At this moment a man was seen making his way through the crowd; thrusting right and left with his elbows, he incessantly pushed on, and, just as Signor Gianettino had fairly got his troop in motion, the man, who was no other than Don Bempo, succeeded in reaching the fisherman’s table.
“Here, I bring you the twenty ducats,” he proudly called out. “They will no longer say that the Spaniards buy gudgeons. The fish is mine! There are your twenty ducats!”
And, with a supercilious air, Don Bempo threw the money upon the table.
But just as proudly did the fisherman push back the money. “The fish is sold!” said he.
“Forward, march!” repeated Signor Gianettino his word of command. “Forward to the kitchen of his excellency Cardinal Bernis!”
And with solemn dignity the train began to move.
Don Bempo with a cry of rage rushed upon the fish.
“This fish is mine,” he wildly cried, “I was the first to offer its price, I offered twenty ducats, and only went home to get the money!”
“And I,” exclaimed Signor Gianettino, “I offered thirty-six ducats, and immediately paid the cash, as I always have money by me.”
“It is Signor Gianettino, the cook of the French ambassador, and I am ruined!” groaned Don Bempo, staggering back.
“Yes, it is the cook of his excellency the cardinal!” cried the crowd.
“And the cardinal is an honorable man!”
“He is no Spanish niggard!”
“He does not haggle for a giant fish; he pays more than is demanded!”
“I hope,” said Signor Gianettino to Don Bempo, who still convulsively grasped the fish, “that you will now take your hands from my property and leave me to go my way without further hindrance. It is not noble to lay hands on the goods of another, Don Bempo, and this fish is mine!”
“But this is contrary to all international law!” exclaimed the enraged Don Bempo. “You forget, signor, that you insult my master, that you insult Spain, by withholding from me by main force what I have purchased in the name of Spain.”
“France will never stand second to Spain!” proudly responded Gianettino, “and where Spain offers twenty ducats, France pays six-and-thirty!—Forward, my youngsters! To the kitchen of the French ambassador!”
And urgently pushing back Don Bempo, Gianettino solemnly marched through the crowd with his retinue, the people readily making a path for him and cheering him as he went.
It was a brilliant triumph in the person of the chief cook of their ambassador, which the French celebrated to-day; it was a shameful defeat which Spain suffered to-day in the person of her ambassador’s chief cook.
Proud and happy marched Signor Gianettino through the streets, accompanied by his gigantic fish, and followed by the shouts of a Roman mob.
Humiliated, with eyes cast down, with rage in his heart sneaked Don Bempo toward the Spanish ambassador’s hotel, and long heard behind him the whistling, laughter, and catcalls of the Roman people.