Escaping the Republic

Refreshed and invigorated by his stay at the home of the police chief who was hunting for him (see ‘Sleeping with the enemy’ blog) and still hardly able to believe he’d managed to get away with it, Casanova pressed on:

Although I had not a penny in my pocket (he had given all his money to Balbi when the two had split up) and had two rivers to cross over, I congratulated myself on having got rid of a man of his character, for by myself I felt confident of being able to cross the bounds of the Republic.
(Memoirs of Casanova, To Paris and Prison, Chapter XXXI)

Not long after he had set off, just before midday, he heard the sound of a bell from a small church in the valley and saw people heading to it for mass.  Casanova decided to go along to give thanks to God for his good fortune and, to his astonishment, met somebody he knew, a Signore Marc Antoine Grimani (a nephew of the state inquisitor).  Members of the Grimani family (brothers Alvis, Zuane and Michele, the latter thought to be Casanova’s true father) had given an oath to Casanova’s supposed father before his death to be protectors of his children.  It was a matter of some surprise and sourness on Casanova’s part, then, when this particular member of the family rejected his appeal for help.  He writes, no doubt with a certain degree of satisfaction, ‘I heard at Paris afterwards that when his wife heard of it she reproached him for his hard-hearted behaviour’.

He had more joy later in the day when, as the sun began to set, ‘weary and faint with hunger I stopped at a good-looking house’.  The house was owned by a Signore Rombenchi who was absent at the time.   Nonetheless, he was given hospitality and allowed to stay for the night.  In the morning, he walked five hours to a Capuchin monastery where he dined and carried on to the house of a friend, an elderly stockbroker who, according to Casanova ‘was under great obligations to me’.  Not great enough, apparently, for his friend, terrified of the Venetian authorities, refused to help.  On this occasion, however, Casanova was not prepared to take no for an answer:

His inhuman refusal produced quite a different effect on me than that of S. Grimani. Whether from rage, indignation, or nature, I took him by the collar, I shewed him my pike, and raising my voice threatened to kill him. Trembling all over, he took a key from his pocket and shewing me a bureau told me he kept money there, and I had only to open it and take what I wanted; I told him to open it himself. He did so, and on his opening a drawer containing gold, I told him to count me out six sequins.
“You asked me for sixty.”
“Yes, that was when I was asking a loan of you as a friend; but since I owe the money to force, I require six only, and I will give you no note of hand. You shall be repaid at Venice, where I shall write of the pass to which you forced me, you cowardly wretch!”
“I beg your pardon! take the sixty sequins, I entreat you.”
“No, no more. I am going on my way, and I advise you not to hinder me, lest in my despair I come back and burn your house about your ears.”
(Memoirs of Casanova, To Paris and Prison, Chapter XXXI)

That night he stayed with a farmer where, he noted, he ‘had a bad supper and a bed of straw’.  The next day he bought an old overcoat, boots and hired a donkey to travel on and in this way managed to pass through a guard post unsuspected and get to Borgo de Valsugano in the foothills of the alps and beyond the Republic’s jurisdiction.  Here he found that Father Balbi, disguised by a great overcoat and hat, had already arrived.  They had previously agreed to meet up at Borgo but neither of them had expected it to happen.

‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is now freely available here.

27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.

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