Two days later, as I was buying a pair of lace cuffs, the princess came into the shop with Count Zinzendorf, whom I had known at Paris twelve years before. just as I was making way for the lady the count recognized me, and asked me if I knew anything about the Casanova that had fought the duel at Warsaw.
"Alas! count, I am that Casanova, and here is my arm still in a sling."
"I congratulate you, my dear fellow; I should like to hear about it."
With these words he introduced me to the princess, asking her if she had heard of the duel.
"Yes; I heard something about it in the papers. So this is the hero of the tale. Delighted to make your acquaintance."
The princess spoke with great kindness, but with the cool politeness of the Court. She did not give me the slightest sign of recognition, and of course I imitated her in her reserve.
I visited the count in the afternoon, and he begged me to come and see the princess, who would be delighted to hear the account of my duel from my own lips, and I followed him to her apartment with pleasure. The princess listened to my narrative in stately sort, and her women never looked at me. She went away the day after, and the story went no farther.
Towards the end of the fair I received a very unexpected visit from the fair Madame Castelbajac. I was just sitting down to table to eat a dozen larks, when she made her appearance.
"What, madam, you here!"
"Yes, to my sorrow. I have been here for the last three weeks, and have seen you several times, but you have always avoided us."
"Who are 'us'?"
"Schwerin and myself"
"Schwerin is here, is he?"
"Yes; and in prison on account of a forged bill. I am sure I do not know what they will do to the poor wretch. He would have been wise to have fled, but it seems as if he wanted to get hanged."
"And you have been with him ever since you left England? that is, three years ago."
"Exactly. Our occupation is robbing, cheating, and escaping from one land to another. Never was a woman so unhappy as I."
"For how much is the forged bill?"
"For three hundred crowns. Do a generous action M. Casanova, and let bygones be bygones; deliver the poor wretch from the gallows and me from death, for if he is hanged I shall kill myself."
"Indeed, madam, he may hang for me, for he did his best to send me to the gallows with his forged bills; but I confess I pity you. So much, indeed, that I invite you to come to Dresden with me the day after to-morrow, and I promise to give you three hundred crowns as soon as Schwerin has undergone the extreme penalty of the law. I can't understand how a woman like you can have fallen in love with a man that has neither face, nor talents, nor wit, nor fortune, for all that he has to boast of is his name of Schwerin."
"I confess, to my shame, that I never loved him. Ever since the other rogue, Castelbajac--who, by the way, was never married to me-- made me know him, I have only lived with him by force, though his tears and his despairs have excited my compassion. If destiny had given me an honest man in his stead, I would have forsaken him long ago, for sooner or later he will be the death of me."
"Where do you live?"
"Nowhere. I have been turned out into the street with nothing but the clothes on my back. Have compassion on me."
With these words the hapless woman threw herself at my knees and burst into tears. I was much affected. The waiter of the inn stood staring with amazement till I told him to go out. I may safely say that this woman was one of the most handsome in France; she was probably about twenty-six years old. She had been the wife of a druggist of Montpellier, and had been so unfortunate as to let Castelbajac seduce her. At London her beauty had produced no impression on me, my heart was another's; nevertheless, she was made to seduce the heart of man.
I raised her from her knees, and said I felt inclined to help her, but that in the first place she must calm herself, and in the second share my supper.