"I have received my order to go, but I shall not obey. I implore your highness to give me your protection, and to help me to bring my plea to the foot of the throne."
"Write out your petition," he replied, "and I will see that the empress gets it. But I advise you to ask her majesty for a respite, for if you say that you won't obey, she will be predisposed against you."
"But if the royal grace does not place me in security, I shall be driven away by violence."
"Then take refuge with the ambassador of your native country."
"Alas, my lord, my country has forsaken me. An act of legal though unconstitutional violence has deprived me of my rights as a citizen. My name is Casanova, and my country is Venice."
The prince looked astonished and turned to the Venetian ambassador, who smiled, and whispered to him for ten minutes.
"It's a pity," said the prince, kindly, "that you cannot claim the protection of any ambassador."
At these words a nobleman of colossal stature stepped forward and said I could claim his protection, as my whole family, myself included, had served the prince his master. He spoke the truth, for he was the ambassador of Saxony.
"That is Count Vitzthum," said the prince. "Write to the empress, and I will forward your petition immediately. If there is any delay in the answer, go to the count; you will be safe with him, until you like to leave Vienna."
In the meanwhile the prince ordered writing materials to be brought me, and he and his guests passed into the dining-hall.
I give here a copy of the petition, which I composed in less than ten minutes. I made a fair copy for the Venetian ambassador to send home to the Senate:
"MADAM,--I am sure that if, as your royal and imperial highness were walking in your garden, an insect appealed plaintively to you not to crush it, you would turn aside, and so avoid doing the poor creature any hurt.
"I, madam, am an insect, and I beg of you that you will order M. Statthalter Schrotembach to delay crushing me with your majesty's slipper for a week. Possibly, after that time has elapsed, your majesty will not only prevent his crushing me, but will deprive him of that slipper, which was only meant to be the terror of rogues, and not of an humble Venetian, who is an honest man, though he escaped from The Leads.
"In profound submission to your majesty's will, "I remain, "CASANOVA.
"Given at Vienna, January 21st, 1769."
When I had finished the petition, I made a fair draft of it, and sent it in to the prince, who sent it back to me telling me that he would place it in the empress's hands immediately, but that he would be much obliged by my making a copy for his own use.
I did so, and gave both copies to the valet de chambre, and went my way. I trembled like a paralytic, and was afraid that my anger might get me into difficulty. By way of calming myself, I wrote out in the style of a manifesto the narrative I had given to the vile Schrotembach, and which that unworthy magistrate had refused to return to me.
At seven o'clock Count Vitzthum came into my room. He greeted me in a friendly manner and begged me to tell him the story of the girl I had gone to see, on the promise of the Latin quatrain referring to her accommodating disposition. I gave him the address and copied out the verses, and he said that was enough to convince an enlightened judge that I had been slandered; but he, nevertheless, was very doubtful whether justice would be done me.
"What! shall I be obliged to leave Vienna to-morrow?"
"No, no, the empress cannot possibly refuse you the week's delay."
"Oh! no one could refuse such an appeal as that. Even the prince could not help smiling as he was reading it in his cold way. After reading it he passed it on to me, and then to the Venetian ambassador, who asked him if he meant to give it to the empress as it stood. 'This petition,' replied the prince, 'might be sent to God, if one knew the way;' and forthwith he ordered one of his secretaries to fold it up and see that it was delivered.