"How is the prince?" said I.
"The poor prince--he cannot possibly live more than twenty-four hours."
"Does he know it?"
"No, he still hopes. He grieved me to the heart by bidding me tell him the whole truth; he even bade me give my word of honour that I was speaking the truth. Then he asked me if he were positively in danger of death."
"And you told him the truth?"
"Certainly not. I told him his sickness was undoubtedly a mortal one, but that with the help of nature and art wonders might be worked."
"Then you deceived him, and told a lie?"
"I did not deceive him; his recovery comes under the category of the possible. I did not want to leave him in despair, for despair would most certainly kill him."
"Yes, yes; but you will confess that you told him a lie and broke your word of honour."
"I told no lie, for I know that he may possibly be cured."
"Then you lied just now?"
"Not at all, for lie will die to-morrow."
"It seems to me that your reasoning is a little Jesuitical."
"No, it is not. My duty was to prolong my patient's life and to spare him a sentence which would most certainly have shortened it, possibly by several hours; besides, it is not an absolute impossibility that he should recover, therefore I did not lie when I told him that he might recover, nor did I lie just now when I gave it as my opinion (the result of my experience) that he would die to-morrow. I would certainly wager a million to one that he will die to-morrow, but I would not wager my life."
"You are right, and yet for all that you deceived the poor man; for his intention in asking you the question was not to be told a commonplace which he knew as well as you, but to learn your true opinion as to his life or death. But again I agree with you that as his physician you were quite right not to shorten his few remaining hours by telling him the terrible truth."
After a fortnight I left Schwetzingen, leaving some of my belongings under the care of Veraci the poet, telling him I would call for them some day; but I never came, and after a lapse of thirty-one years Veraci keeps them still. He was one of the strangest poets I have ever met. He affected eccentricity to make himself notorious, and opposed the great Metastasio in everything, writing unwieldy verses which he said gave more scope for the person who set them to music. He had got this extravagant notion from Jumelli.
I traveled to Mayence and thence I sailed to Cologne, where I looked forward to the pleasure of meeting with the burgomaster's wife who disliked General Kettler, and had treated me so well seven years ago. But that was not the only reason which impelled me to visit that odious town. When I was at Dresden I had read in a number of the Cologne Gazette that "Master Casanova has returned to Warsaw only to be sent about his business again. The king has heard some stories of this famous adventurer, which compel him to forbid him his Court."
I could not stomach language of this kind, and I resolved to pay Jacquet, the editor, a visit, and now my time had come.
I made a hasty dinner and then called on the burgomaster, whom I found sitting at table with his fair Mimi. They welcomed me warmly, and for two hours I told them the story of my adventures during the last seven years. Mimi had to go out, and I was asked to dine with them the next day.
I thought she looked prettier than ever, and my imagination promised me some delicious moments with her. I spent an anxious and impatient night, and called on my Amphitryon at an early hour to have an opportunity of speaking to his dear companion. I found her alone, and began with an ardent caress which she gently repelled, but her face froze my passion in its course.
"Time is an excellent doctor," said she, "and it has cured me of a passion which left behind it the sting of remorse."
"What! The confessional . . . ."
"Should only serve as a place wherein to confess our sins of the past, and to implore grace to sin no more."
"May the Lord save me from repentance, the only source of which is a prejudice! I shall leave Cologne to-morrow."
"I do not tell you to go."
"If there is no hope, it is no place for me.