Read The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt Volume III Part 9

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“Yes, aunt, I shall be very glad to see the gentleman again.”

If she had not answered thus, the merchant would have gone away without hearing his future bride speak.

“Well,” said the aunt, “what do you think of your husband?”

“Allow me to put off my answer till to-morrow; but be good enough, when we are at table, to draw me into the conversation, for it is very possible that my face has not repelled him, but so far he knows nothing of my mental powers; possibly my want of wit may destroy any slight impression my face may have made.”

“Yes, I am afraid you will begin to talk nonsense, and make him lose the good opinion he seems to have formed of you.”

“It is not right to deceive anybody. If he is disabused of his fict.i.tious ideas by the appearance of the truth, so much the better for him; and so much the worse for both of us, if we decide on marrying without the slightest knowledge of each other’s habits and ways of thought.”

“What do you think of him?”

“I think he is rather nice-looking, and his manners are kind and polite; but let us wait till to-morrow.”

“Perhaps he will have nothing more to say to me; I am so stupid.”

“I know very well that you think yourself very clever, and that’s where your fault lies; it’s your self-conceit which makes you stupid, although M. Casanova takes you for a wit.”

“Perhaps he may know what he is talking about.”

“My poor dear, he is only laughing at you.”

“I have good reasons for thinking otherwise, aunt.”

“There you go; you will never get any sense.”

“Pardon me, madam, if I cannot be of your opinion. Mademoiselle is quite right in saying that I do not laugh at her. I dare to say that to-morrow she will shine in the conversation.”

“You think so? I am glad to hear it. Now let us have a game at piquet, and I will play against you and my niece, for she must learn the game.”

Tiretta asked leave of his darling to go to the play, and we played on till supper-time. On his return, Tiretta made us almost die of laughing with his attempts to tell us in his broken French the plot of the play he had seen.

I had been in my bedroom for a quarter of an hour, expecting to see my sweetheart in some pretty kind of undress, when all of a sudden I saw her come in with all her clothes on. I was surprised at this circ.u.mstance, and it seemed to me of evil omen.

“You are astonished to see me thus,” said she, “but I want to speak to you for a moment, and then I will take off my clothes. Tell me plainly whether I am to consent to this marriage or no?”

“How do you like him?”

“Fairly well.”

“Consent, then!”

“Very good; farewell! From this moment our love ends, and our friendship begins. Get you to bed, and I will go and do the same. Farewell!”

“No, stay, and let our friendship begin to-morrow.”

“Not so, were my refusal to cost the lives of both of us. You know what it must cost me to speak thus, but it is my irrevocable determination.

If I am to become another’s wife, I must take care to be worthy of him; perhaps I may be happy. Do not hold me, let me go. You know how well I love you.”

“At least, let us have one final embrace.”

“Alas! no.”

“You are weeping.”

“No, I am not. In G.o.d’s name let me go.”

“Dear heart, you go but to weep in your chamber; stay here. I will marry you.”

“Nay, no more of that.”

With these words she made an effort, escaped from my hands, and fled from the room. I was covered with shame and regret, and could not sleep.

I hated myself, for I knew not whether I had sinned most grievously in seducing her or in abandoning her to another.

I stayed to dinner next day in spite of my heartbreak and my sadness.

Mdlle. de la Meure talked so brilliantly and sensibly to her intended that one could easily see he was enchanted with her. As for me, feeling that I had nothing pleasant to say, I pretended to have the toothache as an excuse for not talking. Sick at heart, absent-minded, and feeling the effects of a sleepless night, I was well-nigh mad with love, jealousy, and despair. Mdlle. de la Meure did not speak to me once, did not so much as look at me. She was quite right, but I did not think so then. I thought the dinner would never come to an end, and I do not think I was ever present at so painful a meal.

As we rose from the table, Madame went into her closet with her niece and nephew that was to be, and the niece came out in the course of an hour and bade us congratulate her, as she was to be married in a week, and after the wedding she would accompany her husband to Dunkirk.

“To-morrow,” she added, “we are all to dine with M. Corneman, where the deed of settlement will be signed.”

I cannot imagine how it was I did not fall dead on the spot. My anguish cannot be expressed.

Before long it was proposed that we should go to the play, but excusing myself on the plea of business I returned to Paris. As I got to my door I seemed to be in a fever, and I lay down on my bed, but instead of the rest I needed I experienced only remorse and fruitless repentance-the torments of the d.a.m.ned. I began to think it was my duty to stop the marriage or die. I was sure that Mdlle. de la Meure loved me, and I fancied she would not say no if I told her that her refusal to marry me would cost me my life. Full of that idea I rose and wrote her a letter, strong with all the strength of tumultuous pa.s.sion. This was some relief, and getting into bed I slept till morning. As soon as I was awake I summoned a messenger and promised him twelve francs if he would deliver my letter, and report its receipt in an hour and a half. My letter was under cover of a note addressed to Tiretta, in which I told him that I should not leave the house till I had got an answer. I had my answer four hours after; it ran as follows: “Dearest, it is too late; you have decided on my destiny, and I cannot go back from my word. Come to dinner at M. Corneman’s, and be sure that in a few weeks we shall be congratulating ourselves on having won a great victory. Our love, crowned all too soon, will soon live only in our memories. I beg of you to write to me no more.”

Such was my fate. Her refusal, with the still more cruel charge not to write to her again, made me furious. In it I only saw inconstancy. I thought she had fallen in love with the merchant. My state of mind may be judged from the fact that I determined to kill my rival. The most savage plans, the most cruel designs, ran a race through my bewildered brain. I was jealous, in love, a different being from my ordinary self; anger, vanity, and shame had destroyed my powers of reasoning. The charming girl whom I was forced to admire, whom I should have esteemed all the more for the course she had taken, whom I had regarded as an angel, became in my eyes a hateful monster, a meet object for punishment. At last I determined on a sure method of revenge, which I knew to be both dishonourable and cowardly, but in my blind pa.s.sion I did not hesitate for a moment. I resolved to go to the merchant at M. Corneman’s, where he was staying, to tell him all that had pa.s.sed between the lady and myself, and if that did not make him renounce the idea of marrying her I would tell him that one of us must die, and if he refused my challenge I determined to a.s.sa.s.sinate him.

With this terrible plan in my brain, which makes me shudder now when I think of it, I ate with the appet.i.te of a wild beast, lay down and slept till day. I was in the same mind when I awoke, and dressed myself hastily yet carefully, put two good pistols in my pocket and went to M. Corneman’s. My rival was still asleep; I waited for him, and for a quarter of an hour my thoughts only grew more bitter and my determination more fixed. All at once he came into the room, in his dressing-gown, and received me with open arms, telling me in the kindest of voices that he had been expecting me to call, as he could guess what feelings I, a friend of his future wife’s, could have for him, and saying that his friendship for me should always be as warm as hers. His honest open face, his straightforward words, overwhelmed me, and I was silent for a few minutes–in fact I did not know what to say. Luckily he gave me enough time to recollect myself, as he talked on for a quarter of an hour without noticing that I did not open my lips.

M. Corneman then came in; coffee was served, and my speech returned to me; but I am happy to say I refrained from playing the dishonourable part I had intended; the crisis was pa.s.sed.

It may be remarked that the fiercest spirits are like a cord stretched too tight, which either breaks or relaxes. I have known several persons of that temperament–the Chevalier L—-, amongst others, who in a fit of pa.s.sion used to feel his soul escaping by every pore. If at the moment when his anger burst forth he was able to break something and make a great noise, he calmed down in a moment; reason resumed her sway, and the raging lion became as mild as a lamb.

After I had taken a cup of coffee, I felt myself calmed but yet dizzy in the head, so I bade them good morning and went out. I was astonished but delighted that I had not carried my detestable scheme into effect. I was humbled by being forced to confess to myself that chance and chance alone had saved me from becoming a villain. As I was reflecting on what had happened I met my brother, and he completed my cure. I took him to dine at Silvia’s and stayed there till midnight. I saw that Mdlle.

Baletti would make me forget the fair inconstant, whom I wisely determined not to see again before the wedding. To make sure I set out the next day for Versailles, to look after my interests with the Government.

CHAPTER II

The Abby de la Ville–The Abby Galiani–The Neapolitan Dialect–I Set Out for Dunkirk on a Secret Mission– I Succeed–I Return to Paris by Amiens–My Adventure by the Way–M. de la Bretonniere–My Report Gives Satisfaction– I Am Paid Five Hundred Louis–Reflections.

A new career was opening before me. Fortune was still my friend, and I had all the necessary qualities to second the efforts of the blind G.o.ddess on my behalf save one–perseverance. My immoderate life of pleasure annulled the effect of all my other qualities.

M. de Bernis received me in his usual manner, that is more like a friend than a minister. He asked me if I had any inclination for a secret mission.

———-

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