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“ I shall then look for no other quack than your excellency.”
“* Indeed! And how long does excellency intend to remain in glorious Naples ?"
* So long as it pleases me.”
“Oh, then I am sure you will stay here very long, for Naples is the garden of Eden. Here is the Pausilippo, there the Vesuvius; here the Gulf, and there the Capri. There are, certainly, hundreds of towns in the world, but there is only one Naples. Far better starving here than live in affluence elsewhere. Oh, that I could embrace thee, my darling Naples—my cradle, my native place! I would press thee to my bosom, and exclaim triumphantly, 'To live and die at Naples is the height of felicity!'”
"I tell you, rascal, once more, I like you much.” “And I say the same of you, signor. You seem to be such a noble, kindhearted gentleman, that I will no longer call you excellency, but simply and plainly Taddeo.”
“Do so, my good fellow!" “Here, in this mansion, lives Signor Barbaja." * Thank you, my man," said the stranger; and was about putting into the hand of Torquato a coin, when the latter withdrew it, saying:
“Mr. Taddeo, I cannot believe you intend to offend me. I am not in Fant of money to-day. We must not pay for a small service rendered by a friend."
" You are a brave fellow, Torquato.”
“That I am, sir. And when I am once pleased with any one, as I am with you, he may do with me whatever he likes. I'll swim for him like a poodle-dog through the water, or run at his desire like a salamander through the fire; and if needs be, even throw myself into the Crater for him."
" But where am I to find you when I want you, honest, true soul ?" "My head-quarters are on the quay Santa Luna, at the spot where I was just now enjoying the rays of the sun to warm my inside." "You have not, then, breakfasted as yet?”
“Breakfasted ? Such a word is not in our vocabulary; we only know it from hearsay." “Miserable existence! Not to breakfast !"
" Habit, friend; everything habit. Even hunger may be overcome by habit."
"Poor Hellebore !" "Pray don't poor me; there are in our wealthy, magnificent Naples, much poorer people than myself. I have nobody to care for.” "You are, then, a bachelor ?". “I stand alone in the world.” “Nor a sweetheart?"
“ Oh yes, Mr. Taddeo, my Francilla. But- "
“A flower-girl on the Chiaja; poorer than a church mouse, but a thousand times handsomer than even the Holy Virgin herself.”
“Whom you have never seen. Be, however, comforted, my poor friend. Taddeo is also in love."
“ Indeed! With whom ?”
“ With all the pretty women I happen to see. I love them each and all."
“ Mr. Taddeo is surely not a Turk ?”
“Yes, an old Chinaman! Enough, however, of it for to-day. We shall meet again, my young friend.”
Thus saying, he pressed heartily the sunburnt hand of the lazzarone, and entered the house. The latter looked for a moment after the stranger as he was ascending the grand staircase, and, after some cogitation, he threw his cap up into the air, exclaiming:
“No matter! Christian or Jew, Turk or heathen, poor or rich, evvivo il mio amico, Signor Taddeo !"
With these words, he ran back to his head-quarters.
Had he known the real name of his new friend his joy would have been excessive. It was no other than Joachim Rossini, who had come to Naples at the invitation of the lessee and manager of the San Carlo, and had been engaged by him as composer and conductor of the same for the annual pay of 14,000 francs (7001.), beside board and lodging at his house. . A few weeks after, we find Francilla, the handsomest and chastest flower-girl at Naples, with a basket of flowers in hand, at the entrance of the royal palace-garden, which is at all hours visited by foreigners. A few yards from the spot where Francilla stood, two foreigners were sauntering. At the sight of the girl they turned towards that direction, and, coming up to her, one of them asked her the price of the beautiful camellia.
" Three carlini, signor," said the girl, blushing, without lifting up her eyes.
“Six for a kiss," was the rejoinder, and, patting her rosy cheek, was about to suit the action to the word, when a young lazzarone, who was lying on the sand close by, rushed to the spot and threw him down on his back by a violent blow on the chest.
Having regained his footing, he and his companion were about chastising the assailant, when the latter appealed to the crowd of lazzaroni who had come to the spot to avenge the insult committed on a chaste Neapolitan maiden by impudent foreiguers, who, presuming on their riches, dared to treat virtuous poor virgins like common harlots.
“Shall we Neapolitans suffer such outrage at the hands of foreigners ?" shouted he, with all his might.
“Certainly not,” was the unanimous reply; and, surrounding the strangers, they were about to seize them, when a man, attracted by the noise, rushed to the scene, and cried :
“ Hold, hold, furious people !''
" Ah, friend Taddeo ! how glad I am to see you again,” ejaculated joyfully Torquato. ** What is the row here about ?" - Why, these two foreigners have insulted my Francilla.” “ And what do you mean to do with them?" “ Throw them into the Gulf.” “Are you Christians ?” “ Yes, we are, but they are not,” exclaimed the crowd.
“ And were they even heathens, are you Neapolitans going to violate sacred hospitality?"
“Corpo di Christo! we did not think of that.” “Be generous, then, good people, and allow the strangers to depart.” The mob thereupon dispersed as quickly as they had assembled. When alone, Rossini said, “Now, my young friend, show me your Francilla. I should like to form an opinion of your taste.”
" There she stands at the garden entrance."
“ Introduce me to her as a friend who takes a warm interest in you."
“Ah, Signor Taddeo! if you only knew how my heart beats when I am about to speak to her
"Don't be a fool,” laughed the maestro; and taking Torquato's arm, forced him along to the garden.
“ Francilla," began the shy lazzarone,“ don't be angry if I am so free as to present to you my best friend, Signor Taddeo, from Papataci. He is a very rich gentleman, a celebrated veterinary doctor, and wishes to see you to judge of my taste. Well, doctor”-turning to the latter“what do you think of her?”
"I could never have suspected such a refined taste in you, fellow. Look up, pretty maiden ; don't be afraid of me.”
The girl looked up, and exhibited a pair of large sparkling blue eyes, which looked at the maestro with a charming smile.
“ Now, fair maiden, speak, pray, plainly, without reserve. Do you love my young friend Torquato ?”
Francilla was silent, and plucked confusedly at her basket. “Ah! ask her once more,” begged the lazzarone.
“ Look here, little angel," resumed the maestro. “Imagine for a moment that I am your father; take courage, and answer whether you really love that young fellow. If so, I am the man who can and will help you."
- Torquato!” sobbed the girl, and, dropping the basket, fell upon the Deck of the lazzarone.
"That will do!” said Rossivi. “You love each other, and you shall be married.”
“Married ! good doctor? What are you thinking of? We are both a thousand times poorer than even poor Lazarus himself.” “ Yes, children, I will help you." - But how, and in what way?"
“ That you shall know by-and-by. I shall expect you to-morrow, about this time, at the hotel of Signor Barbaja. Don't fail. Adieu !"
Next morning, at the appointed hour, Master Barefoot made his appearance at the above hotel, with a nosegay in hand, and asked for Signor Taddeo.
“I come by appointment,” added he to the gruff-looking Swiss porter.
“Quite right,” said the latter ; "he lives on the second floor.”
We will not undertake to describe the bewildering astonishnient of the lazzarone on ascending the magnificent staircase, at the sight of the costly tapestry, flower-vases, and statues. The latter especially inspired him with so much respect that he involuntarily doffed his cap before each of them. Torquato, who had never before entered the house of a gentleman, was, in short, so struck with all that he saw, that he was hardly able to draw his breath. Having crossed five spendidly-furnished anterooms, he knocked at the door of the sixth, when a stentorian voice bade him “ Come in."
“Glad to see you, old fellow. How is Francilla ?” “Give my respects and this nosegay to your friend,' she told me.” “How very gallant! Give her for me a kiss and this ducat.”
“ The kiss I shall certainly give her, but the money I dare not take, she would be so very angry with me."
“ Above all things, Master Barefoot, let me give you wholesome advice. . When a present is offered to you, don't refuse it. A proverb says, ' A avola non besogna aver vergogna' (a grandmother need not blush), which means, a poor devil must not be proud.” Saying which, Rossini re-pocketed the ducat. “And now to something else,” said the latter. “How much do you earn a day?"
“Seldom much, sometimes little, and frequently nothing."
“ Should you like to try your fortune in another way? Would you like to be my valet?”
The lazzarone was silent, and seemed to hesitate. “I hope you are not offended by the proposal ?"
“ It is not that, sir, but I doubt whether I am fit for the place. From my early youth I have led a life of idleness, and been accustomed to hate anything in the shape of work. As a lazzarone I am my own master, and dependent on no one. When tired, I lie down to sleep and bask in the sun. When I have earned a couple of carlini, I play with my comrades alla mora (odds and ends). In the night I can rest before the windows of my Francilla, and when she awakes in the morning, and draws up the blind, I can ask her, · How did you sleep, dearest ?' But all this I shall have to forego when in your service. Don't imagine for a moment, good sir, that I am proud and haughty; I will willingly serve you when and where I can, but not as a hired servant. We lazzarone are poor devils, but we love freedom and independence more than all the money in the world. Ah, sir, you have no notion how sweetly one feels when he can say to himself there is nobody in the world who can command you to do anything except what you choose to do of your own good. will."
“ And do you really wish to remain all your life a lazzarone and a beggar ?"
"Not if I can help it. I should certainly like to become something else."
“ And what, for instance ?"
“ But to be a singer you must have talent, a good voice in particular, my good fellow."
“ That I have," replied Torquato, blushing.
“Do you think, Master Impudence, that a doctor cannot have an ear for music? There is a piano, if you will sing, I will accompany you.”
Saying which, Rossini took his seat at the instrument, and nodded to the lazzarone to approach.
" Ah, sir, what am I to sing ?” - Anything you like."
“ Well, then, I'll give you the air Francilla is so fond of, and which I repeat every morning at her window. The air is from an opera of a young maestro of Milan, a certain Rossini.”
“Let us hear it, then.”
* Languir per una bella," began the lazzarone, in a trembling voice. Rossini listened attentively, and was surprised to hear one of the most powerful tenor voices.
“ Bravo! bravo, my boy! don't be shy. You have sound lungs. Roar away, rhinoceros! You sing beautifully!"
Thus encouraged, the poor devil gave full vent to his voluminous voice, so as to make the windows vibrate violently.
“Go on, go on, boy! never mind a few wrong notes, proceed. What a fine clear shake in the bargain! Bravissimo, King David !"
The song was finished, and the lazzarone wiped with his cap the perspiration off his brow.”
“Listen, my poor boy,” said Rossini; “ your fortune is made. There is a treasure hidden in your throat. You shall become an opera singer."
** You mock me, sir.”
“ No, indeed! You have an excellent voice and natural abilities for singing, and I will cultivate them.”
* You ?” said Torquato, with a comic sneer. “Yes, I myself. Suppose I am not a doctor, but something else.”
“Well, I confess I thought as much when I heard you rattle away so nicely on the instrument. But who are you, then, excellency? Do tell me."
“Since you must know it, I am the composer of the air you have just warbled.”
“ What, Rossini ?" stammered the lazzarone in joyful surprise.
“Now I have indeed embraced the maestro Rossini! I am sure if Francilla knew it, she would love me all the better for it."
“Does she know my name ?"
“She always sings your airs, and said only yesterday, 'If I could only see the composer of these sweet melodies . Well,' said I, and what would you do?' •Do?' said she, I would offer him my finest flowers, and if he asked me the price I would say a kiss.'”
“ Indeed, she shall have it. From to-morrow you must be here every day from twelve to one, and I will give you regular lessons in singing; and if I don't make a great singer of you, my name is not Rossini."