“Caro Capitano!” broke in the musical voice of the Marchese Gualdro, “you know that our Francesco goes nowhere without his beloved Carlo. Carlo cannot come—altro! Francesco will not. Would that all men were such brothers!”
“If they were,” laughed Luziano Salustri, rising from the piano where he had been playing softly to himself, “half the world would be thrown out of employment. You, for instance,” turning to the Marquis D’Avencourt, “would scarce know what to do with your time.”
The marquis smiled and waved his hand with a deprecatory gesture— that hand, by the by, was remarkably small and delicately formed—it looked almost fragile. Yet the strength and suppleness of D’Avencourt’s wrist was reputed to be prodigious by those who had seen him handle the sword, whether in play or grim earnest.
“It is an impossible dream,” he said, in reply to the remarks of Gualdro and Salustri, “that idea of all men fraternizing together in one common pig-sty of equality. Look at the differences of caste! Birth, breeding and education make of man that high-mettled, sensitive animal known as gentleman, and not all the socialistic theories in the world can force him down on the same level with the rough boor, whose flat nose and coarse features announce him as plebeian even before one hears the tone of his voice. We cannot help these things. I do not think we would help them even if we could.”
“You are quite right,” said Ferrari. “You cannot put race-horses to draw the plow. I have always imagined that the first quarrel—the Cain and Abel affair—must have occurred through some difference of caste as well as jealousy—for instance, perhaps Abel was a negro and Cain a white man, or vice versa; which would account for the antipathy existing between the races to this day.”
The Duke di Marina coughed a stately cough, and shrugged his shoulders.
“That first quarrel,” he said, “as related in the Bible, was exceedingly vulgar. It must have been a kind of prize-fight. Ce n’etait pas fin.”
Gualdro laughed delightedly.
“So like you, Marina!” he exclaimed, “to say that! I sympathize with your sentiments! Fancy the butcher Abel piling up his reeking carcasses and setting them on fire, while on the other side stood Cain the green-grocer frizzling his cabbages, turnips, carrots, and other vegetable matter! What a spectacle! The gods of Olympus would have sickened at it! However, the Jewish Deity, or rather, the well-fed priest who represented him, showed his good taste in the matter; I myself prefer the smell of roast meat to the rather disagreeable odor of scorching vegetables!”
We laughed—and at that moment the door was thrown open, and the head-waiter announced in solemn tones befitting his dignity—
“Le diner de Monsieur le Conte est servi!”