Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni

We had another Giovanni who had done worse things even than these, and who never became a penitent at all. Don Giovanni he was called. Everybody in Rome knew him by the name of Don Giovanni.

Among the other bad things he did, he killed a great man who was called the Commendatore; and though he had the crime of murder on his conscience he took no account of it, but swaggered about with an air of bravado as if he cared for no one.

One day when he was walking out in the Campagna he saw a great white skeleton coming to meet him. It was the skeleton of the commendatore whom he had killed.

‘How dy'e do?' said Don Giovanni, with effrontery. ‘There's an Accademia 1  to-night at my house, I shall be very happy to see you at it;' and he took off his hat with mock gravity.

‘I will certainly come,' replied the commendatore in a sepulchral voice; but Don Giovanni burst out laughing.

In the midst of the Accademia some one knocked. ‘All the guests are arrived,' said the servant, ‘yet some one knocks.'

‘Never mind, open!' replied Don Giovanni, carelessly. ‘Let him in whoever it is.'

The servant went to open, and came running back to say he could not let the new guest in because he was only the miller, who had come in his white coat all over flour.

All soon saw, however, that the guest was not the miller, though he looked so white. For it was the white skeleton of the commendatore; and it followed the servant into the room. Then fear seized on all and they ran away to hide themselves; some behind the door, some behind the curtains, and some under the table.

Don Giovanni stood alone in the middle of the room with his usual effrontery, and held out his hand to the skeleton.

‘Repent thee!'2  said the White Skeleton, solemnly.

‘A cavalier like me doesn't repent like common beggars!' replied Don Giovanni, scornfully.

‘Repent!' again repeated the White Skeleton, with more awful emphasis.

‘I have something much more amusing to do!' replied Don Giovanni, with a laugh.

‘Don Giovanni!' cried the White Skeleton, the third time yet more solemnly. ‘Though you took away my life yet am I come to save your soul, if I may, and therefore I say again, Repent! or beware of what is to follow.'

‘Well done, old fellow! very generous of you!' said Don Giovanni, with a mocking laugh, and again holding out his hand.

They were his last words. The next minute he gave an awful yell which might have been heard all over Rome. The White Skeleton had disappeared, and the Devil had come in his place, and had taken Don Giovanni by his extended hand and dragged him off.

[Tullio Dandolo, ‘Monachismo e Leggende' p. 314–5, quotes a similar legend from Passavanti, ‘Specchio della vera Penitenza.' The story of Don Giovanni's misdeeds brought up in the narrator's mind those of Pepe (Giuseppe) Mastrilo, famous in the annals of both Spanish and Italian bandits. It was, however, only a story of violence and crime without point.]


1 ‘Accademia' used here for ‘Conversazione.' 

2 ‘Pentiti!'