wealth, his popularity, his easy, laughing ways, his magnificent
insouciance as a player, the ideal partner of a bank which was
beginning to excite suspicion. Casanova desired a little while in
which to consider a proposal he had instantly determined to accept.

He pawned his jewels for a hundred sequins, and with this sum acquired
a partnership in the major's bank. Thus came about his association
with Maroli. He acted as croupier when the major dealt, and when he
dealt himself the major performed the like office by him. Now Maroli
handled the cards in a fashion that inspired terror, whilst Casanova
on the contrary was always easy and gay, winning without avidity and
losing without regrets, a bearing always pleasing to punters. The
consequence was that Casanova came to deal oftener than Maroli, and
that the bank--as the latter had shrewdly expected--increased rapidly
in popularity and prosperity.

We gather that Maroli initiated him into the secrets of success. But
he does not betray those secrets; in fact he does little more than
hint at their existence.

"Those addicted to games of chance," he says, "will always lose unless
they know how to captivate fortune by playing with real advantages
dependent upon calculation or dexterity, but independent of luck. I
believe that a wise and prudent player may avail himself of the one
and the other without incurring blame or without rendering it possible
to impugn his honour."

Such a wise and prudent player it is evident that Casanova now became,
for he grew wealthy rapidly--prodigally spending his money with almost
equal rapidity--and acquired great fame as a gamester. He saw himself
now the idol of the ladies, the envied of the men, once more upon the
high road to fortune. In the following September he received the
honour of being appointed adjutant to the Marquis Rinolfo, the
Admiral-in-Chief of the Galeasses--those almost obsolescent vessels
with the body of frigates and the benches of galleys, each rowed in
calm weather by five hundred convicts. With the appointment he took up
his abode at the residence of the Marquis.

But Fortune, into whose hands he had come to abandon himself with more
than Oriental fatalism, was preparing him a fall even whilst exalting
him.

From Camporese, his captain, Casanova had obtained as a valet a French
soldier named La Valeur, a drunken, libertine rascal whose vices
Casanova overlooked in consideration of his talent as a hairdresser.
Towards the middle of November La Valeur caught a chill which resulted
in congestion of the lungs. Casanova sent him to hospital, and
informed his captain. Four days later, happening to meet Camporese, he
learnt that La Valeur was dying.

"I am afraid you will not see him again," said the captain. "He has
already received the last sacrament."

Casanova was therefore, if grieved, not at all surprised to receive
from Camporese that evening the news that the man was dead. But he was
very much surprised by what accompanied the announcement.

The captain handed him a letter, a baptismal certificate, and a copper
seal bearing a coat-of-arms under a ducal coronet. The letter was in
French, of which Camporese had no knowledge, and he came now to beg
Casanova to translate it.

"I have received it," he said, "from La Valeur's confessor."

Casanova took it, marvelling, for he knew that the rude Picardy
peasant could hardly write. With a growing amazement he read the
following document:


  It is my will that this paper, written and signed by my own hand,
  shall be delivered to my captain only after my death. Until then
  my confessor can make no use of it, since he receives it from me
  under the seal of the confessional. I beg my captain so to bury me
  that my body may be exhumed should the Duke, my father, desire to
  remove it to France. I also beg him to send to the French
  Ambassador in Venice the enclosed baptismal certificate, the seal
  with the arms of my family, and a certificate of my death in
  proper form, so that all may be forwarded to my father, and that
  my rights of succession may pass to the prince, my brother. In
  witness whereof I append my signature.--François VI, Charles
  Philippe Louis Foucaud, Prince of La Rochefoucauld.


The baptismal certificate, dated from St Sulpice, bore the same name;
that of the Duke, his father, was given as François V, and that of his
mother as Gabrielle du Plessis.

Casanova read it through twice, once to himself, and once aloud to his
captain, his amazement steadily increasing. He had in his time seen
many forms of imposture, and at need practised one or two, but he
could never have conceived any swindle at once so ridiculous and
gratuitous as this, since the letter was not to be published until
after the man's death, and could therefore profit him nothing.

He smiled as he returned the letter to Camporese, but observing the
captain's awe-stricken gravity his smile incontinently became a burst
of laughter.

"I see nothing to laugh at," the captain rebuked him, scandalized.

"That is what I find so amusing," said Casanova disconcertingly. "What
are you going to do with the letter?"

"There is only one thing to do. Take it to his excellency at once."

"You will probably succeed in amusing him also," said Casanova, on
which the captain departed, too dignified to ask for explanations.

A half-hour later, as Casanova at Maroli's side was in the act of
tearing the covers from a pack of cards with which to open the bank,
Sanzonio, his fellow adjutant in the Admiral-in-Chief's service,
entered the café with the news of the real identity of La Valeur. He
had just heard it at the residence of the Proveditor-General, who was
even then issuing instructions for a funeral becoming the exalted rank
of the deceased.

Casanova smiled quietly to himself, but said nothing. He had never
held a great opinion of General Dolfino's intelligence, but he had
certainly never supposed it to be as limited as Captain Camporese's.
After all, it was none of his business; his business at present was to
empty the pockets of the eager punters facing him across the green
table, and to this he applied himself with a diligence and an
amiability which left nothing to be desired.

But at the height of the game, an hour or so later, someone touched
him on the shoulder. It was Lieutenant Minotto, the Proveditor's
aide-de-camp, who announced that his excellency was asking for
Casanova.

Casanova calmly finished the deal, then invited Maroli to take his
place. The Major did so with an ill grace, cursing the dead lackey, to
whom he attributed the interruption of a game running so smoothly in
favour of the bank.

At the Proveditor's Casanova found a considerable company, all
pervaded by an air of excitement. It was soon made evident to him that
they had swallowed La Valeur's posthumous imposture at a gulp, and he
was beginning to conclude that he was the only person in Corfu with a
proper complement of wits.

Conscious that he was being stared at as the man who had committed the
sacrilege of owning a prince for his hairdresser, he advanced through
the throng towards the beckoning Proveditor.

"So," his excellency greeted him, "your lackey was a prince."

Casanova looked into the wrinkled, arrogant, rather vulturine old face
under his heavily powdered wig. He smiled quietly.

"I should never have suspected it whilst he lived, and I don't believe
it now that he's dead," he answered.

It was an answer that sent a rustle through the company, and seemed to
put his excellency out of countenance. The great man frowned.

"How? You don't believe it, and the man's dead! You have seen his coat
of arms, and his birth certificate, as well as the letter written in
his own hand, and you must know that the hour of death is not the time
to turn comedian."

"If your excellency believes all that to be so, then my duty is to say
no more."

His excellency was annoyed. He was not accustomed to contradiction,
and here was a form of contradiction that wounded his vanity by an
implied reflection upon his acumen.

"It can't be other than true," he insisted. "Your doubt amazes me."

"It springs from the fact that I am well acquainted with the man."

His excellency snorted. He permitted himself sarcasm.

"And you are, of course, a connoisseur in princes?"

"Thanks to my opportunities of consorting with men of your
excellency's quality."

The old eyes looked sharply, but vainly, into the bold, handsome young
face to see whether any glint of mockery lurked behind the suspicious
smoothness of that courtly answer.

"Have you not seen his arms, under a ducal coronet? But perhaps you
are not aware that M. de La Rochefoucauld is a duke and a peer of
France?"

"On the contrary, excellency. I am fully aware of it. I even know that
François VI was married to a demoiselle de Vivonne."

"Bah! You know nothing."

Before that rude utterance into which his excellency's exasperation
had betrayed him, Casanova contented himself with bowing, and, as if
seeing in it his dismissal, he withdrew into the background.

He read in the eyes of some of the men about him satisfaction at what
they accounted the discomfiture of a young man who was altogether too
presumptuous.

Conversation broke out about him. He heard one praising the handsome
looks and noble air of his late valet; another extolled the rascal's
wit, and marvelled at the talent with which he had played his part so
that none had ever guessed his real identity. A lady exclaimed that
had she known him she would have succeeded in unmasking him, another
proclaimed him always gay, amiable, and obliging, without arrogance
towards his fellows, in all things a great gentleman. And then Madame
de Sagredo, the wife of one of the sea-lords of Venice, turned
provokingly upon Casanova.

"You hear, sir, what is being said of him. Surely in all the time he
was with you, you must have perceived something of this kind?"

But she was very far from putting Casanova out of countenance.

"I can only report him to you, madam, as I found him," he answered,
with a respectful inclination of his handsome head, "and I found him
very gay, as has been said, often indeed to the point of idiocy. His
only faults were that he was dirty, drunken, dissolute, obscene,
quarrelsome, and a thief. I endured him because he dressed my hair as
I like it."

A resentful silence greeted that bold speech which so flatly
contradicted the expressed opinion of the assembly, and then before
anyone could answer him, Captain Camporese entered suddenly in a great
state of excitement, and approached his excellency with the news that
the prince still breathed; that the announcement of his death had been
premature.

In a flash Casanova saw light. The imposture--how contrived he could
not think, nor did he ever discover--was not so gratuitous as he had
imagined. He saw indeed how shrewdly La Valeur had made sure of its
succeeding. And then he met the eye of General Dolfino fixed grimly
upon him.

"I shall hope," said his excellency, with a malicious air of
challenge, "that the prince may revive completely."

"I do more than hope, excellency," was the confident, smiling answer.
"I am convinced he will."

They stared at him, as if to plumb the exact depth of his meaning. His
bold, dark eyes swept slowly over those almost hostile faces.

"Gentlemen," he said slowly, "I offer you here a wager of one hundred
sequins that this rascal will recover, and a further hundred that his
imposture will be revealed, though perhaps not before he shall have
made you the dupes of it."

General Dolfino found that wager so offensive that he turned his back
upon the speaker. But Sanzonio, his fellow adjutant, an ill-favoured,
knock-kneed youngster, urged at once by his sycophancy and his
jealousy of Casanova's popularity and fame, immediately took up the
challenge.

"I will accept both those wagers," he cried, and as a result found
himself noticed for the first time since his coming to Corfu a year
ago.

Smiling, Casanova bowed to him, took out a pocket-book, and made a
note of the bet. But as he left the Proveditor's house he no longer
smiled. He began to reflect that by his assumption of wisdom in the
face of gullible ignorance he had given offence to many, including the
Proveditor himself, upon whose favour he was dependent for the
promotion that he awaited. He wondered whether he had not been
imprudent in placing so heavy a strain upon his popularity. Positive,
however, that time would prove him right, he was convinced that the
winning of the wager would re-establish him more firmly than ever. He
did not realize for all his precocious wisdom that this was precisely
what would ruin him. Could they laugh at him in the end for having
been mistaken they would forgive him. But that he should have the last
laugh as well as the first would be more than their vanity could
endure. And already he had made a mortal enemy of the Proveditor, who
was of that unforgiving temper which goes with arrogance and vanity.

The recovery of the Prince de La Rochefoucauld was a very rapid one.
Casanova heard on the morrow that he was out of danger, and on the
next day that he had been conveyed to the house of General Dolfino,
where he was lodged in a fine suite of rooms, with servants of his
own, and otherwise treated as an honoured guest. No sooner was he
pronounced convalescent than all the admirals, galley-commanders, and
officers of the garrison, following the example set by the
Proveditor-General, went with their ladies to pay their respects to
him.

Soon Casanova heard that he was going about. He was dressed like a
prince, served like a prince, and housed like a prince, and he was
well supplied with money--all delightfully provided by his host,
General Dolfino. Within a week it was whispered that he was making
flagrant love to Madame Sagredo, and that Admiral Sagredo was
beginning to display anxiety.

Casanova ceased to attend the Proveditor's receptions, and at last he
was taxed with it one day by Madame Sagredo herself.

"Having said what I have said of the man," he made answer frankly, "I
have neither the vileness nor the courage to contradict myself.
Therefore it is better that I should not come face to face with him."

Meanwhile he reminded Sanzonio that he owed him a hundred sequins--the
amount of the first of the two wagers.

"You shall be paid by the loss of the second one," Sanzonio assured
him.

"At your pleasure, sir," was the easy answer. "You are no doubt wise
to be confident. It is reported to me that he gets drunk regularly
twice a day, and falls asleep and snores in public every evening at
his excellency's receptions."

"What of that?"

"Oh, a princely custom, no doubt. I also gather that his conversation
is condescending to the point of lewdness, and that to put you all at
your ease he is so free in his habits and table-manners that were he
not a prince one must pronounce him a pig."

"You may mock as you please, but you'll pay in the end," Sanzonio
answered. "These things are nothing. If he were an impostor would he
be awaiting the reply to the General's communication to the French
ambassador in Venice?"

"You will see that he will contrive to disappear the day before it
arrives," laughed Casanova.

"Of course you would say that. But do you know that the confessor who,
he says, betrayed him, is in prison, and that the prince is appealing
to the bishop to have him unfrocked?"

"Shrewd of him, that," said Casanova, and went his way.

And then one day, going to visit Madame de Sagredo, he came face to
face with his sometime hairdresser in that patrician lady's salon. At
first he scarcely knew him, so complete was the metamorphosis wrought
by his great wig and splendid garments.

He smiled at Casanova, and advancing confidently, leaning upon a
ribboned cane, reproached him with not having been to visit him.

Casanova laughed in his face.

"You would be well advised, you rogue," he said uncompromisingly, "to
disappear before the arrival of news about you that will compel the
Proveditor-General to send you to the hulks."

"You insult me," said the prince, turning pale.

"On the contrary," said Casanova, "I give you this advice because my
nature is kind and my judgement sane."

For answer the prince boxed his ears so soundly as to leave him
half-stunned for a moment. Recovering, Casanova performed the miracle
of retaining his dignity. He bowed profoundly to Madame Sagredo, and
in the general silence--for there were at least a score of persons of
quality present--he walked slowly out, his face very white and wicked.
As the door closed behind him, he heard Admiral de Sagredo's voice
raised in anger.

"These manners in my house, sir . . ." The rest was lost to him.

He left the house, and for half an hour paced the esplanade in the
autumn sunshine. At last he beheld his sometime servant leave
Sagredo's house to return home to the Proveditor's, accompanied by two
officers of the garrison. Casanova went after him with lengthening
stride, caught him up, and hailed him, at the corner of the esplanade.

"A moment, sir."

La Valeur turned. He was pale, but very haughty, depending no doubt on
his companions to see that he suffered no violence. Casanova took a
grandiloquent tone.

"No man shall live," he said, "who can boast of having struck me. I
rejoice to see that you wear a sword. If you will have the goodness to
follow me, you shall have an opportunity of using it. These gentlemen
will no doubt be good enough to act as witnesses."

"Sir," said La Valeur, in a voice that might have been steadier to
match his general haughtiness. "I have no satisfaction to render you.
I owe you none."

"Let me then become the debtor in that respect," replied Casanova, and
struck him sharply with his cane.

The officers attempted to intervene. But Casanova with swinging cane
waved them impatiently aside.

"Sirs, this is an affair between gentlemen. The prince will no doubt
require your services."

But the prince was reduced by now to a state of terror.

"I take you to witness, gentlemen . . ." he was beginning, when
Casanova's cane descending a second time swept off his hat and knocked
his wig awry.

"Your highness is desired to fight, not to make speeches. But if you
prefer to be caned, that is your own affair. Which shall it be?"

La Valeur appealed in terror to his companions. The officers remained
contemptuously unresponsive. He proclaimed himself a prince, and wore
a sword, yet did not draw it when struck by a cane. His bearing now
did more to convince them that he was an impostor than any formal
proofs that could have been urged. Far from intervening, they drew
aside. The prince's remedy lay in his sword. If he chose to draw it,
they would see that he had fair play, but until he did so they did not
consider that by the code of honour they had any right to interfere
after what already had occurred.

And so it befell that La Valeur found himself entirely at the mercy of
his aggressor, an aggressor who knew no mercy. The cane, smartly
wielded, descended again and again with ever-increasing force. At
first each blow was followed by an invitation to him to draw his
sword. Then the invitations ceased, and the blows continued, until
howling from pain and terror La Valeur went down under them, and lay
moaning on the ground, half-stunned and smothered in blood.

Then at last Casanova paused, perhaps from sheer weariness. He
readjusted his ruffles, doffed his hat to the two officers, and
passing through the crowd of spectators that had meanwhile assembled,
he went to the café and called for a glass of lemonade without sugar
to precipitate the bitter saliva which his rage had excited.

He was very shortly followed by Lieutenant Minotto, the Proveditor's
adjutant, who brought him an order from his excellency to report
himself immediately under arrest to Captain Foscari on board the
/Bastarda/. Now the /Bastarda/ was a galley where all under arrest
were chained like convicts.

Casanova turned pale and stiffened at that command. It was an infamy
on the part of General Dolfino, a vile, tyrannical abuse of power to
satisfy a personal spite. The degradation of the /Bastarda/ was not
for officers in the service of the Republic, and certainly not for an
officer who had committed no offence against the laws of honour,
whether La Valeur were a hairdresser or a prince. He quivered with
rage, and I doubt if there were enough lemons in Corfu to correct his
present condition. Yet after a moment's silence he controlled himself.

"Very well, sir," he answered stiffly. Whereupon Minotto, who was
himself ill at ease, made haste with withdraw.

Casanova went out a moment later, but at the end of the street,
instead of turning towards the esplanade he made straight for the
beach. Come what might, he would not submit to being chained like a
convict, with all the accompanying degradation. In his rage he could
not reason beyond that point.

Striding along the beach he came presently upon an empty boat. A mile
or so out to sea a fishing vessel was lazily drifting. Casanova pushed
the boat into the water, jumped in, took up the oars and rowed out to
the vessel. Boarding it, and abandoning the boat, he bribed the
skipper to hoist sail and take him away, anywhere. The result was that
they landed him at midnight on the island of Casopo, twenty miles from
Corfu.

It may be that his aim was to remain there for a few weeks, until he
judged that the imposture of La Valeur should have been discovered, or
it may be that he had no plan at all, and simply abandoned himself to
the winds of chance, as was his custom when in difficulties. He is not
clear on this point, and as for the ridiculous story of how he spent
the time on Casopo, I do not believe a word of it. The real truth of
the matter, as is established from another source, is that he spent
the fortnight during which his visit lasted as the guest of the Greek
priest, who was in a way the governor of that romantic island.

And then one day at the end of that fortnight, an armed sloop dropped
anchor in the bay, that was overlooked by the priest's house; a boat
put off, and brought Lieutenant Minotto ashore. Casanova went to meet
the visitor.

"I suppose you have come for me?" he said.

"That is so," the lieutenant replied, "and I am glad to find you
looking so fresh and well."

"What exactly is your business with me?"

"In the first place to ask for your sword. You are under arrest as a
deserter."

"That is serious," said Casanova. "So serious that I might decide to
defend myself, yielding only to force."

Minotto smiled in deprecation. "That would be foolish on two counts.
In the first place, I have ample force with me to compel you. I
refrained from bringing my men ashore, because I preferred to come as
your friend. In the second place, you have really nothing to fear.
Your arrest is a formal matter. General Dolfino will wish to avoid the
publicity which proceedings against you would entail, as in view of
all that has happened he would cover himself with ridicule."

"What has happened?"

"Four days ago a frigate came from Venice with letters from the French
Ambassador, as a consequence of which the prince, your hairdresser,
was promptly placed under arrest on board a galley bound for home."

Casanova was surprised.

"How came the rascal to wait for that to happen?"

"He couldn't help himself. He was still in hospital as a consequence
of the thrashing you gave him. You broke one of his arms. The General,
of course, has divulged nothing of what was in the Ambassador's
dispatches. But Corfu has guessed the truth, and you will find
yourself more esteemed than ever as the only man who had the wit not
to be deceived by that impostor. So that in returning with me you have
nothing to fear."

Thus Casanova was persuaded, and the more readily since he was
practically without means. His funds in Maroli's faro bank amounted at
the moment to some three thousand sequins. But in the haste of his
departure he had neglected to obtain supplies from him, and of course
from Casopo there had been no means of communicating with his partner.
In this connection a desolating shock awaited him. One of the first
pieces of news Minotto gave him of events at Corfu since his departure
was that there had been a horrible fracas one evening at the faro
table, one of the punters who had been losing heavily accusing Major
Maroli of dishonest play, and threatening to bring the matter to the
attention of the Proveditor-General. As a consequence the major had
decamped from Corfu next day, leaving a mass of unpaid debts behind
him.

The news was within an ace of turning Casanova physically sick. At a
blow he had lost three thousand sequins, which in itself was a
considerable fortune, and he could blame only himself for having left
his funds so trustingly in the bank of a professional gamester. His
resilient nature, however, did not long permit him to remain downcast.
There was at least the wager of two hundred sequins which Sanzonio had
lost to him; in his clever hands that sum should become the seed of a
fresh fortune in which he would have no partners.

Immediately on landing he was conducted by Minotto to the Proveditor's
residence. General Dolfino received him with hostile coolness, being
rendered the more resentful by the fact that he dare not now openly
punish Casanova without overwhelming himself with a ridicule even
greater than that under which he lay already on the score of the false
prince.

"So," the General welcomed him, "to the offence of disobedience you
have now added the crime of desertion."

"The circumstances, I respectfully submit to your excellency, are
extenuating."

"No circumstances, sir, can extenuate insubordination. I should be
within my rights in sending you to the galleys. If out of several
considerations I decline to do so, at least I cannot permit you to
remain in Corfu. You disobeyed me once. You certainly shall have no
chance of disobeying me again."

"I do not think, excellency," said Casanova coolly, feeling himself
entirely master of the situation, "that you show a proper gratitude.
In what case would you be now if I had obeyed you, if I had submitted
to the unjust punishment to which through a misapprehension you
condemned me?"

"Do you presume to question me?"

His excellency's face turned purple.

"Hardly. But I venture to hope that when your excellency shall have
considered further, you will decide to reward me with the lieutenancy
that was promised me some time ago."

"The lieutenancy?" said the General, and he laughed maliciously. "It
fell vacant in your absence, and has been conferred upon your fellow
ensign, Sanzonio, who understands better than yourself the duties of
an officer. He left yesterday for Constantinople on an important
mission."

That was a blow that struck Casanova's confidence dead. It was not so
much the loss of the lieutenancy as that Sanzonio had gone without
paying him the two hundred sequins--all that had stood between himself
and destitution. Looking into the evilly smiling old eyes of Dolfino,
Casanova knew that the General had deliberately done this vindictively
to rob him. Instinctively, he realized too that the fracas which had
resulted in Maroli's flight was also of his excellency's contriving to
the same purpose, and almost his excellency's next words confirmed it.

"Then there is this unsavoury business of a faro bank which you ran in
partnership with Major Maroli." Dolfino leered. "It has transpired
that all was not conducted honestly at that bank, and Maroli has
confirmed the charge by decamping."

Casanova stiffened: his eyes blazed.

"If any man dare to impute dishonest practices to me I'll ram the
imputation down his dirty throat with my sword."

"Well, well," said his excellency coolly, "that is no affair of mine.
But it is my affair to see discipline observed here, and one so
careless of it as yourself cannot remain. You will therefore return to
Venice at once, and report yourself there to the Secretary for War. In
my own opinion," he ended contemptuously, "the profession of arms is
little suited to a man of your character."

Casanova looked him steadily in the eye for a long moment. Then with a
wicked smile, "Of course, your excellency," he said, "is an unerring
judge of character and of men, even of princes, as I shall assure them
in Venice when I get there."

It was all the vengeance that it lay within his power to take for so
much harm suffered. But seeing the general white and trembling,
mouthing and snarling like an infuriated but infirm old mountain cat,
he departed satisfied for the moment.

He returned to Venice, a simple ensign, as he had left it nine months
earlier, as a result of knowing some men too well and others not well
enough. He was forced for the second time to sell his jewels to defray
the expenses of the journey, and finding himself without funds soon
after his arrival he was obliged to sell his commission for rather
less than he had paid for it.

Thus ended his priesthood of Mars.



THE ORACLE


In April 1746, Casanova's declining fortunes reached their nadir.
After months of vicissitudes, in which he had snatched a precarious
livelihood by lowly and often questionable means, he found himself
reduced to scraping a fiddle in the orchestra of San Samuele. The
fortuity which rescued him justified him of his unfaltering fatalism.

The orchestra of which he was an incompetent member--for his talents,
great and varied as they were, did not lean towards fiddling--was
engaged for a ball at the patrician house of Soranzo. He was departing
thence alone an hour before daybreak, and chanced to descend the
staircase in the wake of a gentleman wearing the scarlet robes and
full-bottomed wig of the senator. A letter fluttered from the great
man's pocket. Casanova picked it up, and quickening his steps,
restored it to its owner as he was on the point of entering a
magnificent gondola, manned by liveried gondoliers.

The senator, a tall man of a noble, handsome countenance, turned
kindly eyes upon the fiddler in his rusty, threadbare garments,
thanked him as one thanks an equal, and having asked him where he
lived, proposed to carry him home.

Gratefully Casanova stepped on board, and took the place to which the
senator invited him on the cabin seat. Swiftly the swan-like boat
glided from the radiance of the illuminated palace into the deep
shadows of the Canal Regio. Awhile they sat in a silence broken only
by the creak and swish of the great oars and the gurgle of the water
at the prow. Then the patrician, stirring in the gloom, complained of
a numbness in his left arm, and begged his companion to rub it.
Scarcely had Casanova begun to comply when the senator hurtled heavily
against him.

"The numbness," he said, articulating indistinctly, "is spreading to
the whole of my left side. Oh, my God!" he groaned. "I think I am
dying."

Alarmed, Casanova sprang up, swept aside the leather curtains, and
snatched the lantern from the poop. Holding it aloft, he beheld the
patrician huddled on the seat, ghastly of countenance, with twisted
mouth and moribund eyes.

In the course of his considerable studies Casanova had dabbled in
medicine, and had learnt enough to recognize here a case of apoplectic
seizure.

He shouted to the gondoliers to land him and wait. He leapt ashore and
almost dragged a reluctant surgeon from his bed, and drove him out
into the chill air of dawn in night-cap, dressing-gown and slippers to
the waiting gondola.

There he ordered him at once to bleed the stricken senator, whilst
tearing his own shirt into strips to provide bandages. That done, he
commanded the gondoliers to make for home at the double. Soon they
skimmed alongside of a handsome palace at Santa Marina, and servants
were roused to carry their almost lifeless master to bed, Casanova
following and superintending, so authoritative in manner that none
dared question his right.

The famous and popular Senator Bragadino, a bachelor, enjoying a
reputation for wit and learning and a leaning towards abstract
science, had no family. He lived alone with a retinue of servants
becoming his rank, and these servants no doubt welcomed the orders of
one who obviously assumed responsibility in this crisis.

The senator's own physician, Doctor Terro, when fetched, prescribed at
once a further blood-letting, thus approving what Casanova had already
done. When Terro departed, Casanova remained on watch by the bedside,
and there he was found an hour later by two patrician gentlemen, named
Dandolo and Barbaro, who were Bragadino's closest friends, and who had
been hurriedly summoned.

Although no more aware than the servants of Casanova's identity, and
although his presence surprised them, and his appearance, rendered
shabbier than ever by the sacrifice of his shirt, was hardly
prepossessing, they hesitated to question him, so imposing was his
manner, so bold and masterful his glance.

At noon he dined in the palace with the two patricians, and few were
the words exchanged. But towards evening they came to him, and Messer
Dandolo spoke for both.

"As no doubt, sir, you will have affairs of your own," he said, "and
as we shall spend the night in the patient's room, you may depart when
you please."

Casanova considered them gravely. Fate had thrust him into this
strange position, and he would not have Fate thwarted in her
intentions concerning him, whatever they might be.

"Sirs," he answered them, "I shall spend the night by the bedside. For
if I depart the patient will die; and I know that he will live so long
as I am here."

They stared at him, and then at each other, in utter stupefaction; but
there was no further talk of his departure. Later, he was to learn how
calculated was his sententiousness to impress these two gentlemen who
with Bragadino composed a trinity secretly devoted to the study of the
occult.

That evening Doctor Terro prescribed applications of mercury for the
almost lifeless senator stretched on that magnificent canopied bed.
The immediate result of this violent treatment was a reanimation of
the patient, which greatly delighted the two friends, whilst vaguely
alarming Casanova. His uneasiness increased his watchfulness. By
midnight, finding Bragadino all on fire, so exhausted that he scarcely
breathed, his staring eyes dull and lack lustre, he roused the
slumbering friends.

"Unless relieved of these infernal plasters he will die," he
pronounced, and at once uncovered the patient's breast, removed the
plasters, and bathed him gently with warm water. Relief followed
immediately, Bragadino's breathing became regular and free, and within
a few minutes he had fallen into a peaceful sleep.

The delight of the patricians was as great as the anger of Terro next
morning. Storming that this audacious interference with his treatment
was enough to kill the senator, he demanded to know who was guilty of
it. It was Bragadino himself who answered the angry question.

"Doctor," he said gently, "I was delivered from your plasters, which
were suffocating me, by a greater physician than yourself," and he
indicated Casanova, who stood by.

"In that case," said Terro, "I had better relinquish my place to him,"
and on that he departed livid with mortification.

Thus you behold Casanova physician to one of the most illustrious
members of the Venetian Senate. His self-assurance did not suffer the
responsibility to alarm him. He assumed it readily, assuring the
patient that now that the best season of the year was approaching
careful dieting was the only medicine he required. That he was right
was proved by the rapidity of Bragadino's recovery.

One day a cousin of the senator's who came to see him professed
amazement that Bragadino should have chosen a fiddler for a doctor.
Bragadino, who had already exchanged his bed for an armchair, looked
gravely at his cousin.

"If he is a fiddler, as you say, he is a fiddler who knows more
medicine than all the physicians in Venice: a fiddler who has twice
saved my life by the promptitude and soundness of his judgement--once
in the gondola, when he had me bled, and again here when he relieved
me of Terro's plasters, which were killing me. Tell that in Venice,
cousin."

But when the cousin had departed, Bragadino turned to Casanova and
invited him to explain himself. Briefly Casanova sketched his story to
the senator and the two patricians, who were present. How at the age
of sixteen he had taken a doctor's degree in canon law; how it had
been intended that he should enter the Church; how, discovering in
himself no vocation, he had acquired a commission in the army of the
Republic; how, fortune abandoning him, he had sold his commission and
gone from bad to worse, until for all his talents and his learning he
was obliged to scrape a fiddle for a livelihood. Of his humble
origin--that he was the son of an actor and a cobbler's daughter--he
said no word, and from his appearance now none would have suspected
it. The fiddler's rags had given place to a handsome satin suit,
provided him by order of his illustrious patient, which did justice to
his fine, tall figure. His luxuriant chestnut hair was becomingly
coiffed and clubbed, and his swarthy aquiline young face was of an
ultra-patrician haughtiness. But his physical attractions were
overshadowed by his mental gifts, and his ability in parading them. He
was beginning to wonder how this rather extraordinary adventure would
end for him when at last Chance pointed out the way. It is not every
man would have been as quick to perceive the pointing finger, or to
follow the road it indicated.

"Do you know," said Dandolo, one day, "that for so young a man you are
too learned. There is something unnatural in your knowledge."

Barbaro nodded his head approvingly. But Bragadino went further; he
smiled the smile of the man who knows.

"I have long since reached a conclusion," he announced. "I am
convinced that he owes it to supernatural agency." He turned to
Casanova. "Will you not be frank with us, my friend?"

I have said that Bragadino dabbled in abstract sciences. Yet this was
the first hint of it that Casanova had received. The discovery coming
so abruptly, conveyed in that direct question, left him for a moment
speechless.

"You hesitate to answer me, I see," said Bragadino.

Upon the instant the young adventurer took his resolve.

"Why should I, after all?" he said, and without further reflection
embarked upon the most flagrant imposture he had ever perpetrated. "I
possess the secret of a numerical calculation by which I can learn
whatever I desire to know!"

"A numerical calculation?" echoed Bragadino. He seemed disappointed.

Casanova elaborated, inventing briskly. "By means of a question, which
I write down and convert into numbers, I obtain, similarly in numbers,
an answer which gives me whatever information I seek, information
which no one in the world could supply me."

"That," said Bragadino, further revealing his vulnerability, "must be
/The Clavicula of Solomon/, vulgarly termed the Cabala."

"Where did you learn this science?" asked Barbaro.

"From an old hermit who lived on Mount Carpegna," Casanova lied
glibly.

"Ah!" cried Bragadino, after the fashion of one who suddenly sees
light. "The hermit taught you the mode of calculation, but since
simple numbers of themselves cannot reason, it is clear that he
attached to you without your knowledge an invisible intelligence to be
your real guide."

Casanova's fine eyes kindled as with sudden understanding.

"You may be right. The hermit spoke of one Paralis who would answer.
It must be as you say. Paralis is the tutelary spirit, the invisible
intelligence, of which you speak."

He was excited by the discovery, and they shared his excitement,
particularly the senator, who took visible pride in having made it.

"You possess," he told Casanova, "a wonderful, inestimable treasure,
and it is for you to turn it to account."

"But how?" said Casanova, as indeed he was wondering. "On the few
occasions when I have tried it, the replies have been often so obscure
as to discourage me. And yet," he added thoughtfully, "if I had not
had recourse to it when last I did, I should never have had the good
fortune to know and serve your Excellency."

The three sat forward intrigued, begging him to explain.

"I asked my oracle whether at the Soranzo ball I should meet anyone
who mattered to me. I obtained this answer. 'Leave the ball at the
tenth hour of night.' I obeyed, and--you know the result."

Those amiable, credulous gentlemen were petrified. Then Messer Dandolo
stirred himself.

"Will you obtain me an answer to a question I shall set you on a
matter known only to myself?" he asked.

Casanova was taken aback. But having rashly engaged himself, he must
summon effrontery to carry the thing through.

"Why not, sir?"

He drew a gilded chair to the handsome ormolu-encrusted secretaire,
sat down and took up a pen.

Messer Dandolo propounded a question so obscure that Casanova had no
inkling of what was at issue. No matter. He wrote it down, translated
it (quite arbitrarily) into numbers, and set down the answer also in
numbers, pyramidically arranged. And now his general learning, and in
particular his intimacy with the classic authors, served him well. He
was familiar with the pronouncements of the Delphic oracle, and its
machinery of ambiguity. Gradually he evolved an answer as cryptic as
the question itself.

Messer Dandolo conned it slowly twice; then the meaning which only
himself could read into it must have been revealed to him, for he
cried that this was wonderful, divine, incredible.

Bragadino sagely nodded his handsome head.

"It is as I said," he reminded them. "The numbers are a mere vehicle.
The reply itself proceeds from an immortal intelligence." And he
added: "Let me ask a question."

Casanova perceived that there is no more insidious form of
self-delusion than the over-eagerness of the fervent student of
occultism to discover occult manifestations, and so gathered courage.
After Bragadino's test came Barbaro's, and so shrewdly ambiguous were
Casanova's answers that both were at least as convinced as Dandolo of
the divine nature of Paralis.

And then Bragadino evinced a desire very natural in a student of
abstract sciences whose studies had hitherto yielded him no practical
return.

"How long," he asked, "would it take you to teach me the calculation?"

"Not long. But--" and Casanova hung his head, "there is an obstacle.
The hermit warned me that if I ever divulged the secret my death would
follow within three days." They stared at him in awe. "After all," he
added, "the threat may have been an idle one."

"You are very wrong to assume that," Bragadino gravely answered him,
"and you would be mad to incur the risk."

There was no further question of his teaching them the calculation.
And he shrewdly foresaw that if they could not possess the secret they
would seek at least to possess the holder of it. In Casanova they
believed they had found the means of communicating with supernatural
intelligences, celestial and infernal, and of mastering all the
secrets of the world, and soon he found himself established as the
hierophant of these three wealthy and potent gentlemen.

They made frequent demands upon Paralis now, and Casanova with
practice became more and more skilled in answering after the Delphic
manner.

One day of early summer, by when the senator's recovery was so
complete that he was able to resume his attendance at the senate, he
set a hand upon Casanova's shoulder, and affectionately addressed him.

"Whoever you may be, I owe you my life and more. Those who sought to
make of you a doctor, a lawyer, a priest, a soldier, were fools who
did not know you. Heaven ordained that you should come to me, who know
and appreciate you. If you will become my adopted son you have but to
recognize in me your father, and in my house your home. You shall have
apartments, servants, and a gondola of your own, a place at my table,
and ten sequins a month, which is more than my father allowed me at
your age. The future need give you no concern."

Casanova went down on his knees and kissed the hand of that noble,
kindly gentleman, who thus raised him to the rank of a gentleman of
the Serene Republic. I hope he felt ashamed of himself. But I doubt
it.

And then as if to provide him with the means of affording a crowning
proof of the omniscience of his oracle, he met the Countess Angela. He
was taking the air one afternoon on the Square of St Mark, pleasantly
conscious that his whaleboned coat became him, when he saw her alight
from the Ferrara barge. She was dressed in a long blue
travelling-cloak, her face lost in the shadows of a hood. He observed
her hesitating, uncertain attitude as she stood there, a small valise
in her hand, and he was utterly taken by surprise when suddenly she
started towards him, and he heard her pronounce his name. The voice at
least being pleasant, off came his laced hat, and he made her a leg
very gracefully, whilst those fine eyes of his stabbed the depths of
the concealing hood.

"Heaven," she cried, "must surely have sent you to assist me."

"Not a doubt of it," he said promptly. Since his discovery of Paralis
he was growing accustomed to being regarded as a celestial envoy. And
then at last he knew her for a noble Roman child whom he had met once
or twice at the receptions given by Cardinal Acquaviva when, a year or
so ago, he had been one of that prelate's secretaries. But this
acquaintance had naturally been of the slightest; between him and the
young women of the Roman aristocracy intimacies were not at all
encouraged. It amazed him that he should remember her, but not at all
that she should remember him. You see, he never suffered from any lack
of self-esteem.

He desired her to command him, and tremulously she answered that she
would be profoundly in his debt if he would escort her to the house of
Messer Barbaro, her uncle.

Now it happened that Messer Barbaro was away in Padua, and not
expected to return for a week or two. He told her so.

"In Padua? What then am I to do? I am in sorest trouble. Where can I
go?"

She stood, white and faltering, and Casanova observed her lip to
tremble. That and her soft young loveliness undid him.

"Would it help you to confide in me?" he gently invited.

"If I dared!"

He relieved her at once of her ridiculous valise.

"Come this way," he said, "and keep your hood close."

At the same time he covered his face with a mask, too common a
Venetian custom with men of fashion, especially when escorting ladies,
to provoke much notice.

He led her to an obscure wine-shop mid-way down a narrow street.
There, across an isolated table, they faced each other and she told
her story.

"Sir," she said, by way of preface, "you'll think me mad or abandoned
to have thrust myself so shamelessly upon you. But I am at the point
of despair, in a strange city where I know none but my uncle, Messer
Barbaro, and even of his welcome I can be none too sure, considering
the manner of my coming. In addressing you, I acted upon impulse,
believing in my distraught condition that a miracle had brought you to
my aid. Say, sir, that you forgive me."

"I should find it harder to forgive you had neglected to obey an
impulse that was so clearly an inspiration."

"You might not have known me again," she murmured, trembling.

"In that case I should not have deserved the honour of your
confidence, which I am now awaiting."

"Tell me first: do you know here in Venice a young patrician named
Zanetto Steffani?"

"There is a young noble of that name who enjoys the reputation of
being the most dissolute scoundrel in the Republic. I believe him to
be absent from home just now. He is not, I hope, a friend of yours?"

Her answer staggered him. "He is my lover--my affianced husband."

Then came her piteous story. She was to have made a marriage arranged
for her by her father, Count Tagliavia; but heeding instead what she
believed to be the call of love, she had secretly fled from Rome with
the scoundrel Steffani, who was to bring her to Venice, and there make
her his wife. But at Ferrara they encountered a young gentleman
towards whose sister Steffani had already contracted a similar
obligation, a young gentleman who had been seeking Steffani up and
down Italy for months. Through a thin partition dividing her room from
that in which this meeting took place, the Countess Angela overheard
the young champion of his sister's honour give Steffani to choose
between death and marriage. A blow was struck, and Steffani fled the
place, leaving the young man unconscious. (Casanova did not see what
else Steffani could have done in the circumstances.) Thus the too
confiding young Countess found herself alone in Ferrara, with her
discovery of her lover's perfidy.

"What was I do to?" she cried. "Return home to my father I dared not,
as you will perhaps understand. So I came on to Venice, hoping for the
protection of my uncle, until I can avenge myself upon the monster who
has ruined my life."

And she drew from her massed black hair a slender blade some eight
inches long. Casanova shivered to discover such blood-thirst in so
lovely a child. Then, as he watched her, the fierceness died out of
her glance. It became troubled, and it was with fumbling, unsteady
fingers that she re-sheathed the stiletto in her hair.

"But now you tell me that Messer Barbaro is away from Venice. What am
I to do?"

The sympathetic Casanova addressed himself at once to the task of
soothing her.

"But he will return--in a week perhaps. You must wait for him."

"Where can I wait? Who will take me in?"

"I know a widow of unimpugnable respectability with lodgings to let
not far from here."

It was settled--what choice had she?--and he presented her to the
widow as a niece of Messer Barbaro, who sought lodgings for a few
days. At mention of that patrician name, and observing that this
masked gentleman was richly dressed, and the lady of an air and
carriage that bore out the tale of her high connections, the widow
became at once solicitous.

Casanova left the Countess in her care, and departed thoughtful. He
had protected the girl partly because she was Barbaro's niece, and
partly because her romantic air and delicate loveliness assured him
that it would be pleasant to protect her. And as the days passed, and
as each day he went to visit her and beguile for an hour or so the
tedium of her waiting, he began to wish that Messer Barbaro's return
might be indefinitely postponed. She was in need, poor child, of
consolation, and he began to see himself in the role of the consoler.
Also because he found himself more gladly welcomed each day, and this
friendship grew apace, he walked with his head in the clouds and began
to dream dreams, until, confronted suddenly with brutal reality, he
awakened from them, and came sharply down to earth again.

The brutal reality took the shape of her father. One day, a week after
Angela's coming, on returning home from his daily visit to her, he was
summoned to the presence of his adoptive father, and found in his
company a tall, stern-faced old gentleman whom he was startled to hear
announced to him as Count Tagliavia.

"The Count," said Messer Bragadino, "has sought me in the absence of
his kinsman Barbaro to assist him in a very delicate matter. His
daughter ran away from home three weeks ago, leaving a letter
announcing that she was going to the man she loved. He has traced her
to Venice, and discovered that on landing here she was met by a man
who was presumably her lover. The Count desires to place the matter
before the Council of Ten. But it has occurred to me that you, my son,
might assist him first to track the fugitives. I have told him of your
gift--under pledge of secrecy, of course."

You conceive how taken aback he was, and what doubts he conceived on
the score of his position. Let it be known that Angela was living, in
a sense, under his protection, and would any explanation persuade this
austere, fire-breathing parent that Casanova was not himself the
guilty man? Was he not persuaded already that the man who met her was
her lover?--And was not that man indeed Casanova himself? It was even
possible that he had been seen and recognized. He perceived here two
necessities equally urgent--to protect himself and to serve the young
Countess.

Slowly, at last, he propounded a question.

"Will the Count tell me precisely what information he desires from
Paralis, and how he proposes to use it when obtained?"

"In the first place," said the Count, speaking haughtily and
half-contemptuously, as if he did this thing but out of courtesy to
humour Bragadino, "I desire to know the name of the villain who has
abducted her, and where they are to be found. Then if he be of worthy
rank either they shall be married at once, or I will kill the man and
bury the girl in a convent for the remainder of her days."

"And if his rank should not fit him for the amende?" quoth Casanova.

The Count's face empurpled, the veins of his forehead stood out like
strands of whipcord. His answer came in a roar of fury.

"It is impossible my daughter should have abased herself to that
extent, but if it should prove so, then--God helping me--I will efface
the dishonour by killing both."

Here, thought Casanova, was an amiable gentleman with whose daughter
to have made free. He sat down, took up a pen, and wrote down his
double-question, converting it into numbers under their
eyes--Bragadino's eager, the Count's scornfully sceptical. He built
his numbers into a pyramid, and extracted the reply in numbers, which
once more he converted into words.

For once Paralis discarded all Delphic obscurities. The answer ran
thus:

"I will reply completely when the father is disposed to seek his
daughter in a spirit of forgiveness, abandoning all intentions of
wedding her to the patrician Zanetto Steffani who carried her off, but
from whom she fled in time to save herself; nor need he trouble
himself with vengeance, for Steffani is condemned to death by the will
of Heaven."

This last daring sentence Casanova was inspired to add by a sudden
vision of a young champion of a sister's honour, scouring Italy
athirst for Steffani's blood.

As Tagliavia read, the scorn and scepticism perished from his face. A
blank amazement overspread it.

"Steffani!" he cried. "Zanetto Steffani! Why, how blind I have been!
He was in Rome for a month before she disappeared. He saw her
frequently, and he quitted Rome at the same time."

Bragadino rubbed his hands. "You see, you see!" he purred delightedly.
Affectionately he patted the shoulder of his adopted son. "Did I not
say that Paralis is divine?"

"It transcends belief!" cried the stupefied Count. "But my daughter?
Where is she?"

"Paralis promises to tell you when you abandon your present project."

His face grew overcast, his mouth stern. "Paralis asks too much," he
answered. "The honour of my family demands the marriage, the world
demands it."

"A man may be too much concerned with worldly considerations," the
philosophical Bragadino reproved him gently. But no persuasion could
alter the Count's fixed intent. It was idle to remind him that here
was a heavenly command. His feet were firmly planted upon earth, and
so in the end he departed to seek worldly aid to recover his
daughter.

"At least your oracle has shown me where to look," he said at parting.
"I will begin with the Palazo Steffani."

He went his ways, leaving Bragadino saddened by this instance of
obstinate obtuseness, and Casanova uneasy as to the results that might
attend the Count's enquiries, so uneasy indeed that on the morrow, for
once, he denied himself the joy of visiting Angela, fearful lest he
should be detected. But whilst he sat in his room a servant came to
summon him to the senator. Tagliavia was come again, and with him now
was his kinsman Barbaro, who had that day returned to Venice.

The Count turned to Casanova as he entered. "The mystery, sir," he
announced, "is deeper than your oracle would seem to imply. I have
made further enquiries. Steffani is not in Venice, nor has been for
the last two months."

Casanova frowned as if puzzled. "Perhaps your daughter is not in
Venice?"

"I have it positively from the master of the Ferrara barge that she
landed here. It was he who told me that she was joined immediately on
landing by a man who must have been her lover. He tells me now this
man was tall; whilst Steffani is short."

"You assume too much, I think," said Casanova coldly. "Appearances can
be deceptive; and whilst your information depends upon human
perception, mine is derived from a supernatural intelligence which
cannot err."

The Count dismissed this interjection with a gesture of impatience.

"Four persons who saw them together claim to have recognized the man,
although he wore a mask. Unhappily, each gives a different name. But I
intend to denounce the names of all four to the Council of Ten. Here
is the note."

And he read out the names of the men alleged to have been seen with
the Countess. The last name he pronounced was Casanova's own.

Hearing it, Casanova threw back his head in a gesture of well-feigned
indignant surprise, whilst peals of laughter broke from Barbaro and
Bragadino. Amazed, the Count stared at them. "You find it amusing?" he
said icily.

It was Bragadino who explained. "I did not tell you that this my son
is so only by adoption. The last name on that paper is his
own--Giacomo di Casanova. And what should he know of your daughter,
who has not been in Rome for over a year, and who for the last three
months has scarcely been out of my house, and certainly never out of
Venice?"

Tagliavia was overwhelmed with confusion. Unreservedly he accepted the
explanation, and as unreservedly tendered his apologies.

"Let it be a lesson to you, Count," said Casanova, "of the error to
which human perception is prone. Can you seriously oppose such
testimony to my oracle's infallible pronouncement?"

"Then I will not rest," cried Tagliavia, "until I have found Steffani,
and compelled him to confess and atone."

"But if not dead already the man soon will be," Bragadino said. "You
remember the oracle's pronouncement? Will you avenge yourself upon
your daughter by compelling her to marry a notorious scoundrel doomed
by the justice of heaven?"

The Count's affection for his daughter struggled with his pride of
family. And if affection did not yet carry the day, Casanova, assured
that he must come to it in the end, confidently planned the issue. He
whispered at parting to Barbaro to bring the Count again next day.
Then, after they had left he went out in his turn and, changing
gondolas three times so as to throw off any possible pursuit, reached
the widow's house.

He threw Angela into a panic by announcing her father's presence in
Venice. But he made haste to convince her that he was working
diligently to obtain her pardon, and without divulging too much yet
knew in his compelling way how to persuade her to be guided absolutely
by his counsel.

"You will take a gondola at nightfall," he instructed her, "and go
straight to your kinsman Messer Barbaro, who has returned and who will
gladly give you shelter."

"But he will betray my presence to my father!"

Her lovely eyes dilated in alarm.

"He will not," Casanova assured her confidently. "He knows your
father's frame of mind, and he will say no word of your presence until
the Count's humour has become entirely one of forgiveness, as I
promise you that it shall."

Thus he succeeded in persuading her.

"You will tell Messer Barbaro that you followed Steffani to Venice,
that he had promised to marry you on your arrival, but that you have
not seen him since you came. All this is true, remember. Say further
that you awaited him in the house of a respectable widow. Avoid
divulging her name, and above all make no slightest mention of me lest
you ruin everything."

"Ah, never that!" she cried. "You must remain my friend. My father
shall thank you for all that you have done for me. What might I not
have become if you had not come to my aid?"

"The thanks your father would render me might considerably discompose
me," said Casanova grimly. "You could do nothing so likely to make me
regret befriending you as that. Promise me, then, that my name shall
never cross your lips; that you will forget the insignificant part I
have played in this."

"How can I ever forget . . ." she began, and faltered. Her lids
fluttered down over her eyes, a faint surge of colour showed itself in
her cheeks, and with a sigh she ended by promising to do his will. He
departed in a dangerous state of emotionalism, convinced that it was
high time to set a term to his odd relations with the too tender
daughter of the fire-eating Count.

Next day precisely at noon Barbaro came again to Bragadino's with
Tagliavia. Casanova observed in Barbaro a vague uneasiness, a
furtiveness of glance, that told him all had fallen out as he had
planned. The Count looked pale and harassed, and he had lost all the
ferocity of manner that had earlier marked him.

"I have sought all day and almost all night in vain," he announced
brokenly. "My daughter!"

They comforted him, and gradually Bragadino suggested he should
consult Paralis once more. He consented, and Casanova sat down to make
his pyramid. He laboured awhile at his numbers, then threw down the
pen.

"There is no answer," he announced. "It must be because your
intentions are not yet what Paralis demands."

The Count protested that he was ready to pardon his daughter.

"But Paralis demands that your spirit shall be purely one of
forgiveness."

"I am but human," said the Count impatiently, thereby confirming
Casanova's doubts.

For three days he was not seen again. And when at last he came his
mood appeared so thoroughly chastened that Casanova produced from his
oracle the following revelation:

"Angela, who was lured away by arts of magic, has for the past four
days been safe in her kinsman's house, where the father may embrace
her when he will."

The Count read it aloud, his eagerness changing to disappointment and
contempt. "But this is nonsense," he cried, and Bragadino looked
alarmed.

"It is not nonsense," answered Barbaro, in a voice that quivered with
excitement. "It is the truth most wonderfully revealed. She has been
at my house since Wednesday night, poor child."

"And you never told me?"

The Count looked round. Then slowly his lips parted in a bitter smile.

"The oracle is explained," he sneered.

But Barbaro and Bragadino pledged their honour that he was mistaken,
that he wronged them grossly by this suggestion, that the oracle's
pronouncement was a pure miracle.

And then a miracle happened indeed. Came Messer Dandolo into the room
in a breathless state, with dilating eyes.

"Did not Paralis foretell the speedy death of Steffani? Well, he is
dead--I have just heard the news."

"Dead!" they all echoed, awe-stricken, and none more deeply than
Casanova himself.

"Dead to the world at least," Dandolo explained. "He has become a
monk!"

Then Bragadino gave vent to his wonder, seeing in this constructive
death a greater mark of the divine wisdom of Paralis than if Steffani
had actually perished in the flesh. "The actual words of Paralis were
that he was sentenced by the will of Heaven! How true, how wonderfully
true that was! And how slow we are to read the divine messages of our
oracle."

Casanova's first shock of surprise gave way to self-complacency. His
prophecy had been a shrewd inference of what must inevitably happen to
a man in Steffani's position, pursued by the avenging brother of one
woman and the avenging father of another. Only in the cloister or the
grave could he find refuge, and it was his own wit, thought Casanova,
that had drawn from the oracle this culminating proof of its
supernatural nature.



UNDER THE LEADS


An oft-told tale is that of Giacomo di Casanova's escape from the
Prison of the Piombi. Not so that of his first and frustrated attempt
at evasion. And yet, of the two, this is in my opinion the more
entertaining, not only because of the extraordinary resourcefulness
with which he went about the task, but also for the ready wit which
showed him a way out of the ghastly peril that attended its discovery.

His arrest took place in July of 1755. Early one morning the terrible
Messer Grande and his tipstaves broke into Casanova's lodging, aroused
him from his slumbers, and bade him dress and go with them.

"In whose name do you command me?" quoth the startled Casanova.

"In the name of the Inquisitors of State."

Casanova realized that it was not a season for argument. He rose, and
what time the apparitors were ransacking his rooms, he dressed with
care. He selected a suit of blue taffeta with silver lace, in which he
had intended that day to visit and conquer a certain lady at Murano.
He clubbed his luxuriant hair becomingly, and drew on a pair of white
silk stockings. Lacquered red-heeled shoes with steel buckles, and an
elegant new hat laced with point of Spain completed his toilet. He
announced himself ready.

Messer Grande led him below, thrust into him a gondola, and carried
him off to prison. He was accounted, it seems, a disturber of the
public peace; he was notoriously a libertine, a gamester, and heavily
in debt; also--and this was more serious, matter indeed for an /auto
de fé/--he was accused of practising magic. To establish this grave
charge, Messer Grande found in his lodging, and carried off thence,
various forbidden works--copies of /The Clavicula of Solomon/, the
/Zecor-ben/, a /Picatrix/, and a very full /Instruction on the
Planetary Hours/, giving the necessary incantations for raising devils
of all varieties.

These works were part of his adventurer's stock in trade, the plinth
upon which he erected his reputation for supernatural powers, whereby
he exploited to his own profit the credulity of simpletons of all
degrees. In all Europe there was no man with a greater contempt for
those horn-books of chicanery, no man more convinced than Casanova
that they were written by knaves for fools. He would have explained to
the Inquisitors of State that he collected works of magic as
curiosities of literature, as instances of pitiful human aberration.
But the Inquisitors of State would not have believed him, for the
Inquisitors were of those who took magic seriously. And anyhow they
never asked him to explain. They had lodged him without any sort of
trial in the Prison of the Piombi, the garret under the leads of the
palace of the Doges of the Most Serene Republic.

There in the care of a villainous gaoler named Lorenzo, Casanova
inhabited a miserable cell some twelve feet square by five and a half
feet high--so low that a man of his fine height could not move upright
in it. No table or toilet implement was allowed him beyond an ivory
spoon bought at his own charges. The cell was lighted (very
occasionally) by a window two feet square, criss-crossed by six iron
bars each an inch thick, and even then the light was blocked by an
exterior baulk of timber some eighteen inches wide that crossed the
aperture at close quarters. During the summer months, when first he
occupied that cell, there was light enough by which to read for some
five hours daily. This period decreased as the year advanced, until
when winter came and the mists from the lagoon hung over Venice, the
daily hours of darkness numbered twenty-four, which is to say that he
lived in perpetual night, that he was left in perpetual darkness to
sit and think and go mad, for no lamp was permitted him.

The days passed, and grew into weeks; the weeks accumulated into
months, and he abode there in that unspeakable cell under the leads,
scorched--and devoured by insects--in summer; frozen almost to death
when winter followed, without books--save two works of a religious
character--without exercise of any kind, or any means of beguiling the
endless tale of days. There, gaunt now and hollow-eyed, indescribably
filthy, with matted beard and unkempt hair, lay the once elegant,
flamboyant adventurer, forgotten, as it seemed to him, by God and man.

It was a cruel, subtle torture, calculated to break the health and
destroy the sanity of any normal man. But Casanova's constitution was
of iron, his nerves of steel, and his sanity was kept whole by his
faith in himself and his confidence that his wits must sooner or later
discover him a way to escape. That he should even think of escaping
from such a place reveals the high quality of his courage; that he
should come to find the means, fashioning himself the implements out
of nothing, as it were, proves how incomparable was his resource.
Indeed, in none of the many adventures with which his life was filled
did he ever display in so high a degree his audacity, inventiveness,
and cunning. Be you the judge.

He was allowed for a few minutes daily, whilst his cell was being
swept, to walk in the attic upon which his prison opened--a gallery of
some twelve feet wide by thirty feet in length. Here one day he espied
in a pile of rubbish in a corner a small slab of black marble. He
picked it up, thinking that it might in some way prove useful. That
was in the spring of 1756, by when he had been some six or eight
months in prison. A few weeks later, in the same place, his eye was
attracted by a discarded door-bolt--a stout bar of iron measuring a
couple of feet in length. He appropriated it, with a vague sense that
at last he had brought the possibility of escape within his reach.

His imagination had been busily at work, and he was well served by his
knowledge of the ducal palace--for this prison of the Piombi is, as
has been said, simply the extensive garret of the Palace of the Doges,
deriving its name from the lead with which the roof immediately above
is covered. His window faced the west, and from this and other
observations and deductions he knew that his cell was immediately
above the noble chamber in which the Council of Ten held its sittings.

Long ago he had come to the conclusion that the only possible way of
escape lay through that chamber, and the only way into it through the
floor of his cell. He had dreamt of cutting a hole in the floor,
through which he might lower himself, but that was a dream that had
been dismissed again and again by his despair of ever obtaining the
tools to effect such an operation. Now, at last, he possessed the
tools, or at least the material out of which he could fashion them.

He set about this task at once, and for days thereafter he laboured
almost unremittingly to sharpen one end of the bolt, using the slab of
marble as a whetstone. It was a test at once of patience and of
endurance. Progress was almost imperceptibly slow, and meanwhile the
palm of his right hand became a mass of sores from the ceaseless
contact with, and the chafing of, the iron. In the end, however, he
found himself armed with a sharp, octagon-pointed spontoon, which he
concealed in the upholstery of the armchair that had been supplied
him.

But it was one thing to have fashioned himself an implement with which
to cut his way through the floor, and quite another to carry out
undiscovered a task that must entail at least a couple of months'
work.

He was visited each morning by Lorenzo, who brought him food for the
day. His gaoler came attended on these visits by a couple of archers,
whose chief duty it was to sweep out the cell. It follows that any
attempted excavation must immediately be revealed to them, and unless
he could discover some good reason why this daily task of essential
cleanliness should be permanently abandoned, it must remain impossible
for him to put his project into execution. A reason might seem beyond
discovery, yet his inventiveness and histrionic ability discovered it.

He began by peremptorily forbidding the archers to sweep, without
advancing any reason. For a week he was obeyed without question, then
at last Lorenzo made the enquiry that Casanova had been expecting into
the reason for this strange order.

"They raise the dust," said Casanova, "and the dust chokes me. I cough
so violently that I fear serious--even fatal--consequences."

Lorenzo wrinkled the ape-like features of his leathern face, and
peered suspiciously at his prisoner.

"I will have the floor sprinkled with water," he announced.

"That would be worse, Messer Lorenzo," cried Casanova. "The damp might
give me congestion of the lungs."

The gaoler said no more. He withdrew in silence, and for another week
there was no sweeping. But Casanova waited inactive, and on the eighth
day Lorenzo came, attended again by his archers. He ordered them to
sweep the cell, and that this might be done with thoroughness he
lighted a couple of candles, and bade them carry the bed out into the
gallery.

Casanova perceived quite plainly from this--as he had fully
expected--that Lorenzo's suspicions had been aroused, and he smiled to
himself as he submitted without protest. But when the gaoler came to
visit him next morning he found his prisoner abed in an exhausted
condition, holding a blood-drenched handkerchief to his lips. (He had
contrived to scratch his arm some hours earlier.)

"What's this? What ails you?" he cried in alarm.

"You would sweep," Casanova reproached him, fighting for breath.
"Behold the consequences. I have had so violent a cough that I must
have broken a blood-vessel." A paroxysm of coughing interrupted him at
the moment. He lay back gasping. "It is very likely I shall die of
it," he groaned.

In terror, Lorenzo ran to fetch a doctor, who when he came prescribed
some medicine, and ordered a blood-letting. To him Casanova complained
bitterly.

"It is this gaoler who is to blame for my condition," he said. "I
warned him of what would happen if he insisted upon sweeping my cell."

He had expected sympathy from the doctor, but hardly that the fellow
should reproach Lorenzo as he did, denouncing the gaoler's obstinate
ignorance, and relating a sad story of a young man who had died as a
result of breathing dust when troubled in the chest.

Lorenzo defended himself by protesting that his sole intention had
been to render service to the prisoner, and he ended by swearing that
in view of what had happened the cell should be swept no more. When
the doctor had departed Lorenzo humbled himself still further by
begging Casanova to forgive him.

"How was I to know," he ended, "that it would have such serious
consequences for you?"

"I warned you," Casanova answered feebly from his bed.

"But I sweep the cells of other prisoners, and they remain sound and
healthy."

"Perhaps their lungs are not as delicate as mine," was the plaintive
explanation, accepted without further question by the gaoler. And thus
Casanova won immunity from the main danger of having his work
discovered whilst in progress.

He had decided to make the excavation under his bed, moving this aside
for the purpose, and then replacing it so as to conceal what was done.
He commenced operations at once, but progress was slow because, as we
have seen, he was in darkness for all but some five hours out of the
twenty-four, and in darkness it was impossible to work. Unless he was
to take a year over his labours, he must fashion himself a lamp.
Courageously he addressed himself to the problem. For a vessel there
was the little pan in which eggs were cooked for him; oil he procured
by doing without it in the salad served him daily; a wick was easily
fashioned out of strands taken from the bedclothes and the lamp was
ready. But the lamp was nothing without light, and how was light to be
obtained?

The crowning-piece of the inventiveness he displayed in this affair is
afforded by the manner in which he went about the Promethean task of
assembling the elements of light.

Luck helped him a little by providing him with one of the ingredients.
Under each arm of the coat of that brave summer suit of taffeta in
which, you will remember, he had gone to prison nearly a year ago, he
had ordered his tailor to place a patch of amadou, so as to prevent
the delicate material from being stained by perspiration. Thus he
found himself supplied with tinder, or at least with that which would
become tinder when sulphur was added to it. To obtain the sulphur he
used his considerable medical knowledge. He feigned indisposition, and
complained of an irritation of the skin, begging Lorenzo to ask the
doctor for a prescription. Came next day a recipe, recommending a diet
and--as he had reckoned--an unguent of flower of sulphur.

In common with all those confined by order of the Inquisitors,
Casanova lived upon a daily allowance--graduated to the social
position of the prisoner--spent for him by the gaoler in accordance
with his own instructions.

"Go and buy me the unguent," he bade Lorenzo, "or rather--go and buy
me the sulphur. I'll mix it with butter, and so make my own unguent."

Lorenzo obeyed him, and thus he was provided with the sulphur with
which to prepare the tinder. For steel he bethought him of the stout
buckle of his belt, which would answer admirably. It but remained to
obtain a flint. Again he feigned indisposition, and employed his wits
to play upon the ignorance of Lorenzo. He complained of a raging
toothache, and begged for some pumice-stone to soak in vinegar, which,
applied to the tooth, he claimed, would immediately ease the pain.

"But if you haven't any pumice-stone," he added, cunningly, "a
gun-flint would do as well."

He knew, of course, that Lorenzo must carry flints in his pocket. If
that was all the prisoner needed, his wants could soon be supplied.
Lorenzo flung him three or four flints, and went out.

That night Casanova lighted his lamp. He was vain of the achievement.
To use his own words, he had created light out of darkness.

It was a fortnight after Easter when he eventually got to work on the
task of breaking through the floor, and he toiled thereafter slowly
and assiduously with his improvized spontoon for only implement,
covering the hole each day with his bed. Progress was at first
dishearteningly slow, and the labours of the first few days were
represented by a handful of grains of wood dug from the uppermost
plank. Under that, when at last he had cut through it, he came upon a
second plank, and under that again a third. Laboriously he cut through
the three successive planks, to find himself confronted next by a
layer of marble tiles, which for a moment caused him to despair. But
he went on, and whilst the weeks were growing into months, he
persistently dug at the cement in the interstices until he had
extracted one of the marble squares. After that it was a simple matter
to prize up the others, and at last he had cleared a space sufficient
for the passage of his body, and laid bare yet another layer of
planks. Persuaded that this formed the ceiling of the Council Chamber,
he went to work with extremest care, excavating the timber of these
last planks until no more remained than a mere film of wood, which
half a dozen blows would smash away. He pierced a hole, and, applying
his eye to it, verified with joy that his calculations were correct,
and that the room immediately below was indeed the Council Chamber of
the palace.

That was on the 23rd August, and having made all other preparations,
he then determined to leave his prison on the 27th. He chose this date
because he knew it for the eve of the feast of St Augustine, a day on
which the rooms below were most likely to be utterly untenanted. His
plan was to smash away the remaining film, and lower himself by means
of a rope improvised from his bedclothes. He would choose an hour of
early morning, and once in the Council Chamber he did not apprehend
any serious obstacle to his escape.

Confidently then he waited, within sight now of the salvation for
which he had laboured so strenuously and patiently, and then, with
brutal suddenness, the thunderbolt fell from the clearest of skies.

Precisely at noon on the 25th he heard the sound of bolts being
withdrawn, a thing so unusual at such an hour that at once it filled
him with terror. He had just time to drag his bed into its normal
position, so that it covered the gaping hole and the debris of the
excavated floor, and to fling himself into his armchair, before the
apish face of Lorenzo grinned at him through the Judas-hole in the
door.

"I congratulate you, sir, upon the good news I bring you," was the
gaoler's greeting, in accents of unusual joviality.

For an instant Casanova's heart seemed to stop beating. He imagined at
once that Lorenzo was the bearer of an order for his release; and
release so ardently desired through so many months of horror was the
last thing he could now wish to see effected in this manner. For it
must inevitably entail the discovery of the way of escape he had
prepared, and this in itself must suffice to cancel the boon.

Lorenzo came in. "You are to come with me," he announced.

"Wait until I dress myself," said Casanova weakly.

"That's of no consequence," he was answered. "You are to leave this
filthy hole for a fine new chamber, lofty and airy, with two windows
from which you will be able to see the half of Venice."

Casanova sank limply back into the depths of his chair. He felt as if
he would swoon.

"Fetch me some vinegar," he begged faintly. "Then go tell his
Excellency the Secretary that I am grateful to the Tribunal for this
mercy, but that I beg their Excellencies to leave me where I am."

Lorenzo stared at him in amazement a moment, then flung back his head
and laughed aloud.

"Are you mad, sir?" he asked, not unreasonably. "I offer to transplant
you from hell to heaven, and you refuse! Come, come! The Tribunal must
be obeyed. Take my arm. I will have your things removed at once."

Seeing that remonstrance would be futile, and resistance more futile
still, Casanova rose heavily to his feet. The only ray of light in the
darkness of his despair at that moment was afforded him by Lorenzo's
command to one of the archers to take up the prisoner's armchair, and
carry it ahead of them. For this meant that the precious spontoon,
concealed in the upholstery, would accompany him. If only he could
have taken with him that precious hole as well, the object of so much
wasted labour and vain hopes, all would have been well.

He went, leaning on Lorenzo's shoulder and leaving, as he says, his
soul behind him in that place of horror. He was conducted to a room on
the other side of the palace, certainly more airy and spacious than
the kennel he had left, with a large barred window, through which he
saw two other windows also barred, beyond a narrow corridor which they
lighted. Through these there was a pleasant view extending to the
Lido, and the air was clean and fresh. But these were matters which he
scarcely noticed at the moment. He sank limply into the armchair,
which the archer had set down, and, whilst Lorenzo went to see to the
removal of his effects, he sat there waiting for the storm to burst.

He tells us that in that hour he was able to attach faith to the boast
of the philosopher Zeno that he had discovered the secret of
suppressing pallor, blushes, laughter, and tears. Casanova sat
immovable as a statue, awaiting the storm, as I have said, but with a
calm that amazed even himself.

Two of the archers entered carrying his bed, which they set down, and
then went out again without a word, after which he was left alone for
two whole hours or more. This delay in bringing the remainder of his
effects was entirely unnatural, but not at all surprising. He knew, of
course, what the removal of his bed must have revealed, and he sat
there, all power of emotion numb, considering in a curiously detached
and dispassionate manner what consequences must follow upon that
discovery. He had no illusions on the score of those consequences. He
knew that in the foundations of the ducal palace there were prisons
even more horrible than the attics of the Piombi, prisons
appropriately known as the Pozzi--the wells--foul, subterranean, and
subaqueous dungeons, below the level of the canals, invaded by water
at high tide, rat-infested /oubliettes/ to which the light of day
never pierced--prisons in which men died quickly, after first going
mad.

He knew of these prisons, and knew that they were reserved for grave
offenders, and for men guilty of his own offence of attempting to
escape, and he saw that it must now be his fate to be flung into one
of them, whence evasion would be impossible. He was irrevocably lost.

At last Lorenzo came. He entered quickly, followed by a couple of his
men, his countenance--repulsive at its best--disfigured now by anger.
He stood there foaming at the mouth, raging and blaspheming horribly,
what time Casanova considered him with a detachment of spirit that
almost permitted him to derive an onlooker's amusement from this
crisis.

When at last Lorenzo had sufficiently mastered his passion to become
coherent----

"You will," he said, "deliver to me at once the axe and other
implements with which you were breaking through the floor, and you
will also give me the name of the archer who supplied you with them."

"I don't know what you are talking about," was the answer, so calm
that Lorenzo flung into a fresh passion, and ordered him to be
searched.

Before that threat Casanova rose, and, with the imposing dignity of
which he was master, he commanded the archers to wait whilst he
stripped off his garments and flung them down.

"Do your duty," he bade them, "but let none of your dirty hands touch
me."

They searched his clothes, tore open the mattress and pillow of his
bed, and even the cushion of his armchair, but without success.

"If you will not answer my questions of your own free will," stormed
the furious Lorenzo, "we have the means at hand to loosen the most
stubborn tongue."

And then, at grips with the issue, face to face with that threat of
torture, and worse to follow, Casanova's incomparable resource rose
admirably to the occasion.

Lorenzo himself may unconsciously have pointed the way out of this
overwhelming peril when he demanded the name of the archer who had
supplied the prisoner with the prison-breaking tools. Casanova knew
exactly how hard it must have gone with such a man had he existed and
been denounced. If he escaped hanging, which was improbable, he would
at least be sent to the galleys, there to toil at an oar for the
remainder of his days. And the punishment that would overtake an
archer guilty of assisting a State prisoner to escape would overtake
Lorenzo himself no less if he were the offender.

This reflection dictated Casanova's answer.

"If it is true that I have made this hole you talk about, it must have
been yourself who supplied me with the means. In fact, now that I come
to think of it, that is what happened."

Lorenzo stared at him for a moment with dilating eyes, whilst the
colour receded from his face, leaving it deathly pale. In the
background, behind him, the archers grinned and nudged one another.

"From me?" spluttered at last the stupefied gaoler. "You had the means
from me?" Indignation succeeding panic, the blood flowed back into his
face. His eyes blazed. "You had a lamp. I found it. How did you come
by that?"

"Why, it was you who supplied it me."

"Bah! Lies!" roared Lorenzo. "Tell me when--where?"

"You have forgotten, I see," said Casanova quietly, smiling now.

"Forgotten! You impudent scoundrel----!"

"A little calm, Messer Lorenzo, a little calm," Casanova enjoined.
"Bethink you now: the oil--from my salad; the sulphur--to make an
unguent for a rash; the flints--to dissolve in vinegar for the
toothache. Ah! I see that you remember. The other things necessary I
already possessed."

Lorenzo understood, and understanding he grew really afraid. He had
been imprudent, and culpably negligent, and if these details should
come to the knowledge of the Inquisitors of State it was likely to go
very hard with him. He trembled now with very real apprehension. He
drove out the archers, bidding them go fetch the remainder of the
prisoner's effects, and Casanova conceived that he had Lorenzo at his
mercy, and that the danger of the dungeons was less imminent.

"But the axe, and what other tools you had?" the gaoler demanded, when
they were alone. A perceptible change had come over his tone and
bearing; it was as if he feared to learn that in some similarly
unconscious manner he had himself purveyed the implements.

"I had them also from you," was the stolid answer.

Lorenzo tore his hair, and stamped about the room in a state of
frenzy. At length he made an effort to recover his calm.

"I admit that you were right about the lamp," he said. "But can you
convince me as easily that I supplied you with the tools you required
to make that hole?"

"Assuredly. To begin with I swear to you solemnly that I received
nothing from anyone but you."

"/Misericordia!/" Lorenzo flung up his arms in a gesture of protest to
Heaven. "But how--tell me how and when I supplied you with an axe."

"You shall know everything--if you insist--the whole truth. But I will
tell you only in the presence of the Secretary of the Inquisitors.
Take me before him, if you please."

For a moment Lorenzo stood white and shaking before him. Then, without
another word, he turned on his heel and departed, locking the door
after him. And he took with him a considerable part of the load of
dread that had earlier oppressed Casanova.

For two days the gaoler sulked, and refused to open his lips when he
paid his morning visit to the prisoner. But on the third day his
manner had completely changed, and he stood before Casanova as a
suppliant, imploring him at length to say nothing of what had passed.

"For myself," said Lorenzo, "I am content to believe what you have
told me, and I ask you no more questions as to how you obtained the
means to excavate the floor. All I now beg of you to consider is that
I am a poor devil with a wife and children, and that I should be
ruined if the matter came to the knowledge of the Inquisitors."

You conceive that it was not difficult for Casanova to yield to these
intercessions. Graciously he gave the required promise, congratulating
himself inwardly not only upon having escaped the imminent peril of
the dungeons, where death must soon have followed, but also upon
having obtained a dominion over the scoundrelly Lorenzo, which should
ensure him better treatment in the future.

These considerations compensated him in some measure for the cruelty
of fate which had foiled in the eleventh hour, and by the merest
chance, his project of escape. And for further comfort he had the
reflection that the spontoon was still safe in his chair, and that it
was now for him to begin all over again, if he desired to regain his
liberty.

How he did so, and how some months later he contrived to make good his
escape from the Prison of the Piombi, is another story.



THE NIGHT OF ESCAPE


Patrician influence from without had procured Casanova's removal, in
August of that year, 1756, from the loathsome cell he had occupied for
thirteen months in the Piombi--so called from the leaded roof
immediately above those prisons which are simply the garrets of the
Doge's palace.

That cell had been no better than a kennel seldom reached by the light
of day, and so shallow that it was impossible for a man of his fine
height to stand upright in it. But his present prison was
comparatively spacious, and it was airy and well-lighted by a barred
window, whence he could see the Lido.

Yet he was desperately chagrined at the change, for he had almost
completed his arrangements to break out of his former cell. The only
ray of hope in his present despair came from the fact that the
implement to which he trusted was still in his possession, safely
concealed in the upholstery of the armchair that had been moved with
him into his present quarters. That implement he had fashioned for
himself with infinite pains out of a door-bolt some twenty inches
long, which he had found discarded in a rubbish-heap in a corner of
the attic where he had been allowed to take his brief daily exercise.
Using as a whetstone a small slab of black marble, similarly acquired,
he had shaped that bolt into a sharp, octagonal-pointed chisel or
spontoon.

It remained in his possession, but he saw no chance of using it now,
for the suspicions of Lorenzo, the gaoler, were aroused, and daily a
couple of archers came to sound the floors and walls. True they did
not sound the ceiling, which was low and within reach. But it was
obviously impossible to cut through the ceiling in such a manner as to
leave the progress of the work unseen.

Hence his despair of breaking out of a prison where he had spent over
a year without trial or prospect of a trial, and where he seemed
likely to spend the remainder of his days. He did not even know
precisely why he had been arrested. All that Giacomo di Casanova knew
was that he was accounted a disturber of the public peace. He was
notoriously a libertine, a gamester, and heavily in debt; also--and
this was more serious--he was accused of practising magic, as indeed
he had done, as a means of exploiting to his own profit the credulity
of simpletons of all degrees. He would have explained to the
Inquisitors of State of the Most Serene Republic that the books of
magic found by their apparitors in his possession--/The Clavicula of
Solomon/, the /Zecor-ben/, and other kindred works--had been collected
by him as curious instances of human aberrations. But the Inquisitors
of State would not have believed him, for the Inquisitors were among
those who took magic seriously. And, anyhow, they had never asked him
to explain, but had left him as if forgotten in that abominable,
verminous cell under the leads, until his patrician friend had
obtained the mercy of this transfer to better quarters.

The same influence that had obtained him his change of cell had also
gained him latterly the privilege--and he esteemed it beyond all
else--of procuring himself books. Desiring the works of Maffai, he
bade his gaoler purchase them out of the allowance made him by the
Inquisitors in accordance with the Venetian custom. This allowance was
graduated to the social status of each prisoner. But, the books being
costly and any monthly surplus from his monthly expenditure being
usually the gaoler's perquisite, Lorenzo was reluctant to indulge him.
He mentioned that there was a prisoner above who was well equipped
with books, and who, no doubt, would be glad to lend in exchange.

Yielding to the suggestion, Casanova handed Lorenzo a copy of Peteau's
/Rationarium/, and received next morning in exchange, the first volume
of Wolf. Within he found a sheet bearing in six verses a paraphrase of
Seneca's epigram, /Calamitosus est animus futuri anxius/. Immediately
he perceived he had stumbled upon a means of corresponding with one
who might be disposed to assist him to break prison.

In reply, being a scholarly rascal, he wrote six verses himself.
Having no pen he cut the long nail of his little finger to a point,
and, splitting it, supplied the want. For ink he used the juice of
mulberries. In addition to the verses, he wrote a list of the books in
his possession, which he placed at the disposal of his fellow captive.
He concealed the written sheet in the spine of that vellum-bound
volume; and on the title-page, in warning of this, he wrote the single
Latin word /Latet/. Next morning he handed the book to Lorenzo,
telling him that he had read it, and requesting the second volume.

That second volume came on the next day, and in the spine of it a long
letter, some sheets of paper, pens, and a pencil. The writer announced
himself as one Marino Balbi, a patrician and a monk, who had been four
years in that prison, where he had since been given a companion in
misfortune, Count Andrea Asquino.

Thus began a regular and very full correspondence between the
prisoners, and soon Casanova--who had not lived on his wits for
nothing--was able to form a shrewd estimate of Balbi's character. The
monk's letters revealed it as compounded of sensuality, stupidity,
ingratitude, and indiscretion.

"In the world," says Casanova, "I should have had no commerce with a
fellow of his nature. But in the Piombi I was obliged to make capital
out of everything that came under my hands."

The capital he desired to make in this instance was to ascertain
whether Balbi would be disposed to do for him what he could not do for
himself. He wrote, enquiring, and proposing flight.

Balbi replied that he and his companion would do anything possible to
make their escape from that abominable prison, but his lack of
resource made him add that he was convinced that nothing was possible.

"All that you have to do," wrote Casanova in answer, "is to break
through the ceiling of my cell and get me out of this, then trust to
me to get you out of the Piombi. If you are disposed to make the
attempt, I will supply you with the means, and show you the way."

It was a characteristically bold reply, revealing to us the utter
gamester that he was in all things.

He knew that Balbi's cell was situated immediately under the leads,
and he hoped that once in it he should be able readily to find a way
through the roof. That cell of Balbi's communicated with a narrow
corridor, no more than a shaft for light and air, which was
immediately above Casanova's prison. And no sooner had Balbi written,
consenting, than Casanova explained what was to do. Balbi must break
through the wall of his cell into the little corridor, and there cut a
round hole in the floor--precisely as Casanova had done in his former
cell--until nothing but a shell of ceiling remained--a shell that
could be broken down by half a dozen blows when the moment to escape
should have arrived.

To begin with, he ordered Balbi to purchase himself two or three dozen
pictures of saints, with which to paper his walls, using as many as
might be necessary for a screen to hide the hole he would be cutting.

When Balbi wrote that his walls were hung with pictures of saints, it
became a question of conveying the spontoon to him. This was
difficult, and the monk's fatuous suggestions merely served further to
reveal his stupidity. Finally, Casanova's wits found the way. He bade
Lorenzo buy him an in-folio edition of the Bible which had just been
published, and it was into the spine of this enormous tome that he
packed the precious spontoon, and thus conveyed it to Balbi, who
immediately got to work.

This was at the commencement of October. On the eighth of that month
Balbi wrote to Casanova that a whole night devoted to labour had
resulted merely in the displacing of a single brick, which so
discouraged the faint-hearted monk that he was for abandoning an
attempt whose only result must be to increase in the future the rigour
of their confinement.

Without hesitation, Casanova replied that he was assured of
success--although he was far from having any grounds for any such
assurance. He enjoined the monk to believe him, and to persevere,
confident that as he advanced he would find progress easier. This
proved, indeed, to be the case, for soon Balbi found the brickwork
yielding so rapidly to his efforts that one morning, a week later,
Casanova heard three light taps above his head--the preconcerted
signal by which they were to assure themselves that their notions of
the topography of the prison were correct.

All that day he heard Balbi at work immediately above him, and again
on the morrow, when Balbi wrote that as the floor was of the thickness
of only two boards, he counted upon completing the job on the next
day, without piercing the ceiling.

But it would seem as if fortune were intent upon making a mock of
Casanova, luring him to heights of hope, merely to cast him down again
into the depths of despair. Just as upon the eve of breaking out of
his former cell mischance had thwarted him, so now, when again he
deemed himself upon the very threshold of liberty, came mischance
again to thwart him.

Early in the afternoon the sound of bolts being drawn outside froze
his very blood and checked his breathing. Yet he had the presence of
mind to give the double knock that was the agreed alarm signal,
whereupon Balbi instantly desisted from his labours overhead.

Came Lorenzo with two archers, leading an ugly, lean little man of
between forty and fifty years of age, shabbily dressed and wearing a
round, black wig, whom the tribunal had ordered should share
Casanova's prison for the present. With apologies for leaving such a
scoundrel in Casanova's company, Lorenzo departed, and the newcomer
went down upon his knees, drew forth a chaplet, and began to tell his
beads.

Casanova surveyed this intruder at once in disgust and in despair.
Presently his disgust was increased when the fellow, whose name was
Soradici, frankly avowed himself a spy in the service of the Council
of Ten, a calling which he warmly defended from the contempt
universally--but unjustly, according to himself--meted out to it. He
had been imprisoned for having failed in his duty on one occasion
through succumbing to a bribe.

Conceive Casanova's frame of mind--his uncertainty as to how long this
monster, as he calls him, might be left in his company, his curbed
impatience to regain his liberty, and his consciousness of the
horrible risk of discovery which delay entailed! He wrote to Balbi
that night while the spy slept, and for the present their operations
were suspended. But not for very long. Soon Casanova's wits resolved
how to turn to account the weakness which he discovered in Soradici.

The spy was devout to the point of bigoted, credulous superstition. He
spent long hours in prayer, and he talked freely of his special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and his ardent faith in miracles.

Casanova--the arch-humbug who had worked magic to delude the
credulous--determined there and then to work a miracle for Soradici.
Assuming an inspired air, he solemnly informed the spy one morning
that it had been revealed to him in a dream that Soradici's devotion
to the Rosary was about to be rewarded; that an angel was to be sent
from heaven to deliver him from prison, and that Casanova himself
would accompany him in his flight.

If Soradici doubted, conviction was soon to follow. For Casanova
foretold the very hour at which the angel would come to break through
the roof of the prison, and at that hour precisely--Casanova having
warned Balbi--the noise made by the angel overhead flung Soradici into
an ecstasy of terror.

But when, at the end of four hours, the angel desisted from his
labours, Soradici was beset by doubts. Casanova explained to him that,
since angels invariably put on the garb of human flesh when descending
upon earth, they labour under human conditions. He added the prophecy
at the angel would return on the last day of the month, the eve of All
Saints--two days later--and that he would then conduct them out of
captivity.

By this means Casanova ensured that no betrayal should be feared from
the thoroughly duped Soradici, who now spent the time in praying,
weeping, and talking of his sins and of the inexhaustibility of divine
grace. To make doubly sure, Casanova added the most terrible oath that
if, by a word to the gaoler, Soradici should presume to frustrate the
divine intentions, he would immediately strangle him with his own
hands.

On October 31 Lorenzo paid his usual daily visit early in the morning.
After his departure they waited some hours, Soradici in expectant
terror, Casanova in sheer impatience to be at work. Promptly at noon
fell heavy blows overhead, and then, in a cloud of plaster and broken
laths, the heavenly messenger descended clumsily into Casanova's arms.

Soradici found this tall, gaunt, bearded figure, clad in a dirty shirt
and a pair of leather breeches, of a singularly unangelic appearance;
indeed, he looked far more like a devil.

When he produced a pair of scissors, so that the spy might cut
Casanova's beard, which, like the angel's, had grown in captivity,
Soradici ceased to have any illusions on the score of Balbi's
celestial nature. Although still intrigued--since he could not guess
at the secret correspondence that had passed between Casanova and
Balbi--he perceived quite clearly that he had been fooled.

Leaving Soradici in the monk's care, Casanova hoisted himself through
the broken ceiling and gained Balbi's cell, where the sight of Count
Asquino dismayed him. He found a middle-aged man of a corpulence which
must render it impossible for him to face the athletic difficulties
that lay before them; of this the count himself seemed already
persuaded.

"If you think," was his greeting, as he shook Casanova's hand, "to
break through the roof and find a way down from the leads, I don't see
how you are to succeed without wings. I have not the courage to
accompany you," he added. "I shall remain and pray for you."

Attempting no persuasions where they must have been idle, Casanova
passed out of the cell again, and approaching as nearly as possible to
the edge of the attic, he sat down where he could touch the roof as it
sloped immediately above his head. With his spontoon he tested the
timbers, and found them so decayed that they almost crumbled at the
touch. Assured thereby that the cutting of a hole would be an easy
matter, he at once returned to his cell, and there he spent the
ensuing four hours in preparing ropes. He cut up sheets, blankets,
coverlets, and the very cover of his mattress, knotting the strips
together with the utmost care. In the end he found himself equipped
with some two hundred yards of rope, which should be ample for any
purpose.

Having made a bundle of the fine taffeta suit in which he had been
arrested, his gay cloak of floss silk, some stockings, shirts, and
handkerchiefs, he and Balbi passed up to the other cell, compelling
Soradici to go with them. Leaving the monk to make a parcel of his
belongings, Casanova went to tackle the roof. By dusk he had made a
hole twice as large as was necessary, and had laid bare the lead
sheeting with which the roof was covered. Unable, single-handed, to
raise one of the sheets, he called Balbi to his aid, and between them,
assisted by the spontoon, which Casanova inserted between the edge of
the sheet and the gutter, they at last succeeded in tearing away the
rivets. Then by putting their shoulders to the lead they bent it
upwards until there was room to emerge, and a view of the sky flooded
by the vivid light of the crescent moon.

Not daring in that light to venture upon the roof, where they would be
seen, they must wait with what patience they could until midnight,
when the moon would be set. So they returned to the cell where they
had left Soradici with Count Asquino.

From Balbi, Casanova had learnt that Asquino, though well-supplied
with money, was of an avaricious nature. Nevertheless, since money
would be necessary, Casanova asked the count for the loan of thirty
gold sequins. Asquino answered him gently that, in the first place,
they would not need money to escape; that, in the second, he had a
numerous family; that, in the third, if Casanova perished the money
would be lost; and that in the fourth he had no money.

"My reply," writes Casanova, "lasted half an hour."

"Let me remind you," he said in concluding his exhortation, "of your
promise to pray for us, and let me ask you what sense there can be in
praying for the success of an enterprise to which you refuse to
contribute the most necessary means."

The old man was so far conquered by Casanova's eloquence that he
offered him two sequins, which Casanova accepted, since he was not in
case to refuse anything.

Thereafter, as they sat waiting for the moon to set, Casanova found
his earlier estimate of the monk's character confirmed. Balbi now
broke into abusive reproaches. He found that Casanova had acted in bad
faith by assuring him that he had formed a complete plan of escape.
Had he suspected that this was a mere gambler's throw on Casanova's
part, he would never have laboured to get him out of his cell. The
count added his advice that they should abandon an attempt foredoomed
to failure, and, being concerned for the two sequins with which he had
so reluctantly parted, he argued the case at great length. Stifling
his disgust, Casanova assured them that, although it was impossible
for him to afford them details of how he intended to proceed, he was
perfectly confident of success.

At half-past ten he sent Soradici--who had remained silent
throughout--to report upon the night. The spy brought word that in
another hour or so the moon would have set, but that a thick mist was
rising, which must render the leads very dangerous.

"So long as the mist isn't made of oil, I am content," said Casanova.
"Come, make a bundle of your cloak. It is time we were moving."

But at this Soradici fell on his knees in the dark, seized Casanova's
hands, and begged to be left behind to pray for their safety, since he
would be sure to meet his death if he attempted to go with them.

Casanova assented readily, delighted to be rid of the fellow. Then in
the dark he wrote as best he could a quite characteristic letter to
the Inquisitors of State, in which he took his leave of them, telling
them that since he had been fetched into the prison without his wishes
being consulted, they could not complain that he had departed without
consulting theirs.

The bundle containing Balbi's clothes, and another made up of half the
rope, he slung from the monk's neck, thereafter doing the same in his
own case. Then, in their shirtsleeves, their hats on their heads, the
pair of them started on their perilous journey, leaving Count Asquino
and Soradici to pray for them.

Casanova went first, on all fours, and thrusting the point of his
spontoon between the joints of the lead sheeting so as to obtain a
hold, he crawled slowly upwards. To follow, Balbi took a grip of
Casanova's belt with his right hand, so that in addition to making his
own way, Casanova was compelled to drag the weight of his companion
after him, and this up the sharp gradient of a roof rendered slippery
by the mist.

Midway in that laborious ascent, the monk called to him to stop. He
had dropped the bundle containing the clothes, and he hoped that it
had not rolled beyond the gutter, though he did not mention which of
them should retrieve it. After the unreasonableness already endured
from this man, Casanova's exasperation was such in that moment that,
he confesses, he was tempted to kick him after his bundle. Controlling
himself, however, he answered patiently that the matter could not now
be helped, and kept steadily amain.

At last the apex of the roof was reached, and they got astride of it
to breathe and to take a survey of their surroundings. They faced the
several cupolas of the Church of St Mark, which is connected with the
ducal palace, being, in fact, no more than the private chapel of the
Doge.

They set down their bundles, and, of course, in the act of doing so
the wretched Balbi must lose his hat, and send it rolling down the
roof after the bundle he had already lost. He cried out that it was an
evil omen.

"On the contrary," Casanova assured him patiently, "it is a sign of
divine protection; for if your bundle or your hat had happened to roll
to the left instead of the right it would have fallen into the
courtyard, where it would be seen by the guards, who must conclude
that someone is moving on the roof, and so, no doubt, would have
discovered us. As it is, your hat has followed your bundle into the
canal, where it can do no harm."

Thereupon, bidding the monk to await his return, Casanova set off
alone on a voyage of discovery, keeping for the present astride of the
roof in his progress. He spent a full hour wandering along the vast
roof, going to right and to left in his quest, but failing completely
to make any helpful discovery, or to find anything to which he could
attach a rope. In the end it began to look as if, after all, he must
choose between returning to prison and flinging himself from the roof
into the canal. He was almost in despair when, in his wanderings, his
attention was caught by a dormer window on the canal side, about
two-thirds of the way down the slope of the roof. With infinite
precaution he lowered himself down the steep, slippery incline until
he was astride of the little dormer roof. Leaning well forward, he
discovered that a slender grating barred the leaded panes of the
window itself, and for a moment this grating gave him pause.

Midnight boomed just then from the Church of St Mark, like a reminder
that but seven hours remained in which to conquer this and further
difficulties that might confront him, and in which to win clear of
that place, or else submit to a resumption of his imprisonment under
conditions, no doubt, a hundredfold more rigorous.

Lying flat on his stomach, and hanging far over, so as to see what he
was doing, he worked one point of his spontoon into the sash of the
grating, and, levering outwards, he strained until at last it came
away completely in his hands. After that it was an easy matter to
shatter the little latticed window.

Having accomplished so much, he turned, and, using his spontoon as
before, he crawled back to the summit of the roof, and made his way
rapidly along this to the spot where he had left Balbi. The monk,
reduced by now to a state of blending despair, terror, and rage,
greeted Casanova in terms of the grossest abuse for having left him
there so long.

"I was waiting only for daylight," he concluded, "to return to
prison."

"What did you think had become of me?" asked Casanova.

"I imagined that you had tumbled off the roof."

"And is this abuse the expression of your joy at finding yourself
mistaken?"

"Where have you been all this time?" the monk counter-questioned
sullenly.

"Come with me and you shall see."

And taking up his bundle again, Casanova led his companion forward,
until they were in line with the dormer. There Casanova showed him
what he had done, and consulted him as to the means to be adopted to
enter the attic. It would be too risky for them to allow themselves to
drop from the sill, since the height of the window from the floor was
unknown to them, and might be considerable. It would be easy for one
of them to lower the other by means of the rope. But it was not
apparent how, hereafter, the other was to follow. Thus reasoned
Casanova.

"You had better lower me, anyhow," said Balbi, without hesitation; for
no doubt he was very tired of that slippery roof, on which a single
false step might have sent him to his account. "Once I am inside you
can consider ways of following me."

That cold-blooded expression of the fellow's egoism put Casanova in a
rage for the second time since they had left their prison. But as
before he conquered it, and without uttering a word he proceeded to
unfasten the coil of rope. Making one end of it secure under Balbi's
arms, he bade the monk lie prone upon the roof, his feet pointing
downwards, and then paying out rope, he lowered him to the dormer. He
then bade him get through the window as far as the level of his waist,
and wait thus, hanging over and supporting himself upon the sill. When
he had obeyed, Casanova followed, sliding carefully down to the roof
of the dormer. Planting himself firmly, and taking the rope once more,
he bade Balbi to let himself go without fear, and so lowered him to
the floor--a height from the window, as it proved, of some fifty feet.
This extinguished all Casanova's hopes of being able to follow by
allowing himself to drop from the sill. He was dismayed. But the monk,
happy to find himself at last off that accursed roof, and out of all
danger of breaking his neck, called foolishly to Casanova to throw him
the rope so that he might take care of it.

"As may be imagined," says Casanova, "I was careful not to take this
idiotic advice."

Not knowing now what was to become of him unless he could discover
some other means than those at his command, he climbed back again to
the summit of the roof, and started off desperately upon another
voyage of discovery. This time he succeeded better than before. He
found about a cupola a terrace which he had not earlier noticed, and
on this terrace a hod of plaster, a trowel, and a ladder some seventy
feet long. He saw his difficulties solved. He passed an end of rope
about one of the rungs, laid the ladder flat along the slope of the
roof, and then, still astride of the apex, he worked his way back,
dragging the ladder with him, until he was once more on a level with
the dormer.

But now the difficulty was how to get the ladder through the window,
and he had cause to repent having so hastily deprived himself of his
companion's assistance. He got the ladder into position, and lowered
it until one of its ends rested upon the dormer, whilst the other
projected some twenty feet beyond the edge of the roof. He slid down
to the dormer, and placing the ladder beside him, drew it up so that
he could reach the eighth rung. To this rung he made fast his rope,
then lowered the ladder again until the upper end of it was in line
with the window through which he sought to introduce it. But he found
it impossible to do so beyond the fifth rung, for at this point the
end of the ladder came in contact with the roof inside, and could be
pushed no further until it was inclined downward. Now, the only
possible way to accomplish this was by raising the other end.

It occurred to him that he might, by so attaching the rope as to bring
the ladder across the window-frame, lower himself hand over hand to
the floor of the attic. But in so doing he must have left the ladder
there to show their pursuers in the morning not merely the way they
had gone, but, for all he knew at this stage, the place where they
might then be still in hiding. Having come so far, at so much risk and
labour, he was determined to leave nothing to chance. To accomplish
his object then, he made his way down to the very edge of the roof,
sliding carefully on his stomach until his feet found support against
the marble gutter, the ladder meanwhile remaining hooked by one of its
rungs to the sill of the dormer.

In that perilous position he lifted his end of the ladder a few
inches, and so contrived to thrust it another foot or so through the
window, whereby its weight was considerably diminished. If he could
but get it another couple of feet further in he was sure that by
returning to the dormer he would have been able to complete the job.
In his anxiety to do this and to obtain the necessary elevation, he
raised himself upon his knees.

But in the very act of making the thrust he slipped, and clutching
wildly as he went, he shot over the edge of the roof. He found himself
hanging there, suspended above that terrific abyss by his hands and
his elbows, which had convulsively hooked themselves on to the edge of
the gutter, so that he had it on a level with his breast.

It was a moment of dread the like of which he was never likely to
endure again in a life that was to know many perils and many
hairbreadth escapes. He could not write of it nearly half a century
later without shuddering and growing sick with horror.

A moment he hung there gasping, then, almost mechanically, guided by
the sheer instinct of self-preservation, he not merely attempted but
actually succeeded in raising himself so as to bring his side against
the gutter. Then continuing gradually to raise himself until his waist
was on a level with the edge, he threw the weight of his trunk forward
upon the roof, and slowly brought his right leg up until he had
obtained with his knee a further grip of the gutter. The rest was
easy, and you may conceive him as he lay there on the roof's edge,
panting and shuddering for a moment to regain his breath and nerve.

Meanwhile, the ladder, driven forward by the thrust that had so nearly
cost him his life, had penetrated another three feet through the
window, and hung there immovable. Recovered, he took up his spontoon,
which he had placed in the gutter, and, assisted by it, he climbed
back to the dormer. Almost without further difficulty, he succeeded
now in introducing the ladder until, of its own weight, it swung down
into position.

A moment later he had joined Balbi in the attic, and together they
groped about it in the dark, and finding presently a door, passed
through into another chamber, where they discovered furniture by
hurtling against it. Guided by a faint glimmer of light, Casanova made
his way to one of the windows and opened it. He looked out upon a
black abyss, and, having no knowledge of the locality, and no
inclination to adventure himself into unknown regions, he immediately
abandoned all idea of attempting to climb down. He closed the window
again, and going back to the other room, he lay down on the floor,
with the bundle of ropes for pillow, to wait for dawn.

And so exhausted was he, not only by the efforts of the past hours,
and the terrible experience in which they had culminated, but also
because in the past two days he had scarcely eaten or slept, that
straightway, and greatly to Balbi's indignation and disgust, he fell
into a profound sleep.

He was aroused three and a half hours later by the clamours and
shakings of the exasperated monk. Protesting that such a sleep at such
a time was a thing inconceivable, Balbi informed him that it had just
struck five.

It was still dark, but already there was a dim grey glimmer of dawn by
which objects could be faintly discerned. Searching, Casanova found
another door on the opposite to that of the chamber which they had
entered earlier. It was locked, but the lock was a poor one that
yielded to half a dozen blows of the spontoon, and they passed into a
little room beyond which by an open door they came into a long gallery
lined with pigeon-holes stuffed with parchments, which they conceived
to be the archives. At the end of this gallery they found a short
flight of stairs, and below that yet another, which brought them to a
glass door. Opening this, they entered a room which Casanova
immediately identified as the ducal chancellery. Descent from one of
its windows would have been easy, but they would have found themselves
in the labyrinth of courts and alleys behind St Mark's, which would
not have suited them at all.

On a table Casanova found a stout bodkin with a long wooden handle,
the implement used by the secretaries for piercing parchments that
were to be joined by a cord bearing the leaden seals of the Republic.
He opened a desk, and rummaging in it, found a letter addressed to the
Proveditor of Corfu, advising a remittance of 3,000 sequins for the
repair of the fortress. He rummaged further, seeking the 3,000
sequins, which he would have appropriated without the least scruple.
Unfortunately they were not there.

Quitting the desk, he crossed to the door, to find it not merely
locked but to discover that it was not the kind of lock that would
yield to blows. There was no way out but by battering away one of the
panels, and to this he addressed himself without hesitation, assisted
by Balbi, who had armed himself with the bodkin, but who trembled
fearfully at the noise of Casanova's blows. There was danger in this,
but the danger must be braved, for the time was slipping away. In half
an hour they had broken down all of the panel it was possible to
remove without the help of a saw. The opening they had made was at a
height of five feet from the ground, and the splintered woodwork armed
it with a fearful array of jagged teeth.

They dragged a couple of stools to the door, and getting on to these,
Casanova bade Balbi go first. The long, lean monk folded his arms, and
thrust head and shoulders through the hole; then Casanova lifted him,
first by the waist, then by the legs, and so helped him through into
the room beyond. Casanova threw their bundles after him, and then
placing a third stool on top of the other two, climbed on to it, and,
being almost on a level with the opening, was able to get through as
far as his waist, when Balbi took him in his arms and proceeded to
drag him out. But it was done at the cost of torn breeches and
lacerated legs, and when he stood up in the room beyond he was
bleeding freely from the wounds which the jagged edges of the wood had
dealt him.

After that they went down two staircases, and came out at last in the
gallery leading to the great doors at the head of that magnificent
flight of steps known as the Giant's Staircase. But these doors--the
main entrance of the palace--were locked, and, at a glance, Casanova
saw that nothing short of a hatchet would serve to open them. There
was no more to be done.

With a resignation that seemed to Balbi entirely cynical, Casanova sat
down on the floor.

"My task is ended," he announced. "It is now for heaven or chance to
do the rest. I don't know whether the palace cleaners will come here
today as it is All Saints, or tomorrow, which will be All Souls.
Should anyone come I shall run for it the moment the door is opened,
and you had best follow me. If no one comes, I shall not move from
here; and, if I die of hunger, so much the worse."

It was a speech that flung the monk into a passion. In burning terms
he reviled Casanova, calling him a madman, a seducer, a deceiver, a
liar. Casanova let him rave. It was just striking six. Precisely an
hour had elapsed since they had left the attic.

Balbi, in his red flannel waistcoat and his puce-coloured leather
breeches, might have passed for a peasant; but Casanova, in torn
garments that were soaked in blood, presented an appearance that was
terrifying and suspicious. This he proceeded to repair. Tearing a
handkerchief, he made shift to bandage his wounds, and then from his
bundle he took his fine taffeta summer suit, which on a winter's day
must render him ridiculous.

He dressed his thick, dark brown hair as best he could, drew on a pair
of white stockings, and donned three lace shirts one over another. His
fine cloak of floss silk he gave to Balbi, who looked for all the
world as if he had stolen it.

Thus dressed, his fine laced hat with point of Spain on his head,
Casanova opened a window and looked out. At once he was seen by some
idlers in the courtyard, who, amazed at his appearance there, and
conceiving that he must have been locked in by mistake on the previous
day, went off at once to advise the porter. Meanwhile, Casanova, vexed
at having shown himself where he had not expected anyone, and little
guessing how excellently this was to serve his ends, left the window
and went to sit beside the angry friar, who greeted him with fresh
revilings.

A sound of steps and a rattle of keys stemmed Balbi's reproaches in
full flow. The lock groaned.

"Not a word," said Casanova to the monk, "but follow me."

Holding his spontoon ready, but concealed under his coat, he stepped
to the side of the door. It opened, and the porter, who had come alone
and bareheaded, stared in stupefaction at the strange apparition of
Casanova.

Casanova took advantage of that paralysing amazement. Without uttering
a word, he stepped quickly across the threshold, and with Balbi close
upon his heels, he went down the Giant's Staircase in a flash, crossed
the little square, reached the canal, bundled Balbi into the first
gondola he found there, and jumped in after him.

"I want to go to Fusine, and quickly," he announced. "Call another
oarsman."

All was ready, and in a moment the gondola was skimming the canal.
Dressed in his unseasonable suit, and accompanied by the still more
ridiculous figure of Balbi in his gaudy cloak and without a hat, he
imagined he would be taken for a charlatan or an astrologer.

The gondola slipped past the custom-house, and took the canal of the
Giudecca. Halfway down this, Casanova put his head out of the little
cabin to address the gondolier in the poop.

"Do you think we shall reach Mestre in an hour?"

"Mestre?" quoth the gondolier. "But you said Fusine."

"No, no, I said Mestre--at least, I intended to say Mestre."

And so the gondola was headed for Mestre by a gondolier who professed
himself ready to convey his excellency to England if he desired it.

The sun was rising and the water assumed an opalescent hue. It was a
delicious morning, Casanova tells us, and I suspect that never had any
morning seemed to that audacious, amiable rascal as delicious as this
upon which he regained his liberty, which no man ever valued more
highly.

In spirit he was already safely over the frontiers of the Most Serene
Republic, impatient to transfer his body thither, as he shortly did,
through vicissitudes that are a narrative in themselves, and no part
of this story of his escape from the Piombi and the Venetian
Inquisitors of State.



THE ROOKS AND THE HAWK


It was in March of 1760 that Casanova's roving spirit and evil genius
between them took him to Stuttgart in a well-appointed chaise of his
own, attended by an efficient body-servant, as became a man of his
importance. For now, in his thirty-fifth year, he found himself
hoisted into wealth and fame. Taking advantage of an introduction to
the French Minister of Finance, he had, without the least knowledge of
the subject, undertaken to organize the State lotteries in France. So
impressed was the Ministry by the result that he was sent to Holland
to negotiate a State loan. Again thanks to his impudence and
resourcefulness, he not only succeeded in this mission, but in the
course of it amassed for himself a fortune of upwards of half a
million francs. Another might have settled down to easy
respectability. But that was never Giacomo di Casanova's way. He set
out again upon his travels, and came presently to Stuttgart, where he
put up at "The Bear".

Having dined, he dressed with care, and went forth to study the
manners of the capital of Würtemberg. He began by going to the
handsome playhouse built and managed by the Grand Duke, for the
theatre was the chief hobby of this ridiculous prince, pursued at
enormous cost. He imported the best comedians from France and Italy;
his /corps de ballet/ consisted of a score of the leading Italian
dancers of the day, supported by at least a hundred coryphées; the
famous Novers was his ballet-master; the composer Jumella was in his
service; and some of the ablest painters available were employed as
his scenographers. To pay for these and other kindred extravagances,
this luxurious, debauched prince enjoyed not only the heavy revenues
extracted from his long-suffering subjects, but a considerable subsidy
paid him by the King of France for maintaining a force of ten thousand
Würtembergers in the service of the French armies.

From his seat in a box in the first tier, Casanova considered with
interest the ruler who wasted upon frivolous amusements the fruits of
that unworthy traffic in the flesh and blood of his subjects. He
beheld him standing before the orchestra surrounded by a knot of
courtiers, a tall, florid man in a heavy wig, with the flabby, gross
habit of body that results from excesses, hard blue eyes and a
sneering, sensual mouth. Casanova, himself a libertine, thought him
rather disgusting, and turned his attention to the music. His Italian
enthusiasm being presently aroused by the performance of a singer, he
broke suddenly into applause, and as suddenly checked upon perceiving
that he was applauding alone, and that the Grand Duke was directing
upon him a stare of haughty displeasure.

A moment later his box was invaded by an officer who, assuming him to
be a stranger, informed him in French that the sovereign being in the
theatre no one was permitted to applaud unless his highness applauded.

Casanova rose with dignity.

"In that case," said he, "I shall come some other time, when the
sovereign is absent, so that I may be at liberty to express my
appreciation."

And upon that he went out, his head in the hair, and called for his
carriage. But as he was in the act of stepping into it, came the same
officer to inform him that his highness desired to speak to him.

Entirely master of himself, Casanova re-entered the theatre, and was
presently bowing perfunctorily before the Grand Duke, whilst stared at
from every quarter.

Expressionless hard blue eyes considered him.

"You are, I believe, Monsieur Casanova," said a guttural voice.

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Is this your first visit to Stuttgart?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Do you intend to make a long stay?"

"Of a week or so, if your highness will permit me."

"Readily. And I further permit you to applaud whenever you are so
inclined."

"I am grateful, your highness. I shall take advantage of the
permission."

"Very well."

Thick lips smiled faintly, sneeringly, as was their habit, a fat hand
waved dismissal, and Casanova bowed and stepped back out of the circle
of intimates.

He sat down at the end of a bench a little behind the court group, and
the curtain rose upon the second act. Presently his highness quitted
the orchestra, and went up to a box on the first tier to kiss the hand
of a magnificent, bejewelled lady before leaving the theatre.

Casanova looked up. The lady's shoulder was towards him, and he
obtained no more than a fleeting glimpse of her profile, yet something
familiar about it drew his attention and piqued his curiosity. He
turned to an officer sitting on his right to enquire her identity.
With unconcealed surprise at Casanova's ignorance the Würtemberger
answered that she was "Madame".

"Madame!" said Casanova, staring. "Madame what?"

"Why, Madame--the prince's /maîtresse-en-titre/; that is the title by
which the lady occupying that exalted position is always known. She
was once a famous dancer, and for a time charmed us all from the
stage. But the prince fell in love with her, and----" The officer
waved a hand towards the box. "It often happens," he added, casually.

"What is her name?" quoth Casanova.

"In the theatre she was known as La Gradella. She was, I believe, a
countrywoman of your own."

Ten years ago Casanova had known a girl of that name who danced in the
theatre of San Samuele in Venice. But she had been an indifferent
dancer of notorious conduct and low extraction--the daughter of a
gondolier named Gradello. It was inconceivable that she should be this
"Madame" of the Grand Ducal court. But even as he gazed upwards with
increasing intentness the languorous beauty turned her head, fully
revealing her face to him, and he recognized indeed the boatman's
daughter.

"Since you have had the honour of being presented to the prince," the
officer was saying, "you may permit yourself the further honour of
kissing Madame's hand."

Despite himself, Casanova burst out laughing. The officer frowned and
stiffened. Our Venetian realized the ambiguity of his laughter, and
hastened to explain it.

"I laugh, sir, because I perceive in Madame an old acquaintance." The
officer's deepening frown warned Casanova that he had made matters
worse. "A relation, I should say," he corrected, too hastily, and
could at once have bitten out his tongue.

The officer rose, bowed, smiling now, and withdrew to reappear in the
box above. Presently Casanova saw Madame turn to stare in his
direction. Then, smiling languidly, she beckoned him with her fan. He
was relieved that she did not utterly disown him. He went up, and as
the officer withdrew, bowed over the hand she graciously extended.

"Did you announce yourself as my cousin to his highness?" she asked
him.

"I did not, Madame."

"That is an omission that I shall repair," she drawled, whilst he
repressed an inclination to laugh at the lazily insolent air of this
once free-and-easy ballet-girl of San Samuele. "Come and dine with me
tomorrow, my cousin," she invited him, and rose to leave.

When he had escorted her to her carriage he took his way to the stage,
for Casanova, who enjoyed the freedom of the green-rooms of Europe,
had recognized one or two of his acquaintances among the performers,
La Toscani, the singer, La Binetti, the famous dancer, and young
Baletti, who was later to become one of the greatest mimes of the
Italian Comedy. He was joyously hailed, and carried off to a gay
supper-party at Baletti's, graced by the presence of Count von
Schultz, the Austrian envoy.

Next day, Casanova, dressed with the splendour of a Versailles
courtier, went to dine with the favourite. Here a setback awaited him.
La Gradella had not yet seen his highness, who must meanwhile have
heard from others of the relationship claimed with her by Casanova,
and she expressed anxiety on the score of how he might take that
little pleasantry.

"But, my dear," said Casanova, undismayed by the state in which he
found her and the airs she gave herself, "why admit that it was a
pleasantry? Why not allow the belief that we are cousins to persist?"

"I would suffer it willingly to avoid unpleasantness," was the answer.
"But there is my mother to consider."

"Your mother?"

"She lives with me. She will not hear of the relationship."

And then the mother entered--a shapeless woman dressed in all the
colours of the rainbow, with a coiffure half a yard high surmounted by
a couple of nodding green plumes. Her reception of him was so frosty
as to make it obvious to Casanova that the foolish head of this
boatman's widow had been turned by her daughter's equivocal
exaltation.

"We cannot admit relationship," she told him, in answer to his
question, "with one whose parents were comedians."

He was more amazed than offended. "If the theatre is so dishonouring a
profession, Madam, what of your own daughter here?"

"The question is indiscreet and insolent," she answered, reddening
under her rouge. "It was against my wishes that my daughter trod the
stage."

"Yet but for that, you will confess, she might have trodden barefoot
all her life," he answered brutally.

A scene might have ensued, but at that moment a couple of officers
were announced, and dinner was served. Casanova was so angry and
contemptuous that he could not eat. But he dissembled his temper until
the elder La Gradella began to boast of the patrician state of her
relations in Venice. Disgust mounted to his thin lips, his saturnine
face became alight with wicked mockery.

"And your sister?" he asked suddenly. "Is she still alive?"

She quivered and stiffened, and her little eyes considered him
malevolently. "I don't know what sister you mean," she answered him,
since she must answer something.

"I mean the blind beggar of the little bridge behind St Mark's."

There was a deathly silence. The two officers stared at him, their
eyebrows raised, and from him to La Gradella, whose bosom heaved
tumultuously. Beads of perspiration broke upon the mother's brow.

"It is a curious jest, sir," she answered acidly.

"No jest at all," he assured her. "Many a copper paolo have I dropped
into her lap as I went that way in the old days."

"If you do not jest, sir, then you are mistaken," she said, and
Casanova bowed his head with a sardonic smile, and left the subject
there, satisfied that the whole town would hear of it before
nightfall.

After that, you conceive, the meal proceeded with some constraint, and
La Gradella was very chilly towards him when he took his leave. As he
left the house a magnificent lackey informed him that in future he
would not be admitted. He was not surprised. On his way home he came
to the conclusion that Stuttgart was a very unattractive place and
that he would resume his journey to Zürich on the morrow.

At nightfall, however, he was visited at his hotel by the two officers
with whom he had dined at La Gradella's--Captain von Reuss and Captain
Stoffel--accompanied by a third, whom they presented to him as
Lieutenant von Diesenheim. Casanova received them stiffly, conceiving
they might be come to demand satisfaction for the affront he had put
upon the favourite and her mother. Far from it, however; they were
come to laugh with him over the affair, which did not seem to Casanova
very noble on the part of men who habitually enjoyed the favourite's
hospitality; but he excused them on the ground that no doubt all
Germans were disgusting, and that one cannot expect the habits of a
beast to differ from those of the herd.

They proposed to show him some of the amusements of Stuttgart, and he
yielded against his inclinations. As he says, it was written that in
Stuttgart he was to commit blunder after blunder. They began--and,
indeed, ended--by leading him to an evil-looking gaming-house in a
back street, kept by an Italian named Peccini with the assistance of a
couple of raddled daughters who, as Casanova surmised, performed the
office of decoys.

A vile supper was served on an unclean cloth, which in itself was
sufficient to turn the stomach of our fastidious Venetian. He was ill
at ease, and not without his suspicions both of the Peccini family and
of the Würtemberg officers. Already he repented having yielded to
their invitation, and on no account would he consent to eat. But to
avoid giving offence he drank one or two small glasses of Tokay.

Anon, the cloth being cleared, a game of faro was proposed, and
half-a-dozen packs of cards were produced. Peccini took from a strong
box five rouleaux, each of twenty louis, and made a bank with these.
To a player of Casanova's calibre such a game seemed puerile, but he
began to punt in the hope that after an hour or so of this bagatelle,
he might be permitted to depart. Within half-an-hour he had lost the
fifty or sixty louis that his purse contained, and announcing himself
cleaned out he rose to withdraw.

But the officers would not hear of it. They were distressed,
particularly von Reuss--a lean, sinister-looking man of thirty--at his
ill-fortune, and anxious to give him the opportunity of retrieving his
loss. His word, they swore, was good for any amount with them. He
yielded, sat down, and lost another hundred louis on credit within
half that number of minutes. One of the Peccini girls had pressed upon
him another glass of Tokay, insisting that he should drink her health.
Again he would have withdrawn, but again he was persuaded to remain,
and invited now to make a bank himself. The very manner in which he
yielded shows that he was no longer master of his wits; proves, as he
afterwards claimed, the Tokay to have been drugged. It was the
invariable rule of his life that in whatever company he played he
never made a bank without calling for a fresh pack at every deal,
himself tearing off the envelope. Yet in this obviously disreputable
company he was content to use these greasy cards that had been doing
duty for over an hour already; and with a boastfulness entirely
foreign to him he announced, merely to startle these players for
crowns, that he would make a bank of a thousand louis.

How long the game went on he never knew. His intoxication increased
until active consciousness faded out.

Next morning when his valet Le Duc awakened him he learnt that he had
been brought home dead drunk at midnight in a sedan chair. Through
gaps in the fog that clouded his memory of last night's events, he saw
flushed, leering, wicked faces confronting him about a table, heard
the soft slither of cards, and his own voice laughing recklessly.

Le Duc informed him that his pockets had been picked, and that his
gold snuff-box and both his watches were missing. That loss, though
considerable, was trifling by comparison with another which was about
to be disclosed to him. His three companions of yesternight were
announced, and he received them in his dressing-gown.

They came full of condolence. They were beyond words distressed that
his initiation into play in Stuttgart should have been so exceedingly
costly. But he had certainly proved himself the formidable gamester
which rumour named him, and they hoped it would not inconvenience him
unduly to liquidate at once the debt incurred.

He listened with a growing sense of uneasiness.

"What is the sum total of my debt?" he asked.

"You lost last night, playing on your pledged word, a hundred thousand
francs," he was coolly informed by von Reuss, who showed him his note
for that amount signed in a hand that he hardly recognized for his
own.

A smaller sum might have angered him. But this amount by its very
enormity merely amused him. His bold, dark eyes played over that
scoundrelly trio with deadly derision. Did they really know him so
little, he who for fifteen years and more had been a hawk among rooks,
to think that he was to be plucked in this fashion? Did they really
think he would disgorge a hundred thousand francs, or any part of that
sum, to thieves of their low kind? He drew himself up, tall, lithe,
and virile, despite his aching head.

"Sirs," he answered them very coldly, "there are two ways in which you
may obtain payment. One is by an appeal to the law, which I hardly
think you will dare, the other is by an appeal to arms, in which case
I shall be happy to pay you one at a time--not in gold, but in steel."

"Sir," cried von Reuss, "this is unworthy! We deemed you a gentleman,
else----"

"Oh no," Casanova broke in, his brown, aquiline face infinitely
mocking, "you deemed me a pigeon to be plucked by any dirty fingers.
And so you lead me to an infamous gaming-den, where I am drugged, and
cheated, and my pockets are picked. Between the fifty or sixty louis I
had on me, and the valuable objects stolen from me, I have lost some
three hundred louis. I am content to suffer that loss as the price a
man must pay for his follies. But when you ask me to pay a single sou
of this sum out of which you tell me that you have swindled me amongst
you, why, sirs, you have knocked on the wrong door."

There was a moment's pause, then all together the three gentlemen of
Würtemberg broke into menaces and insults. The storm was at its height
when the door opened and in came Baletti and some half-dozen players
from the Grand Ducal theatre, whom Casanova had invited to breakfast.

Still muttering threats the three officers withdrew. The players had
heard enough to gather what was in the wind. At table, Casanova, who
save for his headache was now serene and calm again, gave them what
further enlightenment they craved. Some laughed, but Baletti thought
the matter serious.

"My dear Baletti," laughed Casanova, "do you think I have roamed the
world these years without meeting their kind before, and knowing how
to deal with them? I tell you the matter is at an end."

"You may find yourself at fault," Baletti answered. "Von Reuss is a
friend of La Gradella's, you know. He may induce her to exert her
influence with the Grand Duke to your undoing." Casanova became
thoughtful. "If you will heed my advice," Baletti continued, "you will
not lose a moment in informing his highness of the event before they
have time to tell their story."

"I am not sure," said Casanova, "that I made a very good impression on
his highness."

He was really thinking of what had occurred at La Gradella's house,
and wondering how much of this might have been reported to the Grand
Duke; how far, indeed, La Gradella herself might have been responsible
for what had happened.

"No matter," replied Baletti. "His highness has a rough sense of
justice. It was these officers who led you to this gaming-house, and
engaged you to gamble in spite of the prince's edict forbidding it,
which they knew, and you did not; it was whilst in their company that
your pockets were picked, and you were first drugged, then swindled.
The prince must give you justice, otherwise he is himself dishonoured
by an offence committed by officers in his service."

Thus persuaded, Casanova, as soon as breakfast was done, dressed
himself and set out for the Palace. He contrived without difficulty to
penetrate as far as the last ante-chamber. Here a chamberlain listened
deferentially to his request for an audience, and having heard his
name and grounds of complaint, assured him that the Grand Duke would
receive him presently.

But whilst he waited in that ante-chamber among a few other
petitioners, in swaggers Captain von Reuss to engage the chamberlain
in close and intimate talk. Casanova had not the least doubt that he
had been spied upon and followed, and that he himself was the object
of that intimate conversation. He was still meditating when von Reuss
saluted lightly, and withdrew. Casanova continued to wait, but no
longer sanguine. The chamberlain presently vanished into the prince's
room. He returned soon after, and crossed to Casanova.

"You may return home, sir," he said. "His highness cannot see you now.
But he is informed of the whole affair, and will see that justice is
done you."

Our Venetian was very angry. But as he was not the man to break his
head against obstacles, he withdrew, determined to leave Stuttgart at
once.

Instead of going straight back to "The Bear", however, he bent his
steps towards Baletti's, to inform the actor of what had happened and
to take his leave of him. Baletti kept him to dine. The actor was
lodged in a house on the very walls of the city, and the window of his
dining-room was some sixty or seventy feet above the old moat--now
waterless--a circumstance which Casanova was to find singularly
propitious later. Whilst they were at table Le Duc, who had been
hunting up and down the town for his master for the last hour, brought
the ominous news that an officer and two soldiers awaited Casanova at
the inn. This could only mean his arrest. The affair began to look
ugly.

"I have been a fool throughout," Casanova confessed. "I have made
enemies everywhere, and von Reuss has procured the interest of La
Gradella against me."

Baletti determined to invoke the aid of his friend the Austrian envoy,
and carried Casanova off at once to the house of von Schultz. The
Count received them cordially, and was indignant when he heard what
was afoot.

"But you must do justice to his highness," he said. "It is
inconceivable that he should know the truth. Sit down, Monsieur
Casanova, and write me a brief account of the affair. You may depend
upon me to see that it reaches the prince's hands tomorrow."

Nor did the Austrian's kindness end there. Since Casanova could not
return to his inn without being arrested, or indeed show himself
abroad without incurring that same danger, von Schultz insisted that
he should remain in his house, where no officer of justice might seek
him without violating ambassadorial privileges. On the morrow
Casanova's memoir was placed in the Grand Duke's hands, and three days
further Casanova remained the envoy's guest, discharging the debt as
best he could by entertaining the Count with tales of his adventures.

But on the fourth day the envoy received a letter from the Secretary
of State requesting him in the name of the Grand Duke to order M.
Casanova to leave his house at once, since his remaining there
prevented the course of justice in an action invoked against him by
three officers in the Grand Duke's service. The letter concluded with
the assurance that complete justice should be done M. Casanova.

Von Schultz placed the letter in the hands of his guest. "I am sorry,
my friend," he said. "But you will realize that I cannot keep you here
against the wishes of the sovereign."

Casanova understood, and with gratitude for all that the Count had
already done for him he returned to his quarters at "The Bear", where
an officer and two soldiers awaited him.

The officer was courteous, but firm. Casanova must not be surprised to
be placed under arrest in his own room, since his opponents in the
action pending against him were within their rights in demanding
precaution against his possible evasion. He ended by politely
requesting Casanova's sword, which the Venetian regretfully
surrendered.

Forbidden now to leave his chamber, with a sentry on guard day and
night in the ante-room, and another under his window, Casanova was
nevertheless permitted to receive visitors, and of this permission his
friends of the Italian Comedy availed themselves to the full.

He was visited also by the three officers. They came to persuade him
to be reasonable and to pay the sum required, thus avoiding heavy
legal charges and perhaps a heavy fine as well as imprisonment.

"You talk in vain," Casanova told them. "I have not such a sum at
hand. My wealth has been grossly exaggerated to you."

"We should be willing, all things considered, to compromise with you,"
von Reuss suggested. "We would accept your jewels, lace, travelling
chaise, and other effects on a valuation, and for any balance
remaining we would take bills from you of a reasonable term. We desire
to assist you in this."

"So I perceive," was the tart answer. "I will say this in your
favour--that you are the most impudent and shameless swindlers I have
ever met--and I have met many. You may go to the devil!"

They promised him they would have the pleasure of killing him for his
insolence after he had paid his debt to them.

"Quite so," said he. "Business first; honour afterwards. That is the
motto of your kind. And when the business is done the honour as a rule
may go hang!"

"You realize what will happen when sentence is pronounced against
you?" said von Reuss from the doorway. "Your effects will be sold, and
the money realized will be applied towards the payment of this debt.
For what may still be lacking you will have to contribute your person;
you will be enrolled as a soldier in the army of his serene highness,
and you will pass to the service of France for a yearly sum of six
louis. You will continue to serve until the debt is entirely
extinguished."

On that von Reuss went out, having shattered at last Casanova's
composure. For awhile the Venetian stood there petrified by fear. Here
was something he had left out of the reckoning. To be swindled by
rooks, to have his pockets picked, to be embroiled in legal
proceedings was bad enough. But to contemplate in addition the fate of
becoming a soldier in the service of a princeling such as the Grand
Duke of Würtemberg, who existed only by virtue of his horrible traffic
in flesh and blood with France, was more than his fortitude could
contemplate. He broke into a cold sweat, and then sat down to think of
a way out, cursing himself for having remained so long inactive. Even
if he could escape from the inn it would be impossible to leave the
city now, since the guard at all the gates would have been warned.

Baletti came presently to visit him, and the sight of the actor was in
itself an inspiration. Casanova spoke of his peril. Baletti was aghast
with horror. Then Casanova invoked his aid, and Baletti
unconditionally promised it, and departed almost at once to invite
half the female members of the Italian Comedy to sup that evening with
Casanova.

They were a jovial company, and the supper was of the best "The Bear"
could yield. Towards the end of the repast Casanova informed them of
the danger in which he stood.

"You must pay," they cried.

"Not a copper," said he, and snapped his lips. "I am determined that
these Würtemberger swine shall not have a rag of mine. I have jewels
here worth three-quarters of the total amount claimed, and laces worth
at least fifty thousand francs at an honest valuation--such as I am
persuaded they would not receive at the hands of these thieves. In any
case I do not propose to wait for it. I intend to make my escape at
the sacrifice of nothing more than my travelling chaise, which the
host may keep in discharge of my debt here at 'The Bear'. My jewels
are easily portable, but it is in the matter of my laces that I
implore, ladies, your assistance. If you will dispose of them under
your hoops, and so carry them away from here, you will leave me
eternally in your debt."

He had chosen his moment well, after the wine had been circulated
freely and produced that expansion which disposes us to take generous
risks. When an hour later the ladies took their departure there was
about their figures a matronliness which had not earlier been
apparent, yet which went unperceived in the uncertain candlelight.
They were to leave the laces, linen, silk stockings, and other
fripperies--a whole wardrobe, in fact--with Baletti, who would know
how to dispose of them.

Two days later--on the 1st of April, the eve of the trial--Casanova
had another visit from von Reuss, who made a last appeal to him.

"Your persistence," Casanova mocked him, "implies doubt of the issue
of your action."

"We shall see tomorrow," snarled the Würtemberger as he stamped out.

"You shall," laughed Casanova.

That night Casanova sat at supper alone, Le Duc behind his chair. The
door of his room stood open to the ante-room, where the sentry himself
was supping. Le Duc was pouring wine from a freshly uncorked bottle.
Casanova stayed his hand.

"Desire the sentry to drink a glass with me since this is my last
night in these quarters."

Le Duc went out, and returned, his priestly face composed and solemn.
The sentry thanked his excellency, and would be greatly honoured.

"Take him the bottle," said Casanova grandly.

Half-an-hour later the sentry was snoring.

"He's a noisy devil, Le Duc," said Casanova. "But, you see, the
gentlemen of Würtemberg are not the only men who can play tricks with
wine. Let us be stirring, my lad. I'll leave my travelling-chaise to
pay the bill."

He took up cloak and hat, thrust a brace of pistols into his pockets,
and a hunting-knife into his belt. His jewels were already securely
disposed about his person. He took a last look round at the empty
travelling bags, and they went out softly, locking the door after
them, and removing the key. They tiptoed across the ante-room, past
the drugged sentry, and unperceived gained the staircase that led down
to the side entrance. Three minutes later they were in the street,
muffled to the eyes against the night air.

The sentry pacing under the window of Casanova's room gave them
good-night as they passed him. It was his business only to see that
nobody escaped by the window. In less than a quarter of an hour they
were in Baletti's house on the walls. There they were received by La
Binetti and Toscani, who trembled with excitement.

"All is ready," said Toscani. "A travelling carriage is waiting on the
Fürstenberg road, already laden with the valises containing your laces
and effects."

"And Baletti? Where is he?"

"In the moat, awaiting you."

They stepped to the window which stood open. Seventy feet below,
knee-deep in the mud, stood Baletti invisible. But a soft whistle
announced his presence the moment Casanova's head was thrust from the
window.

A rope was ready, and by this first Casanova and then Le Duc were
gently lowered by the women to the moat. Having clambered out to the
far side at considerable damage to their garments, they set out, led
by Baletti, across a stretch of waste land to the road where a
carriage waited near a wayside tavern. Baletti halted.

"There lies your way," he said. "I come no further. I was disguised
when I hired the chaise in Fürstenberg, and I would not have the
postilion see me, lest he should recognize me again, and thus dispel
the mystery that must overhang your escape. He has his orders. He is
to drive you over the frontier straight to Fürstenberg."

They embraced each other, and Casanova profusely thanked the comedian,
to whom and to the accidental situation of whose lodgings he owed it
that his escape was possible.

Five minutes later they were driving briskly through the night, away
from Stuttgart and its disgusting court. Next morning from
Fürstenberg, safe beyond the reach of the Grand Duke of Würtemberg,
Casanova wrote to the three scoundrelly rooks. He told them that
persisting in his intention of paying them in steel, he would await
them for seven days in Fürstenberg, where the ægis of their obscene
prince would no longer shield them. Should they fail to come, he would
publish them as cowards in every city of Europe.

They never came, of course; nor did he ever trouble to publish them,
or to give them another thought.

Stuttgart was left gaping at the mystery of his escape, until it was
remembered that he had dabbled at different times in magic, and it was
concluded that he had employed the agency of the devil to pass
unperceived through the barred gates of the city. Of those in the
secret not one dared breathe a word of the truth, for Casanova had
taken care to make each of them an accomplice.



THE POLISH DUEL


Casanova possessed in a pre-eminent degree the adventurer's faculty of
drawing fortune from misfortune, and sometimes, too, he was well
served by his luck to the same end, but never so well as on the
occasion of his brief but chequered sojourn in Warsaw in the winter of
1765.

You see him now a hard-bitten man of forty, already conscious that his
best years lie behind him, yet of a /verve/ as vigorous as his
constitution. The fortune amassed in Holland some years before, which
would have kept an ordinarily extravagant man in luxury for the
remainder of his days, he had by now entirely dissipated. Already he
was beginning to have recourse to the questionable shifts by which he
had kept himself in funds in his early years. Outwardly, however, he
still contrived to maintain the splendour of the great gentleman, and
though his purse grew light and his creditors in Warsaw impatient, his
air and manner were as haughty and imposing as in his most affluent
days.

He had come to the Polish capital armed with those letters of
introduction with which he was invariably able to provide himself.
They led to his being presented to the witty, scholarly
Stanislas-Auguste, and a happy quotation from Horace established him
in the royal favour. Also, the king--like most monarchs of the
day--was avid of news of the doings of Catherine of Russia, and
Casanova, fresh from St Petersburg, where he had wintered, was not
only able to gratify his curiosity, but did so with all the piquant
humour in which he knew how to array his impudence. Stanislas-Auguste
was very pleased with him, providing him with some work of a literary
character, to which Casanova devoted himself with assiduity, being led
to hope that it would lead to his being appointed the King's private
secretary. Thence he hoped that Fortune, following the royal example,
would smile on him once more. And with that end in view he was as
prudent now in his mode of life as it lay within his nature to be. He
avoided gaming-tables, and strove to keep himself clear of intrigues.
Yet in the end an intrigue of the vainest character caught him in its
toils almost despite himself.

It happened early in February that the famous Italian dancer, La
Binetti, with whom Casanova had been acquainted for some years, halted
at the Polish capital on her way to Russia. Tomatis, the enterprising
director of the Warsaw Opera House, engaged her for a week, and so
well did she acquit herself that she was offered, and accepted, a
year's engagement, to the dismay not only of La Cataï, who had
hitherto reigned unrivalled in the Warsaw theatre, but also of Tomatis
himself, who was La Cataï's best friend, and who had been far from
foreseeing such a consequence to his speculation.

Very soon La Binetti was the rage, languidly receiving the homage of a
multitude of adorers. Yet since La Cataï continued still to have her
partisans, it followed that the frequenters of the Warsaw theatre were
divided now into two parties, so that the rivalry between the two
dancers became more and more acute.

Considering that Casanova was an old acquaintance, it was natural that
La Binetti should expect to find him in the ranks of her followers.
But his new mood of prudence, and his resolve to avoid intrigues, kept
him aloof from all partisanship. He tells us that La Binetti scolded
him for his aloofness, and that she was almost as annoyed with him as
with Tomatis. But I hesitate--for reasons that will presently become
apparent--to accept that statement. Besides, there was no parallel
between his friendly neutrality and Tomatis's avowed hostility towards
her. For Tomatis was by now bitterly repenting that he should himself
have afforded La Binetti the opportunity of conquering rather more
than the half of Warsaw. He made no secret of this, but worked quite
openly in the interest of La Cataï, and missed no occasion to manifest
how greatly superior he considered her to La Binetti. As a consequence
it was not long before La Binetti came to hate Tomatis, and to look
round for a weapon with which to avenge herself upon the luckless
director. That weapon--and a very ready one--she found presently in
Xavier Branicki, who, deeply enamoured of her unquestionable charms,
was prepared to go any lengths to win her favour.

This Count Branicki was a handsome, vigorous man of thirty, newly
returned from Berlin, where he had been as ambassador to the court of
Frederick. He was Grand Chamberlain of the kingdom, a colonel of
Uhlans, and a close friend of the king's. A man therefore of some
weight and consequence in Warsaw, as you can conceive, yet not above
becoming a bully in the service of a dancer, as you shall see.

At her imperious behest, he addressed himself to the punishing of
Tomatis for the latter's preference of her rival. One night at the
opera, during the performance of the second ballet, in which La
Binetti was appearing, Branicki amazed the audience by entering the
box occupied by Tomatis and La Cataï. It was the first time that
either in public or in private he had paid the slightest attention to
the rival dancer, and before the present homage of his words and
bearing both La Cataï and her friend Tomatis could conclude only that
he had quarrelled with La Binetti. He took a seat beside the lady, and
was assiduous in his attentions throughout the remainder of the
evening. At the end of the performance he begged to be permitted to
conduct her to her carriage, which in reality was the carriage of
Tomatis. Even then he did not take his leave of her; having handed her
into the vehicle, he followed, and seated himself beside her. Tomatis,
who under the eyes of the courtly throng that filled the vestibule had
followed the pair between satisfaction and mistrust, stepped forward
now to enter the carriage in his turn. But he found his way barred by
the arm which Branicki suddenly shot forward.

"Take another carriage, and follow us," the Grand Chamberlain
commanded, much as he might have commanded a lackey.

Stung by the tone, Tomatis was so imprudent as to display a dignified
insistence. "I am not accustomed, Count," he said, "to travel in any
carriage but my own."

"Drive on!" shouted Branicki to the coachman.

"Stay where you are!" Tomatis commanded, and since Tomatis was the
master it was Tomatis who was obeyed.

The scene promised to become interesting; it began to look as if the
Grand Chamberlain were about to be made ridiculous. But Branicki
played with loaded dice. The thing had gone as far as he had intended,
and Tomatis had afforded him the pretext he required. Compelled by the
director's firmness to alight from the carriage, he did so with every
appearance of anger, and called to an orderly who stood by to box the
director's ears. The orderly, with perfect, mechanical military
obedience, dealt Tomatis a resounding buffet. The director reeled,
half-stunned by the blow. Then, partly recovering himself, but lacking
the wit or the courage to drive his sword through the body of his
assailant, he plunged into the carriage, and was driven home to eat,
as Casanova says, his /soufflet/ for supper.

The unfortunate director was so crushed by the affair that for a time
he hardly dared to show himself. He appealed to the king for justice;
but Stanislas-Auguste was reluctant to take action against his friend
and Grand Chamberlain. To Casanova, who had been a witness of the
affair, and who was filled with indignation against the aggressor and
sympathy for Tomatis, the director confided bitterly that vengeance on
Branicki was too costly a luxury for him. It would entail his
departure from Poland, and the loss of some 40,000 sequins which he
had invested in the theatre.

Heaven knows I do not wish to add to the catalogue of rogueries to
which Casanova confesses. Yet I suspect him of a certain lack of
candour in his account of what followed. We know that he was extremely
hard-pressed for money at this moment; that he was of a resolute
courage, and a useful man of his hands; we know that Tomatis was
tolerably rich, and burning to punish Branicki, if it were possible to
do so without his own agency being revealed. Is it therefore
unreasonable to suspect that more passed at his interview with Tomatis
than Casanova reveals, and that the sequel did not fall out exactly as
he would have us believe?

He says, for instance, that he had reason to suspect that La Binetti
intended to have him similarly dealt with. But he can have had little
grounds for this suspicion, considering how friendly had been his
relations with the dancer until then. What is far more probable is
that he now deliberately provoked her resentment by ostentatiously
joining the party of her rival, in the hope that she would send
Branicki to box his ears. He admits, indeed, that not having 40,000
sequins to lose like Tomatis, he had no occasion to fear her lover. He
tells us, too, that she was radiant now, whilst hypocritically
affecting regret for the misfortune of her "friend" Tomatis, and that
her falseness disposed him against her. Is it too much to suppose that
he deliberately expressed his feelings; and short of supposing this,
how is one to account for what followed?

It happened that a little while later--on the feast of St Casimir, to
be precise--Casanova was of the king's party at the theatre.
Stanislas-Auguste left after the second ballet, and Casanova went
behind to congratulate a young Piedmontese dancer, named La Caracci,
whose performance had greatly pleased his majesty. Passing La
Binetti's dressing-room, the door of which stood open, he paused to
exchange a greeting with her, and had got no further when Count
Branicki arrived. To Casanova this was the signal for departure.
Frigid and distant, he bowed to the Polish nobleman, his chill and
deadly politeness an insult in itself, and went his way to convey to
La Caracci the pleasing news of the royal approbation. He was still
delighting her with this, when to his amazement--as he says--the
dressing-room was unceremoniously invaded by Branicki. Casanova's bold
dark eyes played over the Count with a glance that was haughty and
challenging. Branicki laughed. He was a handsome fellow, tall and
florid, with keen blue eyes, and a sneering mouth.

"Confess, M. Casanova," he cried, "that I am inopportune."

If Casanova did not confess it, neither did he deny it. He just stood
there drawn to his full height--and, tall man though Branicki was, the
Venetian stood an inch or so taller--and stared at the intruder as one
stares at something curious, unusual, and not quite pleasant. His
swarthy, aquiline face was disconcertingly contemptuous. The Count
should have discerned that here was a man of a stamp very different
from Tomatis, a man ready to go more than half-way to meet him if his
purpose were a quarrel. Perhaps Branicki did discern it.

"Your silence admits it," he cried. "I do not wonder. This lady is so
amiable that--that, faith, I am deeply in love with her, and I intend
to suffer no rival. You understand me?"

Casanova smiled, but it was a crooked smile. He looked at the
bewildered little dancer, whose cheeks were flushed with dawning
indignation, and then bowed too elaborately to Branicki.

"In that case," he said, "I must renounce all pretensions."

Branicki sneered. He does not appear to have possessed a keen ear for
irony. "You are a prudent man, M. Casanova."

"Who could be so ill-advised as to enter into rivalry with a man of
your excellency's quality?" quoted Casanova. But now the mockery of
his voice was more pronounced, and his smile more wickedly sardonic.

"I account anyone a coward," said Branicki, "who abandons his ground
at the first threat of danger."

Despite his iron self-control, Casanova quivered under the whiplash of
those words. Mechanically, his hand was half-way to his sword before
he recollected himself. Turning, he bowed profoundly to the scared and
breathless girl, who stood leaning for support against her
dressing-table. Then holding himself stiffly erect, he walked past the
Count, so closely as almost to touch him. For an instant he paused
face to face with the Pole, and looked deep into the man's eyes,
unpardonable contempt in his glance, in the curl of his lip, and in
the slight shrug of his shoulders. There is no doubt that he intended
to give Branicki ample rope; I suspect that he deliberately tempted
the Count to slap his face, so that the affront might be complete. But
as Branicki did not appear disposed to do so, Casanova passed out.

Instantly the Count sprang after him, and his voice hoarse with anger
rang down the corridor.

"Venetian coward!" he shouted.

Casanova checked in his stride, and turned. Dressing-room doors stood
open on either hand, and in the corridor loitered several officers of
the court. There was no lack of witnesses that the Pole was the
aggressor.

"Count Branicki," said our adventurer, in a steady voice, "I will
prove it on your body when you please and where you please that a
Venetian coward does not fear a Polish nobleman."

Thus was the quarrel engaged between these two men, one of whom had
for only aim to salve the wounded vanity of an empty-headed dancer,
the other to avenge the wrongs of a theatrical director. That at least
is my own conclusion so far as Casanova is concerned. But even so, I
am very far from wishing to impute that he descended on this
occasion--or was even capable of descending--to the level of the hired
bully. I am convinced that nothing would have induced him to espouse
Tomatis's quarrel had he not been deeply in sympathy with the
director, and contemptuous of the nobleman who had so unworthily used
him. I suggest then, no more than that he combined chivalry with
profit, each acting as a spur to the other. Meanwhile, he went home to
await developments.

Early next morning Prince Lubomirski, with whom he was on terms of
friendship, went to visit him. Casanova was elegantly lodged in a
small suite of rooms in the house of Campioni, the dancing master.
There Prince Lubomirski found him still abed, but sitting up and
writing busily. He laid down his pen, and gave the Prince a hearty
welcome. Lubomirski sat down, and came straight to the matter on his
mind.

"Branicki had been drinking last night," he said. "I hope that a man
of your experience is above being offended by the indiscretions of a
gentleman in his cups."

"To be sure I am," said Casanova genially, "provided that being sober
this morning the Count will have the discretion to apologize."

"That is a great deal to expect of Branicki," opined the prince.

"So I had imagined," Casanova agreed, "for which reason I have just
written him a letter. Let me read it to you." And he read it:


  Your excellency insulted me yesterday, and as I can discern no
  reason why you should have done so, I can only assume that you
  dislike me. In the circumstances I have the honour to place myself
  at your disposal. To settle the matter I am ready to meet you
  under conditions in which my death could not be considered an
  assassination, and in which I might kill your excellency without
  being guilty of the same offence against the law. This proposal
  should prove to your excellency the high regard in which I hold
  you. I have the honour to enclose the length of my sword, and
  venture to hope that you will appoint a meeting for tomorrow.


Aghast at the letter, Lubomirski broke into protestations calculated
to dissuade Casanova from his purpose. Failing, he departed in
despair, and Casanova at once dispatched a messenger with the letter.
Within an hour it was answered by Count Branicki in person.

Admitted to Casanova's bedchamber--for the Venetian was still abed
engaged in correspondence--the Count locked the door, and came
unceremoniously to seat himself upon the bed. Finding this proceeding
not merely irregular in the circumstances, but a thought too intimate,
and not knowing what might follow out of it, Casanova prudently
reached for a pistol.

"I haven't come to kill you in your bed," Branicki assured him
pleasantly, "but merely to tell you that I never postpone a duel to
the morrow. Either we fight today or we do not fight at all."

He spoke of it lightly, much as he might have discussed a visit to the
opera.

"Today is impossible, Count," Casanova answered. "I am at work as you
see, and I must finish these letters--they are to go by a courier
leaving Warsaw tonight."

"You can finish them afterwards."

"I might conceivably not be in case to do so."

Branicki laughed. "That is unlikely. But if so--the dead need fear no
reproaches on the score of unanswered letters."

"But I don't understand," protested Casanova, "why your excellency
should refuse to wait until tomorrow."

"Don't you see that if we wait you will miss the satisfaction you
desire of me. His majesty is sure to hear of it, and will have us both
placed under arrest."

Branicki was today as charming and amiable as he had last night been
insolent and overbearing. Then, too, in his florid, blond way, he was
a handsome man, and a handsome face in either man or woman was ever an
irresistible recommendation to Casanova. He says somewhere that a
handsome face is a draft at sight, which all the world is prepared to
honour. Thus it happened that he found himself liking Count Branicki,
whose acquaintance he was really only just beginning to make. And
there is little doubt that the feeling was reciprocated by the Pole.
It is curious but undeniable that these two odd fellows were actually
in course of becoming friends whilst arranging to cut each other's
throats.

"Very well," said Casanova, at length. "I consent, since I cannot
neglect anything that should afford me the privilege of a meeting with
you. If therefore you will call for me after dinner I shall be ready."

"You are very kind, sir. I hoped that you would accompany me at once."

"Not that," said the Venetian. "I must dine first."

"Each to his taste," was the reply. "Myself I prefer to fight fasting.
But I will wait. Meanwhile, sir, why send me the length of your sword?
I never consent to meet a stranger with any weapons but pistols."

This was a shock to Casanova, who was confident of his swordsmanship.

"I do not fight with pistols," he protested, "and in all the
circumstances I have the right to the choice of weapons."

"Perhaps; but you are, I am sure, too gallant a man not to accept the
weapon I propose."

Conquered by the fellow's amiability and good looks, Casanova yielded
the point.

"So be it," he said. "You will bring a brace of pistols to be loaded
in my presence, and I will choose my own. Should we miss each other,
perhaps I shall have the honour of crossing swords with you, until one
of us draws first blood--that is all."

"Excellent." Branicki rose to depart. "I shall call for you at three
o'clock. Until then not a word to anyone. And now let us shake hands.
It will be an honour to meet you."

Entirely charmed by him, Casanova shook his hand effusively, and so
they parted for the moment, completely pleased with each other.

Casanova, who, like your true man of the world, was a complete
epicurean, prepared himself for the ordeal by ordering and sitting
down to a succulent dinner and the choicest of wines. He sent for
Campioni to keep him company, but found Campioni--who more than
suspected what was in the wind--dull and preoccupied. Nevertheless,
Casanova ate heartily, and drank as heartily, but with discretion.

Precisely at three o'clock Branicki arrived in a berline drawn by six
horses, followed by two led horses in the charge of two orderlies and
a couple of mounted hussars. Moreover, the Count was accompanied by
his aide-de-camp and a General in full dress uniform. He was
conducting the affair in the grand manner, you see.

Casanova, dressed with care and wrapped in a valuable fur pelisse--for
which I am sure that he had not paid--entered the carriage, and took
the seat beside Branicki to which the latter invited him. Branicki
suggested that he might wish to bring a friend of his own.

"I have made no such provision," he answered, "nor do I now see the
need, since we have witnesses enough, and I leave myself with
confidence in your hands."

The Count acknowledged the compliment by tightly pressing Casanova's
hand, and they drove off. For awhile there was silence. Then Casanova
felt it necessary to make polite conversation.

"Do you expect to spend the summer in Warsaw, Count?" he asked.

"Yesterday that was my intention. But today--it is possible that you
are about to prevent it."

"I trust sincerely that our little affair may not disturb any of your
plans."

"I reciprocate the wish with regard to yourself. You have been a
soldier, Monsieur Casanova?"

"I have. But why do you ask?"

"Oh, merely to keep the conversation going." And Branicki laughed
frankly and pleasantly.

The carriage rolled through the snow-clad suburbs, and came to a halt
at the gates of a park. They alighted, and made their way through the
trees to a clearing in which there were a seat and a table of stone.
On this one of the hussars placed a brace of pistols, each a couple of
feet in length, and set himself to load them.

When they were ready, and even as Branicki was inviting his opponent
to make his choice, there occurred the first discordant note in an
affair hitherto conducted, you will agree, in the sweetest harmony.
This was precipitated by a well-meant, but ill-advised, attempt on the
part of the General to compose the quarrel.

"After all, gentlemen," said he, "would it not be wiser to appeal to
the king to settle your dispute, rather than fight each other?"

"For my part," said Casanova, "I should be charmed to have his majesty
arbitrate between us, provided that his excellency here will express
regret for having insulted me yesterday."

Branicki flushed with sudden anger. "Have we come to fight or to
talk?" he asked, and, proffering the pistols for the second time:
"Choose, sir," he cried.

"You will bear witness hereafter, sir," said Casanova to the General,
"that I have done all that my honour will permit to avoid the duel."
And, tossing back his fur-lined cloak, he seized one of the pistols.
Momentarily he was angered.

"You will find it a good weapon," said Branicki.

"I shall test it on your brain," answered Casanova, and saw Branicki
turn pale with anger. Without answering, the Count stepped back, and
Casanova now did the same, until they stood some twelve paces apart.
The trees on either side of the clearing prevented a wider distance. A
moment they stood regarding each other, then Branicki raised his
pistol slowly. He was deliberately covering Casanova, when the
latter's arm shot up with disconcerting suddenness--a shrewd trick
this to disturb the other's aim--and he fired so abruptly that the two
shots made but one report.

Branicki staggered, reeled, and fell, whereupon Casanova, flinging
away his weapon, sprang forward with real concern to the Count's
assistance. He assures us that he had fired without aiming, and that
he was filled with dread lest he should inadvertently have killed the
Count.

Suddenly he found his way blocked by Branicki's hussars, their sabres
gleaming lividly in the wintry sunshine, and murder in their eyes. He
judged that his last hour had come, as undoubtedly would have been the
case if Branicki had indeed been slain. As it was, the Count's voice
rang out hoarsely to arrest this murderous intent.

"Hold, dogs! Respect Monsieur Casanova--on your lives!"

They fell back at once, and Casanova went forward to assist his
adversary to rise from the snow, which his blood was already flecking.
It was only then that our Venetian discovered that he was wounded
himself, and that the other's bullet was lodged in his left hand.

Branicki was carried to an inn a hundred yards from the park, Casanova
walking beside him, and the two looking at each other ever and anon,
but no word passing between them. At the inn the Count was put to bed
and his wound examined. The bullet had passed through him, from right
to left below the ribs, and there was reason to fear that his
intestines were perforated.

He looked up at Casanova, and a faint smile crossed his white face.

"You have killed me, my friend," he said, without resentment.
"Therefore make haste to save yourself. My purse is at your disposal
if you have need of money."

Overcome with grief, and deeply touched by the other's gallantry and
magnanimity, Casanova thanked him effusively, refused the purse,
embraced him, and stumbled out of the inn blinded by tears. All
Branicki's people had gone off in quest of surgeons, priests, and
friends, and Casanova now found himself alone, wounded, without
weapons, on foot in a snow-clad country that was unknown to him.
Fortunately, he met a peasant in a one-horse sleigh. Holding up his
hand to stop him, he showed him a ducat, uttered the single word
"Warsaw", and thus was driven back to the city.

There, instead of going to his lodgings, he repaired to the Franciscan
monastery, deeming it wise--in view of the sample the hussars had
afforded him of Polish ways--to claim sanctuary until he should know,
in the event of Branicki's death, what might be intended against
himself. He was kindly received by the aged Prior, who placed a room
at his disposal, and sent at once for Campioni, a surgeon, and
Casanova's servant. The surgeon fetched was a clumsy performer, who
miserably lacerated the patient's hand in the course of extracting the
bullet.

Casanova assigns it to vanity that while the operation was being
performed he, dissembling his pain, related the details of the affair
to those who were present. Headed by Prince Lubomirski, and attracted
by the news which had gone through Warsaw like a ripple over water,
they made already a considerable crowd. Others came on the morrow;
indeed not an enemy of Branicki's remained absent, and from the
solicitude they displayed, and the readiness with which they offered
him their purses, he was able to judge how detested the Count's
eminent position and arrogant ways had rendered him. Knowing how
pressed he was for funds, I conceive him to have been very sorely
tempted by their offers. But he set a high price upon his dignity, and
perceiving that only by a sacrifice of this could he accept what was
tendered out of hate for Branicki rather than of love for himself, he
refused with the careless air of one who has inexhaustible resources
at his command. He confesses that he regretted it later.

But if Branicki had enemies, he had friends as well, and these were
moving vigorously to avenge the Count--whose life hung for days in the
balance. The Grand-Marshal, acting upon orders from the king, who
esteemed Casanova, had the convent guarded by a detachment of dragoons
on the pretext of making sure that the Venetian did not escape, but in
reality to protect him from any desperate attempts to seize his
person. Then, too, the wound in Casanova's hand producing considerable
inflammation, three surgeons in consultation decided that it must be
amputated to save his life. But Casanova, suspecting that they were
the agents of Branicki's avengers, and that their object was really to
offer up his hand in sacrifice to their rancour, boldly played his
life against his hand, and saved it by refusing to submit to the
amputation.

He remained with the Franciscans until Easter, by when Branicki was
pronounced out of all danger--and it was believed that the Count owed
his life to having adhered to his practice of fighting on an empty
stomach. However that might be, Casanova was really relieved and
thankful not to have slain a man whom he had found so very estimable.

Nevertheless, there was still a good deal of feeling against him in
certain sections of Warsaw society, and upon the advice of the Russian
ambassador Casanova decided to absent himself from the Polish court
for a couple of months. It was to be expected that by the end of that
time this feeling would have died down, and that he might return and
assume the office of secretary to his majesty, upon which his heart
was set.

Accordingly he set out for Kieff, mysteriously supplied with two
hundred ducats for the journey, and I find it difficult to believe
that this sum was other than a mark of gratitude from Tomatis, whom he
was constantly seeing at this time. And Tomatis had more reason to be
grateful than he knew as yet. For in avenging him upon Branicki,
Casanova had also avenged him upon La Binetti, who had been the
unworthy cause of the whole affair. Her relations with Count Branicki
were at an end. Perceiving into what unworthy courses her vanity had
led him, and how near it had been to costing him his life, the Grand
Chamberlain broke with her completely, and refused to see her again.

Realizing that as a consequence of this her reign in Warsaw was at an
end, she took her departure while Casanova was absent in Kieff. But
before she went she sowed a seed that should yield her a rich harvest
of vengeance upon the Venetian, to whom she attributed her misfortune.

That harvest the unsuspecting Casanova returned to gather, after an
absence of six weeks. He came back to find himself shunned on every
hand, and since not only Branicki's friends, but his very
enemies--those who lately had been most assiduous in their attentions
to himself--now received him with the most studied coldness, he came
to conclude that some cause other than the duel was responsible for
this.

Everywhere the same impolite phrase greeted him: "We did not expect to
see you in Warsaw again. Why have you returned?"

"To pay my debts," was the invariable answer with which he turned his
back upon his questioners.

He went to court. The Russian ambassador, with whom he had been on
very friendly terms, bowed frigidly and passed him. The king, from
whom he had looked for so much, looked through him as if he were made
of glass, whereupon he withdrew, dissembling his chagrin.

Branicki had left Warsaw, and Tomatis, too, was absent, but Lubomirski
remained, and from Lubomirski, who had been his friend, Casanova
sought an explanation. But even Lubomirski had changed, though not to
the extent of the others.

"It is merely a manifestation of the national character," the prince
informed him in answer to his questions. "We are an inconstant people.
Your fortune was made if you had known how to seize the opportunity.
Now it is too late, and there is only one course open to you----"

"To depart," Casanova interrupted angrily. "Very well."

But it was one thing to talk of going, and another thing to go. He had
not the means. The two hundred ducats with which he had gone to Kieff
he had spent with characteristic prodigality, assured that his purse
would be amply replenished on his return to Warsaw. He went home to
find an anonymous letter, which repeated Lubomirski's advice, and gave
him at last the explanation of the attitude towards him of Warsaw
society. It informed him of certain things that the king had been told
concerning him; that he was a sharper and a rogue; that he had been
burnt in effigy in Paris on account of certain malpractices in
connection with his organization of the State lotteries, with which he
had laid the foundations of his sometime fortune--now notoriously
dissipated in evil living; that he had been guilty of innumerable
swindles in London, which had necessitated his abrupt departure from
England; and that for similar reasons he dared not show his face in
Italy, and much also beside of a like nature.

He suspected--no doubt with reason--that this letter was from La
Binetti, and that it was she herself who had put about these
calumnies. Calumnies they were, all the more deadly and insidious
because in each statement made there was just a grain of truth; and of
all lies none is so difficult to refute as a truth untruly told. He
must go; there was no alternative. Yet how was he to go in the present
state of his finances?

To aggravate his despair, he was visited next morning by Sulaskowski,
the General who had acted as Branicki's second, with a message from
his majesty, ordering Casanova to leave Warsaw within eight days.

Stung by the order, Casanova angrily replied that he was not disposed
to obey. "If the king should employ force to compel me, I shall
protest against his violence before all the world. Pray tell him so."

"Sir," was the calm reply, "I am not instructed to convey any answer
of yours to the king, but merely to acquaint you with his majesty's
order." And upon that Sulaskowski ceremoniously took his leave.

When Casanova had mastered his rage he sat down and composed a letter
to the king.

"My honour," he wrote, "does not permit me to obey, as I should wish,
your Majesty's order to quit your capital, as I have had the
misfortune to contract here some debts which must be satisfied before
I leave, and I do not at present possess the necessary resources."

This letter Casanova sent to the king by the hand of Prince
Lubomirski. On the morrow Lubomirski brought him the royal answer.

"His Majesty wishes me to say that in sending you his order to quit
Warsaw he was far from suspecting that you were short of money. I am
to add that this order is given to you entirely in your own interest,
and that his majesty is anxious to know you safely out of a capital
where your enemies are multiplying daily, and where you are daily
receiving provocations. His majesty commends the prudence with which
you have ignored these provocations, but realizing that there must be
a limit to your patience desires you to accept this slight recompense
for the services you rendered him before your unfortunate affair with
Count Branicki." And he handed Casanova an order on the treasury for
1,000 ducats.

This was so liberal a sugar-coating to the pill that Casanova
swallowed it now with gratitude. He wrote a letter of sincere thanks
to Stanislas-Auguste, accepted the travelling-chaise which Lubomirski
offered him as a parting gift, and set out in it next day, taking the
road to Würtemberg.

Thus fortune came to him out of misfortune, and the world lay open to
him once more.



CASANOVA IN MADRID


Of all the hazards into which Casanova was led by his insatiable
addiction to gallantry and his gluttony of adventure none is more
extravagant than that which befell him during his visit to Madrid in
1767. It presents features of unusual interest to students of his
complex psychology. To begin with, he fell in love with a hand. It is
true that he assures us that it was a hand of quite exceptional
beauty. Let us suppose it--as no doubt it was--long and perfectly
tapering and of an alabaster whiteness. Yet it remains a hand, and
nothing more.

Virilely handsome, very tall, of a spare, athletic grace of figure,
and magnificent ever in his dress--seeming here in Spain the more
magnificent by contrast with the sober modes of this
Inquisition-ridden country--he did not look his age by a dozen years.
Yet the fact remains that he was forty, that he had lived harder,
perhaps, than any man of his time, that he had known adversity in many
shapes, and love in many more. Therefore it is the more surprising
that this hard-bitten, flamboyant adventurer of ripe experience and
jaded appetites should have been inflamed--and to such absurd lengths,
as you shall see--by just four white fingers and a thumb.

Not even had there been the sense of touch to quicken his infatuation.
He had not so much as enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding that hand
at close quarters. Between him and it the whole width of a street
intervened--the Calle de la Cruz, in which he had his lodging. The
hand belonged to a lady of quality--at least, so he judged from its
size and texture--dwelling in the house immediately opposite; and he
was permitted to see it twice daily at that distance, in the act of
adjusting a green, slatted shutter of the type known as "Venetian."

That was all; and yet not quite all. There was, in addition, his own
ardent imagination, which--working by processes akin to those of our
modern naturalists, who will reconstruct you a saurian from a single
tooth--constructed for that hand a body and soul. The only difference
is that whereas the scientist works to reproduce the real, the
poet--and no mean poet was Casanova--labours to create the ideal. It
was, we must suppose, with the ideal here that he had fallen so madly
in love.

This is, admittedly, but a clumsy endeavour to explain what otherwise
must seem a lunacy. To an extent, of course, a lunacy it must remain;
an obsessing madness that kept him a prisoner in his lodging,
neglectful of the powerful letters of introduction he had brought,
oblivious of all that he had meant to do and see in the Spanish
capital.

Fearful of quitting his lodging for an hour, lest in that hour the
owner of the hand might elect to give a fuller disclosure of herself,
Casanova became a recluse, and, thus, an object of suspicion. For
suspicions were easily aroused in Spain. The Holy Office was
mistrustful of all strangers, most mistrustful of those who did not
show themselves freely. And Casanova's was by now an European
reputation. Many--too many--of the facts of his wild life were widely
known; and best known of all, perhaps, was the fact that once, upon a
charge of magic, he had fallen into the clutches of the Inquisitors of
State in Venice. It behoved him to be prudent; and to be prudent was
his intention. He could not guess that it was an imprudence to bury
himself in his lodging, which contained of his own nothing beyond some
trunks of most elegant French clothes and a box of books, chiefly the
Latin and Greek authors who were his inseparable companions.

Calchas, the Spanish valet he had hired in Madrid, an impudent rogue
with a rare talent for hairdressing, recommended to him by Count
Aranda, began to grow uneasy on his behalf. Perfectly aware of, and
secretly amused by, the true facts of the case, Calchas sought to give
his master a hint. Unfortunately he was clumsy in his method.

At work one morning upon Casanova's luxuriant chestnut hair, in which
as yet there was no single thread of silver to be detected, he opened
fire.

"For what, I ask myself," said he, in the detestable mixture of French
and Spanish that he used with his foreign employer, "is all this
combing and curling and pomading? Each morning I dress your head as if
for a levee at Court, and each day you go no further than these four
walls. It is to waste my labour, Excellency."

"You are paid for your labour, scoundrel."

"If you bought pictures from a painter or verses from a poet merely to
put them into the fire, would he account it sufficient that you paid
him?"

"You are neither a poet nor a painter," said Casanova. "You are just a
valet, probably a thief, and certainly a fool. It pleases me to have
my hair well dressed. That is enough for you."

"Ouf!" said Calchas, and turned aside to take the curling-tongs from
the spirit flame. But he was irrepressible. "And then this bewildering
consideration of apparel. Yesterday it was the pink and silver; today
the blue taffetas; tomorrow it will be the black and gold; and the
next day some other splendours. And why? Why? I ask myself, why? To
keep your chamber, as you do, a dressing-gown and a head /en
papillote/ would do as well. The world will be talking, Excellency."

"So will you, which is much more immediately irritating. Get on with
my hair, Calchas. It is growing late."

"But late for what, name of Heaven! Late for what?" And then, very
slyly, he added, "Doña Dolores de la Fuente does not rise for another
hour."

Casanova's full black eyes fixed the valet, intrigued.

"And who may be Doña Dolores de la Fuente?"

"But do you really not know?" The valet stood arrested, his tongs
poised above the chestnut head. "It is the name of the lady in the
palace opposite."

There was a moment's silence. Had Calchas troubled to look in the
mirror he would have seen that his master's swarthy, aquiline
countenance had grown unusually forbidding. Presently Casanova spoke,
very precise and coldly.

"It is only fair to warn you, Calchas, that I am a man easily
provoked."

"Oh, but that is all too evident. For that, it seems, that a mere hand
suffices."

"Ah! A hand!" said Casanova ominously.

"Had it been an ankle now----"

The impudent Calchas got no further. Casanova rose suddenly to his
great height, and soundly boxed the rascal's ears. Calchas dropped the
hot tongs, which in falling seared Casanova's hand. If more had been
wanting to inflame the passion of this man, so violent once he was
aroused, that accident supplied it. First, he took the valet by the
scruff of the neck and shook him until it seemed to Calchas that his
teeth were rattling in his head. Next he ran him across the room, and
flung wide the door.

"Out of this, you Spanish rat! And don't let me see your face again,
or I will break it into little pieces."

He heaved him out, and sped him with a final kick. The stairs were
immediate and precipitous. Calchas flung out hands to clutch the
baluster, missed it, and went crashing down the flight.

Casanova stood at the stairhead to survey the damage. With a groan
Calchas gathered himself up, and rose, feeling himself. He was
unbroken, but very bruised and sore, and in a great rage. He stood
there, in his shirtsleeves, furiously demanding his coat and his
wages.

In a whirl of words, which reflected horribly, and I hope unjustly,
upon the rascal's pedigree, Casanova warned him that if he returned he
would do so at the peril of his life.

Calchas did not return. He stood there a moment, gibbering with that
singular fertility of morphological blasphemy in which a Spaniard has
no rival. Then, at length, he departed, screaming threats of
vengeance, which Casanova's limited knowledge of Spanish did not
permit him perfectly to understand. It was perhaps as well for
Calchas.

After that, Casanova had to submit to the further annoyance of
dressing his own hair, and performing unaided the remainder of his
elaborate toilet. But fate had a compensation in store for him. That
morning as he stood at his post at the window, intent upon the
shutters across the narrow street, they opened wide at last, as if in
answer to his mute and constant prayer, and he beheld the creature of
his amorous dreams fully revealed for the first time--a pale and
thoughtful Castilian beauty, to whom his ardent imaginings had done
poor justice.

Although it was his first glimpse of her, yet it is inconceivable that
she was not by now familiar with his own face and figure. Daily now,
for a week or more, whilst revealing of herself no more than the white
hand which had wrought the mischief, must she have been able to study
him at her ease through the slats that so completely screened her.
Studying him thus, she must have come to perceive his infatuation,
whilst construing it as founded upon far more than was the actual
case.

Arguing thus, he argued further that her self-disclosure proclaimed a
measure of acceptance. That and the vision of this lovely woman, whose
imagined simulacrum had for days obsessed him, ravished his senses
utterly. Under the stress of his deep emotion, he carried a hand to
his lips and then to his heart, and stood thus, in an attitude of
ecstatic worship.

On her side, woman-like, she betrayed no consciousness of his
existence. For a long moment she continued to stand revealed, but
statuesque, unseeing, no trace of emotion, or even of perception,
ruffling the virginal serenity of her proud pale face. Then, as
abruptly as they had opened, the shutters closed again, leaving
Casanova with a sense that the light had suddenly gone out. Darkness,
desolation and longing encompassed his soul once more.

That is what comes of being endowed with a poetic temperament.

And now his case was become more hopeless than before. In the three or
four days that followed he scarcely dared to leave his window. And yet
his unremitting devotion went unrewarded until the evening of the
fourth day. Then, at last, towards the hour of the Angelus, the
shutters were again flung back, and again it was vouchsafed him to
feast his eyes upon that vision of Castilian loveliness. And now,
although there was still no sign of recognition in her wistful
countenance, yet her eyes looked straight across and met his own.

He felt, he says, as if on the point of fainting from emotion. And
then, with almost startled suddenness, she put forth that long white
hand, and closed the shutters as abruptly as before. His
consciousness, which had been all concentrated in his eyes, released
thereby to diffuse itself again through his other senses, apprised him
of a sound of steps beating upon the evening stillness. He looked out,
and beheld a man close-wrapped in a brown cloak, his face concealed by
a wide-brimmed hat, coming briskly down the street.

This man halted at a little side door of the mansion opposite,
unlocked it and passed in, leaving Casanova in a passion of jealousy,
through which vibrated the question whether the sudden closing of the
shutters might not have been connected with this arrival.

He watched at his post all through the night--a starry, luminous
summer night. And when, at last, the dawn drove him, dejected and
exhausted, to his bed, the man in the brown cloak had not re-emerged.

Again it would be towards the hour of the Angelus on the following
evening when next he beheld her. Paler and more wistfully appealing
than ever did she appear to him now. She leaned her elbow on the sill
of her window and quite openly and intently regarded him, as if
returning some of the passionate longing conveyed to her by his
burning glance.

Again he pressed his hands--both hands this time--upon his aching
heart.

And now, at last, his wildest hopes were fanned by an unmistakable
response. She smiled--vaguely, tenderly, almost questioningly, as it
seemed to him. Whereupon, entirely carried away, he flung out his arms
in a gesture of invocation.

To restrain him, to enjoin discretion, she put her fingers to her
lips. Next, leaning further forward, she held out a key and a letter,
as if proffering them; then she drew back into the shadows of the
room.

A practised gallant such as Casanova could not doubt her meaning for a
moment. In the twinkling of an eye you behold him bareheaded in the
quiet street under her window, his pulses drumming with expectancy.
And almost at once the little package of key and letter thudded softly
at his feet. He stooped to seize it, looked up to find the shutter
already closed again, and fled back at once to his own lodgings to
acquaint himself with the contents of that unsigned note.

"Are you a man of gentle birth?" she wrote. "Are you brave and
discreet? Are you disposed to serve an unfortunate lady in her need?
Because I believe you to be all this, I send you the key of the
side-door. Come to me at midnight. I shall be waiting for you. Above
all, be secret."

You conceive his ecstasy. He pressed the faintly fragrant note to his
lips, then from his window signified his acquiescence in pantomime
addressed to the closed shutters. They opened wide enough to admit the
passage of her white hand in token that he was understood.

Thereafter he summoned what patience he could to help him through the
time of waiting. He tells us that he spent two hours that night upon
his toilet--the lack of a valet, no doubt, complicated the intricate
operation--and that he brought to it all the care and selection
desirable in such circumstances. Nor did he overlook the risks with
which this business might be fraught; for, after all, he was no callow
lad of twenty plunging recklessly to his first assignation. Yet if the
bitter voice of experience suggested perils, vanity and the spirit of
adventure combined to remind him that he had sought and accepted the
invitation, and that he could not draw back now save at the cost of
being ridiculous and contemptible in her eyes.

He compromised in the matter. And when, with pulses throbbing, he went
forth on the stroke of midnight to unlock the little door, he went
armed under his lover's finery.

As he stood in the complete darkness of the passage within, he caught
the rustle of a gown, and instantly felt her at his side. His hand was
taken in the grasp of slender little fingers whose coldness almost
chilled his spirit. In silence he suffered himself to be conducted
through an inner door, down a dimly lighted passage, then up a broad
staircase, and finally into an ante-room, nobly proportioned and
superbly finished.

In mid-chamber, upon a walnut table, whose surface was polished to the
smoothness of glass, a dozen candles burned in a massive silver
branch. Their light revealed her fully to him at last, and here at
close quarters he found her even lovelier than he had already deemed
her.

She was deathly pale, and the great eyes that now returned his ardent
gaze were pools of wistfulness ineffable. Limp and trembling, she sank
into a chair, whereupon he went down on his knees before her, and with
no word spoken yet between them, he bore to his fevered lips the cold
hand she yielded him. And then, transported by her white beauty and
the oddness of the adventure, he loosed the bridle of his tempestuous
gallantry.

"Lady, I love you!" he cried. "My heart, my life--all that I have, and
am--are yours!"

She regarded him almost sadly; very faintly she smiled.

"You have never even spoken to me until this moment. And those are
your first words to me! How can I believe you?"

"Put me to the test--to any test!" he cried impetuously.

"If I were to take you at your word?" said she, her smile growing in
wistfulness and inscrutability.

"It is what I implore of you!"

"And if I first demand of you an oath of secrecy, an oath never to
reveal what may pass here between us?"

"It is superfluous. I am a man of honour. None the less, I pledge you
my word, since you demand it."

She drew a fluttering breath.

"Be it so, then," she said softly, and rose. "Come with me."

His hand tight-clasped in hers, he came up from his knees, and
obediently accompanied her across the room. There she opened a door
and ushered him into another chamber, in the middle of which stood a
great bed, with curtains of heavy gold brocade drawn tightly about it.

This room, like the other, was lighted by a cluster of candles in a
branch that stood upon a richly carved console. In addition, at the
foot of the bed, there were two tall gilded candlesticks with a single
taper alight in each.

By the bed she came at last to a halt, and stood mutely gazing at him.

From bewildered that he had been, a sense of dread began now to
pervade him as he regarded her. For never in his life had he looked
into a face that expressed so much anguish and despair.

"What ails you?" he asked her, his voice hoarse. "You are trembling!"

"It is not from fear," she said. "But you? You do not tremble. You are
calm and master of yourself. Look, then!" Abruptly, violently, she
swept aside the heavy curtains. "Look!"

He looked, and although he did not tremble even then, yet fear
clutched his heart. For what he beheld was a man lying supine upon
that splendid bed. He stepped back quickly, sucking in his breath, and
his fingers instinctively sought the hilt of his hidden poniard.

Then he realized in horror why that figure continued supine and so
indifferent, with eyes staring up at the canopy overhead. The man was
dead.

Casanova observed that he was young and handsome, noted the disarray
of his garments, and other signs that death had come upon him sudden
and violently, and, finally, the two tapers at the bed's foot, which
assumed a new significance.

His horror grew. He looked at the woman, and found her watching him
with glittering eyes.

"What does it mean?" he asked her fearfully.

"It means that justice has been done," said she. "Though I must die
for it, I could not have acted differently. I loved him, and he was
false."

Casanova shuddered, and there and then completely shed the unreasoning
passion with which she had inspired him. Remembering that this was
Spain, where jealousy is proverbially fierce and pitiless, he would
strive to judge her mercifully. But it was not for a man of his
temperament to desire a closer acquaintance with one who went to such
lengths in punishing infidelity.

Not that he considered himself by temperament unfaithful. Somewhere in
the course of his voluminous and frank confessions he defends himself
vigorously against any possible imputations of that kind. He was, he
assures us, merely inconstant, and at long and convincing length he
draws an interesting distinction between inconstancy and infidelity.
But understanding of his academic arguments cannot be expected of such
women as Dolores. And made suddenly and grimly aware of this, his
passion for her turned at once to ice.

He moved away, his face almost as ghastly as that of the corpse.

"My Heaven!" he groaned. "How horrible!"

Instantly she was beside him, clutching his arm, her siren voice
plaintively beseeching.

"You are a man of honour! You promised secrecy! You swore to serve
me!"

He bowed, stiff and formal.

"What do you ask of me, madame?" he demanded, ready to do, for the
sake of his pledged word, the service to which there was no longer any
spur of love.

"Deliver me of this," she answered. "Take it away. The river flows
beyond the wall of my garden. Carry it thither, and so rid me of it."

She was on her knees to him, passionately interceding. In supplication
she clasped his hands and embraced his knees. Tears flowed from her
lovely eyes; despair rang in her voice. And he, the gallant who had
come so hot-foot to her beckoning, stood stiffly there in his
magnificent purple suit, frozen with horror. At last he spoke,
dramatically, tragically, as the situation demanded.

"Madame, I pledged you my word. You are perhaps asking for my life. No
matter, I give it to you!"

Convulsively she wrung his hands.

"You are noble! You are great!" she cried. "You know how to compel a
woman's love."

But the love of Doña Dolores was the last thing that Casanova desired
at the moment to compel. He desired, above all, to have done with this
grisly business and be gone.

"Calm yourself, madame. Every moment increases the danger of
discovery. Let us make haste."

He shook off her detaining hands, stepped to the bed, and resolutely
shouldered the ghastly burden.

"Your servants?" he enquired.

"I have but two. They are faithful, and they sleep. Go cautiously,
lest you awaken them."

And then, as he advanced a step, that body across his stalwart
shoulder:

"No, no!" she whispered fiercely. "I cannot suffer it. If you are
discovered thus, you are ruined!"

It was the first unselfish word she had uttered, and it awakened a
response in him.

"And you, madame, are lost if this body remains here."

With that he went forward towards the door, stepping firmly under his
load, for he was strong and the dead man slim and light. Dolores
followed him, lighting him with the candlebranch. Thus they went down
the stairs to the door opening upon the garden. Beyond this she did
not accompany him. She stood there under the lintel, perhaps awaiting
his return, whilst he, staggering a little now, went through the
garden, out by the gate, and down the lane that sloped to the river.
He came at last to the water's edge, and shot his burden into the
stream, whereafter, without further thought for Doña Dolores, he went
home.

He spent the remainder of the night devoured by uneasiness,
considering means of quitting Madrid at the earliest moment.

Next morning he was arrested. An alcalde, accompanied by half a dozen
alguaziles, invaded his lodging whilst he was still abed. They
ransacked his room and placed his effects under seal, then ordered him
to dress himself and go with them.

It required all his fortitude and all his considerable histrionic
talent to dissemble his abject terror. But he contrived to appear calm
and composed, if pale--which might be attributed to indignation--when
he haughtily demanded of the alcalde an explanation of this outrage.

The alcalde leered contemptuously out of a sallow, blue-cheeked face.

"Of course, you play the comedy of injured innocence," said he. "It is
usual. It does not impress me."

"It may impress you to know that I am a friend of Count Aranda,
President of the Council of Castile."

It was an overstatement, of course. He had seen the count but twice;
once when he had presented his letter of introduction, and once again,
later, when he had dined at his Excellency's house. And although the
count--out of regard for the foreign personage who had supplied
Casanova with those credentials--had received him affably and treated
him with consideration, yet this hardly justified him in counting Don
Miguel de Aranda among his intimates. That, however, was no reason why
he should not make use of this powerful name to intimidate the
alcalde. Unfortunately the alcalde declined to be intimidated.

"I have my duty to perform!" he said, snapping his lips, and that was
the end of the matter.

They carried off their prisoner to the foul gaol of Buen Retiro. There
they deposited him in the mephitic atmosphere of a filthy chamber
tenanted by some forty prisoners of the vilest kind. The first night
that he spent there was something that he remembered to the end of his
days. Huddled in a corner and devoured by fleas, not daring to close
his eyes lest his infamous prison-mates should rob him whilst he
slept, the splendid Giacomo di Casanova contemplated at leisure the
miserable predicament into which his excessive appetite for
philandering had landed him. He saw himself--he, the scholar, poet,
soldier, philosopher and man of the world, who had ruffled it in
courts and been the intimate of princes, whose name and whose fame
were known throughout Europe--miserably ending his glorious, hazardous
life like a common felon at the hands of a Spanish hangman.

I spare you a more detailed picture of his alternating rage and
despair in the days that followed. His wide experience and knowledge
of men helped him presently to mitigate his lot, but only by a very
little. By bribing a young gaoler, whose countenance he rightly
conjectured to belong to a thief, he was able with the little gold
upon him to procure some food and wine that at least did not nauseate
his fastidious palate.

Day followed day in that unspeakable confinement, and each day brought
its dread of magisterial examination. Yet ten days passed, and still
the authorities made no sign. Despair took possession of him
completely. It happened often, he knew, that criminals were overlooked
and left to rot, forgotten in the gaols to which they had been
consigned. Such a fate--to spend the remainder of his days in these
horrible surroundings--would be even worse than the gallows.

And then on the morning of the eleventh day of his imprisonment, the
young gaoler, whose protection he had purchased, slipped a note into
his hand. Wondering, he opened it in a corner with trembling fingers
under cover of his hat; then stuffing it, spread out, into the crown,
he read:


  My Friend,--By the time this reaches you I shall be out of Spain.
  You are relieved from your pledge of secrecy, and I exhort you to
  seek your own safety by a full and frank confession. I am
  afflicted by the thought of your situation. Forgive and forget
  your unfortunate   D.


He put on the hat with the letter still inside it, and crushed it
viciously down upon his brows. His haggard, unshaven face was white,
and his lips twitched.

Forgive and forget! He would do neither the one nor the other as long
as he lived--which, after all, might not be very long. He made a
resolve that if ever he got safely out of this predicament, his
relations with the other sex would be of the utmost circumspection.

The devil, you see, was very sick indeed. Almost he yearned for the
womanless peace of monastic seclusion.

Towards noon that day he stirred himself to action. He did now what he
might have done before but that fear and his pledged word between them
had paralysed his will. He wrote a letter to Count Aranda. It was
couched in characteristically impetuous terms:


  My Lord,--You cannot know that I am being assassinated in the most
  abominable gaol of your abominable country. In no civilized nation
  of the world would a man of my quality, whatever his offence, be
  cast among the cut-throats and pariahs that tenant this prison of
  Buen Retiro. I appeal to your Excellency's sentiments of humanity
  to order me either to be set at liberty or put to death, so as to
  spare me the necessity of committing suicide. Giacomo di Casanova.


That intemperate letter he consigned to his friendly gaoler, who on
this occasion needed no further spur than that supplied by the
superscription to see that it reached its august destination.

Within twenty-four hours the sordid prison of Buen Retiro was visited
by a resplendent officer, dispatched by Count Aranda to escort thence
Monsieur Casanova. An hour later, the ravages in his toilet more or
less repaired, Casanova stood in the presence of the most powerful man
in Spain, the ugly little fellow who dared to dispute even the power
of the fathers of the Inquisition, and who by a stroke of the pen had
banished the Jesuits from Castile.

Without rising from his writing-table, the great Minister looked up to
greet his visitor with something between a frown and a smile.

"Monsieur Casanova," he said, "you have written me a very impertinent
letter, in which you hardly show yourself the man of wit that you are
reputed; for you should know that one seldom succeeds anywhere by
impertinence."

"I abase myself in apology, Excellency. It was written in the
exasperation resulting from ten days in that horrible prison."

The count's face cleared.

"If I mentioned it," he said more affably, "it was so that you may
realize that my consenting to see you, notwithstanding, is a proof of
the consideration in which I hold you. You were at least correct in
your assumption that I had no knowledge of your position. I was
beginning to wonder that you did not show yourself when I received
your letter. I have since informed myself of your case, and I deplore
profoundly the thing that has happened to you."

Casanova gathered a rich harvest of hope from so much courtesy.

"Your Excellency cannot deplore it more profoundly than I do myself. I
give you my word of honour that I am the helpless victim of
circumstances. And I thank you more profoundly than I can say for
allowing me to come before you and state my case as one man of honour
to another, instead of as a felon to a magistrate. Absolved at last
from the pledge of secrecy that bound me, I am fortunately able now to
place all the facts before you without any reservation. They are
these:"

And headlong, without giving the count time to interpose a single
word, he plunged into a detailed account of the events at the house of
Doña Dolores.

When he had done Count Aranda considered him in silence for a moment,
his face utterly blank. Then he uttered a queer little laugh.

"But this is a very extraordinary tale, Monsieur Casanova."

Casanova bristled instantly.

"Your Excellency does not imply a doubt of any particular?"

"Oh, far from it! Very far from it, indeed. It affords us the only
logical explanation of the disappearance of Don Sebastian de Carbajal.
Also it explains Doña Dolores de la Fuente's sudden desire for foreign
travel, a desire which she duped me into furthering. I was simpleton
enough to assume that Don Sebastian had gone secretly abroad, and that
it was her intention to follow and join him." He smiled wryly. "You
reveal to me, Monsieur Casanova, that we are both of us the dupes of
that unscrupulously clever woman."

"I /reveal/ to your Excellency----" Casanova checked, and with fallen
jaw, dismay spreading on his swarthy face, he stared at the President
of the Council. Then, a gleam of dreadful light breaking upon his dark
bewilderment: "Does your Excellency mean," he cried, "that I have
disclosed something that was not known?"

"That, indeed, is what you have done."

Uninvited, crushed by the weight of his sudden despair, Casanova sat
down. In a small voice he asked:

"Will your Excellency tell me, then, in Heaven's name why I was
arrested?"

"For being in possession of forbidden books."

The astounding answer made chaos of Casanova's already distracted
mind.

"Forbidden books?" he faltered. "I?"

The count explained briefly.

"Upon receiving your letter yesterday, I sent at once for the alcalde.
He informed me that in arresting you he had acted on behalf of the
Holy Office, upon a charge laid against you by a valet named Calchas,
whom you dismissed with violence. Your recluse habits were already
rendering you suspect, and upon proceeding to your lodging the alcalde
found there corroboration of the accusation laid. He is a fool, of
course, a devout man, very ardent in matters that come within the
purview of the Inquisition--and in his ignorance he took your Greek
Iliad, with its unknown characters, to be a work of magic. I have told
him quite plainly what I think of him, and you need apprehend no
further trouble on that score."

"But on the score of this other matter?" cried Casanova in despair.
"This far graver matter in which I have so rashly betrayed my part?"

Count Aranda sighed.

"There again you have hardly shown yourself the man of wit that you
are reputed."

"I have put a rope round my neck!"

Casanova rose in his agitation. He stood, stricken and pale, the last
vestige of his assurance gone.

"That," said Count Aranda softly, "is to pay me a poor compliment.
Fortunately your statement was made as that of one man of honour to
another, and not as that of an accused to a magistrate."

"Your Excellency means?"

"Just that. It is fortunate that it was addressed to me, for you could
not expect an examining magistrate to believe you as implicitly, or to
take the view that your action in the matter was the only action
possible in all the circumstances. The rest is a matter for the
alcalde, and it is no part of my duties to assist him in his
functions. I am not a policeman."

"Your Excellency!" Casanova passed from terror to amazement. "How can
I thank you?"

"You will be careful, sir, to do nothing of the kind," said the
Minister sharply. "Besides, I cannot altogether forgive the terms of
this letter of yours. Amongst other things you speak of my country as
abominable, and you imply that it is uncivilized. I cannot overlook so
much. I must ask you to leave Madrid within twenty-four hours, and
Spain within a week. I shall inform the alcalde of this, and instruct
him to see that no obstacle is placed in the way of your departure."

This time Casanova showed himself sufficiently a man of wit to submit
in thankfulness to that decree of banishment.



POST-SCRIPTUM


  The episodes which have formed the basis of the stories in this
  series are no more than a selection, treated objectively, from the
  voluminous memoirs of Casanova.

  We take our leave of him here as he rolls out of Madrid in the
  Autumn of 1767 seeking fresh adventures. He found them in plenty
  and of varying kind until in 1774 he is back in Venice. There for
  the next nine years he abides, and you imagine that he has come to
  an anchorage at last. But now it is his too-ready pen that brings
  him fresh trouble, and he treads once more the path of exile,
  begins life anew at the age of sixty. At last at Töplitz he makes
  friends with Count Waldstein, who is addicted to magic. The Count
  carries our Venetian off to his Castle at Dux in Bohemia, where
  he--who in his time has been all things--settles down peacefully
  as a librarian and there finally departs this life in the year
  1798 at the age of seventy-three.

R.S.



THE END



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