Moonbeams From The Larger Lunacy

5.3 Aristic Anecdotes -- New Light On The Life Of Cavour


“I have always regarded Count Cavour,” writes the Baron, “as one of the most impenetrable diplomatists whom it has been my lot to meet. I distinctly recall an incident in connection with the famous Congress of Paris of 1856 which rises before my mind as vividly as if it were yesterday. I was seated in one of the large salons of the Elysee Palace (I often used to sit there) playing vingt-et-un together with Count Cavour, the Duc de Magenta, the Marquese di Casa Mombasa, the Conte di Piccolo Pochito and others whose names I do not recollect. The stakes had been, as usual, very high, and there was a large pile of gold on the table. No one of us, however, paid any attention to it, so absorbed were we all in the thought of the momentous crises that were impending. At intervals the Emperor Napoleon III passed in and out of the room, and paused to say a word or two, with well-feigned éloignement, to the players, who replied with such dégagement as they could.

“While the play was at its height a servant appeared with a telegram on a silver tray. He handed it to Count Cavour. The Count paused in his play, opened the telegram, read it and then with the most inconceivable nonchalance, put it in his pocket. We stared at him in amazement for a moment, and then the Duc, with the infinite ease of a trained diplomat, quietly resumed his play.

“Two days afterward, meeting Count Cavour at a reception of the Empress Eugenie, I was able, unobserved, to whisper in his ear, ‘What was in the telegram?’ ‘Nothing of any consequence,’ he answered. From that day to this I have never known what it contained. My readers,” concludes Baron Snorch, “may believe this or not as they like, but I give them my word that it is true.

“Probably they will not believe it.”

I cannot resist appending to these anecdotes a charming little story from that well-known book, Sorrows of a Queen. The writer, Lady de Weary, was an English gentlewoman who was for many years Mistress of the Robes at one of the best known German courts. Her affection for her royal mistress is evident on every page of her memoirs.