I burst out laughing. “You are right, Mancini,” I said; “and even if the husbands are fools enough to continue their gallantries they deserve to be duped—and they generally are! Come, amico.’” I added, turning to Ferrari, “those are your own sentiments—you have often declared them to me.”
He smiled uncomfortably, and his brows contracted. I could easily perceive that he was annoyed. To change the tone of the conversation I gave a signal for the music to recommence, and instantly the melody of a slow, voluptuous Hungarian waltz-measure floated through the room. The dinner was now fairly on its way; the appetites of my guests were stimulated and tempted by the choicest and most savory viands, prepared with all the taste and intelligence a first rate chef can bestow on his work, and good wine flowed freely.
Vincenzo obediently following my instructions, stood behind my chair, and seldom moved except to refill Ferrari’s glass, and occasionally to proffer some fresh vintage to the Duke di Marina. He, however, was an abstemious and careful man, and followed the good example shown by the wisest Italians, who never mix their wines. He remained faithful to the first beverage he had selected—a specially fine Chianti, of which he partook freely without its causing the slightest flush to appear on his pale aristocratic features. Its warm and mellow flavor did but brighten his eyes and loosen his tongue, inasmuch that he became almost as elegant a talker as the Marchese Gualdro. This latter, who scarce had a scudo to call his own, and who dined sumptuously every day at other people’s expense for the sake of the pleasure his company afforded, was by this time entertaining every one near him by the most sparkling stories and witty pleasantries.
The merriment increased as the various courses were served; shouts of laughter frequently interrupted the loud buzz of conversation, mingling with the clinking of glasses and clattering of porcelain. Every now and then might be heard the smooth voice of Captain Freccia rolling out his favorite oaths with the sonority and expression of a primo tenore; sometimes the elegant French of the Marquis D’Avencourt, with his high, sing-song Parisian accent, rang out above the voices of the others; and again, the choice Tuscan of the poet Luziano Salustri rolled forth in melodious cadence as though he were chanting lines from Dante or Ariosto, instead of talking lightly on indifferent matters. I accepted my share in the universal hilarity, though I principally divided my conversation between Ferrari and the duke, paying to both, but specially to Ferrari, that absolute attention which is the greatest compliment a host can bestow on those whom he undertakes to entertain.