By Arthur Schnitzler
The Translation of this book was made by EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL
Casanova was in his fifty-third year. Though no longer driven by the lust of adventure that had spurred him in his youth, he was still hunted athwart the world, hunted now by a restlessness due to the approach of old age. His yearning for Venice, the city of his birth, grew so intense that, like a wounded bird slowly circling downwards in its death flight, he began to move in ever-narrowing circles. Again and again, during the last ten years of his exile, he had implored the Supreme Council for leave to return home. Erstwhile, in the drafting of these petitions—a work in which he was a past master—a defiant, wilful spirit seemed to have guided his pen; at times even he appeared to take a grim delight in his forwardness. But of late his requests had been couched in humble, beseeching words which displayed, ever more plainly, the ache of homesickness and genuine repentance.
The sins of his earlier years (the most unpardonable to the Venetian councillors was his free-thinking, not his dissoluteness, or quarrelsomeness, or rather sportive knavery) were by degrees passing into oblivion, and so Casanova had a certain amount of confidence that he would receive a hearing. The history of his marvellous escape from The Leads of Venice, which he had recounted on innumerable occasions at the courts of princes, in the palaces of nobles, at the supper tables of burghers, and in houses of ill fame, was beginning to make people forget any disrepute which had attached to his name. Moreover, in letters to Mantua, where he had been staying for two months, persons of influence had conveyed hope to the adventurer, whose inward and outward lustre were gradually beginning to fade, that ere long there would come a favorable turn in his fortunes.
Since his means were now extremely slender, Casanova had decided to await the expected pardon in the modest but respectable inn where he had stayed in happier years. To make only passing mention of less spiritual amusements, with which he could not wholly dispense—he spent most of his time in writing a polemic against the slanderer Voltaire, hoping that the publication of this document would serve, upon his return to Venice, to give him unchallenged position and prestige in the eyes of all well-disposed citizens.
One morning he went out for a walk beyond the town limits to excogitate the final touches for some sentences that were to annihilate the infidel Frenchman. Suddenly he fell prey to a disquiet that almost amounted to physical distress. He turned over in his mind the life he had been leading for the last three months. It had grown wearisomely familiar—the morning walks into the country, the evenings spent in gambling for petty stakes with the reputed Baron Perotti and the latter's pock-marked mistress. He thought of the affection lavished upon himself by his hostess, a woman ardent but no longer young. He thought of how he had passed his time over the writings of Voltaire and over the composition of an audacious rejoinder which until that moment had seemed to him by no means inadequate. Yet now, in the dulcet atmosphere of a morning in late summer, all these things appeared stupid and repulsive.
Muttering a curse without really knowing upon whose head he wished it to alight, gripping the hilt of his sword, darting angry glances in all directions as if invisible scornful eyes were watching him in the surrounding solitude, he turned on his heel and retraced his steps back to the town, determined to make arrangements that very hour for immediate departure. He felt convinced that a more genial mood would possess him were he to diminish even by a few miles the distance that separated him from the home for which he longed. It was necessary to hasten, so that he might be sure of booking a place in the diligence. It was to leave at eventide by the eastward road. There was little else to do, for he really need not bother to pay a farewell visit to Baron Perotti. Half an hour would suffice for the packing of all his possessions. He thought of the two suits, the shabbier of which he was wearing at that moment; of the much darned, though once elegant, underlinen. With two or three snuffboxes, a gold watch and chain, and a few books, these comprised his whole worldly wealth. He called to mind past splendors, when he had travelled as a man of distinction, driving in a fine carriage; when he had been well furnished both with necessaries and with superfluities; when he had even had his own servingman—who had usually, of course, been a rogue. These memories brought impotent anger in their train, and his eyes filled with tears. A young woman drove towards him, whip in hand. In her little cart, amid sacks and various odds and ends, lay her husband, drunk and snoring. Casanova strode by beneath the chestnut trees that lined the highway, his face working with wrath, unintelligible phrases hissing from between his clenched teeth. The woman glanced at him inquisitively and mockingly at first, then, on encountering an angry glare, with some alarm, and finally, after she had passed, there was amorous invitation in the look she gave him over her shoulder. Casanova, who was well aware that rage and hatred can assume the semblance of youth more readily than can gentleness and amiability, was prompt to realize that a bold response on his part would bring the cart to a standstill, and that the young woman would be ready to give him any assignation he pleased. Nevertheless, although the recognition of this fact put him in a better humor for the nonce, it seemed hardly worth while to waste minutes upon so trivial an adventure. He was content, therefore, to allow the peasant woman to drive her cart and all its contents unimpeded through the dust of the roadway.
The sun was now high in the heavens, and the shade of the trees hardly tempered the heat. Casanova was soon compelled to moderate his pace.
Under the thick powder of dust the shabbiness of his garments was no longer apparent, so that by his dress and bearing he might easily have been taken for a gentleman of station who had been pleased for once in a way to walk instead of drive. He had almost reached the arched gateway near his inn, when he met a heavy country carriage lumbering along the road. In it was seated a stoutish man, well dressed, and still fairly young. His hands were clasped across his stomach, his eyelids drooped, and he seemed about to doze off, when of a sudden he caught sight of Casanova, and a great change took place in him. His whole aspect betrayed great excitement. He sprang to his feet, but too quickly, and fell back into his seat. Rising again, he gave the driver a punch in the back, to make the fellow pull up. But since the carriage did not stop instantly, the passenger turned round so as not to lose sight of Casanova, signalled with both hands, and finally called to him thrice by name, in a thin, clear voice. Not till he heard the voice, did Casanova recognize who it was. By now the carriage had stopped, and Casanova smilingly seized two hands outstretched towards him, saying:
"Olivo, is it really you?"
"Yes, Signor Casanova, it is I. You recognize me, then?"
"Why not? Since I last saw you, on your wedding day, you've put on flesh; but very likely I've changed a good deal, too, in these fifteen years, though not perhaps in the same fashion."
"Not a bit of it," exclaimed Olivo. "Why, Signor Casanova, you have hardly changed at all! And it is more than fifteen years; the sixteen years were up a few days ago. As you can imagine, Amalia and I had a good talk about you on the anniversary of our wedding."
"Indeed?" said Casanova cordially. "You both think of me at times?"
The tears came to Olivo's eyes. He was still holding Casanova's hands, and he pressed them fondly.
"We have so much to thank you for, Signor Casanova. How could we ever forget our benefactor? Should we do so..."
"Don't speak of it," interrupted Casanova. "How is Signora Amalia? Do you know, I have been living in Mantua three months, very quietly to be sure, but taking plenty of walks as I always have done. How is it, Olivo, that I never met you or your wife before?"
"The matter is simple, Signor Casanova. Both Amalia and I detest the town, and we gave up living there a long time ago. Would you do me the favor to jump in? We shall be at home in an hour."
Casanova tried to excuse himself, but Olivo insisted.
"I will take no denial. How delighted Amalia will be to see you once more, and how proud to show you our three children. Yes, we have three, Signor Casanova. All girls. Thirteen, ten, and eight—not one of them old enough yet—you'll excuse me, won't you—to have her head turned by Casanova."
He laughed good-humoredly, and made as if to help Casanova into the carriage. The latter shook his head. He had been tempted for a moment by natural curiosity to accept Olivo's invitation. Then his impatience returned in full force, and he assured his would-be host that unfortunately urgent business called him away from Mantua that very afternoon.
What could he expect to find in Olivo's house? Sixteen years were a long time! Amalia would be no younger and no prettier. At his age, a girl of thirteen would not find him interesting. Olivo, too, whom he had known in old days as a lean and eager student, was now a portly, countrified paterfamilias. The proposed visit did not offer sufficient attractions to induce Casanova to abandon a journey that was to bring him thirty or forty miles nearer to Venice.
Olivo, however, was disinclined to take no for an answer. Casanova must at least accept a lift back to the inn, a kindly suggestion that could not decently be refused. It was only a few minutes' drive. The hostess, a buxom woman in the middle thirties, welcomed Casanova with a glance that did not fail to disclose to Olivo the tender relationship between the pair. She shook hands with Olivo as an old acquaintance. She was a customer of Signor Olivo's, she explained to Casanova, for an excellent medium-dry wine grown on his estate.
Olivo hastened to announce that the Chevalier de Seingalt (the hostess had addressed Casanova by this title, and Olivo promptly followed suit) was so churlish as to refuse the invitation of an old friend, on the ridiculous plea that to-day of all days he had to leave Mantua. The woman's look of gloom convinced Olivo that this was the first she had heard of Casanova's intended departure, and the latter felt it desirable to explain that his mention of the journey had been a mere pretext, lest he should incommode his friend's household by an unexpected visit, and that he had, in fact, an important piece of writing to finish during the next few days, and no place was better suited for the work than the inn, where his room was agreeably cool and quiet.
Olivo protested that the Chevalier de Seingalt would do his modest home the greatest possible honor by finishing the work in question there. A change to the country could not but be helpful in such an undertaking. If Casanova should need learned treatises and works of reference, there would be no lack of them, for Olivo's niece, the daughter of a deceased half-brother, a girl who though young was extremely erudite, had arrived a few weeks before with a whole trunkful of books. Should any guests drop in at times of an evening, the Chevalier need not put himself about—unless, indeed, after the labors of the day, cheerful conversation or a game of cards might offer welcome distraction. Directly Casanova heard of the niece, he decided he would like to make her acquaintance, and after a show of further reluctance he yielded to Olivo's solicitation, declaring, however, that on no account would he be able to leave Mantua for more than a day or two. He begged the hostess to forward promptly by messenger any letters that should arrive during his absence, since they might be of the first importance.
Matters having thus been arranged to Olivo's complete satisfaction, Casanova went to his room, made ready for the journey, and returned to the parlor in a quarter of an hour. Olivo, meanwhile, had been having a lively business talk with the hostess. He now rose, drank off his glass of wine, and with a significant wink promised to bring the Chevalier back, not perhaps to-morrow or the day after, but in any case in good order and condition. Casanova, however, had suddenly grown distrait and irritable. So cold was his farewell to the fond hostess that, at the carriage door, she whispered a parting word in his ear which was anything but amiable.
During the drive along the dusty road beneath the glare of the noonday sun, Olivo gave a garrulous and somewhat incoherent account of his life since the friends' last meeting. Shortly after his marriage he had bought a plot of land near the town, and had started in a small way as market gardener. Doing well at this trade, he had gradually been able to undertake more ambitious farming ventures. At length, under God's favor, and thanks to his own and his wife's efficiency, he had been able three years earlier to buy from the pecuniarily embarrassed Count Marazzani the latter's old and somewhat dilapidated country seat with a vineyard attached. He, his wife, and his children were comfortably settled upon this patrician estate, though with no pretence to patrician splendor. All these successes were ultimately due to the hundred and fifty gold pieces that Casanova had presented to Amalia, or rather to her mother. But for this magical aid, Olivo's lot would still have been the same. He would still have been giving instruction in reading and writing to ill-behaved youngsters. Most likely, he would have been an old bachelor and Amalia an old maid.
Casanova let him ramble on without paying much heed. The incident was one among many of the date to which it belonged. As he turned it over in his mind, it seemed to him the most trivial of them all, it had hardly even troubled the waters of memory.
He had been travelling from Rome to Turin or Paris—he had forgotten which. During a brief stay in Mantua, he caught sight of Amalia in church one morning. Pleased with her appearance, with her handsome but pale and somewhat woebegone face, he gallantly addressed her a friendly question. In those days everyone had been complaisant to Casanova. Gladly opening her heart to him, the girl told him that she was not well off; that she was in love with an usher who was likewise poor; that his father and her own mother were both unwilling to give their consent to so inauspicious a union. Casanova promptly declared himself ready to help matters on. He sought an introduction to Amalia's mother, a good-looking widow of thirty-six who was still quite worthy of being courted. Ere long Casanova was on such intimate terms with her that his word was law. When her consent to the match had been won, Olivo's father, a merchant in reduced circumstances, was no longer adverse, being specially influenced by the fact that Casanova (presented to him as a distant relative of the bride's mother) undertook to defray the expenses of the wedding and to provide part of the dowry. To Amalia, her generous patron seemed like a messenger from a higher world. She showed her gratitude in the manner prompted by her own heart. When, the evening before her wedding, she withdrew with glowing cheeks from Casanova's last embrace, she was far from thinking that she had done any wrong to her future husband, who after all owed his happiness solely to the amiability and open-handedness of this marvellous friend. Casanova had never troubled himself as to whether Amalia had confessed to Olivo the length to which she had gone in gratitude to her benefactor; whether, perchance, Olivo had taken her sacrifice as a matter of course, and had not considered it any reason for retrospective jealousy; or whether Olivo had always remained in ignorance of the matter. Nor did Casanova allow these questions to harass his mind to-day.
The heat continued to increase. The carriage, with bad springs and hard cushions, jolted the occupants abominably. Olivo went on chattering in his high, thin voice; talking incessantly of the fertility of his land, the excellencies of his wife, the good behavior of his children, and the innocent pleasures of intercourse with his neighbors—farmers and landed gentry. Casanova was bored. He began to ask himself irritably why on earth he had accepted an invitation which could bring nothing but petty vexations, if not positive disagreeables. He thought longingly of the cool parlor in Mantua, where at this very hour he might have been working unhindered at his polemic against Voltaire. He had already made up his mind to get out at an inn now in sight, hire whatever conveyance might be available, and drive back to the town, when Olivo uttered a loud "Hullo!" A pony trap suddenly pulled up, and their own carriage came to a halt, as if by mutual understanding. Three young girls sprang out, moving with such activity that the knife-board on which they had been sitting flew into the air and was overturned.
"My daughters," said Olivo, turning to Casanova with a proprietary air.
Casanova promptly moved as if to relinquish his seat in the carriage.
"Stay where you are, my dear Chevalier," said Olivo. "We shall be at home in a quarter of an hour, and for that little while we can all make shift together. Maria, Nanetta, Teresina, this is the Chevalier de Seingalt, an old friend of mine. Shake hands with him. But for him you would...."
He broke off, and whispered to Casanova: "I was just going to say something foolish."
Amending his phrase, he said: "But for him, things would have been very different!"
Like their father, the girls had black hair and dark eyes. All of them including Teresina, the eldest, who was still quite the child, looked at the stranger with frank rustic curiosity. Casanova did not stand upon ceremony; he kissed each of the girls upon either cheek. Olivo said a word or two to the lad who was driving the trap in which the children had come, and the fellow whipped up the pony and drove along the road towards Mantua.
Laughing and joking, the girls took possession of the seat opposite Olivo and Casanova. They were closely packed; they all spoke at once; and since their father likewise went on talking, Casanova found it far from easy at first to follow the conversation. One name caught his ear, that of Lieutenant Lorenzi. Teresina explained that the Lieutenant had passed them on horseback not long before, had said he intended to call in the evening, and had sent his respects to Father. Mother had at first meant to come with them to meet Father, but as it was so frightfully hot she had thought it better to stay at home with Marcolina. As for Marcolina, she was still in bed when they left home. When they came along the garden path they had pelted her with hazel nuts through the open window, or she would still be asleep.
"That's not Marcolina's way," said Olivo to his guest. "Generally she is at work in the garden at six or even earlier, and sits over her books till dinner time. Of course we had visitors yesterday, and were up later than usual. We had a mild game of cards—not the sort of game you are used to, for we are innocent folk and don't want to win money from one another. Besides, our good Abbate usually takes a hand, so you can imagine, Chevalier, that we don't play for high stakes."
At the mention of the Abbate, the three girls laughed again, had an anecdote to tell, and this made them laugh more than ever. Casanova nodded amicably, without paying much attention. In imagination he saw Marcolina, as yet unknown to him, lying in her white bed, opposite the window. She had thrown off the bedclothes; her form was half revealed; still heavy with sleep she moved her hands to ward off the hail of nuts. His senses flamed. He was as certain that Marcolina and Lieutenant Lorenzi were in love with one another as if he had seen them in a passionate embrace. He was just as ready to detest the unknown Lorenzi as to long for the never seen Marcolina.
Through the shimmering haze of noon, a small, square tower now became visible, thrusting upward through the greyish-green foliage. The carriage turned into a by-road. To the left were vineyards rising on a gentle slope; to the right the crests of ancient trees showed above the wall of a garden. The carriage halted at a doorway in the wall. The weather-worn door stood wide. The passengers alighted, and at the master's nod the coachman drove away to the stable. A broad path led through a chestnut avenue to the house, which at first sight had an almost neglected appearance. Casanova's attention was especially attracted by a broken window in the first story. Nor did it escape his notice that the battlements of the squat tower were crumbling in places. But the house door was gracefully carved; and directly he entered the hall it was plain that the interior was carefully kept, and was certainly in far better condition than might have been supposed from the outward aspect.
"Amalia," shouted Olivo, so loudly that the vaulted ceiling rang. "Come down as quickly as you can! I have brought a friend home with me, an old friend whom you'll be delighted to see!"
Amalia had already appeared on the stairs, although to most of those who had just come out of the glaring sunlight she was invisible in the twilit interior. Casanova, whose keen vision enabled him to see well even in the dark, had noted her presence sooner than Olivo. He smiled, and was aware that the smile made him look younger. Amalia had not grown fat, as he had feared. She was still slim and youthful. She recognized him instantly.
"What a pleasant surprise!" she exclaimed without the slightest embarrassment, hastening down the stairs, and offering her cheek to Casanova. The latter, nothing loath, gave her a friendly hug.
"Am I really to believe," said he, "that Maria, Nanetta, and Teresina are your very own daughters, Amalia? No doubt the passage of the years makes it possible...."
"And all the other evidence is in keeping," supplemented Olivo. "Rely upon that, Chevalier!"
Amalia let her eyes dwell reminiscently upon the guest. "I suppose," she said, "it was your meeting with the Chevalier that has made you so late, Olivo?"
"Yes, that is why I am late. But I hope there is still something to eat?"
"Marcolina and I were frightfully hungry, but of course we have waited dinner for you."
"Can you manage to wait a few minutes longer," asked Casanova, "while I get rid of the dust of the drive?"
"I will show you your room immediately," answered Olivo. "I do hope, Chevalier, you will find it to your taste; almost as much to your taste," he winked, and added in a low tone, "as your room in the inn at Mantua—though here one or two little things may be lacking."
He led the way upstairs into the gallery surrounding the hall. From one of the corners a narrow wooden stairway led into the tower. At the top, Olivo opened the door into the turret chamber, and politely invited Casanova to enter the modest guest chamber. A maidservant brought up the valise. Casanova was then left alone in a medium-sized room, simply furnished, but equipped with all necessaries. It had four tall and narrow bay-windows, commanding views to the four points of the compass, across the sunlit plain with its green vineyards, bright meadows, golden fields, white roads, light-colored houses, and dusky gardens. Casanova concerned himself little about the view, and hastened to remove the stains of travel, being impelled less by hunger than by an eager curiosity to see Marcolina face to face. He did not change, for he wished to reserve his best suit for evening wear.
When Casanova reentered the hall, a panelled chamber on the ground floor, there were seated at the well-furnished board, his host and hostess, their three daughters, and a young woman. She was wearing a simple grey dress of some shimmering material. She had a graceful figure. Her gaze rested on him as frankly and indifferently as if he were a member of the household, or had been a guest a hundred times before. Her face did not light up in the way to which he had grown accustomed in earlier years, when he had been a charming youth, or later in his handsome prime. But for a good while now Casanova had ceased to expect this from a new acquaintance. Nevertheless, even of late the mention of his name had usually sufficed to arouse on a woman's face an expression of tardy admiration, or at least some trace of regret, which was an admission that the hearer would have loved to meet him a few years earlier. Yet now, when Olivo introduced him to Marcolina as Signor Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt, she smiled as she would have smiled at some utterly indifferent name that carried with it no aroma of adventure and mystery. Even when he took his seat by her side, kissed her hand, and allowed his eyes as they dwelt on her to gleam with delight and desire, her manner betrayed nothing of the demure gratification that might have seemed an appropriate answer to so ardent a wooing.
After a few polite commonplaces, Casanova told his neighbor that he had been informed of her intellectual attainments, and asked what was her chosen subject of study. Her chief interest, she rejoined, was in the higher mathematics, to which she had been introduced by Professor Morgagni, the renowned teacher at the university of Bologna. Casanova expressed his surprise that so charming a young lady should have an interest, certainly exceptional, in a dry and difficult subject. Marcolina replied that in her view the higher mathematics was the most imaginative of all the sciences; one might even say that its nature made it akin to the divine. When Casanova asked for further enlightenment upon a view so novel to him, Marcolina modestly declined to continue the topic, declaring that the others at table, and above all her uncle, would much rather hear some details of a newly recovered friend's travels than listen to a philosophical disquisition.
Amalia was prompt to second the proposal; and Casanova, always willing to oblige in this matter, said in easy-going fashion that during recent years he had been mainly engaged in secret diplomatic missions. To mention only places of importance, he had continually been going to and fro between Madrid, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg. He gave an account of meetings and conversations, some grave and some gay, with men and women of all classes, and did not forget to speak of his friendly reception at the court of Catharine of Russia. He jestingly related how Frederick the Great had nearly appointed him instructor at a cadet school for Pomeranian junkers—a danger from which he had escaped by a precipitous flight. Of these and many other things he spoke as recent happenings, although in reality they had occurred years or decades before. Romancing freely, he was hardly conscious when he was lying either on a small scale or on a large, being equally delighted with his own conceits and with the pleasure he was giving to his auditors. While thus recounting real and imaginary incidents, he could almost delude himself into the belief that he was still the bold, radiant Casanova, the favorite of fortune and of beautiful women, the honored guest of secular and spiritual princes, the man whose spendings and gamblings and gifts must be reckoned in thousands. It was possible for him to forget that he was a decayed starveling, supported by pitiful remittances from former friends in England and Spain—-doles which often failed to arrive, so that he was reduced to the few and paltry gold pieces which he could win from Baron Perotti or from the Baron's guests. He could even forget that his highest aim now was to return to his natal city where he had been cast into prison and from which, since his escape, he had been banned; to return as one of the meanest of its citizens, as writer, as beggar, as nonentity; to accept so inglorious a close to a once brilliant career.
Marcolina listened attentively like the others, but with the same expression as if she had been listening to someone reading aloud from an amusing narrative. Her face did not betray the remotest realization of the fact that the speaker was Casanova; that she was listening to the man who had had all these experiences and many more; that she was sitting beside the lover of a thousand women. Very different was the fire in Amalia's eyes. To her, Casanova was the same as ever. To her, his voice was no less seductive than it had been sixteen years earlier. He could not but be aware that at a word or a sign, and as soon as he pleased, he could revive this old adventure. But what to him was Amalia at this hour, when he longed for Marcolina as he had never longed for woman before. Beneath the shimmering folds of her dress he seemed to see her naked body; her firm young breasts allured him; once when she stooped to pick up her handkerchief, Casanova's inflamed fancy made him attach so ardent a significance to her movement that he felt near to swooning. Marcolina did not fail to notice the involuntary pause in the flow of his conversation; she perceived that his gaze had begun to flicker strangely. In her countenance he could read a sudden hostility, a protest, a trace of disgust.
Casanova speedily recovered his self-command, and was about to continue his reminiscences with renewed vigor, when a portly priest entered. Olivo introduced him as Abbate Rossi, and Casanova at once recognized him as the man he had met twenty-seven years earlier upon a market boat plying between Venice and Chioggia.
"You had one eye bandaged," said Casanova, who rarely missed a chance of showing off his excellent memory. "A young peasant-woman wearing a yellow kerchief round her head advised you to use a healing unguent which an apothecary with an exceedingly hoarse voice happened to have with him."
The Abbate nodded, and smiled, well-pleased. Then, with a sly expression, he came quite close to Casanova, as if about to tell him a secret. But he spoke out loud.
"As for you, Signor Casanova, you were with a wedding party. I don't know whether you were one of the ordinary guests or whether you were best man, but I remember that the bride looked at you far more languishingly than at the bridegroom. The wind rose; there was half a gale; you began to read a risky poem."
"No doubt the Chevalier only did so in order to lay the storm," said Marcolina.
"I never claim the powers of a wizard," rejoined Casanova. "But I will not deny that after I had begun to read, no one bothered about the storm." The three girls had encircled the Abbate. For an excellent reason. From his capacious pockets he produced quantities of luscious sweets, and popped them into the children's mouths with his stumpy fingers. Meanwhile Olivo gave the newcomer a circumstantial account of the rediscovery of Casanova. Dreamily Amalia continued to gaze at the beloved guest's masterful brown forehead.
The children ran out into the garden; Marcolina had risen from the table and was watching them through the open window. The Abbate had brought a message from the Marchese Celsi, who proposed to call that evening, with his wife, upon his dear friend Olivo.
"Excellent," said Olivo. "We shall have a pleasant game of cards in honor of the Chevalier. I am expecting the two Ricardis; and Lorenzi is also coming—the girls met him out riding this morning."
"Is he still here?" asked the Abbate. "A week ago I was told he had to rejoin his regiment."
"I expect the Marchesa got him an extension of leave from the Colonel."
"I am surprised," interjected Casanova, "that any Mantuese officers can get leave at present." He went on: "Two friends of mine, one from Mantua and the other from Cremona, left last night with their regiments, marching towards Milan."
"Has war broken out?" inquired Marcolina from the window. She had turned round; her face betrayed nothing, but there was a slight quaver in her voice which no one but Casanova noticed.
"It may come to nothing," he said lightly. "But the Spaniards seem rather bellicose, and it is necessary to be on the alert."
Olivo looked important and wrinkled his brow. "Does anyone know," he asked, "whether we shall side with Spain or with France?"
"I don't think Lieutenant Lorenzi will care a straw about that," suggested the Abbate. "All he wants is a chance to prove his military prowess."
"He has done so already," said Amalia. "He was in the battle at Pavia three years ago."
Marcolina said not a word.
Casanova knew enough. He went to the window beside Marcolina and looked out into the garden. He saw nothing but the wide greensward where the children were playing. It was surrounded by a close-set row of stately trees within the encompassing wall.
"What lovely grounds," he said, turning to Olivo. "I should so like to have a look at them."
"Nothing would please me better, Chevalier," answered Olivo, "than to show you my vineyards and the rest of my estate. You need only ask Amalia, and she will tell you that during the years since I bought this little place I have had no keener desire than to welcome you as guest upon my own land and under my own roof. Ten times at least I was on the point of writing you an invitation, but was always withheld by the doubt whether my letter would reach you. If I did happen to hear from some one that he had recently seen you in Lisbon, I could be quite sure that in the interval you would have left for Warsaw or Vienna. Now, when as if by miracle I have caught you on the point of quitting Mantua, and when—I can assure you, Amalia, it was no easy matter—I have succeeded in enticing you here, you are so niggard with your time that—would you believe it, Signor Abbate, he refuses to spare us more than a couple of days!"
"Perhaps the Chevalier will allow himself to be persuaded to prolong his visit," said the Abbate, who was contentedly munching a huge mouthful of peach. As he spoke, he glanced at Amalia in a way that led Casanova to infer that his hostess had told the Abbate more than she had told her husband.
"I fear that will be quite impossible," said Casanova with decision. "I need not conceal from friends who are so keenly interested in my fortunes, that my Venetian fellow-citizens are on the point of atoning for the injustice of earlier years. The atonement comes rather late, but is all the more honorable. I should seem ungrateful, or even rancorous, were I to resist their importunities any longer." With a wave of his hand he warded off an eager but respectful enquiry which he saw taking shape upon his host's lips, and hastened to remark: "Well, Olivo, I am ready. Show me your little kingdom."
"Would it not be wiser," interposed Amalia, "to wait until it is cooler? I am sure the Chevalier would prefer to rest for a while, or to stroll in the shade." Her eyes sought Casanova's with shy entreaty, as if she thought her fate would be decided once again during such a walk in the garden.
No one had anything to say against Amalia's suggestion, and they all went out of doors. Marcolina, who led the way, ran across the sunlit greensward to join the children in their game of battledore and shuttlecock. She was hardly taller than the eldest of the three girls; and when her hair came loose in the exercise and floated over her shoulders she too looked like a child. Olivo and the Abbate seated themselves on a stone bench beneath the trees, not far from the house. Amalia sauntered on with Casanova. As soon as the two were out of hearing, she began to converse with Casanova in a tone which seemed to ignore the lapse of years.
"So we meet again, Casanova! How I have longed for this day. I never doubted its coming."
"A mere chance has brought me," said Casanova coldly.
Amalia smiled. "Have it your own way," she said. "Anyhow, you are here! All these sixteen years I have done nothing but dream of this day!"
"I can't help thinking," countered Casanova, "that throughout the long interval you must have dreamed of many other things—and must have done more than dream."
Amalia shook her head. "You know better, Casanova. Nor had you forgotten me, for were it otherwise, in your eagerness to get to Venice, you would never have accepted Olivo's invitation."
"What do you mean, Amalia? Can you imagine I have come here to betray your husband?"
"How can you use such a phrase, Casanova? Were I to be yours once again, there would be neither betrayal nor sin."
Casanova laughed. "No sin? Wherefore not? Because I'm an old man?"
"You are not old. For me you can never be an old man. In your arms I had my first taste of bliss, and I doubt not it is my destiny that my last bliss shall be shared with you!"
"Your last?" rejoined Casanova cynically, though he was not altogether unmoved. "I think my friend Olivo would have a word to say about that."
"What you speak of," said Amalia reddening, "is duty, and even pleasure; but it is not and never has been bliss."
They did not walk to the end of the grass alley. Both seemed to shun the neighborhood of the greensward, where Marcolina and the children were playing. As if by common consent they retraced their steps, and, silent now, approached the house again. One of the ground-floor windows at the gable end of the house was open. Through this Casanova glimpsed in the dark interior a half-drawn curtain, from behind which the foot of a bed projected. Over an adjoining chair was hanging a light, gauzy dress.
"Is that Marcolina's room?" enquired Casanova.
Amalia nodded. "Do you like her?" she said—nonchalantly, as it seemed to Casanova.
"Of course, since she is good looking."
"She's a good girl as well."
Casanova shrugged, as if the goodness were no concern of his. Then: "Tell me, Amalia, did you think me still handsome when you first saw me to-day?"
"I do not know if your looks have changed. To me you seem just the same as of old. You are as I have always seen you, as I have seen you in my dreams."
"Look well, Amalia. See the wrinkles on my forehead; the loose folds of my neck; the crow's-feet round my eyes. And look," he grinned, "I have lost one of my eye teeth. Look at these hands, too, Amalia. My fingers are like claws; there are yellow spots on the finger-nails; the blue veins stand out. They are the hands of an old man."
She clasped both his hands as he held them out for her to see, and affectionately kissed them one after the other in the shaded walk. "To-night, I will kiss you on the lips," she said, with a mingling of humility and tenderness, which roused his gall.
Close by, where the alley opened on to the greensward, Marcolina was stretched on the grass, her hands clasped beneath her head, looking skyward while the shuttlecocks flew to and fro. Suddenly reaching upwards, she seized one of them in mid air, and laughed triumphantly. The girls flung themselves upon her as she lay defenceless.
Casanova thrilled. "Neither my lips nor my hands are yours to kiss. Your waiting for me and your dreams of me will prove to have been vain—unless I should first make Marcolina mine."
"Are you mad, Casanova?" exclaimed Amalia, with distress in her voice.
"If I am, we are both on the same footing," replied Casanova. "You are mad because in me, an old man, you think that you can rediscover the beloved of your youth; I am mad because I have taken it into my head that I wish to possess Marcolina. But perhaps we shall both be restored to reason. Marcolina shall restore me to youth—for you. So help me to my wishes, Amalia!"
"You are really beside yourself, Casanova. What you ask is impossible. She will have nothing to do with any man."
Casanova laughed. "What about Lieutenant Lorenzi?"
"Lorenzi? What do you mean?"
"He is her lover. I am sure of it."
"You are utterly mistaken. He asked for her hand, and she rejected his proposal. Yet he is young and handsome. I almost think him handsomer than you ever were, Casanova!"
"He was a suitor for her hand?"
"Ask Olivo if you don't believe me."
"Well, what do I care about that? What care I whether she be virgin or strumpet, wife or widow—I want to make her mine!"
"I can't give her to you, my friend!" Amalia's voice expressed genuine concern.
"You see for yourself," he said, "what a pitiful creature I have become. Ten years ago, five years ago, I should have needed neither helper nor advocate, even though Marcolina had been the very goddess of virtue. And now I am trying to make you play the procuress. If I were only a rich man. Had I but ten thousand ducats. But I have not even ten. I am a beggar, Amalia."
"Had you a hundred thousand, you could not buy Marcolina. What does she care about money? She loves books, the sky, the meadows, butterflies, playing with children. She has inherited a small competence which more than suffices for her needs."
"Were I but a sovereign prince," cried Casanova, somewhat theatrically, as was his wont when strongly moved. "Had I but the power to commit men to prison, to send them to the scaffold. But I am nothing. A beggar, and a liar into the bargain. I importune the Supreme Council for a post, a crust of bread, a home! What a poor thing have I become! Are you not sickened by me, Amalia?"
"I love you, Casanova!"
"Then give her to me, Amalia. It rests with you, I am confident. Tell her what you please. Say I have threatened you. Say you think I am capable of setting fire to the house. Say I am a fool, a dangerous lunatic escaped from an asylum, but that the embraces of a virgin will restore me to sanity. Yes, tell her that."
"She does not believe in miracles."
"Does not believe in miracles? Then she does not believe in God either. So much the better! I have influence with the Archbishop of Milan. Tell her so. I can ruin her. I can destroy you all. It is true, Amalia. What books does she read? Doubtless some of them are on the Index. Let me see them. I will compile a list. A hint from me...."
"Not a word more, Casanova! Here she comes. Keep yourself well in hand; do not let your eyes betray you. Listen, Casanova; I have never known a purer-minded girl. Did she suspect what I have heard from you, she would feel herself soiled, and for the rest of your stay she would not so much as look at you. Talk to her; talk to her. You will soon ask her pardon and mine."
Marcolina came up with the girls, who ran on into the house. She paused, as if out of courtesy to the guest, standing before him, while Amalia deliberately withdrew. Indeed, it actually seemed to Casanova that from those pale, half-parted lips, from the smooth brow crowned with light-brown hair now restored to order, there emanated an aroma of aloofness and purity. Rarely had he had this feeling with regard to any woman; nor had he had it in the case of Marcolina when they were within four walls. A devotional mood, a spirit of self-sacrifice knowing nothing of desire, seemed to take possession of his soul. Discreetly, in a respectful tone such as at that day was customary towards persons of rank, in a manner which she could not but regard as flattering, he enquired whether it was her purpose to resume her studies that evening. She answered that in the country her work was somewhat irregular. Nevertheless, even during free hours, mathematical problems upon which she had recently been pondering, would at times invade her mind unawares. This had just happened while she was lying on the greensward gazing up into the sky.
Casanova, emboldened by the friendliness of her demeanor, asked jestingly what was the nature of this lofty, urgent problem. She replied, in much the same tone, that it had nothing whatever to do with the Cabala, with which, so rumor ran, the Chevalier de Seingalt worked wonders. He would therefore not know what to make of her problem.
Casanova was piqued that she should speak of the Cabala with such unconcealed contempt. In his rare hours of heart-searching he was well aware that the mystical system of numbers which passed by that name had neither sense nor purpose. He knew it had no correspondence with any natural reality; that it was no more than an instrument whereby cheats and jesters—Casanova assumed these roles by turn, and was a master player in both capacities—could lead credulous fools by the nose. Nevertheless, in defiance of his own better judgment, he now undertook to defend the Cabala as a serious and perfectly valid science. He spoke of the divine nature of the number seven, to which there are so many references in Holy Writ; of the deep prophetic significance of pyramids of figures, for the construction of which he had himself invented a new system; and of the frequent fulfilment of the forecasts he had based upon this system. In Amsterdam, a few years ago, through the use of arithmancy, he had induced Hope the banker to take over the insurance of a ship which was already reported lost, whereby the banker had made two hundred thousand gold guilders. He held forth so eloquently in defence of his preposterous theories that, as often happened, he began to believe all the nonsense he was talking. At length he went so far as to maintain that the Cabala was not so much a branch of mathematics as the metaphysical perfectionment of mathematics.
At this point, Marcolina, who had been listening attentively and with apparent seriousness, suddenly assumed a half-commiserating, half-mischievous expression, and said:
"You are trying, Signor Casanova"—she seemed deliberately to avoid addressing him as Chevalier—"to give me an elaborate proof of your renowned talent as entertainer, and I am extremely grateful to you. But of course you know as well as I do that the Cabala has not merely nothing to do with mathematics, but is in conflict with the very essence of mathematics. The Cabala bears to mathematics the same sort of relationship that the confused or fallacious chatter of the Sophists bore to the serene, lofty doctrines of Plato and of Aristotle."
"Nevertheless, beautiful and learned Marcolina, you will admit," answered Casanova promptly, "that even the Sophists were far from being such contemptible, foolish apprentices as your harsh criticism would imply. Let me give you a contemporary example. M. Voltaire's whole technique of thought and writing entitles us to describe him as an Arch-Sophist. Yet no one will refuse the due meed of honor to his extraordinary talent. I would not myself refuse it, though I am at this moment engaged in composing a polemic against him. Let me add that I am not allowing myself to be influenced in his favor by recollection of the extreme civility he was good enough to show me when I visited him at Ferney ten years ago."
"It is really most considerate of you to be so lenient in your criticism of the greatest mind of the century!" Marcolina smilingly retorted.
"A great mind—the greatest of the century!" exclaimed Casanova. "To give him such a designation seems to me inadmissible, were it only because, for all his genius, he is an ungodly man—nay positively an atheist. No atheist can be a man of great mind."
"As I see the matter, there is no such incompatibility. But the first thing you have to prove is your title to describe Voltaire as an atheist."
Casanova was now in his element. In the opening chapter of his polemic he had cited from Voltaire's works, especially from the famous Pucelle, a number of passages that seemed peculiarly well-fitted to justify the charge of atheism. Thanks to his unfailing memory, he was able to repeat these citations verbatim, and to marshal his own counter-arguments. But in Marcolina he had to cope with an opponent who was little inferior to himself in extent of knowledge and mental acumen; and who, moreover, excelled him, not perhaps in fluency of speech, but at any rate in artistry of presentation and clarity of expression. The passages Casanova had selected as demonstrating Voltaire's spirit of mockery, his scepticism, and his atheism, were adroitly interpreted by Marcolina as testifying to the Frenchman's scientific genius, to his skill as an author, and to his indefatigable ardor in the search for truth. She boldly contended that doubt, mockery, nay unbelief itself, if associated with such a wealth of knowledge, such absolute honesty, and such high courage, must be more pleasing to God than the humility of the pious, which was apt to be a mask for lack of capacity to think logically, and often enough—there were plenty of examples—a mask for cowardice and hypocrisy.
Casanova listened with growing astonishment. He felt quite incompetent to convert Marcolina to his own way of thinking; all the more as he increasingly realized that her counterstrokes were threatening to demolish the tottering intellectual edifice which, of late years, he had been accustomed to mistake for faith. He took refuge in the trite assertion that such views as Marcolina's were a menace, not only to the ecclesiastical ordering of society, but to the very foundations of social life. This enabled him to make a clever change of front, to pass into the field of politics, where he hoped that his wide experience and his knowledge of the world would render it possible for him to get the better of his adversary. But although she lacked acquaintance with the notable personalities of the age; although she was without inside knowledge of courtly and diplomatic intrigues; although, therefore, she had to renounce any attempt to answer Casanova in detail, even when she felt there was good reason to distrust the accuracy of his assertions—nevertheless, it was clear to him from the tenor of her remarks, that she had little respect for the princes of the earth or for the institutions of state; and she made no secret of her conviction that, alike in small things and in great, the world was not so much a world ruled by selfishness and lust for power, as a world in a condition of hopeless confusion. Rarely had Casanova encountered such freedom of thought in women; never had he met with anything of the kind in a girl who was certainly not yet twenty years old. It was painful to him to remember that in earlier and better days his own mind had with deliberate, self-complacent boldness moved along the paths whereon Marcolina was now advancing—although in her case there did not seem to exist any consciousness of exceptional courage. Fascinated by the uniqueness of her methods of thought and expression, he almost forgot that he was walking beside a young, beautiful, desirable woman, a forgetfulness all the more remarkable as the two were alone in the leafy alley, and at a considerable distance from the house.
Suddenly, breaking off in the middle of a sentence, Marcolina joyfully exclaimed, "Here comes my uncle!"
Casanova, as if he had to rectify an omission, whispered in her ear: "What a nuisance. I should have liked to go on talking to you for hours, Marcolina." He was aware that his eyes were again lighting up with desire.
At this Marcolina, who in the spirited exchange of their recent conversation had almost abandoned her defensive attitude, displayed a renewed reserve. Her expression manifested the same protest, the same repulsion, which had wounded Casanova earlier in the day.
"Am I really so repulsive?" he anxiously asked himself. Then, replying in thought to his own question: "No, that is not the reason. Marcolina is not really a woman. She is a she-professor, a she-philosopher, one of the wonders of the world perhaps—but not a woman."
Yet even as he mused, he knew he was merely attempting to deceive himself, console himself, save himself; and all his endeavors were vain.
Olivo, who had now come up, addressed Marcolina. "Have I not done well to invite some one here with whom you can converse as learnedly as with your professors at Bologna?"
"Indeed, Uncle," answered Marcolina, "there was not one of them who would have ventured to challenge Voltaire to a duel!"
"What, Voltaire? The Chevalier has called him out?" cried Olivo, misunderstanding the jest.
"Your witty niece, Olivo, refers to the polemic on which I have been at work for the last few days, the pastime of leisure hours. I used to have weightier occupations."
Marcolina, ignoring this remark, said: "You will find it pleasantly cool now for your walk. Goodbye for the present." She nodded a farewell, and moved briskly across the greensward to the house.
Casanova, repressing an impulse to follow her with his eyes, enquired: "Is Signora Amalia coming with us?"
"No, Chevalier," answered Olivo. "She has a number of things to attend to in the house; and besides, this is the girls' lesson time."
"What an excellent housewife and mother! You're a lucky fellow, Olivo!"
"I tell myself the same thing every day," responded Olivo, with tears in his eyes.
They passed by the gable end of the house. Marcolina's window was still open; the pale, diaphanous gown showed up against the dark background of the room. Along the wide chestnut avenue they made their way on to the road, now completely in the shade. Leisurely, they walked up the slope skirting the garden wall. Where it ended, the vineyard began. Between tall poles, from which purple clusters hung, Olivo led his guest to the summit. With a complacent air of ownership, he waved towards the house, lying at the foot of the hill. Casanova fancied he could detect a female figure flitting to and fro in the turret chamber.
The sun was near to setting, but the heat was still considerable. Beads of perspiration coursed down Olivo's cheeks, but Casanova's brow showed no trace of moisture. Strolling down the farther slope, they reached an olive grove. From tree to tree vines were trained trellis-wise, while between the rows of olive trees golden ears of corn swayed in the breeze.
"In a thousand ways," said Casanova appreciatively, "the sun brings increase."
With even greater wealth of detail than before, Olivo recounted how he had acquired this fine estate, and how two great vintage years and two good harvests had made him a well-to-do, in fact a wealthy, man.
Casanova pursued the train of his own thoughts, attending to Olivo's narrative only in so far as was requisite to enable him from time to time to interpose a polite question or to make an appropriate comment. Nothing claimed his interest until Olivo, after talking of all and sundry, came back to the topic of his family, and at length to Marcolina. But Casanova learned little that was new. She had lost her mother early. Her father, Olivo's half-brother, had been a physician in Bologna. Marcolina, while still a child, had astonished everyone by her precocious intelligence; but the marvel was soon staled by custom. A few years later, her father died. Since then she had been an inmate in the household of a distinguished professor at the university of Bologna, Morgagni to wit, who hoped that his pupil would become a woman of great learning. She always spent the summer with her uncle. There had been several proposals for her hand; one from a Bolognese merchant; one from a neighboring landowner; and lastly the proposal of Lieutenant Lorenzi. She had refused them all, and it seemed to be her design to devote her whole life to the service of knowledge. As Olivo rambled on with his story, Casanova's desires grew beyond measure, while the recognition that these desires were utterly foolish and futile reduced him almost to despair.
Casanova and Olivo regained the highroad. In a cloud of dust, a carriage drove up, and as they drew near the occupants shouted greetings. The newcomers were an elderly gentleman in elegant attire and a lady who was somewhat younger, of generous proportions, and conspicuously rouged.
"The Marchese," whispered Olivo to his companion.
The carriage halted.
"Good evening, my dear Olivo," said the Marchese. "Will you be so good as to introduce me to the Chevalier de Seingalt? I have no doubt that it is the Chevalier whom I have the pleasure of seeing."
Casanova bowed, saying: "Yes, I am he."
"I am the Marchese Celsi. Let me present the Marchesa, my spouse." The lady offered her finger tips. Casanova touched them with his lips.
The Marchese was two or three inches taller than Casanova, and unnaturally lean. He had a narrow face, of a yellow, waxy tint; his greenish eyes were piercing; his thick eyebrows were of reddish color, and met across the root of the nose. These characteristics gave him a somewhat formidable aspect. "My good Olivo," he said, "we are all going to the same destination. Since it is little more than half a mile to your house, I shall get out and walk with you. You won't mind driving the rest of the way alone," he added, turning to the Marchesa, who had meanwhile been gazing at Casanova with searching, passionate eyes. Without awaiting his wife's answer, the Marchese nodded to the coachman, who promptly lashed the horses furiously, as if he had some reason for driving his mistress away at top speed. In an instant the carriage vanished in a whirl of dust.
"The whole neighborhood," said the Marchese, "is already aware that the Chevalier de Seingalt has come to spend a few days with his friend Olivo. It must be glorious to bear so renowned a name."
"You flatter me, Signor Marchese," replied Casanova. "I have not yet abandoned the hope of winning such a name, but I am still far from having done so. It may be that a work on which I am now engaged will bring me nearer to the goal."
"We can take a short cut here," said Olivo, turning into a path which led straight to the wall of his garden.
"Work?" echoed the Marchese with a doubtful air. "May I enquire to what work you refer, Chevalier?"
"If you ask me that question, Signor Marchese, I shall in my turn feel impelled to enquire what you meant just now when you referred to my renown."
Arrogantly he faced the Marchese's piercing eyes. He knew perfectly well that neither his romance Icosameron nor yet his Confutazione della storia del governo veneto d'Amelot de la Houssaie had brought him any notable reputation as an author. Nevertheless it was his pose to imply that for him no other sort of reputation was desirable. He therefore deliberately misunderstood the Marchese's tentative observations and cautious allusions, which implied that Casanova was a celebrated seducer, gamester, man of affairs, political emissary, or what not. Celsi made no reference to authorship, for he had never heard of either the Refutation of Amelot or the Icosameron. At length, therefore, in polite embarrassment, he said: "After all, there is only one Casanova."
"There, likewise, you are mistaken, Signor Marchese," said Casanova coldly. "I have relatives, and a connoisseur like yourself must surely be acquainted with the name of one of my brothers, Francesco Casanova, the painter."
It seemed that the Marchese had no claim to connoisseurship in this field either, and he turned the conversation to acquaintances living in Naples, Rome, Milan, or Mantua, persons whom Casanova was not unlikely to have met. In this connection he also mentioned the name of Baron Perotti, but somewhat contemptuously.
Casanova was constrained to admit that he often played cards at the Baron's house. "For distraction," he explained; "for half an hour's relaxation before bedtime. In general, I have given up this way of wasting my time."
"I am sorry," said the Marchese, "for I must own it has been one of the dreams of my life to cross swords with you. Not only, indeed, at the card table; for when I was younger I would gladly have been your rival in other fields. Would you believe it—I forget how long ago it was—I once entered Spa on the very day, at the very hour, when you left the place. Our carriages must have passed one another on the road. In Ratisbon, too, I had the same piece of ill luck. There I actually occupied the room of which your tenancy had just expired."
"It is indeed unfortunate," said Casanova, flattered in spite of himself, "that people's paths so often cross too late in life."
"Not yet too late!" exclaimed the Marchese. "There are certain respects in which I shall not be loath to avow myself vanquished before the fight begins. But as regards games of chance, my dear Chevalier, we are perhaps both of us precisely at the age...."
Casanova cut him short. "At the age—very likely. Unfortunately, however, I can no longer look forward to the pleasure of measuring myself at the card table with a partner of your rank. The reason is simple." He spoke in the tone of a dethroned sovereign. "Despite my renown, my dear Marchese, I am now practically reduced to the condition of a beggar."
The Marchese involuntarily lowered his eyes before Casanova's haughty gaze. He shook his head incredulously, as if he had been listening to a strange jest. Olivo, who had followed the conversation with the keenest attention, and had accompanied the skilful parries of his marvellous friend with approving nods, could hardly repress a gesture of alarm. They had just reached a narrow wooden door in the garden wall. Olivo produced a key, and turned the creaking lock. Giving the Marchese precedence into the garden, he arrested Casanova by the arm, whispering:
"You must take back those last words, Chevalier, before you set foot in my house again. The money I have been owing you these sixteen years awaits you. I was only afraid to speak of it. Amalia will tell you. It is counted out and ready. I had proposed to hand it over to you on your departure...."
Casanova gently interrupted him. "You owe me nothing, Olivo. You know perfectly well that those paltry gold pieces were a wedding present from the friend of Amalia's mother. Please drop the subject. What are a few ducats to me?" He raised his voice as he spoke, so that the Marchese, who had paused at a few paces' distance could hear the concluding words. "I stand at a turning-point in my fortunes."
Olivo exchanged glances with Casanova, as if asking permission, and then explained to the Marchese: "You must know that the Chevalier has been summoned to Venice, and will set out for home in a few days."
"I would rather put it," remarked Casanova as they approached the house, "that summonses, growing ever more urgent, have been reaching me for a considerable while. But it seems to me that the senators took long enough to make up their minds, and may in their turn practise the virtue of patience."
"Unquestionably," said the Marchese, "you are entitled to stand upon your dignity, Chevalier."
They emerged from the avenue on to the greensward, across which the shadow of the house had now lengthened. Close to the dwelling, the rest of the little company was awaiting them. All rose and came to meet them. The Abbate led the way, with Marcolina and Amalia on either side. They were followed by the Marchesa, with whom came a tall, young officer, clad in a red uniform trimmed with silver lace, and wearing jack-boots—evidently Lorenzi. As he spoke to the Marchesa, he scanned her powdered shoulders as if they were well-known samples of other beauties with which he was equally familiar. The Marchesa smiled up at him beneath half-closed lids. Even a tyro in such matters could hardly fail to realize the nature of their relationship, or to perceive that they were quite unconcerned at its disclosure. They were conversing in animated fashion, but in low tones; and they ceased talking only when they caught up with the others.
Olivo introduced Casanova and Lorenzi to one another. They exchanged glances with a cold aloofness that seemed to offer mutual assurances of dislike; then, with a forced smile, both bowed stiffly without offering to shake hands. Lorenzi was handsome, with a narrow visage and features sharply cut for his age. At the back of his eyes something difficult to grasp seemed to lurk, something likely to suggest caution to one of experience. For a moment, Casanova was in doubt as to who it was that Lorenzi reminded him of. Then he realized that his own image stood before him, the image of himself as he had been thirty years before. "Have I been reincarnated in his form?" Casanova asked himself. "But I must have died before that could happen." It flashed through his mind: "Have I not been dead for a long time? What is there left of the Casanova who was young, handsome, and happy?" Amalia broke in upon his musings. As if from a distance, though she stood close at hand, she asked him how he had enjoyed his walk. Raising his voice so that all could hear, he expressed his admiration for the fertile, well-managed estate.
Meanwhile upon the greensward the maidservant was laying the table for supper. The two elder girls were "helping." With much fuss and giggling, they brought out of the house the silver, the wine glasses, and other requisites.
Gradually the dusk fell; a cool breeze stirred through the garden. Marcolina went to the table, to put the finishing touches to the work of the maidservant and the girls. The others wandered about the greensward and along the alleys. The Marchesa was extremely polite to Casanova. She said that the story of his remarkable escape from The Leads in Venice was not unknown to her, but it would be a pleasure to hear it from his own lips. With a meaning smile she added that she understood him to have had far more dangerous adventures, which he might perhaps be less inclined to recount. Casanova rejoined that he had indeed had a number of lively experiences, but had never made serious acquaintance with that mode of existence whose meaning and very essence were danger. Although, many years before, during troublous times, he had for a few months been a soldier upon the island of Corfu (was there any profession on earth into which the current of fate had not drifted him?), he had never had the good fortune to go through a real campaign, such as that which, he understood, Lieutenant Lorenzi was about to experience—a piece of luck for which he was inclined to envy the Lieutenant.
"Then you know more than I do, Signor Casanova," said Lorenzi in a challenging tone. "Indeed, you are better informed than the Colonel himself, for he has just given me an indefinite extension of leave."
"Is that so?" exclaimed the Marchese, unable to master his rage. He added spitefully: "Do you know, Lorenzi, we, or rather my wife, had counted so definitely on your leaving, that we had invited one of our friends, Baldi the singer, to stay with us next week."
"No matter," rejoined Lorenzi, unperturbed. "Baldi and I are the best of friends. We shall get on famously together. You think so, don't you?" he said, turning to the Marchesa with a smile. "You'd better!" said the Marchesa, laughing gaily.
As she spoke she seated herself at the table, beside Olivo, with Lorenzi on the other hand. Opposite sat Amalia, between the Marchese and Casanova. Next to Casanova, at one end of the long, narrow table, was Marcolina; next to Olivo, at the other end, sat the Abbate. Supper, like dinner, was a simple but tasteful meal. The two elder girls, Teresina and Nanetta, waited on the guests, and served the excellent wine grown on Olivo's hillsides. Both the Marchese and the Abbate paid their thanks to the young waitresses with playful and somewhat equivocal caresses which a stricter parent than Olivo would probably have discountenanced. Amalia seemed to be unaware of all this. She was pale, dejected, and looked like a woman determined to be old, since her own youth had ceased to interest her.
"Is this all that remains of my empire?" thought Casanova bitterly, contemplating her in profile. Yet perhaps it was the illumination which gave so gloomy a cast to Amalia's features. From the interior of the house a broad beam of light fell upon the guests. Otherwise the glimmer in the sky sufficed them. The dark crests of the trees limited the outlook; Casanova was reminded of the eerie garden in which, late one evening many years before, he had awaited the coming of his mistress.
"Murano!" he whispered to himself, and trembled. Then he spoke aloud: "On an island near Venice there is a convent garden where I last set foot several decades ago. At night, there, the scent is just like this."
"Were you ever a monk?" asked the Marchesa, sportively.
"All but," replied Casanova with a smile, explaining, truthfully enough, that when he was a lad of fifteen he had been given minor orders by the archbishop of Venice, but that before attaining full manhood he had decided to lay aside the cassock.
The Abbate mentioned that there was a nunnery close at hand, and strongly recommended Casanova to visit the place if he had never seen it. Olivo heartily endorsed the recommendation, singing the praises of the picturesque old building, the situation, and the diversified beauties of the approach.
"The Lady Abbess, Sister Serafina," continued the Abbate, "is an extremely learned woman, a duchess by birth. She has told me—by letter, of course, for the inmates are under a vow of perpetual silence—that she has heard of Marcolina's erudition, and would like to meet her face to face."
"I hope, Marcolina," said Lorenzi, speaking to her for the first time, "that you will not attempt to imitate the noble abbess in other respects as well as learning."
"Why should I?" rejoined Marcolina serenely. "We can maintain our freedom without vows. Better without than with, for a vow is a form of coercion."
Casanova was sitting next to her. He did not dare to let his foot touch hers lightly, or to press his knee against hers. He was certain that should she for the third time look at him with that expression of horror and loathing, he would be driven to some act of folly. As the meal progressed, as the number of emptied glasses grew and the conversation waxed livelier and more general, Casanova heard, once more as from afar, Amalia's voice.
"I have spoken to Marcolina."
"You have spoken to her?" A mad hope flamed up in him. "Calm yourself, Casanova. We did not speak of you, but only of her and her plans for the future. I say to you again, she will never give herself to any man."
Olivo, who had been drinking freely, suddenly rose, glass in hand, and delivered himself of a few stumbling phrases concerning the great honor conferred upon his humble home by the visit of his dear friend, the Chevalier de Seingalt.
"But where, my dear Olivo, is the Chevalier de Seingalt of whom you speak?" enquired Lorenzi in his clear, insolent voice.
Casanova's first impulse was to throw the contents of his glass in Lorenzi's face.
Amalia touched his arm lightly, to restrain him, and said: "Many people to-day, Chevalier, still know you best by the old and more widely renowned name of Casanova."
"I was not aware," said Lorenzi, with offensive gravity, "that the King of France had ennobled Signor Casanova."
"I was able to save the King that trouble," answered Casanova quietly. "I trust, Lieutenant Lorenzi, that you will be satisfied with an explanation to which the Burgomaster of Nuremberg offered no objection when I gave it to him in circumstances with which I need not weary the company." There was a moment of silent expectation. Casanova continued: "The alphabet is our common heritage. I chose a collocation of letters which pleased my taste, and ennobled myself without being indebted to any prince, who might perhaps have been disinclined to allow my claim. I style myself Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt. I am indeed sorry, Lieutenant Lorenzi, if this name fails to meet with your approval."
"Seingalt! It is a splendid name," said the Abbate, repeating it several times, as if he were tasting it.
"There is not a man in the world," exclaimed Olivo, "who has a better right to name himself Chevalier than my distinguished friend Casanova!"
"As for you, Lorenzi," added the Marchese, "when your reputation has reached as far as that of Signor Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt, we shall be willing enough, should you so desire, to give you also the title of Chevalier."
Casanova, somewhat nettled at not being allowed to fight his own battle, was about to resume the defence in person, when out of the dusk of the garden two elderly gentlemen, soberly habited, put in an appearance beside the table. Olivo greeted them with effusive cordiality, being delighted to turn the conversation and to put an end to a dispute that threatened to destroy the harmony of the evening. The newcomers were the brothers Ricardi. As Casanova had learned from Olivo, they were old bachelors. At one time members of the great world, they had been unfortunate in various undertakings. At length they had returned to their birthplace, the neighboring village, to lead a retired life in a tiny house they had rented. They were eccentric fellows, but quite harmless.
The Ricardis expressed their delight at renewing their acquaintance with the Chevalier, whom, they said, they had met in Paris a good many years ago.
Casanova could not recall the meeting.
"Perhaps it was in Madrid?" said the Ricardis.
"Maybe," replied Casanova, though he was absolutely certain that he had never seen either of them before.
The younger of the two was spokesman. The elder, who looked as if he might be ninety at least, accompanied his brother's words with incessant nods and grimaces. By now every one had left the table, and before this the children had disappeared. Lorenzi and the Marchesa were strolling in the dusk across the greensward. Marcolina and Amalia were in the hall, setting out the table for cards.
"What is the aim of all this?" said Casanova to himself, as he stood alone in the garden. "Do they imagine me to be rich? Are they on the lookout for plunder?"
These preparations, the ingratiating manners of the Marchese, the sedulous attentions of the Abbate, the appearance of the brothers Ricardi on the scene, were arousing his suspicions. Was it not possible that Lorenzi might be a party to the intrigue? Or Marcolina? Or even Amalia? For a moment it flashed through his mind that his enemies might be at work upon some scheme of the eleventh hour to make his return to Venice difficult or impossible. But a moment's reflection convinced him the notion was absurd—were it only because he no longer had any enemies. He was merely an old fellow in reduced circumstances. Who was likely to take any trouble to hinder his return to Venice? Glancing through the open window, he saw the company assembling round the table, where the cards lay ready, and the filled wine-glasses were standing. It seemed to him clear beyond all possibility of doubt that there was nothing afoot except an ordinary, innocent game of cards, in which the coming of a new player is always an agreeable change.
Marcolina passed him, and wished him good luck.
"Aren't you going to take a hand?" he said. "At least you will look on?"
"I have something else to do. Good night, Chevalier."
From the interior, voices called out into the night: "Lorenzi."—"Chevalier."—"We are waiting for you."
Casanova, standing in the darkness, could see that the Marchesa was leading Lorenzi away from the open greensward into the greater darkness under the trees. There she would fain have drawn him into her arms, but Lorenzi roughly tore himself away and strode towards the house. Meeting Casanova in the entry, he gave him precedence with mock politeness. Casanova accepted the precedence without a word of thanks.
The Marchese was the first banker. Olivo, the brothers Ricardi, and the Abbate staked such trifling amounts that to Casanova—even to-day when his whole worldly wealth consisted of no more than a few ducats—the game seemed ludicrous. All the more was this the case since the Marchese raked in his winnings and paid out his losses with a ceremonious air, as if he were handling enormous sums. Suddenly Lorenzi, who had hitherto taken no part in the game, staked a ducat, won, let the doubled stake stand; won again and again, and continued to have the same luck with but occasional interruptions. The other men, however, went on staking petty coins, and the two Ricardis in particular seemed quite annoyed if the Marchese failed to give them as much attention as he gave to Lieutenant Lorenzi. The two brothers played together upon the same hazard. Beads of perspiration formed upon the brow of the elder, who handled the cards. The younger, standing behind his brother, talked unceasingly, with the air of giving infallible counsel. When the silent brother won, the loquacious brother's eyes gleamed; but at a loss, he raised despairing eyes heavenward. The Abbate, impassive for the most part, occasionally enunciated some scrap of proverbial wisdom. For instance: "Luck and women cannot be constrained." Or, "The earth is round, and heaven is far away." At times he looked at Casanova with an air of sly encouragement, his eyes moving on from Casanova to rest upon Amalia where she sat beside her husband. It seemed as if his chief concern must be to bring the erstwhile lovers together once again.
As for Casanova, all he could think of was that Marcolina was in her room, undressing in leisurely fashion, and that if the window were open her white skin must be gleaming into the night. Seized with desire so intense as almost to put him beside himself, he moved to rise from his place by the Marchese and to leave the room. The Marchese, however, interpreting this movement as a resolve to take a hand in the game, said:
"At last! We were sure you would not be content to play the part of spectator, Chevalier."
The Marchese dealt him a card. Casanova staked all he had on his person, about ten ducats, which was nearly the whole of his entire wealth. Without counting the amount, he emptied his purse on the table, hoping to lose it at a single cast. That would be a sign of luck. He had not troubled to think precisely what sort of luck it would signify, whether his speedy return to Venice, or the desired sight of Marcolina's nudity. Ere he had made up his mind upon this point, the Marchese had lost the venture. Like Lorenzi, Casanova let the double stake lie; and just as in Lorenzi's case, fortune stood by him. The Marchese no longer troubled himself to deal to the others. The silent Ricardi rose somewhat mortified; the other Ricardi wrung his hands. Then the two withdrew, dumbfounded, to a corner of the room. The Abbate and Olivo took matters more phlegmatically. The former ate sweets and repeated his proverbial tags. The latter watched the turn of the cards with eager attention.
At length the Marchese had lost five hundred ducats to Casanova and Lorenzi. The Marchesa moved to depart, and looked significantly at the Lieutenant on her way out of the room. Amalia accompanied her guest. The Marchesa waddled in a manner that was extremely distasteful to Casanova. Amalia walked along beside her humbly and deprecatingly.
Now that the Marchese had lost all his ready cash, Casanova became banker, and, considerably to the Marchese's annoyance, he insisted that the others should return to the game. The brothers Ricardi eagerly accepted the invitation. The Abbate shook his head, saying he had had enough. Olivo played merely because he did not wish to be discourteous to his distinguished guest.
Lorenzi's luck held. When he had won four hundred ducats in all, he rose from the table, saying: "To-morrow I shall be happy to give you your revenge. But now, by your leave, I shall ride home."
"Home!" cried the Marchese with a scornful laugh—he had won back a few ducats by this time. "That is a strange way to phrase it!" He turned to the others: "The Lieutenant is staying with me. My wife has already driven home. I hope you'll have a pleasant time, Lorenzi!"
"You know perfectly well," rejoined Lorenzi imperturbably, "that I shall ride straight to Mantua, and not to your place, to which you were so good as to invite me yesterday."
"You can ride to bell for all I care!" said the other.
Lorenzi politely took his leave of the rest of the company, and, to Casanova's astonishment, departed without making any suitable retort to the Marchese.
Casanova went on with the game, still winning, so that the Marchese ere long was several hundred ducats in his debt. "What's the use of it all?" thought Casanova at first. But by degrees he was once more ensnared by the lure of the gaming table. "After all," he mused, "this is a lucky turn of fortune. I shall soon be a thousand to the good, perhaps even two thousand. The Marchese will not fail to pay his debt. It would be pleasant to take a modest competence with me to Venice. But why Venice? Who regains wealth, regains youth. Wealth is everything. At any rate, I shall now be able to buy her. Whom? The only woman I want.... She is standing naked at the window.... I am sure she is waiting there, expecting me to come.... She is standing at the window to drive me mad!"
All the same, with unruffled brow he continued dealing the cards, not only to the Marchese, but also to Olivo and to the brothers Ricardi. To the latter from time to time he pushed over a gold piece to which they had no claim, but which they accepted without comment. The noise of a trotting horse came from the road. "Lorenzi," thought Casanova. The hoofbeats echoed for a time from the garden wall, until sound and echo gradually died away.
At length Casanova's luck turned. The Marchese staked more and more boldly. By midnight Casanova was as poor as at the beginning; nay, poorer, for he had lost the few ducats with which he had made his first venture. Pushing the cards away, he stood up with a smile, saying: "Thank you, gentlemen, for a pleasant game."
Olivo stretched out both hands towards Casanova. "Dear friend, let us go on with the game..... You have a hundred and fifty ducats. Have you forgotten them? Not only a hundred and fifty ducats, but all that I have, everything, everything." His speech was thick, for he had been drinking throughout the evening.
Casanova signified his refusal with an exaggerated but courtly gesture. "Luck and women cannot be constrained," he said, bowing towards the Abbate, who nodded contentedly and clapped his hands.
"Till to-morrow, then, my dear Chevalier," said the Marchese. "We will join forces to win the money back from Lieutenant Lorenzi."
The brothers Ricardi insistently demanded that the game should continue. The Marchese, who was in a jovial mood, opened a bank for them. They staked the gold pieces which Casanova had allowed them to win. In a couple of minutes they had lost them all to the Marchese, who declined to go on playing unless they could produce cash. They wrung their hands. The elder began to cry like a child. The younger, to comfort his brother, kissed him on both cheeks. The Marchese enquired whether the carriage had returned, and the Abbate said he had heard it drive up half an hour earlier. Thereupon the Marchese offered the Abbate and the two Ricardis a lift, promising to set them down at their doors. All four left the house together.
When they had gone, Olivo took Casanova by the arm, and assured his guest repeatedly, with tears in his voice, that everything in the house was at Casanova's absolute disposal. They walked past Marcolina's window. Not merely was the window closed, but the iron grating had been fastened; within, the window was curtained. There had been times, thought Casanova, when all these precautions had been unavailing, or had been without significance. They reentered the house. Olivo would not be dissuaded from accompanying the guest up the creaking staircase into the turret chamber. He embraced Casanova as he bade him good-night.
"To-morrow," he said, "you shall see the nunnery. But sleep as late as you please. We are not early risers here; anyhow we shall adapt the hours to your convenience. Good-night!" He closed the door quietly, but his heavy tread resounded through the house.
The room in which Casanova was now left to his own devices was dimly lighted by two candles. His gaze roamed successively to the four windows, looking to the four quarters of heaven. The prospect was much the same from them all. The landscape had a bluish sheen. He saw broad plains with no more than trifling elevations, except to the northward where the mountains were faintly visible. A few isolated houses, farms, and larger buildings, could be made out. Among these latter was one which stood higher than the rest. Here there was still a light in one of the windows, and Casanova imagined it must be the Marchese's mansion.
The furniture of the room was simple. The double bed stood straight out into the room. The two candles were on a long table. There were a few chairs, and a chest of drawers bearing a gilt-framed mirror. Everything was in perfect order, and the valise had been unpacked. On the table, locked, lay the shabby portfolio containing Casanova's papers. There were also some books which he was using in his work; writing materials had been provided.
He did not feel sleepy. Taking his manuscript out of the portfolio, he reread what he had last written. Since he had broken off in the middle of a sentence, it was easy for him to continue. He took up the pen, wrote a phrase or two, then paused.
"To what purpose?" he demanded of himself, as if in a cruel flash of inner illumination. "Even if I knew that what I am writing, what I am going to write, would be considered incomparably fine; even if I could really succeed in annihilating Voltaire, and in making my renown greater than his—would I not gladly commit these papers to the flames could I but have Marcolina in my arms? For that boon, should I not be willing to vow never to set foot in Venice again, even though the Venetians should wish to escort me back to the city in triumph?"
"Venice!"..... He breathed the word once more. Its splendor captivated his imagination, and in a moment its old power over him had been restored. The city of his youth rose before his eyes, enshrined in all the charms of memory. His heart ached with yearning more intense than any that he could recall. To renounce the idea of returning home seemed to him the most incredible of the sacrifices which his destiny might demand. How could he go on living in this poor and faded world without the hope, without the certainty, that he was one day to see the beloved city again? After the years and decades of wanderings and adventures, after all the happiness and unhappiness he had experienced, after all the honor and all the shame, after so many triumphs and so many discomfitures—he must at length find a resting place, must at length find a home.
Was there any other home for him than Venice? Was there any good fortune reserved for him other than this, that he should have a home once more? It was long since in foreign regions he had been able to command enduring happiness. He could still at times grasp happiness, but for a moment only; he could no longer hold it fast. His power over his fellows, over women no less than over men, had vanished. Only where he evoked memories could his words, his voice, his glance, still conjure; apart from this, his presence was void of interest. His day was done!
He was willing to admit what he had hitherto been sedulous to conceal from himself, that even his literary labors, including the polemic against Voltaire upon which his last hopes reposed, would never secure any notable success. Here, likewise, he was too late. Had he in youth but had leisure and patience to devote himself seriously to the work of the pen, he was confident he could have ranked with the leading members of the profession of authorship, with the greatest imaginative writers and philosophers. He was as sure of this as he was sure that, granted more perseverance and foresight than he actually possessed, he could have risen to supreme eminence as financier or as diplomat.
But what availed his patience and his foresight, what became of all his plans in life, when the lure of a new love adventure summoned? Women, always women. For them he had again and again cast everything to the winds; sometimes for women who were refined, sometimes for women who were vulgar; for passionate women and for frigid women; for maidens and for harlots. All the honors and all the joys in the world had ever seemed cheap to him in comparison with a successful night upon a new love quest.
Did he regret what he had lost through his perpetual seeking and never or ever finding, through this earthly and superearthly flitting from craving to pleasure and from pleasure back to craving once more? No, he had no regrets. He had lived such a life as none other before him; and could he not still live it after his own fashion? Everywhere there remained women upon his path, even though they might no longer be quite so crazy about him as of old.
Amalia? He could have her for the asking, at this very hour, in her drunken husband's bed. The hostess in Mantua; was she not in love with him, fired with affection and jealousy as if he were a handsome lad? Perotti's mistress, pockmarked, but a woman with a fine figure? The very name of Casanova had intoxicated her with its aroma of a thousand conquests. Had she not implored him to grant her but a single night of love; and had he not spurned her as one who could still choose where he pleased?
But Marcolina—such as Marcolina were no longer at his disposal. Had such as Marcolina ever been at his disposal? Doubtless there were women of that kind. Perchance he had met more than one such woman before. Always, however, some more willing than she had been available, and he had never been the man to waste a day in vain sighing. Since not even Lorenzi had succeeded with Marcolina, since she had rejected the hand of this comely officer who was as handsome and as bold as he, Casanova, had been in youth, Marcolina might well prove to be that wonder of the world in the existence of which he had hitherto disbelieved—the virtuous woman.
At this juncture he laughed, so that the walls reechoed. "The bungler, the greenhorn!" he exclaimed out loud, as so often in such self-communings. "He did not know how to make a good use of his opportunities. Or the Marchesa was hanging round his neck all the time. Or perhaps he took her as a next-best, when Marcolina, the philosopher, the woman of learning, proved unattainable!"
Suddenly a thought struck him. "To-morrow I will read her my polemic against Voltaire. I can think of no one else who would be a competent critic. I shall convince her. She will admire me. She will say: 'Excellent, Signor Casanova. Your style is that of a most brilliant old gentleman!' God!.... 'You have positively annihilated Voltaire, you brilliant senior!'"
He paced the chamber like a beast in a cage, hissing out the words in his anger. A terrible wrath possessed him, against Marcolina, against Voltaire, against himself, against the whole world. It was all he could do to restrain himself from roaring aloud in his rage. At length he threw himself upon the bed without undressing, and lay with eyes wide open, looking up at the joists among which spiders' webs were visible, glistening in the candlelight. Then, as often happened to him after playing cards late at night, pictures of cards chased one another swiftly through his brain, until he sank into a dreamless sleep.
His slumber was brief. When he awakened it was to a mysterious silence. The southern and the eastern windows of the turret chamber were open. Through them from the garden and the fields entered a complex of sweet odors. Gradually the silence was broken by the vague noises from near and from far which usually herald the dawn. Casanova could no longer lie quiet; a vigorous impulse towards movement gripped him, and lured him into the open. The song of the birds called to him; the cool breeze of early morning played upon his brow. Softly he opened the door and moved cautiously down the stairs. Cunning, from long experience, he was able to avoid making the old staircase creak. The lower flight, leading to the ground floor, was of stone. Through the hall, where half-emptied glasses were still standing on the table, he made his way into the garden. Since it was impossible to walk silently on the gravel, he promptly stepped on to the greensward, which now, in the early twilight, seemed an area of vast proportions. He slipped into the side alley, from which he could see Marcolina's window. It was closed, barred, and curtained, just as it had been overnight. Barely fifty paces from the house, Casanova seated himself upon a stone bench. He heard a cart roll by on the other side of the wall, and then everything was quiet again. A fine grey haze was floating over the greensward, giving it the aspect of a pond with fugitive outlines. Once again Casanova thought of that night long ago in the convent garden at Murano; he thought of another garden on another night; he hardly knew what memories he was recalling; perchance it was a composite reminiscence of a hundred nights, just as at times a hundred women whom he had loved would fuse in memory into one figure that loomed enigmatically before his questioning senses. After all, was not one night just like another? Was not one woman just like another? Especially when the affair was past and gone? The phrase, "past and gone," continued to hammer upon his temples, as if destined henceforth to become the pulse of his forlorn existence.