Chapter 93

Another visit - A la Margutte - Clever man - Napoleon’s estimate - Another statue.

ONE evening Belle and myself received another visit from the man in black. After a little conversation of not much importance, I asked him whether he would not take some refreshment, assuring him that I was now in possession of some very excellent Hollands, which, with a glass, a jug of water, and a lump of sugar, was heartily at his service; he accepted my offer, and Belle going with a jug to the spring, from which she was in the habit of procuring water for tea, speedily returned with it full of the clear, delicious water of which I have already spoken. Having placed the jug by the side of the man in black, she brought him a glass and spoon, and a tea-cup, the latter containing various lumps of snowy-white sugar: in the meantime I had produced a bottle of the stronger liquid. The man in black helped himself to some water, and likewise to some Hollands, the proportion of water being about two-thirds; then adding a lump of sugar, he stirred the whole up, tasted it, and said that it was good.

‘This is one of the good things of life,’ he added, after a short pause.

‘What are the others?’ I demanded.

‘There is Malvoisia sack,’ said the man in black, ‘and partridge, and beccafico.’

‘And what do you say to high mass?’ said I.

‘High mass!’ said the man in black; ‘however,’ he continued, after a pause, ‘I will be frank with you; I came to be so; I may have heard high mass on a time, and said it too; but as for any predilection for it, I assure you I have no more than for a long High Church sermon.’

‘You speak a la Margutte,’ said I.

‘Margutte!’ said the man in black, musingly, ‘Margutte!’

‘You have read Pulci, I suppose?’ said I.

‘Yes, yes,’ said the man in black, laughing; ‘I remember.’

‘He might be rendered into English,’ said I, ‘something in this style:

‘To which Margutte answered with a sneer,
I like the blue no better than the black,
My faith consists alone in savoury cheer,
In roasted capons, and in potent sack;
But above all, in famous gin and clear,
Which often lays the Briton on his back;
With lump of sugar, and with lymph from well,
I drink it, and defy the fiends of hell.’

‘He! he! he!’ said the man in black; ‘that is more than Mezzofante could have done for a stanza of Byron.’

‘A clever man,’ said I.

‘Who?’ said the man in black.

‘Mezzofante di Bologna.’

‘He! he! he!’ said the man in black; ‘now I know that you are not a gypsy, at least a soothsayer; no soothsayer would have said that - ‘

‘Why,’ said I, ‘does he not understand five-and-twenty tongues?’

‘Oh yes,’ said the man in black; ‘and five-and-twenty added to them; but, he! he! he! it was principally from him, who is certainly the greatest of Philologists, that I formed my opinion of the sect.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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