VENICE - Chapter XV
Croce Is Expelled From Venice--Sgombro--His Infamy and Death--
Misfortune Which Befalls My Dear C. C.--I Receive An Anonymous Letter
From a Nun, and Answer It--An Amorous Intrigue
My former partner was, as I have said before, a skilful and
experienced hand at securing the favours of Fortune; he was driving a
good trade in Venice, and as he was amiable, and what is called in
society a gentleman, he might have held that excellent footing for a
long time, if he had been satisfied with gambling; for the State
Inquisitors would have too much to attend to if they wished to compel
fools to spare their fortunes, dupes to be prudent, and cheats not to
dupe the fools; but, whether through the folly of youth or through a
vicious disposition, the cause of his exile was of an extraordinary
and disgusting nature.
A Venetian nobleman, noble by birth, but very ignoble in his
propensities, called Sgombro, and belonging to the Gritti family,
fell deeply in love with him, and Croce, either for fun or from
taste, shewed himself very compliant. Unfortunately the reserve
commanded by common decency was not a guest at their amorous feats,
and the scandal became so notorious that the Government was compelled
to notify to Croce the order to quit the city, and to seek his
fortune in some other place.
Some time afterwards the infamous Sgombro seduced his own two sons,
who were both very young, and, unfortunately for him, he put the
youngest in such a state as to render necessary an application to a
surgeon. The infamous deed became publicly known, and the poor child
confessed that he had not had the courage to refuse obedience to his
father. Such obedience was, as a matter of course, not considered as
forming a part of the duties which a son owes to his father, and the
State Inquisitors sent the disgusting wretch to the citadel of
Cataro, where he died after one year of confinement.
It is well known that the air of Cataro is deadly, and that the
Tribunal sentences to inhale it only such criminals as are not judged
publicly for fear of exciting too deeply the general horror by the
publication of the trial.
It was to Cataro that the Council of Ten sent, fifteen years ago, the
celebrated advocate Cantarini, a Venetian nobleman, who by his
eloquence had made himself master of the great Council, and was on
the point of changing the constitution of the State. He died there
at the end of the year. As for his accomplices, the Tribunal thought
that it was enough to punish the four or five leaders, and to pretend
not to know the others, who through fear of punishment returned
silently to their allegiance.
That Sgombro, of whom I spoke before, had a charming wife who is
still alive, I believe. Her name was Cornelia Gitti; she was as
celebrated by her wit as by her beauty, which she kept in spite of
her years. Having recovered her liberty through the death of her
husband, she knew better than to make herself a second time the
prisoner of the Hymenean god; she loved her independence too much;
but as she loved pleasure too, she accepted the homage of the lovers
who pleased her taste.
One Monday, towards the end of July, my servant woke me at day-break
to tell me that Laura wished to speak to me. I foresaw some
misfortune, and ordered the servant to shew her in immediately.
These are the contents of the letter which she handed to me:
"My dearest, a misfortune has befallen me last evening, and it makes
me very miserable because I must keep it a secret from everyone in
the convent. I am suffering from a very severe loss of blood, and I
do not know what to do, having but very little linen. Laura tells me
I shall require a great deal of it if the flow of blood continues. I
can take no one into my confidence but you, and I entreat you to send
me as much linen as you can. You see that I have been compelled to
make a confidante of Laura, who is the only person allowed to enter
my room at all times. If I should die, my dear husband, everybody in
the convent would, of course, know the cause of my death; but I think
of you, and I shudder. What will you do in your grief? Ah, darling
love! what a pity!"
I dressed myself hurriedly, plying Laura with questions all the time.
She told me plainly that it was a miscarriage, and that it was
necessary to act with great discretion in order to save the
reputation of my young friend; that after all she required nothing
but plenty of linen, and that it would be nothing. Commonplace words
of consolation, which did not allay the fearful anxiety under which I
was labouring. I went out with Laura, called on a Jew from whom I
bought a quantity of sheets and two hundred napkins, and, putting it
all in a large bag, I repaired with her to Muran. On our way there I
wrote in pencil to my sweetheart, telling her to have entire
confidence in Laura, and assuring her that I would not leave Muran
until all danger had passed. Before we landed, Laura told me that,
in order not to be remarked, I had better conceal myself in her
house. At any other time it would have been shutting up the wolf in
the sheep-fold. She left me in a miserable-looking small room on the
ground floor, and concealing about herself as much linen as she could
she hurried to her patient, whom she had not seen since the previous
evening. I was in hopes that she would find her out of danger, and I
longed to see her come back with that good news.
She was absent about one hour, and when she returned her looks were
sad. She told me that my poor friend, having lost a great deal of
blood during the night, was in bed in a very weak state, and that all
we could do was to pray to God for her, because, if the flooding of
the blood did not stop soon, she could not possibly live twenty-four
When I saw the linen which she had concealed under her clothes to
bring it out, I could not disguise my horror, and I thought the sight
would kill me. I fancied myself in a slaughter-house! Laura,
thinking of consoling me, told me that I could rely upon the secret
being well kept.
"Ah! what do I care!" I exclaimed. "Provided she lives, let the
whole world know that she is my wife!"
At any other time, the foolishness of poor Laura would have made me
laugh; but in such a sad moment I had neither the inclination nor the
courage to be merry.
"Our dear patient," added Laura, "smiled as she was reading your
letter, and she said that, with you so near her, she was certain not
Those words did me good, but a man needs so little to console him or
to soothe his grief.
"When the nuns are at their dinner," said Laura, "I will go back to
the convent with as much linen as I can conceal about me, and in the
mean time I am going to wash all this."
"Has she had any visitors?"
"Oh, yes! all the convent; but no one has any suspicion of the
"But in such hot weather as this she can have only a very light
blanket over her, and her visitors must remark the great bulk of the
"There is no fear of that, because she is sitting up in her bed."
"What does she eat?"
"Nothing, for she must not eat."
Soon afterwards Laura went out, and I followed her. I called upon a
physician, where I wasted my time and my money, in order to get from
him a long prescription which was useless, for it would have put all
the convent in possession of the secret, or, to speak more truly, her
secret would have been known to the whole world, for a secret known
to a nun soon escapes out of the convent's walls. Besides, the
physician of the convent himself would most likely have betrayed it
through a spirit of revenge.
I returned sadly to my miserable hole in Laura's house. Half an hour
afterwards she came to me, crying bitterly, and she placed in my
hands this letter, which was scarcely legible:
"I have not strength enough to write to you, my darling; I am getting
weaker and weaker; I am losing all my blood, and I am afraid there is
no remedy. I abandon myself to the will of God, and I thank Him for
having saved me from dishonour. Do not make yourself unhappy. My
only consolation is to know that you are near me. Alas! if I could
see you but for one moment I would die happy."
The sight of a dozen napkins brought by Laura made me shudder, and
the good woman imagined that she afforded me some consolation by
telling me that as much linen could be soaked with a bottle of blood.
My mind was not disposed to taste such consolation; I was in despair,
and I addressed to myself the fiercest reproaches, upbraiding myself
as the cause of the death of that adorable creature. I threw myself
on the bed, and remained there, almost stunned, for more than six
hours, until Laura's return from the convent with twenty napkins
entirely soaked. Night had come on, and she could not go back to her
patient until morning. I passed a fearful night without food,
without sleep, looking upon myself with horror, and refusing all the
kind attentions that Laura's daughters tried to shew me.
It was barely daylight when Laura same to announce to me, in the
saddest tone, that my poor friend did not bleed any more. I thought
she was dead, and I screamed loudly,
"Oh! she is no more!"
"She is still breathing, sir; but I fear she will not outlive this
day, for she is worn out. She can hardly open her eyes, and her
pulse is scarcely to be felt."
A weight was taken off me; I was instinctively certain that my
darling was saved.
"Laura," I said, "this is not bad news; provided the flooding has
ceased entirely, all that is necessary is to give her some light
"A physician has been sent for. He will prescribe whatever is right,
but to tell you the truth I have not much hope."
"Only give me the assurance that she is still alive."
"Yes, she is, I assure you; but you understand very well that she
will not tell the truth to the doctor, and God knows what he will
order. I whispered to her not to take anything, and she understood
"You are the best of women. Yes, if she does not die from weakness
before to-morrow, she is saved; nature and love will have been her
"May God hear you! I shall be back by twelve."
"Why not before?"
"Because her room will be full of people."
Feeling the need of hope, and almost dead for want of food, I ordered
some dinner, and prepared a long letter for my beloved mistress, to
be delivered to her when she was well enough to read it. The
instants given to repentance are very sad, and I was truly a fit
subject for pity. I longed to see Laura again, so as to hear what
the doctor had said. I had very good cause for laughing at all sorts
of oracles, yet through some unaccountable weakness I longed for that
of the doctor; I wanted, before all, to find it a propitious one.
Laura's young daughters waited upon me at dinner; I could not manage
to swallow a mouthful, but it amused me to see the three sisters
devour my dinner at the first invitation I gave them. The eldest
sister, a very fine girl, never raised her large eyes once towards
me. The two younger ones seemed to me disposed to be amiable, but if
I looked at them it was only to feed my despair and the cruel pangs
At last Laura, whom I expected anxiously, came back; she told me that
the dear patient remained in the same state of debility; the doctor
had been greatly puzzled by her extreme weakness because he did not
know to what cause to attribute it. Laura added,
"He has ordered some restoratives and a small quantity of light
broth; if she can sleep, he answers for her life. He has likewise
desired her to have someone to watch her at night, and she
immediately pointed her finger at me, as if she wished me to
undertake that office. Now, I promise you never to leave her either
night or day, except to bring you news."
I thanked her, assuring her that I would reward her generously. I
heard with great pleasure that her mother had paid her a visit, and
that she had no suspicion of the real state of things, for she had
lavished on her the most tender caresses.
Feeling more at ease I gave six sequins to Laura, one to each of her
daughters, and ate something for my supper: I then laid myself down
on one of the wretched beds in the room. As soon as the two younger
sisters saw me in bed, they undressed themselves without ceremony,
and took possession of the second bed which was close by mine. Their
innocent confidence pleased me. The eldest sister, who most likely
had more practical experience, retired to the adjoining room; she had
a lover to whom she was soon to be married. This time, however, I
was not possessed with the evil spirit of concupiscence, and I
allowed innocence to sleep peacefully without attempting anything
Early the next morning Laura was the bearer of good news. She came
in with a cheerful air to announce that the beloved patient had slept
well, and that she was going back soon to give her some soup. I felt
an almost maddening joy in listening to her, and I thought the oracle
of AEsculapius a thousand times more reliable than that of Apollo.
But it was not yet time to exult in our victory, for my poor little
friend had to recover her strength and to make up for all the blood
she had lost; that could be done only by time and careful nursing. I
remained another week at Laura's house, which I left only after my
dear C---- C---- had requested me to do so in a letter of four pages.
Laura, when I left, wept for joy in seeing herself rewarded by the
gift of all the fine linen I had bought for my C---- C----, and her
daughters were weeping likewise, most probably because, during the
ten days I had spent near them, they had not obtained a single kiss
After my return to Venice, I resumed my usual habits; but with a
nature like mine how could I possibly remain satisfied without
positive love? My only pleasure was to receive a letter from my dear
recluse every Wednesday, who advised me to wait patiently rather than
to attempt carrying her off. Laura assured me that she had become
more lovely than ever, and I longed to see her. An opportunity of
gratifying my wishes soon offered itself, and I did not allow it to
escape. There was to be a taking of the veil--a ceremony which
always attracts a large number of persons. On those occasions the
nuns always received a great many visitors, and I thought that the
boarders were likely to be in the parlour on such an occasion. I ran
no risk of being remarked any more than any other person, for I would
mingle with the crowd. I therefore went without saying anything
about it to Laura, and without acquainting my dear little wife of my
intentions. I thought I would fall, so great was my emotion, when I
saw her within four yards from me, and looking at me as if she had
been in an ecstatic state. I thought her taller and more womanly,
and she certainly seemed to me more beautiful than before. I saw no
one but her; she never took her eyes off me, and I was the last to
leave that place which on that day struck me as being the temple of
Three days afterwards I received a letter from her. She painted with
such vivid colours the happiness she had felt in seeing me, that I
made up my mind to give her that pleasure as often as I could.
I answered at once that I would attend mass every Sunday at the
church of her convent. It cost me nothing: I could not see her, but
I knew that she saw me herself, and her happiness made me perfectly
happy. I had nothing to fear, for it was almost impossible that
anyone could recognize me in the church which was attended only by
the people of Muran.
After hearing two or three masses, I used to take a gondola, the
gondolier of which could not feel any curiosity about me. Yet I kept
on my guard, for I knew that the father of C---- C---- wanted her to
forget me, and I had no doubt he would have taken her away, God knew
where if he had had the slightest suspicion of my being acquainted
with the place where he had confined her.
Thus I was reasoning in my fear to lose all opportunity of
corresponding with my dear C---- C----, but I did not yet know the
disposition and the shrewdness of the sainted daughters of the Lord.
I did not suppose that there was anything remarkable in my person, at
least for the inmates of a convent; but I was yet a novice respecting
the curiosity of women, and particularly of unoccupied hearts; I had
soon occasion to be convinced.
I had executed my Sunday manoeuvering only for a month or five weeks,
when my dear C---- C---- wrote me jestingly that I had become a
living enigma for all the convent, boarders and nuns, not even
excepting the old ones. They all expected me anxiously; they warned
each other of my arrival, and watched me taking the holy water. They
remarked that I never cast a glance toward the grating, behind which
were all the inmates of the convent; that I never looked at any of
the women coming in or going out of the church. The old nuns said
that I was certainly labouring under some deep sorrow, of which I had
no hope to be cured except through the protection of the Holy Virgin,
and the young ones asserted that I was either melancholy or
My dear wife, who knew better than the others, and had no occasion to
lose herself in suppositions, was much amused, and she entertained me
by sending me a faithful report of it all. I wrote to her that, if
she had any fear of my being recognized I would cease my Sunday
visits to the church. She answered that I could not impose upon her
a more cruel privation, and she entreated me to continue my visits.
I thought it would be prudent, however, to abstain from calling at
Laura's house, for fear of the chattering nuns contriving to know it,
and discovering in that manner a great deal more than I wished them
to find out. But that existence was literally consuming me by slow
degrees, and could not last long. Besides, I was made to have a
mistress, and to live happily with her. Not knowing what to do with
myself, I would gamble, and I almost invariably won; but, in spite of
that, weariness had got hold of me and I was getting thinner every
With the five thousand sequins which my partner Croce had won for me
in Padua I had followed M. Bragadin's advice. I had hired a casino
where I held a faro bank in partnership with a matador, who secured
me against the frauds of certain noblemen--tyrants, with whom a
private citizen is always sure to be in the wrong in my dear country.
On All Saints' Day, in the year 1753, just as, after hearing mass, I
was going to step into a gondola to return to Venice, I saw a woman,
somewhat in Laura's style who, passing near me, looked at me and
dropped a letter. I picked it up, and the woman, seeing me in
possession of the epistle, quietly went on. The letter had no
address, and the seal represented a running knot. I stepped
hurriedly into the gondola, and as soon as we were in the offing I
broke the seal. I read the following words.
"A nun, who for the last two months and a half has seen you every
Sunday in the church of her convent, wishes to become acquainted with
you. A pamphlet which you have lost, and which chance has thrown
into her hands, makes her believe that you speak French; but, if you
like it better, you can answer in Italian, because what she wants
above all is a clear and precise answer. She does not invite you to
call for her at the parlour of the convent, because, before you place
yourself under the necessity of speaking to her, she wishes you to
see her, and for that purpose she will name a lady whom you can
accompany to the parlour. That lady shall not know you and need not
therefore introduce you, in case you should not wish to be known.
"Should you not approve of that way to become acquainted, the nun
will appoint a certain casino in Muran, in which you will find her
alone, in the evening, any night you may choose. You will then be at
liberty either to sup with her, or to retire after an interview of a
quarter of an hour, if you have any other engagements.
"Would you rather offer her a supper in Venice? Name the night, the
hour, the place of appointment, and you will see her come out of a
gondola. Only be careful to be there alone, masked and with a
"I feel certain that you will answer me, and that you will guess how
impatiently I am waiting for your letter. I entreat you, therefore,
to give it to-morrow to the same woman through whom you will receive
mine! you will find her one hour before noon in the church of St.
Cancian, near the first altar on the right.
Recollect that, if I did not suppose you endowed with a noble soul
and a high mind, I could never have resolved on taking a step which
might give you an unfavorable opinion of my character"
The tone of that letter, which I have copied word by word, surprised
me even more than the offer it contained. I had business to attend
to, but I gave up all engagements to lock myself in my room in order
to answer it. Such an application betokened an extravagant mind, but
there was in it a certain dignity, a singularity, which attracted me.
I had an idea that the writer might be the same nun who taught French
to C---- C----. She had represented her friend in her letters as
handsome, rich, gallant, and generous. My dear wife had, perhaps,
been guilty of some indiscretion. A thousand fancies whirled through
my brain, but I would entertain only those which were favourable to a
scheme highly pleasing to me. Besides, my young friend had informed
me that the nun who had given her French lessons was not the only one
in the convent who spoke that language. I had no reason to suppose
that, if C---- C---- had made a confidante of her friend, she would
have made a mystery of it to me. But, for all that, the nun who had
written to me might be the beautiful friend of my dear little wife,
and she might also turn out to be a different person; I felt somewhat
puzzled. Here is, however, the letter which I thought I could write
without implicating myself:
"I answer in French, madam, in the hope that my letter will have the
clearness and the precision of which you give me the example in
"The subject is highly interesting and of the highest importance,
considering all the circumstances. As I must answer without knowing
the person to whom I am writing, you must feel, madam, that, unless I
should possess a large dose of vanity, I must fear some
mystification, and my honour requires that I should keep on my guard.
"If it is true that the person who has penned that letter is a
respectable woman, who renders me justice in supposing me endowed
with feeling as noble as her own, she will find, I trust, that I
could not answer in any other way than I am doing now.
"If you have judged me worthy, madam, of the honour which you do me
by offering me your acquaintance, although your good opinion can have
been formed only from my personal appearance, I feel it my duty to
obey you, even if the result be to undeceive you by proving that I
had unwittingly led you into a mistaken appreciation of my person.
"Of the three proposals which you so kindly made in your letter, I
dare not accept any but the first, with the restriction suggested by
your penetrating mind. I will accompany to the parlour of your
convent a lady who shall not know who I am, and, consequently, shall
have no occasion to introduce me.
"Do not judge too severely, madam, the specious reasons which compel
me not to give you my name, and receive my word of honour that I
shall learn yours only to render you homage. If you choose to speak
to me, I will answer with the most profound respect. Permit me to
hope that you will come to the parlour alone. I may mention that I
am a Venetian, and perfectly free.
The only reason which prevents me from choosing one of the two other
arrangements proposed by you, either of which would have suited me
better because they greatly honour me, is, allow me to repeat it, a
fear of being the victim of a mystification; but these modes of
meeting will not be lost when you know me and when I have seen you.
I entreat you to have faith in my honour, and to measure my patience
by your own. Tomorrow, at the same place and at the same hour, I
shall be anxiously expecting your answer."
I went to the place appointed, and having met the female Mercury I
gave her my letter with a sequin, and I told her that I would come
the next day for the answer. We were both punctual. As soon as she
saw me, she handed me back the sequin which I had given her the day
before, and a letter, requesting me to read it and to let her know
whether she was to wait for an answer. Here is the exact copy of the
"I believe, sir, that I have not been mistaken in anything. Like
you, I detest untruth when it can lead to important consequences, but
I think it a mere trifle when it can do no injury to anyone. Of my
three proposals you have chosen the one which does the greatest
honour to your intelligence, and, respecting the reasons which induce
you to keep your incognito, I have written the enclosed to the
Countess of S----, which I request you to read. Be kind enough to
seal it before delivery of it to her. You may call upon her whenever
convenient to yourself. She will name her own hour, and you will
accompany her here in her gondola. The countess will not ask you any
questions, and you need not give her any explanation. There will be
no presentation; but as you will be made acquainted with my name, you
can afterwards call on me here, masked, whenever you please, and by
using the name of the countess. In that way we shall become
acquainted without the necessity of disturbing you, or of your losing
at night some hours which may be precious to you. I have instructed
my servant to wait for your answer in case you should be known to the
countess and object to her. If you approve of the choice I have made
of her, tell the messenger that there is no answer."
As I was an entire stranger to the countess, I told the woman that I
had no answer to give, and she left me.
Here are the contents of the note addressed by the nun to the
countess, and which I had to deliver to her:
"I beg of you, my dear friend, to pay me a visit when you are at
leisure, and to let the masked gentleman-bearer of this note know the
hour, so that he can accompany you. He will be punctual. Farewell.
You will much oblige your friend."
That letter seemed to me informed by a sublime spirit of intrigue;
there was in it an appearance of dignity which captivated me,
although I felt conscious that I was playing the character of a man
on whom a favour seemed to be bestowed.
In her last letter, my nun, pretending not to be anxious to know who
I was, approved of my choice, and feigned indifference for nocturnal
meetings; but she seemed certain that after seeing her I would visit
her. I knew very well what to think of it all, for the intrigue was
sure to have an amorous issue. Nevertheless, her assurance, or
rather confidence, increased my curiosity, and I felt that she had
every reason to hope, if she were young and handsome. I might very
well have delayed the affair for a few days, and have learned from C-
--- C---- who that nun could be; but, besides the baseness of such a
proceeding, I was afraid of spoiling the game and repenting it
afterwards. I was told to call on the countess at my convenience,
but it was because the dignity of my nun would not allow her to shew
herself too impatient; and she certainly thought that I would myself
hasten the adventure. She seemed to me too deeply learned in
gallantry to admit the possibility of her being an inexperienced
novice, and I was afraid of wasting my time; but I made up my mind to
laugh at my own expense if I happened to meet a superannuated female.
It is very certain that if I had not been actuated by curiosity I
should not have gone one step further, but I wanted to see the
countenance of a nun who had offered to come to Venice to sup with
me. Besides, I was much surprised at the liberty enjoyed by those
sainted virgins, and at the facility with which they could escape out
of their walls.
At three o'clock I presented myself before the countess and delivered
the note, and she expressed a wish to see me the next day at the same
hour. We dropped a beautiful reverence to one another, and parted.
She was a superior woman, already going down the hill, but still very
The next morning, being Sunday, I need not say that I took care to
attend mass at the convent, elegantly dressed, and already
unfaithful--at least in idea--to my dear C---- C----, for I was
thinking of being seen by the nun, young or old, rather than of
shewing myself to my charming wife.
In the afternoon I masked myself again, and at the appointed time I
repaired to the house of the countess who was waiting for me. We
went in a two-oared gondola, and reached the convent without having
spoken of anything but the weather. When we arrived at the
gate, the countess asked for M---- M----. I was surprised by that
name, for the woman to whom it belonged was celebrated. We were
shewn into a small parlour, and a few minutes afterwards a nun came
in, went straight to the grating, touched a spring, and made four
squares of the grating revolve, which left an opening sufficiently
large to enable the two friends to embrace the ingenious window was
afterwards carefully closed. The opening was at least eighteen
inches wide, and a man of my size could easily have got through it.
The countess sat opposite the nun, and I took my seat a little on one
side so as to be able to observe quietly and at my ease one of the
most beautiful women that it was possible to see. I had no doubt
whatever of her being the person mentioned by my dear C---- C---- as
teaching her French. Admiration kept me in a sort of ecstacy, and I
never heard one word of their conversation; the beautiful nun, far
from speaking to me, did not even condescend to honour me with one
look. She was about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and the
shape of her face was most beautiful. Her figure was much above the
ordinary height, her complexion rather pale, her appearance noble,
full of energy, but at the same time reserved and modest; her eyes,
large and full, were of a lovely blue; her countenance was soft and
cheerful; her fine lips seemed to breathe the most heavenly
voluptuousness, and her teeth were two rows of the most brilliant
enamel. Her head-dress did not allow me to see her hair, but if she
had any I knew by the colour of her eyebrows that it was of a
beautiful light brown. Her hand and her arm, which I could see as
far as the elbow, were magnificent; the chisel of Praxiteles never
carved anything more grace fully rounded and plump, I was not sorry
to have refused the two rendezvous which had been offered to me
by the beauty, for I was sure of possessing her in a few days, and it
was a pleasure for me to lay my desires at her feet. I longed to
find myself alone with her near that grating, and I would have
considered it an insult to her if, the very next day, I had not come
to tell her how fully I rendered to her charms the justice they
deserved. She was faithful to her determination not to look at me
once, but after all I was pleased with her reserve. All at once the
two friends lowered their voices, and out of delicacy I withdrew
further. Their private conversation lasted about a quarter of an
hour, during which I pretended to be intently looking at a painting;
then they kissed one another again by the same process as at the
beginning of the interview; the nun closed the opening, turned her
back on us, and disappeared without casting one glance in my
As we were on our way back to Venice, the countess, tired perhaps of
our silence, said to me, with a smile,
"M---- M---- is beautiful and very witty."
"I have seen her beauty, and I believe in her wit."
"She did not address one word to you."
"I had refused to be introduced to her, and she punished me by
pretending not to know that I was present."
The countess made no answer, and we reached her house without
exchanging another word. At her door a very ceremonious curtesy,
with these words, "Adieu, sir!" warned me that I was not to go any
further. I had no wish to do so, and went away dreaming and
wondering at the singularity of the adventure, the end of which I
longed to see.