Nov 18, 2007
"Bon soir, monsieur! Vous êtes français? Ah…
"E allora, Voi siete Italiano, ma non me ne posso immaginare….
"I apologise. English! I must be linguistically flexible, as you can imagine in these environs. Then we are countrymen! May I? Thank you. You are, as you seem, a gentleman, sir!
"Please allow me to introduce myself. I… No! I am much too rude. Please tell me about yourself and, in return for the courtesy, you will be my guest.
"One moment, please. Let me attempt to attract the attention of this brute who is our host.
"You see? He looks, but does not respond! It is a sort of game for those of his kind. They have no respect for those who are of superior standing to them. Perhaps he will deign to come in this direction. Have you tried absinthe, monsieur? It is a most delightful liqueur that is native to these parts. It has the most wonderful aroma. I would be delighted to offer you some. Look! The brute and his club foot are coming in this direction. I have hopes that we might yet have something to drink.
"There we are, sir! To you the absinthe and mine is the red wine. Me? No. Unfortunately, I am unable to partake of that liqueur myself. You will find, however, that it does wonders for the breathing in this damp climate. Now I must inquire, and I hope you can withstand my curiosity but I see so few of our countrymen here that I am thoroughly delighted with your presence, but how does a gentleman of your stature arrive in a shoddy establishment such as this?
"In fact, I see from your clothing that you are successful. Your suit is Harrowe Street, if I am not mistaken, and I see from your nod that I am not. So successful you are, and working in the business of importation. Wonderful! You are certainly a catch for one who is so tired of these ruffians that you see here rutting and panting.
"Another drink, sir? It is wonderful is it not? Let’s again try to fetch this retched fellow. Now, as to this purchase you are considering. Please! Sir! Lower your voice! You can never know who is overhearing. Look about you. These are the people that inhabit the docks to which you descended only hours ago. They know nothing of civility, of proper behaviour; many of them are ignorant even of Christendom! They pile upon one another in search of one thing or another: fornication or gold coins; and sometimes both! For this, you must be discreet! So this is a large purchase of silk from the orient. That must be a coup for your company and for you. You have my compliments and my best wishes for your success.
"I think you can manage another glass of absinthe before I leave you to your own affairs, sir. Ah! Here is the fellow now. I cannot permit you to offer me a gold coin, sir. You have been the most pleasant company I have had in years in this pot of swill! You were saying, sir, this silk is held in a safe place and guarded by a lock to which only you hold the key. Very clever, sir. I applaud you for your sense and sensibility. Indeed, these days, such measures are more than necessary. And the place is on these very docks, in the establishment of Fratelli Neroni. Excellent. Very good, sir.
"You are feeling unwell, monsieur?
"Perhaps the absinthe is too powerful for your constitution. I apologise to you for this inconvenience. I was most enjoying our delightful conversation. You must allow me to assist you in returning to your lodgings. I see from the window that the fog has returned for the fifth night straight. You are a new arrival in our city and, in your present condition, could become turned around and lost and I can tell you, in great seriousness, that this not a quarter where a man wants to become lost. There are all manner of dangerous characters lurking in the shadows of every alleyway!
"You say, sir? A carriage! That is a splendid idea! Then you must allow me to escort you around the corner to the square where we will certainly find a carriage. I assure you it is no inconvenience to me whatsoever; I will consider it an honour to assist a countryman!
"Here are your hat and coat, sir. You do not carry a walking stick? That is unfortunate as I see you are quite unsteady on your feet. Please, take my arm. I will not be the one to allow you to sprawl like a common drunk in the street! Our most difficult obstacle course will be to make it to the door through this uncouth mob!
"Ah! That was not so difficult really. Allow me to hold the door for you.
"Indeed, the fog has returned. Why, it is running in the street as thick as blood!