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a detour that brought him out where his gondola was waiting. He jumped in, and was carried back to San Stefano, the pursuit meantime having been arrested by the more urgent need to rescue the drowning man.
So quickly had he acted that in less than ten minutes after flinging Razetta into the water he was once more aboard the fruit-barge, speeding toward the Lido and the fort of Sant' Andrea. Before midnight had struck he was climbing back through the window of his prison. Another five minutes and he was in bed, considering his soldier-servant, who lay back, still asleep in his chair. To rouse him, Casanova flung first one boot at him and then the other, cursing volubly the while and in his loudest tones.
The fellow awoke with a yell when the heel of the second boot caught him a blow that started blood upon his forehead.
"What is it, sir? What is it?" he babbled, still half bewildered from sleep and wine.
"What is it, you drunken dog?" roared Casanova in a mighty passion. "Do you think you were sent hither to spend the night in slumber? I suffer. My knee burns. I have a fever and I cannot sleep. Go fetch me the surgeon. Tell him I am in agony."
The soldier protested that it was midnight—through the stillness of the night came the booming of the hour from St. Mark's even as he spoke and that the surgeon would be abed. But Casanova was so fierce and bloodthirsty in his reply that the man departed at a run. He was back in five minutes, accompanied by the surgeon in nightcap and dressing-gown.
Casanova now lay back moaning, his eyes half closed. The haste that
he had made had drenched him in a perspiration, which admirably answered his present purposes, and his general agitation set up an irregularity in his pulse sufficient to deceive the incompetent man of medicine at the fort. "Do you suffer?" quoth the surgeon, sympathetically.
"Like the damned," groaned Casanova through clenched teeth. "This bed is become a bed of pain. I burn, my knee throbs, I cannot sleep. If I could but sleep!"
The surgeon departed to go mix a drug. On the way he roused the governor, and announced to him the fact that Messer Casanova was taken seriously ill. The governor cursed Casanova and the surgeon jointly and severally for disturbing his rest, and went to sleep again most unsympathetically.
Casanova swallowed the drug when it was brought him. The surgeon sat with him until he announced that he felt easier, and that if the light were extinguished he thought he might now be able to sleep.
In the morning he was much better. Supported by his servant on one side and leaning on his cane on the other, he hobbled to breakfast in the major's dining-room, for the major had made him free of his table, and he congratulated the surgeon in very graceful and flattering terms upon his skill and the efficiency of his drug. His fever had entirely abated, and his knee was much less painful. The surgeon recommended care and rest for a few days yet, when he was sure that all would be well.
But it would seem that there was to be no rest for Casanova just yet. They were still at breakfast when a soldier came with the announcement
that an officer sent by the chief notary of Venice had just arrived at the fort. The governor rose instantly and went to receive the envoy.
"His excellency the saggio, sir," said the officer, "has sent me to receive your explanations of a circumstance by which he is greatly exercised. He desires to know how it happens that news of the evasion of your prisoner, Signor Giacomo di Casanova, should have been communicated to him by others than yourself."
The officer's tone was extremely frosty; the major's reply was of the hottest. His face empurpled with
"What the devil may be the meaning, sir, of these impertinences? I resent your air, and as for your news, it is as silly, apparently, as its bearer." "Sir!" quoth the officer in a very big voice.
"Bah!" The major swung on his heel. "Desire Messer Casanova to attend us here," he bade an orderly.
The officer's eyes grew round, his mouth itself kept them some sort of
at last been brought to light, and that you are come to announce me my release. Since I am suffering in health, as you may see, such news were
very welcome, though very welcome, though considering that I had the misfortune to twist my knee yesterday morning, and that I am quite unable to walk, I am less vexed at the moment by incarceration than I might be at another time." "I-I don't understand," stammered the officer.
"It is as I had feared, then," snapped the major.
"Perhaps perhaps I had better explain," said the officer.
"I confess it is not unnecessary," agreed the major.
Forth came the explanation. Razetta and his servant had been before the saggio that very morning to lay a second plaint against Casanova, the details of which the officer made known. Casanova's face was blank when he had heard.
"But this is quite incredible!" he said, and shrugged at last contemptuously.
"Not merely incredible, but impos"Do I understand that Messer sible," said the governor, still smartCasanova is still here?" ing under the memory of the tone the "You shall see," was the peppery officer had taken at the outset of their governor's curt answer. interview.
Casanova came in, hobbling and assisted, and, looking from one to the other of those present, announced himself their servant. The major sneered at the officer and waited for him to speak. The officer stared from The officer stared from Casanova to the major and said nothing. It was Casanova himself who at last broke the silence.
"May I hope, sir, that your presence here and the major's request for my presence signify that the truth of the matters with which I am charged has
"Would it not be best that I should go before the saggio at once, sir?" said Casanova.
It was of course the only thing to do. The prisoner accompanied the officer back to Venice, and with them went the governor, the surgeon, and Casanova's servant.
Casanova's arrival in such company at the palace of the seigniory surprised the saggio as much as his appearance in the fort had surprised the saggio's envoy.
Casanova bowed as gracefully as his crippled condition would permit him; a twinge of pain crossing his features as he did so. The saggio was solicitous, and ordered a chair to be set for him. He sank into it, gently, assisted by the surgeon and the governor, his leg stretched stiffly in front of him. Then he made one of his famous speeches to the bewildered chief notary. Somewhere in his voluminous memoirs he protests that a gentleman should never have recourse to anything but the truth save only when he has dealings with rogues, with whom truth would be unavailing. It would seem to follow that he had a good many dealings with rogues in his time, and it looks in this case as if the saggio was included in that category.
"I understand, Excellency, that it is alleged by Messer Razetta and his servant that last night near the bridge of the Rialto, at about midnight, I fell upon him with a cudgel, belabored him, and flung him again into the canal-all, in fact, precisely as before."
The saggio nodded without interrupting, and Casanova proceeded.
"When last before your excellency, I had the honor to inform you that your credulity was being abused and your high office mocked by those two lying villains who sought my ruin. It is not for me to blame your excellency for having been their dupe. They were two, and I was only one, and the law, of which you are so exalted and worthy an administrator, runs that the testimony of two persons must outweigh that of one. But there is another justice more discerning and farreaching than that human justice of which your excellency is so noble and shining a dispenser. This justice, it
would appear, has caused these villains to overreach themselves, that they might thus betray their falsehood. If your excellency's renowned perspicuity should ever plumb the depths of this infamy, it will, I have no doubt, be discovered that Messer Razetta, misled by some false rumor that I had broken prison, and actuated by his hatred of me to spur you on to effect my recapture, has come to you with this fresh lie."
"And yet, sir," the saggio interrupted, "Messer Razetta's condition and the testimony of several other witnesses proves beyond all doubt that he was most cruelly beaten and thrown into the canal."
"In that case I can only suppose that he is in error-an error quickened by malice. I do not need to plead my case to-day. The facts plead for me more eloquently and irrefutably than would be possible to any words. Not only, as your excellency sees, have I not broken prison, but I have been crippled these four and twenty hours, unable to walk without assistance. If more were necessary, this good fellow here, who tended me all night, can inform your excellency that precisely at the hour at which I am accused of having committed this offense on the Rialto I was in bed in my prison at Sant' Andrea, in extreme pain and beset by a fever. And further, this learned doctor will tell you that, summoned by my servant, he came to ease my sufferings at that hour, and the governor here will add to it that he was informed of my condition at the time. I will leave it to them to add what may be necessary, and to your excellency's acute penetration to lay bare the truth of this affair."
The saggio heard the other three in
turn, each and all of them emphatically bearing out Casanova's statement.
"It is enough," he said in the end. "It is but logical to assume that, whatever the motives that may have actuated him, since Messer Razetta was mistaken in his assailant last night, he must similarly have been mistaken on the former occasion."
"Ah, sir, your indulgence!" Casanova interrupted him. "It is not from the state that I suggest any amend should come. It is not the fault of the state that these things have come to pass. The fault is entirely Razetta's, and I submit, most respectfully and humbly, that it is from Razetta should proceed the ade
"Mistaken?" quoth the rogue Casa- quate compensation which I solicit."
nova, with a wry smile.
The saggio said nothing in answer. He took up a pen and wrote rapidly.
"You will be restored at once to liberty, Messer Casanova," he announced, "and Messer Razetta shall be dealt with. You are free to return home."
But Casanova had not yet quite reached the end of his rascally purpose.
"I go in such dread of the rancor of this villain Razetta," said he, "that I shall implore your excellency to afford me the state's protection until I am restored to such vigor as will enable me to protect myself. I shall be eternally grateful for your permission to return with the major to Sant' Andrea until my knee is completely mended, a matter of a week or so, as the doctor here informs me."
His excellency graciously gave his consent to this, and would thereupon have dismissed them, but that still Casanova had not done.
"I most respectfully submit to your excellency that some amend is due to me for what I have suffered morally and physically, the indignity, extremely hurtful to a man of my sensitive honor, the duress in which I have been kept, and, finally, my present crippled condition directly arising out of my imprisonment."
"The state, sir" the saggio was beginning coldly.
The saggio reflected.
"It is only just," he agreed at last. "At what sum do you estimate your inconvenience?"
Casanova sighed reflectively.
"It is not in ducats and sequins, Excellency," said he, “that a gentleman of my condition can estimate the hurts that he has suffered in honor and in body, nor can I so dishonor the one or the other. Not, then, to compensate me so much as to punish Razetta do I suggest that he should be mulcted in my favor to the extent of shall we say a hundred ducats?"
The saggio pursed his lips.
"I should say," he answered deliberately, "that fifty ducats would be a just fine."
"Your excellency is the best judge," said Casanova, with angelic submission. "Fifty ducats be it, then, to teach him the way of truth and honesty in future."
Thus ended the matter despite all that Razetta had to say, which was a deal, and some of it so offensive and profane that it only confirmed the saggio in his conviction that he was dealing justly.
With the fifty ducats Casanova set up a faro-bank, and prospered so well that in the end Venice became dangerous for him, and he was compelled to seek fresh pastures for the nourishment of his splendid talents.