He had searched everything, but unsuccessfully, and had gone away after sealing the room and its contents. He had arrested and imprisoned my page on the charge of having warned me, "for otherwise," he said, "the Venetian gentleman would never have gone to the house of Chevalier Mengs, where he is out of my power."
At this Mengs agreed that I had been right in believing my informant's tale, and he added that the first thing in the morning I should go and protest my innocence before the Count of Aranda, but he especially urged on me the duty of defending the poor page. My landlord went his way, and we continued the discussion, Mengs insisting on the page's innocence, till at last I lost all patience, and said,--
"My page must be a thorough-paced scoundrel; the magistrate's arresting him for warning me is an absolute proof that he knew of my approaching arrest. What is a servant who does not warn his master under such circumstances but a rascal? Indeed I am absolutely certain that he was the informer, for he was the only person who knew where the arms were concealed."
Mengs could find no answer to this, and left to go to bed. I did the same and had an excellent night.
Early the next morning the great Mengs sent me linen and all the requisites of the toilette. His maid brought me a cup of chocolate, and his cook came to ask if I had permission to eat flesh-meat. In such ways a prince welcomes a guest, and bids him stay, but such behaviour in a private person is equivalent to a hint to go. I expressed my gratitude, and only accepted a cup of chocolate and one handkerchief.
My carriage was at the door, and I was just taking leave of Mengs when an officer appeared on the scene, and asked the painter if the Chevalier de Casanova was in his house.
"I am the Chevalier de Casanova," said I.
"Then I hope you will follow me of your own free will to the prison of Buen Retiro. I cannot use force here, for this house is the king's, but I warn you that in less than an hour the Chevalier Mengs will have orders to turn you out, and then you will be dragged to prison, which would be unpleasant for you. I therefore advise you to follow me quietly, and to give up such weapons as you may possess."
"The Chevalier Mengs will give you the weapons in question. I have carried them with me for eleven years; they are meant to protect me on the highways. I am ready to follow you, but first allow me to write four notes; I shall not be half an hour."
"I can neither allow you to wait nor to write, but you will be at liberty to do so after you have reached the prison."
"Very good; then I am ready to follow you, for I have no choice. I shall remember Spanish justice!"
I embraced Mengs, had the weapons put into my carriage, and got in with the officer, who seemed a perfect gentleman.
He took me to the Castle of Buen Retiro, formerly a royal palace, and now a prison. When my conductor had consigned me to the officer of the watch I was handed over to a corporal, who led me into a vast hall on the ground floor of the building. The stench was dreadful, and the prisoners were about thirty, ten of them being soldiers. There were ten or twelve large beds, some benches, no tables, and no chairs.
I asked a guard to get me some pens, ink, and paper, and gave him a duro for the purpose. He took the coin smilingly, and went away, but he did not return. When I asked his brethren what had become of him they laughed in my face. But what surprised me the most was the sight of my page and Marazzini, who told me in Italian that he had been there for three days, and that he had not written to me as he had a presentiment that we should soon meet. He added that in a fortnight's time we should be sent off under a heavy escort to work in some fortress, though we might send our pleas to the Government, and might possibly be let out after three or four years' imprisonment.
"I hope," he said, "not to be condemned before I am heard. The alcalde will come and interrogate you tomorrow, and your answers will be taken down; that's all.