Isopel Berners eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about Isopel Berners.

CHAPTER XII.—­ANOTHER VISIT FROM THE MAN IN BLACK:  HIS ESTIMATE OF MEZZOFANTE.

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, were 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 teacup, 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?”

“O yes,” said the man in black; “and five-and-twenty added to them; but—­he! he! it was principally from him who is certainly the Prince of Philologists that I formed my opinion of the sect.”

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Isopel Berners from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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