The following day, Giacomo Casanova arrives at the old man’s house with the sheath of the knife used by Saint Peter to cut off Malek’s ear, when he came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives. He had made it overnight from an old shoe-sole that he had boiled. The old man admires it and accepts to pay him one thousand Roman ecus, after they have found the treasure.
At Cesena, Giacomo and his friend Capitani are warmly welcomed by the rich peasant Franzia, who sees Casanova as a distinguished magician. Casanova has his eyes fixed on Javotte, the family’s eldest daughter. She is fourteen with quite a good figure. He recites:
“In the night of the full moon, a wise philosopher will be able to raise the treasure to the ground’s surface while standing in the great circle”.
He starts by setting his conditions, among which is the acquisition of one hundred new candles by the farmer, along with three torches, some Saint-Jeveze wine and the supplying of a virgin of fourteen to eighteen years old, who can keep a secret, so that the Holy Inquisition does not stick its nose in this business. The farmer soon proposes Javotte, which fully satisfies Casanova. He then goes about a lot of complicated preparations: diverse ablutions by all of the family; a new list of objects to be bought: thirty aunes [1 aune = 120 cms approx.] of white canvas, storax, camphor, myrrh, sulphur and an olive branch one-and-a-half feet long.
He then orders that a bath be placed in his antechamber where Javotte is to lie down and wash herself completely before each meal. He begins by making the whole family take a bath, and by the time he gets to Javotte, her father is sleeping soundly, gorged on Saint-Jeveze wine. Casanova subjects the young girl to many ablutions
“in all directions and in all postures”
and appreciates her docility. He writes:
“I got her out of the bath and, being obliged to dry her in all positions, I was very close to forgetting Magic to deliver myself up to Nature, but Nature, much faster to act, having relieved itself on its own, I was able to finish this scene without touching the end of the play!”
that is to say, her virginity.
Javotte greatly appreciates these intimacies over all of the following days, and spends the rest of her time sewing the robe which is to serve in the final ceremony. As well as a crown, on which Casanova, himself, paints
“frightening figures and characters”.
He also proposes that they sleep together, which she accepts with enthusiasm. Casanova more or less respects her virginity, for he obscurely believes that it is necessary for the rest of his action. He starts by conjuring up the spirits which are now manifesting themselves underneath the house. At regular intervals, enormous blows echo, while doors bang and disturbing shadows wander around in the courtyard. Our hero is quick to explain:
“Those are the spirits who protect the treasure”.
When at last the crucial moment arrives, he asks Javotte to be ready at midnight “ready for anything”. He dresses in the robe sewn by Javotte, asks Franzia to hide on the balcony and, his crown on his head, and the famous knife in his hand, jumps inside the magic circle that he has just drawn while making false invocations. He crouches down under his robe, and then, almost immediately, a terrible storm erupts.
Lightning strikes to the left, then to the right, the thunder is deafening, and our man, who is trembling with cold and fear, starts to believe in the Satanic virtues of his theatrical staging. Driving rain pours down, which reassures him a bit, but his fear has been so strong that he swears to leave the next day, leaving Javotte her virginity. Persuaded that she is protected by Heaven and that if he dares to take it from her, he will immediately succumb to a terrible death.
He gently consoles Javotte who would have been quite willing to cross that Rubicon, and swindles another thousand ecus from Capitani for the price of the sheath. Capitani finds this deal very advantageous. Casanova finds the following moral in this story:
“I understood how easy it must have been for the ancient pagan priests to abuse the credulity of an ignorant Humanity”.
He is aged twenty-three at the time. He has about the same number of years yet to live. Not because he dies before he’s fifty, but because physical decline announces itself and his wandering road stretches endlessly before him,
“everything will be only sadness”
as he writes in his Memoires. For another quarter of a century, he will cultivate his astonishing dispositions for an easy, fast and wealthy life. At the end of his life, he will write:
“Happy the men who, to profit from life, have no need of hope nor of foresight.”
For the moment, the most senseless hopes drive him forward, and the downfalls due to his lack of foresight, which is, with inconstancy, the dominant trait of his character, appear to stimulate his extraordinary appetite for life.
Let us try to look inside the heart of this unusual person. His heart and his body, for no-one has better succeeded in the synthesis of the mind and the body necessary for the fragile alchemy of happiness. He submits his body to hard work, putting it in situations where his very particular sensitivity is delected. He says:
“Enjoyment is only great in proportion to the privations you suffer.”
Hard on himself, he is also hard on naive people whom he is always ready to swindle to teach them a lesson. He is after all the money he can get, of course, because women are deaf to the appeals of the poor. But he is also very generous.
To be continued.