“Precisely,” interjected Mr. Fett, with a quick warning wink and a wave of his hand to introduce us. “I pescatori da maremma. . . . To them enter Proteus with his attendant nymphs. . . . They rush on him and bind him with strings of sausages (will the Donna Julia oblige by tucking up her sleeves and fetching the sausages from the back kitchen, with a brazier?) The music, slow at first, becomes agitated as the old man struggles with his captors; it then sinks and breaks forth triumphantly, largo maestoso, as he discourses on the future greatness of Genoa. The whole written, invented, and entirely stage-managed by Il Signore Fetto, Director of Periodic Festivities to the Genoese Republic. . . . To be serious, ladies, allow me to present to you four fellow-lodgers from—er— Porto Fino, whom I have invited to share our repast. What ho! without, there! A brazier! Fazio—slave—to the macaroni! Bianca, trip to the cupboard and fetch forth the Val Pulchello. Badcock, hand me over the basket and go to the ant, thou sluggard; and thou, Rinaldo, to the kitchen, where already the sausages hiss, awaiting thee. . . .”
In less than twenty minutes we were seated at table. Master Fazio’s hotel (it appeared) welcomed all manner of strange guests, and (thanks to Mr. Fett’s dextrous tomfooling) the comedians made us at home at once, without questions asked. Twice I saw Mr. Badcock, as he held a mouthful of macaroni suspended on his fork, like an angler dangling his bait over a fish, pause and roll his eyes towards me; and twice Mr. Fett slapped him opportunely between the shoulder-blades.
He had seated me between the Duenna and the pretty Bianca, to both of whom—for both talked incessantly—I gave answers at random; which by-and-by the Columbine observed, and also that I stole a glance now and then across the Princess, who was trying her best to listen to the conversation of the Matamor.
“Are you newly married, you two?” asked the Columbine, slily. “Oh, you need not blush! She puts us all in the shade. You are in love with her, at least? Well, she scorns us and is not clever at concealing it: but I will not revenge myself by trying to steal you away. I am magnanimous, for my part; and, moreover, all women love a lover.”
“Have ye not seyn som tyme a pale face
Among a prees, of him that hath be lad
Toward his death, wher-as him gat no grace,
And swich a colour in his face hath had,
Men mighte knowe his face that was bistad,
Amonges alle the faces in that route.”
CHAUCER. Man of Lawe’s Tale.
“Criticism,” said Mr. Fett, with his mouth full of sausage, “is the flower of all the arts.”
“For my part, I hate it,” put in the melancholy Rinaldo.