A man’s shadow darkened the window while Zorzi was writing, and he looked up. Pasquale was standing outside.
“There is a pestering fellow at the door,” he said, “who will not be satisfied till he has spoken with you. He says he has a message for you from some one in Venice, which he must deliver himself.”
“For me?” Zorzi rose in surprise.
Zorzi swung himself along the dark corridor on his crutches after Pasquale, who opened the outer door with his usual deliberation. A little man stood outside in grey hose and a servant’s dark coat, gathered in at the waist by a leathern belt. He was clean shaven and his hair was cropped close to his head, which was bare, for he held his black hat in his hand. Zorzi did not like his face. He waited for Zorzi to speak first.
“Have you a message for me?” asked the Dalmatian. “I am Zorzi.”
“That is the name, sir,” answered the man respectfully. “My master begs the honour and pleasure of your company this evening, as usual.”
“Where?” asked Zorzi.
“My master said that you would know the place, sir, having been there before.”
“What is your master’s name?”
“The Angel,” answered the man promptly, keeping his eyes on Zorzi’s face.
The latter nodded, and the servant at once made an awkward obeisance preparatory to going away.
“Tell your master,” said Zorzi, “that I have hurt my foot and am walking on crutches, so that I cannot come this evening, but that I thank him for his invitation, and send greeting to him and to the other guests.”
The man repeated some of the words in a tone hardly audible, evidently committing the message to memory.
“Signor Zorzi—hurt his foot—crutches—thanks—greeting,” he mumbled. “Yes, sir,” he added in his ordinary voice, “I will say all that. Your servant, sir.”
With another awkward bow, he turned away to the right and walked very quickly along the footway. He had left his boat at the entrance to the canal, not knowing exactly where the glass-house was. Zorzi looked after him a moment, then turned himself on his sound foot and set his crutches before him to go in. Pasquale was there, and must have heard what had passed. He shut the door and followed Zorzi back a little way.
“It is no concern of mine,” he said roughly. “You may amuse yourself as you please, for you are young, and your host may be the Archangel Michael himself, or the holy Saint Mark, and the house to which you are bidden may be a paradise full of other angels! But I would as soon sit down before the grating and look at the hooded brother, while the executioner slipped the noose over my head to strangle me, as to go to any place on a bidding delivered by a fellow with such a jail-bird’s head. It is as round as a bullet and as yellow as cheese. He has eyes like a turtle’s and teeth like those of a young shark.”