"M. D---- R----- ," she continued, "will not love you less, and as he will see you here every, day, he will not be likely to forget his interest in your welfare. Now, tell me, will you come or not?"
"I wish I could, madam, but indeed I cannot."
"You cannot? That is singular. Take a seat, and tell me what there is to prevent you, when, in accepting my offer, you are sure to please M. D---- R----- as well as us."
"If I were certain of it, I would accept immediately; but all I have heard from his lips was that he left me free to make a choice."
"Then you are afraid to grieve him, if you come to us ?"
"It might be, and for nothing on earth...."
"I am certain of the contrary."
"Will you be so good as to obtain that he says so to me himself?"
"And then you will come?"
"Oh, madam! that very minute!"
But the warmth of my exclamation might mean a great deal, and I turned my head round so as not to embarrass her. She asked me to give her her mantle to go to church, and we went out. As we were going down the stairs, she placed her ungloved hand upon mine. It was the first time that she had granted me such a favour, and it seemed to me a good omen. She took off her hand, asking me whether I was feverish. "Your hand," she said, "is burning."
When we left the church, M. D---- R-----'s carriage happened to pass, and I assisted her to get in, and as soon as she had gone, hurried to my room in order to breathe freely and to enjoy all the felicity which filled my soul; for I no longer doubted her love for me, and I knew that, in this case, M. D---- R----- was not likely to refuse her anything.
What is love? I have read plenty of ancient verbiage on that subject, I have read likewise most of what has been said by modern writers, but neither all that has been said, nor what I have thought about it, when I was young and now that I am no longer so, nothing, in fact, can make me agree that love is a trifling vanity. It is a sort of madness, I grant that, but a madness over which philosophy is entirely powerless; it is a disease to which man is exposed at all times, no matter at what age, and which cannot be cured, if he is attacked by it in his old age. Love being sentiment which cannot be explained! God of all nature!--bitter and sweet feeling! Love!-- charming monster which cannot be fathomed! God who, in the midst of all the thorns with which thou plaguest us, strewest so many roses on our path that, without thee, existence and death would be united and blended together!
Two days afterwards, M. D---- R-----, told me to go and take orders from M. F---- on board his galley, which was ready for a five or six days' voyage. I quickly packed a few things, and called for my new patron who received me with great joy. We took our departure without seeing madam, who was not yet visible. We returned on the sixth day, and I went to establish myself in my new home, for, as I was preparing to go to M. D---- R-----, to take his orders, after our landing, he came himself, and after asking M. F---- and me whether we were pleased with each other, he said to me,
"Casanova, as you suit each other so well, you may be certain that you will greatly please me by remaining in the service of M. F."
I obeyed respectfully, and in less than one hour I had taken possession of my new quarters. Madame F---- told me how delighted she was to see that great affair ended according to her wishes, and I answered with a deep reverence.
I found myself like the salamander, in the very heart of the fire for which I had been longing so ardently.
Almost constantly in the presence of Madame F----, dining often alone with her, accompanying her in her walks, even when M. D---- R----- was not with us, seeing her from my room, or conversing with her in her chamber, always reserved and attentive without pretension, the first night passed by without any change being brought about by that constant intercourse. Yet I was full of hope, and to keep up my courage I imagined that love was not yet powerful enough to conquer her pride. I expected everything from some lucky chance, which I promised myself to improve as soon as it should present itself, for I was persuaded that a lover is lost if he does not catch fortune by the forelock.
But there was one circumstance which annoyed me. In public, she seized every opportunity of treating me with distinction, while, when we were alone, it was exactly the reverse. In the eyes of the world I had all the appearance of a happy lover, but I would rather have had less of the appearance of happiness and more of the reality. My love for her was disinterested; vanity had no share in my feelings.
One day, being alone with me, she said,
"You have enemies, but I silenced them last night."
"They are envious, madam, and they would pity me if they could read the secret pages of my heart. You could easily deliver me from those enemies."
"How can you be an object of pity for them, and how could I deliver you from them?"
"They believe me happy, and I am miserable; you would deliver me from them by ill-treating me in their presence."
"Then you would feel my bad treatment less than the envy of the wicked?"
"Yes, madam, provided your bad treatment in public were compensated by your kindness when we are alone, for there is no vanity in the happiness I feel in belonging to you. Let others pity me, I will be happy on condition that others are mistaken."