. . . But you might have seen, from my last letter, that I have written you all the truth about my fault and that I have asked your pardon for not writing it before.... Without you and your help, God knows what will become of us.... For the rent of your chamber Mme. Zenobia will give us eight lires a month and five lires for preparing her meals. But what can one do with thirteen lires! . . . I am afflicted and mortified . . . . Do not abandon me."
V LAST DAYS AT VIENNA
In 1785, at Vienna, Casanova ran across Costa, his former secretary who, in 1761, had fled from him taking "diamonds, watches, snuffbox, linen, rich suits and a hundred louis." "In 1785, I found this runagate at Vienna. He was then Count Erdich's man, and when we come to that period, the reader shall hear what I did."
Casanova did not reach this period, in writing his Memoirs, but an account of this meeting is given by Da Ponte, who was present at it, in his Memoirs. Costa had met with many misfortunes, as he told Casanova, and had himself been defrauded. Casanova threatened to have him hanged, but according to Da Ponte, was dissuaded from this by counter accusations made by Costa.
Da Ponte's narration of the incident is brilliant and amusing, in spite of our feeling that it is maliciously exaggerated: "Strolling one morning in the Graben with Casanova, I suddenly saw him knit his brows, squawk, grind his teeth, twist himself, raise his hands skyward, and, snatching himself away from me, throw himself on a man whom I seemed to know, shouting with a very loud voice: 'Murderer, I have caught thee.' A crowd having gathered as a result of this strange act and yell, I approached them with some disgust; nevertheless, I caught Casanova's hand and almost by force I separated him from the fray. He then told me the story, with desperate motions and gestures, and said that his antagonist was Gioachino Costa, by whom he had been betrayed. This Gioachino Costa, although he had been forced to become a servant by his vices and bad practices, and was at that very time servant to a Viennese gentleman, was more or less of a poet. He was, in fact, one of those who had honored me with their satire, when the Emperor Joseph selected me as poet of his theater. Costa entered a cafe, and while I continued to walk with Casanova, wrote and send him by a messenger, the following verses:
"'Casanova, make no outcry; You stole, indeed, as well as I; You were the one who first taught me; Your art I mastered thoroughly. Silence your wisest course will be.'
"These verses had the desired effect. After a brief silence, Casanova laughed and then said softly in my ear : 'The rogue is right.' He went into the cafe and motioned to Costa to come out; they began to walk together calmly, as if nothing had happened, and they parted shaking hands repeatedly and seemingly calm and friendly. Casanova returned to me with a cameo on his little finger, which by a strange coincidence, represented Mercury, the god-protector of thieves. This was his greatest valuable, and it was all that was left of the immense booty, but represented the character of the two restored friends, perfectly."
Da Ponte precedes this account with a libellous narrative of Casanova's relations with the Marquise d'Urfe, even stating that Casanova stole from her the jewels stolen in turn by Costa, but, as M. Maynial remarks, we may attribute this perverted account "solely to the rancour and antipathy of the narrator." It is more likely that Casanova frightened Costa almost out of his wits, was grimly amused at his misfortunes, and let him go, since there was no remedy to Casanova's benefit, for his former rascality. Casanova's own brief, anticipatory account is given in his Memoirs.
In 1797, correcting and revising his Memoirs, Casanova wrote: "Twelve years ago, if it had not been for my guardian angel, I would have foolishly married, at Vienna, a young, thoughtless girl, with whom I had fallen in love." In which connection, his remark is interesting: "I have loved women even to madness, but I have always loved liberty better; and whenever I have been in danger of losing it, fate has come to my rescue."
While an identification of the "young, thoughtless girl" has been impossible, M.